Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eating Clean vs. Paleo

In some ways, I feel so much better eating in the Primal fashion. I feel less 'addicted' to food; I don't long for crackers or obsess over cookies anymore. I don't pine for chips or candy bars. I look at a box of mac 'n' cheese in the pantry and it seems like Frankenfood to me. It used to be a staple... I grew up on the stuff. But eating mainly whole foods for a stretch of time really makes something 'click' in your brain. All the old processed stuff actually stops looking like FOOD and looks more like chemicals, artificial stuff, old dried up stuff, fake stuff. Even the canned soups and chilis don't appeal to me anymore as I get accustomed to and spoiled by homemade, locally sourced, fresh stuff. Processed food just doesn't measure up.

I think that is a benefit of "clean eating" and not just Primal/Paleo. It seems to me more and more that Paleo is a subset of Primal, and Primal is a subset of clean eating. All of them focus on eating real, whole foods and shunning the processed stuff. Primal extends this further and shuns beans, lentils, peanuts and other legumes along with wheat, oats, rice and other grains.And then Paleo takes it even further, removing dairy completely. There are other minor differences, too. But I am eating at the Primal level right now.

I see a lot of good in all three eating methods. There are lots of clean eaters out there who are happy and healthy, who do eat dairy and whole grains and legumes. And there are lots of Paleo followers who are adamant that dairy, whole grains, and legumes are very detrimental to our bodies. I wonder who is right?

Seems the only way to find out is to eliminate all those questionable things and see how one feels. And then add them back one at a time to see if your health and well being improves or degrades. Have any of you done that? I mean, I know I have readers who are Paleo or Primal. But have you gone for x number of weeks or months with no dairy, grains, or legumes and then tried adding them back in? What did you conclude?

I've cut out the grains, I've cut out the legumes. I am much lower on dairy now, too. The sugar is gone. The processed crap is gone. I am mainly eating

eggs, chicken, beef (home cooked)
vegetables (local and organic when possible)
1-2 servings of fruit (mostly berries, local, organic)
fat (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil)
and the additions of coconut milk, seasonings, a slice of bacon here and there, black coffee, and the occasional low-carb salad dressing. Some raw almonds, too.

The strictest subset of all is the "Whole 30" which is basically an elimination diet/trial of strict Paleo. According to this guide I would need to cut out a few things: ALL sweet stuff like the maple syrup in the one serving of pumpkin custard I ate this week and the "Paleo-fyed" baked goods I'd planned to start making (which means you use grain-free flours like coconut flour and almond flour, and fruit as sweeteners and only healthy fats). I'd have to stop the dairy completely which at this point wouldn't be hard; I do like a Caprese salad but it's not essential. I am much, much closer to "Whole 30" status than I was 2 weeks ago, and I am very pleased that I've been able to make these changes and stick with them. Honestly, cutting out grains and beans and peanuts did seem overwhelming, but it wasn't that hard. The Whole 30 looks a lot more doable now than it did then.

But... and this is a big but... I still feel awful (2 weeks in now). When I increase my carbs a bit (such as when I had the custard, or if I have extra fruit) I feel somewhat better. This reminds me of how heavy and sluggish I felt when I did Atkins all those years ago. Within a couple of weeks I felt repulsed by meat and was on the brink of turning vegetarian. That's how I am starting to feel now. I try to choose 'lighter' proteins like eggs or fish  because I just feel gross when I eat a bunch of chicken or beef at every meal. Just ick. I can hardly look at meat anymore. But without beans, lentils, or cheese, it is hard to get enough protein in when I have a salad or a stir fry. So even though I am not logging calories this week, I bet my protein is lower than it should be.

Whether I go Whole 30 or not, I won't be going back to processed foods. I like the "clean eating" part of this plan very much. It used to be tough for me to cut out my favorite products like low-carb wraps, sodas, Kraft singles, pudding cups. But they're gone now and I don't miss them. And I find that fewer food choices really does mean less desire to eat.

Clean eating is here to stay. The rest? We'll see!


B. Amour Love said...

So absolutely true!!! I recently made a comment to a friend about how I'm not craving crap anymore, but I agree with you that it was more like an addiction! Thankfully I'm no longer feigning for junk...but now crave foods that will give me fuel and make me feel great!

Anonymous said...

On primal 4 weeks. I eat chicken, eggs, pork chops and steak; tuna and salmon canned...but not huge amounts - have never been much of a meat eater. Used to eat beans and veg or veg pasta alot .I have been using a daily vanilla whey protein shake powder (gluten, sugar free. et al free) with some milk and water to supplement protein's 25 gm protein mixed...I love the simplicity of it! Easy.

