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6 Reasons Why Paleo Works

Posted Dec 01 2013 6:05pm

It’s hard to be constantly immersed in the fitness & health industry and not get frustrated from time to time. Some days it’s takes everything I have to not jump through my computer and scream at people and other days I just want to give up and not care anymore.  Fortunately for me these days are not the norm and what drives me to keep going are the emails I receive from parents telling me that their child loves my class and is teaching them about nutrition at home. Or the former student who is now in high school who finds a YouTube channel about yoga & Pilates and sends it to me because they thought I would enjoy it. Or maybe it’s my co-workers who stepped outside of their comfort zone and tried the Whole30 challenge that I organized last year and saw some real results both in their health and on the scale. 

Have you ever loved something…believed in something so much that you just wanted to shout it from the roof tops? Have you ever felt like you had a secret or knew some magic that you just wanted to share with everyone you met? I’m telling you my secret-and it’s paleo.

As I was teaching my 7th grade class about body image, this slide showed up:

picmonkey1

My presentation is kind of like Power Point except kids are able to vote on the slides using remotes. Do you know the correct answer? Would you be shocked to hear that the correct answer is 95%? Yup, I’ll pause a moment so you can let that sink in….95% of dieters will put all the lost weight back on within a 5 year span. ( source ) This prompts me to ask my students why they think this happens. Ultimately we talk about the difference between diet the verb (to diet) versus diet the noun (the food/beverages person consumes.) Bottom line is when someone goes “on a diet” the natural progression of “off a diet” follows. This brings me to my first reason why paleo works:

1.      Paleo is a lifestyle-don’t you dare roll your eyes at me! No one accuses a vegetarian of being on a “diet’ because it’s just their way of eating….dare I say their lifestyle. Same goes for paleo. It’s not a diet. If it were a diet how could so many people be doing it for so long? I’ve been paleo for over 2 years and that’s a drop in the bucket compared to some.

2.      Food Freedom-freedom from portion control, counting calories, weighing & measuring food, & the most important one: unhealthy relationships with food; better known as food guilt. I’m sure we’ve all experienced the feelings associated with overindulging & unhealthy food choices. Food freedom means when I’m hungry I eat and when I’m full I stop. I don’t worry about what or how much I’ve eaten at all because I know that everything I’ve just eaten was healthy. It’s like I tell my students, I only need to limit portion size and stress about (my least favorite word) moderation when food choices are not healthy.  Put it this way, if you were in front of a beautiful salad bar filled with only quality protein sources, quality carbohydrate sources like vegetables & fruits, and quality fat sources like coconut, olive oil, avocado, nuts & seeds, would I have to limit your consumption? Would I have to tell you to watch your portions & servings? Absolutely not because you would naturally stop eating when you got full.  Quality, wholesome, natural foods have “breaks”; our bodies intrinsically know when to stop. Hyper-processed junk food has no breaks. We can eat this stuff and not realize we’ve literally polished off the whole bag of chips until it’s too late and the bag is empty. “Once you pop you just can’t stop.” I am pretty sure Pringles got that ad campaign right back in the ‘90’s.

3.      Expanded Palate-I eat a wider variety of foods now than I ever have pre-paleo. I know you’re thinking this makes no sense considering I don’t eat grains, dairy, legumes, & really any processed food. But because I don’t eat those foods it forced me to come up with alternatives. There is no way I was eating Brussels sprouts, sauerkraut, kale, spinach, avocados, and every type of squash known to man before I was paleo. I didn’t even know what kombucha was let alone know how to make it. Seriously, my breakfast used to be instant oatmeal or a protein shake eaten on the way to home room. I think back to the days when making my lunch was slapping some deli meat on “healthy whole grain” bread, a string cheese, some homemade yogurt, a piece of fruit and Sun Chips (because they are whole grain so obviously healthy duh.) Now my lunch consists of dinner left overs like teriyaki beef & vegetable stir fry over spaghetti squash. If that doesn’t scream nutrient density I don’t know what does. Speaking of nutrient density…

4.      Nutrient Dense Food-if I handed you a bowl full of the healthiest pasta you could think of, you know the ones that are uber expensive at Whole Foods that are made with organic spinach, 12 grains, and unicorn dust? Then I handed you a bowl filled with a rainbow of mixed vegetables on leafy greens. Would there be any denying that the salad would win a nutritional competition hands down? Even the healthiest pasta or bread you can think of can’t hold a candle to the nutritional content found in vegetables. Would you rather your kids eat pasta or a big bowl of salad? I think you get my point here. And let’s face it, pasta is nothing without all the toppings and sauce you put on it. I eat the sauce and toppings, just not the pasta. I used to do this before I was paleo anyway as the pasta just filled me up too much. Funny because that’s what pasta is-a cheap filler. There’s no denying that restaurants give us boat loads of it because it costs them pennies to do it and we walk away thinking we just got a great deal for our money because the portions were so big.

