Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
In Western society, we don’t really appreciate our health until it starts to fail. Our health ties directly to what we eat. In recent years we have heard of all sorts of fad diets, weight loss gimmicks and get fit quick schemes. The reality is, nutrition is a major portion of personal health and it takes planning to be successful. Looking at some of the newer eating plans can be rather daunting. Everything from low carb, Atkins, Primal, gluten free, or Paleo, is being discussed in the latest fitness magazine or health blog. Sorting through each of these programs and simplifying them into something that works for you is key to finding a successful plan and sticking to it. We are going to narrow it down to the Paleo lifestyle.
What is Paleo eating? In essence, it is mimicking what the Paleolithic humans (caveman) found to eat. Processed foods, static agriculture or the fast food nation we see today has led to unseen levels of disease, such as obesity, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. The caveman was the ultimate hunter-gatherer who took advantage of their natural environment to eat and sustain life.
Why do I call it a lifestyle and not a diet? A diet is a verb meaning ‘to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight’. Weight loss may be part of your goal, but eating healthy unprocessed sustainable food should be included in your long-term plan. Paleo is a lifestyle that focuses on the idea of eating real, whole unprocessed foods that are locally harvested, hunted or grown. As we have evolved into a convenience-driven society, so has the type of food we eat, which has progressively gotten us away from our primal roots. To sum up the Paleo concept: you should never eat anything without first asking yourself, ‘Is this something a caveman would have had access to?’
What did pre-civilization humans eat for food? They were hunter-gatherers for every meal. Tater-tots, tacos, pizza and ice cream are out. Grass-fed, free-range meats, fowl, and fish are in. Locally grown vegetables fit into the Paleo lifestyle. Berries, fruits, seeds and nuts that could be locally gathered fit into the Paleo program. Keeping this simple, anything that is processed doesn’t meet the Paleo program. Modern foods that require factory production such as grains (wheat, pasta, cereals, bread, corn, rice, oats, etc.), refined sugar, alcohol, starches, etc don’t meet the Paleo eating program. 12,000 years ago, the Paleolithic hunter wasn’t eating spaghetti carbonara with a craft beer.
No craft beer. I know, it sounds insane. Why would I pursue such insanity? I do so because I feel better when eating Paleo. Do I still have beer? Yes. I have a rule of moderation. Having an eating plan where you always feel guilty doesn’t work. I have been on the Paleo eating program for about 6 years and it can be difficult to always be 100% Paleo. I use an 80% rule. Do I enjoy beer? YES. Do I use a tortilla for my favorite breakfast burrito? Yes I do. Is it strictly a Paleo eating plan? No it is not, but I make a substantial effort to eat all other facets of my meals based upon the Paleo concept. I admit I am not perfect. I like beer and I like tortillas for burritos, so I am not going to exclude those items. I just sprint harder for every beer I have. I do more hiking for every tortilla I eat.
I personally think sourcing your food from field to table is a liberty-minded approach. I try to source all of my food. What does it mean to ‘source’ my food? It means I know where my food comes from. I raise chickens in my backyard and have fresh eggs daily. I buy organic grass fed free-range beef from a close friend. I have large garden where I grow as many vegetables and herbs in a growing season as possible. What we don’t eat out of our garden, we can for use over the winter. I barter for things I don’t have readily access to. A number of my friends hunt. I trade items for wild caught game knowing that the meat I get is as primal as it gets. I have made plans for a month long salmon/halibut fishing trip to Alaska where an old friend lives. I plan to catch, freeze, and ship home hopefully hundreds of pounds of wild caught Alaskan fish this summer. I could go on but you get the point: be creative.
I travel domestically and internationally for work five days a week. It is not an easy process to eat Paleo foods on the road in foreign airports, hotels and countries. How do I do it? I plan every meal, vacuum seal it, freeze it and clear airport security. I bring snacks like homemade beef jerky, nuts, berries, fresh veggies such as carrots, avocados, celery, radishes, peas etc on my trips. I order salads, a hamburger without a bun, grilled chicken, or fish entrees. I avoid pasta and other grain based meals. I also bring my own garden fresh ground hot red pepper powder to season anything that might be bland. It takes work and planning, and it isn’t an easy task, but it is necessary for my long-term health.
The Paleo lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle. Be creative, but also allow for compromise when life gets in the way of your best-laid plans. There is work, planning and dedication needed to succeed, but the dividends are long lasting. You will feel noticeably better, have more energy and sleep better. When you source your food locally, you will help build your community for long-term sustainability, you will build friendships through barter and trade and you will maintain the patriot way of sustainability. Try the Paleo lifestyle.
Stay safe, stay vigilant~