Barriers Between You and Living the Paleo/Evolutionary Fitness Lifestyle

“They who overcome their desires once can overcome them always.”

Pierre Corneille

Experience has taught me that there are two main obstacles at play that serve to  prevent the newly-initiated from reaching their Paleo/EvFit dietary goals.obsticale_opt Actually, there is a subgroup and an obstacle associated with that subgroup that relates to the scaling-back of workouts that applies to only a small group of, (usually former) athletes or gym rats, who, for the life of them, cannot fathom the “less is more” doctrine.  That, though, is a post for another time.  My focus today will remain on overcoming the two main dietary obstacles standing between you and the Paleo/EvFit you that you aspire to be.


Most people would rather die that to feel as if they do not fit in.  Standing alone for these folks is akin to sheer nonexistence — and probably something (I’m not qualified here to say, this is just my observation) much worse than that.


Again, I have no numbers to back this up, but I’ve been going about the Paleo/EvFit lifestyle for some time now, and I’ve come across (physically) exactly zero fellow practitioners.  None. Nadda. Zilch. Now, I’m the type of person who feels fairly comfortable standing alone, doing my own thing — most of the time.  I can empathize with those people who cannot, though, because I have been there a time or two myself.  The crux of the matter is this: what to do in social situations, involving food, where (1) you don’t want to feel like some kind of freak and/or (2) you don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings by not partaking of their slaved-over offerings.

Freakish is as Freakish Does…

Now, I’m fairly well-adapted to being the freak-of-nature in a group, and the only thing I can say to this is this: you eventually get used to it.  Being the freak, that is.  I suppose.  And I only suppose, because I really don’t ever remember not being the freak-of-nature, the lone wolf, so to speak.  We can talk rings around whether, or to what extent, this is a combination of nature or nurture, but the fact remains as it is.

I justify this adaptation — rightly or wrongly (and, again, I’m only speculating here) — by subscribing to the notion that the Paleo brain is in fact wired for tribal/group cohesiveness, common purpose, shared values, etc.  However, for the species as a whole to survive, there had to be that one genetic mutation every so often that bucked the status quo, challenged the system, explored — essentially breaking from the group (either metaphorically or literally) to forge a new and possibly better way.  No system, species, organization — universe, even — can survive in perpetual stagnation.  Call it having drawn the genetic short straw.  It’s a tough row to hoe at times, but it does come with its fair share of satisfaction.  In a kind of Faustian Bargain, though, you just can’t share those satisfactions with very many.  Thank God for the Internet.

Hurt Feelings

This is the toughest one for me to navigate, and I’m quite sure that any psychologist/therapist worth their salt would completely dismiss my way of dealing with it.   In a word, though, I practice avoidance. And when in a pinch, I’m not beyond pulling out the little white lie.  “I’m so full already”, “I’ll have some in just a bit”, “just had some such-and-such, and don’t want to taint the — what I am quite sure will be a fabulous taste — with an off palate”, you get the idea.  And where they’re available, employ props — a “nibble plate” of Paleo-friendly offerings for one hand, a nursed glass of wine for the other.  Of course, if I feel like the person in question might be open to considering the real reason behind my avoidance/decline of the offering, I’ll delve into a thumbnail-sketch explanation.

Feel the Addiction

Simple carbohydrates are addicting.  Sounds preposterous, right?  Yeah, once upon a time I thought the same thing.  Then I found and began to study the benefits surrounding the Paleo/EvFit/Ancestral dietary lifestyles and, after due consideration (because I’m like that — to a fault, probably) I made the shift.   But what I found was this: once I cut out all the simple carbs in my diet (and I went cold-turkey — ’cause damnit, if you’re gonna do something, do it; right?), I immediately shifted to an all-out craving mode.  I’d find myself, out of the blue, thinking of bread. Whoa, kinda odd, huh?

Now, even in my pre-Paleo life I wasn’t much of a simple carb freak.  I never really over-indulged, but then again, I never shied away from the stuff, either.  This I attributed to the old, “calories in, calories out” diet mind-set.  Hey, my workouts (at that time) were long and pretty brutal, and I figured I couldn’t eat enough to gain any weight.  The scales and the mirror proved provided constant proof that I was right.  What I didn’t see, though,  was what was going on inside my body.  I just figured seasonal allergies and slightly elevated blood pressure was part and parcel with the genetic hand I was dealt.  Hey, I was in good damn shape — what else could it be?

