No grains. No starches. No refined sugar or dairy or coffee. With the Paleo Diet, it's all fruits and meat and nuts, and sometimes an herbal tea. But as the New York Times observes, proponents of the diet have morphed their new eating patterns into an entire lifestyle, and that lifestyle has birthed a cottage industry around it.
Saying Paleo is popular is an understatement—last year, it was the most-searched diet in the U.S., topping even juice cleanses. Most people try it to lose weight, and they do. Like juice cleanses, the Paleo philosophy works because you're cutting down on calorically dense foods, especially carbohydrates. But it differs from juice diets in that you're also getting a lot more. Food, for one. Fiber, for another. It's also something that can be sustained since you're not starving yourself. Paleo is based on a sound principle: drop the processed foods in favor of whole foods, and the body responds.
Its demands, however, can quickly become all-encompasing. As the Times says, "For them, Paleo is a way of life, a philosophical prism that colors everything from child rearing to sunscreen."
"It's a total rabbit hole," said Karen Phelps, a freelance writer not surprisingly from Ashland, Ore. "You start thinking, 'Wait a minute, if I can fix my diet from ancestral health principles, what else can I fix through ancestral health principles?' The list is endless."
That endless list is growing by the day. It includes amber goggles to reduce blue-spectrum lights that allegedly disrupt circadian rhythms—our primitive ancestors didn't have iPads—alternative cleaning and beauty products, and play-based exercise routines. There's even Paleo parenting.
Its science may still be debated, but the brand of Paleo Diet, replete with trademark, marches onward. It has a store, a referral program, and several best-selling books. And it's unabashedly horn-tooting about its efficacy, billing itself as "the world's healthiest diet." (No surprise, Paleo Dieters are often CrossFitters.) It's effective for weight loss around your stomach, and, increasingly, from your wallet.
[Art: Banksy // Photo: Flickr]