14

votes

Is a half-assed Paleo diet (no absolute restrictions) better than nothing?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 28, 2010 at 6:36 PM

Hello all,

I started following a Paleo diet - more or less Kurt Harris' version of the diet - a little over two months ago, and, unfortunately, I had a hard time discerning any benefits because of the stress and anxiety I've had over more than a few things in my life, all demanding things, should we say. I realized recently that willpower is a limited resource, and at this point in my life I'd rather eat somewhat unhealthier if it saves me the spiritual energy to do other things, like, find a better job. (And, living with my family now, I hated having to either interrogate my stepmother about what kind of oil she cooked my dinner in, or avoid the family function altogether.)

Fortunately/unfortunately I've been so convinced and impressed by the Paleo-affiliated research that there's no way I can go completely back to the Standard American Diet knowing what I do. I still avoid white bread, no sugar in the coffee, no cooking in veg oil if I can help it, etc. But at the same time, I'll now allow myself a mango or some other sugary fruit, or a slice of pizza now and then, and if I'm traveling, whatever the local fare is, for the sake of experimentation and avoiding social heresy. And I stop asking my stepmom so many questions.

So, finally, the question is: are there some gains of the Paleo diet made null and void by letting some parts of the SAD back into my life? Or, worse, are any high-fat Paleo eating habits (5 eggs a day, drinking cream, etc.) made dangerous with too much fructose or gluten or linoleic acid in the system? For instance, I thought of Dr. Harris' comment on dairy only being potentially harmful when gluten is also in the diet. Are there similiarly dangerous Paleo-Neo interactions that I should be aware of?

I guess the core question is: is a half-assed Paleo diet still better than nothing?

Can my body be effective at burning both carbs AND fat? Do I have to pick a side?

Or should I just stop asking so many questions and return to the Matrix?

Thanks, -Jeff

0fb8b3d6dcfb279b0f7e050d2d22510f

(4645)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Actually carbs grains and sugar are the real danger like breakfast cereal. Anytime you can take in a good fat (saturated- yes) it is a plus. Anytime you Don't eat a sugar its a double plus. And never use a veg oil- it is death in a plastic bottle.

Da397846a2cfad231a1122126bb6eda7

(227)

on August 03, 2010
at 03:36 AM

Nobody??? Some of us remember/realize/understand that eating grains *is* murder, not only of billions of wild animals that we don't even bother to eat (gophers, racoons, snakes, frogs, rabbits, hawks, spoonbills, fish, etc), but of whole ecosystems. Think about how many acres of rain forest and prairie have been (and are being) cut down and plowed under for oil-fertilized GMO grain and soy monocultures for the greater glory of Monsanto and ADM, et alii. Not a pretty image, and not directly in front of us, but real enough.

8c5fba7747aef48ee472e082334054e7

(120)

on July 30, 2010
at 02:40 PM

Hey man, the diet is going well - it took a real rough night after a sugar binge to make clear that even if I tried to go back to the SAD, I can't really - which is great! Was working on the carbs thing myself; when I stuck to VLC Paleo I got constipated, occasionally hypoglycemic, and I was more likely to binge on them once I "broke." Now I've let oatmeal back into my breakfasts and it's got that double whammy of carbs and fiber and soaks up heavy cream quite nicely. (I don't care what Taubes or Kurt Harris say about fiber; it works wonders for me.)

14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

(373)

on July 16, 2010
at 11:50 PM

As an update, ZC didn't really pan out. Upside being I learned that I definitely need to get some carbs in my system to function well. Interesting point about insulin sensitivity - I sugar binged (raisins) after a workout and suffered a serious blood sugar crash recently (got the "balanced diet" talk as well). You may want to try simply eating more paleo carbs to keep the sensitivity up. Paleo definitely doesn't need to be VLC. I lost a lot of weight eating tons of fruit, starting out. Didn't feel like I was restricting myself - I love fruit. How is your diet going?

7df8f3cc7f1475c3ecbbd4a4feb87d04

(514)

on July 01, 2010
at 01:58 AM

But how much sugar is "high" sugar? Has there been any research on this? I mean, if I eat a steak and then have a nice big slice (or two) of watermelon, am I damaging my body with this combination? I never anticipated that I'd have to almost completely give up fruit, one of my most favorite things in the world, when I went Paleo. But all I hear on this site is that though it's technically "allowed" it's usually a bad idea.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 29, 2010
at 11:59 PM

oops! here is the link: http://www.meandmydiabetes.com/2010/03/24/loren-cordain-caution-on-saturated-fats-disaster-with-grains-will-be-public-after-march-25th/ the topic i would most like addressed at the ancestral eating conference next summer by the two different camps is saturated fat.

