First impressions are a fascinating thing, aren’t they?
Whisper the word Paleo, and you conjure up images of bulky weightlifters who eat big hunks of meat while chanting *Crossfit! Crossfit! Crossfit!*.
Celebrities in shining white and stainless steel kitchens preparing omelets with organic eggs from their backyard chicken coop.
That girl who has a bad habit of letting everyone know that the brownies in the breakroom are NOT paleo.
If you ask most people what they’ve heard about Paleo, it’s usually one of two things: That it is a high protein, meat based diet or that you “eat like a caveman”. The first, is wildly inaccurate. The second raises more questions than it answers.
In a nutshell, the Paleo lifestyle isn’t about only eating grass-fed beef and living like a caveman.
It’s about eating as much nutrient dense whole food as possible (quality meats, bone broth, fish, and vegetables), while avoiding processed, unnatural food (vegetable oils, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners aka anything in a box) as well as foods our bodies have a hard time digesting (grains, legumes, etc.).
After going gluten-free dairy-free due to autoimmune issues, and spending a year without seeing substantial improvement to my health, the next logical progression was to go Paleo.
When I did, I was finally able to cut through the misnomers and figure out what the heck Paleo even meant.
The high-protein, meat based diet (Spoiler Alert - It’s not!)
After seeing so many Paleo bars in stores made out of beef and cranberries (am I the only that think that sounds gross?), I was surprised when my online research dug up this interesting fact: truly eating Paleo involves eating MORE vegetables than the typical Vegetarian does! *Mind blown*
Most vegetarians replace meat in their diet with grains, soy, etc. Based on my own world experience, I’ve found that most vegetarians (and even vegans!) eat just as few vegetables as someone on the standard american diet. Grains (and sugar) make up a disturbingly high percentage of the average american’s diet, vegetarian or not.
Eating like a caveman
The caveman theory goes like this: Our early ancestor didn’t suffer from things like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, because their diets were based on whole, unprocessed foods. So, logic would suggest that if we cut out all of the processed crap that our ancestors didn’t have access to, we can also cut out all of the horrible diseases that have sprung up in the past century or so.
Granted, that’s a simplified version, and the benefits of Paleo extend beyond avoiding disease (for instance, more energy, better skin, better digestion, better abs(?), etc etc). However, unlike most fad “diets”, I was surprised to find the growing mass of information supporting the Paleo diet.
The Paleo “bible” for instance, (AKA The Paleo Approach) is a thick, thorough book that goes into great detail about the science supporting the Paleo Diet.
I admit, I’m not a great lover of science. I was pleasantly surprised that this book is extremely well written (even the science sections are easy to follow) and I highly recommend it to anyone seriously interested in the Paleo lifestyle.
And yet, after all of my research into the Paleo diet, my biggest light bulb moment was this: The best thing for your body is not Paleo - It’s sustainable Paleo.
In other words, Paleo doesn’t need to be “all or nothing”, as much as it needs to be a positive shift in lifestyle. So, instead of getting caught up in the dogmatic desire for a “perfect” Paleo diet, focus on finding ways to make Paleo a sustainable lifestyle for YOU.
If that means you are Paleo 6 days a week, great. If it means you are Paleo except for the occasional order of french fries, awesome. If you are completely Paleo up until the point that a peanut butter cup will save your sanity, then you do you.
Sustainable Paleo is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Embrace it, along with your own flaws, and give yourself the grace to transition into it.
Don’t let the haters shame you for the occasional non-Paleo indulgence, because, hey - this is life, and life is messy. Your sanity, and your health, deserve a sustainable lifestyle you can enjoy.
What was the first impression you had of the Paleo diet? Tell us in the comments below how you’ve made Paleo a sustainable lifestyle for you!