Paleo confused? Not sure how to navigate this ever-expanding world of grain- and dairy-free eating? I don’t blame you. This post will give you 3 easy-to-follow steps to get clear about what really matters.
Back in 2010 when I first “went Paleo”, I was wide-eyed and intent on following all the rules—admittedly without knowing the rationale behind them. There were as many books about Paleo as you could count on one hand (not kidding) and a few bloggers starting to put their spin on things. And then…*BOOM*.
Hundreds of blogs, dozens of books, podcasts and magazines and companies with products and services are here to help you in your Paleo journey. Such a fantastic change from even 4 years ago. But have you noticed that when you go to a restaurant with an enormous menu, choosing your order is far more difficult than when the menu is just one page long? You start to go back and forth, back and forth, mulling over your choices until you realize you get more confused about what you want. That’s sort of what Paleo’s like now.
Don’t take my word for it, though. I hear from readers all the time, wondering why Paleo recommendations all over the board are inconsistent, or worse, contradictory. In other words, they’re Paleo confused. Here’s a 3-step plan for staying clear:
Step #1 for the Paleo confused: Be clear about your current state of health and goals.
If you want to know how to steer the boat, you’ve got to have a map. Put another way, if you’re going to look for the resources to best fit your lifestyle, needs and goals you have to be clear about them, ideally before you get started. Getting a full workup from your medical doctor and any relevant blood tests is the way to really have a baseline of understanding for what you’re up against if you’re trying to improve your health.
Once you have a clearer picture, start following sites and collecting resources that cater to your goals. Trying to lose a significant amount of fat? Torturing yourself by following all the gluten-free baking blogs is not going to help. Dealing with an autoimmune condition? Start seeking out resources that deal with that (like this and this). Brand new and want to do a 30-day system reset? Check this out.
Step #2 for the Paleo confused: Accept that there is no one “right way.”
Simultaneous to step 1, do some basic research about what Paleo really means. It’s hard to get a cohesive picture from the bits and bobs on blogs and through social media. If you’re into minimal investment and you want a free intro, consider signing up for something like my Quickstart mini-course. It’ll give you a little taste of what Paleo is without having to pony up for the full meal deal. Want something more extensive? I can’t recommend these two books enough: It Starts with Food and Eat the Yolks. They’re both comprehensive guides to why real food rocks and how to get started on your own journey to badassery, er, wellness.
On that note, you’re likely to encounter what seem to be completely different viewpoints along the way. Some folks are so Paleo-strict, they won’t eat salt, fruit, ghee or even vinegar. Yeah, no duh…cavemen didn’t have vinegar…let’s not pretend we are running a historical reenactment of 10,000 years ago. Others are so lax that it’s all crap food in sheep’s clothing, dressed up to look healthy. I fall somewhere in the middle. I salt my food and use vinegar and ghee because they make food taste good, but I’m not kidding myself into thinking that a preponderance of sweets is a good choice.
So you see, there’s never going to be a universally agreed upon definition for which foods are or are not Paleo. You’ll hear people arguing about green beans and rice wine vinegar and other foods to the point you’ll want to get your nuclear bunker ready. Just choose what’s best for you (given your findings in step 1) and you’ll be okay.
Step #3 for the Paleo confused: Choose a trusted circle.
A surefire way to muddy the waters is to try to follow every single Paleo blog and to try adopting everyone’s philosophy (see step 2). Again, there are some pretty large disagreements about food between influential folks in Paleo-land so listening to everyone only contributes to the confusion.
What to do?
Based on your current health status and goals or other priorities—such as having limited time to cook—choose a trusted circle of three to five bloggers or experts you can follow. More’s generally not better, and I’m not saying I have to be one of them. Keep an eye out for new folks that come along, but have your old standbys that you know won’t let you down. Be wary of anonymously run sites that don’t have a clear face behind them; often these faceless sites are in the business of sales and ads, not caring about your health.
Avoid resources chock full of sensationalized articles and huge promises. “Gluten is death!” “Never eat a grain of salt again!” “Lose 5 pounds in 7 days!” Gimmicks rarely produce lasting results. Look for folks who produce quality, balanced resources, who make you think and who help make you better.