Well, take a wild guess as to what cleared up after a few faithful months of living the Paleo life.  And those carb cravings?  They pass.  For me, the cravings weren’t all that bad, and lasted just a couple of days.  I have heard of these cravings lasting for much longer (weeks) and of being compared to nicotine and/caffeine withdrawal.

Here’s two tricks that I found help calm the monkey:

  1. When the craving hits, take a tablespoon full of olive oil, cod liver oil (do yourself a favor and get the lemon flavored!), almond oil or an equivalent.
  2. Over-eat fat and protein at each meal.  A strange bit of diet advice, you say?  Nah, not really.  This is a short-term fix to help quell the carb cravings.  You’ll quite naturally cut back to normal amounts once the cravings subside.  And remember the hormone responses to the various macro-nutrients.  Your insulin response will still be (relatively) low and, therefore, your resultant weight gain during this transition period will be minimal (if any).

Take a look at the following links, as they are applicable to this discussion:

From Time Magazine —,8599,1662484,00.html

And a short video, via Richard at Free the Animal ——vegan-cure-for-diabetes.html

In reference to the video, I think the results would have been so much better had the folks employed a Paleo-like diet in the study.  The failure/drop-out rate, I believe, would have been much lower.  It is an interesting video, though, nonetheless.

In Health,


12 responses to “Barriers Between You and Living the Paleo/Evolutionary Fitness Lifestyle

  1. Hey Keith,

    Great post. I have gotten the weird looks and such at the gym, and the only people that do the exercise right are those I have turned on to the idea. All who have have benefited greatly. I read your posts every day, but this is my first comment. Please keep up the excellent work. I love to read about your workouts as it gives me inspiration and ideas for workouts.


  2. Extremely cool post, I especially enjoyed your post yesterday the link to Tim Ferris’s blog post was really cool….I find that sometimes its uncomfortable living the alternate lifestyle and I tend to eat “non-paleo” when I am out with friends/family at a restaurant for me its not worth the hassle of sticking mega strict so occasionally when dining out with friends or family I will indulge in Pizza, Sushi, Cheesecake, Beer, Tequila or whatever takes my fancy, the way I look at it though is that its just a mess I need to clean up, so the next morning I get up and do a fasted workout (usually because I’m stuffed from the previous meal) and clean up the mess I have made. Its like having a party; your house will be trashed but thats the price you pay for a good time, you just gotta get up and clean things up…..
    The difficulty with the lifestyle comes with everyday occurrences like staff canteen’s where people weird me out for eating healthy. At the end of the day it comes down to just getting used to it and not getting put down by others negativity.

    Thanks for the post Keith!

  3. Jeff — Yeah, “globo” gyms are not very receptive to the idea of one pursuing Crossfit-like — or even Olympic/athlete types — of training. And don’t expect the “3 sets of 10” bodybuilder to be receptive to the idea, either. Eventually, I’ll be in a position to outfit my own gym.

    Chris — It’s definitely a balance that each individual has to work out for themselves. Some are more comfortable with the strict approach, while others are more flexible. I probably rate about an 85 on the “0 to 100 Paleo-strictness scale”. Personally, beer and wine are my downfall. And maybe I can attribute that weakness to my Scots-Irish genes? 🙂

  4. Hey I gave you a shout out on my blog today! I’ve only started blogging but have been reading yours since I have switched to the Paleo life.

    Thanks so much for your time and effort in posting your blog!

  5. The problem is that too much of the paleo lifestyle/diet is too contrarian at this point in time.

    Most of the sheeple, are, well, exactly that — sheeple. I include my family and friends in that group. I mention that saturated fats and sunshine might be good for us — I earn a faceful of laughter and derision.

    “Everyone knows that saturated fat is bad and sunshine causes cancer. Duh!!??? Didn’t you read about the latest study in last week’s People Magazine? Sheesh…”

    When I challenge the argumentums ad populum and sd verecundiam fallacies i.e. “everyone knows” and “the experts said so” — they just roll their eyes at me.

    Even when the evidence is staring them in the face. Literally. My wife STILL doesn’t want to accept the paelo diet benefits even after she sees and admits that I have lost a ridiculous amount of weight in no time, as well as a ridiculous amount of inflammation in my face. My experience has been very similar to Richard’s in this case. The difference is striking.

    She still think that cholesterol will kill me….and won’t want to discuss it….

    C’est la vie.

