when your body is just learning how to use fat rather than carbs for fuel, is it best to be on your strictest paleo behavior to better train your body, or is it actually best to ease your body into it by gradually decreasing grains/sugars?
I was an all or nothing kind of guy, so going strict from the get-go worked for me.
Others report success weaning themselves off grains and sugars.
I think it really just comes down to: do what you think works for you. And you can always switch to another approach if the first one doesn't seem to be going well :)
Start out strict. After a month or less, you will begin to notice some positives and some negatives. Then it is VERY IMPORTANT you don't ignore those negative and that you DO widen your diet to address those negatives. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking when negatives show up that you need to become MORE STRICT. The keepers of the faith will tell you that you need to become more strict, DON'T. The reason you should go strict for a while is that it will make it easier to identify the good and the bad. If you don't go strict, it will be more difficult to identify what in the diet doesn't work for you.
Easing in worked well for me- started off going gluten free and as I learned more about paleo, I eventually dropped the other grains & the legumes. It felt like a natural progression, not like I was forcing myself into something I didn't want to do. Definitely depends on personal preference, and probably depends on what your needs are; if I were in a health crisis I may have decided to go whole hog right away. You'll find out what works for you; good luck!
Strict from the start is better physically, but some people just need baby steps to avoid feeling so deprived that they lose the necessary discipline to continue moving forward. I am strongly an all or nothing type, so I do what works for me, but a vast majority of my clients wouldn't stick with something that they perceive as super restrictive, so we ease into it for success! L-glutamine is wonderful for the transition from using carbs for fuel to using fats.
Be strict on the poisons (gluten, sugar, phytates, lectin, etc) - so that means NO, grains, legumes, dairy. No exceptions. Often one exposure can re-damage your gut for 6 weeks.
Be less strict on amount of carbs. If you want an extra sweet potato here or there to give you a little boost while you're transitioning to fat burner, it won't hurt you. It may make the transition take longer and will surely limit weight loss, but if helps you get to your goal it may be worth it. It's better to take longer to become a fat burner than it is to just give up and go back to eating crap.
You're human, sometimes you need to bend the rules. You can't be perfect, but on the other hand you can't always be making excuses ("well I'll cheat today because I'm feeling crappy"). It's all a delicate balance and it's up to you where you're strict and where you leave it open to interpretation.
Edited to add: Yikes, looks like someone else was reading my mind, blog post from today: http://knitfitter.blogspot.com/2011/05/reality-check.html
You should go strict from the very beginning. At least that's what I had to do. I couldn't just have a little bit of carbs. Doing a VLC "induction"-like phase really killed my carb addiction in a matter of weeks. Why draw it out longer than you have to?
It's all about elimination of the foods that cause you problems.
So, start safe, start strict... and once you start feeling fantastic, you can then "ease" back into some of the foods that are grey area/not paleo, (if you feel like it).
Personally, any time I eat unPaleo food - I have a pretty major trepidation because I know it is not going to end well... so on all points I'd say start strict and stay there.
I'm only starting and on my 14 th day but I went all out and so far it's been great and have not had many cravings at all. Yesterday I was craving something sweet so I gave into chocolate bday cake and today I'm regretting it!
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