My husband has been on a kick lately, believing that he’s “fat.” Any of you who know him can feel free to get in line to smack him for thinking this. I try to tell him that his weight and BMI are just fine, but he persists. Today, he started talking about the “paleo diet,” and I immediately bristled. This sounds like a fad diet, I thought to myself. He told me the general idea: lean protein, carbs only from vegetables, and healthy fats. And exercise. So, I decided that before I wrote it off entirely, I’d look into it. Whenever I look into anything like this, I’ll do a general overview first. I look at an affiliated website, a blog or similar website talking about it, and the wikipedia page. If I feel I want/need more info then I’ll hit the research. Research is a fickle thing, though. Generally, you can always find something to verify for or against whatever it is. When I’m doing my overview, I look for a few key things: who came up with this, are the terms RD or Dietitian anywhere to be found, what’s the general plan, what type of exercise do they recommend, what does it claim or promise to do, and who (if anyone) endorses it.
Here’s the quick and dirty info that I got out of it:
-“I lost 25#!”- great! How? Was there exercise? Are you still doing this? Is it sustainable long term?
-“The secret is not in eating less, but knowing what to eat.” This is the question tests I always hated because its both true and false. You should know what to eat, but pure and simple if you eat too many calories it will become fat.
-“Results may not be typical.” Duh. Welcome to dieting 101.
-Lots and lots of shit about it to buy.
-A gastroenterologist first pioneered this.
-Theres a split about how good it actually is in the dietetic world.
-Lowers risk of disease*
-Lowers BP and Glucose*
-Lists variety of websites, journals, etc on its site… its unclear to me whether those actually support it, or if they just published articles about it.
-“Whenever I want to lose weight quick before a vacation…” cough fad diet cough.
-Lots and lots of restrictions (no healthy grains like quinoa or couscous, no dairy, no beverages except water, no fruits if trying to really lose weight).
-I looked around a lot and couldn’t really find anything that detailed the exercise required for it.
*= per research that I didn’t check out
Given all that info, I have some concerns. Now, I want to be clear, though I know some of that rundown sounded cynical, I truly went into this with high hopes. That list is a product of all the info I found out. Here are my concerns:
-We AREN’T hunter-gatherers anymore. We don’t spend all day walking miles and miles hunting then dragging back the catch. Also, they didn’t have a lot of food. They ate less, which this diet touts that you don’t have to.
-It comes off as a Fad diet, much like Atkins, which means it probably is. The thing about a diet is, it’s just that. It’s more focused on losing for the short term and not long term, whole health sustainability.
-It’s very intense. This goes back to sustainability and also practicality, you have to be able to keep this up long term without extreme effort. If you can’t then it’s just yo-yo dieting which isn’t safe or healthy.
-It really concerns me that there wasn’t anything about the exercise involved, and thats a huge piece of the puzzle. If you eat protein and don’t use it, it will turn to fat just like extra carbs. High protein=high exercise!
-It cuts out good grains and even root vegetables. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beets are great sources of nutrients. And grains like quinoa and couscous pack both protein and carbs into one great package.
-I’m not convinced that enough trustworthy sources support this.
All of that said… there are BIG issues with the “true american” diet as well. What I personally think (and have for a while), is that you need a healthy balance. So, my pro-tip here is to eat lean protein (slightly more than recommended), eat lots of fruits and veggies, eat healthy carbs (slightly less total carbs than recommended), eat generally whole/ minimally processed foods, exercise (!), and maintain balance and practicality. That is how you succeed. Why? It’s not a diet, it’s EATING HEALTHY. I also recommend that you follow the 80/20 rule and do really well 80% of the time, and the other 20 let yourself slip a little without any guilt. Use what the earth gives you, don’t eat over-processed stuff, remember to keep a good balance, exercise, and you’ll be fine. I admit, I haven’t been following those things as well as I should, but I plan to make a real effort to in the future.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this (something I learned in school & happen to love) :
A- Adequacy of amount of food & nutrients.
B- Balance of type of food and nutrients you eat.
C- Color. Lots of different colors=lots of different nutrients.
D- Density. Choose nutrient dense foods whenever possible.
M- Moderation. Everything. Especially sweets, but even with carbs, fat, and protein. Too much food = turned to fat.
V- Variety. Vary what you eat and you’ll get different nutrients and you won’t get bored. Try different styles of cooking like Mediterranean or Asian.
(I’d also add E to that for exercise!)
Now that– that is sustainable, healthy, and practical. It will also likely give you better results than any fad diet!
“It’s not a diet, it’s eating healthy!” – the first words the first dietitian I ever saw said to me, and what made me want to become a dietitian.