• Reader Question: Starting a New Diet & Dealing With Cravings

    September 26, 2012

    Hello, hello! Happy Hump Day!

    Let’s quickly recap yesterday’s eats because I have a reader question to answer for ya!

    Lunch

    Yesterday’s lunch was reheated Italian “hot plate” from the previous night’s dinner. The leftovers were even better than the original because the veggies had more time to soak up all of the delicious flavors. It was also twice as spicy. Holy crap, I was sweating by the end! Haha!

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    After lunch, I still wanted something else to eat, so I had a mug full of banana-coconut butter mashed goodness.

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    Snack

    I ended up getting hungry again a few hours later, so I snacked on half of an acorn squash with a scoop of sunflower butter.

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    And then, on my way out the door to Zumba, I ate some grapes.

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    Workout

    Last night, I headed into the city to take my very first Zumba class at Equinox. Sarah and I working on a new project, so I’ll have a full review of it on CNC in a couple of weeks. It was a lot of fun, and I’m surprised how much I liked it!

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    Dinner

    Shepherd’s Pie was on the menu for dinner last night, so, while I was at Zumba, Mal whipped up his own version with sweet potatoes, carrots, and ground turkey. It turned out great!

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    After dinner, I satisfied my sweet tooth with a handful of fresh raisins. Fresh raisins? Oh, yes, they’re different than the usual raisins we have in our kitchen, which hard and dry. These ones were soft and chewy and quite enjoyable to eat. Oooh, the little things in life!

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    And here’s the reader question with my response:

    Hi Tina,

    I know in the past you suffered from sugar cravings/addiction and have recently changed your diet due to your health condition. I’m super impressed how you seem to stay with the new way of eating (no sugar, grains or barely any alcohol). My question is was this hard to do? Did you suffer from cravings in the beginning? Is it hard to avoid these foods b/c Paleo/Whole 30 diet is not the ‘norm’ or the easiest to follow? I’m personally trying to eat less grains/sugar and more of the Whole30 lifestyle to detox from sugar cravings/binge episodes, so I’m curious how you dealt with the transition. Any motivation or tips would be super helpful.

    Was it hard to do?

    In the beginning, it was really hard for me to change my eating habits, especially since a number of the foods that cause inflammation brought me so much joy in my life (i.e. beer, iced coffee, cookies). Obviously, it was tough to say goodbye to them—even more so during a vacation—but, eventually, I found other foods and food combinations that I enjoyed. Now, I’m in a grove with my new way of eating and it’s not so bad. It’s even kind of fun discovering new foods and recipes. Also, learning how and why certain foods cause inflammation and other issues in the colon also made it easier to avoid them. I knew these fun foods would probably upset my GI track and make me feel crappy, so I didn’t want to eat them as much anymore. Plus, knowing it was a long-term goal and not a quick fix motivated me to find new foods and ways of eating that really worked for me.

    Did you suffer from cravings in the beginning?

    Yes and no. I had a pretty good grasp on my sugar cravings when I decided to embark on this whole Paleo-SCD-Whole30-diet (here’s how I beat my sugar addiction), but I still had cravings every now and then—not so much for sugar, but more for habit-related foods, like iced coffee in the morning or a beer on vacation or at a party. Those kinds of cravings were the hardest for me, but finding alternatives has really seemed to help. For instance, I don’t drink iced coffee every morning anymore, but Dandy Blend is an awesome alternative, and I don’t drink beer anymore, but I’m growing to love wine— in moderation, of course. (It’s still has alcohol in it.) Accept and adjust, baby.

    As far as caffeine withdrawal symptoms (a lot of you guys asked), I really didn’t experience any. Thank God! In college, I gave up coffee for awhile, and it was a frickin’ nightmarel! I’d come home from class in the afternoon and pretty much die on the couch in agony. This time, however, it really wasn’t bad at all. I guess because I wasn’t drinking all that much caffeine when I went cold-turkey? I’d have my usual glass in the morning, but it was often watered-down with ice and almond milk, and it was my only source of caffeine for the day, so when I stopped drinking it all together, I didn’t experience any withdrawal symptoms. If you’re looking to reduce your caffeine consumption, try setting up a “weening schedule” for yourself. Each week, you can reduce your in-take by a set amount (depending on your current consumption and how your body reacts), so, overtime, you consume less and less.

