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What is a Paleo Diet

What is a Paleo Diet?

 

A Concept Not A Defined Diet

Over at my daily podcast, The Survival Podcast,  I have had a ton of questions about “The Paleo Diet” as it relates to current authors such as Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain and Mark Sisson.  I have also had a lot of discussion as to how it relates to the work of pioneering researcher Dr. Weston Price.  Questions like, “Does paleo allow dairy?”, “Is alcohol in moderation okay?”, “Can you eat grain if you soak it and call it paleo?” come in by the bucket load.

The first thing we need to accept in order that we may logically examine a paleo nutrition based lifestyle is something very hard for many to conceive of, paleo isn’t “a diet”.  Paleo is a concept upon which many different people draw conclusions and develop and evolve a diet.  Why is this distinction important?  Simply because if you don’t see it this way, you think paleo is a list of what to eat and what not to eat and that list is based on the one author or blogger you choose to follow.

Authors such as Cordain, Wolf, and Sisson have done great work, you can learn a lot from them.  They all also have a lot of similar recommendations but quite a few differences.  None seems to have any need to bash the work of the other though, because I believe they all see paleo as again what it is, a concept.  There is no definitive source that gets to say “A is paleo and B isn’t.”  Paleo nutrition is basically an opinion derived from both scientific evidence and extrapolation based on human nature and the behavior of indigenous peoples.

Why is this so important?  So that people interested in learning about the paleo concept can give themselves the freedom to examine the work of the many wonderful authors and bloggers.  A group of pioneers who are working with and evolving this concept and develop a plan that works best for their lives.

What Did Our Paleo Ancestors Eat?

The fact of the matter is we do not know exactly how humans 10,000 years ago ate; they didn’t leave any a dining hall schedule or hard and fast records behind.  Tons of research has been done, actual food stores found ,and we know a lot about what was available; but we don’t absolutely know for a fact that people ate X percent of this and Y percent of that.  Anyone saying we do is either a liar, delusional, or a time traveler in disguise.

What we do know is paleolithic people were definitely hunter gathers.  We know they had quite advanced technology for hunting and all the tools needed to butcher and kill animals from small to large.  People with limited resources don’t develop and put energy into the creation of such implements and not put them to use.  From this we know they killed and ate animals.

We also know they gathered wild fruit, tubers, nuts, seeds, and yes even grain.  Grain of course is not acceptable according to many on the paleo lifestyle.  I personally consider it “not on the diet” but that doesn’t make it “unacceptable” in all circumstances, more on that in a bit.  What we can surmise though is as a gatherer you will gather that which is easiest and tastes best first.  Nuts are easy to gather when they fall but take time and energy to crack.  Wild grains are tiny and take a ton of work to process, so did they eat it, sure, did they make it a staple, not likely.

If I try to go food by food, item by item this article will become a book, many fine books exist on the concept so I have no intention to rewrite one here.  My premise is that our paleo ancestors likely got the majority of their calories from stuff they could kill or pick and then easily consume with minimal effort.  Anything requiring much energy was likely the equivalent of a “survival ration”.  Most of these items store well if simply kept dry and you don’t have to process it right away.  This would include a lot of wild grains and many nuts and seeds.  Now some seeds are very easy to process, they don’t need hulling and are easily harvested, perhaps more of such seeds were used, we don’t know, all we can do is guess.

Now fruits and berries were likely very highly utilized but were mostly eaten seasonally.  Sure you can dry them but there is only so much utility there.  Vegetables of the time, which were mostly greens of one sort or another, were likely also seasonal; none store well.  Many tubers store well but they can be bulky and likely were used mostly in winter when we believe these quite nomadic people were less on the move.

The World Is A Big Ass Place

Into this we have to add in something many paleo authors seem to not touch on.  Paleo people were not just Nordic types in furry vests and the first Native Americans in temperate cold climates.  By this time there were people in almost all parts of the world, certainly in all of the world’s climates.  Tropics, desert, cool temperate and warm temperate have lots of different foods that would have been available.  You can bet people living near a marsh quickly figured out how to eat clams, oysters, snails, etc.  They are easy to gather and cook in their own little cooking containers.  How many oysters did a person in central North America eat though?  How about the tribesman in the African savannah?  Do you think he was eating shellfish?  Yet, in all but the driest environments, fish was likely consumed.

There were far less people and far more fish and the water was far cleaner 10,000 years or more ago.  The work of Dr. Weston A Price showed us, by examining remaining indigenous people, that almost all such cultures used meat in one form or another.  If you want to learn more about Dr. Price’s Work check out The Price Pottenger Nutritional Foundation at http://ppnf.org/  they are the official organization that has continued his work.  While the PPNF eating guidelines are not 100% consistent with paleo they are a great example of the core of this way of eating.  Additionally, they allow us to examine ways to use some foods not generally considered paleo.  I will get to why this is important in a bit.

