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What techniques do you use to try to 'convert' someone to paleo?

Answered on January 12, 2015
Created February 12, 2010 at 10:45 PM

I am trying to help my parents convert to the paleo lifestyle. I am not sure what approaches would be best. They are early 50's and very smart (both have PhD's). Any success stories out there? (NOTE: I tried 'leaving' my copy of The Primal Blueprint behind but they just returned it.)

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on September 18, 2010
at 01:34 PM

I've been chatting about pale recently with the Health & Social Care teacher. I've got her reading Gary Taubes. She teaches the conventional food pyramid but now she's questioning it herself. If kids learn from this not to take Conventional Wisdom at face value and to investigate for themselves then that must be a positive step.

D0a103cafaf4768c6dc69b1772a55877

(421)

on September 15, 2010
at 04:01 PM

Agreed! In fact I find that people are far less likely to "come around" if we try to proselytize to them. Nothing turns me off more than someone trying to convert me. Lead by example- share your personal experience if someone wants to know about it- That's my motto anyway.

88905cfc5bb098ad3830671a1af373a8

(803)

on September 15, 2010
at 08:23 AM

Taubes is also coming out with a more user-friendly version, aka a "GCBC Lite" in December, called "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It" http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Get-Fat-About/dp/0307272702/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284538940&sr=8-2

04293f705870e1837b8670d3c1cd5f67

(2261)

on September 15, 2010
at 04:03 AM

oh how I wish you were in my kids school! Their health teacher's teach them the upside down pyramid of eating a ton of grains!... they tell me everyday that someone is telling them opposite of what I say to them. I know you are not "preaching" to them, just offering if they ask..I love it..that is great. Another point of view is nice in school.

154bf5c84f7bd9f52b361b45d05dbc3a

(1215)

on September 14, 2010
at 11:23 PM

Very sad, but very true. Just look at all the scientists who are so entrenched in their paradigm they don't want to see how good the paleo way is. And these people are supposed to be guided by logic and reason.

Fd35eb89073e3a758066b7fcaad63d7c

(796)

on April 19, 2010
at 07:35 AM

My husband and I have the same policy-- and we've already gotten 5 people to start eating paleo... in 2 months.

688aca0eb9e76d6a801a9691a8609399

(30)

on March 25, 2010
at 04:31 AM

Exactly. This is my evolutionary advantage, and I've passed it on to the wife and kids, but I'm not looking for converts. If pressed, I'll certainly discuss it, but I'm not going to initiate the conservation. At 40 and still very athletic, I prefer to let my fitness level speak for itself.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on February 16, 2010
at 10:25 AM

I totally agree with this, hence why I bought The Primal Blueprint purely to have a simple text to give to people but haven't used it so far. That said if you're talking to some-one who's relatively scientifically literate then you can talk about the specifically "evolutionary" framework of the diet, which is what I particularly like about panu's approach, and which is a pretty good heuristic generally.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on February 15, 2010
at 11:19 AM

Glad you like it.

Cc93847bfa820f0f2da654060b401fa5

(746)

on February 14, 2010
at 05:59 PM

It seems to get a much better response. WAPF is made up of a lot of women. Also helps eliminate the "what can I/what do I eat" question for newbies.

65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

(6082)

on February 13, 2010
at 11:58 PM

Heya Grok! I might give that a try, my fiance has been a stubborn convert. :D

149056f0f8fe87e592d3ead1826badb5

(248)

on February 13, 2010
at 03:47 PM

Thanks Patrik - love this site. I use StackOverflow too. Love the way they both work.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on February 13, 2010
at 07:25 AM

Love the tag too.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on February 12, 2010
at 10:53 PM

Great question!

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25 Answers

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1
Fbbbdf1d0a7d6d5067a106af062c7ce6

(745)

on February 12, 2010
at 11:03 PM

It can be a tough sell unless said person is surrounded by folks adhering to the lifestyle, and witness the benefits for themselves. In the gym environment I work in, all the top level athletes and trainers have adopted a paleo-type diet---and the new clients, seeing and hearing this, jump on board rather easily.

Parents? I wouldn't even know where to start with mine. There's not a one-line sales pitch that's 100%. Someone has to "want" to change, and be looking at the whys and hows

I have had a few clients come back to me and state the timeline of paleolithic man, and the advent of grains and refined sugars "made a LOT of sense". You could try that angle during a discussion.

best answer

3
65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

on February 13, 2010
at 01:37 AM

I have had some success with my family by having them start off with small steps or just implementing the easiest yet most beneficial things - namely, removing refined sugars from the diet. I tell them how I basically lost 6 or 7 pounds in a few weeks by cutting out stuff with sugar and they got interested. So, that amounts to candy, sodas, fruit juices, etc.

