Part 2: Paleo Diet or Lifestyle?

The Paleo Diet is based on whole foods presumably consumed by hunter-gatherers during the Paleolithic era, specifically animal protein and plants. It consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. Many tout this diet to be advantageous for weight loss and related health benefits, while others, like US News and World Report, are more skeptical.

Today is part two of a two part series in which I interview individuals who have had positive experiences with this diet, or as some prefer to say, the Paleo lifestyle. Without further ado, meet Lisa Owens.

Lisa is 39 and employed full-time at BMC. She has been married for over ten years and has two amazing children.  She works out at Fitness Revolution three times a week and takes the early morning spin class at the YMCA the other two days a week. She enjoys reading, tennis, camping, and playing with her kids, and wants to be able to stay healthy and fit for a long time to come. 

Why did you try the Paleo diet in the first place?

I entered a fitness challenge at Fitness Revolution in Boise to lose a little belly fat — the last of my left over baby weight — and increase my muscle strength overall.  As part of this challenge, the coach provided a meal plan which was basically a Paleo diet. The diet limited carbohydrate consumption except after workouts.

What was your experience like at first?

At first, it was hard at first giving up bread and sugar. In fact, I think my body had been used to too much bread and sugar so I felt bad at first. I was tired and sort of groggy for a couple of days.

After a few weeks and the discovery of all the Paleo recipes online, the diet got much easier. I have enjoyed all the foods I have prepared and my husband has enjoyed the recipes as well. After the first couple of days were over, I did start to feel back to my old self.

I have lost inches off my waist over five pounds — which is a lot since I don’t consider myself overweight — and my body fat percentage went from over 21% to 16.6%. I have also lost one clothing size. These changes occurred after only a month on the Paleo diet. I do exercise regularly and added one day of exercise to my normal routine during this time period. Between the workouts at Fitness Revolution and the diet, the changes in my body have been amazing.

What about that desire for sugar?

I no longer miss the bread, but sometimes I do crave sugar.  I love sugar and I don’t trust sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners, so on occasion I do have a little sugar treat.

How do you feel now? Will you continue to stay on the same regime?

I feel good. I wouldn’t say I have more energy or less energy; my energy level is about the same.  I don’t particularly feel like I am healthier, I just like the food and the change in my body, physically.

Will you stay on the diet?

I plan to continue on the Paleo diet to maintain my current body weight. My goal is to be at least 90% compliant with this diet. Keep in mind red wine is okay on the Paleo diet, otherwise I might not even be 90% compliant (I like to drink a glass of red wine with dinner). For the 10% I am not compliant I might either have a small treat like some dark chocolate or a chai tea latte (on rare occasions).

What sort of foods have you grown to like?

Though I would have never expected it, I have become a huge fan of cauliflower rice. I add some ginger, salt and pepper and just love it. Other Paleo staples I never I might enjoy include roasted butter nut squash, and pomegranate lime mashed sweet potatoes. One of my favorite crock pot meals is pork tenderloin with apples and onions.

Over time, I will be more relaxed on the carbs and eat foods like sweet potatoes and healthy carbs more often than only after a workout.  I will also add dairy back in smaller quantities, as I love milk and cheese.  A girl has to get her calcium after all.

How has the diet benefitted your family?

My husband has benefitted from me doing more cooking, which was a change from our previous routine. It is my diet, so I feel obliged to do most the “special” cooking.  He has also enjoyed the food and lost some weight.  He is excited to be under 180 pounds again.

My kids struggle more with the new meal plan. They don’t like vegetables so it is hard to convince them to eat cauliflower rice or other veggies. And forget about trying to get them to eat spaghetti squash! I generally don’t fix special meals for my kids, but when I make Paleo meatballs over spaghetti squash for my husband and me, I cook whole wheat noodles for the kids. They like the main part of most the meals, just not all the veggies. They try everything, but most veggies are a no go. They are still young so hopefully their tastes will expand as they get older.

Melinda Hinson