What is The Paleo Diet?

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I’ve been doing the Paleo diet for about four months now and I get a lot of questions about what is it?

Broken down to its simplest form, the Paleo diet can be summed up like this; eat how our Paleolithic ancestors ate 12,000+ years ago.

So, what would our Paleolithic ancestors have eaten? Anything that you could have killed or picked; wild game, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and roots. No grains (agriculture didn’t exist), no dairy (you try and milk a wild animal ), nothing processed (there were no factories to combine the lips and assholes of a pig to make a hot dog) and no sugars (I have nothing clever for this one).

Let’s flash forward 14,000 years and tie this in to our every day lives in the 21st century. There isn’t much in the way of wild game available around big cities and even for someone like me who lives in an area with wild game, unless I’m hunting it myself, it’s expensive. So what do I eat?

What I eat:

  • Chicken (breasts, legs, ground)
  • Turkey (breasts, ground)
  • Bison (ground, steak)
  • Fish (salmon, trout, tuna)
  • Beef (steak, roast)
  • Pork (bacon, tenderloin, chops)
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables (carrots, avocado, peppers)
  • Fruits (banana, apples, strawberries, blueberries)
  • Nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
  • Seed oil (olive, avocado, coconut)
  • Healthy fats (avocado, fish oil)

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What I don’t eat:

  • All Dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt)
  • All Grains (wheat, corn, rice)
  • Processed foods (deli meats)
  • Sugars
  • Starches (potatoes)
  • Alcohol
  • Legumes

How to do the Paleo Diet

There are all kinds of forms and variations of how to be Paleo. I’ve heard of some people going as far as to eat everything, including their meat, raw. Personally, I like my food salmonella free, so I cook it. Some people eat nothing but the food that they believe is native to their region and don’t eat certain foods at certain times of the year as it wouldn’t be in season. I think that bananas are a great grab and go food and seeing as I’m in the sub-arctic, I don’t see many banana trees growing around here.

You can take this way of eating to the extreme or you can follow it to a minimum. I eat lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and avoid dairy, grains, sugars and processed foods. Those are my only rules.

I also have at least one cheat meal a week. It could be a burger with the bun, fries and a few beer or it could be something as simple as a bagel. Regardless, in my opinion, that cheat meal is necessary. If for no other reason, than to remind me as to why I don’t eat those foods.

The biggest thing to take away from this article is that you don’t have to eat exactly how our ancestors ate. You can mix and match your food. You can season it with spices. I use a lot of chili powder, garlic, hot sauce and sea salt. I also make my own salsa and sauces, but you can buy organic or clean salsa and spaghetti sauce. Be a label reader, it will help you out!

My Personal Exceptions to the Rules

I mentioned before that I eat legumes occasionally but I also use Soy protein instead of whey protein because I can’t do dairy due to the fact that I’m severely lactose intolerant. I also use GNC’s Egg Protein, which is pretty awesome as well, and is Paleo. I also supplement. I take a multi vitamin, fish oil, creatine, BCAAs, glutamine and glucosamine. None of these were available in the Paleolithic era, but their diet was completely organic and they weren’t doing CrossFit 5 times a week.

I also do eat legumes once in a while, usually black beans and kidney beans, in some chili or Mexican food.

Preparation is Key to Success

Having prepared snacks and meals ready was the biggest part of my success.  I found the first week almost impossible because I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t have enough food and grab and go meals for my busy lifestyle and I ended up grabbing protein bars or a sandwich.  Now when I cook, I cook enough for at least two meals and I always have three or four chicken breasts ready to eat while I run out the door.  Having grab and go options means you won’t cheat and you will be successful on this plan.

Final Words

I’m lactose intolerant and have a gluten sensitivity, so going Paleo was a no-brainer for me to stop my internal suffering. What I didn’t see happening was me losing 4” around my waist in less than three months by doing nothing more than changing my diet. I’ve never felt or looked better than I do now, both inside and out.

If you doubt it, try it. If you have sensitivities to food like dairy or wheat, this is the plan for you. I strongly believe that eating this way will help a lot of people in their weight loss and in realizing they can feel better.

24 COMMENTS

  1. great points about finding what diet works for you. everyone has to find what balance they feel comfortable with. I do not eat paleo, but do avoid most grains, eat mostly gluten free, sugar free, and all.

    glad you have found what works for you!!

