You might have heard the word Paleo thrown around lately. Maybe you heard someone mention the Paleo Diet on TV or a friend told you that they know a girl who knows a guy whose brother went Paleo and got ripped in, like, a month! The term Paleo is surfacing more and more these days, especially in popular culture with a number of celebrities claiming to have gone Paleo.
But what exactly is the Paleo Diet?
Long story short, Paleo stands for Paleolithic – you know, that period in history many years ago when our nomadic human ancestors roamed the earth and lived in a non-agrarian civilization. More commonly in the context of Health and Wellness, the word Paleo is used in reference to the Paleo Diet (yes, I used the D-word). The ‘Paleo Diet’, AKA Primal Diet, AKA Caveman Diet, AKA Evolutionary, attempts to replicate the diet of a Paleolithic human being. It stems from the belief that prior to Agrarian Civilizations, humans physically prospered from a Hunter-Gatherer diet that was far more optimal and more in-tune with human evolution. It also operates on the basis that Modern-Day developments in agriculture have brought upon a variety of illnesses that were not present during the Palaeolithic era.
Though each person has their own idea of what the Paleo Diet entails. it boils down to consuming a variety of Meat, Fruit, Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds, while avoiding just about everything else. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is. In fact, it is probably the simplest “diet” I have encountered, which means it is the easiest diet to follow. It is so easy in fact that if you think about the layout of a grocery store, you would only have to shop the perimeter to fill up your basket with Paleo-Approved goodies (avoiding dairy and certain frozen foods like ice cream! Duh!)
Let’s get back to that part about everyone has their own idea of Paleo. Since I am not a trained health or food professional, I would encourage you to research what others have written on the Paleo Diet. You could read Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet (RobbWolf.com) in which he discusses his Paleo Solution; Loren Cordain, PhD, whose book The Paleo Diet is one I continuously refer back to. Or, you could visit Mark Sisson’s website Mark’s Daily Apple in which he regularly provides articles on what he refers to as the Primal Blueprint.
For me, Paleo is more so a lifestyle than a diet. It means that I eat foods that fall under the category of Meat (all varieties, including fish), Fruit, Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds. I avoid, for the most part, foods that are sold in a bag or a box. I drink plenty of water and exercise daily. My interpretation of the Paleo Lifestyle also extends to being environmentally conscious, which isn’t something that is always discussed in relation to a diet. It is very important to me to look for products that are sustainable and as locally produced as possible. After all, Paleolithic humans didn’t have Amazon and couldn’t buy Chlorophyll harvested from a lagoon in New Zealand!
However, that is not to say that I don’t occasionally partake in the occasional cheeseburger or slice of cake, operative word being occasional. My interpretation of the Paleo Lifestyle includes scheduled “cheat meals” in which I stray from the Paleo path and indulge in a craving I may have. There are rules to this and I will be posting some helpful tips on how to Properly Cheat.
I should also mention that I have come to a realistic interpretation of the Paleo diet based on my budget, lifestyle and availability of certain produce. Living in Toronto, I have access to an abundance of fresh, seasonal produce. However, certain items have higher price tags that I may not be able to afford on a regular basis. Since everyone’s budget is different, you will undoubtedly come to your own interpretation of what you eat on a ‘Paleo Diet’. Think of Paleo more so as a guide of fundamental principles, as opposed to a list of commandments.
Here’s a short list of ‘What is the Paleo Diet’ FAQ’s you may find helpful (hopefully!).
What Can I eat on the Paleo Diet?
Easy, I’ve already mentioned that the Paleo Diet consists of eating Meat, Fruit, Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds. However, there is a great debate over the optimal amount of each of these. There is a huge misconception/myth that Palaeolithic humans consumed large quantities of meat. Think about it. How often do you think a Caveman would hunt down a prehistoric animal? If anything, meat was consumed sparingly and in small quantities. Modern-day promoters of the Paleo Diet often try to lure new converts with the promise of endless meat, bacon, shrimp, chicken and fish! This is neither balanced, nor is it a reflection of Palaeolithic realities. My interpretation of the Paleo Lifestyle limits the quantity of meat to a necessary minimum, and incorporates large amounts of vegetables and fruits, and a smaller amount of nuts and seeds. As mentioned, your location and budget will dictate what you eat and how much of it.
