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
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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)

Founder and Writer at Running to the Kitchen | About

Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

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49 Comments

  1. Seems like the pros outweighed the cons in my opinion. Great job sticking with it, it’s truly not an easy thing all the time.

  2. 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

  3. You look amazing and I love your recap! It’s crazy how much diet impacts gym performance – something I’m definitely noticing on my Whole30!

  4. 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. 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! :)

    1. haha, I don’t have a drink in my hand within 5 minutes of getting to a party/get together and the “are you pregnant?” questions start rolling in. So annoying.

  6. 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

    1. 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.

  7. Wow, you look great! So interesting to see the before and after stats. I’m not paleo, but it’s definitely intriguing to see your recap and such!

  8. 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 :)

  9. you look great, girl! I really enjoyed reading your recap. even though i’m not a huge paleo fan it’s been interesting to follow you on this for the month!