Paleo Diet, Fad or Fact?
You may be wondering if some eating trends are healthy or just simply trendy. I’ve always had strong opinions on food, diets, and eating fads and I’m going to weigh-in on some of my favorites and why they are worth checking out. Many people wonder, paleo diet, fad or fact?
As someone who avoids wheat, sugar, and most grains, I am used to people teasing me about what I eat. I don’t eat the way I do just because I read about a diet in a woman’s magazine while waiting in line at the grocery store.
No matter how I hear about something, I do my own research, come to my own conclusions, and if I think there is some validity to an approach, I will give it a try.
There are three eating terms that I want to talk about today. These three terms sum up the progression of how I got to how I eat today, which falls under the label Paleo.
Gluten-Free and How I Gave up Wheat in my Diet
Let’s start with gluten-free. There are people who seriously have to avoid gluten. I haven’t been diagnosed, so I don’t identify as that. However, eating wheat causes a lot of digestive distress for me so I avoid all wheat.
That doesn’t mean I think gluten-free means healthy. There are many gluten-free products that are not particularly healthy; they are often processed and devoid of nutrients.
Several years ago, a disease became widely known, called Celiac Disease. I first heard about it when one of my nieces was diagnosed. How I pitied her!
She couldn’t have anything that had gluten in it and had to be very careful to not have her food even touch gluten. I could not even imagine living like that.
A few years later, I was having so many digestive issues. I was miserable all the time. I thought maybe I was lactose intolerant. I just didn’t know.
But as these things happen, I came across a website that caught my eye. It was called wheatbelly.com. I read enough to convince me to buy the Wheat Belly book.
I decided to cut all wheat out of my diet and see how I felt. Within a couple of days, every single one of my symptoms was gone. I have never before or since had any dietary change take effect so fast.
I knew then that wheat was out of my diet forever. The change was so incredible and I felt to good, I really didn’t even miss wheat like I thought I would.
So, as far as I know, I don’t have Celiac Disease and I don’t pretend to. However, I know that eating wheat brings on digestive issues that I don’t want to experience. The easiest way for me to identify if a product has wheat or not, is to look for the gluten-free label.
That being said, I mostly stick to naturally gluten-free products like meat, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.
It’s only occasionally that I want a food that I used to enjoy in my wheat eating days and that I buy a gluten-free alternative. And example of this would be pasta or crackers.
Here is the important thing to note: gluten-free does not equal healthy. It only means there is no gluten in the product or food.
Junk food is junk food, so eating things like crackers or chips is not a healthy food choice whether gluten is involved or not. But if you are sensitive to wheat, then this can help guide you in making some food choices.
On a final note though, I recommend everyone try eliminating wheat products (breads, crackers, pasta, pancakes, waffles, buns, breaded food, gravies, cake, cookies, donuts, etc.) for a few days and see how you feel.
Paleo Diet, Fad or Fact?
I most closely identify with eating Paleo but really, I don’t care what the cavemen ate. I just try to eat the best way for me. But in terms of shopping or looking for recipes, I have to use labels to find recipes or cookbooks. In that way, I use the term Paleo.
As with many ways of eating, there are variations of Paleo. None are the “right” way except in terms of the person expressing their opinion. There are many big names out there and lots of excellent cookbooks.
In the most basic explanation, eating this way means sticking to nutritionally dense meats, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. You want to avoid the industrialized processed foods that are so common these days.
The easiest way might be to demonstrate by comparing a “Paleo” day compared to what most people eat for their standard American meals.
It’s easy to think Paleo is very limiting but in reality, you end up getting an amazing variety of foods by eating this way. I could never go back to eating dull processed foods.
Paleo Diet VS Standard American Diet
Oatmeal, piece of toast, orange juice
2 or 3 eggs scrambled with coconut oil
stir fried spinach
half a sweet potato
Fat-free turkey and cheese sandwich
Bag of chips
Leftover roast chicken
Roasted butternut squash
Olive oil and vinegar dressing (enough to make salad taste amazing)
Roasted peppers and onions
Other half of sweet potato
For me, each meal involves a protein, some vegetables, and a good amount of healthy fats. I add one or two fruits each day as well. I know, I made paleo look amazing. That’s because it is.
As a bonus, you don’t get hungry between meals so no need for snacks!
Whole 30 is a specific way of eating for a specific number of days. It restricts many foods and allows zero cheating for the entire 30 days.
It sounds tough—true enough! However, there is a method to the madness. It is only by completely eliminating certain foods that you can learn how you feel without them and also reshape your relationship to all food.
