6

votes

Dueling Philosophies: Paleo and the Modern Dieter's Dilemma

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created December 27, 2011 at 4:44 PM

As I continue to modify my diet to better reflect ancestral eating patterns, I'm beginning to contemplate shifting away from calorie counting and macronutrient juggling. For the past two years I have both lost a substantial amount of weight and maintained that loss by precisely calculating energy values (even using a food scale for pinpoint precision). However, I feel that in doing so I've forgotten how to eat - I need tracking software to tell me when to start and when to stop, how much of x I should have, and if I've splurged on y. If the software told me to eat 1000 calories of pure fat, I'd do it and white-knuckle it for the rest of the day if my "macros had been hit." Similarly, if I was "given permission" by the almighty numbers to eat 6000 calories, I'd do so without hesitation and ignore all satiation signals (or lack thereof) just to hit proper values.

This is strongly at odds with a primal, intuitive style of eating; by keeping my consumption so uniform, it's highly likely that I'm often either depriving my body of what it truly wants or giving it food when it doesn't really need it (though the latter never seems to be the case, given that I always want more).

Aside from stimulating discussion on the seemingly conflicting ideas of paleo and calorie counting, my question is this:

Despite eating "paleo" (whatever that might entail for you), do you still utilize modern nutrient tracking techniques? And for those who successfully steered themselves away from these techniques after relying heavily upon them in the past, what made the transition more manageable?

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on December 28, 2011
at 12:17 AM

I also struggle with the family meals / not hungry thing. I fix the meal, put it on the table, it's a good time for us all to be together, but it's hard to sit there and not eat. It just feels wrong.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 28, 2011
at 12:02 AM

@Matthius, you're only 17? Totally get to the Y! You're going to find people who are striving for the same goals you are, buddies who understand. Having that community will definitely help. It's like stompin' those feet, getting under that bar, putting the iron on your back - it will come together. Also, having face-to-face-conversations will help too because then you can go broader than maybe what you can write. You can also wave your hands about to make your point clearer, for emphasis, and high fives :) It will happen. PS: The Y as a giftie is kind of the best ever.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 09:18 PM

I don't know if this will help, but it worked for a good friend of mine who went through something similar to what you are. They made the plate as appealing as possible - the reward was all visual - the colours and textures. So instead of white potato, white meat, etc. there were beets, broccoli, carrots, squash, herbs. Taking the time, making the plate. It will still be fuel but flipped a bit.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 09:12 PM

@Matthius, you're only 17? Totally get to the Y! You're going to find people who are striving for the same goals you are. Having that community will definitely help. It's like stompin' those feet, getting under that bar, putting the iron on your back - it will come together. Also, having face-to-face-conversations will help too because then you can go broader than maybe what you can write. You can also wave your hands about to make your point clearer, for emphasis, and high fives :) It will happen.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on December 27, 2011
at 08:55 PM

Best advice thus far, perhaps because it agrees with what I had planned altogether: try stopping calorie counting only when I reach my goal weight :)

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on December 27, 2011
at 08:50 PM

Not very helpful for those of us who think food=fuel, I'm afraid.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 27, 2011
at 08:29 PM

I will remember your post if I ever plateau. Hasn't happened in the first 30 or so but that's only halfway.

Cccb899526fb5908f64176e0a74ed2d9

(2801)

on December 27, 2011
at 07:46 PM

Nah, home gym. I was just given a YMCA membership for Christmas, though, so perhaps I'll attempt to get involved with other lifters there.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 06:04 PM

Totally agree. I thought too much in the beginning, after a few months I found the groove that worked, KISS for sure, and just relaxed. Well.. my food isn't simple but my mindset towards eating is :)

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 06:01 PM

Totally agree. I thought too much in the beginning, after a few months I found the groove that worked, KISS for sure, and just relaxed.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:41 PM

"Eat to live, not live to eat." Exactamente SuZQ.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 05:33 PM

