Should I Try The Paleo Diet?

Should I Try The Paleo Diet?

Well, that’s what I was wondering.

Should I try the Paleo Diet?

This article answers 22 questions about the Paleo diet which might help you if you were wondering the same thing (or you’d just like to learn more about it).

As you may know, I have become interested in diets among other things since trying the 4 Hour Body Diet and being surprised more by the effects on my thoughts than my body.

Since trying that diet (a word that rarely crossed my lips in the years up until that experiment), I now tend to listen a little more when people talk about diets.

So when my friend Allie from RamblingsofaWAHM introduced me to the wonderful Alison Golden who is something of an expert on the Paleo diet, I hopped, skipped and jumped at the opportunity to catch up with her and we proceeded to bounce messages and emails until eventually catching up on a Skype call to explore a few questions about the diet.

Unfortunately the call drops out in places but I still think worth listening to as Alison has some great advice for anyone considering (or who just wants to know more about) this diet. For that reason we switched to audio only after some of the questions, but as that didn’t really help, I’ve also (painstakingly, because I don’t have a VA) added a transcript for each answer.

P.S. In case you have no idea what the Paleo diet consists of: “…everybody agrees it’s meat and veg, avoid grains and legumes, some fruit (some people will say more fruit or less fruit, some people will say no dairy or a moderate amount of dairy – discussions that are happening now)…” from question 6 below.

I hope you get as much from these questions as I did:

1. Is Paleo an All Or Nothing Diet – Do You Have to Be 100% Paleo?

Alan: Is there like an all or nothing about Paleo or can you do, like, a modified Paleo? … and how long have you been doing Paleo?

Alison: Well, I’ve been doing it for 2 years, just over 2 years. There is a whole variety to the degree to which people tend to be Paleo. I would say that I’m probably at the 90% mark. Mark Sisson wrote the Primal Blueprint and he sort of popularized it for many people. He calls it Primal, but it’s Paleo with some dairy in it. His sort of mantra is: aim for 100% and you’ll sort of end up at 80% and that’s a good benchmark to measure yourself by. I’m probably a bit more than that and until recently my family were not Paleo. There was no one in my family who was eating this way, although I’m in control of what my kids eat so they sort of had to eat my way – but my husband wasn’t, but then one day he sort of flipped a switch and came on board and essentially got better results than I have really! We keep very strict at home and then when we go out into the big wide world, a number of issues come up and you have to be / well I tend to be quite measured in how I handle those. If I went to a restaurant I would ask for substitutions and do the best I can but you have to give up some control over your food when you’re eating Paleo outside. Then there’s the social aspect especially when you’re going to visit family, you know, they express their love through their food and they’ve made this pie for you or whatever, especially for me because I’m seeing my family so rarely, you know, a couple of times a year – and you sit there and you go – you know, the kind thing is to eat this, and so that’s where my 10% non-Paleo comes in. But, it’s a big struggle for a lot of people, who are living with people who aren’t Paleo, who have to interact with people who are outside, who have a co-worker who has this big pile of sweets or candy on their desk… it’s a big challenge for them to stay the path, and that’s what my blog is about really, it’s about strategies and ideas to handle those sorts of situations.

Alan: OK. So Paleo, just for me to get this right, Paleo is not a… you don’t have like a day off, it’s a 24/7 thing right? You commit to the rules, what you’re going to eat and what you’re not going to eat, and then, that’s it. You might waver from time to time like you say with your 10% or 20% and it’s interesting that you say that… something I believe in quite strongly is the 80/20 rule, for pretty much anything and the 80/20 rule clearly works for this – if you aim for 100% and you end up with 80 or 90%, it still works, right? You don’t have to be perfect, perfect, but as long as the intention is there and you’re doing the best you can, you follow these principles and it’s going to be good for your health, that’s the idea, right?

Alison: Right. There are definitely hardcore Paleo people who are saying you are being too lax, you won’t see the results and you won’t get the information down and you won’t get rid of your chronic disease, you know, there definitely is that element of Paleo out there.

Resources:

Mark Sisson’s Book: The Primal Blueprint
Alison’s Paleo website: PaleoNonPaleo

2. What’s The Best Way To Start A Paleo Diet?

Alison: There are really two ways of getting into Paleo and one that’s quite popular is to do a 30-day challenge where you say you are 100% strict, no hedging whatsoever for 30 days and after 30 days you will really see how sick your food is making you because you just flipped a switch. It’s very very hard to do that. Most of us are addicted to our food, we have bio-chemical reactions going on in our bodies that cause us to be like that, we have social occasions to deal with that we’re not practiced at handling – and so, I tend to take the more moderate approach which is that you really need to learn the skills to be Paleo. I feel there are skills to it. There are skills to handling situations that will stop you from eating those sausage rolls or those pies or whatever else at some party and I tend to take the approach that you can make small incremental progress on an ongoing basis. This is a lifestyle. So there’s a sort of set of guidelines, but it’s basically a lifestyle that you do for the rest of your life.

3. What About Cheat Days or Days Off?

Alison: … and sometimes people say, you know, “I am going to have a day off”. I mean, there’s definitely people out there that do that. They {may} say on Saturdays, I go out and I have whatever I want to have to eat… and they may have a reaction, they may have some digestive issues or their allergies may come back or whatever it is but they kind of take that as just a consequence and they’ll live with it and then there are other people that, either it would be too extreme for them to have that kind of leeway or they just say “that’s not doing my body any good so I’m absolutely not going to do it”. So we do have this set of guidelines, rules if you like – there’s individual prescriptions, Paleo prescriptions I call them, where people sort of make their own personal Paleo set up.

