Is Paleo the Right Way to Go?

Nutrition // Rachel Sadler // 10 March 2015

Losing weight and being healthy have led to a whole heap of diet options. The choice is bewildering. We’ve seen the Atkin’s diet, veganism, the raw food diet, the lemon detox diet and even the baby food diet (apparently one of Reese Witherspoon’s favourites!). So when all we want is to be healthy and do right by our bodies, how do we sift through the array of diets out there and find what is best for us?

The Paleo Diet

One of the latest food regimes receiving growing popularity is the Paleo diet. With its natural ingredients, elimination of processed foods and boasted benefits, it seems to be a good option for those looking to keep things simple and make a healthy change. But is it the right choice?

It’s worth questioning whether sticking to such a prescriptive diet and limiting our bodies of so many food groups is really the answer. And also, is it right for YOU?

What is the Paleo Diet?

Put simply, the diet focuses around the eating habits of our late ancestors: basically, if cavemen didn’t eat it, then neither should we. What’s great is that Paleo blacklists many foods that we could definitely benefit from cutting down on: cheese, wine, sugar and preservatives. What remains is a strict diet of fish, poultry, red meat, seeds, nuts and certain non-starchy vegetables. And they’re all things that are very good for us!

The diet hinges its success on claims that it helps with sleep, digestion, weight loss and even certain pains and allergies.

Many celebrities have come out in support of Paleo, fuelling its momentum and popularity. While it all sounds ah-mazing, a key point to consider is that we can not and possibly should not fully mimic the diet of our caveman ancestors: and don’t forget they had a much shorter life expectancy than us!

Paleo excludes essential foods (and food groups!) such as legumes, chickpeas, dairy, tofu and even many grains, potatoes and quinoa. By cutting out two major food groups (dairy and whole grains) you are in danger of compromising your nutrition.

The Health Risks of the Paleo Diet

Leading nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton points out that the claimed benefits of cutting out grains, dairy and legumes from your diet, while also increasing meat consumption, are not scientifically based.

Some have raised health concerns about the Paleo diet, specifically that a diet high in meat and low in whole grains has been linked with bowel cancer and heart disease. We also require calcium from dairy and other foods to assist in bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Unlike us, the cavemen did not live long enough to develop osteoporosis. And dairy products can actually help with weight loss.

Can Paleo Work Long Term?

Another thing is that the Paleo diet is just that – a diet. The rigidity of the plan may not cater for those juggling a busy lifestyle and it doesn’t offer ongoing expert and community support. There’s nothing better for our minds and bodies than eating nutritionally balanced meals and exercising. Paleo does not focus on mindset or attitude, and does not provide a holistic approach to weight loss.

Losing weight is hard and definitely not always fun. While following a Paleo diet leads to cutting out a lot of unhealthy processed foods, for most people there’s no need to cut out whole food groups.

And for those thinking that a Paleo diet is a road to pure weight loss success, remember: support, exercise and consistency are all paramount.

12WBT offers nutritionally balanced Meal Plans, as well as Exercise Plans to suit your goals, Mindset Lessons to help you stay consistent, and vital support from our amazing crew of nutrition and fitness experts.


What Other Experts Have to Say About the Paleo Diet



  1. Sarah Reply

    The Paleo Way does offer a holistic approach to lifestyle and weight loss including exercise, attitude and mindfulness. I have followed both 12WBT and Paleo and I must say that I am personally better off for cutting out dairy and grains with the Paleo lifestyle.

    1. Jana Reply

      I agree Sarah, I have tried both and believe the support with the The Paleo Way has been nothing short of amazing. The amount of scientific research and interviews with very credible, experienced medical specialists all over the world has been so educating. It seems a little like this is slam at this program which isn’t cool at all. There is room for everyone to do what feels right for them.

