WTF is the Paleo Diet and Should You Try It?

Eat like a caveman, they say.

That’s the paleo diet in a nutshell.

Well, that’s part of it…

By now there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of the paleo diet. It’s also possible that you got caught up in the hype. Especially if you do or have tried CrossFit. Those crossfitters love them some paleo food. Except when they don’t. Then they eat anything. But, I digress.

WTF is the Paleo Diet?

The basic premise of the paleo diet promotes eating like our ancestors – cavemen. Hence the name “paleo.” As in, the paleolithic era. Get it?

The argument typically goes something like this – if you can grow it, gather it or kill it, you can eat it. That means the bulk of your diet should consist of lean proteins, seafood, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and other healthy fats.

The Good

In theory, this logic is sound. The industrial food complex pervasive in our culture has derailed sustainable agriculture and replaced it with fake, processed foods. Everything is laced with sugar. It’s almost impossible to find foods free from additives and chemicals. Grains, breads and pastries have replaced vegetables and meat as the centerpiece of our meals.

Ultimately, the goal is to eliminate refined sugars, processed foods, additives, gluten and – in some cases – dairy.

Are you still with me? Good! Because this is where things tend to get a little tricky. The list of things you CAN’T eat, all of the things that aren’t paleo, throws people off.

The Bad

What do you mean I can’t eat grains? Grains are bread, and bread is delicious! No pasta, cereal, rice, bagels or oatmeal either? Is there anything left to eat?

I told you it gets tricky. This is one of the downsides of going paleo. The elimination mentality.

With all of the hype surrounding the paleo diet, someone new to this way of eating can get carried away very quickly. You read a couple articles online. See the eat this, not that list. Then, in an instant, you stop eating certain foods. Sure, it’s possible to quit bread, sugar and dairy cold turkey. But, most of the time it does not go over very well. Plus, it’s not sustainable.

If you were to stop eating entire food groups, you have to replace those calories and nutrients somehow. If you planned it out, you’d be getting a whole lot more of those things from more wholesome sources – healthy fats, lean proteins and veggies.

But, the instantaneous elimination mentality makes sustaining the switch to paleo almost impossible.

Should you go Paleo?

I can’t tell you how many emails I get a week asking that exact question. Aside from, “how do I lose weight/gain muscle?” going paleo is the most asked question. Which is why I am addressing it here.

That said, there is no simple answer to the question. I encourage you to go healthy. Eat real food. Less sugar and processed junk. You should try to eat fewer grains. Avoid other highly inflammatory foods. Eat more fat. More vegetables. More lean, grass-fed meats.

Some might read that last paragraph and say that I’m advocating the switch to paleo. I guess you could make that argument. But, there are a couple distinctions I’d like to make.

1. Don’t go paleo for the sake of doing it. Or, to tell people that you are “paleo.” Just eat healthy without a label.

2. If you are going to go paleo, have a freaking plan. Understand what it is, what it’s not and exactly what you’re in for. Otherwise you will fail.

Here, do this – check out “Your Guide to Paleo.”  It’s one of the best, most comprehensive resources on going paleo I’ve ever seen. Yes, it has all of the basic eat this, avoid that information. But, there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a tutorial on the paleo diet. A crash course on paleo foods, cooking and a paleo lifestyle. The recipes and cheat sheets make the paleo switch simple. Like I said, if you’re going to go paleo do it armed with information. Check out the paleo guide website here.

Don’t go paleo, go primal

If that doesn’t do it for you. It going paleo is too much to ask. Consider going primal.

The Primal Blueprint is the definitive guide on living like our ancestors. It’s the work of highly acclaimed health writer and researcher, Mark Sission. Mark doesn’t preach paleo, he promotes a primal lifestyle – living, not just eating, according to evolutionary science.

Yes, some of his tenants reflect that of the paleo diet. But he also dives into the exercise and lifestyle components of making the switch to primal. In this way his words and wisdom are more rooted in reality. Mark’s Primal Blueprint is more sustainable. It’s also supported by a ton of research and accompanied books, supplements, recipes, workout plans and fitness challenges.

To go, or not to go?

Look, I already said there’s no right answer. Going paleo, primal or any other lifestyle change is a personal thing. It’s up to you to try some things out. Be honest with yourself. Make it work for you.

It’s possible that Your Guide to Paleo or the Primal Blueprint could be transformative for you. I think they might, that’s why I’m sharing them with you. But, it’s also possible that they’re not for you.

Great. That’s fine. You know what doesn’t work. You don’t get to quit. Now, it’s time to try something else. Seek out other resources. Find the food, fitness and lifestyle solutions that work for you.

Good luck! And, if there’s ever anything I can do to help, you know where to find me.