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014 – Interview with Irena Macri (Eat Drink Paleo)

Irena gives us her expert advice on how to achieve better health and wellbeing through a paleo primal nutrition and lifestyle. She considers herself as a recipe developer, cookbook author, amateur food photographer, and a self-proclaimed web geek. She also has a mission to make paleo for everyone.

To hear the full interview, simply press play button below (make sure your volume is turned up).

Or if you prefer to read the transcript of the full interview, see below –

Rod: Welcome everyone! Rod from Sports Adventure here. And today I’d like to continue our fantastic interview series, where we interview inspirational people from around the world to share their expert insights on good nutrition, mountain biking, and men’s health.

My guest today started a website in 2012 to provide inspirational tools to help people who want to achieve better health and wellbeing through a paleo primal nutrition and lifestyle. She considers herself as a recipe developer, cookbook author, amateur food photographer, and a self-proclaimed web geek. She also has a mission to make paleo for everyone. I’d like to welcome from Eat Drink Paleo, Irena Macri. Good afternoon Irena, and good morning to you in South Africa.

Irena: Hi, how’re you doing? Thank You. Thanks for having me. Yeah it’s almost mid-day but yeah.

Rod: Fantastic! Now I appreciate your time at the other side of the world, so we’ll get straight into it, because I know you’ve got a busy day ahead.

Irena: No problem. Go for it!

Rod: Fantastic! For you, what is so good about being in the position you’re in? You’ve got a number of hats that you’re wearing at the moment – recipe developer, author, and a couple of those – what do you see, so good about doing all those things?

Irena: Well, for me, I guess, the best thing about my job is that it allows me a lot of flexibility and freedom. I used to work in a corporate world, and I used to have a 9 to 5 job and, I guess when I turned, I think it was about thirty or something, and I just, I don’t know… I’ve always had this like entrepreneurial calling in me that I wanted to do my own thing, be my own boss, and kind of have the freedom to be able to work my own hours, and travel, and that sort of thing.

So, having kind of developed my new job, which is; I’m self-employed now, into being in a full time blogger and online entrepreneur and cookbook writer, it allows me a lot of freedom, so I can be in any part of the world. So like today, I am in South Africa and I’m talking to you and I’m, and I’m working, and in a couple of weeks I would be back in London, in my kitchen, and I will be cooking, and shooting new recipes, and a few weeks down, a month in Spain, and I’ll be back in Australia, so it gives me a lot of freedom to be able to work from anywhere.

And I guess being a foodie, and being a recipe developer, I have a lot of good excuses for research. So, whenever I travel, or go to new places to eat, or new markets, it’s really nice to be able to say: “I’m just going to try to it for research.” I get to do what I love to do. I love food, I love cooking. I also love digital space and what it allows us to do, and how it allows us to reach so many people around the world with our message, and I get to combine both in one. That’s the best part about it.

Rod: Terrific! Well done. It’s a fantastic story, good on you. Can you give us a bit of background about how you got involved in paleo?

Irena: Ok, probably a lot of people have probably heard of paleo now, and it’s a little bit more main stream than it used to be. But when I found out about it, which was probably around 2011 or 2012, it was still a very much niche kind of underground movement or a lifestyle, or a dietary philosophy, or whatever you want to call it and a lot of the information was coming out from the United States.

At the time I was personally researching kind of different ways of eating that were healthier or more optimal for health, for longevity, nutrition, and I was already kind of experimenting with the lower carbohydrate eating or slow carbs, that sort of thing. And one thing led to another, my friends were doing paleo themselves. I kind of jumped on the wagon because I thought it was totally crazy and it was so new and unusual. And if anything I was just curious to see what it can do for my health and well-being. And so I tried for a little while and I didn’t go kind of cold turkey, and just cut out all this food groups, that sort of transition gradually into that way of eating and it did work for me really well. It kind of suits my body, my activity levels.