I wrote about how Whole 30 changed my life here. These are the benefits that have stood the test of time for me—three years to be exact.
Whole 30 allows your body to repair itself from food-related injury. It allows you to finally eat enough to feel full and not get hungry without feeling guilty. It allows you to heal from unhealthy cravings.
I consider completing a Whole 30 to be a foundation to anyone learning to eat real food. I don’t know a better way to give up sugar and processed foods, while restoring your natural appetite.
For more information, visit the Whole 30 website.
Paleo Diet, Fad or Fact?
I’ve tried fad diets in the past without success. As I’ve written, I can’t stick to a diet. But I have eaten this way for over three years and maintain good health and a healthy body weight.
People are often surprised when they realize that I’m a grandmother. (Sneaking in my favorite grandmother picture right now!)
What you put into your body is truly one of the most important decisions you make every day. Each day you can choose to feed your body things that provide nutrition and are helpful to its functioning or you can feed your body things that are detrimental to its health. You get to choose!
There are no pills, treatments, or diets that are as instrumental or as helpful as good nutrition. The time to begin is now, asap, no matter what your age.
If you start in your 20’s or 30’s, I can’t imagine how amazing you will look when you’re my age. If you are older, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how your body responds and how good you can look and feel.
So, no, I don’t consider the Paleo way of eating to be a fad at all. I consider it to be the best and healthiest way of eating there is.
So, there’s my two-cents on the paleo question. It works for me and I hope I’ve given you enough information to go learn more.
Best of eating to all of you!
This post contains affiliate links; read my full disclosure policy here.
To read more, these are my two favorite Whole 30 books.
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Hi, I'm Sara Garska and I'm so happy you're here! My Think Big Life began shortly after I turned 50. Big changes can happen with a small start, an adjustment of thought, or a simple process. Over time, you transform your life into the one you always dreamed of having. As a certified life and weight loss coach, I can help you create a life you love. Click here to schedule a free 50-minute coaching session.
I read Wheat Belly and knew it wasn’t for me. I never tried Paleo because I like beans and dairy too much to quit!
However, your perspective on Paleo is very refreshing. You stress how it changed your life and what triggered you to both start and remain with those guidelines.
Many people are great at starting- it’s the remaining part that is tricky.
Like you, I found a way of eating that supports my goals, which includes a protein, carb and fat when I eat. The fiber from whole grains and legumes supported me well during my 100-pound weight loss and subsequent transition to vegetarianism.
Thank you for sharing the importance of honoring your own perspective when it comes to the question of food.
Thanks for the thoughtful response Jenn–I can tell you must be a great coach! I appreciate you reiterating that food choices are very personal and even though something works for me (or anyone else) it might not be exactly what another person needs.
I can’t stick to a diet either, but I also avoid eating certain foods, and wheat is one of them too. I also had a lot of digestive issues until I eliminated wheat (and dairy) from my regular diet. I’ve always been a little skeptical about certain health trends, like paleo. However, the meals you describe sound a lot like something I would eat. You’ve made me curious. I’m going to do some further research on this!
-Fabi at Wonder Fabi
Let’s Get Real Friday Link Up
It’s amazing just the difference that eliminating wheat can make. That’s one thing I never regret giving up!
I personally don’t care what you call it either, but I too try to eat vegetables, a protein and a healthy fat. Sometimes I do add in a complex carb of quinoa, but overall it is just important not to eat the SAD diet. #BloggingOnYourOwnTerms
I agree. I could never go back to eating the SAD (Standard American Diet).
You’ve inspired my to try paleo diet, and I can’t believe you are a grandmother!!! You look AMAZING! x
Thanks Dani! My grandkids inspire me to stay healthy.
Loved that post – and totally agree – just eat things that are nutritionally dense – I just have to remind myself that everything I put in my body is either going to make me healthier and more vibrant our lethargic and sicker. and great point about gluten free not always being healthy! Took a while for me to notice that! Thanks Sara 🙂
I find the paleo approach very interesting, though I must admit I don’t know a whole lot about it. I love the idea of cutting out processed foods though. I’ve also always wondered if eliminating wheat would make a difference in my health. Some thought provoking ideas here! But to look like you do and be a grandmother? Sign me up, because it’s working for you.
Thanks Summer. The idea of giving up wheat is much harder than actually giving it up. I felt such a dramatic difference within days of eliminating it, that I never looked back. It’s been three years now and I still consider it the best thing I’ve ever done for my body.