|Mediterranean Lentil Salad Recipe|
What tempted me so much for me to break my Paleo plan? No not brownies, not bread, not a bowl of pasta or an indulgent dessert. My "diet" was broken by lentils. And I just could not be on a diet that considers lentils, a healthy, protein filled food, a cheat. Maybe it's because my mom ate lentils daily when I was in her womb (apparently it makes your child smart) or maybe it's just because I have grown to love beans, which have been my primary protein source most of my life. But the elimination of beans is just not a sustainable approach for me. And isn't that what healthy eating is all about?
After reading countless testimonials about how the Paleo diet helped people achieve their fitness goals, I wanted to give it a shot. However, what I realized was that after 7 years of being a vegetarian, it was not easy for me eat animal products every single day. The Paleo diet prohibits starches and sugar, both of which I am completely fine with omitting, though those are the major challenges for most people.
Or maybe I just can't be on a diet. Any diet.
I've eaten healthily for years. I've been able to lose weight, get in shape, boost my immune system and all of the other benefits that comes with a proper nutrition. However, the moment I felt I was on a "diet" suddenly all I could think about were all of the foods I couldn't eat, rather than the ones I could. The diet seemed confining, even though the majority of the foods I already consumed regularly. It was just the fact that suddenly "I was on a diet" that made me crave everything that wasn't on it.
And that's why diets don't work.
Now the Paleo lifestyle is awesome for many people, especially those who love meat. As the 7-Day Paleo meal plan shows, you can have bacon for breakfast, chicken for lunch and beef for dinner, which is heaven for a lot of people For someone like me, that couldn't be less appealing.
It's also great if you're exercising strenuously, particularly weight training, and need adequate protein to rebuild and restore your muscles. The most I lift is 5 pounds so protein doesn't need to be more than 10% of my diet.
The Paleo diet was also actually more time-consuming for me than a vegan diet, contrary to popular belief. I cook all my meals myself and am used to making a bowl of beans to last me for the next few days. With the Paleo diet, I had to plan buying and preparing meat (which I really did not enjoy) and had to throw out whatever wasn't finished of it (since meat can't sit in the fridge like beans can). I'm so used to immediately eating when hungry, since most of my food is raw, that I didn't like having to do so much food prep, cooking and then cleaning just for a meal. I'm used to throwing everything in the blender!
I also minimize my sodium consumption to prevent bloat and the countless other negative impacts of excess salt in the diet, yet most pre-packaged Paleo snacks like canned tuna, smoked salmon, turkey slices, beef jerky and bacon have an enormous amount of sodium, as well as other dangerous and even cancer causing chemicals like nitrate. Cured meat consumption is linked to thyroid cancer, childhood brain tumors in consumed during pregnancy, gastric cancer.. Cured meat consumers are even 30% more likely to get ovarian cancer! (Read My Problems with Paleo for more on this) I don't want to be putting myself at risk of diseases in order to follow some diet. It's possible to find nitrate-free meats but unless you're salting and smoking it yourself in an open-fire in your backyard, there is no way to prevent the other preservatives that make it last for so long.
I also just don't think it's possible to eat like our ancestors. For one, not all of our ancestors came from the same place. If we were going to be accurate, then we should each eat foods only geographically known to the region our family descended from. So maybe a European person doesn't have the enzymes to properly digest coconut, and someone of Asian descent's body is not used to quinoa, both things that are "Paleo approved". If you can't trace down where your ancestors came from, or they came from various areas, then which ancestors' diet should you follow? Humans did not become sicker from incorporating foods from other parts of the world in their diet, so this approach would not make sense. My Persian ancestors probably ate rice for every meal, and that's not Paleo.
Yes I know the movement is about eating before the agricultural era when rice even existed, but cows and chickens did not even exist back then. The Gallus Domesticus, domestic chicken, dates back to 5400 BC China. And the Gallus Gallus or the Red Jungle Fowl Chickens have been around for only 8000 years, meaning post the start of agriculturalism. Domesticated cows have also existed between 8000-10000 years ago, at the start of the agricultural revolution. So how are we supposed to find wholly mammoth to cook for dinner?
Like I mentioned, I feel like the Paleo movement has chosen specific aspects of the "cavemen" diet like an emphasis on meat but ignored others like the chemicals and preservatives in them? Should we ignore refrigerators and consume carcinogenic meats to "relive" the experience? The Paleo diet is supposed to be about getting healthy.. But then emphasizes eating cured meat that increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes, according to observational epidemiological studies?
While cavemen had to run through the forest for hours to make the kill, we just have to hop in our cars, drive over to the super market and pick up a pre-killed, pre-cut, pre-packaged animal without any physical effort. We don't go hunting to get a piece of beef, but we still have immediate and constant access to it, incomparible to the caveman expiernce. Eating meat at every meal, or even every day, is not the way our ancestors lived.
I think the positive effects of the Paleo diet are from the reduction of carbohydrates and sugars in the diet, which are great. I also believe that fats do not make you fat, and consume avocados daily. I don't believe, however, beans and legumes should be omitted simply because they didn't exist during the Paleolithic era. Neither did refrigerators, so those should be out too.
The purpose with this experiment was to see whether I could adapt to a different diet and prefer it over my own. I feel I have accomplished this goal, despite not spending a month trying. I realized I cannot lead a Paleo lifestyle. As a Raw Nutritionist, I try to eat as many fresh, raw, unprocessed foods as possible, with plenty of lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans for protein. I simply cannot be on a diet that says hummus is not allowed, but beef jerky is.
I'm always hungry and love munching on something, so the Paleo belief that we should practice intermittent fasting to recreate the feast-or-famine experienced by our ancestors just isn't right for my body. As someone with low blood sugar and low blood pressure, I need to always have a sweet snack around me to prevent dizziness, but sugars are banned on the Paleo diet and even fruits are can only be consumed moderately. That's not listening to my body, which is the most important thing.
Due to our bioindividuality, we all have different dietary needs and should follow what our body tells us. Just as a certain medicine may work great with one person and have no effect on the next, some diets work with some and not others. We should listen to our bodies and eat what makes us feel good, strong and healthy.
Paleo may have worked for many people, it's just not for me.