I felt a lot of changes in my own energy levels and kind of not getting this 3 pm slump that you normally get; very consistent energy through the day. I didn’t really have any kind of serious chronic conditions or anything like that that I tried to heal, so I can’t judge whether that’s made a difference but it’s definitely made a difference to my energy levels, and it’s made it pretty effortless for me to maintain a healthy weight and kind of body composition without having to count calories control my portion sizes a lot.

I pretty much just focus on eating nutrient dense foods and I avoid refined carbohydrates, and sugar, too much grain, and hydrogenated oils and stuff like that we can talk about paleo in more detail a little bit later. But it works for me and it makes my immune system quite strong which means I don’t get sick as often, and yeah, I mean I’ve been eating it this way for 6 years now, five years. And you know, obviously I’ve adapted the paleo framework to be my own kind of way of eating and I have my own rules which I encourage everybody to do. And yeah, I have made it to be a very kind of achievable, self-sustainable way of eating.

Rod: I think that adaption that you spoke about is so important. That a cookie-cutter approach that one dietary program or something fits all, just doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense. So being able to do what you’ve done to modify that and get the best out for yourself and your health, is a great result. Can I ask you when you’re travelling in your travelling corner, paleo typically requires a little bit of preparation or a bit of planning or a few adjustments of the menu, if you like, when you’re out at restaurants or things like that, what was some of the ways that you were able to work to maintain your eating program?

Irena: Yeah, it can be difficult, and it really depends on where you go. So with paleo, in general, because you’re cutting out… In the traditional sense of paleo, you’re cutting out a lot of, most of the grains that’s no bread, no pasta, and no kind of whole grains that even works for most people. I do include white rice and some quinoa Sometimes I have some legumes, you know, beans and chickpeas, and if that’s what’s on the menu, and that’s the only thing I can eat, that’s still better than wheat fluffy white bread sandwich sort of thing. So, you know, you try to make the best choices.

When it comes to things like oils, particularly oils that the foods I cooked in, that’s a little bit more difficult; because, most of the places, even the so-called healthy food places still use canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil to cook the food in. So, the best way to go about that is because you can’t really control that, or change that, you know? You can ask if somebody that can cook the food in butter or olive oil, but you don’t want to be that person all the time.

So the best way is just to avoid food that is deep fried, because, particularly, with deep fried… because they’re fried in oil that’s been fried multiple times, it’s completely rancid, it’s been oxygenated, oxidized through that process. So avoid the deep fried food, stick to grilled stuff, stir fries, vegetable, cheese, slow cooked kind of meat, that sort of thing. I find that’s the thing that you kind of have to go 80/20, you know? You can’t really control it and so you sort of close your eyes on the oils.

Obviously I try to look for gluten free options wherever possible. That seems to be, wheat seems to be one thing that sets me off a little bit, so I know personally that I don’t tolerate that food really well. I can tolerate some dairies so I make allowances in that department so I’ll have some cheese or some yogurt.

If I’m staying in the hotel with a refrigerator which is always a good idea, you know? I always go to the food market or a supermarket as soon as I get to a particular spot. If I’m there for longer than a few days, I’ll stock up on some breakfast food, so it might just be fruits and yogurts and some boiled eggs. You can ask the hotel staff to boil you a bunch of eggs, if you want to, or even you could boil them in a kettle, which I have I have done before. And I am just having that a few bananas and some berries, you can get some nuts and seeds.

Again for lunches you can stock up on some tinned tuna and sardines and some things like that. If a hotel has a buffet that seems to be like a much easier option because you can probably find something in a buffet like there’s always some veggies, there is always some meat and fish. So, it’s not that difficult. I think if you want to, you will find a way.

And for the rest of it look you are traveling and if you’re on holidays you know its fine, have a beer enjoy yourself every now and then. You can’t be dogmatic about it and super super strict; because, you get to live a little bit. And surprisingly our digestion improves significantly when we actually on holidays because we’re not stressing as much, we are sleeping much better.

