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To Paleo or not to Paleo

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Napoleon’s reign ended with the Battle of Waterloo. I am vanquished again and again in my own Battle of the Bulge by Field Marshal Bread and his second-in-command, General Cheese. These two are strategists par excellence. They normally strike at night in a combined onslaught from two flanks: the Bread Bin and the Fridge. 

Devolution of man

Devolution of man

They are out to slay all my good intentions and preferably in my stomach. I have mobilized countless diets against their coalition, all in vain. Now I am considering a new, undercover and very covert approach: The Paleo Diet, also known as the Caveman Diet, the Stone Age Diet, the Primal Diet and the Neanderthal Diet  – all in an attempt to stop my devolution into total pig.

 

This popular lifestyle aims to return us to our Paleolithic roots (grunt… me want woman… grunt… grunt…). It is based upon two premises:

  1. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were generally physically fit, healthy, lean and muscular.
  2. They ate varying proportions of leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts and insects, meat, fish, and shellfish. They also ate them raw or cooked over a fire, after they had discovered how to control fire. Sugar, refined foods, dairy, gluten or grains, were not known to them.

 

They were also very active people. They lifted heavy rocks and clubs, dug in the soil, thumped their chests, chased after or ran away from prey and swung from trees. “Ooo-wa-ooo-aaooaaooaa-ooo!” Oh, no, sorry – that was Tarzan…

So, if they were thin, fit, healthy and ate and exercised in a particular way and I adopt the eating habits of these half-ape-half-humans, I must just don my loincloth, eat like them and I too will be thin, fit and healthy, right? Logic 101. I must just re-enact their historic lifestyle.

Not quite. Those Cave people also had a very low life expectancy (about 30 years) because of malnutrition, if they had not become food to cave lions or were trampled to death by woolly mammoths.

Mammoth trampling

                                                     Help, lovie!!!!!

Archaeological scientists and evolutionary biologists have pointed out that the diet has little grounding in prehistoric reality. Through evolution, modern day humans are biologically different to our Paleolithic ancestors and we could not eat the same foods as our ancestors, even if we wanted to. Natural and artificial selection has since then transformed the animals and plants we eat beyond all recognition.

So what CAN I eat? I get it that cutting processed food (white bread, alcohol, cereals) out of my diet in favour of whole, nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, is part of the lifestyle. But I ‘m confused about what meat, eggs and dairy I may eat, if at all.

Hen and egg

What’s wrong with the whites???

There’s a lot of contradictory information about this on the web. One site mentions, “In the strict Paleo sense, dairy of any form was not consumed in the Paleolithic era, other than human milk in infancy of course. It just wasn’t very practical to milk wild game. We are the only mammals who drink the milk from other animals.” This has put a very upsetting mental image in my mind, but I digress… Butter, though, can be consumed. Egg yolks are fine, but not the whites.

Apparently plants (including grains and legumes) develop toxins and anti-nutrients to prevent animals (including the upright, two-legged one) from eating too much of it.  Grains and legumes are more toxic, because they are in their most vulnerable state as the baby of the future plant and are responsible for the survival of the species. Damn, I’ve been eating babies all along? Aarh!

Hmm. Seems like I will have to research my meat before I eat. It even rhymes. This site lists 7 ways in which to determine whether meat is Paleo or not. Seems like I still have a lot to learn about Paleo.

Cave woman

B can wield a club like no other woman!

If I should go the Paleo way, I am so glad it isn’t a re-enactment of the Stone Age. Hunting mammoths or donning loincloths just isn’t my style. I have no inclination to kill my food with my bare hands (looking into to those defenseless eyes – no!!!!)

And their dating consisted of clubbing a woman over the head and dragging her by the hair back to the cave to … um … never mind. B would kill me if I tried to club her over the head and drag her anywhere by her hair!

So I guess it’s a case of finding what best works for me individually. Given B’s daily Great Escape from anything culinary, it is bound to include lots and lots of raw fruit and veggies.

Begone, Bread! Begone, Cheese! Get ye out of my stomach… um.. life!

Wait… am I ready to take the plunge? Will I not mess up my health (some more)?

