The food on your plate is essentially the beginning of a long journey toward health. From the cold, hard facts to the media’s focus on diet, we know that our nutrition choices make a huge impact.
For many, following a paleo diet opens the door to a world of change beyond that. In our 30 Day KickStart groups, we really tap into these changes. We push our members to reflect on improvement beyond what’s cooking. As a result, we produce some seriously wise and driven people. They share both triumph and defeat which helps to shed light on some commonly overlooked healthy lifestyle tips.
We all start with a long-term goal in mind to truly change our lives, not the intention of “going on a diet.” Components like sleep, stress, and exercise play a huge role in creating sustainable habits, setting realistic goals, and constantly improving. It doesn’t end there, though! I’ve compiled some of our group members’ experiences and success stories that emphasize the importance of making these lifestyle changes.
Since we already mentioned sleep, it’s worth going over just why it’s so crucial to get. Many individuals suffer from sleep-related issues in one way or another. For some, it’s getting to bed. For others, it’s staying in bed. You may even think that you’re getting plenty of sleep yet feeling tired and groggy when you wake up. Hours aren’t the only component of an awesome snooze – this is a matter of quality over quantity.
Better sleep is achieved through stress management, proper relaxation techniques, and protecting the circadian rhythm. We’ll get into those next, but for now, let’s talk about why beauty rest is so important.
- Sleep deprivation leads to poor impulse control. If you’re fatigued all day, it will inevitably lead to less conscious and mindful eating. It’s easier to give into the “screw it” mentality when you’re not awake and alert. This is why those snack attacks set in mid-afternoon, right around the time work is almost over and the caffeine is wearing off. That sleepy feeling is a lot like being intoxicated, actually.
- Sleep can impact weight. Sleep and hormones are directly related. Ghrelin and leptin – the hunger hormones – help you to know when you’re hungry and when you’re full. Alas, poor sleep will lead to out-of-whack hunger cues. Sleep is crucial to getting in tune with your body and brain.
- Sleep affects insulin. Insulin sensitivity, which is related to the way your body converts food into energy, can attribute to weight gain and fat storage. Sleep for the sake of your metabolism.
While it’s easy to pin our lack of progress to diet alone, it’s important to recognize how diet is impacted by outside sources first. KickStarter and myPaleoPal user Christina Good Yazzie confesses, “I’ve really struggled the past 4-5 days, and I’m finding it’s completely related to my insane lifestyle choices. I’ve been working way too much, staying up way too late, and letting my exercise completely slip away. I was thinking I just needed to reset my eating, and couldn’t understand why – when I know exactly what foods make me feel better – I wasn’t following through. [But] months of poor sleep, lack of exercise, and no stress control has me running on knee jerk reactions and stimulating poor choices.”
One or two nights of poor sleep isn’t going to send you off the rails, but if your insomnia has been keeping you up regularly for months, it’s probably going to hurt your decision-making all around. Diet is not linear, and your circumstances are subject to change. Think about what’s causing you to fall off the wagon. The solution may just be turning in a little earlier in the evenings.
On to the next one! You may be noticing a pattern here; all of these factors are very much intertwined and dependent on one another. If you’re feeling stressed out, it’s going to show in much of what you do (or don’t do) including diet and sleep, but also your work, relationships, and quality of life overall.
The bad news? Well, stress is unavoidable. We don’t have control of everything that goes on around us all the time. The good news? There are countless ways to combat the negative feelings. The key? Action vs. reaction.
- Stress raises cortisol levels. Cortisol is essential to our functioning, but too much is too much. It can cause sleep issues, mess with your blood sugar, and eventually lead to weight gain because it promotes overeating. Think CARBS. And not the good kind.
- Stress can be a result of poor sleep. The two go hand-in-hand. Sleep will also help cortisol levels while giving you enough energy to tackle your troubles throughout the day. Being too tired to problem-solve, work efficiently, or get all you need done in the day is fuel to the fire. If you can’t take the heat, get some sleep.
