Previously Paleo

What have you chosen?

About a month ago, I asked you to write in if you used to be Paleo but opted to not continue to follow the diet.  

I’m always interested to learn why people choose to either forgo it completely or perhaps modify with some not so Paleo foods  into something they feel is a better fit for them.  

In particular, I’m really curious to learn more when people tell me, “I used to be Paleo and I felt great, had tons of energy and got super lean.”.  I’ve had this conversation on more than one occasion and I ask, “Then why are you not Paleo any longer?”

The most common reasons I hear are that people feel it’s ‘too hard’ or they don’t want to make the time to shop and cook. For some, it’s a case of not having spent long enough on it to learn how non restrictive it really is and selling themselves short by following it in a manner consisting of picking a protein and baking it en masse, steaming plain broccoli and having it with a little olive oil…meal after meal after meal.  In other words, it became boring.

A special thanks to those of you who wrote in to share why you used to be Paleo, but are not any more.

Here’s a sampling of what some had to say:

  • ” Time constraints make it hard to follow. I work 12 hour shifts 5 days a week, I have a 2 and a half year old daughter, and am training for the Philly Marathon. This leaves me with just enough time to get some sleep. I hate to sound like a “fat American” but I don’t have the time to be prepping food . I do my best to follow Paleo when I can, salads when we go out to dinner and keeping veggies in the fridge at work. But when a coworker buys lunch for everyone and throws me a cheese steak its crazy hard to say no.  I will continue to attempt paleo and to keep an eye out for “fast” paleo foods in the hope that one day grains and processed crap will leave my life for good.”
  • I was “paleo” before I really knew what it was…only because this idea of eliminating grains/beans/dairy etc., is the “novel” idea of so many diets, as you may know. It was great; I felt great, lost a ton of weight, got pregnant, had a beautiful baby, lost my baby weight in NO time.Then, when my daughter was 21 months old, we discovered that she had Stage 4 high risk neuroblastoma. At the time, my husband and I were both working full time and going to school full time. She went through 6 rounds of chemo, two rounds of high dose chemo with stem cell rescue, and 20 doses of radiation, all followed by several rounds of an experimental antibody therapy, over a time period of about 18 months. Needless to say, the treatment alone was extremely stressful, but in addition to that, my husband and I continued to work full time and go to school full time. Under these extremely stressful conditions, there is just not even a second to think about your own health or nutrition. We just shoveled whatever mound of processed flour and sugar we could into our maws and kept moving.Fortunately, very fortunately, our daughter survived and has an excellent prognosis. We moved in with my parents during the ordeal to be closer to the hospital and to alleviate some of the financial burden that always comes to families with this diagnosis. Of course, the parents are clueless about nutrition and have always been. So, until recently, I have had little control over the nutrition available for me to give to my family. I am not writing this to you to be defensive; rather, it is because I too have been thinking about the excuses that people make for not making healthy lifestyle choices. While I am glad my husband and I were able to complete our education (we were getting 100% tuition remission from my employer, which is why we kept going at the time), I am now regaining my personal strength and perspective after our family’s ordeal. I feel like it is time to put my family’s health first; even at the expense of my career or future academic development. For a lot of people, it really is that they are too busy to take care of their health; however, this is their choice as well! We could have just quit school, quit our jobs, and focused solely on our daughter and our diet. Something tells me we would have still made poor nutritional decisions though – hospital cafeterias often have the least nutritious food! 
  • I went full Paleo in early 2011 after rigorous Ironman traing the year before. Even with a reduced volume/calories burned, I lost weight, gained muscle, improved my speed and felt great.I learned a lot. For example: my body doesn’t react well to gluten, but I feel and perform well even if dairy is incorporated into my diet. I went off the paleo diet in mid 2011 because it is too restrictive. I enjoy things like cottage cheese, greek yogurt, or even the occasional spoonful of Ben and Jerry’s.I have taken from the paleo philosophy, a number of common sense building blocks. Eat simple, whole fresh ingredients and stay away from chemicals and other processed foods. Since then I have continued to improve my body composition and feel great.I think everyone needs to find the right balance in their nutrition and see what works for them. For me, a diet is not a “diet” but rather a lifestyle.
  •  I began, not to lose weight, but to feel better. I was already single digit body fat percentage, and an active young man. However, gallbladder failure caused me to reevaluate my eating and exercise habits. The naturalistic appeal of the paleo approach wooed me, and so I gave it a shot. At first, I experienced the higher energy, better sleep, etc., that people promote. But then the weight – which I didn’t need to lose in the first place – kept falling off, my mood soured, and I fell in to something that, in hindsight, might be called a depression. And so I jumped back on the conventional fitness eating bandwagon. That, predictably, did not work altogether well either – though in truth, it probably worked a little better. Some people thrive on lower carb diets or full on ketosis – I am not such a person, however. I work an active job and am a halfway decent runner, and thus metabolize carbs quite well. What I am doing now is something like the middle path – avoiding gluten grains, vegetable oils, dairy, and “junk”. I am eating quite a lot of potatoes, some rice/quinoa, and the occasional legume. This approach is working better than anything I’ve tried before, though there is still tinkering to do. But that’s life, of course. In short, I am benefiting from the trend away from carbophobia, and the embracing of “safe starches”, as some are calling them. 
  • I was at a training camp in Arizona with my coach, and another pro triathlete, and my training hours almost doubled. Both women are not Paleo (although they do eat very healthy) and meal sharing was a challenge.Fortunately, most of the time, there were enough yams to get me by, but at other times, I was shovelling whatever food I could find into my mouth.The biggest challenge was not having access to a grocery store. I am no stranger to heavy volume training weeks, but at the training camp with pros, I literally slept, trained, and ate. And ate some more.  That said, I am back at home, and with the time to prepare and organize I am back into things. :)So I didn’t really STOP being Paleo, I just did what I could with the knowledge I have gathered from your site! I am pretty proud of myself actually! 🙂


