I'm far from being a big thinker in the paleo world but it seems to me there's a lot of discussion going on about higher carbs vs. lower carbs and all kinds of micromanaging of dietary minutia to affect this, that or the other hormone that supposedly has to do with blood sugar or appetite or obesity.
Is this really what paleo is about at the core for a lot of people? Just losing weight?
I mean, I know many people struggle with weight loss for a lot of reasons, often interrelated with other issues that are affected by paleo style eating. And I don't want to minimize that obesity is a problem for many people, and that neolithic eating contributes to increasing obesity rates. But it seems that writings by a certain segment of the paleo sphere define paleo eating as being fundamentally about getting/being lean, and all other issues are secondary to that.
I'm curious to see where people stand on this issue... Be honest, paleo for you is it at it's core about becoming lean? Did you start eating paleo to lose weight but then got more interested in other aspects? Or did you come to paleo eating out of other reasons (performance, gut health, etc...)? If you came to it for other reasons, what's your viewpoint about all these debates about insulin and leptin and food reward?
Yes, I've noticed this as well. It seems that much of the advice that you get is based on an assumption that, of course, what you really want to do is lose weight! And then there are the eating disordered people who show up on this site in particular, who REALLY want to lose weight, even at the expense of their health.
For me, Paleo is all about health. That's it. Of course, if you are obese, then losing fat IS all about your health. However, since I don't want to lose weight, I've had to sift through the 'what is Paleo' advice with an eye to NOT losing weight. When I first started Paleo, I just did what I was told, which turned out to be bad advice for someone who doesn't need to lose weight.
It would be nice if there were more general clarity that Paleo isn't particularly about losing weight. It is about what is the optimal diet for a healthy human being. Then, from that starting point, there are particular things that people with various issues (including obesity) need to watch out for. Which might include avoiding starches, or nightshade, or nuts, or whatever.
Paleo is about the following to me:
All of these are equally valid reasons to go Paleo, and they all matter to me. However, I wouldn't have ever bothered learning about any of it if I hadn't started out obese. It is vanity alone that kick-started my search into optimal health, and I think plenty of others echo this sentiment.
Yes, I started paleo because I wanted to lose weight. But, especially as someone who loves instant gratification, the energy and clarity I have when I'm eating paleo is what's keeping me here for the long run. Planning on tweaking things to try and improve hormonal issues, and it looks promising! The preventative aspects of paleo also are reassuring, as someone who's uninsured, haha.
It does feel really good to think that maybe, in several months, I can be lean for once in my life. But it's not "about" losing weight at this point. I think if it were, I'd be approaching it like any other diet-- one that I'd plan on using to my ends, and then more or less quit.
I started paleo because I was losing my quality of life, and it seemed to make sense to me that some of the issue could very well be the plastic and toxic chemicals I was ingesting and calling "food".
As I've said in another posting, for me, Paleo=Source rather than Paleo=Macronutrient Profile.
I've tried a lot of things over time, and tweak pretty often, fall back into old and bad habits occasionally, pick myself up, dust myself off, and try again--but for me, regardless of the shape of the body that I end up with, my over-riding goal is to have as happy and productive a life as I can until the day that I give up the ghost. I eat in an ancestrally-mindful way because I think it can help me get to that point.
It's part "other reasons" (like I study history and politics, wny not how the body really works and how even modern science and medicine can be so far off track!), and part I made it here after losing weight, but I don't know enough and keep reading to learn more.
As far as the current debates on things-
Insulin theory works fine for you if you are insulin resistant.
The stuff on leptin is really good.
The food reward stuff, for me, is the worst idea in Paleo. I tried reading Guyenet's site about it and switched the site off instead.
Some anecdotal/n=1 stuff: I got huge due to past medical history and got the medical runaround for 15 years. The idea that this is explained by some desire for chocolate cake to me is absurd and insulting. If I'm making this out to be a strawman someone correct it, that's what I read on Guyenet's site and stopped there.
