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Different Approaches To The Paleo Diet
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Different Approaches to The Paleo Diet

Making a diet change and choosing to eat paleo is a huge step in the right direction… emphasis on huge step. The switch to the Paleo Diet can be difficult for many, and is best approached with a method that is tailored to you. By personalizing your approach to this diet change, you will be less likely to cheat, and hence more motivated to continue on your path to complete health. There are two different approaches that are respectively endorsed by the faces of The Paleo Diet, Robb Wolf and Loren Cordain. The first method is pretty much going cold turkey, while the second involves a progression of steps that are each more strict.

The 30-Day Paleo Challenge is a concept coined by Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution. Robb Wolf asks people to complete remove grains, dairy, legumes, and processed sugars from their diets for 30 days with a “what do you have to lose?” approach. This approach is great for highly self-motivated people with a large amount of will power.

This strict method of switching to the Paleo Diet can be very successful if you’re an all or nothing kind of person. However, having tried to complete a 30-Day Paleo Challenge myself, I have found out first hand that it does not work for everyone. As a result, I sought out an alternate approach to the diet that wouldn’t make me feel like such a failure when I had half of a chocolate bar to celebrate something exciting.

What I discovered was Loren Cordain’s Three Levels of The Paleo Diet. He explains this approach in his book, The Paleo Diet. This more relaxed method seemed much more down my alley, so I read up. Level One asks for 85% compliance with the Paleo Diet, allowing for 15% freedom. This 15% amounts to around 3 free meals per week, assuming you eat 3 meals a day, or 21 meals a week. The levels go up in rigidity, with Level Two allowing 10% freedom (2 free meals a week), and Level Three allowing 5% freedom (1 free meal a week).

There is no set progression speed with the levels, so everything is up to you. You can choose to move forward to a stricter level if you are motivated to do so and feel you can comply without feeling deprived. But even if you choose never to move up from Level Three, you will still be complying with The Paleo Diet enough to receive most of its health benefits.

The only tricky part is this: what you do with your free meals is important and if you go hog-wild you will set yourself back with progress and feel awful. When people learn they can’t have their morning bagel, or cereal, or cup of coffee, or a piece of pie or a chocolate bar after dinner, they freak. By having free meals built into your diet prevents this freak out. The purpose of the free meals is simply to allow you to have your favorite foods on occasion so you don’t say “no chocolate cake? No way.” The hope is that once you realize how good you feel and look after eating Paleo for a while, that you will not have a desire to cheat anymore. So, don’t use your free meal to eat a whole pizza to yourself and finish it off with a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Not only will you feel really sick and tired as a result, but you will be physically hurting your body!

Switching to The Paleo Diet does not have to be a traumatizing event. In fact, it can be a relaxed progression through which you can still have your favorite foods on occasion. Some people prefer to remove all of the offending foods (grains, dairy, legumes, and processed sugars) from their diet immediately, once and for all. If this sounds like you, great! Go for Robb Wolf’s 30-Day Paleo Challenge. If you know that you will have trouble removing these foods from your diet completely, take the change in steps, and start at Loren Cordain’s Level Three. Choosing the appropriate method of approach are crucial for your success with the diet. As one last note, don’t forget to track your progress by documenting your starting and ending points with photos, measurements and blood work! You are going to want to show people what amazing results you experienced as a result of this wonderful diet change.


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