I’ve been Paleo/Primal for 2.5 years. During this time I’ve stopped eating grains, dairy, and sugar. I lost almost 40lbs, discovered CrossFit as my torture of choice, and I read “almost” every Paleo or Primal related book out there. When I started this journey, I was convinced that this was it. I would eat this way for the rest of my life. I’d finally found the perfect diet, because it wasn’t a diet, it was truly a lifestyle. This was the end of a long, confusing road to perfect health. After half a year of doing all of this research, of having devoured Robb Wolf’s website and Mark Sisson’s blog, I could finally sit back and relax and just eat the basics of a Paleo lifestyle. Meats, vegetables, fruits, fats, nuts, and seeds.
I was the little piggy who finally figured out to build a house made of stone. No blowing it down this time, big, bad diet wolf. My little house was built on a solid foundation, too. An overwhelming amount of evidence suggested that I was doing the right thing, eating this way.
I remember vividly the very first time, my little house took a blow, when the big, bad wolf threw a potato through the window, leaving it shattered into a million pieces. The big, bad wolf had reappeared in the shape of Todd Dosenberry, also known as Primal Toad in the Paleo/Primal community. Todd wrote a post on potatoes, and why there was no way he was giving them up. He listed a number of great benefits of eating potatoes, like potassium and Vitamin C. I felt like someone had hit me with… well… a potato.
What was this talk about potatoes being an okay food for some people? I wanted nothing to do with this and quickly dismissed the information. Only, then I read a post by Mark Sisson on potatoes… and by some other Paleo bloggers, who made the case for the potato. I made potato salad, ate it, enjoyed it, and decided right then and there, that it was okay for me to eat potatoes occasionally. Let me be very clear, that occasionally means just that… I eat potatoes maybe every few months. They have by no means become a staple of my diet. But the case of the potatoes has caused me to open the windows of my house, as to not get them shattered.
And wouldn’t you know it, along came white rice… ever so innocently proclaiming that it is quite alright to have it now and then, as part of your Sushi for instance. Yes, sure, rice is turned into sugar in the body and sugar is bad, bad, bad! Did I go out to buy a bag of rice? No! But well, my daughter did. Because she loves rice, and as long as it’s white rice, and she only eats it on occasion I am not going to complain. As a matter of fact I’m going to enjoy it with her.
And that does lead us to sugar, by the way. I know, I know, this subject is extremely touchy, and the Paleo Police have come by my house, knocked on the door and threatened to knock it down. Wait, is she telling us to eat sugar? I know you’re asking this question. And my short answer is yes/no. I am not going to make the case for the white, refined sugar you find in SAD foods. But yes, I am saying that I have allowed sugar in the form of maple syrup, honey, coconut palm sugar and of course fruit back into my diet.
Why? We (all of us) are naturally wired to crave sweets. Sugar is therapeutic to the human body, and it supports thyroid and liver function among other things. For years I was under the impression, that sugar was addictive, after all I was the best example for a sugar addict. Please read my blog posts, here and here, for more details on this subject. Once again, I am not suggesting you go out and buy a Milky Way bar (although if you did, I’d tell you to stop feeling guilty and just move on), but I am telling you, that it’s okay to eat sweet things. Your body wants it and needs it.
Potatoes, rice, and sugar are only three of the foods that have made me reconsider the way I eat or don’t. In the last 2.5 years I’ve also revisited certain flours, beans, peas, quinoa, couscous, alcoholic beverages and more. I still don’t eat flour, beans or couscous, but I do quite enjoy the occasional quinoa pasta Bolognese. I drink wine and tequila (in the form of NorCal margaritas), and I don’t make any excuses about indulging in some delicious German chocolate. I don’t see any harm in doing these things. They have no adverse affects on my health and wellbeing as far as I can tell, and what’s really important to me, is that I am a happier person for it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think, Paleo as my template is the way to go. I love this lifestyle, and I would recommend it to anyone who asks for a good way to eat. But I realized that I did not reach the end of a long and winding road, I am really just at the beginning, and I’m embarking on a journey that has already proved to be nothing short of amazing.
We don’t need the Paleo Police to knock on our door and tell us whether or not a certain food item we’re eating is Paleo or Primal, as they self-righteously point their fingers. With an open mind you will find that this journey you’re on opens many new doors, and with modern science and research we find that we can, in fact, indulge on foods we thought were making us sick. Not too long ago, when you made the switch to Paleo, wasn’t that the biggest switch you’ve ever made? You eat red meat, saturated fats, and eggs galore! Who’s to say, that you cannot add more food items to this list now and in the future? Who’s to say, that we now know everything? We don’t!
So, when you ask yourself the question, “Is this Paleo?”, think about what question you are really asking. As far as the original caveman diet goes, almost none of the foods we’re eating today are truly Paleo. Even that delicious organic apple you have sitting on your desk in front of you did not exist this way during the days of Grok, let alone kale chips, burgers, and sweet potato fries. The question you really should be asking yourself is, “Is this food beneficial to my health and well being?” If you can answer yes to this question based on your own research, based on other’s research, and based on how your body responds to this item, then eat it, love it, and stop obsessing over the dreaded “Is this Paleo?” question.
And when the day arrives that you are faced with the decision of whether or not to indulge in this fabulous piece of cheesecake or that delicious and most luxurious chocolate praline, then have at it. You already have done yourself the greatest favor going Paleo. A non-Paleo treat will most certainly not be the end of YOU.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ute Mitchell is owns the blog Grokette’s Primal Musings and is the Operations Manager for Fastpaleo.com. She started her own Paleo journey in January of 2011, and has since decided to study Nutritional Therapy, which she will start in summer of 2013.
Her blog and writing are her passion, and she loves to be a part of the growing paleo movement.