Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paleolithic Particulars In unProfessional Prose

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I hear something that sounds too good to be true… it probably is. If there seems to be any grain of truth to it, then I will seek out the answers needed to get to the bottom of things. Most recently I applied this to what I had been hearing about "The Paleo Diet."

Let me give you a brief description of what The Paleo Diet is:
Basically the idea is that because cavemen (& women!) couldn't hop a brontosaurus to the nearest grocery cave... they were scavengers. Their diet existed mainly of seeds, plants, fruits, berries and meats. Those are essentially the basics and basis for a menu to chose from for Paleo. People who support the theory of Paleo believe that once fire was discovered humans were able to cook the shit outta foods that were toxic prior to ...uh.... well, cooking the shit outta them, and that's how grains & starches were brought in and provided dense calories. Suddenly… taa daa! The basis of your average modern crap human diet.

Paleo is basically an elimination of high calorie food, but still managing to eat a lot of calories from fats and proteins. Yes, I just said FATS. … and I just told you to consume a bunch of calories. (Wacky eh?) HOWEVER, you gotta cut out dairy (which, as much as I actually love milk, makes sense since humans beyond infancy really shouldn't ingest it.) You also have to get rid of starches & grains. No more bread, no more pasta. The pasta part is fine by me since I always feel ill after eating it… but bread? Really? 'Cause I don't know about you but I don't find much to be more delicious than fresh baked bread slathered in butter. I thought this was insane, there was NO WAY I would give up bread/grains. I love me some bread and cereal (not the sugary kind, which I always found gross, I'm talkin' "Fiber One" cereal, that stuff is delish!). They were a daily staple for me. But guess what? I don't miss them. I've found alternatives that are not only just as good, but some taste BETTER.

Perfect example: Almond milk. Holy crap that stuff is good!! After trying it I was honestly upset that I had just had it now for the first time. Seriously, it's THAT good. As for bread? Almond flour. It's amazing! You can make just about anything with that stuff! Tonight I was sitting down to watch a movie ("Easy A", which was pretty funny BTW) and made a cup of tea ('cause I live on the edge like that...) and wanted something to nibble on… so I baked some little cookies… and you know what? They were yummy!
Basically I just made it up and whisked together ½ cup coconut flour, ½ cup organic unsweetened coconut flakes, 1 cup of almond flour, 2 heaping tablespoons of almond butter, a teaspoon of raw organic honey and ½ cup almond milk (you can add an egg too if you want, but I had I feeling I'd cave in and try a spoonful of the "dough" (which I did), so raw eggs weren't something I felt like eating)… roll it out into a bunch of balls and squish 'um down, bake at 350˚ for like 20 min… and enjoy. If you want them to be sweeter… push your finger in the center of each "cookie" to make a divot and spoon a bit of that raw organic honey. (*note: if you are a total sugar addict, this will taste kinda bland to you at first, but once you cut sugar from your diet they will be the best treat… and they are not even bad for you! - though you probably shouldn't eat them all at once.)

(I put walnuts & hazelnuts on 'um too)

Back to the basics of Paleo:  There are various approaches to eating this way. Keep in mind this is NOT a diet like "Atkins" (though there are similarities) or "The Zone" or even that silly ass "Master Cleanse" (WTF was THAT all about?! YUCK!). I hate that it's impossible to say "I'm following the Paleo Diet" without someone thinking it's a phase, or that eventually you'll go off it… or that you are doing it just to lose weight. I am approaching this the same way a vegetarian might decide to stop eating meat. It's a life change. I want to be healthier than I already am, and I'd like it to last... for life.
Pretty much the most common criticism of Paleo involves comparative life expectancy. Assumptions are made that we live much longer and healthier lives today than Mr & Ms Cave People. Plus the idea that there is no way to know if they would be healthier or not because they didn't live long enough to acquire the chronic degenerative diseases of today. The idea that cave people's lives were "nasty, brutish, and short" is totally an exaggeration that was popularized by Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathan". Plus there have been scientific findings that human life expectancies DECLINED when Stone Age peeps adopted an agrarian lifestyle when the Neolithic era began. Our increases in life expectancy are mainly due to public health advances in sanitation, food safety, quarantine systems, immunizations and childbirth survival rates. 33 years was the estimated AVERAGE life expectancy of a Paleolithic male, not the maximal lifespan of all hunter gatherers. A hunter gatherer who was able to live through childbirth, infectious disease, accidents, battles/fights, and shit like saber tooth tigers attacking while Mr & Ms. Cave People are trying to picnic, could be expected to live as long as we do today. PLUS there's archaeological and anthropological studies of Paleolithic records, and contemporary hunter-gatherer cultures, that show much lower prevalence of heart disease, sudden cardiac death, cancer, stroke, and even chronic acne, than in modern societies.