Do you work out at a CF joint or anything? Many of them are doing Whole 30 and Whole 60 challenges, reset for the year or people who are trying for the first time, and there are always fun events such as potlucks at peoples homes, going out to dinner together, organized adventures. Maybe that would help as you would have a huge support group 'cause everyone is doing it together. You're going to find others in the same boat, too.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 05:30 PM

M - I kind of ended up figuring out Paleo on my own, made the mistake, for me, of following books/websites, etc. That was such a huge fail for me. I'm not much of a conformist, egads, so when it finally hit me what I was doing - that was it. I grew up with all my food homemade, we had a huge garden as well and orchard trees, so food never fell into a "reward" category for me. A carrot was as good as a cookie. You can still keep your plate amazing and wonderful by using colours. Beets, squash, greens. Visual appeal does wonders.

Cccb899526fb5908f64176e0a74ed2d9

(2801)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:20 PM

See, that's a big internal struggle for me. I weighed as much as I did in the past partially because I freakin' love food, no getting around that. I desperately wish I could fully embrace a "food is fuel" mentality, but every time I try to make my food as non-stimulating as possible I lose my motivation. Part of me still sees exercise as a means to justify occasionally rewarding myself with hyperstimulating foods.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:17 PM

"Kind of a win" NO! A big win!

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:00 PM

@Wisper, for me it either gets easier or I fail. Having failed a number of times in my life I'm happy to report that at 8 months in this is nearly effortless for me. I seem to have a new "norm" that works without willpower or precise measurements. It took time, though.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on December 27, 2011
at 04:57 PM

I also weigh my food and track calories. Not nearly as big a hassle as people make it out to be. I didn't do so in the first two months of going paleo, and I apparently was eating WAY too many calories. It could be that my auto-regulation mechanisms weren't working due to residual SED (Standard European Diet, whatever that is) impact. I won't even consider stopping calorie counting until I hit my bodyfat goal, which will take until April or so. So I'm curious to hear what others have to say; does it get easier?

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9 Answers

4
Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 05:15 PM

Definitely in the beginning I was so serious about weighing and tracking my food. It became a chore. Food is a big part of my life, kinda sorta professionally, and it started taking me down a path of non-enjoyment. Food is not just fuel to me. I believe that cooking is the only craft that relies on all five senses and that the only way I could continue to cook "my way" was to use them all. I found that I was being so strictly regimented that it was affecting this. I called bullshit.

I stopped using the food scale for my daily meals and it went back to its job of being used to measure flours. Bye bye tracking websites and logs. No more physical weighing at my CF joint - just the mirror and how my clothes fit, my energy level. And simply just eating when I was hungry and stopping when I was full.

I eat very clean and in a way that is best for me and keeping to my performance level. The only journal I keep now, besides recipes, is for my lifting. Definitely I will continue to tinker but will never go back to such a strict structure. And anyway, I feel and look good and am enjoying myself. That's kind of a win in my book.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 28, 2011
at 12:02 AM

@Matthius, you're only 17? Totally get to the Y! You're going to find people who are striving for the same goals you are, buddies who understand. Having that community will definitely help. It's like stompin' those feet, getting under that bar, putting the iron on your back - it will come together. Also, having face-to-face-conversations will help too because then you can go broader than maybe what you can write. You can also wave your hands about to make your point clearer, for emphasis, and high fives :) It will happen. PS: The Y as a giftie is kind of the best ever.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 05:30 PM

M - I kind of ended up figuring out Paleo on my own, made the mistake, for me, of following books/websites, etc. That was such a huge fail for me. I'm not much of a conformist, egads, so when it finally hit me what I was doing - that was it. I grew up with all my food homemade, we had a huge garden as well and orchard trees, so food never fell into a "reward" category for me. A carrot was as good as a cookie. You can still keep your plate amazing and wonderful by using colours. Beets, squash, greens. Visual appeal does wonders.

Cccb899526fb5908f64176e0a74ed2d9

(2801)

on December 27, 2011
at 07:46 PM

Nah, home gym. I was just given a YMCA membership for Christmas, though, so perhaps I'll attempt to get involved with other lifters there.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:17 PM

"Kind of a win" NO! A big win!

