Veggies, meat, good fats, some fruit, water and an occasional piece of high-quality dark chocolate – that’s what’s been going into your body for the past week or two. Seriously, you are on a roll. This paleo thing – it’s in the bag. I’m talking EASY. You totally can’t understand how some people are always complaining about how hard it is. I mean, you’ve been at it a solid ten days – nothing to it. The rest of them must all be weak or something…
And then it happens… Friday night rolls around and you’re going out to dinner with some friends – you’ve already got your totally paleo meal planned and you’re ready. The waiter brings out a ‘complimentary’ basket of tortilla chips and salsa. You tell yourself that a few chips won’t hurt – you’ve been really good and they are gluten free… OH HOLY DELICIOUS!! The salt, the crunch, the – well EVERYTHING – these are THE BEST stale, restaurant chips you have EVER tasted. So you go ahead and empty the basket with everyone else, your meal is still going to be totally paleo. Dinner comes and goes and now everyone is ordering dessert, after some arm twisting (that’s your story anyway), your friends talk you into ordering a brownie sundae. You decide this is going to be your ‘cheat night’ and you’re going to enjoy it. By the time you get home you’ve chomped stale chips, destroyed a giant brownie sundae and chugged more drinks than you can remember. Time for bed, and tomorrow its right back to paleo.
Saturday morning – things are NOT feeling happy right now. Your head is pounding, you’re tired and the thought of eggs and bacon is enough to make you ‘lose your cookies’. Right now, some toast or maybe some pancakes and syrup with a great big glass of OJ and cup of coffee, sound really good… The ‘recovery breakfast’ leaves you feeling less than better, upset, and guilty. You tell yourself you’ve blown it for the day, grab a couple OREO’s and head to the Golden Arches for lunch. The afternoon is spent watching TV, hanging out with the family and eating copious amounts of chips, handfuls of M&M’s and maybe a few of those tasty little pizza roll bites… The weekend continues in this fashion and Monday the HARSH REALITY sets in. You totally went OFF THE DEEP END. Like, below the bottom – digging a hole to China…
Does this sound familiar? For some of you this might be a monthly, bi-weekly, weekly or even daily pattern. It’s one of the MOST common stories I hear. Everything is going so great, willpower isn’t a problem – you’re feeling good and then WHAM! It’s like tying a 45# weight to your ankle and jumping off a ledge. Things go down – and FAST. Why does this happen and what can you do about it? Is there a way to prevent the crash and burn that begins with a couple of scoops of almond butter and ends with an empty jar, a pint of ice cream, and a package of Chips Ahoy? You’re in luck!
So first off, why the heck does this happen? Is it because you’ve ‘deprived’ yourself for what seems like an eternity (five days is a LONG time…) or does it stem from boredom, emotions, etc? Identifying the trigger is big and it’s a vital part of preventing it from happening again – but that’s not the first step in turning things around. The number one thing you’ve got to do is STOP thinking that ‘you blew it’. So, let’s say for example (this is totally made up…), – you ate the WHOLE bar of dark chocolate (one of the really big ones) and dipped it in almond butter (maybe like ½ a jar…). Was it one of your better decisions? No. Did it happen? Yes. Can you change it? No. But, does it mean you should let it defeat you? NO!!! And this is the part that hurts so many people! The mentality seems to be, “well I blew it, so I might as well have___________” (insert food of choice here). And this pattern continues until you finally reach a point where you’ve had enough (this could be a day, week, month, year(s)…) and decide to ‘resurface’ and start again. It’s a cycle of self-sabotage and the best way to prevent it is to not let it start in the first place. Sure, you ate something that you don’t feel so great about – it happens to the best of us. It’s done and time to start over – RIGHT NOW! Not tomorrow, not Monday, not next month – RIGHT THIS MINUTE! Make a plan and get back on track – no excuses. Get rid of the food that started the whole onslaught and any other foods that might “push you over the edge”. **Helpful Tip** – If you put a jar of almond butter in the freezer there is NO WAY that you can eat it once it’s frozen. (Or at least that’s what I’ve heard…)**
