Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Paleo Challenge Wrap-Up / Recipes

I did a terrible job of updating my blog with progress reports as we worked through our 30-day Healthy Life Challenge with CrossFit Elysium, but we wrapped it all up yesterday and here's a re-cap.

Neither of us had a single cheat. We ate all paleo, for all 30 days. Plus, we tried to get 8 hours of sleep each night, did deep breathing to combat stress, and we kept up with our daily food journals and regular exercise routines. It was hard work and sometimes stressful, but worth it, we feel great, and I think these healthy habits will stick.

Weight loss: I lost about 5 pounds in 30 days with no real change in my workouts. Flavio, who has absolutely no weight to lose, lost about 5 pounds, too.

Decreased bloating: This was major for me. I felt noticeably less bloated while eating clean, my clothes fit more comfortably, and I saw a bit more definition in my arms and legs.

Stable blood sugar levels: Also an amazing change. Without the carbs and sugar, we both noticed pretty much immediately that we weren't experiencing any spikes and dips throughout the day and were no longer sluggish after meals. Overall, much more energy.

Decreased cravings for sugar, carbs and alcohol: I really think the challenge redefined our taste buds and helped eliminate unhealthy cravings. Example: We were eating baked sweet potato fries last night and I swear they tasted like pumpkin pie. Vegetables are so flavorful, fruit tastes really sweet and juicy, and salads with healthy fats and proteins are uber satisfying. I've missed wine with dinner and I really missed the ritual of baking, but I do not feel like I'm dying for non-paleo treats. In fact, we ate strictly paleo again today and I'm a little nervous to reintroduce carby/sugary foods into my diet.

What I learned about myself: The challenge helped me see that I am a better abstainer than moderator. The author of the book The Happiness Project (which I recommend) describes humans as "abstainers" or "moderators" with regards to their habits. Abstainers do best when temptations are eliminated completely (me). Moderators are most successful when they are able to indulge every now and again in an 80/20 model (Flavio). While I get panicky thinking I can never bake or eat pizza again (as a moderator would), I also now realize it's better for me to go cold turkey, re-set things mentally like we did during this challenge, and then set strict guidelines for myself post-challenge.

Where we go from here: Since Flav is a moderator and I am an abstainer, here's our plan. Eat paleo Monday - Thursday, allow some non-paleo indulgences on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays but overall still eat paleo all throughout the week. We really want to keep the clean eating going full-force because we both feel sooo much better, but we're also not ready to give up good pizza, wine, or baked goods forever. Plus, we like traveling, eating out with friends, etc. and food is very much part of those experiences. But we are absolute believers in the power of paleo and saw results in just 30 days - for us, paleo is the way to go long-term. When I'm tempted by non-paleo treats, I will weigh the consequences (bloating, insulin spikes, inflammation) and if it's not worth it, use this awesome strategy for saying no.

A few tips that made things easier: Overall, this is a really busy time of year for both of us, but the following helped keep us sane and on track - Choose 2 days/week as prep days (we cooked a lot on Sundays and some on Wednesday evenings); keep hard boiled eggs, cut up veggies, and lunch meat on hand for quick snacks; finally, cauliflower rice and sweet potato fries are the best things since sliced bread.

Some favorite recipes:

:: My favorite was this Butter Chicken with cauliflower rice (yum!)
:: Flavio's favorite was this Slow Cooker Kalua Pork (So good!)

:: We made our favorite meatloaf a couple times, but subbed the bread crumbs with almond meal

:: Totally enjoyed this stuffed zucchini

::  Cooked up my favorite chicken soup twice

::  Tonight we made this roast salmon with broccoli and it was fast/delicious, subbing rice vinegar w/ red wine vinegar

The best part is we ate a ton of veggies with most meals.

Final point: Cooking your own food is so important! I don't want to ever forget that, so I'm declaring it here and now.

It was a very meaningful 30 days. Cheers to healthy living and great food, no matter which path you choose!

PS: Day 1 of this Healthy Life Challenge.


  1. Dear Sarah, great to see you guys healthy and happy. Thanks for sharing this motivating blogpost. I 've stopping to eat wheat, sweets and dairy for a while. It feels great that you felt the benifits aswell. All the best from Taipei. Max

    1. Max! So great to hear from you. Glad to hear you're making healthy changes, too. Hugs to Betty! Sarah and Flavio

  2. Congratulations to you and Flavio for successfully completing the paleo challenge. Reading about all the positive changes I'm tempted to give the caveman diet a go. I checked out your favorite recipe and while it sounds delicious, I being an aficionado of Indian cuisine, must protest against it being called "butter chicken" or "better butter chicken" as your namesake calls it in the original recipe. I do realize that you have nothing to do with naming the said dish but this is just me venting. :)

    1. Ha! I know. It's not REAL Indian food, but it did the trick and is actually really tasty. I'll have to try to find a legit recipe for butter chicken. Cheers! :)

  3. Inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

  4. That is nicely put Sarah. I always love to see others take on this lifestyle challenge. It is not just the food that is making the changes you guys saw, getting more rest and managing stress had something to do with the weight loss and lack of bloating. The holidays can be a hard time to keep up a new habit like this, but I think you have the right attitude about weighing the pros and cons. A delicious Christmas cookie or home made pie is a yes for a treat, but random commercial or poorly made substitutes are not worth the health impact. Best of luck in the rest of your journey and thanks for participating!

    1. Thanks for the comment and for organizing the challenge, Alessandra. It was truly eye opening!


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