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 09:12 PM

@Matthius, you're only 17? Totally get to the Y! You're going to find people who are striving for the same goals you are. Having that community will definitely help. It's like stompin' those feet, getting under that bar, putting the iron on your back - it will come together. Also, having face-to-face-conversations will help too because then you can go broader than maybe what you can write. You can also wave your hands about to make your point clearer, for emphasis, and high fives :) It will happen.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 09:18 PM

I don't know if this will help, but it worked for a good friend of mine who went through something similar to what you are. They made the plate as appealing as possible - the reward was all visual - the colours and textures. So instead of white potato, white meat, etc. there were beets, broccoli, carrots, squash, herbs. Taking the time, making the plate. It will still be fuel but flipped a bit.

Cccb899526fb5908f64176e0a74ed2d9

(2801)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:20 PM

See, that's a big internal struggle for me. I weighed as much as I did in the past partially because I freakin' love food, no getting around that. I desperately wish I could fully embrace a "food is fuel" mentality, but every time I try to make my food as non-stimulating as possible I lose my motivation. Part of me still sees exercise as a means to justify occasionally rewarding myself with hyperstimulating foods.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on December 27, 2011
at 08:50 PM

Not very helpful for those of us who think food=fuel, I'm afraid.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 05:33 PM

Do you work out at a CF joint or anything? Many of them are doing Whole 30 and Whole 60 challenges, reset for the year or people who are trying for the first time, and there are always fun events such as potlucks at peoples homes, going out to dinner together, organized adventures. Maybe that would help as you would have a huge support group 'cause everyone is doing it together. You're going to find others in the same boat, too.

3
Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

on December 27, 2011
at 06:32 PM

To those who say no-count-paleo vs. calorie counting: Why does it have to be either-or?

Yes you can lose weight on ice cream, pizza, and protein shakes. Be prepared to feel completely unsatisfied though.

And yes eating whole foods will help you lose weight, but there are (and I predict will be more) paleos who cannot lose weight due to such items as bacon and heavy cream.

So if your goal is to lose weight, I say, make choices with a better satiation:calorie ratio.

If you stall before you reach your goal weight, calorie counting for a week or two is a great way to see exactly what you're spending your intake on. This should help you become more in touch with your hunger. For example, I have discovered how for equal calories low fat dairy makes me feel more satiated than high/full or low fat. I would never have figured that out if I didn't measure the amounts.

Similarly, a single serving of nuts (~150kcal) is great, makes me feel very satisfied when mixed with yogurt. However, if you give me a bag of nuts, I will destroy them, all 3000kcal. If you decide a serving of nuts is a handful, then depending on the size of your hands you could be taking in way more calories than you intend.

And by using tracking software I start to realize how much food I am really supposed to eat. Think about people who are always late to every event. They just don't have a reliable internal clock. Wearing a watch and sticking to it can help them. Similarly, overweight people have an unreliable energy balance scale. They will, if left alone, eat more food than they need. So, using calorie counting, you can train them to know what they really need.

Here's some news most people won't want to hear: A lot of people will be overweight on the strictest of paleo foods. Even if you restrict paleo to lean meats, veggies, and 1 serving of fruit, Where there is a will, there's a way. And where there's fatty meat, fatty dairy, it doesn't even take any effort.

Tl;dr use calorie counting when weight isn't doing what you want it to do based on your food choices. At the end of the day, calories are all that matter but that doesn't mean you should try to influence calories directly. Rather, you should choose your food/activity choices to achieve whatever caloric intake you desire.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 27, 2011
at 08:29 PM

I will remember your post if I ever plateau. Hasn't happened in the first 30 or so but that's only halfway.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on December 27, 2011
at 08:55 PM

Best advice thus far, perhaps because it agrees with what I had planned altogether: try stopping calorie counting only when I reach my goal weight :)

3
Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on December 27, 2011
at 06:22 PM

I've always been sort of a 'regimented' kind of person, and have spent a large segment of my life in the measuring, weighing, and analyzing of my diet. For me, it wasn't healthy. It forced me into ever expanding obsessive-compulsive behaviors and 'tweaking' of my nutritional plan, as well as extreme levels of guilt if I deviated from the plan even a little bit. Instead of bringing me freedom, it became constricting and debilitating.