So a lot of people report that they can digest foods that they normally can’t. So that’s why you hear people that normally can’t have wheat, all of a sudden, they go to Italy and they had a great time and having pasta and they are like look “I don’t have the symptoms”. And that’s purely because your gut microbiome is actually in a better condition which means that you digest some of those anti nutrients better than you would. So, that’s kind of how you deal with that: just stock up on some foods, research some options, go for like healthy options at a buffet and allow different foods. Give yourself permission to have some of those foods that you normally can’t.

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Rod: Yes, certainly that’s some great pointers there and things that aren’t that out of the ordinary, it’s all pretty straightforward. Things that are easy to find. It’s not rocket science; it’s just preparing yourself a little bit, making some wise options and I think you’re getting a good outcome.

Irena: Yeah. I do know a lot of people that I kind of work with that have severe allergies or intolerances, you know? You do have to pack some foods with you, especially, if you are going to places you know if you hiking or if you doing kind of more remote locations, you have to bring some things with you, that you probably can’t find. So it depends where you go. If you go to a big capital cities or big urban centers you are likely to find a health food store or a market or something like that, but you know in some cases you do have to bring things so you don’t go hungry.

Rod: Yeah sure that makes sense. For someone thinking about paleo getting started, what would be a suggestion from yourself, the best part to kick it off?

Irena: Well, there are lots of ways you can get started. Some people prefer to go kind of cold turkey. There are loads of programs out there and kind of plans and meal plans that you can follow it. For example I ran like a 7-day meal plan program, I have a 9-week program. So some people choose to do a seven day thing where it’s not like a long term commitment, they just kind of follow something, see how they feel, see how their body reacts. The first week is of eliminating a lot of these food groups. You are going to be detoxifying. So, it’s not going to be a good time. So, I always recommend do a little bit more than 7-days, because after 7-days you want to just start seeing a result. You really want to go for maybe 30-days to kind of really reset the system and see all the benefits.

Yeah, look there are lots of books, there are lots of blogs (including mine), there are lots of programs out there that you can follow. If not like it’s pretty simple just focus on real food that comes in a natural form that’s not out of a packet so that means lots of vegetables, a little bit of fruit, nuts and seeds, protein, and different kinds in terms of meat, fish, poultry good quality make sure it’s kind of been raised ethically and from good sources and good fats, olive oil, avocados, coconut oil.

If you want to go dairy free completely then, you could have something like clarified butter or ghee butter. And then do that for… You could even go a little bit full on like no alcohol to kind of to really reset your system and your health. Do that for a few weeks and then re-introduce food back slowly so that you can see how you react to them. So if you want to try paleo but then you want to adapt it to something a little bit more, I guess, easily accessible, so I would start by re-introducing things like dairy first, so butter that seems to be the least problematic so start with butter first. Then introduce yogurt or fermented dairy like kefir, or even some sour cream that sort of thing. Then try some cheeses, and so try the aged cheese first like parmesan, cheddar and then try the soft cheeses and so in that order see how you react to dairy.

Do one food at a time. that’s very important because otherwise you’re not going to know what’s actually causing the problem. And then I would say and look at things like white rice quinoa that sort of thing. Try those foods see how you go with them… then legumes.

And then wheat, I think it’s problematic for most people. It’s not the best food out there. It’s not very nutritionally a kind of dense anyway. So, if I was to choose one thing to just not eat, it would have to be wheat, as much as I love pasta and I love croissants and all that stuff. And every now and then I will do it like I will have it, but then I’ll pay for it like the next day I’ll be like it’s all sniffy and I get sinus problems and that sort of thing.

But you just have to do that sort of 30-days of just eating clean kind of paleo and then introduce some things back and see how it makes you feel.

Rod: Yeah. Certainly. I was going to ask you, in your experience with some of your clients – the people who you work with – what sort of time have you seen people being able to make real change to how they feel and their normal diet, just with changing their eating plan?

Irena: Look it can be some people notice changes within three days – the first-second day. First day, you’re just kind of like “Oh this is easy. I can go without sugar and I can go…” In a second day, you start to miss some of those foods and with that also comes some of the cravings and some of the headaches.

