Pragmatic Paleo - What we should and shouldn't eat

Before we look at what we should be eating and why, let’s take a look very quickly at what we shouldn’t be eating, why we shouldn’t be eating them and why it’s really hard to not eat them and why it isn’t your fault that you have possibly struggled to control your weight in the past. I won’t be going into massive amounts of science, just a little, I've linked a few books on the right that are worth a read if you are interested. I reference these books because they are written by scientists, not celebrities.

Firstly it should be understood that I’m talking in generalisations, we all have our own genetic history and this means our precise reaction to food can vary, but in general: There are a number of broad food types we should avoid or at least minimise, these are refined foods and grass. Grass? Yes grass or more accurately food made of grass, these are; Wheat, Corn (Maize), Barley, Millet, Oats and Rice. All of these grasses to a greater or lesser degree, contain chemicals that damage the lining of the stomach, they also have a high glycemic index (GI) that is to say, they allow their sugar content to enter the blood stream very quickly and this creates a spike in your blood’s insulin level. The main reason for the high GI nature of these foods is that human’s aren’t really designed to eat them the way nature made them, so in order to eat them we grind them and then boil or bake them. Animals that are designed to eat them have specially designed digestive systems; apes our closest relatives have large stomachs, their stomachs are large not because they are fat but because their intestines are large. Many other animals that eat grass have multiple stomachs, the first stomach is designed to pre-digest their food before the food now known as cud is re-chewed and finally digested.

Refined foods are in the main made out of the above grass based foods or other natural foods processed and prepared possibly by the addition of sugar. They are easy to spot they come; either in packets from the supermarket or from the deli or bakers and you know they taste and smell really good.

Here’s a very small amount of science concerning the High GI response of these foods and why it is a problem. Insulin is a natural hormone produced by the body, it’s purpose is to control the amount of sugar in the blood. If too much sugar is detected Insulin is released into the blood stream. Insulin then causes the sugar to be turned to fat and stored. What follows next is known as the Insulin crash, after the spike the fall and the fall can be sudden and deep. When the body detects the resulting low level of sugar, it creates a need for more sugar and rather than reconvert the stored fat it simply creates a sense of hunger encouraging you to eat again. Almost everyone has experienced this on occasions, ever had a Chinese meal (Rice) and felt hungry a couple of hours later, or perhaps Italian (Pasta) and again hungry possibly wanted a quick nap? Some people regularly experience the crash, do you have a sandwich (bread- wheat) at work for lunch? How do you feel in the afternoon? Sluggish, tired you need more coffee? All of these are insulin crashes, you’ve created fat and your hungry. Not great.

So why is weight management so difficult? Put simply the world is working against you, humans are endlessly creative. One of our endeavours is to make our food as tasty as possible. This means making processed foods or taking natural foods and adding tastes that we really like.

Think about this for a moment. How hard is it to not eat food you don’t like? The answer is of course you never have to think about it, you just don’t eat it. Now think about this and when I say think I mean take a moment close your eyes and TAKE NOTE HOW YOU FEEL.

Think of a natural food such as carrot or cabbage. Now imagine I was to say you’ll have to give it up forever. How does that make you feel….? Disappointed? A little annoyed? Possibly both but you’ll get over it.

Now imagine; no bread, cake, biscuits? EVER AGAIN! How does that make you feel? In all likelihood if you were paying attention to your inner feelings you would have detected a far stronger response. Why? These foods are not only bad for you but they are also addictive. Addictive like some drugs, because they activate some of the same pleasure responses that drugs do. So struggling with food doesn’t make you weak, it just means you’re experiencing an addiction.

I’ll finish this section by saying you don’t have to give these delicious foods up entirely, but they will have to become a far smaller part of your intake and you may actually find giving them up isn’t so bad and in fact the upside of dumping them completely is worth it. But this is a decision some way into the future so don’t worry about it now.

So what should we be eating? Short answer; pretty much anything that isn’t processed or made out of grass. In a little more detail, we are simply looking for a balanced diet made up of a mixture of proteins, fats and varied fruit and vegetables. During our first session I’ll go into a little more detail that’s specific to your circumstances; age, gender current health status, activity levels etc.

So if you’re ready to move your life forward and make real changes, please drop me a line.