I’ll admit, I’m a fan.
I’ve been drinking the Paleo Kool-Aid since before it was cool. I read Dr Loren Cordain’s research more than 15 years ago and was amazed at what the diet did for my PCOS. Thanks to Mr Robb Wolf, “paleo” is not only a buzzword and a highly searched Instagram hashtag but a diet that’s infiltrated the mainstream. With Paleo restaurants, meal delivery services and convenience foods popping up left and right, it seems Paleo is here to stay
It’s a diet that works well for myself and my patient population – women with autoimmune, thyroid and tough hormonal issues. But while it’s a great template for health it may not be giving you the fat loss results you were hoping for.
You read the Paleo Pamphlet and didn’t get what you were promised, like that 11 pound effortless weight loss your friend experienced – what gives?
The two big reasons Paleo works well for some quick weight loss for so many is that by eliminating sugar, diary and grains many processed foods are out and the biggest inflammatory foods are gone (i.e. gluten, lectins found in legumes and grains; casein and whey found in dairy; etc.) and it cuts out high cal junky food items.
If you are eating something that you are sensitive to and you eliminate it, you’ll likely see a significant reduction in water weight very quickly as inflammation goes down. So if your girlfriend was able to shed 5 pounds in 5 days from coming off gluten, she may very well be intolerant or sensitive to it (note: this is not the same as a Celiac disease, but rather a wheat or gluten intolerance).
But what if you did something like a Whole30 (grab my guide to Whole 30 here) and didn’t lose so much as a pound? Here are a few reasons why:
Too much fat. I’m not suggesting we head back to the Fat Phobic 80’s and fat is not necessarily bad for us – even saturated fat – but we can get too much of a good thing as fat is one of our biggest ticket items when it comes to calories (9 calories per gram vs. 4 per gram with protein or carbohydrate).
So watch the side of bacon next to the whole eggs cooked in lard. And watch the coconut! Coconut is a fav Paleo food with its clean burning fuel: medium chain triglycerides. It’s a great cooking oil as it’s very stable even at high temps…and it’s delicious. But again, it can add up.
Also, we have to remember that grass fed cow or not, animals will build up hormones (even if just from their own metabolism) in their body fat. They will also accumulate POPS (persistent organic pollutants) in their body fat. These will all have an effect on our hormonal balance when we eat animal fat. This is not a huge deal for every women, but if you already deal with hormonal issues then this can be a more significant effect for you. And if you’ve spent any time with me you know hormonal balance is key for fat loss.
A Little More On POPs. POPs are chemical byproducts of our modern world and include pesticides and plastic residues such as organochlorides and BPA (bisphenol A).
They don’t break down well and are fat soluble, so then end up in our body fat – and the body fat of the animals we eat. Animals get them from water and plant sources that they ingest.
Once in our body fat they are pretty much sequestered, but when we start to burn fat with diet and exercise they will be released and stir up hormone havoc – especially on the thyroid.
POPs will get to the thyroid via multiple mechanisms by decreasing overall thyroid production, thyroid conversion (T4 to the active T3) and speed up breakdown of active thyroid hormone. All of that means a sluggish metabolism for you, ESPECIALLY if you were low thyroid to begin with.
Finally, keep on eye on nuts. Great sources of healthy fat and are a convenient snack, they are something many people struggle to portion control. If that’s you, they too can wrack up the calories faster than you can say Caveman.
The remedy? Aim for more leaner proteins like chicken or fish vs. bacon and red meat for more of your meals. Opt for raw veggies and a few nuts vs. a handful of nuts as a quick snack. And watch the fat+carb combo if you’re trying to manage insulin or lose fat. Think sweet potato hash cooked in coconut oil with several runny, yolked eggs on top. Delicious, but perhaps not the best hormonal response for fat loss. More on this hormonal combo here.
Too many (or not enough) sweet potatoes. While grains are out, starches aren’t. Root veggies, while usually a better tolerated carb for most vs. grains, they too can be overdone. As can fruit, which is of course Paleo.
Carb intake is a highly individual variable, find your sweet spot – or Unique Carb Tolerance. Your UCT will help you eat enough, but not too many starchy carbs for your goals. To find it you use your appetite, cravings and energy to guide you, learn more here.
I see both sides of the carb problem with women on the Paleo Diet. When we take out our common go to carb sources like bread it’s easy to end up on a no-carb diet. Especially if you aren’t sure how to cook with or even like these new Paleo starches in your world.
Take some time to find that UCT and avoid under and over carbing.
The primal 3 meal a day rule may not work for you. Next to carb intake, nothing’s more individual than meal frequency. The Paleo/Primal community is big on the idea that Grog only ate 3 times day. Remember though that Grog didn’t live in 2016 with our toxin load, chronic stress and various other endocrine disruptors (like plastics, parabens, medications, etc.). He didn’t take the Pill or have a high stress job and a toddler with the flu and a newborn that isn’t sleeping. (Lucky bastard….)
Some of you simply don’t have healthy enough adrenals to go 5 hours without eating. You end up low energy, poor memory, irritable, shakey or as they say, hangry, if you don’t eat more frequently. That’s Ok. As with any diet, you have to view Paleo through the lens of your own unique hormonal balance, lifestyle issues, as well as taking into account your goals (fat loss, overall health, healing a hormonal issue, etc.)
Also, some of you may find that because of your personal schedule dinner is later and if you don’t build in an afternoon snack, you come home ravenous and have a difficult time eating a sensible dinner. So if you’re someone who does great on 3 squares a day, awesome, do that. If your appetite and cravings are more manageable and you make overall better choices if you eat more frequently do that. The take way here is that it’s less important that you follow the Paleo Rules than you are eating in a way that gives you results and is sustainable.
So if Paleo jives with you for various reasons but you aren’t getting the fat loss results you want, give these adjustments a try.
And big news – my podcast launched this week! For our second episode Sarah Fragoso (formerly of Everyday Paleo) share what we really think of Paleo. I dive into all of the above and more. It’s a great one and you can hear it here or anywhere you get your podcasts: iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.
We have been over the moon with the feedback we’ve received from you all already. We had over 1000 downloads our first day!! This podcast is a long time in the making as Sarah and I have been trying to work together pretty much since the moment we met. Learn more about our work together in our first episode.
Thank you all so much for your support of this new project! It’s going to a great tool to help you make BETTER even easier.