An opinion piece. Is the Paleo diet worth it? Also known as: How does thara eat?
Reasons Paleo 2.0 Rocks & Sucks – Click to enlarge and right-click to download.
Why Paleo 2.0? I think Sebastien Noel has 3 sentences that say it best:
“Trying to imitate our past is futile & impossible… always consider things through multiple lens[es]”.
“The goal is and always has been optimal health and wellbeing, and not sticking to dogmas just for the sake of being righteous.”
“We’ve focused our attention on our ancestors instead of…what’s really important….Elimination… of malnutrition…and toxicity”
All diets have a few variables that they can play with. These variables are the 3 macronutrients : Proteins, Carbohydrates & Fats. We have seen them constantly changing over the last 60 years, since we have become so focused on micromanaging our health.
Protein is used for repair, growth & function, but not energy.
Protein building blocks are in almost all food, save for isolated and processed food items. High quality protein comes from animal flesh. Lower quality protein comes from nuts, seeds, vegetable and grain. Quality refers to ease of absorption, metabolism and integration.
Carbohydrates are energy,metabolized fairly quickly & without many metabolic by-products.
Carbohydrate is not just grain or refined sugar. Carbohydrates are in vegetables, fruit and grain, nuts and seeds. Basically anything that is not pure meat or fat. A ‘no-carb’ diet is next to impossible without malnutrition.
Fat is a slow burning source of energy and a crucial part of our cell structure.
Our brains signal ‘We’ve got some sustainable fuel’ when eating fat. Fat can naturally be found in almost any nut, seed, whole grain, all animal products but often not in vegetables & fruit – though possible (Avocados & Coconut & Olives). Higher amounts in animal products.
Paleo 2.0 is generally a balanced diet.
In the Paleo 2.0 world, 30% caloric protein is recommended as a maximum, to ensure the kidneys are not strained. Number counting is not encouraged, so really this is to prevent overconsumption, not to get neurotic and max out at 30% everyday.
In the Paleo 2.0 world, lean meat is not better. Protein alone is not enough for energy & metabolism. Satiation, energy and growth are best served by eating a small cut, but the whole cut, fat and all.
In the Paleo 2.0 world, dairy is not the devil. Cream, butter, yoghurt & aged cheeses are welcome, and plenty.
In the Paleo 2.0 world, potato and other starches are seen again, in all their nutritious, blood sugar balancing and fibre contributing glory.
My # 1 issue with the diet ‘guidelines’:
Flat out restriction of certain foods (most grains & legumes) is extreme, especially if not paired with personal exploration and thereafter, a personal choice to restrict. Diet restrictions do not encourage learning for oneself and tend to imply that there is a clear path to the answer.
The answer is never a diet, because the question has never been:
“How do I lose weight?” or “What is the healthiest life choice?”.
The questions are, and always have been:
Why do I find my own body so difficult to understand…how did I get so far away from knowing what’s best for me?
Why do I feel so helpless about a form that is uniquely mine?
How did I get myself into this pickle?
The answers to these, my friends, are varied and complex and no diet will ever be the solution. Unless prescribed for immediate health dangers, any “diet” will distract us for a while, but eventually the real questions will come back.
What are you trying to lose? What are you hoping to gain? Really. It doesn’t stop at our bodies. The self-critiques hover in all facets of life.
All the skinny in the world can’t stop the Little Haters.
There will always be one more pound to lose, one more blood level to optimize. In the incessant yearning for marketable content, there will always be some part of us to problematize. What would we talk about if we were content with ourselves?
Can Paleo solve it for us?
In general, I love eating “Paleo”. I also have many days when I eat the “restrictions”, which I assume would make me a Paleo-rebel, and well, if there’s one box you could put me in, it would be the rebel box.
Where was I?
Ah, Yes. I would self-define as a primarily Paleo. Not because someone came up with the diet, and I adhered, but because I have experimented (and still experiment) with what feels best for me, and it seems that Paleo fits preettty damn close to my diet. I’m sure as I continue to experiment, in 10 years I will be eating completely differently. In fact, I hope I will be. I am not the same body year after year, I should not be eating the same, into eternity.
Protein: My muscles & brain seem to function better when I eat high quality protein daily. I was a not-very-healthy vegetarian for 10 years. My muscles would consistently ache for days after running or climbing. I thought this was normal. My quality of life has dramatically improved over the last 10 years, since I began eating flesh.
Now, there are vegetarian protein powders available, but I’m not a fan of powdered raw ingredients that have been blended – My gut hurts when I eat them.
Right now, I probably eat a tiny bit less protein than what’s paleo-recommended. Probably because I don’t do a tonne of movement in the winter. When I’m using my muscles more vigorously, I certainly eat more protein in each meal.
The legume restriction is perfect for my constitution. I am allergic to peanuts and other uncooked legumes make me a little itchy. Sometimes I will eat legumes, if they have been fully cooked or de-shelled, then I don’t have any symptoms. Except beluga lentils. I seem to be fine with belugas. So I eat belugas.
I don’t eat a large quantity of grains (in comparison to the food pyramid). I do eat grains though, about once a day. When I do, I tend to eat them with a healthy dose of fat. Grain alone, even whole grain makes my belly feel uneasy.
I really like Fat: I have so much to say about fat. There are 8 types of fat that I know of. We need all of them. One fat is not “better” than another. I can write about that another day.
