I don’t usually post things like this on my blog, but some comments popped up on social media this week that I thought I would discuss. This whole notion of 80/20 eating while on Paleo. Is this a thing? To me, it seems to contradict everything that I know Paleo to be, so in case some of you are mulling this concept around, I want to bring us all back to center: the 80/20 approach has no place in the Paleo diet.
This is one of those remnant concepts from the diet industry’s status quo that appears to have bled into Paleo. The idea that we should eat unacceptable, damaging foods a portion of the time without consequence. But that just doesn’t make sense.
Let’s stop for a second and remind ourselves what Paleo is and why we do it. Paleo:
- removes inflammatory foods
- restores gut health by fortifying the barrier between in and outside of the body
- fosters a healthy psychological relationship with food
- helps to balance blood sugar, hormones and hormone-dependent functions
- inherently provides adequate micro- and macro-nutrients
- allows for personalization based on individual needs
- eliminates processed foods riddled with toxins, refined sugars, gluten, preservatives, food dyes and other harmful manufactured non-food ingredients
So if you’re not eating 100% Paleo, then what are you eating?
Lets remember that Paleo is a spectrum, not a black/white, pass/fail, yes/no temporary diet meant to accomplish cheap short-term results. At its core Paleo is a personal conversation with your body, figuring out what works and what doesn’t—or better yet, what is necessary and what is unnecessary. For some, white rice, baby red potatoes and grass-fed butter are necessary or can be eaten without physical consequences, for others they’re actually somewhat damaging. An athlete’s version of Paleo looks much different than a person who is using Paleo to manage medical conditions. We should anticipate some diversity on our neighbor’s plate.
Paleo is not a one-sized fits all.
There’s a difference between navigating your ideal place on the Paleo spectrum and kidding yourself into thinking that eating destructive foods 20 percent of the time is acceptable. Cause it’s kinda not. I mean, from time to time we’ll eat things that aren’t ideal, and that’s fine. But the idea that we would intentionally eat cookies or frozen gluten-free waffles or soybean oil in 20 percent of our daily meals is just not consistent with restoring health. Even Chris Kresser agrees, especially when it comes to autoimmunity and thyroid health: “There’s no “80/20″ rule when it comes to gluten. Being “mostly” gluten-free isn’t going to cut it. If you’re gluten intolerant, you have to be 100% gluten-free to prevent immune destruction of your thyroid.”
Ultimately for anyone practicing Paleo 80 percent of the time, it means that you acquire only a compromised portion of the benefits of the diet. In effect, your gut remains 20 percent more compromised, your fat cells retain 20 percent more toxins, your body remains 20 percent more inflamed (and if you’ve got any kind of autoimmune conditions, that’s a big problem) and your cravings for unhealthy junk foods linger. Of course, those aren’t actual figures, it’s just an illustration as to the inefficiency of regularly allowing damaging foods into your diet as part of your daily practice.
Here’s another thing…
Why are we afraid to commit to something 100%? Why is it perceived to be extreme or restrictive if we choose to adhere to our values and beliefs exclusively? I mean, if someone feels that it’s acceptable to make a bazillion recipes out of boxed cake mixes and fat free cream cheese, few bat an eye at them. But if you, me–WE–choose to stick to foods that existed at any time in nature because we feel awesome this way, somehow that’s weird? Wrongo, bongo.
If you’ve been convinced of something, such as the science behind gluten, dairy, pesticides, refined sugar, etc., why would you want to consume it 20 percent of the time? If you believe in what quality meat, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats, fruit, nuts and seeds can do for your health, then rock that stuff! Break your ties to 80/20 “in moderation” thinking and commit!
Eat with intention and make every bite count, even the indulgences.
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