My Paleo Week: A Reflection

In December, I was contacted by Elevate Vitality asking if I’d be interested in trying out a weekly meal plan. Owner Cassie Mendoza-Jones is a holistic nutritionist, naturopath, and herbalist based out of Bondi, Sydney. After perusing her lovely website and reading up on her philosophies, meal ideas, and past client recommendations, I thought I would give it a whirl. Besides, January might be a fun time to experiment a bit with my diet.

As you know, I am not crazy-strict about what I eat. I mean, of course I incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and some dairy into my diet. However, I also enjoy my fair share of treats. I definitely overindulged throughout the holidays, eating my body weight in cheese and baked goods. To me, holiday indulgences are fine, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Although after all was said and done, I was feeling a bit out of sorts, and knew that I needed a little shock to the system to get back on track with my fitness and nutrition goals.

Cassie has 6 meal plans that I could choose from. Her philosophy when it comes to meal planning: “One size doesn’t fit all.” Very true. These are the descriptions taken from the Elevate Vitality site:

  • Gluten-free – to reduce inflammation, this meal plan is perfect for those with coeliac disease, auto-immune conditions, thyroid imbalances, fatigue and IBS
  • Hormone balancing – use this meal plan to support and balance your thyroid, adrenal glands and reproductive health
  • Paleo – this is a simple, satisfying and clean-eating plan to re-boot your body
  • Sugar-free – perfect if you suffer from candida, depression, fatigue or low-immunity
  • Vegetarian – a healthy plant-based diet, this meal plan does contain eggs and a small amount of dairy
  • Weight loss – an effective meal plan to help you kick start your metabolism

How to choose, how to choose…

I’d heard a lot about paleo eating habits through reading other fitness and health blogs. Although I don’t train in cross fit, I know it’s a big way of eating within the community. Even people who aren’t huge into fitness have benefited from a paleo diet and claim to have renewed energy and overall health. To me, it sounded like a good place to start. Plus, I was interested in seeing how my body (and mind) reacted.

I can’t post a copy of the exact meal plan, as it is part of Cassie’s services. However, just so you are aware, here is a brief look at what a typical paleo eating style involves (although some people are most/less lenient regarding both sides):

 

PaleoEATDONTEAT

 

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Day 1

Okay…I’m hungry. Not as bad as I thought I’d be, but my stomach’s definitely growled several times today. The meal plan’s mid-morning snack didn’t have any protein, so I changed it around so that I ate scrambled eggs with spinach and tomato when I got home from my 8:30 gym session. I think protein post-workout is very important, so I just moved things around to accommodate my schedule. I also ended up having to add walnuts to my salad at lunch for extra depth, as well as an apple to my afternoon snack.

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Day 2

I had a very intense workout today with my bootcamp trainer, so I have been feeling the lack of carbohydrates in my system. The chicken at lunch in my salad was pretty helpful, but I’d do anything for a big bowl of cereal right now (wheat and dairy…of course, the two things I’m not supposed to be eating). Dinner was surprisingly filling. I’m so used to having a starch as my third meal component, but now I am thinking that I could probably make due with more hearty vegetables.

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Day 3

I was pleasantly surprised by my egg and roasted pumpkin breakfast combination this morning. I’ll be truthful in the fact that I am not a savoury breakfast fan, especially on early week days mornings. However, it was very filling and I had a ton of energy, much more than if I’d had cereal or toast. I guess it could be a new option to pair with eggs, rather than my typical avocado combo

Lamb and steak is on the menu for the next two nights, but as I stood hovering over the red meat section today, I could only imagine the little sheep and cows in Thomas’s book running around saying, “Baaaa! Moooo!”. But mostly, I just don’t like how I feel when I eat red meat. So I opted  to throw some prawns into a salad for tonight’s dinner. Luckily I don’t know what sound crustaceans make.

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Day 4

I wasn’t particularly enthused by anything on my meal plan today, so I just went with previous options from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I also made a protein smoothie with vanilla rice protein, coconut water, frozen strawberries, and mint. It was delicious! Not sure if it counts as paleo or not, but at least I didn’t use milk.

Day 5

If there was ever a moment to shout, “TGIF!”, this would be it. I was up this morning at 4:30am to teach an early Body Attack class. I had a banana as a pre-workout snack, which I have found this week to be the perfect food before doing cardio. I always wake up with a fairly big appetite; it doesn’t matter how much I’ve eaten the night before. I’ve always been that way. So, sometimes I find that I eat too much first thing in the morning before a workout, and I oftentimes feel a bit weighed down, especially if I am doing cardio. A very small carbohydrate portion, like a banana, has really worked for me this week. I wasn’t hungry during my workouts, and could perform much more effectively. This is definitely something I’ll be conscious of once my paleo week is over.

