What to Expect When You Take on the Paleo Diet
If you haven’t heard of the current food craze, the Paleo diet, then you might be living more like a caveman than anyone on the actual program. First, health-conscious restaurants included a “V” next to all vegetarian options. Within the last couple of years, “GF” (gluten-free) has become just as common. But now, restaurants and smoothie bars are not wellness-savvy if they don’t have at least a few Paleo-friendly options asterisked on their menus.
The Hollywood-favorite Paleo diet refers to eating as cavemen would, i.e., only animal protein, produce (ideally picked straight from the earth by your own hands), nuts, and berries. The goal of this high-fat, low-carb diet is to make digesting your food easy on your gut.
After overhearing “Is that Paleo?” enough times at restaurants and reading about the primal craze in The New York Times, I decided to try the ultra-trendy, ultra-restrictive eating plan. But, being the all-or-nothing girl that I am, I wanted to commit fully to a caveman lifestyle, or at least live as Paleolithic as I could for a weekend in Los Angeles circa 2015. For me, that meant no processed food, as little electricity as possible, walking barefoot (at least at home), and chowing down on animal protein and vegetables. The two days that unfolded were both frustrating and wonderfully exhilarating.
Friday night I left work and headed straight for the grocery store. I only shopped the perimeter of the market, ordering chicken breasts and salmon fillets—both skin on—from the butcher and then foraging for sustenance in the produce section.
Inspired by my 48-hour challenge to live pseudo caveman, I ate my last supper (sushi takeout) by candlelight, instead of keeping my overhead lights on, and went to bed early, without setting an alarm clock for the next morning. I woke up to a sunshine-filled apartment and began my experiment.
Breakfast was easy: a few almonds, some mixed berries, and hot water with lemon. I couldn’t stomach a steak that early but thought the almonds would hold me over until lunch. After a long hike with friends, I was ready for a midday brunch, filled with almond milk lattes, mimosas, and lots of syrup. But as I sat at the restaurant dutifully eating my grilled chicken salad and refrained from imbibing, I felt like I was missing out on all the fun.
Matters got worse when the gnawing craving for processed carbs kicked in around 4 p.m. Grilled broccoli and salmon, while delicious, couldn’t satisfy my thirst for a fork full of pesto pasta or a bite of baguette with gruyère cheese. Definitely well fed but annoying dissatisfied, I read until darkness. Since I taped all of my light switches off for the weekend and shut down all of my electronics, the evening was eerily quiet and stimuli-free, so I went to bed early, yet again.
By the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was up an hour before usual and felt more rested than I had in weeks. It was only Sunday, and I felt like I had already spent a full weekend recharging. With an exhilarating amount of energy, I took advantage of the cool morning air and went for a long walk. Then I cooked spinach, eggs, and bacon (yes, bacon is allowed) at home before meeting a friend at the park for a day of card playing, cartwheel attempting, and just hanging out, sans cell phones.
As Monday morning loomed closer, my sense of dread was noticeably absent. Rather than mourning the death of my weekend, I felt refreshed and ready for the week. The Sunday blues never really reared their ugly head, and the evening was a laughter-filled night in with my boyfriend, instead of a silent Instagram-thumbing session. While I think it’s smart to find the diet and lifestyle that works best for you, I highly recommend an unplugged, unprocessed two days for your body and mind. But, rather than stressing about whether or not your mushroom chicken dish is dairy free, try enjoying a Paleo-lifestyle weekend challenge as an opportunity to recharge your batteries. I think it works best when you celebrate clean, honest living without punishing yourself for wanting a little goat cheese in your morning omelet.
Are you interested in healthy living? Share your thoughts on the Paleo lifestyle and diet in the comments!