Paleo Challenge: Final Thoughts and Weigh-In

  • paleo-before-after-measurements

    After doing an entire 30 days of paleo, I naturally have a bunch of thoughts about this! Also – I did not go into this paleo challenge wanting to lose weight. That wasn’t my goal from the beginning. My goal from the beginning was to get a real understanding of food and what we put into our bodies on a daily basis and how I can refine and adjust my eating habits along with exercise. Naturally, when you go through something like this, eliminating sugar, dairy, and grains, you’ll likely lose weight, so the weight loss was an added bonus for me as I gained 10 pounds while writing the cookbook ;) I also want to add that if you think going into this challenge without changing a thing with activity levels will cause you to lose weight, you’re wrong. Sure, you could shed a few pounds but you’ll end up plateauing. It’s all about diet and exercise, not diet or exercise.

    Alright…here we go with my giant recap!

    • Auto-immune disease. Not sure if you guys know this, I might have mentioned it on the blog in passing, but I have rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve had it since I was 23 months old. It comes and goes and the worst of it happened five years ago when I actually didn’t want to wake up in the mornings because I knew what I would have to endure. The pain was unbearable and Jason had to heat up a heating pad for me every morning so that I could even bend my knee to get out of bed. I went on steroids then went on an immune-modifying drug. It helped me for three years and I went off it, hoping my change in lifestyle would keep this at bay (essential oils, lots of low-impact exercise). I know that it could come back at any given moment but I’ve read that eating paleo/whole30 can help with it because rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammation of my joints and the ‘bad’ foods cause inflammation in your body. Anyway, I’m hoping to continue this lifestyle merely for the fact that I’ve loved what its done for me thus far and I just love the idea of eating whole and clean.
    • I’ve never felt healthier. I thought I used to be healthy by limiting what I eat day to day and I honestly thought that eating smaller meals was making me lose weight. NO. I just ended up snacking more. After this challenge and after reading It Starts with Food, I have a brand new perspective on what’s healthy. Just ’cause you eat smaller meals a day doesn’t mean you’re healthy. If you aren’t eating the right foods, you’re still circling around unhealthy. Good, REAL food is nutrient-packed food that keeps you satiated. There’s a reason why eating sugar-loaded bars or shakes doesn’t keep you full longer. You gotta have protein, nutrient-packed food for a meal that will keep you fuller longer and HEALTHIER.
    • Sugar is evil. I seriously cannot believe how much sugar is in EVERYTHING. Throughout this diet, I was constantly reading labels at grocery stores. Being on a strict paleo diet forced me to read the labels because I didn’t want to fail this challenge and because I didn’t want to accidentally buy something that had a non-paleo-friendly ingredient in it. More than half the things I grabbed at Whole Foods that I thought was paleo-friendly, was in fact not. Why? SUGAR (and soy). It’s in freaking everything. The way to really avoid sugar is to make your own meals and get it from natural sources (fruits, honey, maple syrup). I’m not saying you or I have to cut out sugar and never eat desserts again but I’m DEFINITELY leaning more towards the ‘desserts in moderation’ motto. I’m kind of grossed out.
    • Carbs suck (90% of the time). They make me bloat and they’re just empty calories. I mean, I knew this but I didn’t really know it until this challenge. Like WHY they were empty and WHY they are they way they are. Again, pick up It Starts with Food. I feel like eating carbs is like eating air. It does nothing to you but sits in your stomach making you fat and miserable.
