Troubleshooting the age-old question: "Is it ‘Paleo?’"

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I get this question in one form or another quite often. Those who are new to this lifestyle (Welcome!) as well as the Old Hats are often perplexed by a few things – like why we all seem so obsessed with things like butter, tequila, and dark chocolate. (Today’s about butter. I’ll get to the tequila and dark chocolate eventually.)

We’ve all been there – if you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone!

Today I set about putting your mind at ease. I’m going to rub some coconut oil on your worries. (Then, I’m going to douse them in lime juice and soda water, add tequila, and we’re all gonna have a Paleo party.)

. . .

I tend to combine the three food/lifestyle principles “Paleo,” “Primal,” and “Ancestral,” because they’re all concerned with one thing: optimizing health using the most nutrient-dense, nutrient-available foods possible.

Simple, right? Yet somehow, that idea scares the frog-flipping daylights out of folks. It sure freaked the loincloth-loving heck outta me. What could I eat? What could I NOT eat? Where were the cookies?

Here’s the thing: we’ve been conditioned to want a set of rigid rules for improving our bodies and our lives.

    • Food (X) is “allowed,” Food (Y) is “not allowed.”
    • Food (X) is “good,” Food (Y) is “bad.”
    • Eat this; don’t eat that!

Unfortunately, this mind-set can perpetuate the On-Wagon, Off-Wagon behavior that’s been ingrained in our minds since we were young. It can also perpetuate the idea that there’s a set wildly varying Diet Rules for everybody, from people who like math (coughZoneDietcough) to chicks who like to drink their dinner.

“I like parties! Tell me what to eat…Then help me find the back of my dress.”

(Truly, there IS one decent, overarching prescription for everyone: Eat Real Food. Of course, there are intricacies to that too. Which is why I’m writing this post.)

Many of us fell into that obsessive, old-school Diet-minded trap at when we went “Paleo.” We immediately sought the rules list that would guide us to miraculous changes in body and health, without necessarily understanding why we were making these new choices. That’s what I did, and that’s OK. It’s a great start, especially since it means eliminating processed, boxed, bagged or encapsulated Junk Food (yep, even the 40-30-30 kind). But living in that place – in that catalog of “approved” foods –  doesn’t enrich the journey much.

And we find ourselves asking:

Is Butter “Paleo?” (Furthermore, is butter a carb?)
Is Dark Chocolate OK?
Is Kombucha “approved?”

Unconsciously, maybe we want a wagon to fall off of – because that’s what we know. It’s that toxic “Diet” mentality. And I’m here to tell you – it’s bullshit. There are no hard-and-fast “rules.” There is only information and choices. Yes, it’s true that certain foods are nourishing and others simply aren’t. But a list of yes/no rules without an understanding of the “why” means somebody else is still bossing you around. And this lifestyle is about informed self-determination – not blind execution of somebody else’s trademarked Rules.

Information and enlightenment are easily accessible – start by reading Deep Nutrition, Practical Paleo, The Primal Blueprint, and Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. These are thought-provoking, straight-shooting, reason-providing, perfect texts to get things rolling. (Just for fun, you might want to add my book to the mix.)

. . .

In a way, I blame the fat-phobia/low-fat craze of the 80’s and 90’s, as well as the Veg@n fad, for making us think that health and well-being depend solely on the total elimination of certain Demonic Natural Things.* Animal fat is bad. Animal protein is bad. Rules. Yes/No. Good/Bad. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Time Magazine was wrong in demonizing cholesterol, and T. Colin Campbell was wrong in demonizing animal protein. (He was also wrong about a host of other things, but I’ll stop there.)

*Yes, most of us choose to eliminate grains when we have better choices available (’cause they’re processed fairly far beyond their “natural” state, duh) and other Modern Processed Foods, but that’s certainly not in the same camp as eliminating naturally-occurring foods – like animal products – that have been an indispensable part of healthy humans’ diets for millenia AND, unlike modern grains, contain the bio-available nutrients we need to thrive.

