Becoming a Paleo Ninja

Please read Part I, Part IIPart III and Part IV of this series if you haven’t already.

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In the last three articles in this series, I’ve covered the 3 most common challenges people face when starting a Paleo diet: digestive problems, impaired fat and carbohydrate metabolism, and sluggish detox capacity. In this final article, I’m going to offer 5 more general tips for mastering the Paleo diet and making it work for you. They are:

  1. Start strong.
  2. Personalize.
  3. Supplement wisely.
  4. Get support.
  5. Plan ahead.

Let’s look at each of them in more detail.

Start strong

If your computer is running slowly, applications are crashing left and right and you can’t even move the cursor anymore, what do you do? Control-alt-delete. Or if you’re a Mac user, you hold down the power button to restart. Sometimes we need to do the same thing with our bodies. They’re under constant assault in the modern world. Refined, processed food, environmental toxins, stress, sleep deprivation and chronic infections can all wreak havoc on our health.

The health equivalent of hitting the reset button on your computer is what is commonly referred to as the “30-day Paleo Challenge”, or what I call the “30-day Reset” in the Personal Paleo Code. It’s a 30-day elimination diet designed to reduce inflammation, improve digestion, strengthen metabolism, identify food sensitivities, reduce allergic reactions, boost energy, regulate blood sugar and normalize weight. It almost seems too good to be true. I’ve not only done this myself, I’ve guided thousands of people through it.  And I can tell you this: it works.  No other therapy – natural or otherwise – can come even remotely close to accomplishing all of these goals in such a short period of time.

Over the years, Robb Wolf and I have helped thousands of people transition to the Paleo diet. We’ve found that in most cases, starting with a 30-day challenge or reset is the most effective strategy. You commit to a 30-day period where you eliminate the modern foods that cause disease as well as the foods people are most often allergic to or intolerant of, and focus on the safe, nourishing foods our ancestors have thrived on for 77,000 generations. Then, after you’ve “hit the reset button” and returned to that basic template, you can customize it to find the approach that works best for you over the long term.

If you’re new to the Paleo diet, check out this free guide to the 30-day Reset that Robb and I put together. It explains exactly what foods are allowed, and answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the reset.

I do want to point out, however, that for some people the “whole hog” approach isn’t the best way to start. Be honest with yourself about your personality and way of making changes; the most effective strategy is not necessarily the fastest, it’s the one with the most longevity. If making a gradual transition is more your style, and will give you the staying power you need to stick with it, then by all means do that.

Personalize

The Paleo diet is an excellent starting place for anyone interested in improving their health.  But it’s just that – a starting place.

It’s important to remember that our ancestors didn’t all eat the same diet. There was a wide variation in the proportion of protein, fat and carbohydrate (macronutrients) and the specific types of food consumed in different populations around the world. In fact, their diets were more alike in what they didn’t contain than what they did. For example, the Tukisenta people of Papa New Guinea ate sweet potatoes almost exclusively. Starchy tubers comprised about 97% of the total calories they consumed. On the other hand, the traditional Inuit ate about 80% of their calories as fat, primarily in the form of seal blubber. Both of these populations were naturally lean and free of modern disease, and both were following a “Paleo diet.” But they obviously were not eating the same foods, nor were they eating even remotely the same ratio of macronutrients.

This suggests that different groups of people can thrive on a wide range of foods within the basic “Paleo template.” But there’s also tremendous room for variation between individuals within the same group. Numerous factors influence what makes a diet optimal for a given individual, including genetics, epigenetics, health status, activity level, location, life circumstances and goals. An 18-year old Olympic athlete training for 6 hours a day will obviously require a different approach than a 57-year old overweight, sedentary office worker with rheumatoid arthritis.

The same is even true for two people with relatively similar circumstances. For example, one middle-aged woman with Irritable Bowel Syndrome may find that she feels much better on a low-carbohydrate diet, yet another woman of the same age with the same condition might find that she has trouble digesting a lot of protein and fat and does better with a higher carbohydrate approach.

The key to personalization is to experiment. After you finish the 30-day Reset, you may want to reintroduce some “grey area” foods like dairy and white rice to see if you tolerate them. And you may also want to tinker with macronutrient ratios, meal timing and frequency, fermented foods, and several other “tweaks”. (If you need a little guidance with this process, check out the Personal Paleo Code. It’s designed to help you create your own ideal version of the Paleo diet, rather than following a canned approach.)

Read the rest of the article here.