I'm a total newbie so please excuse my ignorance. I'm trying paleo/primal because I want to be healthy and I have a goal to lose quite a bit of weight.
I'm reading The Primal Blueprint 101 which seems to be different than 'Paleo'.. Maybe a little less restrictive? Is that true?
Also, I've heard some people use cheat days. Why is that? (I haven't read through ALL of the Primal Blueprint yet but I'm pretty sure Mark doesn't advocate this...). Is it "healthy" to cheat and if I "cheat" will my weight loss suffer?
My view on cheat days is that they keep some people sane. There's a certain balance that we need to maintain between eating healthy and stressing out over eating healthy. Stress can hurt some people as much as grains, legumes and crappy dairy do and you're not doing yourself any favors if all you think about all day is how healthy you need to eat to reach your goals, whatever they may be.
I also know that some people can't allow themselves to cheat due to severe food intolerances or the potential of falling wayyy off the bandwagon once a few cookies are consumed.
The cheating thing seems to vary a lot with different people so this is where I take the easy way out and recommend that you try both ways. Do a strict Whole30 approach and see how you feel after 30 days. If you feel good and aren't daydreaming about SAD foods all day then stick with it. If you're losing your sanity, try a cheat day once a week or two or plan out a cheat meal or two a week and really take note of how you feel afterwards.
I cheat occasionally but I do so knowing that I'm not going to feel as good as I do when I stick to real food.
This way of eating is all about self experimentation. While Mark's book is an excellent place to start, it's just a basic blueprint (see what I did there?) You're going to to have to play around with things to see what foods you can and can't eat to feel and look the way you want.
Either way, keep us updated and welcome to the site, you're in for a fun ride ;)
To answer your question, my perception is that Yes, primal is a little more flexible. Your answer will depend on what you like to eat and how you respond to different foods. For some, I'm sure there's no real difference and, for others, quite a large difference.
Cheat days don't work for me because I'm a wheat addict and the only foods I'd want to cheat with contain wheat. I actually did it a few times, but I got VERY sick and the "paleo conventional wisdom" as opposed to SAD conventional wisdom is that it takes a long time to heal up after cheating with wheat if your GI tract is intolerant of it.
Therefore, my official cheat days usually involve eating more fruit than usual.
In my personal experience, a cheat day can absolutely derail any weight loss effects derived from a non-cheat week.
I'd even venture to say that a cheat meal have the same detrimental effect if the consumption is of epic proportions.
I will say that I don't consider meat (unless breaded/fried), vegetables cooked with butter or good oil (coconut, ghee, palm), moderate portions of cheese, high-fat dairy, fruit, or the occasional portion of starch to be "cheats".
Diligent "testing" (basically getting on the scale every morning) has shown me that these foods have little, if any, effect on my body weight/composition.
Refined sugar, wheat products, and all the usual suspects (ice cream, pizza, cookies, etc.) however, can cause me to gain as much as 5lbs in a single day. Although much of this is likely due to retained water, it can takes several days to just return to baseline, and the cumulative effect is a net weight gain even if I don't "cheat" during the week.
I used to have cheat days when I was an obsessional calorie counter and persistent fat avoider. On paleo though, cheats are unnecessary; I love everything I eat. If you feel a compulsion to cheat, either you're not eating enough, or you're deficient in some combination of nutrients (in my opinion).
I personally do not cheat. I'm two months exactly now on the diet I've laid down for me, haven't cheated at all, neither I will. I'm in this for the health benefits (battled IBS-D for 10 years), and this is a much stronger driving force than losing a few extra pounds.
Primal is 95% the same as Paleo, it just allows for dairy IF the individual has evolved to digest it properly. But even with dairy there are many steps. For example, there are some who can't eat cow dairy, but they can eat goat one without a problem (different casein). Just do whatever works for you.
Simplest reason to cheat, biologically speaking, is if you are in a deficit for 5-6 days, your body adapts, and potentially slows down. A cheat day, even sticking to paleo, but perhaps ramping up fruit or eating some more paleo-friendly carbs like sweet potatoes and related tubers, tends to increase various hormones that once again rev up your metabolism. So have that baked sweet potato with butter, have a coconut/banana smoothie, but basically overfeed for a bit. Tim Ferriss in 4-hour body, says men could probably get away with a large cheat meal once a week, while women will need to eat a bit more (but he also recommends having the really unhealthy stuff, if you so desire it). It's all about balance as Nutritionator mentioned.
Primal allows for some dairy and allows more fat. I do not count calories. I eat as many servings of fruit and veggies a day as I want, a couple servings of meat, 2 to 3 eggs, and a few servings of raw nuts. I make desserts out of almond and coconut flour. I do items that are not Paleo sometimes. ( I had a Starbucks today) I maintain my weight within a 2 pound range.