In essence this is what we know, our ancient ancestors ate a lot of meat, they ate pretty much 100% of all edible parts of any animal they killed.  Stomach, liver, kidneys, abnormal fat, back fat, eyes, tongue, heart, etc. and it was a huge part of their intake.  They gathered edible tubers, edible fruits and berries, edible greens and shoots, some seeds, nuts and in some instances wild grains.  We can surmise that a lot of the seeds, grains, etc. were used in extreme moderation simply due to the work involved to make them edible.  Paleo eating is built on this concept.

There Is No Pope Of Paleo

Some writers, such as Loren Cordain, who is for all intents and purposes the father of the currently thriving Paleo Community, have recommended lean cuts of meat.  I disagree with this and most such authors such as Cordain and his protégé Robb Wolf have moved in the direction of more animal fats over time.  Most of the newer writers and bloggers have started out with fat making up a lot of the diet, I agree with this.

The key to remember though is paleo again is a concept; it isn’t “a diet” like say “Weight Watchers” or “South Beach”.  Sure some writers have set guidelines but it is based on their interpretation of the concept.  Again the reason this is key for you as an individual is that no one gets to tell you exactly what you must and must not eat.  Rather you simply look at guidelines and make your own choices and by experimentation determine what is best for you.  This isn’t like the ancient Catholic church where the Pope could tell you exactly what you can’t eat on Fridays during Lent.  Writers, bloggers, researchers, and scientists within the Paleo community are all to be seen as resources, not authorities.

Some people on paleo take a mostly lean meat and veggies approach.  They cook mostly with things like olive oil and focus more on protein.  They eat no grains; almost no legumes and no white starches like, say, white potato or rice.  They will eat a bit of nuts here and there, tree nuts not things like peanuts that are actually legumes.  They eat only grass-fed and pastured meats.  Is that paleo?  Yes.  Is it what I do?  No.  Do I disagree with their assessment in some areas as to how early man ate?  Absolutely.  Does that mean they are not paleo or I am not paleo, can any of us be excommunicated by a “Pope of Paleo”?  No.

What I Eat – It Ain’t All Paleo

I am not 100% paleo, 100% of the time.  I consider myself paleo because the bulk of my diet is made up of foods that I either feel my ancestors consumed, or analogs to them.  My ancestors didn’t eat beef from a Black Angus steer, because that animal didn’t exist.  But said beef is quite similar chemically to buffalo or kudu, as long as it isn’t laced with chemicals and antibiotics and the animal isn’t fattened artificially on corn.  Many things I eat some purists say are not paleo; I disagree, that is my right, I run my own life after all and I think for myself, you should do the same.

Some things I eat or drink I know full well are not paleo.  These fall into four categories…

  1.  Items that I feel, based on biochemistry, don’t really do anything to the body that is negative on its effect and contrary to paleo biochemistry, but don’t really do much positive either.   One example is alcohol in moderation.  I don’t refer to “beer” or really specific beverage.  I am referring to the actual ethyl alcohol in any “adult beverage”.    The residual carbohydrates in a beer are clearly not paleo and can, in quantity, have a quite negative effect.  Yet alcohol is processed differently than protein, fat, or carbohydrate and, if NOT taken to excess, is simply eliminated by the body.  It has little to no effect on blood sugar in moderation.  This is scientific fact.
  2.  Items that are not paleo but have been prepared in a way to mitigate their negative effects or are not totally detrimental even though I know they are not truly paleo.  Let’s go back to beer for a second.  Too much beer you get a beer belly, it is all about the carbs.  Paleo results in a low carb lifestyle; it isn’t low carb just to be so it just works out that way.  The key with beer though is it is grain based; however it is brewed with spouted grains, sprouting grains makes them LESS toxic.  Lacto fermentation also makes grains less toxic so I would be far more likely to eat sourdough bread vs. typical bread.  Still I am not going to eat fermented grains or sourdough daily, the carbohydrate load alone is counter to paleo biochemistry.  I am also aware here that I am making toxic foods less toxic, not harmless.  Corn is also on this list for me, old varieties of non GMO organic corn have a true history with humans over thousands of years.  It isn’t good for you but a hell of a lot less harmful, in my opinion, then wheat.  So I would generally choose a corn tortilla, if indulging, than a flour one.
  3.  Items that are beneficial to my health and don’t take away from the good that paleo does in any way.  These are mostly fermented foods but fermented foods that are also paleo.  Cabbage is a vegetable, it is on the consume list and, when fermented, it has a very positive health effect.  Yet I know full well sauerkraut wasn’t being consumed in 10,000 BC.  I put yogurt (real whole milk yogurt, there is no such thing as true yogurt that is low or no fat) in this category as well, along with things like kefir.  Also included in this group would also be fermented pickles and escabeche.  Escabeche is one of my true loves, the ingredients are all paleo but it is also fermented goodness.  Classic escabeche is just fermented carrots, jalapeno, and onion cut in strips and fermented in salty water.  I add garlic and sweet peppers to mine.   I consider such fermented foods as “paleo friendly indigenous foods”.  They came later than the paleo period but use paleo friendly ingredients and are rooted in indigenous cultures.
  4. Items that are just not paleo and frankly not good for your health.  Last night I ate some brisket tacos.  I did so with plain old everyday flour tortillas.  I put sharp cheddar on them, green tomatillo salsa, and I ate fricken four of them.  I had no guilt, no ill effects, and no one took my “Justice League of Paleo Card” from me.  Why did I eat that?  I wanted it and damn it tasted good.  Given the rest of the week I had eaten almost 100% solid it really did me no harm but I also know it isn’t “approved”, it is cheating or more to my way of thinking a comfort food to be eaten in extreme moderation.  On rare occasions I truly indulge and go off the reservation.  Last Thanksgiving I ate a huge pile of white potatoes and stuffing.  I won’t do it this year, not because I want to be “good” but because I felt like crap last year.  This year I will do some roasted sweet potato (Japanese Purple) and make stuffing from smoked sausage and chestnuts.  I bet I will enjoy it more.
I hope this starts to paint a picture for you that paleo isn’t an all or nothing scenario.  I eat what I want but I put it this way, I am 90% paleo, 90% of the time.

