If you’ve followed my blog or my social media pages you’ve probably heard me mention or hashtag #Paleo quite a few times. And while I’m not necessarily a Paleo blogger it is a big part of what I do in my personal life. So, I figured I should probably give you a rundown of why I eat and live (mostly) Paleo. Just in case you were curious. But before I do that I should probably give you the gist of what Paleo is. Without going into a TON of detail, Paleo is essentially eating and living the way our Paleolithic ancestors did (hence the name). This means that if they didn’t have access to it, we should probably avoid it. So grains, gluten, legumes, dairy, soy, processed foods, refined sugar, refined vegetable oils and anything else that did not exist pre-agriculture or would not have been readily available to a hunter/gatherer is NOT Paleo (in its purest form). Now, I don’t want to get too sciency (totally a word). I’m sure in a future blog I can expand more on the science of WHY Paleo folks avoid these foods, but the basic premise is that we are physiologically still very similar to our Paleolithic ancestors. Since this time, our bodies have not significantly evolved but our food sources have changed drastically. When we began to settle and form civilizations we replaced hunting and gathering and the foods that went along with them with agriculture. We became much more reliant on grains which were very easy to grow and store for longer periods of time. However, this is also when we started to see modern diseases. Fast forward to very recent history, not only are we still heavily reliant on grains, but now they’re also extremely processed and sugar is added to pretty much EVERYTHING. You can see how this might be a shock to a body that hasn’t evolved to be able to process these types of foods.
So those are the foods that are NOT Paleo and why advocates avoid/limit them. So, what IS Paleo then? Well, pretty much all the fresh veggies you can stand (with the exception of legumes and corn which is actually a grain), some fruit, nuts, seeds, free-range meats (not the grain fed stuff), eggs and seafood. Now, if you’ve never tried Paleo I know what you’re thinking…
“That’s not f**cking possible.”
I had the same thought when I first heard about Paleo. And I’m not going to lie to you. It’s tough at first. Mostly because it is SO different from the modern diet. So you actually have to reframe your way of looking at and thinking about food. BUT if you can stick with it for a good amount of time, I have seen in clients, and experienced myself, that it can heal your body, heal your gut and any intestinal issues, decrease inflammation, increase energy, decrease a need for medications, help you overcome food addiction, conquer dieting and binge/purge cycles, and so much more!
Still not convinced? It’s cool. I wasn’t either before I tried it. If you still need more reasons to consider it, here are my 10 reasons for why I personally eat and live (mostly) Paleo…
That’s right. I eat Paleo because bacon. I would say this reason is mostly a joke, but that’s just not true. I frickin love bacon. And most other diets/eating philosophies out there do not embrace bacon the way I wish they would. That’s because most other diets try to limit fat. And I understand why. We’ve been fed (false) information about how excess dietary fat is bad for your heart. And most diets ultimately want to help you lost weight and fat has more calories per gram than carbs and protein. So, I get it. It’s stupid, but I get it. But Paleo sees fat for what it is. A healthy and super delicious way to balance blood sugar, increase brain power, increase energy, decrease hunger, and decrease inflammation. Well, assuming you’re eating the healthy fat that is high in omega 3s and lower in omega 6 essential fatty acids or EFAs. Like the fat in bacon (more on this in a future blog).
No. Dietary fat does not increase blood cholesterol (in most people. There is a very small percentage of the population that is sensitive to dietary cholesterol. Talk to a doctor or naturopath). It does not put you at a higher risk of heart disease and it definitely does not make you fat! It is, however, a superior source of fuel for the body and crazy delicious.
Am I saying I eat bacon all day everyday? No. Well, I do eat it almost everyday, but it’s usually sitting next to a big pile of kale on my plate. Of course, you should still eat all of the other super healthy Paleo foods as well, but I very much appreciate the fact that Paleo leaves plenty of room for bacon in my diet. Not many other diets can claim this awesome trait.