This “Paleo” concept is different, or, at least, it should be. It should be about living well, not being bound by odd, counter-intuitive, or nit-picky rules (violations of which are punished with 40 lashes with a gluten-free noodle). Yes, there are guiding principles, but if you’re really taking control of your own life, you’ll use them as a framework and not prison bars. (Free Willy Will, right?) Paleo principles are useful. They’re rules-of-thumb. They’re easy guidelines to help you as you get to know your body on Real Food rather than Fake Fuel.

Here’s the thing: many of us look at the “Paleo” lifestyle as if it were a re-enactment of the past. If Cave Men didn’t eat it, we can’t eat it. Tie a bow, put the present under the tree, and stop there. Unfortunately, there are flaws in that line of thinking; not the least of which is that tendency to narrow food choices to the stuff we’re already comfortable with (like, say, chicken, broccoli, and coconut oil) rather than looking at the nutrients we now understand were – and continue to be – critical to human health.

(Never mind the fact that Cave Men would’ve eaten anything had it been available. They weren’t concerned with staying “lean” or getting “thin.” Calories meant stored energy to tap in times of shortage and famine. And we have no shortage of supply in the modern world. But that’s a post for another day.)

If I may point out the obvious: showers, automobiles, facebook, and even the modern grass-fed cow aren’t “Paleo.” The modern chicken isn’t “Paleo.” The modern carrot isn’t “Paleo.” The modern Mango isn’t “Paleo.” None of those things existed alongside our prehistoric ancestors – they’re all products of the forward-motion (and also, the evolution) of our world. And we depend on those things.


So FORGET the historical re-enactment. Use the lessons of the past to inform your choices in the present. That’s what the “Paleo” concept is all about.

What we know of our ancestors – whether we’re talking Cave Men or more recent, healthy, native cultures, is that they valued the most nutrient-dense foods above all others. They valued organ meats, bone marrow, fish organs and eggs, and mineral-rich, fat-filled, cholesterol-dense foods because those foods carried the greatest nutrient density. Those foods kept them alive, fertile, and healthy.

These cultures didn’t know why these foods were best. They just knew they were. Another huge difference between us and Paleo Man: we have the ability to figure out the science-y stuff, like nutrient quantification and utilization. We know where the nutrients are. (And where they’re not.)

They’re in animal products (especially the “odd bits”), seafood (especially the “fishy parts”), and healthy, natural fats. To a lesser, but still respectful degree, they’re in vegetables, roots, tubers, and fruits.

. . .

So what about this question:

“I thought Dairy wasn’t ‘Paleo.’ Why are you eating butter?” (As a corollary to that question, folks often wonder “where will I get calcium?”)

So here’s my answer.

I eat butter because it’s FREAKING DELICIOUS. And it’s nutrient-dense. And it’s delicious. I tolerate it well. And Cave Man would if he could.

Paleo man didn’t eat the same stuff I eat. Paleo man didn’t eat Angus beef, which has a history of just a few hundred years as we know it. Paleo man didn’t eat beefsteak tomatoes – hell, he didn’t even eat heirloom tomatoes. Their meat was different. Their forage was different. What does that mean to us? It means we gotsta think.

No, Cave Men didn’t make butter.  They were likely more preoccupied with staying alive than with domesticating wild animals, milking them, and churning their milk into delicious, creamy, buttery goodness to put atop their roasted sweet potato. So, no – Cavemen didn’t eat dairy as we know it today.

Healthy, traditional, native cultures – like those studied by Dr. Weston A. Pricedid eat butter. And milk. And cream. And cheese.

How do we connect those dots?

With a perspective beyond the “dos” and “don’ts.” Yes, folks – we’re gonna get hung up on the details. (Remember when being detail-oriented was considered a good thing?)

. . .

First off, let’s get one thing straight: Modern, factory-farmed, pasteurized, homogenized dairy is likely garbage. This is most of what you find at the store. And, by my observation, it’s most of what’s been studied to be detrimental to humans.

