Is Paleo a fad diet?

July 3, 2013

I saw on Amazon prime instant videos last night there was a documentary called “The Perfect Human Diet”  the synopsis seemed like it might be about Paleo, or something close to Paleo.  I haven’t watched it yet.  It only had 3 stars so I checked out the reviews and while it does seem to be at least partly about Paleo, a lot of comments said things about Paleo being a “fad diet.”  Perhaps some of the comments were meant to be ironic, like one titled “the two million year old fad diet.”

It irks me though because I don’t see Paleo as a fad diet.  If you look up what fad diets are, you’ll get some varied qualifiers. The main two I like to go by are:

  • It is short-term or otherwise not sustainable
  • Promises substantial and fast weight loss aka “sounds too good to be true”

Is it short-term?  Are you only supposed to do it for a weekend, or a few weeks?  If so then you might lose weight while you’re doing it, but as soon as you revert back to business as usual diet/lifestyle you’ll get it all back, and maybe more.   Other diets are not all that sustainable. I do not mean sustainable in the terms of could YOU do it for forever, but whether anybody could or should do it for forever.  There is the obvious one, starvation.  I’ve also heard of only eating cabbage soup, or only eating bland boiled chicken breasts and salad. (lettuce, no dressing or anything else)  Those are not nutritionally diverse and you might lose weight but that doesn’t mean you’ll be any healthier. Also, contrary to popular belief, you cannot supplement the crap out of your self to meet all your nutritional needs.  You cannot try to live off of rice cakes, take a multivitamin and call it a day.  Vitamins are more for going the extra mile.  Maybe you get 80% of the vitamin D you need from your diet, so a vitamin will get you the rest of the way there.  For a last note on vitamins go and search “multivitamin bioavailability”

I’ve been waiting for a good excuse to use this somewhere lightheartedly.

How about losing 20 lbs in 1 week?  Or losing 1 lb a day for as long as you do it?  Or losing weight without really doing anything?   These are all the “too good to be true” diets.   They promise a lot but deliver little.  This includes weight loss pills and supplements.

Where do I see Paleo falling in on these points?  Is it meant to be short-term? Not at all.  It is sustainable, is it practical and healthy for the general human being to follow for the rest of their life?  Yes, it is.  Does it promise substantial weight loss or fast weight loss?   Not that I’ve ever seen.   Of course people who do switch to it do often lose weight, some people probably even do it for that purpose, but the main philosophy of Paleo eating seems to be about being healthier, not necessarily skinnier.  The same can be said of vegetarians and vegans.  People do often lose weight by switching to those diets, and that is probably the intention of some people who have done it, but the guiding principle of being vegetarian or vegan is more about what the followers find to be the healthiest.

So no, I don’t believe Paleo to be a ‘fad diet.’  I don’t even think these are new practices.  I’m sure there have been people out there all over the world eating “Paleo” the whole time and there just wasn’t a fancy name for it.  Or people to market the idea and make money off it.  Or so many people eating crap food because it’s pushed on us as being ‘healthy’ that we ever really needed someone to point out that the majority of us are all eating horribly bad food. Paleo is long-term, sustainable, and doesn’t make any wild promises or guarantees other than that it’s truly all around a healthy diet to have.

I know, I know.  Someone is going to read this and think to themselves “But I’ve done this or that fad diet or taken such and such supplement and it worked, I never gained the weight back, so it’s not bad.”  Well very good for you.  You are an exception, not the rule.  To me this is the same as someone saying they’ve been a smoker for 40+ years and have never gotten cancer so that must mean cigarettes aren’t bad.   That kind of anecdotal reasoning just doesn’t follow.  There are always exceptions to the rule, and that doesn’t mean that the rules are wrong, just that some people are lucky.  There are also other exceptions, like maybe you did a fad diet or took a supplement to drop some weight right as you were getting started with changing your lifestyle to be healthier. Very few people actually commit to the “changing your lifestyle” part though.

As always, what is generally healthy for most, may not be a healthy option for YOU, so always discuss things with your doctor. 🙂


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