The first rule of Paleo is you DO NOT talk about Paleo

by 9387 · May 01, 2013 at 09:15 PM

Most or all of us have found ourselves in the unfortunate situation of trying to explain our eating habits to a SAD eater. It rarely ends well, so many of us have resigned ourselves to avoiding conversation regarding what we eat. This is difficult because:

  • Nutrition/diet/health are topics for which I have significant intellectual curiousity
  • If more people chose to eat this way, eventually it would become easier to find Paleo options in restaurants/etc.
  • I believe that if more people chose to eat this way, they would be healthier/happier/etc

So, I often find myself running scenarios in my head of explaining Paleo to someone (e.g., co-worker) / hoping someone will ask about it, but inevitability these imagined conversations end poorly, and I have to snap myself back to reality with renewed resolve not to mention to others how I eat.

Do others face this same inner turmoil? What are we to do? Will I be forced to find other interests and become less one-dimensional? Or, just spend even more time on PH? :)

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5476 · April 27, 2012 at 04:42 AM

I think it's interesting that many here are quick to speak about how annoying militant vegans and vegetarians are for raving about their diets. Then some of us why it's so confusing when people aren't receptive to paleo. It's really no different. We all think we have the "best" route to health, which happens to be against CW. It's really not that shocking that people are hesitant about it. Preaching about paleo and acting as if it is The Answer to all illness only pushes people away if it is over zealous.

I haven't used the word paleo. If anyone asks about my diet, I will most likely talk about intestinal issues and how I've been eating a certain way that has helped me feel a lot better. I'll talk about whole foods and trying to eat less processed foods. If they want to know more and ask, I might offer more or invite them over for dinner to try something nice and simple.

1294 · April 27, 2012 at 03:32 AM

I say, "I like pasta too! You know what I like even better? Not having diabetes."

2401 · April 27, 2012 at 03:39 AM

"Seek and ye shall find; knock and the door shall be opened"

"Don't throw pearls before swine"

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink"

I'm not religious, but I am philosophical.  

I find that those who want to be healthy find paleo themselves because they are a) looking and b) ready to receive. 

I say,  help those who are ready to move forward, willing to listen, able to execute.  

Both my sisters are fat.  Sorry I'm not PC.  They sit on the couch and drink coke from a kids sippy cup so they dont have to get up to drink it. I don't even bother.  

If I had a penny for the number of times a person approached me and said," wow you eat healthy and are in great shape, show me how..." only to have them actually resent me for exposing the hard truth of what kind of sacrifices and discipline it takes to eat right on this minefield of bad choices we live in, I'd be rich.   People like to kill the messenger of the real truth.  They resent it.  They don't want to hear it.

How many times have you heard people say,"oh I'd love to do that BUT..."?  People are full of excuses.

That is, until they are ready to start the journey towards finding and accepting truth.  THOSE people I tell about paleo, and most I meet so inclined have already heard about it or are already pursuing it.

742 · April 27, 2012 at 01:18 AM

I have to, unfortunately, agree with you 100%, Mike. I have been strict Paleo for a little over 6 months, dropped 8 pounds more than the "nagging 10" that I was carrying around, look and feel fantastic, and have gotten off ALL of my allergy medications which is what I'm most impressed with. Unfortunately, most people who ask me "Wow, you look great, how did you do it?" - when I tell them it was Paleo, they ask what it is, I give a brief run down of the fact that it's meat, fat, veggies and a little fruit and nuts, but no grains. I get the inevitable question of "But what do you eat if you don't eat grains?" Really?? Then it just devolves quickly from there into comments such as "Well, I could never give up my pasta." Luckily, you don't have to, you can keep working your way into metabolic derangement and not put forth any effort to be healthy. But back to my point, I have basically decided that talking about Paleo is akin to speaking about politics and religion - just don't.

646 · April 27, 2012 at 01:28 AM

I'm a public health student, and I am constantly surprised by how many of my classmates are receptive to the idea of paleo. I keep hearing, "Well, is it working?" or "How do you feel on it?" Later, they come and find me and ask me about it. I think that when people around you see the effects (weight loss, greater energy, clearer skin, etc), they're a lot more likely to want information about how got those effects.

