It is my belief that there is no 1 diet that is right for everyone. We are all unique snowflakes and thus we all have genetic predispositions that differ from each other. Some of us store fat easier than others. Some of us have food intolerances while others do not. Some of us will be more likely to develop heart disease or cancer than others. The good news is that while genetics loads the gun, it’s your environment, including your diet, that pulls the trigger. What that means is that just because you have a predisposition for type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you’ll get it if you eat appropriately, stay appropriately active, get enough sleep, manage your stress, etc. Many metabolic diseases, autoimmune conditions, and mental health conditions are heavily influenced by diet and lifestyle choices.
With that being said, back to the title of this post. Is the Paleo Diet Right for everyone? My short answer is yes. Here’s why. The Paleo Diet, if done right, isn’t really a diet. It involves food choices, but that is the only thing it has in common with “diets”. I have been eating a Paleo Diet for 5 years now. As far as I am concerned I gave up dieting the day I started. Using the Paleo framework as the foundation of your food choices is absolutely appropriate and healthy for any human being.
The Paleo Diet at its core it is a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet. PERIOD. There is no calorie requirement. There is no specific macro-nutrient ratio you need to force yourself into. There is no food you have to eat, even though you don’t like it or tolerate it well. There is no meal timing requirement. There is lots of advice out there as to what your caloric intake should be. There are many opinions on macro-nutrient ratios depending on your goals and lifestyle. There are plenty of healthy food recommendations, but at the end of the day, this is your template. Make it what fits you best. And by the way, you will probably find that as your lifestyle changes and as you age your food choices, sleep requirements, exercise regimen, etc will need to change with you. What worked best for you at 35 may no longer work as well at 45. The good news is, that’s ok, because the flexibility of the paleo diet makes it work, you just need to shift your choices a bit.
Whether you will feel best on a lower carb or higher carb, moderate fat or high fat, mostly veggie or mostly animal based eating plan is an individual decision. What we do know is that no human being requires grains, legumes, dairy, sugar or processed foods to be healthy. And in many cases, not only are they not required, they can cause some real health problems depending on your individual ability to digest and process these foods. We also know that processed oils and trans fats are appropriate for no one. We also know that human beings require movement, plenty of sleep, sunlight, positive relationships, fun and mental stimulation to thrive. We can certainly survive without these things especially with the modern medical intervention, but I for one plan to thrive, not just survive. I just had 2 twin daughters a year ago! I am now 44 years old, I need to be on top of my game!
It is also my belief that just because a caveman didn’t eat it, doesn’t mean it isn’t healthy. For example, full fat organic and preferably raw dairy can have some real health benefits if it is well tolerated. If it’s not, then you are not one of the lucky ones who have the genetic mutation required to thrive on a diet with dairy in it. My recommendation is this: If you are feeling less than optimal (i.e. you want to lose a few pounds, you tend to feel bloated after you eat, you tend to get headaches or stiff joints, foggy brain, acne, trouble sleeping etc) then start with eliminating grains, legumes, dairy, sugars (besides fruit in moderation) all processed foods for 30 days and see how you feel. I’m willing to bet you’ll at least be feeling better. From there, it’s about seeing what you can get away with. Try adding dairy back in, and see how you feel. Try adding in some safe grains like white rice or buckwheat and see how you feel. Mess around with how much food is too much, how much is too little and how much is just right. Tinker with how many carbs cause you to lose weight, gain weight and fuel your activity needs. Try a few nutrients dense foods you’ve never tried before and see what you think.
This process should be about finding the diet and lifestyle practices that make you feel amazing, not sticking to what some guy or gal said you should do in the last diet book you read. I think these books are great as far as research and a place to start. They are definitely worth reading. I have read hundreds myself. There is tons of great information to help you understand how food affects your hormones etc. I also think they are all written with the best of intentions. But I also think that only you really know what feels best on you. (Although many people don’t really know how crummy they feel until they start feeling great!) And don’t let the Paleo police get you down. They may think they are eating like a caveman, but we all know it’s impossible for anyone to eat EXACTLY the same way our Paleolithic ancestors ate. I think many are missing the forest for the trees here. It is now 2015 and we need to find a way to thrive in TODAYS world. Find the eating plan and lifestyle choices that allow your inner caveman to thrive!
So my long answer is also yes, the Paleo diet is appropriate for everyone, however the version of Paleo that is best for you may be different than what is best for me. If you have questions give me a shout. This stuff can get complicated if you let it. This is where a health or nutrition coach can be really helpful if you’re struggling, but there is plenty of information at your disposal, you’ve just got to determine what your Paleo Diet looks like.
Until Next Time,
(R)evolution Health Coach.