I was a child in the 1980s. Thus, the government, the media, and everyone else that seemed responsible taught me about nutrition: eating fat was bad and I should make sure to eat enough whole grains. Even though this is still the official dogma for those behind the times, it is becoming increasingly clear that the advice I grew up with—that coincided with our obesity epidemic—is wrong.
Robb Wolf, in his book, “The Paleo Solution, The Original Human Diet,” persuasively explains exactly why the prior nutrition advice was a bad idea and how his chosen approach, a Paleo Diet, is superior. This book isn’t entirely new—it was published several years ago. But I view it as a foundational text that we will eventually look back upon as one of the early tide-turners in the evolution of our eating habits.
Update: Robb Wolf has a new book that just came out in March 2017 called "Wired to Eat: Turn off Cravings, Require Your Appetite for Weight Loss, and Determine the Foods that Work for You.
The ideas in Robb Wolf's book are much less controversial now than they were when he published it in 2010 and that is, in part, due to the influence of the book, its author and his other work (including his excellent podcast), other Paleo diet advocates, and, well, both the science and people that have tried it and seen its results.
Paleo and the ideas behind it are moving mainstream. They aren’t there yet, but they are getting closer. Check out your local organic grocery store and you will see. It is important, however, like any movement, that its adherents don’t treat Paleo like a religion with tenants that are unquestionable. But instead, they should treat it as a philosophy or science that can be improved with new ideas and insights. To Robb Wolf’s credit, as one of the leaders in the Paleo movement, he repeatedly emphasizes this point in his podcasts (and probably elsewhere).
What is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet approaches nutrition from the perspective of a human body that has evolved over an extremely long period of time. For the vast majority of that time, we (as humans) ate certain foods and didn’t eat other foods. Not surprisingly, that diet happens to be optimal for our bodies (generally speaking).
The agricultural revolution developed much later in the existence of human beings, but it has dramatically changed how we eat—in some not so helpful ways. As Robb Wolf explains in his book, if human history were a football field—100 yards long from end-zone to end-zone—the first 99.5 yards precede the agricultural revolution.
(If you want to learn more about the truth about the agricultural revolution, we recommend that you read Part Two, "The Agricultural Revolution," in Yuval Noah Harari's outstanding book "Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind." He calls the Agricultural Revolution "History's Biggest Fraud," and explains how wheat actually domesticated homo sapiens. It is an incredible chapter that is worth reading.")
Our genetics adapted to the diet for the first 99.5 yards; indeed, according to Wolf, our genetics are virtually identical to the early human ancestors from more than 120,000 years ago. The transition from hunter-gatherer only occurred within the last 10,000 years. And believe it or not, the earlier humans were quite healthy. They didn’t have our medical advances and were occasionally devoured by wild animals, but everything considered, they were virtually free of degenerative disease like cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
But what do you eat?
Not processed foods or grains. And not a lot of carbs either. It is primarily a fat and protein diet with a lot of vegetables. That’s the essence.
The protein, whenever possible, should be from wild fish or grass-fed animals. Absent an allergy, eggs are just fine. Don’t worry about the fat in these sources, particularly if they are wild or grass fed.
Fat isn’t an enemy—in fact, you should have a lot of fat in your diet. But not the trans-fat junk that may still be in processed crackers and cookies, but fat from coconuts, olive oil, avocados, to name a few.
Avoid many carbs, particularly grains. Don’t overdue the fruits, but eat as many vegetables as you’d like. But don’t use vegetable oils.
Beans and milk are controversial. Most Paleo sources say to avoid beans and milk, but some say they are okay (depending upon the individual person). Many people have trouble digesting milk, for example.
For a great summary, you can read this article by prominent Paleo leader Loren Cordain.
You can also, of course, read The Paleo Solution itself for more detail.
It is not uncommon for people to lose a substantial amount of weight and feel much better once they start this diet. I can tell you from experience that the first couple weeks are tough, as you may continue to crave wheat and heavy sugar, but after you hit that point, it is an easy diet to maintain.
You can read our discussion of fat-loss tips in Tim Ferriss' 4-Hour Body here, which proposes (among other ideas) a variation of a Paleo diet.
My own experience has been quite positive. I lost weight immediately, but the biggest differences I noticed (which occurred when I cut out grains, in particular) were that my mind was clearer and that I wouldn’t crash after a meal. I am still on a variation of the diet, in which I eat cheese and occasionally depart from Paleo. But my diet is mostly Paleo and has been for quite some time.
I personally recommend the Paleo diet, and the book.
The Paleo Solution, The Original Human Diet, by Robb Wolf
The book itself is quite interesting. It is conversationally geeky, from a scientific and medical angle. Robb Wolf’s personality is in every paragraph, which is evident if you listen to his podcast (which I do). That makes it obvious that this book wasn’t ghost-written; he did the work himself. I enjoy his writing style. (As a side note, I strongly support conversational writing that allows the author’s personality to come alive through words. You can read more about our thoughts on writing here.)
As far as structure, the book bounces around among practical advice on what to eat, the scientific history behind the Paleo diet, scientific/medical background on how the body works, and good-old-fashioned straight talk on actually doing what he suggests.
In addition, the book isn’t limited to just nutrition. Wolf also discusses exercise, sleep, and stress, which, of course, contribute significantly to overall wellness.
Finally, if you aren’t sure whether there will be sufficient variety of meals for you to move to a paleo diet, the book provides a healthy list of recipes, as well as grocery shopping advice (with some pep talks mixed in).
Overall, even with the some dense science mixed in, the book is a fast and interesting read. We recommend it here at the Success, Health & Lifestyle Website.
If you have tried the Paleo diet, we would love to hear about your experiences, successes, and failures in the comments below.
And if you are interested in the Paleo and Primal lifestyle (as well as diet), you might also enjoy The Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson. Click the book below to purchase The Primal Blueprint on Amazon.
If you want to lose fat, you might enjoy our blog post about Tim Ferriss' book "The 4-Hour Body." You can purchase Ferriss' book directly from Amazon by clicking here or on the book below.