If you’ve heard the word “Paleo,” most likely one of three things comes to mind:
1. “It’s the only way to live!”
2. “It’s just another fad diet and doesn’t sound healthy.”
3. “What the heck is Paleo anyway?”
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If you’re wondering “what is Paleo?” or curious to learn why it’s become such a popular method of healing, Liz Wolfe’s Eat the Yolks is an informative (and fun) book to learn about it. But first, a little bit about how I stumbled upon the healing power of Paleo…
How I Discovered the Paleo Diet
I first heard the word “Paleo” a couple of years ago. It had been tossed around here and there, but I had no idea what it meant and never bothered to find out. Meanwhile, I’d been experimenting with my diet for quite some time, trying to treat the vicious and painful flare that no doctor, medication or even surgery could seem to control. I had been bed-ridden for months and had lost the ability to work, drive and or participate in any sort of normal life activity. I was deteriorating quickly, and it was literally becoming a matter of life or death.
I’d heard about others finding healing success with dietary changes, so I knew that was my last hope. Up until then, I thought I ate in a relatively healthy way: a semi-vegetarian diet where most of my protein came from legumes, such as lentils (my favorite!), plus whole grains, organic veggies and fruits and desserts (sugar) in small portions and intermittently, justifying it with the old adage, “everything in moderation.” The truth is, I wasn’t a big meat/chicken/seafood eater because (here comes my deep, dark secret) I don’t really like meat/chicken/seafood. I actually preferred a veggie burger over the real meat version, and I’d choose a big plate of whole wheat pasta over a grass-fed steak any day of the week. Sounds healthy, right? Plus, it was a huge improvement over the way I ate for years prior to that: fast food, processed stuff, refined flour, sugary pastries and baked goods…actually, anything my heart (and taste buds) desired. I was super skinny back then (boy, have things changed) and was always trying to put on weight, so I figured I could eat any old way I wanted without facing any consequences. But when my health began to fail, I cut out fast food and switched to more wholesome, low fat foods, thinking my semi-vegetarian diet was the way to go. And it was certainly was a step up from where I was before. But my new “healthy” diet wasn’t helping me get better. In fact, I only got worse.
So I researched. I researched a lot. I tried various “famous” diets that claimed to reverse disease, and they were all a step in the right direction, but they still weren’t enough. (And let me be clear that when I use the word “diet,” I am not referring to a short-term weight loss effort; I’m referring to a longterm lifestyle nutrition plan.) Because no particular diet seemed to be helping, I decided to start eliminating food groups one by one and figure out a specialized diet that would work for me personally. It started with giving up wheat and gluten, then most other grains (to my utter dismay); next I realized that I couldn’t tolerate my beloved lentils (or any legumes for that matter) and that those processed veggie patties had to go too. Little by little my diet had evolved into a (mostly) grain-free, legume-free, refined sugar-free diet, and for the first time, I started to see an improvement. I’d replaced my legume, bread and pasta intake with organic, properly-raised animal proteins (even though I still wasn’t much of a meat/chicken/seafood fan, but desperate people do desperate things) and continued with my organic veggie intake along with fruit in moderation. I was finding success with this random new nutrition plan that I’d pieced together by trial and error, and although it was difficult to give up so many of my favorite foods, it was worth it when I realized how much better I felt.
Then one day, I decided to look up that word I’d heard thrown around: Paleo. What in the world did that word mean? Imagine my surprise when, as I read through the dietary information, I learned that Paleo (a way of eating that mimics the way our primal ancestors ate) was almost identical to the diet I’d so pridefully strewn together for myself! I was shocked: I’d been (mostly) Paleo all this time and didn’t even know it. More importantly, I’d found healing with this so-called Paleo lifestyle. Summed up in two words: mind blown.
Knowing that I was on to something life-changing, I began to learn more about what Paleo was and why it helps so many people. There is actual science behind it, and even more than that, a whole lot of common sense, something that had seemed to have become lost amongst a lot of our conventional “healthy” dietary ideas. And the more I learned, the more I realized how little I knew.
So I want to make it clear that I do not promote Paleo because it was some diet trend I decided to follow or because I jumped on the latest bandwagon. I discovered the principles through my own trial and error and through necessity, and was excited to learn that it actually has a name (which makes it a lot easier to reference when people ask me what I’ve done to turn my health around).