    • Dairy. I think I could live without this, honestly. I’m already moderately lactose intolerant so cutting dairy out of my diet was fine. I enjoy coconut milk and almond milk (and my new-found love for cashew milk) as it is so I don’t really need half and half or creamer. I do love my cheeses but I don’t like the way it makes my stomach bloat so we’ll see how much of it I really eat or add onto foods.
    • Eating out is hard. Restaurants definitely aren’t paleo-friendly whatsoever. There’s ALWAYS cheese on something and/or grain in something. If you’re planning on doing paleo, I highly recommend doing it during a month that you aren’t traveling and plan to eat in all three meals. I mean, Chipotle has pretty good paleo options but that’s like the only place I found that was paleo-friendly. All other places, even if they have salads, their dressings have sugar in it.
    • This change in diet really made me appreciate whole foods so much more. From morning ’til night, my stomach was the same size. I wasn’t four months pregnant by the end of the night.
    • I thought this diet would be really restrictive and I would hate all the foods I ate (just like any other diet, right?). WRONG. One of the biggest takeaways from this “diet” – I honestly HATE calling this a diet because of the negative conotation the word “diet” has to it. I wanna say my new eating lifestyle, haha – anyway, so one of my biggest takeaways from this new eating lifestyle is that there are TONS AND TONS of options for paleo. You just gotta do the work and look for it and GET CREATIVE. I mean, sure, you might not be a recipe developer like I am so it might not come to you super naturally, but there are SO many paleo blogs out there, I have some decent paleo recipes, and there are just different ways to take in the good food. You just gotta make the effort. Yes, it’s super easy to just grab a box of pasta shells and dump it in boiling water, slather cheese all over it and throw some chicken and spinach in..but do you really need those pasta shells and cheese? I think what really irks me after all this is that cheese is just used as a topping because it “finishes off the dish.” Or it makes something look more appetizing because of the ooey-gooeyeness. I mean, SURE, I LOVE cheese slathered on top of enchiladas but good gosh, do I need it?? No. I know I’m a total walking hypocrite right now since I have cheese-ladened goodness all over this blog but that was pre-paleo, haha
    • Sleep. It’s kind of crazy when they say you sleep a lot better when you’re on paleo. I’m like dead to the world at night. I sleep HARD. I usually hear when Jason comes into bed at night but I sleep through the entire night and wake up as if I’ve been drugged, haha – I fall asleep super fast too. It’s kinda life-changing. I’ve always had sleep issues and being on paleo/eating right has really changed my sleep patterns.
    • Activity levels. I definitely feel like I have more energy to do things and I’m not super exhausted throughout the day.
    • Digestion. I’ll just leave it at…I’m regular. Like every day regular. Oh, and TMI but I don’t fart as much as I used to :)
    • Coffee. I can finally appreciate REAL GOOD coffee. Like, I’m going to be a coffee snob now. I’m SO happy that I can finally drink black coffee with a splash of almond milk/coconut milk/cashew milk. There was this one thing on the Whole30 website that really resounded with me. They said, “do you drink coffee because you like the sugar hit you get in the morning or do you drink it because you actually like it?” Apparently I was drinking coffee before for the sugar hit. Now I drink coffee because on top of needing it, I actually APPRECIATE it. I can give you a whole list of what coffee places suck but I’ll leave you with this: invest in good coffee beans. They’re expensive for a reason. I buy from a local coffee roaster for my cold-brew but Whole Foods has some really delicious ones, too!

