Suppose that you have started your Paleo journey. You have all the right foods from the list, and you have already started cooking with the accepted ingredients. Then, one day, you get curious and check your weight on the scale. The scale has moved! Up!
You are frustrated. You just “knew” that this would not work; that this Paleo thing was a fad. How can you lose weight eating pork chops? What were you thinking?!
Before you lose your sanity over the scale, let’s talk some basics about weight loss and determine whether it is Paleo that may be fudging your weight (no pun intended), or if it may be something else.
But, first, let us dispel rumors before we start. Let’s talk about “the article.”
A Melbourne University study published as an article on April, 2015 determined that laboratory rats that were given a low carbohydrate and high fat diet, which they identified as a “Paleo diet”, had experienced weight gain and other hindrances to their health.
The news drove the Paleo masses to react, specifically celebrity Paleo practitioners such as Australian celebrity chef, Peter Evans.
From different sides of the argument, the main issue with the study is that the label “Paleo” does not necessarily imply “low carb, high fat”. Paleo is not a carbohydrate or calorie-counting plan; it is a dietary lifestyle based on a principle; that, of replicating the macronutrient consumption of our ancestors.
The idea of Paleo is to feed our bodies what it is genetically meant to eat, rather that feeding it processed items. Hence, to feed rats high fat, low-calorie items, and call this a “Paleo” diet, is entirely wrong in the first place.
Another argument coming from Paleo dieters everywhere is that it is impossible to replicate the diet of the caveman, which is at the epicenter of the Paleo lifestyle, on laboratory rats. Rats do not require the same energy demands, nor are as physically taxed, as the Paleo ancestors were…or even the modern man is.
Finally, the study never says exactly what foods were these rats fed using the “Paleo” label. All that they study says is that the rats ate a lot of fat. Fat eating is not Paleo eating. Could they be possibly confusing the name of the diet that they are trying to criticize?
All of these statements strongly demonstrate how flawed that study was. High fat/ low carbohydrate eating does not equate Paleo. Even if the researchers had used any of the over 100 accepted ingredients in the diet (which they did not), how could they account for the ample differences between humans and rats processing macronutrients in Paleo foods? In more ways than one, the study is not only debatable, but also quite highly “debunkable.”
Here are 8 reasons to consider when humans (not rats) “get fat” On Paleo:
- The issue with mindless eating
Now that “the article” has been effectively tossed aside, let us discuss some of the most common ways that people “get fat.” Whether we want to admit it or not, we are what we eat. If we do not take the time to see exactly what we are feeding our bodies, the potential effect will be that we will not know how our bodies react to the nutrients that we feed it.
Often, many people do not listen to their bodies. As such, they choose foods that their body does not want or eat often when they’re not hungry. Let us use the example of milk. That nasty, bloating sensation you feel after eating a chocolate bar may be easily masked away with an antacid. But what is causing that sensation in the first place? Why is your stomach still distended? Why is that chocolate bar making your body unstable?
The answer is simple: You may be insisting on consuming dairy or milk products even when your body is clearly telling you that it just does not want them, or knows what to do with them! What comes next?
The vicious (and fattening) inflammation cycle
When you over eat or continue to eat things that cause inflammation, such inflammation leads to swelling. Swelling immediately causes an overall malaise that leads to lack of energy. In turn, this means less energy-burning activity because you will likely feel weak or continuously tired. Less calorie burning leads to weight gain and, sometimes, even to depression due to inactivity. You can probably fill the blank for the rest of the chain of events once depression is added to the mix.
This example is just a microcosmic scenario of what happens when you give your body substances that it may or may be capable of processing. For all you know, you may be feeding your body “foreign substances” that are making you sicker and sicker on a daily basis. This is not a sanctimonious speech against bad eating. Quite the contrary, this is an explanation of what happens when we eat mindlessly.
Other reasons why you may be gaining weight:
- Calories used versus calories eaten ratio– Remember that 3,600 calories equals one pound. This is 3,600 calories ABOVE your required calorie requirements. Download a calorie tracker, like the Calorie Counter by com, to your smartphone and start logging what you eat.
