Getting Started Part One
Read these sections before you crack on….
- Before you start
- Adjustment Period
- How to Minimise Symptoms and Cravings
- Planning Menus
- Where to shop and what to buy
- Looking after yourself - displacement activities, addiction theories
Before You Start
You need to be clear about what you are doing and why you are doing it. It helps greatly if you view the diet as a project, and embark on it with an open and inquiring mind.
The actual project itself starts when you first sit down to think about when you’re going to start and what you are going to eat during the first week. There are a few things that are really worth knowing at this point. Firstly, if you are choosing to start with the full-on diet, you will experience a period of adjustment, which will almost certainly involve some physical, mental, and emotional withdrawal symptoms, as you start to pull away from your normal eating habits. Bearing in mind this adjustment phase, it would be wise to start the diet during a relatively calm and stress-free period in your life.
Some people manage to get away with just a slight headache, whilst others might experience flu-like symptoms that can last for a few days.
The Adjustment Period
The period of adjustment from when you start the diet to when you feel really good on it can last anything from a couple of days to two or three weeks. During this time you might feel easily fatigued, a little bit foggy in the brain, and you might experience a strong sense of yearning when you see or think about some tasty carbohydrate food, which you might well mistake for hunger.
This feeling, in the pit of the stomach around the solar plexus, just below the lower ribs, is also known as the stomach chakra. It is here that we commonly feel fear and feelings around abandonment and insecurity. It is also where we sense falling blood sugar levels. This is falling blood sugar levels, not low blood sugar levels. Falling blood sugar levels are often experienced after eating a high glycaemic index carb food, such as a baked potato, where an excessive amount of insulin is produced, causing blood sugar levels to fall, and sometimes causing reactive hypoglycaemia, where you start to feel sleepy about 20 minutes after eating. With this feeling being experienced in the stomach chakra, we learn as children that we can dispel feelings of threat and insecurity by eating a bit of refined carbohydrate, just to get an additional squirt of sugar into the bloodstream. This is partly why carbs are so addictive, and why, during the adjustment period at the start of the paleo diet you might experience all these weird feelings associated with the stomach chakra. But fear not! It soon passes…..
How to Minimise Symptoms and Cravings
One of the more bizarre aspects of human physiology is that we often crave foods that our bodies can’t cope with very well. People who have allergies or intolerances to particular foods often crave the guilty party. This is particularly true for grains and dairy produce, and so some people who start on the stoneage diet find they they experience an especially strong craving for these foods, producing withdrawal symptoms on a par with giving up tobacco, or other addictive drugs.
The adjustment period is basically a period of detoxification.Our detox systems are fantastically complex, and regulated in the body by many different mechanisms. Nevertheless, there are some fairly easy things we can do to help the process along. Here are a few suggestions:
- Include plenty of onions and garlic in your meals. Both of these foods are good sources of sulphur containing amino acids, and sulphur is a vital component of your detox systems.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don’t worry about putting salt on your food. Preferably sea salt.
- Have a bath evey other day with 500g of epsom salts dissolved in it. This will not only relax you , but you will also absorb useful amounts of sulphur and magnesium through your skin.
- Flavonoids. These are plant compounds that have a very wide range of therapeutic effects, and are found in many fruits and vegetable and medicinal herbs and spices. Rosemary, for example, contains flavonoids that stimulate the detox enzymes glutathione-s-reductase and quinone reductase.
- Turmeric. Add plenty of this to your meals, or take a high potency curcumin supplement, or, better still, get a tincture of turmeric and take half a teaspoonful at meal times. Turmeric is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
- Fenugreek. Fenugreek seeds taken as a tea or a tincture after a meal can help with blood sugar metabolism and lowering LDL and VLDL cholesterol.
- Eat brassicas. Members of the brassica family (cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli and so on) contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol which enhances phase 2 glutathione detoxification pathways, giving you the means to clear toxins from the system more efficiently.
- Eat plenty of fats. Cooking with animal fats or coconut oil is a good start, and make sure the protein you are eating contains some fat. Oily fish are very very good. Don’t be afraid of fatty meats.
