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Sometimes I wish the Paleo Diet was called something else. I for one identify with the term. I understand its relevance and appreciate the spirit in which it is named. But many naysayers use the name itself as a reason to bash it, ridicule it and dismiss it as a fad without ever understanding it for the lifestyle that it really is. Some of the common criticisms I hear are:

1. It’s just a new version of the Atkins Diet – This is categorically untrue, I’ll explain in a moment.

2. There’s no way we can know with 100% certainty what our Paleolithic ancestors ate so how can you build a diet around it. –No kidding?

3. The fruits, veggies and animals we eat today are different from what was available back then, so it’s impossible to really eat like a caveman.  – This is true to a degree but not all that relevant when you understand the spirit behind the lifestyle.

4. Our Paleolithic ancestors died very young. They never lived long enough to develop heart disease or diabetes. How do you know their diet would have prevented these diseases or not? – A lot of archeological evidence and current day isolated populations provides plenty of evidence to base a solid dietary theory on.

5. Eating all that meat is an unsustainable lifestyle and is bad for our planet. – A common vegan argument and no more unsustainable than their own diet.

6. Eating all that meat and fat is bad for you. – This is especially common among those concerned with high cholesterol issues.

Yes, there are probably a few more, several more, but these are the most commonly expressed to me. I’ll start with the last one first because it is the easiest.

Most of you reading this already know that this is not true. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat. Dietary fat and cholesterol are not the bad guys. Sugar, trans fats and processed foods are the bad guys. Please see my post “In Defense of Fat” and ” The Top 10 Reasons Why the Calories In/Calories Out Paradigm is a Bunch of Crap” for further clarification. Gary Taubes‘ books are 2 great resources out of many that lay out all of the evidence. If your friends and family continue to pester you email them these links as well as any of the myriad of others that have debunked this notion. Simply stated, natural healthy fats don’t make you fat and sick……sugar does! Great sources of Paleo fats are healthfully raised animal foods, real olive oil (believe it or not, not all store-bought olive oil is good), nuts and seeds, coconut oil, avocados, olives, grass-fed butter and ghee, lard, tallow and duck fat. Lots to choose from here folks.

Next, NO this is not just an updated version of the Atkins Diet! I hate this one so much! I actually went on the Atkins diet after I had my second child and quite easily lost all my baby weight. For the purpose of just losing weight, it certainly worked for me. But that doesn’t make it a healthy diet if you continue to eat foods that are “low carb” but processed or inflammatory. My biggest issue with the Atkins Diet, even though I lost weight, was all the dairy I was eating. Lots and lots of cheese did not sit well with me, I just didn’t realize it at the time. Another big issue is the sanctioning of artificial sweeteners. When a diet recommends diet sodas and Splenda as healthy choices, that should tell you it is anything but healthy! All the Atkins sanctioned processed food options available today definitely makes the Atkins Diet as far from Paleo as you can get. The Paleo Diet is not low carb for low carb sake! Fruits, veggies and tubers are all carbohydrates, nuts and seeds contain carbs as well. If a low carb Paleo diet works for you like it does for me then great, but many function much better with higher carb intake. So, Paleo does not equal Atkins!

What about the argument that we don’t really know what our Paleolithic ancestors ate with any real certainty and even if we did, most of those foods aren’t available today. I’m tackling numbers 2 and 3 here. My first reaction is pretty juvenile, “No, Duh!”  Its kind of ridiculous really. Of course we don’t know exactly what vegetation they had access to and consumed, or exactly what kind of animal protein and how much was consumed. But we do have some anthropological evidence that is outlined in all of the leading Paleo research whether you read Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Loren Cordain, Nora Gedgaudas, Arthur Devaney, etc. We also know a lot about what they definitely did NOT eat. They definitely did not eat processed foods OF ANY KIND. Access to sugars was very limited and it certainly wasn’t high fructose corn syrup! Access to most dairy foods would have been limited if accessible at all. Any grains would have been difficult to eat let alone digest in their natural state. The same is true with beans and legumes. Have you ever tried to eat a stalk of wheat or raw oats? No? Why? Exactly! If you really think about it from a logical perspective their foods would have been local, seasonal, and pretty close to the natural state in which they found it. These foods most likely would have been the animal and plant foods indigenous to the region they lived in. Period. If the question is, whether the broccoli today is exactly the same broccoli we ate back then, or whether bell peppers even existed back then, my answer remains the same. Eating what is available to us locally, seasonally and edible without too much processing is the best we can do. NOT ONE OF THE PALEO EXPERTS OUT THERE HAVE EVER SAID OTHERWISE! This whole Paleo movement is about eliminating foods we know aren’t what we were genetically evolved to eat and are clinically proven to cause health problems due to inflammation and malnutrition.  It’s also about making the best choice from the healthier, whole food, unprocessed options available to you. Critics who use the term Paleo as a way to “poke holes” in a dietary theory clearly don’t understand, have never tried, and haven’t researched the Paleo community at all. And we are a community. I feel they are often pursuing another agenda. I could keep going on this forever, but I think you get my point. Here is a link to a Youtube video of a TED talk by Christina Warinner in which she thinks she is debunking the Paleo diet. In actually she is merely proving how little she knows about the Paleo community and lifestyle.