That’s vastly different from raw, grass-fed, full-fat, 100% pastured dairy (I’ll call it “RGFFF100PP” for short) from animals eating their natural diet. Learn more about Raw Milk here.

RGFFF100PP dairy from animals eating their natural diet is nutrient-dense (thanks, science!) and filled with fat-soluble vitamins (FSVs) like A, D, and even some K2.

Remember what I said before?

What we know of our ancestors, whether we’re talking Cave Men or more recent, healthy, native cultures, is that they valued the most nutrient-dense foods above all others.

RGFFF100PP dairy from animals eating their natural diet IS nutrient-dense. And those nutrients are in the dairy fat (the butter).  Many people swear by its healing properties. Yes, cow’s milk is for baby cows. Yes, milk is cow boob juice. But us top-o’-the-food-chainers have a long history of consuming the various emissions and in-to-out contents of the animals we eat. Just read this book for a whole chapter on recipes using Milk, Eggs, and Sperm.

It’s modern dairy that causes problems. It’s the skim milk we once poured over Fruity Krunchy Pebble Smackers. It’s the Ultra-Pasteurized White Water we once chugged with trans-fat and gluten-filled cookies.  It’s the part-skim pre-shredded mozzarella we once ate in our stuffed-crust pizzas.

Many of the nutrients found in RGFFF100PP dairy – and the nutrients we sought as we evolved – are the same nutrients found in liver, bone marrow, and the fermented contents of animals’ intestinal tracts. Are you gonna eat those things every day?

Probably not. So where ya gonna get ‘em?

. . .

In my opinion, optimizing a Paleo-style plan means seeking those ancestral nutrients. Too often we get stuck in a chicken-broccoli-coconut-oil-is-Paleo/all-dairy-is-bad/almond-flour-in-everything existence, and we miss out on those nutrients that were truly responsible for keeping people healthy throughout history.

Interestingly, gut bacteria actually produce Butyrate, a fatty acid also FOUND IN BUTTER, from soluble-fiber carbohydrate (like, for example, sweet potato). You’re gonna get your butter, by hook or by crook.

Stephan Guyenet, PhD, writes about some of the amazing properties of Butyrate here.

Gut Flora: Butter Believers?

I’ll go so far as to say that vitamins A, D and K2 are still deficient in many “Paleo-style” diets, and folks NEED to seek them deliberately and enthusiastically, whether through organ meats, RGFFF100PP dairy, or a blend of Butter Oil and Cod Liver Oil. (I ONLY recommend this stuff. And I’m not paid to do it.)

There are many food intolerances at work in many folks, even to Paleo-friendly foods like eggs or nightshades, so if you don’t tolerate dairy, don’t eat it. Your call. You may find that clarified butter or ghee (butter with all milk solids removed) is tolerated just fine. Whether you incorporate dairy or not, get those FSVs from somewhere. Chicken, broccoli and coconut oil ain’t gonna cut it in the long-term. Neither is almond flour Paleo “Bread.” Trust me. I’ve been at this for awhile.

The Paleo lifestyle should be one of deep thought, continued learning, and valuing context. In a way, that sucks – we want an easy, rules-based existence. We want a simple Label with simple Laws. And, in a way, this is simple: Eat the most nutrient-dense, nutrient-available foods possible. Eat a variety of them (ie, don’t give up all other sources of nutrition in favor of, say, dairy just ’cause some Cave Girl said it was ok).

Use the lessons of the past to inform your choices in the present.

Eat unprocessed foods – animals, seafood, veggies, roots, tubers, healthy fats, and “traditional foods” when you can. Keep the crap off your body too. Have fun with it.

Did you make it this far? If so, leave a comment. Are you a Butter Believer? Have YOU written on this topic? If so, please share!

. . .

Be sure to check out my Good Nutrition in 100 Words post.