Next, plan out your next day or two of eating, include some strategies for taking your mind off of food. Make a list of ‘other things to do’ – take a walk, call your mom (she’d really like that), clean (okay, but it needs to be done…), do a crossword puzzle, read, etc. Boredom is not an excuse to make poor food choices. Sorry if that sounds harsh – it’s tough love…
Make room for an occasional ‘treat’. Sometimes telling yourself you ‘can’t’ have _________(insert food of choice here), makes you want it more. Instead of saying never, plan to let yourself enjoy a weekly indulgence. I’m not talking an entire 3 hour eating extravaganza – pick ONE FOOD and really focus on enjoying it. That means you get the GOOD stuff – no cheap store brand, low-fat, ‘healthier’ option or stale restaurant tortilla chips – go for the cream of the crop. Now before you eat it – turn off the TV, computer, tablet, and phone. Put the newspaper, magazine, ebook, etc., away. It’s you and the food – that’s it. Make it an EXPERIENCE truly taste and savor every bite. When it stops being the MOST AWESOME thing you’ve ever tasted – stop eating it. Yep, get rid of it, get it out of your house – and yes, what mom said is true – there are starving children, but they don’t need ice cream or M&M’s either. They too would be better off with meat, veggies and good fats. Another thing to remember is that you ‘CAN’ have absolutely ANYTHING you want to eat – BUT (and that’s a big BUT), you are choosing to make the best decision for your health by not making less than nutritious food choices. Instead of telling yourself ‘I can’t’, say ‘I don’t’ or ‘I choose to not’ have a certain type of food. You are ultimately in control. I have yet to see anyone get beaten down by a Twinkie… (Do watch out for the ‘Hurts Donut’ though…)
There will always be temptations and life’s too short to not enjoy some of the things you like every once and a while. It’s totally okay, as long as you’re smart about it – plan for it and set some limits because you CHOOSE health over instant gratification. Don’t let negative thoughts defeat you and send you into a deep black hole. If a non-planned leap off the edge occurs – turn it around and start over – RIGHT NOW!! Wipe the slate clean, the past is the past and the future is yours – make it bright. Lastly, always have a plan for ‘digging out’ and resurfacing. Write it down and have it ready to pull out and employ at all times.
Paleo doesn’t have to be all or none. It’s not a religion. Sometimes ice cream (or your food of choice) is good and totally acceptable. Quarts of ice cream, cookies, pizza, French fries, etc, on a REGULAR basis or in an unending stream are another story entirely. The power is yours – take control. Stale chips be damned!
Paleo Chocolate says
Sounds familiar to me
I needed this. Great article, Amy!
Amy Kubal says
Thanks Chris! 🙂
Thank you so much for this post. It was just what I needed to read this morning.
Great perspective! Planning and owning up to indulgences as choices are great strategies.
I tend to do this every weekend but it really isn’t a problem for me – I don’t think.
I’ll go out for a totally unpaleo meal on the Friday, stuff myself rotten and then carry on making less-than-optimal meal choices the next day. Sunday I usually starve myself until I have a paleo dinner (because I feel so horrible from the previous 2 days of binging) and by Monday morning I’m back to strict paleo for the week.
I always gain 4-7lbs over the weekend when I do this but I’ve always lost it again by the time the following Friday comes around.
So I’m not sure whether it’s really a bad thing, especially if it helps keep me compliant most of the time.
I lost 7 stone and now I’m a healthy weight which means gaining 7lbs now and again isn’t really a problem; the paleo diet is so awesome it’s never a chore to get it back off.
The Crunchy Pickle says
So true. I think for me it comes down to thinking like a “thin” person (regardless of the scale). A thin person enjoys a splurge food fully but then continues to eat normal portions of healthy foods after. However, a person who has decided they are “fat” will feel that they have no willpower and will chalk up the splurge to poor self-control and begin a destructive pattern that goes on and on. For me, deciding that I am a “thin” person with a normal and healthy relationship with food is changing how I respond to temptations. Does that make sense?
Amy Kubal says
That totally makes sense – and it doesn’t even have to be classified as ‘thin’ and ‘fat’. Think of it in terms of your relationship with food. It can be ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. Does your food serve you or do you serve your food? Take control!