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One approach to Paleo suggests stages.
  • Stage One: munch on nuts and berries all day when hungry and then eat just about anything you want for dinner. The idea being that it slowly leads to detoxification of old bad eating habits and will probably have you losing some stored fat as well. 
  • Stage Two: (which supposedly lasts for 2 months/8 weeks) is all about gettin' your blood glucose levels down and eliminate carb cravings (or at least knock 'um back to not much). They (who ever "they" are) tell you that daily fasting is important (I think they mean "skip lunch and snacks") and that dinner can be any of the Paleo foods you want. Want bacon for dinner? Have it. Steak & asparagus cooked in bacon fat? (which I totally ate the other day and it was PHENOMENAL!) Eat it! The people that back up this way of eating say that by following these guides people will soon report that they feel their senses are sharper, and we will be closer to our ancestors scavenger  way of burning bad fat and.. well.. living. (Only with soap & showers.)
  • Stage Three: is where you stick to the "diet" for life. Just keep eating the same healthy way you have been.

Now, I am not following the aforementioned approach to Paleo. I jumped right in and cut out all dairy, no more bread, and I am doing things that still make me feel naughty when cooking. Bacon whenever I want it? Then SAVE the fat? … so I can cook with it later?! What?! (AWESOME!)

My average daily meal looks like this: (mind you, I do my VERY best to keep all things ridiculously organic, and grass fed… and the bacon has gotta be nitrate free as far as I'm concerned)

Breakfast: 2 or 3 eggs, a slice or two of bacon, about 2 or 3 tablespoons of spicy salsa, and a healthy dash of red pepper flakes. Sometimes I throw in diced up green &/or red peppers… just make it up as I go really.

Lunch: if hungry (lack of refined sugar/carbs, and the high protein reduces hunger drastically) I'll take any leftover meat from the night before and slice it up over a large bed of dark leafy greens and use a home made vinaigrette (that'd be extra virgin olive oil & vinegar, duh) .. and any veggies (usually shredded carrots and broccoli- which I normally hate, but I dig the texture) If I am not going to be anywhere that I know I can grab lunch I just keep a ziplock bag of mixed nuts (NOT peanuts- basically no legumes)
Dinner: Pretty much the same as lunch if I want it, or maybe some steak and asparagus sauteed in bacon fat ... or "ghee" which is clarified butter- you can find it in your grocery store in the section that usually has "foreign" (read: "East Indian") food, or just make it yourself if you're so inclined.) The options are easy and endless.

I'm honestly stuffed and totally full each day. I sleep better. I wake up earlier, I'm less tired and lethargic upon waking, and I'm much better at remembering to do things. (read: less brain farts)

I could list hundreds of recipes, but the truth is that a quick google search will provide you with everything you could possibly want to know about Paleo, the foods, what to cook, how to cook it, and a plethora of ideas.

The big question… what made me want to do this? That's easy! Aside from the never ending search for ideas as to how to eat healthier, and do it without messing up my system, a friend of mine recommended it. Not directly, but I knew she had been doing it for a while, and I was paying close attention to her results and started to ask her about it. Let's be brutally honest here, show of hands, how many of you just want to know if you can/will lose weight on this? Easy answer: yup, you betcha. My friend, Amanda, has been amazed at the way her weight has been dropping. Granted she is working out like a champ these days as well, but she knows that Paleo is creating not only the ability to do that, but that even without the workouts the weight would be coming off. Mind you, as mentioned, I did A LOT of research on Paleo and there were so many stories about people who changed NOTHING about their day to day activities but still dropped a bunch of weight. I'm down with that. (I'd be more than happy to drop a few lbs)

All that said, Amanda is the mother of two small children, and when her oldest (Hazel) was about 6 months old (she's 3 now) Amanda was diagnosed with MS. She was immediately put on a cocktail of medications and told what she could and couldn't do. ……. Not long after her second child was born (Elias) Amanda decided to change her diet to Paleo. Know what happened next?...Her medications were all rendered unnecessary, so she went off them,  and she has not had any flare ups. The other night we spoke on the phone and she couldn't possibly have expressed fully just how much happier, healthier.. and all around better she felt since going Paleo. I was sold.

My younger brother, who I recently told a friend "is so freakin' healthy we're expecting him to turn into a carrot any day now," switched to Paleo about a year ago… but had to go off it for a bit (or, I should say… add more to it)… know why? He was losing too much weight. (Yes I have given him a hearty "fuckyouverymuch" on behalf of the majority of the human population for that one.)

In summary: I have yet to see/read one single hardcore anti-Paleo statement. I have seen nothing but educated and fact based reviews, articles, & personal stories that claim Paleo is pretty much the best way to go. Add in the fact that a member of  my own family, and a very smart & trusted friend have nothing but good things to say about it? I'm totally sold.