8c5fba7747aef48ee472e082334054e7

(120)

on June 29, 2010
at 02:02 PM

Vmary, all I'm seeing is a Google Books page on breast feeding. Will bookmark for my future wife, but what about the sat fat/sugar connection?

8c5fba7747aef48ee472e082334054e7

(120)

on June 29, 2010
at 12:46 PM

True, Joe, people do somehow survive for not only years, but sometimes DECADES on absolute garbage. Whenever I enter one of my hypochondriacal freakouts, I look around me, notice the people that have eaten far worse, far longer, notice that they're still alive, functioning, and remind myself of the incredible durability of the human body. I've never ceased to be amazed by it, especially the heart, which can work unceasingly for over a century. Raised in an era of consistently unreliable machines that always break down, it's hard to believe that such a thing is really possible.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 29, 2010
at 01:32 AM

here is the link- i posted here about this before: http://books.google.com/books?id=pfiZfui2XLIC&pg=PA339&lpg=PA339&dq=anemia+women+hunter-gatherers&source=bl&ots=XogVZ655gB&sig=V6HbCpClDpc32xArMGWLL0_f-Ek&hl=en&ei=ohgpTLruNIH48Aafv8iFAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=anemia%20women%20hunter-gatherers&f=false

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 29, 2010
at 01:27 AM

Actually i heard this from Prof De Vany and I believe Loren CordainI will try to dig up the link which will explain the reasoning and evidence.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on June 29, 2010
at 12:48 AM

I hear this a lot from people who are curious/skeptical about Paleo and I just don't see why this point comes up. It may be true, but it's the "plus high sugar" that needs to be avoided anyway. It's no reason to avoid saturated fat -- it's just a reason to avoid sugar.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on June 28, 2010
at 10:08 PM

I like your concept of "paleo-neo interactions", never really though of it in those terms before, and I'd be very interested to hear more if people know anything. Personally I'm quite strict paleo but I've often hesitated to recommend isolated dietary changes to friends (those who ask) as I wonder whether they might do more harm than good if applied in parallel to a conventional diet... I have no real evidence for this, though.

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12 Answers

7
Dfd71315b44a74520ead7d6752e70fc7

(678)

on June 28, 2010
at 11:17 PM

Any time you bypass high fructose corn syrup for carrots and spinach, you are doing your body good. The two big ones that I have heard are combining high saturated fats and high carbohydrates can lead to heart issues and I've heard about the gluten/dairy argument as well. But this is more of a long term issue rather than an isolated incident issue. Are you doing damage to your body by eating a cheeseburger? Sure you are, but considering how many americans live off that stuff and live reasonably healthy lives, I don't think that a single cheeseburger will kill you. If you are eating a cheeseburger a week, well now things are getting more dicey.

I am suffering from the same issue you are. Work has FINALLY slowed down and my diet fell apart a bit during the busy season. I ate great for breakfast and lunch and a few dinners a week but the rest of dinners and usually the weekends were just bad news bears. I'm getting back up to 80% again but it's tough living at home and being able to save money by getting free meals a few times a week. I'm also 25 and I like to go out and have fun with my friends, which sometimes involves a lot of whiskey and a 2AM trip to Burger King. I accept that I am not perfect and not super strict but I enjoy my life and wouldn't want to trade friends and experiences with anyone. If I fall off the wagon for a weekend, I don't feel guilty about it. I dust myself off and eat a great egg breakfast the next day and I spend some time cooking a delicious primal meal for lunch. By stressing out over "bad" unpaleo food choices, you are doing more damage than the one off slice of pizza. For me, my choice to go paleo is to give me some direction to make better life choices and be more aware of what I am putting into my body. I am doing that and I feel better now than I ever have in my entire life. And I don't feel good after going on a carb binge so that negative reinforcement makes me want to choose more salads over burgers. But I was an emotional eater growing up so I have more work to do with ice cream and pizza.

8c5fba7747aef48ee472e082334054e7

(120)

on June 29, 2010
at 12:46 PM

True, Joe, people do somehow survive for not only years, but sometimes DECADES on absolute garbage. Whenever I enter one of my hypochondriacal freakouts, I look around me, notice the people that have eaten far worse, far longer, notice that they're still alive, functioning, and remind myself of the incredible durability of the human body. I've never ceased to be amazed by it, especially the heart, which can work unceasingly for over a century. Raised in an era of consistently unreliable machines that always break down, it's hard to believe that such a thing is really possible.