Understanding Paleo: Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe, NTP
There’s a lot of great references out there that explain the principles of Paleo, but I have to say, Liz Wolfe’s Eat the Yolks has become a favorite of mine. Wolfe, a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, has broken down all the myths associated with Paleo, and she does so in a humorous and entertaining way. It’s filled with tons of scientific and historical evidence, so if you’re a food nerd like me, you’ll be in heaven. Or if you’re simply looking to learn a little bit about this whole Paleo thing, Wolfe lays it out in an easy-to-read, practical manner.
Wolfe’s Eat the Yolks sums up Paleo in a way that all of us can easily understand: eating nutritionally-dense, real foods in their whole form, raised in the proper way and in proper soil, taking the lead from our ancestors (and the way humans are programmed to eat), long before the horrors of factory farming, highly refined processing and devastating effects left by the crops oils industry. She takes a practical approach to Paleo and defines it in a way that makes it realistic and accessible.
Wolfe dispels many of the myths that plague our modern day beliefs about health and nutrition. If you’re still one of those people who believes that all saturated fat and all red meat are bad for us, that cholesterol causes heart disease or that salt causes hypertension, prepare to have your mind blown. In particular, she analyzes how the demonization of saturated fat came to be and how the crop oils industry plays a major role, resulting in the severe decline of our nation’s health. Wolfe also discusses the role of healthy carbs versus unhealthy carbs, supplements versus whole foods, and real foods versus all the processed/packaged “food” masquerading as healthy (yeah, I’m talking to you, fortified whole grain breakfast cereals). She explains the importance of raising animals in their natural settings and planting crops in fertile soil in order to produce the nutrient dense food that humans require. In other words, she argues that all we need is real food (and if you haven’t picked up on it yet, she also argues that we should eat the yolks).
One of the other reasons that Eat the Yolks resonates with me is because Wolfe is not afraid to confront the myths about Paleo and the consumption of animal proteins in a day and age where being a “meat-eater” is often demonized. If you think that most of us are caveman wannabes looking for an excuse to eat meat and dragging our knuckles all the way to a life of heart disease and cancer, you couldn’t be more wrong. Paleo is about eating real foods in their most natural form, while understanding the very complex (but amazing) way the human body processes food to create an optimally-functioning body, which in turn allows us to feel good and prevent disease. (Plus, the last thing I’m looking for is an excuse to eat meat; I do it because I have to.)
It turns out that eating properly-raised animal proteins is critical to this process, but what about the “ethical” part about consuming animals? Wolfe finally addresses this very important part of the equation, a discussion which I personally feel is necessary in today’s “if you eat meat, you are inherently evil” vegan campaigns (one to which I clearly take offense). The belief that the only way to love and honor animals is to stop consuming them altogether is simplistic and unfair (my words and personal opinion, not Wolfe’s), especially when you consider those who are trying to reverse disease after enduring great suffering as the result of nutritional deficiencies (and that includes many children who are sick and suffering today). And by the way, I’m not condemning veganism; in fact, I greatly admire the intention behind it, and I respect anyone who chooses it as their way of life. I simply mean that many humans have discovered that primal eating is the only way to address their health issues (trust me, most of us have tried just about everything else), and I don’t believe we should be condemned for it (in other words, I expect to be respected for my choices the same way I respect others for their’s). The irony in all of this is that Paleo is actually very much about honoring animals, and there is indeed a very important commonality that exists between Paleo and veganism: the absolute opposition to factory farms, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), and the unethical treatment and abuse of animals being raised in deplorable conditions. If only we could stop focusing on our differences and instead work together to fight these injustices, we could possibly make the world a better (and healthier) place (again, my own opinion, not the author’s). We actually do have some common goals! (But I suppose this is a discussion for another day.)
In Eat the Yolks, Wolfe makes a compelling argument for a practical, common sense approach to Paleo. She even argues that some dairy — in its raw form and from pasture-raised cows — could be beneficial (although not necessary) for our health, a theory that goes against strict Paleo beliefs (dairy is a no-no in most Paleo circles). Skeptical? Even more reason to check it out and make the decision for yourself. By providing scientific, historical and even common sense explanations (while drawing from her certified education and degree), Wolfe proves she has the chops to back it all up. Of course, for me, written words mean very little unless the theories can be put into practice and proven. Although I still have a ways to go (there are still some Paleo practices I have yet to adopt…liver and onions, anyone?), so far, my health transformation has been astounding enough for me not to doubt I’m on the right path (if you don’t believe I’ve had a major health transformation, ask my family, friends and even my GI doctor). Whether you’re looking to reverse a debilitating disease, get a little healthier, or simply just curious about this impactful nutrition movement, Eat the Yolks is a great place to start.