#2. NO Math
Guys I’m so over math. Like, I’m glad I learned how to do it and I know it comes in handy here and there, but if you add up all of my years of education (I know it’s ironic to ask you to add when I’m talking about hating math. Bear with me) I was in school for almost 22 years. I did what I had to do. I got my diploma, degrees, certifications, and now I’m done. So, if I can keep math out of my life as much as possible, I will. But unfortunately a lot of diets out there are all about numbers. Number of calories, number of macros, number of carbs… Even the ones that try and “simplify” things like Weight Watchers or The Zone Diet, you’re still counting points or blocks. Which means you have to portion, weigh, measure, count, add, subtract… And I know because I’ve done it. And it’s not that it doesn’t work, I’ve definitely seen results this way, but, for me, it’s not sustainable. I really can’t see myself doing that every day for the rest of my life. And with Paleo, you don’t have to. You just eat the food. I’m really good at eating. Not as good at math. Now, if for some reason you’re a total psychopath and you like math, you can totally combine, say, a Zone tracking system to Paleo. Do your thang weirdo. But you don’t HAVE to. And, for me, that’s SO liberating…
This is kind of a follow up to “no math” but Paleo emphasizes quality-sourced food, which means that you don’t really have to regulate how much of it you eat. High quality food is rich in nutrients and has a lesser impact on blood sugar levels which means your body knows when its had enough and will stay satisfied for longer periods of time. Plus, if you only (or at least mostly) eat high quality food it eliminates a lot of that inherent guilt that comes along with binging. No one says, “OMG I can’t believe I ate that WHOLE bunch of kale. I am such a pig. I hate myself right now.” But replace “bunch of kale” with “bag of chips” or “box of cookies” and I bet that internal conversation starts to sound vaguely familiar. Now, does that mean all Paleo foods are a free-for-all and you can just have-at-it? No. Bacon, dates, and nut butter are all Paleo (and as weird as it sounds very yummy when combined) but that doesn’t mean you can subsist solely on those things and truly be Paleo. BUT if you do take a balanced approach to the diet portion of Paleo, meaning lots of veggies, high quality meats, seafood, eggs, some fruit, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats, it’s actually really hard to “overdo it.” Unless you consider ingesting a crap ton of nutrition overdoing it.
#4. You Naturally Eat Good Stuff
I’ve heard from quite a few clients that it’s hard for them to eat enough veggies, or protein, or healthy fats… and sometimes I’m a little baffled by this. For one, because not being able to eat enough is just a weird concept for me. I’m always able to eat. But secondly, because I feel like that’s ALL I eat. Oh wait, because it is! Because I pretty much eat Paleo. And it dawns on me that people think they HAVE to eat grains. I mean, I know why. We’ve been told our whole lives that we should. It’s the bottom of the food pyramid after all. But Paleo asks you to eliminate them. So, what do you replace them with? Uh, protein, veggies, and healthy fats. Problem solved! I don’t know if this is what major proponents of the Paleo Diet would say. They may think this whole “process of elimination” “eat good food by default” mentality might dumb down what Paleo is really about, but it makes sense to me in my head. If I am only (or at least mostly) eating these things that I know are the MOST healthy for me, then I don’t really ever have to worry about if I’m getting enough of them, right? You see, nutritional science has taken a turn recently and you’ll find roughly 9 buh-gillion (totally a number. Remember my stance on math) articles about how you should be eating more of the three things I listed above. So we are receiving this new information and wanting to apply it to our lives, but we are doing so while still trying to follow an outdated model. And, trust me, it’s not going to work. UNLESS, you follow a Paleo or at least, Paleo-esque diet. And then, you’ll pretty much be up to your eyeballs in veggies, high quality protein and healthy fats. And it’s awesome.
#5. It’s Gut Healing and Anti-inflammatory
Another sort-of automatic benefit to Paleo is improved gut health and decreased inflammation. You see, when we eat lots of processed foods, vegetable oils, GMO soy and grains, sugar, etc… that our bodies have a hard time processing it leads to a lot of unwanted side effects. Our gut lining becomes permeable leading to auto-immune disease, we are chronically inflamed which can be quite painful, our gut flora becomes imbalanced leading to IBS and other bowel issues as well as metal issues such as depression, anxiety, not being able to focus… We also might notice our skin is dull or prone to breakouts. We may lack energy or have poor quality sleep. And it can all be traced back to what we do and do not eat. Just switching to a more whole-food, Paleo type diet, there is a noticeable shift in how our bodies operate. This is because Paleo naturally eliminates the foods that are known to cause these issues and includes ones that can heal them such as fermented foods, omega 3 fats, bone broth, collagen, etc… That’s what I call a win/win.
When I was on (insert diet here) I wouldn’t ever listen to what my body was telling me. I would just blindly follow the numbers, or food lists, or timing that the diet instructed simply because that’s what it said to do. So, if it said to eat 1500 calories, I ate 1500 calories. If it said to eat 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 40 percent carbs, I did just that. If it said to eat every 3 hours, I ate every 3 hours, whether I was hungry or not. I was listening to an external source, not an internal one, never considering whether or not it was what I truly needed. But our bodies don’t really work that way. Certain factors will require more or less food, rest, movement, etc… and if we haven’t stopped to listen to what our bodies are telling us we might be forcing a square peg into a round hole. Which, if done for too long, can actually do major metabolic damage. So, now, if I’m hungry, I eat… until I’m full. When I’m full I stop. If I’m not hungry I don’t eat, even if it’s been 5 or 6 hours. If I’m tired, I rest. If I have lots of energy I go expend it. I let my body guide me, and I stop to check in to make sure it’s doing ok. Because, ultimately isn’t that the point? For our bodies to feel good and function to the best of their abilities? If you’re not giving it enough calories, or feeding it so often that it can’t fully digest and assimilate nutrients or forcing it to move when it needs to rest, how well do you think it’s going to function? With Paleo there really is no “specific set of instructions” other than to eat the best quality food, avoid low quality food, and listen to your body.