    Is it hard to avoid these foods b/c Paleo/Whole 30 diet is not the ‘norm’ or the easiest to follow?

    It depends. At parties and events, it’s a little difficult to find foods that are Paleo/Whole30-friendly, but I usually plan ahead and eat something before I go or I make a dish to contribute. I’m also big on bringing my own food, especially when I travel. It definitely takes some extra effort and I probably seem like a total weirdo, but it’s important to me and my health. I really try to look at eating well as something I want to do and not as something that prevents me from enjoying certain foods. Sure, I’d love to drink beer or eat a piece of pizza, but I know it’ll probably wreck havoc on my digestive system, so I want to avoid it for health reasons. I also think finding alternatives that jive with my system have really helped get me through the transition, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I recently wrote a post for Health about some of the things I’ve done to make the transition easier: 5 Ways to Make Starting a Diet Easier. I’ve also found the Whole9 resource page to be really helpful, and I get a lot of ideas from Paleo and CrossFit blogs.

    I hope you guys found my response helpful. Please let me know if you have any additional questions! I’m happy to help!

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    { 61 comments… read them below or add one }

    Erica { EricaDHouse.com } September 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    It took me about a year to restructure my body’s cravings for food but now that I’ve been eating clean for so long I actually crave fruits & veggies and no longer even enjoy the taste of most processed sweets!

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    Charliss September 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I think that’s an acorn squash, not a butternut squash!

    I decided to challenge myself to a month without sweets in order to rein in my sweet tooth. The first time I tried it, I did okay, but almost always had something sweet on the weekend (but just one!). That was a year and a half ago. I challenge myself to this every 4-5 months or whenever I feel my sweet tooth is out of control. Now I’m 4 days left from the end of No Sweets September and, while I will be glad to be able to bake and eat some pumpkin muffins in October, I don’t feel the need to eat every sweet thing in sight. Also, simple rule, if you don’t keep it in the house, you can’t eat it. I usually freeze most of what I bake so it’s less tempting.

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    Tina September 26, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    @Charliss: Oops! I fixed it! Thanks!

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    Vicky September 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    @Charliss: I do that, too, typically every October, so I’ve cut the compulsion to eat every single sugary thing in sight going into the holiday season! It really helps me to eat all the amazing desserts in moderation, because my cravings have vanished after the month.

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    Amanda @ Eat More Rabbit Food September 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I’ve made so much progress with my sweet cravings! I read your article about how you beat your sugar addiction and it was so motivational. I am already implementing most of the things you mentioned but it is inspiring just to hear that it worked for someone else! =)

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    Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale September 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I had to remove all foods with gluten and fructose from my diet a few weeks ago — boy, was it ever daunting!! But I found that having the support of others, and finding new food combinations that I loved (like you, Tina) made it relatively easy.
    And I know that I would MUCH rather stick to my gluten and fructose free ways than eat some and have the symptoms of my intolerances come back, so that keeps me on the straight and narrow.
    In the end, it’s about doing what feels best for your body. But finding support is for sure the best way to go!!

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    Ellen @ Wannabe Health Nut September 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Great topics! I have worked long and hard to reduce my sugar cravings. I used to have a bowl of ice cream (or something in the form of ice cream, froyo) after every dinner. EVERY dinner. Without fail. But one day I decided to make a conscious effort not to have my nightly treat and after 10 minutes or so of being frustrated that I couldn’t indulge, I got over it and moved on. Seeing that it WAS possible to break the habit was really eye-opening for me. I always tell my health coaching clients to start small. Pick one day where you will set the intention to do something and stick to it. Once you do it, you have the confidence to do it again. Then, you are setting new habits. A nightly treat might turn into a bi-nightly treat, which then could turn into just a weekend treat. The less you have something, the less you want it. And even better, when you do treat yourself, it tastes that much more delicious when you aren’t eating it all the time!

