“Is This Paleo?” – The Code of the Paleo Police

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Today’s column is a guest post from Ute Mitchell.  Please check out her blog, Grokette’s Primal Musings, as well as FastPaleo, where she is the Operations Manager.

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.

the paleo solution, robb wolf, paleo diet, mark sisson, the primal connection
Just because you read it in a book, doesn’t mean it’s gospel.

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.

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Comments

  1. Jen Espenscheid says

    I couldn’t agree more. My daughter has Crohn’s and we’ve been Paleo since November and she’s doing great without meds! I do bake some treats for her using bean/tapioca flour, but I feel like she’s sacrificed enough. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Davinna Artibey says

    “The question you really should be asking yourself is, “Is this food beneficial to my health and well being?”
    There is so much wisdom in that question compared to the dogmatic “Is this Paleo?” Thank you for helping me to relax the reins on my Paleo journey and just tune in more to what my body is communicating to me.

  3. SergioDiLaurenti says

    Hi,

    I have just found your blog and I apologize in advance for intruding.

    The reason for my post: I am curious on your opinion regarding Timothy Ferris and his “The 4-Hour Body’ lifestyle.

    I hope I do not insult anyone with this, I just read your article and wanted to continue the great point you made on the ‘Paleo Police’.

    From Tim Ferriss – The 4H-Body:
    “Vegetables are not calorically dense, so it is critical that you add legumes for caloric load.”

    One of Ferriss’ slow carb diet rules: “Rule #4:
    Don’t Eat Fruit. Humans don’t need fruit six days a week, and they certainly don’t need it year-round. If your ancestors were from Europe, for example, how much fruit did they eat in the winter 500 years ago?”

    “Just say no to fruit and its principal sugar, fructose, which is converted to glycerol phosphate more efficiently than almost all carbohydrates. Glycerol phosphate = tryglycerides (via the liver) = fat storage.”

    So what Ferriss did was replacing fruit with legumes.

    As you have just mentioned in your blog, we should not be afraid of the Paleo Police to knock on our doors. As Ferriss has suggested, I do eat on my every seventh = binge day: rice, pasta, potatoes, and honey too. The only thing I cannot eat anymore is bread and cake, I became allergic to them.

    About the seventh day…
    I have followed Ferriss’s lifestyle for the last 120 days and by following his advice on food, exercise and supplements I have corrected the abuse of my last 20 years on my health and body in only four months.
    By following Ferriss’ Rule #5: “Take One Day Off Per Week”, you are allowed to eat whatever you want on the seventh day: ice cream, Snickers, and all your vices in all the excess. How is it possible?
    Ferriss: “Paradoxically, dramatically spiking caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat-loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate (thyroid function and conversion of T4 to T3, etc.) doesn’t downshift from extending caloric restriction.”

    I read:
    The Paleo Solution – Rob Wolff
    The Paleo Coach – Jason Seib
    The Paleo Answer – Loren Cordain
    Wheat Belly – William Davis
    The Blood Sugar Solution – Mark Hyman
    The 4-Hour Body – Timothy Ferriss

    the last book inspired me and resonated with me the most. It had all the ingredients I was searching, the complete puzzle: the right information about food, exercise, supplements and all the tricks to achieve good health, while everything else follows and falls in place. It worked for me.

    So, the question I would like to ask you with all respect: is Timothy Ferriss diet, Paleo? He gives ok to legumes and red cards fruits, and on the seventh day – everything goes.

    What do you think?

    With friendship,

    Sergio

    • Ute says

      Sergio,

      I didn’t see your comment until just now, so I apologize for my late response.
      In the strictest sense of the word, Mr Ferriss is not paleo. Caveman did not eat legumes, this is something we know, and we also know that legumes are incredible difficult to digest. Think about it, most legumes have to be soaked and cooked before you can eat them. Look at a bean (garbanzo, pinto or other)… Absolutely not edible when raw.
      Meat, vegetables, and fruits can (technically) all be eaten raw. As a matter of fact there is quite a large portion of people who consider themselves paleo who eat all raw meats.

      I do agree with Mr Ferriss that we did not have access to fruit every day, or all year long. But quite frankly, the same was true for meat and other foods. Caveman ate what he could based on what was available.

      The truth is, that not all people all around the world eat the same kind of diet to find perfect health. Just read the book Nourishing Tradtions, which features a lot of Weston A Price studies of modern tribes. You’ll find reports about a Swiss tribe in the Alps living mainly on cheese and bread made from sprouted grains. They were just as healthy (as a reminder, Weston Price did his studies in the 1930s) as a tribe in the Caribbean eating mostly fish and vegetables. You see where I’m going with this?

      For us, living in the US, being subjected to all kinds of terrible foods, that are detrimental to our health, living a largely paleo diet (in our case excluding legumes but including fruit) appears to be beneficial. But this does not mean, that it is true for every single person. We have to find our very own path to great health and a long life.

  4. Mary TItus says

    I came into paleo through Atkins. I actually never went much further than the induction phase, meaning for the past , nearly 13 years, I’ve not eaten more than 60 grams of carbs a day although for most of those days my carb levels have been less than 15. I began considering myself paleo long after I began eating this way. My diet is a low carb whole food diet which is what I consider paleo. Honestly, if it weren’t for the modern mindset of how we are supposed to eat, I would have grown up paleo. Nearly everything I eat now was what my father planted in his garden. As a matter of fact, I have yet to taste anything that even comes close to the food that was harvested from his hard work. After becoming pre diabetic,4 years ago, I was determined to let my food be my medicine and it has not failed me. Now that being said, I am a paleoista who adds some raw dairy. I use coconut sugar as my sweetener of choice although I also use stevia from time to time. Speaking of which, I have some damn good homemade chocolate chip cookies waiting for me ( made from almond flour . I also fast daily because I do not believe cave women had the means of eating 3 times a day with in between snacks. I eat berries and cantalope but I also consider bell peppers, avocados and zucchini as fruit that I eat. Rarely, I will eat a potato but according my glucose monitor, potatoes and rice are my kryptonite. So they are avoided as long as I can stand it. You don’t know how many times my ideals have come under question by the paleo police…I don’t care. I strongly believe paleo is molded to fit our health needs. For now, that is all my health needs.

  5. Alison says

    Wow, I love this post! I am totally with you Ute, life is meant to be enjoyed and I try to “behave” 80% of the time and consider the other 20% to be my break out and have whatever I am craving at the time.

    Love this post, as well as the great comments it has inspired!

  6. Holly says

    Thank you so much for this article!!! Going to try to cut and paste it to my Facebook wall. Thank you again!!

    Holly

  7. Holly says

    I meant cut and past the link to the article which people will be sent here. Sorry for wrong choice of words!!
    Holly

  8. Ute says

    Hey all, thank you so much for the positive feedback. It is much appreciated. I wish I could respond to every single one of you, but that would take up a lot of time. :) So thank you, and I’ll be sure to post more good stuff.

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