What is Paleo?

LIFESTYLE VS. DIET

First, I think it is important to consider Paleo a “lifestyle choice” rather than a “diet.”  To me, the word “diet” has a lot of negative connotations.  When going on a “diet,” my experiences traditionally involved me drastically changing my eating habits on a dime (low-carb, low-calorie, etc), and the results were just plain unsustainable.  My body would go crazy with carb/sugar withdrawls, and I would envitably cheat — then feel like a failure, having a negative experience overall.   With paleo being a “lifestyle,” I do not consider it a chore.  I understand the mechanics behind it and believe in them, and if or when I “cheat” it doesn’t bother me.  Paleo is my lifestyle now, and I know that I’ll do better tomorrow.  Paleo is a long term solution to transforming your body, but also to transforming your mental relationship with food in general.

PALEO: [Greek palaio-, from palaios, ancient, from palai, long ago]

The Paleo (prefix for Paleolithic) lifestyle mimics the way that our ancestors ate prior to modern day agriculture.  It is based on the concept that the best diet is the one to which we are genetically adapated.  The lifestyle embraces and emphasizes foods that a “hunter/gatherer” would be able to obtain in nature — vegtables, seafood, meat and game, some fresh fruit and nuts, and stays away from anything processed – think dairy, grains, gluten, sugar, etc.  The belief behind the Paleo lifestyle is that our species evolved eating this way – therefore, that is diet we should follow for optimal preformance from our bodies.   

SO WHAT CAN’T I EAT?

As many have said before me, it is SO much better to focus on what you CAN eat.  Protien is the major centerpiece of the Paleo lifestyle.  You can get your protien from all kinds of seafood, meat and game – beef, chicken, pork, bison, rabbit, deer, fish, crab, duck, etc.  as well as eggs (considered a protien, not dairy source).  Protien can also come from vegtables/greens – dark leafy greens (DLGs) are a cornerstone of the Paleo Diet due to their extremely high density nutrient content.  DLG’s include kale, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens, etc.  Vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, squash, carrots, etc should be eaten in abudance for their protien and nutrient content.  

Healthy fat (avocado, coconut, olive oil, bacon etc) is the other major building block of every Paleo meal.  Fruit, because of its generally high glycemic index, is to be eaten in moderation.  Nuts are also recommended in moderation because of their high Omega-6 content.

THAT’S NICE, BUT SERIOUSLY, WHAT CAN’T I EAT?

Can’t get off of it can you?  OK fine.  Here’s that big no-no list you were looking for.  In short, you cannot eat anything processed — think dairy, grains, gluten or sugar.  Alcohol is not paleo.  Legumes are a point of contention with many Paleo experts – many do not eat beans becuase they promote gut dysfunction, but I find them to be OK in moderation.  Any form of bread, rice or pasta is out.  Any form of sugar is out.  Again, think back to the fact that this is an ancestoral model – could they eat sourdough bread, quinoa, Hershey bars or Frappachinos 5000 years ago?  Absolutely not.  Stick to fresh ingredients found in nature and you’ll do just fine.

WHY SHOULD I EAT PALEO?  WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

I will be completely upfront with you by revealing to you that I am not a scientist (aren’t you shocked?) – this website is just meant to help people that like Paleo get the right start, and offer fun recipes and tips. The Paleo Diet has proved to be great for a multitude of health benefits, including fat loss, as well as preventing several degenerative diseases.  I would VERY MUCH encourage you to look at Loren Cordain’s Frequently Asked Questions about the health benefits of paleo – he IS a scientist and his answers are incredibly comprehensive.  http://thepaleodiet.com/faq/

I CAN share with you MY personal experience.  I eased myself into Paleo, first starting 50/50 (meaning 50% paleo, 50% non-paleo), then 55/45, etc until I arrived at my perfectly pleasant combo of 90/10.  Since going Paleo, I have experienced a few important changes.  First, I have a totally different amount of energy.  No longer do I have those moments when I’m done eating where I feel like I have to be carried to the car.  I never feel bloated or “food hungover.”  Second, my relationship with food has completley changed.  When you cook all of your meals, you develop a great passion and pride in your dishes.  Every bite becomes a pleasure because you know what you put into the dish, and you know it is going to help your body preform.  Thirdly, it HAS helped my body preform.  My strength and endurance have improved since starting Paleo (of course, combining it with lots of CrossFit).  Lastly, yes, my body has changed.  I’ve lost about 2 inches all over (but have gained 1-2lbs – thank you lean muscle mass increases!!!!).  But to be honest, I love all the other benefits from Paleo so much, that the body changes seem like just an added benefit.  Like dessert!  A Paleo dessert of course 🙂

IT’S ABOUT YOU.

It all comes down to YOU.  YOU have to listen to your body and decide what works for you and your lifestyle.  My system and body can handle some red wine once or twice a week, and some dark chocolate at 3PM on a slow work Tuesday.  That’s why 90/10 works great for me.  It will take a few months of trial and error before you can figure out what is going to work the best for your life.  Stick with it and I promise you will at the very least feel better about yourself and proud of your accomplishments at the end of the day!  That sounds a lot more important than a bagel and cream cheese or fettuchini alfredo 🙂

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