4

votes

Could it be that paleo isn't for me?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created December 06, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Hi everyone,

I've recently found myself at the crossroads and I'm hoping to get some answers here.

Three years ago I had a baby and had to lose about 25 lbs. I lost it over the course of the year eating low-fat, high-carb small portions and doing cardio and weights for 40 mins 5 days a week. I liked being slimmer, but I was constantly hungry and the workouts were becoming a drag, so I looked into other alternatives until I found paleo. I fell in love with it. No more hunger, no more cravings, no more chronic cardio, more energy, etc. I thought I found my perfect lifestyle. Well, about a year into it I noticed my clothes were getting tighter. I hadn't changed anything in my life. I figured I just had to cut down on the snacking and an occasional vodka and potatoes. It didn't help. I started IFing. Didn't help. I quit coffee. Didn't help. I started getting 10 hrs of sleep a night. Didn't help. Then I did the Whole 30, without cheating once... And learned I gained 3 lbs.

This past summer I went on vacation, and the family I was staying with is very CW, low-fat, high-carb, whole wheat, yadda yadda. I had no choice but to eat what they served for 2 weeks. We also had wine every night. I came back to learn I'd lost 5 lbs! I didn't know what to make of it, but I went back on Paleo as soon as I got back. A few weeks later, I was 6 lbs heavier. So as an experiment, I went back on the low-fat, high-carb, small portions, cardio 3 times a week routine, and what do you know... 6 lbs gone in 2 months.

I'm seriously confused and disheartened. Could it be that Paleo simply isn't for me? Then why oh why do I feel so darn good eating it? What do I do? I love Paleo, but I'm half-decided to go back to CW because I HATE being a blob!

Thanks for taking the time to read this!

P.S. My stats are: female, 38, 5'5", currently 145 lbs.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 08, 2011
at 08:47 PM

@Nance You might have a point. I'm a mom to young kids, so... Yes, there's stress. I let it out through exercise. I read and paint to relax. My sleep is mostly OK though some nights I toss and turn. I get very vivid dreams... (Definitely paleo side-effect!)

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 08, 2011
at 08:39 PM

@dav That's what's I'm basically saying here, I don't understand what's going on with my body and it's driving me nuts. I thought maybe I have a thyroid condition or something else, but my last tests came back negative. Look at the sample menu I posted above in response to Mash.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 08, 2011
at 08:35 PM

@carne I've done a comparison of my calorie intake on paleo and off, and it was about the same. I ate more meals off paleo (because I was always hungry), but they weren't as calorically dense. On paleo I eat fewer but more calorie-dense meals. The number of calories consumed in a day is about the same, 1400-1500, never more than 1700.

828429fe885f42968c0519d5b84cec40

(608)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:01 PM

Agreed. Eating like a human is totally for humans- you just have to find what works for you in the realm of healthy whole real food. I GUARANTEE you that you are eating very low calorie on your HC/LF diet and not on paleo. Some people fall prey to the "eat until you're full" or even the "eat all you want"- some people have dieted for so long they don't know how to listen to their bodies. I promise that if you cut calories on paleo to the same rate as your other diet you will lose weight- and feel great and be healthy!

A03f0d03067a43c61786481d91e5d3a0

(1078)

on December 07, 2011
at 12:40 PM

Something doesn't add up quite right (I'm not doubting you though!). According to http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm 1500 calories a day is well below maintenance for even a completely sedentary person. If you're doing exercise three times a week, your deficit is a whopping 342 calories per day. Now, these formulae are most certainly generalizations and of limited value, but I don't think they'd generally be 342 calories off. Is it possible you're undercounting calories? I guess it's also possible you have an abnormally low basal metabolism rate.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:26 PM

I do HIIT three times a week for an hour. I do have a good amount of muscle, which I like. But it all clearly sits under a layer of fat, which I don't like. I agree, I don't really trust the scale, and don't weigh myself regularly, the mirror is my first way of gauging things, and the mirror was telling me something had changed for the worse.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:23 PM

1400-1500 a day, three meals, no snacks.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:22 PM

I thought BMI was a crock? But yes, you're right, I'm within normal range, I would say. Between starting paleo and today I gained a total of about 10 lbs and still have another 10 to go before I'm officially overweight. I doubt I'm overeating, I mentioned to others that I take in approx. 1500/day. And I hate to say this, but yes, I think it's a body issue. *Sigh*. I come from a culture that sees fat as a character flaw. I've been trying to escape that mindset all my life, but it isn't easy. And it doesn't help my self-esteem when anti-paleo people tell me I'm fat because I keep eating fat.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:13 PM

