One week into the Paleo Diet.
There are hissy fits. There’s boredom and depression.
And there’s the conviction that the diet is difficult to follow if you’re not passionate about cooking.
These are issues that come up for partecipants in my Paleo Reset 31 program.
Changing habits at the best of times isn’t easy. When changing the diet, a lot of things start shifting on different levels – physically, emotionally, mentally and unconsciously – and all of them are intertwined.
Thankfully, there are strategies that can get us through the heaviest of those food frustration times.
Body / Brain : Abstinence and Withdrawal Symptoms
As a one-day sugar and carbohydrate restriction expands into a week, the body/brain suffers acute withdrawal symptoms.
Sugar and wheat are addictive. As with other substances which create dependancy, the sweet taste and the gliadine protein in modern wheat stimulate the opoid receptors in the brain. Through continued consumption (from morning to night, day after day, year after year), two things happen.
Firstly, the brain becomes so accustomed to the feeling of euphoria produced by the opoids that it thinks this is the normal state. When we remove the substance, the lack of stimulus results in anxiety, depression and sadness.
Secondly, tolerance builds, so that what was once sweet is, after time, not sweet enough. Gorgeously mature strawberries and peaches, for example, need to be sprinkled with sugar in order to satisfy the tastebuds.
So, after a few days with no added sweeteners and the usual excess of carbs, it’s quite common to want to punch someone, or sit down and cry.
Food Frustration Strategies: Withdrawal
- Don’t punch anyone. Sit down and cry if you need to.
- If anger is coming up, direct all that energy towards combatting the Sugar Dragon and the Carbohydrate Troll. Visualizzations can be fun here.
- If it’s depression and sadness, then dig deep into the heart of those emotions. You might be surprised what you find. The sadness of not eating cake, for example, might be intimately connected with missing a loved one with whom eating cake was a joyful time. Explore loving the memory, without needing to re-live the food.
The Unconscious Throws a Hissy Fit
At the same time, the unconscious starts to realize that the restriction isn’t an anomoly, but that you mean business.
The unconscious is a beast of habit – and most of it’s habits are formed when we’re children. It interprets change as a threat to it’s own existence, and thus resists new behaviours at all costs.
So, it starts throwing little temper tantrums: “I want bread. Now. Why can’t I have it? Alright, I’ll just be angry and stupid and make life miserable for everyone around.”
Food Frustration Strategies: the Unconscious
- Recognise the unconscious as your Inner Child, and talk to it as such. As with any misbehaving young thing, be both gentle and firm at the same time. “No, sweetheart. I know this is tough, but we’ve got to stick it out because it’s going to make life so much better in the long term”.
- Write a positive affirmation and repeat, repeat, repeat. Remember that the unconscious learnt all it’s current habits through a process of repetition. So, in order to make a new habit stick, you’ve got to repeat it often enough that it cancels out the old pattern.
Along with all of this, food boredom sets in. Without bread, pasta, rice, maize, cookies and desserts, meals seem plain old boring. The great range of Paleo foods available to us – quality protein, healthy fats, vegetables, salad, fruit, nuts and seeds – doesn’t seem enough.
Food Frustration Strategies: Boredom
- Accept that boredom exists, and that food boredom happens to everyone.
- Acknowledge that we actually don’t have a huge range of foods available to us any more. The agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution and the food industry boom has reduced our food options down to very little. Unlike hunter gatherers who ate a huge range of animals, insects and plants, we’re limited to those species which were easy to domesticate. Quality protein is basically beef, pork, lamb, poultry and eggs, fish and seafood, and game if you’re lucky. The plant families are even more limited because we’re not eating grains. So, yeah, boredome happens, but…
- Recognise that food boredom is a 1st world issue. Let’s be truly thankful for what we’ve got.
- Try new recipes! There are hundreds of delicious recipes here on Paleomantic and all over the internet.
It’s Too Hard Because I Can’t Cook
For those who aren’t accustomed to cooking, the emphasis on real, fresh Paleo food can be challenging. It requires ditching pre-packaged stuff, and instead buying ingredients which need to be washed, chopped and cooked.
But negative self talk about not being a Master Chef is a habit that’s easy to solve. We’re not talking here about becoming a gourmet.
It’s not about passion, but organization.
Food Frustration Strategies: Food Preparation
- Buy the tools that make life easy: a food processor, an immersion blender, an Instant Pot.
- Repeat and practive the mantra of always preparing more than you need, so that you always have left-overs to throw together for a quick meal, or for snacks
- Don’t worry too much about what your food looks like. Just chop up vegetables, throw them into a pan, add some protein, sauteè it for a few mintutes, job done.
Eating for Emotion vs Eating for Nutrition
The role of eating is to provide our bodies with the nutrients needed to thrive. Emotions are a different thing. If not being able to eat what we want is giving us the hebbie gebbies, then we’ve got two different issues going on here. One is the emotion, which might be coming up for any number of reasons, as we’ve noted above. The second is the actual eating of food.
Food Frustration Strategies: Emotions vs Nutrition
Separate the two issues and create distance between them.
Eating = Nutrition: Right
Whenever we eat, we want to make sure that we’re consuming foods which
- Support a healthy gut
- Promote a strong immune system
- Reduce inflammation
- Keep blood sugar levels / insulin production low
- Keep the metabolism in a fat-burning state
- Keep the central nervous system calm and relaxed
Eating = Emotion: Wrong
The practice of Mindfulness is a powerful tool for recognising emotions, but not attaching ourselves to them. It’s not difficult.
- Take a step back from the emotion and observe it. It’s useful to give it a name: anger, frustration, anxiety, boredom.
- Really observe it. What is the feeling, exactly? Where is the feeling located – in your body, in your mind?
- Play with the verbs that you use when referring to it. Instead of “I am angry, frustrated, sad”, try, “I have anger, I have frustration, sadness.” In this way, you create distance. You have anger, but you yourself are not anger. ( I have a book, but I am not a book). Then move even further away. “There is anger. There is frustration… “. But it isn’t yours. ( There’s a view. I can see it, but I don’t own it.)
The first few weeks can be hard going. And once over those withdrawal symptoms, consolidating new habits can take a really long time. Like any path of growth, there are peaks and lows. Temptation is everywhere, so re-charge your motivation as often as you can:
- Connect with your objectives,
- Maintain a healthy home
- Surround yourself with like-minded Paleo people.
Stay strong! Stay switched on!
Need More Motivation?
How to Program Your Genes for Health and Happiness – The amazing thing is that it doesn’t take long!
10 Potent Health and Beauty Benefits of Bone Broth – It’s so good for everything, from your fingernails to the epithelial cells of your intestine.
What’s So Good About Fat? And Why You Want to Be a Fat Burner – Bring on the Bacon, the Avocado’s and the Butter!
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