Alan: OK, that makes sense. On that point you just made about people having days off – what I’ve found with the 4-hour body diet is – there’s a cheat day every 7th day on that – what I found is that at first it was great, but after a while, I started to prefer the days that weren’t the cheat day; and after the cheat day, I felt sick. It’s like I was gouging myself on food that I didn’t… I wasn’t so psyched about sticky toffee pudding or whatever, my favourite sweet foods anymore. I still have got quite a sweet tooth, but I didn’t need as much, let’s put it that way.

4. Why Are No Grains Allowed on the Paleo Diet?

Alan: On the legumes and the whole grains… As far as I can tell, there are kind of arguments for both sides: The Paleo argument seems to be that these are bad for you, they can cause… they’ve got kind of anti-immune components to them. I don’t know if it’s actually scientifically proven, but there are plenty of things online that say they could be seen to cause things like things like arthritis and even cancer. Then there’s another argument which is that grains are actually good for you because they bolster good bacteria and they help your digestion. How serious is the kind of ‘grains and legumes argument’ to the Paleo diet? I can understand if it’s processed but if it’s whole grains, is that something that’s still really bad? Legumes as well you can have different types, so is it mainly the processed stuff we don’t like or is it any grains and any legumes?

Alison: Well, I have a couple of extra arguments: We evolved 2 million years ago and really we haven’t changed. Our DNA has not changed, virtually at all. Grains only really developed 10,000 years ago in our culture, and so grains are very, very new, they’re sort of like a blink of an eye in terms of evolution. So there’s an argument to say that we have not evolved to handle grains and Dr William Davis in his book ‘Wheat Belly’ also makes the point that the grains that we eat today are so different to grains from even 10,000 years ago that the problem is magnified. So there’s those two issues against grains as well but I have to say, it’s a question of ‘how does it affect you?’ and that’s what dropping wheat, grains, legumes from your diet could show you. So if you drop them… so, I noticed that I can put on weight… I’ll put on 8lbs in a week if I eat wheat and I feel sluggish and I crave bread or I crave sugar when I’m eating bread and so, I just stop – and when I stop doing that, I don’t have the digestive issues, I don’t have the pain that I personally tend to get and I just feel better – and it’s the same with legumes… with beans, I just don’t feel good and I feel better when I don’t eat them. What I say to people is that there are these guidelines, you can read books for and against. You can try all sorts of things, but ultimately the test is what happens to your body when you eat them and when you don’t eat them and I always say “before you reach for your medicine, change your diet and see what happens there first and see how you personally respond”. For me, there’s no question that wheat particularly {is bad}… I don’t eat any grains at all. That hasn’t been difficult for me to drop the wheat (well it’s difficult in England because there’s so much of it everywhere), so I just drop it – less pain, I lose the weight and I don’t have the cravings – because of the blood-sugar issue. There’s the blood sugar issue which says that the carbohydrates will cause your insulin to be excreted so then your blood-sugar becomes in range and then you get hungry again so your craving, you know, you’re in this constant carbohydrate cycle and your blood-sugar is going up and down and up and down… and eventually we all know that that leads to diabetes. So we just keep it steady and we will avoid that. My husband had a co-worker who was type 2 diabetic and he turned him on to Paleo and the guy has lost 100lbs since February {i.e. circa 6 months} and has come off all of his medication. I mean, it’s just extraordinary – and there are so many success stories like that, that it just makes total sense to me.

“Before you reach for your medicine, change your diet and see what happens there first…”

Alan: Yeah. So what you’re saying then is if I was really into grains, that if I just gave up grains, I’d be able to feel it and to feel a difference.

Alison: I would expect so. You would probably lose weight. If you have any issues that are grains related: digestive issues or, you know, a lot of people have allergies. I personally start wheezing if I have bread. Often we get so conditioned, we’re so accustomed to living with these illnesses and ailments that when we’ve always lived like that we can’t see some of the stuff that’s going on until we drop those things from our diet.

Alan: What if someone doesn’t have issues in terms of… with their digestion, or whatever. You’ve said a couple of times: someone could change their diet and stop taking their medication, what if we have someone who doesn’t have any medication and is relatively healthy – somebody who doesn’t have any issues, are they going to see a difference if they stop eating whole grain bread and stuff like that?

Alison: Probably, because probably they would find that they’re clearer, that they’re not eating as much – like you said when you go on these diets you lose the taste for so many things that previously you had. You probably would find that you’re not eating as much and you might find, as I did, that you had got some ailments that you simply hadn’t realized, until they went away. It’s sort of counter-intuitive. If you’re relatively healthy… I was relatively healthy…

Alan: …I think I am 😉 …

Alison: … I wasn’t overweight, I didn’t need to lose 100lbs, I wasn’t a diabetic but I just kind of felt like… I just don’t feel as good as I think I should feel – and I stopped it. I stopped eating that stuff – and now when I do, if I have some sort of celebration food and I go out and I eat desert and bread, in restaurants or something, I often come home and I can tell. My brain does not work as well. I mean I can still function, but I want to sit on the couch… I don’t want to be moving around. You’ll find that you don’t have the post-lunch slump in the afternoon, you should be able to go from the beginning of the day to the end of the day with endless energy and you’re not looking for a pick-me-up that so many people – and I certainly used to – have to have.

