10 Reasons Why You’re Failing to Feel Better or Lose Weight on a Paleo Diet
Almost everybody who successfully loses weight or heals an illness has one thing in common.
Here it is…
Almost all of those people brush their teeth.
That’s not very useful information is it? It’s true that they mostly all brush their teeth, but it probably doesn’t help them lose weight or heal any illnesses.
Success is the Result of Many Factors
I love Paleo success stories, and you probably do, too. They’re inspiring and sometimes even enlightening.
But there are big limitations, because there isn’t just one thing that helps someone get healthy or lose weight on a Paleo diet.
For example, the first time I tried to bake a cake when I was a kid, it was a dramatic failure. I used too few eggs (I didn’t have enough), I left the cake in the oven too long, and I tried to ice the cake before it had cooled. That cake did NOT turn out well.
I’d watched people successfully make cakes before that, but it wasn’t enough, mostly because there wasn’t ONE thing that made those other cakes/cooks successful. I made several mistakes, and any one of those mistakes was enough to mess up my cake at least a little bit (or a lot).
Your health – especially weight loss – is the same way. If you’re not getting all the most important pieces right, then you might not see any results – even if you think you’re doing all the same things as your friend who just lost 20 pounds.
That’s why I put together this list of the top 10 reasons that folks fail to feel better or lose weight on a Paleo Diet. These are the 10 biggest issues I continually see that contribute to a lack of success. If you correct these mistakes, it won’t guarantee you success, but it’ll make it way more likely.
Word of Warning: Parts of this list will sound harsh or just hard, but you can only avoid these mistakes if you know about them.
10 Reasons Why You’re Failing to Feel Better or Lose Weight on a Paleo Diet
1. You Don’t Love the Process
You absolutely CANNOT view eating Paleo as a burden or only as a means of achieving a goal. You’ve got to love eating this way just because you do.
And you probably don’t want to hear this, because changing the way you think can be tough.
Typically, someone starts a Paleo diet for a number of reasons: they want to lose weight, to heal an autoimmune condition, to get rid of gut issues, or something similar. And the pain of being fat/sick is so great that they’re willing to do “whatever it takes” to fix the problem.
You might think that’s a great motivation, but it’s stressful and doesn’t last in the long run. If you view eating a Paleo diet as a burden or as a means to an end, then here’s what happens…
When life gets hard, you’re not going to be able to muster up enough willpower to keep going. Maybe it’s holiday time, and you need to spend time with relatives. Or perhaps it’s a busy week at work or your child gets sick.
Whatever the reason, you get tired and you give in to “just one” bad snack or meal. Then you beat yourself up for being so weak. Suddenly, you feel even worse, you make another bad decision, and you’re spiraling out of control.
And it all happened because when you got tired or stressed, you didn’t have the energy to “fight” against your temptations or desires. However, if your temptation/desire was to eat healthy in the first place, then you wouldn’t have to constantly fight against it.
Living a healthy life needs to be what you love doing. It’s a process, not a destination.
2. You’re Eating Too Little Food
I’m not a “calorie-denier.” Calories matter – it’s just that counting calories doesn’t work out for most folks.
It sounds weird that you might be eating too little food, but it’s a real problem. This is especially true if you’re just starting a real food or Paleo diet.
The first thing you usually do is remove all the bread, pasta, cereal, cookies, sodas, and other junk that you were eating. But often, you don’t replace it with enough other, healthier, Paleo food.
There are 2 huge problems with eating too little…
First, and most importantly, you can’t sustain it. When you eat too little food, you feel tired, grumpy, and unhappy. And worse, it creates a situation where you feel like you’re depriving yourself, and that’s not the relationship you want to set up with food.
In addition, eating too little food tells your body that it needs to hold on to fat and get rid of muscle. After all, it takes a lot of energy to keep muscle, and not very much energy to keep fat.
Again, you don’t need to count calories continuously, but if you’re not very active, you might want to aim for around 1600-1900 as a woman and 2000-2300 as a man. If you’re active, then you’ll definitely need more.
