The Paleo Diet has become extremely popular in recent years, with some several hundred million google searches on the topic every year. It is an incredible diet for improving energy, mood, and health conditions. Yet it may perhaps be so famous and so beloved because it is an excellent tool for weight loss. Perhaps the best diet for weight loss around today (even the scientific studies say so.)
After spending several years researching and working as a health professional I developed a set of theories and recommendations that I regularly use both for my own healthy, happy weight maintenance and for my clients.
Because paleo food is awesome. It’s great for weight loss. But then beyond simple weight loss with paleo, you can accelerate your weight loss with paleo tips and tricks, most especially macronutrient management.
You can read every one of my weight loss accelerating tips in the program I finally packaged together for you, Weight Loss Unlocked, here. In the meantime, here are the basics to get you started, and what I think the ultimate paleo weight loss plan is.
Paleo Weight Loss Plan Step 1: Eat Good Food
There are a lot of great things about paleo. The most important, however, is the sheer quality of the food.
The paleo diet is the most nutrient-dense diet that exists, so long as you do it “right.” This means that you eliminate unhealthy foods like processed foods, seed oils, sugar, and grains from your diet. This is important – it’s incredibly important to eliminate foods that can cause harm.
Yet it also means that you focus on including the best foods possible. Don’t just eat one or two kinds of vegetables, but twelve or twenty (and be sure to include greens like kale, chard, Brussels sprouts and spinach). Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables a day. Having a variety of vegetables in your diet and eating plentiful amounts is key to nourishing your body the best you can.
Eat organ meat like liver. Liver is the richest source of vitamin A in the world and is also rich in vitamin K, B vitamins, iron, and so much more. It might not be the most palatable food in the world (though I personally love it). If you cannot stomach the idea of organ meat, try a desiccated liver supplement like this one.
Eat high quality, wild-caught fatty fish like salmon once or twice a week. These foods are rich in the super healthy EPA and DHA fatty acids, and also in vitamin D. If you cannot get your hands on good, wild-caught fish, try a fermented cod liver oil supplement.
High quality foods cool inflammation, heal tissue damage, help your body detox, and balance hormones. The most important thing you can do for weight loss is provide your body with the fuel it needs to in fact be healthy enough to lose weight.
Paleo Weight Loss Plan Step 2: Heal Underlying Issues
No matter how hard you try to lose weight, you might not be able to if you suffer from an underlying health condition.
Thyroid diseases like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are super common problems for people trying to lose weight, especially women.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and leaky gut are all gut health problems. They might not seem like they are important for weight loss, but they are some of the most important. Without a healthy gut, you cannot absorb nutrients well, or have a healthy hormonal response to food.
Autoimmune diseases are also very important to tackle. The best guide for overcoming them, in my opinion, is Sarah Ballantyne’s, here on Amazon.
Figure out your underlying issues by taking stock of your body. What symptoms do you experience? When? For how long? How long have you had them? Take your answers to google and to the doctor. Get some tests done. Paleo is fantastic for healing, but a more targeted approach can help heal you all the faster.
Then, the faster you heal your underlying problems, the faster you can lose weight.
Paleo Weight Loss Plan Step 3: Eat When Hungry
Overeating is a problem that can prevent weight loss. You don’t want to snack too much, to eat beyond fullness, or to exceed your daily energy requirements on a regular basis.
Most people don’t know this, but under eating can be just as much as, if not more of, a problem.
Because even while under eating reduces calorie intake and therefore cause weight loss in the short-term, it causes health and hormone problems in the long-term.
This is especially important for women. The female body has many mechanisms specifically designed to store body fat if it thinks it is being starved: this protects a woman (and her baby) from dying if she is pregnant.
If you undereat on a regular basis, your body may think that it is being starved, and it will slow down thyroid function, and therefore fat burning.
In order to experience optimal weight loss in the long run, you absolutely must prevent this kind of damage from happening.
The key to doing so is just being sure to eat when you feel hungry. Don’t starve yourself. Don’t make yourself wait on purpose. Don’t give yourself a set number (say, 1500) of calories to eat in a day. Don’t even give yourself a set amount of food. Energy needs vary day by day. If you feel like you need to eat more, do it.
Paleo Weight Loss Plan Step 4: Exercise Smart
The key to weight loss is not to exercise harder, but to exercise smarter.
One of the best things about the paleo movement is that it doesn’t only teach us how to eat, but it teaches us how to get fit, too.
