I've recently found myself at the crossroads and I'm hoping to get some answers here.
Three years ago I had a baby and had to lose about 25 lbs. I lost it over the course of the year eating low-fat, high-carb small portions and doing cardio and weights for 40 mins 5 days a week. I liked being slimmer, but I was constantly hungry and the workouts were becoming a drag, so I looked into other alternatives until I found paleo. I fell in love with it. No more hunger, no more cravings, no more chronic cardio, more energy, etc. I thought I found my perfect lifestyle. Well, about a year into it I noticed my clothes were getting tighter. I hadn't changed anything in my life. I figured I just had to cut down on the snacking and an occasional vodka and potatoes. It didn't help. I started IFing. Didn't help. I quit coffee. Didn't help. I started getting 10 hrs of sleep a night. Didn't help. Then I did the Whole 30, without cheating once... And learned I gained 3 lbs.
This past summer I went on vacation, and the family I was staying with is very CW, low-fat, high-carb, whole wheat, yadda yadda. I had no choice but to eat what they served for 2 weeks. We also had wine every night. I came back to learn I'd lost 5 lbs! I didn't know what to make of it, but I went back on Paleo as soon as I got back. A few weeks later, I was 6 lbs heavier. So as an experiment, I went back on the low-fat, high-carb, small portions, cardio 3 times a week routine, and what do you know... 6 lbs gone in 2 months.
I'm seriously confused and disheartened. Could it be that Paleo simply isn't for me? Then why oh why do I feel so darn good eating it? What do I do? I love Paleo, but I'm half-decided to go back to CW because I HATE being a blob!
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
P.S. My stats are: female, 38, 5'5", currently 145 lbs.
The thing is, "paleo" -- at least the -principles- of paleo, is for -everyone-. Weight loss/management is often a -side effect- of the application of a healthy diet. In and of itself, the principles of ancestral nutrition (avoid processed foods including grains, legumes, and vegetable oils; move regularly, including activities that use all of your body's musculature, strengthen, and improve flexibility; sleep consistently) is not a "diet plan" -- it's just a reflection of a positive way to manage obtaining nutrition and caring for our bodies.
"Paleo" living can help you get your body to the weight/build that is right for it. Unfortunately, for some people, the natural balance of their body isn't going to mesh with the numbers on a scale that they THINK is supposed to be right for them. We don't trust our bodies any more to tell us when they're healthy or when they're not -- we look at machines and charts and visual media to tell us when we're the "right" size or the "right" weight, regardless of the messages we're getting from our body.
I'd say that, if you're trying to get your body below the 'natural' setpoint for it to meet some externally-motivated goal, you may not get there with just holistic eating on ANY plan.
As has been mentioned, a paleo diet tends to be more nutritionally dense -- so it's possible that if you're eating similar volumes of food on both paleo and vegetarian diets, you'd be eating significantly larger numbers of -calories- on a paleo diet, unless you were carefully monitoring that diet. However, I also think that, since you were hungry all the time on the vegetarian diet, you had some significant nutritional deficiencies showing up there -- and eventually, those will affect your overall health and well-being.
"Then why oh why do I feel so darn good eating it?" It sounds like paleo is for you, since you say yourself that you feel better on it. I think that what you really need to do is plug your normal week of paleo eating into a nutritional calculator, plug your week of CW eating into a nutritional calculator, and compare. Are you eating less calories on CW? Less or more sodium on CW? Getting more of certain vitamins and minerals? I think a lot of people on on this site will tell you that for them, paleo is not limitless, unguided eating. Some of us do have to count calories and carbs.
Paleo is not some diet to lose weight - it is a healthy Life style designed for Life. It makes no guarantees about weight loss but that can be one benefit of Paleo. Most of us have severely metabolically damaged our bodies ofter decades of SAD abuse and this kind of damage does not heal over night - it can take months & months or years. We humans expect this to happen fast, we do not know better than our bodies do, our bodies will do what they have evolved to do given the proper Life style at their own pace, we can force nothing.
Paleo is holistic, it's not just about food, it involved physical movement, sleeping properly, reducing stress, our relationships, everything in connected. Paleo is about eating healthy and experimenting to see what works this can take many months. The best indicator is how we feel - not always if we lose 5 lbs - the human body is in a constant state of flux and weight can commonly vary by a few pounds over days or weeks - that means very little. The ultimate goal of the paleo life style is to be as healthy as we can and for some that may actually mean a little extra weight as that may be the way some people's bodies are just the happiest and healthiest at. We need to release control and out preconceived notions of we believe we want and live the healthiest we can and let Nature do what it does best.
Have you tried high carb, low fat, small portion paleo? It may be that you do best with high carb/low fat, in which case, why would you need to add back the grains to do that? Just use those same principals within a paleo framework.
How much weight did you gain between just before you started paleo and a year in?
I think the main benefit of Paleo/Ancestral is cutting out the NADs (vegetable oil, added sugar, wheat) and avoiding crap-in-a-box. You can adapt this to just about any eating plan.
There is also probably a middle ground between your version of Paleo and your version of CW. I also don’t think cardio 3 times a week is “chronic” – I think it is probably good for you.
Maybe it will be easier for us to work out what is going on if you could provide your last few meals (including snacks if any), the more detail you give the easier it will be to possibly diagnose what is going on. I take this que from Robb Wolf who always asks the same when he hears that paleo is not producing the results it should.
What's your workout routine like? I've been paleo for about 6 mos & 5 day/wk crossfitter for 3 mos. And I've gained about 12 lbs, but I'm a lot leaner. I've had to replace some clothes because they were getting tight, but I've never liked my body as much as I do now. Even if you're not working out regulary, I've heard of people who gain muscle just by going paleo. By the way, I'm 26, 5'4" and 142 lbs. My body is settling at a heavier weight but I've never felt better, so I'm trusting my body. Maybe you should do the same. And remember, don't put any trust in the scale. It doesn't measure your worth.
ChromeBlossom, if you work as hard on nutrition as you have on this question you definitely deserve to find a breakthrough soon.
Anyhow, this may be totally off base but while your responses to comments displayed terrific patience, the question itself seems to come from anxiety. And one reason you might have lost weight on vacation yet not do it now could be tied to stress and/or anxiety.
How do you sleep? How do you relax? Your body will resist giving up stored resources if you are stressed, under pressure, etc. Were you more relaxed on your trip? Do you block out stress and pressure during the week and thereby let it build up?