I just completed a 30 Day Paleo Challenge. I started it on June 17th and finished on July 18th.
I lost 13.5 pounds and 4 inches!
This is me on Memorial Day 2011 in the Bolder Boulder 10K Race. I do not like this picture of me, but I’m posting it because it’s the only recent picture I had of myself in workout clothes.
Fast forward to Monday July 18th, and this time I have lost the slouch, the sweatshirt and the 13.5 pounds. And I feel much better than I did one month ago.
Paleo Diet Challenge In A Nut Shell:
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “This is I.M.P.O.S.S.I.B.L.E. there is NO WAY I could ever do this.”
That’s cool, I have no special interest in you eating this way or not eating this way.
But I want to tell you why I feel I was successful in such a short amount of time and why I think you’d be pleasantly surprised if you committed to your own 30-day Paleo Challenge. 30 days is nothing in the big picture of things. If you hate it, then stop after the 30 days and never eat that way again, but you really have nothing to lose (except weight) and:
a.) This isn’t as hard as it first appears.
b.) You will look and feel so much better.
How I Approached My 30 Day Challenge
1. I made a decision that I was going to do it- I stuck to it and I did not “cheat”, ever. I made up my mind and my focus was laser sharp for 30 days. Honestly people, making a decision to follow-thru and not quit is 60% of your success.
Now, let me say this. It took me awhile before I decided to fully commit to this challenge. It wasn’t that I was going through McDonalds drive-thru, I was just depleted. I was weighed down and bloated with emotions that I wasn’t digesting and eliminating. I reached for some comfort in food in order to replace the sweetness and calm that I wasn’t finding in my life. It doesn’t work, I know that. But the Bhakti Chai, corn tortilla enchiladas, blue chips and hummus, red wine, gluten-free cookies, and Justin’s chocolate peanut butter cups comforted me temporarily. I needed that, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I didn’t beat myself up then and I don’t beat myself up now. It’s simply the place I was in and it had nothing to do with my lack of nutritional understanding.
I’m telling you this because if you’re in a starch and sugar rut right now, it may be exactly what you need to do. So keep doing it! I’m totally serious. Give yourself a break and eat the cookie. That’s what I did!
The research shows, and I agree, that when you stop berating yourself about what you ate, or didn’t eat, and how you think you look, you will be less likely to abuse yourself with food and chronic dieting.
So on June 17th I decided it was time for me to change things up. I needed a challenge because I had felt stagnate for too long.
2. I Chose Paleo over anything else – I’ve studied and eaten Paleo 70%-80% of the time for years (I’m gluten-free) and I know it is biochemically sound, so I committed myself to a strict Paleo regime. Here’s what I ate (and didn’t eat).
I didn’t eat processed foods
I didn’t eat grains or legumes- This includes soy, rice, corn, wheat, and any grain product like pasta, breads, or cereal as well as legumes (beans) and white potatoes.
I didn’t eat dairy– This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese.
I didn’t eat sugars– This includes all refined, processed and artificial sugars. I didn’t drink soda (diet or regular) and I eliminated all alcohol.
I didn’t eat processed vegetable oils – Soybean, peanut, cottonseed oils.
I did eat real foods
I did increase healthy fats – Coconut oil, pastured butter, avocado, fish and nut oils.
I did eat an abundance of colorful vegetables (50% of every meal if possible) and fruit when desired – beet tops, kale, collard greens, zucchini, spinach, berries, watermelon, pineapple, apples, etc
I did eat protein – beef, bison, chicken, turkey, fish, lamb, eggs
Here is a sample of my typical meals:
- Eggs, nitrate-free bacon, sometimes blueberries, often zucchini, spinach or whatever vegetable I had on hand to mix into my eggs.
- Tuna salad or egg salad on some leafy greens
- Salmon and veggies (left-over from the night before)
- Roasted chicken and veggies (left over from the night before)
- Smoothie – Whey Protein Powder (I use Jay Robb, chocolate because it’s one of the cleanest retail protein powders available) collard greens, beet tops, blackberries, ground flax seeds (2 tablespoons), water. Throw it all in the blender. Liquify. Drink!
- Any protein, veggie left-overs I had from the night before.
- I’m often eating out at lunch so these are some of my go-to-fast-food-picks.
*Wahoo’s Fish Tacos – Grilled white fish and grilled veggies only $4.00 which I think is a great deal.
*Lark Burger – All natural Angus burger wrapped in lettuce with a side salad.
*Mad Greens – Any salad with chicken or steak (I like the Ty Cobb or Edgar Allen Poe Salads).
*Jimmy John’s Unwich – Roast beef, turkey and tomato wrapped in lettuce.
