Whether or not you know what the term Paleo is, chances are you’ve heard of it, or one of its many names—the Caveman Diet, the Primal Lifestyle, the Stone Age diet, or the Hunter-Gatherer diet. While the Paleo diet may have recently become popular, it’s based on principles that date back to the Paleolithic Era. I personally follow a Paleo lifestyle and wanted to share a few details with you. It’s more than a diet, it’s a way of life—starting with how you approach each day.
What is the Paleo Lifestyle?
Paleo (as defined by Paleo Magazine) is a lifestyle based on nourishing our bodies with real food, unplugging from electronics, bonding with others face-to-face, getting out in the sun, playing for the sake of playing, resting, and giving our body a chance to thrive in the manner it evolved. This is a mantra to live by each day as we move through our modern lives using our computers or texting friends during a break. Mostly, it’s a reminder that while some things have evolved, others haven’t. Our bodies were made to move and, although our society has changed a great deal, our bodies still thrive on the nutrition it was made to digest for years. Physical activity and good nutrition keep us healthy and happy.
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is a nutritional plan based on the eating habits of our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors who foraged for fruits and nuts as well as hunted animals 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago. Since our days aren’t spent hunting and gathering anymore, today’s Paleo diet is focused on what should be incorporated into your diet, not what isn’t. For instance, nuts, meat, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats are encouraged, but dairy, processed foods, refined sugars, grains, legumes and soy are discouraged.
What are the benefits of practicing Paleo?
There are a number of benefits to eating a Paleo diet, primarily that you’ll be eating a “clean” diet free of additives, preservatives, and chemicals. Eating more plant nutrients in fruits and vegetables provide anti-inflammatory benefits, while the meats provide more protein and iron. Additionally, this focus on protein and “healthy” fats in nuts, seeds, and other items, often leads you to feel more full after a meal. You’ll sleep better, burn off stored fat, stabilize your blood sugar, reduce allergies and inflammation, and create a healthier immune system, which also helps balance your energy.
What are the disadvantages of a practicing a Paleo lifestyle?
It’s a change, and let’s face it, changes can be hard. One of the toughies (for some people) is jettisoning traditional treats and meal staples that contain processed sugar, as well as grains, legumes, beans, and dairy products. These include items such as cereal, bread, peanut butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese. The diet is also typically very low in carbohydrates, which creates challenges for some high-energy athletes.
Why did you choose a Paleo Lifestyle?
Actually, it chose me! I avoided dairy and wheat in my diet because it made me physically ill. While I was training for a competition, a friend of mine who was big into CrossFit training gave me a Paleo cookbook to try. In one volume there was all the recipes, healthy alternatives, and tips to practice Paleo. It was such a gift! I had found my “tribe” of athletes, nutritionists, and friends who ate like I did and didn’t long for what we couldn’t have, but enjoyed learning and finding more to enjoy while feeling healthy and fit. Instead of feeling like “that girl,” I was actually one of the tribe and could contribute to others. I’ve been a Paleo girl for more than five years now, and frankly, I’ve never looked back and I love learning more about the lifestyle every day.
Hopefully, this has helped you better understand what I mean when I refer to Paleo and its many benefits. Ultimately you can choose to adopt the whole Paleo lifestyle or just make small tweaks to your current diet. Small changes, such as swapping sugar for honey or maple syrup, can add up and make a big difference. Here are some other Paleo food swaps you can make or are maybe even using now. Enjoy!