Paleo: Popularised and Misunderstood

Hey everyone, 

I literally just posted my article on where I went wrong and as I mentioned there I'm going to cover my thoughts on Paleo, what its become, where its going and what we should do as humans looking for long term health. 

Here we go. 

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I started off in July 2011, talking to a friend about how bad my health was. His name is Michael Youssef. We were talking about diabetes, heart disease, sleeping disorders and in general being overweight. He mentioned to me that he was doing some reading on this 'Paleo idea' and eating like a caveman. It intrigued me and so, I went and bought on kindle, Robb Wolf's "The Paleo Solution" and Mark Sisson's "The Primal Blueprint". Both of these are fantastic books. I learnt about how a paleo template can be applied to get the most out of our life by focusing on the basics

In case you do not know what 'paleo' is. Simply put, as a lifestyle paleo is a concept of eating whole foods. No dairy, no grains or legumes.  

There are two key points in the above paragraph that are most important:

  1. A paleo template
  2. Focusing on the basics

Funnily enough, these two points are my problem with the current form of paleo. 

As I mentioned above, the most simple of concepts when talking paleo, is that we're eating whole foods, no dairy, grains or legumes. This generally means that paleo gets lumped into the 'low carb' category of diets. This is where we should deviate from the core 'paleo' ideals and start using it properly. Paleo has the ability to be what ever it needs to be. And what I mean by this is, as a template it can be applied for weight loss, weight gain, athletic performance, medicinal use and general wellbeing. 

Reading various paleo blogs and hearing about topics at events like PaleoFX, we see people arguing and simply being immature about things as common as white rice. From an allergy and intolerance stand point, white rice is one of the least problematic grains that are available, compared to things like wheat, barley and rye (even brown rice causes more problems for people). From an athletic performance perspective, things like rice are essential.

People seem to forget that paleo should be a foundation and then played with to see what works best for the individual. 

My second issue is something that comes with modern society and culture. One that is a fundamental ideal of the paleo movement (and its big with the Weston A Price folk too from what I understand) , and people have seemed to forget about this. As humans, we have evolved to be communal. Food would be hunted and gathered, prepared and cooked and then eaten with family and loved ones. A big part of paleo is getting the family involved in the lifestyle and preparing meals together, by hand. The lifestyle is not a quick solution, so the meal should not be a quick solution. 

Recently I have seen an increase in companies marketing their products to the paleo community, which in some cases is not a terrible thing. Snacks and treats, sports supplements (good clean whey for example) although not big in paleo circles, certainly is a thing. But marketing meals for the paleo type goes against the ideals of the movement. What I fear most with this taking off is that it will turn into something horrible like the 'Atkins' range of bars and proteins which deviate completely from the original 'Atkins diet'. Paleo is not about convenience or commercialism. 

So, what is this template?

Well I'm glad you asked. 

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We're looking at whole foods and nutrient density as a template, focusing on a good mixture of greens and coloured vegetables, meats and poultry (including organ meats), fats and oils, nuts, fruits and berries. If you can't kill it or pick it, don't eat it. We remove grains, dairy and legumes for a minimum of 30 days. These are seen as the most irritating to the stomach and gut lining.

The 30 days gives enough time to heal the intestinal lining and upon reintroduction, we will find that there is increased sensitivity to gluten and possibly lactose. Because of this, most people are recommended as a general rule of 80% : 20% gluten aversion, depending on tolerance. 

As you can see, this is a perfect starting point to construct a perfectly healthy and balanced diet.  There is removal of industrial fats and oils such as vegetable, canola, sunflower oils. Excess sugar, gut irritants and inflammatory factors. We usually see an improvement in omega 6 : omega 3 ratios from the average of 18:1 to a much better 5:1 improved LDL, HDL, LDL-P, C reactive protein, APOP-B bio markers. Improved brain function, joint health.. etc. The list goes on.

From here, we can adjust the intake based on a clients needs and make it work within a paleo lifestyle. eg, add rice post workout and slower release carbs outside of training like quinoa or sweet potato for increased growth, better recovery and performance in an athlete or, reduce carb intake, increase fats, inducing ketosis for an epileptic client or again, ketogenic approach with increased cruciferous vegetables for MS treatment.

Personally I think that the 80:20 ratio should always be gluten free, but as this is a template not a diet, each to their own.

This lifestyle, I'll be clear, lifestyle is not only sustainable but it's also the most well balanced and approachable way for anyone to fix their body and get a better understanding of how food affects you.

The other side of what is mostly forgotten about when we hear and see this in the media is the strength and conditioning side of the lifestyle.

I've written about this before, but we're pretty much looking at lifting heavy things, walking and "play time". Time where you can go out, do a sport and enjoy yourself and relieve your stress. I really do not understand why we never hear of this and why people are not interested in getting stronger to get healthier. It really seems like a weird disconnect and almost shows the attitude society in general has to a effort vs reward mentality. I think that may be something for another day though.

I hope this has been a good insight to my perspective on this great approach and hopefully now its easier to understand what my foundation is and where I'm coming from.