Is The Paleo Diet hard?
This is a tough one since it is profoundly subjective. In my opinion, as someone who has tried every diet under the sun, the Paleo Lifestyle has been the easiest one for me to follow. I say this with 3 years of Paleo experience and no end in sight. The Paleo Diet is something that I have been able to successfully implement into my life because of just how easy and simple it is. Dieting is hard and, in the beginning, unpleasant. Why complicate matters further by imposing a “Juice Diet” or “Raw Diet” or any other unrealistic and unsatisfying restrictions upon yourself. These bandaid solutions are temporary and not long-term solutions. I speak for myself, and perhaps others, when I say that I had a very unhealthy relationship with food. The Paleo Diet has given me a new sense of health and has provided me with a long-term solution. As with anything, however, it takes time to break a habit and to form a new one. If you find yourself initially discouraged, I urge you to stick with it because it will only get easier.
Will I Have Mood Swings on the Paleo Diet?
I don’t even think I’m capable of answering this one! Maybe! I think it depends on your personality. Did I get mood swings? Not really. Did I experience gut-churning cravings of unhealthy things? YES! For many people, food is a drug and eating can be a disease. It might be strange for some people to contemplate having such a complicated and unhealthy relationship with what is considered a Necessity of Life. Nevertheless, I suffered from an affliction and needed to change my life. I fought through my cravings – which is why I strongly believe in a Healthy Approach to Cheating.
Will I Lose Weight on the Paleo Diet?
Short answer: Yes. Long answer: it will take time. It is important to realize that you will not see immediate results. Have you ever tried going on a diet or eating healthy only to find yourself waking up the next morning looking like you haven’t shed a pound? That’s because you haven’t! This is perhaps the single-most common mentality people have expressed to me – I’m looking at you Mom and Dad! Time after time, my parents would approach me and say that they had a salad yesterday and this morning they weigh 2lbs more! Experience has shown me that the body only shows signs of progress after 2-3 weeks (ff course, this depends on the person). It is important to set realistic goals if you intend to incorporate a Paleo routine into your lifestyle. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t lose 15 lbs in 2 weeks. Your body will dictate the progress and there’s nothing you can do about it except be patient and go with the flow.
Do I have to live like a Caveman on the Paleo Diet?
I mean, you can if you want! But you don’t have to live in a Cave or be a Man to be Paleo. As mentioned, Paleo is more so a lifestyle that will be subjectively interpreted from person to person. It also doesn’t mean that you have to eat Raw meat without the use of a fork and knife. Common, keep it classy people! Now wipe that mustard off of your face!
Do I need to exercise on the Paleo Diet?
No. But it is strongly encouraged, both for physical and mental health. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the physical part of it, but the mental benefits of exercise are not discussed as often. Not only will you have more energy, feel more relaxed, sleep better, think clearer and likely live longer, you will feel more encouraged to eat healthy. Ever go to the gym and crave a salad afterwards? There is a strong mind-body connection between keeping fit and eating right. Plus, it’s fun to push your own limits and see what you’re made of! To keep things interesting, I implement a combination of constantly varied and functional forms of exercise in my daily routine. This ranges from Yoga, Crossfit, Swimming, Cycling, Pick-Up Sports, Walking my dogs Charlie and Nicky, Jogging, High Intensity Interval Training, and just about everything in between. After all, variety is the spice of life!
Do I need to do Crossfit on the Paleo Diet?
No. But I highly recommend it. I think this is an interesting topic and I would like to write a separate blog post on it in the near future. Stay tuned and I’ll share my thoughts with you soon!
I hope this helped shed some light on What is the Paleo Diet. If you still have some questions on what you can eat on the Paleo Diet, I invite you to check out some of my recipes HERE.
Of, if you want to read more about my Paleo Story, please click HERE.
**I am not a licensed health care professional, doctor, scientist, nutritionist, or dietician and any and all advice and information provided on cookprimalgourmet.com does not claim to be accurate nor is it intended to serve as professional medical advice. Please consult with a Doctor before commencing any new diet or physical activity.