A few months ago, I was frustrated with my body and how I felt. I’m a firm believer in the idea that your diet can affect how you feel about yourself. So I decided I wanted to try to do a 30 Day Paleo Challenge.
Yeah I had a terrible time and ended the challenge after 14 days. It’s funny because I was miserable but that post has become one of the most popular posts on my blog (after Samoas Bars and Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash). Paleo really wasn’t for me, and I came to terms with the fact that I need to listen to my body and NOT force a lifestyle on myself just because it’s popular.
Today, I went to lunch with some co-workers to 118 Degrees. It’s a raw, vegan restaurant. Afterward, another co-worker who didn’t go with us, asked me what I thought. I said it was tasty. He suggested I try a vegan diet for 30 days.
I said no thanks.
I’m not against vegans. As a former vegetarian, I’m ok with meat-free meals. But the real reason I said no is I think I’ve finally figured out what works for me. So I figured I’d go ahead and tell you a little bit about how I figured it out.
Note: this is just what I’ve found works for me. I’m not a nutritionist or advocating you eat the way I do. I’m just sharing what works for me in hopes it’ll help you figure out what works for you.
It’s All About Balance
This is going to sound cheesy, but what works for me is balance. I know you’ve heard it a million times, but really, being able to have everything in moderation keeps me sane. So just to give you a little bit of a breakdown, this is what an average day look like:
Green Smoothie: 1/2 frozen banana, 5-6 frozen mango chunks, handful of spinach, handful of kale, protein powder, water and ice.
After I did my search for the best protein powder, I bought some Garden of Life Vanilla protein. Then Garden of Life was nice enough to send me some Raw Fit to try, it has more protein and green coffee bean extract and a bunch of other stuff. That stuff is seriously amazing. Flavor-wise, the vanilla raw protein is better tasting, but Raw Fit seriously keeps me full for 4-5 hours. And that’s even after crossfit. I’m amazed. I hate to sound like an ad for Garden of Life, but I’m definitely buying the Raw Fit as soon as I run out.
I rarely ever buy lunch. Honestly, most weeks I eat the exact same thing for lunch everyday, just because I cook once per week and eat leftovers.
When putting together my meals, I try to keep this ratio in mind: 2 parts vegetable, 1 part whole grain, 1 part protein.
So here are some examples of lunches I’ve been having recently:
- Tilapia with cumin and paprika, with Quinoa Salad
- Kale salad (just kale with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper) with ground turkey cooked in spices with bulgur wheat
- Kale salad with rotisserie chicken and rice
- Kale salad (can you tell I’m obsessed) with a veggie patty
Honestly, I eat a lot of kale salad because it holds up well and there’s no cooking involved. I can throw it together in the morning, put dressing (really just olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper) on it and it’s not soggy and gross like other salads would be by lunch. Also, I just think it tastes good, which is important. Lunch should be fun, even if it’s healthy.
Ok I wish this was my dinner all the time but yeah right.
Especially now that it’s been hot, the last thing I want to do is cook, but I’ve been trying. Either way, the fact that breakfast and lunch were so healthy makes me feel better about eating a banana with peanut butter and ice cream for dinner. Not that I recommend that, but baby steps right?
But I’ve been working on it. Recently I’ve made:
- Grilled Pizza and grilled corn
- Grilled Tilapia
Now that it gets cooler, I’ll concentrate on making more stews (which I’m a huge fan of). Like:
In a Nutshell…
Overall, I feel better about life. And honestly, making sure I go to Crossfit at least 3 times a week really helps.
But in terms of diet, I’ve found a few key things:
1. More protein early in the day helps keep me fuller longer. Raw Fit has 28g of protein per serving. That’s a lot. I’m thinking of trying two scoops of the raw protein when I run out of Raw Fit to see how that tastes/feels (that would be 32g of protein, woah! too much?).
2. Whole grains help keep me full and satisfied. I still try not to eat too much bread, because that’s processed but I’ve been having of whole grains like quinoa, bulgur, and barley. But even then, I usually only have about 1/2 cup at a time. Moderation is key.
3. I like eating a lot of vegetables. If I concentrate on having 4-5 servings of vegetables per day, I feel great and usually end up eating pretty healthy.
4. Snacks aren’t essential and actually discouraged. I can’t really snack. Once I start, I have a hard time stopping the consumption process until I’m full. I’d rather just eat meals. Might not work for everyone but works for me.