Here is a typical day, this is what I actually ate two days before writing this.

Morning

  • Coffee – I consider it neutral and not “un-paleo” others disagree.
  • Heavy organic cream – Again neutral, I would prefer it from raw milk but can’t find it in my area.
  • Pastured eggs with blue cheese and left over brisket – I call that paleo.

Afternoon – Nothing I just wasn’t hungry, this happens all the time now.  Some days I don’t eat anything until 5 pm, and have no cravings or ill effect, this is not planned.

Evening

  • Chicken wings made with my own special chili and garlic oil on the grill, solid paleo.
  • Roasted carrots fine on paleo, especially as few as I ate.
  • Grilled green peppers absolutely paleo approved.
  • Two small pieces of dark chocolate, not paleo but no big deal in my opinion.

I drank a few beers too and that isn’t paleo but I don’t care, I am happy with my results with paleo eating at the core of my diet.

My Results

Jack at 283 lbs.
Jack at 290+ lbs.

First, let me tell you about the before version of Jack Spirko.  At the heaviest I ever weighed myself I was 283.  I know I was fatter at my fattest; I was losing weight before I was willing to get on the scale and look at my real predicament.  I would estimate my weight at its worst at about 295 but I was too ashamed to weigh myself at the time.  I am a former Army Airborne solider and never really accepted that I was fat until I had really gotten bad.  Worse physically I was able to perform pretty well, in shape types often sucked wind if I hiked with them while I was fine.  That was dangerous it led me into a false sense of feeling I was okay.

I was not okay by a long shot!  I was killing myself!  My blood sugar was nuts, if I failed to eat I would end up shaky, sweaty, sick, and mean as hell in a state called hypoglycemia.  My blood pressure went in spikes all the time.  While I could endure hard work I didn’t want to do it I just did it when I had to.  I was on track for a heart attack by age 50 at best and likely close to type 2 diabetes, if not already there.

While I am now, as I put it, 90% paleo, 90% of the time, I didn’t start that way.  My approach was to go 100% paleo approved (my version) with very little alcohol and dairy for 60 days.  In that first 60 days I ate at a caloric level where the numbers say I should have gained weight but I didn’t, 20 pounds tumbled off in the first two months will I ate literal slabs or bacon and 1 pound plus fat laden rib eye steaks.

The first week I felt like crap as I withdrew from all the carbohydrates and processed foods.  It was exactly like breaking a drug addiction.  In fact, I believe modern processed food and the combination of high carbohydrates with refined sugar and fats is a drug.  It causes the exact same things to occur as any illicit drug would.  When you eat it you feel good, soon you feel compelled to eat more.  When negative thing start to happen (declining health and getting fat in this case) people continue to do it.  People in this state have withdrawal symptoms with even modest fasting times.  And like me, when they quit, the detoxification is almost identical to drug withdrawals.

Those first 60 days happened almost three years ago.  Over the next 10 months I continued to lose weight.  By the end of that year I was down to 210 pounds.  Considering I didn’t do a lot of exercising and that I was 190 pounds at 19 when I was in the Airborne; that’s pretty amazing.  The big question though is always, not how much you lose but do you keep it off.  I am happy to say over the next two years not only did I keep it off, I am now about 205, so I have slowly continued to lose weight.

You Have to Be Strict in the Beginning

I briefly discussed my path above to point something out that is very important.  If you read what I eat you might come to the wrong conclusion.  That you can be as lax as I am now and lose a lot of weight or correct dietary based illness or both.  Likely you can’t.  In the beginning I followed Robb Wolf’s book almost to the letter.  My only departures were I ate fatty meat because I knew already it would work better and I drank likely a few more adult beverages than Rob would have approved of, though I drank almost no beer.  I mostly enjoyed dry wines and Robb’s famous Nor Cal Margarita’s in the beginning.

