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In 'Cave Women Don't Get Fat,' Esther Blum MS, RD, CDN, CNS spells out the simple steps toward the Paleo Chic Diet, a time-tested program for weight loss that dates back to the dawn of the species. Here's an excerpt.
The Nutritional Benefits of the Paleo Chic Diet
Here’s a simple fact: unprocessed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish always—and I mean always—contain fewer calories than processed foods. Think about that for a moment. Actually, stop and think about what, exactly, a calorie is.
A calorie is a unit of energy. It’s a way for us to get a sense of the energy value that is contained within each food. You would think, then, that a calorie would be a constant, set unit of measurement — and it is, but, really, it’s not. Huh? Bear with me here. A calorie from one food source doesn’t always have the nutritional value of a calorie from another, less healthful food source. It’s just a fact that some calories that are better than others.
Do you think your body processes the 100 calories you find in say, a candy bar, the way it does the 100 calories you get from a salad made with organic produce or the 100 calories in a slice of roasted organic chicken? The answer is a resounding no: what comes along with those calories—those units of energy—has a great impact on how your body actually deals with those calories. That’s why there’s currently such an outcry about highly processed foods that are marketed as “no fat” or “low fat.” These alleged diet foods are filled with sugars, salt, and unhealthy fat substitutes, yet because they’re packaged in “low-calorie” servings, we’re mislead to believe that they’re somehow good for our bodies. Oh, if this were only true! But it’s not.
One of the great upsides to the Paleo Chic diet is that you will be able to eat plenty of healthy calories and still lose weight. That’s because these foods are rich in nutrient-dense calories, as opposed to empty calories. You’ll be eating in order to ignite your metabolism, not to tamp it down. Becoming Paleo Chic means that eating well—and abundantly—is a good thing, because your gorgeous body will be fueled as well as satisfied.
In addition to emphasizing nutrient-dense calories, the Paleo Chic diet is designed to support, balance, and enhance the body’s incredibly vital metabolic systems. Think of your metabolic system as a network of highly specialized channels of communication. (It’s like the Wi-Fi your body runs on.) Give your metabolism the right information—no spam—and the communication comes through clearly and effectively.
Our Bodies are Pretty Effin’ Efficient
Since our bodies are governed by our metabolic systems, it makes sense that we would want to fill them with the best fuel possible. To do this, we need to understand what it is our bodies need.
Our bodies, as a rule, are designed to run on fewer carbohydrates than most of us are accustomed to eating. When you reduce the number of carbs you consume, your metabolism runs much more efficiently. You will likely see an immediate improvement in your moods, your energy levels, your sleep patterns, and your mental focus. Eating neocarbs is like putting sludgy, viscous fuel into a system that wants something clear and fluid. Also, neocarbs are highly corrosive to your metabolic components (think of them as causing your system to rust), so those of us who want to be hot and active must avoid these fuels at all costs.
By lowering our carb intake, we encourage our bodies to burn stored sugars (glycogen) and this, in turn, encourages our bodies to let go of fat. When this happens, it’s as if our communication channels open wide, and our vital organs can then perform their duties well. Suddenly we find ourselves feeling much, much better.
When you learn to eat the Paleo Chic way, you will find that it becomes nearly impossible to overeat. You will find that you’re rarely or ever feel hungry. Those cravings at ten in the morning or three in the afternoon will disappear. Filling up on healthy carbs (fresh fruits and veggies) will go a long way toward reducing your cravings for highly processed foods. And this is a big part of why the Paleo Chic plan is so healthful. The processed sweets that are aggressively marketed to us are major “trigger” foods that are actually engineered to elicit cravings in us. Mother Nature, thank our stars and garters, isn’t a major corporation that puts profits over people, so by eating Paleo Chic, we not only nip those cravings but also get to keep some cold cash in our pockets. And that is a beautiful thing.
Burn, Baby, Burn
Optimal fat loss is a metabolic process by which your body breaks down fat in favor of building lean muscle. When your hormones are balanced, the body naturally engages in regular fat burning, which leads to appetite control and level states of mood and energy. When we eat solely to support our metabolism, we sleep well, awake refreshed, feel energized, and have better mental acuity. Carrying excess fat stymies our metabolic systems. The Paleo Chic diet “restarts” our metabolic circuitry so that our bodies can shed unwanted fat and function more optimally.