A lot of people, in the first week of eating, eat kind of Paleo because you’re eating more fat and less carbohydrates. Your digestive system will be changing as well to adjust to use fat for fuel and protein rather than carbohydrates. So some people will report a little bit of bowel movements and things like constipation or diarrhea just because too much fat too quickly can cause that.

Sometimes people will report things like… because you’re replacing pasta and bread with vegetables. All of a sudden, the vegetable intake goes up quite significantly, and that includes lots of raw vegetables and salad so that means a lot of fiber. So they might experience some fiber fermentation which manifests itself as a little bit of flatulence and gas. So, people are like “Oh my God! I’m filling all these. I should be feeling amazing.” But it’s just your body readjusting to using different types of food for fuel and learning how to digest it again; because, we’ve been feeding it food that the nutrient avoidant and easy to just pass through it, right? Simple process.

So yeah eating whole foods and eating more fat will take a bit of initial kind of… you’ll have the side effects, but within about three or four days, I think the cravings will subside slowly and you’ll start to feel the benefits. I think within a week, people report weight loss, energy increase. A lot of people start to sleep better maybe because I think a lot of them actually had an inflammatory reaction to some of the foods that they’ve eliminated so that means, the body’s under a lot lower inflammation. You just end up sleeping better.

So I think a week, maybe two weeks to actually feel kind of the real progress. Sometimes, 30 days depending on what your initial state is. If you’re coming from a place of severely over weight, joint pains, inflammation, problem with sleeping, really bad gut health then you will probably start feeling changes really quickly; because, you’re starting out at a pretty bad pace. You’ll probably lose weight much faster; because, you’re going to lose a lot of water straight away. You know high-carbohydrate diet is… you retain water, so you’ll notice that change really quickly.

If you’re starting from a place where you’re already pretty healthy but you’re trying to kind of optimize your diet, then the first thing I’d say you will notice is probably the energy levels. That will be the first thing. And digestive system will start to change so you might feel some of those things.

But if you’re healing from a condition, there are a lot of people with autoimmune diseases and that use Paleo to kind of heal, heal the gut, leaky gut, that might take a little bit longer; because, there’s a lot of damage that’s been done over a long period of time, so they have to take a little bit longer to heal. And in those cases, people will go even further than they will go and do things like an autoimmune protocol diet which is Paleo but they also remove night shades which tends to be inflammatory for certain people. And night shades are basically eggplant, tomatoes, chilli – some people that will also void eggs because eggs can be allogeneic to certain people so it’s a little bits stricter but for people that are really desperate to heal and there and I actually their condition affects their everyday life, they will do whatever they can to do it.

So it really depends on your starting points and how strict you go if you have been addicted to sugar for a long time; because, then that that’s addiction I think is the strongest to break and that’s special addiction. That takes a good two weeks I think sometimes.

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Rod: Now there is some great information passed on there. Have you seen both women and men, young and old, all benefit from a low carbohydrate Paleo diet in the past?

Irena: Yes. Definitely. Both genders benefit equally however men tend to do much better on the lower carbohydrate diet than women. Women need more carbohydrates for our hormonal balance. And in my experience and also that’s a scientifically kind of proven thing is that although Ketogenic diets and the low carbohydrate diets can be very therapeutic and beneficial for both weight loss and treating certain conditions for women specifically. It can also cause a little bit of a havoc on your hormonal balance. So, going to low carb for too long can actually cause… And in men too, not just women, I have heard anecdotes from men who have gone too low carb for too long, and it has affected their hormones as well as, thyroid hormone.

So I think that should also depend on your activity level – your goals, if you want to lose weight fast and maybe yes going down low carb is a good idea to begin with. But for general maintenance, I would include a little bit more carbohydrate dense foods, starchy vegetables, some fruit, for women specifically that… I mean I personally know that I don’t go too well on to low carbs and speaking in like actual amount for people that kind of trying to figure out what’s really low carb.

