Success Eating a Paleo Diet

Do you struggle to find recipes that work for your family with a restricted diet? Perhaps you deal with food allergies, food sensitivities or are on a healing diet.  I’m here to take away a little of the pain! Our family manages dozens (yes dozens!) of food sensitivities plus a corn allergy and autoimmune disease.


Healing with Real Food

Remember that old saying “eat what’s on the outside isles of the grocery store?”  Well, we do that now, and it’s working!

As the primary cook for our family, it can be a challenge to find recipes that work for everyone. My kids are gluten-free, and my husband followed a standard Paleo diet template for a decade which avoids grains, dairy (raw dairy is ok on occasions, according to our holistic nutritionist, if you tolerate it), sugar, processed foods, beans, and alcohol. Currently, my husband has also eliminated nightshades when he began having persistent inflammation flares in his joints.

Because I manage an autoimmune disease and am working to prevent others from occurring, I choose to follow the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) template which takes the Paleo diet one step further and limits additional inflammatory foods that often aggravate those with autoimmune conditions. Best-selling author, researcher, and scientist, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, explains AIP here.

I know, many of you are shaking your head right now wondering, “what DO you guys eat!?” I get that question all of the time, and it’s quite simple. We eat REAL food!…pastured meat and poultry, wild caught fish, vegetables (LOTS of green ones!), fruit and healthy fats needed for healthy brains. What most people don’t realize is that we eat WAY more vegetables now than we did when we were vegan.

My Top 3 Favorite Clean Eating Cookbooks

Looking for some clean eating, whole-food recipes? These cookbook gems have helped my family to manage autoimmune disease and other inflammatory triggers. Check out more kitchen resources here.

Is It Possible to Have Success Eating a Paleo Diet?

Of course! It doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, this has been a 10-year+ journey for me and my husband. But once you feel (and see) the healing benefits, you naturally want to do more of what you were doing. You become committed to your health and feeling good. Each day becomes a new step forward.

Did we have setbacks? Yes, we certainly did. And they were rough with a capital “R.” Along this journey, I experienced a health crisis and we experienced a financial crisis which then led me to simplifying our meals even more. But it was possible. Not easy. But possible.

Where things became tricky is when I had to rejoin the workforce outside of my home and my physical limits were pushed to the max. When I would come home after a day of work and picking up my kids, I basically collapsed on the couch, literally unable to do a thing. Needless to say, my family still had to eat, and at the time my husband was also working long hours. So what did we do? Well, we started eating out. A lot!

Once we got into the habit of eating out due to sheer necessity, I knew we were not on a good path. But I also knew we had to survive and I say that not to be dramatic. This was the season of life we were in and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

The result of our “eating out a lot” phase was that we both gained a lot of inflammation and weight, as could be expected. But here is the secret. It was a season of life. One I hope we never experience again. And now we are back on track with more balance in our physical body system (one of the four pillars of wellness) and we feel it. We feel when things are out of balance.

Is it Easy to Follow a Paleo diet? 

Yes and no. A big portion of having success on a Paleo diet, or any food program, is your mindset. If you focus your attention only on what you cannot eat, then it’s going to be a struggle. However, if you focus on all of the wonderful, colorful foods you CAN eat, then it’s going to be a much easier transition for you.

It took a few months at first, but how we approach restaurants, which can often pose the biggest problem at first, is that we ignore everything else on the menu and only zoom in on what we can eat. I quickly skim the menu to find what meat and veggies I have to work with and go from there. At restaurants we often order burgers with no buns, skip the pasta and rice and load up on veggies. Not too shabby when you really think about it.

For me, well it’s a bit of a different story. When we first started this food journey it was a roller coaster battling cravings, especially sugar. But I refuse to give up because I’ve felt the benefits that this type of diet has on my body and especially my brain. It took experimenting with many different diet protocols (raw foods, vegetarian, vegan, SCD, Paleo, AIP) to find what worked best with my body and then make additional tweaks.

Paleo, for instance works great for my husband because he can tolerate nuts and seeds. I’ve discovered that those wreak havoc on my body due to my autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and therefore I found that the AIP diet works best for my body right now. In addition, I know that healing my gut is a key component and that takes time.

If you are struggling with issues surrounding food and what works with your body, I highly recommend seeking out a functional nutritionist, such as my dear friend Alicia Pope of Eat Your Way Clean. Alicia is warm, welcoming and incredibly helpful when on a healing journey with food.

Health is not “one size fits all.” Patience is key. Be gentle with yourself and with the process when making a change.

Jennifer McLeland

On the plus side of this journey, I discovered that chronic bloating and gas ARE NOT NORMAL, by the way, and are cured with a change in diet. Yay! That was the moment when the lightbulb went off in my head. I’m very thankful that ultimately, an elimination diet, helped me tune into my innate wisdom.

My body is telling me, loud and clear, what it wants and doesn’t want and frankly, sometimes I don’t want to listen. However now I know what will happen if I don’t. So instead, I’m going to listen to my intuition and help each of YOU tune into your bodies too!

Peace and Love,

 ♥ Jennifer

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