So, the time has come. You’ve decided to join in the fun and sign up for the Whole Life Challenge.  Maybe you’ve just had it with feeling crappy and you keep hearing all of this great stuff about “going Paleo” and are finally ready to give it a try yourself.  Either way, you’re ready to make the change. It’s important when you do, that you give yourself the best chance for success. Part of that is adopting the mindset that you’re not going on a diet: you’re overhauling your lifestyle.  Don’t think about the challenge as 8 weeks, think about it as the kick off to your new, healthier, life. You’re not going ‘on the paleo diet’, you’re switching to eating nutrient dense, real, whole foods and away from the processed, refined nonsense that’s been shoved down our throats with shitty modern “nutrition”.  You’re going back to food that’s always been food. That’s what ‘Paleo” means. It’s not a label to a new fad diet. It’s a movement back to what we’ve always known food to be, and it doesn’t come in a box.  If it comes from the ground or has a face: you’re good to go. It can seem overwhelming. Here are some steps you can take to get yourself ready.  The challenge starts May 3, so if this is your first time, or if it’s going to be a huge change, start making preparations now: both mentally and in your actual physical preps. You want to set yourself up to succeed. Enough of my chatter, let’s get into it.

Step 1: The Purge.

Purge

This might be the most important step. Remove all shit items from your house. Get anything non-compliant out of there. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it.  If you have to get in your car and make a special trip for something, your probably not going to, and you’ll eat berries instead. Set yourself up for success.  Dump the bad, and restock with healthy foods and snacks.  If you live with people who are NOT making this change with you, it might be time to sit down and have a chat.  If you simply cannot resist chips, and someone in your household constantly stocks them, you may have to sit down and explain to them that you’re trying to change the way you eat, and you’d appreciate their support if they could keep said kryptonite items out of the house for the time being.  If they refuse…well, they’re a dick.  OK, that’s harsh. I know if I still lived at home, my family would not stop bringing Tostitos into the house, and I love munching on them. At this point, it’s up to me. It’s the real world and we’re all grown ups. No one ever ate food by accident. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it. Are you responsible for the food in the house? I’d say it’s time for everyone else to eat what you bring home. If they refuse and want something else, they can go to the store and make it themselves.   I get it. Kids are picky and spouses can be stubborn. I don’t have first hand experience with these things. Try to get the family involved! Growing Up Paleo is a GREAT resource for getting your kids on board. That being said, do your best to get the crap out of the house.  

Step 2: Spend Some Time on Blogs

There are TONS of resources out there. Book after book and blog after blog of Paleo/Primal/Nutrient-Dense recipes.  You don’t even have to make exactly what’s there, but they’ll help you draw some inspiration on your new found excitement that will be cooking your own food on your quest to better health. Here are some blogs that I frequent (clicking will link you to the blogs):

Growing Up Paleo Everyday Paleo Paleomg Caveman  NomNomAgainst All Grain Of course, Eat.Drink.WOD, has a whole section dedicated to the Whole Life Challenge with recipes, tips, workouts, all that fun stuff.

Step 3: Plan your meals.

  Shot of Plan I know this seems very time consuming, and yes, it can be.  The more you do it, though, the better you get at it.  I like to sit down on Sundays and write out everything I have to do that week.  This lets me see when I’m going to be on the road all day and what my workouts look like.  Above is an example of what I do weekly. Why is this important? Well, one of the biggest pitfalls I hear people having is when they don’t have something good to eat and they just eat what’s there – which is usually not the best.  Guess what? This means you’re going to start packing lunches! I have to pack breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and even sometimes dinners if it’s going to be one of those days. Being prepared is your best friend. Buy a cooler. We have a limited amount of will power and decision making ability per day (it’s true, look it up.).  By eliminating the need to make decisions regarding what we will be eating, we allow our brain to put all of it’s energy into the important decisions.  Sure, it sounds like a lot of work.  You just have to get used to it.  You can get used to anything. Meals don’t have to be complicated.  Make a Two-Minute Salad and pack it up for lunch.  Hard boil some eggs, cut up some sausage and grab some berries for breakfast.

4. Master Some Go-To Recipes

IMG_0604

Roast Chicken and Cherry Tomato Salad. Extremely easy and hard to mess up. It’s not brain surgery.

Life gets busy, and sometimes the last thing I want to do is be creative.  With all of the Paleo blogs out there, it can be easy to forget that not every meal has to be a masterpiece. We end up over thinking every single meal. Eating nutrient-dense, whole foods is not hard. Meat, fish, veggies, fruit, nuts, some starch. That’s a ton of food. Don’t get caught up in thinking that just because you’ve decided to eat better, that everything has to cookbook-ready. Most of my meals are very simple.  A steak with some roasted veggies. Chicken Soup. Zucchini Noodles with a quick sauce. Eggs and bacon. Protein + Carb + Fat = MEAL. Pick a recipe or two for breakfast, lunch and dinner that you like. Make them a lot. Get really used to making it so that you don’t even have to think about it.  Pull it out whenever you just need to make something and don’t want to try some new convoluted recipe or your brain is too lazy to care.  The slow cooker is GREAT for days like this. I throw stuff in there at lease once a week, and then you have the added benefit of leftovers.  It’s fun experimenting with recipes, and getting into the kitchen is a big part of eating whole foods, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Step 5: Do a  grocery shopping test run.

Shopping It will be a new experience than what you’re used to. No more freezer meals, no more packaged foods.  You’re going to have to start reading labels. The chicken stock you normally buy may have sugar in it.  Your almond milk may contain guar gum or carrageenan. You may have to change up what you tend to buy on autopilot, so the first few trips may take longer than usual.  You’ll be spending way more time at the butcher counter and in the produce section. Hooray!

..and Stock up. Now, the lists below may seem long.  Many of the things you probably already have.  I’m not suggesting you go out and get everything on the list, but it’s a good base to start picking up things here and there.  For a lot of people, you’re going to be cooking for yourself more, and having a well stocked kitchen makes things much easier.  Instead of writing one long ass blog post to ruin your day, you can click into each section as needed.

In The Pantry & Produce

 In the Fridge & Freezer

The Spice Rack

Kitchen Tools