5
100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18706)

on June 28, 2010
at 09:55 PM

It depends on how half-assed you get.

Every time you eschew a grain or legume food, you are probably doing your body good, and you should definitely celebrate small victories. On the other hand, I think there is a tipping point of healthy eating.

Before you get to that point, you will always be suffering; the unhealthy foods will drag you down, add to your stress, and prevent you from reaping tangible benefits. Moreover, it can be very difficult not to find yourself on a well-oiled slippery slope. You had pizza yesterday, why not have some of your sister-in-law's birthday cake today, etc. Special occasions are ubiquitous.

On the other side of that point, your health begins to improve and build on itself. I'd even bet the the stress and anxiety, which are, after all, an internal response, will improve, even with a hectic life, thus giving you more stamina to sustain your values under adversity. The positive feedback loop starts to go in the direction of health.

Where this point falls doubtless varies per person. Maybe you could be 80%-assed about it and be fine. My advice is to get as strict as you can, feel how good it can be, and then experiment with what indulgences you can tolerate without losing the benefits. You could also go gradually, but it may take years to discover how truly wonderful you can feel, or you may never get there at all. Going strict at first allows you to see what is really at stake.

2
14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

on June 30, 2010
at 10:51 PM

Those are all good points. I have had huge binging/emotional eating problems as well. Many seem to on LC paleo. Check out Methuselah's epic binges at Pay Now, Live Later. As you point out it's usually followed by a short period of strict dieting, then again by a binge, and the vicious cycle goes on. I think this is why my dad has been successful -- he has great willpower and never overeats, even though he still eats some bread, peanut butter, rice, and potatoes. Just one scoop of almond butter can send me into a 2000+ calorie nut binge.

Pretty recently, I stumbled across the zero carb people at Zeroing in on Health, and had a sort of revelation. Ultimately, they believe ZC is superior because of its appetite suppressing effects. Check out this thread: http://forum.zeroinginonhealth.com/showthread.php?tid=1987

As Matt points out: "Zero Carb (for me) = no hunger, no cravings. Very Low Carb (for me) = cravings which turned into cheating."

I've been experimenting with ZC myself (err, eating all animal products, with some onions for organ meats) recently, and indeed can confirm this: no cravings whatsoever, in contrast to LC, where food is constantly on my mind. I'm just starting this myself so I can't really say how it will pan out long term, but for now I really like it and am going with it. Any carbs in general tends to give me acne, especially fruit and potatoes, so that's only more evidence, for me, that ZC is the way to go.

This probably isn't what you wanted to hear, as ZC is that much more socially egregious, but I recommend trying it out. You just gotta stop the emotional eating/binging, and that's where it may help. People seem to be getting some really great results on it. Even KGH calls it "right for the wrong reasons."

I dunno, just stick with it. I've been paleo dieting for almost a year, and have had many problems and doubts along the way, but am ultimately glad that I kept going and experimenting. Even if you can't always eat paleo, you should get results if you crack down on the binges.

2
F643ceedde9bbf290f31fc2f814100ed

(486)

on June 29, 2010
at 02:10 AM

Healthy diet + oatmeal cookies = better than unhealthy diet + oatmeal cookies, at least that's my own personal excuse!

2
1c4ada15ca0635582c77dbd9b1317dbf

(2614)

on June 28, 2010
at 06:42 PM

I'm sure swapping some elements of your SAD diet with real, whole, natural foods must be a good thing. In addition, you can set that as a base on which you can build towards a more complete paleo approach when you have the time and energy to do so. Definitely a step in the right direction.

Perhaps also worthwhile trying to cut the worst bits of the SAD out first - which you seem to instinctively have done given your comment on flour and sugar. Good luck!

1
D339c39d94d65460e28128174845f423

(821)

on June 30, 2010
at 12:39 PM

Every little bit counts! Every decision is important! If you fall off, just climb back on!

1
8c5fba7747aef48ee472e082334054e7

(120)

on June 29, 2010
at 01:23 PM

This is mostly a reply to Kyle, but thanks to everyone else for your replies and encouragement.