The problem with today’s plan was that my midmorning snack was supposed to be veggie sticks and homemade avocado dip. This is a great snack, but not after burning a large amount of calories. I made a big spinach and tomato omelette instead. Normally, I’d have a slice of toast with this, but not this week. To be honest, I am not missing bread at all.

We grabbed a quick dinner out in our neighbourhood this evening. Adam had a burger, Thomas had organic lamb, and I went for a grilled chicken salad (which ended up being very satisfying).

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Day 6

I have to behave myself today, because I totally cheated on Paleo last night. After dinner, I ended up having coconut yogurt with some chocolate chips in it. Then I ate some cereal because I was still hungry. I can’t believe I almost made it through the week without sneaking in some grains and yogurt. Half disappointed in myself, half apathetic. Moving along…

On a more positive note, I’m officially obsessed with roasted pumpkin. I’ve eaten it before in salads and even on a favourite restaurant pizza here in Brisbane, but it’s not something that I’ve bought and prepared at home before having this meal plan. However, it’s so easy and really makes a difference with my energy level and overall meal satisfaction. I’ve been seasoning it with rosemary, olive oil, and a bit of Himalayan rock salt, then roasting in the oven or BBQ. It’s been added to my weekly meal rotation!

Day 7

This morning I made Cassie’s blueberry almond meal pancakes for breakfast. I was going to split them with Adam, but there weren’t really enough for two hungry people, so I ended up sharing with Thomas! They were delicious, super filling, and I loved the added coconut! I’ve read about almond meal as a great gluten-free substitute for regular flour, but I’ve also read about some of the negative aspects of eating too much of it. So I’ll definitely make these again, but only once in awhile.

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I ended off the day with a grilled chicken salad, while watching Thomas and Adam put back some spectacular looking Turkish bread. Funny though…I wasn’t even jealous. To be honest, I still don’t miss bread, especially in the evening. This week started out rougher than I’d thought it would, but I’m feeling much better now. Although, perhaps it’s also due to the fact that I know I can eat some of my old faves again tomorrow!

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Cassie’s plan was so simple to follow and very, very achievable. I believe it would really work for a lot of people. There were several meals that I thoroughly enjoyed. My biggest issue was the whole meat thing. I don’t eat/like red meat, so it kind of limited my dinner plans; meals were getting a bit redundant.

As I said in the beginning, I wanted to try a more strict and clean diet to see how it affected my energy levels, sleeping, and overall vitality. My intention was not to lose weight, as I am currently in my “happy zone”. For the record, I lost 2 lbs (not even a kilo), which in my eyes is pretty inconsequential.

I complied a list of my personal Pros & Cons for adopting a paleo diet, merely based upon my week long observations:

PALEOproscons

As you can see, there were definitely components of the Paleo diet that resonated well with me and that I will continue with in the future. It was nice to understand that it’s not as “caveman-ish” as society perceives it to be. With lean organic protein and tons of fruit and vegetables, it can be extremely positive and beneficial.

Last night I made a red curry for dinner with basmati rice: my first day off the Paleo plan! Interestingly, although it was delicious and very satisfying, it was also the first time I was bloated in over a week. Coincidence? I think not.

I’m looking forward to regrouping this week, speaking with Cassie (I’m working on a follow-up interview with her), and deciding on how I will sort out my eating from here. My Paleo week was interesting, and like anything in life, you take the positives from the experience and run with them. There isn’t a specific diet that is perfect for everyone. Some things work, some things don’t. It’s all about learning the facts, trying new foods, eliminating others, and continuously being open to finding the diet that works best for you. Or in my case, a nice blend.

I’m interested…

What are your thoughts on the PALEO DIET? Have you tried it? Would you?

Have you ever added or eliminated a “healthy” food from your diet, and saw significant improvements in your overall wellness?

 * Although I received a meal plan from Elevate Vitality (valued at $15), I was not compensated in any way for writing this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

32 Thoughts on “My Paleo Week: A Reflection

  1. I feel like that diet has been hot right now, I’m interested in learning more about it. But I know with me I have a hard time following food rules lol I prefer to eat healthy but not have DOs and Donts

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 21, 2014 at 9:53 pm said:

      I hear ya! Sometimes when I hear “don’t eat that”, then I want it more.

      At the same time, if there are things I am eating that are making me feel lethargic or bloated (even if they are healthy), then I’m open to cutting back in the frequency that I eat them! For me, it’s just pinpointing what they are right now.

  2. Loved reading this Kelly. Super helpful and interesting. As you know, I am grappling with the idea of paleo as well. While I think it is good in theory, not eating sweet potatoes, peanut butter, grains, etc is so not appealing to me. I have gone through a bunch of food sensitivity testing so I feel like I have a good handle on my body and what causes it to feel upset. I am definitely a fan of many of the paleo principles but certainly not all.