For a little over a year, I've been "eating instinctively" -- I keep healthy foods around, and modify my diet only in so far as it makes me feel good. I listen carefully to my body after I've eaten, and see how it feels, and I trust those feelings... "I am satisfied", "I am groggy", "I have lots of energy", "That meal made my heart do weird stuff"... then I modify based on trying to feel the best that I can each day, and minimizing the stuff that makes me feel horrible. As a really nice side-effect, I've dropped a lot of weight (somewhere over 175 lbs... I stopped weighing when I'd lost 175 lbs, but my body is still shrinking... I just don't know the numbers for how much), and been able to participate in things that I never thought I'd be able to do again (YAAY raquetball!).

I still have some issues with the whole "mealtime" thing -- especially with the idea among members of our household that one HAS to eat 3-4 times a day... whether they're hungry or not. I still find it difficult not to sit down to a meal that I had to prepare and that everyone else is eating, so sometimes, I'll still eat even if I'm not hungry. I'm working on it...

I guess my advice is -- Do what makes you feel more healthy, and just be aware. Don't do stuff that distracts you from how your body is responding to the food. Trust your body, and everything else will balance out over time.

Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on December 28, 2011
at 12:17 AM

I also struggle with the family meals / not hungry thing. I fix the meal, put it on the table, it's a good time for us all to be together, but it's hard to sit there and not eat. It just feels wrong.

2
Eedf46c82d0356d1d46dda5f9782ef36

(4464)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:57 PM

If I had to count, measure, and track what I ate I wouldn't have lasted 30 days.

I count and weigh nothing. I have no idea how many calories I eat, or how many grams of any particular nutrient.

Since the beginning one of the reasons paleo has worked for me is I can Keep It Simple. I eat when I'm hungry. I skip meals when I'm not. As long as a food is not on the Avoid list - I eat as much and as often as I like.

With that said - I do consciously try to get as much variety of good food as I can. I will often buy a food simply because I haven't had it in a while. I trust in variety to balance out my nutrition over the long terms and could care less about daily recommended intakes.

My friends shake their heads at me frequently as I often appear to eat way more than any of them, yet I've lost weight and gotten into much better shape of the last couple years.

Important note: I am NOT saying my way is the right way. I don't think there is such a thing. This is just what works for me.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 06:04 PM

Totally agree. I thought too much in the beginning, after a few months I found the groove that worked, KISS for sure, and just relaxed. Well.. my food isn't simple but my mindset towards eating is :)

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on December 27, 2011
at 06:01 PM

Totally agree. I thought too much in the beginning, after a few months I found the groove that worked, KISS for sure, and just relaxed.

1
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on December 27, 2011
at 06:43 PM

Another technique is to eat the same thing every day for breakfast. That eliminates one meal that you have to weigh etc... Because you can always make it the same...

1
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:38 PM

Is it not all related to the specifics of the goals?

I can imagine that if I was a world class competitive athlete then measuring and adjusting my diet constantly may give me an edge in my performance. For the rest of us I doubt whether the effort put in actually produces an equal effect on our day to day lives.

If part of the paleo/primal lifestyle is simplifying life to reduce stress and maximise overall health, then adding such specific dietary monitors in place surely defeats this purpose. Again I do not think that spending so much time weighing and measuring macronutrient benefits of a meal in more than just a general sense will provide benefits over and above simply just eating a good paleo meal.

Understandably taking the effort to take two Vitamin D3 pills every morning is pedantic in itself, but the effort involved: the low financial cost, the fifteen minute online purchase every two months, and the five second consumption every day, is far less stress than the overall benefits of D3 supplementation.

When I first started looking at my health I joined "DailyBurn" and was tracking every meal. Once I began to understand the basic structure of meals and their general calorie content I deleted my account. Every now and then I check certain ingredients for calories but mostly I just eat and listen to my gut. I am beginning to understand when I am most likely at a calorie deficit merely by just thinking back through the day/week. I also just have some simple nutrient goals: have I eaten a particular vegetable or fruit in the last few days? If not then I do so.

