The most important step when transitioning to the paleo lifestyle is just getting started. And yet it’s also the hardest. Here at the UPG, we get tons of questions from people around the world who are interested in living a healthier lifestyle, but who are just not sure how to get started. We take the guess work out of it, so that you can get started today, and your transformation can begin.
Step 1: Perform a kitchen makeover
As nice as it is to think you have all the willpower in the world, and that you can resist any and all temptations, especially when it comes to food, the truth is that you can’t. It’s been proven that willpower is a limited resource that actually gets depleted and replenished throughout the hustle and bustle of each day. This is one reason why so many of us have a hard time sticking to our nutrition plans at the end of the day or over a weekend. You use your willpower all day long, doing things like:
- getting up to an alarm for work,
- avoiding the pizza in the break room,
- biting your tongue when someone makes a rude comment, and
- not flirting with your cute coworker (hey, you’re married).
If there is unhealthy food in your home, it will eventually get eaten. Unhealthy foods are usually easier and less time-consuming to prepare than healthier alternatives, so, when we get hungry, we tend to rip open a bag as opposed to chopping up some veggies.
So make it hard to do the bad stuff, and easy to do the good stuff, by removing the temptations. One of the best ways to do this is by performing a kitchen makeover: out with the bad, and in with the good!
Black bag it!
You want to remove all the junk crowding up your kitchen, and replace it with the foods from our food list that form part of a healthier lifestyle.
1. Grab a large black trash bag…maybe two…maybe three.
2. Open the pantry, and look for items like these:
e. Baked goods/Hostess/Little Debbie
f. Instant foods (cake mix, mashed potatoes, macaroni)
g. Flavored nuts
k. Granola bars
3. Open the freezer, and look for these foods:
a. Ice cream
b. Frozen dinners
c. Hot dogs
d. Cookie dough
4. Open up the fridge, and look for these items:
b. Fruit juice
d. Any caloric beverage
e. Sweetened yogurt, sweetened anything
f. Processed meats (deli, prepacked)
g. Restaurant leftovers
i. Breads, bagels, whole grains
j. Peanut butter
k. Condiments (BBQ, ketchup, salad dressings)
l. Cream cheese
These lists do not include everything, but they should give you a general idea. If it comes in a box, bag, or some sort of wrapper, throw it out. If it has more than three ingredients, throw it out. If you cannot pronounce some of its ingredients, throw it out. If you are not sure about a certain food, a good rule of thumb is to throw it out.
What a waste
Absolutely not! What you are throwing away is not food. These are substances that promote disease and an unhealthy lifestyle. Please feel free to feel liberated while throwing this crap away.
Step 2: Go grocery shopping
You have to eat right, and an empty kitchen isn’t going to fix that. Now is the time to hit your local Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, or grocery store, and get your shop on. If you are not already, I recommend subscribing to the UPG newsletter to get a free four week meal plan that should help to get you started. We also have 1 week, 2 week, 30 day, 60 day, and 90 day plans available for free here, so please take advantage.
You can use our complete Paleo food list to help you decided which foods you should and should not be purchasing. For the most part, stick to the parameter of any grocery store. This is where you’ll find all the real food like fresh veggies, fruit, and animal protein like grass-fed beef, lamb, and salmon.
Make sure to learn to read a label as well. Actually, don’t do that, because most of the food you will be buying will not have a label at all. Here’s a good rule of thumb for you:
- No ingredients – you have a winner
- One ingredient – you’re good
- Two ingredients – it’s ok
- Three ingredients – you’re pushing it
- Four or more ingredients – forget about it
Quick tip: Not everything you buy needs to be organic. Visit the EWG shoppers guide to get a complete list of the dirty dozen foods you should definitely buy organic and the fifteen clean foods that are lowest in pesticides.
Step 3: Learn to cook
- Put oil in a pan (it’s up to you how much, but 1 tablespoon for every 6 ounces of meat is generally good).
- Brown some meat in the oil.
- Add in some spices.
- Add in your veggies.
- Cover it up, and let it sit. Check on it every 2-3 minutes.
Your plate should be covered mostly with veggies, with animal protein taking up the space of 1-2 palms, depending on your body type and activity level. The amount of cooking oil you use will vary as well – roughly 1-4 tablespoons depending on your body size and gender. Focus on using oils that are solid at room temperature (e.g. coconut oil), as they do much better under heat than liquid fats. Olive oil can be used as well, but use a lower heat.
