The Inaugural Black Box 30-Day Paleo Challenge (January 2010)
ADDENDUM: If you’re reading this and it’s already past January 1st, you can still “buy-in” to the 30-Day Paleo Challenge. Just start today, right now, and go for 30 days straight. It’s that easy. So don’t let the fact that you missed the start date stop you. Join in the fun. Start posting to comments about how your eating and cooking are going, any questions you have, etc.
Starting January 1st, any and all readers of this blog (whether members of the gym or not) are strongly encouraged to join us in the Black Box 30-Day Paleo Challenge.
The idea is behind this challenge is to encourage everyone to go strict paleo for 30 days straight, no cheats (planned or unplanned). What a “strict paleo” diet does or does not include can be debated on its subtler points (and we’re happy to answer those questions), but the basics you need to know are the following:
ENCOURAGED FOODS: meats (preferably grass-fed), poultry (preferably pastured), fresh fish & seafood (preferably wild), eggs (preferably pastured or at least omega-3 fortified), vegetables, fresh fruit (& limited dried fruit), nuts & seeds (preferably raw and unsalted). (The organic versions of these foods will allow you to avoid pesticide residue.)
FOODS TO EAT IN MODERATION: minimally processed oils & animal fats (e.g., olive, avocado, walnut, coconut, lard, beef tallow–be aware that some of these are not meant for high-heat cooking but should be used raw) black coffee, tea, wine, beer, spirits, dried fruits (no more than 2 oz./day), nuts mixed with dried & fresh fruits (no more than 4 oz. nuts & 2 oz. dried fruit).
FOODS TO AVOID: dairy (e.g., milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, whey protein powder), legumes (i.e., beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy & soy products, peanuts, green beans, peas), cereal grains & cereal grainlike seeds (e.g., corn, wheat, wheat germ, barley, oats, rye, rice, corn, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth), starchy vegetables (e.g., starchy tubers, potatoes, sweet potatoes), salt-containing foods (e.g., commercial salad dressings & condiments), fatty meats, soft drinks & fruit juices, sweets (i.e., candy, honey, sugars [sucrose, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, agave nectar]), diet sodas, refined vegetable oils (especially corn, soy, & canola), foods containing artificial sweeteners, chemical food additives.
For more info on what paleo-style eating is all about, check the following articles:
Great intro to the paleo lifestyle
Detailed shopping list of foods (includes do’s, don’ts, and in moderation)
Paleodiet.com (tremendous number of web resources linked here)
OK, so the next question is, what are the rules of this challenge? Well, that’s kind of up to you. While I think you’ll get the most benefit from going strict for 30 days (you need at least that much time to notice the changes in how you look, feel, and perform), we’re not trying to exclude anyone from partaking in the challenge. So if you want to do “moo-paleo” (i.e., paleo plus dairy), we still want to hear from you. If you’re just cutting out grains, we want to know how it’s going. If you’re giving up dairy but still eating dessert, don’t be afraid to chime in. Some people thrive on a black-or-white approach, others need to baby-step their way into better eating strategies.
If you’re already paleo, what’s in this challenge for you? Plenty. When was the last time you tried a new type of meat or a new way of preparing a vegetable? Can you dial in your diet even further by shifting towards more grass-fed beef while cutting out the occasional lunch meat? Perhaps experiment with a low-carb or very-low-carb paleo approach to see if your energy levels change? Or play with your macronutrient ratios, a la the Zone and see what happens (whether weighing and measuring or simply eyeballing)? We want to hear from high-level paleo people such as yourself–you’ll serve as great inspiration to the paleo noobs, believe it or not.
Wherever you are, if you find yourself making an unplanned cheat, do your best to shake off the mistake and get back on track. Don’t let black-or-white thinking let you jump completely off the rails. Use the support of our virtual (and real-life) communities to get you through the rough spots. However you proceed with this challenge, if you choose to accept it, just be honest with yourself and track what you eat.
I highly encourage food journaling, where you either photograph or write down everything you eat. Do it on a blog. Do it in a composition notebook. Do it in a word doc on your computer. Private or public is up to you. But take the time to journal your food intake and reflect on how you feel physically, mentally, crossfit-performance-wise, and just generally.
Not only that, try cooking (more often, or for the first time). Try new types of foods, herbs,and spices. Try new restaurants (although beware of hidden ingredients–ask your server when unsure). The more you share these discoveries on the blog with others partaking of the challenge, the more we can help one another find the joy in this endeavor, rather than focus on the deprivation.
Check in with the blog every day. I’ll be posting paleo-related links Monday through Friday (don’t worry, I’ll still have exercise/fitness links, too) that you should consider required reading. I’ll try my best each day to have a range of links for newbie, intermediate, and advanced paleo people.
Whether you’re looking for body composition changes or not, I’d strongly suggest a before-and-after photo session where you’re shirtless (guys) or in a sports bra (ladies). No one has to see these photos but you. The power of said photos is that you see yourself every day, and it’s near impossible for you to notice body comp changes because of that. So take some photos with back, side, and front views. Shoot both before and after shots in the same clothing and under the same lighting and in the same location so that you can best see the differences.
So if you’re in, please declare your intentions in the comments on this post. Let us know if you’re going strict or partial, but decide what you’re going to do and stick to your guns!
Lastly, I’d like to encourage some real-world group activities during the month (and perhaps at the end of the 30 days to celebrate). I’ll leave that up to you guys to discuss in comments here and throughout the month via blog comments since so much of this challenge has been reader-driven. Thanks for being such an intelligent, curious, thoughtful community of folks.
When your friends and family ask “paleo what?!”, send them this: