I am trying to help my parents convert to the paleo lifestyle. I am not sure what approaches would be best. They are early 50's and very smart (both have PhD's). Any success stories out there? (NOTE: I tried 'leaving' my copy of The Primal Blueprint behind but they just returned it.)
I have had some success with my family by having them start off with small steps or just implementing the easiest yet most beneficial things - namely, removing refined sugars from the diet. I tell them how I basically lost 6 or 7 pounds in a few weeks by cutting out stuff with sugar and they got interested. So, that amounts to candy, sodas, fruit juices, etc.
Then, I basically proposed it as a challenge with a fixed time span. Say, "Just see how you feel after just trying to cut out X, Y, or Z from your diet for two weeks." Present it as a little experiment that they could of course just go back to normal afterward. I asked my mother to try cutting bread out of her diet for a month and she said she'd give it a try. After losing 3 pounds the first week, she is now completely on board.
It can be a tough sell unless said person is surrounded by folks adhering to the lifestyle, and witness the benefits for themselves. In the gym environment I work in, all the top level athletes and trainers have adopted a paleo-type diet---and the new clients, seeing and hearing this, jump on board rather easily.
Parents? I wouldn't even know where to start with mine. There's not a one-line sales pitch that's 100%. Someone has to "want" to change, and be looking at the whys and hows
I have had a few clients come back to me and state the timeline of paleolithic man, and the advent of grains and refined sugars "made a LOT of sense". You could try that angle during a discussion.
I do not attempt to convert people. When asked, I explain what I'm doing and why, talk to them about Taubes or Cordain and/or maybe Lierre Keith, and maybe lend them something like Mark Sisson's book. I leave proselytizing and arguments over dietary superiority to the tryptophan-deprived-and-thus-prone-to-shrieking vegan crowd. I am quite happy to be quietly healthier.
Ease them into paleo by converting them to Weston A. Price guidelines first. Same with girlfriends ;)
Even if they never convert, they will sill be eating 90% better than they were.
I have found that actually calling the diet "paleo," "primal," or "caveman" tends to turn people off. They start making jokes or bring up the "cavemen only lived to 30" argument. I end up arguing about the health of cavemen instead of promoting the actual diet.
Lately, I've taken to telling people that I've simply "cut out all that processed crap." This causes less initial resistance, and allows me to actually explain the diet in a positive way.
The movie "Fat Head" is a pretty easy way to introduce people to the idea conventional wisdom has been wrong.
The book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes is more rigorous introduction that people who respond to a more intellectual argument would probably appreciate over a movie.
(Note, new users aren't allowed two hyperlinks in one post, but it is trivial to locate the Taubes book.)
I don't like motivating people; I prefer inspiring. Specifically I'll answer questions about my lifestyle only when it has been asked on multiple occasions. Basically what Clarence Bass describes here: http://cbass.com/FAQ.HTM#To%20Be
You can't use logic to convince anyone of anything. All decisions are made by emotions in the unconscious mind. After the fact, you can give them logical information to backwards rationalize their decision to prevent ego confusion.
You have to find out what their worst nightmares and greatest dreams are. Camp out in their worst nightmares and link what they are doing to those nightmares and link paleo to their dreams. Use the specific words they use that trigger emotional hot buttons of fear and desire.
It's my impression that if a survey of paleo people was conducted that a very large majority (I'm guessing around 90%) brought themselves to this lifestyle. What I mean is that we all tried other methods that didn't work, we did our homework and discovered that there is another way that, when you look at the big picture, makes far more sense to a human being. And that way is paleo.
I don't try to convert anyone. I lost ten pounds in a few wks and my never told my wife what I was doing. When she noticed my slim down she asked what I'd been doing. When I told her she saw the light and started doing it with me. Conversion complete!
I think just being an example is the best way to convince people. My wife and I have been paleo for about a year now and just recently my good friend started on it. We had talked about it enthusiastically when we first started but it took him observing our success for him to get interested.
Several people have suggested GCBC and others commented on the density of the book. I think a great middle ground is this Taube's lecture: http://www.dhslides.org/mgr/mgr060509f/f.htm