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    Tina September 26, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Yes, well said! :)

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    morgan September 26, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    i definitely agree with you! and congrats on far you’ve come! :)

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    Rachel @ For the Love of Chocolate September 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Tina, I know you are doing this for internal health reasons, but have you noticed physical external changes in your body as well? You’ve been looking very lean lately! A good muscular lean, of course, probably from all that CrossFit! :)

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    michelle kim September 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Oh, man. I always have sugar cravings… but I don’t think I can go on too structured of a diet.
    Oooh and I love love any kind of squash and sweet potatoes! Those look soooo good :)

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    Khushboo September 26, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Giving up artificial sweeteners were a biggie for me in reducing my sugar cravings…ironically enough!

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    Heather @ passthedressing September 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    It’s good to hear wine is on the non-inflammatory list. I don’t know what I would do.

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    Tina September 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Well, alcohol is inflammatory, but wine doesn’t have gluten, so it’s a good alternative when I really want a drink! :)

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    Heather @ passthedressing September 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    @Tina: Oh dammit. I guess I will just adopt a lesser of evils approach.

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    Anne Marie September 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Ive recently started a strict paleo diet to see how it will affect my celiac disease. Your blog has been SO helpful! I looked into Whole 30, SCD, autoimmune protocol, and it all makes so much sense. I don’t think I would have even considered it if I hadn’t already been exposed to it through CnC. Thanks so much for all the information and virtual support!

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    Tina September 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    How are things working for you?

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    Anne Marie September 27, 2012 at 9:21 am

    @Tina: The actual process of changing my eats hasn’t really been bad. I think it’s because I realize that eventually this will help me feel better. I’ve only been at it for about a week, but I haven’t really noticed much difference. I’m hoping it will just take time to heal, and that I won’t have to go through the entire autoimmune protocol. Now THAT would be difficult!

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    Monika September 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Your food looks delicious, especially the banana-coconut butter snack. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Zumba. It’s not really my thing, but it sounds like a blast!

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    Kerry @ Totes My Oats September 26, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I give you so much credit! You really seem like you’re doing a great job with the diet lifestyle change. All of your eats always look delicious!

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    Katie @ Peace Love & Oats September 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I actually had a similar question for you. I noticed you went out to eat at a tapas place (I think in Baltimore for Fitbloggin) and those kinds of things are so stressful for me because if I go out with a group and share tapas, I end up not being able to eat a lot of them and then end up starving, or I have to just order my own, which is what I usually do, it just feels so awkward! How do you deal with things like that?

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    Tina September 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I suggested a bunch of dishes I could eat then just ate what a could. It was still fun!

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    Julia September 26, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Tina! I just want to say thank you for being an inspiration. I have suffered from a lot of intestinal issues but I am such a food lover and I love sweets especially that I was very reluctant to significantly change my diet. After seeing your post about finally getting healthy, I decided it was time for me to do the same. I gave up sugar, alcohol, and gluten and I am so glad I did, I have never felt better. Thank you for inspiring me and your blog is very encouraging!

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    Ashley @ Sweat for Sweets September 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I recently went gluten-free (for digestive issues) and feel very much the same way that you do. Do you like cider? It’s my beer alternative! :)

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    Tina September 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I do! Maybe I’ll try that the next time I’m out. Perfect for fall! :)

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    Melissa September 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I really love this post. Your blog is a daily inspiration. I’m healing from a Crohn’s flare right now, which requires a liquid diet to let my digestive system rest. Turns out it’s a great opportunity to re-set my tastebuds and mindset to a healthier way of eating. Following your blog makes me feel like I’m in good company. Thank you!! (Toasts you with a glass of wine). :)

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    Karen September 26, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    I have found that limiting caffeine helps with sugar cravings. One cup in the morning and one after lunch. I make a conscious effort to drink more water and even changed my computer password to “drinkwater” which is a great constant reminder. I also did something non food related to remind me that I changed my habits, I changed the radio station I listen to in the car in the mooring, as a ‘reminder’ of my new habits. I limit myself to dessert Mon., Wed., Friday and one weekend day and really look forward to something really great. All these small changes have helped limit my sugar cravings, even if I admit it is not easy every day.

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    Meghan @ After the Ivy League September 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    You’re such an inspiration as always Tina :) I had to give up wheat/gluten over a year ago due to digestive problems…and I still crave it and give in from time to time (and pay the price). Like you said, I need to stop seeing my allergy as something that prevents me from enjoying certain foods, and instead focus on how much I want to be healthy. Man, it’s tough!

