I’ve only had one weight-loss client come see me who actually said, “My main motivation for losing weight is that I want to look hot.” Finally, someone just came out and said it! We all want to look hot, whether we admit it or not, and we all look our best when we’re at our optimal weight. The Paleo way of living has become popular partly because it helps people get there, whether that means gaining muscle, losing fat or both. Of course, in the process it also helps clear up our skin; reduce fatigue, depression and inflammation; and lower our risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. For some, though, the change in body composition alone is life changing.
Right now we’re going to focus on the reasons the Paleo diet helps you lose weight. For the exceedingly thin people who are wondering whether or not it will help bulk you up, the short answer is “yes” and there will be more to come on that topic.
Here are the top 3 ways that eating Paleo, and moreover, using the Paleo Plan, will help you lose fat and get toned:
1. No More Fluff
But Neely, fluff isn’t a staple in my diet, you may be saying. Yes, actually, it probably is. You just don’t think of it as fluff. Your bread, bagels, cookies, candy, crackers, potato and tortilla chips, sandwich wraps, rice, pasta and added sugar are all fluff. Those things are high in calories and low in nutrients, especially if they’re made from refined flours, which means that they’re a waste of your culinary time. Those foods are also mostly carbohydrates, which means that if they’re not used up right away they’re stored in your body as, you know it, fat.
In addition, refined carbohydrates (and grains, in general) have a very negative effect on your blood sugar balance. When you have spikes in your blood sugar (you know, the cracked out feeling you get after eating a box of candy and then the crash you feel afterward), you’re contributing to weight gain because of the insulin and cortisol spikes you create in your body. More on that in another post, though.
Because the Paleo Diet eliminates grains and refined sugars from your diet, you’re not going to be eating anything that isn’t densely packed with nutrients. The high quality protein you’ll be eating will stimulate muscle growth and balance out your blood sugar. The healthy fats will become your main fuel source, and the veggies and fruits are an invaluable source of nutrients, fiber and complex carbs. None of these foods are fluffy.
2. Water Retention
There’s a funny thing that happens when we eat carbohydrates: our cells hold onto the water that comes along with the carbs. It’s an evolutionary detail that helps people do sustained physical work without needing as much water. As you use up your glucose stores (your glycogen), water is released into your body. That was great for the active hunter gatherer type, but now that we are pretty sedentary as a culture, eating way more carbohydrates in the form of grains, legumes and extra sugar, we’re carrying around a lot of extra weight in the form of water. Have you ever watched the show “Biggest Loser”? All of the contestants always lose extraordinary amounts of weight in the first week: 10, 20, even 40 pounds in just seven days. Most of it is water that they’ve been hording in their cells.
When they first go Paleo, a lot of people, including myself, experience increased thirst and more trips to the bathroom to let out some of that excess water. Along with extra weight disappearing during this process, the edema you might have in your legs or feet, your puffy eyes or your swollen hands might start to dissipate, too.
3. Food Sensitivities
Some experts estimate that as much as 80% of the U.S. population might be sensitive to gluten. That is a LOT of people. Alright, now what is gluten and what do I mean by sensitive? Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, spelt, oats, kamut, rye and barley. That means that unless it says “Gluten Free” on the label, it’s in bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, almost all pastries, tortillas, many soups, cereals, granola, beer, and on and on. Having a sensitivity to something simply means that your immune system is reacting to that food in some way. It’s not necessarily an “allergy” like your doctor would diagnose you with, but your immune system is involved, nevertheless. People can be sensitive to anything, and be plagued by a host of symptoms from it. For instance, I get a headache when I eat arugula. Yep, arugula.
Often when people stop eating the foods they’re sensitive to, they lose weight. It happens because your body will hold onto water weight (blasted water again!) when it’s trying to protect itself from something; the water acts as sort of a buffer. So when you take out the offensive food from your diet, the water goes with it. Food sensitivities can also mess with your hormones and your thyroid function, and we know that both of those systems have much to do with body weight.
Because the Paleo Diet removes many of the foods that people are commonly sensitive to: gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugar, there’s a good chance you’ll have a positive reaction to not eating one or more of these foods on a regular basis.
So there you have it. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anyone start eating Paleo and NOT lose weight if they needed to lose weight. If you’re eating what you were designed to eat, your body will finally have the opportunity to, well, look hot.
Does anyone have any experiences with losing weight after starting the Paleo Diet? Would you be willing to comment and share your story? (Oh, and we love before and after pictures!!)