Tell Us Your Cheats and Win!

I told you in this blog post that I wasn’t doing the 30-day Paleo challenge, but that my New Year’s resolution was committing to training my ass off for rock climbing. Well, I have been doing that. In fact, I did everything my coach told me to do (and then some), and it turned out to be too much. I’m now nursing an inflamed forearm and two creaky fingers, waiting impatiently to climb again. I realized that what my coach told me to do was too much – it just didn’t fit my body. I need more rest and fewer days in a row working my fingers and hands than what he wanted me to do. I need to modify the plan and make it my own.

The point of this is that some of you guys have probably modified the Paleo diet plan (whether you’re on our meal plan or not) to fit your own lives. You’ve likely figured out a couple things that DO work and a couple things that DON’T work for you. Well, I want to hear about all the things you’ve changed to make this diet your own so far.

I’ve talked before about The Importance of Cheating. Are you “cheating” and having conventional meat, dairy, sugar, beans, whey protein powder, or other foods that technically aren’t Paleo because it just makes your life easier? Are you drinking coffee during this challenge because you’re really not ready to cut it out yet? (Coffee is technically not NOT Paleo, but during this challenge I’ve asked you to cut it out). Is there anything else you’re doing or eating that some Paleo narcs would call you out on? Tell me about it in the comments.

Here, I’ll start. I feel like I’m in a confession booth… I eat Daiya (fake) cheese sometimes, ginger chews with sugar (gasp!) in them, and probably way too much coconut milk ice cream for my own good. I also don’t go to bed early when it gets dark, I spend way too much time with my Apple contraptions, and not enough time sprinting. The thing is, I still feel pretty awesome, and I think that people make concessions all the time that work for them, even though they’re not perfectly Paleo things to do. Tell us about it and win the following:

1. Paleo People Granola 4-Pack
2. A $50 voucher from Applegate Farms (meat!).
3. A Variety Pack from Tanka Bar, including Tanka Bars, Tanka Bites and Tanka Sticks. Have you guys ever tasted a Tanka Bar? Oh my. It is wonderfully sweet and savory, and it’s made with buffalo, cranberries, and spices. They’re one of my favorite meat products ever, and that’s saying a lot. Check them out here.

How To Enter
Just tell us in the comments below how you’re cheating, er, modifying the diet to make it your own. You don’t need to be doing the 30-day challenge to enter in this contest. Let’s be real here and come down off our Paleo high horses. Submit a comment by Thursday evening and you’ll be automatically entered to win. I’ll pick the winner on Friday and tell you all in the comments who the winner is.

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


  1. I’m allergic to everything, and Paleo is the plan for me for life…it’s not just a diet to me. So, I don’t get down on myself if I have a cheat day or cheat meal. For starters no matter how tired I am all day at work my body just won’t go to bed early or even at reasonable times. There have been a couple of days where I needed my coffee crutch. To be honest I really only needed about a half of a cup (at most!) and I was bouncing off the walls. It’s AMAZING how quickly my body has adapted to no caffeine.

    Additionally, because I am thinking about this as a life plan I find myself wanting sweets or non-paleo desserts sometimes. So, I have found it helpful to whip up a batch of paleo pumpkin muffins (I add a diced apple to the recipe, and it’s delish) as an after dinner treat, or the no grain choco cookies, paleo ice cream etc. because while this probably shouldn’t be an everyday thing since I’m trying to also drop pounds sometimes it’s better to indulge so I’m not thinking about all of the things I can’t have. Because I literally have no willpower. And at least they’re technically paleo even if it’s an adaptation of something I used to eat. And travelling is the hardest! I recently went on a long weekend trip and was paleo for most of it, but in the end I wanted a burger (but ate half the bun!) and I had a couple of drinks. OK and maybe some fries. But for the rest of the trip, I was about 100% paleo. I figure my end result will be to eat 90% paleo, and 10% non-paleo, and I’m OK with that. I must be doing something right because I’m still losing weight and best of all I feel fantastic.

