Saturday, June 16, 2012

The dangers of a Paleo "cult"

Almost everyone who's on a Paleo diet now and has dealt with obesity and related issues will probably remember their attempts at weight loss before they found out about Paleo.

It was always- "eat less, exercise more". If it didn't work, it was the individual's fault.
People who couldn't lose weight were labelled gluttons/lazy/weak willed.
I've been guilty of the same. I've judged people around me and even myself on occasion when weight loss didn't happen. 
Then, the people who discover and use the Paleo lifestyle effectively, realise that they have been lied to all along by mainstream media, the doctors and fitness gurus, they trusted. They implement the Paleo diet and their weight melts off, they get healthier. It seems so effortless, that they become evangelists! Really annoying ones!
I'm a case in point. I talk nothing but Paleo to people around me. I'm sure I'm driving people insane with my smug comments.Paleo is my answer to everything. 
Weight loss?- Paleo!, Diabetes?- Paleo!, Hypertension?- Paleo! Dyslipidaemia?- Paleo!
Migraine. IBS, memory loss, fatigue, aches and pains, allergies, skin conditions, hair loss, thyroid disease, infertility, depression- My answer is always the same- Paleo!
My friends, family and colleagues are sick of me and my Paleo diet.

I do however have the opportunity to educate my patients on a Paleo type diet and have had insane success  with people who buy into it. Younger individuals improve drastically, and come off meds and even insulin. They attain significant weight loss.
Then I make their follow up visits a little less frequent, and they slide back. I can see the guilt in their faces when they come back to me with deranged blood sugars. 
Most of the time, I remember how I had judged my patients while giving them advice that was doomed to make them fail (healthy whole grains, low fat, vegetarian and all that jive) I sit them down and talk to them about where they made mistakes and how to avoid them in the future. However, when the same people return again and again after falling off the wagon, it becomes difficult to stay calm and non judgemental. Especially when the exact same people have had spectacular success earlier

My point is...
This diet/lifestyle, is not a cult. It is not a religion. It is not set in stone. 
The freedom from counting calories and the leeway to interpret the diet according to our personal situations is what attracted me to this diet.
Our job, as people who have succeeded with this diet and way of living is to get the information across to the rest of the world. If they follow it and succeed, good for them. If they need help, we should be there for them.But browbeating them, and judging them for not succeeding where we have is stupid, and wrong, and makes us no different from the trainers and doctors who advocate a high carb diet and then blame their clients for not losing weight and getting healthier.

I guess, this post is mainly a reminder to myself about what my goals are.
Get the information out there.
Help those who want to be helped.
Be non judgemental about the people who don't agree with the "cult" and its ideology.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Hi there,

    I randomly came across your article and found it interesting.

    I noticed your blog list includes Chris Kresser who I am fond of as he has a more relaxed approach to diet in regards to Paleo and vegetables dont feature in his top 14 foods.

    Im not fond of the word Paleo as unfortunately many people do see it as a cult. It is in the early stages of getting a reputation similar to that of crossfit (I have no issue with crossfit but it does unfortunately have a negative image as a cult).

    Many who follow a paleo diet are way too rigid in their approach often cutting out foods that can actually be good and including too many foods that can have serious health implications without even realising (Broccoli and many other cruciferous vegetables for example in relation to the thyroid issues they are known to cause).

    The human body is unbelievably complex and even some of the labels paleo has for certain food stuffs are not backed with any viable evidence and many foods are promoted as without any issues. Balance is always needed.

    I have been Paleo for many years and always keep researching and learning and have realised it isn't clear cut. I have been learning about Raymond Peat for some time now and that really has opened up a big can of worms. I was desperate to disprove what he was saying but I have never seen anyone in the Paleo world who can back up every single thing they are saying with quite literally hundreds of studies over decades of research.

    Although I still maintain a Paleo template I have found better health by leaning towards a Raymond Peat approach and many of my friends have had the same result.

    A very interesting term I heard recently that just made sense was "vegetables are what humans ate when they ran out of food"

    In summary what I wanted to say was Paleo is good, but is far from perfect for the human body. For balance the Raymond Peat approach also has some controversy. The search continues.

    To continued learning!


    1. Thanks for the feedback Martin. Will check out Raymond Peat. I follow the Paleo template too , occasionally flirting with rice and fermented rice. But I've noticed that going off the diet doesn't hold the same attraction as before.
      I have mixed feelings about Chris Kesser. Sometimes, I think he disputes issues just for the sake of an argument.
      Thyroid and low carb paleo being an example. He seems to believe that low carb paleo causes problems with hypothyroidism. I'm not so sure.

      Vegetables are what humans ate, when they ran out of food. Lol
      I used to say something similar when I was a kid. My mother would put veggies on my plate and I'd ask her- "Where's the food?"