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The Secret of Keeping Paleo without Cheating

Louise Hendon | August 21
The Secret of Keeping Paleo without Cheating

“I feel great when I’m Paleo, but I just can’t resist cheating sometimes.”

Does this sound like you?

Yeah, this was me not that long ago.

In this article, I’m going to show you how I managed, in 5 simple steps, to actually stop wanting to cheat!

The Story of the Cupcake Devil

It took me a while, and it was fairly gradual, but the last time I ate a gluten-filled dessert was on my birthday back in October 2012. I remember the day well – it was pretty relaxing, and I didn’t have anything planned. Despite the lack of stress, there was this little demon inside of my head telling me that it was ok to have cake on that one day!

In retrospect, it was the cupcake devil.

I held out for as long as I could, but it was making me unhappier and unhappier. I finally succumbed after dinner and walked quite delightedly to my favorite bakery (funny that I still had a “favorite” bakery even though I was giving all that up!).

So what did the cupcake devil tempt me to do?

Let’s just say that a red velvet cupcake and a chocolate brownie vanished pretty quickly. Predictably, that was followed soon afterward by a pretty sick feeling Louise!

Knowledge is Painful but Powerful

I knew exactly how much worse I would feel after having those “cheats,” but for some reason, my resistance always faded… Until now!

So, here are my secrets to sticking to Paleo and resisting all temptations.

[And in case you’re wondering if I’ll succumb to cake again on my birthday this year, the answer is mostly definitely no, because I’m not even having a wedding cake at my wedding in September (it’ll be pretty much completely Paleo food)!]

1: Get everyone on board by thoroughly explaining your health problems.

All my friends and family now know that this is how I roll. We can’t eat at certain restaurants, and you can’t offer me cake. If you insist on having your party at a restaurant where I can’t eat, then I either will not come or else I will drink water.

I’ve found that pretty much all of my friends are very understanding (well, they don’t actually understand, but they’re nice enough to accommodate my “weirdness”).

Family is often tougher – I have no clue why they always insist on not believing a word I say and always thinking I can bend my rules “just this once” (aka every single day). Really, it’s just sheer persistence here. I tell everyone that I have allergies to wheat, all other grains, and vegetable/seed oils (which I do, because they make me feel sick!). And if they don’t believe me, then I’ll go into details about all the pains they cause me (from drowsiness, to exhaustion, to stomach aches, to bloating). I’ve found that even my mother is a bit more accommodating after I explain all of that!

You don’t need to give a name to your “illness” – just explain the symptoms and most people will get it.

2: Always have healthy snacks with you.

The times when you are most likely to cheat are when you’re hungry. So only keep Paleo snacks with you. This will make walking past the vending machine so much less painful. Here’s a great list of Paleo snacks you can buy or make!

3: Know what you can purchase if you need a quick fix.

There are very few things that you can buy at the store, deli, or drive-through, but there might be a few things that are ok or not too bad. You need to figure out what those are for you and make sure you get those when you’re in a jam.

For me, I’ve found that most stores have bananas or other fruit, sometimes you can find boiled eggs or deli meat (ham, turkey, salami, etc.). You might also be able to find beef jerky, but you should note that most common brands have MSG as well as sugar in it. Nuts and dried fruits are also common in many places.

4: Have a Paleo go-to meal.

After a tiring day at work, the last thing I want to do is cook! That’s when fast food restaurants or take-out seem really really tempting. Hence why a go-to Paleo meal is so important.

Make sure it’s a dish that you can make really quickly and from ingredients that are readily available. For me, the salmon stew is my go-to meal. Salmon cooks really fast and is very filling. Plus, you can keep frozen salmon in the freezer for months! You can add any vegetables you have in the fridge to the stew, or if you don’t typically have fresh vegetables at home, then keep some frozen ones. Carrots, Brussels sprouts, spinach, green beans, and peas are all common frozen vegetables that you can buy at most grocery stores.

If you need fast cooking advice, then check out this article.

5: Exile the cupcake devil.

This is probably the hardest one, and it’s something that will take time to get to.

That devil exists only because you haven’t fully come to terms with wanting to be Paleo.

One of the best ways of coming to terms with it is realizing just how much worse you feel when you cheat and making a commitment to stick to it no matter what.

But, even though this last one is tough, doing the previous 4 things really help you get to the point where #5 is achievable! (If you want to get there faster, then keep a journal of how you feel every day and what you eat. Your mind will start to quickly make the connections.)

What Did You Do?

So, if you’ve managed to go full Paleo, what was your secret? Or if you haven’t, are you going to start trying? Let me know in the comments!

Julie - August 23

Thanks for the tips!
I started eating the Paleo way about three weeks ago, using Whole 30 as my guide. The first few days were a gradual easing-in period. I ate and drank a few forbidden foods, mostly because I didn’t want to waste what I had already paid for, lol! But as soon as those few things were gone, I was committed to Whole 30 as set forth in the book, It Starts with Food.
A few days ago, I noticed that the pain I’d had in my achilles tendon for over three years is gone! My body simply feels more aware, more alert, more capable somehow. I hoped for some weight loss, which has also happened, but the pain relief is an unexpected bonus. I have no desire to lose these benefits, so staying away from the stuff that was harming me is pretty easy.
Thanks for letting me share!

