The first week of the Paleo challenge can be an exciting, optimistic time. You are ready to sprint right into your new Paleo lifestyle. You’ve written your new goals on sticky notes attached to your bathroom mirror, and you’ve stocked your kitchen with Paleo-approved foods.
Or, maybe you’re on the other end of the spectrum. Your brain has bought into the concepts of Paleo, and you know it’s the healthy choice for you, but you’re apprehensive about the challenge. Thinking about an entire six weeks of new eating habits is intimidating — and you’re not sure whether you can commit to giving up your morning bagel and latte.
Both of these reactions — or an alternating pattern between the two — is completely normal. You are taking on a significant challenge, and change is always somewhat uncomfortable, even when it’s a change you want to make.
What happens during the first week
Welcome to your sugar and junk food detox! If you’ve been eating a relatively “healthy” diet, you may not feel too much difference during the first few days of your new eating habits. If you typically indulge in a fair amount of restaurant food, fast food, and junk food, you may feel the effects of their absence somewhat quickly.
And even if you eat “healthy,” if your diet has typically been based on high consumption of grains, legumes, and low-fat packaged food, you may feel the effects of the sudden withdrawal of that sugar.
By turning off the sugar faucet, you’re depriving your body of the quick source of energy to which it’s become accustomed, and it may not respond positively at first. Here are some of the physical symptoms you may feel as you replace grains, legumes, and sugary treats with vegetables and fruits.
Low energy: You may feel a bit low on energy during this first week, and that’s completely normal.
“Carb flu”: Feeling like you’re getting a cold during the first week of the paleo challenge isn’t uncommon, especially if you’ve typically eaten a diet high in processed carbohydrates and fast food.
Crankiness: Feeling short-tempered and moody, like you want to smash things for no reason? There is a reason: Your brain is throwing a hissy fit because it misses the foods you’re not giving it — your evening glass of wine, cheese, cookies.
Detox pox: While you’re making this transition, you may experience other odd symptoms brought on by your body adapting to the new diet and healing from the effects of the old one. Digestive distress, allergies, and acne/blemishes may pop up. And, unfortunately, they may get a little worse before they get better.
Tasks and assignments during Paleo week 1
Your first week is all about setting up your environment for success. You need to create your Paleo kitchen, spend time thinking about the habits you want to focus on during the paleo challenge, and plan non-food rewards to acknowledge the positive changes you’re making in your life. The following tips can help:
Clean out your kitchen. At the start of the paleo challenge, if you haven’t already, banish non-Paleo foods from your kitchen. If you have family members or roommates who aren’t joining you, move their non-Paleo foods to a place that’s out of your eye line.
Stock up on the Paleo Foods. Restock your kitchen with nourishing, Paleo-approved foods. Make it fun by buying a vegetable you’ve never tried before or buying a perfect, grass-fed ribeye steak to treat yourself.
Equip your kitchen. Living Paleo means cooking most of your meals at home, so you may want to invest in some new tools.
Set up your journal. If you haven’t already (which you should have) go pick up a journal or make a free Penzu account. Use this journal to keep track of your sleep, activity, mood, and most importantly your food intake. Write down when you eat, what you eat, and approximately how much you are eating. This will give us a better idea of how to help you succeed!
Minimize your schedule. The first week of the paleo challenge can be unsettling to your normal energy patterns. You may feel supercharged — or you may feel sleepy, cranky, or blue. As much as you can, remove stressful or important events from your schedule for the week.
Plan a special meal. Keep your first week of meals simple so you’re not overwhelmed by the need to buy special ingredients or tackle a bunch of new recipes. Build most of your meals around a nicely grilled pork chop or chicken with fresh veggies and a big salad.
Plan a social event. If you’re giving up happy hour with friends or a standing date to have a big brunch every Sunday morning with your favorite people, you may feel like Paleo is ruining your social life. Instead of abandoning these opportunities, replace them with something else.
Troubleshooting Paleo challenges
Sugar cravings: The worst thing you can do to alleviate a sugar craving is to give in and eat sugar. Feeding the sugar demon with sugar is no way to defeat it. Instead, drink a large glass of water and, if you’re still hungry or distracted by thoughts of food, a small amount of healthy fat — a few nuts or olives, a few spoonfuls of avocado, or a handful of coconut flakes.
Low energy: The great promise of the Paleo diet is that after you go through this transition, your energy levels skyrocket. But that’s a small consolation when all you want to do is lie down. During your first week of the paleo challenge, you may need to get more sleep than usual.
Constant hunger: Determine how much you should be eating and make sure you haven’t put yourself on a “diet” — and, if necessary, consider adding more vegetables and a bit more protein and fat to your meals. Eating more at breakfast can actually help you manage your appetite, especially if you feel like snacking after dinner.