The Caveman Diet – Is It For You?
FOLLOWING a Christmas of ridiculous overindulgence, I faced the New Year with the weary knowledge that something would have to change. It wasn’t going to be easy. To say I love food would be an understatement. I can spend up to a week agonizing over what to order before going out for a meal. I also take great pleasure in cross-examining my friends on what they order on culinary outings. Food makes me happy. So very happy.
At the time, while I did not consider my diet particularly unhealthy, I had fallen victim to the ‘treating myself’ mindset on an increasingly frequent basis, over-indulging after a trip to the gym, work, or indeed anywhere. Any break in routine resulted in a spectacular fall from the bandwagon. The weekend started Thursday and was a sugar and processed food-laden affair, with everything coming to a head on Sunday evenings, with a half-hearted promise to ‘be good’ this week. My main problem was that I didn’t understand food. In my innocence, I chose low fat options when grocery shopping, oblivious to the amount of sugar in these to improve the taste. In December I met a friend who was following the paleo diet and I scoffed at her celery sticks and cashew nuts. However once she explained that it wasn’t all ‘sad foods’ I thought that I would give it a go.
The paleo or ‘caveman’ diet works on the premise of mimicking our caveman ancestors – eating food that we can either hunt or find. It cuts out grains, sugar, dairy and any processed food. Instead, you load up on meat, nuts, fruit, vegetables, eggs, fish, herbs and oils. The beauty of this is that you can eat as much of these foods as you want. Unlike other diets, fat is not vilified and healthy fats such as nuts are a vital component.
So I kicked off January with a fridge full of vegetables, berries, meat, fish and fruit. My housemates watched bemused as I threw out all my old favourites- pitta breads, dips, spicy sauces. Day one was always going to be easy. I couldn’t believe I’d never tried it before. Day two was my Everest. I woke up with the dreaded headaches and cravings that a total diet overhaul brings. I felt nauseous and weak, lying cold-turkey on the couch, craving a carb covered in sugar. I had no energy and just wanted to go to bed. Thankfully that was the worst for me. After that it was all uphill.
I had more energy and the slumps that would occur throughout the day disappeared. I was sleeping like a baby, feeling fully rested when I woke up. The hunger pangs that often led to bad choices had disappeared. My skin was clearer and brighter. While I didn’t start this for weight loss, I noticed my clothes weren’t quite so snug, and the bloated feeling I associated with eating had disappeared. I felt comfortably full for longer and in control of my diet.
My friends and family were sceptical in the beginning. I was the least likely candidate to give up so many of my favourite things that this lifestyle cut out. Initially my meals were a source of interest to one and all. During the first week or two, I felt that I could revert back to my old ways at any given moment. It takes a while for something to develop from a phase into a habit. Organisation is a major help here. It’s important to have the ingredients you will need on hand, otherwise it can be easy to falter. It can also be a challenge when eating out. I tend to stick to the diet during the week, and relax at weekends. For any foods I miss, there are recipes for paleo-alternatives readily available on blogs and websites.
Looking back at my pre-paleo diet, I realise that while food made me happy, it also made me ill, bloated, congested and sickeningly full at times. I’ve learnt to listen to my body more, eating when I’m hungry and distinguishing between that and boredom. I fall off the bandwagon but I’m not clambering back on with a heavy heart anymore. My mindset has changed in the sense that I can enjoy a treat, without making myself feel guilty, knowing that the majority of the time I eat clean. I still love food, and I enjoy the fact that I am properly looking after the only place I have to live. Give it a shot for a week, a fortnight or a month. The benefits speak for themselves.
Interested in trying it out? Here are some websites to help you on your way:
Photos c/o lastwordapps.com, crossfitnaples.com