- Posted August 20, 2014 by
Can I lose Weight on the Paleo Diet?
As a Frenchman raised in Nice, France, I grew up eating one of the proven healthiest diets around: the Mediterranean Diet.
Without going into a complex explanation, in the old days they ate without all the processed products now available everywhere. Their diet included fish caught fresh by the local fishermen and sold that same morning on the market, lots of fresh local fruits and vegetables picked and sold in season, all of this cooked or drizzled with locally harvested oil from olive trees. It contained very little meat besides the occasional chicken and eggs and the traditional lamb for Easter and Christmas. As an addition, we ate nuts loaded with healthy oils (pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts) and some grains mostly rice from the Camargue region - and beans but not that much really.
So that is what I ate pretty much all my life, give and take a few food mistakes here and there. Then recently, seemingly out of the blue, I adjusted my diet to what feels to me like a similar but slightly different diet, the Paleo Diet.
Paleo is a Lifestyle, not just a diet
As the Mediterranean diet is not just a diet but a lifestyle, the Paleo diet is also a combination of multiple life factors. Food, yes, but not just food. I will address some of those later on. For now, let’s talk about food. Basically and again to keep things simple in this article (You can find more in my book: Paleo French Cuisine), on the Paleo diet, you eat a reasonable amount of healthy protein, a variety of quality fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds and healthy fats – saturated and unsaturated. You should avoid all processed, packaged and fast foods. That in itself will help you a lot in your goal to lose weight. Additionally, no grains, no beans and pulses (including lentils and peas) are allowed and some hardcore Paleo folks even avoid dairy products. On this matter, I differ slightly as a Frenchman and a nutritionist. I personally believe that, if you’re not allergic to milk (lactose intolerance), you should eat unprocessed (raw) full fat milk and cheeses in reasonable amounts. Yes, your body needs quality dairy to keep your bones strong and healthy fats to rebuilt itself and carry fat-soluble vitamins contained in your food.
How to lose weight on the Paleo diet?
Typically, in order to lose weight, you are told to reduce your calories intake and increase your activity level. True to a certain extent, but keep in mind that your body has his own self-preservation defense mechanism. If you try to starve it, it will reduce its metabolic activity, go into survival mode and send in hormones to make you feel hungry. Your body’s job is to survive despite your best intentions. So you have to play mind games with it and allow it to adapt slowly to your new diet. Since the Paleo diet is typically more filling, it is not as difficult as you might think.
So, for example, I personally only eat 4 to 8 ounces of good quality protein depending on the day. Now, keep in mind that these days, I spend most of my days sitting at my computer typing away with my French fingers, not doing 8-10 hours of hard labor in a kitchen like I used to (I forgot to mention I used to be a chef too for many years). According to your size, age and activity level, you may need to adjust your amount of protein intake accordingly. Yet, do not overeat animal proteins as they may tax your digestive system. If you are vegetarian, there are perfectly good sources of vegetable protein as well. On the other hand, I eat a big plate of mixed fresh salad with veggies and always a fruit at each meal. That way, your body will feel full but will be filled with lower calories foods full of nutrition and fiber, not empty calories that will evaporate fast and make you want to eat more in a couple of hours.
Quality over quantity
As I tell my private clientele all the time at A Votre Santé , I’d rather you focus on quality over quantity. Eat grass-fed meat, not industrial meat. Eat pasture-raised poultry and eggs. Eat wild caught fish, not farm-raised. Eat locally-grown or organic fresh produce as much as possible. Think of quality food as your medicine. Personally, I’d rather spend a little more on my grocery bill than a whole lot on my doctor, hospital or pharmaceutical bills.
What do I do different than when I was on the Mediterranean diet?
When you think about it, the Paleo diet is not that different than the traditional Mediterranean diet. The main change I did was to eliminate my intake of processed grains and beans. Being allergic to gluten and living a mostly gluten-free life helped me a lot. I already had transitioned there about 3 years ago so it was not too hard to eliminate all grains and pulses. It might be a little more difficult for you but not impossible. It all depends on your level of commitment and health issues. Besides, most Paleo diet proponents allow you to cheat up to 20% of the time. Just make it a special treat, not a mindless habit.
French KISS: Keep it Simple Silly
In this endeavor, as in many cases in our life, using the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Silly) helps. There is no need to complicate things and freak out at the thought of starting a new diet. It’s not that difficult, really! My Paleo hero, Mark Sisson admits readily that his favorite meal is a large mixed greens salad (he calls it his Big Ass Salad) topped with an assortment of proteins (chicken breast, grilled fish, oven-roasted turkey, ham, bacon, sardines, eggs, etc.), sprinkled with nuts and seeds and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add to that a piece of good raw or goat cheese and a seasonal fruit and Voila! Your meal is ready. Just make sure to vary it slightly every day.
As for in-between snacks, think cheese, fruits, nuts, nut-based crackers or dried fruits (my new favorite is dehydrated organic mango slices) instead of candies or grain-based snacks.
Exercise and movement
Depending on your daily activity level, I suggest activities that will help you burn those extra calories but make sure they are fun activities. If not, you will get tired of it very easily, get bored and stop. So, whatever it is that makes you happy is game: walking on your feet or your hands, running around the rosy, dancing swing or salsa ( and eating the sauce at the same time), swimming through the Atlantic, jumping rope, jumping sheep, riding the Tour de France… make it fun and make it burn.
Don’t do it alone
If you need help, it might help to have a Paleo buddy. It’s always easier to share the pain with others. Shared pain is more fun. Just avoid going to the nearest café afterwards and stuff yourself with a French pastry.
Sleep and stress reduction
Part of the Paleo lifestyle is not to stress about it but relax into it. Meditation, yoga, prayer, taking a nap (my favorite), floating on your back in your swimming pool, etc. Make a concerted effort to free some time to consciously take quiet time for yourself. I know, we’re all busy running around like crazy chickens but it matters for your emotional health to rest one in a while. Oh, and make sure to get plenty of sleep (every hour before midnight counts double) in order to wake up rested and ready to start your day with good energy.
A Few Food Ideas of my Own
In my Paleo French Cuisine book, I give you plenty of recipes (120 total) to help you get started. Here is a small sample:
- Bacon-wrapped Almond and Dates
- Homemade Paleo pizza
- Almond Banana Pancakes (yes, pancakes)
- Walnut Cranberry Scones
- Peasant Omelet
- Mediterranean Baked Cod
- Tuna Chili
- Provencal Meat Stew
- Bison Cranberry Stew
- Orange and Cumin Pork Loin
- Texas Turkey Meat Loaf
- Figs, Walnuts and Spinach Salad
- Tuna Salad Surprise
- Warm Moroccan Carrots
- Red Wine Onion Soup
Bon Appetit! Chef Alain