Otherwise, no, I don't often volunteer to people how I eat. The first time I did a paleo challenge for my gym, my classmates were VERY interested in the things I was eating and had a lot of questions. I initially presented it as something I was trying out for athletic performance, but they kept following up and asking if I was still eating that way when I was done with the challenge. I've directed them to paleo recipe sites and to books like The Paleo Solution and The Primal Blueprint, and even though we're in fields where many people are trying to push the SAD to "fix" obesity, everyone as individuals is way more interested on a personal level in solutions that work for them. Just keep on doing what you're doing; don't preach, but be ready for questions.

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10361 · April 27, 2012 at 01:29 AM

The only people I have personally and directly admitted to and discussed eating Paleo: my dietitian, my therapist, my physiology professor, and Craig Stanford (who tells me he's writing a book about the human diet).

My friends and family have never heard of Paleo. If someone were to ask them what my diet is like, they would probably say, "she eats a lot of meat."

With strangers, I have to tell them I'm allergic to X, Y and Z. Why do I have to? Because if I tell them "I just don't want to eat your spaghetti" I get weird looks.

The harsh truth is, Paleo isn't acceptable by societal standards--which can be completely f*cked up sometimes. But as for the reason why it isn't baffles me. You will never hear me say, "I'm sorry for eating this way." But I will say, "I'm sorry if you don't understand why I choose to eat this way."

5810 · April 27, 2012 at 03:33 PM

I'm going to risk being politically incorrect here.

I think the biggest problem with Paleo is when we identify with a group of people who think and eat the way we do and use that identification to make us feel special and better than people who don't think and eat the way we do.

What's wrong with describing your diet as "I eat whole foods and I don't do well with grains so I avoid those?" There's a huge amount of baggage and judgment in "I eat the way I believe humans evolved to eat" so I completely avoid that conversation.

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308 · April 27, 2012 at 02:37 PM

I like the "highlight reel" approach, focusing on all the awesome things that paleo IS rather than what it excludes.

People like BACON , so I mention that. I mention I prefer local, seasonal, and organic foods. I talk about leaning out without paying attention to calories. I talk about using REAL BUTTER. I tell them about amazing energy levels and productivity. I tell them about better sleep and skin.

If you get any kind of interest you can start going as far down the rabbit hole as long as they stay interested. I also enjoy the shock factor of telling them I had 2/3 a stick of butter in my COFFEE that morning!

169 · April 27, 2012 at 04:16 AM

I completely disagree with not talking about it. For me, it has cured my Multiple Sclerosis and many other health issues. How can anyone that we shouldn't talk about it because some people are frickin idiots?

Keep talking about it. The right people will hear it and the willfully ignorant will disease themselves through the SAD.

Don't buy into their attitude. Talk about it like Cool Hand Luke, not like a cultist.

1098 · April 27, 2012 at 11:17 AM

I dont' know about everyone else, but when I first went Paleo, I was SO excited about the information I had, it was practically exploding out of me! It was kind of like when you go see that AMAZING new movie everyone is talking about and it's all you can do to keep yourself from imploding. I wanted to share this exciting (if horrifying) new information with everyone I knew. I wanted to help them feel as good as I did and live long and prosper.

I have since mellowed out, but I'm sure that some of my excitiment caused a good majority of the resistance I have felt from my friends and family. My husband used to accuse me of preaching Paleo all the time. I didn't feel like I was preaching it, I was just super pumped about it and wanted to share all the information I had. Maybe I was blinded by the light, so to speak, and was being a little preachy about it.

This could be where some of us are meeting resistance. Our excitement makes us push too hard, even if we are not aware that we are pushing. I like the idea of doing what we do and letting people ask us questions. That means that they are open to the idea of change.

Just my two cents...

393 · April 27, 2012 at 01:22 AM

We find it best to keep as low-key as possible.

If someone suggests we try a food that we would not eat, we just say that we don't eat "X" or "X" food. It's kind of like the "just say no" thing.

If they want to know more, we might say that we're sensitive to milk or grains, but we try our best to stay away from an argument. i say it that way because some people we've encountered are stuck in their own food beliefs, and some of those people actually act like they want to pick a verbal food fight.

