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Is Paleo a cult? (guest post)

Fri, Jun 29, 2012

Guest Posts

I’ve heard paleo called a cult before.

I get it.

People who choose to eat paleo can be overzealous in sharing about it. Many preach it as the be all end all way for everyone to eat. Some come across a little elitist, some judgmental, and others if-you-don’t-eat-perfect-paleo-you’re-not-paleo-enough-ish. There is no lack of passion among the paleo community.

Yes, some go a little overboard, but I get it: when something changes your life so drastically it can be hard to rein yourself in.

I originally tried paleo as an experiment for my fitness blog.

It’s what I do, I test out and review health and fitness related things.

Last August paleo was the latest in line. Instead of being just another review however paleo turned into something so much more.

Upon completing my first 30 days of eating strict paleo I had only lost a little weight, some inches, total disappointment right? Wrong.

At the end of that first 30 days I was amazed.

Amazed because I felt fabulous. I believe my exact words were that I felt “fanfriggintastic”. So much so that I was shocked at how un-fabulous I’d previously felt without realizing it.

Things I thought just were the way they were changed. My head was clear, I had energy for days, my adult acne was clearing up, and I had no urge whatsoever to binge eat.

Did I mention I felt fabulous? Paleo was a life-changer for me.

This could be an entire other post, but it’s worth mentioning here. My husband has narcolepsy. Since going paleo he is now functioning at a level we never dreamed possible. Just by changing his diet?

The one lesson that going paleo has taught me is this: pay attention to how foods affect you.

Now, I try to keep a leash on it, to not pound paleo down people’s throats. I post some paleo recipes and share things I think will be helpful.

I host paleochat to foster encouragement and support for those interested. However I try very hard never to “preach” paleo. It’s what works for me; I will never pretend to know what will work for someone else.

I firmly believe, just as Miz Carla says about fitness: food is not about fitting in.

In our diets (meaning the way we eat), just as in our fitness, we need to listen to our bodies and find what works for us.

For me, that’s paleo.

But no, there was no kool-aid drinking involved.



 Kerri Olkjer is a paleo-tastic fitness blogger who lives in rural Colorado with her amazing husband, 3 boys, and a yard full of chickens and baby goats. She’s a little wacky about her coffee and clinically obsessed with fitness fashion.  In the last 6 years she’s gone from a size 22 to a size 8 and along the way fell in love with fitness, ran a marathon, and found her “I CAN”. She is now passionate about everyone finding their “I CAN” as well.

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48 Responses to “Is Paleo a cult? (guest post)”

  1. Meredith @ DareYouTo says:

    YES! yesyesyesyes. That’s the whole point, I think: Paleo is ABOUT just listening and feeding your body what it needs and not what hurts it. That’s what my first month on paleo did for me — taught me to notice how foods make a difference in how I feel, and EXACTLY as you say, feeling better than I even knew was possible. Things I accepted as normal didn’t have to be. I could have more energy, smoother digestion, a clearer head, no hand eczema (my ‘cure’ was apparently removing wheat).

    So, yes. I get frustrated when people knock paleo as a ‘fad’ diet (it’s not. there is SO much to eat! it IS sustainable long-term), before taking a chance to really learn what it actually is, why it’s that way, and giving it a go for themselves. That’s all the paleo authors, bloggers, researchers ever ask for: give it a chance. (Dare you ;) ) It might not work for everyone, but the evidence and testimonials like yours above are what convinced me to try it in the first place.

    Either way, the lesson of tuning into your body’s likes and dislikes is invaluable and something we can all take away from it. Thanks for sharing, Carla!

  2. Cort The Sport says:

    I love the line about “Food is not about fitting in”!! YES!!! It’s about saying it’s OK (and good!) to have veggies in the morning or passing on lunches out with colleagues. It can be very hard to go against the tide; I was lucky to have trainers and folks in who modeled what it was like to eat what works best for you and make no apologies for it.

    Paleo seems to work for many. The way I eat does not fit into any category, just whole foods, lots of protein and veggies, mostly fibrous carbs. I eat when I am hungry (which is a lot of the time) and have figured out what to eat to feel my best.

  3. Helen DoingA180 says:

    That second paragraph up there? The one that starts “People who choose to eat…”? The word Paleo could be replaced by any number of other words: Weight Watchers, Low Carb, Intuitively, etc., etc. because PEOPLE ARE PASSIONATE about what they find that works for them!

    You hit the nail on the head with needing to pay attention to how food affects us. So the bottom line is that each one of us needs to find what works. Period.

  4. Christine @ Love, Life, Surf says:

    I’m so intrigued by paleo and will admit, just figured that it was another fad diet. But reading this and Meredith’s comment above is making give it a second look, especially because you talk about how it makes you more aware of how food is making you feel. That’s something that I haven’t been so attuned to lately. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Kierston says:

    What a great post! Thank you so much for for sharing!