Resources:

Dr William Davis’ book: Wheat Belly
In The Grains Are Bad Camp: What Is Wrong With Grains (PaleoDietLifestyle)
In The Grains Are OK Camp: Don’t Eat Like A Caveman
In Neither Camp: Debunking Diets: Paleo Pros and Cons

5. Are There Any Disadvantages to the Paleo Diet?

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Alan: Are there any disadvantages to Paleo from your point of view?

Alison: In the broad scheme of things, no, I don’t think so because you are having to cook more, probably, the cost of your food may go up slightly. Especially in the US the way we look at it is, you’re saving on medication, costs relating to your health and just, you know, I always say you’re at the top of your game. You feel better therefore you can go out and earn more money because you are just doing so much better and you have so much more energy. There is some planning involved but I take two minutes every week to plan my meals ahead for the week and I do it in the morning before the kids go to school so dinner is prepped by then and I always say if dinner isn’t ready by 10 then we’re eating out because I just can’t turn round at 5 o’clock and start cooking a meal from scratch – and so I think you have to look at the benefits versus the disadvantages, so the benefit to me is that I have a tonne more energy, I can have a stronger family life, I can earn more money, I have less chronic illness and at the other nd I have to spend a little bit more money on food and I have to cook it and plan it.

6. Will There Be Another Version of the Paleo Diet?

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Alan:Will there be another Paleo diet coming out or is it the Paleo diet as it is?

Alison:I don’t think there will be. I mean, there will always be discussion around the margins of what Paleo actually is and what it consists of, but ultimately everybody agrees it’s meat and veg, avoid grains and legumes, some fruit (some people will say more fruit or less fruit, some people will say no dairy or a moderate amount of dairy – discussions that are happening now). This is a diet that’s really 2 million years old, so I don’t think there’s going to be another version of it, no.

7. What Are The Rules About Fruit?

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Alan: So it sounds like the rules aren’t actually fixed. The diet’s more of a philosophy, like it’s 2 million years old… and it’s generally meat, veg… and when you say some fruit that ‘some fruit’ isn’t defined, it’s like a personal choice, is that right?

Alison: Well, it is a personal choice and it’s most of all saying moderate fruit. I’ve actually heard people say that the fruit we eat today has been so developed for sweetness that it doesn’t really bear any resemblance to the fruit that our genes were designed for and certainly berries are the preferred fruit on the Paleo diet because they are most closely related to what we would have had back then.

8. What About Dairy?

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Alison: … and then there’s the milk issue, the dairy issue. The dairy issue comes from the fact that so many people have issues around dairy. So many people see an improvement when they stop dairy – and also the fact that dairy came about when agriculture became the way to mass feed or feed the masses. So it’s not an ancient food.

9. Will We Ever Evolve In Terms of What We Can Eat?

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Alan: When you said we haven’t evolved… one of the questions I was going to have for you was: “If the Paleo Diet is relating to something from millions of years ago, surely we have evolved since then?” … but you would argue that we haven’t evolved since then?

Alison: Yeah, our genetic structure really hasn’t changed much in that time at all. Our genetic structure, I mean, we have evolved, certainly our brains have evolved and our processes have evolved but our basic DNA hasn’t changed much.

Alan: OK, so maybe I’m being a little naive but when you talked about our genetic structure, hasn’t our biology evolved at all in terms of how we react to things… I mean, the trees and the plants and the animals that we’re eating have evolved also, right? Or are you saying: All of that stuff, all of the DNA of what were eating, the animals that we’re eating and ourselves haven’t fundamentally changed so therefore why are we eating things that we’re not adapted to?

Alison: That’s what I’m saying, yeah. We haven’t fundamentally changed.

Alan: OK, and if we fast-forward another 10,000 years we won’t have changed either because it’s just not… we wouldn’t change sufficiently to change our diet – our diet should stay like that full-stop because that’s what we’re made for, right?

Alison: Right, right, and of course we certainly haven’t adapted to the sort of food that we get given today which is food with additives and colors and fully processed and so on.

10. Can Chick Peas Really Be That Bad For You (Grains & Legumes II)?

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Alan: The thing that I’m kind of struggling with a little bit … and I hear your argument and I’ve also read a little bit about it … but in terms of grains … whole grains, not processed grains … and again, I don’t think we should be eating a lot of bread but grains isn’t just bread right and legumes, I’m going on about chick peas a little bit but I can’t really see how chick peas could be bad for anybody. Maybe I’m being a bit simplistic there. So that’s the part … I’m finding it hard to understand that fully.

Alison: Right, well I think … I came to this, not Paleo, but I did come across it in 2006 when I was first looking at trying to clean up my family’s diet because I was seeing behaviour that was too extreme and I felt intuitively that it was the cause of it and I had my own sort of evolution over the course of 5 or 6 years to the point where we’re at now with Paleo and my understanding is that grains and beans have chemicals to protect them from being destroyed and passed on intact so they can reproduce and Loren Cordain who’s sort of the founder of Paleo if you like, he’s sort of a professor here in the US and he wrote a book about the Paleo diet and he says that a grain is a reproductive version of wheat, the grain and it’s not designed to be destroyed. It has this protective mechanism within it and around it to keep it intact. It will be reproduced and it will be passed around by birds and so on and so forth so it can be grown. Because of that strong reproductive protection mechanism our bodies can’t handle it. We are not meant to handle it. So what it does is it damages us as we try to deal with it. It has it’s own version of naturally forming chemicals.

Alan: So even a whole grain has naturally forming chemicals in it to protect it…

Alison: Yes, yes.

