Calorie Deprivation, Decreased Mental Bandwidth and Why True Paleo Stands Apart from Other Diets

“Diets don’t just reduce weight, they can reduce mental capacity. In other words, dieting can make you dumber.”, began an article in yesterday’s Sunday Times.  

The piece, entitled The Mental Strain of Making Do With Lesscompared the similarities in the ways we respond to deprivation from voluntary calorie restriction to the ordeal of outright poverty.

For the purposes of my post, I’ll focus solely on the calorie deprivation component.  A few of the key points highlighted included:

  • Psychologists find that dieters have spontaneous self-generated cravings at a much higher rate than non-dieters.
  • Further, these diets force trade-offs: If you eat the cookie, should you skip the appetizer at dinner? 
  • Many diets also require constant calculations to determine calorie counts. All this clogs up the brain; bandwidth that might otherwise have been spent on being more focused at work, for example, is ‘wasted’ on adding up how many calories that Fettucini Alfredo splurge you indulged in at lunch and how long you’re going to have to spend on the elliptical to burn them off

So here’s an idea:   think about Paleo.  Not just adulterated Paleo, which, unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more of these days, but real, True Paleo.  

Then, imagine if you didn’t have to worry about weight out four ounces of protein, measuring out two cups of veggies, or pouring out one tablespoon of olive oil.   What if you could just serve yourself some of each, sit down and enjoy the meal, and be done with it?

Now, for those of you who have kids, think about a time when they screamed and cried for a toy they wanted that they couldn’t have, compared to a time when they could select a favorite toy they already owned if they wanted it.  

The thing we cannot have is the thing we want.

If we set up our kitchens (and our minds) in such a way that there is a bounty of lovely, fresh Paleo food to choose from that we can have when we’re hungry and  nothing that’s not food, not healthy and not conducive to good health, we’re far more likely to respond in a similar way to the second scenario rather than the first.

Yes, of course, there will be an adjustment phase, but once you begin to adapt (and it doesn’t take long at all), your own improved health, energy and overall well being serves as the impetus to carry on.

Later in the article, we learn that

  • A recent study shows that people persist longer with diets that require less thought (think- veggies, some fruit, wild protein and healthy fats.  Period).
  • The same study had another interesting finding: it was the perceived complexity of a diet — not its actual complexity — that determined persistence.  (I repeat- eat real food.  Don’t eat things that are not food).

The True Paleo lifestyle is the opposite of many ‘diets’ in the sense that it’s neither a deprivation model, nor a temporary one.

Give it a try and observe as you go from a space where your every thought is about when you’ll next eat and what you should’ve eaten or shouldn’t have eaten and what you’re going to have to do for penance to a place where you’re balanced, healthy, relaxed and have more brain space available for other things…like family, work and relaxation!