There have been rare occasions when a conversation with strangers has resulted in them asking about how we eat. We have two main answers:

  1. Look up Paleo on the internet
  2. Here's my blog - check it out (i occasionally post food we made, and I have lots of paleo blogs on my blog roll)

Like I said, we try to stay out of the fray.

1637 · April 27, 2012 at 11:47 PM

I tell most people, "I'm on a diet of avocado and bacon."


In my best Homer voice, "Mmmmmmmm bacon..."

90 · April 27, 2012 at 03:17 AM

I don't usually initiate the discussion, but there's plenty where I can express my frustration with foods that are available at a given situation, social events for example. I don't criticize others choices just state that "I don't eat those things, I want to stay healthy." - it's often enough to start a discussion.

As far as my arguments go I try to remember few simple facts:

  • Whole foods, eaten as close to their natural state as possible are the best (it's common sense, nobody would argue with that)
  • I eat The way our ancestors used to eat.
  • No clinical study has actually proven that all those carbs are that good for you.
  • No clinical study has proven that saturated fats are bad. If someone says to me that he couldn't give up pasta/bread/whatever - It's their life, I chose to value mine.

Also - there's no shame in forgetting something, just be polite about it. I find it's best to encourage research. Knowledge acquired this way tends to stick better. Fact's are almost always on the paleo side.

40 · April 27, 2012 at 02:53 PM

I'm just glad I'm not the only one who has gone through this. I went strict paleo throughout the beginning of the crossfit games, was on my affiliates team, and had some amazing PR's and felt absolutely amazing. I'm a bit more flexible now, getting ready to go cut grains completely out again and dairy back to near zilch.

BUT what I found out too is that regardless of my approach to explaining paleo to non-crossfitters - there was not one approach I found that didn't result in the other person either blatantly rejecting it or or just saying how they could not do it. The entire time, I was not preaching or pressuring them to try it but it was as if they immediately took my lifestyle choice as a threat. I'll save you all from my psychological theories as to why people have so many issues accepting this lifestyle...

So, like many of you, I have resigned to either claiming allergies (paleo has actually improved my allergies significantly) or that I just don't eat grains and sugar. I've learned that if I say that I choose to eat healthy, this usually puts the other person on the defense so I avoid that phrase. Then I just answer any questions that may be asked of me.

11251 · April 27, 2012 at 02:13 PM

Yeah, I get tired of having a conversation about my diet the umpteenth time, but ultimately this is how stuff gets done. Somebody is the oddball, the jerk, whatever, and they are that way for a long damn time, until somebody else decides they have nothing to lose and follows. A leader with no followers looks like a jack ass, could actually be a jack ass- this is how the status game seems to work, anyway. Maybe you just imagine you should have followers, that there will eventually be followers at some point, even if it's three generations from now. I'm only talking about followers in a very loose, anarchic sense, and not in the sense of having a bunch of sheeple following you around.

It can be extremely uncomfortable being me, but I receive absolutely zero for conformity. Indeed, minus zero because conformity is what got me to go to college and get a mortgage. I don't think me conforming helps anyone else either. People are free to just consider me foolish or a jerk or whatever, but if they ever want to think, well here I am. For my part I just struggle to say a little bit more than 'that's crap.' I wish I could open my own library/cafe and be able to point folks to the right books, because although some of us actually mine the internet for new info, most seem to be making dumb comments on Facebook.

543 · April 27, 2012 at 01:27 AM

If everyone ate this way, there wouldn't be enough to go around. Can you imagine everyone in India and China eating mostly meat, for example? Grass fed? Environmental catastrophe. So I am happy to keep it relatively quiet.

560 · April 27, 2012 at 01:14 AM

I think you hit the nail on the head here. Most people don't want to hear about it. It's nice to find people who are open to listening, but that might not even be a majority of people. Just let your results speak for you. I find that whenever people ask me about my diet (and I can tell that they don't want to hear about the paleo/primal/ancestral philosophy) it's usually the most diplomatic to just say "I eat pretty healthy" and then let them ask questions if they want to know more.

