What I Learned From Going Paleo For A Year

vegetables in basket
Markus Spiske

Last year’s resolution was to be healthier and that I did. I kicked off 2017 with as much research as I could to find what could help me lead a healthier lifestyle. Healthy has quite a few aspects but for now, I’ll speak of the physical one; more precisely, nutrition.

After about three weeks of internet searches and bookstore visits and after having done my fair share of reading, I came to the decision to follow a Paleolithic diet. More commonly known as a “paleo diet.”

To give you a briefing of what a paleo diet is, it’s basically only eating foods that that were consumed in the Paleolithic era. It includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats and bans dairy, grains, sugar, and legumes. It’s not just about avoiding processed food but rather the foods that humans began eating after the Neolithic revolution when humans transitioned from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle into an agricultural lifestyle. If a caveman could not eat it, neither can you. Exclusively consuming such foods was the best nutritional approach that works with your genes to maximize your energy and help you have a leaner and stronger body. It’s the way we were meant to eat.

That appealed to me because I have always believed that humans weren’t supposed to live like we’re living today, so unnaturally. I believed in a more natural, back-to-the-roots way of life, so that’s the path I chose.

I started to see changes quickly. I cut out dairy, grains, and anything processed. My hair grew longer and my skin got clearer and I was never bloated; I swear it was like magic. As promised I felt more energetic and my body was like a meticulous machine doing its job faultlessly. To be honest, I was hella impressed and I was absolutely sold on the matter.

The more I saw results, the more committed I got. I started going out more and working out more and I felt fresh and energetic, so much that my upside down sleep schedule regulated; I was naturally up at nine and in bed by 12. I started to see improvements in more than the physical aspect of my life and that was all the proof I needed that paleo was the right way to go.

However, at a point in my life, it got boring. Not the food I was eating but rather the restriction started to become annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I loved feeling healthy and the food was mostly delicious because I always found tasty recipes everywhere online but sometimes, just sometimes, I missed the “modern” cuisine, but I couldn’t have it because none of it was paleo.

So I was back on my computer looking for explanations for why I couldn’t have grains and dairy when I wasn’t intolerant to neither gluten nor lactose. I did some “extra” research, the kind of research you don’t do when you’ve already reached a verdict that appeals to you.

I happened to come across an article that stated that paleo diets were completely unnecessary. It argued that paleo fads ignore that humans evolve along with their genes; we’ve grown adapted to foods that weren’t accessible to cavemen and just because these foods weren’t available in the Paleolithic era does not effectively make them unhealthy or bad for us now. It also stated that a Paleolithic diet is overly critical of “unhealthy” foods and that in fact not all these foods can be deemed “unhealthy” but rather “not healthy enough.”

It enlightened me in the sense that it explained how the bright side of paleo diets was that it encouraged consuming foods that were high in nutritional value in ratio to their quantity. The whole paleo diet was dissected into the fact that it’s a way to maximize the nutrients you get in the food you eat and minimize the waste, other than that, a paleo diet was not proven to have other benefits.

So… good? But not so necessary?

With that article also came a realization that made me feel as stupid as a rock. It wasn’t the paleo diet that made me feel so healthy and energetic, it was just the fact that I stopped eating shitty food that was actually unhealthy and I started eating more natural and healthy nutritious food. So yes, paleo was good, principally good, but was it mandatory to be strictly followed to lead a healthy lifestyle? Nope.

Eventually, and after a year, I had reached the following conclusion: you don’t need to follow a trendy diet to be healthy. Find what suits you and what makes your body feels good. You need to read into why certain foods are being restricted and find what makes your body feel healthy and follow that. Also, trendy diets, like paleo and so on, are all these are just fads. Yes, they may be beneficial but they’re not essential for a healthy life. It does not make you healthier to follow a trendy diet, just as long as you keep away from unnatural food, anything more than that is situationally unnecessary.

Also, now I occasionally enjoy my pizza every now and then because a slice of pizza doesn’t turn my healthy lifestyle into an unhealthy one. There’s the lifestyle and there’s the exception. Healthy is the lifestyle, occasional treat is the exception. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Mariam is a yogi by day and a writer by night.

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