I've been Paleo since early February. Prior to February, I would say I was following a whole foods diet with very little processed foods.
I like how I feel on Paleo and I like how my body is changing (also working out harder than I ever have before though). I cheat almost once a week on the weekends.....I don't have a "cheat day," but I might have too much wine or some sort of snacky food.
My problem is, I am feeling a bit burned out on Paleo. I'm sick of the meals, I'm sick of meat (although I still don't eat red meat, only seafood, bacon, and poultry), I'm sick of eggs. I might also be sick of bacon and avocado and I really never thought that would happen.
I don't seem to have any food intolerances. So, my question....
Would you ever recommend taking a break from Paleo? Have you ever taken a premeditated break in order to not burn out, assuming you are tolerant of grains, dairy, etc?
That's all going to depend on how you do off Paleo. It sounds like you think you'll be fine, but I've been pretty surprised by some of my reactions to minor cheats.
Personally, I wouldn't do it. What I would do is aim for something that makes Paleo more sustainable in the long term for you. For me, what that means is to occasionally allow myself something on the margins. For example, when eating out, I allow myself to get potatoes, rice, and dairy to keep things interesting, but I don't bring them home to cook with.
Scour new recipes. I shake things up by going global. Try chicken adobo or chicken tikka masala or steak tartare or sushi. Or expand your horizons with offal or a new fish.
If you've only been at this since Feb, hang in there! I had a few bumps early on when I couldn't stand another egg or any more avocado. It really does get better and easier.
My strategy: have a fallback diet that's easy/simple and if you do take a break, take it responsibly for good reasons
I definitely go through phases where I get lazy and a bit tired of cooking so much, and I'll develop a bit of a half assed version of paleo - things like grass fed hotdogs, guac from the deli (preserved, but so much quicker than making my own), the kinds of veges I can cook in a couple of minutes or eat raw, lots of cheese for easy calories, lunch meat from the deli, etc. I also tend to eat out a bit more - usually grilled meat, steamed veges, and white rice.
It does have a noticeable impact on my health and inflammation specifically, but it usually ends up being a worthwhile compromise in giving me a mental break for a week or two without really destroying my progress like going completely non-paleo would.
My passion for a really fresh, delicious, healing diet always returns fairly quick - which it does NOT do if I start eating cereal grains and sugar - those things tend to feed and perpetuate the laziness and depression.
I've left Paleo a few times, basically as a compromise to make ends meet on a budget with a family (long before the concept of a higher-carb approach to paleo was popularized, making the diet quite hard to afford at times).
That being said, your reasons bring up a couple of red flags to me.
1. Not eating red meat (but allowing yourself bacon) means you are missing out on what seems to be some much-needed variety (not to mention nutrients).
2. Getting "burned out" on any specific foods would signal to me you are also not getting much variety.
My suggestion is, if you tolerate other foods well, sure - try leaving Paleo and measure how you feel. If I had the constitution to eat whatever I wanted without getting sick and obese I probably would.
However, I've been surprised at the sheer variety of foods and flavors I've been able to introduce to my kitchen while on this supposed "diet", and I'm eating better flavored, better sourced food than I ever have.
If you decide to stick with it, I suggest becoming a frequent visitor of NomNomPaleo.com as well as getting a copy of Melissa Joulwan's "Well Fed" cookbook. A whole new world of amazing Paleo-Foodie hybrid recipes exist out there that will make eating this way exciting. Moreso if you can stash away your reluctance to eat red meat and enjoy as much variety as possible (I understand this isn't always do-able, but frankly if you are eating bacon than it seems your reluctance is more a hang-up and not religious or ethically purposed).
I remember after my friend had her second child, and was losing her mind trying to get all the food cooked, preserved, prepped, frozen, butchered, harvested etc on her farm as a former chef, she had a realization that she doesn't have to do it all. She was bouncing back and forth between all-organic, all-homemade, high-quality food, and then getting upset and going to the store hauling her two kids, practically in tears with her hair in pigtails, to get a frozen pizza. It was all or nothing for her, and she found it so exasperating to have to find these specific kinds of foods, at a specific quality, then prepare them in this particular way, that she would just eff it and buy something that she normally would never eat that was pre-prepared and cheap. She was venting to us, lip quivering (after a few glasses of gin), and I thought the solution seemed so obvious. I just said "why don't you cut yourself a little slack?". I mean, you don't HAVE to be doing 100% homemade, perfect foods. You can do 80%, or maybe on a really busy weak when the baby is teething and the toddler has a fever, you can do 20%, and then on really good days when there is lots of time to be had, you can do 100%. In the end, doing it "halfway" is better than doing it not at all.