2252 · August 02, 2012 at 11:05 AM

I have had people take up interest in my diet, friends, neighbors and family members are all on the road to being converted. By that I mean most of them have cut out wheat, sugar and processed food and continue to ask me what they should be doing. This is kind of a pain becase I have given them resources to look it up for themselves, but now I have to answer stupid questionslike, "are banana chips bad for me? What if I just had once small scoop of sugar free slushie instead of ice cream?" and by them asking me I imply that they know that these things are bad. I digress, I have a dream of opening a paleo-friendly resturaunt, with booze though, sorry people, but i also have to cater to the masses. I love to cook and when my husband gets out of the Army he really wants to open a healthier version sports bar/resturaunt type of place, where you can get grilled chicken wings instead of deep fried in trans fats, and where all of the food will be real, and cooked fresh, not some culinary applebees abortion on a plate. Still have not decided on the cave decorations and mandatory loin cloth waiters uniforms though :)

33 · April 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM

I'm sure someone has already mentioned this as you have many answers listed, but just in case they haven't...

Episode 26 - Robb Wolf - The Paleolithic Solution, they have Dallas and Melissa from Whole9 who cover this topic in a little detail. They speak about the Paleo 'elevator' pitch which is quite interesting.

Link here:

Also, Whole9 themselves have a very interesting article called 'How to Win Friends and Influence Paleo'. It's well worth a read.

Link here:

158 · April 27, 2012 at 01:26 PM

I was resistant to trying paleo for awhile and from an outsiders prospective looking in it seemed like lots of people asking "is this paleo" about every type of food then trying to figure out if a caveman had the food... this seemed like a REALLY poor way to choose your foods. Seemed like just a bunch of people arguing Ad nauseam about some cave dwellers accoutrements. This is just a general impression I got from reading some various blogs I found online and reading the comments on those blogs to get a general sense of the people. It IS NOT a fair assessment by any stretch, however life is not fair.

Please don't hate me, I'm now fully on board. I'm just trying to possibly give some insight into what was turning me off about it. Once I had decided to try paleo and really started reading I found communities such as this, and robb wolf, marks daily apple etc. Lots of great stuff.

I watched a friend and some family members getting good results and my curiosity increased. This is when I picked up the "primal blueprint"

Once I had someone explain the diet to me from a practical standpoint and the science behind it then I got more curious. I'm really not very interested on what a cave man did or did not do. I don't think that braising a roast in a little red line is going to destroy the beneficial effects of my diet because some caveman didn't have wine.

At the end of the day it ended up being akin to the old saying "scoreboard bitch"

Once I saw people losing weight and looking great I wanted in and I used the science to convince myself of the inevitable. So just continue looking great and feeling great. That's the best way to go about it for everyone and stop preaching to people about cave men :D

2056 · April 27, 2012 at 01:18 PM

I've been thinking about how to answer this question ever since I saw it yesterday. I suspect I will come back and edit this answer as I continue to ponder it.

(1) I'm kind of working my way down Kurt Harris's Archevore list, so when I think of my "paleo journey" (PIMMAL at that phrase, but I hope you know what I mean here), it isn't simply a way of eating but a combination of better sleep hygiene/different exercise program (more weight training and sprints, less cardio)/food choices/minimalist footwear most of the time, with food being only one component.

(2) I actually operate on the principle that other people's interest in what I do to maintain my health is really pretty superficial, and my particular food choices on any given day don't even make it on other people's radar. For example, who's gonna really notice that I order sashimi rather than sushi when we're out at dinner, or understand the significance?

(3) When you add 1 + 2 together, it means that any discussion of "paleo" that I would have would be MUCH longer than anyone would want to listen to, unless I was comparing notes with another paleo person.

The subject on which I am most likely to engage "civilians" in discussion is sleep, but this is much less emotionally loaded than the subject of food, and I feel confident about my knowledge and its limits in this area. I'll discuss exercise only when people will stop me and ask me what sports I do (I swear this happened yesterday, and I'm 53 years old!). I'm far less of an expert about exercise than about sleep, though. I am willing to talk about the process of making fermented foods because it is an interesting hobby to some. But if someone offers me a piece of birthday cake? I will refuse it without explanation.