I eat a pretty simple menu, three meals a day, no snacks. This is from yesterday: Breakfast 8am: 2 pastured eggs, 3-4 oz sirloin, a scoop (about 2 tbsp) diced potato and bell peppers (everything sauteed in olive oil), 2 slices avocado. Lunch 2pm: leftovers, namely 2 lamb kabobs with homemade tatziki and a salad (mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, avocado, bell peppers, cucumber, radish and homemade olive oil-lemon dressing). Dinner 7 pm: 2 slices pot roast, sweet potato mashed with almond oil, steamed cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli. Oh, and 2 cups black coffee. And water.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:02 PM

Well... I kind of already answered that. When I eat high-carb, low-fat, it makes me constantly hungry. And since I'm afraid to overeat, I have to just suffer through it and count down the minutes till the next meal. No fun.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:55 PM

Oh, I agree! 5-6 days a week was overkill, but I think 3 times a week is just right.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:54 PM

I guess I should've added a little more background... I'm not originally from America so I didn't actually eat SAD before paleo. I come from a meat-potatoes-veggies culture where people love to cook, and that's how I've always been. Sure, I'd had junk food here and there pre-paleo, but most of my diet had been home-cooked meals. I agree, I'd rather be healthy, weight loss is an added perk. As I mentioned I did paleo for a year and was very happy on it even though I was never a skinny-bikini. What I'm afraid of right now is that I'll keep gaining weight and not know why.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:53 PM

I guess I should've added a little more background... I'm not originally from America so I didn't actually eat SAD before paleo. I come from a meat-potatoes-veggies culture where people love to cook, and that's how I've always been. Sure, I'd had junk food here and there pre-paleo, but most of my diet had been home-cooked meals. I agree, I'd rather be healthy than look good. As I mentioned I did paleo for a year and was very happy on it even though I was never skinny-bikini. What I'm afraid of right now is that I'll keep gaining weight and not know why.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:48 PM

Thanks, Olga. I did do the calorie counting for a while (I used FitDay). I take in about the same number of calories on CW and paleo - 1400-1500 a day. I eat lower calorie foods on CW but I eat them more often because I'm hungry more often. On paleo, I can eat a 600-calorie meal and that'll keep me happy for 5-6 hours... My carbs are also very low, under 100 g a day.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:45 PM

Firestorm, this really made me reevaluate the whole thing. Thank you. I'm definitely more health-oriented. I'd rather have an imperfect body but be healthier and fitter than have a perfect body but an array of health problems and unable to lift a 2-lb dumbbell. I guess this society's view of what's "normal" and "healthy" is completely twisted, and I fell victim to it.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:34 PM

Wow, thank you for all the responses! I really appreciate it!! @Wisper & Sara S.: I know the scale is BS, but I also do measurements in inches. And I can clearly see love handles. :/ @conciliator & Sigrid: I'm sure I'm not overeating. I'm taking in under 1500 calories. I eat three 400-500 calorie meals a day, no snacking. And as I mentioned, I tried cutting out all the indulgences, and it didn't help. @typeogirl - I understand what you say, it may well be true, but then why did I start gaining fat on paleo pre-vacation? I'll check out that blog, though, thanks for the recommendation.

21b36b3de8ff31b0d41e7f0f4b5c1e03

(1688)

on December 06, 2011
at 07:35 PM

I agree with the counting calories, even just for a few days. I put on a few surprise pounds last month and it turns out it was those spoonfuls of coconut oil that I hadn't added to the ledger.

7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on December 06, 2011
at 06:12 PM

Good point, @typeogirl. It could also have been a lower-stress environment, which also could have contributed to weight loss.

8c509aac21bdb54b3ca91de2da994b9b

(248)

on December 06, 2011
at 06:06 PM

the experience you described reminds me of something Seth Roberts (ShangriLa) described. You were on vacation, out of your normal routine, involved in different activities, eating and drinking all different foods that maybe your brain and body had no particular assocation or attachment to-maybe things you would normally never eat, the constant flavor change up also has an effect, it makes sense to me that you lost weight. Check out Seth Robert's blog/book/forum for more information.

