Ok, so you're new to Paleo and you're not really sure what the heck is going on, right?
Is it a diet? A lifestyle? Is Paleo gluten free? Are you supposed to dress in bear skins and go barefoot? Should you eat meat? Is soy really poison? Do you need to turn off the electricity? How important is Dunbar's number?
Whoa, tiger. Let's not get overwhelmed here, this thing is actually pretty simple.
Let's start with the easy stuff; the food. If you can get a piece of animal protein the size of your palm on your plate and cover the rest of the plate with colorful veggies, you'll be 90% of the way there. If you miss protein or the vegetables for a few meals in a row, no problem.
What about breakfast? Easy, go here.
Well what about sleep, and sunlight, and those dang toe-shoes I keep seeing on unkempt overmuscled people? Do I have to do that?
Before you get all twisted up about doing it "right" or "wrong", let's figure out what the idea behind Paleo is.
For 2 million years, humans evolved (changed over time in response to their environment) to live a certain way. That environment was relatively stable. Dangerous, yes. Slim on easy pickens, yep. No sunscreen or shoes either, but it was stable. It was a straightforward animal existence, and we thrived in it. We slept when it was dark, never sat in chairs or got on the computer, lived in small tribes of less than 150 people, and when we were hungry we ran down the nearest weakest animal and ate it.
Our bodies became accustomed to meat and vegetables, to sunlight and relationships, to plenty of sleep, sex, and smorgasbords when they came along. What we didn't get used to, because it wasn't there, was "modern stuff", things like computers and chairs and shoes and dairy. Yes, dairy.
About 10,000 years ago (10,000 years is 1/200th of 2 million) we finally figured out life could be a lot easier if we thought ahead and planted crops, and if, instead of killing a cow we kept it around and milked it. Then killed it later. :)
The idea behind Paleo is that we haven't had enough time to evolve (change in response to the environment) to these "new" things. It means that the crops we grow which have a ton of easy energy in them also have gluten, which reacts with lots of people to irritate the lining of their guts. The same with dairy, and sugar. Sure, they taste good, we just haven't adapted to them as well as we've adapted to, say, fresh elk meat.
Now, you don't have to get all uptight and re-enact Clan of the Cave Bear to get the benefits of the way you were designed. You can still jump on the internet, still eat great food, still enjoy sex (I sure hope so!) and sunlight and smorgasbords when they come along. It's just that if you pay attention to the general guidelines for the way you evolved, you'll probably enjoy all that stuff a lot more than if you plow through the modern world inhaling everything in your path.
Going back to the idea of Paleo as a diet, it's pretty dang simple. Sure, you can get into lengthy discussions about whether grass-fed beef is better for you than cage free eggs, or how you think eating more kale changed your deadlift, but at the end of the day it's an ingredient based diet and there's not that much to it.
We thought it was important to make Paleo really simple, so we put up this graphic as a demonstration.
You don't see pills or potions or oils or lotions (although some of those things might be Paleo), it's just real food.
While some argue about lean vs regular meat we don't think it's that big of a deal. Just eat meat when you feel like it. Fish or chicken is equally good, we're not super picky about where you get your animal protein. Veggies can be tricky, especially with the concept of neolithic vs paleolithic veggies, but it ain't really that hard if you have access to Google.
Fruits and nuts are easy (almost too easy) to eat, and seeds fall in with them. The bottom line?
Just eat real food, stay away from corn and soy in the veggie world, and listen to your body. You'll be fine.
What about the rest of it? Well, we'll get to that in our 7 Pillars of Paleo series, coming soon. For now, let's get you started with dessert.
Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!
Too much reading...
How about dessert?