Here’s some of the stuff people (MUCH smarter than I) have written about fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2. (I stole pretty much everything I know from them.)

The Fat-Soluble Activators (Vitamins A and D)
The X-Factor (pretty much everything you could hope to know about K2, by PhD Chris Masterjohn)
Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox 
Is All Butter Created Equal? From Mark’s Daily Apple

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      • says

        Bahaha!! Funny! :)

        Loved this blog. Loved, Loved, Loved it! Of course I love anyone who tells me butter is ok, but what made this blog stand out for me is where you pointed out how the “Paleo” foods we eat today such as grass-fed beef and heirloom tomatoes weren’t really the foods of our ancestors.

        Thank you for a well thought, common sense approach. I look forward to sharing this one!

  1. Michelle says

    Great post! I’m almost a year into this ancestral style of eating, and I remember frantically googling “is x paleo?” in the first few months. My understanding on the reasoning behind paleo foods was shaky, so I focused on the allowed/not allowed list, which seems to be the easiest route for novices to take. It’s hard not to fall into the trap of going from demonizing one food to another, but as I’ve gained experience in how certain foods affect me, I’m developing a personal framework for my diet based the rules of my body. It’s irritating to constantly see people commenting on posts and recipes saying “that’s not paleo!” as if someone has violated a religious commandment, but then I remember my mindset in the beginning. If thinking in terms of paleo/not paleo is the equivalent of dietary training wheels, at least people are starting to ride the bike.

    • says

      “If thinking in terms of paleo/not paleo is the equivalent of dietary training wheels, at least people are starting to ride the bike.”

      I love it, Michelle. You make an awesome point!

  2. says

    Love this! I use grass fed butter in a lot of my cooking and have been seriously considering seeking out a good raw dairy source. I think you’ve given me the inspiration I’ve been looking for. Thanks!

  3. Amy says

    I can’t get past the plain fact that cow’s milk is for baby cows. I have breastfed four kids, and it seems absurd to me that cow’s milk, in any form, is something for human consumption. It’s for baby cows and it has just the right ingredients to help them grow quickly.

    If nature intended for people to use cows for milk, why do human mothers make milk? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I think we were created perfectly to raise our babies, and cows were created perfectly to raise theirs.

    • says

      I agree 98% on your point about breast milk, but the way I often look at it is this: We need vitamins A, D, E and K to be optimally healthy. These nutrients are rich in things folks simply won’t eat, like organ meats and fermented goodies. So raw milk (and, to a much greater degree, BUTTER!) can provide those nutrients – and people will actually eat it! You just NEED those nutrients. I also often look at it as a cost-benefit situation for early agrarians. Did it make more sense, upon the termination of a nomadic/hunter-gatherer lifestyle, to KILL an animal for its liver and a one-time shot of those nutrients? Not really, especially for people who had formed non-mobile settlements with domesticated animals. It would make more sense to have a consistent source of those nutrients through the dairy of domesticated animals (containing many of the same nutrients!) than killing an animal for a one-time source of the same nutrition. It’s not a perfect scenario, but it’s one I understand and really don’t believe has too many down-sides! I actually think a person could conceivably achieve greater health emphasizing raw GF dairy than if that person was more perfectly “Paleo” but using nothing but low-fat muscle meats and vegetables. It’s a spectrum, I guess.

      Technically, egg yolks are for the growth & development of baby chickens…. Yet I eat them frequently :) Somewhat different, yet somehow seems similar enough!

      • AmyA says

        Totally see your point about the egg yolks :) Had never thought about them that way. And, yeah, not a big organ meat fan, either. Although I do love all things fermented.

        Still having a hard time with the cow breast milk thing, and I might always have a problem with it. But I’m willing to try out using ghee — just ordered some Pure Indian Foods ghee and will try cooking with it on occasion.

        Thanks for the input!

  4. Bill DeWitt says

    I’ve actually changed what I call my diet from “Ancestral” to “Pastoral” to make people shut up about butter and cheese.

