It started out as a fine idea, at least for very overweight people, then things got weird.
Paleo: Solid Idea, Silly People
The idea behind paleo is pretty solid. To get leaner and healthier, drop the junk food, colas, fast food, and sugar. Nothing new there. But the idea was packaged nicely: eat like a caveman because your physiology is basically the same as your Paleolithic ancestors and your body can't handle modern foods.
Besides getting rid of the obvious "no duh" stuff that makes us fat, most paleo eaters also upped their protein intakes, lowered their carb intakes, and dropped their overall calories. And the quality of their foods certainly improved since things like sugar and even wheat were off the ingredient list.
That limits choices, which of course limits daily calories. Same reason most vegans lose weight initially – there ain't much left to eat! Paleo dieters also replaced their corn and vegetable oils with coconut oil and other quality choices. Good move.
But then things got wacky.
Eating Strategy or Food Religion?
Paleo became sort of a snooty food-religion, much like veganism. Most paleo promoters frowned on beans, rice, oatmeal, potatoes, any type of dairy including good-for-ya yogurt and kefir, and an array of healthy supplements. All because these things aren't "paleo."
Of course, neither is an apple. The apple as we know it didn't exist in edible form during the Flintstones era. It took some agricultural evolution to make it red and delicious. (Oh no, agriculture!)
For some, paleo just became another low-carb diet wrapped in a new organic-hemp package. Thing is, low-carb diets don't do squat for building muscle. And here's where the problem comes in.
I tried paleo for almost a year. I didn't go full paleo, keeping workout nutrition supplements in the mix, but I bought into some of it. I lost a little fat at first, then gained it back. Why? Because my weight-trained muscles were screaming for carbs. I ignored them and packed in more paleo fats and proteins. Then my workouts suffered and my gains stagnated.
The cure? Beans, rice, potatoes, oats. You know, the non-paleo stuff that has never made a single person fat in the history of fat people. A lot of former paleo people seem to be doing this, calling it "hybrid paleo." But why the label? It's just healthy eating. That doesn't require a brand, a T-shirt line, or a smug attitude. You're just eating beans, asshole.
The test for any lifestyle-based diet plan that promises fat loss is simple: Does this eating strategy tell you to never eat certain perfectly healthy foods that have never made anyone fat? Yes? Then it's goofy. At the very least, it has crossed the line into food religion territory.
Besides, these days the paleo marketplace is full of foods that are just as junky as candy bars. High-calorie paleo flours, honey and date infused food bars etc. Oh, they're "paleo-ish" but the original idea has been lost.
Listen, if my very overweight aunt was excited about doing paleo, I'd encourage her. It's a fine plan for obese couch jockeys and people who have no desire to build muscle. For the rest of us, not so much.