My wife and I just finished a 30-Day experiment with the Paleo diet. In today’s post, I’d like to explain the diet and why we decided to do it.
Paleo is short for paleolithic, which is a fancy way of saying “Stone Age”. The basic idea is that the human body is naturally adapted to the kind of diet that is common in pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer societies. In other words: lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts.
There are a lot of evolutionary assumptions here that continue to be debated among nutritionists and anthropologists. These may come into play later in the series, but for now I’m not really interested in that side of the debate. My concerns are much more pragmatic.
For now, I think I can draw parallels between the Paleo Diet and the Barefoot Running movement, which argues that the human beings are “born to run” barefoot: the modern innovation of running shoes is unnecessary. Paleo proponents argue that the human body is “born to be run” by certain types of food, and modern civilization has actually led to the diseases of affluence that are common in modern society: obesity, heart disease, and various types of cancer (which are rare among hunter-gatherer societies).
So what can’t cavemen eat? Processed food, refined sugar, grains and dairy. Specifically, cavemen can’t eat deep-dish pizza or lasagna, my two favorite foods. Cavemen can’t consume cookies, which I eat like it’s my job. Cavemen have a hard time eating out; in fact, it’s nearly impossible. Cavemen can’t drink diet Coke, sweet tea, lemonade or pretty much anything other than water and almond milk. (Black coffee is allowed, alcohol is forbidden.)
I heard about the diet at my CrossFit gym. They were challenging us to take something called the Paleo Challenge, a 30-Day experiment with the Paleo lifestyle. “Try it,” they said, “and see if you’re not better, faster, stronger, happier.” Now I’m always skeptical about these kinds of promises, and yet I’ve seen such great results from CrossFit (which made similar promises), that I decided it might be worth a try. I wondered, could Paleo do for my health what CrossFit did for my fitness?
My wife had to sign off on it, especially since she does 99.9% of the cooking at our house (I make eggs for breakfast once a week).
I was surprised at how quickly she agreed to it.
I am a person who likes to experience things from the inside whenever possible rather than as a “detached observer”. I didn’t think it would ultimately change the way I eat, but having never dieted before, I wanted to see if I felt as good as advertised. Plus, it was only 30 days. How hard could it be?
We told a family member who has diabetes about our experiment. She said, “So basically, you have to eat like a diabetic.”
Yep. For thirty days.
Question: What would be the hardest thing for you about the eating like a caveman?