3. You Skipped the Strict Elimination Period
It’s quite possible that you looked around a saw a lot of people doing an “80/20” version of Paleo, and you thought, “Wow…that looks a lot better than giving up every food I love.”
And I understand. None of us are perfect, and it can get really stressful trying to eat 100% correctly all the time.
But the basis of a Paleo diet is not just eating “better” foods. It’s about knowing your own body and how various foods affect it. And currently, the only good way to learn is to do a strict elimination period of at least 30 (and preferably 60) days.
During this period, you need to be super-strict – so don’t plan it around the holidays. There are 2 reasons this is critically important. First, you give your body a chance to fully recover, which you don’t get if one day a week is still a cheat day. And more importantly, after this period, you can start reintroducing various foods (legumes, dairy, etc.) to see how your body reacts.
It’s only through this process that you learn whether or not you can actually handle dairy, whether legumes cause you intestinal distress, and whether a little processed sugar here and there will send you over the edge or not. Again, 30 days is a minimum, but 60 days is much better. If nothing else, eliminate all grains, all legumes, all processed sugar, all seed oils, and all dairy.
4. You’re Stressed Out
We’re well into the 21st century, and life is generally getting better overall. However, our stress levels keep getting higher and higher.
If you want to be healthy, lean, and…well…happy, then it’s imperative that you find some ways to get your stress levels under control.
From the perspective of your body, psychological stress is not very different than eating junk food. The stress that goes on in your brain directly affects your gut bacteria, your immune system, and the inflammation levels in your body. After all, it’s mostly your brain that control how much stress hormones (like cortisol) are produced in your body.
Louise can actually tell if she’s stressed because it almost immediately starts to cause her digestive problems. That’s how directly stress impacts your body.
Most people ignore advice about stress because they don’t believe it makes as big of a difference as it does and because they don’t think they can actually get rid of their stress.
I’d be incredibly wealthy if I had an easy answer to stress, but we’ve known the basics for reducing stress for a very long time. Unplug from your phone, computer, TV, and other electronics for an extended period of time. Go outside for walks. Hang out with friends.
And most of all, meditate every day – this is probably the best bit of advice that very few people actually act on. Meditation is (quite ironically) hard at first. But it’s a scientifically proven way to reduce stress for the rest of your life.
Whatever you do, find a way to relax and calm your mind, and the rest of your body will follow suit.
5. You Forgot to Keep Moving
You’ve probably heard the saying that “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” And that is extremely true – you can run on a treadmill for hours every day, and you’ll still be fat and sick if you eat a bunch of junk.
Paleo is about a lot more than diet. Part of being Paleo is moving enough.
We don’t know exactly how much our ancestors walked, but most research points to a minimum of around 5 miles per day, and likely more in many parts of the world. Americans, on average, walk half that far at best every day.
If you want to take just one tip from this list, then I’d probably start with this one. In some ways, it’s the simplest and easiest to implement. Get a device that measures your steps (Fitbit Charge, Withings Pulse, or something similar), and then walk as much as you can every single day.
This is particularly true if you want to lose weight on a Paleo diet or get leaner. Going to the gym is great, but nothing makes a bigger difference than simply walking enough. There’s a lot of research on this, but what’s much more convincing is that you will see the difference in just a couple of weeks. It won’t make up for a poor diet or severe health issues, but if nothing else, it will make you feel a lot better.
6. You Sleep Too Little
If you read just pretty much any other articles I’ve written, you’ll quickly figure out that I think sleep is the single biggest factor in your overall health. I lived and worked in New York City for many years, and almost everybody I knew slept way too little.
Many of my friends were too young for it to have really caught up with them yet. And many people I knew told me that they “got by just fine” on 4, 5, or 6 hours of sleep.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live my life “getting by just fine.” I want to feel amazing, and I want to get amazing results.
When it comes to sleep, the science is completely unanimous. If you don’t sleep enough, you’re at a significantly higher risk of developing obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mood disorders, and just dying sooner. And if you’re hoping to lose fat, not sleeping enough could be your biggest obstacle. In one excellent study, participants lost almost 3 times as much fat when they slept 7.5 hours per night, compared to when they slept just 5.5 hours per night.
