February 15, 2011

Gluten Free Betsy Book Club - The Paleo Solution

In the beginning of January, I decided to start posting reviews of the gluten free related books I read.  I chose The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf as the first book to review.  I heard of the paleo diet years ago when I was running several times a week.  I had read about The Paleo Diet for Athletes: A Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance in a fitness magazine which peaked my interest.  I flipped through that book in a bookstore, and learned that the paleo diet is eating like cavemen - without grains or dairy.

The Paleo Solution was released in September of last year and focuses on how the paleo way of eating is for everyone, not just athletes. I learned of this book from the Celiac Listserv, when Don Wiss posted:
One of the things we see in the diagnosed celiac community is people becoming overweight. This is for two reasons. The obvious is our gut is absorbing the food more efficiently. And the other is the carbohydrate oriented diet that celiacs follow, and is pushed on them. When you go to any gathering of celiacs gluten-free carbs will be the primary food. When you go to a celiac convention there will always be a session with a dietitian pushing grains. The problem with grains is they are carbs and they make you fat. The food industry pushes them on us as they are low labor and therefore highly profitable.

The Paleolithic diet has been around for more than 10 years. The early followers of the diet adopted it to avoid the many diseases of civilization that now plague us. There were not very many of us. The next, and much larger wave, were people that adopt the diet as a means to increase their athletic performance. People on the diet consider it a permanent change to their way of eating.

As the diet eliminates all grains, potatoes, and beans, but allows unlimited vegetables and fruit, it is a much lower carb diet than people normally follow. And consequently people lose weight on it. Though if the person has a lot of weight to lose they may have to limit the fruit.

There are a few books on the diet. The main one is being revised and a new edition will be out in December. One can realistically lose 75 pounds in six months following the book's advice.

Wanting to lose the pounds I packed on since I had to stop running, I thought I could use to learn a thing or two from The Paleo Solution book.

The author, Robb Wolf, is a former research biochemist, who also has celiac disease.  While the book is heavy on the science of how our body digests food, it's written in layman's terms which helped me understand everything more clearly.  The information on digestion and how specific foods treat our bodies was interesting and thought provoking.

In addition to eliminating grains, legumes and dairy, he also recommends that people with autoimmune disease eliminate eggs, nuts and seeds, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers.  He suggests going paleo for 30 days.  He even provides a 30 Day Meal Plan, which even includes some basic recipes.  Most of the items and recipes are pretty basic (Here's the recipe for Steamed Broccoli: ingredients - broccoli and water).  It is helpful for jump starting a weight loss plan to clean up your eating, or if you are at your wits end with pain or just wanting to feel better and gain more energy.  

However, while I can understand the paleo diet's benefits, I didn't enjoy the tone in which The Paleo Solution was written.  The constant negative remarks about vegans and vegetarians, the over-mentioned "No-Cal Margaritas", and the "trying-to-be-cute-but-came-across-as-creepy" way he referred to the reader as "buttercup" didn't go over too well with me.  I felt that while explaining how one's health could improve by eliminating dairy, legumes, and grains, he made it seem as THE only diet you should be following.

I think this way of eating works well because you are eliminating refined carbs and sugar, as well as eating natural, wholesome foods.  Since this book was so one-sided I decided to read up and get some other views.  I started with reading a book on sugar.  I then caught a couple films on Netflix (Foodmatters and Change Your Food Change Your Life) which I also found very interesting and helpful.

There are so many contradicting theories out there about the best way to eat.  Everyone's body is unique and handles food differently.  Overall I found The Paleo Solution to be helpful as a starting out point if you are considering a paleo diet, but I think listening to your body and feeding it nutritious foods is the best way to go.


Sarah said...

Interesting! I have heard of the Paleo diet, but didn't know much about it, thanks for filling me in. I am one of those unlucky ones who has put on the pounds in the last few years, but I'm back to working out consistently and eating more whole foods. (which is probably making you laugh after you read my new post and all the indulgent foods I just mowed down in Denver, ha!)

Betsy said...

Me too, Sarah! Gluten free breads, cupcakes, cookies...oh my!

I want that pizza from Denver! Everything looked so good...and hey, at least there was a salad involved!

Christy said...

So funny you mention that, Bets because this is what I've been reading into lately as well. Not that book but the diet in general. This is our first week being grain-free and it so far has required a lot of cooking and time. I'm overwhelmed to say the least and there is nothing "fast" to make. I can't imagine removing nuts and dairy. We've just begun changing up our diet. We removed grain, gluten, processed foods, and sugar. I've started using almond and coconut flours to bake with. I'm learning. But I found out the same thing as you about there being conflicting evidence and opinions on everything. For everything you read that is for something, there is an article somewhere with proof against that very same thing. It's enough to drive one mad. I'm swapping to what I refer to as the common sense diet. Obviously fruits, vegetables, and meat are natural and healthier than a bag of Doritos or gluten free pretzels.

Betsy said...

Christy - I completely agree! Some of the things he talked about being bad, I've read/seen/heard loads of evidence in how they DO provide nutrients for your body. Oh well.

I'm doing sugar free too - well refined sugar. Still allowing natural sugars (like in plain yogurt and fruit), and honey/agave.

I've also switched out a lot of meat for just veggies. A flexitarian diet? I can't imagine not having nuts/seeds/legumes either! Dairy would be hard, but I'm sure I could give that up if I needed to!

Is grain-free working better for you?

Jenn Sutherland said...

I admire the Paleo people, but I know its not something I can stick to happily. I cook *everything* I make from scratch. I avoid all "food products" and refined sugars. When I bake, I use white sugar alternates like sucanat, brown rice syrup, honey and maple syrup...they're still sugars, but they're not the blood sugar trip that white sugar is. I'm now baking with 70% whole grains, 30% starches and NO gums. The gums have started disagreeing with me as well if I eat a lot of them. Carbs not only make us fat, they're the cause of so many of our chronic illnesses, but I prefer to take a more moderate approach, and eat appropriate portions of them, cut down on my baked sweets, and continue to workout.

I think being aware of what will work best for us as individuals in maximizing health AND happiness is where the real longterm WIN is found.

Betsy said...

Jenn - I definitely agree! I don't think I could go the rest of my life without some sort of grain or treat.

I've been white sugar free for over a month now and I feel a lot better. I'm interested in the gums. I wonder if there is any research out there about how they can disagree with people?

Jenn Sutherland said...

I haven't looked at any research...I don't eat a lot of GF baked stuff, but when we were in MI over the holidays, I ate a LOT of baked stuff with the gums because my SIL spoils me rotten since my nephew is celiac, too - she bakes extra when I come home...and I eat it all. By the end of our four days in Michigan, I felt pretty awful. Have been baking without the gums since, and my tummy is much happier...and I've also switched to making a whole grain flour blend with gluten-free girl's recipe, and I'm loving that, too...the less white starch I eat, the better!

Betsy said...

Jenn, that's awesome that you've figured that out! I have been feeling like crap too, so I wonder if that might be my issue. I've cut out sugar, but need to work on getting that rest of the white starch out. :)

Andrea said...

Hi Betsy! Good to know about this book! I have been doing more of an anti-inflammatory diet and am trying to follow more of a Paleo diet but totally giving up grains is a little rough. I've lost 40 since going gluten-free and would love to lose another 70. If I want to do it in six months, maybe I should get this book! ;)