There is a ton of fuss over the latest popular diet - the Paleo diet. This diet is all over the internet, and as a fitness professional, it is buzzing all over my industry newsfeed on Twitter and in the blog world. At first, I rolled my eyes. We see so many fads come and go. There is always a new "trick" way of eating that someone has trademarked. Writing a diet booked is a way of boxing up and selling one's way of eating, which we all should just be able to come up with on our own by being practical-minded, nutritionally-driven and overall, well. That said, perhaps that is what we need to get most of the population FINALLY giving real foods a chance?
Wanting some first hand opinions from some current Paleo eaters, I spoke with a past colleague of mine, Geoff, and a past client of mine, Aishling. Geoff and I used to work together in a personal training studio in Ottawa - he is a trainer, a fitness junkie and a fantastic although pain-driving sports massage therapist. (I'll never forget the pain from you fixing my hamstrings, Geoff!) Aishling is a fitness fanatic who now has a trainer as a partner - and so they together lead a pretty enthusiastic, fitness-focused lifestyle.
Both seem to suggest that the diet's restrictions leave you with wholesome and healthy foods, such as eggs, nuts, fish, meat, brown rice, quinoa and green, leafy vegetables. It teaches us to avoid processed foods. So, as bountiful and delicious as the foods it allows for are, it can still be challenging to follow ALL of the time in this world.
Aishling says: "My body has changed fairly dramatically since I've started eating in this fashion, and I also feel better, have more energy, and my hair and nails are shiny and strong! I did however recently hit a plateau, so I'm going through the process of changing up my training and nutrition to kickstart the progress againâ¦ mainly introducing more wild meats and purchasing from places such as the Healthy Butcher to ensure the meats are of the highest quality. Also, Frank has eaten this way for years and is never sick, has a great body with no fat, and is walking billboard for the success it can offer if you stick to it."
Geoff says: "I think the message is finally getting out to the world that there are too many chemicals in your average supermarket food. There is also a large movement for people buying at markets rather than [major grocery stores] that will spill over to the mainstream soon I think. I feel that people are starting to realize now that it's not as hard as they thought it was to eat clean food, they just needed the shove in the right direction."
Aishling says: "It seems logical to me that we should only eat what we can find in nature, and that if it doesn't naturally exist, we shouldn't consume it. If we need to 'do' something to the food before we eat it, then we likely shouldn't be eating it. That just makes sense to me. So based on that, that is pretty much how I eat. I also like the ease of knowing what I 'can' eat - makes it easier to resist temptation and takes the guessing out of eating healthy. I balance the amount of macro[nutrients] I eat in each meal and the foods in Paleo are high in micro[nutrients], so in conjunction with my supplements I feel comfortable that I'm getting all my necessary vitamins and minerals.
"However, it is not easy to eat paleo, and its not cheap - so it is definitely not for everyone. I'd say for the average person who wants to eat healthy and look good this might be a bit extreme, but for someone who wants serious results and is very diligent about their nutrition and training, its a great way to go. Takes some time to adjust, but overall I enjoy it and it's working for me!"
Geoff says: "As for motivation to be on it: You definitely metabolize what you eat much more effectively once you have figured out what your body processes well and doesn't process well. I'm lucky my body processes fats super well when they come from meat, but not so much dairy. I've switched to things like rice noodles and breads without yeast rather than traditional pastas and such."
My opinion is that yes, natural and whole foods are what we are designed to eat. Dairy and gluten are very highly processed these days, and so more people are intolerant to them because of how they are messed with. You need to figure out if it is something that leaves you feeling uncomfortable. Personally I am much happier and more lively when I avoid gluten more or less, and the same goes for milk. Do I get cow's milk in my latte occasionally? Sure - every now and then isn't going to kill you. But I usually stick to yogurt, goat cheese and almond milk.
I don't believe in cutting anything out absolutely. I've worked with enough people to realize that psychology plays a strong role in living a healthy life, and the less liberal we FEEL with our diet, the more we fantasize about rebelling. So, for those who wish to identify with an idea and a group, a diet may be okay. But I find, from my experience, that tweaking one's OWN diet to include healthier foods, actions and ideas is more successful than trying to fit into an existing one. Also, being a vegetarian and a vegan can be an incredibly healthy way of living, as well, and paleo's exclusivity can counter this.
My contributors here, Aishling and Geoff, know that dabbling in a diet or following it MOSTLY is more realistic than committing 100% to the book over how you feel.
Eating well takes some knowledge and a lot of common sense. Paleo sounds alright to me, but it's also enormously possible to eat incredibly clean without a label across it.
So, you decide what suits YOU and YOUR life best. :)
Thank you to my gurus for contributing.