I didn't notice many improvements, but that was the fault of my own, not the diet. I was pretty heavily constipated at first, which can also be attributed to stress. And I think I made the mistake of over-importantizing the bowel movements, you know, after four or five days of nothing, starting to try and force it with coffee, laxatives, and generally giving my bowels stage fright by putting so much pressure on it to perform. Once I stopped worrying so much about it, it got better on its own - a lesson that can be taken away to many other things in life, I imagine.

Perhaps the biggest problem was, and still is, the tendency to overeat, or emotionally eat, which Paleo did nothing to stop, as intellectually appealing the idea of "it was sugar's fault all along!" was. So, I was eating healthier, Paleo foods, but too much of them in response to life's stresses. (Doing better now.) Then there was my perfectionist problem, which tried to incorporate Paleo at its best, all at once: the intermittent fasting, the avoidance of industrial meat (without the money to buy quality meat), achieving a good fat/protein/carbs ratio. Of course, trying to do everything at once usually leads to failure, and so with my stomach hurting from overeating or my body abuzz with a blood sugar spike my father would look at me and see perfect justification of his educated notion that the USDA knows best and my diet needed to be more "balanced." Sorry, guys, but I think I gave Paleo a bad name...

This brings up an interesting thought I had - that going on a Paleo diet, or any low-carb diet, is great, healthy decision, but can be downright dangerous for certain types of people - perfectionists, emotional eaters, low self-control, all of the above - who can't stick with it. These folks, okay, US FOLKS, go through a rollercoaster of self-discipline, then binging, then reactionary buckling down, then more binging (as author Geneen Roth points out, all "dieting" in the sense of self-punishment and restriction eventually ends in a binge) which cannot be good for our bodies. We gradually get our insulin sensitivity through a few weeks of good behavior, then flood our system with it during the inevitable binge. I've read before that these dramatic blood sugar spikes may actually have worse health implications than just maintaining the constancy of the high-sugar, high-insulin metabolism. But I'd love to be shown otherwise.

It is in this way that I really do miss "the Matrix" of the SAD, because it's as if my body had a more versatile metabolism when I was eating like everybody else. Now I'm more sensitive to certain foods, and I think wistfully of the days where I could eat anything.

14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

(373)

on July 16, 2010
at 11:50 PM

As an update, ZC didn't really pan out. Upside being I learned that I definitely need to get some carbs in my system to function well. Interesting point about insulin sensitivity - I sugar binged (raisins) after a workout and suffered a serious blood sugar crash recently (got the "balanced diet" talk as well). You may want to try simply eating more paleo carbs to keep the sensitivity up. Paleo definitely doesn't need to be VLC. I lost a lot of weight eating tons of fruit, starting out. Didn't feel like I was restricting myself - I love fruit. How is your diet going?

8c5fba7747aef48ee472e082334054e7

(120)

on July 30, 2010
at 02:40 PM

Hey man, the diet is going well - it took a real rough night after a sugar binge to make clear that even if I tried to go back to the SAD, I can't really - which is great! Was working on the carbs thing myself; when I stuck to VLC Paleo I got constipated, occasionally hypoglycemic, and I was more likely to binge on them once I "broke." Now I've let oatmeal back into my breakfasts and it's got that double whammy of carbs and fiber and soaks up heavy cream quite nicely. (I don't care what Taubes or Kurt Harris say about fiber; it works wonders for me.)

1
0fb8b3d6dcfb279b0f7e050d2d22510f

(4645)

on June 29, 2010
at 12:55 AM

Yes- 80/20 80 on 20 cheat- we are humans after all. Cutting out the grains like white flour/bread is a HUGE step in the right direction. Same for Sugar. Now increase fat intake and you are well on your way.

1
14aa918d730371ed14f8e7e7d6eb6587

on June 29, 2010
at 12:51 AM

It is definitely healthier. You really have noticed no improvements?

My Dad is doing a half-assed version of PaNu (I'm working on him), and has lost lots of weight and feels much better regardless.

Stress and traveling always make maintaining a diet more difficult. It could help to let your family know how you want to eat. If it's a non paleo meal, just scramble up some eggs and pick out the paleo stuff from the main meal. If you keep eating this way eventually it becomes second nature and not a matter of conscious will power.

But yeah, don't go back to the matrix. Eat healthy when you can.

0
8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on July 05, 2010
at 09:24 AM

I think it is.

I know some people might think it's wrong for me to post on here, I am not paleo. But I am semi-paleo. That is, I don't avoid grains completely, but I have reduced my consumption heavily. And much of my diet is in line with paleo ideas.

