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Fallen off the paleo bandwagon, how to re-motivate and eat healthy again?

by (333)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:24 PM
Created June 04, 2011 at 4:46 AM

I have generally eaten healthy for the last year and been strict Paleo (no dairy, no nuts, minimal wine, but some berries) since January, and stay fairly active. I've leaned out over the last year and lost a few % of body fat since going Paleo. and was feeling and looking great until about April when I traveled to London and allowed myself to relax with a few meals allowing cheese, nuts, wine, sweets, etc.

Since London, I have gradually fallen off the paleo bandwagon in the last month starting with sugar binges on dessert/pastries/bread-items. Each time I eat something sweet, it turns into a binge and I tell myself that I'll "be good" starting tomorrow, and the day goes away because I allow myself to eat flouritems/sugar items recklessly! I've tried to IF for a few days here and there to try to 'reset' after some of these binges but has not helped. I am typically NOT hungry when I binge on gluten/sugar-sweet items, I don't stock these items at home, typically at events (conferences where there's infinite amounts of pastries lying around), in the office, or i will simply go and buy them.

The bad eating is now occurring more and more frequently and each time i tell myself i will restart eating well 'tomorrow', i will fall off the bandwagon again in 2-3 days. As a result, I am feeling less energy, sleeping less well, and also noticeably gaining fat! The problem is the negative results make me feel even less motivated to get back on the bandwagon since mentally, I am thinking oh i'm already making negative progress, i'll just do it tomorrow. My question is, how do I get myself out of this negative cycle, esp. since I made only positive progress in the last year with no significant setbacks, I know i can eat healthy and be consistent about it, why am I running into this problem?

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333 · June 06, 2011 at 2:33 AM

I guess I could look at a picture of myself from 3 MO ago, at my leanest point! :)

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1793 · June 06, 2011 at 1:40 AM

Also, according to the estimable Paul Jaminet, macademia nuts are lower in PUFAs than many other nuts.

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1793 · June 06, 2011 at 1:21 AM

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, Chinese yams, taro, and (gasp!) white rice. As for nuts, I dunno- there seems to be good case for moderation here- you might want to try just whole nuts- there's probably a case to be made that good quality dairy is better than lots of nuts. But you can figure that stuff out yourself :-)

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2949 · June 05, 2011 at 8:01 PM

@cassandra- I do like 30 minutes on the crosstrainer at the gym a couple times a week... I don't believe in regular rigorous exercise.

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179 · June 05, 2011 at 3:59 AM

Josh, it is not a matter of blaming others or circumstances....sometimes having someone point out the obvious really helps. Falling off the proverbial band wagon IS a big deal for me as is getting back on.....Just sayin'......

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333 · June 05, 2011 at 3:12 AM

thanks for your support Doris! Will keep you posted :)

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333 · June 05, 2011 at 3:11 AM

Hi Nico - I think you have a good point; I was doing much better when I kept in nut butters and fruit (more berries) -- ie breakfast would be 1-2 tbsp of almond butter + 1 egg, and berries and had much less sugar cravings. I keep reading about the downside of too much PUFA's in nuts/nut butters in general and that's why i took it out. What kind of starch do you eat?

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333 · June 05, 2011 at 3:07 AM

Thanks for sharing your own experience Lizzish - how did you eventually get over yours? Happy that you are now back on track ;)

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333 · June 05, 2011 at 3:05 AM

thanks for the detailed response FED! I think your observations are spot on; I need to stop the psychology of using food as a rewarding/feel good system, and then attempting to compensate for over indulgence by IF'ing (reward-punishment system). I am concerned as to how I got here though; I was never obese or overweight, and never had an unhealthy relationship (either eating too much or too little) with food (I agree with you that my present psychology with food is not the healthiest!) until these sweet cravings set in after the London trip and the spiral downhill.

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78417 · June 04, 2011 at 6:57 PM

One more vote for Whole 30. I find that taking all these bad foods out is helping me as well. I think the mindset is more important than anything. Go back and really think about how you felt when you were heavily into paleo and that will kick your arse back in gear.

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135 · June 04, 2011 at 4:18 PM

I found myself in the same place as you about a week ago. I started the Whole30 this past Tuesday, and it's helped immensely. I did, however, have to be in the proper mindset for it. This post http://tinyurl.com/3s5d9nt helped a lot as well - particularly this line "I also remind myself that I could have these things if I wanted them, but I am making the choice to cut them out of my diet in order to improve my health, both now and in the future."

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288 · June 04, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Ditto. I could have written your entire answer myself Laura...including the stress and the travel over the last month.