  5. Aschwin Wesselius says

    I loved this post, it’s so dense with logical insights I have to make sure I bookmark it.

    About the people who ask “is x Paleo?”, these are people who are not sure about themselves. They need black/white rules instead of taking the time to listen to their body and what it needs.

    Jesus said it properly: “The Shabbat is for the people, the people aren’t for the Shabbat”. In other words, guidelines are there for you, not that you have to stick to the guidelines. Making it too black and white, makes you feel guilty when you can’t stick to it. It also makes room for other people who can stick to it, to point to others saying they fail at it. And that’s WRONG.

    Your body is a lean machine and it needs certain stuff to operate. It’s up to you how well you want it to operate or which failures you don’t mind to appear once in a while. And yes, our forefathers knew what’s best to thrive and how to feel good without to much fuss.

    Since I’m on butter, coconut oil and olive oil as the main part of my diet I’m OK with adding carbohydrates, proteins etc. whatever I want without getting a rush or a dip from my bloodsugar.

    Second, I have less troubles with changing temperatures from cold to hot etc. and I think that’s something we’ve got used to: hot? use the AC, cold? use the central heating. While in history people where used to cold and hot weather no matter the season they where tough.

    I’m glad other people are sharing this information so the sooner we can get back to our basic needs.

  6. says

    First, I love you. Second, I use butter daily because it makes everything more delicious. Third, I couldn’t agree more with your point about nothing technically being “paleo”. I always find myself not wanting to say I eat “paleo” because really I just eat whole foods. Keep rocking on Liz!

  7. Bex says

    NIce blog! But I have a question that has been on my mind for a while now…here tis.
    I dont live in the US, I live in Australia (to be exact, on the little triangle island at the bottom).

    There are no CAFOs here. The milk I buy is from a small dairy surrounded by lush (very lush) grass. But it is pasturised, as raw milk is illegal here.

    The butter I buy is mostly from the supermarket, but sometimes from small dairies with proudly grass-fed cows. It contains cream, water and salt and is a deep yellow.

    From what I know, most of our cows are grassfed in Oz. There is so much land, and hence grass, that to do anything else would be silly.

    So….is this butter ok? Its from grass-fed cows, but it is pasturised….what to do??


  8. Jordy says

    “None of those things existed alongside our prehistoric ancestors – they’re all products of the forward-motion (some might call it “evolution”) of our world. And we depend on those things.”

    There is something about this sentence in the above post that irks me. Modern food species are not what existed 30K to 1.6Mya, certainly even red jungle fowl (from which our modern farm chicken was bred) is unlikely to be genetically unmutable and the the extinct Aurochs were killed off in the agricultural era. So while the spirit of the sentence I’ve quoted remains intact that we are not eating things that any paleolithic hominid could have found and vice versa. Modern food and animals are products of both evolution by natural selection and sexual selection, which until hominids gained modern intelligence still includes hunter-gatherers to a certain extent. Following an agricultural revolution, artificial selection and breeding changed edible species into forms more recognizable today.

    What I think I find irksome about the quote sentence is that while yes, it was artificial selection and breeding that led to modern species (and that is not evolution), to invoke the qualifier statements of “what some might call” with regard to evolution is kind of soft and apologetic for a blogger following a diet/lifestyle based upon evolutionary principles and the very fact of human evolution. Maybe, I’m just being tangential weirded out but felt like pointing it out. In a world, and country (USA), where some people still don’t believe in evolution and for people basing their diet/lifestyle on evolution, I try to not use qualifying or apologist statements when mentioning evolution.

    Kind regards.

    • says

      Hey Jordy…I think ya may have missed a bit of sarcasm there.

      As for being “soft and apologetic,” I assure you, you’re reading too much into it. But you’ve constructed a great argument about something you’re clearly passionate about, so I understand why it irked you. (Were you an English major?!)

