You can thank Melissa McEwen for this.
Why, as we continue to discover just how comparatively little we know about health and nutrition, does a Paleo-style diet yield such remarkable results? Why, when any modern dieter is surrounded on every side by contradictory ideas on just what the hell we should eat, does Paleo continue to grow by leaps and bounds?
Again: why does Paleo work?
Here’s what I think.
Paleo works — hell, succeeds – because it emphasizes the individual. Paleo asks every single one of us to take the staggering amount of information we have, sift through the pieces, and emerge stronger on the other side — informed, finally, of what we as individuals need to achieve great health.
It asks us, in other words, to realize two things:
1. Our diet alone is the greatest contributor to our health.
2. What we eat is, in the long run, just as important as how much.
Let’s linger on that second point for a moment linger.
Anyone stumbling across the Paleo framework might find themselves a little confused to start with. They might find themselves asking questions about dairy, nightshades, nuts and potatoes, and coming time and time again to the classic response: well, it depends.
I hate to say it, folks, but that’s achingly true. It depends on you. Your individual sensitivities, if you’ll pardon my language, are a pretty damn big deal, and by far the biggest takeaway from whatever impact these Paleo ideas have had on your life.
But here’s the thing: you have to care. You have to experiment, now, and find out what your body desires, whether that’s high carb or low carb or medium carb or — here’s my favorite — none of the above, tailoring your daily intake to precisely whatever your body asks for. You have to admit, too, that what you eat affects your body far more than you can ever know, and then you have to take steps to do two simple things:
2. Move more.
And that’s it.
That’s Paleo, and that’s why it works. There’s a bit of legwork to start with, sure, as you suss out what ‘healthy’ in point one above means for you, but there’s not a lot of hand-wringing or heartbreak beyond it. Start experimenting. Start exploring. And know, now, what you — yes, you! — need to thrive for every day you have on this earth.
The latest fad diet can’t give you that. Paleo, if I’m being fair, can’t provide it either. But it’s a hell of a good first step, I think, and a gentle encouragement to strike out and discover the rest on your own.
Let’s start walking.