Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Paleo, by Jenn Purdy

Food Fight II gets underway on Saturday! Nearly 50 FitWitters are taking part, plus close to 20 from Condition Kettlebell Gym. Huge! I’m excited to see everyone’s changes along the way and to report results at the end.

Food Fighters are using the Quick Start Challenge Guide from Paleo Plan for menus, recipes, and shopping lists. I thought it a good time to address what is paleo, and what it’s not. Since there’s a guide book, one might think it’s just another diet. I once tried one guys’ product-driven diet formula. It worked, sort of, not really. I moved on. It wasn’t sustainable to keep on a program for the rest of my life.

When I heard of paleo, honestly the word scared me, probably because I learned it from some really fit trainers I knew. It seemed pretty hard core coming from these elite athletes (it’s not). I didn’t investigate it for a couple more years (I was on the other guys’ program). Take the labels off - paleo, primal, real food, clean eating, whatever you want to call it - and it’s just eating food as is and has been optimal for human digestion and energy sources since we have walked the earth. It’s not a “diet” as a verb. It is “diet” as noun. The name is simply our modern way of identifying human nutrition, from WAY BACK! If you think about it, it’s a bit ridiculous that we have to call our food by a term that refers to how humans have eaten for thousands upon thousands of years. Our modern food and medical industries have blinded us to the ideal human diet. They have vilified foods that sustain us, created profitable pseudo-food, and pushed many lucrative symptom-covering drugs that discount the body’s intelligence to maintain a state of wellness if given the right nutrition.

Paleo is a principle, not a macronutrient formula. Sure, there are certain general guidelines for protein, fat, and carbohydrates depending upon your intentions. That said, someone can eat higher carbohydrate paleo with sweet potatoes and fruit, but it’s not the best plan for fat loss. Some people will find their appetite satisfied with less fat than others. Others have a need for more protein and carbs because they are lifting heavy and muscle growth is the goal. Real food is adaptable to the need of the individual.

Most of us in the Food Fight, or others at FitWit, first want to lose fat, shed cravings, and find out how certain foods make us feel by eliminating them for a good 6 weeks. Lowering carbs so the body can convert to being a fat-burner instead of a sugar burner is step number one in paleo. The body preferentially is a fat-burner, but it can exist as a sugar-burner (obviously), though with undesireable consequences. Beyond fat loss, when the goal changes, then the strategy can change a bit, but the principles remain the same.

Neither paleo nor the Food Fight are inherently weight loss plans, or muscle gain plans. It’s a lifelong health plan. Whatever you do, or your goals at any given time, whole food will fuel your activity and your brain. If fat loss needs to happen, it will as a secondary result of eating real food. Create an environment where your body can burn stored fat instead of constantly storing sugar. If you just came off marathon season, eating healthier may mean gaining back muscle. As a principle, paleo can be tweaked to what works for your needs in your own n=1 learning process.

What you eat will determine up to 80% of your health, not your workouts or your genetics. Movement - exercise, playing sports you love, and intensely lifting heavy things are definitely essential to your health. Think of your plate as a workout, too. What is on it can only make you more healthy or less healthy. We have the luxury of food we can get steps away in the kitchen, or pick-up-ready from a store, conveniently pre-hunted and gathered for us! The work of obtaining nutrition, fuel for life, is no longer tied to our movement. So, we still need to get out and do proper, functional movement. You’ve got that part covered, now fuel it with proper human nutrition!

How? Eat meat, fish, vegetables, some fruit, good fats, nuts & seeds. It doesn’t need to have a label. A lot of things will fall into place if you eat for how your body was designed.


Jenn Purdy, RKC, CF-L1

FitWit & Condition Kettlebell Gym - Trainer & Nutrition Coach

Twitter: @PrimalFamily

Facebook: Jenn Purdy Real Food & Fitness