Kara said...

the Whole30 plan is not a no or low car plan. I'm on Day 8 right now and I get plenty of carbs - averaging 150g per day.

Nor it is an "all meat all the time plan". The plan specifies serving sizes of meat (about the palm of your hand) at every meal, plus serving sizes of fat (about the size of your thumb at every meal) and the rest of your diet be made up of veg and fruit. With that much veg and fruit, it really can't be a low carb diet. (Unless you're just not eating much at all.)

Anonymous said...

I have been Primal for a month taking it easy and crazymaking thinking or behaviors. I have not weighed myself (don't have a scale) but my khakis are looser and so is my bra band. My face is much thinner too I noticed today. But better is I sleep better and I don't crave carbs or sugar . I really don't have any big hunger anymore..I am eating so much less and it's been just good.

Lori said...

I did no grains/legumes for 3 weeks. It was interesting. I found that my sweet cravings went away, even though I still was eating honey, jam and chocolate at times, but not craving them. I didn't have any binges during that time, either.

There are good things about paleo/primal - the biggest of which is just getting off processed foods. I hate the gimmicky names of these styles of eating. It's just eating whole foods.

I cycle a lot and I just found that I need more carbs. They don't have to come from wheat, but I started eating more potatoes and gluten free pastas and oats/rice. I always ate a good amount of fruit. That has helped me with more endurance.

There are all sides to camps about how many carbs you need in a day. The key is to figure out how many *you* need to get enough energy without tipping over your triggers and who cares what anyone else says about it. It's different for everyone.

Lyn said...


I am not *trying* to resitrict carbs at all. I've been averaging 50-60g/day. That is right where the Primal Blueprint states one should be for weight loss; 100-150g/day is "weight maintenance" range on the Carbohydrate curve.

My carbs some from fruit/veggies. One day I ate

3 c Romaine salad
1 c red pepper strips
1 c cherry tomatoes
1 c strawberries
1 c grapes

That's 47 g carbs. A bit of dairy or nuts will raise it up a bit.

Taryl said...

Primal isn't low starch, you may need more carbs. If you aren't allergic to nightshades apor bananas, consider adding in a baked potato with salsa and seasoned beef for a dinner and a banana in as a snack. If you feel better, your guide is that you do better clean with moderate carbs and moderate to lower protein. That's FINE, we don't all operate the same way. I can do wonderfully on 20 net carbs, others can't function below 60. It isn't the end of the world :)

Lyn said...


I thought white poatoes were off limits? I know they are during the Whole 30. I don't know if I am sensitive to nightshades or not.

I might try adding bananas or sweet potatoes more often. I have them once in awhile.

andrea. said...

I think you are bang on with this, Lyn. What's funny is a friend of mine started an eating challenge of her own on the same day I started my Whole30 -- and it's almost the exact opposite of mine! She's doing Eat To Live, which emphasises plants (fruits and veg), legumes, and limited whole grains (no gluten, I think). It's essentially high carb, low fat, low protein -- while my Whole30 is low carb, high fat, and high protein.

But what gets interesting is that we're both experiencing all the same benefits -- better energy, more stable moods, less cravings, etc. We even lost the exact same amount of weight in the first week. I honestly think just cutting out the sugar and the processed crap is the real key, and then from there it's just finding a what foods your body likes AND what you can live with, lifestyle-wise. I've even seen versions of 'paleo' where people eat almost nothing but fruit.

Vb said...

I found this awesome Paleo recipe that I wanted to share with you and your Paleo/primal friends. The community is awesome! Keep up the great work:

Andra said...

If you haven't subscribed to the The Real Food Summit, you should. It's a great resource for people interested in a more traditional way of eating eating whole foods.

I'm with Lori, I loathe the labels such as primal or paleo but I do love how I feel eating real food, whole foods, traditional foods. That said, I'm on day 2 of The Whole 30, once I got into reading the book I got stuck right in. I do very well with no grains or sugar and do eat like that periodically so it's not that hard. I don't care much for beans so they aren't missed. The biggest change for me is cutting dairy but I put a dollop of homemade mayo on my cauliflower in place of butter and it was delicious.

Anonymous said...

You say potato they say taters, its really all semantics. The true measure of any eating plan for your individual sucess will be whether or not it keeps insulin/leptin under control and builds on those two hormones sensitivity. Many go strict paleo for periods of time, lose their weight get strong and healthy, then later reincorperate more insulin raising foods. Its happening all over the paleo-commuity. Of course some now are questioning paleo completely, but they simply have healed thier endocrine systems and found a new place on the carb-curve. Theres often many tweaks along the road to goal as youve seen with plans, and there can be tweaks after goal is met. Very careful, very cautious tweaks so as to not lose all hard fought progress!