Once at a fitness expo, a formerly obese woman mentioned how she would “cave in” to her cravings because she would have one bite, think she failed, and use that as a reason to go overboard. She said something that totally opened my eyes and I think about every time I think I’ve screwed up my eating habits by just having one small indulgence:
If you get a speeding ticket, do you immediately decide, “Hey, I’ve just broken the law… let me go rob a bank now since there’s obviously no turning back now!”?
Amy Kubal says
Awesome analogy! And so true!! “Don’t become a ‘cereal’ killer after one offense!!” 😉
Joel Zaslofsky says
You and Robb have a writing style that just resonates so much with me. If you replaced the word “you” with the word “I”, this could have been a first person account of my life for the last two-and-a-half years. Even right down to eating the whole bar of dark chocolate.
My issue is sugar addiction. I’m on the path to recovery but I still have a ways to go before I can proclaim I’m free of its stranglehold. What you’ve given me today is the motivation to create a recovery plan for when the inevitable slip occurs.
I’m a super optimistic guy but I do let negative food related thoughts get the best of me from time to time. That should happen less and less with your help and awesome articles like this.
Amy Kubal says
Thank you so much for the kind words and sharing your take away from this piece. Keep reading and we’ll keep writing! 🙂
Oh Amy have you secretly been recording my life?? That was so me. I have identified that my problem is thinking I am going to be deprived so I “live it up” “this one LAST time!”. Then the guilt sets in and the baby goes out with the bath water and its a fast spiral downwards. I long for the day when I can maintain course in the stormy weather. Thanks for a great article.
This is totally me, and the solution sounds great, however my wife and kids won’t let me “get it out of the house”!
Any suggestions? I’ve approached this with my wife a few times. She’s even gone mostly paleo for a month or so… then decided it’s not happening.
Short term, I’ve occasionally been successful at ignoring the junk food that calls my name at night… Long term? Not a chance!
Amy Kubal says
Don’t bring the stuff in your house! It will be healthier for your whole family.
Great article Amy, thanks.
What works for me is when the temptation first arises, pause and think about how your future self would decide/feel – as in the one in two hours time who is looking back and saying… it wasn’t worth it and I am feeling bad!!
In other words, respect your future self.
Sharkie Sara says
Good post Amy!
“It’s not a religion.” What a great way to remind myself that I’m the one in charge. I will remember and use that little phrase. It works both ways too: for the all or nothing mentality, and the ‘I’m more paleo than you’ crowd as well. Thanks!
Like many others, this is my story since last winter (since I’ve learned about paleo eating). And since then, I’ve filled up with 10 pounds. Arrrg… Not going the good way… People around me are starting too think that I was better vegetarian but I know that I fill better anyway (my muscle don’t hurt all the time anymore). Also, we’ve found that my husband and one of my girls is allergic to gluten (since “eating paleo”). Your article with another one that I have read this week will help to eating well:
– unconsciouly eating bad
– consciouly eating bad
– consciouly eating well
– unconsciouly eating well
I think that we often think that after a month we’re good for the uncounsciouly eating well but that it’s not enouf for all the years of unconsciouly eating bad.
Kelly Montgomery says
I’m probably the only guy in crossfit that works out 5 days a week in the box and has gained “bad” weight in two years.
Paleo has been proven to work. I lost 20 lbs in 2 months adhering to a strict paleo regiment. But one night fell off the wagon with great intentions to start fresh again the next day. Well…that didnt happen and before long that 20 plus extra LBs came back with a vengeance.
Amy Kubal says
Get right back on track! Fresh start RIGHT NOW! You can do it! 3, 2, 1 GO!! 🙂
I needed this! Thank you for this post!!
Your article is me and my life. I have been trying to be a mindful eater, no sugar or processed food for the last 2 years. I keep falling off and have a hard time getting back on. Recently, I was doing great for 4 months and then had one “bad” night that turned into 3 months of bad eating. Tuesday, I returned to making the right choices and am back on track. I am trying Paleo for the first time.