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1021 · June 04, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Thanks, FED. That's good advice for me, too (and probably for a lot of people who eat for emotional reasons). I feel so angry at myself when I have a day of eating bad foods, and yet I expect other people to sympathize with me and tell me "it's not so bad." Why don't I do the same thing for myself? I've been working on it, but it's definitely a journey.

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19469 · June 04, 2011 at 1:27 PM

I hear you! It was my own personal experiences with disordered eating that led me to do the work that I do and it has been a journey of healing that I take one day at a time.

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4181 · June 04, 2011 at 1:16 PM

Great answer and I think you've hit the nail on the head. I'm an emotional/stress eater also and I do exactly the same thing when I fall off the wagon. The sugar cravings are unbearable and I don't know what's going on chemically in my body/brain but it is hard as hell to get off of that road. It takes me 3-4 days of making good choices to get my confidence back and the cravings to stop. It's really like a drug addict I think. I recently got back on track after an extended period of feeling out of control. I know that these are mental barriers though that we have to figure out how to deal with

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94 · June 04, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Work is tough when there's free food staring at you in the face. Yesterday I had to fend off free donuts and pizza earlier this week. I have to physically remove myself from the area so I don't think about the food. Like going for a walk or go talk to someone. Now that it's spring/summer, I crave ice cream and alcohol when I get home from work.....Again I try to keep myself busy. I actually just bought a golf membership at a local crappy golf course, to get myself outside, keeping my mind busy, and I walk the course which is a win win win scenario.

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333 · June 04, 2011 at 6:59 AM

Thank you Danielle I think I will start this today! I am going to be in Cozumel after July 4 so now is a great starting point! how far along are you? Are you working out while on the 30 day challenge?

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333 · June 04, 2011 at 5:27 AM

thank you!! its so good to hear encouragements like this. I like the immediate rewards system and I need to get away from the food-reward system of allowing myself to have a slice of cake once a week if i eat good for an entire week, that has not worked for me.

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19469 · June 04, 2011 at 1:03 PM

While there may be some nutritional components that you can tweak (healthy sweet foods, following a program like Whole30, etc.) I think that you are experiencing the effects of emotional and/or psychological issues.

I have worked with weight-loss clients for over 7 years and any time there is a binge-purge cycle (in this case the "purge" is IF) there is mental/emotional work that needs to be done.

You've already recognized that physical hunger isn't the issue since you clearly state, "I am typically NOT hungry when I binge on gluten/sugar-sweet items."

The problem is that there is "good" vs "bad" thinking at work ("The bad eating is now occurring more and more frequently and each time i tell myself i will restart eating well 'tomorrow')

The "good" is anything that you think you can eat, the "bad" is all stuff that you think you can't. The truth that you can really eat whatever you WANT to eat is coming out in your actions ("I allow myself to eat flouritems/sugar items recklessly!")

Up till this point, you have made a choice to stay caught up in this way of thinking and are actually going deeper and deeper into it as a result ("The problem is the negative results make me feel even less motivated to get back on the bandwagon since mentally, I am thinking oh i'm already making negative progress.")

Since you made a point to post this problem in a relatively public way, you may be in a place where you are open to making some changes.

Instead of focusing on your eating habits (the symptom/effect) I encourage you to look at your thinking/feeling habits (the cause). Right now you have an unhealthy relationship with food in general that needs some work.

Like any relationship, moving forward requires a few things. At this stage, I encourage forgiveness. Honestly allow yourself to let go of the feelings of regret, frustration, despair, etc. that are based on the idea that you did something "bad" or "ruined" your hard work. Think about how you would react to a friend who told you a story like your own.

If a friend came up to you and said "I ate some cake, cookies, etc and now I feel horrible about myself" I imagine you wouldn't say "yes, you are a horrible person." There is no reason to treat yourself any different. Keep working on this until you come back to a place of love and acceptance of who you are, what you look like, and trust in the fact that everything that you have ever done, though, felt has led up to this particular moment and it has made you exactly who you need to be.

Leave the whole "paleo" vs. "not paleo" thing alone for a little while and get yourself back to a loving relationship with yourself first. It is only then that you can hope to see a change in your relationship with food.

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333 · June 05, 2011 at 3:05 AM

thanks for the detailed response FED! I think your observations are spot on; I need to stop the psychology of using food as a rewarding/feel good system, and then attempting to compensate for over indulgence by IF'ing (reward-punishment system). I am concerned as to how I got here though; I was never obese or overweight, and never had an unhealthy relationship (either eating too much or too little) with food (I agree with you that my present psychology with food is not the healthiest!) until these sweet cravings set in after the London trip and the spiral downhill.

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1021 · June 04, 2011 at 1:40 PM

Thanks, FED. That's good advice for me, too (and probably for a lot of people who eat for emotional reasons). I feel so angry at myself when I have a day of eating bad foods, and yet I expect other people to sympathize with me and tell me "it's not so bad." Why don't I do the same thing for myself? I've been working on it, but it's definitely a journey.

