One of the hottest diets right now is also kind of a throwback: The Paleo diet is based on eating only what our ancestors chowed down on 10,000 years ago. Instead of limiting calories and fat, the Paleo diet focuses on eating from select food groups. And contrary to popular belief, it's not just for red meat-loving guys who do CrossFit--it can lead to major weight loss for women, too. Take it from Esther Blum, M.S., R.D., author of the new book Cavewomen Don't Get Fat: The Paleo Chic Diet for Rapid Results.
Blum follows the plan herself, but even she admits that at times, tweaks are necessary. After all, a strict Paleo diet is all about meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and nuts--and only meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. That means no dairy, grains, or processed foods since they weren't on the menu back in the Paleolithic era (a typical day might consist of an omelet for breakfast, sliced meat and nuts for snacks, a grilled chicken salad for lunch, and a steak with roasted vegetables for dinner). Blum knows that following so many restrictions isn't always realistic--or even necessary--but you can still stick with the diet (and lose weight in the process). Just follow these tips to make it more do-able:
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Start Off Strict
Blum's plan starts out with a two-week strict Paleo diet that eliminates all sugar, grains, and processed starches. While she encourages loosening the reins a little in the following weeks, she stresses that starting strong is a great way to make the new diet into a habit.
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Fight Cravings with Protein
So you're four days in and daydreaming about cupcakes. Blum suggests eating 4 to 6 ounces of protein at each meal and 2 to 3 ounces with each snack to help curb those sugar cravings. This extra protein supports adrenal function and raises dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. In short, it keeps your body satisfied. "You may still have cravings, but those are likely emotional cravings, not physical ones," says Blum.
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Restock Your Kitchen
Try this awesome mental trick: "Focus on adding things to your diet instead of taking things away," says Blum. That means hitting the grocery store and stocking up on all the healthy meats, fruits, veggies, and good-for-you fats that you can find (Blum's book includes a great shopping list). Then prepare your meals ahead of time so that grabbing a snack of turkey, avocado, and carrots is just as easy as grabbing a granola bar.
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Make It Your Own
The Paleo diet may seem terrifying at first (what do you mean you can't have cheese?!), but Blum allows a little wiggle room. If going all out is too much for you, she suggests starting with just a Paleo breakfast (swapping your cereal, bagel, or toast for steak and eggs or a veggie omelet). Or if going grain-free is too extreme, some people may choose to go gluten-free instead. And if your body doesn't react negatively to things like dairy, Blum offers healthy options for fitting them into a Paleo loophole (for instance, she suggest raw, unpasteurized cheeses, which are richer in calcium). Her rule: "If you can do 80 percent of the diet 100 percent of the time, that's better than following 100 percent of the diet 50 percent of the time."
Cheat Once a Week
When all else fails and you're literally dreaming about cheesecake, just remember that you can have one cheat meal once a week. It keeps you honest throughout the week and helps make the diet more sustainable in the long run. Just listen to your body to find out what you can cheat with. For instance, some women may feel super bloated after one slice of bread but feel fine after a couple of glasses of wine. The key is to find something you enjoy--that won't leave you feeling like crap the next day.
More from Women's Health: 10 Things That Slow Your Metabolism
Everything you need to know about eating like a cavemanBy Casey Gueren, Women's Health
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