The best way to support the body’s efforts to burn fat is through clean eating. What and when you eat will determine how well you burn fat, and understanding this basic principle is the foundation to all weight loss. I would even go so far as to say that your diet is responsible for 80 percent of weight loss (with exercise accounting for 20 percent). Every time one of my clients says, “I eat a healthy diet, but I am not losing weight. Why not?” I know that she is eating the wrong kinds of healthy foods. Not all healthy foods prompt the fat-burning command metabolically. When you’re not fueling for fat burning and muscle building, it doesn’t matter how much you exercise, you won’t lose weight.
Here’s a cavewoman truth: every bit of food you eat either puts your body in a fat-burning or fat-storing state. It’s up to you to decide which one you prefer.
Losing Weight the Paleo Way
The key to losing weight boils down to a few very simple, ancient dietary guidelines:
• Eat high-quality lean proteins such as pastured poultry, grass-fed beef, and wild fish.
If nuts are so good for us but contain as much (if not more) phytic acid than beans and grains, why are they allowed on the Paleo Chic plan? There is a case to be made here for a dietary loophole with nuts, because they are typically eaten as a condiment, not as a side or main dish. So if you respect your Paleo ancestors and think about limiting your intake of nuts to an amount equal to what could be found in nature, you’re good to go. Small quantities of nuts (¼ cup max) should not throw you too off-kilter. You are also welcome to soak your nuts in a covered bowl of salt water for twelve hours to reduce the levels of phytic acid. After the soak, rinse the nuts in a colander and dry them by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a dehydrator. Set the temperature to 120°F for twelve hours. Store nuts in an airtight container in the freezer for optimal freshness.
• Select your fats carefully. For example, olive oil and butter are fine, but no trans fats and no hydrogenated oils.
• Naturally occurring carbohydrates include fiber- and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
These are the very foods that sustained our hunting-and-gathering ancestors who ate what they could catch, pluck, or dig up. We need to step away from neocarbs, which are the overengineered results of our agricultural “progress” (enriched flour products, sugar-infused drinks and foods, genetically beefed-up grains and animal products). We need to step away from factory-generated food and move, instead, back into the bush.
Why is this so imperative? Because eating sixty pounds of grain and thirty pounds of sugar—as the typical American does each year—is making us fat, sick, and tired. We’re overindulging on highly processed foods to the tune of about four and a half pounds per week. It seems pretty clear to me that “modern” approach, at least where dietary health is concerned, has got it all wrong.
By eating lean protein, the most important macronutrient, you will support your body’s chemistry in the best way possible. Protein provides slow, steady energy, helps you feel full, keeps blood sugar levels calm—ditto your mood and your hormones. Think of protein as the calming base nutrient that supplies what your cells need most to thrive. Organic, fresh, and local sources of protein also support bone and skin. (Our bodies love both calcium and collagen.)
Protein packs a wallop, so we don’t need to overindulge on the Paleo Chic diet: instead, we like to enjoy our protein with an array of colorful, local, organic produce that rounds out our nutritional needs by infusing our bodies with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fibers, and the kinds of sugars and carbs we actually need.
On this plan, I encourage you to ditch those high-gluten foods (all types of grains, including foods made with wheat, rye, oats, spelt, and others) that are known to cause allergies, inflammation, and weight gain, and instead focus on vegetables and fruits. Color is key, and the more natural color you bring to the plate, the healthier your diet will be.
When you become a modern-day cavewoman, you protect yourself from the toxins that are found in all types of processed foods, including pesticides, chemicals, dyes, preservatives, hormones, and other artificial ingredients. Your body will be able to focus on breaking down the healthful components of the whole foods you’ll be taking in, rather than scrambling to ward off the ill effects caused by the myriad harmful ingredients that are hidden in processed foods.
Text copyright © 2013 by Esther Blum. Published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed with permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.