Thumbnail avatar
19469 · June 04, 2011 at 1:27 PM

I hear you! It was my own personal experiences with disordered eating that led me to do the work that I do and it has been a journey of healing that I take one day at a time.

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4181 · June 04, 2011 at 1:16 PM

Great answer and I think you've hit the nail on the head. I'm an emotional/stress eater also and I do exactly the same thing when I fall off the wagon. The sugar cravings are unbearable and I don't know what's going on chemically in my body/brain but it is hard as hell to get off of that road. It takes me 3-4 days of making good choices to get my confidence back and the cravings to stop. It's really like a drug addict I think. I recently got back on track after an extended period of feeling out of control. I know that these are mental barriers though that we have to figure out how to deal with

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2729 · June 04, 2011 at 10:48 AM

I'm going through the same exact thing right now and the "I'll start tomorrow, but may as well go crazy today" thing is KILLING me. The best advice I've heard is that "you can start your day over whenever you wish." So if you fall off the wagon at lunch, plan a perfectly paleo dinner and stick to it. The whole day wasn't perfect, but so what? It was one binge instead of two or three. It also helps to have a friend who supports you, someone to call when the sugar cravings hit. If you need to, you can e-mail your food to that person at the end of the day to hold you accountable. That helped me get back on track last time, here's hoping it works for both of us this time and we don't fall off the wagon again.

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333 · June 05, 2011 at 3:07 AM

Thanks for sharing your own experience Lizzish - how did you eventually get over yours? Happy that you are now back on track ;)

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2949 · June 04, 2011 at 6:18 AM

I went through this a bit too. I started the Whole30 program and the article kicked my ass back on track, I've been eating paleo "better" than I ever have. I feel better and have already lost weight. I never thought I'd get back on track...if I can do it you can too! http://whole9life.com/2010/12/whole30-2011

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2949 · June 05, 2011 at 8:01 PM

@cassandra- I do like 30 minutes on the crosstrainer at the gym a couple times a week... I don't believe in regular rigorous exercise.

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78417 · June 04, 2011 at 6:57 PM

One more vote for Whole 30. I find that taking all these bad foods out is helping me as well. I think the mindset is more important than anything. Go back and really think about how you felt when you were heavily into paleo and that will kick your arse back in gear.

Ca8111fb6e3bac177373a82f5d33910d
135 · June 04, 2011 at 4:18 PM

I found myself in the same place as you about a week ago. I started the Whole30 this past Tuesday, and it's helped immensely. I did, however, have to be in the proper mindset for it. This post http://tinyurl.com/3s5d9nt helped a lot as well - particularly this line "I also remind myself that I could have these things if I wanted them, but I am making the choice to cut them out of my diet in order to improve my health, both now and in the future."

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333 · June 04, 2011 at 6:59 AM

Thank you Danielle I think I will start this today! I am going to be in Cozumel after July 4 so now is a great starting point! how far along are you? Are you working out while on the 30 day challenge?

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160 · June 04, 2011 at 5:22 AM

I suggest the baby steps approach. Take it one meal at a time. You can do anything for one meal, right? Congratulate yourself when you are successful. Don't beat yourself up when you are not. Try to remember how good you feel when you are making the right choices for your body. Finally, create a reward. Something you really want - an immediate reward, say a movie you want to see, for a small goal met - a week with no pastry. A bigger reward- new jeans, an iPad, a trip, whatever. You get that reward when you meet your bigger goal.

Good luck. It's hard to get back in the swing, but you know it's the right thing, so JUST DO IT!

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333 · June 04, 2011 at 5:27 AM

thank you!! its so good to hear encouragements like this. I like the immediate rewards system and I need to get away from the food-reward system of allowing myself to have a slice of cake once a week if i eat good for an entire week, that has not worked for me.

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1227 · June 04, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Cassandra, Thank you for publishing your pain. It helps me to keep focused on the importance of not letting things get out of hand. I'm so happy with the results of eating basically high fat lowish carb. I've been successful by not indulging in any bread. However I've let myself be seduced by some very good chocolate cake etc. recently. As good as it was. IT WAS NOT WORTH losing (self esteem etc.) all that I have gained by losing (weight). You have a track record of success and you can tap into that. All the best to you and let us know how you fare. Don't wait for Cozumel.

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333 · June 05, 2011 at 3:12 AM

thanks for your support Doris! Will keep you posted :)

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30 · June 04, 2011 at 5:39 PM

An unlikely source of inspiration came to me while I was perusing a book on the human anatomy the other day. When I arrived at the section covering the GI tract, I had this thought: if it could talk, what would it say every time I shoved down a sugar/gluten/n6 bomb? I can almost hear my intestines screaming in agony...