After 60 days in I also didn’t just become as lax as I am today.  At that time I was still addicted.  I was still massively tempted to go down to a place like Cracker Barrel and shovel biscuits, chicken fried steak and white gravy into my pie hole.  For another few months I avoided most restaurants and, if I did go, ordered things like steak fajitas and asked the server not to bring me chips or tortillas.  I knew if they were on the table I would eat them.  At this point, I began enjoying some beers again, sticking to lighter varieties for a while.  I started to eat more cheese and some dairy and waited to see if it had any negative impact.  I continued to get in better shape and had no ill effects.  I continued at this level for about another 3 months.

After that I began letting myself have a bit of bread once a week if it popped up.  I didn’t plan it like, okay Thursday is bread day.  That is bad for the mind; you convince yourself you are sacrificing.  But if I was at a steak house and they brought out bread and if I was in the mood I had a slice.  I would on rare occasions have some rice and beans at a Mexican restaurant, but never ate them all, just a bit.  I would eat almost all my meat and vegetables first and by doing so I would never really want the entire portion anyway.

Along the way something strange happened, my appetite declined and any trace of my former issues with hypoglycemia disappeared.  When I was eating without thinking, I was already eating rib eyes, for example.  I would eat one with broccoli and a huge potato and perhaps a big piece of garlic bread.  Now the potato and bread were gone, and yet I found myself with a third of my steak going into the fridge for use in tomorrow’s breakfast.  Then, as previously mentioned, I began fasting on many days with no intent of doing so, I just only ate if I felt like it.  Yet none of this happened overnight.  It was a long process and a great journey.

Thoughts on Exercise

People are amazed when I say I didn’t exercise and I didn’t in the way most people think of the word but you might have to.  First and foremost, we are different beings you and I, you may not respond as well as I did or as fast as I did and may need something to kick on the furnace.  The truth though is likely I didn’t have to hit the gym due to my lifestyle while this was occurring.  We had just moved to a homestead in Arkansas.  My days were spent cutting timber, splitting logs, digging gardens and taking walks with my dog up a very steep road over about 2 – 3 miles a day.

Today it is much the same.  We are in Texas and have a 3 acre homestead.  I walk the entire property multiple times a day seeing to our animals.  I do a lot of work in the garden, I build a lot of things, I swim in our pool, and frankly, in the summer, sweat my ass off.  Let me say I believe that unless you have specific goals as an athlete this is the ideal way to get “exercise”.  Our paleo ancestors didn’t do cross fit or run on tread mills or stair masters.  They certainly didn’t work out to “Buns of Steel”, etc.  They ran, they walked, they hunted, they moved heavy objects but all energy extended had a purpose.  That gave their lives purpose, and that, my friends, reduces stress.  If you want to be paleo; take walks, focus only on things you can actually affect, turn the damn news off and tune into something positive.  Getting active, getting outside, and relieving stress is a huge part of paleo.

That said not every person out there can live on their own little homestead doing construction projects, digging gardens, and working with livestock.  Many are busy professionals who can only get a work out if they schedule time and do conventional exercise.  If that is you, so be it.  Still, make time to simply take walks.  If you can find a place with hills and get off pavement, even better.  If you have specific athletic goals then, of course, you will need to exercise.  If you want to be ripped and cut and lean like a person on a magazine cover, you also will need to do a lot of exercise in a more conventional form.  Yet I am convinced by my results if you simply want to be healthy, in shape and happy, all you need is an active lifestyle.  Let me say though if exercise isn’t distressing for you and you enjoy it, don’t stop doing it either.

My Conclusion

The best guideline I have come by for what is or isn’t paleo food is this one.

All food meant for human consumption can be eaten in its raw natural state by humans, even if we don’t eat it that way due to health concerns or cultural bias.

Consider what you have to do to make wheat edible.  Cut it, thresh it, winnow it and you still have rock hard seeds unfit to eat.  They must be then ground, cracked, soaked or cooked in some way or perhaps sprouted to make them edible.  Folks that is not food meant by nature for humans!  What animal does this for any food it naturally consumes other than us?  The answer is none.

As previously discussed, some tolerate grain pretty well, but it is toxic.  Soaking, fermentation and sprouting make grain less toxic, but it is still toxic to humans.  Almost every food that is a no-go on paleo and primal eating universally will fit this bill.  What about meat?  Meat is good raw and it is quite digestible raw.  It is only modern cultural bias and health concerns of parasites that make cooking meat necessary.

So my view is, if something isn’t a food you would eat with little to no preparation, it isn’t paleo.  These foods are your building blocks.  The other concern is too much sugar.  While fruit is something early man ate, remember there were no orchards or Whole Foods Markets to run down to.  Fruit wasn’t something you could eat every day and they certainly didn’t eat the same varieties every day.  It was eaten seasonally so mimic that, especially early on.

