Why Your Diet Needs to Evolve: Part 1
August 20, 2013
Defining Your Goals and Getting Started
There is a long list of reasons why someone would want to drastically change their diet. To lose (or gain) weight, improve digestive issues, enhance athletic performance, reduce fatigue, eliminate brain fog, prevent or reverse chronic disease, fight an autoimmune disease, etc. In the end it usually boils down to health or performance.
Health and performance still aren’t the desired end result though. They are physical states of being that enable other experiences to occur which will hopefully lead to happiness. After you boil away all of the nonsense in life almost every one of us just wants to be happy. What makes a person happy and how they get there is truly unique however.
“As a people, we have become obsessed with Health. There is something fundamentally, radically unhealthy about all this. We do not seem to be seeking more exuberance in living as much as staving off failure, putting off dying. We have lost all confidence in the human body.”
Lewis Thomas – The Medusa and the Snail
Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to be healthy? What would you do when you’re healthy that you can’t do now? What would make you happy? A lot of times, the answer to that last one isn’t food related. For the sake of this series though I will be focusing on mostly diet and some lifestyle activities that can get you on your way to health…and happiness.
Once you have a basic idea of what you would get out of improving your health or performance write down some goals that can get your there. SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) is a basic guideline that I follow, but at this point your goals can be pretty general just to serve as a guide. Write a few down and tuck them away for now. Now it’s time to clear the slate and start talking about Paleo.
What is Paleo?
There is a lot of information floating around out there about what is and isn’t Paleo. Generally the term refers to an unmeasured approach to eating that is based around the modern equivalents of foods that were available to our Paleolithic ancestors. The Paleolithic era was a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the arrival of agriculture and grain-based diets. You may also see it referred to as the Paleolithic Diet, Primal Diet, Caveman Diet, Stone Age Diet, or Hunter-Gatherer Diet.
The diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture-raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils. There are also other approaches that extend out include recommendations like drink lots of water and have some sort of daily physical activity.
The rationale for the diet is that although it has been a while since the Paleolithic era, our genetics really haven’t changed all that much since then. Our ancestors from that era were tall, muscular, agile, athletic, and incredibly versatile…while many of us now are overweight, out of shape, stressed out, unhappy, sleep deprived and dying from preventable diseases. The suspected root cause of this deterioration in well-being is the advent of agriculture and the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers.
Our bodies really haven’t caught up much to our drastically changing diet. As Robb Wolf puts it, think of a 100-yard football field. The first 99.5 yards are how long Homo-Sapiens spent as hunter-gatherers. As they became REALLY good at hunting and gathering our bodies adapted to that lifestyle over thousands of years. That last half-yard represents our species after the agricultural revolution, where our diet has shifted (but our genetics haven’t).
Reasons to Start with Paleo
As you research the Paleo diet you will hear some very enthusiastic arguments for and against it. However, I’m not going to get into those as there is little one can do to convince someone to eat a certain way. Instead I have chosen the course of providing information, living by example and helping those with open minds. So how about some of that info?
Top reasons to start with Paleo:
- It is very satiating
- It removes many foods that people may be allergic or sensitive to
- It provides an opportunity for the digestive system to heal
- It eliminates processed food and drinks
- For many it delivers the best results
For most people it only takes a few days to a few weeks before they really start to see results. Improved blood lipids, weight loss, and reduced pain from autoimmunity is proof enough for most that Paleo is the way to go. For those of you looking for a little more convincing than a try it and see approach here is just a small sampling.
Here is a great paper from Professor Loren Cordain exploring how to build a modern Paleo diet: The nutritional characteristics of a contemporary diet based upon Paleolithic food groups (PDF). This paper also offers significant insight as to the amounts and ratios of protein, carbohydrate and fat in the ancestral diet.
Please also watch this TED talk by Dr. Terry Wahls, MD as she describes how she reversed her Multiple Sclerosis with a paleo diet.
The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility.
Before you jump right in, remember that I’m not making a recommendation that you specifically should start eating Paleo. Before making any drastic changes, check with your doctor and proceed at your own risk. Now with that out of the way, lets go over some high points.
Get the junk out of your house
Starting out you will have very limited self-control when surrounded with grains, processed foods, dairy, etc. Get those tempting foods out of your house! Remove the bread, grains, pasta, sweets, juice, sodas, cereals, artificial sweeteners, yogurt, canned soups, apple sauce – all refined, packaged foods. Throw it out or donate it to a food bank or homeless shelter.
An alternative approach is to gradually transition your diet over to healthier foods. This can work with determination and coaching but sometimes it is just best to start fresh.
Surround yourself with good food
We’ll talk more about food selection, quality and sourcing later on in the series but here is a quick rundown of what you should be stocking the shelves with.
- Lean Meats*
- Oils – Olive oil, coconut oil (not seed oils)
*Make sure you’re adding plenty of healthy fat like olive/coconut oil, avocado, nuts, etc. to each meal. This will be revisited later in the series.
Your meals don’t have to be very complicated. Just look up a few recipes, start cooking, and make sure your plate is filled with a reasonable amount of meat, lots of vegetables and plenty of healthy fat.
Go for a walk
Get outside and move. That’s pretty much it. Just get out there. If you need help, find a trainer or coach.
Turn off your TV and stop staring at your phone for at least 1 hour before bed. Go to bed early. Get at least 8-9 hrs of sleep. You should wake feeling refreshed.
Give it an honest try
Make sure to give yourself a full 30 days. Your body needs a little time to adjust from running on carbs and sugar to burning your stored fat for energy, which can take a few weeks. If you can’t commit fully to it, do the best you can over the 30 days and see how you feel. The more you shift to Paleo principles, the faster you’ll start to see results.
Also make sure to take pictures along the way. You’ll be surprised.
Part 2 on How to Evolve Your Diet is in the works!