A couple months ago, I posted about the great connection I made with author and founder of “Practical Paleolithic,” Adam Farrah. Adam and I shared similar health challenges in our lives, and have found we feel better when following the Paleo diet.
This week, I wanted to share with our readers the reasons why Paleo has worked for both of us, in case you may be interested in trying it, too. For more information, check out Adam’s new book, The Paleo Dieter’s Missing Link.
Limited Time Giveaway: In honor of meeting Adam and loving the work he does, we’re doing a giveaway of his newly released book-he has so kindly agreed to donate two signed copies to Cinco Vidas readers! Giveaway details below!
What is the Paleo Diet?
Also referred to as the “caveman diet,” the “Stone Age” diet, and the “hunter-gatherer” diet (Adam’s favorite), the Paleo diet is a modern nutritional plan based on what we believe our ancestors lived on-wild plants and animals-before the development of agriculture and grain-based diets.
So if you’re on a Paleo diet, you’re avoiding grains, legumes, dairy products, potatoes, refined sugar, and processed oils. Instead, you’re eating fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, roots, mushrooms, and nuts. Often recommended for people who are experiencing gastrointestinal problems, the diet has been around for centuries, but has recently exploded in our modern world as a potential solution to inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gluten sensitivity, and health other issues.
“I didn’t actually choose Paleo,” Adam says. “When I got sick in 2004, there wasn’t much of a Paleo community. A lot of what I was doing was trial and error. I tried raw vegan and a bunch of different approaches. I found when I cut out grains, however, and when I didn’t eat processed food or sugar or other things like that, I felt better.
Adam suffered from ulcerative colitis, a serious inflammatory bowel disease of the large intestine characterized by recurrent abdominal pain, fever, chills, and diarrhea. Considered an autoimmune disease, it’s a case of the body’s immune cells attacking the wrong thing, and creating ulcers in the lining of the colon.
“I was extremely sick,” Adam says, “and nearly dead several times during that period [between 2004 and 2008].” Realizing that what he ate definitely did make a difference in how he felt, Adam made changes on his own, and then in 2008, found a CrossFit community where everyone was talking about Paleo.
“I had been doing a grain-free, whole foods sort of diet pretty much since 2004,” he says, “and thanks to CrossFit and Robb Wolf [bestselling author of The Paleo Solution-the Original Human Diet], I was able to find my way full circle and embrace a Paleo lifestyle with a ton of community support.”
My Path Was Similar
I walked a similar road on my way to a Paleo diet. As I told you all in my post, “The 10 Most Impactful Changes I’ve Made in My Health and My Life in 2012,” I was struggling with a hormonal imbalance, bloating, fatigue, acne, insomnia, and a sluggish thyroid, and I was at the end of my rope trying to find a solution. It was in my work with Dr. Lipman that I learned about processed sugar, gluten, and dairy, and how they could be derailing my health and vitality.
After I walked out of Dr. Lipman’s office the first time, I never touched gluten again. As soon as I started to eat gluten-free, it triggered changes in my body that felt good, so I did some more research and experimenting. I knew I needed to get rid of sugar, gluten, dairy, and soy, so I looked more closely at the Paleo diet, and started adopting more and more of the practices recommended there. I have never looked back!
I discovered that we don’t really need simple carbohydrates-simple sugars that break down quickly in the body, like refined sugars, white flour products, dairy products, packaged cereals. These types of foods raise our blood sugar and encourage the release of more insulin to rebalance it-which saps your energy and can set the stages for weight gain and diabetes. Changing my diet gave me more energy to deal with my business. I never feel deprived, and I eat delicious meals. I do buy free range and organic as much as possible.
By the way, can I share about my new addiction? The Hu Kitchen in NYC! They provide unprocessed, whole foods that are weighted more towards vegetables and fruits and less toward animal proteins. They have a number of grain-free alternatives, and employ healthy fats like coconut oils and avocados. Delicious and good for you.
Quick note: I am actually as we speak engaged in doing the Whole 30 Challenge-a version of Paleo that involves eating whole foods. I will fill you in about that journey in the coming months!
Why Adam Wrote His Book
As anyone who’s ever tried to go on a diet knows, it can get confusing. You try to do everything right, but you’re being told to do this by one expert, and that by another, and then there’s a website saying something else. Rather than get caught up in rules and restrictions, Adam recommends people make the diet fit their personal needs and lifestyles.
“There are a lot of different opinions out there-shoulds and shouldn’ts-that can really discourage people,” Adam says. “I had a friend who struggled for years with all the conflicting information, and when she read my book it freed her from the dogma side of things. You have to use your body as a guide.”
Adam also cautions that the diet may not be a miracle cure, and will likely require “tweaks” to fit your individual physiology. “Usually when you first try Paleo or any new diet, you follow the instructions, you feel better, and you think it’s a miracle,” he says. “It’s the greatest thing ever. But after a time, you notice that maybe things aren’t exactly perfect.”
In the Paleo diet, for example, soups and stews are supposed to be really good, but they didn’t work well for Adam-they didn’t digest well. “Nobody’s approach ever worked for me one-hundred percent,” he says. “Usually the diet does eighty to ninety percent of what you need it to do, but then it’s up to you to figure out the last ten to twenty percent.”
Adam wrote his book to help people do just that-figure out how to tweak that last little bit to make the Paleo diet work for them.
It’s Not Just a Diet
The solution to dogma, in Adam’s opinion, is to embrace the “lifestyle” of Paleo, rather than just the diet. He talks about how in 2010, when he had totally switched to Paleo, he was still suffering from some health problems. “I was still under a ton of stress,” he says. “I owned a CrossFit affiliate, and I was working long hours.”
Looking for a better solution, Adam reached out to Robb Wolf. “He explained how damaging stress is,” he says, “so I got into yoga, I got into meditation, I started thinking about stress, I sold my CrossFit affiliate-I did all these things I hadn’t thought of. I had been thinking of only the diet, but you have to do the whole thing. You have to change everything in your life.”
Of course, I found the same thing applied to me. I could eat great food, but if I was still working eighty hours a week and neglecting my yoga practice, I wasn’t going to feel good. It’s about adopting a completely new lifestyle that honors the natural rhythms and needs of your body, mind and spirit, and then bringing new habits into your daily life that reflect that new commitment.
What Two Lucky Readers Will Win?
For those of you who are thinking about trying the Paleo diet, or who have tried it, and are now confused about which recommendations to follow, we have a treat for you-a free, signed copy of Adam’s book.
Adam is graciously giving two books away. Simply complete the two steps below and you will be entered into the contest, and we’ll let you know by January 19th, 2014 who the winners are!
How to Enter and Win
- Leave me a comment below telling me if you’ve heard of Adam and/or his work, and why you should win a copy of his book. (Comments counted between now and midnight EST, January 18th, 2014.)
- Like both of my Facebook pages (Cinco Vidas and CV Skinlabs)-if you already like it, please share this giveaway blog post on your wall or share it with friends.
The winner will be randomly chosen and announced on this blog on 1-19-2014.
To order a copy of Adam’s book, please go to Amazon.
Adam Farrah, “My Sport is Living Well,” Paleo Magazine, June/July 2013.