- Some supplements can help, notably alpha lipoic acid, magnesium and Vitamin D. Consider using a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement.
You should not start the diet without having planned what you are going to eat for at least the first few days, buying the things that that you will need. You might find, when the cravings start, that if you don’t have food to hand it will be hugely tempting to reach for the biscuit tin. To avoid this it is worth cooking up some meals in advance and keeping therm in the freezer, so you have something that is quickly accessible. It’s also a good idea to have a supply of allowed snacks, such as almonds, walnuts, and fresh fruits to hand. Your need for these will diminish over time, but it’s great to have them there at the start of the project.
When thinking of menus, focus on specific mealtimes. Breakfast is the most common problem area, where people are often stumped to come with an alternative to their usual carb feast. Here’s a suggestion: try some bacon and egg.
Think about what you are going to eat in the middle of the day, particularly if at work. For the first few weeks you may want to take in a packed lunch, because there’s very little available in town, or wherever you work, that isn’t laden with carbohydrates or refined sugars. You will find that as you get more used to the diet lunch will become less of a problem, because you will have hit upon a way of dealing with it. But to start with it takes some planning
It can be quite easy to downplay the amount of vegetables you eat on this diet, as the protein meals are much easier and more convenient to prepare, and vegetables take a bit more preparation and cooking. Pay attention to this, as vegetables are really important in this diet. Our ancestors probably ate predominantly wild foraged vegetables, and we should, as they say, be getting at least 5 a day. Your evening meal is a really good opportunity to cook a load of veg - cook too much, so you can have some at breakfast and lunch the following day as well. Root vegetables are great - you can roast them, boil them, or steam them. Mashed sweet potato, on its own, or mashed up turnips, swede, or beetroot, etc., is a paleo favourite, as it fries up nicely with an egg or two the following morning.
Where to Shop and What to Buy
Your initial shopping trip should include plenty of fresh veg, some allowed snacks, 3 or 4 items of protein (at least), some items you can chuck in the freezer for when you run out of ideas and can’t get to the shops, and, if you haven’t already got them, a load of herbs and spices, olive oil or coconut oil, epsom salts, and anything else you have identified to help you get through the adjustment period.
It strikes me that it would be useful to have some info about where to get stuff locally, so there is space on this website for a directory of recommended food producers, restaurants, and local retailers, where you can get proper stoneage provisions. All in good time.
Looking After Yourself
American paleo diet guru Michael Eades has written quite an amusing blog about not listening to your body. His point is that if you listen to your body, and do as it is telling you, then you won’t last too long on the stoneage diet.
In fact it is a very good idea to listen to your body from the outset, as this is a major part of the inquiry. Experiencing, interpreting and getting beneath the surface of new feelings and sensations that might arise as you start to consume what your body is most adapted to consume is the what its all about. Remember, this project is a voluntary inquiry - its what is left when the rubbish has been removed. It is not a call to submission or a punishment. If it starts to feel like someone is depriving you of somethiing then you have got to ask yourself why you are doing it, and whose decision it was to do it.
There is, apparently, some truth in the statement
“we are all alone in this world”
Living in a world that is so dominated by the food industry and the supermarkets, you are bound to face a few challenges along the way - because you will be doing something of which the food industry as a whole generally disapproves. And, without trying to sound too paranoid here, you will be thinking for yourself, and choosing to consume in a way that is outside of their collective control.
In the grand scheme of things the upsurge of interest in the stoneage diet is relatively recent. Whilst vegetarianism and veganism seem to be completely acceptable, in as much as if you were to declare to the world that you had decided to become a vegan no-one would pay much attention; when you tell people you are doing the stoneage diet they often want to know why, and it is not unusual for people to be quite hostile. Here is an american blogger’s “30-second paleo pitch”.
It is a very good idea to find and talk to other people who are doing the stoneage diet, especially in the first few months. This is one of the main reasons for joining in with programmes like the Stoneage Month.