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3244 · June 04, 2011 at 12:25 PM

I find listening to a podcast, like Wolf's Paleo Solution, helps get my head back in the game after a spell of poor choices.

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1793 · June 04, 2011 at 11:22 AM

Based on what you said about "some berries", and one of your tags, I'm assuming you're trying to do low-carb, perhaps very low-carb, paleo. I would imagine that is very hard to do. Can't say for sure, cause I've never done it- and somehow still managed to ditch at least 40 lbs of fat.

In my view, paleo is not low-carb by definition. In fact, I dare say, the default should not be low-carb.

I think you're going to have a WAY easier time, and still see lots of benefits, by eating a fair amount of starch and fruit. Dare I also say, unless you have issues with it, let yourself have cheese (which is freekin' delicious, after all).

I think the priority should be eliminating the NADs. Focus on that, and address other issues with more tinkering if you have them.

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1793 · June 06, 2011 at 1:40 AM

Also, according to the estimable Paul Jaminet, macademia nuts are lower in PUFAs than many other nuts.

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1793 · June 06, 2011 at 1:21 AM

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, Chinese yams, taro, and (gasp!) white rice. As for nuts, I dunno- there seems to be good case for moderation here- you might want to try just whole nuts- there's probably a case to be made that good quality dairy is better than lots of nuts. But you can figure that stuff out yourself :-)

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333 · June 05, 2011 at 3:11 AM

Hi Nico - I think you have a good point; I was doing much better when I kept in nut butters and fruit (more berries) -- ie breakfast would be 1-2 tbsp of almond butter + 1 egg, and berries and had much less sugar cravings. I keep reading about the downside of too much PUFA's in nuts/nut butters in general and that's why i took it out. What kind of starch do you eat?

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919 · June 04, 2011 at 8:52 AM

a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step

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145 · June 04, 2011 at 9:26 PM

Thanks for the OP, it really applies to me right now.

The social pressure is real, behavior is contagious. I've fallen off the wagon recently due to the stresses of graduation and then moving back home full time with the hub. During the past month or so I've stopped thinking and allowed the stress of finals, of moving, and then my husband's poor diet to affect me. Thankfully I'm becoming more and more aware of my habits and do realize that social influence is a two way street.

My short term goal is to stop any physiological cravings, which after a long stretch of cheating may require a longer reset period. I hope it will maybe take 3-4 days, I realize it is no longer the usual 1 day reset I enjoyed when my habits were much better. A longer term goal is to go back to where I was the influence and my hubby's diet was so much better.

Also it helps that I don't beat myself up for being human. As a species we are wired to store fat, and are very efficient at it. The key is to be conscious of what hard wiring can do to us when we live in a maladaptive environment. For me it helps to stop and watch obese, arthritic people and reflect on that. There is no shortage of them. They remind me that I do not want to be in pain when I'm older.

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11111 · June 04, 2011 at 5:41 PM

Don't mean to sound cold but the only person that can motivate a person to do anything is that person. We are all responsible for our own thoughts, actions & decisions. We cannot blame others for our own actions nor ask others to be responsible for our own thoughts/decisions. Self-responsibility, self-awareness, self-control, self-reliance. There is little a person will not do or figure out how to do if they actually want to do it.

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179 · June 05, 2011 at 3:59 AM

Josh, it is not a matter of blaming others or circumstances....sometimes having someone point out the obvious really helps. Falling off the proverbial band wagon IS a big deal for me as is getting back on.....Just sayin'......

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179 · June 04, 2011 at 1:52 PM

This is a question I was about to ask.....the stress this month has been at an all time high and I have been travelling and had no way to plan my meals out....this in itself creates stress. I have to be an all or nothing kind of eater....any sugar can send me out of control as my body doesnt' handle it well. @Lizzish....thanks for that thought process as well as thanks to @Seadanes and @DudleyP for their insightful answers. I appreciate this community and their commpassion to this type of question.

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288 · June 04, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Ditto. I could have written your entire answer myself Laura...including the stress and the travel over the last month.

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418 · June 04, 2011 at 1:24 PM

For me, looking at a picture of Brad Pit from Fight Club or someone else equally ripped does the trick. Perhaps I'm just more vain than others, but if that doesn't work, how about a long healthy life?

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333 · June 06, 2011 at 2:33 AM

I guess I could look at a picture of myself from 3 MO ago, at my leanest point! :)

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279 · June 04, 2011 at 11:32 AM

Just get right kind of sweets - fresh fruit, maybe some dried fruit and eat that. If you have healthy option you will not feel the need to go to realy bad stuff.

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