What Is The Paleo Diet?

Photo by Suat Eman

The first time I heard about the Paleo Diet I thought “Great! Another fad diet!”

But as it turns out, the Paleo Diet really isn’t a fad diet at all, it’s actually more of a lifestyle.

 

Paleo In  A Nutshell

Essentially, the Paleo Diet is based around whole foods that our hunter, gatherer ancestors ate during Paleolithic times. This is why it is also called the Cave Man Diet or Hunter, Gatherer Diet.

So why would we want to eat like our Paleolithic Ancestors?

To understand why we would want to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors, we need to put things in perspective.

The Paleolithic period lasted over 2,000,000 years. Yes you read that right…TWO  MILLION YEARS.

During that time, humans hunted and gathered their food.

That meant that they ate animals, plants and probably some seeds and nuts. And as it turns out, those people were very healthy – lean, strong and without modern diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc.

So what happened? Why are so many people sick now?

Well, about 10,000 years ago we began to create highly processed foods with all kinds of chemicals and additives that our bodies were not “adapted” to handle.

And because our human genes have not evolved much since the Paleolithic period, it is believed that our bodies work best when fueled by the type of foods that our Paleolithic ancestors ate.

Foods like meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs and nuts.

Whole, natural foods. Not chemically engineered, highly processed foods.

Eating whole, natural foods makes a lot of sense to most people as a way to improve their health but unfortunately it isn’t so easy to get back to the way we used to eat.

When I discovered the Paleo diet and decided to test it out, I ran into some unforeseen challenges.

So although I think the Paleo diet is a great idea for most people, there are some challenges you may want to consider.

I’m not highlighting these challenges to discourage you but rather to give you a heads up so you can plan how to handle them should they happen to you!

Paleo Diet Challenges

 

Challenge 1: Family

Spouse – It’s one thing to get yourself to eat differently, it’s another thing to convince your spouse to follow along 🙂

Children – We all know how hard it is to get our kids to eat different foods. Kids like what they like and that’s that.

Challenge 2: Convenience

Grocery Stores – The bottom line is it’s just more difficult to eat Paleo. So much of our grocery stores are filled with processed foods (like bread, crackers, chips, sodas, juices, cereals etc.)

Eating Out – It’s insanely hard to find meals that conform to a truly Paleo Diet when eating out. The easiest and most universal Paleo meal that can be found at most restaurants is a salad with some type of protein like chicken, beef, salmon etc. This can get old pretty quick if you eat out a lot. For several reasons, we’ve been cooking a lot more dinners at home which leads to the next area of inconvenience.

Challenge 3: Preparation

Preparing meals with vetables, meat, fish etc. takes a bit more time than slapping together some ham, cheese and a couple pieces of bread or popping a frozen pizza into the oven. We all have those days when we work late and we don’t feel like spending a lot of time making dinner which makes it a lot more appealing to order a pizza instead of cooking a steak and vegetable dinner.

Challenge 4: Cost 

Eating more Meat, Fish and fresh produce like vegetables and fruit is typically more expensive than eating processed foods like Frozen Dinners, Pasta, Pizza and sandwiches.

 

Benefits of Paleo

Despite those seemingly large challenges, I believe Paleo is worth every single bit of inconvenience.

Benefit 1: More Muscle, Less Fat

Since I began eating a more Paleo diet I’ve seen some great results like lowering my bodyfat percentage from 14.5% to 10% which equated to 8lbs of fat while simultaneously increasing lean muscle by 2lbs. That happened in 2 months and I was already in very good shape and eating a good diet by most people’s standards.

Benefit 2: Less Inflammation, Aches and Pains

Many processed foods are HIGHLY inflammatory. Inflammatory foods can cause all kinds of problems from minor aches and pains to disease.

Check out the “old me” on my About Page to see how I looked before eating Paleo – I was swollen and inflamed, carrying extra weight and I was exhausted. I also had been experiencing aches and pains in my back, knees and my knuckles would crack constantly!

I’m not going to say I NEVER get an ache or pain. That would be ridiculous. But I can say that I very rarely get aches and pains and I feel more flexible and limber than ever before.

Benefit 3: More and Longer Lasting Energy

This is a BIG one for me. Every parent wants MORE energy. Our kids seem to have a limitless supply all day long and it can be pretty exhausting trying to keep up with them!

