Since paleo is more of a concept and a perspective than it is a diet, getting started can sometimes be a little confusing. It’s ironic, but the same internet that allows instant access to tons of good information can also overwhelm us or bury us in bad information. Low carb? Carb cycling? Intermittent fasting? Avoid starch? Fruit or no fruit? Weigh and measure? Count calories? High fat? How much protein? AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!
It’s important to understand that none of the things listed in the last paragraph will make or break “The Paleo Diet,” but all of them can become worthy of consideration when you ask yourself, “What will it take to get me from my present condition to peak health?” In other words, they are all possible variables that might be beneficial to various people coming from various states of metabolic health. Please note, though, that I have never met a single person who required all of these tweaks to get healthy and fit. Most people, when addressing their nutrition responsibly, will find the results they seek without nearly so much effort.
So dive in and start dabbling?? Slow down there, tiger! If you want the best possible results, you need to get your basic paleo dialed first, and this is especially true if you have lost and regained weight multiple times in your past or if you have done a lot of cardio and/or starvation diets. Whether you get there quick or in baby steps, start by just focusing on two things:
1) Remove offensive foods: grains, legumes, most dairy, refined sugar and sugar substitutes, high fructose corn syrup, soy, and vegetable oils.
2) Eat lots of meat (from animals raised the way nature intended them to live) and veggies.
When everything is in order with your basic paleo, stop, take a deep breath, and settle in. You need to stay put for a while. If you truly want sustainable results, you are going to have to get really healthy. That won’t happen in the two weeks that it takes to starve 10 lbs off yourself before you gain it right back, and it also won’t happen for most people that are too impatient to let their bodies adapt to each step along the way.
An unhealthy metabolism is often just a metabolism that has done its best to mitigate all the crazy stress it has been been subjected to. For example, when you do a lot of cardio to try to “burn” calories, or dramatically reduce your caloric intake, your thyroid will often eventually try to slow your metabolism to save energy for these crazy bouts of stress that your body doesn’t understand. It’s human nature to think that righting these wrongs should produce immediate results, but we aren’t having conversations with our biochemistry in which we emphatically promise to never do such things again causing our bodies to instantly change course with a sigh of relief. Instead, our bodies slowly adapt to prolonged stimulus as they try to maintain some semblance of homeostasis (balance), which is exactly what happened when we began the processes that got us into all this trouble. In other words, you will need to prove to your body that you are serious about treating it right.
To come to my point, beginning paleo with every possible tweak you can find on the internet is a bad idea. Although you may reduce inflammation and heal your gut, among other possible benefits, a less than healthy metabolism will probably just get more stressed out. In my opinion, very basic paleo concepts should be the only changes made in the first couple of months. Then, when you have some feedback to work with, you can toy with ONE TWEAK AT A TIME, giving each at least a month to see what it can produce. If you are reading between the lines here, I’m saying there is no room for desperation in your plan.
Go forth and be awesome.