    My Eating Plan Going Forward

    eat-good-feel-good(source)

    I definitely want to continue this clean eating healthier lifestyle. I want to do a low-carb, low-sugar diet with a focus on clean eating. The blog will likely move in that direction too. Obviously when people think ‘healthy’ they’ll think ‘not good.’ Totally false and I kind of proved that on this diet with all the meals I made on my own. You can eat healthy and it can be delicious too. I want to try experimenting and baking with different flours and try to make gluten-free pastries. I’ll likely fail A LOT but I can’t wait to experiment. Cheers to this new lifestyle!

    Now it’s your turn. Are you going to commit to this challenge?? I dare you to get outside of your comfort zone. Triple dog dare you. Do it. You have nothing to lose…except maybe the unhealthy eating habits and some of your waistline. Everything to gain: new perspective on food and how you eat.

    Questions? Ask below and I’ll try my best to answer. I’m no expert in this field and a lot was trial and error on this challenge, but I can try my best to answer general questions!

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  • Martina says:

    Awesome, Julie!
    I read every single one of your Whole 30 posts and never commented but I knew I just HAD TO today!

    I read It Starts With Food a while ago and even joined the Paleo craze last year (also love the Practical Paleo book) I have to say I wasn´t super strict with myself (-honey is not Paleo but I used it a few times anyway) but I did follow along. I suffer from an autoimmune disease myself – it´s Hashimoto´s Thyreoitis and I can totally relate with the pain since no doctor checked my thyroid levels and I was undiagnosed for nearly two years and everyone told me that I am arthritic – at 30 – really? and that I probably need to loose weight which was partly true since I gained so much because of my thyroid but also couldn´t loose it because of the illness….

    But anyways. No one really can imagine that pain unless you´ve been through yourself!

    The reason I “stopped” or fell back in my old ways was stress and personal reasons but mostly emotional stress and emotional eating. I am not on a Whole 30 right now but I ditched dairy a few weeks ago (lactose intolerant as well) and also soy (always had soy milk in my coffee) since it´s related to dysfunctional thyroids, wheat and mostly sugar though I still have to work on that.

    I do cook mostly at home right now and bring my own lunch to work – I agree with you: sugar, wheat and diary lurks everywhere!

    Still it´s much easier to modify your food in the US and find paleo-friendly options – like that beef jerky – at the supermarket.

    Over here (Vienna, Austria), Paleo is not well-known and if it´s labeled as just another diet….

    I do include smoothies and green juices and try vegan recipes too since I sometimes just don´t feel like having meat…. I don´t think I will fully commit to a vegan diet since I love eggs and a good steak too much.

    I want to come to a point where I am eating “clean” around 80% of the time and have indulgences when eating out….

    Okay, now enough of the rambling :)

    I think you did a great job and thanks for posting daily throughout the month – it was really interesting and I hope you´ll share those recipes with us :)

    • Julie says:

      Thank you for reading every single one of my posts!! I’m glad you’re still getting back into it even though you fell back into your old ways. It happens! LIFE happens so it’s totally okay – just as long as you recognize it and can get back into it, you know?? The whole clean eating thing is definitely 80/20. There’s no way you can be 100% – it’s just too hard for 100% sometimes. As long as you keep 80/20, I think it’ll be great – I mean, we all need little indulgences every now and again, right?? I will DEFINITELY be sharing a bunch of recipes in the coming weeks so look out for those and going forward the blog will have more clean eating and healthy eats! :)

  • Rebecca says:

    LOVE this recap!! I have toyed with going Paleo for a while. Right now I am doing no “treats” for 30 days. While it doesn’t cut out ALL sugar it cuts out a lot of it to ease myself in. Along with that I am trying to limit my carbs more – mostly for the energy reason. I made a 2 minute Paleo English Muffin for the first time today and it is DELICIOUS (especially topped with avocado). Thanks for all of the wonderful tips and the inspiration!!

    • Julie says:

      Thank you for reading!! :) so glad you’re enjoying those english muffins! good luck with your no treats for 30 days – it’s hard but it’s really worth it :)

  • Alicia Behan says:

    Great review! I did the Whole30 in January and reading this makes me want to do another one!

    • Julie says:

      Thanks!! Definitely do it :)

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen says:

    We made it! So happy we did this and even though I had a few more cheats than you throughout the 30 days, it is amazing how much better I feel too. It’s like the perfect “reset”.

    • Julie says:

      Ahh I know. We made it!! It was fun doing it with someone just as health-conscious! :)

  • Jennifer says:

    Love this post and recap. I have also toyed with the idea of doing this but with working full time and having two little kids who can be adventurous eaters but also go through picky phases, I just don’t know if I would have the time to make two separate meals in the evening and have time to work out. I’ll be interested to see your new recipes to see how much prep time is needed. Need to get out of my post-pregnancy rut which sadly has been almost a year.

