About three years ago, I started following the paleo diet. If you are unsure of what a paleo diet consists of, follow THIS link. After just a few weeks, I saw some really positive effects. I was feeling healthier, looking thinner and performing better in my athletic endeavors. So, I kept up with the diet for a while, just as strict as I had been when I started. Sure it was tough, but I knew it was the right thing to do, and felt there was no other way. After a year or two, I started to feel really drowsy and low on energy throughout the day. Part of this had to do with my increased exercise regiment and increased stress levels at college. I never truly felt full and always had a nagging to snack on something sweet, salty, and crunchy (which is not easy to come bye on a paleo diet). So, I started experimenting a bit with adding a few items back into my diet. I started with sweet potatoes and started to get my hunger levels down. Then I started adding some dairy products and my hunger levels were back to around normal. So, I thought I would see what kind of other foods might make me feel better, not just on the hunger side, but also on my mood, energy levels, etc. Here is how I broke down my experiment:
1. I will eat ANYTHING
It doesn’t make sense to not eat something (unless it comes from a plastic bag and doesn’t resemble anything found in nature). Who is to say that a certain food is good or bad for me? The only way to truly know what is good for you and what is bad for you is to try it out and experiment with the food for yourself. I tried anything from breads and pastas to livers and gizzards. I would eat a food and then evaluate internally over the next couple of days looking for things such as: Energy changes, skin condition (ie:acne breakouts), feeling of sickness (coughing, sneezing, stomach ache, etc.), and general moods. This is a very generic and basic experiment that is ridiculously easy to do. All you really need to do is be conscious and aware of your body after you eat certain foods.
2. I will stop eating that thing if I notice a negative change
Sometimes it can be difficult to realize a negative change in your body. It is even more difficult to be able to determine that the negative change is due to your diet. This takes a fair amount of effort and cognition. Ill give you some insight in to how I determine a negative change in my body due to diet:
- I know that things such as gluten, dairy, excessive sugar, legumes, and processed foods will potentially give me issues
- When I eat any of the previously mentioned items, I make certain that for the next 24-48 hrs, I am paying extra attention to changes in my body
- These changes include: skin irritation (ie: acne, dry skin, etc.), stomach rumbling/gas, cold related symptoms (runny nose, caugh, etc), overall energy level, feeling bloated
- If one or many of these changes occur, I look back at what I ate in the past 24-48 hours
- I have found (Through self experimentation) that the following symptoms usually correlate with certain distinct foods:
- Skin Irritation (acne, dry skin): Dairy Consumption, Gluten
- Stomach Rumbling/Gas: Legumes, Gluten
Cold Related Symptoms: Excess Sugar, Gluten
- Low Energy Levels, Feeling Bloated: Gluten
While these correlation’s are pertinent to my diet and how my body reacts to certain foods, it is possible that you react in a similar way. In order to determine what foods effect you, it is a good idea to do some self experimentation (Ie: Take a food out of your diet for a few weeks, then add it back in and see how you feel). Once I did some self experimentation, I was able to determine what foods don’t agree with me, and to what extent those foods don’t agree with me.
3. I will continue eating that thing if I notice a positive change
Many of the foods that might be considered “not-paleo” by some paleo enthusiasts have been quite beneficial to my goals and my overall health. For example, I started drinking whole milk after workouts and saw all of my performance goals increase. I also started eating some organic blue corn products as a way to increase my carbohydrate intake and have seen some positive effects on my mood as well as my feeling of fullness. Particularly being in a college setting, it is important to eat the foods that you have available to you. It is not going to be easy to find the exact foods you want to eat when you eat in a dining hall three times a day. Just remember, if you are going to stray away from the baseline diet, make sure you are paying very close attention to how foods effect you.
Check Out Part II of Why I Stopped Following The Paleo Diet HERE
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