I wrote this post because I have seen those "blog" posts in regards to "fad diets," & "life changing" ways of life et al., that seem, for all intents and purposes, to be legit… but after a while you just know they're not. You wonder who paid the person to write such a glowing review… and there is almost always a link or two to a book about the subject…. it's all just kinda suspect, you know? I know that anyone following my blog knows a few things about me, and some of those things are: I don't lie, I rarely hold back, and I would NEVER recommend something I thought was questionable or unsafe.

So there ya go. If you have any questions I will do my very best to answer them (though I do think google will always do a better job than I could), and I will be more than happy to post recipes and stuff if that's what someone wants. I considered posting a blog of just the grocery list from the 3 (yes, THREE) different stores I went to so I could obtain everything I needed to empty my pantry cabinets and change my diet for the better (remember, I live on a small island.) I still have the receipts, can still do it if you want. (Will be researching cheaper alternatives (like grinding almonds myself as opposed to buying almond flour since it's really @#$%^&* expensive!)

Just remember:

1) Eliminate the processed foods from your diet. It is recommended that you don't eat foods that have been created or influenced by technology. Sugars, milk and breads are all off-limits on Paleo

2) Consume a large amount of fruits and vegetables. Cavemen had access to natural fruits and vegetables. This should be a large part of your diet.

3) Get your protein from meat. A Paleo diet consisted of mostly meat/fish/poultry. The amount of meat that you can eat is basically limitless

4) Keep it low-carb. Eliminating carbohydrates from your diet is said to reduce blood sugar levels too.

**** If any of you are following Paleo, or are about to, please keep me updated on things. I am always interested in other points of view and their person experiences. (Plus I do enjoy a yummy recipe or two!)


  1. GG
    A really great post, I bet it's going to do you the power of good - keep us posted
    PS Note to self: Sell shares in Twizler Co.

  2. I'm really interested to hear how this works out for you. A girlfriend of mine and her fiance both had good results on the diet but they got bored and couldn't handle it anymore. I've read and watched movies and I'm convinced cutting out processed foods and sugars and eating mostly plant based diets are what we should be doing... but dammit if I don't love me some pizza and cake.

  3. What an interesting post. I will read more about this diet because it sounds very interesting and I have to loose some weight and start living healthy... But the first problem I see here is that I have a coeliac disease and I'm on strict gluten-free diet and am already very limited with what I can eat. And another problem is that I'm a student and I really don't have a lot of money and diet food is very expensive (at least here in Slovenia)...

  4. SBW- you know, that was the strangest part. You, of all people, know of my love for Strawberry Twizzlers... yet the ones given to me as gifts upon my return home were given away or thrown away because I just had no desire to eat them. So weird, who woulda thunk it, eh?

    Cake Betch- please believe me when I tell you I understand the love of pizza & cake! ... yet for some reason, when Paleo is followed properly, the desire for them just sort of disappears. I'm not sure if it's the diet itself that changes one's desire for those things, or if I did it to myself just by knowing how much healthier I'd be w/out those thing... either way, I am going to scare my friend in town this summer when his gourmet cupcake shop reopens for the season and I don't stop in for some.

    Starlight- Paleo is gluten free, unless you chose to add things to it that are "off" the plan. Take a look at this site here, it does a pretty good job explaining it.

  5. hey! just seeing this now! thanks for the shout out. here are a few of my favorite sites for beginning paleo:





    of the above links, dr. harris and mark sisson are both considered "lacto-paleo" and dont believe in eliminating dairy unless one is particularly sensitive. im not, so i have cream, butter, some cheese. it does cause an insulin spike, so if you have a lot of weight to lose, its good to eliminate it for 30 days and see how you do reintroducing it. also, go easy on the nuts- they are high in omega-6 fatty acids which are quite inflammatory. a major aspect of paleo is balancing omega 6 and 3s and the standard american diet is very skewed in favor of 6s because of grain fed meat. always choose grass-fed over grain-fed for this reason. go as close to wild as possible. essentially you should be eating about 70-80% of your calories in saturated fat from animal sources and TROPICAL plant sources. about 20% protein and about 10% carbohydrates, all from veggies and some fruit. this diet is lower in protein and much lower in carbs than the standard american diet and very high in fat. its the fat that keeps one satiated. ALWAYS eat fat. so, the good stuff is eggs, meat from wild, pastured or grass-fed animals, truckloads of green leafy veggies, SOME fruit (the smaller the fruit the better eg.g blueberries are good, watermelon is a bag of sugar), and limited nuts. steer clear from ALL grains, ALL processed food, ALL sugar and ALL legumes. if youre doing it right, your body will find homeostasis. if you need to gain, you will. if you need to lose, you will. if you need to manage autoimmunity, you will. have fun! it may seem limited, but fat, eggs, meat and veggies come in ENDLESS combinations. and yes, this diet is gluten-free first and foremost. WHEAT IS MURDER.