I Tried The Paleo Diet® for 30 Days and Here’s What Happened
Why I Tried The Paleo Diet®
I did not try The Paleo Diet to lose weight. I tried it out of curiosity.
Full disclosure: I started working at The Paleo Diet in August, 2020 as the Chief Marketing Officer. I believe in understanding what I promote, so I read Dr. Cordain’s book The Paleo Diet and had planned to try it for 30 days so I could better understand its benefits and difficulties for our audience. I also had an annual physical scheduled for the fall, which meant I could test out the diet’s claims as part of my annual blood test. Would my cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides improve?
I have never been on a diet. That’s because I’m 6’ 0” and 134 pounds. I weigh the same at age 45 as I did in middle school—a little less, actually, because back then my mom used to get me to eat more by bribing me with Nintendo games to try to get me to bulk up.
The closest I’ve been to dieting was when I went vegetarian for a week in college. My freshman-year roommate was a militant member of the student vegetarian co-op. He was adamant that I try it, and I was curious to see what eating vegetarian would be like. So, I gave it a shot—and it didn’t hurt that our school cafeteria was awful. I abandoned vegetarianism after losing five pounds in the first week, which felt unhealthy to me since I have always been skinny.
This time, I felt confident that Paleo would be better for me—I just had to give it a try first. I convinced my wife and my two boys to try The Paleo Diet along with me for 30 days. First, we set some ground rules:
- Because there is so much conflicting information on the web about what is Paleo and what isn’t, we used only two verified sources: thepaleodiet.com and Dr. Cordain’s book, The Paleo Diet Revised Edition.
- Unlike my coworker Emily, who went TRUEPALEO™ for seven days, we would use the 85/15 Rule. That gave us wiggle room for three cheat meals per week.
- While my wife and I would stick to the above rules, we would be more flexible with our boys.
How We Transitioned to Paleo
We did not go cold turkey. We transitioned off our normal foods for about a week, then restocked our pantry and fridge with Paleo foods. This made the transition easier and gave us extra time to get familiar with Paleo foods and substitutions.
Our Biggest Challenges
Of course, even easing into it, Paleo came with its fair share of challenges. Here’s what we struggled with, and how we overcame them:
- We craved sugar. The first few days were by far the hardest. After that, those cravings for sweets naturally disappeared and never returned.
- Breakfast was challenging. I simply never realized how much sugar, grains, and carbs have dominated my diet until I had to cut out cereal, pancakes, waffles, and oatmeal! We ate a lot of eggs (poached, scrambled, and hard boiled) and avocados. Eggs got old fast, so we alternated with fresh smoothies.
- I learned that I don’t like most dairy-free milks. Almond and cashew milk just aren’t tasty to me, but I did find some coconut milk brands that we all enjoyed.
- I went to bed hungry a few times. It is hard for me to eat enough veggies, fruits, meat, and fish to stay full until the next meal. Without the usual calorie-packed, grain-filled diet, we simply weren’t eating enough. This was a struggle with the boys as well, since they got hungry again before the next meal. We learned to snack smart with these anytime recipes, like judiciously timed salt-free nuts, small snacks of dried fruit, and the occasional half hard-boiled egg. Once our bodies adjusted (and we got smarter with snacking), we felt satisfied and less hungry.
- Getting takeout was challenging. There are only a few restaurants where I work in downtown Boulder that offer Paleo foods. While I struggled to stay Paleo for lunch most days, it gave me the chance to ask our editors for advice, which inspired an article that’s become popular on our website: the How to Make Any Takeout Meal Paleo guide. I learned a few easy hacks for staying Paleo at regular restaurants, and eating lunches out became much easier.
My Biggest Wins
The obvious benefit of going Paleo was almost immediate: I lost five pounds over the first two weeks, then a total of 7-8 pounds by the end of the 30 days. I suspect that about half of the weight loss was water weight, but I definitely shed some fat and had to start wearing a belt. And I will admit (with a little demure) that I was pleased to gain some ab muscle definition that I normally don’t see this time of year.
There were a ton of other physical benefits I noticed beginning around week two on The Paleo Diet:
- I felt great! I had more energy and felt younger and fitter. I was also less bloated.
