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What is Paleo?

  • To me, Paleo means Humans are not Broken, by default. That given the proper basic inputs human beings can lead healthy, happy, content lives without purchasing products and services to save us.
  • What about diet? Well, there were many Paleo diets during the Paleolithic Era.
  • The Paleo diet that works best for me is what I call Plant Paleo.
  • To the media and many others, Paleo refers to Loren Cordain’s trademarked The Paleo DietTM: lean meat, no dairy, no alcohol, no starch, etc. For what it’s worth, I think this diet is orders of magnitude superior to the Standard American Diet. It is not, however, the diet that I practice, nor is it the Paleo diet practiced by most people who label their eating under a Paleo umbrella.
  • Robb Wolf is a leading thinker and advocate of Paleo, and this is what he says. Mark Sisson offers a Primal spin and Chris Kresser suggests moving to a Paleo Template. There are many “flavors” of Paleo, and in my estimation, the most commonly practiced approaches are high protein, moderate fat, relatively low-carb and centered around “real food” or “clean food” choices.
  • Paul Jaminet says his Perfect Health Diet (PHD) is more Paleo than The Paleo DietTM and many other implementations of Paleo. By this, he means that his diet more closely emulates what most people ate during the Paleolithic period. This is the Paleo-esque diet that most closely resembles my own. However, my approach includes legumes, more vegetables, whole grains, and less meat and starch than the PHD.
  • Many people who consider themselves to be Paleo eaters eventually start to eat a diet that resembles the diet advocated by the Weston A. Price Foundation, with the exception of grains and legumes.
  • When Paleo becomes a dogmatic system of do’s and don’ts, it is natural for people to push the limits of those rules. As such, many recipe websites and apps have come to feature calorie-dense foods that are not particularly nutritious. There are a lot of desserts, dips, snacks. While the foods themselves can be perfectly fine when eaten occasionally, and are fantastic to prepare for special events — they can also derail certain health goals like weight loss when eaten regularly. I wrote about this in an article called You Might be Getting Too Good at Paleo. I recommend Eating Dinners, Not Menus — deeply enjoying real food and not obsessing about the rules once you find yourself seated at the dinner table.
  • Sometimes, I refer to Paleo as Paleo™ — this doesn’t refer to Cordain’s diet (which is The Paleo Diet™), but rather a form of Paleo that is blatantly commercial, uninformed, and that is designed to benefit the propagators rather than the readers / users / followers.
  • Since I’ve designed a diet for myself that I now refer to by name, I can add The Plant Paleo Diet™ or The Plant Paleo Diet (without the ™) or even just Plant Paleo to my list of Paleo terms.

Is Paleo about Emulating the Past?

  • A popular mantra in the Paleo community is: Paleo is not an historical reenactment, but rather it is a logical framework. I agree with this insofar as it rejects the dogmatism of “If Paleo man did it, I should do it.” However, I’ve noticed that this mantra is often used as an excuse to eat a diet that largely consists of processed foods: oil, nut flours, food bars with isolated proteins, etc. If “paleo diet” is going to mean anything at all, I believe it should at least resemble human diets from the Paleolithic era, starting with the most obvious attribute: whole foods.
  • I believe biomimicry (nature mimicry, reenactment, etc.) is a valid starting point for hypothesis formation and experimentation. See my post, On Paleo Reenanctment. Forming a hypothesis based on observations and experiences of nature is in no way a naturalistic fallacy.
  • I suggest listening to Latest in Paleo Episode 76: The Yoga of Eating with Charles Eisenstein. In this episode, we discuss emulating the motivation of Paleolithic man, and not simply the content of their diets.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.”
— Matsuo Basho