Alan: Which means it’s hard to break down, which means it can cause us digestive problems…

Alison: Yes, yes and I think if you read The Primal Blueprint and if you read Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis it sort of really shows how powerful and strong it is and how damaging it can be to us if we eat it because it is so tightly protected by it’s own make up.

Resources:

Mark Sisson’s Book: The Primal Blueprint
Dr William Davis’ book: Wheat Belly

11. Is There A Priority To The Bad Boy List?

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Alan: So in terms of the things that aren’t allowed in Paleo, is there like a priority to the ‘bad boy list’? Like, is the worst one grains and then it’s legumes and then it’s dairy or are they all the same?

Alison: That’s a good question, I think wheat is probably the worst of the worst. Mark Sisson says… I asked him once, I said ‘What’s your top tip for people going Paleo?’ and he said ‘If you cut out wheat, you’ll be cutting out 90% of the things you shouldn’t eat.’ So I would say wheat and grain. I have issues with sugar, that’s my thing, so for me sugar is the next bad boy. To me sugar is a bit of a demon… and then dairy is… you know, some people do fine on dairy and then other people just don’t eat it. They don’t eat it because they don’t do well on it or they don’t eat it because they say ‘This wasn’t around back in the day.’ and I don’t feel particularly bad when I eat it but who knows what could be going on, inside. It could be creating inflammation that isn’t quite coming to the surface

12. Better Safe Than Sorry, Right?

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Alan: So some of this is sort of ‘Better to be safe than sorry’ in line with the philosophy of Paleo, right?

Alison: Yeah, if you don’t have big medical issues that are resolving, you might just do it because the science tells you that inflammation can be caused through eating dairy or some people get bad skin or some people just say ‘I don’t think my body was designed for this.’

13. Put Coconut Milk In My Tea?

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Alison: … and they’re probably not very dependent on dairy in their diet anyway or they can easily switch out dairy for coconut milk. I mean, personally for me, putting coconut milk in my tea – I’d just rather not drink it but for other things you can put coconut milk in your food and not notice the difference.

Alan: You’re never going to get me to put coconut milk in my tea. There’s no way!

14. Is There A Danger Of Eating Too Much of One Thing From The Food That Is Allowed?

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Alan: It seems to me that if I’m going to try the Paleo diet, I would have to be quite careful about the proportions of things I did eat in the Paleo Diet, is that right? Isn’t there a risk that I just start eating too much meat, because you can have too much of anything, right?

Alison: In theory you could but I think you just don’t. You don’t want to eat too much meat for the most part. I mean, people do eat as I know they do when they’re not Paleo, they have these meat eating competitions – how many pounds of meat can they eat at one sitting. The idea is that you don’t control portions. That is a biggie in Paleo. You just eat until you’re satisfied.

Alan: You’re just eating to survive basically, because it’s the philosophy of going back many years, so you’re eating to survive, is that right?

Alison: Right, Yes and there is this concept of food as fuel as opposed to food for comfort or food for calming you down or emotional kind of eating. We eat food for fuel to keep us going, to keep us healthy. To allow us to do what we need to do which is to survive and thrive but there is this thing that you shouldn’t be controlling your portions, you should just be looking at what your meals consist of, not how much they consist of and I think most people would say that they become full. There’s only so much meat you can eat really.

15. Why Is Fat An Important Part Of The Paleo Diet?

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Alison: Fat. You haven’t mentioned fat, but fat is the big… that’s another big issue with Paleo versus Non-Paleo. We believe in eating fat to keep us full because fat keeps us full. A lot of low-carb diets will leave people hungry all of the time because they’re also low-fat as well as low-carb.

Alan: So what’s used for fat then?

Alison: We cook with coconut oil. People who are Primal who eat dairy, they might cook with butter, other people will cook with clarified butter which is ghee. We’ll cook with animal fat. I cooked my family eggs and bacon this morning and I used the bacon grease to cook with.

Alan: …and in the meat that you’re eating, rather than cut off the fat and throw it away, you eat the fat?

Alison: Yes. Yes, we will eat the fat or we’ll just use the fat to make lard or melt it down to cook other things in it like onions or something, you know, your vegetables.

16. Is There An Ideal Ratio Of Macro-Nutrients That Paleo Promotes (& A Little More On Fat)?

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Alan: OK, so if we were to talk about the 3 – I think they’re called macro-nutrients so carbs, protein, fat – is there kind of a ratio that Paleo promotes?

Alison: There is and I don’t know what it is because I’ve never paid any attention to it. People do juggle their macro-nutrient level both in terms of if they stall – if they find that they lose weight and then they stop, they might change their macro-nutrient levels – I think it’s something like 60% of the calories should come from fat. Because I’ve never been at it to lose weight I’ve never really paid too much attention but it is a significant proportion from fat and a lot of people have challenges with that because they come to this overweight and ill and they are so used to eating low-fat and its quite hard for them to make the mental shift to eating fact. But that is a big component which is about feeling full. Our ancestors would have eaten every part of the animal that they could. They wouldn’t have wasted anything and that would have included fat. Our brains are largely fat, we need it to keep our brains going so, yes, fat’s important for Paleo.

17. How Long Does It Take To Start Feeling The Benefits Of Paleo?

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Alan: How long does it take if you go full Paleo before you start to feel – obviously I’m not going to hold you to this Alison, I’m not going to say like ‘It’s 28 days and you said it would be 25 days’ but can you give me a rough idea, how long would it take before … when should I start to feel the benefits?