      While I do generally follow and advocate a diet based on evolutionary principles, I am also a firm advocate of the “ancestral” model that looks at more recent cultures, “native wisdom,” and nutrient-seeking as modeled by native folk (that’s really more where this post takes ya; or, at least, that was my intention). Evolution, to me, is a foregone conclusion and I don’t feel compelled to argue for it at this time, partially because, as a nutritionist, I tend to hear the general population fretting about the minutae of adaptations and whether something is “Paleo” within the context of foods they’re already familiar with (like chicken, broccoli and coconut oil). It’s just not been as helpful an approach as the ancestral model, which I find no less legitimate and no less robust in body of research. It’s just my orientation – and it doesn’t have to be yours.

      Perhaps my slant is a result of my goals: I’m interested in applying these ideas to populations, and reaching folks with the ancestral model has been more powerful and, in my opinion, no less scientific. Regardless, the “Cave Man” idea is still a good rule of thumb/place to start.

      Thanks for reading, and I appreciate your comment!

  9. Danielle says

    Great post, Liz! That’s one of the hardest things to explain to people – Kerrygold on everything! Coffee! Veggies! Sweet potatoes! I will definitely be referencing this article in the future. You explain it way better than I could. :)

  10. Erin says

    Love, love, love this post. I love how you cut through the BS and just lay it out there.

    We’ve been “primal, paleo, whatever” for more than a year and we all feel so much better. Last month, however, I had the opportunity to participate in a Paleo Challenge hosted by our Crossfit box. I hated every second of it…it made me crazy because the rules were, well, RULES: Dock yourself if you had mayonnaise! What? I made the mayonnaise from scratch… Dock yourself if you don’t take your fish oil capsules three times a day? But, but…I’ve tried three different brands (including your favorite, by the way) and they all make me break out really terribly. No butter, no ghee…they’re dairy. Oh, seriously? But, but, it is grass-fed! You guys are insane.

    So, anyway, instead of feeling empowered for taking care of myself, I was just as crazy obsessed as I was when I was an 18-year old anorexic/bulimic. I lost all connection to the intuitive way I’d learned to eat over the past year…guess who didn’t finish the “challenge”? ;)

    It took almost a month of ricocheting around for my body to settle down and tell me what it wanted. We won’t be doing that again.

    Love, love, the Kerrygold butter and Pure Indian Foods ghee. They taste amazing. So, for us, they are “primal, paleo, whatever” and will be staying in our rotation.

  11. says

    Mean Girls quoting = instant love!

    Your posts as well as your well thought out responses to people who don’t necessarily agree with something that you’ve written are really inspiring for someone trying to make it as a new holistic nutritionist.

  12. Jeff says

    I have never commented before, but I had to tell you how absolutely brilliant this post is. It made me completely rethink my train of thought about why I eat the way I do. Especially the part about how the foods we have now differ from what Grok and his family had available to them.

    Everyone, me included, gets so caught up in names and labels because it makes it easier to discern one thing from another. But at their core “paleo,” “primal” and “ancestral” are all different versions of the same thing: eat real food and avoid grains. It all seems so much simpler now. Thanks!

  13. Wendy says

    What a great blog post! I’ll probably share it, because I’m constantly being asked “is that Paleo?” and “are you allowed to have that?” by people who don’t fully grasp that the way I eat isn’t a series of rigid rules, but a series of entirely personal choices made based on some guiding principles that are (as you so eloquently said) focused on “optimizing health using the most nutrient-dense, nutrient-available foods possible”.

    We really have been conditioned to let someone else call the shots and tell us what we have to do to lose weight, get healthy, eat right, and so on and so on. Which I suppose is why people are so nonplussed when they ask me how I’ve lost the 50 pounds (and counting) and all I say is that I stopped eating processed crap and started focusing on eating the best food I can get. Or when someone (usually my husband or my mother) asks, “can you have that?” – like tonight when I expressed a desire to have an ice-cream cone at the end of a hot summer day – and I reply that I can have whatever the hell I want.