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    Michelle (Peachy Palate) September 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Totally with you on the reasoning….knowing how bad eating certain foods will make me feel makes making the effort to find and make alternatives so worth the while…and who cares what others think if I feel amazing because of it!:)

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    Chelsea Lords @ahintofhealthy September 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    You are amazing Tina! And I loved all of your tips. I read a study about episodic future thinking and essentially the idea is for the people that thoroughly think about the consequences of their behavior (in this case not sticking to an eating plan they have set for themselves) before they engage in that behavior they are far less likely to engage in the negative behavior.

    Just a good reminder to stick to the goals we have set for ourselves and to remember those goals often!

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    Steph September 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I absolutely love reading your blog. I clicked over to the food network site and cannot believe the hurtful things that people say. There are a lot more people that benefit from following your blog than not.

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    Tina September 26, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Aww, thank you! :)

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    Megan@funsizedfitness September 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I love this post, Tina! When my husband and I first started dating, I really didn’t look forward to going to his parents’ house for dinner because they always had a lot of fried & buttery foods. It took a while, but now they know what healthy foods I like and always have something I’ll eat over there :)

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    Jillian @ Sprinkle Massacre September 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I just started working as a trainer at Equinox, so this totally sparked my attention. I can’t wait to see what the project is. How did you like Zumba @ Equinox?

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    Tina September 26, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    LOVED it! :)

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    mollie k September 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    @Jillian @ Sprinkle Massacre: which Equinox??? I am a recent member and am OBSESSED with the club! What an amazing gym-the group classes are unreal. The whole atmosphere is just incredible and inspiring!

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    Anon September 27, 2012 at 10:56 am

    @mollie k: Looks like the Back Bay location, on Dartmouth St.

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    Heather September 26, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us readers. I realize that your diet changes are do to your health and healing. Would you mind sharing with us any differences that you have noticed with going more of a paleo approach to eating. What ever you may want to share, do you feel better, have you noticed weight changes or skin changes. Anything would be helpful~ I have read alot of good things about Paleo just wondering your thoughts.

    Thank you,
    Heather

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    GreenGirlRunning September 26, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    I just ordered two jars of Nikki’s coconut butter! The pics you’ve posted of it always look so yummy! Can’t wait to try it :)

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    Annette@FitnessPerks September 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Great answers! I agree–it’s about what works for the individual. And deciding what’s MOST important. Total health for the long term or a bit of pleasure for a few moments (and then pain after)? That pleasure from ‘fun’ foods is worth it once in awhile for sure, but that’s where a person must decide how often that it’s worth it or not. And I love the idea of finding alternatives! :)

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    Alyssa September 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    I’s so proud of you and your diet switch. When I went GF (diagnosed with Celiac Disease), it was hard at first, but knowing you’re doing it for your health is an added motivation. Now, I can’t even remember what regular bread, cookies, cakes, pizzas taste like! It’s been three years and I’m so much happier and healthier now! Best of luck to you in this journey!

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    Natalie @ FreshLifeFindings September 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Loving the sweet potato version of shepherd’s pie! I am definitely inspired by you to focus on what your body needs for health and happiness!

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    Hanna September 27, 2012 at 3:16 am

    It’s always easier to make changes when you’re truly motivated. Motivation can come from health issues, but then it has to be something really bad as people just don’t care about impending diabetes threat etc. Pain is a really good motivation! In my case I found the motivation when seeing beautiful animals suffereing and treated badly in farms – after that I haven’t been able to touch meat. Vegan diet is really healthy, but it’s the sadness that keeps me eating fresh.

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    MizFit September 27, 2012 at 5:25 am

    I ADORE YOU.
    I wish we’d have had time for coffee and a lonnnng talk.
    next time.

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    Tina September 27, 2012 at 6:13 am

    I adore YOU! Thanks for chatting with me. Next time, a lonnnng chat for sure!

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    Danielle@cleanfoodcreativefitness September 27, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Great post Tina! I think you are a great example of how to eat Paleo style! I love that you still seem to eat a very well balanced and varied diet! You aren’t eating bacon with every meal, which I think is what a lot of people who don’t eat Paleo, think Paleo is! On a side note, I’m excited to see what you and Sarah have coming up!

