Diet trends come and go, but what if a diet aims to mimic one that originated thousands of years ago? The paleo diet has many people embracing a regimen that was the norm more than 10,000 years ago, but can this ancient approach help you lose weight?
The Paleolithic Age came long before the dawn of agriculture, before man learned to plant crops and harvest grain. It was an age of hunting and gathering. The premise of the paleo diet is that our bodies haven’t evolved as quickly as our food supply has, and that by eating as ancient man did, avoiding modern processed foods, we can reclaim our health and a smaller waistline.
The paleo diet can help you manage your weight if you choose low-fat meats and regulate your portion sizes.]
What’s In and What’s Out?
“The paleo diet consists of eating vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, eggs, and some fruit,” says health and wellness expert and nutrition coach Jenny Giblin. “It focuses on eliminating gluten, dairy, refined sugar, grains, soy, and any processed foods.”
If it’s something Paleo man would’ve eaten, it’s OK. But if it’s highly processed or modern — meaning since the advent of agriculture — then it’s largely off limits.
On the paleo diet, you might have a veggie omelet for breakfast, a chicken breast salad for lunch, and a steak with vegetables on the side for dinner. Snacks could be fresh vegetables or nuts and seeds.
Because ancient humans had a nomadic lifestyle, paleo practitioners are encouraged to get daily exercise, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How It Helps You Lose Weight
While weight loss isn’t a guarantee — or goal — of the paleo diet, many of the changes it brings to your eating habits can have an impact on your waistline. Restricting the amount of processed food you will most likely immediately reduce your caloric intake. But experts say the restrictive nature of this diet isn’t the only reason it can lead to weight loss.
Highly processed foods can interfere with our hunger cues, while sugar and processed carbohydrates can cause insulin resistance. By going back to the basics, Giblin says, the paleo diet optimizes digestion and overall health, but also helps us control our propensity to overeat.
Along with weight loss, Mayo Clinic reports that the paleo diet may improve blood sugar tolerance, lower blood pressure, and offer appetite management.
There are several misconceptions about how the paleo diet works, says Giblin, namely that it’s all about eating as much meat as possible. But this isn’t the Atkins diet. You can customize this eating plan to make it sustainable and uniquely yours.
Tips for Paleo Newcomers
A new lifestyle, particularly one targeting weight loss, usually requires a bit of an adjustment period. For those interested in using the paleo diet as a means to lose or control their weight, maintaining momentum is crucial.
Depending on how different your current diet is compared to the paleo diet, making these substantial changes could be extremely difficult. Giblin suggests taking smaller steps to make the transition more manageable. On your first week, for example, start by only eliminating dairy products. When you feel comfortable with that change, then eliminate grains, then sugar, and so on, until you are eating in accordance with the paleo diet.
Rapid changes and rapid weight loss aren’t sustainable. Making changes that will last for years to come isn’t only easier, but safer too.
“Focus on what you want to increase in your diet — vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruit — and less on what you’re not allowed to eat,” says Giblin. “The key is to focus on what you can consume and to make it sustainable, so that you can adopt a lifestyle that feels really good for you and leads to better overall health and wellness.”