One of the biggest mistakes people make that derails them from success when trying to transition to the Paleo diet is that they listen to too many voices at the same time. As you know, there are thousands of different opinions about what constitutes a healthy diet, most of which are filled with lies, half-truths and misinformation and result in degradation of mental and physical health.
Wading through this convoluted maze to actually find the truth is kind of like sailing the open seas without a compass and leaves many people confused and disoriented. They become incapable of moving in any direction or they sail all over the place without really getting anywhere.
When they first begin to change their diet, they struggle as they start to go through the natural and inevitable withdrawal and adjustment process, and then they think they must be doing something wrong or need to do something different. So, then they start visiting other websites, researching other fields of thought, getting advice from people with a different approach and end up guided down the wrong path.
I hear from clients all the time that tell me something like this, “I was on the Paleo diet for a while and I felt the best I’ve ever felt, then so and so told me that I shouldn’t be eating meat and fat because ….. so I started eating grains again and now I feel horrible again.
In order to stay on track, you must shut out all the other voices and remain focused on one path at a time. You can’t be visiting websites, reading books, attending seminars and talking with people about vegetarian diets, raw food diets, macrobiotic diets, low-fat diets, all fruit diets, etc., because each of them will take you down a different path that sabotages your current path.
Making changes in the diet that are Paleo aligned is very difficult initially. As you transition from a sugar burner to a fat burner, your brain and your endocrine system will go through a huge adjustment. There is going to be discomfort. You are going to travel through some rough and stormy seas. This is normal. Sometimes the discomfort is excruciating and you may even feel like you are going to lose your mind. This is not a sign that you need to give up. Quite the opposite. You need to ride the waves.
Additionally, since most people are addicted to sugar, grains, carbohydrates, caffeine, and/or chocolate, etc., there will be a part of you that wants to believe those other people who are telling you that it is okay to eat these foods. So, you will be more than happy to hop on their bandwagon with very little convincing needed. You may also be battling with naysayers or reluctant participants within your own head.
A large part of being successful in making dietary changes relies on changing the way you think and you cannot change the way you think if you are filling your mind with misinformation. If at some point you truly decide you want to try another path, then you can do so at that time. But, while you are trying to succeed on the Paleo path, you must be 100 percent focused and committed to this approach in order for it to work its magic.
You need to continually fill your mind with information about the Paleo diet only and shut everything else out. Keep reading books, websites and forums about Paleo/Primal eating, and try to bring other like-minded people into your life. New concepts, behaviors, habits, and ways of thinking need to be reinforced in order to replace the old. When challenges arise, then you should seek guidance only from people who are on the same (Paleo/Primal) path. If you take dietary advice from people with a different approach, then cravings for sugar, grains, carbs, caffeine, etc., are going to take over and you’ll find yourself right back where you started. These people mean well, but they will lead you astray.
The process of developing new eating habits that promote good health demands repetition and consistency. It’s like when you learned to ride a bike. At first you were wobbly and crashing all over the place, but then you put on your training wheels and slowly you got more steady and balanced. Eventually, after lots of practice, you took the training wheels off and could soar down the sidewalk freely. The more often you practice something, the better you become. You will form new pathways in your brain and then you will engage in the action without even having to think about it. It becomes second nature. The same is true for eating habits; at first you have to make a conscious and concerted effort to eat the right foods, but after you pick the right foods repeatedly, eventually you will begin to choose them naturally and without much thought.
The choices you make in food will rewire your brain chemistry, not only in relation to restoring balance to the neurotransmitters you need to overcome cravings, but in the daily habits that you form. Healthier eating habits will provide nutrients for neurotransmitters, and properly functioning neurotransmitters will help you be more capable of choosing healthier eating habits. Each one is needed since they support one another.
However, a person who is giving up grains, sugar, carbs, caffeine, chocolate, etc. goes through a detox period that is pretty much the same as an alcoholic or a drug addict, so you should think of it in that way. There will be a period of instability and withdrawal, but if you are compliant on the Paleo diet for a solid three to six weeks, you will make it to the other side and the process will become a whole lot easier and comfortable. It takes between three and six weeks for your body to transition from running on sugar to running on fat, at which time your brain and endocrine system will begin to stabilize and cravings and withdrawal will begin to subside. But the key is compliance.
Once you’re on the other side, then the truth about what you should be eating will become undeniably apparent and all those other voices will no longer have an impact on you, including your own inner critics. There will still be some rough seas ahead on your course, because it can take up to a good year or so for brain chemistry and the endocrine system to really balance out, but you will see the beauty, wisdom and power in your new way of eating with clarity and it will strengthen your resolve. You will be guided by your own internal compass and know exactly what direction you should go. The waves will be smaller and easier to ride and there will be more smooth sailing than storms. The longer you remain on the diet the easier it becomes and eventually there will be no more storms.
For example, in my own life, although I initially gave up sugar, carbs, caffeine, etc., because I was forced to, it was not very long after that I did it because I wanted too. Once I learned the truth about what these substances did to me, I no longer wanted to put them in my body. I was astounded by this new information and grateful for the awareness which I considered to be a gift. The path I should follow was crystal clear and instead of giving up during difficult times, my focus and energy were all directed on how to move forward regardless of what I was going through.
So, no matter what, keep your eyes focused straight ahead on the horizon, don’t allow yourself to be distracted by all the outside noise, and stay on track until you get to the other side.