*The Cup (my favorite Boulder coffee shop) – I order my regular turkey, avocado, tomato and lettuce club and then remove the gluten-free bread that I normally eat. If I’m there for breakfast I have eggs, ham and avocado, they call it their Paleo option, imagine that
- Every Day Paleo Cookbook – I use this a lot! The author is a 30-something mom who only prepares protein and vegetable meals for her family. The fact that her 3 growing boys love all the meals in this cookbook is a huge testament to her recipes. Here’s a quick video about this cookbook. One of my favorite recipes is the curry meatballs, I use bison meat. Sarah, also has a fantastic podcast, she answers readers questions about anything and everything Paleo.
- Primal Blue Print Cookbook – More great protein, vegetable based recipes! And Mark Sisson has one of the best websites about primal (same thing as Paleo) eating.
- Last night (Day 29 of my challenge) I grilled shrimp with curry powder, sauteed zucchini in coconut oil and had fresh pineapple for dinner. This is a typical dinner for me, I tend to cook more fish at home.
- If I’m traveling or eating out with friends for dinner, I choose beef, grilled chicken or fish with a side of grilled/steamed veggies and a salad.
- 4th of July – My friends and family annual picnic included a taco bar this year. I ate the pulled pork, grilled chicken, pico de gallo, fresh avocado, lettuce, tomato, watermelon and berries.
- Italian Restaurant – I went out to eat with my sister and her boyfriend at one of their favorite pizza spots. I ordered a grilled steak salad.
- Business Happy Hour – Most people were drinking beer, wine and eating tortilla chips. I ordered shrimp cocktail and drank water.
- Grace Potter Concert – I met friends before the concert for a drink. They had beers and I had water. I ate dinner at home before I left.
- Girls Bunco Group – There are always bowls of candy on the tables as we rotate through our dice game. I usually eat some candy at Bunco, this month I didn’t eat any.
Not one person asked me why I skipped the taco shell/tortillas/candy or why I ordered shrimp instead of eating chips and just drank water. I didn’t talk about it either, we honestly had more interesting things to talk about then people’s food selections.
Moral of the story, the less of a production you make about what you’re eating (to yourself or others) the less of an issue it is. I told maybe 3 people that I was doing The Paleo Challenge this month. I went on with my life and rarely mentioned it.
Do not make this difficult. You can pretty much ALWAYS find protein, vegetables and water options wherever you go. Drop the OMG-What-Will-I-Eat-If-I-Can’t-Eat-Bread/Sugar drama and enjoy your nourishing social interactions and relationships while you nourish yourself with real, whole, nutrient rich foods.
I don’t snack per se. I always ate 3 meals (I never skipped a meal) and I often eat 4 or 5 meals a day. I don’t count calories, I never have. If I’m hungry I eat a meal, i.e. some left over egg salad and steamed broccoli that is in my refrigerator. In a pinch I’ll have a Larabar (dates, nuts, fruit) but I try to avoid that and just eat a combination of a lean protein, healthy fat and colorful vegetables whenever I’m hungry.
3. I did power (hot) yoga 3-4 times a week – I know a lot of people have negative connotations toward yoga for various reasons, and believe me, I get it! I rolled up my yoga mat four years ago and didn’t step foot into a yoga studio for a long time. But, there are many different styles of yoga and I have slowly come back. The other thing is, I am the least flexible person in the world. Truly I am! But I find I really enjoy the flow sequence of Baptiste Power Yoga and Vinasaya classes. I feel great (mentally and physically) afterwards.
I also walked a 3-mile path in the hills of South Denver a couple times a week, but I felt like I really wanted yoga to be my primary source of exercise during this 30-day challenge.
Jada Teta, Naturopathic Doctor and personal trainer says, “You can either eat your way to gaining weight or stress yourself there.” I think I did a lot of the later.
I needed to start moving some of those “issues out of my tissues” by sweating, twisting, stretching and bending my body. Yoga classes were a perfect outlet for me. Moving stagnate emotional energy out of your body through yoga or any exercise that resonates with you will always help the scale go down!
4. I took Carnitine- I lost an average of 3.3 pounds per week. I believe I lost 2 pounds each week because I ate Paleo based meals and I had a consistent yoga practice. I believe I lost the other 1.3 pounds each week from Carnitine. I love Carnitine! I don’t know why more people don’t know about it and why more nutritionists don’t recommend it?
What is Carnitine? *It is sometimes thought of as an amino acid but it is actually very similar to choline, which is a B-vitamin.
What Carnitine is not – It is not a stimulate or diet drug. It is naturally found in animal products, especially red meat. However, unless you are eating pounds of (grass-fed) red meat every day (I’m certainly not doing that) you probably aren’t getting enough Carnitine.