What are your experience with Paleo? Does it work? Does it have health benefits besides losing weight?
Messed up

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Author: Kris

Hi! I'm Kris. I live in South Africa with my life partner of 27+ years, whom I call B or Madam in my posts. We have a Pug dog child, Remi, also known as Pooch, who has graced and enriched our lives for the past 12 years.

25 thoughts on “To Paleo or not to Paleo

  1. I love food. As in, I really, really, REALLY luuuuuurve it! I love cooking too. And I’m thin. Don’t ask me how that’s possible, but it’s true. It might be in my genes. Or maybe it’s because I just can’t sit still. Or maybe it’s because I love REAL food best. I don’t know.
    I do know, that I hardly ever overeat, as that makes me uncomfortable. That’s just not worth it. I do know that I enjoy preparing my food from scratch. Or almost from scratch, because homemade is best. Well, it is if you’re a good cook, which I fortunately am.
    But I’m rambling, and don’t really remember what I was going to say anymore. Never mind. I just hope you can enjoy your food whilst fighting that Battle of the Bulge.

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    • You may ramble all you want, I love to read as much as I love food! You are SO lucky, being thin and a good cook, while loving food. I guess the secret lies in being able to prepare food from scratch. B and I are neither good cooks, so we eat easy food – fattening food. Hmm, my jeans only have a spare tyre of fat! 🙂 Just kidding – I inherited my fat genes. Sigh. Losing battle from inception.

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  2. You don’t have to look back at hunter/gatherers to find healthy people. Just after Second World War, during the fifties, food were still a little scarce in Europe and most people ate a healthy diet with enough exercise. So, we switched to vintage portion-sizes by using vintage plates and then we threw out the microwave. I no longer cook more than we eat for the day to avoid microwaved food (since it doesn’t taste good anyway I consider it a waste of food). I do this by measuring everything. Never more than 70g of meat per day and a maximum of 70g pasta per person etc. I always try to think quality, not quantity when I shop (for instance, you use far less of real maple syrup than the one with maple syrup flavor…) If I only need one package of something I don’t buy two just because they’re on sale, if I can choose organic or fair trade, I do and I avoid cookies and sweets during the weeks.
    Quality, moderation and let nothing go to waste is my motto. It’s not a diet, just a way of thinking and living that pervade everything I do and happens to work on food in our modern world.

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  3. If you don’t find yourself sold on the Paleo diet, another thing to check out is the Sonoma Diet. The mentality is very similar to what TLBTC describes: avoid processed foods, switch to whole grains, limit portion sizes, and think of healthy eating as a lifestyle choice, rather than a strict diet. The food you’re “allowed” to have is incredibly delicious, and very easy to throw together (for those of us with limited skills in the kitchen). You’re also still able to eat bread and cheese :). Best of luck finding something that works!

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  4. I too looked into the paleo diet. It was recommended for those with thyroid issues. I decided against it but I can’t remember why. I don’t diet anyway. I do not like that word “diet.” To me, eating healthy is a lifestyle. My partner and I did the easy things first: changing white to wheat and our plate size. This was very difficult for her since she grew up eating white rice three times a day but now she prefers wheat. We eat off of salad plates. Portion sizes are extremely large, especially in the USA. Other than that, I really like the Clean Eating concept, where you avoid processed / refined foods and limit dairy. I limit dairy anyway just because my sinuses don’t do well with too much of it. I eat as much local produce as I can. If it’s not local then I’ll buy organic. I’m extremely particular about the meat I eat. Again, local farm-raised, grass fed with some grain and no growth hormones or antibiotics (chicken).
    If you are serious about eating healthy, you’ll find one that fits you. If you are a relatively healthy person, I do not agree with those diets where you have to avoid certain food groups altogether. My grandmother always said, ‘moderation is the key.’
    Good luck whichever path you choose. Cheers.

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    • Thanks, TLBTC. Yeah, the word diet makes me break out in sweat already. Your advice is sound, I’ll strive for that moderation – even with bread and cheese! Take care.

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  5. If you do this already, ignore this paragraph! 🙂 … Try baking your own bread. It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it … and you know exactly what’s gone into it and you’re more likely to eat less, because it’s satisfying. And fun too. you can plait it, knot it, sprinkle all sorts of seeds on it … you get the picture. Best thing of all is you can make up a decent sized batch and freeze it.

