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30-Day Paleo Challenge: I Tried It!

Some people focus on what you can’t have when eating Paleo. But I hone in on all of the awesomely delicious foods to enjoy. Credit: AmySelleck

As you ladies know, I’m always tweaking this or that in my diet to feel my absolute best. After going vegetarian for a month, I began eating meat again but committed to buying only the really good organic and grass-fed kind. I frequent a bison farm. We get eggs from my husband’s coworker who has chickens. We have our own garden. And I’m always down for trying new weird health foods.

Well, after my mom went gluten-free with her diet, I began to notice how I felt after eating gluten. While I didn’t have stomach pain like she would, I began to notice how my body felt better when I didn’t eat it. My face didn’t break out as badly. I didn’t feel bloated. My poop rocked. And my allergies improved, making me have less of that foggy brain feeling. So, in attempts to support my mom and feel better, I cut out most gluten from my diet. And, to tell you the truth, it wasn’t that hard because how I felt was really that much better. (Although, following the good ol’ all-good-things-in-moderation tagline, I did indulge and enjoy every bite when I had a super-strong craving.) I’d also long-ago traded cow’s milk for almond and coconut milk, and after limiting my cheese intake to the occasional treat, my trips to the bathroom became almost super-hero worthy. (TMI? No such thing around here.)

So when I decided to take the plunge and do a 30-day Paleo challenge—where you eat like a caveman and avoid grains, dairy, legumes and processed foods—it wasn’t that big of a stretch of my plate or my palate. I get protein at every meal, snack mostly on fruits and nuts, and, boy, oh, boy, do I love my veggies and Big-Ass Salads. And I was really curious to see how it would make me feel—not to mention hopefully have the side effect of boosting my fertility. (I won’t get into details here, but food greatly affects hormones. If you’re interested, I highly recommend The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. It was a scientific eye-opening adventure for me that really forever changed how I look at food.)

And, a bit to my surprise, Ryan was happy to do it with me. (Have I ever mentioned he’s the best husband ever? He is.) So, for a whole month, we stayed clear of all gluten, grains, beans and dairy. We passed on the beer. We ate burgers without the bun. We went through jars and jars of almond butter. We cooked way more at home. The phrase: “Nom nom Paleo” became a happy mantra before a meal.

grilled bison burgers

During our 30-day Paleo challenge, we’d use lettuce or even two big grilled portobello mushrooms as buns. Surprisingly awesomely delicious.

Because eating Paleo/primal/caveman is kind of up to interpretation (there are about a million opinions on what is and is not Paleo), we decided to make our own rules, following Wolf’s advice to not go psycho with it. We drank tequila and wine a few times, had the occasional white potato (although we did avoid corn altogether) and allowed ourselves a piece of super-dark super-clean chocolate. This might cause some people to say we didn’t really “go Paleo,” but I happily thumb my nose at those perfectionists. If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that you have to do what’s right for you. And red wine and dark chocolate is right for me, my friends.

Sure, we were a pain in the ass at restaurants (“Now, what’s on that steak? Is there butter in your grilled veggies or olive oil?”), and our families were incredibly supportive yet a bit inconvenienced about accommodating our new way of eating, but it was also incredibly simple once you got into the groove of it. Dinner was usually a high-quality protein, a roasted veggie and maybe a sweet potato. Breakfasts were an apple and a few eggs. Lunch was a salad or leftovers. Snacks were heavy on the nuts. To be honest, we ate really, really tasty food because we put so much attention and planning into what we were eating versus no planning, starving, ordering a pizza and scarfing it down. It was actually fun, and everything we ate was SUPER delicious and flavorful.

I want to emphasize that in no way was this a crash diet or did I do it to lose weight (in fact, I didn’t lose any weight). Nor was going Paleo about deprivation in the least. It was just the next step on my healthy living journey and a way for me to learn more about what works for MY body and MY life. If you told me four years ago—or even a year ago—that I’d complete a 30-day Paleo challenge without feeling deprived, I would have said you were cray-cray. But at this time in my life—when I’d say my intuition, self love and confidence is at the highest it’s ever been—it was simply the next logical step.

For me, Paleo is my lifestyle—not a diet. Now that I’m done with my 30-day Paleo challenge, I’m still eating about 90 percent Paleo and plan to continue because it does make me feel so darn good. My husband, on the other hand, has already added back in organic milk, cheese and grains on occasion—plus lots of beer—so he’s about 60 percent Paleo, I’d say. For the record, he also has the stomach of a billy goat.