7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on December 06, 2011
at 06:05 PM

Even while losing fat clothes can fit tighter if you're growing muscle. My waist gets a little looser, but the legs get so tight that the entire pair of pants may feel tight (because it pulls them down further on my hips than normal, in order to be able to fit around my thighs). So it's good to look at clothing fit along with other measures, like body measurements and the mirror, as Wisper said.

Cf32992bfa1907147c7cdc451bba9c63

(2890)

on December 06, 2011
at 03:58 PM

Try counting calories. Sounds like you are overeating something paleo that you do not overeat with a low fat small meal diet. That would explain why you feel great, excess energy. Or simply try eating smaller portions, it works better for some people. But if it's a weight issue it's entirely a matter of calories.

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e

(1982)

on December 06, 2011
at 03:54 PM

The first thing she said was that her clothes were getting tighter.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on December 06, 2011
at 03:09 PM

Don't use a scale, it's pretty much useless for telling changes in body composition, and sends wrong signals. Use body measurements, how your clothes fit, and the mirror.

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10 Answers

8
Ca1150430b1904659742ce2cad621c7d

(12540)

on December 06, 2011
at 03:11 PM

The thing is, "paleo" -- at least the -principles- of paleo, is for -everyone-. Weight loss/management is often a -side effect- of the application of a healthy diet. In and of itself, the principles of ancestral nutrition (avoid processed foods including grains, legumes, and vegetable oils; move regularly, including activities that use all of your body's musculature, strengthen, and improve flexibility; sleep consistently) is not a "diet plan" -- it's just a reflection of a positive way to manage obtaining nutrition and caring for our bodies.

"Paleo" living can help you get your body to the weight/build that is right for it. Unfortunately, for some people, the natural balance of their body isn't going to mesh with the numbers on a scale that they THINK is supposed to be right for them. We don't trust our bodies any more to tell us when they're healthy or when they're not -- we look at machines and charts and visual media to tell us when we're the "right" size or the "right" weight, regardless of the messages we're getting from our body.

I'd say that, if you're trying to get your body below the 'natural' setpoint for it to meet some externally-motivated goal, you may not get there with just holistic eating on ANY plan.

As has been mentioned, a paleo diet tends to be more nutritionally dense -- so it's possible that if you're eating similar volumes of food on both paleo and vegetarian diets, you'd be eating significantly larger numbers of -calories- on a paleo diet, unless you were carefully monitoring that diet. However, I also think that, since you were hungry all the time on the vegetarian diet, you had some significant nutritional deficiencies showing up there -- and eventually, those will affect your overall health and well-being.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:45 PM

Firestorm, this really made me reevaluate the whole thing. Thank you. I'm definitely more health-oriented. I'd rather have an imperfect body but be healthier and fitter than have a perfect body but an array of health problems and unable to lift a 2-lb dumbbell. I guess this society's view of what's "normal" and "healthy" is completely twisted, and I fell victim to it.

828429fe885f42968c0519d5b84cec40

(608)

on December 07, 2011
at 04:01 PM

Agreed. Eating like a human is totally for humans- you just have to find what works for you in the realm of healthy whole real food. I GUARANTEE you that you are eating very low calorie on your HC/LF diet and not on paleo. Some people fall prey to the "eat until you're full" or even the "eat all you want"- some people have dieted for so long they don't know how to listen to their bodies. I promise that if you cut calories on paleo to the same rate as your other diet you will lose weight- and feel great and be healthy!

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 08, 2011
at 08:35 PM

@carne I've done a comparison of my calorie intake on paleo and off, and it was about the same. I ate more meals off paleo (because I was always hungry), but they weren't as calorically dense. On paleo I eat fewer but more calorie-dense meals. The number of calories consumed in a day is about the same, 1400-1500, never more than 1700.

6
E46d4f7e35e46ee4e8211ab4bc852023

(1510)

on December 06, 2011
at 02:50 PM

"Then why oh why do I feel so darn good eating it?" It sounds like paleo is for you, since you say yourself that you feel better on it. I think that what you really need to do is plug your normal week of paleo eating into a nutritional calculator, plug your week of CW eating into a nutritional calculator, and compare. Are you eating less calories on CW? Less or more sodium on CW? Getting more of certain vitamins and minerals? I think a lot of people on on this site will tell you that for them, paleo is not limitless, unguided eating. Some of us do have to count calories and carbs.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:48 PM

Thanks, Olga. I did do the calorie counting for a while (I used FitDay). I take in about the same number of calories on CW and paleo - 1400-1500 a day. I eat lower calorie foods on CW but I eat them more often because I'm hungry more often. On paleo, I can eat a 600-calorie meal and that'll keep me happy for 5-6 hours... My carbs are also very low, under 100 g a day.

