Since I gave up eating paleo last week and have re-introduced wheat,sugar,etc. I feel I can go longer without eating than when I was trying paleo. Also, I can eat smaller portions and not feel so bloated. When I was doing paleo, I had to gorge myself to be "satisfied" but then found I couldn't very well do anything with such a FULL feeling in my stomach.
I found myself glued to the computer reading paleohacks, paleoblogs, paleo whatever in order to keep my mind focused on it. But I felt obsessed!
I guess my question is more of a psychological one-- do you put more importance in mental health (eat whatever, just relax) or physical health (better control of blood sugar, etc.). I hate to think I'm sabotaging my health by eating wheat,sugar,etc. but I am afraid of quality of life deterioration.
Is there hope? Can I have my cake and eat it too?
Perhaps the problem here is the paradox of choice. Everyone thinks that they want to have more choices in life (should I wear fur or diamonds?) but in reality, when we are given too many choices we often feel unhappy. I think that going Paleo is actually hardest for people who were doing okay on the SAD. If you were a 300 lb diabetic celiac with Hashimoto's, you would probably find it much easier to stick with Paleo/Primal or whatever would help cure you, and you might see fantastic results immediately that would help you stick with it. If you're like me, and just trying to lose a few vanity pounds or want less digestive discomfort, it's harder to stick with it when everyone else is eating the cakes and cookies and pastas that you were also eating with few ill effects just a short while ago.
To try to answer your question... if you don't have a glaring health problem that is a direct result of the SAD, then worry about your mental health first. You managed to survive this long without a paleo diet and the fact that you think about it at all puts you a huge step ahead.
Going further, I think you need to change your thinking a little bit. Be glad that you're able to survive the current toxic food culture - you're one of the lucky ones. If Paleo is just the last bit of optimization for you, then you can afford to "cheat." However, keep in mind that if you exercise your mental will power and stick with a strict paleo diet for at least a few weeks, then it will become easier (physically) to stick to. That's what I've noticed with myself - but then when I cheat a little my cravings come back. I try not to beat myself up about it, and just go back to eating healthily when I can, even though I know it is far from optimal.
The culture we live in is toxic. There is bad food everywhere, and it requires an enormous amount of will power to resist it, especially if you don't have a huge health incentive not to. I think of it like being a monk in Las Vegas. If we all stick it out together though, I hope that in the future we can change our food culture to not be so tempting, and then it will be easier for all of us.
Despite the enthusiasm found here, I don't think that the Paleo diet is necessarily for everyone, for example my wife follows a very non-Paleo diet and is perfectly healthy.
That said, the things that I notice when going strict Paleo are exactly the opposite of what you report. I find that I eat less, feel more full, don't have any bloating or digestive distress, have more energy.
Even if the Paleo diet isn't for everyone, I do think that eating a lot of sugar and refined grains is bad for almost everyone.
You haven't said what your diet was -- within a Paleo diet there is a lot of variety, such as amount of carbs and fat, dairy or no, etc. It could be that by going Paleo you introduced something that you are allergic to or can't tolerate (i.e. eggs, nuts, etc).
To answer directly:
I suppose I'd say that physical health leads to mental health so I would put more value on physical health first and foremost.
I believe if you eat well for long enough it becomes default, intrinsic and at that point you will have your cake and eat it, too, yes.
More over, and i write this only because your question explicitly goes into this territory, I believe the issue you are dealing with is your own; it has nothing to do with "paleo" per se. Paleo in this sentence could be replaced by weight-watchers, jenny craig, VLC, atkins, Warrior, whatever.
All the best no matter what you choose. If you feel happier eating SAD and it is working for you, go for it!
I think it's important not to think in dichotomies. As in reintroducing sugar and wheat does not necessarily have to mean that it is all you eat. Not everyone can go full out paleo cold turkey and a general rule I think that many follow at least at first is to do it 80% of the time. If you feel that you will feel mentally better and healthier incorporating some non-paleo foods into your diet, I'd say go for it, but make at least 80% of your meals paleo for health benefits. If you find that you can go even higher than that, great. We only live once, do what makes you most happy.
Finding a balance between health and happy lifestyle is a great achievement, and I wish I could do the same instead of being borderline orthorexic (like many others on this site) and worrying about fructose, omega-6s, and many other things with every meal I eat. Unfortunately, I feel worse instead of better, both mentally and physically, if I don't pay attention to it.
Edit: I should add that this post was meant for you only if you are already in decent health. If you suffer from metabolic syndrome or obesity, I would stick with low-carb paleo until your issues are resolved.
Before trying Paleo/primal with a 4 week elimination diet, I was happily eating wheat and sugar with few if any symptoms I could point to. I felt like I could lose a few pounds but didn't want to stress about it. I had some physical problems I thought were just about getting older, nothing I could do. So I understand Meghan's questioning of Paleo. I don't want to be hardcore either. I don't want my friends to avoid me because I don't eat pasta. Your relationships are as important as your diet IMO. I'm also a cook who was dismayed to lose such primary ingredients. Fact is I will never be a hardcore Paleo. I'm already thinking I can't really relate to Paleo and it's restrictions and obsessions. So I just do the best I can living a version of Paleo (ideal) Primal (to keep my friends and my sanity) and WAPF to enjoy cooking again. I will say that strict Paleo probably would agree with me very much if I could follow it strictly. But as they say Life is too short... Luckily Meghan has tried Paleo and if she finds symptoms and problems with her health in the future she will have Paleo principles to fall back on if she needs them. They are now familiar to her.
What an interesting question.
My thoughts: If Paleo is causing an unhealthy obsession, or maybe some "orthorexia" tendencies, maybe it is time to stop and reassess.
Of course, I want you to eat paleo, and I want you to be as healthy as you can, but maybe some time away will do some good. It took me a while to not obsess and to not worry about one cheat meal, or the sugar in my bacon.
My point is, I think your diet shouldn't run your life. If it does, stop, give it some time, some thought, then reassess, and maybe come back later.
I like Alex's answer...this is why I follow the Primal Blueprint. One of Sisson's philosophies is the 80/20 rule. It is about being happy and healthy with a SUSTAINABLE balance, not obsessing and being perfect.
You may also want to look into eating for you genotype... It almost breaks down paleo/primal eating into different groupings for different genotypes. For example, some people do better with more things like sprouted grains (not so paleo) than they do other types of foods. Personally, I have tailored my paleo/primal eating around my genotype and it was like a nitro boost for my body.
i am new to this and although i am not struggling with hunger at the moment, it was huge during week 6. i sat at my computer one night in tears looking for options because i felt like i had to eat some oatmeal just so i could sleep. luckily i also started my first batch of fish broth that afternoon so i had a bowl of that instead. to my amazement it actually made me "feel" good for the first time in days.
how much planning did you do before you switched? how much sugar and carbs did you have to give up with the change? i know i did little planning and that was a big detriment to my change in diet.
and just for a little perspective; you now know a lot about what does not work for you, so you are closer to finding what does.
I think physical health trumps mental health, usually. In cases of eating disorders, mental health issues need to be addressed first. But going forward, I don't think it is logical to eat an unhealthy diet for the sake of "mental health". Mental health is not a word to use lightly. Stress can be self-managed, clinical depression needs outside intervention. Mood swings can be self-managed, cravings for heroin not so. I don't mean to polarize things or act like mood swings and drug addictions are mutually exclusive - I just mean that there are numerous reasons why paleo may not work for you right now, and it is worth it to look at all those possible reasons.
Transition Pains? 4 Answers