Folks, it seems everyone is pretty damn confused about what is and isn’t “Paleo”. One app or website tells we’re good to go and the next gives a definitive NOPE. And the ‘Paleo’ recipes out there don’t help with sometimes questionable ingredients. Bottom line: I get A LOT of questions and emails asking if something is or isn’t gonna fly if you’re trying to “be Paleo”. Seriously, if I had a nickel for each one I’ve answered I’d be in the same tax bracket as Bill Gates – no lie.
Some people are pretty damn serious about this stuff too. Lots of times the questions I get are posed like this: “If I have ________ (insert food in question here) does that mean I’m not Paleo?” Well, let’s be honest here. No, you are NOT paleo – the simple fact that it’s 2016 and not 2.6 – 12,000 BP (before present) pretty much wipes that chance out altogether, regardless of if you’re eating a steak or a Big Mac. That whole “Paleo ship” has sailed, and I’m sorry to be the one that has to break it to you, but you’re never gonna be a caveman unless that’s your Halloween costume. Using the words of Garth Algar (because Wayne’s World is only the BEST movie ever made…), “LIVE IN THE NOW!”
So what exactly determines the ‘Paleoness’ of certain foods? Who’s the “Paleo Boss” making all the calls as to what does and doesn’t fit, and in the end, does this dude or dudette’s opinion really matter? Well, folks the definitive answer is that there is no definitive answer. Think about it. Can anyone that’s living today actually KNOW with 100% certainty what was around back in the day of caves and clubs? And, in reality is there any way we can recreate the same foods and/or with the same nutrient profiles that the cavemen had access to without some totally un-Paleo food technology? I mean really, when’s the last time you saw a woolly mammoth when you were driving down the road? I think that we can all agree that achieving perfect Paleo in today’s world ain’t gonna happen AND if it were, you’d need to give up that ‘smart’ phone, computer, car, house and ‘Paleo cookie’ to even start getting close.
Now, let’s talk for real – so ‘STRICT’ Paleo as defined by the OPG (Original Paleo God), Loren Cordain, says that all dairy and foods containing it, grains (including quinoa, buckwheat, etc.), legumes (including peanuts, soybeans/products, green beans, all peas), all salt containing foods (sorry, that means bacon too…), fatty meats (poultry with skin, ribs, ribeye, sausage, etc.), juices, starchy vegetables (yes, even sweet potatoes and yams if you’re STRICT), all forms of sugar (honey, maple syrup, date or coconut sugar, etc.), vinegar, processed foods and fried foods are NOT part of a Paleo diet. And if you’re finding all of that a little hard to digest… There’s more. The following should only be eaten in MODERATION (don’t worry the amounts are detailed in the upcoming link…): eggs, farmed fish, high sugar and dried fruits, nuts and seeds (including nut flours – sorry, no paleo cookies for you!), oils (yes, even coconut and olive), farm-raised meat and poultry, canned foods AND foods cooked on high heat (grilled, griddled, fried, etc.). See this website for all the gory details (if you think you can handle them…).
Those are the ‘official rules’ – take a little time to wrap your heads around all that. You still with me? So, I guess this means that if you really want to be “Paleo”, you’re going to need to kiss that bacon goodbye and the sausage too while you’re at it. Now, before you go getting all depressed about your future meals, I’d like to challenge you to think about what’s really in a name (I’m talking about “Paleo” here – not the whole Romeo and Juliet thing.)? I mean, ultimately, does calling yourself ‘Paleo’ really get you anything in this life? And does anyone really care? I’d venture to guess that most of your closest friends, your coworkers, and your family kind of wish you’d just put a cork in it when you start going all pretentious Paleo on them (trust me on that one). I also want to bring up the fact that with all the ‘Paleo’ cookies, breads, bars, pancakes, (insert rest of EPICALLY LONG list here)… The “Paleo” that most folks are doing is probably about as watered down as the bottle of vodka in your parent’s bar when you were 16 – yeah, that bad.
Now, I’m pretty sure there’s going to be someone(s) that tries to argue against the aforementioned list of “Paleo rules” – and go ahead BUT I’m not the person you need to argue with. I didn’t come up with this $h!t, I’m just the messenger. And ultimately, it’s totally your choice as to whether or not you want to follow all the ‘regulations’. I’m not here to fight, but rather to inform and to be completely honest – I couldn’t give a flying fart as to how awesomely paleo you are or aren’t. Why? Well, let me tell you…
So, I’ve had A LOT of clients that have been RELIGIOUSLY “paleo” and have actually experienced some less than optimal results over time. Now, I’m not necessarily talking weight or body comp (unless they’re hitting the paleo cookies or fat too hard) but more importantly overall health and how they feel physically and mentally. There have been numerous cases of either the development of constipation or the opposite (that would be diarrhea for those of you that didn’t pick that up) due to lack of starch and/or soluble fiber. Sure, all those sweet potatoes are great, but they aren’t enough for everyone – add some gluten free oats, chia or flax seeds, and/or legumes (in the cases where these foods are appropriate and tolerated) and guess what? Problem solved! There’s also folks that are completely void of energy and generally feel like a bruised turd that’s been run over twice. We add a carb that’s not primarily sugar based (that means something other than fruit and sweet potatoes…) and WHAM-O! That energy is BACK. And then there’s the stress, hormone and mental aspects of ‘staying strict’ – some folks psych themselves into and out of intolerances because of something they read (yeah, the mind is THAT powerful). And there are other cases where people don’t go out or to gatherings where there will be food or without taking a pre-made meal packed in Tupperware. These folks are often depressed and confused about where the lines between being normal and being healthy cross. And if the quality of your life isn’t better when you’re “doing paleo”, is it even a good idea to be super dictator-like with your rules?
Again, I’m not going to tell you what to eat – this is something you need to figure out for yourself. I can help you figure it out, but I can’t know exactly what your body needs by reading or listening to your story. It’s trial and error, people, and it can be a long process if you’ve been super militant about your food for a long time. But I assure you that there is a happy medium and that you can find it. Figuring out the best way of eating for YOU and YOUR body is a whole lot more important than fitting into or under a label. You’ve got to remember that what’s right for Internet Einstein X or book author Y just might not be right for you, AND understand that this is TOTALLY okay.
So while some of you are flipping the freak out, and others breathing a huge sigh of relief, I’ll be over here eating my oatmeal and Greek yogurt; because yeah, that works for me.
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