  •  10+ years ago when I was going through undergrad and then later throughout med school, I followed the paleo approach intermittently without knowing that it was a recognized nutritional approach. I followed it because it worked for me to a certain extent and I discovered it by trial and error. I was able to do it using fish and eggs without other meat sources. Physiologically it makes sense. I felt better equipped mentally and physically to deal with long shifts and had the mental acuity to perform my best academically. At that time, I was also racing short course triathlon at a high level and my inability to translate the approach to racing performance led to me dropping the nutritional style. Although at that time I was about 35-40 pounds lighter than I am now, I couldn’t sustain the right intensity on race day. I also couldn’t sustain the right intensity in the pool during training sessions. I was far too consistently glycogen depleted to kick it up to the gear that I needed. I’ve thought for months about trying it again with your post-training adaptations and I bought one of your plans on training peaks, but haven’t yet started it. I do plan on trying it again either now or when I return to training, to see if it’s sustainable for me with your athlete adaptations.


  • I have been struggling with pain for over two years with  little answers or help. Then things started to come together. I  started reading everything I could about Fibromyalgia and gluten sensitivity. At the same time I found a doctor who wasn’t afraid  to try to figure me out. I have to say that we are not at the  destination yet but on a journey. At the same time I started taking a drug called Cymbalta and  started on a FULL Paleo diet. Within three days my pain was  reduce 85%. My doctor was amazed and thought it could be a  combination of both actions. I was also committing to a 45  minute walk 4-5 days a week. I am 45 lbs over weight.  I started feeling normal again. Energy, enthusiasm, joy,  laughter and a will to thrive were all returning to me. You see the last two years had been very difficult with not much relief.  Part of my discussions with my doctor had been a concern that I thought I had gluten issues. So at one point he thought maybe  a. Upper GI scope to look for evidence of celiac. I Canada  sometime you have to wait months to see a specialist. It was a number of months and when I finally got to see the specialist I had been happily on Paleo and pain medication for  about a month and a half. In order to have the endoscopy to look for celiac I have to  add bread back into my diet.  I have been back on breads for 6 weeks. I have my endoscopy in four days. Regardless if it proves celiac or not I want to go  back on Paleo after Wednesday’s test. You see, my pain is returning especially in the last three weeks of being on the  bread again. I am afraid that by going back on bread that it had spiraled to sugar and caffeine again also. I hope that it is not too  difficult to change again after Wednesday. I also hope that once  I change again that the pain will reduce again.
  • Since I was 16yo (am now 22), I had been following a diet consisting of lean meats (mostly chicken, salmon, tuna, sardines, whey protein isolate, and egg whites), only GREEN veggies, avocado, almonds, oats, sprouted Ezekiel bread, and yams. That is all I ate for 5 years straight while weight training, running, playing soccer, and rowing crew. So, you could call it paleo + oats and Ezekiel bread. Even then, I am and was more paleo than some promote,  as a percentage of calories, because some people  include things like  sugar, cream, butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar regularly.  