So traditional Western diet and I’ll be looking at… This is more like an American kind of diet maybe in Australia we eat a little bit healthier. But any kind of average person, who eats a bread, pasta and rice few times a day, you’re looking at around 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrates per day for the intake of food. And that’s carbs from both glucose and from the food and also from sugar obviously soda drinks and that sort of thing. Carbohydrates themselves are not bad it’s just that if you’re having too many of them, and your body’s not digesting them, and you’re not using them for fuel, that will turn into fat. So that’s just kind of simple in and out mathematics.

So for a moderate carbohydrate, moderate to low, you’re looking at about a 100 gram that’s kind of a good starting point for anyone who wants to feel low carb but not too low. For Ketogenic diet, a very low carbohydrate diets, you’re looking at 50 grams and below that’s like a very kind of more extreme. I kind of tend to be around 100 to 120 grams depending on the day, some days it’s a bit lower. If I’m not being very active on the days that I’m running or know that I’ve got you know something coming up then I’ll do it up a little bit. But I think you know somewhere between 100-150 is a much healthier range from 200 to 300, unless you seemed like a highly endurance athlete and you burn that glucose then it’s a different conversation. So average for office person – who sits quite a lot – you would kind of drop carbs down.

Rod: Yeah. Terrific. Do you have examples you work with a lot of people over the years people would have gone through your program and what things that they’ve experienced, the changes that they felt, from a real-life situation?

Irena: Yeah I look so many we get. So I run, obviously there are anecdotal kind of experiences that people email through or they comment about. On the actual people that we worked with, would do a 9-week program at the end which we always do like a survey with people but even throughout the program. It’s really nice because they’re always been courage to share their progress.

So there are some pretty amazing stories out there. Obviously most people will experience some sort of weight loss and to be honest I would say 80% to 90% of people that join our program their primary goal is weight loss. That seems to be like the most driving, and maybe it’s because we work with women a lot.

But halfway through program their goals seems to change; because, all of a sudden they realize they are actually starting to feel really well, the program is not just a dietary kind of plans, there’s a lot of educational modules that they learned throughout the program. So they start to learn about stress, importance of sleep, gut health, fitness and movement, and they’re starting to realize I’m about it so much more than food and so their goals changed from weight loss to more kind of health and longevity, and they start to look at all these other facets of life that they haven’t really pay attention to before. So we’ve experienced things from, obviously, weight loss, energy increased that’s 100% everybody.

Women report, a lot of them report, clear skin just general the kind of radiance that comes with… you’re eating a lot more veggies and fruit and drinking… that’s just guaranteed. A lot of people sleep better like their sleep patterns have improved dramatically. And obviously because they sleep better, in general, their hunger levels are better because sleeps dictates the production of different hormones. They are less stressed. Their clarity and their focus has changed.

We had women who have gone from being pretty much immobile like not being able to do much exercise the people the people that have been just sitting like sitting down a lot, to actually getting out and being able to run and walk and so that’s to do with a lot of pains and joint inflammation that people had. And because paleo diet in its nature is very anti-inflammatory, it is very low inflammation diet. So a lot of them have a lot less aches and joint pain and that sort of thing so they can actually do a lot more exercise than they used to.

We had an amazing story of people who being able fall pregnant. And we had one woman, she’s doing a second or third round and she’s now a pregnant lady.

One of probably the most amazing stories we’ve had was there is a woman, she was quite over weight and because she a lost a bit of weight around her breast areas, and because we encourage check out for the doctor to monitor progress. They found a lump in her breast because they couldn’t detect it before or she found it because she should just couldn’t because she lost weight. And ended up being benign thank God but something that was a bit of could have been worse but the fact that they have found it. And because of the fact that she a lost some weight and also good encouraged to go into always there, she was very thankful to the program and all that.

So, we’ve had people that whose mood has changed so much that they feel like their personality has changed, and they’ve gone from changing their careers, changing their relationships; because, they’re just kind of started thinking clearly; because, a lot of anxieties and mental conditions are actually to do with our gut health and you know you improve your gut health…. Wheat has a lot of effects on your neurological system as well. If people take these things out and then all of a sudden feel improvements in their mental state. And I think that sometimes more important than the weight and all of the stuff; because, it affects your everyday life.