Running, cycling, using the elliptical, and other cardio exercises are not the panacea most people make them out to be. They do not burn as many calories as the people who sell them would like us to believe. Nor do they build muscle all that well. They also elevate stress hormone levels if done on a regular basis.
All three of these factors make them inferior for weight loss.
Instead of doing cardio, I like to recommend doing a mix of three things: weight lifting, short, intense sprint work-outs, and slow, “happy” movement.
For me, this looks like lifting weights once or twice a week, doing a couple sprint workouts a week, and going dancing at night.
The basic ideas are this:
1) muscles require more energy to maintain, so if you build muscle, your body will burn more calories over the course of any given day, regardless of whether you work out.
2) strength training helps improve insulin sensitivity and hormonal health
3) high intensity sprint workouts (like pedaling as fast as you can for 6 periods of 45 seconds) improve insulin sensitivity and hormonal health
4) strength and sprint workouts promote something called “metabolic flexibility” which helps you burn both carbohydrates and fat efficienty
5) exercising too much, like many cardio exercisers do, is stressful to the body. With short weight lifting and sprint workouts you minimize the amount of stress hormone in your bloodstream.
So exercise smart. Lift heavy weights twice a week, do two sprint workouts a week, and walk or do yoga and dance or any other fun activity as often as possible.
Paleo Weight Loss Plan Step 5: Manage Macronutrients
Here is where I get very specific about the plan. In previous steps I’ve talked about healing, reducing stress, sleeping as much as you can, and exercising smart. These are super important parts of the plan – in fact, I would argue that they are the most important.
Yet after all my time working the paleo health world, I have realized that gently keeping track of macronutrient intake can go a long way.
Basically – studies have shown that people do well on both low fat and low carb diets.
In fact, low fat and low carb diets are the front-runner best diets for weight loss (next to paleo, anyway!).
The best way to lose weight is to combine one of these macronutrient-managed diets with paleo.
Basically, I recommend that you go lower carb or lower fat.
The list of reasons why you might choose one or the other is long. You may want to eat a lower carbohydrate diet if you have diabetes or an insulin signaling problem, if you have a FODMAP or other kind of gut bacteria issue, if you are menopausal, or simply if you do not enjoy sweets.
You may want to eat a lower fat diet if you have suffered from undereating or overexercising in the past, if you have a thyroid issue, if you simply don’t seem to do well on a high fat diet (some people simply don’t have good genes for breaking down fat), or if you enjoy sweet more than savory foods.
It is a matter of experimentation, to be sure – but it is entirely worth it for the weight loss and healthy weight maintenance benefits you can enjoy.
By lower carbohydrate I mean still approximately 100 grams of carbohydrate a day (and more if you are an athlete). It can be more than this. It can be slightly less. Good carbs to eat are fruits and starchy vegetables.
The minimum amount of fat for someone on a low fat diet is still about 30 grams a day, or 10 grams a meal. Fat is crucial for building hormones and maintaining healthy brain and cellular function. Good fats to eat are olive oil, coconut oil, avocadoes, and butter or ghee (clarified butter – this is my favorite one.)
So the key is not to eliminate fat or carbs, but rather to focus more on one than on the other.
This helps you spontaneously reduce calories, as well as helps your body streamline its metabolism for the kind of fuel you have found works best for it. I recommend that you try either approach for two-three weeks and see how you feel. If you do not like it, then the other macronutrient may be better for you!
The “Ultimate Paleo Weight Loss Plan” I just outlined might seem super complex to you if you are new to paleo! There are so many things to remember! But it just seems that way on the surface. Focusing on fresh fruit and vegetables, wild-caught and grass-fed animal products, and healthy fats like olive and coconut oil will take you a long way towards greater health and weight loss.
You can do all of the macronutrient managing by going low carb or low fat, too, but that is secondary to eating whole, paleo foods in general.
If you are a seasoned paleo expert, perhaps this plan sounds basic to you! Yet the unique way in which I recommend managing your fat and carb intake can be a real god-send. Most people on paleo don’t know that a low fat diet can actually work really well for some people… so perhaps it’s time you give it a shot!
Learn more about my thoughts on weight loss, such as how to time your carb intake with your menstrual cycle, you can check out my super thorough e-book on the topic, Weight Loss Unlocked.
Weight Loss Unlocked is also full of practical advice and has simple, easy-to-follow meal plans and recommendations. You can read all about them here.
And that’s a wrap! What do you think of the Ultimate Paleo Weight Loss Plan? Do you have my carb and fat theories? Love them? What works for you? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?! Please do!!!