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    Kathy September 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Hi Tina,
    Thanks so much for your insight! I’ve been dealing with some severe digestive issues as well this past year, and have also decided to cut out sugar/gluten. Apparently, I have something called a “leaky gut”. What’s most difficult is a lot of the healthiest things (like veggies) can cause the worst pains in me right now, as my digestive track isn’t healed yet. Anyway, I was just wondering — are you cutting out all sugar/gluten completely or just trying to limit them? I recall you having frozen yogurt a few days ago, and while I don’t mean to point that out in a judgemental way at all, I’m just curious about your approach. I find myself sometimes wanting a bite of chocolate now and then and I’ll usually stop myself, but sometimes I cave! Just trying to take it one day at a time I suppose :)

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    Tina September 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I’m doing my best to avoid them, but there is no way I’m living my life without dessert. (Life is too long!) I’m just eating a lot less of it nowadays, and that froyo was literally 5 bites. Hopefully, it didn’t upset things too much!

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    Jayne September 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Great post, Tina! I echo many of the commenters – you’ve really been a great inspiration to me in keeping up my gluten-free ways, and I love coming here for ideas. The two-ingredient pancake (the “nancake” as I call it) has become a morning staple for me. This morning I added a tablespoon of ground flax and a tablespoon of ground brazil nuts, and it was amazing!

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    Tina September 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Nancake! Love it! :)

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    Eva @ Committed2Nutrition September 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I see you tried ZUMBA!! oh my gosh so happy! I teach Zumba 4x per week and really I am just OBSESSED! I cannot wait to hear your review on it. As always, love your blog posts. I am glad your new way of eating seems to really be helping. I commend you… I could not for the life of me give up coffee, but I guess if I HAD TO for health and stuff, I would. It is so fun to try new recipe’s and I love reading ‘em here!

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    kristle September 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    i absolutely agree with you that knowing a certain food will make you feel less than wonderful makes it that much easier to stay away from it. after reading about all the harmful things dairy does to my body, i was finally able to completely cut out all animal products from my diet. and knowing all that crap just totally turned me off, so i don’t miss it one bit! i also agree that eating clean turns off the sugar craving.

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    luv what you do September 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    The sweet potato shepard pie looks incredible!

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    Christina @ The Beautiful Balance September 28, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Ugh, sugar addiction is the WORST. I have written more papers on the subject than I can begin to tell you (exciting dietitian life I lead, haha) and I am still addicted to sugar. I do cleanses a few times a year and find myself battling its ugly face again. I am not talking about just addicted to bad sweets, I am addicted to fruit. Yes, I said fruit. But with as much as I consume, it has turned into an addiction.

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    Kristle September 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    @Christina @ The Beautiful Balance: i know what u mean! How much fruit is too much fruit?

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    [New Balance] Nicole September 28, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Thank you for the informative post! Do you eat any dairy on the Paleo diet?

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    Tina September 28, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I don’t (and dairy isn’t allowed on the Paleo diet).

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    Alexandra September 28, 2012 at 10:26 am

    I’ve been pretty good about eating clean for awhile. Now, however, I’m studying abroad in Moscow and have no control over what I eat since I’m living in a home stay. It has been difficult adjusting to eating more grains and less fresh vegetables (I miss them!). I know that when I return to the US in December I will have a tough time weaning my newly developed Russian sweet tooth. Thanks for the tips and inspiration for living a healthy lifestyle – they will be a big help when I try to get back on track.

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    Sonya September 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Have you noticed any changes in your physical appearance? You are obviously already in great shape :) but did you notice weight gains or loss? Skin changes?

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    Devonshire September 29, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. I don’t have colitis but i do have some icky digestion problems (undiagnosed because my doctors don’t think my diet has anything to do with it). I got the Practical Paleo on my ipad and i’m so excited about it! I want better health and i know that this is the way to go! Thanks again!

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    Chiropractic Assistant October 3, 2012 at 12:10 am

    I am cutting back on my sugar intake. It was so difficult for me but your post adds some motivation. Are there advices you can give on how to further reduce my cravings over sweet food?

    Reply

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