In the final part of this series on my keys to Paleo success we will talk about consciousness; not being awake, but being alert! Together with cooking, understanding, and patience this will conclude the series on keys to success. How conscious you are on a day to day basis may ultimately determine just how successful the Paleo lifestyle will be for you.
Eating: It’s fairly obvious that you must be supremely aware of what you are eating to be successful. There are certain areas though that I think are more important as they are the most likely to make you slip up.
Although I don’t encourage calorie counting to my patients, I do ask my patients to be conscious overall of how much food they are eating. Eat slowly and enjoy your food that way you give it time to settle and for your natural sense of satiety to kick in. It is not uncommon to overeat even while eating clean. There is a sense at times that since the food is clean, you can eat as much as you want. Although technically true, try to be aware of what your body really needs and not just what you think it wants.
When you are shopping at the grocery always be aware of this; even when you have multiple food choices, there is almost always one that is better than the other. For example choosing a leaner cut of meat will be better than a fattier cut. By all means, eat a ribeye at times, but fit in some leaner meats as well. I want you to also read every label you can in the grocery. Even when you think that you know what is in there, check again. Are there nitrate free choices for some of your meat choices? If so, try to get them as often as you can.
Also take the time to ask your grocer, or preferably a butcher or meat farmer where the meat you are buying is from, what it is fed, and how it is raised. Do not feel obligated to eat only grass fed meat; although optimal, it is not possible or practical for many people out there, even myself at times. Lastly, look at anything that is processed in any way with skepticism. As my goal is 90% compliance with my Paleo diet, I very rarely blatantly eat what I know is not good for me. I look at what I consume that is processed, or not prepared by me as being unclean, and it accounts for my 10% fudge factor.
Eating is an absolute joy for me, and it should be for you as well. When you do it consciously, ALL the time, it can be fun and enjoyable instead of the dread it has become for many.
Feelings: I want you to be completely aware of how you are feeling at all times. Before you eat make yourself aware of just how hungry you are. While eating, enjoy how the food makes you feel, and eat slowly enough to feel how full your meal is making you before you overeat. Tie your feelings together with eating in every way that you can and it will really help you be more successful.
One key are of feelings I want you to be aware of is how certain foods make you feel, especially pay attention when you cheat. Everybody reacts differently to foods, and even to non-Paleo foods. I have learned over time what kinds of foods I can and can’t cheat with if I expect to feel well. Keeping a food diary early in your journey will really help with this are of your lifestyle. You want to be able to look back and say “I feel really sluggish, what could I have eating in the last few days to cause this?” Is your stomach more unsettled than usual? It’s probably something you ate!
Another thing to really pay attention to when you cheat is WHY did you cheat? If you are like me, emotional eating can be a problem. Don’t just look back at cheats and see how they made you feel, but look at what emotions led to you cheating. Over time you can analyze what circumstances or emotions trigger cheating so you can control them. You want cheating to make you feel GOOD when you do it because there is no guilt involved, but that will take time and patience to achieve.
Are you hurting somewhere that you normally don’t day to day, or after a workout? I’m not talking about typical soreness post workout; you know when something is not right. People come in to the office all the time and complain to me about something. I talk to them about it, and come up with a plan to figure out what could be causing it. Commonly the patient then says something along the lines of “It’s not that big a deal, let’s just not worry about it.” Symptoms are your body’s way of talking to you. People who ignore their symptoms are the one’s that end up with medical conditions or injuries that could likely have been prevented with earlier intervention. If you feel something is wrong, there probably I something wrong. Instead of just living with it, how about calling your doctor, making an apt, and getting it sorted out!
Food and feelings always go hand in hand. Get a good hold on both concerning all aspects of your life and your diet and you will be happy you did.
Sleep: This is such an important part of your life, I don’t want you to overlook it in any way. The number of people out there who chronically get too little sleep is staggering. Do something for me, for the next month keep a sleep log. You can get great little apps for your smart phone if you would like, but it’s easy enough to do on your own. Here is a link to the sleep diary Sleep Diary my sleep center gives out to patients and it is very useful. I want everyone to be very aware of how much sleep they are getting and how much they are not getting. Everyone is also different with how much sleep it “enough” for them. The sleep literature says normal sleep is anywhere from 6-10 hours a night, but you have to see what is best for you.
The most common cause of chronic fatigue is a very technical sleep diagnosis known as ISS, or Insufficient Sleep Syndrome J. Do you suffer from this? Well, do the sleep log and see how many hours of sleep you are getting. Then ask yourself this question: “Am I more tired in the day than I feel I should be?” If the answer is yes, make a concerted effort to increase your nightly sleep by at least one hour and keep logging your sleep. Do you see an improvement in how you feel? If you do, then keep getting more sleep. If you don’t, or you have trouble falling asleep, don’t settle for how you feel please. Look up a board certified sleep physician and make an appointment. You will NEVER feel or be your best if you are not sleeping enough. Insufficient sleep does more than make you tired, it is dangerous and increases your risk of chronic disease. Most people simply go through life dealing with how they feel and not trying to fix it. Become conscious of your sleep patterns and sleep volume, and make adjustments to improve them if needed.
Ultimately you can read every book and follow every blog, but nobody out there is talking directly to you. Only your body is talking directly to you, but you have to learn to be conscious of it and adjust to its needs. Always remember that success with a Paleo lifestyle is up to you, and nobody can change that. Don’t fall victim of thinking you can’t do it “right” so why bother, or that you are doing all you can. Are you really? Is there some place you can improve your health? Do you have strongholds you are still not willing to give up?
You want to succeed with your Paleo goals? Learn to cook at home, be patient with yourself, acquire the understanding of why Paleo is right for you, and become conscious of every aspect of your life.
Do you have specific keys that have helped you? Post a response and share your experiences with everyone else. If you have specific questions, always feel free to email me at PaleolithicMD@gmail.com. And as always, share this blog with anyone out there who you feel could benefit from learning more about the Paleo lifestyle.