Number 4 is another goodie. First of all there is some anthropological evidence some of these ancestors did live to a ripe old age. But most of the evidence we have is based on isolated, primitive cultures many still living today whose diet hasn’t been changed by western diets. The best source of research for this I have found is Weston A Price. His book, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” is an unbelievably well researched body of work. It is very long but chock-full of examples of the health and longevity of these cultures while their diet goes unadulterated by western or “civilized” food products. Within as few as 2 generations consuming western or civilized foods like white flour, white sugar and processed foods, instances of tooth decay and diseases once unknown to their culture become commonplace. (The Weston A Price foundation differs a bit from Paleo in recommending raw whole fat dairy products while most Paleo folks refrain from dairy. However, there are many Paleo or Primal followers who do eat this kind of dairy.  They also recommend if you eat grains, they should be sprouted and/or fermented in order to better digest them.)

Also, based on what anthropological evidence we do have, early humans often died due to injury or infection. With no doctors or antibiotics they were out of luck. I’d also like to point out that many of us develop type 2 diabetes at very young ages today. Increasingly more so in children than ever before. So much for Type1 diabetes being “childhood onset” while Type 2 being “adult onset”. Those lines have become blurred. Whether our ancestors lived long enough to develop diabetes or heart disease isn’t really a valid argument anymore when many are diagnosed at very early ages.

Lastly is this notion that eating all these animal foods is bad for our environment and unsustainable for a healthy planet. I can understand and completely agree that CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations) are disgusting and inhumane. They pollute the soil and ground water around it with fecal matter, etc. The animals are raised in horrible conditions and are often slaughtered inhumanely as well. All this is true and indisputable. I also feel sadness at just how far removed we have become from the food that ends up at our table. Sometime I wonder how much meat I would eat if I had to hunt and kill the animal myself. I might find I eat far more eggs and fish. That being said, at the heart of Paleo is eating HEALTHY animals. A healthy animal lives a life eating what it is supposed to eat, living in open spaces and treated humanely even when it is killed so I can eat it. We prefer grass-fed pastured beef, humanely raised organic pork, free-range organic chicken and wild caught fish. We also prefer organic, and locally ground vegetables and fruits.  If we continue these preferences and buy this way more often, it will become more readily available at a lower cost.  Eating out is problematic in that we don’t always have control over the quality of our food, but we must start somewhere. Start with what you buy at home and when possible, choose those restaurants that care about the quality of their animal foods as much as you do.

I also argue that just because a food is a plant food doesn’t mean it was grown in a healthy or sustainable way either. The sheer amount of land devoted to soy, corn and wheat production is mind-boggling. It has damaged much of the land it was grown on and disrupted the natural eco systems and life cycles of all the smaller creatures that once lived on that land before industrial farming came in and screwed it all up. Not to mention the chemical laden fertilizers and insecticides that run off and pollute surrounding lands and ground water.  A large portion of the vegetables and other non-animal foods available in the market today are not locally grown or seasonal. We may have an abundance to veggies and fruits at the market but they were flown in from somewhere in South America. Think of the size of the carbon footprint you leave behind eating avocados from Mexico or bananas from Guatemala. They were definitely picked WAY before they were ripe, flown to the states then trucked to your market of choice.  The sustainability of eating animal foods has nothing to do with the meat itself but has everything to do with how it is raised. The same is true of the vegetables and fruits we eat. A great book that discusses all this in more detail is The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. Here is a link to a recent interview with Lierre discussing some of this at a high level.

