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Life after the Paleo Diet Challenge

So you just successfully finished the Paleo diet challenge at your local gym. Congratulations! You disciplined yourself for (x) number of days and saw improvements both physically and mentally. Now you’re going to put on your party clothes and show off your new svelte figure at the Paleo Diet Wrap party and eat every “Paleo-prohibited” food you can with your fellow former dieters. In between the swigs of beer and mouthfuls of sinful food, all of you swear that come Monday, you’re going to go right back to eating healthy and exercising with rigor. You continue to stuff yourself all weekend long, knowing that soon you’ll have to return to that restricted diet again.

But then a funny thing happens. On Monday, you start off strong with a healthy breakfast, but by noon, your cravings kick in – either a coworker has brought in donuts and you give in, or you go on your lunch break and think to yourself, “What harm is one more cheat meal going to do? I can always start eating healthy tomorrow.” But the next day, you continue to eat like crap, swearing that the following day, you will clean everything up. And that, unfortunately, is how the downward spiral begins…

Help! How can we avoid this? Below are a few helpful tips for not losing everything you just gained.

First of all, the key to overcoming the swift decline into unhealthy eating and “yo-yo dieting” is to think of the Paleo diet not as a temporary process (because it is not), but rather a permanent one. Paleo is a way of eating and a way of life. We should be in this for the long run because of how great it makes us feel and because of the powerful disease prevention that coincides with it. We have to want better for ourselves and be willing to see beyond the instant gratification (i.e. having those cookies) in order to gain perspective of the long term benefits in resisting that instant gratification (i.e. no bloating or sugar crash, etc.). The minute you we start treating Paleo as a diet instead of a lifelong way of eating, we are doomed for failure. 95% of all people on diets end up gaining everything back, which goes to show that diets simply DO NOT work. Losing 10 lbs. in a month has no benefit if it is regained a month later. Therefore, we must adjust our perspectives and attitudes so that we see Paleo as a lifestyle change and are willing to make that change.

Know what foods have a negative effect on you and be strong enough to cut them out of your life as much as possible. We have to be willing to look within ourselves and ask, “Do I really need that piece of cake?” If the answer is “no”, then don’t eat it. If the answer is “yes”, then save it only for special occasions, or try to make a less detrimental version. Does that mean that we have to permanently give up certain foods? Not necessarily. The minute we forbid ourselves something, our minds will find a way to subconsciously sabotage it. And no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and must not beat ourselves up over a slip up. It’s OKAY, it’s human, just as long as we don’t give up completely, pick ourselves up, and continue the journey towards better health.

Also, keep Paleo manageable by taking it day by day, meal by meal. Make smart choices EVERY day at EVERY meal. Remember that there are two kinds of food: those that make you healthier, and those that do not. Before consuming a meal, ask yourself, ‘Which kind of food is this?’ And if it’s the kind that does not contribute positively to your health, ask yourself, ‘Do I honestly need it? Is it worth it? Really?’ Reevaluate yourself at the end of each week and decide, ‘Did I make more healthy choices than unhealthy?’ If the answer is yes, then you are on the right path towards permanent, positive change!

Finally, keep yourself accountable. Often times we start to slowly get less and less compliant with Paleo until one day we realize that we have completely fallen off the wagon! In order to prevent this, find a way to stay on track. If you’re an emotional eater, recognize what causes you to make unhealthy choices and why. A great way to become conscious of unhealthy craving triggers is to keep a food journal where you note every time you either eat a non-Paleo food, or think about doing so. Note why you think that might be: stress, boredom, time of day, etc. Become aware of any patterns that start popping up. Being conscious of why you do what you do can many times prevent you from doing it and even help discover the root of the problem in order to fix it. If you’re not an emotional eater but want to keep your weight in check, you should find a way to objectively measure whether or not you need to get stricter with your eating habits. If you have the means, get your body fat percentage measured once or twice a month. If you do not have the means, you can take simple measurements of yourself once a month with a paper tape measure. Measure your stomach, hips, and thighs just to make sure that the inches are not creeping up on you.

I hope that these tips will help you stay on track – permanently – because it’s not about losing a ton of weight in a short amount of time, it’s about healthy living. We should all be on the quest towards feeling better and having a better quality of life, and Paleo will accomplish that. Make the switch for life, and your life will taste sweeter – yes, even without the donuts.

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