Then, I basically proposed it as a challenge with a fixed time span. Say, "Just see how you feel after just trying to cut out X, Y, or Z from your diet for two weeks." Present it as a little experiment that they could of course just go back to normal afterward. I asked my mother to try cutting bread out of her diet for a month and she said she'd give it a try. After losing 3 pounds the first week, she is now completely on board.

10
95ab15c8ef50ff0daf87ccbdd52cd3b8

(2384)

on February 13, 2010
at 06:16 PM

I do not attempt to convert people. When asked, I explain what I'm doing and why, talk to them about Taubes or Cordain and/or maybe Lierre Keith, and maybe lend them something like Mark Sisson's book. I leave proselytizing and arguments over dietary superiority to the tryptophan-deprived-and-thus-prone-to-shrieking vegan crowd. I am quite happy to be quietly healthier.

688aca0eb9e76d6a801a9691a8609399

(30)

on March 25, 2010
at 04:31 AM

Exactly. This is my evolutionary advantage, and I've passed it on to the wife and kids, but I'm not looking for converts. If pressed, I'll certainly discuss it, but I'm not going to initiate the conservation. At 40 and still very athletic, I prefer to let my fitness level speak for itself.

Fd35eb89073e3a758066b7fcaad63d7c

(796)

on April 19, 2010
at 07:35 AM

My husband and I have the same policy-- and we've already gotten 5 people to start eating paleo... in 2 months.

D0a103cafaf4768c6dc69b1772a55877

(421)

on September 15, 2010
at 04:01 PM

Agreed! In fact I find that people are far less likely to "come around" if we try to proselytize to them. Nothing turns me off more than someone trying to convert me. Lead by example- share your personal experience if someone wants to know about it- That's my motto anyway.

7
Cc93847bfa820f0f2da654060b401fa5

(746)

on February 13, 2010
at 04:01 AM

Ease them into paleo by converting them to Weston A. Price guidelines first. Same with girlfriends ;)

Even if they never convert, they will sill be eating 90% better than they were.

65125edd5aafad39b3d5b3a8b4a36bb7

(6082)

on February 13, 2010
at 11:58 PM

Heya Grok! I might give that a try, my fiance has been a stubborn convert. :D

Cc93847bfa820f0f2da654060b401fa5

(746)

on February 14, 2010
at 05:59 PM

It seems to get a much better response. WAPF is made up of a lot of women. Also helps eliminate the "what can I/what do I eat" question for newbies.

6
5740abb0fa033403978dd988b0609dfd

on February 13, 2010
at 03:48 AM

The movie "Fat Head" is a pretty easy way to introduce people to the idea conventional wisdom has been wrong.

The book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes is more rigorous introduction that people who respond to a more intellectual argument would probably appreciate over a movie.

(Note, new users aren't allowed two hyperlinks in one post, but it is trivial to locate the Taubes book.)

6
2e060a5edde44c1fe77abcf8d3997e01

on February 13, 2010
at 01:48 AM

I have found that actually calling the diet "paleo," "primal," or "caveman" tends to turn people off. They start making jokes or bring up the "cavemen only lived to 30" argument. I end up arguing about the health of cavemen instead of promoting the actual diet.

Lately, I've taken to telling people that I've simply "cut out all that processed crap." This causes less initial resistance, and allows me to actually explain the diet in a positive way.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on February 16, 2010
at 10:25 AM

I totally agree with this, hence why I bought The Primal Blueprint purely to have a simple text to give to people but haven't used it so far. That said if you're talking to some-one who's relatively scientifically literate then you can talk about the specifically "evolutionary" framework of the diet, which is what I particularly like about panu's approach, and which is a pretty good heuristic generally.

5
D565ae2e35f253dcf2a5152f3f95d2f7

on February 16, 2010
at 07:40 AM

You can't use logic to convince anyone of anything. All decisions are made by emotions in the unconscious mind. After the fact, you can give them logical information to backwards rationalize their decision to prevent ego confusion.

You have to find out what their worst nightmares and greatest dreams are. Camp out in their worst nightmares and link what they are doing to those nightmares and link paleo to their dreams. Use the specific words they use that trigger emotional hot buttons of fear and desire.

154bf5c84f7bd9f52b361b45d05dbc3a

(1215)

on September 14, 2010
at 11:23 PM

Very sad, but very true. Just look at all the scientists who are so entrenched in their paradigm they don't want to see how good the paleo way is. And these people are supposed to be guided by logic and reason.

