What is the Paleo Diet?
We are inundated with fitness plans and new diets on a constant basis. It seems that every celebrity or guy/gal next door had phenomenal results while still eating the foods that they’ve always loved and working out for “minutes a day”. Maybe we fall for the hype and jump onboard. We pay for the food, the meal plans, or even the meetings. We go to the store and buy the “diet approved (branded)” products and we’re ready to change our life. Then we start the following week and tell everyone we’re doing the “insert name here” diet and everyone is incredibly supportive and talks about how someone they know had great results and they’re happy for us. This phase lasts for maybe two weeks to a month and typically you look the same, feel the same, and you get frustrated. If the diet is one that relies mainly on caloric restriction (i.e. starvation) then you’ve probably lost some weight (the majority being muscle and water) and you might feel pretty good about yourself. Then, you stop dieting and the weight comes right back. Diets are not lifestyle changes, but brief periods of restriction and once you revert back to old habits, the weight comes back. What makes this Paleo Diet any different from the hundreds of others out there?
Eat Like a Caveman
That phrase probably conjures up crazy images of Tarzan-like men chasing down animals with clubs and grunting back and forth at each other. Unfortunately, we rarely eat this well today. What? Don’t we have it so much better with donut shops, drive-thrus, bistros, and 24 hour SUPERstores? Well, when it comes to the quality of our food . . .no. Here’s an example: The “food” available in our stores have nutrition labels to tell us what is in them. I don’t think primitive cultures were checking the label on a saber-toothed tiger for carbs, fat, and other “additives”. Look at the nutrition labels of the various products in your kitchen and pantry and try to pronounce some of the things that you are currently eating.
There are many factors that go into trying to eat an ancestral diet. These include geography, seasonality, and foods that don’t exist anymore. Since it would be impossible to replicate this, the goal is to consume a diet that closely resembles what these cultures would have had access to (pretty sure high fructose corn syrup wasn’t on the menu). On a paleo diet, one consumes real food that hasn’t been poisoned by the many food additives of modern times. All these things that we eat today contribute to many of the modern diseases that plague society.
What Can I Eat?
Great News! You can eat all the grass-fed meat, fish, and fresh non-starchy vegetables you can handle! Add in fresh fruits in moderation and you have it! There is no calorie counting or point system. There are no meetings to go to and no special shakes to buy. So what’s the catch?
The catch is that you have to select high quality ingredients and take the time to prepare your food. Knowing where your food comes from is a large part of The Paleo Diet and supporting local farmers is just a great thing to do. Many of the things you eat on a paleolithic diet (lots of meat) will fly in the face of commonly held wisdom. Here’s some food for thought: Ever since we have adopted the mantras of “saturated fats/cholesterol are bad, whole grains are good”; obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have reached epidemic proportions. It might be time to challenge conventional thinking. I’ll have more on this in a future post.
Here are a couple of paleo recipe websites to get you started: complete with great food photographs. Check out Nom Nom Paleo and Civilized Caveman and try not to let your mouth water too much while you’re browsing.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Below are some resources to learn more about how to implement a Paleo Diet and the science behind it. All of these books have been a huge influence on my own health and helped to expand my knowledge. I know they can impact your life as well.
If you can only buy one book, It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig is the way to go. The book explains some difficult concepts as pertaining to digestion and food in a way that makes it accessible to anyone. If you are a person who doesn’t get into all the science stuff, then you can simply read about what to eat and what not to eat. I can’t stress enough how much this book will influence your health in a positive way. I could write an entire review, but it all boils down to this: You need to read this book TODAY and start applying it! Get it here.
Robb Wolf is one of the most recognized and influential people in the movement toward more ancestral living. The book goes into great detail as it pertains to digestion and what happens to our food. The material is accessible, but has enough meat for those of you that want some hardcore science. If you really want to dig in and learn, here’s where to order The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet.
Here is the book that started it all. Written by Professor Loren Cordain, this is the first book that I read on the subject. It deep dives into the science behind the diet as well as what to eat and not to eat. If you’re ready to jump in, order The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat.
Wrapping It All Up
In closing, The Paleo Diet is not a diet, but a lifestyle that trickles into all facets of your day-to-day living. It has been the best choice my wife and I have made and it is not only reflected in how we look, but how we feel and interact with each other. We continue the journey each day and try to inspire everyone to improve the quality of their life. Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness says it best: everyone should JERF or Just Eat Real Food.
If you have any more specific questions or comments, please leave them below or feel free to contact me.