What If Paleo Isn’t Working?

You may recall a post I did a few months ago in which I asked readers to write in and tell me why they used to be Paleo but no longer are.

Occasionally, replies to both that post, as well as the follow up post trickle in and the following, which the reader kindly agreed I could share, just came in recently.  I thought it worthy of a blog topic as I’ve seen clients have a bit of trouble getting started over the years, and we can often fine tune and trouble shoot what they were doing which made them feel that ‘Paleo wasn’t working’.

Here is what the reader had to say in response to why she stopped following Paleo:

“I had to stop because I gained 15lbs in 3 months by eating 1400 calories of day of Paleo foods. At 5’5” and 189lbs, I blew up to 211… eating 1400 calories a day! The math doesn’t make sense, I know. But I have PCOS, and while traditionally we’re advised to eat low carb for PCOS, I don’t know what the heck happened to me. I can only guess that perhaps the protein was triggering an insulin response, and the fat was turning directly into fat (I know fat isn’t supposed to make us fat). I also became very depressed and stressed for no reason, which is completely unlike me. Since before I can remember I’ve always been optimistic and pleasant to be around. Removing the grains and adding animal protein 3x per day for 3 months was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I’m not saying Paleo isn’t right, or doesn’t work, because apparently it works for a lot of people! And I’ll be the first to say it’s totally healthy! But for me, I don’t know what happened. Never have my calories been so low and I’ve gained so much weight. I felt my body was working against me… and for 3 whole months. Now I’m eating grains like quinoa, beans, rice, and organic white flours in moderation (whole wheat kills my stomach, it has to be white) and I’m losing weight, am happy again, and have more than enough energy to do my workouts. The difference is like night and day. I wish Paleo had worked for me (as I was fatigued, depressed, and gaining weight I was still advocating for Paleo), until I couldn’t lie to myself any more. Something about it and my body didn’t click.  I had to eliminate animal proteins from my daily diet and can only handle them once a week or so. So on top of adding grains/legumes I had to cut back on meat/eggs/dairy. I can handle fish about twice a week. Any more animal products than that I feel fatigued, get black circles under my eyes, and gain weight in my face/upper body. Perhaps it’s an allergy. But I was eating grass-fed organic products. I dunno! I know veganism is unhealthy so I hate that I’m leaning towards an 80% vegan diet.”

Wow!  No wonder she felt like Paleo wasn’t working for her…but then the question is, what did her “Paleo” look like?

Keep in mind that as I write this, I don’t have any more details other than what was shared above, and I certainly don’t intend to offend the reader, but I would tend to think at least some of the very common mistakes that those new to Paleo make, which I’ve been blogging about recently may possible have had something to do with  her outcome.

Granted, some have more difficulty going Paleo than others, and without knowing some of the following factors, I’d be making guesses out of thin air if I attempted to help her.  If it were my client, I’d want to know:

  • Were all the foods 100% Paleo, including being savvy on no additives in anything such as sauces, condiments and even vitamins?
  • Were any meds, prescription or OTC being taken?
  • Was every single meal balanced with regard to the ideal Paleo macro nutrient ratio, with plenty of veg in each?
  • How often were meals eaten?
  • Why was caloric intake as low as 1,400 for someone 5’5″?
  • What were sleep patterns like?
  • How much water was being consumed?
  • What was the activity level?

The one piece of the puzzle that triggers a red flag to me is the low caloric intake.   Paleo or not Paleo aside, not eating enough can absolutely prevent us from losing excess fat.

So why am I writing this post if I don’t have a straightforward answer for her, or for that matter, for anyone else who may be having trouble getting started?

Because I want to encourage everyone to make sure they’re doing it 100%, absolutely, completely correct before they write it off.

Often, it’s a simple fix of learning how to balance and time one’s meals or learning how to create Paleo meals with veg, protein and fat, so that every time you eat, you’re getting, once again, balance.

Review Dr. Cordain’s books, review my book and if you need further help, email me to book a consult!