To me, the way to move into this lifestyle is to first follow a proven method with some modifications if you see fit but keep pretty close to a proven plan.  Fix what is broken in your body before cheating and eating things that don’t pass the “would I eat this in its raw form” test.  If you want to experiment with fermented and sprouted grains, fine; but at least try the baseline first for, say, 60 days.  You can do anything for 60 days; most people would gladly spend 60 days in jail in return for a million dollars, so 60 days without bread and rice ain’t going to kill you.  If it works well, stick to it until you get closer to being truly healthy.  Then slowly add different things back, stick to naturally grown things, no processed crap.  Only try one or two things at a time as you reintroduce things.  That way if something goes off kilter you can easily figure out what it was.

In time you will refine your personal dietary regiment and by doing it this way you absolutely will stick to it.  You may very well find yourself eating more in keeping with the guidelines of people, who follow the work of Dr. Weston Price, or you may find yourself eating more like Robb Wolf or Loren Cordain, but you will find what works for you.  That is indeed the key.

The reason though for going all in at first is because trust me most people don’t know how sick they are.  Most don’t really know how fat they are either.  You need that cleansing time, that break down and rebuilding and cold turkey addiction breaking period so you can actually know what healthy is again.  Once you do you will be able to ascertain that some food or substance is a problem for you very early on.

My contention is most people that don’t clean out before adding back, end up failing, often with Yo-Yo diet-like symptoms.  They lose weight, look good, gain it all back and more and it becomes harder to lose the next time around.  Frankly let me tell you I did this weight loss thing about 12 years ago.  The story you just read isn’t my first battle with weight.  In the 90s, I discovered Protein Power by the Doctors Eades.  I was fat, not as fat as this last time but overweight.  I went on Protein Power and it worked great but, within a year, I was fat again and began the slow gain that took me up over 290 pounds.

I firmly believe that not trying to make “low carb pancakes” as people on diets that are only low carb do is a big part of why my success this time is permanent.   I don’t count carbohydrates, I don’t feel deprived, I eat food designed for humans to consume it.  Yet I had to break the food addictions first.  I had to strip it down to true caveman level stuff and only then did I slowly and purposefully find my way to what works for me.

Just remember Paleo is a concept; eating in a way that mimics our early ancestor’s diet, the diet we are genetically designed for.  Start at that foundation, get active, give it time to work, and adapt it to your life once you have regained your health.

About Jack Spirko

Profile photo of Jack Spirko
Best known for his work as the host of “The Survival Podcast,” a daily online audio program that focuses on modern survival concepts and philosophy. Jack’s podcast teaches skills such as gardening and permaculture, food storage techniques, alternative investing strategies, keeping small livestock, home energy production, food preservation, and creating individual liberty. Jack and his work have been featured in The Dallas Morning News, The Chicago Tribune, Freedom Watch on Fox News and the Mike in the Morning Show. Jack is a contributing editor for Survival.com Magazine and a former staff columnist for LewRockwell.com. Jack has been called “the face of the modern survival movement” by Judge Andrew Napolitano and “the man we should call Spirkodamus for his accuracy in predicting future events” by legendary survival trainer Ron Hood.

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34 comments

  1. Out of the park… Well done brother!

  2. Great article. Just to play devil’s advocate, Jack. What is your take/what do you say to people that believe that humans are naturally vegetarians, and that point to meat and dairy consumption as causing many of our chronic diseases? Also, are you at all concerned that your high meat intake could cause issues, like heart disease? Our lifespans weren’t that long back in paleo days, and we did get a lot more exesercise (although it sounds you get a lot daily).

    I don’t want this comment to be taken as a negative. I enjoyed the article and am mainly paleo myself. I would just enjoy your take on these questions.

    Thanks!

  3. I am trying to follow Paleo, but breakfast is tough. Got to get two kids ready and get to work myself, so time is tight and I just don’t want eggs every day! Any suggestions?

    • Profile photo of Jack Spirko

      Don’t limit yourself to eggs, cook some stuff in advance. Some bacon, some sausage both are great at breakfast time, you can cook enough for the week on Sunday and keep it in the fridge.

      Put heavy cream in your coffee, you won’t need or want to eat much till at least lunch time soon.

    • My gf has Celiac Disease and follows a gluten-free diet. For breakfast we make stacks of Almond Meal pancakes that I personally find wonderful. The best part about these are they really do not lose anything when you freeze them and just microwave them a few days later for about 90 seconds. They do not get rubbery or anything like you might expect so they are a great alternative to eggs and bacon every day.

    • Sometimes for breakfast I eat leftover supper. You’d be surprised how good a chicken breast or piece of steak is for breakfast.

  4. I have been listening to your show for about a year now, and just recently decided to try paleo. My Wife and I are on our 5th week, we went at Paleo much like you did and in the past 4 weeks I have lost 20 lbs and my Wife has lost 10. When I was in the Army I was about 180 to 190 lbs 5’11 tall. 5 weeks ago I was 230 lbs. Only exercise I have done in the past 4 weeks is taking the dog for walks. Thank you Jack not just for turning us on to Paleo but for so many other things. Since we started listening to you we have put in a 30 x 30 garden in our urban home (about a 1/4 acre lot) we have 6 layer chicken, a compost system, started canning and have been reading and studying permaculture. Thank you for the inspiration that has changed our lives. For Steve above: We make what we call “Paleo Muffins” We scramble eggs add peppers onions, mushrooms bacon(or ham or sausage) mix it all up bake it in a muffin pan. Then wrap them up and freeze them to take to work for 9 am break. I know its still egg but they come in real handy when the week gets busy and you have them all made up in the freezer.