  2. I vacationed in Boston last weekend, and while I at as Paleo as I could I did have a few beers. Boston and Cambridge have some wonderful pubs and microbrews, and it was something I wanted to experience. I also consider Paleo to be a life journey, and the occasional night out is part of my life. Two beers with dinner for three nights, and I felt great the next day (no carb-y hangover!). This was my first alcohol since starting the challenge, certainly the longest I’ve gone for several years.

    I’ve also been eating way too much of my dried fruit/nuts/seeds/coconut chip trail mix. I use it as a crutch to tide me over when good paleo seems inaccessible or difficult. In the future I hope to do less snacking, since it is probably slowing down my weight loss.

  3. I have only been doing a (modified) Paleo diet for about a month. I hoped to lose a bit of weight, but mostly it was because I was “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.” I was feeling like an old woman at 30, and was not happy with that! I have known for a long time that I do poorly on grains of any kind, but it’s a hard thing to give up, especially if you’re like me and have little to no willpower! I made that decision about a month ago, and have been probably 95% off all grains and any form of sugar since. I don’t even feel cravings for these things, which I am pretty surprised about.

    My big modification has been dairy. I have friends who raise dairy cows and share their delicious, creamy milk with me. I make yogurt, kefir (a cultured dairy beverage), butter, or just enjoy a cold glass. I would have no problem giving up store bought milk, but when you’re getting fresh, local, real, grass-fed milk, it’s hard to give up!

    After about a month of this modified Paleo diet, I have little to no joint pain, I’m waking up rested for the first time in a long time (I just started wrapping a scarf around my eyes every night–what a difference!), my skin is clearing up, I am jogging three times a week, I have more energy, my mood is more stable, and on and on!

    All this is amazing and wonderful, and I am so happy. BUT, I am still stuffed up, I still have allergies, I still have a runny nose a lot of the time. So, as much as I love it and as much as I think it is good and healthy for many people, I think I am going to have to phase the dairy out, at least for a while.

    So, it turns out that my biggest modification, my biggest “cheat,” might be just the thing that takes me to the next level. I will, sadly, give up the dairy for a while and see what happens…

  4. I am doing the 90 day paleo challenge with my crossfit. I am a working student and this is my first time trying paleo. I have been loving it, but it’s been difficult socializing and getting through the long days without caffeine. My cheats so far have been a few vodka sodas, a couple beers, and the caffeine culprit. Funny, they are all mind altering substances, but these have been in moderation. I may have to have a little coffee here and there, but I have improved from my two-three cups per day routine and I feel significantly better about my sugar intake! I am loving the paleo lifestyle and could see this as a long term way of living.

  5. I have been paleo for just over a year. I still enjoy a nice bowl of ramen every few months and drink Dr Pepper more than I would like to admit but like you I feel incredible and am way under the 90% paleo 10% cheat I have had suggested.

  6. My biggest cheat is dairy. I’m new to Paleo and going off of sugar and grains and 99% of caffeine (I still have a weakness for one black tea in the morning) is proving to be about all I can handle at the moment. I tried to cut dairy too, and ended up a sobbing mess in my cubicle. I ate grapes and cheddar cheese and almost immediately re-stabilized. I also have a low tolerance for drinking water (it makes me ill if I don’t take it really slow) so milk has been my go-to beverage when I’m trying to avoid soda or fruit juices. I hope at some point to drop it for 30 days as suggested and see how I feel, but right now keeping it in my diet makes this whole process more manageable for me.

  7. What’s been interesting to me as I’ve moved toward a more and more paleo diet is what I haven’t been craving. My wife and I did a “Pizza Week” a few weeks before I changed how I eat where we had pizza for dinner every night for a week! Yet, I don’t crave pizza. I used to eat bread and pasta at almost every meal. Yet, I don’t crave it.

    The one thing I have been cheating with is ice cream. I didn’t realize how much I like it. I only have a bowl maybe once a week or so, but boy does it taste good when I do :)

    Besides that I probably go a bit overboard on Blue Diamond almonds. Otherwise I’ve basically cut dairy out (without being awkward when we’re eating at someone’s house, “Oh, your casserole has cheese in it? Do you have any carrots I can much on instead?”)