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 9:44 am said:

      When & why did you decide to do food sensitivity testing?
      Like you, I definitely like a lot of the principles, but feel I would need to tweak it to fit better with my life.

  3. Such a great recap, Kelly! I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts and reflections. I haven’t done paelo specifically but I am doing a no-dairy, no-gluten cleanse for the next two weeks, so I’m interested to see if I feel the way you did at all!

    Ps I made your spicy taco seasoning last night…my family loved it!! Thanks girl :)

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 9:46 am said:

      I hope you write a recap of your cleanse! I’d love to read it!

      Aww, yay! So glad you guys enjoyed it!! I much prefer it to the store bought stuff :)

  4. Martha on January 22, 2014 at 2:10 am said:

    Great post and summary of your experience Kel! I have also tried Paleo and found many of the same things that you did – no bloating, higher energy after eating. However, being STRICT Paleo is not for me. I found that not only was my grocery bill way more expensive but with a full time very busy job I didn’t have enough time to prepare the meals that were suggested and I found that I was hungry quite a bit and my energy at the gym was a bit lower. I also discovered that my current diet already consisted of a lot of paleo elements for example: no bread, i always eat a protein/meat at dinner etc. and I also discovered that I am sensitive to Dairy – when I went off dairy completely I had significantly less stomach problems (TMI?!). So there are elements of Paleo that I do enjoy however, why fix what’s not broken – I prefer to stick to what works for me and my lifestyle :) and let’s be serious here…. I missed some of my guilty pleasures WAY too much…. hello peanut butter and popcorn!

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 10:06 am said:

      Thanks, Mar!! I am with you…following any strict diet isn’t for me, either. I don’t work well with rigid food rules. Or feeling guilty for eating something not on “the menu”. That being said, I know there are ways of eating that can provide me with more energy, better sleeps, and fewer belly issues. I’m more interested in making small changes over time to see if things feel better, rather than super drastic.
      But yeah, it wasn’t a terrible week, because my normal diet is probably more aligned with paleo than I actually thought. I just like to have a little more wiggle room for vegetarian meals, some dairy, and healthy carbs and starches. I think anything too structured and harsh will lead to failure. That’s why crazy diets never work!
      <3
      PS- crazy fact: I've only had popcorn twice since moving to Australia (at the movies). I know..

  5. My life is paleo and then some (aka, even more restrictive) and I have been this way for 12 years. I couldn’t see myself eating any other way. I cannot help but drool over every single one of your photos! Especially the salmon, butternut squash and broccoli! Hopefully you can incorporate some of the paleo habits that you like into your lifestyle – and feel free to eat those sweet potatoes! 😉

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 10:10 am said:

      Thanks for the comment, GiGi! Oh, I definitely am planning to incorporate some of these changes to my weekly eating. Especially dinners. I felt a lot better not eating heavy carbs and starches in the evening.
      So you include sweet potatoes in your paleo eating? Now we are talking 😉 There are just a handful of items that I feel I need to add to the meal plan in order to make it really enjoyable for me. I’ll have to go check out your blog for some food inspo!

  6. Personally, I don’t like any “diets” or food rules – just because I think everyone needs to find what works for their body, not what’s trendy at the moment. I also don’t like the do’s and don’ts of many diets as I feel like having that attitude about food is wrong – everything can be enjoyed in moderation!

    For me, healthy living is all about finding balance and never about feeling restricted – because that’s no way to live!

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 10:16 am said:

      I completely understand where you are coming from, Kristy! That’s why I’ve always given “diets” the big thumbs down. I’m also with you on the “everything in moderation” philosophy!
      I’d like to think of a diet as more of a meal plan/way of eating, as opposed to something guilt ridden and overly structured. I do think paleo can provide this, and would work flawlessly for a lot of people. After testing the waters, I know I’d need to add several things to this way of eating in order for me to feel satisfied and my best. I also know there are foods that have been causing me to have decreased energy and stomach issues, so I’m trying to sort that out. It’s tough!!

  7. Brandy on January 22, 2014 at 9:29 am said:

    Hey Kelly! Meg’s told me to read this post and I did, beautiful blog:) I’d love to chat with you over the phone someday to talk about some things! I follow a paleo (I really hate calling it paleo) diet most of the time. There’s some things I’d love to share with you and give you some new insights:) send me an email and will set something up!!

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 10:19 am said:

      Thanks so much, Brandy! I’d love to talk and hear your opinion on everything, particularly since you have the credentials and know what you are talking about! 😉
      I will definitely be in touch.

  8. Thank you so much for posting this, Kelly- I was very interested to see how it fared as it’s something I’m considering for my digestion and energy levels! I’m not too surprised that once you introduced grains again you suffered some bloating- from what I’ve read that seems quite common!

