Since I switched to a mostly Paleo/Primal diet 8 weeks ago and started Intermittent Fasting 6 weeks ago, there have been questions from a few readers – what are the benefits, why cut out grains, dairy, legumes & sugar, what do you eat, how much do you eat, how often do you eat?
I hope to cover all of those questions in this post but it there’s something I miss, feel free to hit me up in the comments section at the bottom of this post and ask it there and I’ll be sure to answer.
So, I guess the first and most common sense question to start with is why? Why change my diet, that was already quite restricted by some people’s standards (mostly whole foods, very limited processed/junk foods/sugar/refined carbs/alcohol) and restrict it even further?
I’d been reading about the benefits of the paleo diet for a few weeks and I knew a few buddies that had seen some really positive health changes whilst following that way of eating. Most of all, I wanted a challenge. I’d been going through a tough time and my motivation was low so I needed something to give me a boost – mentally and physically.
My love affair with oats has been very well documented on the blog over the last few years, along with luscious pancake stacks…
I know it sounds mental – why give up something I love so much? Because they didn’t love me back :(
I had gotten used to the sluggish feeling after eating oats/pancakes. I accepted that my stomach ballooned within half an hour of eating and stayed like it the rest of the day. I thought I was destined to follow in my mum’s footsteps with IBS symptoms that often made life crap.
Then I read about grains and the effects they have on the body and I had a light bulb moment! I didn’t have to suffer with the lethargy, sluggishness, bloating and IBS!
I read all I could about Paleo/Primal eating and decided to give it a try – it was a 2 week challenge, anyone can do anything for only 2 weeks right?
As I have never really over consumed carbs, I didn’t suffer as much as many people do with the dreaded low carb flu. The first 2 days I had a fuzzy head and a little nausea but on the third day it had gone and left in place was abundant energy that has not left me or my body since.
I’ve got a natural glow that has been noticed by many…
and my mood has lifted dramatically although that has no doubt been enhanced by circumstances in my personal life taking a turn for the better!
The biggest things I have noticed since eating paleo/primal and starting intermittent fasting:
No mid afternoon slump
A constant “buzzing” supply of energy
Gums not bleeding when I brush my teeth
No upset tummy after consuming dairy
Not sweating as much
Skin is softer (thank you saturated fats!)
Appetite is satiated easier
No stressing or obsessing about food
No longer eating to the clock
Enjoying food more
Eating bigger meals
Strength gains in the gym
A whole list of positive side effects :D It’s been noticed by those closest to me that I am a lot happier, more relaxed and mellow but that could easily be down to my personal life finally turning around. However, I’m certain the diet has contributed to that feeling and I don’t get stressed over things that would have me breathing fire in the past.
So, onto what everyone is wanting to know – what, how much and how often do I eat?
When I first switched to paleo I was very creative in the kitchen…
But then after two weeks, I began Intermittent Fasting. I read about how good IF was if you were looking to shed fat without obsessing over calories/food. As a previous binge eater, obsessing is something I’ve spent plenty of time doing about food, to the point that I was on the verge of seeking professional help as I didn’t think I would ever overcome it on my own.
If you’ve not heard of Intermittent Fasting (or Intermittent Feeding as it’s also called) I highly recommend reading Martin Berkhan’s guide – it’s an excellent source of information.
I fast for a minimum of 16 hours per day, with most of that time being overnight whilst I’m asleep. I typically eat my first meal anywhere between 1-4pm. Most people I’ve come across who practice IF go for the 16/8 split which gives a 16 hour fast with an 8 hour eating window. However, I am still trying to listen to my body so if I’m not hungry after 16 hours, I don’t eat. I’ve been known to go for 18, 20 and even a single 24 hour fast without any ill effects.
However! I know for a fact I could not have succeeded with IF prior to switching to a paleo/primal diet as the carb withdrawals would have been horrendous. I waited until my body was adapted to burning fat for fuel before making that final step as it would have resulted in me getting trembly, shaky, agitated, light headed and sent me to the nearest carb source to inhale – typical addiction withdrawal side effects!
Most of all, IF has liberated me. If I go out for the day, I don’t have to stress about planning what I’m going to eat or freaking out in case my food requirements are not catered for. I’m not constantly looking at the clock, waiting for the next meal time and I’m not sitting thinking about food and planning what I’m going to eat. Food isn’t controlling me any more and it’s the most amazing feeling.
So how much am I eating? Well, here is a screen shot from my food diary with the nutritional breakdown since switching to paleo on 13th March…
You’ll see I haven’t completed it every single day – either I forgot or I was away for the weekend having too much of a good time to worry about logging my food :D On the days I didn’t log, it’s safe to assume I was WAY over!
I’m averaging around 1700 calories per day which is where I should be to lose ½lb. By the calculations of my food diary/weight loss site, by consuming that amount over the last 8 weeks, I should have lost a total of 4lb. In reality, I have lost 22½lb.
Since changing to IF, I won’t lie – food has become a lot more functional and I eat because my body wants food. That’s not to say that I’m not eating delicious food or that I’m not enjoying food because I am – I’m actually loving my food probably more than I ever have.
However, meals tend to consist now of:
Protein – Ribeye/Sirloin steak (including fat), pork loins (including fat), chicken thighs/legs (with skin), lamb steaks (with fat), beef or lamb mince (non lean, fat not drained away), 97% pork (gluten free) sausages, bacon, proper ham, eggs
Vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, green beans, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, lettuce
Carbs – Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnips, swede
Fats – coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, butter, beef dripping, almond butter, coconut butter, pecan butter, macadamia butter, cashew butter
Fruit – Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, clementines, apples
Nuts – almonds, pecans, cashews, macadamias, walnuts
Treats – 85% or 90% dark chocolate, red wine
The above list is what I stick to pretty rigidly. I only consume fruit post workout and since I started IF and stopped snacking, I rarely eat nuts now though sitting with a spoon in a jar of nut butter is becoming part of my PWO routine :D Dark chocolate I try and keep to training days only but it’s not always possible – sometimes a girl just needs chocolate yeah? And red wine is a very occasional treat, probably once or twice a month.
There has been a couple of occasions where I’ve consumed a milk chocolate (and suffered for it!) and one weekend not so long ago I indulged in some Ben & Jerry’s which upset my tummy dreadfully. I’ve not cheated and touched ANY grains at all and I don’t plan to.
A typical day for me would look like:
5.45am – wake
2pm – weight training
4pm – PWO meal (generally epic!)
8-9pm – smaller meal (if needed)
If I’m not training my first meal of the day tends to be between 1-2pm.
The physical progress I’ve made whilst following this plan really does speak for itself…
HOWEVER! And it’s a big however – I had a decent base already built up underneath the flab from weight training over the last 2 years. I have no doubt that this has contributed to my progress being so dramatic. The average woman with no history of weight lifting probably couldn’t expect to achieve the same or similar results – no doubt she’d just end up skinny fat.
Above all, I’m not recommending this way of eating to anyone. I believe that EVERYONE is different and just because something works for me, it won’t necessarily work for others. If you are interested in Paleo/Primal eating or Intermittent Fasting, go and do some research and make up your own mind :)
Finally, some invaluable links that have helped me with my transition:
If there is a question you wanted answered that I haven’t covered, feel free to ask in the comments section and I will reply :)