In Defense of Paleo

In Defense of Paleo

I’ve noticed, even since before I started reading about and following a mostly-Paleo diet, that people are passionate about their views on the Paleo diet, whether they are positive or negative.  I was also skeptical of it, since I am skeptical of any diet that cuts out entire whole-food groups.  In the end, I did my own research, gave it a chance, and decided it was right for me.  Lately though, I’ve noticed an abundance of Paleo-hate and I think it is because people just don’t understand it.  So here I am, giving my perspective of the Paleo Diet.

First, let’s talk about “diet”

Diet: Food or drink regularly provided or consumed (Merriam-Webster)

That is what the Paleo Diet is; it is not a fad diet or crash diet.  No one would argue that the Eat Clean Diet is a fad diet so I don’t think PD deserves that attack either.  It is a way of daily eating that is intended to be followed for your health and well being.  So from here on out, we will use the definition of diet as above.

The Theory
You have all probably heard it called the Caveman Diet before and that is basically where the theory comes from.  In order to research something, you need to have a theory to test.  The theory here is that we (humans) did not evolve to eat the grains we began eating X number of years go, i.e. since the Paleolithic Era.  That lead to lots of research and the conclusion that we should eat like our ancestors ate.

What To Eat
PaleoFoodThere are lots of variations on PD, but here is my basic “food list” of what I consider completely Paleo:

  • Meats
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts

Short and simple.  Some eat legumes (beans) while they were “banned” previously. Some might consume diary, or not.  Can you really blame any diet that excludes sugar, processed foods, junk food, etc.?  I can’t which is why I gave it a chance in the first place.  It doesn’t seem that bad, right?

The Science
ScienceShirtI’m not going to go into detail on this one but I can tell you there is lots of serious science to back up the theory.  Hard science.  Biology.  I can poke holes in nutritional studies all day long but I have a really hard time arguing with biology.  Basically, your body does not react nicely to grains or dairy.  Robb Wolf spent a good part of his book, The Paleo Solution, explaining this so if you are curious, I would recommend you pick up a copy because I will not do it justice.  Also, he has an extensive appendix referencing all the studies, so if you are still skeptic, you can read those too!

EatRightWeight Loss
A lot of people attack PD as an ill way of losing weight.  Well, as I mentioned above in Semantics, it is a way of eating intended to improve your health and well being.  Now, a lot of people probably do lose weight when starting PD, especially if they were eating lots of sugars and processed foods previously.  But to compare it to Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Adkins, etc. is not an equal comparison.  The goals of those programs are not the same as PD.

A lot of people call this a low-carb diet.  While I no longer track my food, I can tell you that while I was (and doing PD) I was not eating “low carb” (depending on your definition of course).  I was getting around 150 grams per day of carbs, all without eating bread or any other grains.  It is also not a “meat-aterian” diet as my husband likes to call it.  While I do have at least 2 servings of meat, poultry, or fish each day, they are not huge servings.  They are reasonable, with a huge heap of veggies on the side.  Or is it a heap of veggies with a side of meat?  Smile 

My Experience
Now let’s get into some details about how I have faired on PD.  First some history.  I have always had stomach aches.  You can just ask my husband, almost everything I eat upsets my stomach, or that is how it was.  Also, while losing the first 40lbs of weight, I can remember often being hungry, or going to bed hungry, all for the sake of my calorie differential.  Additionally, I can recall many, many years of lethargy, afternoon energy slumps, sluggish workouts, lack of concentration, and a terrible memory.

While PD is not the perfect cure for everything, I have found a great increase in energy, concentration, and reduction of appetite.  The afternoon crash is a thing of the past.  I even stopped counting my calories a few weeks back because I was consistently falling into my calories ranged without even trying.  When eating a diet so high in vegetables, it is very hard to overeat.  Also, the carb cravings have completely vanished.  I’m able to concentrate better on my work.  I even broke through a 6 month plateau and lost 5lbs.

Wrap Up
I am sure there is a lot more that I could go into about PD but I just wanted to give a little overview.  I’ve read a couple of books: The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Paleoista, The Paleo Solution.  I also regularly read a couple of blogs, most notably Mark’s Daily Apple – Mark Sisson (author of the Primal Blueprint) does a lot of research and answers a lot of common questions here.  Some other great resources:

I’ve left a lot of things out like saturated fat questions, sustainability of consuming so much meat (by the way, to be a true Paleo, you should be buying free-range, grass-fed, sustainably raised meats), the dairy and legume question, etc.  You can find a lot of that information on the websites I listed above and in the books.  They are all very in-depth questions, too complicated for me to briefly answer without doing better research (like the books did!  See, I’m just being lazy).

Finally, I don’t claim to be an expert on PD at all, I am just giving you my experience and information I’ve read.  Like I said, I was skeptic at first, untrusting of a meal plan that excluded a whole food but once I started reading the research and tried it for myself, there was no going back.  This might not be for everyone but it works for me. 

Do you have any simple questions about the Paleo Diet?
Have you tried the Paleo Diet and found success?


7 thoughts on “In Defense of Paleo

  1. Nicely put…I will also add another great resource (with a sense of humor) is Liz Wolfe’s blog Cave Girl Eats. She is a nutritionist. Also the Weston A. Price Foundation – another great resource deep in research and science. In fact, I just read on Robb Wolf’s blog about the Ancestral Health Symposium…very interesting info there….a dream of mine is to attend one of these years!

  2. Love the flowchart (ha!).

    I’ve gained weight eating “Paleo.”

    I’ve had malabsorption my ENTIRE LIFE (diagnosed, doctor-prescribed meds to “remedy”). After about a month of eating (at this time, I didn’t know you could call what I was eating Paleo–Paleo is my “shorthand” for how I eat because it turns out that if I’m not counting alcohol and sugar, which I still consume but limit, the term applies). Once my gut started to heal, the MASSIVE AMOUNTS of food I’ve always eaten and didn’t enter my metabolism started entering. Oopsie.

    1. …And I still eat Paleo. That was just to illustrate in fact how “healthy” it is for anybody out there who has always suffered from malabsorption! I don’t know if it’ll fix everybody BUT it’s worth trying because it’s NOT low carb. It’s not a weird diet. It’s how I was raised eating on a backwoods ranch in the Ozarks.

      (You know this but for anybody who stumbles across my comment, I wanted them to know!)

  3. And let’s not forget that a lot of people who eat this way find it “cures” a lot of common ailments and illnesses. Encopresis, psoriasis, and some serious digestive issues. People with all of these have found their symptoms reduced or gone completely by eating this way.

    Since eating this way I have also experienced:
    – better sleep
    – an easier ‘motivation’ to do my workouts
    – less lethargy around 3pm
    – pretty much 0 stomach issues
    – and a better all-around outlook on life

    We’ll find out soon if the diet is actually helping me to lose weight. While I wasn’t eating a lot of processed foods and refined sugars when I started (other than what they sneak in foods like bread you think is totally 100% healthy), this diet just seems to fit with what I need to be eating.

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