    “Pay attention to how foods affect you” and “food is not about fitting in.” I 100% agree.

  6. Jennifer says:

    My brother-in-law is one of the Paleo “cult” members. He looks better, feels better, and does a good job of just “doing his own thing” without forcing it on anyone else or trying to tell others how to eat. I’m interested in this lifestyle, but working now to just get one meal on the table that will satisfy my husband and Weasel. Perhaps one day I’ll see what the craze is all about. But your words definitely me want that “one day” to be in the very near future!

  7. Stacie Mayer says:

    while I don’t follow a paleo diet, I think the best thing to take from is it that heavily processed foods need not have a place in our diets. You can see how obesity has risen in past decades as fast food outlets have popped out of nowhere and people go for convenience rather than a healthy meal.

    For me, I still include some grains in my diet, I steer clear of refined sugars and meats, but that’s what works for me.

    The best part about the internet is that you can research all these diets, combine them and fuel your body with the foods that fir you best.

  8. Deborah (Schmiet) says:

    I love your approach Kerri…. It’s so easy to put people off an idea by forcing it on others or being overly zealous. The no-sugar thing seems a bit like that at the moment.


    • Kerri O says:

      I completely agree. It took my 6 long years to figure out what works best for me. Everyone has their path.

  9. Ulli says:

    I tried paleo for a may-experiment and felt amazing too!!! I shared some recipes on my blog if someone is interested, I can just tell you that it is really amazing! I initially wanted to do it just in may, but I’m still following it (about 80% of the time), because it was so great!! have a great weekend everyone!

  10. Nicole @ Making Good Choices says:

    I haven’t tried paleo but I am interested in it. I like what you said about listening to our bodies and finding what works for us!

  11. misszippy1 says:

    I have yet to try paleo, but I think it has sound principles. Love that it has worked so well for you and it’s quite interesting about the effect on your husband!

  12. Barbara says:

    I’ve been getting back to Paleo this week indeed. I keep trying to include “healthy grains” and a little more dairy and it’s just not working for me.

    • Kerri O says:

      I do some dairy. Mostly whey and a little grass fed butter. But I start breaking out and get a little ‘snarfly’ if it gets to be too much. Keeps me in check.

  13. Tara Burner says:

    I haven’t (nor will I) try paleo since I’m vegetarian formerly vegan…but agree with the listening to our bodies to what different foods do to us :)
    It’s about what’s best for each one of us as individuals

  14. Jack Sh*t says:

    Wait… we haven’t established if I gotta #earworm guest posts or not. Well, better safe than sorry.

    Paleo. Eat more Paleo.
    It’s the modern stone age diet plan.
    From the blog of MizFit,
    Now I think I gotta try it, man.

    If I eat more Paleo,
    I’ll have a yabba dabba doo time.
    A grabba food time.
    A hope-I-weigh-less time.


  15. Felicia says:

    love this!! i’ve adapted a paleo lifestyle, and although i’m not 100% all the time, its definitely made changes in my overall health.

  16. Maria @ a life to Bragg about says:

    Wow I would have never known you were paleo if I hadn’t read this post. Big eye opener for me as I’m generally curious about the lifestyle but have never jumped ship on it. Thanks for the insight!

  17. Heather says:

    thats great that it has been able to help your hubby!

  18. Kim @ The Family Practice says:

    Food is about listening to your body! This goes hand in hand with your last two posts (if my reader brings them in order) - the one about mindful eating and the one about not liking sweets - when we start listening to our bodies and PAYING ATTENTION to how foods make us feel the choices come naturally. I really appreciate every word in today’s post - what’s right for some isn’t right for all and I’m glad you are recognizing and honoring that.

  19. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    Great post…it’s funny because I have another friend who “went vegan” and sometimes “raw” about six months and he can be militant and preachy about how unhealthy meat is and how much more healthy he is now. Just goes to show how different we all are…

  20. SoHelpMeKath says:

    So…if I wanted to start learning more about paleo, what websites would I click?

  21. Laura says:

    I love hearing what works for other people. I find the Paleo diet fascinating, although a little tricky as a long distance runner. But I definitely appreciate its emphasis away from processed foods, and it has a lot going for it. Glad it worked for Kerri!

    • Kerri O says:

      I think there’s a big misconception that paleo has to be low carb. When I’m training for distance, I do more things like sweet potatoes, larabars, and coconut water. My carbs can be quite high during days of long runs etc.

    • DocRose says:

      One of my friends who is a dietician and a 3 time ironman finisher is a total paleo. She is amazing! Don’t think that it’s incompatible with endurance athletics. There are plenty of athletes out there using these principals with great success.