5
A27774151362c5e398adbe70e5de657d

(288)

on February 14, 2010
at 07:08 PM

I don't like motivating people; I prefer inspiring. Specifically I'll answer questions about my lifestyle only when it has been asked on multiple occasions. Basically what Clarence Bass describes here: http://cbass.com/FAQ.HTM#To%20Be

4
01cb59e52ccd12110de78e5068c6e4e1

on February 14, 2010
at 04:58 PM

It's my impression that if a survey of paleo people was conducted that a very large majority (I'm guessing around 90%) brought themselves to this lifestyle. What I mean is that we all tried other methods that didn't work, we did our homework and discovered that there is another way that, when you look at the big picture, makes far more sense to a human being. And that way is paleo.

I don't try to convert anyone. I lost ten pounds in a few wks and my never told my wife what I was doing. When she noticed my slim down she asked what I'd been doing. When I told her she saw the light and started doing it with me. Conversion complete!

3
Af12951fdf48cf67d71605c1a7f9a492

on February 14, 2010
at 05:29 PM

I think just being an example is the best way to convince people. My wife and I have been paleo for about a year now and just recently my good friend started on it. We had talked about it enthusiastically when we first started but it took him observing our success for him to get interested.

Several people have suggested GCBC and others commented on the density of the book. I think a great middle ground is this Taube's lecture: http://www.dhslides.org/mgr/mgr060509f/f.htm

88905cfc5bb098ad3830671a1af373a8

(803)

on September 15, 2010
at 08:23 AM

Taubes is also coming out with a more user-friendly version, aka a "GCBC Lite" in December, called "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It" http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Get-Fat-About/dp/0307272702/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1284538940&sr=8-2

2
5cd18bfcafadc56292971e59f2f1faf6

on February 13, 2010
at 10:53 PM

Good Calories, Bad Calories is the way to go for people with PhDs as it's heavily research oriented. I'd suggest that you hand them a copy, point out that it's research oriented and well documented, and ask them to read it so that they can explain to you why you should disregard Taubes's arguments and citations. It's probably going to be easier for you to get your parents to look at this kind of information if you frame it as looking for their opinion on your health versus framing it as you trying to force your lifestyle on them.

The problem with Primal Blueprint, as others have pointed out, is that it's just random bits of information without citations to real research. It's not really convincing to anyone who isn't already onboard, particularly highly educated individuals who (hopefully) look at information with a very critical eye. It wouldn't surprise me if your parents just flipped through it and disregarded it as just another fad diet book. Good Calories, Bad Calories makes an argument that is much harder to dismiss.

2
57a4d417d3a7099a5d6dc31df8db3fea

(100)

on February 13, 2010
at 07:57 PM

I lost 19kg while eating butter, bacon and eggs every day. People start asking how you do it.

1
D31a2a2d43191b15ca4a1c7ec7d03038

on September 15, 2010
at 10:58 AM

In case this is of use, some input from someone a few years older than your parents:

There are others in their fifties, and older, eating this way. This thread might be of interest:

http://paleohacks.com/questions/9583/ladies-over-55-on-paleo-hacks

Gifts of Barry Groves' "Trick and Treat" and Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories" might be of use.

In my experience, those of us who are older have a strong tendency to value examples from older people, and sound science, rather than whatever young people are up to. It can take years, (as in ten or twenty years, not two), of very clean living and excellent results to convince older folks that what one is doing is worth something. The adage, "attraction rather than promotion", carries much water.

Dr. Kurt Harris' website, PaleoNu, is an excellent reference:

http://www.paleonu.com/what-is-panu/

Dr. Harris cares deeply about helping people heal from serious illnesses and preventing them.

For further reference, Peter Dobromylskyj's blog, Hyperlipid, explains more of the science, and has insightful analyses of several studies:

http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/

Peter Dobromylskyj is a veterinarian, a brilliant thinker, and has a wonderful sense of humor.

As well as the science, and their kindness, the generosity of their offering and maintaining these sites underlines their work. No commercialism and self-serving promotion or compromises to sell more of something. They are both in their fifties, which, to me, is more appealing than the blogs and books by those who are younger. The approach and frame of reference is different.

Barry Groves and his wife have been eating this way for more than fifty years. Here is his site:

http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/index.html

Additionally, Dr. Richard MacKarness' books, although older, have helped thousands of people. They can be found through addall.com or abebooks.com.

It is the biochemistry and genetic history which convinced me. The words, "convert" and "evangelism", are unfortunate word choices in this context. "Evangelism" is properly used in reference to the good news of the gospel of Christ. Trying to convert someone to anything is based in belief. Health is based on understanding truth, not belief. Good science requires accurate language.

