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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Eating Habits: The Paleo Diet

For fun, I decided to change up my eating habits.  I enjoy trying new things in the name of experimentation, and diet happens to be among the most interesting to vary.  

My new dietary lifestyle is influenced by the "paleo diet".  The idea is pretty simple; it is an attempt to eat a diet similar to what our ancestors consumed.  The logic works for me.  We evolved to eat a specific diet.  Logic would hold that our body would be optimized to this diet.  The trick is to extrapolate a "caveman diet" from our current offerings.  

My take on the diet is very simplistic.  I am eating the following general categories of foods:
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables, excluding potatoes
  • Non-processed meats (no bacon, lunch meat, or Spam)
  • Nuts
  • Beer and wine
  • Coffee
  • Diet soda (I like to imagine our ancestors had access to Coke Zero, Killian's, and Starbucks)
  • Olive oil
What I'm actively avoiding:
  • Wheat-based products
  • Soy-based products
  • Refined sugar-based products
  • Rice and rice-based products
  • Legumes
  • Dairy [thanks for reminding me, Jeff!]
  • All other oils
About once or twice a week, I will consume something from the "avoiding" list.  this mostly occurs when Shelly and I are dining out.
So far, I have been impressed.  I'm generally a very skeptical person, but I find my mood to be very stable on the new diet.  I no longer have euphoria/depression mood swings.  Aside from that, I have not experienced a significant change in sleeping patterns, energy levels, or weight.  However, I do seem to be building muscle mass and shedding body fat faster than I did with my processed carb-based diet.

It is interesting... more or less anyone that has heard of my new diet has commented.  Some support it, some do not.  Both sides can cite "evidence" that will support their perspective.  Most people fail to understand the "experiment of one" idea, which is my ultimate goal.  I am trying to find a group of foods that suit me well.  What's good for the goose is rarely good for the gander.  Still, knowing what the gander is doing gives up plenty of ideas for our own experimentation.


  1. all the popular diets examined side by side: "The 80-10-10 Diet" by Dr. Douglas N. Graham

  2. . . . And for the 800 pound cow in the room, what about milk and dairy products? It's funny you mention The Paleo Diet. I just bought it from B&N last weekend and its definitely anti-dairy.

  3. FWIW, I think it's a great way to eat - how can it not be? We don't need grains or even dairy to live (and lots of people are allergic in some way to these things). It may not be sustainable for the entire world but no diet is perfect and there are too many people on the planet anyways.

  4. I like your experiment and I've been throwing around the idea of trying something similar myself. Just to see. If it doesn't work, fine. But if it does...tons to gain there.

    Does the lack of or smaller amount of carbs affect your energy level at all? And does peanut butter count as a nut? :) I bet the cave people knew how to make a good nut mash.

  5. I haven't had any pasta, bread, or any wheat products at all in 3 months. You'd be amazed at how much bloat goes away when you get it out of your diet. But i'm not following any Paleo diet. I replaced the wheat with brown rice. My change was for allergy reasons.

  6. @Jane. Peanuts are a legume, so they don't count as a nut. There are various butters made from tree nuts, with almond butter being the most popular. Pure ones of all nut butters exist, though you are more likely to find ones adulterated with sugar and non-paleo oils.

    Most paleo followers would not put beer, coffee, or diet soda in the allowed list. Wine should always be available, though to be paleo you need to dilute it or also drink water at the same time. Fruit fermented in nature would never get to as high an alcohol content as we can do with technology.

    Instead of coffee, green tea is much more paleo. Coffee is a seed inside a fruit and is not edible raw. Fruit seeds are not supposed to be digested, but to pass through and still be viable. They would never have been a food.

    And for some reason one paleo diet author allows diet soda. This is very strange. Some of the artificial sweeteners, e.g. aspartame, are downright toxic. Control your imagination. Water is a fine beverage to drink.

    On neither list is there a mention of fats/oils. Acceptable oils should be restricted to those from fruits (olive, oil palm, avocado) or tree nuts (coconut, walnut, almond, hazelnut, pecan, macadamia). No high-tech industrial seed oils could have existed back then. For animal fats you should work towards getting a better balance of Omega 3 (from green plants) over Omega 6 (from seeds).

