Paleo Diet

Take a look at this video featuring the intrepid Ray Mears.  This is just one example of people living like our hunter-gatherer ancestors, living off the land and by the looks of them, thriving.  The Paleo Diet (also known as The Caveman Diet, Hunter Gatherer Diet or Stone-Age Diet) is nothing new, it follows the premise that our bodies are better adapted to a preagricuteral diet.  I tend to be drawn back towards it for comparison (and so far it always comes out on top) whenever I hear about the latest fad diets.

Though I am not suggesting that we all start looking for grubs, the principles are sound.  This is actually a healthy way of eating and the food tastes good (cabbage soup diets would test even the strongest of wills…).  It is not something that you have to follow for a while then drop for fear of harming your health; it is a way of life.  It suits all Metabolic Types, but the Protein Types will probably find it easier.

Ray Mears has spent over 10 years studying the diets that our distant relatives used to live on.  This is the guy who would go into the wild and spend weeks eating meat, berries and nuts.  He suspects that following the ways of our ancestors is the right way as we could potentially avoid contracting diseases such as diabetes and even premature death that goes hand in hand with our sugar laden, refined carbohydrate diets of the Western world.  Also, the gluten intolerant and Coeliac disease sufferers will find this diet easy to follow.  You can read the full article here: Ray Mears on the Paleo Diet.

Ray Mears says:

“Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who ate a lot of meat and fish. They had a completely different diet from ours today, and if we were still eating that diet, I’m certain we wouldn’t be getting as ill.  We still have a Stone Age body. We have modern minds, but our brains and bodies still require the same food.”

According to Ray, we are drawn to these high fat, high sugar foods because they are hard to find in the wild.  The problem is when they become too readily available – we overly indulge ourselves and that’s when health problems can develop.

The first version of the Paleo Diet – so called after paleolithic, the time of early man – was published in 1975 by a gastroenterologist: “The Stone Age Diet: Based on In-depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man” by Walter L. Voegtlin.  Taking the view that the genetics of humans has barely changed since paleothithic days, the modern diet containing foods such as pasteurised dairy (raw dairy products are a far more natural food and thus more easily tolerated), grains, refined sugar and processed carbohydrates is not providing us optimum nutrition and could even be harming us.

Foods allowed on a Paleo Diet:

    • Meat (some say lean meat but no caveman is going to turn away a piece of pork crackling)
    • Fruit – I would limit these to breakfast and don’t overdo them as too much fructose in the diet can also cause problems.
    • Vegetables – eat these freely but limit yourself to non starchy ones (choose runner beans over potatoes for instance)
    • Fish and Shellfish
    • Nuts (some say no peanuts as they are really a legume)
    • Seeds

Foods to avoid on a Paleo Diet

      • Salt
      • Dairy products
      • Sugar
      • Legumes
      • Beans
      • Alcohol
      • Grains and grain based products such as bread/pasta/cakes/breakfast cereals

You might notice that “legumes” are on the avoidance list.  This is because they, like beans and grains, were not cultivated by our ancestors until about 10,000 ago.  So if they were unlikely to be in the caveman’s diet, then they won’t be in authentic Paleo Diet recipes.  There is another thing.  Most legumes, beans and grains need to be soaked and cooked properly before they can be eaten and this process is vital as some of them are poisonous when raw.  We all know that even after a good boil, some beans and pulses still provoke some unsavoury reactions from us after eating them.

There are some people who can metabolise grains and legumes with few problems, but as we are talking about true Paleo here, these are simply guidelines, not a regime that is set in stone.  The best way to find out the best foods for you is to do a Metabolic Typing test, but Paleo is a good start.

If you are looking to lose weight on the Paleo Diet, then chances are, you will.  The weight loss is actually more like a side effect of eating healthier meals – you won’t find any refined sugar and few processed grains in a Paleo recipe.  Instead you will be enjoying mainly fresh meat, fish, seafood, vegetables, fruits, roots, nuts and seeds.

There are many aspects to losing weight, but I am focusing here on one piece of the puzzle: Food.

In my experience there are some that believe that the changes to lifestyle and eating are temporary and once they have reached their target weight, they can return to “normal” eating.  That is, eating processed fast foods, few vegetables and cake.  Then the yoyo dieting begins.

Others are inconsistent from the start and wonder why their diets fail them.  But look at the eating patterns and the truth comes out (chocolate bars and other favourite titbits often get “forgotten”).  These are the top examples I encounter frequently:

      • Snacking at night on treats such as potato chips as a reward (pototo chips are the most fattening food according to a recent report) after a day of sticking to the plan.
      • Giving up too soon on a plan to follow a different one.
      • Looking at the scales in disbelief when it shows weight gain, but this can actually due to water retention or increased muscle mass.  In the case of the latter, they might stop strength training for fear of “bulking up”,without believing that muscle mass is needed to rev up the metabolism and burn fat.
      • The worst time of year is Christmas – parties and delicious but fattening foods abound not only on the table, but decadent hampers and boxes of chocolates would be “a shame to waste”.

For other people, disciplined eating is a breeze, but for the majority of us, we need a bit of help and restricting everything we enjoy is just not practical in the long run.

Goal setting

I can hear the sighs already.  Goal setting works for some and not for others.  There will be individuals who retain an inner streak of rebellion.  Telling them to measure their portions and giving them target weights to reach by certain dates will incite fundamental conflict, whether they are aware of it conciously or not!  Emotionally, people can be at their most vulnerable when they are dieting, it’s the time when the need to comfort eat can arise strongly.

This is why with diets like the Paleo, it is far easier to introduce, as it is a way of life rather than a quick fix.  You can also eat as much as you like as there is no points system or calorie counting to endure!

Losing weight isn’t easy, but setting up a new way of life is exciting and you might surprise yourself.  I have known dedicated potato* eaters that thought that they wouldn’t feel full unless there was some kind of filling spud on their plate.  These are people who admitted to varying their diets by choosing mash over baked potato…  But give them a plate of colourful vegetables and they see that potatoes were nothing but a comfort blanket.

*Some Paleo Diets advocate the use of potatoes, other versions don’t, but I would suggest that keeping them to a minimum is best and eating them at lunchtime could be a better idea than at dinner.

You can learn more by reading this book: The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat by Loren Cordain for more information.