I’ve been somewhat hesitant to write this post for a few reasons. First, because there is a lot of debate in the paleo world about “what is paleo”– some claim no dairy is acceptable, others are very strict about only consuming grass-fed beef and the like etc. Second, because as the title of this post says, I consider myself Paleo(ish), which judging by my perusal of the paleo-blogs, wouldn’t make those with an all-or-nothing paleo mentality very happy. I’m not cultish-ly devoted to eating paleo and I don’t want to be preachy to people who choose to eat a bowl of mac-and-cheese or a Twix bar or decide to go for a meatless diet– you go on ahead with yourself over there. I’m in the 80/20 Paleo Camp, what Robb Wolf calls the “Fifth Shade of Paleo.” I generally eat Paleo about 80% of the time, and when I eat the other 20%, I try to make it less bad-for-me non-paleo things. Third, because paleo itself is incredibly controversial in and of itself. US News and World Report ranked it one of the worst diets to follow, while many people say it has helped them lose a ton of weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and has been the solution for many relieving symptoms of terrible autoimmune disorders.
So, taking those considerations into account, I caveat this and all future posts about Paleo related topics to say that this is just something I have found that I generally like and that works for me for a number of reasons, and if you choose to eat some other way or think I’m crazy, that’s totally fine with me. (Pretty lawyerly of me there huh?)
So, first of all, what IS paleo or “the primal lifestyle” (I hate that phrase, sounds like I’m part of a nudist colony). Like I said there is some debate, but the focus of paleo is summed up nicely by this handy infographic:
And this one:
I think one of the reasons Paleo gets a bad rap is based in how a person takes on the general outline above. If you follow paleo by eating a steady diet of bacon, duck, marbled beef, lots of sugary fruit, nuts, and a teensy bit of lettuce, and top that all with paleo desserts full of coconut and almond flour, nut butters and dark chocolate, it’s not really much healthier calorie and fat wise than the SAD (Standard American Diet). But, considering that most people (including me) easily overdo it on the sugar and refined carbohydrates on a day to day basis, a paleo diet that consists of a mix of fatty and lean meats, fowl and fish, a wide variety of fibrous and antioxident rich veggies and some fruits, nuts and occasional paleo ‘treats’ is a pretty tempting, healthy option.
For me, the biggest impact paleo eating has had is that my stomach is SOOOO much happier. A while ago I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects up to 20% of the population and is much more common in women than in men. Basically it meant that my stomach was always angry at me for some reason. The causes of IBS aren’t completely understood and neither is the treatment. In my case, something about paleo has worked to help calm my stomach. It might be that I rarely eat any type of dairy products, or that I avoid starchy carbohydrates that make me feel bloated, but it has really seemed to help me.
This doesn’t mean I don’t ever eat the occasional bite of pasta (I mean, I went to Babbo when my mom was in town a couple of weeks ago and I FOR SURE had pasta) or use the 20% of my 80/20 to have a beer or a piece of candy. And I will admit that though it is full of crap and I know it, I have very little willpower or intention to give up diet soda anytime soon (or ever really). But because I know I usually feel better in the long run when I avoid the paleo no-no’s, I do my best.
One other thing is the relationship between Paleo and CrossFit. It is my understanding that CrossFit endorses the Paleo way of eating and to some extent the Zone Diet. I haven’t partaken of CrossFit so I can’t really speak to that connection, other than to say that Robb Wolf, who as you’ll see below wrote one of the foremost books on Paleo, had a falling out with CrossFit and seems to HATE it (as he explains in this clip from his podcast). Again, to each their own.
Now, for the fun part! One thing paleo has going for it is GREAT inventive recipes from incredibly talented bloggers and authors. If you are interested in learning more about paleo, or dabbling in the recipes just to see how it goes, here are some resources I love. Also, a note that many paleo “experts” suggest you go “all in” and eat totally paleo for 30 days before adding in cheats or experimental things like dairy, so your body has a chance to heal if you do indeed have an autoimmune issue or long-term digestive problem. There are also more restrictive diets (the 21 Day Sugar Detox, the Whole 30 and the Autoimmune Protocal, for example) that are offshoots of the Paleo way of eating and might be a good option if you want to focus on losing weight or think you have a more unique digestive problem. Paleo eating is by default gluten-free if you follow it strictly, so it is an option that those with Celiac’s can get on board with if they want.
Books About Paleo
There are other books out there, but these two are the ‘authorities’ when it comes to the paleo argument. I don’t 100% agree with everything they claim, but they really do make you think and they are pretty quick reads.
The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf
The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
Recipe Books About Paleo
I’ve only included a few in here, which are books I own or have read and like…but there are of course many others!
Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach to Health and a Whole-Foods Lifestyle by Diane Sanfilippo, Bill Staley and Robb Wolf
Omg. That’s Paleo? by Juli Bauer (she also has a kickass website, listed below)
Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat by Melissa Joulwan (also a great website below)
Make it Paleo: Over 200 Grain Free Recipes For Any Occasion by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason
Gather, the Art of Paleo Entertaining by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason (Ok this one just came out and I haven’t bought it yet, but their other book is great and this one looks awesome too)
Paleo Bread: Gluten-Free Bread Recipes for a Paleo Diet by John Chatham
Websites About Paleo and Paleo Cooking/Living
The Civilized Caveman
Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind
PaleOMG (this website’s author just published the OMG book above)
The Clothes Make the Girl (this website’s author wrote Well Fed)
Eat Drink Paleo (this website’s author just released an e-book)
Mark’s Daily Apple by Mark Sisson- all things paleo all the time.
Paleo Girl’s Kitchen
Nom Nom Paleo
And here are approximately a bajillion other resources (ok 50)
I’m sure I will have more paleo resources to add or things to post as time goes on, but for now I hope you enjoy! If you want to try your hand at my very favorite (and not too difficult) paleo recipe so far, it’s here: Paleo Orange Chicken. Absolutely awesome– make sure you let the sauce reduce plenty so it gets ‘sticky’ and add in the green onions at the end. Happy Paleo-ing!