All the best to you.

1
Dc6407193ba441d1438f6f0c06af872b

on September 15, 2010
at 01:33 AM

I've had a little success with some relatives. Few will argue with "we should eat what we are evolved to eat", which you point out is grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, and vegetables. Some people will need educating that there were no substantial sources of grains before agriculture, but that's a small hurdle. Some will argue that meat is bad for you, but the single sentence soemthing like "grass-fed meat is scientifically demonstrated to be completely different from grain fed meat because cows are not evolved to eat grain, and studies are only done with grain fed meat" takes care of that. (There's no point trying to argue that even grain fed meat is okay for this type of person, because you'll never convince them. Instead, hop on the internet and tell them where to buy grass fed meat and pastured butter.)

Ultimately, the "we should eat what we are evolved to eat" sentence makes so much sense that if you repeat it once per month for a year or two, they'll actually get it. Of course, after year two they'll tell you proudly that they are now eating granola for breakfast rather than Cheerios, and you'll gently point out that granola is essentially grain, which wasn't available during the majority of our evolution, but that hunger-gatherers eat/ate eggs so try them. They'll question whether there is any scientific evidence that eggs are actually okay to eat, and only then, after two long years, will you send them your favorite brief popular-press article that addresses that concern and no other.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Oh, sending short popular press articles like http://www.vancouversun.com/health/Higher+daily+doses+vitamin+lower+risk+preterm+births+Study/2980051/story.html can be pretty compelling as well. One per month or two.

Within a few years, they'll be telling you that they knew all along that bread was bad for them!

1
B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

on September 14, 2010
at 11:04 PM

I have been thinking about passing some of my clothes that are too big for me now to friends or family who still are that size.

Or maybe just asking them if anyone needs these clothes that are too big for me.

Gotta remember to be nice about it.

1
C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on March 24, 2010
at 08:58 PM

I'm not trying to convert people but I do find myself talking about it a lot because I'm so enthusiastic. Loads of people have asked me about it so I've made my own little 'flyer' about it - a brief overview of the theory and a list of foods to avoid, foods to eat plenty of, foods to eat a few of and foods to experiment with (like diary - some can, some can't) plus a little bit about exercise. I've put a few blog links on it and my recommended books such as The Paleo Diet, Primal Blueprint and The Vegetarian Myth so people can go find out more if they want. I've also put in a caution about feeling a bit groggy and fuzzy for the first few days because otherwise people think its bad and give up then. I'm a secondary school teacher and quite a few kids are interested - I do wait for the request to come from them first though.

04293f705870e1837b8670d3c1cd5f67

(2261)

on September 15, 2010
at 04:03 AM

oh how I wish you were in my kids school! Their health teacher's teach them the upside down pyramid of eating a ton of grains!... they tell me everyday that someone is telling them opposite of what I say to them. I know you are not "preaching" to them, just offering if they ask..I love it..that is great. Another point of view is nice in school.

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on September 18, 2010
at 01:34 PM

I've been chatting about pale recently with the Health & Social Care teacher. I've got her reading Gary Taubes. She teaches the conventional food pyramid but now she's questioning it herself. If kids learn from this not to take Conventional Wisdom at face value and to investigate for themselves then that must be a positive step.

1
Medium avatar

(7073)

on March 24, 2010
at 04:11 PM

Never try to convert, only lead by example. Let them see you eating lard and let them make up their own mind. Old diet habits have a tendency of dying hard, even in someone with a phD.

1
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on February 13, 2010
at 04:48 PM

Start off with the uncontroversial advice to "cut out sugars and empty starches." This sounds intuitively right to most people and is pretty simple, but once they've removed those they'll necessarily have to turn to eating more paleo meat and vegetables just to get enough calories. After that you can turn to the details like cutting out refined vegetable oils. Remember that you don't have to get them signed up to a self-aware paleo philosophy, just getting to cut out excess carbs, grains and omega 6 will do a world of good.

1
7bea72ef073e8f76b5828727f1460900

(2718)

on February 13, 2010
at 02:33 AM

I don't have an answer, but I'm working on a solution. Perhaps you guys can help?

For my parents, the main obstacle is that "Everything you're telling me is the opposite of what everyone else says!" The problem is that all of the official sanctioning bodies like the AMA, the ADA, most health care professionals, and most of their friends believe the conventional wisdom. There's no good source to point to to say that "see, a lot of people have tried Paleo, and it works for them".