I mean there’s just some stories like I can go on and on about everybody we don’t have… we would need all day.

Rod: Yeah some fantastic stories. Congratulations. What have you found a lot of diets and a lot of eating plans, people stick with it, do the plan, and then might fall off the wagon after that put the weight back on their, mindset changes, and back to where they started again. Have you found that they were able to continue on with the paleo lifestyle after they finish your program?

Irena: Yes. I think with our program, specifically, yes; because, we we spend a lot of the like a lot of our educational material and the things that we’re doing program are to do with mindset change and changing habits. So, I think when people start our program… we’re pretty clear on the fact that we’re not really interested in like a short-term solution. I don’t think you know people that kind of want like a quick fix, this is probably not the best thing for them.

I mean it’s yeah it’s going to be a great great plan for anyone but we really interested in someone actually walking away from the program, feeling empowered with knowledge (be empowered such a overuse word) but it feels like they are educated enough to make good choices going forward. Not everybody necessarily stays on 100% paleo but also in our program we do four weeks with like a paleo reset, and then four weeks we call it the recalibration and basically that’s where we reintroduce food. So one-week with the dairy, one week with quinoa we teach them how to prepare like legumes how to soak them, how to do all that stuff. So you know we’re trying to actually encourage people to create their own framework of that diet.

In the first few weeks, we’re really focusing on changing their habits; because, the problem is with most people that fall off of the wagon is they just go back to the old habit. But what is it with quitting smoking let’s say in 21 days or 3 or 4 weeks to change a habit so the same goes for your eating habits or your sleeping habits. You need to give it some time to really kind of get into the new lifestyle. So we do we do work a lot on that. Because we have a coach who works with our participants, and he is there for kind of support, we do have people that… Throughout the program obviously they come in and say “Look, I’ve just fallen off the wagon, or I on the weekend I had a bit of a blowout and I ate all of these things”, and we’re gently pulling back in. We kind of encourage them to different kind of point of view. It’s not like falling off a wagon, it’s just like hitting a speed bump, you know? You got to go over it and then continue your journey rather than just we’re off and go off on a different track.

Rod: Good one.

Irena: And I do find some people come back to do it again because they feel like having the support of the group and support of the team and being part of something that keeps them on track. So people that are trying to go in this journey, if you’re doing it on your own you know get your support network in place, get your friends and family on board, and tell what you’re doing, and tell them to keep you accountable. You know set some really small achievable goals and kind of… Instead of setting this one goal that seems so unachievable and so overwhelming, set little milestones like I want toget a little bit better at doing push-ups.

So I want to like not eat this particular food for a week because you need positive reinforcement to keep going. It’s like Psychology 101. So if you keep not fighting but if you can’t meet your little goals; because, they’re too big you’re just going to give up. But if you have goals that achievable enough, every time you hit that goal that’s a positive reinforcement for you mentally to keep going. So that’s another thing that we’re kind of try to drill into people’s minds.

Rod: No, that’s terrific. If you had a secret about paleo, what would it be?

Irena: It’s not as hard as people think. Oh a secret… I think the secret is that it’s a lot more achievable than people think, you know? I think media has sensationalized paleo so much and the label paleo doesn’t do it any justice because it kind of connotations that you have with it, and what you think paleo might mean is actually not at all what it is. So I think it’s a much more achievable accessible lifestyle and eating pattern but people kind of then it’s made out to be in the media I would say, than anything else.

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Rod: Yeah I think that’s very true. I think that the whole caveman analogy doesn’t do justice, and it puts images in people’s minds of meat & three vege for every meal and all that sort of stuff and it is not far from that.

Irena: You don’t need to do CrossFit.

Rod: Yes. Exactly.

Irena: There are a lot of kind of mis-information out there.

Rod: Yeah. Terrific. What’s some of the common problems that some of your clients have experienced when they started on a on a paleo diet?

