Recently there’s been a surge of interest in the Paleo or “Caveman” Diet for rapid fat loss. This style of eating is supposed to reflect what we all ate back in the paleolithic era, when our ancestors were busy hunting woolly Mammoths and living in caves.
What is Paleo Diet?
The concept behind it is simple: we aren’t evolving quickly enough to keep pace with our own technological changes. So in the 10,000 or so years since the paleolithic era finished, we’ve developed agriculture, processed foods and means of transport and work that make us all sedentary and fat.
A Paleo diet seeks to address this by taking the food you eat back to the stone age – and in the process making you leaner, meaner and more like the “grok” of old who was fit and strong enough to catch his own dinner.
What’s Wrong With The Paleo Diet?
Of course this all makes sense. The beauty of the Caveman Diet is that it gets people emotionally charged. We love history and we love to make spurious leaps of faith between a nice story and established dietary fact. As such, the Caveman diet has exploded in popularity (almost like the Atkins Diet did a decade ago), with celebrity endorsements and countless books and websites dedicated to the practice. But is it all true?
The Positive Aspects of Paleo – The Pros
As a diet fad, it’s not a bad one. The types of food it gets you to eat (mostly meat and vegetables from a wide range of sources) ought to create the bulk of anyone’s diet. It teaches us to shun processed foods such as hamburgers and sausages, and to embrace fruit, vegetables and animal fat (demonized for far too long!).
Many people report losing a lot of weight using this kind of approach, and as such they get even more enthusiastic about the diet, convinced that we really should go back to our roots and start eating like our forefathers.
The Five Failings of Paleo – The Cons
Blogger and Paleo enthusiast Darrin Carlson identified the five biggest failings of the Paleo diet as:
We Don’t REALLY Know What Our Ancestors Ate
There Is No ONE Paleo Diet
Yes, We HAVE Evolved Since the Paleolithic
What Is Natural Is Not Necessarily Optimal
- Nutritionism Is a Horrible Basis For a Healthy Diet
For me, point number one (We Don’t REALLY Know What Our Ancestors Ate) is the most important. Hard core paleo enthusiasts will shun grains and legumes as “full of toxins and inflammatory agents” – claiming that it was the onset of agriculture that was the biggest single cause for our obesity epidemic in the modern era. But we don’t have a strong idea of what people in caves were eating thousands of years ago, and at best the evidence we do have points to the fact that they would eat whatever they could get their hands on.
Point number 2 (There Is No ONE Paleo Diet) is also excellent – people interpret the diet to suit their own agenda. So some people are pushing Intermittent Fasting as an approach for ongoing health and well being, based on the (rather spurious) idea that our ancestors couldn’t catch enough food to be eating as frequently as we do, and they couldn’t store whatever they had caught (a problem that modern hunter gatherer societies don’t seem to have).
Point 4 – what is natural isn’t always optimal is also excellent. People make the mistake of thinking that the natural diets of our ancestors were somehow nutritionally perfect. That somehow, cavemen figured something out which we’ve now forgotten because “they’re more in tune with the land”. But this is another fallacy. Most of those living in the paleolithic era ate whatever they could lay their grubby little mitts on, and they certainly wouldn’t be shunning grains and cereals or running about barefoot if they had better options like we do today.
So What Can Be Done To Make It Better?
First we need to realize that the Paleo diet is an excellent choice for most people. By reducing their dependence on processed junk food, moving more and generally eating more natural foods the average modern (sedentary and overweight) man will see a reduction in body weight and an improvement in major health markers such as blood pressure and glucose tolerance.
But we also need to recognise this is primarily because it’s a lower calorie diet that is going to enable people to get rid of excess body weight, not because there’s something magical in the foods that are eaten.
Second, we should look to modern day hunter gatherer communities (such as the San bushmen of the Kalahari) to understand what they are eating, and see what we can learn from them.
Lastly, we should all be aware that any diet is only going to work if it creates an environment for success. So you need to have something easy to adhere to that will cause you to eat less calories than you burn. If you genuinely believe that you should be following your ancestors and it helps you stick to your diet, great. But if not, take what’s good from the diet proposed above and forget about the other dogma. It’s not necessary anyway.
Taking Paleo to the Next Level
If you’d like to know more about rapid fat loss through a hunter-gatherer diet, check out the Living Tribal Two Week Rapid Fat Loss Diet – it’s based on real world diets from North American Indians and could have you shedding 14lbs in 2 weeks.
About the Author: Neil Burge is a writer and blogger for fat loss, muscle gain and body recomposition. He has a free Rapid Fat Loss Diet on LivingTribal.com, and a book entitled Lean Mass Gains Made Easy – which offers three practical protocols for Fat Loss, Muscle Gain and Body Recomposition using Intermittent Fasting alongside calorie and nutrient cycling. When not blogging, he’s busy competing in Strongman Contests.