    • Julie says:

      I have a full time job aside from blogging so my prep times are typically all very short because I don’t want to fuss when making dinner after work :) I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised when I post them in the coming weeks and months! You can definitely do it, Jennifer! Good luck :)

  • Joana says:

    Challenge accepted.
    I changed my diet 6 months ago for lactose free diet. Last few weeks I have been trying the gluten free. Its amazing the changes on the way I feel.

    I am definitely up to the challenge and I can wait to start.

    • Julie says:

      Good for you, Joana! Good luck and I can’t wait for you to start, either!!

  • Andrea says:

    Loved this post! It’s one of the better Paleo recaps out there and I’ll definitely be sharing it! I lean more towards Primal since I can handle small amounts of high quality dairy. I love this lifestyle, it has been so life changing for me. :)

    • Julie says:

      Thanks for sharing and thinking so highly of this post, Andrea!! I’m so glad that it’s been life-changing for you :)

  • dixya | food, pleasure, and health says:

    i am so glad you were able to do this challenge and had been looking forward to this recap. i have been wanting to try eliminating dairy and sugar from my diet. i cant wait for you to share more paleo friendly recipes :)

    • Julie says:

      Thanks!! I’ll definitely be sharing more recipes :)

  • Patti Pfeiff says:

    Hi Julie!! Wow! This testimonial is amazing. Been thinking about trying the Paleo challenge but giving up wine??? – ugh! haha Anyway is there a book or website you recommend for recipes and guidelines? Forgive me if you already have mentioned this. I really want to see if I think it is manageable for me. I l ove to try new things and if better sleep, difestion and overall health are the reward then why not?!

    • Julie says:

      Hi Patti – haha I don’t drink a lot as it is so giving up alcohol was easy for me! The book: It Starts with Food is AMAZING. I mentioned it in the post on why it’s so great! So Whole30 is a great website for resources but Whole30 and paleo are SLIGHTLY different in that Whole30 is more strict and paleo is less. Like with Whole30, you can’t have ANY baked goods because they don’t want that to be temptation for you to eat sugar/grains. But with paleo, you can have baked goods. Paleo you can have honey and maple syrup, too, while on whole30 you cannot. Here are two great sites for starting paleo: http://www.paleocupboard.com/paleo-quick-start-guide.html and http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/03/i-want-to-eat-paleo-but-i-dont-know.html … I would also say for recipe ideas, these blogs are awesome: Nom Nom Paleo, PaleOMG, The Roasted Root, Running to the Kitchen, Ambitious Kitchen, Fit Foodie Finds and my Pinterest board that I’m growing has great blogger recipes too: https://www.pinterest.com/tablefortwoblog/healthy-eats/…and of course my recipes that I’ll be sharing in the coming weeks on the blog! A lot that I developed while I was on the paleo diet :)

  • Sarah | Broma Bakery says:

    Well first off, you look amazing! But more importantly, it’s incredible how much better it seems you FEEL after just 30 days. I completely agree about sugar being evil, and it’s something that I have to curb constantly. I don’t know, you may have this girl trying out a paleo diet for a few weeks now! :)

    • Julie says:

      Do it!! I’ll be right there to cheer you on!! And thank you for the sweet compliment!

  • Maria says:

    “Eat Good, Feel Good” …great eating plan going forward!

  • Jacqueline says:

    Hi Julie!

    I’ve been reading every single one of your paleo posts and looking forward to them daily. Every update makes me want to do it more and with your health results (and this recap) it definitely motivating me to do it!

    I only have 2 problems: :(
    1. I have grown up eating rice basically every day and the past few years I have switched to brown rice but I just dont know if i can cut out such a huge part of my culture/diet.

    2. I drink about a gallon of milk a week. I really want to do this diet but Diary free (i love cheese too but i can say no to that) but if i stop drinking milk i’ll quickly become lactose intolerant. Is there any way to still do something paleo-like with this much of an obstacle?

    I’d appreciate any of your thoughts. Thank you for your time and I love all your posts!