Alison: Well, I read actually, there’s a couple in the US who have this company called ‘Whole Nine Life’ and they do what’s called ‘whole 30’s’ which are 30 day challenges and I was just reading their book yesterday and one half of the couple was saying that it was the 3rd week that tripped it for him, that it was really tough for the first two and I’ve heard that more than once. The first two weeks can be really – if you go cold turkey like they did – it’s really hard because you’re basically de-toxing and withdrawing from foods you may have been addicted to but the third week was the charm. For me personally it was more gradual because I just tended to drop foods I did a slower process but I’m also somebody who’s been studying my own health for years and so I’m very nuanced to how my body’s feeling. I could tell within a few days just because I wasn’t craving foods as much. I could finish a meal and not have a dessert for instance and I didn’t feel like I was having to white-knuckle it. So it really depends on the issues that you’re coming in with and how fast you go into it.

Resources:

Whole Nine Life Website: Whole9life.com
Book: It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways

18. Is There A Plateau?

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Alan: The 4-hour body diet, after a while I just got really bored with it and actually started getting cravings again, when I’d lost them. Is there anything like that, is there any kind of plateau or regression that happens if you’re doing the Paleo diet?

Alison: Well some people have reported that they plateau with their weight-loss. Usually the ideas are to look carefully at what you’re eating, change things up, do something different. I actually like to do what I call mini-challenges. I don’t do this for weight-loss particularly but sometimes I might go off it a bit, for a day or I haven’t been exercising so I say ‘OK, today I’m going to do a sprint’ or ‘Today I’m going to eat sauerkraut’ (because I don’t like sauerkraut). So, some people plateau and sometimes they have to sort of live through it. Some people have said to me ‘Well, isn’t it really boring?’, you know, meat and veg, it’s really boring and plain. That’s one thing I really try and do on my blog is to really show how Paleo doesn’t have to be boring. It is about going out and looking for new recipes and it is and it is about trying new things. Earlier this year I bought quarter of a cow and I’ve never done that before – and when I say I bought a quarter of a cow, I mean a dead cow. So it’s now in my fridge and I cook cuts of meat that I’ve never cooked before. So there’s a sort of an experimentation process and a learning process. I would say that most people who do Paleo who are more on the foody side don’t find it boring, you know there’s plenty to keep yourself interested in. The thing with the 4-hour body is that it’s very prescriptive. Tim Ferris is a young, single guy right, so he sort of has that mentality where he can eat the same things over and over, well it doesn’t always work for a family. Or even an individual. There’s plenty of cooking sites out there – Paleo cooking sites – to keep people interested in the food.

19. What Else Does Paleo Cover Aside From What Food To Eat?

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Alan: One thing I’m quite conscious of – because we’ve talked mainly about diet – but Paleo isn’t just a diet, it’s not just food, is it, there are other aspects to it, it’s a lifestyle, it’s a philosophy. Is there anything in terms of how the Paleo way of life dictates how you should exercise for example?

Alison: Yes, there is and it’s a very good point because most people do focus on the food and that’s important. Certainly from a health perspective and a weight perspective, food will probably have the most impact but then it’s also about stress levels, and about exercising – you know, we live high-stress lives, we don’t sleep enough. I did an experiment earlier on this year where my family went away for 5 days and I decided that I wasn’t going to use any lighting or technology or clocks. I could do my activities during the day and then when darkness fell… I could have a candle, I allowed myself a candle – but there’s not much you can do by candle light, I learned.

Alan: You couldn’t do a Skype call by candlelight… 😉

Alison: No, no… and I couldn’t use my computer because that would have told me what the time was. It really taught me how little we sleep and how our 8 or 10 hour day (maybe more) – we’ve turned that into 24 hours. What we’re doing is, hours that we would have slept or rested in the past because it was dark, we are now busy. So not only are we sleeping less but we are filling our resting hours with busy-ness. So Paleo is also about getting back to getting enough relaxation and more sleep and less of the chronic type exercise that we’ve tended to promote over the last 50 or so years. Mark Sisson does a good job of this because he’s a former marathon runner and he just got worn out basically and he was sick and he was depressed and he was not working optimally and he’s devised how ancient man would have lived – they would have done a lot of walking, they would have been building habitats, lifting rocks and then occasionally they would have sprinted away from predators and they needed to be able to have the energy to sprint away from those predators so when they weren’t gathering food or doing the things that were essential for their life, they rested. They didn’t push and push and push themselves which is what we tend to do these days. So there’s this emphasis in the movement of sleeping well, of doing things that would enable you to do that, to lower the stress and to not do this sort of chronic exercise that we tend to do. So, exercising for 4 or 5 hours a week but the majority of that should be just steady walking and then a couple of times a week we should be doing lifting heavy things, be it weights in the gym or lifting your kids around and then perhaps once per week when you’re really motivated and you feel you have the energy just sprint as hard as you can – to build up those muscles and the ability to do that. It’s a less is more approach to exercise.

Alan: OK, so there is an exercise element to Paleo and the exercise element is basically saying we should mimic the way that we used to exercise to survive.

Alison: Absolutely. In a nutshell, you have it.

Alan: … and athletes can benefit from that as well, rather than burning themselves out, they can prepare for the sprints by that combination because that’s what people survived with that many years ago.

Alison: Yeah and you know, there are plenty of people in Paleo that say you know, ‘I like to run – I run miles and miles, I still run marathons because I enjoy it.’ and they will choose to continue to do that even though it’s not strictly Paleo. So you know, there’s a definition there but those people, like me, who do exercise because we feel we should, this kind of Paleo oriented exercise is the appropriate way to go.

