All right, I know that if you’re reading this you’re probably convinced that paleo is like the best damn thing since sliced bacon. I also know that a lot of you think that you have it totally figured out and that there’s no question in your mind that you’re doing everything exactly right. While you may be correct, there’s still a chance (albeit a small one…) that you’ve still got room for improvement. Maybe you’ve latched on to something (or everything) you’ve read online about what you should (or shouldn’t be) doing, or heard about the latest ‘magic’ cure at the gym – and now you’re running with it because it’s going to totally up your game. Well, I’m here to clear up a few things, and here’s my short list of stuff that you need to think about… (Brace yourself, this might hurt a little bit.)
Meat Me Outside… Yes, I know, steak is awesome, bacon’s delicious and chicken is pretty ‘clucking’ tasty too; BUT as is true with most things in life – too much of a good thing is still TOO MUCH! One of the biggest mistakes I see folks make – they go whole “hog” for meat and fat but completely neglect vegetables and really anything other than meat and fat.
If your plate is made up of primarily protein and fat with a token broccoli spear or two, you’re doing it wrong. Seriously folks, you don’t need a pound of meat, eight strips of bacon and an entire avocado at each meal. Vegetables first! (and I’m not talking about sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, parsnips or the other starchy stuff – but, like, REAL vegetables – think green…). Consuming copious amounts of meat and fat does not make you ‘better at paleo’. It does make you constipated, nutrient deficient and in a lot of cases, less than lean and/or healthy.
Does that have Carbs?!?! The “carb”nundrum is something that many people struggle with. I like to say that there’s two classes of paleo eaters – there’s the group that’s deathly afraid of carbs and the group that has orange-tinted skin because of all the sweet potatoes, yams and butternut squash they’re pounding. Folks, this may be hard to believe but, there is a happy medium when it comes to the “C”-word.
Contrary to what some say, not all of us need to be in ketosis; in fact that may be the worst thing some of us can do. That being said, there’s no reason to be eating starches and sugar (think Paleo bars, cookies, breads, fruit, honey, etc. – more on this stuff to come…) 24/7 either and this is especially true if you’re not active, trying to lean out or lose weight or have issues with blood sugar regulation. The exact balance is going to look a little different for everyone, but for a majority of us a zero carb approach isn’t the answer nor is consuming a significant amount of carbs (yes, even sweet potatoes) at every meal. Balance, people, BALANCE!!! (And LOTS of non-starchy vegetables!!!)
Not so (Intermittent) Fast… Yeah, SLOW DOWN before you jump on this bandwagon. Intermittent fasting is made out to be this awesome way of eating to get you healthy, lean and make you a serious badass. Well, I hate to burst your bubble here – it’s not a good fit for everyone and may do more harm than good in some cases (women and type 1 diabetics – I’m talking to you.).
Sure there’s some awesome science behind increased longevity and health being linked with caloric restriction and/or an abbreviated eating window – BUT if you don’t have all your ducks in a row (sleep, great nutrition, smart exercise, limited stress), then just NO. Figure out how to maintain a healthy lifestyle before you go throwing another ball in the game. Also, if you’re currently IF’ing and find yourself all, “OMG I’M GOING TO EAT MY ARM” hungry and can’t concentrate on a damn thing other than what you get to eat in two hours, then yeah, NO – not an awesome idea for you either.
**FYI** If you are drinking a cup or two of coffee with butter and/or coconut/MCT oil (AKA: Bulletproof coffee) and pretending that you’re IF’ing – stop fooling yourself. You just ingested 200-400 calories and um, that shit counts.
But I made it with coconut flour (AKA – but the label says Paleo)… In case you don’t already know, this one REALLY lights me up – and not in a positive way… I mean really people, our Paleolithic ancestors were NOT baking ‘paleo’ breads, cookies, pancakes or other treats nor were they hitting the local Whole Foods and scoring ‘paleo’ bars and other — READ: PROCESSED ‘paleo’ products. This probably means that you shouldn’t make a daily habit of buying, making and/or consuming these things either. I’m not going to expand on this any further here because I already wrote that story and you should probably read it if you haven’t. Here it is. You’re welcome.
Vicious (30-day) Cycle – The infamous 30-day challenge and/or sugar detox – yeah, we’re gonna talk about that. I’ve done this before too – here, here and here, but I think it’s important. The purpose of a 30-day challenge or sugar detox is to either jump-start a new LIFESTYLE or clean up some sloppiness and habits that may have accumulated in your current lifestyle. The purpose is NOT to use them in recurrent cycle or for a ‘quick fix’.