I understand that you really need to check Facebook and play Candy Crush until 3am, but don’t fool yourself – if you’re looking to lose weight on Paleo, then it’s going to affect you.
7. You Eat Paleo Junk Food
When Louise and I first started eating a Paleo diet, we’d spend most of our time figuring out the best ways to recreate cookies, lasagna, and bread. And we came up with some pretty awesome recipes.
Eventually, though, we got tired of spending so much time and energy trying to re-create foods we used to eat. And a funny thing happened. We started feeling a lot better and losing more fat.
If you want to eat Paleo cookies and cakes every once in a while, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Life needs to be fun and delicious.
But if the majority of your meals look like the Standard American Diet but with “Paleo” ingredients, then it’s probably time to reconsider your diet. You probably don’t have a great mindset and feel like you’re depriving yourself of the foods you really want. That’s not a fun way to live.
Plus, your diet is probably composed more of nut flours, honey, and chocolate than veggies, seafood, and meats. And you can guess which of those foods is healthier and more likely to help you feel and look better.
“Paleo” re-creations should be the exception and not the rule.
8. You Snack Too Much
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not your body should be burning fat or carbohydrates as its main fuel.
The answer is both.
The healthiest human bodies have a great ability to switch back and forth between burning fats (or ketones) and carbs (glycogen). The ability to switch back and forth is called metabolic flexibility.
A number of things happen when you don’t have good metabolic flexibility, but the most common is that you don’t burn very many calories between meals, you get hungry faster and more often, and you feel tired more often.
Snacking is not the sole cause of poor metabolic flexibility. In fact, walking more frequently is a great way to get back some of your metabolic flexibility.
However, if you’re snacking all the time between meals, then you’re not giving your body a chance to get used to burning fat. I know that it can be hard to give up snacking, but it doesn’t mean you eat less. You just need to move the foods you would have eaten to meal-time, instead of between meals.
9. You Exercise Too Much
Since I’ve already mentioned that you should walk as much as possible every day, it doesn’t make much sense that I’d now say that exercising too much is a problem for many people.
But it is a big problem.
If you’re sick, overweight, or just unhealthy in some way, then it’s almost inevitable that your body has a lot of stress and inflammation. You might be eating bad food, getting too stressed out, sleeping too little, or even have a gut pathogen. All of those thing will stress and inflame your body.
Another thing that will stress and inflame your body, though, is exercise – particular intense exercise. Walking is good because it puts relatively little stress on your body. Intense exercises like running, cycling, and others, though, put a lot of stress on your body.
Intense exercise is great in some ways, but there are 2 big caveats. If you’re doing it every day, it’s probably too much. Even Olympic athletes actually train at low intensity levels most days. And more importantly, if you’re already unhealthy in any way, then you need to cut back even more. Once you get everything else in your body working properly, then your body will once again be able to handle intense exercise.
Until that happens, take it easy.
10. You Didn’t Get Accountability
In that study, researchers looked at 1,685 participants to determine the best predictors of weight loss. The single best indicator of fat loss was…
Participants who recorded almost every meal they ate lost almost 3 times as much weight as participants who recorded very little of the food they ate. In other words, just recording what you eat, will make you MUCH more likely to lose weight (on a Paleo diet or otherwise).
And part of the reason that works is because you’re holding yourself accountable. But there are other ways to hold yourself accountable.
Get someone to diet with you, and then check in every day with them to see how you’re each doing. Tell everybody that you know that you’re eating only unprocessed foods for the next 60 days. Or join our Pure Paleo Reset and make a commitment that way to being very strict for at least the next 30 days.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter how you get accountability, so long as you get it.
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Going Paleo isn’t rocket science, but there are a lot of pitfalls along the way.
Even if you’re doing it all 95% right, that last 5% could still be stalling your progress and keeping you fat or sick.
These are the 10 reasons I’ve seen the greatest number of people fail. So if you’re going to start anyway, start by correcting these 10 mistakes.
Also, if you want to enhance your Paleo diet even more, click here to get our book 15 Common Paleo Pitfalls for free!