The word ‘diet’ instills fear and scepticism in equal measure in people (and trainers) around the globe. It’s a word that dictates our choices, decisions and actions. It can strain relationships, cause emotional distress and social segregation. It can yield results in certain measurable outcomes (like scale weight and waist size) whilst simultaneously being detrimental to long-term health; offering false dawns and unrealistic outcomes. In a society where we are saturated with vanity, quick-fix fads and materialism we often seem to lose sight of what things are important, who we are and how we actually got to this point as a species.
Whether you are wanting to lose weight for health, performance or aesthetic reasons, or whether you’re an athlete looking for that physical edge or you simply want to live a healthy life, the food you consume is essential in allowing your body to function correctly: The old adage that ‘you are what you eat’ could not be truer.
Only this last week I was sat in a hospital waiting room as a woman who was as round as she was tall struggled to walk across the room to the standard public-convenience vending machine. Unsurprisingly, it was packed full of nutritious insulin spiking delights like fizzy drinks, chocolate bars and crisps. When she finally got there I couldn’t tell if she was catching her breath or salivating at the feast to come as she leant against the machine, staring blindly through its glass veneer. After finally opting for a pack of crisps she slowly bent over, clinging to the side of the machine for dear life, only to find it a struggle to get her hand through the flap where her prize was awaiting. It was at this point I thought to myself how screwed up and depressing we have become as a society, where an obese woman in a hospital struggles to get a packet of crisps out of a vending machine due to her weight! Now, admittedly I made a few assumptions, and there could be many reasons (aside from poor food choices) for her current condition, but this experience made me realise that the choices we make have a significant impact on our bodies and our health, and that fad ‘diets’ will only go so far. Instead of ‘quick fix’ solutions, what we really need is to make permanent lifestyle change, to learn how to make better choices not just today but for the rest of our lives.
This conveniently leads me into the Paleo Diet, which, in my opinion, should not be referred to as a diet due to the preconceptions and misconceptions associated with the term, but should instead be known more as a lifestyle choice. For the time being, I will use the term ‘diet’, but please always remember that this is not a way of eating that I would recommend you ‘go on’ and ‘come off’ again as soon as you reach your goal – this is a way of eating that should always guide your food choices.
What is the ‘Paleo Diet’?
The Paleo Diet is very simple in its detail, as all it requires is that you eat fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, meats and seafood, and avoid eating processed foods that are made from refined sugars and salt, grains, and vegetable oils. It’s commonly known as the ‘caveman diet’, as it literally strips us back down to our basic nutritional requirements, stripping away all the easy, convenient, modern day, highly-processed alternatives that have flooded our food aisles, shops and restaurants in recent decades.
The Paleo Diet Challenge…
For the next two weeks, my friend and I will be following a Paleo Diet (100% – NO CHEATING!) for the duration of July. This means:
1. We can eat as much as we want of: fresh vegetables, unprocessed meat, fish and eggs as we want (and a moderate amount of fresh fruit, nuts and seeds).
2. We can eat NO amount of the following:
- processed foods (e.g. if it comes in a packet and has more than one ingredient, it’s out!)
- refined sugars (e.g. biscuits, cakes, sweetened sauces, etc.)
- grains (e.g. no bread, pasta, oats, rice, corn, etc.)
- dairy (e.g. cheese, milk, cream)
- legumes (e.g. beans, lentils, peanuts)
Why Do the Paleo Challenge?
Our reasons for undertaking the challenge, which we intend to do 100% for the duration of July, are as follows:
- My friend would like to lose a small amount of body fat to enhance her endurance running.
- I would like to improve my strength and boost my own aesthetics by appearing a little stronger (i.e. look at little leaner / more muscular).
Sparing you the details, my digestive health has never been that good, and potentially could have been a factor in me getting ruptured appendicitis a couple of years ago. For this reason I feel my ability to absorb nutrients is limited which is why I have found it difficult to transfer the volume I eat into muscle strength and a desired body mass. Hence why the Paleo diet is an appealing option, as it should offer me a balanced diet fulfilling all my nutritional needs as well as being high in protein. With regards to my friend, the diet provides a low glycaemic basis from which she can eat ‘clean’ and get lean without making any compromises with regards to the quantity of food she eats (she still needs to train for her endurance events!).
Our Paleo Diet Challenge Blog
We also intend to document our experience of this challenge – we will report back on our results and experiences, and we also aim to compile a selection of varied, exciting and tasty Paleo recipes which anyone can make with little fuss and minimal preparation (when we researched what we could and couldn’t eat for this challenge some of the recipe suggestions we came across were absurd – who has the time or money to prepare and cook a baked rainbow trout at 5am for breakfast!?!?)
So, the plan is to do a weekly blog of how we are getting on, along with several of our best culinary efforts of the week for your taste buds to sample.
Please feel free to offer suggestions and share experiences in the ‘Comments’ section below! I am also doing the 3 peaks challenge next week, so any light Paleo energy meals/ snacks would be awesome!
See you again soon!!