Because I have about a million things to say about my experience, next Monday I’ll be sharing tips for trying a Paleo way of eating, along with my personal experience of the good and the difficult about it. The Monday after that, I’ll share one of my all-time favorite Paleo dessert recipes that I kind of accidentally concocted after a very non-Paleo craving: banana ice cream with chocolate mousse topping. It’s awesome. So, stay tuned for more on my Paleo experience!

Now tell me, any other Paleo peeps out there? Has anyone else done a 30-day Paleo challenge? Was your experience similar to mine? Would love to chat about it in the comments! —Jenn



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  1. Anna says:

    I eat gluten and mostly dairy free…cheese doesn’t always bother me. I would love to know more about your paleo experience! Ive been thinking about trying it out.

  2. Kacie says:

    I am not a “Paleo peep” but I am going to look more into this afternoon. Very interesting!

  3. Kim says:

    I just read an article about eating Paleo and was thinking of trying it out! I didn’t know legumes were a no-no though–why is that? Not only do I love them, but they seem so different than grains. I’ve developed an allergy to almonds and cashews, so I feel like beans would be very necessary for me! Either way though, I can’t wait to hear more about it! 🙂

  4. So interesting, can’t wait for your next post on it!

  5. Vicki says:

    I don’t understand the paleo diet (e.g., why would dairy and legumes be verboten?). Otherwise, it seems pretty good from the sample day’s menu. Thank you.

  6. Emily says:

    This is a great recap! I went Paleo last summer and stick to it because it makes me feel amazing. I do it about 90% as well, and have done the 30 day challenge twice over the past year as a reboot. It really is an incredible “diet” and I loved reading your journey!!

  7. Tracey says:

    Been Paleo for almost 6 months now. I have tons of food allergies, so it eliminates most of my trigger foods. The hubs and I have always been health nuts, so when he saw that Paleo would allow him to eat in a way that was more supportive for me, he decided to try it. He was surprised to see how much better he felt, too! It really is more than a diet, it’s an entire way of thinking and living…and we love it!

  8. My favorite thing about a 30 day paleo challenge is that it’s kind of a magic trick: you think it’s going to be really hard, but you end up feeling so amazing that you stick with it the rest of your life!

    That’s what happened to me, and what’s happened to tons of my clients since then!

  9. Hi Jenn

    A great blogpost, really enjoyed reading eating. I to am a massive fan of paleo approach, and all the workings of Robb Wolf (love his podcasts). There is some great stuff out there now on Paleo diets for lower budgets, a follow up article would be awesome. I also write a blog http://www.fitjoypersonaltraining@blogspot.com, check it out if you get chance. I also post articles from guest authors, is this something you would be interested in? Keep it up

  10. Sue says:

    Dr. Barbara Berkeley, who wrote the book *Refuse to Regain* (and has an excellent, informative blog by the same name) espouses Wolff’s Paleo diet but modifies it a bit and calls it “Primarian.” You might like her take on it, since you are doing a little modifying yourself. She explains it in the book, and you can probably search her blog, too. She rails against the “SAD” (Standard American Diet) which consists of processed foods often engineered to trigger our desire for more. But she also provides really great science about why Primarian works and why SAD is making the whole world obese.

  11. tweeted says:

    Hi, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this post. It was inspiring.
    Keep on posting!

  12. Definitely gonna try it from today and will post the outcoming results.

  13. Jo Ann Weber says:

    I was a yo yo dieter my entire life and have struggled with my weight since elementary school. Went paleo three years ago and now am a fit size 2. Weight is +/- 2 lbs. I am free and in control and so happy. There are just certain foods I don’t eat and I never have trouble eating out. Food no longer controls me. Wish I had done this 50 years ago!

  14. Rosy says:

    Hi Jenn,

    I’m Rosy, 25 years old. I used to be like 86 kilos, then I took the challenge and lost about 9 kilos first month!
    Now after a year I’m 55 kilo 😀

    I have written a post about this on BOB, tried to post the link here but says spam 🙁

  15. Michele Lettau says:

    Sad you brought dairy back into your life. Organic is a fallacy. It is also a choice that perpetuates the torture of millions of animals and baby animals as well as contributes to global warming and starvation of other culuires. Studies show caveman RARELY ate meat. Paleo is a MYTH. It is time to evole please. Make conscious choices for the world.

  16. Nancy says:

    Just getting started! Thanks for sharing!

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