Personally I am training myself to maximise the output of this diet with the minimum amount of stress. When I find myself obsessing over the specifics, I have to step-back and remind myself that the time I spend striving to reach perfection could actually be used to live right now.

I have started to think about compound nutritional interest. Compound interest arises when interest is added to the principal, so that from that moment on, the interest that has been added also earns interest. And thus should it be in every area of our lives. In the case of diet, it is probably better to just do something averagely right the majority of the time, rather than do something perfect the minority of the time.

The benefit of spending one hour eating a slice of cake with a good friend probably outweighs the benefit of not ingesting half a cup of refined carbohydrate and possibly extending one's lifetime by perhaps a day.

But eating one slice of cake every day because it makes you feel happy, in contrast overtime may not only reduce your life but reduce your overall happiness while you are still alive eating or not eating cake.

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 27, 2011
at 04:56 PM

Your question is at the heart of what we're all trying to do, which is to reach and maintain our desired state of body/mind without having to think about it all the time. The ideal is that it seems to "happen" on its own although we know it won't.

No, I don't use detailed techniques but I do try to use a logical approach. I have defined in my mind what is a reasonable serving size for me for each major nutrient. That's what I defrost/cook/dish out. If you're trying to lose weight, I think it works against that goal to have extra food ready to eat.

If I realize as I'm eating that I don't feel hungry for one or more foods any more I stop eating it/them. My typical sequence is leafy salad, fruit, meat/veggies. I almost always finish my salad and meat, but it's common for me not to finish the fruit/veggies.

Eating meat early in the day helped my transition; at first, I had my main meal in the morning but it slowly drifted to mid-day and then afternoon. Sipping coffee is still my morning ritual and I find it soothing. In the afternoon I sip water kefir because I find it mildly energizing and it seems to kill cravings for carbs.

0
7255a87872b75e6f691d84dca769b87e

on December 27, 2011
at 08:21 PM

I track my calories (roughly, I don't own a food scale) as I tend to undereat by accident. My hunger pangs just don't seem to work correctly, and at least my problem is less annoying than the opposite. However, while I still track my calories, I eat to satiety first, and plug things into fitday after. If I haven't eaten enough and I still have some room in my stomach, I go eat more. I don't eat til I'm stuffed, even if my counter says I need more food; I just wait and let the next few days even it out.

Many paleos contend that food is meant to be eaten, not measured, and I agree. However, food tracking is not necessarily evil. It can be an informative tool utilized at the same time you are eating mindfully.

0
164ed7cd8d84c926bc66f366619bf853

(495)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:08 PM

I keep a food/mood/exercise journal to let me keep track of my progress (weight loss goals, nutrition goals, exercise intensity & how all this makes me feel to better optimize "me"). Now, I'm not religious about using it, I may go days/weeks w/o an entry b/c I feel things are ok... but if I'm starting to feel "different" (more tired, sorer, super energetic, etc.) I'll start plugging to see what I am or am not doing & if there's a dietary/physical reason for it (other than say a cold or allergies).

That being said, I have always been a proponent of the concept of "listen to your body". If I eat too much today, my body will tell me by not being super hungry tomorrow. If I ate something my body doesn't like (say, sugar), tomorrow I'll probably fast or just consume broth.
I have odd cravings & give in when it's strong enough (say dreaming about foods gives me a pretty good inclination I'm lacking something!)... sardines (for salt usually), milk (which i havent drank since I was about 6 y/o, I need calcium), beef (for iron), etc.

A lotta folks think I'm crazy for "craving" beef or fish or something, but I think we all know that our bodies know nutritionally speaking better than we think we do.

This is a skill I think is super important - learning to listen to your body. And it's a skill that small children have (think of the buffet experiment w/kids) & more primitive cultures/tribes have. They eat to live, not live to eat.

That's my 2 cents & experience. HTH

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 27, 2011
at 05:41 PM

"Eat to live, not live to eat." Exactamente SuZQ.

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