Food Freedom: Part 1, What Has Paleo Taught Me

As some of you may have noticed on my Instagram, I have been recently reconsidering my nutrition a lot and somehow slowly departed from STRICT paleo. And despite passionately preaching paleo before, you may have noticed some non paleo foods on my plate such as quinoa, beans, chickpeas, goat’s cheese, or occasional bread with my breakfast.

And because I want to still hold myself accountable in front of you, I feel the need to explain this a little bit. At the same time, I feel like some people may be going through similar struggles and if this could help at least one person, I think it’s worth posting. 

Explaining these changes that have been gradually and slowly happening over past few months takes a while and is quite complicated. That’s why I’m going to split this talk into three parts. The first one is going to cover what has paleo taught me and why I would still recommend it to anyone. The second one is going to cover why I have decided not to follow strict paleo anymore and in the third part I am going to tell you what changes I have made and I am going to try in the near future to achieve the desired balance and food freedom.

I hope you appreciate that all of this is very personal and is written mainly to address those who may share some of these struggles, not necessarily with paleo but with food in general

Despite the fact that I do not follow strict paleo at the moment, I would still recommend it to anyone who is thinking about it because this experience has taught me so much. Let me explain…

Learning to understand food and macros

Paleo is a perfect way how ‘normal’ people can start to understand nutrients and macros in foods. Paleo plate template is a perfect example how to explain the macros in a straightforward way and is applicable to any diet, whether you are paleo or not. This has taught me to automatically consume sufficient amount of protein with every meal, loads of vegetables with every meal and some fat as well. Even though I am not strict paleo anymore, this still remains my main priority. It is easy for me to create balanced meals because thanks to paleo this become automatic rather than something that I would need to think about.

And therefore, when I add quinoa or beans to my meals now, I understand what it means in terms of macros and what is the appropriate portion for a balanced meal. 

Believe me, a year ago I had no f…..g clue. I only knew that meat is protein, bread and pasta are carbs, veggies and good and fruit is sugar. 😀 I had no idea how to create a balanced and nourishing meal. Now, it’s a different story. 

Eating loads of vegetables and enough of protein

Thanks to this experience, today I wouldn’t just eat fruit for breakfast without any source of protein, I wouldn’t just have a big portion of potatoes or rice with my meal because I would rather swap it for some vegetables. 

During this year, I’ve tried so many kinds of different kinds of vegetables that I’ve never even heard of before and my fridge is constantly FULL of veggies.

Nobody acts surprised when you tell them that veggies should be the most important part of your diet and that you should eat more. And yet, few people actually do. And by that I don’t mean having a side salad with your breakfast sandwich, your chicken and rice or your pasta. Paleo forces you to forget about all the bread, pasta, pizza, rice or potatoes and replace them with vegetables. First, you think that this idea is nuts, then you try it and you feel better than you’ve ever felt before. Then, you get used to it and it is the best food habit you could acquire. Anyone, whether you’re paleo, vegetarian, gluten free or else. 

Getting rid of or reducing amounts of unnecessary food and maximising nutrient density

Look, I’ve never said that bread/rice/pasta/pizza/carbs are evil and you should completely cut them out. NO. I just think that people in general (including ‘past me’) are used to consuming too much unnecessary carbohydrates (and sugar). Why? Simply because they are used to it… and it’s just easy. It’s easier to boil pasta or cook rice for dinner than cutting fresh veggies for 20 minutes. It’s easier to grab a wrap/sandwich during your lunch break than making a salad the night before. It’s easier to have some bread for breakfast rather than making an omelette. I understand.

People will tell you they don’t have time for that and to be honest, they don’t see any reason why they should make such a change. That’s why I think that even if only trying paleo for a month, it could show you that it can be done differently and that it is not impossible. 

Taking food seriously

You may not like to admit it but food is important. It doesn’t only determine how you look but influences how you feel, how well you can perform. And no one can teach you that. You just need to understand for yourself. 

Getting rid of any stomach discomforts

I’ve said this before, but I am going to say this again. The main reason that I went paleo was because for like 5 months I’ve been experiencing very frequent stomach discomfort. Despite eating healthy, I would constantly feel bloated or sick and I had no idea why. 

Then, by cutting out all the non-paleo food, establishing a balanced nutrient intake and then experimenting with the established pattern, it has taught me so much about how certain food makes me feel. Now I know that I tolerate low lactose dairy very well while I would probably feel sick from milk or ice cream. I know that large amounts of fat don’t make me feel good. I know that I am okay with legumes unless there is too much of them. I know that I tolerate soy products with no problems, I know that if I eat pizza I’ll most definitely feel bloated afterwards. (But sometimes, that’s worth it, right? 😉 I know that I tolerate high carb foods fairly well if they are part of a balanced meal, if there is too much of them, I feel heavy. I know that if I have too much sugar, I will have a headache the next day, etc, etc.

And that is different for every person. But if not for paleo, I would probably never find out all this stuff so easily.

Making me healthy

I am just going to say that before paleo, I would fall sick fairly often. Every 3 months I had a sore throat for two weeks and was taking antibiotics. I have a very sensitive throat and it was like this ever since I remember. And I didn’t mind that much, it was normal.

Ever since I went paleo, I wasn’t ill once. 

No big sugar swings

Again, I am not saying that I’ll never touch any refined sugar ever in my life. I just think that people don’t pay attention to how much unnecessary and added sugar they are consuming. (And it is often not even their fault because sugar nowadays is being added to almost everything.)

I am just saying that paleo has taught me to pay attention to this, look out for the added sugar and try to minimise its consumption. It has taught me that you actually feel better and more energised when you don’t rely on simple sugar (e.g. in fruit, raw bars, sugary drinks, the sweet stuff) for energy. It has taught me that if you prefer the foods with lower GI you don’t experience sugar swings, cravings or sudden drops in your energy.

Falling in love with cooking healthy food

Cooking food is a joy now for me. I enjoy creating new recipes, new combinations, salads, veggie bowls, everything. Believe me, it was NOT LIKE THIS a year ago. 🙂 Paleo has taught me how to create a delicious meal that is completely healthy and balanced while enjoying the process as well.

… to be continued.

Next episode of this food freedom series is going to be about why I have decided to depart from strict paleo and added some non paleo foods into my diet.

Give paleo a try.

Peace out.

Life is good. 

Sunshine Susan


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