Are you one of the 66% of Americans currently on a diet? Are you still tracking calories in hopes it’ll remove inches from your waistline? Are you looking for some sound health advice that will yield some long-term result?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions then this article is for you, as we’re going to dive into the what the Paleo diet is and is not.
Looking around, you’ll see where are in experiencing the worst chronic disease epidemic in human history. The evidence is overwhelming.
- Over 1 Billion people suffer from diabetes worldwide.
- 1 in 4 adults reading this article are living with diabetes and don’t know they have it.
- Over 34% of American adults are prediabetic and will be diabetic within 5 years unless they make immediate changes. The CDC estimates that 75% of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020.
- Almost 20% of American children are obese.
- If the current trends continue, it’s estimated that over 95% of American’s will be overweight in the next 20 years and more than 35% will be diabetic.
Besides the pain and suffering involved with these conditions, the cost is astounding. For diabetes alone, the cost is over $250 billion a year for a disease that is in most case preventable.
So What Are We Doing Wrong
While the nuances of weight management and blood sugar fluctuations are complex, involving factors such as genetics, the diet of the mother while in utero, post birth feeding, light exposure, stress load, toxicity, microbiome health, sleep deprivation, physical activity levels and more. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on diet.
The Standard is S.A.D.
The standard American Diet (SAD) is abysmal. Why? Because it’s loaded with junk, with 50% of most American’s calories coming from:
- Refined White sugar
- Refined flours
- Processed, refined vegetable oils
- Most of the meats and dairy the average person eats come from factory-farm where these foods are often loaded with chemicals and toxins adds to our health burden.
On top of that, we’re eating far more calories overall, while engaging in less activities like standing, walking and being generally active it’s no wonder we’re getting fatter, while losing muscle mass. All of this is one of the leading factors in chronic inflammatory diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Humans have followed a hunter-gatherer lifestyle pattern for over 66 thousand generations.
Is There An Alternative
Without question, there is an alternative to the standard diet of most westernized societies. For simplicity sake, we call this diet Paleo.
Before you go off in a tiff that this is just another article on Paleo, I’d like you to give me a few moments to explain why I recommend Paleo as a foundational template.
A Brief History
Humans have survived primarily on meat, fish, some fruits, vegetables, nut, seeds and limited amounts of starchy plans for 66 thousand generations.
We were active, but not stressed. We didn’t sit for extended periods of time, we lived within the natural rhythm of day and night and seasons. We lived in small, deeply connected social groups.
We were physically fit, lean and free from chronic disease. It’s true lifespans were shorter on average than today, but when accounting for factors such as infant mortality rate, warfare, trauma, injury and exposure — our ancestors lived as long as we do now, but without any of the chronic diseases, we blame on aging.
The Turning Point(s)
So with our modern advancements in health, food storage, and shelter, coupled with our biology and genetics we should be the healthiest group of people in history. Instead, we are epidemic levels of chronic inflammatory disease. A significant percentage of the population is fat, sick and flat-out unhealthy.
Scientist Jared Diamond, calls Agriculture “the worse mistake in human history.” This shift from hunter-gather to farmer-herder created a major shift in our diet.
- Carbohydrate intake soared
- Protein intake plummeted
- The quality of protein decreased
- The variety of foods decreased dramatically
- The number of anti-nutrients and vitamin shortages increased.
The effects of this change were seen rather quickly as fossil records show decreases in height and bone density changes as well as tooth decay and blood disorders from nutrient deficiencies.
Then came the Industrial Revolution. Agriculture was certainly a punch in the gut, but the Industrial Revolution was a kick to the head. With the industrial revolution we introduced:
- Refined flours
- More emphasis on a limited number of grain crops
- Factory raised meats, focusing on mass, not nutrition value
- Refined sugars
- Refined vegetable oils.
With these changes, people moved to cities where they sit more than ever before. We are chronically sleep deprived with over 1/3 of American’s getting less than six hours of sleep a night. We work more than ever before and we play and recover less, leading to a never-ending cycle of stress and breakdown.
The Writing on the Wall
The modern world has created a perfect storm where our environment and our biology/genetics are at an epic conflict. The good news is we are still actively evolving at a very rapid rate, but we can kicking the system as technology is advancing at such a break-neck pace that our biology is significantly overwhelmed.
A Paleo approach is about more than just eating meat, vegetables and avoiding grains.
So What Is Paleo
Before we go into what Paleo is, let’s talk about what my version of Paleo is not. First, I don’t believe we need to abandon all of our modern day advancements simply because our ancestors didn’t have them. So no you don’t need to abandon your car, cell phone or furnace, nor do we have to abandon all of the foods that can be healthy simply because they didn’t exist during Paleolithic Era.
Paleo is great because it focuses one’s diet on evolutionary food sources that provide significant nutrition while minimizing inflammatory response. With Paleo, you still get to eat delicious, real foods, like grass-fed meats, eggs, and nutritious vegetables, but there is no cookie-cutter diet template that works exactly the same for everyone.
It’s vital that you understand that your optimal diet is as unique to you as your fingerprints are.
You are a work-in-progress. Where you find yourself, right now in this moment will be different as time goes bye. Therefore, the personalization of your diet needs to allow for changes, whether they be seasonal or over time as things progress and change.
Paleo is a lifestyle template, not a diet. Paleo encourages being more active, standing more, sitting less. Paleo encourages us to work on better social connections, more play and actively reducing stress activities and levels. Adequate sleep, focusing on increased quality and quantity and plenty of daily sun exposure and contact with nature adds to the health benefits of the paleo lifestyle.
The Paleo lifestyle has helped so many people to lose weight, reset hormones, and recover from fatigue, while not feeling hungry or being deprived of delicious food.
In one of my upcoming articles, I’ll be going into even more about why a Paleo template can help you feel vibrant, vital and alive — while regaining your health!