Paleo Challenge Recap

I just have to start this off by saying as I write this, I’m downing dark chocolate covered blueberries. So there’s that.

I have so many thoughts on this whole thing but let’s start with the stats.

paleo challenge recap

I didn’t lose weight but I fully did not expect to either. 130 is just “my” weight. I haven’t gotten below it in the past 3 years and unless I’m eating like absolute crap, I don’t tend to go much above it either. I’m a healthy weight for my height (5’7) and I’m happy with it. Body fat on the other hand is definitely something I had hoped would decrease and I’m psyched with the results of that. Since I know someone is going to ask, body fat was measured on a scale that does it. I know it’s far from the most accurate method but it was all we had access to. I’d like to think the trending is at least accurate since it was the same scale even if the actual numbers aren’t. And I’m also shocked at how much time I shaved off the benchmark wod. Apparently, fueling your body well really does impact performance. I knew that in theory but this was the first time I’d actually seen it happen on paper.

Benefits:

  • I didn’t take my daily Zyrtec once the entire month. I have bad allergies and in addition to my shots, I take Zyrtec daily. I was a bit more sneezy and sniffly than normal (expected when you live with an animal you’re allergic to) but nothing like I would’ve been before this.
  • My skin was exceptionally clear for me.
  • This persistent little effer of a spot of cellulite on my right upper thigh (thank you, genetics) has basically disappeared.
  • BLOATING! Ok, this was a big one. Probably the best thing of the whole challenge. I didn’t deal with ANY bloating whatsoever for 31 days and it was awesome. My stomach was the same size at 10pm as it was when I woke up at 7am. Priceless.
  • Boob shrinkage. Yep, I consider it a benefit. Big boobs hurt your back, don’t fit into bathing suits as nicely and are all around just a pain in the ass.
  • Energy levels. I had a lot more energy than normal. So much so that even though I was sleeping more than 8 hours a night, towards the end I found myself consistently waking up 2 hours before my alarm clock and feeling ready to go for the day (although I forced myself back to sleep).
  • I just “felt” better. I honestly think this might’ve all been mental but there’s definitely something about knowing you’re eating 100% clean that just makes you feel awesome.

The “Un-Benefits”:

  • The amount of time I spent in my kitchen. Holy hell, I felt like I never left that room. I was unwilling to spend weekend time prepping food since that’s the only time Ulysses is home during the week but that decision really made for a ridiculous amount of time in the kitchen later on.
  • Money. I spent a lot of money on food. And I already spend a good deal of money on groceries (about $500-$600 a month). I kept receipts because I was curious and protein alone for the month added up to about $250. I was buying organic, grass fed for most of it and I do have a slight obsession with wild alaskan salmon at $16.99/lb. but still…
  • Eating out becomes a chore. Whether it’s at a restaurant or worse, a friend’s house where you have to explain the whole thing, it’s a pain in the butt. I work from home and by Friday I’m about at my breaking point of sitting in my house. I need to just get out which becomes very hard when you’re eating within these parameters.
  • Breakfast. There are only so many times I can eat paleo pancakes, paleo waffles and eggs. This is one of the main reasons I’m glad what my gym did was not a Whole30 because if it was, I wouldn’t even have been allowed to do pancakes and waffles. I just can’t get on the “eat regular meals for breakfast” train. Nor do I want to. I like oatmeal, yogurt and all those other non-paleo breakfast items.

Other realizations:

  • I use a lot of “hidden” sugar. Without my beloved honey and maple syrup, it became quite obvious how much I relied on them before. I’m trying to cut back the use of both going forward. Tea without honey has grown on me and vanilla extract is a great way to get flavor without the sweetener for other things.
  • Dairy affects me more than I thought when it comes to bloating. I cheated one Saturday night mid-month and got a mocha latte. The bloating that occurred after drinking half of it was enough to make me realize how severe the effects actually are for my body.

paleo challenge recap

I didn’t really intend on posting a before and after. Hence why I’m in inappropriate underwear and pajamas (these were supposed to stay on my phone, not make their way to the blog) but what the heck… I wanted abs at the end of this. I didn’t get them but I do think I leaned out a bit. Interesting how body composition can change even when the scale doesn’t.