Eat slowly, chew fully, and eat to satiety. No more calorie counting or weighing and measuring food.
Quick tip: Don’t get too wrapped up in making long and difficult recipes at first. It is much easier to establish healthy eating habits if you simplify the cooking process. Recipes can be difficult and time-consuming, so we suggest using the formula above, or choosing 5-6 stable recipes, mastering them, and eating them until you can’t stand them anymore, and then learning a new batch of recipes. Pick up a cookbook, or check out some of the UPG recipes here.
Step 4: Exercise
Cavemen and women spent the majority of their days on their feet, mixing in bouts of sprinting from predators, and chasing prey, to lifting heavy things, and putting them back down. Most of their rest time was spent walking from place to place in search of a safe cozy night’s sleep. Long story short: they were active.
Fitness doesn’t need to be complicated either. You can use basic body weight movements to start building strength and endurance, and to increase fat loss. Pick up the free No Excuse Workout, and get moving today.
Quick tip: Learn to become more active in your daily routine by parking farther away from places you visit, taking the stairs, and jogging to get the mail. Make more time for play by joining some recreational sports leagues, or by going on walks with friends and loved ones.
Step 5: Sleep
I just heard some of you say ‘YES!’ Sleep is vitally important to establishing perfect paleo health and wellness. You’ll need plenty of it in order to let your body recover from exercise and the daily grind. The benefits of healthy sleeping habits stretch far and wide, and include
- better performance in athletics,
- increased energy,
- improved mood and attitude,
- stronger immune system,
- higher tolerance for stress,
- enhanced memory and mental focus, and
- decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
Get a better night’s sleep tonight and from here on out by applying some of these tips:
- Turn the television off. The light and noise interferes with the deep and rejuvenating level of sleep required for ultimate health and energy. Cavemen didn’t have TVs; they had dark caves. How lucky they were! No joke, I’ve even slept in my closet before. Scout’s honor.
- Make use of dark curtains or blinds if street lamps or outside light tends to illuminate your bedroom at night.
- Shut down the computer, cut off the monitors, and even cover up the alarm clock. You want your room to be pitch black.
- Sleep in a cool room. You ever wonder why we love air conditioners when the weather gets warm? Probably not. Well, the fact is that when our bodies become too warm or even hot, it’s difficult for us to relax or focus. If excess warmth and heat cause us a bit of discomfort during the day, just think about what’s happening when we’re sleeping. Your sleep is terribly disrupted when you’re too warm or too hot. In fact, many people complain about the inability to sleep when it’s too warm. Although you don’t need your room as to be cool as the North Pole, you do want a cool room in order to maximize sleep.
- Try getting to bed and waking up consistent times. Getting onto a regular sleep schedule will work wonders. Your body will begin to get tired and wake up effortlessly due to the consistency.
Some things to watch out for
If you’re just transitioning to the paleo lifestyle, the first two weeks may be a bit difficult. As your body is cleansing itself, releasing toxins, and switching from being a sugar burner to a fat burner, you may experience a few side affects like fatigue and sugar cravings. Here is a detailed example of what to expect during the first 30 days of your paleo journey.
You may also get some grief from family members and friends about your new eating habits. Just remind yourself that change is scary, and that when you change, you change things for other people as well, and this can be difficult for them. Here are a couple of things to remember when talking to family members and friends about your paleo lifestyle:
1. Mention what you CAN eat, and not what you can’t. When you tell people what you are not allowed to eat, they can get a little defensive, as they might be eating those foods. It can come off as if you are chastising them for choosing to eat differently from you, and this is the exact same thing you are trying to prevent them from doing to you!
2. Let results do the talking. Plain and simple, paleo works, and it works wonders. Let the results do the talking. When the fat starts melting off, your energy is sky high, and everyone is asking you how you did it, then feel free to share.
3. Keep educating yourself. There are tons of fantastic resources available to learn as much about the paleo lifestyle as possible. Keep learning, so that, when those interested in it start asking you questions, you are well-informed with factual information that they can apply. We have a resources page dedicated purely to that. Please take the time to check it out.
The first step to adopting the paleo lifestyle is simply getting started. The time is right now – you can perform a kitchen makeover in the next few minutes, and head off to the grocery store, and cook a meal within a few hours. Why wait? It’s your health we’re talking about here.
Additional reading: 13 steps to perfect paleo