The Top 11 Paleo Mistakes You May Be Making That Are Effecting Your Results
Have you been strictly paleo for as long as you can stand it without seeing the results you were hoping for?
You’ve come to the right place and you are in good company. In fact, I receive daily emails from people who follow the basic dietary guidelines of our ancestors and yet fail to experience the vibrant health they had envisioned. Does this mean that the paleo diet doesn’t work?
Nope. Not at all.
In fact, when the paleo diet is approached strategically amazing things can happen! Just ask my husband, my sister, my brother-in-law, our web designer and the hundreds (if not thousands) of friends, family and clients whom I have personally shared this lifestyle with. It’s true. Magical, really.
Most often, the problem isn’t paleo. Instead, your lack of paleo results is more that you are under informed and simple tweaks are all that is needed. Here are the top 10 paleo mistakes that keep most of my favorite paleo pals from seeing optimal results. By avoiding these you will be far more likely to achieve the success you desire.
1. Lack of self experimentation
Our biochemical individuality (inherent snowflake uniqueness) necessitates attention, awareness and self experimentation. Foods that work for you may not work for me even regardless that they are “paleo.” Although the paleo framework eliminates most common dietary allergens for most people, you are NOT most people. You are you. Radiant health requires that we at times move outside of the paleo box.
For instance, I am sensitive to garlic. Yes, garlic! It’s one of the most nutritionally beneficial foods on planet Earth for most people. Even though I was strictly “paleo” for 2 years, it wasn’t until a food sensitivity test (IgG) revealed sensitivity to garlic. Once I eliminated it, my long-time skin breakouts completely abated. If I didn’t do the testing, I might have given up paleo long ago. Fortunately, I didn’t, because now I feel better than ever. If you are still suffering from nagging symptoms despite an impeccably clean diet, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Instead try a full-blown elimination diet or consult a health practitioner who can perform food allergy/sensitivity testing.
2. Too many nuts
Nuts are extremely calorically dense, notoriously difficult to digest and one of the most common dietary allergens around. If feel like you have a ball in your stomach after you eat or can’t get the scale to budge, then the consumption of too many nuts may be your issue.
To test your tolerance, simply eliminate nuts for one week to see how you feel. If you feel better without them, stay nut free for as long as you want to feel good. When and if you decide to incorporate them, introduce once variety (cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, etc.) at a time in 4 day cycles. Also, be sure that the nuts you consume are raw, soaked or sprouted as you may have been reacting to the oil used in roasted nuts rather than the nuts themselves.
3. Forgoing not-necessarily-paleo practices like daily green juice
It’s true. Our paleo pals did not own a Vitamix nor did they have access to an array of nutrient-dense brightly colored vegetables. That is no reason to forgo a practice that can improve your health dramatically. In fact, my daily, low-glycemic green juice gives me more energy and vitality than anything else I consume. It also dramatically improves the nutrient density of my diet and helps to calm inflammation. Everyone needs that!
For best results keep the fiber in your shake by using a Vitamix rather than a juicer. It’s also best to stick to low glycemic vegetable juices including organic kale, romaine, celery, cucumber, lemon, lime, strawberries, ginger, turmeric and chard. Avoid fruit juices entirely. Large amounts of rapidly absorbed fruit may result in blood sugar surges that can cause fatigue, cravings and irritability for certain individuals. Try green shakes daily. It’s super beneficial.
4. Too many paleo desserts
This is a big one. The paleo scene is literally crawling with thousands of innovative paleo desserts. Paleo desserts are still desserts. If you are eating them regularly it is most likely one of the primary reasons you have not met your health goals. Reserve your paleo dessert indulgences for times of celebration (like once every other week) rather than everyday use. I have no doubt you’ll feel better than ever.
5. Too much protein
Paleo is not necessarily a high protein diet despite what the mainstream media tells you. In fact, too much protein can be inflammatory for certain people especially when it’s not grass-fed and organic. Yes, there were certain cultures like the Inuits and Maasai who consumed large amounts of protein. However, there were also certain cultures, like the Kitavans, who did not.
High quality animal protein should be consumed with every meal and snack. But not as the main course. Instead, divide your plate in half. Devote half to organic vegetables and the other half to high quality fat and protein. Fifteen to twenty grams of protein at each meal is a great reference point. However, be sure to experiment to find the macronutrient ratios that work best for you.
6. Too much dried fruit
As a former dried-mango junkie I speak from experience. Since I nixed the daily habit my mood, energy levels and weight stabilized dramatically. Dried fruit produces very different metabolic consequences than whole fruit. By removing the water content of fruit, you are suddenly able to perform miraculous feats of fruit consumption! In fact, in a few handfuls of dried fruit you could feasibly consume 4 apples in 15 seconds! Ok, that’s a tad of an exaggeration, but have you ever tried to eat 4 whole apples? No! Our bodies are unequipped to handle that amount of sugar influx. This is why Mother Nature packaged fruit with a hefty water content. For best results, kick the dried fruit to the curb and stick to whole fruit that can be eaten at a paleo pace.