5
66974b2cb291799dcd661b7dec99a9e2

(11121)

on December 06, 2011
at 03:46 PM

Paleo is not some diet to lose weight - it is a healthy Life style designed for Life. It makes no guarantees about weight loss but that can be one benefit of Paleo. Most of us have severely metabolically damaged our bodies ofter decades of SAD abuse and this kind of damage does not heal over night - it can take months & months or years. We humans expect this to happen fast, we do not know better than our bodies do, our bodies will do what they have evolved to do given the proper Life style at their own pace, we can force nothing.

Paleo is holistic, it's not just about food, it involved physical movement, sleeping properly, reducing stress, our relationships, everything in connected. Paleo is about eating healthy and experimenting to see what works this can take many months. The best indicator is how we feel - not always if we lose 5 lbs - the human body is in a constant state of flux and weight can commonly vary by a few pounds over days or weeks - that means very little. The ultimate goal of the paleo life style is to be as healthy as we can and for some that may actually mean a little extra weight as that may be the way some people's bodies are just the happiest and healthiest at. We need to release control and out preconceived notions of we believe we want and live the healthiest we can and let Nature do what it does best.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:53 PM

I guess I should've added a little more background... I'm not originally from America so I didn't actually eat SAD before paleo. I come from a meat-potatoes-veggies culture where people love to cook, and that's how I've always been. Sure, I'd had junk food here and there pre-paleo, but most of my diet had been home-cooked meals. I agree, I'd rather be healthy than look good. As I mentioned I did paleo for a year and was very happy on it even though I was never skinny-bikini. What I'm afraid of right now is that I'll keep gaining weight and not know why.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:54 PM

I guess I should've added a little more background... I'm not originally from America so I didn't actually eat SAD before paleo. I come from a meat-potatoes-veggies culture where people love to cook, and that's how I've always been. Sure, I'd had junk food here and there pre-paleo, but most of my diet had been home-cooked meals. I agree, I'd rather be healthy, weight loss is an added perk. As I mentioned I did paleo for a year and was very happy on it even though I was never a skinny-bikini. What I'm afraid of right now is that I'll keep gaining weight and not know why.

4
7841848bd0c27c64353c583fb7971242

(7275)

on December 06, 2011
at 06:10 PM

Have you tried high carb, low fat, small portion paleo? It may be that you do best with high carb/low fat, in which case, why would you need to add back the grains to do that? Just use those same principals within a paleo framework.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:02 PM

Well... I kind of already answered that. When I eat high-carb, low-fat, it makes me constantly hungry. And since I'm afraid to overeat, I have to just suffer through it and count down the minutes till the next meal. No fun.

4
7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on December 06, 2011
at 03:04 PM

I think the main benefit of Paleo/Ancestral is cutting out the NADs (vegetable oil, added sugar, wheat) and avoiding crap-in-a-box. You can adapt this to just about any eating plan.

There is also probably a middle ground between your version of Paleo and your version of CW. I also don???t think cardio 3 times a week is ???chronic??? ??? I think it is probably good for you.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 08:55 PM

Oh, I agree! 5-6 days a week was overkill, but I think 3 times a week is just right.

3
A03f0d03067a43c61786481d91e5d3a0

(1078)

on December 06, 2011
at 02:57 PM

Some thoughts:

  • 5-6 lbs is probably within the bounds of water weight. I.e. you shouldn't place much weight on a 5-6 lb change.
  • Your weight and height are within "normal" BMI. Is this a body image issue you're having or a physiological health concern? Maybe your body is supposed to be as heavy as it is, especially since - if you're doing weights - some of the added weight may be muscle.
  • For me at least, I think wheat kept me thin (too thin) because it made my stomach feel bloated. But while chronic indigestion may decrease your weight, it's far from ideal.
  • More recent versions of paleo are less specific on the carb/fat mix, recognizing that there are cultures with low rates of neolithic diseases even though they have high-carb diets.
  • Stress leads to poor sleeping patterns. Sleeping more tends to reduce obesity. I'm guessing the two weeks you spent during vacation were relaxed and with good sleep.
  • Have you considered the impact of food reward? Maybe you just enjoy paleo foods you eat too much, and need to make them blander so your body will stop eating sooner.

