If you haven’t heard of the paleo diet you must have been living under a rock (or in a cave…see what I did there?) the last couple of years. It’s a diet/lifestyle change that has taken the fitness world by storm, and it has a hell of a lotta advocates! It is centred around cutting out sugar, grains and dairy, and instead eating tons of protein, vegetables and fruit.
The basic philosophy is that our diets have changed dramatically since the agricultural revolution, especially in the last century with the introduction of processed food and refined sugar. However, our general physiology is pretty much the same, and hasn’t adapted to the massive increase in dietary sugar/carbohydrate intake. This has led to a sharp rise of food intolerances which affect a large number of people – and while the number of sufferers with gluten intolerance is unknown it has been predicted that up to a third of the American population suffers from some degree of gluten sensitivity (e.g. Rodney Ford, leading expert on food intolerances).
Science and statistics aside, the paleo diet comes with a lot of advantages – eating more fresh produce is undoubtably very healthy, there’s a lot of evidence out there to suggest that most fats aren’t the ultimate evil in food, and limiting your levels of refined sugar can only be a good thing. There’s a lot of resources and recipes online centred around paleo living, so brownies and cake (albeit all sugar and flour free) can still be on the menu if you want. And of course I did!
My Experience – The Pros
Energy My energy levels were through the roof while I was eating a paleo-based diet, which was an amazing change! I was able to work out LOADS, and didn’t get tired early like normal. I felt more alert and my concentration was much better too.
Weight I felt like my body fat percentage went down a lot during that time, and I also looked and felt stronger and more toned.
Mood My mood was stable and anxiety levels were non-existent. I felt strong and confident!
My Experience – The Cons
Too. Much. Bacon! Is there such a thing as too much bacon? I sure began think so!! Maybe it was laziness on my part for not varying my breakfast that much (it normally revolved round some combination of bacon/egg/sausage/pepper/tomato/avocado) but i began to feel really…ugh gross on the inside! Like I was eating too much grease. By the end of it it was a total love/hate relationship!
Ethics I began to become more conscious about just how much meat I was eating. I felt guilty for all the deaths I was causing quite honestly, and began to resent myself and my diet for it. I even began to consider going vegan (pretty much the opposite of paleo!) because I hated supporting the farm industry! I did try and eat free range as much as possible, but my budget didn’t always allow for it.
What as Learned
I now absolutely love baking sugar-free/grain-free treats! I normally still make Paleo goods when I bake, and use coconut sugar, cocoa nibs, and almond or coconut flour instead of the refined alternatives. Expect some recipes on here soon!
I also learned, as I always preach, that there is a middle way. Sure, if you have a food intolerance I can definitely see advantages in limiting your consumption of that food. After cutting out dairy during my ‘paleo experiment’ I haven’t gone back to milk since (although I do eat cheese!) as I have discovered my stomach doesn’t like it too much. However, if you can eat anything without any issues, I really don’t see the point in cutting out entire food groups!!
I really do believe in a balanced diet, by which I mean eat lots of veg, eat lots of fruit, nuts and seeds. Eat protein in every meal – and try and vary whether that has a animal or vegetable source. Lentils, chickpeas, chia seeds, soy etc are all full of protein – you don’t have to consume meat every day. Eat carbs – they are great energy sources after all! – but try and stick to whole grain pasta and rice. Quinoa and bulgar wheat are fantastic carbs too. And if you do want chocolate, crisps, or any other treat then go for it – life is too short to deprive yourself of what you want! Just try and tune in and make sure you eat what you really want, and eat mindfully so you enjoy every mouthful.
Have you ever tried the paleo diet? What are your thoughts on it, or other diets?