What does Carnitine do? – *Carnitine supports weight loss. It picks up fat and puts it in the part of the cell that burns if off without any side effects. Scientific evidence shows that increased levels of Carnitine lead to increased fat burning. Carnitine also helps increase metabolic rate while maintaining levels of muscle tissue. This is crucial because muscle tissue is where you do most of your fat burning. Carnitine is also useful for eliminating cravings and increasing the amount of energy you have for exercise, both of which are very helpful for those who want to lose weight.
My lean muscle to fat ratio is good right now. My body fat dropped to 16%. I’m thrilled that I actually lost fat pounds and not muscle pounds during this 30 day period. I attribute that to Carnitine.
Other Benefits – *Increases energy levels, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, promotes heart health, promotes healthy circulation, promotes liver health.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Not only is it true but it is totally legit. It’s a B-vitamin that you’re getting every time you eat a burger or steak (one of the many reasons to eat your beef, huh?) Robert Crayhon, one of my nutrition mentors, and a man truly ahead of his time in the nutrition field, wrote The Carnitine Miracle in 2001, I highly recommend educating yourself on this nutrient, especially if you want to enhance weight loss.
Where Can You Get Carnitine? – I use Designs for Health (DFH) liquid Carnitine. 1 teaspoon equals 2500 mg. I took it in the mornings with breakfast and then went to yoga.
DFH is a pharmaceutical grade, nutraceutical company that only sells to functional medicine medical doctors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, osteopaths, naturopaths, etc. So you have to find a nutritionally oriented practitioner who carries liquid Carnitine. I would not recommend buying capsules from places like Costco. You need a high quality, high amount (2 grams), pure, trustworthy source.
Finally, don’t take Carnitine and then sit around and eat pop-tarts and drink diet soda, have you seen the recent studies on diet soda and weight gain? If you take it while you eat a crappy diet you probably won’t see any benefit, and liquid Carnitine is not cheap. So don’t waste your time or money with Carnitine of you’re not dedicated to actively changing your diet.
5. I drank a lot of water – I drank a minimum of 80 ounces of water every day and some days I’d drink 120 ounces (almost a gallon).
Don’t whine about this. Drinking water is a crucial yet easy step in this whole process. Just do it!
If you truly want to lose fat and avoid plateaus in your fat-loss process you HAVE to drink copious amounts of water. (80-100 ounces a day is probably a good range for most adults to drink over the course of a day.)
But there are two parts to this.
1. Eliminate all soda (diet and regular), juice, alcohol, chai, sweetened coffee, sweetened tea, and any artificially sweetened or “naturally” flavored water look a likes!
2. Only drink fresh pure water, and drink it every day. There’s probably a good argument for adding some pure electrolytes, trace minerals, or a pinch of Celtic Sea Salt to your water too, but we can talk about that later.
For the past 30 days all I drank was water. Every once in awhile I would make one cup of herbal spice tea. I brewed 1 tea bag in the evening and drank a cup of tea before bed. That’s it. Taking my coveted Bhakti Chai and red wine out of my diet made a big difference. They both add up to a lot of sugar over a 30 day time period. Excess sugar (especially in drinks) = excess pounds.
Booyah! I think that is officially the longest post I’ve ever written.
I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, no big changes. I’m thrilled with how my body transformed in 4 short weeks. And more importantly, I feel great. I function so much better when I eat protein, vegetables, healthy fats (90% of the time) and eliminate grains and sugars. So I’m sticking to it! Does this mean I’ll never eat a chocolate peanut butter cup again? Of course not. But they are “treats” and not part of my every day coping mechanism right now. I will add a new dimension into my exercise routine, but I’ll blog about that later.
In the meantime, If you want help developing your own 30 Day Challenge, or you want to use Carnitine, electrolytes, and tweak your current routine, I can take a look your recent blood panels and any metabolic disturbances that might be tripping you up like thyroid issues, food intolerance, or cravings that sabotage you. It doesn’t have to be that way, believe me, you can make some sustainable changes.
You now know my recent story and how I’ll use this to enhance my current consulting practice. I also continue to use my clinical nutrition experience from the last decade. If you know me personally, you know that I’ll never take a “purist” or “guru” approach with you. My friend Connie wrote a blog post about what it’s like to mingle with me at a party on a Saturday night. This sums up how I try to approach all my patients and clients.
I work with people in person, over the phone or via Skype. I will support you when you need it (because more than likely I’ve been there too) and I’ll hold your feet to the fire and keep you accountable (since I just finished holding my own feet to the fire, I’m reinvigorated with new tips and resources). Each session is $70. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Paleo Solution – by Robb Wolf
The Paleo Diet – Loren Cordain
The Paleo Diet For Athletes – Loren Cordain
About the author
Jolene Park, B.A., Certified Nutrition Consultant, Yoga Teacher founded Healthy Discoveries in 2001. She facilitates health and nutrition workshops for companies large and small across the U.S., and provides wellness and nutrition coaching for individuals and multiple medical offices throughout the greater Boulder/Denver area. Learn more.