I’ve Been Paleo for a Year: Here are the Major Changes I’ve Noticed.
I haven’t eaten grain for 365 days. No rice, no bread, no regular pretzels. I wasn’t sure I could do it, but once I started I felt so good that I can’t imagine ever going back. The shift in my energy levels, mood and waistline, coupled with recent research on grain and inflammation helped make the change stick, and as the old adage goes, it only takes 21 days to change a habit, and after 365, Paleo is now my way of life. Here are the five major changes I’ve noticed since starting my Paleo diet one year ago:
1. I lost weight.
I wasn’t sure how switching from oatmeal to protein and almond butter for breakfast would affect my waistline, but I dropped weight and I dropped it fast. I start every morning with MCT oil in my coffee and Paleo protein powder mixed with almond butter, and I find that I’m full for about five hours. Before Paleo, I always had a snack about two hours after breakfast and now I can actually wait until the next meal. I attribute this to blood sugar stability and that fact I’m avoiding the highs and lows or high grain intake. I’ve lost about ten pounds over the last year and I’ve noticed more lean muscle, likely because of my increased protein intake.
2. My athletic performance improved.
As a distance runner and group fitness instructor, I am so used to hearing that athletes can’t go without carbs, and it’s true. What people often forget though is that fruits and vegetables are loaded with carbs. You don’t need grain to ensure adequate carbohydrate intake. I often eat an applesauce squeeze before a run, and I include starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes with at least one of my main meals, usually lunch. The paleo diet differs from keto and low-carb diets in that you can have starchy vegetables and fruit, so it’s perfect for athletes. Remember, not all carbs are created equal!
3. My skin started to glow.
Refined and processed foods do not provide the body with adequate nutrients, so one benefit you can look forward to when you switch to a Paleo diet is the glow that comes from being properly nourished. Grain is known to cause inflammation, which contributes to premature aging, and you’ll notice a significant difference in the number of fine lines and wrinkles when you eliminate the food group. My skin’s elasticity also improved, possibly from the collagen-rich grass-fed meat I started replacing my pasta with.
4. My mood has improved and I’m mentally sharper.
Carbs can help contribute to a healthy mood, but if left unchecked, they can make your blood sugar dip and rise like a rollercoaster, leaving you a hangry mess. I noticed that strategically incorporating the right carbs (think apples, sweet potatoes, berries and even dark chocolate) at the right times (late morning and afternoon), I maintained a healthy mood and avoided “grain brain,” the mental fogginess that comes from those dips and spikes in blood sugar.
5. I spend less on food.
This was surprising. I thought that switching from pasta and rice to meat and produce would break the bank, but when I got smart about my spending, I realized that budget Paleo was easier on my wallet than heavily-advertised processed foods. I opted for a meat subscription through Butcher Box and a weekly produce farm-share box from an organic farm near me. I supplement those deliveries with trips to the grocery store, and my food spending is down about 15% since I started my Paleo journey.
My takeaway after a year of grain-free living?
I’m sticking with it! Everyone’s body is different and it takes time to figure out what works for you, but after going vegan, vegetarian and low-carb, I’ve finally found a way of eating that works for me and brings me optimal health, and I won’t be eating a rice stir-fry anytime soon.