    • Profile photo of Travis Toler

      @Willy2154 That is a great idea with the “Paleo Muffins” Sounds like an omelet on-the-go. Definitely will add that to the menu. I find breakfast difficult as well and sometimes just eat a handful of grapes, raisins or trail mix. It tides me over, but not as appetizing as sitting eating steak and eggs everyday.

  5. good stuff, nice to read something that allows for the differences in people’s reactions to things.
    One thing about the grains, wheat in particular. Wheat used to have another element which made it nontoxic…sort of the way magic mushrooms supposedly do, making it possible to used them without dying, they contain their own antidote. Modern wheats have lost this, in the drive for shorter stems, bigger yields etc. Also, wheat needs to be stored for a period to cure, which used to be done with stooks, now that is all bypassed. This curing process would have occurred naturally, I think, with grains gathered against the coming of the lean times of winter.

    There is quite a lot of evidence that even the native American Indians made use of grains (basically grass seed, after all.) I read somewhere that almost all are edible so someone must have tried them, aside from what their traditions say. But they didn’t harvest them then gas them and spray them with insecticides and fungicides. They also didn’t GROW them with chemicals which are known to be noxious to human health; whatever issues wheat had to start out with, we have made immeasurably worse all the way down the line..breeding, growing, harvesting and storing.

    I was astounded to learn, after having animals all my life, that hay needs to have a short “rest” period after harvesting before it is safe to feed to animals. I learned this at a horse show when a breeder had fed hay which had been baled that day and all 5 of his horses got colic; which is a sort of horse’s version of extreme indigestion.

    Slow food is a good concept in more ways than one.

    Thanks for the information I’m going to do this for 60 days and see

  6. Been on paleo now for 2 months. my cholesterol was 350 with medication. now its 175! triglycerides were 850 now 125, and I eat tons of eggs, bacon ,sausage chicken, fish fruits and veggies. also started crossfit classes. lovin it!

  7. Holy wa!!! Great article Jack.
    I am working my way through Cordain’s book but you just totally solidified my mind on the whole paleo thing. I will finish the book but this primer was the best I’ve read– and what I’ve been looking for. I see this becoming a very valuable resource for those looking to change to the paleo style.

  8. I have argued with Jack about the fact that I don’t necessarily think food is the issue, and that you can effectively eat what you want. My belief is that what is killing us is stress and the sedentary lifestyle. From sitting in front of a computer to sitting in your car, and thinking about all the things that we need to ‘get done’ today. It is murder on the mind and the body.

    It is nice to see that at some level he has conceded to that fact in his ‘Thoughts on Exercise’ part of the article. I am not taking away any of the very good information he made about his eating, don’t even call it paleo, it is merely what he eats, putting a word to it, is trying to pigeonhole a person. If you are out splitting wood, eating a quarter-pounder with cheese is not going to hurt you.

    My point to Jack all this time is that you can effectively eat whatever you want, but your activity level absolutely has to match what you are eating. If you don’t have the time to workout or exert yourself in some fashion, then you do have to pay attention to what you are sticking in your mouth.

    However, please everyone, the #1 thing you can do for yourself is begin to get rid of the stressors in your life. Focus on one or two things each day, don’t try to multitask. You will get more satisfaction from the work you put into those one or two things versus twenty that may only get to the next state of suspended animation. With some level of activity your stress will decrease as well, and when you stop beating yourself up about your food, your stress will continue to fall.

    Do not look at food as some type of silver bullet for health. Wrapping up, the best way to view these variables is as a math expression. I believe the following:

    stress is the exponential term
    activity is the variable to the power of 3 or 4
    food is a sin function floating between 1 and -1

    The first two terms are going to get you further down the road IMHO.

    • Profile photo of Jack Spirko

      I have not conceded to a daggon thing man. Yes being active and reducing stress are extremely important, but that doesn’t change what you should eat or what you should avoid. I have a single word for this statement,

      ” that you can effectively eat what you want”

      Said word is diffusional! No you can’t, there are many food that will damage your health. Go with mostly carbs and I don’t care if you look healthy, work out daily and mediate at the level of a Buddhist monk. In that dietary state, it is a SCIENTIFIC fact and I know how much you love science, that your body will spend much of the day in glycation.

      In that state the body is producing permanent plaques known as AGEs or advanced glycation end products. These plaques are permanent and damage your body for life. You can’t get rid of them ever, but you can stop producing them.

      This is just one factor in how diet especially modern diet including the supposed “healthy version” is killing us and making us sick, while the food manufactures and drug maker get wealthy beyond all immigration.