    I’m a bread-n-cheese sammich junkie too, so I feel your pain. One thing I try to do is have alternative snacks on hand when the munchies strike. Usually slices/chunks of raw veggies and a good quality cream cheese. The trick is to make everything when you’re NOT in a munchie state of mind.

    I agree with what Honest11 said about taking as much processed food out of our lives as possible/practical, because processed anything always has way too much sugar and/or salt, and Great Mother knows what else, in it.

    A bunch of years back I read something that really opened my eyes to the ‘no added sugar/fat/salt’ statement. There’s a legal amount they’re allowed to put in and anything over that amount is the ‘no added’ part.

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    • Thanks for the advice, Widder. There is a farmers market we go to some weekends. They bake their own bread and I buy a whole wheat and nut loaf and promptly consumes the WHOLE DAMN LOAF over two days. With cheese. And jam (I think you call it conserve or some other weird American term). The point is, when it comes to bread, I have no brakes. I totally lose control. Maybe I should start Breadeaters Aononymous (BA)… But I have to start somewhere, soon, probably by eliminating those processed foods. The spare tyre round my middle is embarrassing, to put it mildly. And snack on something healthy, like carrots. “What’s up, Doc?” *munch*

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  6. One more thing, Dream Deep (hiddeninyoursoul) did Paleo (with a lot of Cross Fit) and has posted about it on his blog and on tumblr, if you don’t have enough to read (!).

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  7. I’ve been overweight for most of my life but am currently at a good weight (140lb, 5’4) although far from thin. For me the issues are emotional eating (including binge eating and mindlessly eating past full) and drinking too much (I’m down to 4 drinks a week from about 14 drinks).
    I did it through Weight Watchers, not because I thin their system is so good, but because it provides support, helped me think about and track what I was eating, and make tradeoffs. I’ve reduced my carbs, increased my proteins, increased my water, decreased my alcohol. Being able to eat “this way” for the rest of my life is important, I don’t want to go back to how I was eating/drinking before.
    Try Paleo, and if it doesn’t feel good, try something else, but in the long run you have to eat the right amount for your body – and it is easy on any plan to eat too much. Good luck.

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    • I tried Weight Watchers many years ago, but could not handle the public weigh in, shaming and cheering on, I’m just too private. All that collective female energy scares me to death. I know I do comfort eating and our lifestyle should be radically altered – I was hoping Paleo would be able to help break the fattening habits and lay a new healthy foundation that does not drill like jello…

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  8. Thanks for linking to my article on finding meat that’s Paleo. Though I caution people away from what’s called “Faileo” (a lousy copy of a decent idea) I don’t follow any particular diet slavishly. Ask the local artisan bread makers how often they see me in there. I believe in eating really good food. Making that my habit makes crappy food look less worthwhile. (Artisan bread? Not at all crappy.)

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  9. I love your writing and humor!!! I am eating Paleo/for my blood type. And feel great. totally changed my energy level and helps to maintain a decent weight. I do cheat now and again and feel it. sluggish mostly. my blood type requires a vegetarian diet, so my version of the 2 combined is a lot of fruits veggies nuts seeds and a couple times a week fish or chicken. the occasional steak because I like it. I find strict paleo difficult. So if you do it, you gotta really want it. Studies show, people of a certain age are dealing with hormonal and cortisol imbalances which contribute to weight gain. Altho bread and cheese certainly do the job too. …

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    • Good to hear from you, Sky! You are very diplomatic in that people “of a certain age!” Yeah, the hormones…. Seems like I definitely will have to take leave if my friends/enemies bread and cheese. Sigh. Take care!

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  10. I have been eating mostly “Paleo” for a couple of years now. I had some digestive issues it really helped resolve. I went strict paleo for about a month and then added a bit of raw dairy and occasionally butter back in. I think the biggest mistake people make is taking the low carb paleo approach. I always eat my sweet potatoes/potatoes for carbs. In reality… I feel like Paleo has less to do with our Paleoithic ancestors and a lot more with taking processed foods out of our diet…. which is ALWAYS a good idea. 🙂 I am a personal chef/nutrition consultant and I am cooking paleo meals for my clients right now. Let me know if ya need any help 🙂 Oh and http://www.robbwolf.com can be a good resource of information. He also has a podcast. Good luck! 🙂

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  11. I almost never see any mastadon meat at the butcher’s.
    Go back to normal eating. :

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