The Paleo Diet and lifestyle has literally given me my life back. I stumbled onto it by accident. I started eliminating foods in order to figure out why I was feeling so crummy and I wanted to feel better. I didn’t begin this lifestyle because it sounded really cool or because I wanted to lose 20 lbs. It wasn’t until a client of mine who was a Crossfitter saw the way I ordered my lunch one day and asked if I was “Paleo” that I first heard of it. At the end of the day, I don’t really care what you call this lifestyle, Paleo, Primal, Ancestral, Hunter Gatherer, whatever…….maybe I’ll just start calling it Laura’s diet. My version of Paleo works for me. It’s my life and it’s my lifestyle. The fact that it happens to be Paleo is really a coincidence in my case. If you came by Paleo the same way or out of curiosity because the name is interesting or provocative, WHO CARES! You do not have to defend your food choices to anyone. If you feel great and look great, you are walking evidence of the validity of this diet/lifestyle. Be your own walking living example of health. Call it Paleo, call it whatever you want. Just don’t let those who don’t understand, are misinformed and have never lived in this community make you second guess the reason you feel so much better, sleep better and don’t gain weight anymore. Just live it and love it. 🙂

 

Until Next Time,

~ Laura, MGP.

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6 Responses to “Paleo By Any Other Name……”

  1. Dorothy says:

    Exactly! Right on target. Thank you for your thoughts and insight. I, too, am stumbling into this “Paleo-Primal-Hunter-type diet” by happenstance. Must be something to it, as so many roads are leading this way. To each his own, but I love my grass-fed beef and collards!

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      Thanks for your comment Dorothy. I’ve been eating this way for 3 years and the criticisms are still the same. Meanwhile I’m healthy, happy and in the best shape of my life. It’s obviously the right diet for me. Hopefully you’ve been happy and feeling great. Keep up doing what’s best for you and after a while no one will be able to argue with your results. 😉

  2. Andrea Kujala says:

    If something isn’t local to you, do you just not eat it? I live in Michigan but I love avocados (only ones available here are from Cali or Mexico). Just curious…

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      NO, I live in Illinois and avocados are not local for me either. I just try to choose local and in season as often as possible. Like fall veggies or summer veggies right now.

  3. Eve says:

    So I stumbled upon your blog after googling: Paleo Pecan Sandies Recipe…

    Your pecan sandie recipe had me “favorite” your site and this article had me fall in love!
    I’ve been paleo for nearly one year now but unlike you, I was sort of “forced” into it.
    I joined a local crossfit gym in March of 2013 and during our introductory class they handed us a booklet of a diet they wanted us to follow. I’d heard of paleo years prior (cuz friends of mine did it along with crossfit) and I was one of those people who balked at it and questioned it’s value. Now here I was being “forced” to try it (obviously, I didn’t really have to, no one can make you do anything). But I had joined this gym b/c I was in the worst shape of my life, so I decided there was no harm in trying it, I could always stop if I didn’t like it.
    I went into it full force – no dipping the toe to check it out – I DOVE right in! Emptied out my pantry, fridge and freezer – which pretty much left very little behind! And restocked on paleo foods, paleo blogs and paleo cookbooks.
    Sure, the first two weeks sucked – my body was detoxing from all that bad crap – but within a month I was a believer! It finally clicked with me why so many of my friends tried it so long ago.
    And now… 11 months later, it’s second nature to me. I don’t have to think when I eat, I just know what is good for me. I’m pretty much 90% Paleo – well I guess technically Primal since I allow full fat, grass fed dairy, as well as some very rare ‘cheats’.
    I told myself from the beginning: you don’t have to totally give up everything (ie: ice cream, donuts, pizza) – and while all these things can be transformed into a paleo version it’s not always the same! So I allow myself a monthly cheat. It sometimes makes me sick (duh) but that believe it or not helps me stay on track and further believe that I’ve made the right choice… and even though it made me sick, I look forward to the next month so I can have that cheat again- haha.
    Anywho… sorry to go on and on here… I just wanted to say kudos on your expressions above and like you said… who cares what others say to me about my “stupid diet” – I feel great, love what I eat and lost 20+lbs as an added bonus. Yes, I’m definitely living and loving it – there’s no going back!

    Thank you – and you have a new follower now!!

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      Hi Eve,

      Thank you for your comment!. Good for you girl! I am so happy you have found a paleo diet works for you. It’s like a lightbulb goes off and makes you think, “why didn’t I do this sooner?” right? I’m glad you have found a way to make it work with your lifestyle that is sustainable for you. That is what is key, Keep it up!

      ~ Laura

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