To that end, I've put together a Facebook fan page called Paleo for Life.

The goal is exactly this: Have a good source to point to and see all the people for whom Paleo was beneficial. I'm hopeful that once we have enough people who sign up, we will be able to point our parents and loved-ones here and say "see all the people that the Paleo lifestyle has helped!"

0
Medium avatar

(167)

on January 12, 2015
at 07:05 AM

You can't change people unless they want to change. Pushing them into a lifestyle they don't want will make them resentful towards you. 

The only person in my life who is subjected to my paleo food lectures is my boyfriend who has lived with me for 3 years. Even then, if he doesn't want to eat offal, I don't make him. If he wants to load up on carbs, I won't stop him. If he stops for a cheeseburger once or twice a month on the way home, then that's just the way it is. He actually eats a mostly-paleo diet, but that's just because I do most of his cooking. 

So if you don't agree with someone's diet and lifestyle, you should make a point of accepting their choice and loving them anyway. 

0
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on September 15, 2010
at 01:13 PM

I've given up explaining my position over and over to friends and family... I started a blog, and just direct people there. Those that want to learn more can move onto paleonu, MDA etc. Through easy links

http://thorsays.blogspot.com

0
193436dedaff436e9502f0968d04e29b

on September 15, 2010
at 07:35 AM

I'm new to exploring the paleo diet--so unlike most of the posters to this question, I've largely been a recipient rather than an initiator of "conversion" strategies. I agree with the members that have suggested inspiration over evangelism or even motivation. Also, the context of the relationship that you have with the individual or group that you are trying to .....(hopefully inspire) is key. My former partner was overweight for much of his childhood and young adult life (including food addictions) before going paleo. Although he had successes on other diets, the greatest losses and muscle mass gains were no doubt from paleo. That said, initially his enthusiasm for the diet and lifestyle was presented evangelistically and with somewhat controlling undertones. "You need to...you must....you can't...don't eat this/that, etc." The message was killed by the messenger until I was hospitalized because of a GI issue that my acupuncturist linked to gluten via an allergy elimination diet. The impetus and motivation for change unfortunately often happens only after some serious negative consequence has occurred personally or to a loved one. In addition to the good advice posted today, I would add that deeply listening to the health and wellness concerns of the person/group that you're trying to help goes along way toward gaining credibility. For me--my major health issues were GI and skin-related. Once the ex was able to target my specific healthy concerns, I was much more interested and willing to read the paleo literature and to locate scholarly research on the paleo diet. By the way, I think you all are fascinating! Keep up the good work. :-)

0
38423c557821a68c4f17435203769016

(20)

on February 16, 2010
at 05:22 AM

More than paleo, I think low-carb blogs and forums might well have the citations you seek. In my experience, Jimmy Moore's forum, Livin' La Vida Low Carb, has some of the smartest people around. They seem to be spending hours and hours a day searching the web for studies and trials which back up the health benefits of cutting out sugar and starch, and which prove the harmfulness of diets rife with same. Jimmy himself reports on his blog just about every bit of current info on the subject, with links to the studies. If your mom & dad are willing to read, you can find many, many links to abstracts and entire reports from rigorous studies, not anecdotes.

Dr. Michael Eades frequently does the same on his blog. He is a medical doctor whose clinical practice targeted overweight and diabetes.

0
38748b6721e36ead40189abd7ddff0a7

on February 14, 2010
at 03:03 PM

Trying to convince my parents to think about the food they are eating is very hard. My dad has Type 2 diabetes my mom has what they think is fibromyalgia. she has had pain for about a year and they cant seem to figure out why. They do not have a computer and are pretty set in their ways. I tell my dad that I read so and so and they are saying...And he comes back with who are they? I sent him GCBC by Taubes. I bought them fish oil, cod liver oil,and some Vit D. but they were very skeptical of taking it. I told them to ask there doctor first, which they did and finally started taking it. But my mother just says she is old and thinks its to late to change her way of eating. She wants to enjoy her food she says. I print out articles and give them to my dad to read and I tell him to visit his library and give some reccomendations for books to read. He is a little more willing to listen and investigate, but neither one has really changed the foods they eat. Its not easy trying to convince people. You give them the info and resources to find out more and its up to them to look into it...thats all you can do.

0
E91fd339d760ed76cc72570a679ebf5a

(2369)

on February 13, 2010
at 01:18 PM

I sent copies of "Fat Head" to my family members, though I may have to sit them down for a forced viewing to get them to watch it.

Sometimes I like to show "Paleo in a Nutshell" to people who ask me about the diet. If they're open-minded, sometimes they'll get it.

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