So what’s next?:

Something between where I was eating and this challenge. I’m not going back to absolutes because you know what that does to me? It makes me crave them more. Evidenced by my gorge of dark chocolate in every form I could get it last Friday. However, I will consciously limit my dairy intake going forward as the repercussions of large amounts aren’t worth it for me. I will definitely be bringing legumes back into my life in moderation as I don’t really buy into the paleo mindset on those. And as for grains, they were the one thing I didn’t really crave too much during the challenge because I barely ate them before. Will I eat pasta or rice or quinoa occasionally? Yes. Will it be every meal or even just once a day? No, because I just don’t eat that way. I prefer getting the bulk of my carbs from vegetables.

Final thoughts:

Despite the fact that I eat paleo 90%+ of the time, I really don’t think it’s for everyone. It’s getting a lot of mainstream attention these days and I think a lot of people are feeling compelled to try it as the “next diet”. I hate that. I hate that people ask me “what diet are you on?” I don’t think of it as a diet, I think of it as just a way of eating. Putting good, real food into my mouth. However, it’s taken me 3+ years to get to this point. When I first started revamping what I ate, I cleaned my pantry of everything “white” and replaced it with whole grains, I started consciously putting more vegetables on my plate, I slowly decreased my sugar consumption and changed my palate when it came to “sweets” and it’s just organically morphed to where I am today. I did not get to this point with food overnight and I think that if I had tried, I would’ve failed miserably. Too much change at once is hard to stick to permanently. So unless you have some medical issue that’s the impetus for a drastic overhaul of your diet, I think starting slow is a more realistic and most likely successful approach.

Also, one last pet peeve of the whole paleo thing…it’s not all about bacon and meat and more meat and fat. If you looked at my plates any of the 31 days I documented them on here, you’d see about 1/3 protein and 2/3 vegetables on almost every one. I ate far more vegetables than I did meat. When I hear people talking about how paleo is meat intense and high in fat, I get irked because it shouldn’t be. At least in my opinion.

The End. (because this truly feels like I just wrote a novel)

Comments

  1. 2

    Danielle says

    Congrats on seeing results! I really liked following your monthlong experiment with doing the whole paleo thing…even though it’s not my cup of tea at all *cough*vegan*cough* I really do like your perspective on the whole “diet” concept. People should be more concerned about feeding their body’s real whole foods rather than strange, processed diet things that claim to be food. I hope you stick with eating what you feel is best for you :)

  2. 5

    says

    Loved this – your stomach looks awesome! Well done. Is bacon recommended/”allowed” on the paleo diet? I think the lifestyle gets a bad reputation from followers who post bacon & eggs on IG 3x a day or who say things like, “I wanted some bread, so I got a GF bagel”… which is more refined/high GI than a regular old sprouted grain product. It’s refreshing to see that you’ve found that middle ground. :D

    • 6

      Running to the Kitchen says

      Bacon is allowed/permitted on Whole30 as long as it is nitrate free and all that jazz. It’s “permitted” on paleo but people take it to the extreme. Reminds me of the atkins days. And I totally agree, IG and all that #fitspo crap can definitely give things a bad name and provide many misconceptions.

  3. 7

    says

    Loved reading about your results – well done, Gina! I’m with you on the whole “what diet are you on?” I hate getting asked that. I just found a way of living that works for me: smaller portions, eating better and cleaner, working out more. Yeah I’m still working towards a goal, but I hate when people think my eating habits are a personal attack on them. Like, if I get invited to a party and I don’t drink , I automatically get cast as the “health freak.” Srsly? SERIOUSLY? Screw that. I’m proud of you! While I don’t think a paleo diet would ever work for me, I think it’s great you did it for a whole month and realized the pros and cons of it for you! :)

  4. 10

    Hayley says

    Congrats, Gina! I loved reading your recap- I just started crossfit so I’ve of course read a lot on paleo and through the number of blogs I read. I would love to start to incorporate more paleo meals into my diet, but i’m a vegetarian so its a little tricky! I am planning on introducing meat soon, so hopefully I can hop on board then and use some of your recipes!