    • Julie says:

      Hi Jacqueline! Unfortunately, you have to cut out the rice. In that book I referenced in this post, they talk about brown rice vs. white rice and brown rice…every scientist out there and medical “studies” wants you to believe brown rice is healthier than white rice. it’s actually LESS healthy than white rice. why? the brown rice is the ‘shell’ of the white rice (on the inside) and the shell is where all the toxins and chemicals penetrate it. the white rice is what the brown shell is protecting. sooo yeah. there’s that. you say you “can’t” do so many things but YOU CAN. I did it..I’m Asian – rice is a huge part of my culture/diet but it’s all about tricking your brain. Do cauliflower “rice” or spaghetti squash for “pasta.” Unfortunately there also isn’t a way to get around the dairy thing. If you want to do paleo or Whole30, you’re going to have to give up all dairy. You just need to commit. Right now, it’s all hypothetical whether or not you can or cannot give up rice, cheese, and milk. You haven’t tried to give it up yet soo try it and see :)

  • Kristen says:

    Congrats on completing your challenge and your great success! When I did two rounds of Whole 30 last June and July it changed my relationship with food. I still follow Whole 30 on the weekdays for the most part and continue to read all of the labels. On the weekends I let myself indulge a little with some sugar or a cappuccino from time to time. It is amazing the benefits clean eating has on your body from the inside out. And so true what you said about coffee. I cannot drink it with sugar anymore.

  • Cookin Canuck says:

    This is such a great recap, Julie. I have never gone completely paleo, but have tried to cut done on grains and dairy (cheese is a tough one!) Everytime I reduce my carbs by even a little bit, I feel better. I think there’s something to be said for the 80/20!

  • Mary says:

    Glad you found this Julie. I have been promoting “clean eating” with my sister who also has an auto immune disorder. “Paleo” and “clean eating eating” are really just trendy terms to describe the healthiest way to live. It can be rediculous ly challenging in our culture that promotes sugar filled crap every step of the way. It is so hard for the average consumer to even know what labels are okay for them. One thing I learned throughout the years was the idea that if you stay on the perimeter of a grocery store you will most likely stick to the clean items. Haha! Hope your journey continues to be joyful. I will be looking forward to the new healthy recipes!!!

    • Julie says:

      Yeah, I hate how ‘paleo’ and ‘whole30’ is being promoted as a ‘fad diet’ kinda thing but food in general is where it begins! I hope your sister feels better once she incorporates clean eating! Haha, the perimeter of the grocery store is a GOOD call!! I didn’t realize that and I just pictured my store and you’re so right!!

  • Senika @ Foodie Blog Stalker says:

    You’re totally inspiring me right now!!!

  • Amanda says:

    I’ve owned It Starts with Food for the longest time but have yet to read it. I really need to do that soon. I’m struggling with food lately.

    • Julie says:

      It will change your life!! Start tonight and read it!

  • Amy says:

    I have so, so enjoyed reading your daily posts (and now this overall review) of your Paleo “diet” challenge. I feel like I not only do I understand better what exactly Paleo is, but have a greater appreciation for it as well.

    I really liked how you included details of exactly what you ate every day – it seemed like you ate so much good stuff! For once this is actually a type of lifestyle diet I could follow – once I got used to not having cheese that is. ; )

    Thanks for allowing us to come along on your journey – I look forward to seeing what delicious creations you making going forward.

    • Julie says:

      I’m so glad they were enjoyable posts, Amy! I look forward to sharing more healthy creations :)

  • Emily S. says:

    Congratulations on finishing, and on your non-scale victories! I’ve been “mostly paleo” ever since my first Whole 30 back in 2013. It was a real eye-opener for me- now, the furthest off-track I go is for some Mexican food (corn tortillas) or ice cream (but wayyy less than I used to). I wish you the best of luck as you go forward! Now is where the real challenge starts. I’ve always found it easier to be on an official challenge or whole 30 than to be going about my everyday life and food choices.

    • Julie says:

      I definitely agree with you! I think being on a challenge forces you to be good cause you don’t want to fail but now I’m released from the chains (haha) I’m going to have to be extra conscious of everything!!