Alan: I hear stories of athletes who are at the top of their game – they’re top athletes, but then they get to mid-life and they start to have problems because they’ve really pushed themselves. So that’s interesting.

20. Is There A Difference In How Men & Women Should Use Paleo?

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Alison: Men and women are different and Paleo is a pretty male dominated… it’s come out of the leaders of the movement are men and there’s also an element there that women are saying that not all the principles apply in exactly the same way to women as they do men. Because women are obviously drastically different, they have a different hormonal profile and they have different nutritional needs. One of the things that’s coming out is that women tend to need more carbohydrates to make sure that the hormonal profile operates optimally and that’s why a lot of women have cravings. Just recently theres been a move to emphasise the importance of carbohydrates for women, but not just from vegetables, green vegetables but from nutrient dense vegetables like – they call them starchy tubers – so it would be sweet potatoes (because we don’t eat potatoes), turnips, parsnips, beets and carrots – those kinds of things and I think that’s very important for women to understand that because we do tend to go to some drastic means to lose weight sometimes and it doesn’t always make us feel good. So sometimes we have to sort of look at – OK, we’re eating the typical Paleo diet but it’s not actually making me feel great – what do I need to do? … and it’s often that you need to add more carbohydrate in, but do it in a way that’s nutritionally dense and is a smart way forward.

21. Is It OK To Experiment & Adapt The Paleo Diet Once I’ve Understood It?

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Alison: There are the Paleo guidelines which are the meat, veg, limited dairy or no dairy, etc etc. But, once you’ve done that, you need to adjust for your own personal situation. So it becomes, you know, Tim Ferris is all about his ‘n+1’ personal experiments and I would agree with doing that with Paleo as well. So, follow the guidelines but then start to identify which foods affect you positively or negatively. That’s sometimes where you can get over the weight-loss stalling. The reason I’m 90% is that 80% doesn’t do it for me, I need to go that extra 10% to get my inflammation down. I have had auto-immune disease and so the suggestion is to do the auto-immune Paleo protocol which actually is taking out fruits and nuts from the diet as well as eggs and a couple of other things. So there are still experiments that you might want to do and I’m all for people doing their own experimentation within the guidelines that are Paleo.

Alan: So basically what you’re saying there is listen to your body. Follow the guidelines, but listen to your body, maybe even to the extent that some of it contradicts some of the guidelines of Paleo if your body is telling you that.

Alison: Yeah, I mean, I know people who do, I know there are a few people that eat potatoes and I know somebody particularly who said recently that he feels better with raw milk and you know, he definitely feels better on it. So these things are not hard and fast, but they are guidelines … and be smart, do your own reading, educate yourself and then make educated hypotheses and do your own experiments.

Alan: I think that’s where some of these diets get very polarized reviews because they’re seen as a one-size-fits-all when in actual fact it’s a guideline and you’ve got to listen to your body whatever the diet and philosophy.

Alison: Yep. Yeah.

22. Final Tips & Book Recommendations

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Alan: So last question… Is there any kind of top tip you’ve got – for most people it would be a struggle to move toward a Paleo diet especially if, like you say, they go ‘cold turkey’ – is there any top tip you’ve got for making it easier, is there any equipment you should have like a juicer or something or anything you should do before you go onto the Paleo diet to be more prepared for it?

Alison: Yes, well there’s so many of them. One thing I would say is to buy a slow-cooker or a crock pot. That really does help because you are preparing food and a lot of people are going from eating in packets to having to cook meals from scratch and doing that 7 days a week is a lot so whatever you can do to cut down on that… I know when I had days when it’s a slow cooker meal day I’m like ‘oh, … good!’ you know, it’s a relief. So I would suggest that. I also have this whole idea of set yourself ridiculously easy goals to get over inertia. Sometimes things just feel so overwhelming to us that we can’t start and yet once we get started momentum builds and we get going so my advice to people in all areas of life, not just Paleo is to just set yourself a really easy goal and it might be to go to the library to get The Primal Blueprint out, that might be your goal and if you do that, then you pick it up and then you read it and it just builds… so whatever you’re feeling is too much, just break it down and say ‘What can I do almost effortlessly?’ ‘Maybe I can buy more eggs’ or ‘Maybe I can buy some bacon’ or ‘Maybe I can drop the potatoes with dinner’, just start. Just find one thing you can do to start and then just keep going.

Alan: That makes sense. I’ve actually written a lot on that subject myself in terms of the first step being the most difficult or just getting started or no procrastinating, breaking big decisions down into tiny decisions, things like that so I can definitely relate to that for anything that’s going to be a challenge. Well they’re great tips and I really appreciate your time.

Alison: You’re welcome. I’m glad we were able to do it after so long.

Alan: Yeah. Anything I should have asked that I didn’t?

Alison: There’s a few books that I recommend above all others. One is ‘The Primal Blueprint’, one for beginners is ‘Everyday Paleo’ which is a cookbook as well as an introduction to it and it’s very accessible, very simple. For people who have different issues, so they might be celiac or they might have auto-immune disease or they might have allergies or asthma, there’s a book called ‘Practical Paleo’ and she sort of breaks down Paleo food plans for each of the different issues.

Resources:

Mark Sisson’s Book: The Primal Blueprint
Recommended for beginners: Everyday Paleo
For people with different issues: Practical Paleo

Where You Can Find More From Alison

You can find more from Alison specifically on her Paleo website PaleoNonPaleo which is all about helping people to live a Paleo lifestyle in a Non-Paleo world (hence the name PaleoNonPaleo).

