People join the Paleo challenge for a variety of reasons including weight loss,1 the significant health effects on blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, 2,3 or simply the overall lifestyle improvements.4
But there are an equal number of reasons why folks jump off the Paleo wagon. From a purely psychological standpoint, self-sabotaging behavior,5 all-or-nothing thinking,6 and the fact that no one likes to be on a “diet” are just a few.
Here are six common reasons that ex-Paleo folks and Paleo experts identified why people quit:
1. It’s hard to be Paleo during vacations.
Louise Hendon, co-founder of Paleo Flourish Magazine, says that many fall off the bandwagon while on vacation and never get back on. Staying loyal to Paleo outside the comfortable vibe of your kitchen is never easy especially if you’re surrounded by unfamiliar food and relatives who don’t know Paleo.
Katie Bisson of Technology Seed knows what it’s like to be Paleo while attending client meetings. “I was eating healthy and loving life, until I had to travel for work,” says Bisson. Because of the travel interval and hectic schedule, she didn’t have ample time to prep meals compromising her Paleo diet.
An easy solution is to pack your own food. Get yourself a portable cooler and stock up on fresh Paleo edibles. Nuts are a perfect snack to munch on. Before traveling, research local Paleo-friendly restaurants. Avoid gluten-containing grains and don’t let a trip ruin your commitment to being Paleo.
2. Unsupportive family, friends, and social life
It’s a challenge to eat outside of social norms. There will always be family dinners, picnics, parties, and other gatherings where the food selections are less than ideal for your Paleo regimen.
Joey Gochnour, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Nutrition and Fitness Professional, LLC, explored health conscious folks’ tendency to overthink their diet. They can become so concerned by the purity of every food served on the table that they end up missing out on key nutrients. This unhealthy practice eventually manifests itself as both nutritional deficiencies and psychological disorders.
The most important factor in following a successful Paleo diet is the social support a person receives from his significant others. No matter how comprehensive your knowledge is regarding the Paleo diet, if the support system is weak, your drive and interest will end up on a downward slope.
In fact, Paleo eaters can feel left out during get-togethers as they have a different culture of eating. This is one of the main reasons people quit says Cassie Bjork, Registered Licensed Dietitian from Healthy Simple Life.
Can Paleo kill your social life? It can happen if you aren’t ready for these situations. So, the best thing you could do is always come prepared and make your new lifestyle less of a big deal. Always keep a bag of nuts and quality low-sodium jerky with you in case you find yourself in a place where non-Paleo-friendly foods are available.
3. Weight loss and health benefits are not seen immediately.
People just starting the Paleo diet become frustrated when they don’t see the changes they were hoping for in the first few weeks.
It is helpful to partner the Paleo lifestyle with moderate exercise, but generally a slight increase in your weight is expected before it gradually decreases. In the long run, you will feel good and notice results.4
4. The unpleasant transition phase is too much to handle.
The first few months are the hardest part of transitioning to a new lifestyle. Completely changing the way you look at food is like bending steel with your bare hands.
Compared to the traditional western diet, the Paleo diet slashes carbohydrates. The problem is that carbohydrates are your brain’s and red blood cells’ only normal form of energy.10 A common mistake Paleo starters commit is not eating enough since they are unfamiliar with low-carb alternatives. The resulting low energy levels, sluggish feelings, irritability – referred as carb flu – can be a big reason to quit. But if you endure it, your body will eventually learn to rely less on carbs and the carb flu will disappear.
Unfortunately, many new Paleo dieters don’t wait for the symptoms to clear and conclude that they need to bring restricted foods back to get sufficient nutrients. The truth is if you eat a varied Stone Age diet packed with vegetables, fruits, fish and lean meats, you will never become nutrient deficient.
5. It takes time to prepare and gets boring over time.
It takes about 66 days to form a new habit,8 especially if you’re adapting a new lifestyle that fits with work, family, and other commitments.
The time it takes to prepare the food adds further complexity. The integration of new ingredients and restriction of others are skills to be mastered or you’ll consume the same types of food every day.
Most people don’t realize the abundance and variety in Paleo meals. In fact, they are some of the most rich and flavorful meals available. Thousands of recipes can be made in minimal time to create unusually exciting Paleo meals at home.
6. It’s too restrictive.
Committing to a lifestyle that involves cutting out entire food groups can feel too restrictive. Ultimate Paleo Guide creator, Joel Runyon says you need to focus on the amazing dishes you can eat and the types of food you enjoy that are Paleo-friendly.
Fortunately, your body will eventually adapt to the new routine and you’ll get used to the basic lifestyle of Paleo. Reset your taste buds and soon enough unhealthy sugary and processed foods you once loved will taste like a chemical concoction.9
Perhaps the biggest reason for quitting the Paleo diet is starting it for the wrong reasons. It has to be about more than just the desire to lose weight or an excuse to overeat. The fact that there is less attention paid to calorie counting does not give you permission to consume truck-loads of food. You still have to control your portions to eat a healthy Paleo diet.