Great article Amy.
For the last year and a half I’ve been eating Paleo. I have generally found that keeping things under control has been pretty easy. I stay pretty close to the script, but when we take the the occasional weekend away, I indulge. What I have found kinda funny is, unlike any other diet, I’m ready to get back to it as soon as we get home. I actually look forward to it, I find this amazing, because I know I’ll feel better.
I recently read an article on the Leangains website, and it included stratagies for social occasions. It’s not speaking to the Paleo community, but I think it’s relevant for many of us. He suggested eating some protien before a social event and minimal fats and carbs. This would keep you more satiated and less likely to go too crazy, and you have a bit of a buffer as far as fats and carbs go. Might be a worth a try if one is really struggling it.
Amy Kubal says
Great Advice Carol! Thanks!
definitely not my story. 7 months paleo and going strong. 40 pounds lost, sixpack developed. never felt or looked better in 30 years. never slipped. not once. couldn’t force junk down my throat if i wanted to. and i don’t. those others must be weak or something 🙂 i am talking easy. really easy. or is it just me being a paleo fanatic?
Amy Kubal says
Famous last words?? Just keep this in my mind – at some point you may need it. So far, you’re lucky or have some iron willpower!
My family isn’t on board either. What generally works for me…
I set up a second pantry. The main pantry (in the kitchen) is Paleo. The second pantry (in the next room) has the pasta, chips, cookies, peanut butter, etc. It’s there and I know it’s there, but since I generally don’t go in that room, I dont see it and am less tempted. If something lands in my paleo pantry, I might move it – or I might toss it – they know the risk!
That said, I’ve fallen terribly this week with a bad cough and sugary cough drops…and definitely needed this article to snap me back!
Dennis Blair says
Great article completely in conformance with me I can’t simply resist chips when I see them and they can easily disturb your diet balance.
Great stuff – knowing a reward is on the horizon makes it easier to look past the crap in front of you!
Glenn Gibson says
Had this experience today. Been doing relatively ok with food and really sticking to the Paleo way of eating. Today at the office I went to a co-worker’s cube and saw them. A big basket full of Kit Kat bars. I was going to eat one thinking “Oh it’s just one of those mini’s”. I stopped myself, had my little self talk reminding myself that it was things like that that made me morbidly obese in the first place. I also reasoned that if I was going to cheat, I wanted to cheat with something other than a Kit Kat. I was able to walk away, but I had to grab something sweet so I got an apple and ate that. I read your article yesterday and it came back to me and helped me resist.
I was able to resist because I thought that I don’t eat like that anymore. When I started a couple of weeks ago one of my motivating epiphanies was the realization that lifestyle change is permanent. At WW, they used to day just because you are on WW, doesn’t mean you can never have lasagna again. The epiphany for me was “yes, it actually does mean that”. It means I don’t include lasagna in my regular diet anymore. Thanks for the article.
Amy Kubal says
I am SO glad you resisted and SO happy that this post helped!! Thank you for making my day! 🙂
What a great article! Truly wise words. Thank you!
thanks for the post, really enjoyed it, i totally agree with every word. Im still trying to lean out so for me it’s 100 % paleo and no cheat days, except for small amounts of dark chocolate. I think my reward center is down low that i don’t really crave any junk food. But in the past that was totally me, i would take one bite and then think that i screwed up and eat more of the same crap.
Paleo is totally awsome, keeps me full and in check with my appetite.
thanks again (:
OMG – I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or look over my shoulder. So I did both. This nailed me.
Although this kind of self-defeating behavior sounds just like me (!) I do fight against it. It is gratifying to hear I am not alone. It’s a choice. Every day. I do hope at some point that I reach that summit that I am not tempted to be, well, human. Want to enjoy myself in the ways that lesser mortals do (eat, drink and be merry in the typical way). Ha. I suspect from what I read lately that a Whole 30 might do that… Working on it.
I thought almond butter was ok for you. Now I am confused.
Amy Kubal says
Almond butter is okay in moderation – not in mass quantities!
In moderation it shall be.
