I’m a fan of a relaxed Paleo diet- if calorie tracking doesn’t work for you a four day on three day off ‘paleoish’ diet can be a good way of managing calories without counting.
When people start Paleo for the first time the most common question asked is …
Can I … [insert hack here]
Can I have almond milk in coffee?
Can I have nut butters?
Can I have fruit and nut based bars?
My answer is always well technically if you were to follow Paleo strictly no, but as we are looking at a Paleo based way of eating then yes if it makes you happy and enjoy your food.
Essentially you have two choices when you elect to do a method of eating such as this.
Either do it as it is prescribed.
Or roughly follow it but add in a few of your own rules.
Neither is the right or wrong way (and there are so many variations in between).
The choice on how you approach it depends on what you want from your diet.
If you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to kick start a bit of fat loss, well to be honest the more strict you are with the bigger results you’ll see. And yes, you might really crave pancakes for breakfast for two weeks, but it is just two weeks so just abstaining for fourteen days won’t kill you.
On the other hand if you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to just re-set some habits or if you’re planning on doing Paleo as a longer term way of eating then having a few ‘adjustments’ to the rules might well serve you better.
Equally if you know you won’t last two weeks without a few tweaks there is not point setting yourself up for failure by not making those tweaks. 80% is always going to be more effective than 100% saint for ten minutes before giving up will be!
Hopefully by now you know there’s no right or wrong way of eating – the way that suits you won’t suit everyone else, so it stands to reason that the decision of how closely you stick to something also needs to be personal to you.
Social media is awash these days with judgement over food. I’m in one particular group where people defend their way of eating (Keto, IM Fasting, plant based) with zeal and lament anyone who doesn’t do the same as them or doesn’t follow that particular diet in exactly the same way as them (who doesn’t love a they’re doing it wrong post). Don’t get me wrong there are times when I see things and think OK- perhaps you’re over complicating this or hmmm, I think you’re looking in the wrong place for the problem here; but actually if it suits them and makes them happy and isn’t a diet of cyanide that is going to kill them then it’s none of my business. You can offer educated advice but you have no out and out right to be heard.
I digress – how strict you follow a food plan should depend on your goals and how you feel.
My general rule of how to decide what’s right for you. Think about making those little adjustments – does the idea of adding a bit of flour to some pancakes for breakfast make you smile and really look forward to that meal when you wake up tomorrow or are you already feeling guilty about ‘breaking the rules’ before you’ve even done it? That normally gives you a decent idea of which way will work best for you, because if what you eat makes you feel guilty after eating it that’s not going to lead anywhere pleasant.
This outlook can be expanded beyond Paleo to any way of eating, way of training, in fact way of living.
Does what you are doing make you happy. Yes – keep doing it then. No – maybe you need to make some adjustments to change that.
Will adjusting the training plan you’ve been given make you feel like you’ve ruined your workout or will swapping those sprints out for a row make you feel 100% more successful. Depending on your answer to those questions you have your answer as to whether you should follow the ‘rules’ to the letter or not.
What kind of person are you? If you feel guilty when you bend a rule then stick to them and don’t make yourself feel guilty.
What result do you want? If you are looking to get very specific results then following a plan very precisely matters, if you are looking to feel better but have more relaxed goals then you can equally follow guidelines in a more relaxed manner.
The key is knowing yourself and knowing your goals then being honest about what you need to do, sacrifice or change and for how long to get to those goals.
Because if you want transformational results on a fitness plan but are only wanting to follow the plan 50% of the time you’re going to be disappointed, but if you know what you want isn’t as dramatic then the changes don’t have to be so dramatic either. Neither of those extremes are wrong, they are entirely personal and in reality the only person you need to be able to justify yourself to is you.
I’m not saying join a programme and don’t do it here! What I’m saying is very few of us can do everything 100% perfectly for even a short period of time (well I say very few of us , perhaps others can and I’m just trying to make myself feel better!) so knowing your own expectations of yourself, what will feel like success to you and then working to that level is the key to success.
If you have high expectations cool- but know you’re going to have to be stricter on yourself to reach them, in that case looking for the hacks and quick cheats won’t serve you. The opposite applies just as much.
Pick your stance, work to that stance and don’t be swayed by what others are or aren’t doing.