As I complete my third year on the paleo diet, I notice people’s reactions have changed from “The paleo diet? What’s that”?, to “Three years?! How did you do that”? I have many answers I give, but after my meal yesterday, I’ve discovered something new. The paleo diet has taught me that you can never stop learning about your body and how it’s effected by food. I always encourage people to try a gluten free diet first, before going full paleo, simply because foods containing gluten are one of the hardest ingredients to avoid in our diets today, (along with sugar but that’s another story), and it will have a huge impact on you by eliminating it. An even better start is to eliminate all packaged foods from your diet. Don’t buy them, and don’t put them in your mouth. A study just emerged siting that 74% of the 600,000 processed foods on grocery story shelves contain added, processed sugars. My guideline on packaged foods is, if the ingredients are all paleo, use it sparingly. As a recreational athlete, I eat Larabar products because they have no added sugar and a few contain only three or four ingredients. Their Apple Pie bar contains dates, almonds, apples, walnuts, and raisins, for example. Let’s face it. If you’re going to go out, socialize, spend time with others that aren’t on the paleo diet, you will have plenty of opportunity to stray from your diet. Awareness is key. We know there are 21 meals in a week. Do you have to have grains, dairy, and sugar at every meal? Can you have half of your meals without them? I’m certain you can. I’m also certain you can eliminate added sugar from all of them without notice. Many times, the dressing on your salad contains more calories and sugar than the salad itself. Be aware and you can easily eliminate things from your daily diets. Make a choice to do it and know the impact is long lasting. Over time, you will see changes. For me, 6 weeks into the diet was an amazing reality check. I realized I had not had a headache that week, something I suffered from on a daily basis and was okay living with because I took Advil everyday to fix it. I saw my body changing about 8 weeks in. A layer disappeared from my body that I didn’t know I had because I was living with it my whole life. 3 months in and people began commenting on my hair and skin and I noticed my hair and nails were much stronger than usual. 4 months in and I realized I couldn’t remember NOT sleeping the whole night through where nightly trips to the bathroom use to be routine. The list goes on: energy levels up, regularity, more strength and stamina, back pain gone, joint pains gone, achy neck and shoulder gone. One would think this evidence would be enough to motivate others to try it out. But I discovered that many of us grew up not knowing anything about nutrition, and that the FDA food pyramid was the guide to a healthy life. I fully believe that to be false, but when you’re a child, being told that bread, cereal, and corn, are all good for you, It’s tough to overcome. You can spend a lifetime believing it and it takes a long time to un-do it. Awareness is key to sticking to your diet. I have re-programmed my beliefs to know that wheat is harmful, along with sugar, corn, soy, and many other grains. Corn and grain fed meats aren’t going to help you either, but that’s another stage of paleo that takes time to get to. Stop eating grains yourself, first, then worry about the cows and the chickens. Once you understand how certain foods negatively affect your body, it will became easier to avoid them. Whether you’re a cook, or not, it’s time to find joy in preparing your food for you and your family by looking at it as a gift of health, rather than a daily chore. Treat yourself to the best ingredients and know that you’re doing yourself a service, and those that you prepare food for are getting a healthy meal. I enjoy cooking and love teaching others how to cook. You will get there, too. Watching your friends and family drop weight, get healthier, do things they’ve never done before because they’ve improved their lifestyle so much, is a great feeling. Yesterday was an unbelievable food day. I started with a cooking class, then bought some fabulous ingredients at the market: a tomahawk steak, some organic carrots, and Brussels sprouts. Having friends over to cook while watching my favorite TV show (Game of Thrones), and opening a vintage bottle of Bordeaux, given to me as a gift many years ago was the start of a wonderful week as I head into next weekend, participating in my first 70.3 mile Triathlon. I couldn’t be happier.