If I don’t vary my fat types, I will inevitably crave each of them. I’ve noticed my brain is more productive and functional since I started having a liberal and varied fat intake. I now naturally tend to eat smaller, but high calorie portions. If I am gorging, it usually means I’m really hungry, I haven’t eaten well, or I am missing a certain fat in my diet. On weeks that I get obsessed with avocados, and thus forget about saturated fat, I crave bacon or pie crust. Get it?
I don’t eat a lot of fruit. I was raw for a year, and I ate a lot of fruit. I had my first cavity after my raw phase, at age 23. Then, I went through about 4 years of having smoothies with protein powder for breakfast in the morning. Unless I was eating something fatty and salty within 2 hours, my blood sugar would spike and crash, and I wasn’t fully functional. Now I eat fruit in its whole form. Maybe 1 per day. Maybe not. In December, I ate many clementines. On some hot summer weeks, I drink smoothies everyday.
I like vegetables – Possibly more than paleo. Too many or too little, and my bowels are not happy and my skin becomes pale. I like them raw and cooked. In the winter, I eat more starchy vegetables & fruit. In the summer, I eat more watery vegetable & fruit.
In terms of the nightshade (inflammatory) vegetables: I don’t eat eggplant, because my mouth gets scratchy, and I don’t eat bell peppers often, because I can’t breathe deeply after. I eat potatoes, as long as they don’t have green on them. I like the little ones. They don’t seem to affect me.
I eat a fair bit of dairy. I really like butter. I like several different types of cheese. I make my own yoghurt. I put cream in beverages. I don’t drink milk – it sits in my stomach and gurgles. No other dairy does that. I sometimes won’t have dairy for a month, for no particular reason. Maybe I forgot to buy it. Maybe I wasn’t craving it. Sometimes I’ll have dairy 3 times in a day. If I eat too much, my sweat smells unpleasant to me.
There is a goldilocks amount of each food for me, that tends to follow what I feel like eating. With this, I am a glowing, resilient beauty. (Is that ok? To call myself a beauty? or if not, isn’t that indicative of how our negative self talk perpetuates itself).
And are selfies really negatively narcissistic? Maybe they give us a chance to see beauty in ourselves. To feel adored by ourselves is not a common allowance.
I eat when I’m hungry. I don’t eat when I’m not hungry. If I crave something, I eat it. I don’t worry about it. I once (always) really wanted a fresh croissant. I couldn’t find one on my way home, so I tried to replace my craving with my regular snacks at home:
Gingersnap cookies S & V chips, salted ice cream. I even went and got a baguette, buttered it and tried to imagine it was a croissant…
but until I actually made the decision to commit to the croissant, I wouldn’t stop eating to try and fill the craving. It was an interesting carbohydrate-filled day. So the next day, I got out early enough and made it to a proper bakery. Sweet Juniper, the satisfaction was divine!
The same happens with: Apple Galettes, Salt & Vinegar Chips, Ginger snaps, Ostrich meat with Avocado and black salt, Juice, Eggs in various preparations, Basil-Walnut Pesto, Dried & Salted Kale, Thick Yoghurt, Creamy Tea, Salted Butter, Buckwheat crepes, Papayas, Pumpkin Pear Oat Pancakes, Back Alley Arrabiatta Pizza, Angel Hair Pasta with Oyama Meats, Grapefruit, Hugs …
Once I started listening, and as you may notice from the extensive list, I realized I craved all food items depending on what I’ve eaten, done or felt lately. “Healthy” or “unhealthy”, I just needed to pay attention and take the time to make the food I want. I am fortunate enough to live in a land where food is available at my fingertips. I try to take advantage of it wisely.
Sometimes I want pie for the crust, because I haven’t eaten enough saturated fat recently.
Sometimes I want pie for the filling, because I haven’t had enough gooey sweetness in a while,
Sometimes I want pie because it reminds me of good times with my bestie.
I like and am aware of all these reasons and I eat pie, when I want it.
Or I call my bestie and laugh. Because that's what I really wanted from the pie.
I live a fairly low stress life. Not that I don’t have stressors. I have lots. I’ve just learned to roll with the punches, and not sacrifice my mental health or nourishment for anybody or anything. Sometimes that means lying broken on the floor in a pile to grieve, and sometimes that means saying no to someone’s request. Sometimes that means feeling stressed and then freaking out and losing my cool and under-eating and yelling at someone and then crying and damn. And then saying Ok, better luck next time.
It means many things, that come down to: Am I taking care of my own needs? My parents taught me that. Thank you. Can we all pass that to the generations to come?
All my shoes (heels included) are comfortable enough for me to sprint in, just in case. I like running fast. But I don’t do it very often. I do yoga everyday right now. Although yesterday I had to run for the bus, and realized my cardiovascular capacity has been greatly diminished with all this deep breathing, muscle toning practice.
Sleep is very important for my health, and (luckily) easy for me. It is my magic pill for healing and recovery. But on nights that insomnia hits, I don’t worry about it. I write, I imagine, I eat, I get up and pee, I stare out the window. I browse my phone. I ask Google questions (full disclosure right?).
This is not a game. There are no rules. There is no cheating. Your don’t need to prove this to anyone but yourself.
The point is to live your life being aware of your actions and reactions; noticing the consequences of your choices. Once you live with this, you are the master of your fate, you are the captain of your soul
Back on Point: How would I sum up the best rules of Paleo?
- Pay attention to how your body functions.
- Eat what you want, when you want.
- Don’t eat processed food all the time.
- Make your heart race and breathe hard every now and then.
- Don’t do something if it doesn’t seem to work for you.
- Focus on building a resilient body. If you “cheat” it shouldn’t destroy you.