The Paleo or Caveman Diet is not a fad diet for short term results, it should be seen as a long term lifestyle choice. I’ve been eating and living with the caveman diet for well over 4 years now, and I’m very happy with my overall health and would never go back to eating any other way.
Of course, if you’re new to the concept of the Paleo or Caveman diet, and you’re still thinking about how to go about it, or it seems too hard, then I can help you out here with some simple steps to get you started down the right path and make it easier to turn the caveman diet into a lifestyle choice for you.
The Paleo, or Caveman Diet, has been getting a lot of media attention lately, so if you’re looking for more information about what it actually is, I have a great introductory book you can read at this link here called Reconnecting With Your Inner Caveman.
I tried to write a simple and easy to understand book, that’s also entertaining and easy to read so that anyone can get into it. If you want some more comprehensive information, I started out by reading The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf, and The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.
(Yes, I have put in affiliate links to these books, but only because I think they are awesome with very detailed and sensible information. I personally own each of these books and definitely recommend them to anyone interested in leading a healthy life).
Any change in your diet can be a shock to your system. It can be both mentally and physically draining to put in the effort required, from deciding what you’re going to eat from meal to meal, to shopping for the correct ingredients, as well as the extra effort that could be required for preparing and cooking each meal, not to mention dealing with how your family and friends might react when you tell them “sorry, I can’t eat that”.
When I started out with this caveman diet, my girlfriend Emma (now my wife!) was there to join me, and we helped each other through all the decisions that had to be made. Our first decision was to break it down into steps, rather than change our entire diet completely overnight.
Caveman Diet – Step 1
If you’ve done any reading on the Paleo or Caveman Diet before coming here, then you probably know that the two worst things in the modern diet are the horrendously disgusting vegetable oil, and all its derivatives such as canola oil, margarine, cottonseed oil, etc, and sugar, in all its excess, highly processed forms.
Sugar we will get to later for a variety of reasons, such as its addictive nature and the fact that it’s in pretty much every kind of processed food you can imagine, which also makes it one of the most difficult things to deal with in our diet.
The easiest thing to do first is throw out every kind of vegetable and seed oil as mentioned above, and replace them with coconut oil, olive oil, even butter and lard are far better options.
Vegetable oil is superheated during the manufacturing process way past its natural smoke point, which leads to the breakdown of the cells that make it up, causing it to become rancid. Then antioxidants are added as a way to “bind” the cells back together and make it edible.
Then they have the gall to use it as a selling point and market it as the healthiest option!
This stuff should not be considered as food, and we should treat it that way by avoiding putting it in our body at all costs!
I find coconut oil as the best option as a replacement, actually it’s probably the best thing we can put in our body full stop. It’s cold-pressed, so hasn’t gone through the same superheating process as vegetable oil, and has a high smoke point, so is excellent for cooking and frying at high temperatures. Coconut oil has many, many more benefits that I will go into in much further depth on another day.
Olive oil is great to use, but has a much lower smoke point than coconut oil, so frying is out of the question. The best use for olive oil is drizzled cold over salads or already cooked foods, or over foods to be cooked in the oven, such as fish or chicken.
You’ll have noticed that I also added butter and lard above, and maybe you think that’s quite strange. However, if you think back to when your grandparents and great grandparents were your age, they would quite often be using both of these for cooking. When vegetable oil first began being produced for mass consumption in the 1950’s and 60’s, it was much cheaper to produce than lard, so by coupling that with the demonisation of saturated fats, over time it became very popular as a “healthier option”.
As a result of that, lard has become a waste product that farmers struggle to even give away, so the good news for us in the know is that they’ve made lard so ridiculously cheap to buy at the supermarket, especially as compared to vegetable oil’s inevitable rise in price over the same time, that it’s an excellent cheaper option if you can’t afford coconut oil on a regular basis.
Caveman Diet – Step 2
I think you would agree that step 1 to success on the caveman diet is pretty simple and a very good starting point… throw out all the bad oils and replace them with good oils. Step 2 might be a little trickier, but I know you can do it!
This is where you might start getting weird reactions from your friends and family, when you tell them you won’t eat anything with gluten in it. And when you look into it, a lot of processed foods have gluten in it, so you have to really be careful and think about what you buy at the shops.
This will include, but is certainly not limited to, bread, pasta, pizza, burgers, scones, muffins, doughnuts, vegemite (yes, I’m an Aussie), and anything else that has wheat, flour or yeast.
When I first started out working in kitchens, on the very rare occasion someone would come in and say they were coeliac and couldn’t eat gluten, and I had no idea what that meant. We would have to scrounge around and find out what had gluten in it and what didn’t, and then come up with options that they could eat.
It was very annoying and frustrating for everyone involved.
Nowadays, people have far greater understanding of what it means to be gluten free, in most cases the options are already laid out on the menu for you to see, and due to the rise in popularity of the paleo or caveman diet, people are far more accepting of it as a lifestyle choice as opposed to necessarily being a debilitating affliction.