  6. Melissa — welcome to the neighborhood!

    Patrik — it IS frustrating on so many levels, isn’t it? I’m convinced there’s a “wiring” issue involved, here. I mean, really, all it takes is (1)an open enough mind to consider other possibilities, and (2)a little time spent in research. I’ve had the blood profile question posed to me as well. Now, I don’t ever go to the doctor, because I’m never ill, however, I’m going next year (why next year? Insurance issues — meh!) just to have a blood profile done. I’ll post the results in the blog — and maybe keep a copy in my wallet, at the ready for the next opportune moment. Oh, and if you haven’t already, check out this post from a while back:

    –And thanks for the comments, y’all!

  7. Another barrier is the very basic and human fault of having our cake and eating it too.

    I forwarded an article to my father about how high-fat diets may inhibit cancer/tumor growth by literally starving tumors of glucose (he has a tiny benign tumor in his skull). His response was:

    a) he NEEDS carbohydrates
    b) how can he do a high-fat diet, eat carbohydrates and potentially shrink his tumor all-at-once

    I told him, I think that, if the hypothesis is true, it looks to be mutually exclusive with any significant carb consumption. He won’t accept that b/c he needs a way to have it all.

    Same with my other friends and family when it comes to paleo eating — they have seen my results and they want to lose weight effortlessly and continue eating a carb-weighted diet. We all want it all right now, yet we have to make trade-offs.

    Anyhow, my rant is over….


  8. Hey Keith–

    Great site; just came upon it today. Found through Rob’s Kettlebell for Sport blog. Apologies for the comment to this post being so late.

    I would like to key on one of your points about the barriers we feel to living a particular lifestyle. I thought your point about paleo people being a tribal group was very astute; really that’s what “peer pressure” is all about. So one may feel the pressure to conform to the surround “tribe’s” ethos, whether that’s healthy or not. Personalities *are* different, though, so we all feel the need to fit in more or less, dependent on that. Like you, I’ve always felt the need to go off exploring on my own, or along paths others not of my current tribe have led. So I understand that part.

    One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that humans, like wolves, are for the most part “pack animals.” If you look at hunter/gatherer groups, you see that humans naturally gather that way, and it tends to be the most sustainable, and *effective* way for humans to operate. That’s why you tend to see small units such as squads, etc. in the military for tactical applications, and groups for governing tend to end up being a very small group representing a lot of people (Joint Chiefs of Staff, i.e.).

    In contrast, I think humanity tends to become somewhat pathological when operating is groups larger than crowds. Whereas a pack can be highly functional, look at the effectiveness of a crowd, then a mob. Perhaps it’s due to bandwidth and the density of information to be transferred to each member (yeah, I know I’m getting esoteric here).

    But in any case, crowds and mobs were not how humans were designed to operate, and you can see that we are either at best passive, or at worst, destructive in that “herd” state.

    Anyway–apologies for the long post, but just something I’ve been thinking about.

    Cheers, mate, and keep up the good life!


    • Welcome, Bill — and by all means, your comments are always welcome (I really appreciate the esoteric, by the way 🙂
      I think your comments here concerning the pack mentality of humans — and the efficiency of such groups — is spot-on. It really is how we, as humans, are wired to most efficiently operate.

  9. HI! I’m in the process of doing my research on this paleo way of living! I’m really interested and have already sworn off grains and beans. Can you give me some good recipes, sites, etc…to keep me going in the right direction?

    • Welcome to the tribe, Gayle. My culinary skills are rather stunted. I thoroughly enjoy great food when I run across it, however, left to my own designs, I’m a basic “eat to live” personality — too simple for most people’s tastes. Here, though, are some folks who are primal culinary maestros:
      Feel Good Eating
      Free the Animal
      Mark’s Daily Apple (Mark has a new cookbook out)

  10. Hi, great article thanks. I started following the zone diet around 14 years ago. A year later my father in his 60’s (a doctor) actually tried it. It is an amazing feeling when someone close comes over to your side! He has been doing it with great success since then. A year ago I switched to paleo food choices, my dad has been watching with interest – my joint issues and mentrual probs have disappeared – he has seen my huge ganglion cyst which I’ve had for 10 years shrink in a few weeks after starting paleo. Now a year since I started he told me he and my mum are both switching to paleo food choices.
    Hang in there!. People in my life approach me when bad stuff happens too. However there are those whose health deteriorates and they only listen to their doctor, even though they see and know I’ve had huge success with my eating plan, and then there are those that look at me and ask for advice. Frustrating.

    With regards to eating out – I use the I can’t eat that to grains and gluten I have Hashimotos, which is true but I tell my clients they should be quite comfortable telling people you are grain / sugar intolerant.

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