Irena: Common problems…. So from a more sociological perspective I think the most common problem is that people think that they’re a little bit weird in their choices and so family not getting on board, or family not being supportive enough, or friends questioning their choice that seems to be like a pretty common thing. Some people report that there is a bit of a budget readjustment, especially, when starting out. I wouldn’t say it is much more expensive to eat paleo but unfortunately it’s cheaper to eat crap food in our society than it is to eat healthy foods. It’s cheaper to just load up on pasta and bread and cereal for breakfast.

So yes you’re going to have to be buying more fresh food and if you’re trying to get well sourced meats and fish that can get a little bit more expensive. So yeah that’s true it can’t be more expensive, I’m not going to try and hide that fact, so that’s that’s a little bit of a problem. But I always say to people you know it’s a choice you make you know you can spend that money ongoing out and getting out on the pub and getting pissed on 10 schooners of beer, or you can go buy a new pair of shoes without even blinking an eye, or you can spend that money on medicine and drugs to try to treat your condition, or you can just buy fresh foods. I mean it’s your choice really.

So look it is difficult. In some families it can be a bit of a problem because if you’re trying to feed more than one, two, three people you have to make some sort of adjustment that’s where I say take what you can from paleo and apply to your family but by all means if you’re under budget then add some white rice baking for the kids. Look for the gluten free pasta but let’s make with just like maybe rice and corn or something.

Buckwheat there are lots of cheap whole foods as well, you know? You can eat paleo in the budget you get to like start to eating nose-to-tail buying, minced meat, cheaper cuts of meats and do more slow cooking, getting fish like offcuts of fish not just eating like the salmon fillets but trying out some other types of seafood, shopping in the market you know being a bit smart about it. Street smart. You can buy bulk and you can go and have this with your neighbors, or your family members to buy from directly from the farmer so that’s kind of money side and the sort of society side.

In terms of physiological problems, I think sugar cravings seem to be like the biggest obstacle for people. People are so addicted to sugar it’s not funny, it’s like its monster, it’s a scary monster. Yeah. And so when you’re taking something away that’s been so comforting for them. A lot of people use food for comfort and it’s trying to replace that feeling of comfort with something that’s not food-related. I hope that makes sense. People kind of dealing with cravings and that’s the problem.

Coffee, although I drink coffee, I love coffee, but we did do one week of coffee free. That seems to be… It’s a lot of people really like drink and rely on the coffee so that’s always a problem.

And we also do 4-weeks without alcohol which for some people is a bit of a shock to their lifestyle because they are used to having half a bottle of wine every night. You know it adds up and amazingly… I’m not, what are they called like a teetotaler, I drink a glass of wine and I definitely I don’t avoid alcohol altogether but it’s very interesting when you try to take it out for like a few weeks – how much of your everyday lifestyle and things you do with friends is actually around alcohol. So, you’re starting to change your habits and things that you do that don’t involve that, or you do that without alcohol.

But it’s one of the things that people find a difficult to begin with but a lot of them actually once they get into the swing of things, they’re okay. They kind of yeah it’s just changing habits.

Rod: Certainly. Some great advice there. It’s terrific. And I think you mentioned the support of you our friends and family, I think for me having the support of my family has been critical thing for me. My wife does most of our grocery shopping and she’s always on the lookout for the right things that I can eat and supporting what I’m doing and I think without that it would be really tough so I think it’s a very important point you have made.

Irena: Yeah. I think I think you know how second halves and kids and anyone who support us deserve a lot of credit which kind of… because you do you do have to… I don’t know do you find that she eat the same way as a result? Like because “you lead by example” kind of thing?

Rod: Yeah the whole family has made a number of adjustments. I’ve got a couple of young kids so they still enjoy the stuff, the kids enjoy which is great but everyone has a different view on thing that and they know what I eat I don’t eat. And it goes to the point where we’re going out for a meal at a restaurant, the family will consider what if I’ll get a decent meal at that restaurant or if we’ll go somewhere else because there is not much in the menu which is I am blessed for them to learn to think.. Yeah I’m very lucky.

Irena: Fantastic.

Rod: Where can enough people find out to more information about paleo and more importantly about yourself, Irena?

