People come to the Paleo diet for all kinds of reasons - weight loss, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, or simply because it makes sense. The problem is, many people find Paleo hard to stick to, even when it makes them feel amazing.
This article isn't about gimmicks. I'm pulling back the curtain and sharing my top strategies for helping my clients get out of their own way and finally jump over the hurdles that have kept them stuck. The top hurdles are both internal (excuses, self-limiting beliefs, fear of failure) and tactical (food prep and food environment).
Below are my most powerful coaching tools for helping you get out of your own way and eat in a way that supports all your long-term goals.
Build Your Tool Box: My Most Powerful Tools for Helping You Stick to Your Plan
1. Practice slowing down your decision-making.
So often, people tell me they don’t know what happened. The fries were down the hatch before they were even aware they’d made a decision. S-L-O-W down. Own the pause. I guarantee this will get easier as your blood sugar starts to normalize, usually after about a week.
Create a toolkit of self-soothing techniques that you can use anywhere. These might include deep belly breathing, going outside and looking up at the sky, jumping on a Pinterest board and looking at beach photos, putting on a favorite playlist, listening to a comedy skit on Pandora, or going for a short walk. These should be fast, easy to access, and proven to calm YOU down.
2. Learn to sit in the friction between what you want NOW versus what you want MOST.
In the now, your brain just wants pleasure: the cookie, the wine, the bagel, ice cream, candy. But that pleasure is momentary and it feeds the sense that you’re not in control of your choices.
What you want MOST is to feel great in your skin, confident that you can follow through on whatever you set out to do, and to have calm, consistent energy. (This may sound counter to the self-soothing techniques above but, trust me, you need both of these tools.)
This skill is imperative because you’re going to be faced with temptation every day. It’s critical to be able to recognize the excuses your brain comes up with (I’ve been so good, this one little thing can’t hurt, screw it I don’t even care anyway) and be able to know that the urge to indulge WILL pass if you let it.
3. Get rid of (or hide) trigger foods in your home, car, and office.
The food around you is the food you’re most likely to eat. Do your best to ensure you have food around that you’re going to feel great about having eaten an hour from now.
This is a very simple strategy but it's one many people overlook.
We think "I have to keep Doritos in the cupboard for my kids!" or "What can it hurt to buy Paleo cookies since they're better than what I used to eat?"
The key here is to be honest about which foods are potential triggers for YOU right now. If the Paleo cookies nag at you from the pantry, are you making life easier or harder for yourself?
Remember, this isn't a "forever" decision. You can always reevaluate and experiment in the future. This is about giving yourself the gift of a food environment that is filled with choices you feel great about, rather than surrounding yourself with potential landmines of regret.
4. Prep food you love that loves you back.
This one is related to #3. You need to be strategic about making sure you have plenty of prepared Paleo foods (proteins, veggies, herbs, fresh fruit, and healthy condiments) on hand so that you can quickly throw together meals you truly enjoy.
The last part is non-negotiable. If you're making healthy Paleo meals that taste like a plate of sadness, you're going to derail yourself. When you push away from the table, you should feel completely satisfied, not just physically full. Experiment with the combinations, flavors, and textures that light you up.
For example, my breakfast this morning was a cup of cauliflower rice (previously frozen from Costco but thawed and ready to use in my fridge) topped with 5 or so ounces of seasoned ground grass fed beef, ¼ cubed baked sweet potato, a bunch of freshly chopped cilantro, a dollop of Sriracha, and a liberal sprinkling of Himalayan pink sea salt. It took me about 3 minutes to put this meal together since all the components were ready to go in my fridge. This meal was absolutely delicious (to me, which is all that matters!) and I felt ready to move on with my day when I was finished eating.
Note: Be sure to have plenty of glass/Pyrex containers on hand so you can take your prepped food with you to work or on the go. It might feel awkward to pack a cooler with meals and snacks but it's an amazing feeling when you aren't tempted to grab fast food or stuck with what's on offer at the office lunch meeting.
But....This sounds HARD!
If developing these tools sounds like a lot of work, I encourage you to recognize that feeling tired, out of control, and uncomfortable in your body is even HARDER.
Just because your current lifestyle is more familiar doesn’t make it any less difficult.
Continuing to make food choices you later regret keeps you stuck, both in terms of your health goals and in terms of your ability to show up fully in other areas of your life. Creating new habits feels awkward at first. That's true for all of us. As a veteran coach, I can assure you that, if you're consistent, you'll be surprised how quickly these become your new normal.
Sometimes, we need some support
Sometimes, we need additional support. The stories we have about ourselves, past trauma, unsupportive family members – these can make going it alone feel like an uphill battle with a backpack full of rocks.
If you’ve tried to do this on your own and think you may benefit from guided support, I encourage you to schedule a time to chat with me. You can book your free consultation here.
I work with women every day who came to me thinking they were uniquely broken and that nothing could ever work for them. I’m happy to say that none of these things are true and I have plenty of evidence to back this up.
If you try some of these tools and have questions or feedback, I would love to hear from you in the comments below this post! My goal as a coach, blogger, and human is to provide tools and information that work for actual people living in the real world. With that in mind, I value your feedback to make sure I'm hitting the mark.