Here’s how NOT to do it: do a 30-day challenge -> eat like an @sshole for 60-90 days -> do another 30 day challenge -> back to @ssholed-ness and so on… Stop it! If you’re going to do a 30-day challenge, announce it on Facebook and recruit your friends to do it with you – awesome; BUT if you’re doing it again in 60-90 days and you’re starting back at square one, just bow out and instead figure out how you can make this healthy lifestyle stuff happen 365. Harsh Reality: Health doesn’t happen in 30-day chunks.
There’s a supplement for that… There is a time and a place for supplements and some of them are totally warranted, but if you’re doing what I refer to as “blind supplementation”, it’s time to open your eyes and see the light. I know this is super hard with all the information on the internet – but here’s what you do: STOP Googling your ‘symptoms’ looking for an answer in pill or powder form, instead go see a real (good) doctor and figure out what the issue is. Do NOT go out and purchase a plethora of vitamin, mineral, herbal, adrenal health or hormone supplements and try to figure it out on your own. That’s the perfect recipe for supplementing yourself sick. This is no joke, I’ve had a client that made herself Vitamin A toxic – not a good thing.
Here’s the deal, you don’t know what’s going on in your body and even scarier, you don’t know what’s in the supplements that you’re putting in your body. Those things aren’t regulated! For all you know you might be swallowing a capsule filled with dirt from some guy’s backyard that his dog peed on earlier in the day. Before you ‘go in blind’; get checked out, do your homework as to which products to buy and if you start feeling worse on the new miracle cures – STOP taking them. Do not consult Google and add more. That is totally NOT productive.
My way or the highway… So, you know that paleo is great – it’s done totally awesome things for your health, body and life in general and yeah, you want to tell people about it. That’s great, in fact, you should talk about YOUR experience. What you shouldn’t do is villainize every other way of eating or try to convince everyone that paleo is the ONLY right way (I mean seriously, can you imagine the bacon shortage that would cause…). But really, if you take on an elitist attitude and stop seeing that there are other ways the work for other people and that in some (albeit rare) cases, paleo isn’t the answer – all you’re going to do is drive folks nuts. And sure, vegan bashing might be fun and all; but I’d venture to guess that there’s at least one or two super healthy vegans out there. Leave them alone.
Different strokes for different folks. What works for one will never work for all, and it’s important to remember that when you’re talking to people. Judging people for the way they eat or really for anything is just not okay. You don’t know their stories, their struggles or their whys, and they don’t know yours. My guess is that you’ve probably got a few less than stellar habits too, am I right? And – let’s be honest – you haven’t been paleo forever and there’s probably quite a few of you that would say you were a ‘healthy eater’ prior to the conversion.
Keep telling your story (when someone asks or seems interested – don’t be “that guy”) and who knows – you may get some takers but if you don’t – getting all “I’m better than you because I eat like a caveman,” is not going to change the situation. Just keep walking, it’ll be better that way and you’ll still have friends.
Bottom Line: There you have it. That’s my short list, (yeah I said ‘short’ – just be happy I stopped when I did), of things that you may need to consider no matter how long you’ve been at this paleo thing. This is definitely not all encompassing, and remember the bottom line: no number on the scale, way of eating, or amount of weight lifted in the gym will result in a happy, fulfilling life. Don’t sweat the small stuff but don’t let the small stuff grow into big stuff either (this includes your gut and your butt…). Find YOUR groove and run with it – there’s no perfect recipe – health is a lifestyle, not a destination.
Karrington Moudry-Cooper, CNC says
“Those things aren’t regulated! For all you know you might be swallowing a capsule filled with dirt from some guy’s backyard that his dog peed on earlier in the day.”
“The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (“DSHEA”), is a 1994 statute of United States Federal legislation which defines and regulates dietary supplements. Under the act, supplements are effectively regulated by the FDA for Good Manufacturing Practices under 21 CFR Part 111.”
Amy Kubal says
‘Most commercial vitamins are made from synthetic vitamins, which are cheaper and easier to produce than natural derivatives. So vitamin A may be synthesized from acetone, and vitamin C from keto acid’. So If you really want to guarantee natural vitamin consumption grow your own veges and fruit enriched with organic matter etc.
Brilliant. Enough said.
David Boze says
I am following the AltShift diet. For 5 days we eat low carb, protein, and fat. We use fat to get enough calories in our diet plus all the benefits from it. Followed by 3 days of low fat meals.
How much protein should a person eat who lifts weights, walks and is fairly active? I am 6 foot tall with a medium build and don’t need to lose just a pounds.
How many grams of fat should I consume too remain lean?
Amy Kubal says
There are lots of variables. If you’d like me to put together a meal plan for you or would like a consult, shoot me an email at [email protected]
Patricia Cashion says
Awesome! Great article Amy! Covered it all and with truth.