    The other night was one of my high points so far: we were invited to a Mexican restaurant by friends. I didn’t eat one chip, skipped the rice and beans, asked for no cheese on my fajitas, and skipped the tortillas! That was a big step.

  8. Hi! My husand and I are new to the site… and VERY new to Paleo. So far, he is doing much better than I am :( … but, this brings me to exactly how I am modifying the Paleo diet to make it my own. I am finding that if I can eat what he is eating (Paleo) when we are together, then I feel more motivated to eat that same way when we are apart… translation = I feel guilty when I don’t. And by guilty, I mean, I know I have done my body a disservice by going back to my old (and unhealthy) ways. So, I guess my modification would be baby steps… and that’s my plan for now :). So excited to check out more tips from the site!

  9. My main weaknesses are condiments! I put a small dollop of sour cream on taco salad, squeeze a little organic ketchup on my Paleo meatloaf, occasionally use ranch dressing on my salad, and twice a week I put hazelnut creamer in my decaf coffee!! There, those are my confessions!!
    -Nichole :)

  10. My biggest cheat is cheese. I’m living with a cheese-aholic, and it goes on a ton of stuff. If I even try to cut it out, he’ll notice! I need to start preparing my food separately so I can cut it out. I want to see how I feel without it for a week or two.

    Another cheat is when I eat out. If they put a bread basket on the table, I can’t help myself! I need to learn to control the urge around bread. I never keep it in my house, but if I’m around it, I want it!

    At home, other than the cheese, I’m pretty much 100%. Eating out is a different story!

  11. My cheats have all been alcohol, caffeine and pizza related. I recently called off an engagement and my friends have been forcing me to go out on weekends, it’s been fun, but hard to stick to Paleo. I’ve had pizza the last 2 Saturdays, coffee a few times and 2 diet pops since I started Paleo on Jan 9. Friday and Saturday nights I’ve had a few too many beers. I have been getting right back on track Sunday morning and working out 5-6 days a week so I am still seeing weight loss. I truly believe this diet is how I should eat all the time, so I’m committing myself now to 6 days on and 1 day of cheats, probably Saturday. Then I can go out with friends and have a social life, but still be healthy more often than not.

  12. I have dark chocolate on a fairly regular basis, I don’t stress about small amounts of dairy in sauces at restaurants, and I eat paleo-ized treats a few times a month. Once every few months I’ll go all out on dairy and have a cream soup or a grain-free pizza with mozzarella; I don’t feel awesome physically when I do, but it helps psychologically to have some wiggle room to look forward to and makes socializing a little easier.

  13. Paleo is great! And easy when you can obtain the good stuff. As a holistic veterinarian fortunate enough to live and practice in progressive Asheville, North Carolina, I am able to not only live Paleo, but prescribe the “Paleo Plan” for my canine and feline patients. We’ve got the grass-fed meats, the fresh fish, and the organic nuts, fruits, and vegetables required to do Paleo right. Me, my thirteen rescued dogs, seven cats, and all of my furry patients who are lucky to have guardians who provide them homemade diets can find the ingredients to eat the Paleo way.

    Now, however, to the subject at hand : the “cheating” bit. I am a competitive rider, riding in upper-level horse trials in the sport of three-day eventing. I recently had a horse trial in Georgia, and during, oh I don’t know, the sixth thunderstorm of the competition, the stress finally got to me and I broke down and consumed what is my greatest weakness…PRETZELS! Garlic and pepper flavored, no less! I know, I know, the worst of the worst…WHEAT! And after all of my bragging about eating Gluten-free! There I was, sitting in my horse trailer (with a whole bag of Paleo-friendly food items purchased in Asheville at my fingertips) watching the sky open up and the lightening strike, and eating pretzels…loaded with salt, I might add. Not my finest moment, even though, as somewhat of a consolation, I was dipping them into a raw, organic pumpkin seed pate.