5. Nothing is off limits. I’m more likely to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full when I don’t feel like I can’t have a certain food. On the Paleo challenge, I remember I was constantly thinking about what I could eat. Lately, I just haven’t found myself worrying about that, which is great. I mean, let’s be honest, as a foodie, I constantly think of food, but now it’s things I want to make, as opposed to thinks I want to eat. That said, I am conscious to not over eat certain things. I always want to eat 3 pieces of cake and 4 slices of pizza, but I stop myself because I can always have more later when I’m hungry if I still want it. So while I can have everything, that doesn’t mean stuff my face to the point of feeling ill. I’m definitely guilty of doing that at times, but I’m trying to keep it under wraps.
In retrospect, I’m still glad I tried Paleo for a few weeks (despite how miserable it was). I still think if you haven’t found what works for you, you should definitely give it a try, because it could be amazing for you.
I just found that lots of vegetables with some grain and protein is the best strategy for me. No labels, just real food. Overall, I try to eat well 70-80 percent of the time. That helps keep me happy and healthy.
The other 20-30 percent of the time involves things like this…
Oh wait, that was only true when I lived in Italy. Now it looks more like this…
Because Bacon = ‘Merika!
I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to eat less of that stuff, but I guess that’s the lifelong struggle of a sugar addict?
Have you figured out what works for you? Do you love paleo? Is a vegetarian or vegan diet what keeps you happy or healthy? Are you still figuring it out? Tell me where you’re at!
19 thoughts on “Life After the Paleo Challenge”
Great post. I’m a big believer in moderation in all things rather than strict rules. I try really hard to eat healthily but don’t always manage it. Particularly as I seem to have a baking blog! Is there a certain type of kale you eat as salad? I can’t imagine the kale we get being very good as salad but maybe I should give it a go…
Haha yeah, baking for a blog makes it hard to stay healthy all the time, but that’s where moderation comes into play.
I am a big fan of lacinato kale (sometimes it’s also labeled Tuscan Kale). It’s heartier than regular kale. The leaves are darker and tougher, but I think it’s super tasty. For my smoothies I just buy regular kale. At Trader Joe’s the sell pre-cut/washed Tuscan Kale. I usually buy that just to make life easier. I should do a kale recipe and blog about it!
Thanks for commenting!
Thank you very much. Not sure why I hadn’t worked out that lacinato kale was the answer I needed! Had never heard of that, or Tuscan kale, will look out for it.
Great post – it is all about moderation and finding out what works for you. Besides, life would be pretty sad without some bacon/pb/chocolate in it.
True story! And also umami burger… gah can’t wait!
You sound pretty much like me after ending my vegan phase. I can totally not put labels on my diet, since every restriction makes me feel miserable. And I think it’s very important and cannot be mentioned enough: everyone works differently and just because some people strive on this diet and others on another doesn’t mean that it is the right thing for you. Love that about your post!
Totally agree! Everyone works differently. It’s all about finding what works for you 🙂
We are pretty much the same in our eating style and I love this post!
Yeah definitely. Like that awesome looking kale salad you made a few months ago! Love it
Sigh…I’m a sugar addict too. I really think that’s the only “downfall” of my day-to-day diet. You and I have very similar approaches to eating. 🙂 I’m going to have to try the kale salad + protein combo– that would be an easy lunch to grab and go for days when I’m teaching.
Nice post! I read the one about choosing the best protein shake, too! I was about to buy the Raw Fit you suggested since they sell it at Bristol Farms nearby… but opted for Trader Joes’s Hemp protein powder as I went there first. It’s green AND vanilla! Just tried it and I liked it! Might try the Raw Fit next though. (The last one I had was the Designer Whey brand, which I didn’t like much just like you, I believe!)
Thanks Erica! I’ll have to try the TJ’s Hemp Protein. I’ve heard good things from it!
GREAT POST! Thanks for your honesty. I completely agree that it’s not for everyone. I have a friend who has tried every diet under the sun and what worked for her was going vegan–it lowered her blood sugar to normal and she doesn’t have to take diabetes meds anymore. That’s awesome! But for me, as a former vegetarian, I just know I feel better eating certain things (like dairy and meat).
Thank you for this great post. I am two weeks into a switch from low-fat vegan to modified paleo (mostly fish and eggs with special-occasion grass-fed beef, no other types of meat). A big switch. Glad so many find health and happiness in hard-core paleo, but the expense, not to mention the religious fervor, aggressively snarky attitudes and mindless animal-product consumption (a la: get meat in your whey shake by zapping it in the vitamix! Can’t even taste it!) it seems to generate are turn-offs. Much to take away from the approach, but even more from yours: balance is all.
You are so right! I do not believe that anything based on single-minded exclusions can bring lasting, happy results. As the quote goes: Everything in moderation even moderation