I've been following a paleo based diet for over two years. I was actually eating paleo before I knew that there was an actual diet called paleo.
It wasn't too long ago that I was pushing 220 pounds on the scale. I'm around six feet tall. This weight was not all muscle. I was carrying around a considerable amount of body fat. This did not make me happy.
The weight gain started in college. During my college years my diet was poor, I drank a lot of beer and I had poor sleep habits. All of these things attributed to my weight gain.
After graduating, I started my career in the high-stress field of financial services and began to put on more weight. Many of the bad habits that I had in college had followed me into my post-graduation years.
I finally hit a point where I was so unhappy with how I looked and felt that I decided to make a change for the better. I had the goal of losing the excess body fat that was around my midsection and never gain it back again
I have to admit that I had always been a little confused about my weight gain. I played sports, I worked out, and even though I said my diet was poor, it was actually considerably better than many of the people I hung out with. Maybe you can empathize with this feeling of confusion.
Initially I thought that I could work off the excess body fat. You know how this phase goes. You go to the gym every day and workout for two hours, making sure to hit the weights and do at least 30 to 60 minutes of cardio on the treadmill. I was literally in this stage for years. I truly believed that my excercise could overcome the damaging effects of the food that I was eating on a daily basis.
Health and fitness has always been an interest of mine. I read the magazines, follow the blogs and read the books. At one point I came across a blog article that talked about "Destroying Body Fat". The article talked about how the body metabolizes carbohydrates and protein.
This was the first time I had read science based information about macro-nutrients and how the body reacts to them. I was intrigued. The article suggested that eating a diet of animal protein and green veggies would drastically improve the body's ability to burn fat. It made sense to me. It also suggested certain levels of daily carbohydrate consumption and calorie intake.
I then proceded to go super anal-retentive and track every morsel of food I ate. I don't think this is a bad thing but it will make other people think your nuts.
I also cut out every ounce of bread, cereal, chips, crackers, cookies and anything else that contained grain or sugar based carbohydrates. I also ensured that my carbohydrate intake did not exceed 75 grams a day.
Working out on a regular basis was a habit I had already formed. I did change my routine up to incorporate more circuit based exercise routines and interval cardio training. Exercising was not new to me. Remember that I used to think I could exercise the fat away. I knew how to exercise. What I didn't know was how to eat in a way that made my body a fat burning machine.
After about three months of drastically decreasing my carbohydrate intake, watching my calorie intake, working out 4 to 5 days a week and eating plenty of animal protein and chicken salads, I weighed 187 pounds. Not only did I lose 33 pounds but I got stronger as well. My knowledge about exercise and my new found way of eating allowed me to keep the muscle I had and also add some new muscle.
I was thrilled with my results. But I still didn't fully understand why I was able to get the results that I did.
Fast forward a few more months and my girlfriend mentions how her brother had lost a ton of weight. She said that she could barely recognize him. I looked at a picture and what I saw shocked me. I knew her brother before he lost the weight and the before and after is amazing. I'm not sure what his total weight loss was but I would guess close to 50 pounds or more.
He mentioned to my girlfriend that he had been following a paleo diet and gave her some information to check out. She passed the information onto me because she knew I had stopped eating a grain based diet and thought I would find this whole paleo thing interesting. I was skeptical. I thought this was probably some fad diet. I quickly learned that there is a whole community of people dedicated to spreading the word that what the government tells us is a healthy diet, is in fact, killing us.
I started consuming more and more information. I educated myself on the science behind the foods we eat and how our bodies handle certain foods. After being exposed to the paleo diet I now understood why I was able to see the results that I did when I ate strictly animal protein and veggetables.
1) Cut out all grains, pastas, cereals and processed foods. Chances are these foods are causing a level of gastric destress that you're not even aware of. If you cut these types of foods out of your diet for 30 days you will be able to tell right away that you don't want to eat that stuff anymore.
2) Focus your meals around animal proteins (organic and grass fed if you can swing it) and leafy green vegetables. Stay away from things like corn. Corn is a grain, not a vegetable. Eat fresh spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, brocoli, cucumbers and green peppers.
3) Eat fruit occasionally. It's easy to start relying on fruit to get your sugar fix. While fruit is substantially more healthy than a bag of oreo cookies you should still limit the amount you eat. Eat mostly berries like blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and rasberries. These fruits are rich in antioxidents and don't spike your blood sugar as much as some other fruits. Apples are also a good choice if you need a quick snack in the afternoon.
4) Don't be bashful about eating healthy fats that are found in olive oil, eggs, avocados and nuts like almonds.
5) Eat when you're hungry... 'nuff said.
6) When you workout focus on full body circuit training done at a good intensity level. Try to get in three of these circuit workouts a week.
7) Do one workout where you focus on lifting heavier weights for lower repetitions. This applies to the women as well. Do big complex lifts like squats, deadlifts and presses that use a lot of muscle fibers. This will help you maintain the muscle you have and increase your metabolism.
8) Do 2 sprint based workouts a week. These only last 12 to 15 minutes. Basically you'll be doing interval training. Sprint for 30 seconds and active rest for 60 seconds. Repeat until your 12 to 15 minuts is up. Do this type of cardio workout after your heavy lifting day and on a day where you don't lift weights.
9) Do 2 slow paced cardio sessions a week that last 20 to 30 minutes. My favorites include incline treadmill walking and the stepmill. You're not going for speed records here. Just get to a point where you're breathing is heavier and you're sweating. Do these workouts anytime but especially after a circuit training workout.
Do me a favor and implement those 9 steps for just 30 days. See how you feel after that 30 days. If you like the results then go another 30 days. Soon you'll form some great eating and exercise habits and be on the way to achieving your goals.
Through all of this I also realized something very important. Deciding to eat paleo and to be physically active is a lifestyle decision, it is not simply a diet or routine to be followed for a short period of time. If you choose to take control of your health by following a paleo diet and becoming more active, you will be making a lifestyle change. You will not want to go back to how you ate before you went paleo. You will be changing your life.