    No, I had no intention of “modifying” my well-intentioned Paleo diet with the wanton ingestion of wheat flour…it was a true cheat, probably due to the fact that my adrenals were kicking out inordinate amounts of cortisol at that very moment. The weather did clear, the footing held, the rides were successful, and my adrenals eventually settled down after two exhilarating jump rounds on one of my fabulous horses…but the wheat flour ingestion took it’s toll, and there were many, many stops on the way back to Asheville, horse trailer in tow, to use the truck-stop restrooms…

    Note to self : next time think of another way to deal with horse-show jitters!

    Back to clean Paleo eating for me!

    1. @Heather K – Thanks for sharing! This is a timely comment, as I’ve just gotten back into riding myself. I’m trying to figure out where to go with it, so I’ll have to look into the 3-day events you do. Sounds crazy! Anyway, keep up the great work, and I’m so happy you’re telling people about canine/feline Paleo eating. I’m planning a post on that soon…

  14. I found Paleo after over a year of dedicated protein smoothie drinking. So, although I felt I had found Heavenly Guidance when I stumbled onto Paleo, I just cannot seem to give up my b-fast smoothies (I use a vegetarian “health professional” brand of powder). I feel leaner and cleaner drinking my berry smoothies than I do when I eat bacon & eggs.

    Sorry about that!

    I am not on the challenge, so I’ll do my Confessing here: I drink 2 cups of black coffee every morning (after my smoothie, no less!) and I feel *fabulous* doing it. I’m a mom with 4 kids and I cannot give up the hot-drink-in-the-morning habit! Also, because I have 4 kids, I cannot give up alcohol, ha, ha. I drink a glass of red wine or a vodka martini most Fridays (maybe Saturday) nights, too. Here’s a cool thing, though: since going (nearly totally) Paleo, I never have The Morning After feel! Eating Paleo might be worth it for that alone!

    My only other “cheats” are a tiny square of 86% dark chocolate a few nights a week. I brake it up into tiny bits and savor them.

    I sleep deeper and more restfully since my total elimination of dairy and wheat. Giving up legumes has been the hardest because most “family recipes” rely on beans or lentils to stretch the meal. Also, we lived in Japan for many years, so that rice steamer on the counter is looking pretty lonely these days. My teens know how to operate it, though, so I let them, but abstain myself. Guess what? I don’t even crave or miss that rice.

  15. Well, at my crossfit gym, our trainer semi-encourages a cheat day. And I have to say, its what keeps me going. Knowing that I can eat whatever I want on Saturdays makes me not want to stop and get a cheeseburger on my way home. I have successfully cut out all dairy (its been amazing. Im lactose anyways but always denied it). But just keeping that sparkle of “french fry saturday” keeps me strong. Also, throughout the week, ive found that dark chocolate chips satisfies my need for something sweet and chocolatey. Although the sugar isn’t allowed, I figure a handful of chocolate chips once a week won’t kill me.

  16. I’ve been making coco-date rolls (blending dates, almonds, unsweetened coconut, coconut oil, raw honey, and raw cocoa) and rolling them in coconut. They make a great little treat, except I’ve been eating them like it’s my job. Also, my bacon consumption is not at all “moderate” and I sometimes cook with olive oil when I don’t want everything to taste like coconut. In the beginning, I was drinking So Delicious unsweetened coconut beverage, but I think I’m over it. After the 30 day challenge, I will definitely be making a paleo pizza with daiya.

  17. I’ve been pretty good so far about staying on the Paleo plan, although since I’m kinda poor I do buy less expensive (i.e. conventional meat). Also, after traveling around the world climbing with my friend Ben, I have developed an obsession with dark chocolate…and now I eat some almost everyday! I usually make a single bar last about a week, but it’s so damn good to give up.