Maybe that is relevant to you, if it's the time, money, and pressure to prepare all the food yourself. Sometimes, life gets in the way of the perfect, ideal food fantasy. You have to cut corners, but that doesn't mean that you should just give up entirely.
The alternative possibility would be that you are literally tired of the food. In which case, I say give yourself some culinary challenges! Commit to x number of dishes a week that you want to try, or just a few different ingredients. There's literally no end to the number of dishes that can be made in paleo, so it's not like there's a lack of recipes out there in the internets. Try a new cuisine, some new spices (cheap way of adding excitement) mix up your meals.
Hi Mandy....I try to look up recipes that introduce more varieties of foods and get as creative as I can so that I have as much variety as possible. I personally doubt that taking a week or two off of Paleo a couple of times a year is going to be an issue. I had a traditional Easter Sunday with mashed potatoes, some chocolate and even some key lime pie. It tasted good but I felt like crap at the end of the day and was glad to get back on Paleo Monday. Sometimes a break reminds us of how good we feel when eating clean (or how bad we feel when not!) and re-enthuses our commitment to healthy eating.
My answer to you would be - just do it.
Just like Robb Wolf encourages who have not tried Paleo to try it for 30 days and see how you feel, I think if you're tired of the Paleo diet as you say, just try it not doing it for 30 days and see how you feel. Frankly, the benefits you describe you've experienced sure seem worth it to me. I know for me it has!
Frankly, I don't think your problem is the Paleo diet but a lack of originality. There are SO MANY Paleo recipe blog sites, that I feel like I'm overwhelmed with the amount of stuff that I can prepare. The downside for me isn't the food, but the amount of cooking I have to do myself. It's hard to eat out and stay really Paleo.
But I think you should just try it and see how you feel. I don't think anything anyone tells you is going to be as powerful as your first hand experience and what you discover fits and doesn't fit into your lifestyle.
I guess my question is "What would you eat if you DID go "off paleo"?" I mean -- if there is a vegetable in the world, a fruit, a root, a meat, a nut -- as long as it is "real" food, there's a whole world of variety out there to choose from.
I have mentioned in a few other places that I've evolved from the rigid "only meat and leafy veggies" mentality, exploring unusual starches like taro, yuca root, plantain, etc., and even experimenting a bit with fermented pseudo-grains like millet, buckwheat, quinoa, etc., prepared traditionally. With that in mind, the scope of menu possibilities expands even further.
While there are many cultures that manage just fine on a strictly fish or fish-and-poultry with veggies diet, I think there is the expectation in the United States that there will be infinite variety in our menus. To be honest, this is a relatively NEW idea -- even when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, it was common for 5 or 6 meals to be rotated through the week every single week, with only the occasional "fancy" meal or "too broke to buy food" meal thrown in that truly deviated from the pattern. I wonder if this expectation of constant variety might, in its own way, be contributing to our difficulties, as a culture, in maintaining healthy eating patterns and a healthy relationship with food.
It definitely sounds like you just need some variety. Maybe you are yearning for carbs? Lately when I have been having this urge, I have been incorporating some more carb heavy meals in the rotation. Here are a few ideas:
For example, last night my boyfriend made spaghetti squash with a really rich buttery clam sauce. He used two anchovies to up the savory flavor, the juice from the clams, oregano, a splash of vinegar (but we would have used lemon if it had been around), lots of butter and, of course, the clams themselves. Then we baked the spaghetti squash and poured all that delicious goodness into each half. Grassfed steak is awesome and all, but this meal was just what I was craving. Also, how about a sweet potato hash? Or bacon wrapped scallops? Or a taco salad (seasoned ground beef over crunchy lettuce with primal toppings)? Or maybe a fruit fest? Slice open half a papaya and go crazy. Oh, and a banana fried in coconut oil, sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg?
Also, I am sure there is a much nicer and fancier way to do this, but I have been making half-assed sushi lately that is pretty good. I use one of those big sheets of toasted seaweed and roll up some smoked salmon, avocado, thinly sliced onion, and whatever else you want to throw in there and dip it in some wheat-free soy sauce (use that really sparingly) mixed with ginger and minced garlic. It is good.
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