      Your statement is such that you are saying a person could eat big macs and pizza hut and be healthy if they are low stress and active. It is total nonsense.

      Now again I am not arguing that some people stay thin eating such foods. But that doesn’t equal healthy in an of itself.

      There is also age in the equation, a 25 year old can do more damage to their body and be more resilient in handling it then a 45 year old.

      Some people could eat a tub of KFC daily and never gain a pound. Man said person is sick, very sick, may be sicker then some people who are modestly “overweight”.

      Ever see a person dying of any illness that takes more than a month to kill, NOT DIABETES, I mean a terminal condition where you are able to say like they have 4-6 months to live. They are not fat during that period and few are highly active or in low stress. They lose a lot of weight fast. Weight alone is not a sole indicator of health. Every super skinny person I have known who can just stuff food and never gain a pound was sick, you could see it in them.

      But again I have wasted key board calories on someone who ignores both personal results and scientific research.

    • Profile photo of Steve Baze

      Scott , I agree on some of your points, but the author makes some good points as well.You both have valid ideas going on. I am completely convinced that the actual truth of it all lies some where in the middle of both of your thesis and ideas/experiences. There are very few absolutes in any of it regarding health and fitness? Just a lot of generalities that seem to apply to most of us rather consistently. We do all process our food and the world we live in slightly differently. Don’t forget that there is a continuous barrage of information floating around out there constantly, a lot of which is actually not good advice at all. That is why we are constantly bombarded with all manner of conflicting information about new diets and supposed new scientific facts? Some of which is accurate and some not. So it really is all about finding what works for you and incorporating those things into your life and daily regimen. And also filtering out some of the bad info. No question we can’t eat ding dongs and chicken skin and be healthy, but moderation and some balance goes a long way in all things . Combine that with some effort and good research and your application of that information and you will find a winning formula. I think you both made some very good points. And both overlook a few things that are completely valid. But that does not make anybody completely wrong or right ? Good on both of Ya !

      • Profile photo of Travis Toler

        I think we need to look at the root of the problem here. The same folks who are capitalizing on the food industry are also constantly selling us on diet gimicks. You absolutely can eat whatever you want, but why would you. These arguments are likely started by folks who have never put themselves through the regime of weeding their bodies off carbohydrates, and have truly felt the benefit of reform. I agree with Jack that processed foods are a drug and do the same thing to the body (based on my experience).

        Who is to say that paleo man had a shorter lifespan, when the bible tells us that living to 120-150yrs was pretty common. The argument that we are more sickly as a race now than ever in human history, seems to be a misnoemer among those supporting the claims that you can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise. Why don’t these studies look at our diet and compare what we ate then and what we eat now that make such claims? Probably because the same institutions that conduct this research are being paid by the same institutes that produce our processed foods, and run the food chains that keep us addicted and thus enslaved to their existance.

        Wow, sorry for the rant. I don’t think it is safe to boast that anybody can eat whatever they want as long as they perform the activity that will counteract the diet. This is detrimental in and of itself, but we will never convince those that are firmly rooted in this belief. Why would you eat a pizza and then go run a couple miles. Who actually does this? Great sell for those convinced it is possible though.

  9. Thanks for all the great info. I’m looking forward to losing my gut with this paleo lifestyle. I’ll let you know how it turns out for me. I need to lose about 100 pounds.
    Jack, you can find raw milk in your area at realmilk.com. Maybe they have heavy cream as well.
    Link for Texas: http://www.realmilk.com/real-milk-finder/texas/#tx

  10. Excellent article as always. The pics of the food look so good. What did you stuff those peppers with?

  11. Jack,

    Any suggestions for paleo friendly snacks for someone with a bad sweet tooth? Or breakfast ideas for someone who doesn’t love eggs? THANKS

    • Profile photo of Jack Spirko

      Okay don’t take this the wrong way I really am trying to help. But from my article,

      “All food meant for human consumption can be eaten in its raw natural state by humans, even if we don’t eat it that way due to health concerns or cultural bias.”

      So that is about a million or more options be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Telling you what to eat for breakfast without eggs is hard, because…

      1. I have fresh eggs coming out of my ears
      2. I don’t eat breakfast many days
      3. I love eggs
      4. I cook tons of meat, all left over meat tastes good fried with eggs and cheese and veg

      So I really haven’t put much effort into eggless breakfast but ONLY the marketing has told us eggs and cereal = breakfast. Did you know before the 1920s eating bacon at breakfast was almost unheard of? Then a big bacon producer marketed the idea of eggs and bacon for breakfast. See, in Paul Wheaton’s words, “its just marketing”.

      What might I do for a eggless breakfast. Say take a small sweet potato, use about half per person. Cube it and fry it lighter in bacon grease with crumbled sausage to make a decent hash, say go 3 to one, sausage to potato, so it is a good sized portion.

      With that go with real WHOLE MILK yogurt with sliced berries, say blue, black or straw, they are all very low carb and you only need a few. Add two cubs of coffee with organic heavy cream, you won’t be hungry before lunch that is for sure.

