Set Realistic Goals. Win Stuff.

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Welcome to your first contest of the 30-Day Paleo Plan Paleo Challenge! This blog post is all about setting realistic goals, and so is this contest.

1 Applegate Farms Gift basket (full of meat) worth $50. Applegate Farms provides a lot of Paleo eaters, including myself sometimes, with deli meats, bacon, and other goodies. Since they’re a co-op of small farms, they have the ability to treat their animals well, which is incredibly important to me. Next up is
1-16 oz jar of raw, organic cashew butter from Futter’s Nut Butters worth about $19. These guys are awesome. If you’ve never checked their site out, I highly suggest you do, especially if you don’t have a good source of clean nuts in your area. They sell nuts and nut butters, and their nut butters are all “one ingredient” – just nuts. Lastly, you’ll win a copy of our Quickstart Guide and Paleo Challenge eBook, worth $47. It’ll help guide you through this challenge, answer all your burning Paleo questions, and provide you with 6 weeks of meal plans, too. That’s a total of $116 in prizes.

And all you have to do is go to the forum here and tell us who you are and what your realistic goals are for the next 30 days. Read the post below to help you with those. Do you want to get rid of your bloating? Lose 10 pounds? Fit into your favorite pair of jeans? Do tell. The winner will be selected by yours truly on Thursday, January 12th at noon, and I’ll announce it in the forum and email you for details.

Who Can Play?
You need to be a U.S. citizen for this one. Sorry, but shipping would just be too expensive otherwise.

Alright, without further ado…

So you’re ready for change! You’ve made the decision to transform that body of yours once and for all and you’ve started a Paleo challenge. You’re tired of feeling uncomfortable naked, so you’re going to do the following:

1. completely change your diet immediately
2. start buying size 00 clothes that you will one day fit into to motivate you to get down to your goal weight
3. start doing 3-hour workouts at the gym alone 5 or 6 times per week
4. start skipping breakfast so as to cut down on calories
5. and you’re never going to eat a carbohydrate again

With all of this work, you plan to lose at least 10 pounds a week, just like they do on the Biggest Loser. You have high expectations for yourself and there’s no room for failure.

But it hasn’t occurred to you that:

1. Your goal size should realistically be a 4 or 6.
2. You might not be able to completely overhaul your diet immediately (it might take a few tries and some patience).
3. Exercising that much isn’t going to happen with your incredibly busy schedule. Plus, exercising that much isn’t fun and it’s really hard on your body.
4. Breakfast is important, so eat it. Anorexia is not healthy or sustainable, and it’s a rare bird who can actually mentally and emotionally pull it off. The rest of the anorexic wannabes fail and binge. Bingeing is not conducive to weight loss. So don’t skip breakfast (or lunch or dinner).
5. With all that exercise you’ll be doing, you’re going to need some carbs. And besides, they’re delicious and good for you when the right kinds (veggies and fruits) are eaten in the right amounts.

And 1-2 pounds a week is more realistic than 10 pounds a week, unless you’re going to starve yourself and work out 6 hours a day without any stressors in your life holding you back.

The point here is that you’ve probably done this before: had sky high expectations that were unrealistic, failed a bit, felt defeated, and then given up on the whole pursuit of losing weight or otherwise getting healthier. You then found yourself sitting on the couch eating Cheetos, drinking cocktails, and avoiding sex because you still felt uncomfortable in your own skin.

Let’s avoid that this year, shall we?

If you’ve decided to join us at Paleo Plan in a Paleo challenge this January, choose your goals wisely. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Be reasonable.

Goal Weight
Decide on your eventual, end goal weight. Look up your Body Mass Index (BMI) here. Find out what yours is now and figure out what an acceptable weight for your height would be. The BMI is a rough guideline – by no means is it perfect – but it will at least keep you, at say 5’6″, from wanting to weigh 90 pounds.

Also, know that your weight is only a guideline, too. You may gain muscle and lose fat, therefore making your weight loss a wash. Don’t get too wrapped up in weight loss unless you’re truly overweight or obese. Instead, pay attention to how your clothes fit, take before and after photos, and take measurements if you want. You could even do body fat measurements with your doctor or at your gym. Also, pay attention to strength gains, health cues (do you still have acid reflux, bloating, skin irritation, etc.) to figure out if the diet is helping you.

Diet Overhaul
Be patient with yourself; you can’t change overnight. Like I’ve said before, it took me 3 or 4 attempts to just be gluten free, much less Paleo. Your patterns of eating are engrained in you, and they may be for some time to come. If you’re only 50% Paleo, it’s better than 0% Paleo, right? That’s no excuse to be totally easy on yourself, though; it’s going to take some serious discipline in the beginning. Be tough on yourself, but not mean. For these next 30 days of the challenge, try to get as close to 100% Paleo as you possibly can.

Going back to the Biggest Loser here (hopefully I’m not the only person here who watches that show?), it’s not realistic to exercise 35+ hours a week. It’s not only unrealistic, it’s not good for you. If you have a family, kids, a job, school, friends, hobbies, animals to take care of, church to attend, or any combination of those, you probably aren’t going to find the time to exercise that much. And if you do find the time, it will be at the expense of one or more of those important things, the sacrifice of which can be incredibly stressful.

Moreover, if you’re an endurance athlete training that much, you’re creating a hell of a lot of free radical damage in your body (read: inflammation). See this blog post on “chronic cardio” by my favorite blogger, Mark Sisson. It turns out you can do a LOT of good work in 3 hours or less of exercise per week doing efficient, useful, muscle and health-promoting exercise. Check out a CrossFit gym, a rock climbing gym, a yoga studio or all of the above. Do some sprints once a week, lift heavy stuff while walking up some stairs a couple times a week, walk for a half an hour twice a week, and play with your kids or your dog more often. Make it fun, do-able, and realistic.

Unfortunately, carbohydrates – ALL carbohydrates – have gotten the worst rap possible. They are not all bad! In fact, there are carbohydrates in vegetables, which nobody is telling you to stay away from, except Dr. Atkins in the first phase of that diet. The major culprits in the obesity epidemic have been these sources of carbs: sugar, grains, and sugar. Oh, and sugar. Eat your veggies and your fruits. Eat them liberally. If you take out the sugar, grains, and beans you’re going to notice a difference in the way you feel and look.

Yes, it’s possible to thrive while not eating any carbohydrates, and athletes have been on ketogenic (high fat, almost no carb, moderate protein) diets and done quite well for themselves. But in my experience as a practitioner, it’s not realistic for most people to be on a ketogenic diet, and that means you need carbs as fuel. Fuel for getting out of bed, fuel for thinking, fuel for walking, and fuel for exercising. Unless you’re really psyched on very high fat (up to 80% of your diet), eat your fruits and veggies and it will make the process of changing your diet way easier and more sustainable.

So there you have it. Setting realistic goals is incredibly important to this lifestyle overhaul. If you’re interested in trying out the Paleo diet, join us in a 30-day Paleo challenge (officially started Monday, January 9th, 2012). Use this Paleo diet Food List for what to eat and what to avoid, or use our meal planning service or our Paleo Challenge ebook as your guide. Whatever you do, keep us posted and good luck!

Pick up a copy of the Quickstart Guide and Paleo Challenge ebook today!