food pyramidAs anyone who reads this blog probably knows, I am border-line Paleo/gluten-free. This is not a diet to lose weight (although I have lost a good amount of weight), it is a way of eating that makes me feel better. I have more energy, I have control over my cravings (for maybe the first time in my adult life), and I am never hungry. I say border-line because I still cheat, I still allow some dairy, and I’ll never give up pizza and beer. But, 90% of the time, I am pretty good.

Even though I believe this way of eating works for me, there is a TON of controversy about this ‘diet’. Do a little research and people will tell you a million reasons why it’s bad. You’ll see comments like ‘too hard to maintain’; ‘too much cholesterol’; ‘everything is fine in moderation’. This post is here to answer some of that criticism, as well as explain why, for some of us, this is a great option, and tell you how to fail at paleo.

First, How to fail….

1. Replacing ‘bad’ foods with ‘gluten-free’ foods. This is probably the #1 problem with this way of eating. People give up wheat bread and replace it with gluten-free bread. Give up regular cereal for rice cereal. Give up regular cookies for the wheat-free varities. Not only will you not lose weight this way, you will not get healthier! Not even a little. Sure, these are great options for people with wheat allergies or celiac disease, but for the average joe or joanne, this is a bad option. If you want to do well on this diet for weight loss and health, skip the breads, cereals, and cookies all together. How do you know what to avoid? Anything that comes in a package or has a commercial should be skipped.

2. Thinking that you can’t have toast so you just eat cheese and bacon. Remember the Atkins diet? That is why there was so much criticism about Atkins: people took out bread but continued to eat horribly unhealthy foods. They still lost weight, but their cholesterol shot thru the roof and they probably never pooped. Just because it doesn’t have wheat or carbs, doesn’t mean you can or should eat it. Potato chips, burgers, bacon, cheese, diet pop, etc. are all things that should be eaten in moderation or, in the case of pop, avoided all together regardless of what diet you are on.

3. Getting caught up with ‘Paleo’ desserts/pancakes/cookies…Just look at pinterest for the perfect examples. Did you know you can make Paleo chocolate cake in a cup? Did you know you can make Paleo pancakes, cupcakes, brownies, muffins, etc? Again, just because it is Paleo, doesn’t give you a pass. These are great options for the occasional celebration if wheat products upset your stomach, but not good for daily eating.

The idea of Paleo eating is eating with common sense. Is it a fruit or vegetable? Good. Is it a healthy form of animal protein? Good. Was it created in a lab? Bad. Was it processed, packaged, marketed? Bad. Does it last for more than a week on a shelf? Bad. I think you get the point.

Now to address some of the criticisms.

1. Too hard to follow: Sure you are giving up a lot of foods that you formerly loved (bread/pasta/treats), but after that part is accepted, there isn’t an easier diet on the planet. I have never counted a calorie, worried about my portions, or felt deprived since eating this way. If you follow the basic rules, it is simple to follow. I don’t worry about how much fat is in an avocado, because it is good fat. I don’t worry about the size of my dinner, because it is more than half vegetables. I don’t worry about counting carbs, because my carbs are fruits and veggies.

2. Too much fat and cholesterol: If you actually do the research on this way of eating, you’ll know that this is not a big deal at all. 1. Majority of the fat is healthy fat. 2. Your body begins to get its energy from fat instead of carbs and therefore you can have more. 3. Fat is filling and you end up eating less food as a result. 4. Like I mentioned before, it is not a free pass to eat bacon all day every day (although, many paleo-peeps don’t worry about the saturated fat at all). 5. Many people actually see a decrease in weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol on this diet because they have cut out all the other CRAP (not to mention improved digestion). With that said though, you have to eat the right way- veggies first!

3. Everything is fine in moderation: I agree. Totally. The problem is, I don’t eat bread in moderation. If you gave me a loaf of french bread and a stick of butter, I could finish it with no problem. To you that might sound crazy. To me it is crazy that someone could finish a pint of ice cream in one sitting- yuck! But, I bet for some of you that would be a metaphorical piece of cake. We all have our issues. Just like you can’t tell an alcoholic that alcohol is fine in moderation, you can’t expect me to hold back with bread. It’s so good when it hits your lips….

Since eating this way, my husband and I have both lost weight, and my blood work is perfect. My children are eating tomatoes and kale and onions and almonds and fish. They are learning to like and appreciate ‘real’ foods. Sure they would still prefer lucky charms to eggs, but they are kids. It is my job as a parent to make sure they getting the foods they need to help them learn and grow and become healthy adults.

***stay tuned for more how-to blogs over the next week***