4.22.2013

Individual Paleo Exploration


Source: USDA 1992 Food Guide Pyramid and Balanced Bites Paleo Pyramid, via Caveman Col

 An individual journey

When we start exploring the questions like, "What we should really be eating?" and "What health related media sources should I listen to?", things can get confusing really fast. There's so much information out there, and so many conflicting arguments from all sides that it can be overwhelming. That's why I think taking an individualized, exploratory approach is most helpful.

When you start out a Paleo diet, you read basic information about what things you should and should not eat, such as through an article listing Paleo foods or the using the Paleo pyramid above. These presentations are a helpful starting point because they communicate the fundamental principles of the diet and get the basic message out there in an easily digestible form. However, they are just the beginning, a jumping off point from which you can begin your individual exploration, and not, as many people think, a rigid, closed system.

On this point I think it's super helpful to read Chris Kresser's article Moving from a “paleo diet” to a “paleo template” In it he talks about experimentation and the importance of taking into account the individual variations between people. E.g, some of us handle nuts and seeds better than others. Many people who have issues with milk can still eat butter, or ghee. Some people also don't seem to gain weight no matter what they eat! What's up with that? (My brother eats all kinds of crap and he's thin and muscular.) These things also change with time and circumstances. Are you a high-level athlete? Are you pregnant? Do you have thyroid issues? Are you diabetic? Are you 20 years old or 60?

These things really matter in terms of how your body is going to function. So, of course it comes down to finding the things that work for you, and respecting the fact that you have a unique body, with unique hormones and digestive systems, and the only one who can tell you if something is good for you is YOU. Trust yourself and listen to your body!

So, how do you find out the ideal Paleo-based diet for you??

Removing Foods

One important thing to mention is the role of removing potentially problematic foods from your diet before you make a judgement about them. As Dave Asprey says, you have to get clean so you can get dirty. In other words, you need to build an accurate understanding of how different foods actually affect you. For me, I had eaten wheat my entire life, every day, and I never noticed anything negative from it at all, but I gained a lot of weight over time and didn't know why. After learning about the Paleo Diet and reading Wheat Belly by William Davis, I decided to give the no-wheat thing a go, and after just a few weeks I started to really lose weight. It's been 5 months now and I've continued to lose weight and build muscle in that time, and my energy is great! I've had wheat about 3 or 4 times since then, and have noticed serious negative effects afterwards. Removing wheat from my diet allowed me to get some real perspective on how it affects me, which I never could have done otherwise.

A lot of Paleo resources talk about specific foods that affect some people more than others (great example: the Whole 30 challenge). Check out some of the elimination diets if you're not sure why you don't feel optimal, and cut something out for a few weeks to see what changes!

Be Bulletproof

If you're curious about the Paleo diet I think a great place to start is with Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Diet, which is an "upgraded Paleo," optimal health-based approach. He's just one voice among many, but I think it's a great starting point because of the presentation. Here's an example to show how clearly it's presented:

This shows the range of common oils and fats out there and their relative benefits to you nutritionally. What I like about this scale is that it's not explicitly forbidding you from anything, and allowing you to make your own choices. The only goal is to eat closer to the green side of the spectrum. If you eat some junk food one time you wont haven't failed the diet, and you can just get up the next day and keep working on eating closer to the green side.

My experience is that I started buying grassfed butter and coconut oil, and got rid of my vegetable oil in the house, but when I go out to eat I'm less picky because I just want to have fun and not worry about it too much. That's the guideline I've set for myself, and I feel good about it because I developed it myself and it works for me. I'm making my own educated choices, which is what it's really about. Once again, you are the only one who knows what's best for you! Go explore and keep learning about yourself!

Good luck on your health and nutrition journey!

3 comments:

  1. My husband and I do paleo, but we are far from perfect, even indulging in the occasional sushi, it works for us and as long as we feel good and healthy I think that's important.
    I'm so happy to read a post that has a refreshing and real outlook on the paleo lifestyle.

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  2. i am trying to cut back on dairy like you did wheat. Hoping to see some positive benefits soon!

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  3. I love how you push that important of each person as an individual - people often try to find something and follow it exactly and wonder why it doesn't work - everyone is so different! I try to go by an 85/15 rule. 85% of the time I can control what I am eating and eat clean. 15% of the time I don't worry about it - liking going out with friends as you said!

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