    You can find how I define the diet here:

  7. I've been full Paleo for about 4 days, I thought I would have some crazy carb cravings because I have when doing some other lo-carb diet. But so far I've been craving free. I also just feel more lean and mean on it, I guess because I don't have a belly full of bread and pasta. I do have to admit that I can't abandon coffee. It's been far to good of a friend to me. So far I like the Paleo Diet (I think it's technically a lifestyle) I'd like to think I can stick to it, but things change. If you told me 5 years ago I'd be down 90 pounds and running 60-80 miles a week I would have thought it impossible. So if someone said in a year you're going to be back to grains I couldn't say they're full of it. We'll see what happens.

  8. I've been paleo (or primal) for about 6 months now. My energy level is higher than it has ever been. I usually consume around 20-30 grams of carbs a day. You can find all kinds of great information on paleo/primal at and if you are on facebook there is a friend of mine Steve Cooksey who has been primal for quiet some time with excellent results controlling his diabetes with a primal diet. You can request him as a friend. He is always very willing to answer questions and help anyone who wants more information. He also shares a lot of experiments he does with exercises and carb consumption. Interesting reading for those who are interested.

  9. is healthy. but i like me some dairy.

  10. Paleo has been great for me. I've been inconsistently paleo for a couple years, and reasonably dedicated for about four months (like Jason, I often depart for dessert). I've enjoyed the same health gains he described, with the addition of weight (fat) loss. I'm far leaner than I was.

    It works for me, and I encourage other people to consider it -- or to at least consider some of the fundamental tenets: Avoid processed foods. Avoid foods that spend time in a factory. Avoid sugar. Whether you are hardcore paleo or simply a mindful eater, those simple guidelines will have a wonderfully positive impact on your body, mood, and overall health.

  11. paleo is a great diet if you're going to eat meat. it is very popular in the cycling community. i have been following a very similar vegan diet called THRIVE. both diets are completely aligned in avoiding dairy, soy, wheat, corn, and peanuts.

    the chief differences are in the consumption of legumes and brown rice. however in the case of legumes it recommends sprouting them instead of cooking. that way you can access the nutritional value while remaining raw. i imagine that would be fair game in the paleo diet, even if it isn't "according to hoyle" paleo eating.

  12. The meats you consume, are they grass fed meats? I have been entertaining the paleo diet for some time now, but the cost is extremely high. Although in retrospect I wouldn't need to consume as much food if it was full of good nutrition.

  13. How neat of an experiment! Would you consider posting examples of your meals: breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner?

    We've been working on getting away from processed foods as a family. I need ideas on how to add some more of the 'good' stuff.

  14. First, an addition to my prior comment on beverage. In addition to spring water, I've been trying coconut water. While I like the taste of coconut, I'm still working on getting to like the taste of this.

    OrangeBlossom asked about meals. For breakfast I have eaten four eggs a day for many years. I make a very large breakfast and then only eat most of it. Then for lunch I add another 1 1/2 kabobs and finish it off. It consists of:

    1 1/2 Pakistani kabobs (now grass-fed lamb) [or grass-fed ground beef, or grass-fed leg of lamb]
    4 eggs over easy in coconut oil (eggs bought from the farmer)
    ~.15 lb of freshly ground organic walnuts (using old style oval Krups coffee grinder)
    ~1 cup homemade applesauce [with lots of cinnamon]
    6 oz frozen Wymans raspberries
    5 oz frozen Wymans wild blueberries
    So Delicious Original Coconut Kefir drizzled on top

    All in a big pile layered as listed above. Berries defrosted either partially in the refrigerator overnight, or entirely in the microwave. I use a scale to split the bags of berries up evenly, as knowing the weight allows me to learn the microwave times.

    For paleo recipes in general, I have hundreds at Paleo Diet Recipes.

  15. I've been on modified paleo for three months now and the results have made me a fan for life. Weight loss has not been dramatic, but I did go from a 44 to a 42. My consumption of antacids has dropped about 90%. Modified because I still have potatoes and oatmeal and some dairy.