When I made the switch to a Paleo diet, I noticed my energy change. I didn’t have the afternoon slump that I had always experienced. I used to eat every hour or two to “keep my energy levels up” but no matter what I always had that afternoon crash.

Most days I experienced several crashes and my wish was to just drink more coffee. Some days I’d drink 4-5 cups of coffee. Now I only drink 1 or 2 cups per day and I use mostly decaf beans now. Seriously, try Paleo for a week and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Benefit 4: More Focus and Less Stress

Believe me when I tell you Focus has ALWAYS been a challenge for me. I was never tested for ADD but I am pretty sure if I was tested, I would have been at the top of the charts.

And once again, I’m not going to give you a bunch of BS and say that I’m laser focused, but I have SO MUCH more focus now than I’ve ever had.

And I know the Paleo diet has made a difference because I literally feel more distracted and also, more anxious when I eat a “standard american diet” full of processed foods.

Conclusion

I could go on and on about the benefits of eating Paleo but I think you get the point. I STRONGLY encourage you to give it a try and report back to me with your results.

If  you’d like to do some of your own research on Paleo (and I encourage you to do so) you should check out some of the experts that I follow like Mark Sisson from MarksDailyApple.com, Chris Kress from ChrisKresser.com, Dave Asprey from BulletProofExec.com and Robb Wolf from RobbWolf.com to name a few.

Also, if you follow a Paleo diet I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. What kind of benefits have you seen? How hard has it been to give up processed foods? Did your spouse buy into it? Any tips or tricks to get your kids to eat healthier whole foods like meat and vegetables instead of processed foods mac and cheese?

14 thoughts on “What Is The Paleo Diet?”

  1. Started this type of diet after reading Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body, dropped 23 pounds since Dec- from 207 to 184. Energy is much better, as is mood. After the first couple of days, no sugar cravings either. Feels great!

  2. That’s awesome Bill! The diet in the 4 Hour Body (slow carb diet) is similar to Paleo but with some differences like beans and lentils which are avoided on a strictly Paleo diet. Either way, the important thing is to find what works best for you. Glad to hear it’s working out for you!

  3. Hi Vienda, yes the Paleo diet is VERY similar to eating the diet promoted by Weston Price. I’m actually not sure there is any difference between the two diets. I’ll have to do a little more digging to find out!

  4. Hey Tim!

    Awesome article and excellent representation. I’m honored you mentioned me and am thrilled you enjoy eating paleo.

    Tips to get your kids eating healthier:
    Starve them until they have to eat meat, or bribe them with bacon (I’m obviously not a father ;).

    I’m going to be writing some articles soon about how to find local grass-fed meat much cheaper than even regular meat – hopefully that will help.

    -Armi

  5. No problem man! Your content is kick ass.

    Yeah, kids are tricky. They can hold out pretty long if you don’t offer them something they want. Bacon is one of those things she loves though so we’re good there.

    I can’t wait for your articles on finding local grass fed meat! And cheaper than regular meat? That’s would be fantastic. Keep me posted!!

  6. Hey Tim,

    Just getting started with the Paloe lifestyle and would love to see an article on the preparation of such meals. The concept of ingredients seems simple enough, but I’m wondering if HOW we prepare those ingredients (cooking, flavoring, etc.) makes any difference.

    Keep the articles coming!

  7. Hi Joe,

    Stay tuned! I’ll be putting together some videos and more articles on how to make Paleo meals in the near future.

  8. Great post, Tim!

    I really like that you came right out and listed the challenges – because they’re very real. Thankfully, #1 wasn’t a problem for me, but the other 3 were and continue to be. I’m used to them now, they’re just a part of life. It’s good for people considering paleo to know that it might seem high maintenance at first, but it gets easier and better as time goes on.

    You get into a certain groove with it all. Do you agree? And, as you point out, the benefits huge.

    Well done. Going over to Twitter now to tweet this post 🙂

    Susan

  9. Great post, glad I was browsing twitter and found it mentioned by Susan (thanks Susan).

    1. might be happening quite soon as my spouse has been impressed by my weight-loss (about 14lbs so far) and can see that my energy levels are good. He is now seriously considering changing to a mostly paleo eating style so I need to be careful not to be judgmental or interfering with his choices when he starts.

