The Problem With Paleo


If anyone has yet to notice, “paleo” is becoming quite popular. Not always in a good way. When I began this whole health journey, NO ONE (no one!) knew what paleo meant. Now my conservative great aunt in her midwestern bubble thinks she is “paleo.” The caveman diet is just another fad diet. Or is it?

The problem with paleo is simple. It’s just a name. South Beach. Atkins. Jenny Craig. Doctor Oz. It’s just a name.

I would argue that it’s time to ditch the name and emphasize the message. What’s the message? EAT REAL FOOD. The name doesn’t mean squat (no pun intended). . . especially this day and age. Paleo is merely on the heels of the gluten free epidemic. Gluten free pasta. Gluten free cookies. Gluten free donuts. Gluten free muffins. It isn’t helping anyone’s gut. It’s just words. It’s just a new strategy for marketing agencies to sink their teeth into. They LOVE food allergies and aversions. They are not interested in your wellbeing or gut lining. It’s merely a new way for them to hook you as the consumer. Organic. All Natural. No added sugar. Flavored with fruit juice. It’s just words.

I’ve seen “primal” and “caveman” thrown around on granola-ish bars like it ain’t no thing. I’ve also picked up these granola-ish bars and cackled (maybe even evil laughed) as I read their ingredient labels. Brown rice syrup anyone? Vegan protein?

The “paleo” label isn’t the solution to our SAD (Standard American Diet). Paleo isn’t the solution to our ever increasing ailments. It’s just a word and it is starting to lose it’s identity a bit. It’s also starting to confuse some people and piss the others right off. The solution is found in TURNING BACK. Turning back to what we so ignorantly have thrown out the window.

Eating from the land. Stewarding animals. Playing in the dirt. Sitting in the sunshine.

When did we start caring more about how many calories we are receiving rather than how many nutrients we are receiving? When did we stop listening to the wisdom of mother earth? Do you know that sweet potatoes provide both the fiber and minerals needed to slowly release it’s carbohydrates into our blood stream so we don’t experience a high or crash? That’s not on accident. Did you know that fatty cuts of grass fed meat provide the fat soluble vitamins needed to process and benefit from it’s own protein? Without these vitamins you cannot benefit from protein. Not an accident.

It’s as if we view this planet as a wasteland. It’s as if we think we are starving and in need of Walmart and Trader Joe’s while all the while, we live on a planet with an actual, synergistic eco system. Where the weather, ground, inhabitants and growth all work together. A place where we can grow and thrive off the land. Where the sun shines, the rain pours, the plants grow, the cows moo and the colors, smells and rich herbs provide the emotional and physical supplementation our mental, emotional and physical health need.

But that takes work. That takes time. Some sweat and elbow grease. More time outside. More time resting. More time in the kitchen and maybe less time indulging (although not always, pork belly is pretty darn satisfying).

We want the easy way out. The protein shake. The muscle milk. The baby carrots. The weight loss pill. The 30 Day Shred. We want results now, without breaking a sweat. “I sweat!” you say. “I sweat every freaking day at spin class!” Awesome. But that’s not the sweat I’m talking about. That might be part of it (eh, maybe) but I’m talking about the sweat produced by running after HEALTH not running after momentary results.

We want thin waists and toned muscles. We want same day shipping and instant coffee. We want quiet kids who leave us alone and Stouffers frozen lasagna. Here’s a juice box, here’s the ipad, now be quiet!

You might be thinking I rabbit trailed. I don’t think so . . . I think it’s all pretty intertwined. The fad diet and P90X. Suzanne’s Thigh Master and 100 Calorie Packs. Your kid’s attention span and the constantly changing frames, scenes, music and colors on their favorite show. Can you blame them? Drive-through gratification. Microwaveable satisfaction.

The problem with paleo is it’s just a name. The name acts as a way of helping people identify what is what and who is who. But then we get questions like this . . . Is this paleo? Do you eat this? I know most paleo people don’t. Oh, it’s paleo? It must be healthy. OR EVEN . . . Oh, you’re paleo? (insert eye twitch and grimace).

The question should not be whether THIS is paleo and THAT isn’t paleo. This question should be, is this good for my body? Does this provide nutrients? Does this help or hurt me? Health is found in the everyday, mundane, repetitive choices we make. Whether that’s our bedtime, afternoon snack or cutting back on activities or perhaps adding in some more activity. It’s not a matter of whether or not this snack is paleo. It’s a matter of nourishment and longtime health. Health that takes work, sweat, sacrifice and play. It’s about real food and real living.