  18. I will be completely honest, I hate cheat days! I am bad at them, they stress me out! I work really hard to make sure what I eat is clean and that (from what I can tell) I am not sensitive to. If I go a week w/o dark chocolate and have a square on cheat day I sometimes wonder if that just set me back, or then I’ll work extra hard at the gym. I am not necessarily new to the paleo life style but recognising that just because it’s paleo doesn’t mean I can eat mass quantities of it is something I’m trying to master. BUT if I am feeling at all frisky and feel I am owed a cheat day it’s dark chocolate for sure. I’m a die hard sweets fan and since learning I’m lactose intolerant dark chocolate has definitely filled that void!

  19. Thanks for being so honest, everyone! These were really interesting and enlightening to read through. Congrats to tlathr04, who is our winner of this challenge! I’ll be emailing you shortly to get some contact info. Keep up the awesome work modifying on persisting, everybody!

  20. I have been doing paleo strict since January 1 st. Prior to visiting my sister I was rocking it. If I had coffee it was with coconut or almond milk. Ay chocolate was 85% or more which has to be available in a cyclical nature. I have felt amazing….my energy is through the roof. I am not doing this to loose weight. I am doing it to be as healthy as I can. Through this my crossfit workouts have been almost easy. This last week I did crossfit 5 days and added a couple 2-4 mile runs three days. At my sisters I have been eating a little dairy but when I return home I will be back to strict. This is a lifestyle change I plan on eating this way the rest of my life.

    I have found magnesium at night works great to help with sleep and the vitamins recommended by Robb wolf help.

  21. I add (pastured) half-and-half to my coffee in the morning, and I eat ~1 small square of 70-80% chocolate every day. I do consume some alcohol, but that’s about 1 day per week and I try to do either wine or at least no sugary mixers (sodas, tonic water, etc). I’ve just started buying almost exclusively pastured/grass-fed meats, which I’m really proud of. I feel happy when I cook this food for myself and my boyfriend; almost every night when we sit down to dinner I smile and say, “Look how healthy this is!”

  22. So I am an MMA fighter and full time geologist, and I get about 2-4 hours of sleep a day. I switched to Paleo plan last June 2011 and haven’t looked back! Not only do I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life, but I finally look the way that I’ve always envisioned myself (well almost). While I’m cutting weight I am very (VERY) strict on my food, but usually I will have my cup of coffee to keep me going on my non-weight cut months. However, as far as paleo goes in my everyday life I am pretty much a stickler but when that cheat meal (not day like my hubby 8)) rolls around I will have (gulp) a tomato basil bagel with jalapeno cream cheese. Dun Dun Duuuuuuun. We all have our vices, and I don’t have it every week, just maybe once a month to keep my bagel addiction at bay. Whew… that confession felt great.

  23. Absolutely ridiculous chit char encouraging individuals to think it’s ok to cheat, well look up the word and you tell me. It’s not OK, if your cheating then your not in the game, therefore if your not in the game, don’t use the banner to promote yourself. Get real or go do dukan or atkins or some other fad dieting routine.

    1. @Mike – Wow, Mike, that’s pretty idealistic and judgmental of you to say. Do you never, ever, ever “cheat” (for lack of a better term)? Or eat something that’s not technically on the Paleo diet? Or eat something that’s supposed to be consumed in moderation too often? As you can see, most people’s “cheats” were pretty modest, and I’ve found as a practitioner that most people do cheat to make the diet do-able MOST of the time. Which is what we want, right? For people to eat better by eating Paleo most of the time?

    2. Hey Mike,

      I like how you’ve provided a opportunity for those of us working towards spreading better nutritional practices to work together in a supportive, constructive way! It’s really powerful to provide a forum where people can relate to the challenges we all face in our daily lives. Getting Back On the Paleo Diet Track can mean different things to different people, for some, it’s just a meal or a cheat snack, for others, a week, or even two over the holidays leaves them anxious to Get Back to Basics. We, like you, want our readers to know that they can come to us with any questions they have.

      Like we both know, if we understand what foods people cheat with, it gives us an opportunity to provide them with a more Paleo solution to possibly satisfy that craving, whether physical, perceived emotional (even if it is having a physical basis), or even from the standpoint of convenience.

      Once again, thanks for spreading the word in a way that shows what a supportive, helpful, & friendly community we’re all creating!

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