Cave girl How the Paleo diet gave me more energy, less bloating, better sleep and clearer skin

Dolce Gabbana 2011 models eating How the Paleo diet gave me more energy, less bloating, better sleep and clearer skin

When I slipped on my first pair of summer pants this year, something unusual happened. They were… loose. Yes, loose.

Why is this a big deal? Well, more than a year ago I went through *THAT* breakup. You know, the one you deal with by overindulging in terrible stuff. I partied and I ate. A LOT. The late nights, the accompanying take-out and the beer really caught up to me.

Eventually, I got to a point where I didn’t recognize myself and I didn’t know what to do. I was bloated beyond belief, breaking out with cystic acne, getting bad headaches, had no energy and was at my highest weight ever.

My naturopath, who I trust implicitly, was the first to suggest the Paleo lifestyle to me. Paleo-what? I was thinking, meh—this is just another diet, and there’s way too much to know.

Here’s why I was wrong.

What is Paleo?

The Flintstones ribs How the Paleo diet gave me more energy, less bloating, better sleep and clearer skin

At the heart of it, “going Paleo” means eating the way our our hunter-gatherer ancestors did in the Paleolithic era before the agricultural industry started to introduce corn and mass amounts of grain into our diets. Loren Cordain, a scientist and nutritionist, coined the term when he wrote The Paleo Diet in the ’90s, but it wasn’t until one of his students, Robb Wolf, wrote The Paleo Solution in the ’00s that the diet started to generate buzz.

Paleo is considered “grain-free” or “clean” living. In practical terms, you replace grains and starches with fresh vegetables, fruit and clean meats such as chicken and seafood.

No grains? Yes, you heard that right. No grains and no beans. And this is where some of you may raise an eyebrow.

The reason they’re not allowed is because they tend to make you bloated. (Does your belly start to gurgle and bloat when you eat hummus?) According to Cordain, legumes and whole grains are not only inflammatory, they also have some of the highest concentrations of antinutrients, which can lead to a condition called  leaky gut (where the lining that protects your gut is damaged and bacteria starts to pour through). Many people are also intolerant to the gluten in grains.

The foundation of Paleo is getting as much protein as you can. (You’ll notice your cravings really diminish when you increase your protein intake.) Protein is great for you because it boosts your metabolism and accelerates weight loss. Cordain says:

“Protein has two to three times the thermic effect of either fat or carbohydrate, meaning that it revs up your metabolism, speeding weight loss. Additionally, protein has a much greater satiety value than either fat or carbohydrate, so it puts the brakes on your appetite. Finally, numerous recent clinical trials have shown high-protein, low-glycemic load diets to be more effective than low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets in promoting weight loss and keeping it off.”

What you can and can’t eat on Paleo

Model with fruit How the Paleo diet gave me more energy, less bloating, better sleep and clearer skin

The grocery list of food you can eat is simple:

  • Meat (preferably organic and grass-fed)
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Fresh fruits and veggies
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy oils (olive, walnut, flaxseed, macadamia, avocado and coconut)

Here’s what you should try to stay away from:

  • Cereal grains
  • Legumes (including peanuts)
  • Dairy
  • Refined sugar
  • Potatoes
  • Processed foods
  • Salt
  • Refined vegetable oils

And also… I’m sorry to say this, but no more beer.

If you follow Paleo very closely you’re also not supposed to eat cheese, but that’s my “guilty pleasure” indulgence every once in a while. However, I do notice that I get a little more bloated because of its high sodium.

How I make Paleo work for me

When I went to my naturopath in a state of despair, I solemnly told her “I’m bloated.” She was sympathetic and told me that there’s never a good reason to be bloated. You should never dismiss it. Turns out, it was due to my large intake of wheat and carbs.

Now on Paleo, I eat meat, fish, and lots and lots of berries and vegetables—such as kale and beets, but nothing starchy like potatoes or sweet potatoes. You want something that is slowly digested and absorbed and won’t spike your blood sugar level. When that happens (from sugar and carbohydrates) you get a really fast and furious rush and lots of energy, and then… the inevitable crash.

Because I’ve cut back on a lot of unnecessary junk,  I’ve also come to love and absorb the great, nutritious food that I wasn’t getting enough of—like almonds, walnuts and avocados. Seriously, this was stuff I didn’t bother with before and now it’s part of my lifestyle and I can just FEEL my body thanking me.

Here’s one of my healthy dinner dishes, a simple mixture of brussel sprouts and squash baked and tossed with grapeseed oil and herbs.

Brussel sprouts and squash How the Paleo diet gave me more energy, less bloating, better sleep and clearer skin

And here’s my super-easy-to-make spinach salad with tuna, tomatoes, onions and olives.

Spinach salad How the Paleo diet gave me more energy, less bloating, better sleep and clearer skin

On Paleo it is recommended that you eat every five hours. I know, I know—my eyes bulged too when I found out . The first three days are brutal. All you think about is your next meal. But slowly, you start to not need that oral fixation every minute.