  • Katy says:

    I’ve been planning on starting a Whole30 on June 15 (because its a month without traveling or major activities planned) and I found your blog while looking for paleo friendly recipes. Thanks so much for recording your paleo month! Very helpful :) I hope to see positive changes like you have.

    • Julie says:

      Yay! Good luck with yours – it’s going to be amazing and well worth it!!

  • Julius @Droolius says:

    That’s great you tried the diet and saw results! I’m tempted to try because I try to be low carb (outside of all the food blogger meals) and it works to an extent. Happy to hear you appreciate good quality coffee now! A nice pour over coffee that’s locally roasted is so much better than what you can buy at a chain coffee shop. Filter Coffeehouse in D.C. has some good hard to find coffee beans and so many good flavors. Keep up the healthy eating lifestyle!

    • Julie says:

      Thanks Julius! I love Filter! It’s right near my office. The closest one to me though is Swings – have you heard of them? They’re amazing too!

  • Laura (Tutti Dolci) says:

    You look great, Julie! Loved this recap and learning more about the positive impact paleo made on you!

    • Julie says:

      Thank you!

  • Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom says:

    Congrats, Julie!!!! I’m so excited for you and loved reading this!!! I started the Whole30 officially, two days ago, but have not eaten bread or rice or pasta for 5 days and I feel great!!! love love love that you did this and are making a lifestyle change .. I also thought this would be hard (and I’m sure it will be closer to 30 days) but there are so many other choices for us now, like coconut aminos, which I thought I would die without my soy sauce, and ghee!!!! oh my gawd, ghee!!! and I’m really loving all the salad and fruit I am eating. can’t wait to read along and see how your blog moves forward with you!!! hey, I hope we can meet up in Chicago! let me know if you have a little bit of time to meet up! Even just for a drink, altho, I can’t have any alcohol :P (will still be doing the whole 30 during EWR!)

    • Julie says:

      Thanks so much, Alice!! I hope you enjoy your whole30 challenge. It gets easier as it becomes routine!! I’ll definitely let you know about Chicago :)

  • Jocelyn (Grandbaby cakes) says:

    I absolutely loved reading about your paleo experience. I am considering trying this. I keep hearing so much about Whole30 and might have to try it. Thank you for being so candid and real.

    • Julie says:

      Thanks so much, girl!! I hope you do try it out!

  • I loved seeing this Julie! I’m currently in the midst of a personal challenge to cut out sugar (except a little honey and maple syrup here in there) and it has been SHOCKING to see how much sugar has been in absolutely everything (ex: I am still eating bread, but I basically have to make it myself or buy the only sugar free brand at $6/loaf). I am so proud of you for sticking with this, and thanks for sharing your results with us along the way!

    • Julie says:

      You can do it, Erin!! It’s definitely shocking how much sugar is in everyyyything. Can’t escape it! See you in Chicago soon :)

  • serwis says:

    It was really interesting, to read about your thoughts after trying this paleo challenge :) I’m happy that you can end this program and that you are so much full of good energy :)

  • Kelly - Life Made Sweeter says:

    I absolutely loved reading this! Congrats Julie! It’s amazing how much better you feel after cutting out sugar, dairy and carbs. I did the same thing last year after having my daughter because my energy levels were so low and I felt so much better. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us! Loved this!

    • Julie says:

      Thanks Kelly! It’s quite amazing!

  • Anna | ANNAdventure says:

    Awesome post, Julie! It was really interesting to read all the benefits that came from your challenge!

  • Libby says:

    Wondering if it helped the arthritis?

    • Julie Wampler says:

      I wouldn’t say paleo helped with the arthritis; I would say that in general eating better did. My RA is still in remission!

  • Nancy says:

    I am wondering what you would eat as a bread, because I have been doing this diet for one week and I feel kind of hungry. I would like to add a type of bread that is paleo friendly

    • Julie Wampler says:

      There are lots of types of paleo-friendly breads out there that you could google to see what recipes would work. I know that I just primarily used almond flour and coconut flour for “baked goods”

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