If you’ve paid attention to weight loss trends or even just the Internet over the past few years, you’ve probably heard of the Paleo diet. Heavy on meat and vegetables and low on carbs, Paleo claims to promote weight loss and prevent disease. Although it hasn’t been around long enough for researchers to find out how it does on the disease front, some people report not losing weight on the Paleo diet.
So what’s going on?
First, let’s get some Paleo basics down. The word comes from the Paleolithic period, which was over 10,000 years ago — otherwise known of the age of the caveman. The idea, according to U.S. News, is that “if the caveman didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t either.”
Popularized by Dr. Loren Cordain, who wrote The Paleo Diet in 2002, Paleo aims to get rid of all things processed including grains, dairy, legumes and refined sugar. The only items on the menu are foods that can be “hunted and gathered” like meat, poultry, fruits and vegetables.
Getting rid of processed foods and bringing more vegetables into our diet is great for weight loss and disease prevention. But nutritionist Julie Upton, who works with CrossFit athletes who follow Paleo said that many Paleo dieters don’t pay much attention to vegetables.
“Quite a few CrossFit athletes I know gain weight — and not muscle mass! — when they switched to Paleo because they snack on a lot of nuts, avocados and oils and eat gobs of protein and not enough veggies,” she explained. “They miss the point that you’re supposed to eat a lot of vegetables and some fruit while following Paleo.”
Another potential pitfall with Paleo is calories. It’s no secret that a huge part of weight loss has to do with caloric intake, and the Paleo diet doesn’t lay down any laws when it comes to calories.
“At the end of the day, calories are the main factor for weight gain and loss,” Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, told HuffPost. “If someone doesn’t lose weight on Paleo or any diet, it’s because they are eating too many calories.”
Finally, many Paleo dieters are actually eating a good amount of processed foods thanks to snacks sold at grocery stores.
“Any company can make ‘Paleo’ snacks, even if they’re full of sugar from honey and maple or hidden garbanzo beans,” Dave Asprey, author of the New York Times bestselling book The Bulletproof Diet, told The Huffington Post. “So you may think you’re on a Paleo diet when you’re not: you’re eating Paleo-branded junk food.”
If you do it right, Paleo can lead to weight loss. Just make sure your diet is actually high in vegetables and that you’re taking calories into consideration.