The reason you’re not meant to eat so often is because it takes about three hours for your body to really digest and break up the food. If you can hold off for those extra two hours before your next meal, that’s when you’ll really burn up the extra fat! And best of all, it gives your pancreas (the organ that breaks down food and releases it into the blood stream) a rest. With all the food you eat and all the work it does, your pancreas deserves it.

The benefits of Paleo

Here are just a few:

  • You really do start to notice your weight dropping and your body getting slimmer as you burn off stored fat (if you don’t cheat too much).
  • More energy. I don’t go through the day feeling lethargic and tired anymore. Who doesn’t want that when we’ve all got so much on the go?!
  • No more of that yucky gut bloating.
  • A more restful night’s sleep.
  • If you’ve got acne, you’ll see a difference in your skin—mine looks clearer and cleaner.
  • More fibre! We all know fibre is good for us—but did you know that fruits contain twice as much of it as grains? Eat up!
  • Paleo foods are anti-inflammatory and high in vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Everything you’re consuming is just fresh, and simple and clean.

I really feel that cutting out grains and carbs and limiting my meals to once every five hours has helped me take control of my weight and my body again. To me, Paleo was never a diet, it was a lifestyle. And to all those who (constantly) ask me “why Paleo?”  Well, because it just… clicked.  It was that “AHA!” moment. Before this, I spent most of my life obsessed with healthy eating and working out—and even though I was by no means overweight, I was on a constant hamster wheel, losing and gaining weight.

Now, what defines me are the two P’s: Paleo and Pilates. Paleo is 80 percent and Pilates is the extra 20 percent that has helped me get toned.  I’m not waify thin, but I’m proud of the definition my body has. And like my Pilates instructor told me, abs are made in the kitchen, baby! I seriously don’t think I could ever go back to how I used to eat.

If you want to learn more

Mandatory disclaimer: This is just my personal experience with Paleo after consulting and working with my naturopath for a year, doing extensive research and reading into the diet. Talk to your healthcare provider first to understand if it’s the right choice for you.

If you’d like to know more, here are a few resources I found helpful:

Tell me:

Have you tried eating Paleo?
What’s YOUR secret to getting more energy, better sleep and clearer skin?
What’s your favourite health tip?

26 Comments

Beauty Vancouver
Monday, June 17/2013 at 2:08 am

Very helpful article on the benefits of Paleo!

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Magda
Monday, June 17/2013 at 10:21 am

I have been Paleo for about a year and a half and haven’t looked back!!! It’s the only thing that helped me get rid of persistent adult acne. In the process, I also discovered I have a gluten allergy…

Another great source is Mark’s Daily Apple site, or Balanced Bites…
Glad to hear your enjoying this…

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Lori Harito
Monday, June 17/2013 at 11:33 pm

Yes! That’s what I love about Paleo. It’s another form of the ‘elimination diet’ and you realize what intolerances your body has that you’ve been feeding it. So happy your acne!

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Magda
Monday, June 17/2013 at 10:22 am

*you’re :o)

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Sophia
Monday, June 17/2013 at 10:45 am

As it happens, fruits are high in carbs and potatoes offer one of the highest satiety values.

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Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, June 17/2013 at 10:54 pm

You’re right – fruits are a carb :) Most people don’t think of them that way… Have you read Ray Peat?

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Lori Harito
Monday, June 17/2013 at 11:32 pm

Hi Sophia, yes fruits can totally be high in carbs, but they’re very good carbs that are nutritious for your body. And paleo encourages fruits such as berries & apples which are low in carbs and not things such as mangoes and grapes which are high in sugar and carbs.

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Sophia
Tuesday, June 18/2013 at 12:29 pm

I just think saying “cutting out grains and carbs” perpetuates a misunderstanding or oversimplification

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J
Monday, June 17/2013 at 6:22 pm

Ugh. Honestly, although I kinda eat Paleo (no grains, love my dairy) and believe that most people would benefit from cutting out a few carbs, I HATE articles like these. So preachy, and borderline fanatical. It almost comes off like someone trying to push their religion on you.

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Sophia
Monday, June 17/2013 at 8:27 pm

Agreed.

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Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, June 17/2013 at 11:03 pm

I hear you guys. Diets ARE a bit like religion – it’s very personal and each person is doing what they believe is the best answer.

I’m not advocating Paleo here one way or another (I don’t follow it myself… I’m even crazier which is why I haven’t written about what I do, haha!!). I wanted to include Lori’s experience on the blog because I strongly believe that beauty comes from the inside out – how you eat definitely shows up in your skin, nails, hair, etc. For example I would never want to mislead people that you can get great skin from a jar of face cream.

We’ll tone down the preaching but I hope you agree the health side is something interesting to explore?

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Lori Harito
Monday, June 17/2013 at 11:27 pm

Totally agree! Never meant for this to be preachy, simply a story on my experience with the difference in my health and weight from choosing a different type of eating lifestyle. It was my personal experience and how I felt after I cut out certain types of foods in my diet. And I also did my research and spoke with a lot f paleo researchers, bloggers and my naturopath and scrutinized them on why oh why was this so effective. Like I said in the blog, to me it just CLICKED!
Happy to answer anymore questions on what worked for me and paleo in general!