  5. 16

    Richard says

    I’m a sucker for honey in my tea as well – vanilla sounds great :)

    My conclusions after trying paleo were the same. Much like yourself, as I eat healthy I’m 90% compliant & that has found a natural balance with my lifestyle – to be truly committed and get that 10% it’s very expensive both financially and in terms of time. There are also just a few things that I just enjoy and treat myself to not just because they’re on some can/can’t list on a diet i.e. occasional dairy – milk, yogurt

  6. 18

    says

    Wow girl, this was a very interesting post! I am not big on ‘diets’ per se when I have to leave out food groups, but I am honestly intrigued at the fact you had no stomach pain/bloating! I suffer from terrible bloating and pain, but I have never been able to figure out what the cause is: wheat, dairy, I have no clue! If I didn’t lose a single ounce of body fat going paleo, I wouldn’t care if it helped with the bloat. I am off to do some research! Thanks for posting! :)

  7. 19

    says

    This is SO great!! I’ve been eating about 90% paleo and have to agree with you on all fronts. I let myself “cheat” when dining out because it’s SO hard to find appropriate things off the menus. I also crave veggies like no one’s business, which I find is a great benefit! How often do you say, “DAMN, I could really go for some brussels sprouts right now!?”

    The dairy really got me. I had experienced tummy troubles and once dairy was cut, it was like a breath of fresh air. My stomach felt great and the non-bloat was amaze balls!

    But like you, I will commit to a variation of Paleo. I think there are tons of benefits to beans and some grains that I can’t cut them out entirely.

    And while you spent plenty of time in the kitchen, you’re going to save me time by providing all these great recipes! You rock sister!

  8. 20

    says

    So so glad you posted a detailed recap! Thanks for honestly handing out the pros and cons about your experience on strict paleo. I totally agree that doing something absolute (strict paleo or ditching paleo all together) is not the answer – you have to figure out what’s best for you, your body, and your lifestyle.

  9. 21

    says

    cuz the whole conversation surrounding this post wasn’t enough….thank you for posting this!!!! The clearer skin and energy level is enough for me to want to try this…..post baby eating revamp perhaps.

  10. 22

    says

    Great recap, Gina! I loved reading about your Whole30 experience. While paleo is not for me (I don’t really like meat and can’t live without beans!) I could definitely benefit from cutting back on sugar and making vegetables a little more prominent in meals.
    I’ve noticed a difference now that I eat very little dairy as well. When I eat even a small amount I feel it almost immediately

  11. 23

    says

    I am currently on Day 26 of my Whole30 and I am loving it. I agree with your sentiment that people talk about paleo being meat, meat, bacon, fat, and more bacon. My meals are very heavy on the veggies. I am pretty sure that is stressed in the book. I have followed the 1-2 servings of protein and then fill the rest of my plate with veggies. I do intend to continue eating paleo after I am done as I feel amazing when I eat healthier food. I also agree that this isn’t for everyone. I don’t want people doing it because it’s the next “diet” to try. It’s not a diet. Congrats on your transformation! Doesn’t it feel good to feel healthy?

  12. 24

    Jay says

    Interesting post! I do think any eating style that focuses on whole foods is a good thing, however IMO it’s not necessary to exclude food groups etc.
    Don’t you think your workout performance was much better also (or even mostly) because you’ve been working out for another month now and you’ve become fitter?

    And as for grains, they were the one thing I didn’t really crave too much during the challenge because I barely ate them before. Will I eat pasta or rice or quinoa occasionally? Yes. Will it be every meal or even just once a day? No, because I just don’t eat that way. I prefer getting the bulk of my carbs from vegetables.
    Huh? What about oatmeal?

    If you don’t think beans are bad, why would you eat them in ”moderation” (when bloggers use this word, they usually mean restriction)?

    • 25

      Running to the Kitchen says

      I do agree that part of the workout performance improvement was just due to another month of workouts under my belt but considering we’ve done many benchmarks wods at crossfit over the past 8 months and I’ve never improved that much with just time alone, I do think diet played a factor as well.