    I think if you followed a paleo style of eating but not being too strict with it, it could definitely work- although I wouldn’t go all out organic, grass fed etc because it is so expensive…canned tuna here 😉 And also peanut butter. Silly.

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 4:37 pm said:

      Super expensive; it sucks! I couldn’t really care less about buying organic for my fruits and veggies, but I try to buy organic or grass fed/horomone free meat (and milk and eggs) as much as possible, especially for Thomas. Not many economical options in Australia, I am finding. *grumpy cat face*

      I’ll be playing around with things for a little while, as I do enjoy the extra energy paleo gave me!

  9. I’m with you that I don’t like restrictive diets. I prefer to just make healthy swaps in my meals and focus on eating enough healthy fats, fruits, and veggies. I’ve been hearing a lot about Paleo eating for awhile not but haven’t done a ton of research into it. It seems like the principles are pretty sound though. I’ve been struggling with stomach issues for awhile. I’ve been tested for a bunch of things and my doctor can’t figure out what’s wrong. I’ve been thinking about doing an elimination diet to see if I can identify what I’m sensitive to. I have a feeling that it may be dairy. I just can’t seem to part with my greek yogurt! We’ll see…

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 4:40 pm said:

      I really missed yogurt last week, and I think it’s one type of dairy that I cannot part ways with either!

      I hadn’t really put much thought into paleo either, but it really did surprise me. It doesn’t have to be all fatty and meaty and body builder-ish (as many stereotype it).

  10. This was really interesting to read! As you know, I could never eat a Paleo diet but I get why everyone likes it. I’m sure it gets you buff fast with all of the protein and lack of carbs.

    The one thing that isn’t so great about a vegetarian diet is the bloating from all of the fiber in beans and veggies. It’s not severe though and drinking lots of water always helps.

    And yes, a banana is the perfect pre Body Attack snack! I have to try roasted pumpkin too. I’ve never had it before.

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm said:

      Do try the roasted pumpkin. I think you’d love it!
      And I hear you on the fiber. It’s the worst for me when I have a lot of bread. My belly looks like I’m pregnant again!

  11. I just wrote you a fabulously long response and clicked ‘post’ and it disappeared?! Agh! I hate when that happens!
    So I’ll just say, I enjoyed reading your insights, my background is in nutrition and functional medicine, so I could chat to you about this for ages!
    I agree with you that there is no ‘one style fits all’ and my learning (in studies and lots of personal experience) has always been: EVERYONE is different! – I really dislike food ‘rules’ – eat what feels good to you and don’t worry about what the next person puts in their mouths!
    (uh oh, I’m going to start on my soap box!)
    Go you for trying new things! I’d love to see how you now went on a week of vegetarian or even vegan eating… I think you’d have some interesting insights.
    p.s. Curry could be bloating because of all the spices.. after all that very simple / plain foods, the spices can irritate.
    Anyway, I love your healthy level of acceptance about food, totally agreed, oh and enjoy those late night cereal snack-attacks again 😉

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 23, 2014 at 10:25 am said:

      Thanks for your comment, Emily. That’s happened to me before as well. The worst! Now whenever I write a lengthy comment on someone’s blog, I always copy it before submitting!! haha!
      I agree with not worrying too much about what everyone else around you is eating, because what works for them may not work for you. However, I do like to compare and read about others’ experiences sometimes, as that’s how I gain insight and ideas for my own diet. Lots to think about here!

  12. I don’t know that I could ever completely try Paleo as I love my greek yoghurt too much. I also read the other day that peanuts are considered a legume in Paleo which means no peanut butter which I wouldn’t like.

    I’m always interested to hear other people’s experiences with Paleo though.

    Great to find another Australian health and fitness blogger too :)

    P.s. 4.30am to get up for teaching a body attack class is impressive!

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 23, 2014 at 10:28 am said:

      Almond butter is paleo, though 😉

      No, I agree. There are a few items on my “Kelly’s food staples” list that don’t make the paleo cut (yogurt included), so I don’t think I could ever be 100% committed either. BUT…who said we need to be all or none?

      Hahah, 4:30 is a little aggressive, even for someone with an infant. Gotta do what you gotta do, I guess!

  13. Love that you broke this down… very interesting to read a detailed insight.

  14. Interesting how this diet affects people differently. I have been following a paleo lifestyle for over a year now (not completely strict the whole time). For me it has improved my quality of life. I have an autoimmune condition and along with medications it has helped bring me relief. It was the best thing that has happened to me in a long time.

    • Kelly @ Femme Fitale on January 23, 2014 at 10:30 am said:

      So interesting, Lindsey! Can I ask where you let things “slide” a bit in terms of not being completely strict?

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