Let’s start by taking a look at what the Paleo is and is not
A lifestyle, not a fad diet
Believe me when I say that sticking with Paleo and seeing the results you want to see will make you never want to go back to eating insulin-spiking, gut-irritating junk. In addition to diet, there are recommendations on fitness, sleep and stress.
A cure to the problems associated with a wheat, rice, dairy, soy, and corn-based society
Most people will read this and say “You’re wrong, I function fine with those things in my diet!” Do you really? Do you know what it’s like to have the energy to do anything, sleep like a baby, recover from workouts twice as fast and not get cranky when you don’t eat for a few hours?
Based on science
But not the science you’ll find in most traditional textbooks or medical school programs. It’s a combination of food science, physiology and anthropology. The foods that are recommended are older than the USDA, the food pyramid, and Big Agriculture
Emphasizes food quality
This is a big one that a lot of people misconstrue. This lifestyle is not Atkins 2.0. We’re here to emphasize eating whole, real food that comes from a reliable source. We believe in organic fruits and veggies and pastured, grass-fed and wild meats, eggs and fish. Simply put, your food should make you healthier and you should feel good eating it.
Paleo is not:
An argument against vegetarianism/veganism
I completely respect the desire to not kill and eat animals. And if you’re happy with your weight, digestion, musculature, athletic performance, biomarkers, stress levels, sleep, mood and energy, then stick with what you’re doing. You may be one of the very few people whose genetics trump anything you put in your mouth. But if you have doubts or feel that maybe your diet is making you ill, then you owe it to yourself to consider Paleo.
An avenue for pushing expensive products and supplements
I was a slave once to whey and casein protein powders, fat burner pills, useless herbs and miracle drugs. I’ve finally figured out that you really can get everything you need from food and sunlight. The only things I may recommend are fish oil and a Vitamin D supplement on cloudy days.
Impossible to stick to
If you are patient and really pay attention to the program, the results will become your fuel, and your desire to cheat will reduce dramatically. For many of us, food is addictive and has emotional ties, and breaking both the mental and physical stranglehold it has on you is part of the Paleo lifestyle.
I totally fell for this pitfall early on, but quickly realized that the Paleo lifestyle can work on any budget. You may have to make some compromises in quality of food, but you can still easily stick to it.
Open to interpretation
There are foods that fit with the science, and foods that don’t. The only things that will change that are your goals, be they fat loss, athletic performance, or managing an autoimmune condition.
Great! Now that we’ve set your expectations, let’s get down to the actual implementation.
What to eat
Meat, fish and eggs
This includes chicken, turkey, certain cuts of beef, bison, game meat, all fish, shellfish, shrimps, and all types of eggs. Quality is important here, it’s preferred that you get local grass-fed meats, pastured chickens and eggs, and wild caught seafood.
There’s nothing like cooking a fresh dish with organic, local veggies. The colors, children, the colors! Eating a wide variety of veggies ensures you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need. If fat loss is your goal, go easy on the starches (potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, etc.) or limit them to post-workout.
Our paleolithic ancestors were able forage some fruit, but only seasonally and sparingly. Most modern fruits have been engineered to be sugar bombs, and those high in fructose have been shown to have damaging effects on the liver and other organs.
Nuts are delicious, but are very calorie dense. Don’t be fooled that eating fistful after fistful of almonds is healthy for you though, so go easy.
Other Healthy Fats
Olives, Coconuts, Avocados and more!
AND THAT’S IT!
Each meal should consist of a good-sized chunk of protein (size of your palm or larger), then fill in the rest of your plate with veggies. Add some healthy fat on top of that and you’re golden! You should eat until you’re satisfied and stay full for several hours after each meal.
What not to eat
This is a big one for people. Gluten is bad. Robb Wolf has an amazing chapter on the subject in his book The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet. In a nutshell, gluten: interferes in major ways with your body’s ability to signal to your brain that it is full; causes your gut to leak (weakening your digestion); and leads to systemic inflammation, causing diseases like arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and more. There are gluten-like substances in all grains.
I’m lactose intolerant, so this one was easy for me to get rid of. It’s a pretty controversial topic in the Paleo community. Here is my recommendation: go 30 days without dairy. Then try reintroducing it using a raw, fermented source. If you can tolerate that, try other things. If not, congrats! You get to join me in not eating dairy ever.
Legumes (including soy)
Legumes include peanuts, beans, soy, lentils. Snow and Sugar Snap Peas and green beans are ok because they don’t have a large enough concentration of harmful lectins (gut-binding proteins). Soy in particular is troublesome because it has a high concentration of lectins, phytoestrogens that mess with hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and are usually treated with harmful chemicals like hexanes.
Sugar (including artificial sweeteners)
Sugar is an addictive substance and is one of the hardest addictions to break. It is the leading cause of obesity (especially in children). Even artificial sweeteners can cause and insulin response and insulin sensitivity is an important goal in all this.
Alcohol comes in two flavors: gluten-heavy beer and sugar-filled wines and spirits. If you’re trying to lose weight, stay away!
I highly recommend getting yourself off of caffeine. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to leave behind, but once your blood sugar levels out, it gets a lot easier to reduce or eliminate the crutch.
If you’re committed to changing your life in all these other ways, why bother with these other negative substances?
And lastly, reduce your stress and sleep 8-10 hours a night!