Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Whoopsie... I'm not Paleo, I'm Primal!

I want to take a minute to correct the mistake in terminology that I have been making. Well, I've actually already tried to change my wording in day-to-day life, but I guess what I want to do is explain the mistake I was making, because it seems like I am far from the only one making it.

The way I eat is NOT Paleo. It is actually PRIMAL.

"What's the difference?" you may ask.

In practice, not much. At least that is the way it seems from the number of Paleo recipes that are actually Primal by inclusion of certain ingredients. Also, there are many people who say that they have their own adapted version of Paleo (much like I did), when they may actually be Primal. (They may just be doing their own thing completely, but I find that the exceptions most people make to their Paleo-ish diet are more in line with the Primal diet, in general)

Basically, when you research Paleo, you are going to come across people interchanging the two like crazy! And that is totally fine, because in reality, the two diets are based on the same premise and are meant to function in very similar ways.

But, I suppose in theory, there is more of a divide than most people know...

I just finished reading The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, which is what led me to understand that what I was actually leaning towards the whole time was a primal lifestyle. ((Book review coming soon!!))

In fairness, I haven't read books on Paleo all the way through, so I don't feel completely comfortable breaking it down into a science, but I did make some observations from what I believed Paleo to be in my research, and what I learned while reading The Primal Blueprint.

I believe that the differences are as simple as the fact that Primal allows some dairy into the diet, and even very small amounts of quinoa or wild rice for hard-core athletes. Also, Sisson is more laid-back (and in my opinion, realistic) with his rules. The way he explains the Primal lifestyle connects with me more naturally than the way the Whole 30 represents its suggested lifestyle.  I don't think many people would, or more importantly would be happy to, live their life as strictly as diets like the Whole 30 preach. I understand the premise of perfection in diet, and I applaud whole-heartedly my friends (and strangers) who can successfully stay with the plan. For me personally, a little more flexibility is necessary so I don't completely crack!
Yet again, it may not be fair to compare the Whole 30 to Primal as an example of Paleo, as it does seem to have some very separate rules from the original Paleo Diet as voiced by Loren Cordain... Basically, it all gets super confusing- and a little hair-spliting if you ask me!

As you can see, I am no expert in this field, although I do plan to read several more books so I can start to figure this out myself! For a more educated explanation, here is how Sisson writes about the difference on his website/blog "Mark's Daily Apple":

A fundamental difference? The role of saturated fats. Cordain and many within the paleo community continue to harbor a fear of saturated fats as the bogey that raises cholesterol and instigates heart disease instead of a critical source of nutrients for neurological functioning and other essential physiological processes. Partaking of only lean meats, eschewing butter and coconut oil (two Primal Blueprint favorites based on health benefits supported by extensive research), restricting egg consumption – this is not your Granddaddy Grok’s diet.
As many critics of the Paleo Diet have pointed out, early humans left virtually nothing of the animal carcasses they were so fortunate to bag. And the fact is they favored not the lean muscle meat but the richer organ meats, bone marrow and even fat deposits themselves. Grok, after all, was just trying to get enough calories and nutrients to stay alive from one day to the next. The denser in energy, the more valued the food. (And, can we add here, more tasty?)
And then there’s the discrepancies surrounding other fats. Sure, there’s a general agreement about the importance of omega 3:6 balance, but the particulars diverge. In the Primal Blueprint, unlike Cordain’s version of the Paleo Diet, omega 3 sources like canola oil are suspect. The fact is, the deodorization process that canola oil is nearly always subjected to removes the omega 3 content. But when you’ve written off saturated fat sources (like good old coconut oil), you’re pretty much stuck wading in the murky waters of processed polyunsaturated products. What’s wrong with this picture?
Also at issue is the role of diet sodas (allowed by Cordain) and other artificial sweeteners. The opinion of many in the paleo community is that as long as it’s not sugar, it’s acceptable. Working around the problem like this seems to be nothing more than a manipulation. Although the Primal Blueprint doesn’t demonize the occasional use of artificial sweeteners, it makes the stipulation that its use should be limited to foods or beverages that will inherently add something positive to the diet. In other words, if you aren’t getting anything positive from the meal or drink, you shouldn’t be taking the risk of the artificial sweetener. A better angle? Expand your cooking repertoire. Train your taste buds in the right direction, and don’t let the artificial stuff get in the way of that progress.
Finally and most importantly, the Primal Blueprint works as a broad, holistic approach to living and not simply a list for eating. While the majority of the underlying assumptions and suggestions of the Paleo Diet are generally sound, the diet encompasses only a fraction of what it takes to live a healthy life in the modern world.
The Primal Blueprint recommends wise supplementation appropriate to counter the stressors and toxins unique to our life today. (Grok didn’t have it all bad.) In its fitness and stress management approach, the Blueprint further highlights and capitalizes on our natural physiological functioning. The Blueprint emphasizes the overlap of good diet with essential fitness and relaxation principles to maximize muscle mass and organ reserve and to defend against the inflammation, sarcopenia and other preventable factors behind the aging process.
And isn’t it a comfort to know that power over your health is seated in more than diet? The big picture of a healthy, fit and happy lifestyle involves more than isolating a specific issue. The Primal Blueprint was designed for the purpose of offering a guide for all elements of healthy living. Let’s face it, some days life makes it particularly difficult to have the perfect diet. We like to think of the Primal Blueprint design as a comprehensive cover, so to speak. The knowledge and efforts you exert in each area (diet, fitness, supplementation, stress management, sleep, etc.) can make a difference when the realities of day to day life keep you from doing a 100% in a given area.
Read more:

Exhausting, isn't it?!?! In conclusion, I just wanted to let you all know that I am sorry for prancing around ignorantly calling myself Paleo... I now know the truth; I'm a Primal girl at heart <3


  1. Hmm, thanks for the interesting perspective Ali! I doubt our house would ever really be Paleo or Primal, but I know I have been working on sneaking in healthier, more nutritious options into our daily life (like utilizing coconut in its many forms and adding flax to baked goods and bases for cooking). I think a good portion is about an honest pursuit, no matter what direction you choose, or are currently able to choose. Get your mindset right :).
    Always a pleasure,

  2. Thanks for taking the time to read this, Amy! I have been checking out your blog and like to see what you are thinking/writing about :) I agree that changing your diet, no matter what way you would like to change it, starts with an honest evaluation of what needs to change and what you will have to do to get there! Having a positive attitude, and "the right mindset", as you said, are definitely the hardest and most important part. We all fall off the train sometimes, but once you set yourself on the right path, even those "off days" are better than normal days used to be.