  2. Great post! I’m highly gluten intolerant as well so paleo-esque diet was a no brainer. My exceptions are sometimes eating cheeses and I do eat sweet potatoes on a daily basis. I also usually have a cheat meal or two that contains corn (like Mexican food) or some sort of gfree grain. I also try to limit my alcohol to about 3 glasses of red wine a week. My husband is a chef and I have a job develop recipes so I don’t keep my diet super strict. I notice a huge difference though when I slack on the no sugar though -I get bad headaches and achy joints!

  3. Great post. I’ve been paleo for almost one month doing the Whole30 plan from It Starts With Food. I’ve been doing it 100% because I’m trying to figure out some health issues. I pretty much love it and know I’ll continue to eat this way because my body and mind have never felt so nourished or stable even though my stomach situation isn’t better, but that’s a long term thing.

    • I went 100% initially. It’s only now that I’m adding and subtracting from it to figure out my health issues as well. I hope you figure out your stomach problems. I’ve been dealing with mine for 30+ years and it feels nice to have some sort of grasp on it.

  4. Great post, Scott! I thought about the Paleo diet but given I eat mostly vegetarian and hate eggs, it would be really hard. I’d probably just be eating fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. The bird diet. BUT over the past few days I have been reducing grains A LOT and it’s made quite a difference in how I feel. I usually just eat them in meals 1 and 2 and then for all my other meals I eat veggies or fruits as my carbs.

    Congrats on sticking with it and losing those 4 inches. That is so awesome!

    • I DO miss bread but on the weekends I usually have a sandwich as my cheat. It’s funny to think that what I used to initially lose my weight is now considered a cheat meal, ha ha. As for the 4″ loss, thanks! I did that in the first 2 months. I’m now down to 5″ and hoping to have 6 pack abs soon.

  5. Excellent summary and description of your personal approach. I agree that “if you doubt it, try it.” It’s amazing what we think is normal in our bodies that doesn’t have to be, with proper nutrition. Like you, eating certain foods “reminds me” why I’m better off with paleo!

  6. Great summary! My gym is starting the Whole Life Challenge on Sept 15 (it goes ’til Nov 10), and is very similar to Paleo (they allow legumes – but I won’t be eating them). I’ve also been reading, and am almost done with, It Starts With Food, by the Whole9 people (Dallas & Melissa Hartwig). It’s amazing. It all makes perfect sense to me and I can’t wait to break my carb/sugar addiction and work on a healthier relationship with food.

    • Fruit really helps with my carb addiction. I think I eat more than I should but it helps me a lot and I’m seeing results, so who can argue? Good luck on your challenge! You’ll notice a difference right away.

  7. I have been moving in this direction for a while now. First gave up wheat, then gluten altogether. Now eating very few grains but still have some yogurt and cheese. I also use a whey protein powder, although I really doubt that protein powder at all is really Paleo approved.

    I think we all have to find out what works for our own bodies, and obviously you have done that. I am working on it! And I can say for sure, that since I gave up gluten I have no more junk cravings! Hurray for that.

    • Honestly, I LOOOOOOVEEE cheese but after learning that dairy spikes insulin levels badly, that most adults don’t have the enzyme to digest it in their bodies, we’re the only mammals that consume other mammals milk and that it causes my migraines… Good-bye-dairy!

    • I’m in the same boat. And it’s not even a gluten thing for me, it’s more of a carb/starch issue. I do GF bread on weekends as a cheat and corn chips with my homemade salsa. Curbs the cravings.

  8. Great informative post! I’ve followed a few paleo recipes before for the sake of eating lean, but it was nice to get a refresher on the true root of this diet. My favorite line is, “The biggest thing to take away from this article is that you don’t have to eat exactly how our ancestors ate. You can mix and match your food.” To me an important part of my diet and exercise lifestyle is that it is all about balance in order to live a sane and happy life!

  9. I believe this might be a good place for me to start. Looking to revamp my eating habits so I may try this out. I was successful during my elimination challenge for finding out my intolerances but not so successful in cutting them out. I like the idea of the Paleo with 1 cheat day.

  10. I’ve tried several types of diet plan in the past months and none of them really works for me. Reading this post changes my perception of a diet. I always thought it will always be a non-meat diet. I’m happy that I’ve read this article and learn about the Paleo diet.

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