There are so many diets out there today all claiming to help you lose weight. Some focus on reducing your appetite, while others focus on restricting calories, or cutting out certain food groups or macronutrients such as carbs or fats.
There is no one special diet that works best as we are all different and what works well for someone you know may not produce the same successful outcome for you. It comes down to many factors including your tolerance to certain foods and whether you think it is something you can sustain long enough to see results.
This article focuses specifically on the Paleo diet. So what is it, how does it work, and is it right for you? Let’s find out.
What Is The Paleo Diet?
The Paleo Diet, or Paleolithic Diet, really goes back to basics. It’s about eating the way our ancestors did over two million years ago before agriculture developed – so completely naturally including foods such as grass-fed lean meat, vegetables, fruits, and whole foods such as nuts and seeds – whilst discouraging processed foods, sugar dairy and grains.
There are some relaxed versions of the diet that allow more taboo foods such as low-fat dairy and potatoes, while some alternatives even advise against fruit or vegetables that contains too much fructose. Whilst there may be varying rules and restrictions depending on which adaptation you follow, they are all similar in their core principles. You may have heard of alternative names being used for the paleo diet including the stone age diet, caveman diet, or the hunter-gatherer diet.
Because the Paleolithic era was pre-agricultural, certain foods we consume in vast quantities today were unsuitable for consumption in raw form back then. Many who follow the Paleo diet believe our digestive systems really haven’t changed much since then and therefore certain foods put a strain on our gastrointestinal tract. These include:
- Legumes (includes peanuts)
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Cereal grains
- Root vegetables
- Refined vegetable oils
As already mentioned, there are different forms of the diet which all vary in their restrictiveness so in some instances low fat dairy and root vegetables are allowed. Regardless of which variation you follow, all version encourage the consumption of lean protein, healthy fats and fruit and vegetables – all sourced from while foods such as seeds, nuts, olive oil and grass-fed meat.
How Does It Work?
The Paleo Diet is relatively low in carbs and rich in protein and plant-based foods which all contribute important vitamin, minerals, fibre and phyto-chemicals, omitting salty, processed meats. It’s not low fat but does promote consuming natural fats from grass-fed livestock, fish and seafood as well as seeds, nuts and oils.
Due to the elimination of processed foods, sugar and grains, the diet typically leads to some weight loss. Many people following the diet however do so with the aim of addressing digestive problems or inflammatory health issues in the first instance, with weight loss a positive outcome along with improved blood sugar levels and reduced risk of factors that can lead to heart disease.
Unlike the majority of diets, paleo doesn’t involve counting calories, rather restricting those food sources which tend to be highly calorific and encouraging foods that are healthier, contain fewer calories and keep you fuller for longer and that are generally better for our health – reducing processed foods which are linked to many diseases. Research has shown that the whole foods paleo encourages are better for weight loss and overall health as they reduce the consumption of processed foods which are high in calories and linked to many diseases.
Here are five ways paleo diets help you to lose weight:
1. It’s high in protein
The Paleo diet encourages eating foods rich in protein including lean meats, eggs and fish, ensuring that between 25-35% of you daily calorie intake comes from protein sources.
2. It’s low in carbohydrates
Reducing your intake of carbs is considered by many as one of the best ways to lose weight – some diets, such as the Atkins Diet, focus prolifically on this element – eliminating them completely. Whilst I’d recommend not eliminating any particular macronutrient completely from your diet, there is much to be said about reducing your intake to levels that will effectively encourage weight loss. Over 23 studies have been carried out to-date showing that low-carb diets are more effective that traditional low-fat diets for losing weight.
The Paleo diet reduces your intake of carbs by eliminating certain sources such as bread, potatoes and rice which helps to lower your calorie intake and help you lose weight.
3. It cuts down your calorie intake
Although the Paleo Diet doesn’t focus on calorie counting per se, it works on eliminating high calorie foods to encourage a reduction in calories – which is the key to losing weight (less food in, more energy expended = weight loss).
The diet encourages you to pick foods that are filling in order to stave off hunger and naturally help you eat less. If you struggle with hunger pangs throughout the day then the Paleo Diet could be a good fit for you as it is very filling – more so in fact than other diets such as the Mediterranean and diabetes diets.
Research has also shown that the Paleo Diet could help to produce more of the hormones that keep you full after a meal, compared to more traditional diets.
4. It cuts out processed foods
There is one common reason why obesity is so prevalent across the globe, and that’s the high consumption of processed foods in our diets. These foods are typically stuffed full of calories with a very low nutrient-density and can lead to all sorts of health complications including diabetes and heart disease.
Paleo restricts your consumption of these foods and instead encourages lean sources of protein, healthy fats and fresh fruit and vegetables which are low calorie but high in nutrients.
5. It eliminates processed sugar
We all know that eating too much sugar is bad for our health, and one reason why we gain weight. Not only does it add a shed load of calories into our diets which can seriously impact our weight loss efforts, it can also be detrimental to our health in the ways I’ve mentioned about with processed foods in general.
By eliminating added sugar altogether and promoting natural sources from fresh fruit and vegetables, the paleo way ensures you are getting the ‘sugar’ hit you need but in the form of natural sugars which also contain all the essential nutrients our bodies need like fibre, vitamins and water – all highly beneficial for our health.
But Does It Actually Work?
In short, yes, the Paleo Diet does work and there is plenty of evidence that suggests it is effective in helping people to lose weight.
One such study saw 14 medical students follow the diet for three weeks – al of them were healthy with no underlying problems.
Throughout the study they lost, on average, around 5.1 pounds (2.3 Kg) and slimmed down their waist by around 0.6 inches (1.5 cm).
Further studies have shown that the Paleo Diet is more effective for weight loss than other, more traditional low fat diets, despite similar calorie intakes.
One study followed 70 women over the age of 60 and all classed as obese, on either a paleo diet or a low fat, high fibre diet for two years. Those following a paleo diet lost two and a half times more weight after six months and twice as much weight after the first year than those on the low fat diets.
Most research into the Paleo Diet is quite new and therefore there aren’t many published studies on its longer term effects. More also needs to be done to compare it to other diets and its effects on weight loss.
Is It Right For You?
The answer as to whether it is right for you is really down to personal choice and your current lifestyle and eating habits. With regard to helping you lose weight, yes it will help you do that by naturally restricting high calorie, processed foods, keeping you fuller for longer and helping to ensure you get more of the important nutrients you need into your diet.
Of course this will only work if you believe it is a diet that you can follow long term. If the thought of cutting out processed foods and refined sugar doesn’t do it for you then you may want to look at alternative diets that allow you more flexibility when it comes to including these foods.
Above all, the number one reason why a diet doesn’t work is because the person following it cannot stay the course, and this is generally down to the fact it is too restrictive and doesn’t allow them to continue to enjoy the foods they love.
When picking a diet, do your research, work out if it’s something that you can stick to long-term and then follow it and don’t divert off course. There’s a certain element of willpower and motivation to succeed with any diet, but you do yourself and your efforts a disservice if you’re not 100% committed to following it through – and to do that you have to enjoy the process!
Has this article helped you decide whether the Paleo Diet could help you achieve your weight loss goals? Have you tried a paleo diet and had success, or did you find it wasn’t quite right for you? Comment underneath and let me know!