Eat like a caveman, so eat massive amounts of eggs, sausage, bacon, and other forms of fat, while pretending that I’m full from eating vegetables when I really want sugar and more carbohydrates because I’m so deprived. Welcome to the Paleo diet in 2017. Nothing has changed. It is just as carbophobic as it began, and is becoming more so, as it transitions into keto, the next biggest fad of 2017 that is supported by new keto products designed to make your glucose-deprived life easier. Right.
Carbohydrate restriction certainly works in reducing the inflammation involved in metabolic syndrome and in weight loss in the short-term, but the long-term effects of restricting carbohydrates according to a blanket rule such as “eat less than 100 g of carbs a day” may have the opposite effects. Think a slow metabolism, feeling like shit, and coldness.
How did we get here?
Paleo started innocently. Someone thought it would be cool to be like a caveman, and then many other people did too. I myself began a Paleo diet in 2011 and quit in 2012. I was even raw paleo for a while, eating raw ground beef out of the package at Whole Foods in plain sight (that’s what crazy dieters do).
I restricted my carbohydrate intake perfectly, emphasizing vegetables and protein. But what I didn’t have was energy. Vitality. Vigor. The energy to laugh loudly and through everything around me. Eating boring simple meals as I described in my post on “clean eating” two years ago led to fatigue.
The fear of carbs kicked off in 2007 with the publication of Good Calories, Bad Calories (read it with many grains of salt), which asserted that carbohydrates were inherently fattening (there is a chapter dedicated to this myth). The Paleo movement idealized fat loss, and thus carbohydrate restriction was the answer…for some. Not everyone, like Jimmy Moore, was able to lose weight on a low-carb diet yet. Yet he still chose to cling to the ideology after creating quite a following from advocating low-carb.
This was because as a Paleo dieter, cabohydrates were and still are the devil. Restriction is the only way. And it’s nonsensical, not based on evidence, and the people who attempt to cite studies just can’t do it right.
Belief Systems and Ideology
The power of a belief to penetrate the mind and shape one’s entire existence is fascinating to me. Having believed fully in both veganism as well as Paleo, I’ve learned to see that most ideologies are toxic if they do not involve flexibility.
Recently at the Ancestral Health Symposium in Seattle, I noticed that the Paleo movement still embraced the replacement of starchy sources of carbohydrate, the bread and butter for most societies, with vegetables, a recipe for ill-health in my opinion.
There was indeed one presentation about ketogenic diets where the speaker claimed that she has seen no signs of hypothyroidism in those practicing keto. I have yet to investigate that fully, but it is clear that with low-carb Paleo, hypothyroidism has ensued for many. It was funny how hypocritically the speaker opened her presentation; she condemned scientists for being skeptical low-carbohydrate diets while she herself spoke adamantly about keto.
Pitfalls of Paleo
The modern-day Paleo diet encourages people to become “fat-burners,” a concept that has no basis in physiology. We burn fat and carbohydrates together and the whole idea of “burning” either is incredulously short-sighted. Carbohydrates and fats serve important functions in our body outside the realm of making us fit into a slimmer shirt or dress by being burned. The fact that the focus is on “burning” is evidence to me that the Paleo movement is highly concerned with physical appearance.
Sure, some paleo dieters would argue that they do it for energy, but it’s natural to be defensive when faced with contradictory opinions. And trust me, I love the idea of Paleo. The practice of eating like a Paleolithic era caveman however today, by the Paleo movement, is not based in science or reason. It’s based on a strange belief system that is associated with CrossFit, being lean, and not following your body’s intuition. Needless to say, this is a fatal error, as it does not produce vitality for most people.
Here is a summary of the pros and cons of the Paleo diet as it stands today in my eyes:
- Emphasis on nutrient-dense foods
- Shunning of dietary guidelines (also a recipe for ill-health)
- Correct about the saturated fat and cholesterol hypothesis (that their consumption will cause cardiovascular disease)
- Loves cooked vegetables, and finds creative ways to eat them
- Some appreciation of traditional diets, at least, the parts that include meat
- Organ meats are included in the diet
- Incorrect conclusions about carbohydrate intake and weight gain or insulin sensitivity
- Widespread fear of carbohydrate consumption
- Condemnation of fresh fruit at times, due to fear of fructose
- Overly specific about foods that should be avoided
- Irrational fear of gluten, lectins, and legumes
- Misinterpretation of how people during the Paleolithic era ate
- Confirmation bias
- Emphasizes weight loss and connects a lean physique with a healthy interior
Each one of these cons should be expanded on in future posts. For now, the sbcahealth opinion is that the Paleo diet is far from complete in addressing an individuals needs, and contains many elements that can derail one’s health, such as the inflexible restriction of carbohydrate intake. Update: I discussed this further in 10 Problems with the Paleo diet.