Final Thoughts

If you have any further questions about Paleo, please let us know in the comments section below and we’ll get them answered. Comments are also of course more than welcome.

So do you think I should try Paleo?


Comments

Should I Try The Paleo Diet? — 23 Comments

  1. A Paleo diet works because it keeps insulin levels low. If your blood sugar is 90 mg/dL, your body is in fat-burning mode. Anything over 110 mg/dL you have stalled your fat-burning and are now storing fat. A better way to say it is: you have 5 liters of blood circulating in your body. Your body only needs 1 tsp of sugar in those 5 liters. Anything over that and the pancreas has to work hard to sponge up the excess sugar…(having to sponge up excess sugar puts you in fat-storing mode. If you are an intense exerciser you can afford to eat “some” Carbohydrates BUT only if it’s during that 2-3 hour window after intense exercise like weight training, high intervals, or metabolic bursting. I would love to see some data on strict paleo users (90% or more paleo dieters)and and exercise energy…Thanks for a great interview…

  2. WHOA Allan,

    what a great interview. I am struggling with the legumes and grains part too and the chick peas. we love chick peas especially here in the south of France. it’s everywhere.

    I’ve also read the primal Blueprint by Mr. Suisson.

    I wish i could completely convert over and make it a way of eating but it’s hard to with the family who all love baguettes and pasta. And my asian side is addicted to rice.

    But we have managed to cut back on all those processed carbs and i’ve noticed i do feel better overall. Not as bloated and tired after a meal. I need less carbs now to satiate myself now that we are kind of weaning ourselves off of it.

    my goal is still to do a vegan paleo diet of this just to challenge myself and see if i can do it. Time will tell.

    ps
    i laughed at the part about putting coconut milk in your tea. The first time i saw someone put milk in their tea i thought it was disgusting. I used to drink only jasmine and other asian varieties. …
    Annie André recently posted..8 Ways To Save Money On Last Minute Flights and Travel Deals Today!My Profile

    • Thanks Annie,

      yeah, this one took some putting together but I enjoyed it and found it interesting so that’s why I took the time to write it all out.

      So you said you read the primal blueprint but you didn’t say what you thought of it…

      I definitely notice these days when I have too many carbs so this diet does interest me but for the moment I’m happy with the general idea of moderation – the part that really interests me as you can probably tell from the interview is the legumes (I wasn’t a big fan of legumes before but since doing the slow-carb I kind of like them as an alternative to bread, pasta and rice, particularly chick-peas and lentils).

      Still – I may try Paleo at some stage, always up for a bit of experimentation…
      Alan recently posted..How To Invest In Yourself: 3 Steps to a Better YouMy Profile

  3. Hi Alan, great post! I have recently been thinking about doing something similar as I am sick of not sleeping well and waking up un refreshed. Nearly all my adult life (but more so at times of stress) I would feel sick on and off. Bloated, nausea, pain even body shakes. Eventully I was diagnosed with fructose and lactose malabsorption and I followed a FODMAP diet for a couple of years. No wheat, onions, apples and pears and limited amount of garlic and fruit. It took awhile but I got better. I have introduced wheat and diary back in the diet and I don’t notice any major issues, however I am just not feeling the best I can. So am keen to see if I can wake up full of energy. The diet shouldn’t be hard, followed so many over the years, but cutting out rice and potatoes and oats for breakfast will be hard. And dairy. I doubt I will cut out these forever but moderate them. Anyway, I will start for a week cold turkey (thats how I role) from next Tuesday. I will let you know how I feel after that.

    • Hey Vicki,

      thanks for sharing so much in this comment. Please do promise that you will come back here and update on your progress, it would be a good thing to do and I’m also really interested to find out how it goes for you!

      take care & best wishes,
      Alan
      Alan recently posted..How To Avoid ProcrastinationMy Profile

      • Hi Alan and Alison,
        Well I have done the 30 day challenge – really wasn’t hard and I didn’t feel any withdrawals or major cravings. We had the best food! I have never eaten so much (good) fat in my life – nuts, eggs, meat, avocados, coconut oil, ghee etc. And I lost 4.6 kilos! And I wasn’t really overweight before I started…or so I thought. My 19 year old daughter followed along and she also lost weight and she definitely didn’t need to. My mood has positively improved. My sleep is better, but still wake up far too early and can’t get back to sleep. But at least I don’t wake up cranky. I have got to tasks that I have been putting off for years. Suddenly I have lost the “can’t be bothereds”. My challenge now is to see how I can moderate this. Last Friday I had my work Christmas party and I had two wines, potatoes and Christmas pudding (the rest was pretty Paleo) and I have not been feeling well since 🙁 Queasy etc. Yesterday I have my first cappuccino and I had stomach issues all night. Could be a fructose thing as I had mango as well. Oh well, after Christmas I will be back 100%. One not so good side effect both my daughter and I have found is that the last couple of weeks we have not had much energy in our weekly Zumba class. Just not able to lift those legs and just wanting it to be over. So we must need more something (and we don’t want to lose any more weight). Should be have some rice, or potatoes? Or do we increase fat? I still can’t believe we lost so much weight so easily without reducing calories and eating so well. Some days I am so annoyingly positive!! Oh and my dry skin has improved 🙂
        Vicki recently posted..Sofie’s Valedictory DressMy Profile

        • Wow wow wow Vicky.

          That’s awesome. Thanks for coming back here and sharing this. So what is your plan going forwards? To stick to something like 80-90% Paleo as Alison suggests in the above interview (i.e. you don’t have to be a complete zealot about it/it doesn’t have to be 100%) or do you actually intend to aim for 100% Paleo accepting that there may be a few exceptions along the way?

