Going Paleo - Lessons Learned About Personal Finance

My wife and I have transitioned into eating Paleo. Here are a few of the tenants we have used to go Paleo, and how they can help in our personal financial lives:

I have become a CrossFit addict. One thing I have learned about CrossFit is that you either love it, or you don’t do it. If you haven’t seen the CrossFit Games on ESPN, you should check it out. It is a program that focuses on functional movements by doing high intensity and varied workouts.

Along with CrossFit came the Paleo lifestyle (diets are short-term, lifestyle is long-term).  Eating Paleo (short for paleolithic) means eating the types of foods than our ancestors ate. This breaks down to a lot of meat, vegetables and fruit. It cuts out processed foods, sugars, grains, and such.

While “going Paleo” has been difficult, my wife and I have made the transition much better than I expected. I believe understanding how people change and adopt new habit has been helpful in making the transition. Here are a few of the tenants we have used to go Paleo, and how they can help in our personal financial lives:

Make small adjustments over time
People do not respond well to major change. Going from a diet full of McDonald’s burgers to Paleo overnight is just too much for our minds and bodies to handle. We end up craving what we have given up, which leads to cheating, then guilt, regret, and eventually abandonment of the change. Instead of making one huge change, try to make minor changes over the course of several months. The first thing we cut out was pasta and rice. This was pretty hard, but eventually we got use to it. Then we stopped eating bread. Next, we focused on making Paleo breakfasts which is difficult since we usually ate waffles, cereal, or something similar. Eventually, we got to where we wanted to be.

Lesson: You can’t just decide one day to completely change your financial habits and expect it to be easy. Make minor spending adjustments over time in order to progress towards your stated goals.

Have a clear goal
Our goal is to eat 80% Paleo. This basically means having 1-2 non-paleo meals a week, which allows us to go out to dinner with friends or grab a pizza when we are running really behind. We are able to gauge if we are hitting our 80% goal pretty easily, and can make adjustments if we are not quite there.

Lesson: You must have a goal in mind so that you know when you have accomplished it. Setting goals gives you permission to live life without the constant worry of “should I be doing more?” hanging over your head.

Going 80% - do what works for you
Going 80% Paleo allows us to fit our new eating habits into our lifestyle, while going 100% would mean giving up more than we want to at this time.  By allowing ourselves to stay at 80%, we are actually willing to implement the plan, while we would never have started if we felt pressured to go 100%. This goes back to making small changes over time. Maybe one day we will go 100%, but not today.

Lesson: Know what you will actually do, and accept that reality. Don’t set unrealistic goals and then be surprised when you fail. Be honest and realistic so that you stand a strong chance to succeed.

Bonus Lesson: Remember that others may not support you in your decision to make changes, and that’s okay. As long as the right people are on board (in this case my wife) then you can, and should, make the changes you want to make. Don’t let others telling you it is a bad idea keep you from accomplishing your goals. Focus on your goals, and you will be just fine.

While going Paleo has been a challenge, we have enjoyed the transition. Change is hard, especially when you are changing something that is so ingrained such as eating or money habits. Just remember to make changes over time and set realistic and achievable goals. Looking back, we are both thrilled with the results.

So what do you think? Have you ever tried to make a major change and failed? Have you been more successful with making minor changes? Feel free to share in the comments section!

Alan Moore is a fee-only financial planner and founder of Serenity Financial Consulting in Shorewood WI. Follow him on Twitter @R_Alan_Moore. You can contact him at alan@serenityfc.com, 414-455-5313, or visit his website at www.SerenityFC.com. Want more education? Download your free guide to the “10 Easy Steps To Securing Your Financial Future Today.”

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The Anti-Alinsky November 24, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Eating Paleo (short for paleolithic) means eating the types of foods than our ancestors ate. This breaks down to a lot of meat, vegetables and fruit. It cuts out processed foods, sugars, grains, and such. It's a sad comment when eating foods that haven't been processed is more expensive than the garbage food we have been eating.
Absolutelyfabulous November 24, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Anne- Theirs all ways a diamond in the ruff with these blog posts. Just maid me laugh! I think this is an opportune time to state the oblivious.. "Success is 1% inspiration, 98% perspiration and 2% attention to detail" One of many Phil's-osophys http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/modern-family/video/PL55238349/_m_VD55238369#http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/modern-family/video/PL55238349/_m_VD55238369
John November 25, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Have you considered that our ancestors had a relatively short lifespan?
Lex Parsimoniae November 26, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Have you considered that it's modern medicine that's extending your doughy, over-processed life? Epidemic rise of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer... just to name a few in the last 40 years. Maybe these have always been around to this degree, but the body would cease to function without an artificial support mechanism. Who's to say...certainly not my 96 year old steak and potatoes great grandfather that was active until the day he passed away, fifteen years ago (or, his 94 y/o wife).
Brandon Lueck May 02, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Our life expectancy remained about 40-50 years old until the early 1900's when modern medicine changed all that. A simple cut or sprained ankle would have meant certain death for Paleolithic humans. This is what drives down their average lofe expectancy. But if they were lucky enough to avoid these injuries, the almost certainly lived healthful lives and continued to work and be a contributing member well into their 70's and 80's with little occurrences of the modern diseases today's societies suffer from.


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