Carol - August 23

I started Paleo about a year ago. I did really well for about 6 months, then some family issues came up and I caved. I started back up about 3 weeks ago and am having trouble staying focused. I have a doctors appointment in about a month, so I’m determined to stick with the program. My addiction isn’t sweets – it’s salty snacks. I allow myself Nuthins. If I don’t get my stuff together the night before, I run out of time in the morning before work and then it all falls apart again. You would think in a large town as Houston, there would be more Paleo-like places to eat. Thanks for your tips, I try doing all of the above and will still keep trying.

Elena Vo - August 23

Great tips, Louise!

What works for me is reminding myself of the multitude of health research articles I’ve read on the effect of grains on the human body. Once I picture myself ten years from now with a bucket of health issues that stemmed from me not eating healthy, I find it easier to stick to my grain-free routine.

Laura - August 26

Your statement about not coming to terms with wanting to be Paleo really hit home. I need to be Paleo due to food allergies but as a stress eater, I caved a couple of months ago due to family issues. I have been making stabs at it but seem to always be unprepared. Thanks for the tips above!

Andrea - November 12

I started gradually eating Paleo (needed to get rid of foods) roughly 4 weeks ago. I love it! I have dieted healthy in the past and list 100 pounds multiple times. Age had made it very difficult to lose weight now and I stress, pain and boredom eat. This is the first way to eat that has really stuck and not really missing grains. I’m not supposed to eat wheat anyway so it wasn’t a hard stretch to include all grains. I try to cook several recipes on one day and freeze things so I don’t have to worry about not having time to cook dinner. I prep meals and snacks the night before as well. It was amazing how quickly my body started healing itself. I had planned for a special dessert at Disneyland to celebrate a friends birthday after 3 weeks of Paleo. Wow – it took three days to get my stomach calmed down. Holidays with the family will be interesting but they are used to me doing my own thing at times anyway.

Joyce - April 15

Oy, what timing …. today I tried a rush reintroduction of wheat (aka pizza crust) after being begged by my kids to make my sinfully delicious, and so not Paleo, Mac & cheese for Easter … nicht gut. Mild so far, yet I’m still hoping it passes quickly …I can’t imagine having serious ‘hang overs.’ No cake for me! (I know I can do that after avoiding the sample table at the local bakery today!)

Jennie - May 28

Louise- Thanks for this article! I’ve been *trying* to go paleo since January but I can’t stick to it longer than 5 days in a row. By the sixth day its too hard and I revert to a large amount of baked goods. I’m trying change and I know I need to. Its discouraging to feel so powerless. Last week, I rocked my Paleo world and had the most amazing five days of workouts and eating. By the fifth day I had no desire to take my daily nap, I was energized, happy and excited about life. I got some bad news and went straight for the oreos (my husband bought them). The next day I was in a half coma the entire day! I ate completely paleo that whole day and still felt bad the second day. I finally succumbed again because I couldn’t function in such a blood sugar low. Now here I am five days later and I still haven’t gotten back on the paleo wagon. What to do? This is so hard!

    Lee - August 14

    Jennifer, I’ve been on and off Paleo since a major panic attack a few years ago brought me as close to feeling seriously Ill as I ever want to be again, but now I eat as much paleo as I can while striving to fight the uphill battle that involves family members especially partners that struggle to give up paleo because they think nothing is wrong.
    Turns out after much needed research on the web and a nutritionist therapist who told me it was nutrition and diet based that had caused my condition that I found Paleo, GAPS and other things in books and the web that has healed me to a much better me. The Dr’s I saw other than blood tests and telling me I needed CBT were pretty useless.

    Anyway, my point, and you probably even realise this yourself if you read back what you wrote, you have only Tried to do Paleo, or Tried to eat the right things. Your post, and this is meant in a positive way, came across very negative in your outlook on what you want to achieve for yourself.

    You have to choose to become 100% Paleo if it means healing yourself and keeping yourself healed.

    As Yoda once said, “Do or do not, there is no try”

    It’s a challenge for me like anyone when it comes to certain family members that think nothing is wrong with them, but forget that spare tyre or those constant coughs or sneezes or persistent snotty nose during a season when you think you wouldn’t need tissues continues, and they think they can keep eating the way they want to.
    I have to force some of my ways of eating onto them otherwise we will keep having temptations in the house such as bread, biscuits, the odd treat out etc.
    I’m not saying I’m perfect either and I know what happens to me when I do eat what I know to be wrong, but a positive mind set is definitely what is required and a need to choose to be Paleo.

