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What is Paleo, and why would anyone choose it?

In 2015, I read my first Paleo book, wondering what all the buzz was about.  My mother had died of colon cancer in 2001 (when she was just 57), and that propelled me into looking into nutrition and dietary changes to ensure that I might have a rich, satisfying, long and happy life–and a happy gut as well!  As a mother nurtures her child, and helps to steer her (me) to making good choices in life.  My mother’s passing has literally become my educational drive, and passionate force for shaping my life’s path toward Wellness Coaching.

The idea behind Paleo, in a nutshell, is that during our human evolution over a millennia, that our digestive tracts are best built to digest whole foods.  The theory derives that we are the descendants of ancestors that passed the tests… and lived!  Our ancestors were hunter gatherers, without access to 24 hour grocery stores and drive-thrus, that serve up highly profitable, processed food-like substances.  Which means we likely ate the protein source (meat) we could catch, and collected edible greens, and fruits or tubers that were in season.  Our meat sources were not low-fat, well that squirrel may be leaner than that deer, but the fat infused meat was probably something our lean bodies craved.  The theory is that since we (humans) made it this far, we were probably doing something right along the way.

The other tenant is that in evolutionary terms, changes in species happen relatively slowly.  So even though we stopped the nomadic life chasing game, and settled into pleasant valleys and started farming, in order to save energy and stock pile resources, our bodies took the impact–in the long run.  It is likely that as tribes grew into larger communities the challenge became–how do we feed all these people, quickly?  Somehow, grains became the answer.  The age of industrialization helped us become more efficient, produce more, faster, and easier.  And then the collective “we” started chasing profits.

In my lifetime, 53 years, our American health has declined drastically.  When I was a kid, hardly anyone was overweight.  There were a couple of chubby people, but all of the neighborhood kids, and most of the kids in my 400 student high school were lean, and most all of the parents were thin.  When I was 36, I attended a pool party with a friend who’s 12 year old daughter was celebrating a birthday, and I was the skinniest one in the pool.  I couldn’t help notice this stark contrast to my developing years.  I wondered what agony these young girls would face as they moved into adulthood.  But I digress.

One of ideologies of Paleo suggests that as our world became grain-centric as a mechanism for feeding the masses, it happened in under 100 years, which on the evolutionary scale, is a nanosecond.  Which means that our digestive tract has not had the time to adapt, to either our new found laziness (not running around chasing squirrels or trying to catch fish and crab), nor to the massive onslaught of grains at every meal.  And I’m not even going off on the tangent of prepackaged highly processed crap that is marketed to us by the profit mongers (we’ll save that for a rainy day).   Honestly, this makes sense to me.  Especially as I have watched in horror at the ever increasing waistlines of Americans, I can’t help but deduct that something has gone massively wrong… and no one has seemed to notice!  Yikes!

Do you remember the movie Wall-E?  I can’t help but hope that it is not wildly prophetic.  A planet destroyed by the trash and lack of forethought, as the humans get larger and larger and larger through the years.  Each person with a screen attached in front of their faces, and an extra large soda or Venti latte in their hands, unable to get up if they fall over.  It’s an admonition that should not be scoffed at.  If you have not seen it–do, it is a great harbinger.

OK, so what to do about it?  Firstly, let’s admit there is a problem here, like a 12 step program.  Once we admit that we may have been asleep at the wheel, then we need to do something about it.  The first thing you can do is to clean out the pantry and toss the crap, or give it to the food bank, they will welcome your donation and give you a tax deductible receipt.  Second, just decide to clean up your own diet.  Plainly, try to eat whole foods…  foods that are not multiple ingredients all nicely put together for you:  Meat, Vegetables, Fruit.  Next, aim for quality, so try and choose free-range, grass-fed, wild caught (as opposed to factory farmed).  Choose local, and seasonal; our bodies need a varied diet.  IF you can”t give up grains just yet, that’s alright (the food manufacturers like that you are addicted) just cut them WAY back.  Now I get it, there are some things that you adore.  See if you can choose products with less ingredients.  Just for fun, look at the ingredients in your favorite ice cream… and then try and find one that has fewer ingredients and ones that you can pronounce!  The ingredient list for Bryers Chocolate Ice Cream looks like this:  Milk, Cream, Sugar, Dutched Cocoa, Whey, Vegetable Gum (Tara) and Natural Flavor.  As you become a food label sleuth, a short list of ingredients will elicit a sigh of relief!

Just where am I going with this rant?  I implore you to become an investigator of the foods you choose to consume.  If you want to loose that stubborn weight, lift the brain fog, or just be able to walk up some stairs without becoming short of breath, it may be time to make some changes to your diet, and your lifestyle.  You have the ability to make changes.  Become an explorer, see what makes you feel better, and do more of that.  For some of you it may mean cutting out sugar (gasp!), or choosing gluten-free, or ordering foods with less caloric impact–hint, get the 12 oz and choose smaller portions, and skip the chip and cookie isle all together… those aren’t whole foods.  And for goodness sake (literally) move that gorgeous body of yours, take the stairs, park farther away, join a gym or pick up a yoga DVD at the local thrift shop.

IF all of this seems like too much, just start reading and become more educated about foods, if a book seems like too big of a stretch, try a Netflix (or a DVD from the Library) documentary about foods, I recommend “Food Inc,”  “Super Size Me,””Forks Over Knives‘” “What the Health.”  Gosh just watch a couple of these trailers on You Tube.  I’m certain one of these will shake you wide-awake.  Or just enjoy “Wall-E” with a critical thought about what the really problem(s) are.

You can make simple changes that will profoundly affect your health–for the better.  Do it for you.  Do it for your family.  Talk about with your kids, or your parents.  It’s not too late.  It is never too late to wake up.


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