When “One Size Fits All” Paleo Stops Working


I've seen many "ex-Paleo-types" acknowledge this, but I found this a very interesting admission over at Robb Wolf's site:
It’s safe to say that the “Paleo Movement” has taken off. What started as a relatively small bunch of ‘reformed Zoners’ and ‘ahead of their time meat lovers’ has evolved into a large group of people dedicated to performance, health and longevity. The overall ruling concepts of Paleo are pretty much the same across the board – and like any diet or training program getting started is the hardest part but once you’re in, results will follow – at least for awhile… But in time circumstances and needs change. Your body adjusts and what worked once or for awhile may not be the answer anymore.
Now the rest of the post is about Robb's Paleo Charlie's Angels whose services one can contract to figure out how to get Paleo working for you again, but I think it's more interesting that this is being admitted.  I will differ with the notion that Paleo-principles are quite so similar across the board.  It seems almost the opposite to me, hence so many different versions of/books on the Paleo diet.

Matt Stone did a piece entitled  Paleo Fail discussing the low carb angle of this phenomenon.  He writes:
Because of the roughly 3-12 month window of tremendous vigor, vitality, and effortless weight loss that many, myself included, experienced on a low-carb diet – I have dubbed this the low-carb “honeymoon.”
Of course there's always a contingent that accuses Matt, and guys like Anthony Colpo of just being disgruntled low carbers who got angry at the world because low carb didn't work for them.  Sound familiar?  I'm accused of this when discussed around the web all the time.  What's most odd to me about this is that the source of the accusations are quite often folks experiencing limited success themselves adhering to an LC diet.  Somehow, I guess, they think it's more noble to "stick it out" in the face of diminishing returns, or even deleterious effects, rather than to change course entirely.

You know, I think most folks -- especially those who've gotten overweight/obese eating the SAD -- will experience a honeymoon period converting to just about any more real-foods diet because they'll either be eliminating some foods they MAY be intolerant to (e.g. gluten containing wheat or dairy) or vastly improving their micronutrient consumption, protein quality and fiber intake.   It is very tempting to buy into all the theories on why one might be feeling better, engendering fear of eating any amount of "fill in the blank" toxic food.  But when one finds their health deteriorating once again it can be downright paralyzing to try to figure out what to eat anymore when the low carb paleo "stops working".

Now the low carbers eating refined LC foods have some wiggle-room to cut that crap out of their diets.  A second honeymoon of sorts.  But once you've gone pretty purley paleo and it's still not working -- what more tweak?  This is a problem for low carbers who believe that it's the carbs that are the problem.  Once you've eliminated all the carbs, what then?  Well that's when folks who haven't already done so jump on the intermittent fasting bandwagon, looking to O6's and eliminating their beloved commercial mayo, etc.  At least there's more to explore, though I'm not seeing many having much great success over the long run doing so.  With the hardcore paleo, however, there's nothing left to eliminate.  

This is a problem, as I see it, in wedding oneself to a particular dietary philosophy.  On a "professional" level, it makes even trying another path difficult and takes quite a feat of bravery to admit so.  I've noted this frequently recently as pertains to lots of low carbers, most especially the arguably most notable "success story" Jimmy Moore.  On a "personal" level it must be an especially frustrating self-imposed prison sentence. 

I've previously coined the term "bipolar orthorexic" and I'll repeat it.  Not continuing doing whatever inspires your current orthorexia does not mean one has to go full bore the other way and dive face down into a plate of Krispie Kremes for breakfast, fast food burgers and fries for lunch and a pizza for dinner.   No - I'm NOT accusing all folks following strict dietary regimes of eating disorders per se.  However, I'd dare say that many do exhibit some of the same symptoms those with eating disorders display when it comes to the level of cognitive dissonance they can tolerate before considering shifting dietary course.  Food for thought.


Unknown said…
You know paleo has changed when there is a kind of heated argument about whether or not potatoes are better than rice....

Anonymous said…
I remember Michael Pollan tentatively taking GT to task for eliminating a whole category of food and thinking, That Pollan guy just doesn't get it!

Oh I was a doofus.

I was also one of those HFCS is the Devil people, because when I eliminated it, I lost weight very quickly. Well, yeah, highly processed foods ARE crap, eliminating them is going to improve health. Doi.

Dieting is really crazy making. And for me, LC has been the craziest. I am so glad to be out of the clown car. If I ever climb back in I hope someone will hit me with a spray of seltzer.
CarbSane said…
Y'know Melissa, the more I read in the Paleosphere (I mostly came to this from the Atkins-style LC camp) the more confused I get. One advocate dissing another left and right (like Kurt Harris in comments here vis a vis Loren Cordain), not to mention the various personal "evolutions" (Paleo 2.0) and outright turnabouts (Don Matesz) afoot. And yet there's still this air of certainty as to what the diet comprised and it's optimality (is that a word?!) for human health and longevity. I found Ann's words there somewhat odd to be written in the present.