Thank you for the article. I just found out I am gluten intolerant, so all this is new to me and a little ovewhelming. I read your book, great by the way, it has helped me clean the kitchen so to speak. Thanks again!!!
Hi Amy! Like many others who’ve commented, this was me! I started hanging out with a friend who doesn’t do Paleo and we’ve gone to a bunch of restaurants, and then the desserts started…
But now I’m on day 4 of my 30 days, very strictly eating meat and veg, and doing the Chris Kresser program as I’m having surgery and want to lose the last 30 pounds before late November. I’m happy, though there are some cravings (Pizza Hut and Olive Garden commercials are the devils doing!!), I know I feel better when I do this. And it’s only 30 days of the strict program, then I’ll add in some dairy (I miss my cheese and Greek yogurt!).
From one South Dakota girl (West River) to another (East River), THANK YOU!!
Amy Kubal says
Awesome Amy!!! Keep up the great work!! You can do this – for life! 🙂
I have problems with SUGAR, but have by and large been able to control the bread/pasta and some other not-so-good foods by concentrating on how they make me felt when I “cheated” with them: AWEFUL. The temptation to eat chemical-flavoured donuts or cookies or bread or pasta is pretty much gone.
I’m still working on the ice cream (feeling that greasy slipperly feeling in my gut kick in as the ice cream digests helps). I find that I’ve done better by eating the cheat foods on their own so I can really concentrate on what they do to me. Then when I’m tempted I can focus on how my body felt the last time I ate them and not on the sugar rush that goes with the first taste.
Now I’ve got to get past the whole “dates/plantain chips/dried fruit/etc. are paleo and therefore I can eat a whole pile of them at once” thing.
Amy Kubal says
You can do it Susan! Just keep on truckin’!! 🙂
I have been cheating a bit lately, I have eaten regular sausages, bread and icecream. I have been paleo for six months and when I eat anything that I shouldn’t it males me ill.Bread gives me stomach cramps, ice cream migraines, chocolate makes me vomit. I have been tempted with chocolate, I say to myself that will make me ill and comprimise my immune system. I find that the guilt of eating junk outweighs any enjoyment I get 1 million times over.
I’ve been on this new eating style for 5 months. I am not going to call it a Paelo diet. That sounds like you deprive yourself. It’s 720 pm. Just closed the store up. I have a headache, Been feeling like Lumpy space princess today. I want to go out to eat,Thai food. but after reading this.
I think I need water and head home and make dinner. I have eggs and veggies and bacon at home.
A really good read! Great work Amy.
My contribution: nut butter is evil and should be avoided. Unless of course you can moderate it; then it is awesome! (That is not the case for me).
It’s funny that most religions have rules for forgiving, but diets… If only we could just go forth and sin no more instead of wearing our hairshirts.
This post is exactly what I needed to read tonight!! I didn’t fall off the wagon to a SAD diet eating pasta or fries or chips, I have figured out how to bake with all things good!! Like almond flour pancakes, almond flour brownies, gluten free cookies…..I AM ADDICTED TO SUGAR-but have convinced myself since the baked goods aren’t white flour and i make them myself I’m good. However, the baked goods turned into dark chocolate treats, putting a jar of Justin’s dark chocolate almond butter in the fridge to take a scoop when I have a sweet craving. Or, melting dark chocolate and stirring in almond butter, pouring it in a pan and putti g in the fridge, the cutting into bite size pieces and eating one every time I walked into the kitchen. Anyway, I have gained every pound I lost back and my tongue is swollen and tingly again, my IBS is back in full swing, side effects from fructose malabsorption are back, sugar headaches in the morning and a soft soft middle. 🙁 I started last April giving up dairy. Then I gave up carbs/gluten in May, and went strict Paleo. It started innovember when I started to look up ways to bake foPaleo….and, here I am right back
I hit send early! Anyway, I needed to read this post and read to “start right now”!! I’m re-reading Paleo Solution and getting back on track Right Now!!!
Amy Kubal says
YOU CAN DO IT!!! Don’t give up – just do it! 🙂
HI!!! How do you suggest the no night time after-kids go to sleep snacking! that is my biggest downfall! thank you!