I’ve been eating a Paleo diet for more than 3 years now and I still think it’s the closest thing to magic when it comes to dieting and healthy eating. It completely resolved my chronic sinus infections that lasted over 20 years within 4 weeks. In addition, it gives me more energy during the day; after a bad night of sleep, I can still be somewhat productive the next day; it helps you make faster progress with your strength training; and as a side note, even hangovers don’t hold the same punch anymore…
Unfortunately, all of these very good reasons are not the usual reason as to why people start a Paleo diet – let’s face it, you just want to lose these love handles.
This is completely fine as a starting point, as you’ll get to experience the other benefits anyways. And Paleo is an excellent and in my opinion the most sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off, simply because you don’t have to go hungry. Which other diet can also make that claim? The good news is that the rules are simple too! Meats, fish, vegetables, eggs, fruits, nuts – idiot proof, right? I got this! Beach body here I come!
Well, as I can tell you from personal experience, it’s not quite as idiot proof as it seems… There are as many different versions of the Paleo diet as there are people doing the Paleo diet, so they can look VERY different. Some of these versions will get you to lose body fat consistently and rather quickly, while some will not. I’m not even saying there is anything wrong with that! Different people have different needs and should be free to adjust the diet to their specific needs. However, if you want to lose weight and it’s currently not happening for you, let me tell you why:
There is more to Paleo than the dichotomy of ALLOWED – NOT ALLOWED.
Just because you are technically allowed to eat bananas and grapes, it doesn’t mean you should be eating 2 pounds of it every day. Just because sweet potatoes are Paleo, it doesn’t mean you have to eat sweet potato mash for every meal. Yes, nuts are tasty and a caveman staple, but a bag of nuts per day still contains a wagonload of calories. And for all you primal people, don’t even get me started on dark chocolate.
ALLOWED – NOT ALLOWED is a necessary stage for beginners; but if you stop there and don’t graduate to the next level of Paleo, you will not see great results in terms of fat loss. ALLOWED – NOT ALLOWED is simply not going to cut it for most people, as we have a natural tendency to max out the grey area of every diet – the grey area simply tastes better.
So, what does that next stage look like? It means developing a sense for the right proportions of each allowed food group to the other. ALLOWED – NOT ALLOWED is not the question anymore. The question now becomes: What is the right balance? This means instead of thinking “meats, fish, vegetables, eggs, fruits and nuts”, you should shift your focus to the following modifiers (printed bold):
- Plenty of unprocessed meats and fish
- Tons of non-starchy vegetables
- Some but not too many starchy vegetables, like sweet potatoes or yams (max. 1-2x per week)
- Plenty of eggs
- Some but not too many fruits (I shoot for 200 grams of berries every day; avoid high sugar fruits like bananas and grapes)
- Some but not too many nuts (a handful per day is fine)
If you are not losing weight on the Paleo diet, it’s likely you are either unaware or kidding yourself about these modifiers. These DO matter and ignoring them will prevent you from your desired result.
To make this as simple as possible: Your standard meal should be a piece of meat with tons of vegetables next to it. That’s it. That the face of fat loss without going hungry. This is what 80-90% of your meals should look like, with the remaining 10-20% being made up of other Paleo options.
I know, this doesn’t sound too overly sexy to beginners who are used to the typical American diet, but you can learn to love these veggies over time and you will. Bigger miracles have happened. And there is simply no alternative to it: Yo-yo diets never work long term, while Paleo does. So start paying attention to these modifiers and embrace the meat and veggies. I’ll see you at the beach.