The Paleo Diet
The title of this entry may be offensive to some. That was my intention.
Sensational remarks grab your attention like the shrill sound of nails on a chalkboard.
Talk radio, Buzzfeed, and major news organizations make massive mounds of money off sensationalism.
Next time you watch the news. Pay attention, and ask yourself why every news story inflates into a life-or-death situation?
Fear and sex sell.
They are the two most basic animalistic emotions that our lizard brains operate on. Marketers manipulate the two to get us to buy their products. Diet trends, as well, tend to fall into both of those categories.
Welcome to the church of paleo
In 2013, I began to delve into fitness and nutrition.
At the same time, one of the biggest rages in “dieting” finally began to hit the mainstream: Paleo.
Eat like our ancestors. Feast on meat, veggies, nuts, berries, protein powder, but NEVER, MUST YOU NEVER, TOUCH THE EVIL THAT IS GRAINS.
No pasta, no rice, no potatoes. Sweet potatoes are fine, though. But no bread, no processed junk–only all natural meat and veggies.
Oh, did we mention you can eat the crap out of olive oil, coconut oil, butter–hell put that shit in your coffee–and bacon.
As I started to learn more about Paleo, I became enamoured with all the benefits that thousands of people saw in their lives. I read all the articles about the evils of carbs and grains. I saw photos of guys who went Paleo and were ripped in no time.
I’d always been a pretty impressionable youngster. So when I saw pics of dudes who ate meat and veggies with abs it was easy for me to say: “screw grains, I’m going caveman and getting abs.” I joined the congregation, and I joined it with a fervor.
Starting in March of 2013, by the time May came around I was down 16 pounds and had lost three pants sizes. I could fit in small shirts. In my mind, small equals skinny and skinny means, I am not fat.
The best part of all of this? I felt like a million bucks and was killing it in the gym. I had lots of energy and never felt tired. So with my results, I jumped even deeper into the world of Paleo.
Did paleo make me a jerk?
Like Plato’s allegory of The Cave, in my enlightened Paleo form, I could see the shadows dancing along the walls for what they were. I left the cave and let my eyes adjust to this new light, and I wanted to go back and save those I loved from the darkness of the cave. I evangelized for Paleo and preached the awesomeness of going low/no carb to friends.
Sadly, I judged others who I felt were either:
1. Unable to see the lies about grains delivered to them by the government/media
2. Not strong enough to kick their desire for carbs to the curb, or
3. Snidely in my mind I made myself feel better and degraded those around me, who refused to follow the light, I had seen and exit their dark caves.
Man. What a jerk, I hate the guy I am typing about and it sucks even more knowing that I was that guy! Man.
When I told people, I didn’t eat grains the connotation behind it always had this high-and-mighty tone. A tone that made it sound as if I was scoffing at their unenlightened minds.
If I ate something that wasn’t Paleo or someone offered me something that wasn’t in the realm of caveman fine dining I made sure they understood, “oh thank you, but I don’t eat grains/bread/carbs.” If I did partake, “I don’t usually eat this stuff because it’s the reason people are fat/the reason for all of our health problems.”
Does the paleo diet work?
Alright. Time out. I want to make it clear that I do not “hate” Paleo. I think it has lots of great tenets like eating tasty dead animal flesh.
Chomping down on those fibrous veggies our ancestors ate you will improve gut health.
Fat from grass-fed butter/olive/coconut oil will help regulate hormone production. If you get hungry throw in some berries or nuts for a snack and enjoy your day Mr. and Mrs. Cavesmith!
With those guidelines, what qualms could I have against Paleo? What bothers me most about this is the way I acted towards others. Looking back, I realize I’d become a cultist. Yep, I said it.
I was behaving as if I was in a cult and that my cult had the TRUE answer to fat loss and a happy, healthy life.
Jordan Syatt, in an article titled Fitness Myths That Need to Die: The Paleo Diet Edition said this:
“I also think it’s important for proponents of the paleo diet to recognize there isn’t a single, “best” diet for the human species. Continuing to propagate this myth is only going to create further confusion and misunderstanding amidst a topic that is already clouded by media-based propaganda and misinformation. ”
— Jordan Syatt
My new approach to my diet
This is where I think the idea of If It Fits Your Macros(IIFYM) or as some call it “flexible dieting” really helps anyone to find true freedom in their diet and still enjoy a cookie or two or some Ben and Jerry’s. Hell, maybe a donut here or there and even pizza without feeling guilt.
I can tell you straight up that Monday through Friday, I’m eating a salad with chicken and rice and shrimp at lunch and then whatever my wife has picked out for dinner.
On rest days, I get my salad and some yogurt with oats and fruit and usually have a sweet potato at dinner or some corn tortillas or a beer….maybe two. Perhaps we make pasta that night and I have some pasta! I just make sure I do not go overboard with it. If we go out for dinner, I have two options:
1. Order the steak because when in doubt and if you are really worried about your macros just order the steak and double up on the broccoli
2. Enjoy a date with my wife and have something we both want and get up the next day and never fret about having some spinach and artichoke dip or some cheese fries.
Instead of becoming a zealot who acts as if his way is the only, correct and true way to happiness and fat loss I’ve strived over the last few months to find balance.
I find a way to enjoy an Almond Joy, or two, or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Whether it’s a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or an Almond Joy or my wife’s homemade apple pie, I can’t give food a negative connotation.
Once we give food a negative connotation, we stop enjoying food or enjoying things that otherwise taste great because we feel guilty for indulging in them. That doesn’t mean I go out and eat every Twinkie I see or that I have a Twinkie every day. Instead of restricting myself from certain foods or treats maybe I eat a Twinkie one day.
However, that might mean when I have those things that I eat a little less of nutrient-dense foods like sweet potatoes, quinoa, or fruit that day. Maybe I do not eat as much at lunch because I am going out with friends for dinner and I want to have a few drinks and a few hot wings. Whereas in the past I would have made up an excuse not to go because I did not want to feel guilty for having some wings and beer.
I don’t eat those things every day. I eat smart and plan ahead 90% of the time. If I go over and do something off my norm, I just get back to my norm the next day. I stay consistent when it matters, so that if I have one meal that throws me off track all I do is reach back to the good habits I have built. I wake up, and I continue with my life.
Those habits and keeping them consistent are the true keys to long-term success not restricting and shaming your food.
If you love Paleo and it makes your life better, then I totally support you staying on that path. If the restrictions help you because it gives you a hard line to tow, great! I too sometimes need to toe the line in many aspects of life. It is the guilt and the shaming that I want to avoid.
Our lives are far too short to let things like food, which has brought together families and cultures for centuries, cause us guilt for eating it.
Guiding people in the world of fitness and nutrition should involve giving people the right knowledge so that they can take that knowledge and live a life of freedom, not restriction.
I am a gamer and for years, I gave up my pursuit of health and fitness. My body became like the unplayed games on my shelf, forgotten and unused. I had zero confidence, my stomach was beginning to ooze over the top of my pants, and I felt like a stranger was looking back at me in the mirror. Then I realized that I could accomplish these goals if I turned the process into a game and made it an adventure that played out like games that I spent hours pouring into. I’m now an online personal trainer and I see my role as your sidekick. A companion who assists and helps make your quest easier to complete.
Learn more about Robbie, and working with him via the Fitmo app here.