Our secret to eat healthy and stay Paleo
Let’s be honest here. If Paleo is choosing and eating only natural products — foods that you find in nature and eat raw — then we’re not really Paleo.
I always say we’re 90% paleo, which is probably also a lie: sometimes we’re more, sometimes less.
Right now, we’re definitely more Paleo, we’re choosing good foods and eating well. But this comes after three weeks of being less Paleo: one week in Italy (where it’s difficult to eat healthy out of the house) and two weeks of rehab back at home, recovering from Italy.
That’s right, even after five years into this Paleo journey, it’s still not easy: when we eat processed carbs (sugars), we need at least two weeks of easing into our healthy eating habits. And that’s not because we are weak and lazy: it’s because for our brain most processed foods are a real drug.
[A bit of easy science. When we eat processed sugar (which is the general term to describe carbohydrates in all its forms: glucose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, starch, dextrose…) our body reacts in the following three ways: 1. it sends a signal to the brain that activates our “reward system” which makes us feel good; 2. it produces more insulin to deal with the extra sugar, which makes us feel immediately full and hungry shortly after; 3. it releases dopamine, which is the same thing that causes addiction to drug, and makes you want more sugar]
The good news is, if you stick to Paleo, you’ll notice that the rehab time does become shorter and shorter, and the craving after eating sugar disappears faster and faster.
In fact, I have to admit that however difficult rehab is after eating carbs, the number one reason of our success at being 90% Paleo is not being 100% Paleo.
We’re not the extreme kind of people
The first two years of being Paleo were painful. We had decided to go 100% Paleo and have one cheat day per week, usually Sunday. That didn’t work for us: our cheat days ended up being pig-away days.
We would wake up in the morning already salivating and we’d stuff ourselves with the naughtiest foods we could think of. And then Monday came and we were back to square one, craving carbs till the following Sunday.
Sure, we ate healthy six days a week, but we didn’t feel healthy.
Who needs a cheat day, anyway?
We tried to remove the cheat day. It worked for a while and we felt good when we were at home or went to restaurants we chose: Argentinian brasseries or burger places where we’d order a bikini burger (without the bun).
When we’d go out with friends, though, it was hard: we’d either be stoic by choosing a sad salad (the only healthy option on the menu) and watching our friends having a yummy pizza, or we’d have a pizza and feel like we were doing something wrong (and I’d usually feel guilty).
That didn’t feel healthy either.
Over the years, we’ve found our way of being Paleo, the way that works for us, that made it easier to eat healthy and feel healthy. It’s a very simple rule that made our life better and guilt-free. Here it comes:
Be healthy at the supermarket, give in at the restaurant (if you want)
We only buy foods that we feel good about eating, as natural (and Paleo) as possible. This way, when we’re at home we don’t have temptations: if we want to snack, we have to snack on nuts, dark chocolate or fruit (by the way, did you know that raspberries and blueberries have very little sugar and are rich in fibre? They’re mine and Oliver’s favourite lately!).
When we cook, we can make anything we want out of what we have: vegetables, eggs, meat and fish. We also always have grated cheese for a Paleo lasagna (I’ll write about it shortly) and eggs in the morning, and gluten-free pasta for when we really don’t have the time to put together a meal.
We drink only water (and the occasional red wine) and have a bit of milk in our morning cappuccino (I’m trying to switch away from cow milk, but I haven’t found a milk that we like yet. Any advice?).
It goes without saying, when you only have healthy foods at home, it’s easy to eat healthy.
When we go out, though, it’s a different story: we allow ourselves to have what we want (IF we want it), guilt-free. If we go to Starbucks and I want a chocolate cookie or a mocha, I’ll have it. If I prefer my burger with the bun, to hell the bikini part! If we go out for a Sunday walk, you can be sure there’s ice-cream involved. Once a month, we order pizza and enjoy it greatly (Oliver, too).
We eat well most of the times, we feel healthy and guilt-free all the time, and our eating habits make us happy. Would it be healthier to be 100% Paleo? Of course. But would it make us as happy? No, it wouldn’t.
Extremes are not for everybody, and the sooner we accept it and learn not to be too strict with ourselves, the better and happier we’ll live our life.
PS. Next time, I’ll tell you how we choose our products at the supermarket, because if you think we are all natural and organic, you’re mistaken! If you don’t want to miss the new articles, sign up for my newsletter and you’ll receive them straight in your mailbox once a week.
Originally published on La Tela di Carlotta, trilingual lifestyle blog about mum&babies, Montessori, baby-led weaning, Paleo and great products.