    2. I do find that I only visit most aisles of the grocery shop because I am still buying non-paleo food for my spouse so shopping may become easier if he does change to paleo too.
    Then I need only visit the veg and meat aisles.
    We don’t eat out often and I do find that I need to make preparations when we are on the road working so that I don’t get caught out with little choice.

    3. We don’t really find much difference at home because we rarely ate convenience food, so preparing meals from scratch is the norm for us. At first my partner was a little stressed trying to think of replacements for the rice or potatoes that may have been part of our dinner however we just now put on extra veg for me when he’s cooking carbs.

    4. We have noticed a difference in our food budget, I guess at the moment we are still buying all the carbs as well as the paleo food so perhaps it will be a little easier if we are both eating paleo.
    We were really good at using oats, barley, rice, lentils, beans etc to make our food budget go further so it has been an adjustment. I think that it is worth it though.

  10. Thanks Susan!

    Yes I completely agree. At first it’s definitely a bit of a challenge adjusting.

    Eating Paleo means spending a little more time thinking about what you’re going to buy at the store, what you’re going to make for each meal etc. but like you said Susan, after a while you get in a groove and it’s second nature.

    The little inconveniences are so worth it though when you begin to eat this way for a little while.

    The way I feel after a Paleo meal is SO much different than if I eat something “regular” like a sandwich or pizza.

    Once the body gets used to good stuff, it’s easier to feel what the bad stuff is actually doing to it. Which makes it easier to “just say no” to the bad stuff the next time 🙂

    And the feeling after the meal is just one short term benefit. The long term benefits are really where it’s at.

    How about you Susan? Are there any other benefits or challenges that you’ve had with eating Paleo that I didn’t mention?

  11. Hi there! So glad you stumbled upon this article.

    Also, great to hear your spouse is taking notice of your results and getting intrigued. That’s how it all starts, lead by example as they say!

    It sounds like you’ve got a lot of momentum going for you! I read your blog and I think your idea of growing your own food is AWESOME!

    Keep me posted on your Paleo journey. I’m excited to hear how things go moving forward.

  12. Yes, Tim, there’s a huge part of paleo that deserves its own post: misunderstanding and isolation.

    On misunderstanding: I try to low key it, but Paleo is noticeable. People ask all kinds of questions, like: “You don’t eat carbs?” I’ve actually had Ivy League graduates ask me that, completely unaware that fruits and vegetables ARE carbs! They think carbs are pasta and bread, etc. and only that.

    So a whole conversation ensues, and then the “why?” of everything comes up, etc., and frankly, Tim, I get a little tired of going over it with people. I want to eat and not be questioned about it, just like I let others eat and don’t question them.

    Then there’s the isolation. Yes, I’ve had people not include me in their plans to go out, and their invitations in. How do I know? There are times when I’ve suspected it, and times when people have actually told me – that they didn’t “think I’d feel comfortable” or whatever.

    I could go on and on. But really what I’d like to know is what you’ve observed and experienced, and what others have.

    Thanks!
    Susan

  13. Wow, that is SO true!

    Yes, I have had people look at me weird and ask me why I won’t eat certain things. Then you start to explain and it turns into a long drawn out conversation where the other person thinks you are judging them for what they are eating.

    I was listening to one of Leigh Peele’s Podcasts the other day and she mentioned how discussing diet is close to politics and religion. It’s one of those things people feel very strongly about and best to leave it alone if possible. She gives an awesome explanation of how she deals with these situations.

    I have to admit I have gotten a little crazy about it myself though.

    It’s really hard when you believe strongly about food and you see someone you love eat something you believe is harmful to their health. Parents, Spouse, Children etc.

    I think the key is to share what you learn if asked but not to act like it’s the absolute truth. People are complex so what is true for us may not be true for someone else.

    Also, we should not try to push our food beliefs onto others. Lead by example is the key I think.

    The really challenging thing for me is how to manage my daughters diet. I HAVE to have some say in what she eats. She can’t make 100% of the decisions or else she probably would be eating M&Ms for every meal.

    So the tricky part is how much do I limit her choices to what I believe is healthy and then when do I let her indulge in what I believe is not healthy. Creating rules is important but it’s always a challenge.

    That’s probably been the biggest challenge for me. Adults can decide for themselves and we can’t force anyone to change their ways-only lead by example.

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