Paleo Weight Loss
Learn how to lose weight on a Paleo diet.
Losing Weight on a Paleo Diet
Weight loss is the most common reason people try a Paleo diet.
Weight loss is the most common reason people stay on a Paleo diet.
I've seen it many times: individuals transition to a Real Food Paleo style diet and they lose weight effortlessly.
It changes their life.
In fact, for many of these individuals, after they lose the weight they have the reverse problem—they have trouble keeping weight on! (Of course, that's an easy, and enjoyable, fix.)
We'll look at a bit of the theory behind why weight loss works so well on a Paleo diet. Then I'll give you a few tips for kickstarting your weight loss program.
Why your body wants to stay the way it is
Homeostasis is defined as the process of keeping a system stable.
Homeostasis is what your body does every day; it regulates, manages, excretes, digests, and does everything it can to keep your body running the way it typically runs.
When you sweat, your body releases sweat from your sweat glands to cool itself down. Without sweat, your body would overheat and you could die.
Now think about what happens after a workout: your breathing and heart rate slow down. And this is your body returning to it's baseline—homeostasis at work.
When you eat food, your body responds to address the intake of food and what happens in your body when food enters your bloodstream, like elevated blood glucose levels and the release of insulin to stabilize glucose levels.
Homeostasis is your friend when you are fit and healthy and your number one enemy when you are not.
Let me explain.
You see, if you have pounds to shed, your body is your worst enemy because it's going to urge you to do things to maintain its current state, which is a state of being whatever way it is.
When you try to change your body, it's going to fight you because it's natural predisposition is to maintain the way it already is—which is probably what Lord Percival meant when he said, "The physically fit can enjoy their vices."
(I always think of this quote when I write on this topic.)
This goes both ways, whether you want to gain weight or lose it, your body is going to fight the change.
For example, say you stop eating your typical daily amount of calories. What happens? Your body calls out for you to eat more calories in the form of cravings, hunger pangs, and in some cases, headaches, nausea, etc.
Let's say you start exercising more and so your muscles strain, your heart beats faster, you sweat more and you overall feel worse than you are used to feeling during exercise and after.
So your body pleads with you to stop. When your brain starts receiving signals of pain and discomfort, it manifests thoughts that will try to make you stop so it can return to comfort.
Ever heard the phrase "comfort is a killer"?
It's so true.
Homeostasis is why diets that recommend eating less while exercising more have high failure rates: becuase they are based on fighting homeostasis and inertia, two things at odds with the human condition.
The fact is, most people don't have the sheer willpower required to fight off their body's urge to maintain homeostasis.
On the flip side, for those of you that are already fit and healthy, homeostasis works in your favor because it does things to keep you the way you already are. This is why you can get away with more frequent cheat meals and longer periods of time without exercise—although I don't recommend either of those.
All that being said, there are some tricks you can play on your body to make the change easier. So, for those of you still struggling to get the results you want, read on.
Real Food to the rescue!
The reason a Real Food Paleo diet is so effective for losing weight is because it is nourishing and, paradoxically, allows you to lose weight even when you eat the same amount of calories you already eat.
Let me explain.
First of all, recognize that you eat about the same amount of calories every day. You do this without realizing it because your body is good at maintaining homeostasis and so it drives you to eat the same amount of food every day.
Ever wonder why some days you feel the urge to snack and other days you don't? That's your body telling you to maintain the status quo.
Your body is so good at this, it also keeps you eating close to the same amount of carbs, fats and protein. Why you sometimes crave salty snack foods, or if your protein intake is low for the day, why the only thing you want is a big fat steak.
Let's call this your "food baseline."
Your body is used to getting this food baseline on a daily basis, which is comprised of tight ranges of calories and carbs, proteins and fats.
When you eat less than you're used to, your body steers you in the direction needed to get you back to baseline.
Now I want you to think about your food baseline and the foods that you eat on a regular basis.
Are you picturing this baseline? Maybe you want to go to your fridge and visualize what your typical meal looks like...
Now think of all the foods (restaurant food included) that you eat on a daily/weekly basis that you know you should eliminate—restaurant food, bread, grains, processed food, snacks, chips, sweets, sugar, and so on.
You may be able to open your fridge right now—or worse, your pantry—and purge plenty of these foods.
If you were being honest with yourself, that is.
So let's assume you just purged all these from your home and from your life.
Here comes the magic...
For every calorie and gram of fat, protein and carbohydrate you purge, you replace it with Real Food.
- You replace all those purged foods with a colorful and varied mix of healthy animal proteins and fats, starchy carbs from vegetables and tubers, nuts and seeds, coconut, cacao, single-origin coffee, tea, pastured butter, and maybe even some full-fat dairy.
