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The Paleo Lifestyle—A Roadmap to Good Health?

The Paleo Lifestyle

It all started with a simple premise, that humans would be healthier if they ate more like their hunter gatherer ancestors. Now with thousands of books, stories, articles, blogs and even several magazines devoted to all things caveman, the “Paleo Diet” is now morphing into the “Paleo Lifestyle.” But what exactly is the Paleo Lifestyle? Well the good news is that you don’t have to don a loin cloth and do your best Tarzan-in-the-Congo imitation, but you do have to be more active, get short, intense bouts of exercise, get more sleep, reduce stress, and of course eat like a caveman!

Here’s a rundown on the Paleo Lifestyle and its health benefits:

The Paleo Diet

What exactly is the Paleo Diet? For the most part you want to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and grass produced/pastured meats (grass fed beef, veal, lamb, free range chicken and duck as well as all-natural pork). Eggs, wild caught fish and seafood, nuts and seeds, healthy natural oils (olive, walnut flaxseed, avocado and coconut) and tubers are all on the menu.

What’s not on the menu is grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugar, processed foods, potatoes, salt and refined vegetable oils (corn oil, canola oil, peanut oil).

Like any other eating regimen some people believe that you should strictly adhere to the diet, while others like to use the diet as a set of loose guidelines (they like to cheat).

The Paleo Lifestyle

Paleo people believe that in order to improve our health and happiness, we must recreate in our modern lives the healthful lifestyle our ancestors lived. This includes regular daily activity, short but intense bouts of physical exertion, plenty of sleep and lower overall daily stress levels.

Regular Daily Activity

When we talk about regular daily activity we’re not talking about fishing, hunting, looking for wild lettuce and making tools like the cavemen, but instead doing things like parking the car at the far end of the parking lot and walking into work, standing at your stand up /sit down desk for much of the day instead of just sitting in front your computer, taking the steps instead of the elevator and walking down to Sharon’s office in accounting to deliver that message instead of just emailing it. It’s all about keeping your body in motion while you do all the things that need to get done. Our ancestors had to move around most of the day and seriously I doubt they carried around a rock or stump so they could take a load off every time they stopped. But today we tend to spend most of the day just sitting around; the modern world encourages inactivity while the Paleo Lifestyle encourages regular movement.

Short Bouts of Intense Physical Exertion

Today some people might call this exercise but our Paleo forefathers called it staying alive. It’s believed that our ancestors probably had fairly regular short bouts of intense activity. Whether they were running from a saber tooth tiger, chasing a neighboring villager out of their hunting grounds, dragging a freshly killed 100-pound buck back to the village or something as mundane as clearing a camp site, our ancestors undoubtedly moved quickly and worked very hard for short periods of time and rested in between.

Today we don’t have to do these things to survive but our bodies need this kind of work to stay healthy.

Among the Paleo set, interval training, plyometric training, cross fit and boot camp-style workouts are popular ways of getting this kind of physical activity into their daily life.

Get More Sleep

Without scintillating new episodes of Breaking Bad and hilarious Grumpy Cat memes to keep them occupied into the wee hours of the night, Paleo man probably spent an hour or two by the camp fire then toddled off to bed, and awakened with the sunrise. Today we get on average about 6.5 hours of sleep each night. But most sleep experts say we need closer to 8 hours to be fully rested. Since most of the repair work that goes on in your body happens while you sleep, getting enough is really important –how would your car run if the mechanic only fixed part of the problem every time you took it into the shop?  So, focusing on getting enough sleep should be high on our list of top priorities, Paleo or not.

Lower Daily Stress Levels

Our bodies were designed to handle stress, both mental and physical. When that saber tooth tiger we talked about earlier appeared out of the tall grass, our ancestor’s brain registered the threat and their body was flooded with hormones and chemicals that allowed them to run really fast to the nearest tree and hightail it up there. When the big cat slunk away after being unsuccessful at eating them, all of the stress hormones and chemicals were washed out of the body and our ancestor went about his merry way, happy and at ease. Our bodies were designed to handle short periods of stress, but in today’s world our stress tends to hang around a lot longer.

Unlike the big cat that slinks off into the tall grass, your boss just keeps bugging you about that proposal that’s due or that quota you had better make. This means that modern day hunter gatherers need to use stress-relief techniques to help them relieve the pressure that the modern world brings to bear and keeps in our face. The Paleo movement works hard at teaching stress-reduction techniques you can use in your everyday life.

These are the basics of the new “Paleo Lifestyle.” More than just a diet, this lifestyle attempts to address the things that are making us unhealthy in today’s world. Is it right for you?