    Which is why when it comes to holiday times or birthdays, I make a nice cake I can eat so I’m less tempted to eat other family members grain cakes, or eat a stick of celery with a nice helping of yoghurt to stem cravings that stop me from eating bread or biscuits.
    And if you really need to cut the cravings, then make sure you are eating plenty of the right foods at meal times because these really do help the cravings. It took me 3 months of hell once to cut out sugar, grains and coffee completely but my body felt so much better after. It was only at this time before the panic attack that I carried on eating the non paleo way because I thought nothing was wrong.
    Now, after 20-30 years I know why I got constant indigestion or constipation or constant sugar cravings. Bad diet which led to poor self confidence and a negative attitude.

    Bite that negative attitude bug before it eats you up and get on the Paleo wagon. No one ever said it was easy, but the benefits far out way the costs of not going Paleo.

    After all, when you have a diabetic father in law who ate everything a diabetic shouldn’t be he listened to the medical profession and did no research himself, along with other illnesses only to die at an early age, others who suffer from hip problems and have had hip operations to stiff joints and atherhitis and don’t want to listen to what I have learnt on Paleo, and how coming of grains would seriously help there stiff joints and aching bones, where as my parents have listened and changed there diets to reap the benefits just shows how having a positive outlook on the paleo diet made a huge difference and they are much older than my partners parents and family members.

    One last thing, and this is quite comical from my stand point, a holiday I went on just last week showed a real disturbance in the food industry when you see the amount of fat and disabled people at the seaside all eating and drinking the same things. I swear there must have a mobility scooter parking lot as there were so many.

    I’m glad I found paleo because after my illness I now look like I did as a teenager and feel a lot healthier too.

    Claire - November 27

    The longer you do paleo & eat clean the easier it is… the cravings diminish as you’ll find you don’t even think about processed goods. If you start eating dirty foods & then get back onto Paleo you’ll have major cravings the day after.. if you give into them then it’s just a viscious circle. You have to ignore the initial cravings & get through it; distract yourself, or make yourself a herbal tea or coffee or something. I personally prefer to avoid eating “dirty” as I just can’t stand the horrid craving like hang overs that won’t leave me along the day after. You can do it.. I was so addicted to chocolate 2 years ago that I went to see a hypnotherapist.. who didn’t cure me, but Paleo has. You can do it!

Joy - October 30

I’ve been eating paleoish since the 1st of the year. I started with whole30 for people with autoimmune disease for about 100 days, not deviating at all. I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis for about 35 years. I’ve lost 74 lbs. & have gone off of a few medications & I’m going to start tapering off of another Nov 1. I do deviate sometimes, usually with ice cream. To tell you the truth, I don’t plan to ever totally eliminate ice cream from my diet. I don’t usually deviate with wheat, but when I do, I don’t feel any different. I know I would if I kept eating it, but a little hasn’t hurt me. If I hit a plateau & don’t lose any weight for a couple of weeks, then if I go off of it for 1-3 days, I’ll start losing weight again. I don’t use the word “cheat” because I’m not cheating anyone, including myself. I’m just eating something that’s not part of my normal diet. I feel good & I don’t see any reason to change what I’m doing. I hope to eventually go off of 2 more drugs that aren’t for the RA.

Allison - November 6

This is a great article, and timely too. I would love to see more ideas from you and other readers about their lazy day Paleo go to meal so I can have a few recipes that I can fall back on when the temptation to eat out calls.
Two years ago my husband and I started Paleo and were gun ho about it. We both looked and felt great and did well for about 6-9 months. Once the holidays came around we let go and cheated like crazy, and frankly have never done as well since. We started eating out at our favorite Mexican place and ordered Burritos instead of fajitas -hold the tortilla. We found tapioca flour and made all kinds of biscuits and breads out of it (high carb). We eat rice mac and cheese often other items covered in breadcrumbs. Not quite the SAD diet, but certainly not Paleo. We have had a very difficult time getting back on the bandwagon! But it is getting to the point now were we are both busting out of our pants and feel well, gross!! So we need recipes that are quick and that would be good enough to rival food at a restaurant. One thing we have done is try to find copycat recipes of our favorite restaurant meals and Paleofy them. Another thing is to plan meals ahead on Sunday, grocery shop for items, and then do a food prep and cook up. On Sundays I also try to make some quick grab and go Paleo foods like a quiche for breakfast, or bars to eat on the go, cereals, homemade jerky, etc. So yeah, more ideas of super Quick, Go To-Lazy Day Paleo meals would be great!

Mary - November 6

Great tips! I’ve been eating paleo for about 2 years now. I started to do it as a 6-week healthy eating reset. As I was only planning on following this diet for 6 weeks, I was able to be very strict. That eliminated my sugar cravings and then I felt so much better and energetic that I decided to continue with it. During the holidays however (Thanksgiving & Christmas) I fell off the wagon a bit…maybe a lot.
This year I am going to be more prepared. So I don’t feel like I’m missing out on desserts, I plan to bring paleo-friendly desserts to the family dinners & parties I go to which I think will help me to stick with paleo this holiday season.

Kim - November 20

Although I bought the Part Time Paleo book and know what it takes, eating all whole foods, I think the additions like adding whipped cream are thwarting me. I hurt worse.
I will buy all that it takes, because I really can’t take feeling like an old lady any more. Thanks for all you do to inspire.

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