10 Things Everyone Can Learn From Paleo (Even If You Hate It)

I hate meat. I've been vegetarian all my life. I remember a few years ago at a Pizza Hut when they mistakenly brought out a "meat lovers" pizza instead of "veggie lovers" pizza. I think I threw up a few times that night.

So, naturally, when I learned out about the Paleo diet and its emphasis on bacon, bone broth and lamb legs, I was turned off. All I could picture was a burly caveman with a club in one hand and a hunk of meat in the other. (No thanks!)

But I also knew that although, I was plant-based, I was not always in the best of health. (Muffins and smoothies, anyone?) So I started to read about Paleo and realized I was learning a ton by just absorbing certain parts of the diet. Seriously, these 10 things changed the way I eat and move forever.

1. Eat like your great (or great-great) grandparent.

While I had a hard time picturing myself as a cavewoman, I thought about my ancestors and the foods that they might have favored. Bottom line: throw away the "modern" convenient packaged foods. Literally, go into your pantry, fridge, office desk, or kitchen and throw away everything that comes in a package. If you're nervous (like I was) just put it away for two weeks. If you still want it later, you'll have it there.

2. Cut the sugar.

In the Paleolithic era, refined sugar was non-existent and anything really sweet was difficult to get. This one is the hardest for most people because our taste buds are used to constantly craving sweet. And everyone has a different tolerance level—you may be able wean it entirely or you may use dried fruit or natural sweeteners like Stevia (not exactly Paleo) sparingly.

3. Try ditching dairy for 30 days.

Add it back after 30 days. If you don't feel as good, keep it out of your diet. Dairy is one area where vegans and Paleo folks say about the same thing: it's inflammatory (for many).

4. Try going off wheat for 30 days.

Same advice as above. For me, this was life-changing. I do have wheat in bread or pasta at restaurants once in a while and then, when I feel terrible, I realize why I stay off it 90% of the time.

5. Stop counting calories.

For example, a 100-calorie pack of cookies is still … cookies. If you focus on food quality, and not quantity, it makes being healthy a hell of a lot more fun. Plus it works.

6. You can't out-exercise a bad diet.

When I was younger, I thought I could just exercise an extra hour and "burn off" the cookies. To my dismay, it doesn't work that way. I strongly believe that it's 80% about your diet and 20% about the exercise. The Paleo lifestyle has a strong emphasis on diet—that's why people lose weight on it.

7. Don't fear the fat.

I'm pretty sure that we didn't have fat-free muffins in ancestral times. So what can you do? Start using more avocado and coconut in your meals. Healthy fat is filling and nutritious! The processed and trans-stuff are the problem.

8. Eat as many vegetables as possible.

So it turns out that in the Paleolithic era, people ate mostly plants. And not surprisingly, plant-based folks agree! Eating greens several times a day is a point where all diets intersect.

9. Enjoy treats in moderation.

Think about it: in the Paleolithic era, when fruit ripened in one tree, they shared the fruit with everyone in the clan. Even just 50 years ago, desserts and other treats were not as commonplace as they are today. The point? Treat a treat like a "treat." Friends' birthday's, farewells, baby showers or horrible days at work don't ALL have to end with a slice of cake.

10. Move.

No, entry into the 2014 CrossFit games isn't a prerequisite for following the Paleo diet. Whether it's yoga, CrossFit, running or weight lifting, moving your body helps digestion, mood, and manages your weight. All day movement with burst of sprints is probably the MOST effective exercise out there but honestly it all works as long as you are doing something.

So, instead of organizing a big brawl pitting vegans against Paleos so we can figure out who "wins," let's just learn from each other and pluck some universal tips. That way you can label yourself whatever you want or not label yourself at all.

Want to learn how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

Amy Shah, M.D.

Integrative Medicine Doctor
Amy Shah, M.D. is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of mindbodygreen's Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media shows. She helps busy people transform their health by reducing inflammation and eating more plants. As an immunologist she realizes the power of the microbiome to help digestion, natural hormone balance and food sensitivities.
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Amy Shah, M.D.

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