      But hell that is just me trying to stay “breakfast” for you, don’t be bound to cultural norms. Eggs are much more popular for dinner in Japan then for breakfast. Just remember,

      “All food meant for human consumption can be eaten in its raw natural state by humans, even if we don’t eat it that way due to health concerns or cultural bias.”

      The foods you don’t eat are the minority in total variety of what is available. Mostly we are talking corn, soy, rice, wheat, white potato. Yea there are other grains but that is the bulk of what we avoid. Don’t let the fact that these foods have been marketed as staples into your life effect your freedom to choose anything else you want.

      • Thanks for the help. Made some of that hash with local sausage. It was awesome. I added some peppers and onions. Also switched to heavy cream in my coffee too. Thanks again for your help.

  12. I have been reading some very interesting stuff about Resistant Starch. Supposedly it does not produce the insulin response that regular starch does and even blunts it. Also, provides a better “home” for good gut microbes.
    Have you read/heard anything about this?
    One blog/article in particular:
    http://freetheanimal.com/2013/12/dramatic-resistant-success.html

  13. Good for you, Jack! Todd of Survival Sherpa and I thought we might be only two of perhaps 6 prepper bloggers out there!

    I am absolutely convinced that this “diet” is the most nutritious of them all! How can you go wrong with lots of veggies, fruit, eggs and pastured meat!!!

    I, too, am 90% paleo 90% of the time! 🙂

  14. OK, so this has been stuck in my craw listening to the paleo podcasts and reading Dr Ellis’s book. I’m good with the biochemistry analysis, and really enjoy that part. It’s the view of history I’m having a hard time swallowing. 46% of Americans believe in the Genesis account of creation (see link below), and it’s pretty clear there what man was designed to eat. “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely.” Of Adam’s two sons Cain and Abel, one raised animals and the other was a farmer. I’m not trying to change anyone’s point of view. I was just hoping for a disclaimer or recognition of such a common view (e.g “this may not jive with Bible-believing Christians, but I believe…”). Just felt like we were getting steamrolled a bit without it.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/americans-believe-in-creationism_n_1571127.html

    I feel better now.

  15. Good article, but lots of stuff left out about health and real fitness. It is all about how we think about these things in our life and nothing else really. There is no magic or Paleo thingy or anything else ? It is all about how much exertion and what you eat . Simple as that. All else is some form of hokus pokus or misinformation. It is actually much simpler than the writer expresses. I eat pretty much whatever I want, but I do watch the amount of carbs without doing without anything? One thing I completely disagree on is POTATOES. They are very good for you actually . Like all things it is just about balance and moderation verses your physical output ? Although I like sweet potatoes a lot as well.

  16. Jack – Don’t think anybody mentioned it but thanks for sharing the photos. You look like you’re standing about shoulder-deep in happiness with your chicken, the grill and Mr. Max. You’ve connected with something great in life and you’ve become an inspiration for some 100,000 of us to do the same.

    Cheers bro.
    Scott

  17. Good stuff per usual jack.

    I’ll just make an off the wall comment. If you look into the back story of some of these so-called gurus a lot of them have tried many extreme diets and really screwed up their bodies as a result.

    For example a lot of them used to be vegans or what have you.

    Now as a result of them screwing themselves 6 ways from sunday they have to maintain being super strict with Paleo to combat all the damage they did to themselves.

    Then there are normal folks like me who always ate moderately, lived an active lifestyle and didn’t go to excess with an extreme diet.

    Now I can still eat french bread, drink beer, and have a pizza now and again and it’s no big deal. I have learned a lot about “paleo” diets and have incorporated much from this knowledge into my daily routine, however I believe food restrictions often HURT more than they help.

    What I take away from this article is arm yourself with knowledge, listen to your body, and establish a healthy trend of eating, but if you start becoming neurotic about food your doing it wrong.

    Unless your a celiac or have some other health condition stop sweating every ingredient and live your life!

    I didn’t screw myself up with an extreme diet and I’m not going to adopt an extreme diet to combat a problem I don’t even have.

    We drink bone broth, make our own yogurt from raw milk, sprout seeds, eat grass fed beef and pastured pork. We also eat french bread, drink beer and wine, and enjoy a REAL BUN on our burgers!

  18. Profile photo of Travis Toler

    My girlfriend and I went on the Paleo diet last September, and are both feeling wonderful and have lost quite a significant amount of weight. I decided that I would not measure myself, not even weekly. I haven’t stepped on a scale in a couple years, and I feel better than I have in quite a few years. We fall off the wagon once in a while, but we pay for it. I want to begin fasting a couple times a month just to take it to the next level. You are right about this quickly becomes a lifestyle that is rewarded by how you feel, and not by how well you stick to it and how little you eat.

    This is the first diet that I feel 100% confident that this is not a weight loss scheme, but a way that is how we are suppose to eat, based on 25,000 years of existence as humans.

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