I assume that food reward seeks to explain the current crisis in type 2 diabetes and obesity? All you need to know that this is not the explanation is find one of those charts that shows obesity, and T2 diabetes since about 1980, right when the low fat craze took hold. Food suppliers changed food. People ate it. Now here we are. It has nothing to do with some reward mechanism, it's whats in the store... It's not that complicated!
When I was huge, I had to see people for advice that never were huge. They were pretty much useless. I take the same view when I'm reading "experts" that come up with this explanation or that one, and it's just tireseome reading so many people act like experts on something they never experienced themselves. Maybe Guyenet thinks big folks are just waiting for the next treat because that is what he sees and he doesn't understand the rest.
I would rather hear from people that corrected mistakes, learned from them, and have something to offer. Sisson learned his lesson about over training and stress. Kruse lost weight fast on full on Paleo. The thyroid hormone dr I see works for one of the best clinics in the country and the founder was big himself at one time too. Jimmy Moore lost a ton of weight, still struggles, and he lets people know it. It's nice that a lot of folks are fit and stayed fit, but that doesn't make them experts on it!
Initially (in 2003) I started Paleo to lose weight. It lasted for a year and I lost about 100lbs.
After that, I fell in love with the sport of strongman where my weight was not a hinderance, so I replaced that 100lbs with 50lbs of muscle (and some fat).
When I resumed the Paleo diet in 2010, it was to combat my fatigue, my horrible leaky gut, inflammatory bowel issues, and allergies.
That was when I realized that obesity is a symptom, not the illness itself. Fix inflammation, and the body tends to set itself to "factory defaults".
So I currently diet with the goal of losing weight, and I track it diligently. However, my main goal is to treat my guts, my fatigue, and my body as a whole. Losing fat is just one of those items I'm "curing".
To answer my own question (I wanted to throw it out there late at night and get some responses to think through before I answered.) I found out about paleo from someone who was trying to lose weight. I adopted it because I was faced with some other health issues that could be managed by diet and paleo emerged as a really low-stress framework for dealing with those issues.
However, as I've settled in and matured in this whole approach to eating, I realized something very fundamental about my body and my hormones. I am not defective or broken. I typically carry about 10 pounds more than I'd like to aesthetically, but that doesn't mean there's something wrong with my insulin system or thyroid or leptin or neurochemistry or anything like that. As a young(ish) woman I've absorbed a lot of messages that my body shape can be altered if I just did everything right or tweaked this or tweaked that. But as I've been eating well, and performing well in the gym, and sitting behind my computer pondering people's debates and reading really great food for thought (like Melissa's review of Why Women Need Fat) that it's dawned on me that there's no point in stressing my (not broken) body by trying to micromanage my hormones. In fact it's counterproductive.
Here's the thing though... I certainly have relatives and friends that have gotten to the point of "broken". Type 2 diabetes, borderline blood sugar, elevated liver enzymes/fatty liver disease, joint damage, autoimmune disease. I know there has to be a level where people look to their diet as a way to improve those things. But the weight is a symptom of that big hormonal/malnutrition mess. I see a lot of debates in the palesphere that seem fixated on the symptom of overweight and how to micromanage your way into leanness. And to me, that misses the point. People want to be healthy. They want to be lean to get on with leading enjoyable lives. All this thinking about macronutrient ratios and leptin sensitivity and neurologically boring diets... it might be needed to help some people heal. But for many other people that's a level of attention to detail that may well be damaging, both psychologically and physically.
I originally became interested in healthy food because I was overweight. For me they go together and I would imagine for most people that have been overweight or are currently overweight and eating paleo or primal it is indeed about health AND weight loss. The ultimate goal is health, and weight loss is a desired and happy side-effect.
The early adopters were all about health. It was crazy back then (4-10 years ago) to eat such a diet. Only people, who've really tried a lot went paleo as a last resort. You can still find old threads on curezone and other disease forum quoting staffan lindeberg.