Forget about Paleo… or Vegan, the Zone, Gluten Free or Macrobiotic: How Do You Feel?

The contrast is insane.

If you poured a gallon of vegetable oil into your gas tank and your car didn’t run properly, would you wonder why, or would you know right away it must have something to do with what went inside with the intention of fueling it?

Hopefully all of us, even those, like myself, who are far form being mechanically savvy, would figure out that what went in elicited a less than desirable output.

It wouldn’t matter what part of the car stopped running well first, either: the straightforward, common sense conclusion would be that we put something in our vehicle that shouldn’t be there, the couldn’t be utilized and damage occurred.

And not all of us even drive yet we can all make heads or tails of this.

Yet when it comes to what we put in our bodies, we can’t do as much, with perhaps just a few exceptions.

If we accidentally eat a piece of bad fish and end up nauseated and vomiting, it’s relatively easy to trace back to the cause.

Sadly, though, for many people, that’s where it stops.

Got a headache?   Rather than immediately considering whether we’re well hydrated first and foremost, we head straight to the medicine cabinet and down a few Advils.

Feeling low energy in the afternoon? Instead of back tracking to the fact that we opted to make whatever was available in the office break room which, inherently would contain added sugars, as 74% of the packaged food we eat does[1], the first meal of the day, we dash out to the local convenience store for an ‘energy’ drink, such as Monster[2], to fill our bodies with caffeine, sugar…and worse, and perhaps another, and another.

And when our digestion becomes irregular, rather than rationalizing that eating a diet high in refined carbs and low in fiber (the average American is consuming only 15 grams per day[3], when the recommendations are nearly double that for women and even higher for men) could be at fault, we heed the advice of the most recent ad we saw in a magazine or on TV suggesting that this is a normal part of life in today’s world.

We feel that asking our doc for an Rx for any of the top medications doled out for constipation is step one. One popular medication lists its side effects as headache, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting[4], yet this is somehow the easier route versus looking at what we’re eating.  

As I wrote at the beginning, this is bloody crazy!

Yet it’s the norm.

We learned what foods we should be eating, first from the food pyramid, and then MyPlate.

We questioned neither from whom the recommendations came, nor what those who provided the eating template might stand to gain[5] by encouraging the masses to rely heavily upon refined carbohydrate products, up to 65%, according to the current recommendations[6].

And now, here we are in a big, fat, sick mess where what to eat has gotten so far beyond confusing, we can’t even trust ourselves to figure out what’s good and what’s bad…

Or can we?

With the plethora of information available to us online about why we should be in ketosis, how eating meat will give us colon cancer and that Paleo is dangerous, it’s difficult to know where to turn, upon which studies to rely and from whom we can trust as the purest, relevant source.

Here’s a thought: what if we just tuned in to how our bodies felt when we eat certain foods?

Even for a day?

What if you woke up tomorrow with a pounding headache, but rather than automatically swallowing any variety of headache meds, you first tried drinking a couple of glasses of filtered water with lemon, to see if it was dehydration that was the issue?

And after breakfast, if you felt a bit bloated, could you consider that maybe the soy in the faux-meat, soy-based ‘sausage’ might have been the culprit, and make a mental note to omit eating that food for a short while to see if you notice an improvement?

Perhaps after lunchtime, when you’re feeling sluggish and like you’d like to take a nap under your desk after that big plate of pasta primavera (don’t kid yourself that it was healthy because there were a few green peas and strips of red pepper amongst the noodles, now), you could jot down in a food journal a reminder for yourself to choose the salad with grilled chicken next time?

You get the idea.

You can do this all on your own, without a doctor, without a lengthy panel of allergy tests and without even having to Google this symptom or that.

And the reality is, some are going to find that eating a completely, real Paleo diet 100% of the time may not feel like the best fit because perhaps they like hummus and carrots now and then, or a splash of grass-fed cream in their coffee.

I don’t feel any less passionate than I’ve ever felt about how diet can heal, but what’s changed on my end is the motivation to reach more people and if that means encouraging clients and readers to simply make small improvements along the way, I think that’s meaningful progress.

What I’m not a fan of is keeping the current situation in which we’re blind to what our bodies are trying to tell us, and we look outside for help…. first.

Of course, there are many occasions when we need a doctor’s input, or a dose of antibiotics to treat an ear infection; my position is, and has always been, however, that taking pills to treat symptoms without knowing causes is upside down and backwards.

And this is where each and every one of us needs to check in with our own body and figure the hell out what works.

You can find a study that supports nearly anything; once, I wrote a blog post, for argument’s sake, about a book, written by a doctor, focused on why smoking is good for us.

The point is, understanding what happens to the microvilli when you ingest gluten or memorizing ad nauseum how many grams of carbs you need on a day when you’re on day three of IF and you’ve got two / day workouts planned is valuable, but if you’re spending too much time in your head and not enough time in your gut, literally, you’re simply making things a lot harder then they have to be.

And this isn’t just for anyone who feels real Paleo resonates with them; it goes for all approaches.

Instead of forcing a label to how you’re eating, then modifying it, then trying to force it some more while still not great, why not just change it?

Here’s how:

  1. Eat something
  2. See how the thing makes you feel
  3. Good? Keep it in your diet. Bad? Don’t eat it again.


Yes, there are many reasons why people eat other than being hungry, but if you arm yourself with the single most useful piece of information (how each food makes you feel), you’ll be starting with the most solid possible foundation of all.

And no one else but you can decide to do this.

[1] “Hidden in Plain Sight Added Sugar Is Hiding in 74% of Packaged Foods.” N.p., n.d. Web

[2] “We Know About Caffeine in Energy Drinks Like Monster, But What About the Other Ingredients?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 4 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2016

[3] “Fiber: How Much Do I Need?” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016

[4] Constipation Prescription Medications: Types, Side Effects, & More.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.

[5] “New Study: Big Food’s Ties to Registered Dietitians.” Food Politics by Marion Nestle New Study Big Foods Ties to Registered Dietitians Comments. Food Politics, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 17 Mar. 2016

[6] “Percentage of Carbohydrates, Fats and Protein in a 2000-Calorie Meal Plan.” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2016