How much weight did you gain between just before you started paleo and a year in?

A03f0d03067a43c61786481d91e5d3a0

(1078)

on December 07, 2011
at 12:40 PM

Something doesn't add up quite right (I'm not doubting you though!). According to http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm 1500 calories a day is well below maintenance for even a completely sedentary person. If you're doing exercise three times a week, your deficit is a whopping 342 calories per day. Now, these formulae are most certainly generalizations and of limited value, but I don't think they'd generally be 342 calories off. Is it possible you're undercounting calories? I guess it's also possible you have an abnormally low basal metabolism rate.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:22 PM

I thought BMI was a crock? But yes, you're right, I'm within normal range, I would say. Between starting paleo and today I gained a total of about 10 lbs and still have another 10 to go before I'm officially overweight. I doubt I'm overeating, I mentioned to others that I take in approx. 1500/day. And I hate to say this, but yes, I think it's a body issue. *Sigh*. I come from a culture that sees fat as a character flaw. I've been trying to escape that mindset all my life, but it isn't easy. And it doesn't help my self-esteem when anti-paleo people tell me I'm fat because I keep eating fat.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 08, 2011
at 08:39 PM

@dav That's what's I'm basically saying here, I don't understand what's going on with my body and it's driving me nuts. I thought maybe I have a thyroid condition or something else, but my last tests came back negative. Look at the sample menu I posted above in response to Mash.

2
Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e

(1982)

on December 06, 2011
at 03:54 PM

How much are you eating? Calories DO count.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:23 PM

1400-1500 a day, three meals, no snacks.

2
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on December 06, 2011
at 02:48 PM

Maybe it will be easier for us to work out what is going on if you could provide your last few meals (including snacks if any), the more detail you give the easier it will be to possibly diagnose what is going on. I take this que from Robb Wolf who always asks the same when he hears that paleo is not producing the results it should.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:13 PM

I eat a pretty simple menu, three meals a day, no snacks. This is from yesterday: Breakfast 8am: 2 pastured eggs, 3-4 oz sirloin, a scoop (about 2 tbsp) diced potato and bell peppers (everything sauteed in olive oil), 2 slices avocado. Lunch 2pm: leftovers, namely 2 lamb kabobs with homemade tatziki and a salad (mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, avocado, bell peppers, cucumber, radish and homemade olive oil-lemon dressing). Dinner 7 pm: 2 slices pot roast, sweet potato mashed with almond oil, steamed cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli. Oh, and 2 cups black coffee. And water.

1
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on December 07, 2011
at 03:52 AM

ChromeBlossom, if you work as hard on nutrition as you have on this question you definitely deserve to find a breakthrough soon.

Anyhow, this may be totally off base but while your responses to comments displayed terrific patience, the question itself seems to come from anxiety. And one reason you might have lost weight on vacation yet not do it now could be tied to stress and/or anxiety.

How do you sleep? How do you relax? Your body will resist giving up stored resources if you are stressed, under pressure, etc. Were you more relaxed on your trip? Do you block out stress and pressure during the week and thereby let it build up?

Just wondering.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 08, 2011
at 08:47 PM

@Nance You might have a point. I'm a mom to young kids, so... Yes, there's stress. I let it out through exercise. I read and paint to relax. My sleep is mostly OK though some nights I toss and turn. I get very vivid dreams... (Definitely paleo side-effect!)

1
8fddf09738448bbe25843911d3704dd8

on December 06, 2011
at 06:08 PM

What's your workout routine like? I've been paleo for about 6 mos & 5 day/wk crossfitter for 3 mos. And I've gained about 12 lbs, but I'm a lot leaner. I've had to replace some clothes because they were getting tight, but I've never liked my body as much as I do now. Even if you're not working out regulary, I've heard of people who gain muscle just by going paleo. By the way, I'm 26, 5'4" and 142 lbs. My body is settling at a heavier weight but I've never felt better, so I'm trusting my body. Maybe you should do the same. And remember, don't put any trust in the scale. It doesn't measure your worth.

633ada55ad6d9831e08a6ae23270baf4

(58)

on December 06, 2011
at 09:26 PM

I do HIIT three times a week for an hour. I do have a good amount of muscle, which I like. But it all clearly sits under a layer of fat, which I don't like. I agree, I don't really trust the scale, and don't weigh myself regularly, the mirror is my first way of gauging things, and the mirror was telling me something had changed for the worse.

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