Welcome to Caveman Close-up! This is where real, live people discuss their struggles and triumphs in the Paleo/Primal Lifestyle. If you have a similar story that you would like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!Hey Max & Josh! Due to the especially high concentration of meats and fats in the Primal/Paleo diets, many people—especially women—may be skeptical of straying away from the low-calorie, low-fat diets promoted in American society today. Well, I’d like to debunk this myth, and further support all of what Caveman College has taught you thus far with the following testimonial:
Hi! My name is Renee and I’m a student at Wesleyan University. I have been eating Paleo since late March and gluten-free since January 2012. I could talk for DAYS about eating and nutrition, but for now, I’ll do my best to keep things relatively brief. I figured this would be helpful coming from a both a student and a female’s perspective and have included some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along my journey thus far.
First, let me talk about why I made the Paleo plunge. My relationship with food has been a disordered saga—complete with fad diets, calorie counting, binge eating, stress, expectations, lack of control and overwhelming guilt. With dramatic ups and downs, I rarely felt in control of what I was eating. Having been overweight for much of my childhood, I became very conscious of what I ate, but as with many people wishing to lose weight, I was misinformed. My staple foods were fat-free yogurts, fruits, veggies, “health” bars, and my daily bowl of Kashi cereal with skim milk. Though I would spend much of my energy carefully rationing my food throughout the day, I often found myself binging later—which was predictably followed by a spiral of guilt.
It was time for me to take the next step and make a change that I could stick with. I didn’t want to have to stress and over-think about the foods I was consuming. I found that balance in the Paleo diet. I’ve come to understand much more about eating healthily and properly fueling your body than ever before. I’ve also changed the focus of my eating to feel good, rather than what I think I should do to look good. While there is still plenty of room for error and, unfortunately, guilt, I now have a much better grip on my food choices than before.
Maybe you’ve been grappling with the same issues and negative associations with food while trying to attain healthy goals that I did. If you felt a lack of control—or even a lack of freedom—the Paleo diet may be a solution far more effective than your previous attempts at success. Here are some tips to keep in mind to make things easier:
- College students are always on the go. Running from class, to rehearsal, to the gym, to the library, awake for long hours, students often lack the priority of sitting down for a balanced meal. We’re known to grab a bag of chips or late night cheesy-fries from a food truck. What helps me is planning when and what I am going to eat. This allows me to be armed with caveman-friendly foods, and to avoid grabbing something not paleo out of convenience, carelessness, or simple hunger.
- Max’s post about snacks is right on. I try to eat meals that will satisfy me and allow me to avoid snacking, but just in case, I bring a serving of almonds and a piece of fruit with me when I’m on the go. This snack provides fat, protein, and carbs. If you’re going to snack, it’s because you need fuel, so make sure it will sustain you for a few hours!
- Make it work for you:
- In all honesty, I am far from a paleo purist. It can be very hard to eat only grass-fed, local, organic foods at school. You may not have access to them in your area, or even if you do, they are hard to stock-up on when you’re on a college-student budget. You may also not have the option of preparing your own food, and while I am lucky because my school tends to serve sustainable and organic foods, many schools do not.
- Even so, there’s no reason to throw in the towel. I do my best given my options—“Paleo style,” if you will. I figure going for the grilled chicken breast with roasted veggies or a fresh assortment from the salad bar is better than giving up entirely. I stick to the basics by avoiding grains, legumes, highly processed foods and dairy. You are the only person held accountable for the choices you make; you’re doing this for your own good, and no caveman spirits will scold you for eating a piece of meat that wasn’t entirely grass-fed. Make decisions that will leave you feeling good.
- Don’t think of it as a “diet:”
- On a related note, keep in mind that the point of all of this is to make you feel good and healthy. No one is keeping score, counting your calories, adding up points, or scrutinizing your choices. You’re the only one tracking your progress. If you falter, pick it right back up. If you feel as though you’re seriously depriving yourself of something at a special event or occasion, have it. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Eating this way can be isolating in some social situations. If not indulging in that piece of cake that your friend spent hours making for you will impact you negatively, then by all means, make the conscious decision to eat it, try not to judge, and indulge sometimes.
- We’re so used to the word “diet” having limiting and restrictive connotations. People often critique others for cheating the diet, stressing you out about overstepping the boundaries. If you put so much stress on yourself, you’re likely to get overwhelmed and unhappy—which goes against the whole Primal lifestyle. Therefore, I choose to ignore the word “diet,” and just try to be real with myself and ignore what others might say to me about it.
- Take your time:
- It can be overwhelming to internalize all of this information. There are articles, often conflicting one another, emerging daily. It can be unnerving to feel as though you’re misinformed, and a new article can lead you to question everything that you were doing right. I think the key is to try to take it step-by-step and experiment with what works for YOU. This blog is a great resource in that sense. Trying to sift through the information yourself can be daunting, and Josh and Max do an excellent job of weeding through the material to point out the basics.
I’ll acknowledge that I am in no way perfect in any of these regards—I still get uptight and stressed out over what I eat sometimes; I’ll stress about how much I eat and when I eat. I overeat, eat mindlessly, and sometimes freak out at the notion that I may be doing it all wrong. One thing’s for sure, though; despite these imperfections I am in far more control of my health than I was before. My body is happy when it’s taken care of and trying to attain that sustainably by going Paleo in the first place is the best choice I could have possibly made.