Experimenting With The Paleo Diet
During the last month I’ve been experimenting with the Paleo Diet. I have however made some changes that are detailed below. I wanted to see firsthand what the hype is about. In fact, to actually call my trial run as a Paleo Diet may not be fair… its more like a Paleo template. Having known some of the specifics of the diet for a while, I felt no need to dive further into the details. Rather than endlessly researching, why not actually give it a trial run. If you’re not familiar with the Paleo Diet you will soon as it starts to go mainstream. Essentially, the key components are to avoid grains, legumes and dairy. At this point many people will start to feel a little uncomfortable. Give up bread, milk and beans? Well, no one is really sad to give up beans. However, peanuts are a legume, so no peanut butter, that part kind of sucks. At least there are alternatives though.
Paleo Diet – Not A Typical “Diet”
Some call it just another “fad” diet. But I don’t think the Paleo Diet has fallen victim to false advertising; in fact, it’s full of scientifically and logically-based principles. Anytime the word “diet” is attached to something, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A “diet” often means a few short-lived habits that can’t be sustained, containing numerous nutritional myths.
Dr. Loren Cordain, author of two of the most notable Paleo Diet books including “The Paleo Answer”, made numerous valid points about health and the potential benefits of excluding dairy, grains, and legumes. His views inspired me to dig a little deeper into my own habits and give Paleo a shot. As a wellness professional, I’d already cut wheat out of my own diet, and for some time I already knew of the unsettling distress dairy has on my digestive system.
Adjusting The Paleo Diet To Fit You
But as a naturally thin guy, I’d hit an impasse. The Paleo Diet emphasizes the inclusion of pasture-raised meats, seafood, veggies, nuts, seeds, some oils, and fruit. While this does provide a variety of food options, someone like me might have difficulty gaining weight with these choices. So, I began following a slightly modified Paleo plan.
To get those extra calories, I’ve reintroduced small amounts of low-lactose dairy, or Kefir, and fortunately I haven’t felt any digestive stress. I include a “wheat-like” product once a week, and through some great Paleo recipe blogs I’ve even found ways to satisfy my cookie addiction! So it’s important to understand that though Paleo has some tight guidelines, it can be the foundation to finding the perfect nutrition lifestyle that’s right for you. Rest assured the Paleo Diet won’t make you feel like you need to sacrifice your favorite foods.
As a Precision Nutrition Fitness Nutrition Coach, I’ve been putting my clients on a modified version of the Paleo Diet even before I knew what Paleo entailed, and often they’d complain of having too much food to eat; they were stuffed but kept losing weight. There’s so much power in not feeling deprived, and actually nourishing your body with the nutrients it needs. Should you make the switch to Paleo?
Research shows that when we try to change too many habits at once, the rate of actual success is abysmal. Thus, for the vast majority of clients, I ask them to make one nutritional change at a time. But there are always exceptions, and such a case involved a senior client who had suffered from acid-reflux and IBS for years. Several specialists tried to help her, and the medications they prescribed not only didn’t work, but they also led to other health issues. After only three weeks of following a modified Paleo approach eliminating wheat and limiting carbs, her symptoms were almost completely gone. And after six weeks, completely gone.
Something to consider when following a Paleo Diet that restricts grains, is that there are people who do not react negatively to all grains, and in proper quantities and timing won’t necessarily lead to weight gain. Amaranth or wild rice for example can still be part of a well-rounded nutritional approach, but probably should be limited in quantity. It’s also important to take into account how those grains are prepared, which we’ll dive into the details in a later article. What about bread? It’s my belief that the vast majority of people who do eliminate “healthy whole wheat”, are actually able to avoid many of the common diseases wheat-eaters suffer from.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for me now, aside from getting enough calories to gain weight, is the elimination of protein powder. I haven’t completely eliminated it, but I have relied on these supplements too much in the past. Protein powder does shake my long-held beliefs about avoiding all processed foods; but there is new research showing benefits to some whey protein consumption in relation to cancer prevention.
Overall, my body is responding extremely well to a diet that many “experts” would say is not optimal because it excludes some foods that are promoted as “healthy”. I’ve modified the diet in a way that fits my lifestyle, goals, and preferences so I know I can stick with it. It’s more important to follow the reliable nutritional habits of the Paleo lifestyle, than it is to sign up with the latest fad diet and fall off the wagon after only a few weeks. The Paleo Diet can be your ticket out of the classic diet rut. If you adjust the Paleo Diet to your comfort levels, you can finally feel good in your body.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll share the results of my blood work. What are the results internally of a Paleo style diet? Is my doctor going to say she told me so?