          I still haven’t gotten round to trying this yet myself as since the 4-hour body trial, I eat fairly healthy though my interview with Alison and also reading your progress here has got me thinking I should perhaps at least try the 30 day challenge…

          The main concern for me is no legumes – they are a pretty big part of my diet at the moment and what I use to replace pasta, bread and rice. Also the slow carb I think is easier because of the cheat day though talking to Alison about that, I agree this can sometimes just introduce temptation and may be better left out altogether.

          thanks again for sharing your progress here!
          Alan recently posted..Crowdsourcing: What It Is, How It Works, Why You Should Care & How To Do It!My Profile

          • Hi Alan, I plan to stick to it as best I can. I have sourced grass fed meat that I can have home delivered and a weekly box of organic fruit and veg. I think as perhaps a monthly treat I may have pasta, pizza, dessert or something yum. I don’t think weekly treats are necessary as the food I have been cooking is so yum! I definately will be adding dairy back in but maybe with weekend cappuccinos rather than twice daily. And maybe small quantity of rice. I think I will just have to see how I go. I need to have a reminder somewhere of how I used to feel if I start eating too much non Paleo! Thanks for this blog, I have been enjoying it very much. Merry Christmas to you and your family!
            Vicki recently posted..Sofie’s Valedictory DressMy Profile

            • Hey Vicki,

              I hope you had a great XMas – sorry, I went offline for XMas before getting a chance to respond to this (but we did 😉 … have a good XMas that is).

              Your plan sounds really sensible & I think I will end up doing something very similar – i.e. following the general principles of something like slow-carb or Paleo whilst continuing to learn about food and nutrition and refine my diet and tastes accordingly.

              And you’re right – as you get going eating healthier food I do believe you tend to get a taste for it and that makes everything so much easier.

              Very best wishes for the coming year Vicki, thanks for coming back with this update, for reading our site and for your comments!
              Alan recently posted..An End Of Year Thanks To Our Extended CommunityMy Profile

  4. Paleo has changed my life. I’ve been on it for 2 months now and have lost 2 stone. I hardly ever think about food. Before I would be thinking about lunch and dinner while I was eating breakfast. If you’re buying Mark Sissons, the 21 day challenge is a much better read than Primal Blueprint which is a bit heavy going for me.

      • Hi Alan, I’ve battled with my weight all my life and have tried every diet on the planet. I’m 50 now. I even have 32 qualifications related to health and fitness and used to help others. I had quite a serious eating disorder at one time so I have to be careful about “dieting” as that can bring it back again. I just feel completely calm about food and I think it’s to do with the amount of fat keeping you full and not having the insulin ups and downs. All my joint pains have gone, migraines have stopped, allergies are gone, I sleep well and I have loads of energy. I used to think that there was something wrong with me mentally because of the eating disorder but I realise now that there was a physical thing going on with insulin that I couldn’t control. Using coconut oil on my skin and in cooking is fantastic. My skin, hair and nails have never been better. Best wishes. Sian.

  5. Alan and Alison,

    Wow! I am so glad to see you, my online friends, get together!! You both are great people! Go figure, my two British friends and I placed you together. Miles apart.

    I am not the type of person that is strict with my diet. So I try my best at eating as close to what nature has given us. But I do love pizza and hamburgers and popcorn. I also love apples, grapes and peppers. I eat both.

    But I say go for it. BUT only if you can make it a way of eating and not a DIET. I have looked into the Paleo diet a little and if I were to change the way I eat permanently, I would choose Paleo. It is the way we are suppose to eat. Our systems are set up that way.

    I am so tired of people “dieting” and then reverting back to the way they ate once they lose the weight. It is not about weight. If you eat healthy ALL THE TIME and in moderation, you will be not be overweight. (Minus any health issues.) I know, I am not one to preach, but I also never diet.

    I admire Alison for sticking with something that works for her and her family. And I admire Alan for being sticking with working to be healthy all around- mind and body.

    ~Allie
    Allie recently posted..Why I Am Awful at Affiliate Sales and How I Am Going to Fix ThisMy Profile

    • Hey Allie,

      I really enjoyed the interview so thanks for introducing us, I was a little worried about the audio dropping out in places but it’s not too bad in the end once the call was chopped up into individual questions.

      I’m still kind of 50/50 on this at the moment, you know I love experiments but I have a lot of experiments at once at the moment 😉 I probably will give Paleo a try at some stage soonish though, I’m thinking after XMas, just because as Alison says when people make food for you with love, it’s really hard to say no, I can really relate to that particular point, and we do a lot of family visits around XMas (OK, ‘Holiday’) time 😉

      Didn’t you tell me you love sandwiches?
      Alan recently posted..How To Avoid ProcrastinationMy Profile

    • Hi Allie!

      Yes, we finally managed to do this interview, months and months after you introduced us!

      I agree about the dieting word. It is very damaging to simply go back to the old way of eating after a period of restriction. This is a lifestyle although the vast majority of people who are paleo indulge a little from time to time and there are also some fantastic cookbooks with paleo treats designed to eaten at celebration times. After a while, the energy and feeling of well-being overwhelms the desire to eat food that isn’t optimal and it doesn’t feel like a loss at all. Quite the opposite. 🙂
      Alison Golden – PaleoNonPaleo recently posted..14 Paleo Recipes So Delicious Non-Paleos Won’t Even NoticeMy Profile

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