You made it! Thirty days – Paleo with no exceptions, no cheats – not even one M&M from the bowl on your coworkers desk. You were hardcore and you’ve definitely reaped the benefits. You feel good, you aren’t craving ‘junk’, your workouts are awesome, and damn – you’re looking pretty good too… But, now the 30 days is over. It’s day 31 and all bets are off. The final measurements have been taken (if you were completing a challenge) and the Twinkies, copious amounts of coffee, and pizza are once again, on the table… Some of you have been waiting 29 days 23 hours, 59 minutes and 58 seconds for this exact moment; planning your ‘first meal’ and all of its gluten, sugar, and cheese filled goodness. Others of you are apprehensive – what now? Do you go back to what you were doing before or keep going on this path? And then, there’s you hardcore – all or none folks that swear you’re ‘in it for life’ and will never again touch ice cream, caffeine, cheese, or fruit for that matter. So, where do you fall? Are you calling it good, questioning the future, or adopting a new ‘religion’? What’s the right course and what’s your plan?
Okay, let’s be sane and rational here. If you’re in the first camp and go completely gangbuster on day 31 (we’re talking ‘Man vs. Food’ crazy…), I’m going to warn you – day 32 is going to be HELL!!! In fact, the whole next week is going to be less than pleasurable and at the end of it all you may find yourself right back where you were on day one; trapped in the cycle of insatiable cravings, lethargy, and brain fog. (This may not apply to you – but just go with it – I’ve seen this happen a lot…)
On the other side of the coin we’ve got the militant paleo – who by no means is EVER going to touch anything ‘un-paleo’ ever again. If you are in this camp you swear that there is not a cell in your body that remotely even wants any food other than steak and broccoli for as long as you live. You’ve made it your life mission to ensure that everyone eating something other than an approved food knows just how awful it is and that it will surely kill them. (NEWSFLASH – it doesn’t matter how hardcore you are – you are going to die too and sadly, you may never again taste ice cream…) To put it simply, you have morphed into “That Guy”.
Finally, we’ve got the confused middle – these folks just aren’t sure what to do now that it’s all over. Do you jump in and start another round, go back to life as it was before the “30 day challenge”, or try to strike some sort of middle ground. I mean really, you feel great and you want to keep feeling like this. You don’t want to just throw away the progress you’ve made in the past 30 days. But – life without chocolate, coffee, an occasional drink? Really? That just sounds kind of miserable.
Stop! It doesn’t have to be this way!! You don’t have to ‘let it all go’, become militant, or be confused!! There IS a middle ground and that is exactly what you need to find! Unfortunately, there is no exact definition of what that happy medium looks like for everyone. It’s an individual recipe – it depends on your goals, your health and your lifestyle. This paleo gig doesn’t need to be an all or nothing game for most of us. Again, this depends greatly on your health and your goals. If you are healthy and feeling like you’re right where you need to be in terms of performance, lifestyle (sleep, stress, training), how you look, and how you feel – it’s okay, from time to time, to indulge – just KEEP IT SANE. Remember that you will eat again and this is not a gorge fest. Choose one or two foods that you really like (I would highly recommend keeping it gluten free), and ENJOY them. It isn’t necessary to never again taste chocolate, sushi (with rice), cheese, wine, etc. Just keep it SANE and truly focus on the entire experience (that means NO television, computer or multi-tasking while you are eating). Sit down – smell, taste, and ENJOY the food. There is no need to eat it as fast as you can (no one is going to steal it – PROMISE), or to eat every single bite even if you are stuffed or no longer enjoying it.
Find what works for you (need some guidance?) – it may be an 80/20 break or a 90/10 (that means you’re 100% paleo 80 or 90 percent of the time and 10 or 20 percent you allow some – READ: SANE – out of bounds foods to make an appearance). It doesn’t need to be ‘all or none’. Think of it this way – if you revert back to your old way of eating you’ll be miserable; if you go the opposite direction and vow to never let anything remotely ‘un-paleo’ cross your lips – yep, miserable. So, strike a balance and be satisfied. I’ll tell you right now – I’m having some REALLY GOOD ice cream on Friday! You only live once; take care of yourself, but every once and a while – throw caution to the wind, just be smart about it.
What’s your plan for Day 31 and beyond?