Monday, March 11, 2013

what i am sure of

all last week i was researching what the "experts" thought about paleo. i wanted to know why people didn't like it and if maybe it wasn't the healthiest diet for Peter and me to be following. it started with a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a nutrionist, chef, entrepreneur, vegetarian, and so much more. she lives in new york and was out here for a visit. she was shocked to see so many of us southern californian's guided by this way of eating. as a vegetarian she was skeptical and wanted to learn more about it. when she got back home to new york, she reached out to her database of experts and asked around. i felt so grateful that she shared with me what they said about the paleo diet. i love being challenged in my thinking and belief system.

here are a few comments that i found very thought provoking and interesting from professors, clinical researchers, anthropologists, nutrionists, etc.

  • the diet is not scientifically based
  •  a nutrition grad student who is also a biological anthropologist, said that the "Paleo" diet would have about 8% meat/dairy - so small amounts of animal source foods
  • one called the paleo diet a fad 
  • My problem with the Paleo Diet is that it is based on out-of-date
    knowledge about what our ancestors actually ate.  I believe eating like
    a "cave man" can be quite healthy -- if you eat as they likely actually
    did.  Which would be a variety of whole grains, legumes, underground
    storage organs (potatoes and such), nuts, fruit and veg, and meat when
    you can get it (ie. not every day, and not in huge quantities).  The
    diet would have also varied dramatically from habitat to habitat,
    depending on what was available, as one of the most unique features of
    humans is how adaptable we are in exploiting whatever the local
    resources happen to be.
  • specific environmental places - what native plants and animals were traditionally edible? Are they still available? Is that knowledge lost, or is it just harder to come by? Is it actually *possible* to eat a paleo diet specific to your place? These questions lead to such interesting and unique answers depending on the location, and give us paths to explore the local world around us. The point that across the entire planet, "paleolithic" diets would have been drastically different - but still nutritionally complete 
  • The current emphasis and publicity is that the Mediterranean diet and plant-based eating provide consistently healthier outcomes than meat-based diets
  •  is all about the right diet for someone's biochemical individuality. No one diet for everyone 
  • quinoa is a seed, why isn't it allowed on the paleo diet
after reading articles and all the comments that were included with her e-mail, i needed a few days to process all these great questions that were brought up. this led to me to ask more questions about what did paleo mean to me and what did i believe...

i use to tell people that paleo is like eating like caveman, you know, nuts, seeds, berries, protein, healthy fats (avocados, coconut oil, etc.) and fruit. foods like we know them today. but the more i read and thought about it....i think we are far too removed from what cavemen use to eat. they didn't eat meat very often, depending on their environment. their diet consisted mostly of nuts and berries. and when they did find meat it must have been so different then what we eat now. native berries and plants and fats were so different  to each environment and are those even available anymore?

all of this made me a bit confused. it rocked a little bit of my thinking of paleo. but then....
on friday i came down with strep throat, the effect of my daughter having it about 2 weeks ago. it gave me the opportunity to lie in bed and watch a movie i have been wanting to see for weeks now. the human diet. i felt like this movie was the opposite of all the comments and articles i had spent time reading the past week. i enjoyed the movie because it aligned with my belief system of eating but i did read comments of people that did not like the movie which i found interesting since it did not align with theirs.  

which brings me to my conclusion after much pondering of it all. this is the right diet for Peter and me. and here are our reasons
  • we were both heavy and over weight and this helps us maintain a desired weight
  • it helped us remove all processed foods and sugar - which no matter how you eat this is the most important part of any lifestyle for optimal health
  • we workout hard five times a week and find this diet helps us perform the best
  • we eat paleo about 90% of the time. this help us keep this life style sustainable
  • we have to keep in mind it's mostly a vegetarian diet with lean protein. it's not about eating huge amounts of protein but more vegetables with a small amount of protein, fruits and healthy fats. 
  • it helps us eat whole foods, organic as much as we can (and afford) and just being conscious of how we fuel our bodies.
I am sure my belief system will always be evolving and challenged. paleo may or may not always work for me....but whatever is next will align with what works best for me and my optimal health, an overall feeling of wellness, energy and living long and strong for my children. 

what are you sure of? do you challenge your nutritional belief system?


  1. My nutritional belief system is trying to eat as healthy and natural as possible. After reading Omnivore's Dilemma, I found Michael Pollan's advice to ring the most true for me. 'Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.' That's what I try to do.

    I think that the Paleo diet is a great thing for many people. For me, in it's strict sense of the 21 day paleo challenge, it was too limiting. Going forward, I am sticking with many of the things that I tired and learned from Paleo, but adding back in a moderate amount of carbs & dairy, like the occasional pasta, tortilla, yogurt, kefir, couscous and quinoa. Like we talked about, this was the first time that I've tried an extended diet-type challenge. I generally eat pretty healthy, but imposing strict limits made me think about food a lot. Too much, really. It consumed a lot of my daily energy and for that reason alone, I don't think I can be so strict. I also feel healthier eating less strictly. But the great thing is that so much of the paleo lifestyle I like and plan to keep going with. I agree that you just need to find out what works for your body and your lifestyle. Thanks for researching and thinking and always expanding my world.

    1. I haven't heard of Omnivore's Dilemma but I will check it out.

      I love seeing the outcomes from challenging ourselves outside of our comfort zones! Way to go and nice to find a conscious and balance diet that works for you!

      what's the next challenge?

  2. Interesting thoughts. I talked to the nutritionist that comes to Crossfit about paleo and she felt vegetarian w/whole grains, vegetables and protein was healthier, especially if you aren't able to buy the cleanest, most organic fish and meat. For our family, I feel healthiest when we eat vegetables, some whole grains, lean protein, eggs and beans. I can't be more restrictive than that partly because of past issues w/food, but also due to my travel schedule. Thinking about diet more than I do just isn't possible since I'm not home to prepare food every day. But I think if you feel healthy eating paleo and it's working for you, then go for it! You eat so healthily, it's inspiring.

    1. That's exactly what another nutrionist told me, but not everyone feels their best on a vegetarian diet. I really feel the need for proteins and loads of vegetables. I don't do well on legumes and much grains. I think in the end it's all about learning how your body reacts to different foods, trying different things and finding the right balance for your lifestyle and body type. Gotta go with your gut and what feels right.

      You are way ahead of the game since you already know what to eat from your travels. It's nice that you can cook while your home but most importantly make better decisions on your travels. That would be very hard to me, i'm assuming you've mastered that!