- Too Much Snacking – Many paleo dieters eat some type of egg dish for breakfast or skip it all together, which may not fill you up for an extended period of time. As a result, you may end up snacking throughout the day. Try increasing your protein and healthy fat intake during breakfast to see if that makes you feel fuller longer.
- Sleeping! Think of your body as a computer. You need to shut it down every once in a while for it to recalibrate its own functions. Not sleeping? Nothing your body can do to work properly.
Honestly, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you can overwork or tax your adrenal glands and throw your cortisol levels into a frenzy, which can inhibit the weight loss process. The relationship between sleep and weight is critical.
- Bulking up? Are you retaining water plus building too much muscle at once? Chances are the scale numbers will skyrocket for these two reasons alone.
- Constipation- You may simply need a good cleanse from the inside out. This does not mean laxatives, but a comprehensive, natural anti-inflammatory solution to soothe and detox your body entirely.
- Food Allergies- Again, making your body eat foods that it cannot process will result in nutrients (or preservatives) floating around your bloodstream, causing havoc. Puffiness, water retention, rash, and the subsequent vomiting and diarrhea are all possible outcomes.
- Fructose Consumption – Sure, you are following Paleo, but are you adding too many natural sweeteners (e.g. honey, stevia, etc.) to your drinks? Or are you consuming too much high fructose fruit (e.g. pineapple, mango, etc.)? Although, natural sweeteners and fruit are better for us than processed sweeteners and snacks, consuming too much of these items can prevent weight loss or even worse they can help pack on the pounds.
Back to Paleo: Four tips to success
Now, eating mindlessly can happen even when you are following a diet (or think that you are.) We have witnessed people go on ultra-low calorie or carb plans who gain weight as well. Is it the diet, or is it the body’s reaction to something that you are consuming…or not consuming?
Check out this list of basic weight loss tips to success, and ask yourself if you are following the plan correctly.
- Water consumption– Whether 8 glasses are still the norm or not, the fact is that the only way to combat bloating and water retention is….water consumption! Water without preservatives, sugar, flavors, or sodium, that is. Pure, good old H2O. Want to see a shift in weight? Start flushing retained fluid by simply drinking more water.
- Water consumption– No, this is not a typo. It just so happens that water consumption (not soda, not coffee, not highly-caffeinated tea, but water) also helps you excrete the immense amounts of fiber you are likely to consume while dieting. The last thing that you need, while eating more fruits and vegetables, is constipation. Water will be your best friend in a high-nutrient plan and will also help you “release” what is weighing you down.
- Movement- Yes, you do need to burn calories to lose weight. The good thing is that recent studies on glycemic index show that what we have been taught about calories may be a huge myth; that maybe building muscle (which is healthy) and eating natural foods (which is great), can help stave off the burden of counting every calorie we eat. Do we need to move and walk around? Of course! Circulation, heart rate, blood pressure, and the natural rhythm of your body activity depends on it.
- Sodium intake- Check out exactly how much sodium and salt you consume on a daily basis. You may be surprised how much water-retaining ingredients you may be adding to fresh fruits and vegetables. Too much sea-salt? Too much hot sauce? Too much flavoring powder? These dashes of flavor pack up enough sodium to make your fingers swell. It can happen to the rest of your body as well.
Eat smart, but eat with your mind, too. Look at all your habits and find whether some of your weaknesses may be sabotaging what you think that you are doing correctly. Do not put too much stock on research and whatever happens to rats in labs. Listen to your body, and get to know it better. You will be amazed at how simple your diet journey, whether Paleo or not, may actually be!
Sam Milner & Gray Hayes are passionate paleo practitioners, bloggers and busy parents. Initially, they started the Caveman Diet Blog to share their weight loss journey. Now they focus on the tips, recipes and topics that arise while living Paleo in the modern world.
For more tips, simple recipes, articles and food lists to help with your paleo transition and ongoing paleo life visit Sam & Gray at the cavemandietblog.com.