    Going paleo was enormously liberating for me, because it’s so self-guided, so individual, so n=1, that it made the whole concept of “cheating” on a diet completely irrelevant. I am accountable to exactly nobody else, for the choices I make about what goes down my gullet. I am the one who loses or gains the weight, the one who feels better or worse, the one who knows what works and what doesn’t, what pushes me in the right direction, and what pushes me in the wrong. I am in charge. I am the boss of me. I do not CHEAT. I CHOOSE. It’s a completely different mindset from the old-skool, toxic Diet mentality. And it’s freaking awesome.

    If what you’re doing is working for you, whatever that looks like, then you’re Doing It Right. And that is also freaking awesome.

    • Jen says

      Wendy, I loved this response. I’ve been Paleo for almost a month now, and until I found this article, I admit I was getting frustrated with figuring out what I “could” and “couldn’t” have. This article, and your comment, really crystallized the way my thinking on this has evolved.

      • Wendy says

        Thanks, Jen! I’m delighted and flattered that my words resonated with you. Liz’s article helped crystallize my thoughts on the subject, too. I don’t know how to make it any clearer to the people whose thinking is still mired in the old way of thinking, that someone else knows better than they do what is good for them, and that if only they follow the rules properly, everything will fall into place. Evolved thinkers, unite!

  14. Aschwin Wesselius says

    I’m so sorry for the people ‘out there’ who mistake the word diet for short-period, rule restricted, timely framed, calorie counting way of stuffing or the lack of exactly that.

    Diet means life style, a way of life in the matter of feeding the body what it needs and avoiding the things it doesn’t need. And yes, that’s about choices, not limited options. That’s about helping the body, not training the body to cope without something.

    I myself am trying to figure it out what works for me. I try to set myself free from the three meals a day mindset, to the ‘my body tells me it needs a lot of fat right now, because it’s getting shaky’ mindset.

    The fact that I struggled over 15-years with hypoglycemia and what to eat at what time and in which amount and am now discovering the power of satured fats is in one word awesome. If the satured fats that I consumed the last months would gain me weight, I should have weighted some 200+ pounds by now. But I don’t and I’m glad I dared to make that choice.

    I’m eliminating stuff from my diet and am looking to things to add that I can afford, that I like, which I know of that make me feel better in the long run etc. And I eat at the times I want to eat. The last problem is dinner, it’s a hard one with tough choices to cut through. But I’m sure that time will tell that we as a society will return to a moment where food is important and that we accept our different needs and wants at the table.

  15. coley says

    just another comment to say bravo. :)

    i did have a funny conversation this week about how it’s so nice to eat real food ….. a great home cooked dinner, maybe a little dessert ….. all “paleo” of course. you feel full and satisfied, but not guilty. seriously, it’s kind of weird. my whole life after a big, delicious meal you still have that internal monologue giving you a guilt trip for eating “x.y.z.” but, if you follow your approach as you discussed today and learn what about nutrition and healthy eating; and what real food is and cook at home …… we eat these amazing meals at home, and i don’t have any guilt! but, it’s an adjustment. my brain plays it over and over in my head looking for that fatal error of eating something bad. i have to keep telling myself, “self, it was all good. just accept it. and enjoy it!!!” i was never a “dieter” which makes it even more poignant (for myself at least) ….. that it is that engrained in all of us to still think about food in a context of good or bad. just another part of the paradigm shift when you give up s.a.d. and start to follow primal/paleo/wapf/ancestral living!!!! :)

    happy happy sunday. hugs.

  16. eric the viking says

    Great post – it’s not uncommon for friends and coworkers who see me eating butter or drinking coffee (or drinking coffee with butter in it!) to say “I thought you weren’t allowed to eat X.”

    I try to explain that I didn’t join some sort of cult that strictly dictates what I’m allowed to eat. I eat real food that makes me feel good, and that the most important aspect of healthy eating is to have a healthy relationship with food. I really appreciated your point about good food/bad food, allowed/non-allowed, on-wagon/off-wagon for that reason. I’ve found that it’s hard for many folks to get past the “toxic diet mentality” (second most common thing said to me is “how long are you doing the Paleo diet?”).