- Stress impacts choices. It’s action vs. reaction. Are you going to act against those negative forces or indulge them? When we’re really stressed out, we make stressed decisions. Those reactions turn into some pretty hard habits to break, and they’re not the good kind.
So, what’s next? Realize that you are in control. Stress can be battled against. Try deep breathing, meditation, journaling, and walking or exercising. These activities are all ways to tap into the present moment. They can help you answer the who’s, what’s, where’s, why’s, and how’s of your stress rather than giving way to a string of bad decisions to follow it up. If you can tap into that, you’re a step ahead of the game.
“I went to the vending machine holding my dollar. I stood there staring at all the unhealthy goodness. I had to make a life-changing decision. I had a good angel, bad angel conversation with myself. I told myself no one would know if I had one small bag of chips. Then I told myself that this was a defining moment. I could eat the chip and blow the past 3 days, or I could go back to my desk, drink my water, and eat my carrots. Well the good angel won! The dollar is back in my purse, and I am enjoying some ice cold water and fresh carrots. I am thankful for this group. I feel that you are holding me accountable for my choices that I make, even though I could have eaten the chip and had no one know except for myself. I may not be perfect, but in my imperfectness, I will do my best. I will take this one day at a time. I do struggle with stress-eating. Today I won!!!”
This is the other big one in addition to diet, so it’s not necessarily overlooked as much as it’s misunderstood. Exercise encompasses SO much which means it is for everyone. Our groups consist of individuals from all walks of life. Some people are in the Crossfit gym every morning, some of us are training for a marathon, others have chosen the zen way of yoga, and some folks are addressing a lot of pain that limits them from doing much more than walking and getting through the daily routine.
The most important aspect of movement is choosing movement that is right for you. This means it won’t harm you, it doesn’t cause your body stress over the long-term, and that you enjoy doing it. Don’t forget that last part.
- Smart movement during the day promotes relaxation. Lower your stress by lowering stress hormones, blood pressure, and heart rate with exercise. Movement releases endorphins and serotonin, both of which will help you boost your mood and blow off some steam if you need to.
- Exercise promotes weight loss. This is not a secret, but if your goal is weight loss, exercise can help. However, your weight is much more dependent on your food choices. Spending hours a day in the gym isn’t worth it, though. It will only lead to burning out. Exercising within reason on a regular basis will boost your metabolism, help you to burn through more energy even after you leave the gym, and help you to change body composition as you lose the weight.
No matter what you choose to do in order to get in your steps or put on a little muscle, remember that your program is subject to change. We deal with different factors on an individual basis that indicate smarter ways to choose a workout schedule that you can be consistent and sustainable. KickStarter and myPaleoPal user Alison details the struggles she’s faced with exercise over the years which highlight the idea that one size does NOT fit all.
“I’ve had to cut down on my exercise on this journey. I was a runner before. Obviously, in times of pain from the RA, I wasn’t able to do that. But whenever I felt good, I would run and push myself. And I would wear myself out completely and stress out my adrenals. I tried doing a couple races after starting AIP, telling myself I would walk more than run and I just wanted to be there. But the excitement of it always took over and I ended up running anyway. Then I was incapable of doing much for a week afterward. So I said no more. For the foreseeable future, my exercise is walking and hiking.”
We stress this aspect a lot around here, and for a good reason. Committing to permanent healthy lifestyle changes is difficult without it. Our 30 Day KickStart group is particularly dedicated to utilizing this strategy to its full advantage. Adapting to a new lifestyle can bring on isolation whether that’s at home, in a group of friends, or at work. The truth? You aren’t alone! Community brings together people from all walks of life with a variety of goals. Find your tribe.
- Community comes with support. When you don’t have a group of people who are taking the same path as you, it becomes natural to turn inward. Going at it alone isn’t impossible, but it also isn’t ideal. Sometimes, just knowing someone else is dealing with the same problems or having someone to share your little victories with is enough to help you push through whatever comes your way. Find these people and stick with them.