#7 It’s customizable
I suppose this more or less goes along with being “intuitive” but I think customization goes a little further than that. Intuition is about being in touch with your body’s needs but customization takes into account all the factors that affect your life. For instance, Paleo will look different to a soccer mom than it will to the trendy, single, hipster-foodie with no kids. But both can certainly eat and live Paleo, no problem. You can totally customize Paleo to your lifestyle, activity level, tastes, etc… For instance, you may not like bacon. That’s cool, you don’t have to eat bacon. We can’t be friends, but you can still follow Paleo. Maybe you’re super active and need to eat a lot of carbs. No problem! Sweet potatoes, plantains, yucca, winter squashes, fruit, all have lots of super nutritious carbs to help fuel intense activity. But maybe you’re diabetic and shouldn’t eat a bunch of carbs and sugar. Paleo is DEFINITELY for you. Just eat less of the stuff I just mentioned and more veggies and fats. It really can be for everyone. Even weirdos who don’t like bacon.
#8 It’s a lifestyle
Ok. Can we all just admit that we’re totally guilty of using the phrase “it’s a lifestyle” as a total cliché? Like someone asks “Oh how’s your diet going?’ and you respond with “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.” Can we all agree that’s super annoying and, also, we were totally lying when we said it? It was a diet. But calling it a lifestyle somehow made us feel better about ourselves. And it’s also what roped us into the diet in the first place. Some super fit and attractive person talked about (insert diet here) and how it changed their “life” and how it’s now their “lifestyle” and we bought it.
But what is a lifestyle anyway? Well, I suppose it’s something you do, most of the time, for life. OK, makes sense. But wouldn’t a lifestyle include more than just the food you eat? Wouldn’t it be about the rest of your life too? Like maybe how you sleep, how you move, how you think, how you feel, whom you’re around?? Maybe? Well that’s the thing about Paleo. The food is a MAJOR component but it’s really just a component. It’s also about ALL those other things I listed above. This is why I say eat AND live Paleo. Because if you don’t have all those things working together you’ll always feel a little out of whack and won’t be able to sustain whatever lifestyle it is you’re trying to achieve. (For more info on this topic check out my other blog). So even though I’m totally going against my own advice I’m going to go ahead and say it. Paleo really is a lifestyle, not just a diet.
#9 It isn’t ALL or NOTHING
I know that one of the things that probably scares people the most about Paleo is ALL the stuff you’re not supposed to eat. Like, at first you literally feel like you should be living in a cave like our ancestors because there is SO much temptation out there and it seems like it’s impossible to avoid it all. Well, it is impossible. And no one expects you to. I might get a little flack from some die-hard Paleo peeps for this but it’s cool. They’re entitled to their opinion and so am I. I don’t think Paleo has to be ALL or NOTHING. You can claim Paleo and still eat some non-Paleo foods, as long as it honors your individual needs and the core of how you eat and live is still Paleo. In fact, you’ll find a lot of major movers and shakers in the Paleo world are eating white rice or dairy or even indulging in non-Paleo treats because it works for them. Heck, I don’t eat 100% Paleo. For instance, I love sushi. And if I want to have a special sushi date with my hubs I will allow myself to indulge in this non-paleo treat guilt-free. For me, it’s about the core philosophy informing all of my food choices, even those that aren’t fully in line with Paleo. Now, especially if you’re new to Paleo, it is a good idea to go ALL OUT for at least a short period of time. Say 30-90 days. Otherwise, that core philosophy might not fully sink in and your body may not adjust or experience the full benefit of the diet portion. BUT once you’ve done that, if you choose to reintroduce certain foods and find that they work for you in reasonable amounts, go for it! You’re a fully capable adult and can take responsibility for your own choices however you see fit. And, in my experience, Paleo allows you the freedom to do so, more than other diets.
You know the term “fad diet”? Well, I’ve heard some people use that term in regards to Paleo and it kind of makes me laugh. How can a diet based on principals applied by our oldest living relatives be a fad? Like, it’s literally the first diet ever! Trust me, it is no “fad”. Maybe the term “Paleo” itself is new and trendy but the concept has been around, literally, forever. And I say, if it worked for them and we have survived thus far, then it can probably work for us too. Will it look exactly like it did back in the day? Of course not. I’m totally down for taking advantage of new technologies, you know, like electricity and running water and Pinterest. But food should be food, and let’s be real, a lot of the food that we see on the shelves today is not actually “food”. It’s “products” that we eat. And that’s where Paleo is like “ok, hold the phone, we’ve come a long way as a species and all, but there’s something wrong here. Maybe we should take a look back at how our ancestors did things…” and that makes a lot of sense to me.
Well, that’s why I eat and live (mostly) Paleo in a nutshell! I hope it helps you better understand what Paleo is all about and why it may be a good fit for you!