Getting started

A lot of paleo gurus suggest that you start right now.

Get a garbage bag, they say, and clean out your pantry of all non-paleo food. Get rid of the rice, pasta, bread, chips, beans, soy products, protein bars and peanut butter. Seize the day! I say if this approach is perfect for you, then go do it now!

But starting by purging your pantry doesn’t to acknowledge that you may live with people who aren’t (yet) paleo keeners: a partner, teenaged children, or roommates whose goodwill you are going to need, and who might react with hostility if you autocratically dispose of their food. In fact, if you want to provoke hostility, getting rid of the sweets and starches that most people rely on to get through the day is probably the most direct route.

If sanctifying the storecupboard and starting this minute is your style, go to it; for the rest of us a little thoughtfulness and preparation can make the difference between one more failed experiment and a transformed life. To be successful at paleo, you will have to relearn how to source your food. This will necessitate a change in habits and a different pattern of interacting with your environment. This can be a fun adventure, but if you’re trying to do it when you’re ravenous because you just pitched the contents of your pantry, it’ll be stressful and you’ll be more likely to bail.

Depending on the state of your health, your current commitment level, and the degree of anxiety you are facing about giving up your Standard American Diet (SAD), you’ll need to pick a strategy. Here are a few:

  • Commit to paleo for 30 days. That way you don’t have to deal with the anguish of renouncing your favorite SAD foods while you’re still dependent on them. After the 30 days you can gradually reintroduce the SAD foods you want to experiment with, observing yourself all the while. You might find you can easily give up some SAD foods after the 30 days. You might find that you feel amazing and are ready to commit fully to paleo life. With this approach, you don’t need to decide about forever right now. Defer that decision. Set a date to start your 30 and begin your preparations. Read about my extreme 30 here. Find help for ‘doing a 30’ at Nom Nom Paleo.
  • Start gradually. Eliminate gluten altogether as a first step. Avoid replacing donuts and pizza with gluten-free donuts and pizza. Start reading food labels: check out the carbohydrates and begin to reduce your carb intake. Try some paleo recipes. Find a source for grass-fed beef. Go to a farmers market. Eat more fish and vegetables. Bake a spaghetti squash and serve it with your favorite pasta sauce. Educate yourself. Keep in mind that you won’t get the increased energy that makes the effort of being paleo effortless until you have committed to paleo eating for at least 30 days and been through the ring of fire that is detoxing from carbs. If you choose to start gradually, think of it as purgatory. Don’t get stuck here. Plan to do a 30 before your next birthday.
  • Commit. If your health is failing, you are beyond tired of being overweight, are weary of a body that isn’t working, or otherwise need a complete change, plan to go paleo, full stop. Set a date (not too far in the future) and hold a wake for the SAD foods that have been your frenemies all these years. Then align the focus of entire life toward your goal, like a housecat stalking a sparrow.

How do you align the focus of your entire life to ensure you’re paleo-ready on the date you’ve chosen?

Try a force field analysis. A force field analysis will give you the insight of a Jedi master.  Designed by Kurt Lewin in the 1940’s, it enables you to identify where the force is with you, where it is against you, and which Jedi moves to use in any situation.

All you need to do is brainstorm every single thing you can think of that is standing in the way of your new paleo life. Make a picture like the one below, but give each impediment a customized arrow on the ‘restraining forces’ side. A huge barrier gets a huge arrow, a tiny hurdle gets a mini-arrow. Next, brainstorm everything you can think of that is working in your favor (dig deep), and give each of these an appropriately sized arrow on the ‘driving forces’ side of your picture. Then pause to acknowledge that the combination of these forces are keeping you stuck where you are right now. To unstick, think of at least one way that you can reduce or redirect the restraining forces. You don’t need to eliminate them, just diminish their power. Then generate a list of ways you can strengthen the driving forces, even a little bit. Now you have a list of things you can do to help you get paleo-ready by the date you’ve chosen. Do them.

Once you’re in the paleo groove, a force field analysis is still a great way to approach any situation that will test your resolve, such as houseguests bearing homemade granola, a business trip, or the approaching holidays.

“Already know you, that which you need.” ~ Yoda

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8 thoughts on “Getting started

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