- I slept better and woke up with a clear head. Likely, this was because I drank a lot less alcohol and coffee.
- My heartburn went away. I had almost zero acid reflux for the entire 30 days.
- My “hanger” went away. Sure, I got hungry before meals, but I didn’t get ragey (ahem, like I normally do.) This meant that I yelled at the kids less, which they appreciated.
- My guts got quiet. If you were to live in a household with three males, you would appreciate The Paleo Diet benefit of a less farty house! Unsurprisingly, our two boys turned back into fart machines immediately after returning to dairy, grains, and legumes 30 days later.
- We discovered some great meals! We were pretty impressed with some of the recipes on thepaleodiet.com. Some favorites: Easy Slow-Cooker Paleo Chicken Mole, Zoodles with Turkey Meatballs (I’m a zoodles convert!), Wild Game Chili (we used beef and elk), One-Pan Chicken Marsala.
How Our Kids Fared on Paleo
We have one kid who is a meat lover/veggie hater and another who is a carb and candy fiend. We figured going Paleo would cause some strife at the dinner table, but both our kids were surprisingly cooperative. Our 10-year-old was especially curious and asked us at every meal if what we were eating was Paleo or not.
A pleasant side effect of going Paleo: Our sugar fiend kiddo was better behaved. I don’t care what the research says, every parent knows that the sugar rush is real. By banishing sugary desserts from the house, we avoided the arguments, the haggling, and the bouncing off the walls that are a part of our household many evenings of the week.
Overall, we ate healthier on The Paleo Diet than we ever have—and we felt better than ever.
The Bloodwork Proved that Paleo Works!
The proof came at the end of week three of our 30-day Paleo Challenge when I got my blood lipid panel results back from my doctor during my annual physical. After just 21 days following The Paleo Diet, my LDL cholesterol had fallen to its lowest level in 15 years.
Lifestyle Changes We’ll Keep from Our 30 Days on Paleo
We ended our 30-Day Paleo Challenge the week before Thanksgiving, which was not at all coincidental timing. Going back to butter, cheese, and carbs for the holiday was like a glorious victory celebration of 30 days of healthier eating. And within two days, all our guts were a mess again! My wife and I spent some time over the holiday weekend thinking about what we learned, what we’ll take with us, and how we’ll practice The Paleo Diet in the future. Here’s what it came down to:
- We ditched the grains. Cutting grains from our diet was a shocking wake-up call for our whole family. We really had no idea we were eating so many grain-based carbs. When we took grains off the table, I felt clear-headed in a way that made me feel 5-10 years younger. Now I’m a believer: that little background buzz or haziness from “grain brain” is real.
- We’ll still treat ourselves. After trying The Paleo Diet, we’ve decided to make grains and pasta a treat, rather than a staple. Now we buy less bread and spend more on premium brands; if we’re committed to eating less bread, that bread had better taste good. We’ll also savor every bite!
- We still start the day on the right foot. When we can, we put more energy into cooking protein-filled breakfasts as a family instead of letting bagels and English muffins brew up a hangry storm by 11 a.m. We plan to serve breakfasts with a side of more fresh fruit and salmon. We’re going to cook breakfast in bigger batches so we can have leftovers as lunches.
- I’ll cut back permanently on alcohol and coffee. I was impressed with the clearheadedness I experienced on The Paleo Diet. I believe better sleep from less alcohol and caffeine brought those benefits in the first week, but I feel cutting out grains contributed to feeling good in week two and beyond.
The Bottom Line
Our 30-day Paleo-Inspired™ Challenge was a positive and educational experience. We learned a lot about our eating habits and our bodies, and I think some lifelong lessons about how we can feel better by making changes to our diet. Our experience also inspired our first-ever guide on How to Go Paleo, which is a free download on our website. This is a great time to try The Paleo Diet and see how it will work for you.
Pledge to start your PALEO INSPIRED™ 30-Day Challenge with this free How to Go Paleo Guide and Official Paleo Grocery Shopping List!
Dave Trendler is Chief Marketing Officer of The Paleo Diet. Before joining our team, he worked in marketing in several roles in the book, magazine, and online publishing industry.More About The Author