  22. Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile says:

    Interesting! I’ve seen paleo everywhere, and I have been curious about it. I’m not sure I would ever go completely paleo, I couldn’t give up my dairy.

  23. cheryl says:

    Just eat and quit thinking so much about it. Your body will tell you what it needs/doesn’t need. Listen to it. Is Coffee on Paleo?

  24. Shannon says:

    Interesting! I don’t buy into any blanket way of eating, but it’s definitely food for thought- taking a closer look to see how certain foods affect you!

  25. tricia says:

    While I eat vegan (and no I’m not a hippie and yes I shave my armpits) we share the same passion for ‘food as medicine’. And I love that about the way you eat, do what works for YOU.

  26. Janice - Fitness Cheerleader says:

    I tried clean eating in March, although I didn’t stick with it very long, I did feel a million times better. I had no idea that I was constantly dealing with a sore tummy, until I was no longer dealing with it. My husband who is my biggest nutrition sabotageur is away on business for 6 weeks this summer and I cannot wait to get back into a clean eating routine that I hope that I can continue even once he’s back.

  27. Debbe @ Live from La Quinta says:

    As a vegan (another group who tends to get a little passionate about their food choices) who loves her seitan, the one point I can definitely get on board with is more whole food, less processed junk, and as little sugar as possible. Those changes alone will make you healthier.

  28. Ericka @ The Sweet Life says:

    Love this perspective. And I really felt your line about not even realizing how unfabulous you felt before. That’s such a kicker and I realized something similar recently. I realized that since I began incorporating more veggies and less carbs into my life, I never get the afternoon sleepies and just feel better in generall all the time. I would really like to test paleo sometime soon and will look to your blog for guidance. Thanks!

  29. Karen P says:

    I love that Paleo is a customizable template that I can make my own. The Priaml/Paleo way of eating has been the ONLY way I’ve been able to maintain my weight loss. (72 pounds). Third time at goal weight and so glad I figured it out. Better late than never.

    It’s hard not to talk about when you’re struggled for so long and BAM that’s the answer. Mostly, people ask questions when I’m eating at work. And I can refer them to the Paleo Solution, Everyday Paleo,The Primal Blue Print , and now the new It Starts With Food books.

    My household is not completely Paleo, and that’s ok. But I know my choices will help influence my daughter and hopefully plant that seed so she can avoid the chronic diseases that are on the rise.

    Good post! Karen P

  30. Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table says:

    Great perspective! Diet is so personal, I don’t think it’s fair to call any one program a cult. Where I live it is so closely tied with Crossfit (which many see as “cult-like”) that I believe that’s where the perception comes from. Silly people.

  31. Jess says:

    I’ve not tried paleo, but I totally agree that we need to pay attention to how the foods we eat impact upon us! The cleaner I eat the better I feel.

  32. Julie (@ROJRunning) says:

    Thanks for this guest post. It was very interesting to see this perspective. As someone who is still trying to find the diet that works for me mind, body and spirit I always appreciate new outlooks.

  33. Paleo Suz says:

    I think people find it hard not to shout about the benefits of Paleo when they first find out for themeselves!

    My outlet if my blog - but if people I meet in real life ask why I eat the way I do I’m always very happy to enlighten them!

  34. charlotte says:

    While Paleo in its strictest sense doesn’t work for me (and I’ve tried it, full out, three times), there are many, many things I love about it and incorporate into my nutrition. I love the emphasis on whole, naturally sourced, in-season foods. Everything I know about dietary fat, red meat, intermittent fasting, and baking soda as toothpaste I credit to my paleo/primal readings. So while I still eat some grains and carbs, I do credit Paleo with changing me from a vegetarian to an omnivore, much to my benefit! Love that you’ve found what works for you!

    • Khaled says:

      I agree, and I’m in the same boat. As a CrossFitter, I felt obligated to go total Paleo, and it destroyed me in all the ways it’s not supposed to. But I still recommend the general principles and keep my grains low/soaked/fermented, and generally think it’s a great way to live and eat.

  35. Khaled says:

    Great article, and something that needed to be said about Paleo. I like your approach of supporting it without pushing it on others.

    The lesson about listening to your body comes out when Paleo, which is supposed to help, is causing problems, and I think that is why some people call it a cult. I’ve been on Paleo forums where one guy is saying it’s not working, and the community response is ‘try harder’ ‘you’re still adjusting’ or that he must just be missing something. The cult-like attitude comes out when people refuse to listen to their bodies and but blind faith in the dogma that it must work, and if it’s not, YOU’RE the problem. I was in that boat a few years ago. I’m glad I started listening to my body instead.

  36. Charissa says:

    I’m thinking of doing a 30 day Paleo challenge sometime and I’m really curious about it! :)

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