There is so much conflicting and confusing information out there and it can throw your best efforts at maintaining your Paleo lifestyle off track. If you have been following a Paleo plan for a while and are feeling no better (or are struggling to lose weight if that was your goal), you might be making one or more of these common mistakes.
Paleo – More Than A Diet
Too many people hear the word ‘diet’ and their thoughts and effort immediately stop with food. Paleo is more a lifestyle than simply a food-based diet. Food does play a huge role, but if you fail to address the other complementary lifestyle aspects of the diet then you will never experience the full potential of the program.
When you fully commit to the Paleo diet, it is important to take a hard look at some of the other factors that allowed ancient man to thrive.
Be sure to prioritize 7-9 hours of precious sleep time each night. Even one night of inadequate sleep can disrupt blood sugar regulation making you cranky, more likely to eat processed carbs, and fatigued.
Man has evolved having a deep connection with nature rather than sitting inside all day. When not exposed to sunlight, your health suffers. Try to be outside in the sunshine for at least 30-60 minutes each day with bare skin.
Stress and Play
Pleasure activates the parasympathetic or ‘rest and digest’ branch of the nervous system. This is often neglected in the high-stress world of today. Create a stress management protocol that fits into your life and make time to escape stress each day. Go out with friends, watch funny YouTube videos, dance, meditate, breathe deeply and do your best not to take life so seriously.
Experts are now calling sitting and a sedentary lifestyle the new smoking. Daily movement is necessary – your body was made to move and functions best when movement is incorporated into your lifestyle. Find exercise you love and incorporate it for at least 30 minutes per day 5 times per week. Even a brief 20-minute walk has benefits.
While there are definitely people that do low carbohydrate or ketogenic versions of the Paleo diet, Paleo in general does not mean low carb. This misconception comes from a misunderstanding of what carbohydrates truly are. Many assume things like bread and pasta (which are removed on the Paleo diet) are the general terms for carbohydrates. Whole food sources of carbohydrate, including sweet potatoes, squash, fruit, and the like are all comprised of carbohydrate. The Paleo diet definitely is a LOWER carbohydrate plan than one that includes cereal for breakfast, a muffin for a morning snack, a sandwich and soda for lunch, an energy bar for an afternoon snack, and pasta with a side of garlic bread for dinner. This is essentially a carbohydrate-based standard Western diet. Low or no carb does not necessarily describe the vast majority of people on Paleo who are happily consuming plant-based carbohydrate sources.
Fat is not bad for you. In fact, adequate consumption of fats is vital for optimal functioning of your brain and your body. Contrary to what you might have been told in the past, you don’t need to fear fat. As long as the fat comes from a healthy source, rather than processed foods, it will contribute to your health and performance. This is especially important if you’re following a low carb version of the Paleo Diet.
It is very challenging to follow a low-fat protocol whilst on a Paleo diet, and if you are managing, you may not be feeling anything close to your best. Fats from pastured animals are delicious and nutritious foods to incorporate into your diet. Including a variety of fats, such as avocados, coconut oil and nuts is important.
Thinking Only About The Meat
Despite portrayals in mainstream media, the Paleo diet is not necessarily one that is a high in protein diet. In fact, too much protein can be inflammatory for certain people especially when the source is questionable and the animals are less-than healthy.
There were certain cultures like the Inuits and Maasai who consumed large amounts of protein. However, there were also certain cultures, like the Kitavans, who did not.
High quality animal protein should be consumed with every meal and snack, but not necessarily as the main course. Instead, divide your plate in half. Devote half to organic vegetables and the other half to high quality fat and protein. Fifteen to twenty grams of protein at each meal is a great reference point. However, be sure to experiment to find the macronutrient ratios that work best for you.
It’s all about being well-rounded, getting all the nutrients you can, reducing the inflammation in your body, and sustaining energy to do what you need to do. This requires a wide variety of foods.
Too Few Leafy Greens
Organic, diverse and brightly colored vegetables should be the centerpiece of your diet. Although ancient man may not have had consistent access to vegetables, research has shown that they consistently confer health benefits unparalleled by almost any other food to pretty much everyone (excluding those with rare food allergies).
Organic, non-starchy vegetables promote weight loss, improve energy, enhance digestive ease, slow the aging process, reduce inflammation and protect against disease. The more green, diversely-colored, local, non-starchy (above ground) vegetables that you can consume, the better.
Forgetting Food Quality
Food quality is a central premise of the Paleo diet. For many, it is an afterthought or hardly a consideration. Take for instance a lettuce-wrapped Big Mac as compared to a grass-fed burger or a Pete’s Paleo meal. These foods contain similar amounts of protein, carbs and fat. By some definitions they are equally ‘Paleo’. These two meals yield wildly disparate metabolic outcomes. The focus of the Paleo diet is quality of the macronutrients rather than the ratio.
Conventionally raised animal products and pesticide-laden produce will not yield successful outcomes. They may be an okay place to start. The antibiotics, steroids, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and other chemicals will continue to wreak long-term havoc on your metabolism. Be sure to purchase organic produce and high-quality protein (grass-fed beef and lamb, wild game and fish, and pasture-raised chicken and pork), and fat (grass-fed ghee, pasture-raised lard, grass-fed butter, organic expeller-pressed coconut oil, organic unrefined olive oil) whenever possible.
Important Note: If eating all organic is not financially feasible for you, please begin where you can. Although organic foods will yield faster results, a whole foods diet of any type is still a great place to start
Relying On Treats and Packaged Foods
Paleo compliant junk food is still junk foods and should be consumed sparingly. Paleo baked goods and treats may be the only way you can enjoy the occasional sweets that does not cause your inflammation to worsen or your digestive tract to suffer. This is understandable and indulging mindfully and on occasion is perfectly acceptable.
When treats and desserts become a central focus of your attention or frequent features of your diet, you cannot expect to make the progress you desire. Sugary treats – even if they are technically Paleo, can still be problematic
Processed paleo bars and snacks, often with unpronounceable ingredients or more sugar than a can of soda may be technically ‘paleo’ according to certain criteria, but that does not mean they are beneficial.
Stay vigilant. Scrutinize paleo products just as you would other processed foods. If you are unsure of what an ingredient is, don’t consume it. If it is not organic or contains sugar from anything other than fruit or honey, avoid it! Paleo food manufacturing is a business, so be sure to critique everything.
Pete’s Paleo meals made from real foods, carefully sourced and chef prepared and delivered right to you – no apron required.
You don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen each day to be healthy, and there is no need to feel miserable each time you sit down to eat.
There’s more to food than its function – even though this is important. If you are not enjoying your food, or preparing it feels like a chore, change something. There are many ways of eating, within the Paleo spectrum. Some may follow low carb protocols whilst others may require some auto-immune adaptations. If what you are doing is not working, assess, move on and try something new. Experiment. Find what works.