What I'm groping to express here is my notion that mutuality, or perhaps it's reciprocity, should apply in matters of food. I don't want people pushing food, or diets, on me that I don't want. I therefore should apply the Golden Rule and not push food, or diets, on other people that I can't be certain that they want. I once had a client who gave me a copy of The Zone Diet as a gift, and I was mortally offended. I was somewhat overweight at the time. I would rather she have made a payment on her account, which was in arrears.

I've also seen the pendulum swing on various issues too often over the years to believe that I have the final answer on ANYTHING nutrition-related. I was a Dean Ornish gal in the early 2000's, and at the time I thought I was acting in my own best interest. I can only act on the best knowledge I have today.

2027 · April 27, 2012 at 01:01 PM

I used to think to myself when watching friends snarf down copious amounts of processed grains and refined sugar while complaining about their weight, "maybe I should say something about Paleo...." Usually, I end up going no further than "I don't eat grains or sugar" when someone insists I take a hunk of birthday cake.

I wasn't sure if I was doing the right thing - until a few days ago, while I was reading an enormously popular personal finance blog. A Paleo adherent became, well, I hate to put it this way - enormously obnoxious about insisting that Paleo IS THE WAY TO LIVE and people who get sick should go Paleo before trying medicine, etc. He was so over the top that he sparked quite a bit of pushback. The comments, both from him and from irritated respondents, went on just too long.

That really made me cringe. I vowed right then to be very conscious of how I'm coming across and how I word my statements whenever discussing my eating habits.

268 · April 27, 2012 at 12:40 PM

I just began this diet but the few people I've talked too have responded the same way.

"So you're on the Atkins diet?"

In the interest of remaining friends, I attempt to calmly explain to them they are mistaken. Unlike the Atkins diet I care where my meat comes from and I stay away have any crap that is overly processed to take the carbs out. In addition I do not substitute artificial sweeteners as fruit sugar is all the sweet I need and I stay far away from vegetable oils.

It bugs me when the two are correlated. They honestly couldn't be more different. As in, one is very healthy and one really is not.

60 · March 10, 2013 at 07:44 PM

Like Stephanie, I was very receptive to try paleo upon the suggestion of my kinisologist because he diagnosed me as having systemic inflammation. Health and not being overweight has always been my focus. I had been eating what was touted as being healthy (raw, vegan, vegetarian, whole grains, real sweeteners, etc.)

I was blown away at feeling 20 years younger only after a week of strict paleo. I'm a passionate personality and when I noticed my enthusiasm was not reciprocated I filtered my conversation when it came to health issues.

But when people complain CONSTANTLY to ME, I throw paleo in their face to spite them. I don't appreciate being the soundboard for their misery, especially if all they do is complain without any corrective attempt at what they are doing wrong.

I agree with many that I will just live by example. When I cook I serve or gift my food which they love and they becoming unknowing paleo guinea pigs.

I have not called in sick at work since starting paleo. The bad flu and cold that went around just brushed me. I'm the happiest amongst my family and coworkers.

There will always be a range of personality in anything and being a healthier paleo makes it just that much easier for me to tolerate people's choice of lifestyle (SAD, raw, vegans, vegetarians, etc.)

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3023 · April 27, 2012 at 01:28 PM

What do you do about people who ask about paleo, are reciptive, seem to agree with you that you're onto something, then go out with you to lunch and order the worst of the worst?

542 · May 01, 2013 at 09:15 PM

This can be simple and effective. Don't say anything until someone says, "Hey man, you look great. You must be hitting the gym big time." Then I say, "Yeah, a couple times a week." Then they say,"Bullshit. It must be something else." Then I say, "Well, nutrition has a pretty big part too." The fat lazy bastards I know can't wait to find out how they can get into skinny jeans, eat steak every day and just lift twice a week for 45 minutes.

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1032 · May 01, 2013 at 07:29 PM

I tell people I eat like a caveperson. I usually get 'caveperson?' And then they leave me alone. They probably think I'm nuts, but who cares? I've never really had anyone argue with me about it, not anything more than some expressing concerns. And that's legit, isn't it? This goes beyond what most people consider normal.

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