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Lori Harito
Monday, June 17/2013 at 11:19 pm

Hi Joa – definitely not trying to preach or seem fanatical. I don’t think of myself as fanatical with paleo but it’s definitely my lifestyle choice as I stated above and I really like to showcase a new approach to eating just in case it may click with others as it did with me. But it’s definitely not something that everyone has to follow, just something new to think about that’s all! Thanks!

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Judy
Monday, June 17/2013 at 8:51 pm

If you are supposed to cut out carbs while eating Paleo, why is fruit allowed? Fruit is filled with sugar, which then breaks down into carbs. I’m confused!

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Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, June 17/2013 at 11:04 pm

I will let Lori jump in and answer this, but in the meantime here’s an article about sugar. Personally I have done a total 180 on it. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/sugar-issues.shtml

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Lori Harito
Monday, June 17/2013 at 11:24 pm

Hey Judy — fruits are a GREAT source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Fruits are considered a very good source of carbs because they’re very low as a carbohydrate in comparison to things such as bread and potatoes which just make us feel full and bloated. Also, the most important factor is that frits are of a low-glycemic index, which means that they cause slow and limited rises in blood sugar and insulin level. And fruits are more nutritious for your body than whole grains or dairy products. Carbs aren’t going to be eliminated so if we must eat them at least make them the very healthy and low carby choice of fruits. Really, you can’t ever go wrong with fruits!

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ElaineR
Tuesday, June 18/2013 at 11:37 am

I just started 100% paleo a week ago after a slow transition period and although it’s been rough, I haven’t looked back. However, what really frustrates me is articles like this that tout Paleo as a weight loss program – it is not a weight loss program.

Paleo is a way of eating that is primed to give you back more energy, rev up your immune system, and rebuild your overall health. So please don’t market this as your pants fitting more loosely, because although that might be a great unintended side effect, that’s not the primary purpose.

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Lori Harito
Monday, June 24/2013 at 8:10 pm

Hey Elaine – couldn’t agree more with you. This was definitely not a diet for me that’s why I made sure to reflect on the lifestyle change it has been for me. The loose pants was simply a by-product of the lifestyle change and choosing to be better to my body, plus a nice lead in to the story. that’s all!
Congrats on starting paleo and sticking with it – it is very hard and transitional, but can be done :)

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J
Tuesday, June 18/2013 at 12:15 pm

I hate to be critical, because I LOVE this site and the vast majority of the articles. And Lori, the article was well-written and informative. How you eat can impact your skin and hair for the better or worse. But you need to keep in mind that articles like these, that encourage an eating style that is somewhat strict, can have a negative impact on women dealing with disordered eating (which includes following a super “clean”, healthy diet) which is sadly a vast number of us. I think it would be better to encourage mindful eating, eating for pleasure, and eating foods that are very nutritious for the health benefits, without excluding whole categories of food or labelling some foods as “bad”. It is a tough subject and I hope to offer another view point.

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Blush Stops Here
Friday, June 21/2013 at 1:38 pm

Great lowdown on the Paleo diet. Thanks for the blog links. I’m always looking for creative recipes.

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Lori Harito
Monday, June 24/2013 at 8:08 pm

Me too! And I’m so thankful that more and more people are providing some WONDERFULLY creative takes on the modern day dishes.

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Jenna
Sunday, June 23/2013 at 11:14 pm

Honestly, there is no need for all of the critical comments…this was a great and informative story about a growing lifestyle diet, and you shouldn’t have taken the time to read/comment rudely about it if paleo didn’t interest you in the first place.

Thank you for the great article!

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Lori Harito
Monday, June 24/2013 at 8:07 pm

Thank you Jenna, I’m so glad you find the article informative. It’s what I was going for :) I do welcome all the feedback, as I know, from my own experience, that when it comes to your diet and nutrition it’s very personal.

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Jenna @ MyMissingFactor
Sunday, June 30/2013 at 4:32 am

Lori – great write up! I love hearing other people’s experiences with paleo style eating/living. And its so true, once you do it properly, you never go back.
Another worthwhile resource to look into is Whole9 and their book ‘It Starts With Food’. The Hartwigs go through the science (and fully reference) their book so well, it has definitely helped motivate me, because I really understand why I’m doing what I’m doing.

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Challie
Wednesday, July 24/2013 at 10:57 pm

A great perspective on Paleo eating.

Unfortunately, I have severe allergies to nuts and shellfish, so while I would like to try eating Paleo, I think that limiting what I eat even more would become a problem. I already try to avoid wheat if possible, but I have found that for me, integrating some healthy grains that are not inflammatory (not all grains are inflammatory!) has reduced my bloating. I eat quinoa and steel cut oatmeal fairly frequently. I think the trick is to try elimination diets and see what works the best for you, because everyone is going to be a little different!

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Raven
Thursday, January 9/2014 at 11:42 pm

Paleo can be used as a healthy diet, because if you are heavy your chances of loosing weight are very good. I’m a body builder/fitness fanatic and I’m using paleo to achieve my goals. Please don’t voice your opinion on the article if its going to be negative. This is someone’s experience with this eating plan. If you like it, do it. I’d you you don’t go somewhere else.

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