I eat a diet that focuses on the consumption of unprocessed food. The other goals of this diet are to consume foods with a low glycemic index and to eat lots of green leafy vegetables. What diet am I talking about? The Paleo diet! The paleo diet is also known as the Paleolithic diet, Stone Age diet, hunter-gatherer diet, and caveman diet.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
I have to be real with you, I don’t love those names for the way I eat. Telling someone I like to eat like a caveman isn’t the first impression I like to give. These names are centered around our ancestors because the creator of the paleo diet suggested that humans spent millennia eating one way, and it’s only within the past 10,000 years that we suddenly started farming, and changing our diets. Within the last 100 years, our diets as humans have changed even more dramatically with the advent of the industrial revolution.
The theory of the paleo diet is that our bodies are more developed to handle food that is less processed, and more focused on animal products, vegetables, fruit, and nuts. The Paleo diet is sneaky similar to something called the AIP diet or Autoimmune Protocol diet, and this is the reason I eat Paleo.
When I was a young 22-year-old eating plenty of junk food and sugary snacks I first discovered I had an issue with my digestive system. I found out I have GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, with a touch of IBS. I was bereft to learn that I couldn’t just eat junk food all the time and feel great. I didn’t do a complete overhaul of my diet when I found out about my GERD.
I cut out the foods the doctor told me to, no more chocolate, no more tomatoes, no more fatty foods. I noticed next to no reduction in my symptoms through these diet changes so I added everything back in. I just decided to ignore my symptoms, which wasn’t the best life choice. I did notice in the subsequent years how much artificial sweeteners wreaked complete havoc on my digestive system so I was able to cut those out.
In the past few years, I learned about the AIP diet and how it’s similar to paleo. I’ve also had friends who’ve done Whole30® and it was interesting to see how similar Paleo is to the Whole30®. Paleo is a bit more lenient; you’re allowed to make paleo goodies with alternative flour etc. When I heard about the Whole30®, it sounded healthy and responsible.
Learning about all of these elimination diets I decided to do one. What I did for the first month of “eating clean” was to follow something very similar to the Whole30® diet. This consisted of no added sugar and completely unprocessed foods. After that month I felt amazing. One thing that cleared up completely when I was doing my first month of strict paleo was mouth ulcers. I had dealt with mouth ulcers monthly since the time I was 11 (PMS is real), and I now no longer get them and I couldn’t be happier. It has been worth it to change my diet on a more permanent basis.
My Journey With Paleo
Through my paleo journey, I’ve learned a lot about what I can and cannot handle. One of the biggest learnings I’ve had is that Paleo isn’t all or nothing. You, don’t find many people who are Vegan or Vegetarian occasionally asking for a bite of steak, you will, however, find me occasionally asking for a bite of some treat I usually avoid. A lot of people who follow paleo follow the 70/30 rule. They’re strict about 70% of the time and 30% of the time they indulge a bit.
If anyone is embarking on a paleo diet to eliminate digestive problems, I wouldn’t recommend the 70/30 rule until you do about a month of a more strict elimination diet. During the first month of paleo, I was able to learn I have a really low tolerance for dairy. It took not being sick for a while to realize what it felt like to not have dietary distress. Now that I know my bigger triggers are dairy and processed sugars I can play around a bit more with indulging in non-paleo treats from time to time.
Now, what does eating paleo look like exactly? Disclaimer: I eat A LOT. I love food and am constantly eating. Eating paleo consists of non-processed fresh meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, and high-quality oils. Paleo diets avoid dairy, legumes, grains, and oils such as corn and canola oils. Weight and health management is something I’ve had to think about for years. Before starting paleo, it was easy to gain weight. Since starting paleo it’s way easier to maintain a healthy weight. I’m able to just allow my body to tell me what type of food it’s craving and how much food it’s craving.
Paleo Diet Vs. Low-Carb Diet Vs. Keto Diet
People often confuse Paleo with a low-carb diet. Paleo is generally lower carb than the standard American diet but I wouldn’t classify it as low carb. I have some days that are lower carb and some days that are higher carb. If I have a heavy workout day I’ll often crave carbs so I’ll eat them. Minimally processed carbs such as sweet potatoes or fruit are delicious and don’t leave me feeling sluggish. You won’t find people eating many sweet potatoes or higher carb fruits on low carb diets such as the keto diet because their carbohydrate budget typically doesn’t allow for it.
As I mentioned before, paleo isn’t all or nothing. I can usually handle a few meals or snacks a week that are decidedly not paleo. When I get busy, which happens to everyone from time to time I find it much more difficult to stick to paleo. With the world opening up it seems like every weekend is filled with some sort of social obligation. These social obligations are almost always filled with food that I know isn’t going to sit well with me.
Luckily I’m not allergic to any of these foods so I can indulge a little. I also find myself busy with house projects outside of work. This leads to a lot of takeout food. Takeout food isn’t paleo about 99% of the time. I’ve found it very difficult to eat paleo on the go with life picking back up in the past month. It’s hard to know when I’m going to have a negative reaction versus being perfectly fine eating non-paleo food. I usually just try to make the food I get as takeout as close to paleo as possible, avoid dairy and gluten like the plague, and bring some antacid with me on the go. This ends up working well enough as long as every meal isn’t takeout. Luckily for me, I just so happen to work for a company that has Paleo options that I can grab to go when life gets too busy for meal prep.