My answer is that it’s not a simple answer, and a lot depends on you and your individual tolerance for change. Regardless of the resources you read or the suggestions you get, keep in mind that if it feels wrong in your gut, it may not be the method that suits you best. Let’s take a look at the two options and how to approach each.
Option #1: Go Cold Turkey
If you’re excited and motivated to change and trying something new doesn’t send panic into your very core, then the cold turkey method for going Paleo might be for you. Keep in mind it’s possible you’ll have to radically change your view of meals and food in general, but know that if you keep at it, it will become easy and automatic over time. It’s my fourth year eating Paleo and the Paleo meals I make now are done without a lot of extra thinking. Of course, even with willingness, there can be times of uncertainty, but if you’re resourceful and flexible you’ll make it through okay.
Typical steps for going cold turkey Paleo include:
- Gathering information via books (like this one) and other resources such as my free quickstart mini-course.
- Cleaning out your fridge and pantry of non-Paleo foods.
- Restocking your fridge and pantry with Paleo-friendly foods. (Get my free shopping lists here.)
- Finding new recipes. (Check out my favorite cookbooks here and here.)
- Replenishing your supply of storage containers. (You’ll tend to do a lot more cooking at home.)
- Planning a big cook up day to get your week off to a solid start. (Check out my tips and video here.)
It also helps to have a partner or buddy you can lean on during the adjustment process.
Option #2 Go Paleo Gradually
Feeling freaked out about going Paleo? Doing it in a gradual fashion may be for you. Even if you know you need to change what you eat but the thought makes your palms sweaty and your heart race, that anxiety is suboptimal. Now, don’t mistake this for setting the bar too low; challenge your comfort level enough that you’ll make forward progress along the way. This method could take many forms:
- Removing processed foods and junk food as a start.
- Removing a few foods at one time instead of an entire list.
- Picking one new food to add into your rotation every week.
- Taking an 80/20 approach (but realizing if you aren’t seeing the benefits you’d like that you need to make further changes).
- Setting small goals over time.
So What’s the Right Answer?
The one that resonates with you and gets you closer to the goals you’ve set for yourself. (Wait, you have set goals, right?!) Paleo’s basic template is pretty consistent, but customizing it based on your needs—especially as you learn how to best make it your lifestyle—will come with time. Push yourself but respect your own boundaries and comfort zones, too. Paleo will stick and be a long-term lifestyle change if you allow yourself the time to learn, change and grow with it.