Problems I’ve seen among paleo-dieters
The paleo diet isn’t going anywhere. It’s unfair to clump it with the “fad diets” because it seems to work (at far as we can see from short term results when done correctly). It can be maintained long-term because it’s truthfully not that difficult after you discover how delicious real food tastes. It’s not about actively cutting foods out, but rather making your diet more inclusive of nutrient-rich foods. If your body is nourished by your diet, you won’t have cravings for less nutrient-dense foods (read: junk). It can do wonders for a person’s energy levels, general sense of well-being, and corporal maladies - everybody from stay at home moms to professional athletes.
You are probably thinking the same thing that everybody else thinks when they first hear about a diet that proposes a culinary experience strictly free of all processed foods, including grains, grass, beans, soy, sweets, and most starch: “What CAN you eat?!” Lots of stuff, as it turns out.
And don’t jump to conclusions. This diet isn’t the product of some dude sitting around looking at the food pyramid and creating a weight-loss book based on the tenets of nutrition that have enabled our country to become so fat over the past 100 years. Rather, the basic principles of the paleo diet have been shown through research. Despite the fact that the paleo diet hasn’t been studied in a clinical trial of its own reflects the scientific method’s inability to force a controlled dietary environment on a bunch of research participants, so the ancillary research supporting its tenets is as good as it gets (for ANY diet, mind you). Most of this research was initially intended to prove Ancel Keyes’ lipid hypothesis false (which it did), but were ignored as it would likely prove costly for the U.S. government to clean the nutrition slate in exchange for a radical way of looking at nutrition advice.
Many dieters complain about the strict guidlines of a truly paleo diet with remarks along the lines of “What’s wrong with eating nuts or dried fruit or paleo-friendly desserts? It’s close enough to caveman! It’s not like cavemen slept in beds, either. If you are trying to push me to be STRICT paleo, wouldn’t that consist of eating without utensils, not washing my clothes, not taking showers?”
That is, in fact, exactly what I’m saying. If you espouse the virtues of the paleo diet, you are relying on the biochemical evidence that eating certain foods create physiological and pharmacological response in your body which result in the health benefits that us paleo eaters tout to all of the non-believers. If you find ways to bend those rules, you aren’t mimicking the eating habits of paleolithic man (“Grok”), so you can’t expect it to the work the right way. This means eating the most of those things most available to paleolithic man (plants), moderate amounts of some things (fruits, nuts, meat, fish, eggs, poultry), and very little amounts of other things (oils). Epic Meal Time? Not paleo, probably will result in pathology long-term. Bacon fest? Sorry, equally bad if you’re eating a pound of bacon in one sitting (I’m guilty, too. Fagedaboudit). And can someone please describe to me why paleolithic man would eat 100% cacao?! It tastes like crap, so he wouldn’t have eaten it. Almond flours/coconut oil/coconut flour? You’re kidding yourself. If it’s processed in a way that paleolithic man wouldn’t have prepared it (including cooking), it’s not paleo. Eat as many vegetables as you’d like, but everything else should come and go as supplements to your diet. Your plate should never look like this:
In summary, I highly recommend the paleo diet. It’s hard to adhere to at first, but it’s important to maintain a level head with regards to your food selection. Simply following a list of paleo-friendly ingredients isn’t enough. Start with that, but gradually wean yourself off of the stuff that you know deep down in your heart doesn’t belong. The bottom line is that the purpose of transitioning to a new diet is to break bad habits. Bending the rules by manipulating a list of ingredients isn’t a diet. It won’t help you kick your sweets and sugar “addiction”, and you won’t reap the rewards of eating in a strictly paleo way. If we want to espouse the virtues of any diet, we need to remain loyal to the logic or evidence that would explain to its benefits. If paleolithic man was in fact eating in the manner characterized by the modern caveman diet since the dawn of agriculture, and if the human digestive system effectively ceased to evolve beyond that, our processing of macro- and micronutrients would theoretically perform best under the same conditions experienced before agriculture took over. Of course even the strictest paleo dieter can’t say that they are living under all of the same conditions as our paleolithic ancestors, but food is one arena that we have at least some control over. Before you put something in your mouth, try to imagine a caveman smashing it in the face with a rock or finding it in the dirt. The closer you adhere to this simple principle, the more likely you’ll benefit from benefits that us paleo eaters like to believe can be derived from such a way of life. If you aren’t willing to take those measures while also adhering to the “mostly plants, supplement with animal” rule, there’s no reason to believe that the diet is going to optimize your health. Having said all of that, if it feels good, you’re probably doing something right…it’s just hard to say how your body will respond long term.