Diet Fads: Paleo & Whole30

Before we dive into this next chapter of the series, I wanted to share with you all something I found super interesting. For the past six weeks or so, I’ve had some really wonky job hours. Like, starting at 5:30 am one day, and the next day getting off at 8:00 pm. The scheduled lunch breaks for these varied shifts were also pretty off, sometimes 10:00 am, other days were 3:00 pm; not at all our cultural idea of meal times, but rather snack times actually. Anyway, I noticed my body just had the hardest time adjusting to this! No matter how I tried to “plan” to be hungry at my allotted break times, I was just all over the place! I’m definitely more of a morning person, hungry either immediately or shortly after I wake up, but even that morning shift was just too early for my body to crave food, yet I’d be starving an hour into it. Or, I’d sneak in a snack during a 10-minute break around 6:00 pm during those later shifts, but not feel “dinner hungry” by the time I got home at 8:30ish, even though my boyfriend had food on the table for me and waited patiently all evening so we could eat together (sorry ladies, he’s taken). Obviously, I did the best I could to give my body what it wanted when it wanted it, but the variance in my work schedule made things really difficult, causing a decrease in energy and overall mood to be honest. However, I just started again on a more “normal” work schedule, and my body is SO happy. It’s only been a week, and you may think I’m crazy, but being back on this particular routine just feels so right for me. The immediate shift in my mood and energy levels tell me so. Every single person is different, some people can eat a nice dinner at 8 or 9 pm without a problem, just like some people are grazers while others prefer their three meals a day. The point is, do what you can to give your body whatever makes it the happiest. No one but your own body can tell you when you should eat and sometimes our crazy schedules can make that difficult, but if you just do the best you can, your body will really thank you for it.

On that note, what if you don’t know what kind of routine your body feels best at? First, I want you to ask yourself if you’re doing anything to restrict or control your hunger and satiety cues? If you’re allowing external cues (like a particular diet per se) to tell you when/what/how much to eat, then you haven’t given yourself the chance to get to know what feels best for you. Just like you can’t tell a friend how to feel happy or sad, you can’t allow a set of rules to tell your body what it needs. Only your body knows what is best for it, you just have to trust it to tell you.

 So, without further ado, I introduce the Paleo/Whole 30 Diet craze.

 The reason I am touching on these two diets at the same time is because of how similar they are. In fact, I have even heard people using the names interchangeably to describe one diet. However, their differences, few as there are, certainly set them apart. The term “Paleo Diet” was trademarked by Loren Cordain in the early 2000’s, but can actually be traced back to the 1970’s when gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin published “The Stone Age Diet”. The Whole 30 Diet on the other hand, wasn’t developed until 2009, and while based on “Paleo” principles it is a much stricter version of the Paleo Diet intended as a short-term reset (…30 days, clever eh?).

I can’t say for certain because I haven’t read Voegtlin’s book, but I want to believe that his intention was good. That in the middle of the ‘fear of fat’ era, he published this book encouraging people to incorporate more wholesome and nutritious foods (including those fat-dense ones) and less fat-free processed products in their daily diet. But, again, I can’t be sure. The Paleo diet is based on the idea that our Paleolithic ancestors did not have access to grains, dairy, refined sugars, processed oils, and alcohol like we do today, and instead survived off of meat, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Supporters of the Paleo Diet urge those to incorporate it as a lifestyle, encouraging others that it’s not a diet but a healthy way to live. Like I mentioned above, Whole 30 is a short-term solution for ‘detox’ and rapid weight loss (which we all know never ends well). While Paleo-ers are allowed to occasionally indulge on alcohol, dairy, and paleo-modified “cheat” foods, this is strictly forbidden during Whole 30. Yes, forbidden – like what a parent does to keep their rebellious teen from hanging out with the wrong crowd. Additionally, Whole 30 does not allow sugars of any kind, legumes (including peanut butter!), and only some fruit. And even though there are trace amounts of sugar in table salt, they throw you a bone there and allow it. They claim, “This is not hard” and threaten, “Don’t even consider the possibility of a ‘slip.’” Wait, what? We are all adults here; let me ask you, would you ever let someone talk to you like that in real life? Then why allow a diet to? One thing I do admire about this diet, however, is that they don’t allow you to weigh yourself.

Now, let’s get real. The perceived benefit of these diets is pretty rapid weight loss. In the Keto Diet post, we learned that cutting carbohydrates forces our bodies into survival mode, and since both Paleo and Whole 30 cut a big chunk of carbs (grains, gluten, legumes, beans), our body mimics a similar response. Therefore, many of the side effects are the same as those resulting from the Keto Diet, which you can read about here. Additionally, one of the biggest physical health concerns is a deficiency in Vitamins C and D resulting in some pretty negative bone impact. Mentally and emotionally though, this diet (like many others) places foods into “good” and “bad” groups, altering our emotions about them. When food triggers too much of an emotional impact, that’s where eating disorders usually slide in. The reason our Paleolithic ancestors didn’t consume brownies, chips, and wine wasn’t because they didn’t want to, but because it wasn’t available. Arguably, they probably had bigger issues when it came to surviving, I don’t think they were making monthly happy hour dates with the girls. But today, most of us do have the luxury of food options, birthday cakes, and social gatherings…so why would we limit ourselves to what our ancestors had no choices over?

Because of their popularity and promises of reducing the effects of hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, a few evidence-based studies have been performed. Well, at least attempted. One study analyzing the effects of the Paleo Diet on people with Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease was terminated early due to failed recruitment attempts. This study concluded that more research would obviously be needed, but suggests that incorporating a diet high in fruits and vegetables does have a positive effects on individuals. You see, it’s not about following a set of rules for one specific diet, but simply adding more nutrient-dense foods into your normal diet. Rather than saying NO [grains] or NO [chips], why can’t we just say MORE [quinoa] and MORE [easy peasy  roasted beets]? I can assure you that you will never regret trying a new veggie dish, but you may regret not just eating the piece of cake when, four days later, you’ve restricted yourself so much that you end up bingeing on a bag of chips or pan of brownies.

As always, we love hearing from you and please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions about Paleo/Whole 30 or nutrition in general! Keep an eye out for our next chapter in the Diet Fads series….any special requests?!


 Written by Madeleine White




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