But I can't do the purity thing and I like to eat food in a more relaxed way. I was vegan for a long time and what kept me paranoid about ingredients and having my diet be 100% vegan was the moral motivation. Nobody who is paleo thinks that it's wrong to eat grains because eating grains is murder....if I had a food sensitivity to wheat gluten it would be a different story but I have no allergies or sensitivities to food.

Da397846a2cfad231a1122126bb6eda7

(227)

on August 03, 2010
at 03:36 AM

Nobody??? Some of us remember/realize/understand that eating grains *is* murder, not only of billions of wild animals that we don't even bother to eat (gophers, racoons, snakes, frogs, rabbits, hawks, spoonbills, fish, etc), but of whole ecosystems. Think about how many acres of rain forest and prairie have been (and are being) cut down and plowed under for oil-fertilized GMO grain and soy monocultures for the greater glory of Monsanto and ADM, et alii. Not a pretty image, and not directly in front of us, but real enough.

0
Dfb10aaeb173ba93600620339f4443b7

on June 30, 2010
at 11:56 PM

Yo dude -

I have been doing half-assed paleo for a long time now.

You end up eating a TON more veggies than you normally would - and it makes you avoid processed foods for the most part (you know, those nasty things in the middle isles of the grocery store)

But avoiding grains all the time.... no cheating... no refined sugar!?

Ahhhh

I did that (strict Paleo) for about 3 months.

My stress levels went off the charts!! The difficulty of trying to follow such a strict diet and lifestyle ruined my mental and physical health. Got strep throat for the first time in 10 years. Felt like I was slipping down a hill into a steep depression.

I have been doing crossfit for about 3 years now - and my half ass Paleo has been working just fine for me.... I'm 25, 6'1, 200 even (well, actually I am still down 5 pounds from the stupid strep throat) and I don't look half bad with my clothes off.

Like everything in life, listen to your body. It will tell you the answer. We are all different. Just try what people recommend until you figure out what works for you.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 28, 2010
at 08:39 PM

i've heard high saturated fat plus high sugar is a dangerous combination. Like burger with bun, french fries, ice cream.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 29, 2010
at 11:59 PM

oops! here is the link: http://www.meandmydiabetes.com/2010/03/24/loren-cordain-caution-on-saturated-fats-disaster-with-grains-will-be-public-after-march-25th/ the topic i would most like addressed at the ancestral eating conference next summer by the two different camps is saturated fat.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on June 29, 2010
at 12:48 AM

I hear this a lot from people who are curious/skeptical about Paleo and I just don't see why this point comes up. It may be true, but it's the "plus high sugar" that needs to be avoided anyway. It's no reason to avoid saturated fat -- it's just a reason to avoid sugar.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 29, 2010
at 01:27 AM

Actually i heard this from Prof De Vany and I believe Loren CordainI will try to dig up the link which will explain the reasoning and evidence.

8c5fba7747aef48ee472e082334054e7

(120)

on June 29, 2010
at 02:02 PM

Vmary, all I'm seeing is a Google Books page on breast feeding. Will bookmark for my future wife, but what about the sat fat/sugar connection?

0fb8b3d6dcfb279b0f7e050d2d22510f

(4645)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

Actually carbs grains and sugar are the real danger like breakfast cereal. Anytime you can take in a good fat (saturated- yes) it is a plus. Anytime you Don't eat a sugar its a double plus. And never use a veg oil- it is death in a plastic bottle.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 29, 2010
at 01:32 AM

here is the link- i posted here about this before: http://books.google.com/books?id=pfiZfui2XLIC&pg=PA339&lpg=PA339&dq=anemia+women+hunter-gatherers&source=bl&ots=XogVZ655gB&sig=V6HbCpClDpc32xArMGWLL0_f-Ek&hl=en&ei=ohgpTLruNIH48Aafv8iFAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAjgK#v=onepage&q=anemia%20women%20hunter-gatherers&f=false

7df8f3cc7f1475c3ecbbd4a4feb87d04

(514)

on July 01, 2010
at 01:58 AM

But how much sugar is "high" sugar? Has there been any research on this? I mean, if I eat a steak and then have a nice big slice (or two) of watermelon, am I damaging my body with this combination? I never anticipated that I'd have to almost completely give up fruit, one of my most favorite things in the world, when I went Paleo. But all I hear on this site is that though it's technically "allowed" it's usually a bad idea.

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