    Anyway – thanks for the post!

    • says

      Thanks, Eric…that toxic diet mentality sneaks into EVERYTHING. It’s becoming more and more apparent as I realize that *I* get to dictate what I choose to eat, do, like and believe, and I don’t have to subscribe to some official set of “rules.”

  17. says

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    I love this! There are still so many people that think paleo is a “Fad Diet” not unlike the atkins diet. Even though technically, paleo/primal/whole food is a “diet” and way of eating, I almost never use the word “diet” because… well of what all the stuff you just said in this great article.
    I think I found a new favorite page to link to when asked the question “But isn’t paleo just a fad?” Thanks! love it.

    • says

      Thank you Melissa! I’m so glad you think so! Unfortunately it’s a sound-bite culture, and everything this movement is about is NOT sound-bite-friendly (well, it is – “just eat real food” – but we’re so confused about what real food actually is that more explanation is ALWAYS required!) I’m convinced that’s why there are so many “Paleo” books coming out – it takes work, honesty, and MORE than a sound-bite to explain away decades of misinformation and diet obsession!

  18. Angel Roberto says

    Hi Liz!

    Loved this article! I have a few questions though: So NO Dairy? Of any kind? What about Greek yogurt? How do you feel about Almond Milk, Goats Milk and do you suggest drinking coffee black or what could be put into it?

  19. Courtney says

    Great post! I’ve recently stopped following many “paleo” sites and blogs just because of the things you talk of in this post. I jumped on the bandwagon a few years ago and was tickled pink I could recreate all my guilty pleasures by using almond flour and honey and kept in my same sugar dependent state and that’s what 90% of the new paleo cookbooks are about these days. Sad because so many people think its healthy because its “unrefined” or “natural”. A half a cup of honey isn’t optimal for anyone :-/ Paleo is just as full of buzz words as the low fat craze. I wouldn’t give back this journey to optimal health for anything but now I know it’s really about REAL FOOD, nutrient dense and clean. Thank you for staying true to the cause, whatever it ends up being!

    P.s. I LOVE BUTTER and I’ll never go back to life without it.

  20. Ruth Mota says

    I am a newborn ” baby Paleo”.Decided to start the “Paleo Diet” yesterday after reading through different diets online.I never thought I would end up doing a diet as I am a eat what is good for you^type of mindset girl.
    But as I came across your page and read your articles I see the “Paleo”s a lifestyle more than a diet itself.And I like that a lot.I am not being very strict and Yes I am still drinking milk in my coffee and cereal and don’t believe in giving up on dairy completely as it is a great source of Protein,good fat and vitamins and energy.I have full cream milk that is not pasteurized.The only down side is that this kind of milk doesn’t last long(max 3 days in the fridge),but it’s worth it for the nutrients and I HATE skim milk and low fat because it just tastes like water (tasteless).Though I love water :)
    I also want to keep other stuff in my diets that might not be “Paleo” but that I love eating and that are not all that bad.But I am cutting out bread,pastas,rice,refined sugar,sweets,cakes,cookies,fizzy drinks,super market fruit juice,etc.
    I get it. The ” Paleo ” mindset is about living and eating healthy like our ancestors.I believe in eating and living healthy.Also will definitely get your book on “skin” solutions.Have battled with eczema and wide pores for a while.

    Thank you for all the insight Liz!

  21. Tahlor says

    Thank you for this post! We are just jumping into this paleo lifestyle and I have been so hung up on what is a yes/no food and transitioning our 3 (picky!) children!


  1. […] This article was so good, I had to share it as more than just a one time post on Facebook or Twitter. You need to read this if you have been paleo for a long time. You need to read it if you are brand new to paleo. You need to read it if you know someone that is living paleo. In short, this is mandatory reading for the internet as a whole. […]

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