Anonymous said...

I've been primal for 6 months, paleo for 7, and I have tested my reactions to some of the foods that these eating plans eliminate. I cannot eat gluten without physical pain, joint inflammation, brain fog, and exhaustion. If I eat corn, I have depressive symptoms the next two days. I have a long history of depression, so no longer struggling with that is awesome! Corn also causes some joint inflammation, particularly in joints that have been injured (a knee, lower back, one wrist). I have not tested legumes other than peanuts, but when I eat peanuts, an itching in my ears that I used to believe was just a chronic symptom of my environmental allergies comes back full force. When I stopped eating dairy because I went fully paleo, my chronic diarrhea (15 years) disappeared (sorry for the TMI). I've had tiny bits of dairy since with no return of this symptom. Rice consumption seems to have no effect on me. I feel amazing eating paleo but I do intend to actively test larger amounts of dairy in the future. Oh, I recently realized that coffee gives me stomach pain, so I cut that out (apparently it is cross-reactive in many people with gluten issues, but I didn't know that until after I'd noticed the link in my own body).

I did eat "low carb" primal/paleo (less than 50g a day, including fiber) for the first 4 months and lost 40 pounds. I've been eating a moderate range of carbs since - about 100g a day - and have lost another 3 pounds in about 3 months. The weight loss was important to me, but, honestly, the sheer change in the above symptoms would have been enough to keep me going. I absolutely think that these are guidelines and each individual body reacts differently. I'm happy to have finally realized why I felt so crappy for so many years!

One more thing - I just remembered that when I first started primal (I was low carb then), I had a crazy headache for several weeks. I read somewhere (I think it was a Taubes book, but I'm not sure) that this could be caused by sodium depletion as the body adjusts to the new way of eating, and the recommendation was to increase salt consumption. If I wasn't hungry when the headache came back, I would actually eat a bit of salt and wash it down with water. The headache would disappear within a few minutes. About 3 weeks later, I noticed that I no longer needed the salt supplementation. A friend of mine had the same headache issue when she started and also found salt to bring relief.

Lyn said...


your whole experience is really interesting! I am going to try the salt. Thanks for the suggestion!

tiffany said...

Yes on the salt! In fact, I hear bouillon is a great way to get the right amount of sodium fast. I also felt kind of queasy at first with so much rich food in the beginning and started doing a protein shake that had non noticeable spinach in it! A bit of fat in the shake kept me satisfied and full. After I adjusted, I had a snort of recognition when you mentioned processed food being so foreign now. I used to love Cinnabears, these red jelly candies. I bought a whole bag the other day for a splurge and it seriously felt like I was eating Legos! Real food from now on....

Karen said...

Yes, I eliminated wheat, grains , and most processed sugar in Feb 2012.

If I get exposed to wheat I get Gi bloating and a lot off pain with a migraine within 12 hours or so. ( think pancake batter in an omelette- for got to ask at the restaurant). And a seasoning that looked okay from the label, but not okay whan I put it on some fish.

Grains-- I just never brought them back. I did a 90 day opt out from the Refuse to Regain book.(Barbara Berkely) I feel so great , there's no reason to fix what is not broken!

Processed sugar- I tried 85-88% chocolate , 2 squares. About 4 grams of sugar. That works okay for me. But I tried beef jerky once and the very small amount of sugar completely sets me off. I want to eat my arm off. Honey I can use half a tablespoon while cooking with it, say with a chicken breast with pecans , spicy mustard, and a little bit of honey (

Dairy: very little. I was using a designer whey protein powder for protein grab and go drink. I love it, but since I have not been having it my congestion and allergies are much better. So I've now kicked out all dairy, too.

Almond flour, coconut flour, etc all taste like sawdust to me, so I don't paleo-fy any baked goods or old SAD foods.

It's been a 6 month process to learn it all. The info was something I had to experiment with and learn along the way. I'm still learning.

The most important thing is that I stay off the processed foods most of the time, I don't eat wheat, grains or processed sugar. Keeps my mind clear and I have the quiet mind to maitain the 72 pound loss and work my transformation. the learning never ends.

For me, Weight Maintnenance is far easier on a Primal/ paleo style diet when compared to weight maitnence using moderate portions of processed foods. It's a LOT of work buying, cooking and packing food to take around with me- so it's never easy that way. but so much more rewarding than any pizza, jelly bean or bowl of popcorn could ever be. I'm so proud of myself for finding the quiet time to work the paln and develop my template. The rewards build on themselves.

