Paleofication: Just Because The Label Says Paleo Doesn’t Mean It’s Healthy

Good article from Amy Kubal.

It’s hard to get off the merry-go-round physically and psychologically with regards to our eating habits. REALLY HARD. Robb Wolf discusses some of the why of that here from an ancestral health perspective making an excellent point about how we would do well to stop “moralizing behavior” around food, exercise etc.

Anyhow, I am reminded everyday of our tendency to seek a quick fix or label that will enable us to subscribe to the idea of change, or paint the picture of change while somehow simultaneously foregoing any sort of deep inquiry or lasting behavior modifications.

Speaking of labels, are you noticing how the forces of capitalism are turning “Paleo” into a sticker you simply slap onto a bunch of processed food? Oh the irony…

Back on the merry-go-round we go.


“All Right folks, hang on to your britches.  It’s been a while since I’ve gone on an epic rant about a food related topic, but it’s about to go down. I’m not changing my overall philosophy and still believe that there are no EVIL foods, BUT there are a few things that need to be talked about – so brace yourself, this is may hurt.

In our happy little Paleo world we like to ridicule and point out the major flaws of the whole low-fat and fat-free craze that went down in the 90’s and early 2000’s – and there’s definitely merit to our arguments. Fat free cheese, muffins, ice cream, salad dressings, margarines; reduced fat peanut butter; Snackwell’s cookies (although the devil’s food ones were pretty damn tasty…); Lean Cuisine; pretzels and even fat free candies like jelly beans and licorice got the green light while nuts, avocado, olives and most meats were blacklisted. Food manufacturer’s made LOTS of money and America got fatter. While we ate up all these seemingly healthy processed foods we neglected NATURALLY low fat and fat free fare – you know- vegetables, fruit, lean meats… So, basically what we did was trade REAL FOOD for packaged, processed, sugar heavy, unsatisfying junk all because we were being told it was good for us AND we could eat as we wanted and not get fat. BONUS!!! Well, that ended up not working out real great in the end, right? We moved AWAY from real food to stuff that tasted good and that was quick and convenient (because grabbing a bag of frozen veggies and a can of tuna was WAY too much work…).

Fast forward to the mid-late 2000’s – we start figuring out that fat isn’t what’s hurting us, but it’s all the refined carbs and sugars. Enter Paleo champion’s Loren Cordain and the infamous Robb Wolf and we’ve got a new movement. We start eating REAL food again – like lean (or grassfed) meats, vegetables, fruit and natural fats and HOLY BUCKETS!!! – we start getting healthier again. CRAZINESS!!!  BUT as Paleo’s popularity has exploded so has the ‘Paleofication’ (I’m so gonna patent that word) of foods that in a Stone Age world would not have been anywhere near the cave refrigerator or pantry. We’ve got paleo treats (cookies, candy, cakes…), paleo granola, paleo bars, paleo bread, paleo protein powder, paleo ketchup and BBQ sauce, recipes for paleo desserts/pancakes/ice cream, etc. Seriously, pretty much every mainstream food can be and has been ‘paleofied’ (patenting that one too…) and is available for sale at a grocery store or on a website near you.

Okay, here comes the rant. If you think for one minute that the fate of Paleo is any different than that of the fat free/low fat craze, I’m afraid that you’re gonna be very disappointed in a few years. We are doing EXACTLY what they did. We are engineering and making foods that fit our little rule list and buying/eating them like there’s no tomorrow. Well, newsflash folks – your body doesn’t know the damn difference between a teaspoon of freaking table sugar and organic, natural coconut sugar. After that sh!t crosses your lips – it’s all the same. The same goes for honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar and dates or other fruits used to make things taste sweet. The story is similar for smoothies and juices – just because you make them at home with your $1000+ juicer or blender, it doesn’t necessarily make it any better than a glass of Minute Maid. Yeah, giving something a ‘paleo friendly’ halo –  doesn’t mean that when you eat/drink it your body takes it in and goes, “oh, this is paleo (or organic, homemade, etc.) so I’m going to use this to burn fat and/or convert it directly into muscle.” IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY!!! And I am SICK AND TIRED of folks telling me that they can’t eat a freaking potato, carrot or piece of fruit because there’s too much sugar – BUT at the same time are eating ‘paleo pancakes’ with 100% maple syrup for breakfast, a sandwich on ‘paleo bread’ for lunch, ‘paleo crackers’ and a cup of tea with honey for a snack, and ‘paleo cookies’ for dessert after dinner. Seriously?!?!? You’re gonna tell me a carrot is bad?!?!?

And, (no, I’m not done), there is a point at which CALORIES DO COUNT. NO  you cannot have 2 cups of Bulletproof coffee (with 2-3 T each of grassfed butter and MCT oil), a pound of bacon, 3 cups of nuts and a 24 ounce ribeye as part of your daily diet (unless you are training like an animal or are a genetic freak) and expect to get lean. Yes, it’s all paleo – but there is a BREAKING POINT!!

As individuals and as a community we need to STOP THE INSANITY! We need to come back to basics – you know, REAL FOOD. Everyone goes on and on about how the cavemen weren’t cooking grains and beans and they likely weren’t – but they also weren’t making flour out of almonds (or coconuts), extracting sugar from coconuts, tapping trees for maple syrup or drying fruit so they could use it to bake or make ‘cave ketchup’. BASICS – lean or grassfed meats, lots of non-starchy veggies, moderate amounts of healthy fats and some fresh fruit and starchy roots and tubers. It’s not complicated and you don’t need another damn recipe for paleo muffins or cookies – these are not everyday foods!

Okay, rant over. Now, I’m not saying that you need to give up everything that tastes good forever – HELL NO!! I hold firmly to the belief that there is no ‘bad’ food – but excess of ANYTHING is not good either and if you want pizza or a cookie or a treat then by all means ENJOY IT and since it’s a treat and you don’t do it all the time, if it’s not 100% paleo friendly (and it doesn’t make you sick) that’s totally okay. Eat what satisfies your craving in a reasonable amount and again ENJOY EVERY DAMN BITE! But if you’re eating ‘paleofied’ foods regularly and not seeing the results you want or not feeling well – it’s not because paleo isn’t working. Go back and review what paleo really is and then tell me where the problem lies.

Here’s a few 2-second takeaways:

  • Just because the label or a recipe says “Paleo” or a website tells you a certain food is paleo – it doesn’t mean it’s healthy to eat all the time or in large amounts.
  • If you’re not seeing the results you’re looking for – go back to the basics. EAT REAL, WHOLE FOODS.
  • Even if a food is paleo friendly it doesn’t give you a license to eat like an @sshole. (case in point: cups of nuts, massive steaks, pounds of bacon, etc.)
  • Paleo is not a religion and there is room for treats and non-paleo fare – just not in excess.
  • ENJOY EVERY SINGLE BITE of everything you eat and eat mindfully.

Don’t be a victim of ‘Paleofication’. Listen to your body. Do what works for YOU and keeps YOU healthy and happy. If you do that, it doesn’t matter what the label says.”