For those of you connected in the Paleo blogging world, you have been hearing some great stuff about this new site, Paleo Trail. I recently connected with the creater, Kristin Jekielek, and asked her a few questions about how this idea took the next step.
This is a Q&A with Kristin. She is a self-described Paleo Eater Extraordinaire and created the Paleo app PaleoGoGo for meal recommendations at over 300 national chain restaurants (US-based). Read on for her Paleo story and to learn about her new website Paleo Trail.
Gray: Tell me about how you go this all started. Do you have a background in web design or have you just been learning along the way?
I’ve been part of the Paleo/Primal community since early 2009, and I read a *lot* of blogs and forums in my eternal quest to learn more. After a couple years, this gave me a lot of insight into what people are looking for as they stick to the diet or as they start out. I came up with the idea for Paleo Trail based on my own experiences with diet tracking while dealing with some health issues, and I realized that a lot of other people were also looking for an easy, online way to track the Paleo-ness of their diets without having to calorie count.
I have zero experience with web design or development. I come up with ideas and dip into my piggy bank to have other people build them to my specifications. This is why I charge for access to the upgraded Reports & Analytics offered in a Paleo Trail Complete membership. However, I believe that the core features offered in a Paleo Trail Free membership are so helpful that everyone should have access to them – which is why they’re free! For example, you’ll have a Paleo Trail Calendar that shows you how clean you’ve been eating lately as part of a Free membership.
Gray: What is your advice for people who have struggled with disordered eating to use your site in a way that doesn’t trigger bad habits?
I had struggled with an eating disorder for over a decade, so I absolutely understand the concerns around this. While I can speak to this from my own experiences, anyone else dealing with an ED should understand that they may find a different approach works better for them. Diet tracking with or after an ED should be taken seriously and self-monitored for unhealthy thought patterns.
For me personally, completely avoiding calorie counting is crucial (which Paleo Trail allows you to do). I used to be a chronic calorie counter with a running tally in my head all day, every day. Going Paleo allowed me to drop that bad habit once I realized that I maintained by body composition by simply following my hunger cues (which were restored by eating Paleo).
The 4-color Quality Rating Guide was also developed with this in mind. I wanted to avoid the “black & white” thinking about food that so commonly accompanies an eating disorder. By including yellow and orange ratings, I acknowledge that some foods/meals can be “pretty good” for you, even if they aren’t 100% clean. Similarly, some meals are “not good” but still not total cheats.
I also don’t require members to record a detailed list of every single food consumed and in what quantity, although I provide this as an optional feature. The thinking here is that you can avoid the obsessive thought patterns about your food, and instead focus on the quality of the food you put in your body, which is ultimately what promotes health the most.
Gray: Is there a reason activity is not tracked in Paleo Trail?
I have some long-term plans for Paleo Trail that include Exercise, Biomarker, and Goal tracking, but those are pending funding. If the current version of Paleo Trail does well enough, I’d love to add more features like these! Once/If we get to that point, I’m going to be using member surveys to determine which to build first and how they would be most helpful. This tool was made for you guys, so I want to hear from you!
Gray: Do you have plans to create a smart phone app?
Yes. We’re working on an app for the iTunes store. It will be free and function as a quick and simple way to upload meals on the go. This is where we’re starting with app development, and we’ll expand to other markets if it’s popular enough.
Gray: I love that this can be used as a way to track your habits (when you eat, when you cheat most) to better understand your triggers and needs. You mention in some of your interviews that it is super important for people to do their own research. Have you thought about ways you can connect your users through your blog to the countless resources out there in the Paleo blogosphere?
Ya know, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. The conclusion I end up with every time is that there are quite a few sites out there that already do this really well. A favorite of mine is http://freepaleo.com/. I’d rather let them be rock stars at connecting the Paleo/Primal community while I focus on making Paleo Trail the best it can be. But now that you bring it up, I should at least link to them from my site! Thanks for pointing that out 🙂
Thanks Kristin! I’ve already begun using Paleo Trail and I’m learning so much already about my own eating habits and triggers. I can’t wait to see how this site will continue to grow and evolve!