One of the most painful stereotypes regarding the obese is that they are gluttons, followed hard by the second most painful stereotype: they are lazy. Neither statement is true in most cases. Most people who go on diets adhere closely to the program; they eat their diet food, measure their portions, say no to the cheats and treats. They lose some weight, maybe even hit their goal, but then we all know what happens next: rebound weight gain! They feel like failures and society for the most part believes they must have screwed up somewhere or just gone off their diet.
The truth is that, like most people, I tried very hard to lose weight. I played sports; I tried to eat the healthy food. My mom was always pushing one diet or another at me, and most of them were pretty awful and I never lost much weight. Some of her plans included a fast-metabolism program, where I eliminate certain foods from my diet, drink smoothies according to the book’s recipe list, and then the following week, I make more changes to my diet to include/ eliminate more foods, and then make even more changes the next week! This was guaranteed to jump-start my metabolism so I would burn off weight in no time at all! Another one of her guaranteed fixes included drinking a smoothie made with an expensive powder (like $30 a pound!) and this powder would ‘bind’ to the sugar/ carbs/ whatever to keep it from being absorbed, so I would lose a lot of weight fast! One of these diets included the questionably ‘healthy’ meal of buttered egg noodles on a regular basis. Even as a teenager, I really didn’t think buttered noodles counted as ‘diet food’ and it didn’t take long before I stopped listening to my mom’s fad diet schemes.
However weird and wacky some of these diet plans might have been, my mom had the right idea: we need to keep learning and stay open to new ideas. What we all thought was the ‘right answer’ when I was growing up (low fat-high carb and eat less-move more) is more than likely NOT the right answer! We know that carbs turn into glucose in the body and that chronically high glucose leads to insulin resistance which keeps the body from metabolizing stored body fat. Essentially, the more carbs you eat and the more often you eat them, the less body fat you burn off. All that advice we were given about eating every two-three hours isn’t ‘jump-starting’ our metabolism but it is keeping us overweight. The carb roller coaster is why we feel tired two hours after lunch and why that afternoon granola bar makes us feel energized.
When you open yourself up to new ideas, there’s always the danger of getting taken for a ride. This is why if you are going to keep learning new things, you need to do your homework! I confess I am one of those who poo-poo’d the Paleo diet as one more weird freaky fad diet to be avoided, and I did it without learning anything about it. I simply lumped into another one of those ‘flash in the pan & sell as many books as possible’ marketing schemes. Bad, bad, bad! I should know better and I’m going to blame a cynical outlook on weight loss for my poor judgment! Before I made a snap judgment, I should have taken a look at what the Paleo/ Caveman Diet proponents were actually saying.
I’m not going to tell you that Paleo is 100% effective for everyone, because I honestly have no idea if it is. I can tell you that after years of reading about other weird fad diets and trying a few of them that this one made the most sense to me. The number one reason for me is that it’s a pretty basic plan: eat real whole food. I don’t have to go looking for some expensive powder or a long list of strange smoothie ingredients, and I don’t have to drink all my food for weeks at time while doing XYZ exercises. I simply avoid the processed foods. Essentially, if it comes packaged in a box or a bag and has chemical gobbledygook ingredients, I should probably leave it on the shelf.
Proponents of Paleo have suggested that one of the reasons it took a long time for this way of eating (most don’t like the word ‘diet’) is that other than cookbooks and how-to books, there’s not a lot of marketing to go along with Paleo. This is one of the failings of the Weight Loss Industry– because it is an industry! People make money selling others like me the Hope of Losing Weight, usually in some package or some program that we have to pay for. There are whole aisles at the grocery store full of packaged diet food, mostly full of chemicals, preservatives and other things that may not be good for us. We can lose weight eating those processed foods, usually only until we stop eating them. This was my major question when I was losing weight on Nutrisystem: what happens when I stop eating their boxed food? Easy! I gain weight again, because the focus is mainly on eating their food, not how I should be eating (supposedly that comes later, but I never got to that part!)
This is why Paleo works for me: it’s real whole simple food and I don’t have to buy the “Paleo” brand of food, although now there are brands like Primal Kitchen that fit the criteria, but it’s up to you if you want to buy them- you don’t need them to eat Paleo. If I want to buy some simple salad dressing instead of making it myself, I can buy it and not have to worry about it being full of canola oil, but if I want to make a simple vinaigrette, I can still do it. The bottom line for Paleo is to keep your food as real, whole and unprocessed as possible. Like I said, simple!
The point I’m trying to make is that if one thing doesn’t work for you, keep an open mind and keep learning about other methods that might work. You need to give it an honest attempt (one week probably isn’t long enough) but if it’s not sustainable, you should probably cross it off your list. A temporary fix is always and only temporary, just like all fad diets- once you stop eating their food or following their program, you’ll gain the weight back. Paleo is no different in this way: if I were to go back to eating the processed foods I ate growing up, I would gain back the weight. What makes it work for me is that I’m still eating real food and it’s real food I like eating, like salad and spare ribs. I feel better when I eat it instead of feeling hungry and tired after eating the fettucine alfredo. I like what I eat, I don’t have to buy weird expensive ingredients or take handfuls of pills. If I had done my homework about Paleo when I first heard about it, I’d probably have lost weight years before I did and no doubt saved myself some grief. By choosing to stay ignorant and cynical, I only hurt myself. Shame on me for being narrow-minded!
[Since learning about it, I’ve read some other great books that follow the same kind of idea: Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson; The Paleo Solution and Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf; Always Hungry? by David Ludwig, and Melissa Hartwig of Whole 30 has just come out with two new books. All of these advocate eating unprocessed nutrient dense foods and keeping the processed ingredients to a minimum. However you choose to eat, choose nutrition over convenience when possible and always go for unprocessed.]