      On the bean front, I think you’re making quite a large generalization to say “bloggers” mean restriction when they say moderation. When I say moderation, I mean moderation. If I meant restriction, I would’ve said that. I say “in moderation” as it pertains to beans only because that’s how I ate them before. They are not a huge part of my diet normally as I’d prefer to eat protein from animal sources. However, I will go back to enjoying them in hummus, in my chili, in a salad, etc. and to me, that sounds like a “moderate” use of them as opposed to having them be the focus of a meal.

  13. 26

    says

    My Crossfit trainer is DYING for me to eat strictly Paleo. He mentions it all the time. I’m taking slower steps toward it (which I started with your Choc Chip Paleo cookies – thanks!) and trying to eat less sweets, but it’s not easy and I don’t cook.

    Nice job on the body fat loss! I’ve never gotten below 17% myself. That crap is hard!

    Also, I agree on the diet thing. It’s a way of eating. People always think of “diet” as “weight loss”. But as my mom always says, “what you put in your mouth is your diet.”

    OMG. I’m my mother.

  14. 28

    says

    great post!! i did paleo for a month last year too and had the same realizations as you did – great to feel awesome, clear skin, less bloating/water weight etc but it did cost a lot of money and require a lot of time to prep everything. my husband and i decided to keep the general principles of paleo and eating whole foods but not be so strict. i still nix dairy for the most part – like you said, once you stop eating it and then that one time you do? man, rude awakening! :)

  15. 29

    says

    So I usually hate the “this is what I ate” type of posts. Every post titled “WIAW” gets a “mark as read” in my reader, but I was actually really interested in this challenge, and how you made so many great meals within the challenge. It reminded me how interesting simple protein and veggies can be, and I really love these closing thoughts. Paleo has definitely become a bit of a “fad diet”, but I honestly think that at the heart of it, it’s only preaching the same ideas any of us that pride ourselves on being healthy value–eat good real foods that fuel your body. PS, it totally looks like you have abs to me.

  16. 31

    says

    I really enjoyed this post and have found all of your daily updates interesting over the last month. I am thinking about incorporating more paleo-esque meals into my diet just to see if any improvements come for energy, skin, and bloating. I although I am not 100% on some of the thoughts behind the paleo diet I do think some of the guidelines are very much in line with healthful eating.

  17. 32

    says

    I’m so glad you posted the recap – I was wondering what all would happen along the way because I can totally see how eating all paleo, even for a month, would be kind of a gigantic pain in the butt. I don’t ever plan on going paleo, but I do see the benefits from a health standpoint of reducing the amounts of simple carbs and focusing on LOTS of veggies and lean meat. I’ve been working on eating that way ever since I had gestational diabetes, especially with my family history of type 2.

    Two things that I really loved: big boobs are a huge pain, and I kind of like the idea of mine getting smaller. And two, I love that you explain that it’s been a 3 year process to get to where you are eating-wise. Change is hard, and it shows that it’s a balanced approach when it takes a little time to get there. Love this!

  18. 34

    says

    Thanks a lot for taking us along with you on your paleo journey– It’s been really enlightening! I eat a modified version of paleo, half because I love me some ice cream, half because I mentally freak out whenever I start to restrict things from my “diet”.

    It’s really cool that you noticed your allergies disappear because that’s exactly what happened to me when I tested paleo waters for the first time. Why do you think that is?

    • 35

      Running to the Kitchen says

      from what I’ve read in In Starts With Food and my knowledge of allergies, here’s my limited take on it… Allergy symptoms are the result of the body thinking it’s being attacked by something and producing histamines which trigger inflammatory responses in your body. Food can have the same inflammatory response within your body and when histamines get to a certain level, you start to experience the outward symptoms of allergies. I’m guessing for me, there were foods which I eliminated in the paleo challenge that were inflammatory agents in my body and pushing me over the histamine edge so to speak when you added the environmental allergies I have on top of it. Without those foods, my histamine level dropped. This is totally just my guess, not anything concrete!

  19. 37

    says

    I loved reading your daily posts and recap. I am definitely intrigued by the Paleo way of eating, although with much research I don’t think it’s 100% for me. I try to eat a modified Paleo, and maybe someday my journey will take me closer to Paleo, but I am a work in progress.