- You eat the same amount of calories and the same amount of carbs, protein and fat you usually do to get your daily baseline in to keep your body happy.* You essentially trick your body by eating the same amount of food but from food that's higher quality.
- *Ideally you'd eat less carbs and replace those with fat and protein, but for the sake of my illustration, you're still going to get the results if you keep the amount of carbs you usually eat.
You eat the same amount of food, but not the same quality of food.
And you know what's going to happen?
You're going to lose weight. You're also going to put on more muscle, burn more body fat, perform better and feel better.
You can eat the same amount of food you normally eat, but when you replace junk food with nutrient dense Real Food, you'll satiate your appetite faster while ingesting more vitamins and minerals, all of which will help you feel better and make your body work better, creating a domino effect that'll actually trick your body into eating less.
The more you eat Real Food ingredients, the faster you'll reach a magic place I call "In Control Eating."
When you eat "In Control," you have the power to change your food and your body with ease.
Homeostasis then becomes an easy opponent.
Say you want to gain weight. All you do is make a few slight iterations to the amount of calories and protein and fat you eat and you'll be gaining clean weight in no time.
On the flip side, if you want to lose body fat, you just make a few iterations and you'll be burning body fat in no time.
When you eat "In Control," you have a healthy relationship with your food and body. As a result, you won't view either with despair or anxiety because you'll be in control.
Now let's talk about Protein
Take a moment and imagine a 10 ounce piece of chicken or steak, both slightly chewy and an inch or so thick.
Now picture yourself eating one of these until it's gone.
Now imagine you eat the second piece.
How will your stomach feel? What about your appetite?
For most people, the answer is going to be the same: you'll be full or close to it.
Here's something about protein you may or may not know: It's the most satiating macronutrient there is.
This means it fills you up faster than fat and carbs.
Now compare the way you feel after eating a bag of potato chips.
What happens after you eat a bag?
Still hungry... right?
You can eat a bag of chips, consume triple (or more) the amount of calories than eating a piece of chicken or steak, and still be hungry after.
Now imagine how full you feel after eating a big salad, or a side of sautéed veggies.
Not as satiating as a piece of protein, but close nonetheless.
This is why you should always eat your protein and fat before your carbs. It's another way you can eat less while feeling more full.
One way homeostasis keeps you the same is through hormones that regulate your appetite.
These hormones are designed to function properly when food is introduced to your body, which is the same way it was for your ancestors—infrequently, sometimes in small amounts and sometimes in large amounts, and always in Real Food form.
The more you eat in a way that is mismatched to the way you are designed to eat, like the way people eat in Western society, the more you screw up these appetite-regulating hormones.
When you screw up your hormones, you make it near impossible to return to a healthy baseline.
Hormones are the reason you will be hungry after you eat a bag of chips.
What all this means is this:
- You won't lose weight in a healthy and sustained way by eating less calories and exercising more because this is fighting your body.
You have to trick your body, not fight it. Next we'll show you how to do just that.
How to trick your body:
#1. Eat Real Food.
Read this entire guide and you'll see why Real Food is the foundation. That's all I'll say about it here.
#2 Cut out calorie-dense, hard-to-digest and carb-heavy grains, legumes, lentils and brown rice.
By replacing these foods with Real Food, you'll cut down on a bajillion issues your body would regurarly have to deal with. You also reduce your carb intake, which will reduce your blood glucose levels, which will reduce the likelihood that insulin stores the leftover glucose in fat cells.
#3 Eat protein first, fat second, carbs last.
Protein is the most satiating food you can eat. It will fill you up faster than any other food. Eat it first.
Eat fat next.
Fat releases a hormone that signals your body to stop eating. Fat also helps buffer the hormonal response you get from eating carbs and protein.
Eat carbs last.
Carbohydrates are the most havoc-wrecking on your hormones. You can argue this all you want, but there's no refuting this fact.
The most processed and refined foods are also full of carbs (sugar is a carb, btw).
When you eat carbs last, you'll eat less of them because you'll already be full from the protein and fat.
Leading with carbs is always a bad idea if weight loss or health is your goal.
When you move to Real Food from a diet full of empty processed calories, you will lose weight easily.
Of course, when you get this weight loss ball rolling, you'll still hit plateaus along the way as your body constantly tries to maintain homeostasis.
The key here is to give it time to change and to implement the techniques above more and more so you can trick your body into submission.
What's great about losing weight on a Real Food Paleo diet is how easy it becomes once you create the habit.
Once you get to the magic place called "In Control," the game starts looking like it's rigged in your favor instead of rigged against you.
And from that point forward, not only will you never look at your body as an opponent, but you'll be able to get away with the occasional cheat meal here and there guilt-free because you know you have the control to get back on track soon after!