There are also plenty of gluten free options in the supermarket now, most of them have a section dedicated to it. You can get gluten free pasta, pizza bases, loaves of bread, chips, all sorts of things.
You can try these out if you like as a substitute for the things you might normally eat to start out with. Personally, I find them to be very expensive, and not very tasty.
I used to be a pizza chef several years ago, but nowadays I wouldn’t make a pizza with a gluten free base, I just don’t think it tastes anywhere near as good. I’d rather not eat pizza at all.
These are of course the sorts of decisions you will have to make on your own.
One more quick thing while I’m on the subject of gluten. According to Robb Wolf in his book The Paleo Solution, it takes a full 10 days for gluten to completely leave your system, so bear in mind it will take at least that long for you to get the full effect and start noticing any sort of changes in your body.
Caveman Diet – Step 3
I found this one of the easier steps… eliminate dairy. How easy or difficult this is for you might depend on how much you love cheese, cream, milk, and even coffee! I like cheese, and I often had a bowl of cereal with milk for breakfast each morning (and then a couple of pieces of toast, of course!) before coming across the caveman diet.
After I got around eating toast, sandwiches, pizza, and all that sort of thing from the previous step, then eliminating dairy became much less of an issue for me.
When it comes to substituting alternatives, again the coconut turns out to be a very handy asset for us, with coconut milk and coconut cream being prominent options (even in your coffee!).
The reason dairy is such an issue for us is that it has a similar effect on our gut irritation as gluten does. You might notice bloating after consuming dairy, and it means that your body can’t work at maximum efficiency.
The best way to try out this step is to start off going at least 10-14 days without dairy… and then re-introducing it. If you really notice the difference in the way you feel when you re-introduce it, then you know for sure it’s not doing you any good.
Now that I don’t really have much dairy at all, when I do have some in small amounts, say in a coffee for example, I really notice the difference and it reminds me why I don’t have it anymore.
Caveman Diet – Step 4
This is the last step, and if you’ve made it this far you should give yourself a pat on the back, and you should be feeling much better now. It will also make this last step much easier to get through, because theoretically, it could be the most difficult.
Cut down on highly refined, processed sugar products.
First of all, take note that I said cut down, not eliminate. It would be impossible to eliminate sugar from our lives, we developed a taste for sugar for a reason and I think it’s important to know what that reason is and be clear about the amount of excess sugar in pretty much everything.
When humans lived as hunter gatherers, gathering fruits, vegetables, berries, herbs, mushrooms etc, was very important for us to be able to fulfill all our basic needs. Of course, there was no supermarket, no fruit and veg shop, everything was picked fresh from the wild.
Not everything that grows in the wild is safe for us to eat though. Many foods are poisonous, and potentially deadly. This would pose a problem for humans to live long enough to bring the next generation into the world. Early on, there would have been a lot of trial and error to find the safest foods to eat.
These tended to also be the sweetest. We found that if a food was very bitter, it was usually poisonous for us, and if it was sweet, then it was safe to eat. It’s fine for us to get a little sugar in natural form from food growing in the wild or farms. However our issue now is that the large food corporations have taken advantage of this natural feature and putting sugar into everything to add flavour.
This is especially true since saturated fats have been demonised. By removing fat from food, these companies found that it left very little flavour, so to compensate, they piled massive amounts of excess sugar into everything. When you see foods labelled “low fat”, be very careful and check how much sugar is piled into it, because these tend to be the worst offenders.
The results of that can be best read about in Damon Gameau’s book called That Sugar Book, in which he documents the affect of eating so-called healthy low-fat options, but gets 40 teaspoons of sugar per day!
The other major problem we need to overcome is the addictive nature of sugar. A study was recently conducted using lab rats testing the addictiveness of sugar vs cocaine, a highly addictive drug of dependence. Sugar overwhelmingly won out over cocaine in addictiveness!
You can read more on that study here, titled Intense Sweetness Surpasses Cocaine Reward.
This can certainly be a difficult step to overcome, but I think the best way to look at it is to reverse engineer what the large food corporations have done. By that I mean you should replace sugar content in your foods with fat content.
You should at this point be well on your way to doing that if you’ve taken on board the above steps and getting plenty of coconut oil in your diet. Good fats will help satiate your appetite and cut down your cravings and need for sugar, as well as helping your body to function properly and move key vitamins and nutrients around to where they’re needed in the most efficient way possible.
Fat is also an excellent source of long lasting energy and is very good for keeping your energy levels balanced throughout the day, rather than the severe highs and crashes that come from consuming excess sugar, only to force your body to produce high levels of insulin to remove it from your body.
In the end, the Paleo or Caveman Diet is well worth sticking to for your long term health. If you can work through it step-by-step you will eventually get to a point where all you really eat is good fats, meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruit.
Again, if you want more information about what the Paleo or Caveman Diet is all about before diving into it, then you can read my book Reconnecting With Your Inner Caveman.
And if you’ve got any feedback for me, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below. Oh, and feel free to share this information with your friends!