So…have you gone all Paleo? (part 1)

I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t some conscious decision that I was going to jump on board the paleo bandwagon. In fact I was throwing stones at that wagon with the best of them. I totally didn’t get it. It would annoy me that people would exalt the benefits of the ‘paleo lifestyle’ Monday to Friday then derail into some pizza and beer binge on the weekend. Or bake a ‘sugar free, dairy free, wheat free’ cheesecake and claim it to be a health food.  This is what I ‘knew’ about the paleo approach to eating:

  1. It’s restrictive
  2. It’s high in saturated fat (cooking with lard!) therefore increases risk of heart disease
  3. It lacks vegetables, and fruits
  4. There are no wholegrains! What about your B vitamins people??
  5. It involves burpees.
  6. And, hello, there is no ‘one paleo’ diet; geographical location of different cultures meant there was different food available at the time. The whole theory, much like the Blood Type Diet*, is flawed! Did these people not know anything about evolution??

Until about six months ago, I was firmly entrenched in the ‘everything in moderation’ approach and rolled my eyes at the thought of going ‘all natural, process free.’ Don’t get me wrong, I would say that 80% of what I advised clients to do was fresh, whole food options. But I was a realist as well; life is busy. Why would you try to create a meal from scratch when there is nothing wrong with some of those tasty packet options? As many of my clients come to me for advice on weight loss and/or sports performance, my eyes would briefly flick over the ingredients list and head straight to the nutrition information panel (the important bit!). Relatively low in kilojoules, you can certainly find plenty that are low in fat, and there are also some low sodium options for those who are worried about salt intake. Yes, a closer look at the ingredient list might have revealed about 7-8 different ingredients that kept it fresher for longer and/or lowered the energy content; I didn’t necessarily know what they were but I wasn’t overly concerned. Hey, I did a nutrition degree; if there really was an issue with preservatives and additives in our food then I’d have heard about it. Right? Either weight loss or weight gain; it is all about energy in, energy out, period. A calorie really is just a calorie.

For myself, I reckon my diet was 80% awesome. I did sometimes wonder whether I could be more ‘natural’ like my friends Rebecca, Sal and Ash. But I would always come back to: “but I like Coke Zero. And those protein bars are great for a snack, and those dessert yoghurts; well I don’t have them in large amounts” It was the 80:20 rule right? ;No point fixing what’s not broken. And in the back of my mind was this little voice saying that if I did eat differently, and forgo the artificial sweeteners and the low fat options, then I could end up in the place I was in 15 years ago…..overweight and overeating.

Laurie and I. For some reason I have always thought we've worn ties in this picture.

Laurie and I. For some reason I have always thought we’ve worn ties in this picture.

Not that I was always overweight as a teenager/young adult, far from it. But as the ‘bigger twin’, I was conscious growing up that I was no way near as skinny as my sister. I am 10 minutes older and was 10 times bossier than her – first out, first to the food, always asking for things on our behalf. Growing up I was also way less active. You’d find me reading a book or (in my pre-teen years) typing screenplays on my 2nd hand electric typewriter (coolest Christmas present ever) to send to the directors of MacGyver when Laurie and my older brother Jarod were out running riot in the neighbourhood. I would go outside under duress. So it was no accident that I was labelled the chubby twin in our early teens. It bothered me that I couldn’t eat lollies the way Laurie could and still be skinny, but it wasn’t until my PE teacher in 3rd form told me that I’d never be any good at basketball that it began to bug me. That, and well meaning comments comparing me to my mum (when previously similarities were drawn with my rail thin dad) spurred the diet revolution. Or, rather,

Rosemary and her impossibly thin waist.

Rosemary and her impossibly thin waist.

Rosemary Conley’s Inch Loss Plan. Eat what you want, as long as it was fat free. Made sense. Eat less fat, lose your fat. And, hey presto, when teamed with a couple of runs per week to the end of Ravensbourne Road and back (and 100 lengths of pool running) it worked! And so the foundation that formed my nutrition beliefs was laid.

* Did you know the creator of the Blood Type Diet actually got it wrong from the start? D’Adamo proposed that Type  O was the first blood type when in fact it was Type A… listen here for more critique

6 thoughts on “So…have you gone all Paleo? (part 1)

  1. I was that guy who threw stones for many years at anything not conventional wisdom and not being parroted by all the doctors and dieticians I wanted to be respected by. It was a hard rabbit hole to dive down, and now there is no going back. And I’m happy about that!

    Did you also know that on the Blood Type Diet, the most successful group in terms of being able to do it, is the Type O’s – the most common blood type… the hunter-gatherer blood type… the one which is prescribed largely a paleo-type diet?

    • Ha, no, but doesn’t it make sense; it’s the one with the most variety. I know there are people who swear by that approach, and really – if it’s something which provides variety, all necessary nutrients, can be sustained and doesn’t feel restrictive, then there isn’t anything wrong with it. But more often than not you hear the opposite and people “fail” and prove to themselves, yet again, it’s them with the problem and not the diet.

    • Some misinformed person Andrew! Common misconception (which I shared) was that paleo is meat centric that is low in vegetables. As we (obviously) both know, it’s not the case at all. 🙂

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