    I do hate that it is a trend to jump on and that some people don’t do their research or realize it’s not the second coming of Atkins…

  20. 38

    says

    so proud of you :) I had been wanting to read this and I am so happy you did both pros and cons. I love the idea of clean eating and seems like Paloe Diet offers a lot of that but since it does not allow carb- I am tempted to try a modified Paleo. I am so impressed with the reduction in fat % as well as your body looks awesome :) I have been staying away from dairy and my skin feels so much clear but bloating still is a problem.. like you said- its so time consuming and gets pretty expensive too :( but overall a clean eating, eating more plant based diet sounds pretty approachable to me :)

  21. 39

    says

    Good job on finishing the challenge! You look great, regardless. I cannot believe how much it cost you to follow the diet. GEEEEEEEEZE!! I am celiac and I find that since finding it out, I have eaten much healthier. I don’t really spend much more money either (except for on granola bars). I’m kind of with you and how you want to eat. Spending all day in the kitchen is exhausting and pointless, but healthy eating is important too. Feel ya on that one! Do you have any new challenges to try? ;)

  22. 40

    says

    I really enjoyed reading your blog this last month. I follow more of a Vegan diet but I eat some lean meats and eggs. Its amazing hoem much better we feel when we treat our body with good food. Its really really hard to do taht 100% of the time so I commend you on doing it for a month! I’ve been trying to ad more meat in my diet and have been looking into going more Paleo. Thanks for the info!

  23. 41

    says

    I think your before looks pretty damn good, too! I love that you went through the details (cost, feeling, leaning out, etc) because it’s exactly what I was curious about- how it really feels. I don’t think I could ever really do the Whole30 (same as you, I’m not sure I buy into the beans are bad as well well as a few other claims), but I am intrigued by your lack of allergies. I might look into when spring starts and I’m an itchy, sneezy mess.
    Kudos for making it through the entire month and thanks so much for sharing your insight!

  24. 44

    Jessica says

    I just found your blog and I’m so glad I did! I’ve been making small changes to my diet this year in an effort to get healthy and lose the weight I put on after college. Paleo is one diet/lifestyle that I considered trying (I love my meat and veggies) but it seemed so strict to me! I like the idea of eating whole food so much more and just finding balance for yourself. I love the occasional carb filled treat but if its only once and a while and whole grain to boot then who cares. I’d rather enjoy my life and the healthy foods I eat than spend my life constantly obsessing over perfectly adhering to a diet. Thanks for this blog post. I look forward to trying some of your recipes in the future.

  25. 45

    Easy Low Fat Recipes says

    I almost never leave a response, however I browsed a few of the responses on this page Whole30 recap.
    I do have 2 questions for you if it’s okay. Is it only me or do some of the remarks come across like they are coming from brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are posting on other sites, I’d like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post.
    Could you post a list of all of your social networking pages
    like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin
    profile?

  26. 46

    EM says

    I am not typically a blog (or any other website) commenter but I felt compelled to tell you how much you hit the nail on the head with so many things in this post. I ate about 80-90% paleo since September when I began CrossFit, and am just finishing up my first whole30 challenge (in 4 days-not like I’m counting or anything!). I love the challenge you noted about eating/going out and having to be so conscious about what is in everything and/or try to explain it to people. So annoying! I tried as much as possible to avoid that but it just isn’t possible all the time! And how people refer to paleo as a diet when I also prefer to think of it as just a way of eating. Can I add to that the amount of people who nod knowingly and say, “oh right, the low-carb diet” because apparently most people dont know that vegetables actually have plenty of carbs? It takes a lot of willpower not to try to educate people about nutrients and clean eating.

    • 47

      Running to the Kitchen says

      “the low carb diet” comment drives me batty. Completely agree, it can be very hard to not get all preachy on people sometimes when those are the comments you have to deal with. Good luck finishing up your whole30!

  27. 48

    Viet Nam Food says

    Have you ever thought about including a little
    bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and everything.
    Nevertheless think of if you added some great images or videos to give your posts more,
    “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and
    video clips, this blog could undeniably be one of the greatest in its field.
    Fantastic blog!

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