7. Too few leafy greens
Organic, diverse and brightly colored vegetables should be the centerpiece of your diet. Although not all of our ancestors had consistent access to vegetables, research has shown that they consistently confer health benefits unparalleled by almost any other food to pretty much everyone (excluding those with rare food allergies).
Organic, non-starchy vegetables promote weight loss, improve energy, enhance digestive ease, slow the aging process, reduce inflammation and protect against disease. The more green, diversely-colored, local, non starchy (above ground) vegetables that you can consume, the better.
8. Trusting any wrapper labeled “paleo.”
Paleo food manufacturing has become a burgeoning market. Currently there is no regulatory “Paleo Board” nor is there one set of paleo guidelines which everyone agrees upon. Therefore, it remains possible for paleo products to contain questionable ingredients with poor nutritional value. Processed paleo bars and snacks, often with unpronounceable ingredients or more sugar than a can of Coke may be technically “paleo” according to certain criteria, but that doesn’t mean they are beneficial.
Stay vigilant. Scrutinize paleo products just as you would other processed foods. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t consume it. If it isn’t organic or contains sugar from anything other than fruit or honey, avoid it! Paleo food manufacturing is a business, so be sure to critique everything.
9. Forgetting to focus on food quality
Food quality is a central premise of the paleo diet. However, for many paleo adherents it is an afterthought or not considered at all. Take for instance a lettuce-wrapped Big Mac as compared to a grass-fed burger. These foods contain similar amounts of protein, carbs and fat. By some definitions they are equally paleo.. However, these two meals yield wildly disparate metabolic outcomes. Paleos “secret sauce” is more about the quality of the macronutrients than the ratio.
Conventionally raised animal products and pesticide-laden produce will not yield paleo success. They may be an okay place to start. The antibiotics, steroids, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and other freaky chemicals you’ll be ingesting will continue to wreak long-term havoc on your metabolism. Be sure to purchase organic produce and high quality protein (grass-fed beef and lamb, wild game and fish, and pasture-raised chicken and pork), and fat (grass-fed ghee, pasture-raised lard, grass-fed butter, organic expeller-pressed coconut oil, organic unrefined olive oil) whenever possible.
Important Note: If eating all organic isn’t financially feasible for you, then please begin where you can. Although organic foods will yield faster results, a whole foods diet of any type is still a great place to start 😊
10. Too many processed gluten-free products
Avoiding gluten is undoubtedly a worthy effort. However, replacing gluten-laden processed foods with gluten-free processed foods is not going to help you achieve vibrant health. While gluten-free versions of our favorite recipes and desserts CAN be an amazing way to kick back, celebrate and enjoy life once in a while, they should never have a starring role in your paleo repertoire. In order to cultivate vibrant health, keep the gluten-free processed foods to a minimum or not at all.
11. Forgetting to incorporate other practices that allowed our paleo ancestors thrive
Diet is and always will be a huge piece of the vibrant health puzzle. However, it can only take you so far. In order to truly thrive you must also address the other cornerstones of health: Sleep, sun, stress reduction (fun) and exercise.
Be sure to prioritize those 7-9 hours of precious zzzz’s each night. Even one night of inadequate sleep can disrupt blood sugar regulation making you cranky, more likely to eat processed carbs, and fatigued.
We were born to have a connection with nature rather than sitting inside all day. When not exposed to sunlight, our health suffers. Try to be outside in the sunshine for at least 30-60 minutes each day with bare skin.
Stress Reduction (Fun)
Pleasure activates the parasympathetic “rest and digest” branch of our nervous system which is often neglected in our high-stress world today. Make time to escape stress each day. Go out with friends, watch funny YouTube videos, dance, meditate, breathe deeply and don’t take life so seriously.
My former boss, Tracy Anderson used to be adamant about the fact that her clients exercise every day. She was right. Experts are not calling sitting and a sedentary lifestyle the new smoking. We were born to lead active lives. Find exercise you love and incorporate it for at least 30 minutes per day 5 times per week. Even a brief 20 minute walk has benefits. My husband and I recently “nerded out” by purchasing a treadmill desk. I highly recommend it 😊 You can also become a PaleoLife member and check out our daily fitness videos. Whatever you choose, just make sure movement is a part of every day.
Hopefully these tips offer a new perspective that can help you reach your goals.
Here’s to never falling victim to these common paleo mistakes again unless it’s your “cheat day!"