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What is Paleo?

During one of our lengthy Skype calls my best friend Ken lost his patience when he heard my bragging about healthy eating and lifestyle again. He shut me up in the middle of yet another “baconeggsgymveggiesporkfatenoughsleep” sentence and asked”Can you finally explain to me what the hell this Paleo lifestyle actually is???”

Paleo has become often spelled word in the world of dieting and fitness. It comes from the word Paleolithic and describes a lifestyle approach that builds upon what Paleolithic people ate, how they moved and how they lived. The important aspect is that Paleo is based on pre-agricultural revolution period. Although the Paleo gurus (such as Mark Sisson or Robb Wolf) distinguish between Primal and Paleo, I don’t think the name really matters. Primal, Paleo or Caveman approach, in the end we will take whatever works for us and create our own personalized version. Yet, I like calling it the caveman approach. It’s kind of sexy.

Many people out there believe that Paleo is just another diet, but it is actually a whole complete lifestyle that touches all spheres of life from nutrition, through fitness, to sleep and social life. Indeed. I did not believe my eyes, when I read an article about the right primal way of sitting (squatting) on the toilet on my favorite primal blog. Yeah, you can take it that far.

However, it is true that food is the bedrock of the caveman approach, because it comprises such a huge part of our lives. Think about it. Everything is about food. You eat several times a day, food is a reward, a punishment, a present. Food brings people together, closes deals, and creates friendships.  Food can cause serious disputes in family (dare to reject grandma’s pie prepared just for you, just try!).

Given how often and how much we eat and share food with our beloved ones, we probably want to do it right. Sadly, what is considered normal, right and healthy goes often against our own good…and health.

Very often I hear from colleagues or friends that they eat healthy, and to demonstrate it to me, they order a dish of pasta and opt for whole grain bread in the bread basket. Sometimes they come with the “low fat story.” Six meals per day every two hours, low fat, whole grains, and everything that comes with it, such as constant hunger, tiredness, bad moods, headaches, getting weaker despite working out hard. We may feel fine where we are, only because we have never unlocked our body’s potential to experience how much better we can feel. And look. Oh yeah.

Caveman approach to nutrition brings us to an exciting journey back to the days when our predecessors were running around chasing mammoths. That it was not the easiest life ever? Maybe, but they definitely spent less time working than us, more time playing around outdoors with their tribe (social ties, anyone?) and most importantly they ate real food. If it takes a more scientific arguments to convince you to turn your diet upside down and rise against the common knowledge (and I bet it does!), read Rob Wolf’s Paleo Solution, where he talks about his research. Comparing the skeletons of Paleolithic cave people with those of farmers after the agricultural revolution, Robb learned that the bone density, quality of teeth and overall health was much better for … guess who? Interestingly, cave people were also taller! Still tempted to have a bite of bread?

Eat. Real. Food. Can you kill it? Can you pick it from a tree or find in the garden? Did it exist before the agricultural revolution? You are free to eat it. No, my friend, Oreos do not grow like cherries.

We want to get rid of processed food. Don’t worry, nobody will force us to bite into a raw bloody piece of steak. It means that we care about the individual ingredients that are part of your dish. A dish that does not get its form by microwaving a cube of undefined mass, or by dropping that cube in boiling water. It is a dish that we cook from scratch.

When doing groceries, skip things that have names on the ingredients list sounding like your elementary school chemistry teacher went crazy. You don’t want to eat what you cannot pronounce or know clearly where it comes from, do you?

If you have the option, go for grass-fed meat, wild caught fish and vegetables without pesticides. This can be quite hard in the world full of “bio” and “organic” that is far from what it claims to be. At the same time, do not give up before you even started just because such food is not available in your supermarket or it is too costly. It is always better to have a regular piece of meat rather than sigh over the price of grass-fed and reach for frozen pizza.

These are just hints to starts with. In the coming posts I will guide you through different elements of the primal approach to nutrition in greater detail, so that you have clear understanding of the concept and are able to put together meals that are balanced, nutritious and delicious.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to live loud!

Yours,

Petra

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