Good luck and keep going. Keep reading Marks Daily Apple, Paleo blogs, the whole 30 website. You might find a small group of supportive people at one of those forums and interact with them to build your familiarity with those who have lost weight . Then put together your own plan. Also, the Primal Blueprint book (Mark Sisson ) has a whole chapter on weight loss.

Best wishes and safe travels. Karen P

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how someone can live without legumes, personally. They're such a great all-around food. I know the extreme low-carbers and such might disagree but it's my stance and I've never had any sort of weight issues while eating tons of them.

Grains, I could see more to an extent, not necessarily because I 100% agree with it, but because I really see the downfalls of grains. Dairy? I could definitely see the negatives.

Legumes ..not so much.


louise said...

I have to agree with Lori on this one. I think it can be problamatic labelling yourself under a particular diet dictate. What you describe sounds to me like eating non processed, whole foods with no added chemicals. I lost nearly half my body weight some 10 years ago now by doing just that. I do think another really important element is exercise. Whenever i cut back on exercise the weight starts to creep on and i feel sluggish and more inclined to eat high sugar foods. I wonder if you've read Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions, the cookbook that challenges Politically correct Nutrition and the diet dictocrats. It is an excellent book that looks in depth at the importance of food produced in traditional ways including fermentation but also at how sugar manufactures have bribed governments worldwide. The book is incredibly well referenced with hundreds of research papers cited. PS I'm not Sally Fallon just an ordinary Brit. I've read your blog for quite a while and real feel for your struggles but also get sad when you start veering back towards diets particularly processed diet plans that cannot be satisfying. I would also like to say that you must have a willpower of iron to stick with them at all.

timothy said...

i just got my whole30 book in the mail yesterday so i wont be able to read it till tues when i'm off as for now i cut all "sweets" including fruit out and am avoiding processed foods. mayhaps you should get some blood work i wonder if your bordering on anemic, low on iron??? feel better and dont give up sweetie sending prayers your way! xoxoxoxo

Stephanie said...

Protein powder can help you get the protein you need if you're grossing out on meat. We use a totally vegetable based one (I think it is even VEGAN). It is expensive (get from health food store) but it is worth it, we think. There is also a pea protein available that is primal friendly (all the it's "legume" qualities are removed - just protein left). Use coconut milk and some fruit and veg (you really won't notice spinach) and you've got a great protein shake. Another yummy health food store item to get to add fat and vitamins is something called coconut manna. It's awesome to add to the shake.

Just remember that the most important thing is finding a way of eating that works for your body. And go slow in eliminating some of the things that Whole30 suggests. I am reading their book right now "It Starts With Food" and even they say that sometimes you're going to eat from the "less healthy" list versus the "more healthy" list and that's okay, as long as you're not fooling yourself into thinking that what you're eating is making you more healthy. If your addictive behavior around the crackers and other processed junk is gone, I'd say you're on the right track. Keep it up! I'm glad you're off the Medifast and on to something truly healthy.

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit said...

It's amazing how tastes change as you change your diet. I used to feed my fam a lot of that boxed mac stuff (even the "healthy" versions), and I consumed tons of Carnation Coffee Crap; now when I use that stuff, I feel like I can literally taste the chemicals swirling around in my mouth. Nasty!

Amy said...

I agree with Lori. I think the key in almost any plan out there these days is eating real food in order to get the most nutrient benefit. I don't know this eating plan, but couldn't you substitute a non-sweetened coconut milk (Silk makes one I think) for dairy? My family drinks almond milk or coconut milk, and I think it tastes way better than cow's milk.

Hayley said...

I have tried Atkins few times and I always feel horrible - no energy, severe headaches, back aches and at one point I felt that I was close to kidney failure so I promptly stopped it and will never experiment with low carb again. But maybe it suits to some people.

Also last night I saw Dr. Oz and they talked that low carb diets can slow your metabolism down by 50%.

To each their own. I'm doing WWs flex points and I love it. In 3 weeks I have lost 10 pounds and I have lots of energy.

I love reading this blog, I come here every day. Keep posting!

Anonymous said...

Just grabbed a used copy of the book Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson on Amamzon for $8.00. I have been using the website for about a month. It has been a good learning curve. I learned alot by reading the Nutrition Forum on MDA..alot about foods. I am patient and easy with myself while still getting into a primal groove.
Happy in NYC

Line Jacobsen said...

On the eat clean diet for the 10th week now. Feeling so much better! I can't believe all the crap I used to eat :D
You should try out the Quinoa full of protein and so yummi! Perfect to eat instead of rice!!
Thanks for sharing your story!

Meggilizz said...

Well said Kara!!!