So let me start with the short answer. NO! Paleo in the strictest sense of the word is NOT a fad diet. It is our ancestors’ way of eating. It was there, when humans learned to use fire, when they hunted wild animals and ate berries, nuts, and whatever else they could gather that was edible. And while they lived a rather short life, this is most likely not due to their diet, but to the dangers of living in the wild. No antibiotics, no vaccines, no hospitals, no houses to keep you warm and dry. The fact is, that human remains from way back when provide evidence for their excellent health, strong bones, great teeth… etc.
Also, and this is something that I feel to be important and true, English speakers are at a disadvantage. How so? Well, unfortunately you are stuck with just one word for diet and diet. This may not be an issue in the bigger picture, but it is when people talk about dieting versus eating a healthy diet. In German we have the word Diaet for a diet that has a beginning and an end… Weight Watchers, South Beach, everything with a name, everything that you know you will eventually fail at, because it is too limiting. When it comes to “eating a healthy diet” though, we have the word Ernaehrung. I like this so much better, because Ernaehrung doesn’t imply that I’m dieting, it just means I’m trying to eat healthy.
Lately, I’ve heard a number of people say that they quit the paleo “diet”, because it was too difficult to maintain. Others consistently call it a fad. Why is it called a fad? Not because it doesn’t make sense to eat meat, fruits, and vegetables. Eating these foods simply makes sense. It’s called a fad, because it feels limiting to people of the 21st century. Think about it. Grocery stores would be half as big without all the modern day foods we enjoy. Cereal, rice, pasta, sweets… Who wants to give it up? Who really wants to stick with a strict paleo “diet”? And so, we now see more and more people, who quickly want to lose a few pounds, and then go back to their old ways, because that’s what we do these days. We diet, we stop, we diet, we stop. We don’t do a “Ernaehrung”, we do “diet”.
Pages have been popping up, too. “So many days of paleo will help you lose this much weight.” That’s the promise. Go on a paleo diet to become skinny. Paleo, whether we like it or not, has become a fad. Maybe not for you or me, but for many out there, who simply cannot or will not invest the time and energy to go beyond losing a few pounds. And why would they? We are bombarded every day with the message, that whole grains, high fiber, heart healthy cereals, and x servings of bread or other grains are healthy for us. Who cares about cavemen and their healthy bodies? Those days are long gone. We are flooded with convenience foods. We are busy. We are overweight. And we don’t have time to cook. We even have the opportunity to get our paleo meals pre-cooked and delivered to our doors. Of course this isn’t cheap, so we do it only for a little while. There is an end in sight. Only two months, only four weeks… Yes, paleo has become a fad.
This bugs me to no end. Because in my world, paleo is so much more than a fad, so much more than a diet. In my world, paleo is a way of life, a template to hold on to, even when I do stray. Even my straying happens within certain parameters. I never stray far. I always stay gluten free, my one big requirement always. And I always return, because the truth is, I feel the healthiest, the stricter I stick with it.
So how do you stay paleo for life? How do you show the nay-sayers that it can be done, and that it is not a fad at all?
1. Be confident, that you’re doing the right thing. Even when you stray, be confident, because you know you will be back.
2. Be flexible. Paleo should be a template, not a diet plan. You’ve heard me say this a number of times. Our way of eating… our “Ernaehrung” will evolve. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have touched a potato, because potatoes were not paleo. Well, nowadays a lot of paleo folks consider the potato an excellent source of nutrients. Good old potato, that has been a staple of our diet for centuries, when we had nothing else to eat. When you find a food, that seems to agree with you, that doesn’t seem to have an negative effects on your health and well being, then what keeps you from eating it? The paleo police said so? Well, tell the paleo police to go and… never mind, you get my point.
3. Be forgiving. Okay, so you ate crap for a week, or two, or three. I did last week. My daughter’s non-stop rehearsals made it impossible for me to cook every day. Plus, the chips and chocolate were available. I ate them. Big flippin’ deal! Get back on the bandwagon and leave it behind you. Who is there to judge you? Nobody but yourself. And you owe it to yourself to be kind to you.
4. Don’t call it a diet. Seriously! It’s NOT a diet. It is a lifestyle, a way of life! It is “Ernaehrung”. Do away with the word diet. Sure, the word Ernaehrung may not flow from your lips too easily, but lifestyle should do just fine.
5. Embrace the gluten free aisle. There, I said it. *gasp* Please don’t misunderstand. I am not asking you to buy a ton of gluten free pasta, cookies, bread, and sweets. Far from it. What I’m saying is, allow for those days when all you want is to pop a pizza in the oven, without having to make it from scratch. (We totally dig the Against All Grain pizza around here!) Enjoy that oh so delicious quinoa pasta, that you can make into one heck of a delicious mac and cheese (yes, I’ve done this and have been crowned Mom of the Year). And yes, when you just have to have a cookie, and you just can’t or won’t bake, then yay for gluten free cookies! Woot!
You have gone your whole life eating “wrong”, and somehow your body managed to get you through this experience. Give yourself the blessing to, occasionally (NOT ALWAYS) eat something that is not considered paleo. Really, it’s okay. The paleo police won’t be sitting outside your door waiting to make an arrest.
So, is paleo a fad diet? Heck no! Easy!