Irena: So I have a personal blog where it’s called Eat Drink Paleo, so it is, and I’ve had this for a long time and that’s where I post all my recipes. You can find links to my cookbooks there and any other ebooks that I do that’s kind of like my little baby that I still publish every week. I have got new recipes coming out almost every week and it’s a great resource for anyone just looking for inspiration or for some information. I’ve got a couple of pages which are all about sort of paleo resources and what it is and kind of how to get started.

If somebody wants a little bit more structured approach, we have a, obviously, a 9-week program which is Happy Body Formula and the name of it says all about, it is like a formula to get a happy body. And I think as I talked throughout in interview it’s a paleo program but it also focuses on a lot of the lifestyle factors so we do each week focuses on a different aspects of lifestyle.

So we do stress management, gut health, living a life less toxic sort of you know how to reduce environmental toxins, and gut health movement so we what kind of focus on all those areas and we’ve got experts on board so that people can learn a little bit around that. And that’s a 9-week program that’s so that’s a different website that’s just I run that with the team. We have you know our coaches in America, we have a team in London and France and in Australia so its bigger thing.

If you don’t want to come into 9-weeks because you’re not enough sure, we also have a like a free 7-day challenge and it’s a it’s a meal plan that you can download and what’s cool about that meal plan is that you get to cook most of the food on a weekend in about 3 to 4 hours, depending on your cooking skills obviously. But it’s like a make-ahead meal plan. And you get to cook a bunch of dishes, and you get to prepare all the ingredients so that during the week it takes about 15 to 20 minutes from fridge to table, and that covers five days of food and then there are some guidelines around the rest of the week.

A lot of people have gone through that we had like 3000-4000 people do that challenge and that’s a really good starting point; because, it’s kind of introduces you to paleo. You don’t have to think too much about it because you make all your food on the weekend and we just enjoy it. People seem to love the recipes, most people lose weight on end, and then after the 7-days a lot of them then transition to 9-weeks or they just continue on doing their own thing. I can send you the link so you can link to it from this interview so, people can check that out. And that’s free so it’s like low commitment in terms of low money. I mean our programs are not expensive either but it’s just that some people kind of like “Oh 9-weeks! I don’t know and I don’t want to pay, I can’t commit.” It is like a big change and sort of… we understand that so 7-days like a bit of a taster and you get to just try this way of eating and see how you go.

Rod: Terrific. This of great stuff there and I’ve been over your website and as you said there’s a swag of great recipes there and I think my listeners will get a lot of benefit out of there. I might wrap it up there, I can’t thank you enough for your time today Irena. You have shared some really really good information, top to bottom, and I hope we can speak again in future.

Irena: Absolutely I would love to.

Rod: Terrific.

Irena: Thanks for having me.

Rod: Thank you.

Irena: Have a great evening.

Rod: Thank you very much.

Irena: It’s evening time, yeah?

Rod: It’s yeah. It is evening time and I hope your travels go well in South Africa.

Irena: Thank you so much.

Rod: Cheers.

To hear more great interviews from experts around the world on good nutrition exercise, and men’s health head over to or jump on iTunes or Stitcher subscribe to the podcast, and leave review. Thanks for tuning into the show

More great information from Irene can be found at Irene’s personal blog Eat Drink Paleo (200+ recipes on there)

Irene’s cookbooks and eBooks

or Happy Body Formula –

9-week program

Free 7-Day Make Ahead Paleo Meal Plan

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Links To Other Related Posts:

So keep in touch and see you out on the trails.

About The Author

Rod Bucton, mountain bike fanatic from Mid North Coast, New South Wales Australia… helping middle aged men improve their lives with exercise, good nutrition and good health and while you’re at it follow Rod on Facebook or Instagram.

Like any sport, bicycling involves risk of injury and damage. By choosing to ride a bicycle, you assume the responsibility for that risk, so you need to know — and to practice — the rules of safe and responsible riding and of proper use and maintenance. Proper use and maintenance of your bicycle reduces risk of injury.

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