- Community inspires creativity. Staying inspired is often underestimated, but it can truly be one of the keys to success. In the long-run, we’re going to get bored. Following a paleo diet means spending a lot of time in the kitchen, especially if you’re transitioning from eating out often. The same meals over and over can and will get boring. Cooking from scratch has the potential to wear you down a little. When you have a community of people doing the same thing, you are pushed to step outside of the box a little more often. Think of your community – in real life or online – as the “campfire.” We can all exchange ideas both visually and verbally.
- Community keeps it positive. Invasive negative self-talk and thought patterns are easy enough to fall prey to. With community, you have an outlet to express those internal struggles which make them less of your own. Don’t be your own worst enemy – get involved!
This is one of the most commonly overlooked healthy lifestyle tips for the simple fact that people don’t quite know they’re missing out on it until they’ve used it to their advantage. KickStarter and myPaleoPal user Janek says, “I could never imagine a group of strangers from around the globe could be so warm, so supportive, so welcoming & so truly non judgemental, that I feel I can post private information and personal struggles without worry – this is something I have never felt comfortable enough to do before!” If you can’t find your community at home, exhaust your options. At myPaleoPal, we’ve built a foundation comprised of real people on real health journeys who can easily become your friends and allies as you embark on your own journey. All questions are valid, all struggles can be overcome together, and your victories will be celebrated by many.
Some of us like our dark chocolate, and some of us look forward to that evening glass of wine. Even if we make the decision not to bring alcohol into the home in an effort to cut back, we’re still faced with the decision in social situations. A drink here and there can certainly be a non-issue for some, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Alcohol impacts sleep. If you have troubles sleeping (which we’ll get to later), that glass of bubbly isn’t helping. Initially, alcohol can bring on drowsiness and help you to fall asleep. Unfortunately, the sleep you are getting isn’t as restorative as a sober slumber.
- Alcohol isn’t helping you to lose weight. Liquid calories aren’t your best friend if weight loss is on your agenda. Again, one drink here and there isn’t going to hurt you, but it all adds up. Just like cake… you know how it goes. If limiting your intake is hard for you, eliminating it altogether is the smartest choice.
- Alcohol lowers inhibition. You know this. That’s why people drink, right? While unwinding and relaxing is vital to a healthy lifestyle, letting your guard down can often lead to bad decisions. If that means giving yourself an excuse to make poor nutrition decisions or skip your workout the next morning in favor of sleeping in, it might be wise to crack down.
KickStarter and myPaleoPal user Janek shared a few changes that have made her life brighter, and at the top of the list was giving up alcohol. She explains, “[It’s] not easy, but an important one. I’m still not at the stage where I can go out and socialize and not drink, so for the moment, I don’t put myself in that situation! Not easy in Ireland!”
Our environment is always at play. Fortunately, we have the freedom to choose our surroundings most of the time. Social events, geographical location, and culture have a great deal of influence; make it work for you.
6. Acknowledge Your Success
In my time spent coaching our groups, there is one thing that I stress every single day. Even if I’m asking people to share something negative, the focus is inherently on how to turn that weakness into strength. Success lies beyond the scale. One bad choice is not equivalent to failure. We have to change our minds before we change our lives or our bodies.
- Success is subjective. Choose your definition of success wisely. Choose that definition so that it’s attainable and sustainable. Choose your success so that it’s easily comprised of small goals, a positive outcome, and the flexibility to evolve as you do.
- Turn failure into success. It’s all about mindset. One setback can be the push you need to move past it bigger and better this time. A poor choice will serve as a reminder not to make it again when you’re feeling compromised. Sharing your “failures” with others will present the opportunity for others to express similar experiences and how they persevered. Try to be optimistic.
