The Pursuit of Paleo: Don’t be a Food Fascist

Posted: March 30, 2011 in CrossFit, Nutrition
Tags: , , , , ,

I absolutely love reading nutrition articles like this one! I found it from Ricky Frausto, Jr.’s post on Facebook.

There are so many people out there who talk in DO’s! and DO NOT’S! when it comes to dietary guidelines and restrictions. DO eat only things that were around 10,000 years ago. DO NOT eat any pastas or processed sugars!

Now I’m not necessarily saying I disagree with any of these statements, but when trying to explain to someone why the Paleo diet works (in my opinion), or in trying to convince someone to try it, so much material that can be found is intimidating! (Sort of like CrossFit, huh?)

Chris Kesser, over at the The Healthy Skeptic, took the following approach in his article: “Food fascism and the 80/20 rule“… Relax. Chris, I may be summarizing you incorrectly, but that’s how I hear it!

Here’s a direct quote from his piece-

I also suggest they follow what I call the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time they should follow the guidelines very closely, and 20% of the time they’re free to loosen up and just eat what they want to eat. There’s a lot more to life than food, and in fact I believe (as did the ancient Chinese) that in some cases it’s better to eat the wrong food with the right attitude than the other way around.

That’s music to my ears!!! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not an article about only his opinions. He uses science, as well. In fact, he agrees (as do I) with many of the “Paleo” guidelines. For example:

I think the evidence is crystal clear that wheat, sugar/high-fructose corn syrup and industrial seed oils are toxic to the body and contribute to virtually all modern, degenerative diseases – from diabetes and obesity to heart disease and autoimmunity. There’s also substantial evidence that soy, in its processed form (i.e. soy milk, soy protein isolate, etc.) is an endocrine disruptor and anti-nutrient and is best avoided.

There you go, that’s solid advice on some types of food to always avoid. However, he mentions that some foods traditionally excluded from the “Paleo” lifestyle haven’t always been found to show negative consequences in one’s health.

– The Paleo diet excludes dairy products and grains. Yet Weston A. Price identified isolated groups of people, like the traditional Swiss Loetschental, who were exceptionally healthy and subsisted primarily on a diet of bread, milk & cheese.
– Strict Paleo diets also exclude potatoes, claiming that the saponins and glycoalkaloids they contain make them unfit for human consumption. Yet as Stephan Guyenet’s recent articles have revealed, it’s quite possible to eat a lot of potatoes and be perfectly healthy.

Is there a catch? Yes. While these guidelines are helpful to the generally healthy person, he takes a very clear stance when it comes to people with serious health issues.

Unfortunately, the 80/20 rule doesn’t apply to those dealing with serious health challenges or allergies or intolerances to specific foods. It’s never a good idea for someone with Hashimoto’s disease and gluten intolerance, for example, to just throw caution to the wind and have a pancake feast. That could trigger an immune reaction lasting up to several weeks.
Likewise, if someone comes to see me in my private practice and they’re dealing with multiple health problems, one thing I often do is put them on a strict Paleo diet for a short period of time. Why? Because it gives us a baseline to work from. By removing all common food toxins and observing what happens, we learn which foods may be contributing to their issues and to what extent. From there the next steps usually become a lot more clear.

Click here to read his full article.

Personally, I agree with practically everything he’s saying, and lately have been making a clear distinction in my own mind about the benefits of changing one’s dietary blueprint.

If you’re training to become an elite athlete, your life will need to take on a very strict approach. Weighing and measuring foods to ensure proper quantities becomes required, “cheat” meals are viewed as steps backwards and your performance in your sport/line of work/dietary goals will “suffer” slightly.


If your goal is to be healthier and to feel more energized and be happier with what you eat, but not much more than that… then say yes to those friends who invite you to Happy Hour, enjoy a beer or two, and don’t feel guilty for it! Friday night Ice Cream night? Sure, why not!

It’s about determining what YOUR goals are in your diet, and tailoring your food intake appropriately to meet them. Don’t resent food, it’s not worth it. I’ve been there. In fact, I don’t even like to use the word “Diet” because sounds too much like a “Fad”. Going Paleo truly is more about a lifestyle and just knowing what is good and bad for your body.

So go out there, Paleo it up, and let me know what you guys think!

As always, I’m here for any questions, and welcome all comments!

  1. Jamie says:

    I agree with the 80/20 for most people. I’m probably 50/50 or 60/40 right now, working my way up to 80/20. It is a big paradigm shift for most people and i think if people jump right in trying to do 100% Paleo, the failures that are sure to happen will have an adverse effect. Whereas now, when i eat something that is not paleo, it will have a more positive effect psychologically because i can recognize that it is not paleo, but i dont have to beat myself up over it because i am not trying to be 100%. But i can acknowledge that it is not paleo, and look for alternatives for the future.

    I wish i knew about paleo and paid better attention to diet when i was swimming competitively. I probably would have tried to work my way up to 100% paleo.

    • It’s so nice to hear you say that, Jamie. Like I said, for me it’s about just being realistic with yourself. If you want to be an ELITE athlete and win CrossFit events, you may need to go 100% Paleo. If you want to just be healthier and happier, 80/20 may be for you. Everyone is different, and I want people to know that it’s not an “All Or Nothing” thing. Let food make you happy, not resentful.

  2. […] Don’t be a food fascist (and apparently your food choices may be influenced by your political orientation, although it doesn’t sound like anyone makes healthy choices) So now let’s talk about the specifics of what your body needs when exercising. First, since you’re trying to build muscle, you need protein. That’s real, not synthetic, protein, and it’s apparently easy to figure out just how much, if you really want to know, according to LiveScience: When training, you need about a half gram of protein per pound of body weight. So a 180-pound male needs about 90 grams of protein a day. That’s the amount of protein in a cup of milk or yogurt with breakfast (8–12 grams), a can of tuna with lunch (40 grams), and a six-ounce steak with dinner (42 grams). […]

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