real life eating

I Tried It: Ten Days On The Paleo Diet

Anyone who has stepped foot in a CrossFit gym has heard of the "Paleolithic" diet. I tried it for ten days. Verdict below. (Spoiler: It's good stuff, guys.)

First introduced in the 1970s by Dr. Walter L. Voegtlin, the Paleo diet is “based upon everyday modern foods that mimic the food groups of our pre-agricultural, hunter-gatherer ancestors”. It is focused wholly on meat, vegetables, fruits and nuts—and no grains, dairy or legumes.

I personally had written Paleo off when I first learned of it, thinking that the diet sounded aggressively masculine, as well as an excuse to eat bacon for every meal. (Not that there is anything wrong with bacon, it’s just not my thing.) It conjured images of cavemen running through barren landscapes with goliath turkey legs, and it just didn’t appeal to me.

Yet I found myself on the Paleo diet, a bit by accident, back in 2013 after signing up for a 10-day cleanse. Why a cleanse? A few reasons: Having dealt with a lot of digestive issues over the years, I was used to dairy-induced stomach aches—and an overall low-grade discomfort associated with eating. I was also addicted to sugar, and found myself using food to self-soothe, having little to no idea when I was actually full or satisfied. I put on quite a bit of weight in a short period of time, and I was generally sluggish, foggy-headed and emotionally unstable. So, enter the 10-day cleanse.

From a conference room in downtown Austin, the cleanse organizer (who had previously dealt with digestive issues of her own) kicked things off by introducing us to the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome Nutritional Protocol) diet for digestive health. Though different than Paleo in certain respects, GAPS also emphasizes the use of whole, organic, non-processed foods to heal gut flora, and to get the body back on track with more natural digestive patterns.

It is safe to say that the next ten days were emotionally charged. I wasn’t able to reach toward the usual suspects for comfort (ice cream and pizza), leaving me no option but to address some of my deeper-seated issues. It actually felt very much like I was awakening from a long, dull sleep state. In that short period of time I noticed remarkable changes to my body, including weight loss, a decrease around certain cravings, and overall greater mental clarity. My digestion became more reliable, and most of my regular issues disappeared. I ended the relationship I was in, and I started to move forward in other areas of my life as well. Needless to say, the cleanse was a success, but the real win was my discovery around the significant benefits to be reaped from the right diet. For me, that diet turned out to be Paleo: I ended up sticking to the Paleo diet for many years to follow, and I continue to consider it the best way of eating for my body. The success I found even inspired me to become a health coach.

So, the I-Tried-It takeaway? While I know everyone is different and that diets are not one-size-fits-all programs, the Paleo may be a good fit if you are seeking a way to reduce sugar reliance, inflammation and digestive issues.

Oh, and because I know giving up those usual suspects is not easy, here are two of my favorite Paleo takes on traditional comfort food: Paleo Brownies and Paleo Pizza. You are welcome.

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