To be clear, this article isn’t about indulging those that believe the Paleo Diet is how all people should eat, or that it’s how humans are meant to eat. That’s garbage. Call it the Caveman Diet and preach to your disinterested friends about how our ancestors ate if you must, but let me be clear about why I started following the Paleo Diet over a year ago, and why I (mostly) still follow the Paleo Diet today: because I feel better when I do.
I’ll dive into that more further down, but first, let me introduce Alex Black. She’s a registered dietitian, she’s practiced in the clinical setting for a year, and she has a Masters in Public Health. Currently, she does health promotion at the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. In her words, getting people healthier is her passion.
I sat down with Alex to flesh out everything you bros/ need to know/ about going Paleo—see what I did there?
How would you pitch the Paleo Diet to someone based on its strengths?
“The biggest strength of the Paleo Diet is that it’s really completely unprocessed if you do it the right way. It’s a good starting point to eliminate all of the bad habits that you might be in.
“A lot of people realize that eating pizza is bad, but they might not realize some… of the reactions that their body is having to certain things that they’re eating. So it’s a good way to kind of strip down your diet. It’s been shown to improve satiety (how full you are), compared to a low fat diet or something like that.
“It can help with weight loss, it can help improve blood cholesterol numbers—at least in the short term—it’s natural, it’s unprocessed, it’s a good way to have a baseline starting point.”
What are the potential downsides of the Paleo Diet?
“It is difficult to stick to. It is enjoyable, and people like it, but there’s a reason that there are Paleo brownies and Paleo muffins. We’re surrounded by this stuff, and it’s very hard to go home and eat broccoli when you’re passing the Indian food at the Whole Foods hot bar. You’re accosted by all of this stuff, so that can be difficult.
“I would say long-term research is a draw back. We haven’t really had good studies comparing the Paleo Diet. We’ve looked at it in terms of a couple other diets, we’ve looked at it very short term, but we haven’t taken a 20 year study and compared people eating a Paleo Diet to people not eating a Paleo Diet.
“I say this with all the research that shows that meatless diets are better for you, you know—there’s never been a study comparing a meatless healthy diet to a healthy diet with meat. It’s always ‘Everybody Who Eats Anything’ compared with ‘This Healthy Population’ or ‘That Healthy Population.’”
How would you describe the diet that you follow?
“I would call my diet Paleo-inspired. When I’m cooking for myself at home, I generally start basic. More vegetables, more natural foods. But my diet varies just like anyone else’s. If I’m feeling lazy one week, I might have cereal, if I’m not, I’ll make eggs.”
“I would say balanced and unprocessed.”
Alex went on to talk about her personal experience using the Paleo Diet, explaining that while she loves having milk in her coffee and bread from time to time, she was happy to give up rice and pasta. Same thing with cheese. She came out of college eating rice and pasta or bread with most meals because she thought that’s what you were supposed to do, but when she tried out the Paleo Diet, it let her experiment with what she could do without.
What would you recommend doing for short-term weight loss?
“If you’re looking for a short term weight loss, [stick] as strictly to a Paleo Diet as you can reasonably do for two weeks to a month, and then look at your results. What can’t you live without? And then adding from there. But you want to avoid eating too little, especially if you’ve yo-yo dieted (gone on and off diets previously), since that can affect your metabolism. You do want to feed your body, just healthier, unprocessed things.”
A common critique is that it’s too expensive. What would you say to that?
“It’s how you do it. If your approach is that I have to eat meat at every meal, I have to buy organic produce, this meat I’m having at every meal has to be farm-raised and organic and free range and whatever, that’s going to be very expensive. So I generally tell people to start where they can. Vegetables are cheap. People like to think that they’re expensive, but really, given the nutrients you get and the fullness that you get from them, it’s pretty reasonable. Sweet potatoes and plantains are cheap. So it’s how you do it—you can eat Paleo very expensively, or you can eat less meat, more vegetables, more unprocessed starches like the sweet potatoes and plantains and fruit, and find that you’re bill isn’t that different. Especially when you’re eliminating the snacking.”
So there you have it. Like Alex, I don’t keep all grains, dairy, and processed foods out of my diet for every meal, but I do for most because I feel better when I do. Coupled with CrossFit, which I wrote about last week, the Paleo Diet has helped me lose fat and build muscle. It may not be for everyone—Alex admits that vegetarians and pescatarians will have an easier time going Primal than Paleo—but it works well for me and many others.
Tolly Taylor is a regular contributor to BroBible.