I have been listening to the Paleo Summit this past week and I was happy to see that the last days’ theme was “Getting Your Mind Right.”
If you’re a fan of Sean Croxton’s podcast like I am, this is something you will hear him and his guests say frequently. So what exactly do they mean and why is this important? I’m glad you asked.
The Paleo movement is in full swing, more and more people of all ages are getting on board every day, and yet it’s apparent that many of these people really don’t know what going “Paleo” means. Let’s take a recent example that caught my eye. For the month of March, CBC Ottawa news anchor Adrian Harewood (@CBCAdrianH) is following a Paleo diet, while anchor Lucy van Oldenbarneveld (@LucyVanOlden) is following a vegan diet. You can learn more about it here. While not the first attempt at Paleo by a news organization (remember Dr. Kim Mulvihill’s 5 part series) I am excited whenever people in the public eye bring health and the Paleo lifestyle to their audience.
So what’s my beef with Adrian?
It seems like he began this venture with only a rudimentary understanding of the Paleolithic approach. He’s committed to a month of paleo, but what was his plan? Did he read anything? Was he given any advice? Or did he only think about what to cut out, without really understanding the “why”?
His initial tweets start off with him eating lots of veggies, meat, eggs (good so far), a seeming abundance of fruits (easy there cowboy) and….smoothies. Lots of smoothies. Seems like he’s having them with every meal. Now he seems like a relatively fit guy, but chucking down fruit and coconut/almond milk smoothies with every meal is not necessarily a good way to start your Paleo odyssey, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
I think there’s a few lessons here:
Lets start with “What is Paleo”?
Paleo is not simply a “diet”. Diets are usually short term (read “quick fix”) efforts to achieve a certain goal (eg: lose ten pounds). The Paleolithic lifestyle is an approach to living that expresses our optimal humanness. In other words, we try to eat, move and sleep in a way that is the most natural to humans. This results in better health, reduction of systemic inflammation, mitigation (if not outright reversal) of autoimmune conditions, not to mention weight loss and a feeling of greater energy and well being.
It’s not about weight, it’s about health. Its also not a quick fix, but a change in your overall relationship to food that should last a lifetime.
Have some goals when you begin.
- Are you trying to lose weight? How much? Take some “before” pictures, BMI measurements, etc. These will help to show your progress.
- How’s your sleep and energy levels?
- What about your bloodwork? Cholesterol, triglycerides, C-Reactive Protein, insulin levels? Get these taken at the start of your journey so you can track.
- Do you have any existing health issues you’re trying to address? Autoimmune conditions? Skin conditions? GI problems? Treating these with diet is possible, but you’ll need to do the stricter autoimmune protocol.
Set yourself up for success.
Research books, blogs, videos, etc. so that you are armed with knowledge. You have to unlearn years of conventional wisdom and feel confident that your decisions are good ones. You should understand the “why” behind your decisions. Edamame (soy beans = legumes) are not Paleo. Seed oils (processed with industrial solvents) are not Paleo. Knowledge is power.
Find a bunch of recipes that include foods you’ll eat and create some meal plans and shopping lists (Author, Robb Wolf has a great quick start guide on his site). Clean out the refrigerator and cabinets of any processed, non-Paleo foods (if possible) and replace with fresh produce (non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens and lower sugar fruit-berries, apples, pears, melon), meat (Grassfed beef, pastured pork and chicken, good quality bacon and beef jerky), fish (wild caught salmon, sardines in olive oil), eggs, nuts (macadamia, almond, walnut), seeds and good fats (coconut oil, olive oil, ghee).
Keep it simple. Don’t get fancy. Slow cookers are great. Make a stew that will last a few days. Can of sardines on a salad is easy and delicious. Eggs are your friend. Frittatas, omelets, boiled, fried, scrambled, whatever! It’s easy to fall off the wagon if there’s nothing in the fridge, keep it stocked.
Get support. You are not alone. The Paleo community is vast and growing exponentially. There are hundreds of bloggers, twitterers, websites and forums out there to answer questions, give advice and support our fellow tribesmen and women. Getting a virtual high five when you’ve lost a few pounds or some encouragement when you fall off the wagon is amazing.
Give your scale to someone you hate. Seriously.
We are obsessed with weight, thinking that it is THE metric for health. Do you think animals in the wild obsess about their weight? What about Paleolithic man? Do you think “Honey, does this loin cloth make my butt look big” was ever said? Do you think they might have asked, “Hey Gronk, how many calories are in this elk steak?” Hell no!
One of Adrian’s tweets says “Need 2 reduce portions.” No you don’t. As long as you’re eating strictly paleo, there is no need for calorie counting or portion control. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. If you’re not hungry, skip a meal. Try to keep snacks to a minimum. You will loose weight, and more importantly, inches off your body mass. Weigh yourself at the doctor’s office a couple times a year, for the rest of the time fuhggettaboutit.
Go the f*ck to sleep.
Our ancestors woke at sunup and went to sleep at sundown. While this may not be possible for everyone (looks like our friend Adrian is getting to bed around 2 or 3 am) it is imperative to get as much sleep as you can without getting divorced or fired. Your room should be pitch black and cool in temperature. Turn off LED lights or cover them. Do not use electronic devices close to bedtime as the glow can trick your brain into thinking its still light out. This may be tough for Adrian, but you shouldn’t eat close to bedtime either. He might do better by eating larger meals earlier in the day and fasting at night.
Fat is Great, Fat is Good
Perhaps he has neglected to clue us in, butt I haven’t seen anything from Adrian regarding his fat consumption. Not sure what fat he’s cooking with or adding to his food (other than those smoothies). It is imperative that people starting a paleo diet realize that good sources of saturated fat are beneficial for overall health and weight loss. Don’t fear the fat, Adrian! Embrace it.
The only caveat to this is to “know your fats”. If you’re not sure what a good/bad fat is, check out this handy fat information guide from Diane Sanfilippo from balancedbites.com.
Keep it Fluid
Adrian mentioned that he wanted to drink 8 glasses of water a day, which is what we’ve been told as long as I can remember. I have never come near that amount, maybe 4 glasses tops. I drink when I’m thirsty and wait until well after I’ve eaten a meal before drinking anything, to keep my stomach acid from getting diluted. I also recently heard this great podcast by Sean Croxton, interviewing Matt Stone (yes, that Matt Stone) who was definitely against super hydration and had some interesting information.
Stick to It!
I don’t want this to seem like I’m picking on someone who’s trying to do good, I’m not. I just want to make sure that people who are ready to make a change to a Paleo/Primal/Ancestral lifestyle are armed with the knowledge, tools and support they need to succeed. The doctor who is working with Adrian and Lucy seems like he’s got an open mind and a solid take on obesity. I’m really looking forward to their results.
And Adrian, if you have questions, or need some help, all you need to do is ask. So Get Your Mind Right and good luck.