@Steph: I'll just have to send out the interventionist goon squad to drag you back to the Asylum! LOL <-she says as she's eating a half a cantaloupe - yes, a whole half!!
Unknown said…
I don't think Cordain's diet matches what is found in the archeology, though mostly since he just won't change his tune and his diet is 10 years outdated compared to the current state of the record. I study anthropology at a University and since I started I changed my tune. There is ample evidence for starch and grain-like seed consumption.

I like paleo's emphasis on real whole foods. That said, I think most of the paleo paradigm is kind of dumb and has spawned a legion of people spouting idiotic ideas. Like that sweet potatoes are ok, but potatoes are not because they are "new world" (they are both "new world"!!!). I don't consider myself "paleo" anymore. Maybe "traditional" or "pre-industrial."
Tonus said…
I think that this is a critical point about dieting and dietary approaches. Every diet or eating plan has examples from people who lost a lot of weight in a short time and felt much better than they did previously. It seems to be influenced more by the things that we always do in that circumstance (eat less, reduce or eliminate sugar) than by anything specific to the diet in question.

It surprises me that more people don't understand that, especially in the low-carb and paleo circles, where the ability to see past the misleading messages and considering the confounding variables is a common approach. If person A had great success with an LCHF diet and person B had great success with a HCLF diet and it turns out that both of them cut back on sugar consumption and ate less, why are we focusing on the nutrient profiles to the exclusion of the other, more relevant factors?

That, I believe, is the first step in finding the right diet for each of us.
Tsimblist said…
It does seem like any change away from SAD will generate immediate beneficial results. I went the HCLF (McDougall) whole foods route. It fixed my cholesterol right away and I was able to discontinue my prescription statin. And I lost and then maintained my weight.

But after 4 years I still find my body fat percentage around 20 to 25% (depending how you measure it). I am not strict about my diet. I allow myself cheats (I call them Mulligans) on special occasions. And I have probably been consuming more sugar than I should. McDougall would say that my setpoint is where it is because of the amount of fat in my diet.

I recently had a metabolic cart test to determine my "metabolic efficiency". My interpretation of the results is that I am more of a "carb burner" than I want to be. I have long been trying to change my metabolism to be a fat burner using the Maffetone Method for my exercise. Sisson's Primal Blueprint Fitness seems similar to the Maffetone Method. I am suspecting that my HCLF diet is not supporting my exercise goal.

So I am starting to educate myself about the LCHF approach. That's how I found this blog. I am starting to experiment with things like coconut and eggs. Tentatively trying more fat and protein without abandoning the whole foods.
Diana said…
Doesn't the title of the article just tell all?

I mean, where have people's brains gone? There's a lot of people out there who think they are oh so smart because they don't believe in traditional religion(s)....but they believe a lot of other crap that is just as impossible.

BTW one of the creators of the whole Paleo movement, an anthropologist/physician named Melvin Konner, has never tried to get rich off the movement, and he's very undogmatic. He has repeatedly pointed out that one of the reasons why the San bushmen he studied were thin was because (gasp) they suffered periodic food shortages. We would call that a calorie deficit.
CarbSane said…
He has repeatedly pointed out that one of the reasons why the San bushmen he studied were thin was because (gasp) they suffered periodic food shortages. We would call that a calorie deficit.

Or we could call it justification for lengthy fasts - grin! That title is just the problem in a nutshell.
Diana said…
"Or we could call it justification for lengthy fasts - grin!"

If you can do a lengthy fast in an environment like ours, you are a better woman than I. 24 hours is about my limit. Damn, it's hard.

Something about how hard it is for San to procure food:


They collect moisture by squeezing roots! A totally different environment, you cannot compare their lives with ours. Take that, Paleo-nitwits.

Anyway, I'm a descendent of Neolithic farmers, and according to your admitted ethnicity (German/Scandinavian), so are you.
CarbSane said…
LOL - that was the stuff of my eating disorder days. I wasn't the classic bulimic for very long (binge/vomit)... I found it much more amenable to fast to undo the damage of binges. That lasted for quite some time, morphed into yo-yo dieting with more extreme approaches.

It's actually rather easy to fast completely. Or adhere to a liquid diet like Oprah did way back when she got into her size 10 Calvins. It's eating real food in moderation that's the problem many of us struggle with. I have no "formula" for this, but somewhere along the way I've been able to disconnect eating from "triggers".
CarbSane said…
@Tsimblist: Curious ... why are you trying to switch to a more "fat burning" metabolism?
Rad Warrier said…
In my understanding, Man evolved in the tropics. In the evolutionary time scale, it is only yesterday that He migrated to the cold climes. There has not been enough time for Him to adapt to the cold; even today, he cannot survive outside of the tropics without cultural artifacts like clothes, shelter and fire. In the plant food rich tropics, Man most probably DID NOT evolve to eat only a very low carb diet. On the contrary, all through this long evolution to the modern city dweller, Man has probably eaten a relatively "high carb" diet. Of course, the average "calorie in" of our cave-dwelling ancestor was probably significantly lower and his "calorie out" much higher than those of the average city dweller of the present day. So, where did the low carb-high fat, meat only, Paleo come from?

Lisa Rizzi said…
Great Post. Paleo is the way to go! http://easypaleo.weebly.com