Ron Pereira says
Great article! I’ve been paleo-ish for 50ish days and can safely say I feel better than I ever have in my 42 years on this earth. I also appreciate how you preach balance. I’ve been devouring this blog along with Dave Asprey’s work and, especially, Mark Sisson’s work. It can be confusing since everyone seems to preach their way is right. I am in the experimentation phase right now… seeing what works for me. BP coffee is kick ass for me so that’s a keeper. And I’m not going all cray cray on white potatoes like some paleo purists preach. I have cut out pretty much all processed sugar and all bread… pretty much everyone agrees on those points and I can FEEL a huge difference now that I’m not consuming it. And I haven’t completely given up cheap wine… a man has to live a little! Ha!
Good article. Reinforced some thoughts I have been pondering.
I so thought this was a Robb Wolf article until I got towards the end. When I saw “that guy” I knew it was Amy. LOL. Funny how your writing/thoughts have merged.
MR PALEO says
EXCELLENT ! You said it like it is….
Supper ! awesome post
A welcome and needed voice of reason, as usual, Amy. Thanks for reminding us not to get too crazy about any of this. Eating & living this way is supposed to make life *more* enjoyable, not less, and certainly not more stressful, limited, or closed-off.
Amy Kubal says
Thanks Amy! 🙂
As long as you have a cheat day every week, who cares about baking stuff with coconut flour … just be a good Paleo dieter the rest of the week and gorge yourself on Saturday!
Amy Kubal says
Um, “gorging yourself” is NEVER a good idea. Enjoy treats and ‘non-paleo’ foods, yes – it’s fine and healthy on occasion, but ‘cheat days’ and gorging yourself… Well, that’s a whole different blog post right there… And one you’ll probably see my write VERY SOON.
It’s 2016 and people still think it’s okay to go all out and have a cheat meal or even a cheat day.. like that won’t undo all the week’s good work. I say have non-paleo food if you feel like you must if you’re really missing out if you don’t like when it’s Christmas and your mum just made your favourite thing, or it’s your wedding cake, or it’s your honeymoon in italy and you wanna try their pizza. Not a regular cheat day/meal >.>”
Love this post, but I have to say there is evidence that all sweeteners are not created equal. In your link about processed foods, you talk about table sugar and honey being recognized by your body as the same. But raw honey has been shown to have many beneficial properties, even stabilization of blood sugar (raw honey only).
Love this! Great observations.
I’m not sure exactly what the process is, but I think when people adopt a dietary model that they can latch onto, there’s some neurological breakdown that takes place that causes them to lose all common sense.
Honestly, though, I think some people are so adrift that they will grasp at whatever seems to have worked for someone else and just begin blindly implementing it. Thanks for the reality check!
Dade Dyana says
Thank you for sharing this! You took a lot of the words right out of my mouth. So many people just read one little thing online about Paleo & proclaim it is the only way. I especially like your closing point about sharing. Do you notice a lot of bad rap surrounding paleo because of these people?
I have read a lot about the paleo diet. I have been paleo for 6 days now.. I know brand new. I am a little concerned that I am going to loose weight because everything is about weight loss online and I am not trying to loose weight I am already very small. I know you said this is not for everyone but I have a lot of allergies and the two main ones are milk and wheat.. So I thought I’d give this a try. Any advice?
Here’s a link for you http://chriskresser.com/how-to-gain-weight-on-a-paleo-diet/
I generally agree with the comments on intermittent fasting.
I would add that there is a bit more to the practice and if one is able to achieve 3 days in a row, there is a change in how the body responds to meet its glucose needs.
But of course its important that your health is in a reasonable state before starting this approach.
Results can be amazing if you follow this for 6 months.
This would have been half as long without all the condescension.
Without condescension it just wouldn’t be paelo!
Rachel Cunningham says
Just two words “Woop Woop!” 🙂 stellar advice and I think when you’ve been in the place where food dogmas mess you up, this kind of blogging is needed. Thanks Amy
Ok Robb, I agree with everything here….except for the whole avocado!!!!
George Henderson (@puddleg) says
Maybe the thing about women and IF is because women are conditioned to undereat, as per Gloria Steinem’s essay The Politics of Food.
For me, time-restricted feeding turned out to be the perfect counterbalance to the overeating at meals that was (and still is to a lesser extent) my natural habit. (It’s Paleo – check it out; without fridges meat didn’t last long and gorging was a necessity).
To someone with a history of self-denial, IF may well be damaging (although moderate time-restriction – no snacks in bed – probably isn’t).
There will be a gender bias in this effect, but gender probably isn’t the deciding factor.