Not one of those are truly paleo. Then, when I was 21 , decided to do paleo mostly because I am a perfectionist in every way and  wanted to see how far I could push my body to be the best. When I dropped the grains and went full paleo (minus the whey powder), I quickly lost a lot of the stamina I had, I felt flat, took stimulants to drive myself to exercise, and I dropped to dangerously low bodyfat. In fact, I was sitting at sub 3% for a few months before I went to the doctor because of abdominal pain I was having. It turns out I was too lean and that I had lost all the internal cushioning that we need, and so my organs were tugging on eachother when I would run and cause the pain. I immediately resumed my old way of eating and put on the needed 20lbs to my old weight. I realize now I should have just eaten more yams, but low-carb paleo is the standard that people all talk about. I have come to realize any athlete who does not have diabetes should never dabble in a low carb diet for any sustained period. It ruins your health. After reading your blog religiously for the past few months, I’ve been thinking about going paleo again, dropping the grains, and adding in way more yams. However, I jsut don’t know if it is all that necessary since I am in good health, and I think any benefit I would receive would be very very marginal. I am considering it. Dairy is the worst for me. If I eat a yogurt, I blow up and feel sluggish mentally. We are not meant to eat that junk, I don’t care what other paleo gurus say! Nothing in it is really necessary. Rather get probiotics from kimchi if I must. I love your blog and have read some of your past meal plans that you posted about how you eat in a typical day. I think I may try full paleo again, and just increase my yam and fruit consumption (always kept up on the avocado and almonds, and salmon!), and try nixing the grains again. I’m just a little scared because I suffered such a health crisis from dropping grains before. However, your blog and its message has really done quite a lot to rekindle my interest in the paleo movement. You seem to be more die-hard paleo than almost anyone, and I love that cause it works so well for you. I abhor the low-carb “paleo” with all these exceptions like butter, sugar, cream, balsamic vinegar, artisanal cheeses, etc. Come on- so. not. paleo. However, I’ll admit, even if I go back to what I consider 100% paleo, I’ll still always keep wine in moderation in my plan :). Keep up the good work on the blog. I absolutely love it. It is the only paleo site I visit, cause it seems to be the best. And again, I think I will go full Paleo soon Carbs do not = diabetes. Carbs = fuel for muscles and brain. Paleo Nell Stephenson style on the other hand- probably in the very near future. 

So interesting to get a representation of what the different iterations of Paleo are.  Based on the comments above, it’s clear that some people have learned that Paleo is ‘no carb’ (not true) or that there is room in it for sugar, cream and cheese (I don’t agree with that either, myself), amongst other ‘permutations’, shall we say?

I refrain from commenting when someone discusses how it didn’t work for them, not because I don’t believe them, but as there is so much misinformation about what Paleo is and is not, and I don’t have a sense of what anyone was eating in detail, and how much, and how often, I’d only be making random guesses.

At the very least, I hope that we as a society continue to educate ourselves on what it is, try it if it’s not been tried yet, and then fairly determine whether it feels like the right fit for each of us.

It sure is for me!

We have a choice in the matter…

Thank you for sharing!