Almost a year ago I experimented with eating Paleo for the first time. For the unfamiliar, Paleo is a style of eating where you avoid all processed foods, with the idea that you’re eating a pre-agricultural diet that is better suited to the human body. The Paleo diet (I don’t consider it a diet in the weightloss sense, though some people do) includes fruits, vegetables, meats, healthy fats, eggs, nuts and seeds. It rules out dairy, grains, beans, processed foods, sugar and so forth. The idea is you stick to the least-processed, most nutritionally dense foods, and rule out the ones that cause digestive problems, have a high glycemic index, etc. In theory, the diet is supposed to emulate a pre-agricultural hunter gatherer diet.
There recently have been a few articles debunking the science behind Paleo, ie the idea that the diet mimics what cavemen eat and that humans have not sufficiently evolved to effectively digest grains, dairy and so forth. I’ve never been particularly invested in the idea of “eating like a caveman” or whatever, I just like the way I feel when I eat this way, and I feel that the nutritional science behind it is legit, even if the evolutionary science isn’t.
In my research, there is no nutrients you will miss by following this eating plan, and I find I have a lot more energy and more stable blood sugar while eating this way (I’m hypoglycemic.) I don’t find it feasible to eat this way all the time- it’s expensive, time consuming, and very difficult to eat out this way. Plus, I can’t imagine giving up ice cream or pizza forever, so I enjoy them as treats. I follow the 80/20 rule- I eat (mostly) paleo at home, and eat what I want when I eat out. My boyfriend eats the same way, which is convenient when we eat out and cook for each other. This scheme works pretty well for me, but I’ve stopped telling people I eat Paleo because invariably I’ll be out, and I’ll want a cupcake, and I’ll get a well-meaning but irritating friend be like “BUT THAT’S NOT PALEO!” No, it’s not. Now fuck off. It’s almost as if people around me are more interested in me keeping strictly Paleo than I am, which I almost wonder is a thinly veiled form of body policing. On the other hand, my fat-positive friends view Paleo with suspicion, interrogating me about whether I’m falling prey to “dieting.” No guys, I’m hypoglycemic, and it really is better for my health to eat this way.
I also want to be upfront about how weird it is how political people get about their food choices. It seems like I don’t know anyone that doesn’t follow a particular food philosophy anymore. I also find the bickering about Paleo vs. Vegan on Facebook or wherever to be irritating and inappropriate. A lot of the hardcore Paleo people are pretty annoying, especially those who eschew the 80/20 rule as “Faileo.” How other people eat is none of your business. Moreover, Paleo is a very privileged way to eat. Most folks can’t afford to eat exclusively grass fed meat and organic fruits and vegetables, most folks don’t have time to cook three meals a day. I do the best I can, and I don’t beat myself up when I can’t. Cutting out carbs makes grocery shopping expensive.
I recently went through a fuck-it phase when I started buying stuff like bread and mac n’ cheese again, because I decided that I needed a quicker, cheaper way to eat, and I wanted to see if my life would actually fall apart if I started eating that way again. (I was in the throes of an incredibly busy semester of grad school and was having some intense transitions in my life). The problem I found is that when I started including bread as a dietary staple instead of a treat, it became all that I wanted to eat, and eating veggies felt like a chore. I am an emotional eater at times, and processed carbs are not my friend- it’s too easy to binge on them, and once I start eating them, it’s hard to stop. Intuitive eating is great in theory, but when my intuition tells me to eat half a loaf of bread slathered in butter and nothing else, maybe that’s not the best idea. I gained a fair amount of weight fairly quickly, when typically I maintain pretty easily. So I’m back to the 80/20 rule.
And to be honest, I LOVE my Paleo cooking. I make chocolate chip cookies with almond flour that taste like real cookies, pizza with seasoned ground beef crust, creamy and delicious almond milk, coconut milk whipped cream with fruit, collard greens with bacon and a fried egg, cauliflower fried rice from scratch with homemade BBQ pork, bacon beef liver pate, grass-fed steak with a side of braised kale, sweet potatoes with truffle oil, and it’s all ridonculously delicious and even kind of decadent. I recommend Melissa Joulwan’s book if you’re curious about trying Paleo cooking.
In conclusion- it’s ok to eat Paleo some of the time, and not all of the time. It’s ok to be fat-positive but still choose to eat a particular way or avoid certain foods- it doesn’t necessarily make you “eating disordered.” It’s ok to eat a particular diet because it’s nutritionally dense and helps you feel good. It’s ok to do Paleo and not worry about losing weight or whatever. But it’s not ok to make judgments about how other folks eat, because that’s simply none of your business.