Thursday, April 28, 2016

Is Paleo a fad diet?

I started eating a "paleo" diet seven years ago, and when I started, it was a pretty unknown thing. You could search for it on the internet and find maybe two or three sites with any information on it. Now things are very different. It's been written about and rated in national news outlets, it's inspired piles of cookbooks, it led to a ridiculous number of specialty food products and services, and it's the number one reason for starting a blog (okay, I made that one up, but it sure seems like it). And as it gets more popular, the backlash grows: over the last two or three years, I've seen plenty of posts and articles blasting the paleo approach for not working, for being overly restrictive and dogmatic, for leading to disordered eating, and for being a flash-in-the-pan fad diet.

But I think all of these criticisms are kind of missing the point. They come from an unhealthy way of thinking about food - that there are strict rules to follow in order to be healthy. A paleo approach to eating, as I see it, is simply a starting point, using evolutionary biology principles to ask questions about whether a food makes sense as part of your healthy diet. It's a process, a journey, not a list of rules. Now, a paleo often starts as an elimination diet - 30 or maybe 60 days of no grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, preservatives, and artificial stuff (which leaves meat, eggs, seafood, vegetables, fruits, nuts and healthy fats). Someone with autoimmune problems might cut out a few other things - nightshades, nuts, eggs, coffee. The next step, though, is to try to add things back in, one at a time, and see if they make you feel bad. If so, you take them out again. And after you go through this process with all the things you first eliminated, you'll have a better idea of what you tolerate, which is something that no one-size-fits-all, rule-based "dangerous fad diet" could tell you.

I have no problem with someone doing a month or two of strict elimination, adding stuff back in, only to discover that hey, they do really well with "paleo foods" plus ice cream. It's not dogma! It's simply a framework for discovering what makes the healthiest you. You may think you tolerate ALL the foods, but really, you don't know until you test it out. Don't be afraid of being weird, of having to give up the foods you think you can't live without. Because you CAN give up anything for a month, especially if it's to find out that you are really intolerant of something (for me - gluten, most dairy, and most legumes) and the stomach pains (or joint pain, or itchy skin, etc.) you've lived with all your life can just go away.

I don't care where you end up, even if it's right back where you started. But don't blast a paleo approach because you misunderstand it as a bunch of arbitrary rules. It's a principled approach that can help you find the guidelines that work best for you. And since we're all special snowflakes, what could be better?

strength - add weight from last time (more info) 

squat 3x5 


20 min to work up to a heavy press


12-9-6 at 50%

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