There is always room to improve or go the extra mile, but that picture of perfection isn’t a feasible end goal for anyone. Even on the worst of days, everyone can find something that they did do well. When it comes down to it, the little things count. A series of small good decisions lead to big ones. A tiny change in the daily routine has potential to become a lifelong habit. For example, KickStarter and myPaleoPal user kcpaleo shared this anecdote with us:
“My daughter just called… Leaving Starbucks and did I want anything? YES! I wanted to scream, but didn’t. I briefly considered consulting Google or looking for a paleo hack for a SB pick-me-up (how nice that would be right now!) but refrained. Maybe someday I’ll be more confident knowing what and how to order, maybe I’ll discover I don’t like the taste of those options and steer clear altogether. Now, what I think about are the (unknown) ingredients in what I’d order and how I don’t want to put those in my body.”
7. Ditch the Scale (For Now)
Perhaps this isn’t applicable to everyone’s health journey, but it’s a common enemy in the 30 Day KickStart groups. It’s not the scale itself. It’s a perfectly healthy way to gauge your progress based on a number. Alas, this number can be quite pesky. It gets in the way of that positive mindset I mentioned above. If that little number is causing you any anxiety or frustration, you may want to switch modes.
- The scale is not the only way. How do you feel? This should be your primary gauge of success at all times. If you’re feeling better on the inside, it’s going to show on the outside. If weight loss is your main objective, focus on measurements or how your clothes fit instead. The scale can be deceiving.
- You are not your weight. Your weight is a part of you, but it’s not your identity. Even if it’s important that you lose weight for health reasons, it’s important to detach that notion that you are one in the same. You are your healthy choices, your valiant effort, and your positive outlook. You are much more than a number.
- Find a middle-ground. The most common scenario that brings on discouragement amongst group members is the fluctuation – the 100% natural ups-and-downs of that little number – that happens throughout the day, week, or month. If you’re weighing yourself 1-3 times per day, consider changing that up to once per week or month instead.
“Just wanted to share a non-scale victory with my support network in the hope it will inspire others. I have been back on strict paleo for 8 weeks now and have not lost a single pound. Although my primary focus is health, I had regained about 20 or so pounds that I wanted rid of. It was a major change of mindset for me to ignore the scale and keep going. Anyhow, yesterday I was able to put on clothing I haven’t worn in a long time. I have dropped at least one size of not more and my stomach is finally looking good again. It just goes to show how we have to listen to our bodies, learn what is good for us and what isn’t, and ignore arbitrary measurements like scales … We can affect massive change and create positive health on our own. Amazing!”
8. Show Yourself Some Love
Ah, now this is the “X marks the spot” on this list. It’s the foundation for following through with everything else that’s been mentioned thus far. Maybe it’s obvious, or maybe you thought you could skip out on this step, but I promise the rest will be much easier if you practice a little self-love.
- This is a skill to be learned. Most of us aren’t all that confident in everything we do. Maybe you’re a great parent or you are talented at your job, so your confidence lies there. When it comes to diet and living a healthy lifestyle, you may feel like you can’t really muster up the same amount of faith in your ability. That’s okay. Think of self-love in the way that you would any other habit, talent, or skill. Practice and time are key.
- Self-love is a foundational tool. We build upon some things while other things need building upon. This is one of those things that everything else will begin to fall into place with. This tactic will make for a sound and stable structure.
“Me learning to love me! I’ve found this the toughest part of my healing. Put down on paper what you are proud of, some accomplishments, and your positive traits – this creates self confidence & gets easier with time!”
Profound stuff, right? Maybe or maybe not. Perhaps some of these components are missing in your healthy lifestyle, though. When we shift our diet, it’s equally as important to shift our perspective. Allow your new approach to transform the way you live, not just the way you eat. From proper relaxation techniques, smart movement, and self-love, set your intentions wisely. We can all afford to improve, and the journey is worth it. Be patient and the rest will follow.
If you’re looking for more accountability, motivation, and a way to challenge yourself, come join us for the next 30 Day KickStart! A new 30 Day KickStart begins each month. Find out why it’s proven to 5X your commitment to healthy eating.