The first thing any true Paleo follower will say is, “it’s not a diet… it’s a lifestyle”. And fair enough. For many people, Paleo is much more than the food you eat. It is the lifestyle you live. Many true Paleo-ers will grow their own organic fruits and vegetables, have their own free-range chickens to provide them with fresh homegrown eggs, and often workout in a Paleo kind-of-way.
I started eating Paleo a few years ago. I came across the lifestyle following chef Pete Evans online. And I have to admit, I do like him. I know he cops a bit of criticism and is maligned for some of his ideas but for the most part, I agree with his principles. Back then, the real buy-in began when I came across an article, which detailed the meeting ironman Ali Day had with strength and conditioning coach, Keegan Smith. That meeting took Ali from “down and out and sleeping for days” to 2014 Ironman Champion. That win marked the first time one of the Eckstein brothers (Caine and Shannon) had been defeated for the title in 8 years.
...when you look into the principles of Paleo, you quickly realise it is nearly impossible to follow a Paleo diet strictly without adopting the entire lifestyle
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Today, I don’t eat Paleo as much. In fact, I never ate Paleo strictly. But I do loosely follow the principles. Not out of a desire to eat Paleo or buy in to the message, but because following a Paleo diet actually made me feel good. In fact, I lost weight and had an abundance of energy.
What are the principles of a Paleo lifestyle?
- Eat real foods
The most popular principle of a Paleo diet is eating foods that once lived. Eat loads of vegetables, along with meat. But did you know that the Paleo lifestyle actually suggests you minimise your fruit intake? That’s because fruit is high in sugars — particularly fructose, and fructose is hard on the liver. Tropical fruits are considered the worst.
- Eat plenty of high-quality meat
When I say high-quality, I mean pastured animals. The cells of the animal you eat become the cells of your body. That’s a more literal meaning for the saying, “You are what you eat”. But… if you eliminate grains and continue to eat meat that is grain-fed, you essentially don’t eliminate grains at all. The meat of the animal you eat should be allowed to graze and roam as it would in the wild.
- Snack on nuts
Nuts are a good snack option but when it comes to what nuts, this is where it becomes more complicated. Macadamias are the best, followed by almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. Pecans, brazil nuts and pine nuts are the worst, with walnuts being an absolute no-no. Whichever nuts you eat, you should soak and dry them to eliminate any toxins.
- Avoid processed food and grain
Processed food often contains hidden sugars, salt, preservatives and trans fats. Excess amounts of these foods lead to many types of lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. A strict Paleo diet will have you eliminate all grain; however, rice is considered the most benign of all grains so this can be eaten if you want to follow the diet more loosely.
- Eliminate environmental toxins
Many “natural” foods are covered with pesticides to protect them from foreign invaders. And this works well. But just because pesticides don’t kill us immediately like it might an insect, doesn’t mean it’s good for us. That accumulation of environmental toxins can build up in the body and lead to other lifestyle diseases such as cancer.
- Get outside and play
Run, climb, swing and crawl. These are all movements we did 10,000 years ago when we spent our days hunting, gathering and playing. This type of physical activity lends itself more to strength training and high intensity interval training over long-slow cardio. In addition, being outside in the sun creates vitamin D and the moderate exposure to the sun is linked with enhanced mental health.
The main principle of the Paleo lifestyle is to live as closely as possible to how humans did 10,000 years ago. In the strictest sense, this includes unplugging from the demands of today’s fast-paced and busy world. You don’t have to go and live in the bush off the grid, but it’s recommended you switch off and enjoy the basics of life from time-to-time.
In summary, Paleo is more than a diet. It is a lifestyle. And when you look into the principles of Paleo, you quickly realise it is nearly impossible to follow a Paleo diet strictly without adopting the entire lifestyle. There is much more to the Paleo lifestyle than this article presents. As you dive into a Paleo lifestyle there develops this weird desire to constantly dive deeper.
Final thoughts: In my opinion; the Paleo Diet is the best thing since sliced bread. I’ve never been a strict Paleo-er, but while I’ve relaxed on the level I was at when I first adopted the lifestyle back in 2014, I continue to follow the fundamental principals. It’s because of the diet component of the Paleo lifestyle that I no longer get the golf-ball-size pressure in my stomach and heart palpitations. I suggest if you want to give the Paleo lifestyle a go; start with the diet and begin making changes there by reducing your consumption of processed foods and grain, while increasing your consumption of organic, pastured poultry and red meat, along with wild-caught fish.
Question: If you follow a Paleo diet, what do you like about it? If you have in the past but no longer do, for what reasons did you stop? And if you have never tried it, what do you think after reading this article?
Leave your questions and comments in the discussion section below.
[Image source: 24 Life]
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