5.      Eating Real food-no shakes, pills, or pre-pakaged meals, or silly wrap things to wear. No gimmicks or special drinks (filled with who-knows-what for ingredients) that you have to buy for the low-low price of “just a dollar a meal!” Nope, just food that you get eat based on what you like to eat & cook. It actually makes me shake my head when I see people who clearly are on these fad diets because they want to lose weight drinking shakes, taking supplements, or wearing “magic wraps.”  I’ve blogged about why shakes and liquid calories are not what you want to do if your goal is to lean out here . If your goal is to gain weight or maintain weight then have at it. I will drink protein shakes after long runs while my digestive system is recovering. But for my regular CrossFit workouts, I just eat food.  Here’s another slide for you:

pic2 Do you know the answer to this one? Can you guess how much money we are willing to spend on fad diets that will only have us regain the lost weight in a 5 year span? If you guessed 40 billion dollars you would be correct.  So why does this happen? Why do diets fail us? Check out this quote from a Business Week article on the diet industry (it also is the source of the slide above)

 In an on-demand culture of immediate gratification, the torturous grind of weight loss can be frustrating. We can’t rewind an emerging belly or fast-forward through two hours at the gym. “Americans are looking for that silver bullet,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietician and national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Assn. “But they won’t change their behavior. That’s where the fault lies.

Silver bullet or quick fix, I don’t care what you call it, I call it unrealistic. It’s unrealistic to think that someone is going to drink a shake to replace a meal for the rest of their life. It’s unrealistic to think someone is going to count calories or points for the rest of their life. These diets do not teach you any real skills that can be transferred into your long-term life. Have you learned how to create a well-balanced meal by drinking a shake instead? I think not. Do you know if you have any food intolerances that might be inhibiting your wellness goals? Yeah no.  With paleo you will learn all of this and it will last for your life. Not to say that I always follow it to a T. I do like me some corn chips, but I know not to overdo it because I will feel sick after. Paleo taught me that.

6.       Increased health-my favorite part of paleo is when my clients or students have that “ah-ha” moment. The moment when they realize what they put in their mouth directly affects the way they feel, the way the sleep, the way their skin looks, their energy level, their libido, or simply their pants size. For me it was the baby belly that I just couldn’t get rid of no matter how many miles I ran, how many times I did P90X in my basement or how many WOD’s I did at my gym. I started paleo with the why not attitude. What did I have to lose? And I found that not only am I intolerant to dairy and legumes, but I am so sensitive to gluten that when ordering at a restaurant I tell the server I am allergic to gluten. I’ve gotten sick from cross-contamination and it was not fun. How did I go my entire life eating this stuff only to find out my body doesn’t function well on it? Oh yeah, I removed the stuff for a few months, let my body heal itself, and then I reintroduced it and didn’t like my results. Paleo taught me that. My favorite ah ha moment to date is when someone tries paleo for a month and is shocked that they were able to lose weight without exercising and without feeling hungry. Yup, now imagine what would happen if you combined paleo + exercise? Winning combination.

If you missed my original tribute to paleo called my paleo transformation you can check it out here . But I say the proof is in the pudding photos and here is a before and after shot. The picture of me on the left was taken in March 2011-exactly 1 month before I was to run the Boston Marathon in honor of my dad . I was running as part of the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge so needless to say I was running and training a lot. I thought I looked pretty good at the time considering I was fitting into all my pre-pregnancy clothes (my daughter was not quite 2 years old at the time.) The picture of me on the right is from my daughter’s birthday party in May, exactly 2 years after starting CrossFit and about 1.8 years of paleo eating.

2 months before I started CrossFit Vs. 2 years into CrossFit +paleo

2 months before I started CrossFit Vs. 2 years into CrossFit +paleo

I know the holidays are upon us and I am by no way suggesting that you give paleo a try now. But January 1st is around the corner and I say make a New Year’s resolution to take your health to a new level and try something new. What if this worked for you?

PamSignature


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