Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Personal Paleo Code

It's been about a year since I discovered that eating Paleo works for me.  In the past year, I've gone from trying to follow the guidelines as strictly as possible to relaxing the rules completely (during my pregnancy).  Now I'm working on getting back to eating Paleo.

I choose to follow eating Paleo 80% of the time.  I couldn't figure out why that worked for me, but I would allow certain non-Paleo foods in small amounts and I wouldn't get headaches or brain fog or any of the other symptoms that other non-Paleo foods would cause.  For example, when I first tried Paleo, I found it was very difficult to go 100% without any grains, so after a week or so, I allowed some brown rice in my diet and didn't suffer any adverse issues.  However, if I eat pasta or bread nowadays, I'll usually feel a little "off" when I do.  So why did that happen?  I couldn't find an answer until I read Chris Kresser's book The Paleo Cure.

The Paleo Cure

Of all the books on Paleo/Primal eating that I've read, I like Chris' book because of the way he defines Paleo.  He advocates defining one's personal Paleo code by customizing what is Paleo for you by determining where you stand with certain foods he calls "gray-area foods".

I've found that Chris' "definition" of what is Paleo agrees with the personal experimentation I've done with eating Paleo over the past year.  What "eating Paleo" means to me now versus what it meant to me a year ago, has definitely evolved, particularly around some foods that are debatable as to whether they are "Paleo" or not.

Gray Area Paleo Foods

In The Paleo Cure, Chris talks about gray-area foods -- foods that may or may not be part of your individual "Paleo Code", depending on your personal constitution:

- Dairy products
- Grains and psuedocereals
- Legumes
- Nightshades and eggs
- Alcohol
- Concentrated sweeteners
- Caffeine
- Chocolate

These are foods that affect people in different ways.  Some of us cannot tolerate dairy products at all (lactose intolerant) whereas others can, and the reasons for this variability include one's constitution (genetics, physiology, biology), health status, and activity level, among other things.

What Works For Me

So what gray area foods have I found do not affect me adversely?  Dairy products, nightshades and eggs, and chocolate.  I also limit my caffeine to one cup a day (if I have any at all -- most days I'll drink decaf coffee) and I'll occasionally have a glass of wine now and again.

I find that I do best with avoiding all grains and psuedocereals except white and brown rice (Chris makes a case for white rice over brown rice, so I've switched back to white rice).  And sweeteners are definitely something I continually battle against: my goal is to use honey occasionally and I'm trying to eliminate any added sugar whatsoever in my diet except the sugar found in dark chocolate, my one treat.

What I Focus on When I Eat Paleo

To keep the eating rules simple (I never was one to count calories, and Paleo is not about counting calories, but managing macronutritents and eating nutrient-dense food), I try and focus on the following guidelines, and everything else seems to fall into place:

1. Eat enough quality fat each day (think avocados, full-fat butter, whole milk, nuts, and fat from beef, lamb, and pork).  I find that when I eat enough good fat, I feel satisfied after a meal and I don't go craving carbs and other foods that I am trying to avoid (like sweets).

2. Eat more plants.  If I fill my plate with lots of veggies and some quality protein, then there's no room for non-plant carbs (like bread and pasta).

3. Eat quality protein.  Protein keeps me feeling full longer.  This guideline is the hardest for me because I struggle with the cost of grass-fed beef and wild fish (versus farm-raised fish), and is definitely an area where I need improvement.  One day at a time!

I know there is more I could work on to improve the quality of what I eat, but I am choosing to focus on these three areas for now.  The idea is to have as few rules as possible so that I can actually accomplish sticking to my Paleo lifestyle.  Too many rules makes it too difficult to stay with the game.

Some of My Paleo Eats

Since I'm talking food today, I'm linking up with Jenn from Peas & Crayons!  Here are a few things that my husband and I are eating these days in our efforts to stay committed to Paleo:

Do you have a set of eating guidelines that you follow to keep your nutrition on track?


  1. I'm totally ignoring my kid's dinner time to read your post :) He has a friend over so I guess it's not that bad of me... but I just want to say that I really enjoyed reading this post! It is so spot on for how I approach paleo, too! I definitely drink coffee (far too much), but dairy does impact me negatively, or at least cows milk does. It's so interesting how all of our bodies can react so differently to the same foods!

    I really love how much paleo has taught me about my own body, healthy living and just food in general!

    Again, wonderful post! I'll be sharing and all!!

    1. Yuliya, I love it when my son has a playmate over. I need to do that more often. ;-)
      I'm glad you enjoyed reading today's post about Paleo. I always love stopping by your blog for new Paleo recipes.

  2. This is such a great take on Paleo. I love the concept of eating real foods, but some of the restrictions were things that I couldn't get on board with. Your personal code is wonderful and shows that you can use the good and tailor it to your lifestyle. Thanks for sharing Marnie!! (and as always, your food looks delicious!!)

    1. I love the concept of eating real foods too, and that eating Paleo encourages me to focus on real foods.

  3. Interesting stuff. I'm not knowingly doing a Paleo diet however based on your post and what you can't eat it seems our family pretty much is doing it. I have the same thing with grains...bread etc makes me feel funky but rice is fine. I also limit to 1 cup of caffeine a day if any but just because more then that makes me feel crappy the next day. Great post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Liz! I'm always glad to hear of another fellow blogger who has similar eating habits (the bread vs rice as an example).

  4. This is really interesting! My daughter just decided to try paleo eating and since I am a vegetarian it does have some challenges but we are figuring it out! Nice to connect with you

    1. Hi Deborah - I hope this little post helps you with understanding the journey your daughter goes through with Paleo, whether she ends up stick to it or not.

  5. I have a mostly paleo diet, but I do admit that I'm addicted to my coffee. I can'f function without it. Once my son is sleeping through the night, I'm going to try to give it up, but it's so hard right now with the few hours of sleep every night. .

    1. Haley - I am the same way - can one be addicted to coffee even if they only have one cup of coffee a day?! I don't think I'll ever give up coffee. Even when I don't need the pick me up, I love to drink decaf coffee just because I love the taste of it.

  6. This is so interesting and comes at such a good time for. I didn't know about the 'grey area' paleo foods, and I certainly didn't know that it could be such a flexible diet. The Internet does invite crazy extremists to share their thoughts after all. I'm not paleo, and being pescatarian I think being full-on paleo would be hard, but having read your post I realize that I'm actually more paleo than I thought - while eating things like legumes, dairy and dark chocolate. A few weeks ago I started fairly seriously restricting my carbs and sugar and really increasing my protein - not for weight loss but because of a very frustrating digestive issue that I have recently acquired (SO much fun :P ). I've been turning to paleo blogs for sweet treat ideas and actually am feeling pretty good! (Hangry at times but who isn't?!) So my point: thank you for this information!!

    1. I didn't know you are a pescatarian! Really? I guess you learn something every day. ;-)
      I don't know if the entire Paleo community would agree whole-heartedly with Chris Kresser, but I do like that I have a "label" for the way I eat, even if it doesn't agree with the definition of Paleo for everyone.

  7. It's so good you found something that works for you and makes you feel good. I have a challenge with my vegetarianism and I have some digestive issues and when they are flared up any kind of potato is so soothing to my system.
    I agree when I can get my protein numbers up I feel so much better. I always get good ideas from you :)

  8. Oh man your food looks AMAZING!!! I'm so hungry now. <3


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