      1. Nina Reply

        I agree with you both. My body and mind thrives on Paleo, and suffers when eating heavy grains and strict calorie counting. To dismiss Paleo because cavemen had shorter life-spans, and linking it to bowel cancer and heart disease without any mention of other lifestyle factors, is both a cheap shot and missing solid principles and the philosophy of paleo. I’ll take clean paleo over highly processed tofu, soy, and industrial seed oils any day.

  2. charmaine Reply

    totally agree. Allergies blood type and climate also age and health stress and genetics are all factors in weight loss

  3. Gini Taylor Reply

    I tried it The Whole Life Challenge, which is pretty much based on Paleo Diet. I lost control of portion sizes my food all together. I have put on weight with this diet. I really need to have structure in my resume. I back on Mish Programme and know I will blast it!!

  4. Monika Reply

    I prefer Low Carb High Fat, the science behind it. I’ve been calorie counting eating low fat, not realising the sugar in these products. Going back to pre low fat days, sounds healthier. Any balance or taking a food group will probably help lose weight, but keeping it up is the problem. I know losing weight will help my pain/muscles, but I had these issues before I gained weight.

  5. Ann Blakey Reply

    Thank you for your thoughts on the Paleo way of eating…I have been eating this type of food for a few months, adjusting it to suit what I like to cook and eat and I really appreciated this message that you sent me, as it was what I was thinking and when I did your support sessions and menu’s I could not see much difference except of course dairy and a few other items…am still maintaining my weight from my sessions with your great 12wbt last year just loved it and still recommend it to friends as a great way to begin on a healthier journey…

  6. Susan Reply

    Grains and legumes aren’t essential to human health – we use them because they store well and so have allowed people to live in high density, settled communities since the iron age. The remains of pre-settled humans who didn’t farm or eat grains show bone density for age much like ours, NO tooth decay (!) and plenty of old people. Average life spans were shorter because accidents and severe diseases were more likely to be fatal, as they still are in developing countries.

  7. Heidi Reply

    Paleo is not a diet, it truly is a change in lifestyle. It is simply cutting out all the things we don’t need, eating nutrient dense food, getting active and making a change for the better, it is not high protein, it is high nutrients. No calorie counting, no weighing food, feeling so much better, developing a great relationship with food and cooking meals from scratch. Protein serves in the Paleo lifestyle should be no bigger than a palm size serving which is recommended 🙂

    Everyone has their own opinions but I think before publishing a story the facts need to be accurate.

    1. Rachael Reply

      Totally agree, It’s a life style that I feel fantastic on. I’ve been on it for 18 months. If you want results my mum is proof. The doctor said she was over weight and needed to lose weight, her cholesterol was too high and she had other problems. She lost about 20 kgs now about 55kg, her cholesterol is perfect (doctor said), she is so much happier and full of energy. No exercise just changing what she ate. It’s not high in protein that’s people’s choice eatting extra meat then what is recommended.
      We now cook together and is a total lifestyle the family loves.
      12WBT is still my go to for exercise but I love my Paleo lifestyle.

  8. erika Reply

    Your article is incorrect. There is plenty of science to say that grains cause inflammation and most modern diseases are caused by it. If anyone had an auto immune disease cutting out grains is essential. You also do yourselves no favours by bringing up the “cavemen died young” argument. In fact there is plenty of evidence to show there were cavemen who lived to old age but they mostly died from injury hunting animals and lack of antibiotics, not from modern day illnesses heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

    Get your facts right. This article reads like you did a quick Google search for something to say.

    If you want science based evidence of higher fat, lower carb, non processed food go to it’s all listed there

  9. Helena hayes Reply

    It has helped me that you point out that weight loss is hard.
    I just thought it was hard for me and have fallen off the rails in the last couple of weeks.
    Somehow the recognition that weight loss is hard has now inspired me to get back on track.

  10. Trish Cutting Reply

    Into Week 7 of The Paleo Way program and down 5 kgs. Sleep better, look brighter, have more energy, wake up with the sparrows, cut out white stuff, sugar. Cost $99, way cheaper than another program that never gave me that “lightbulb” moment. Just sayin ….

  11. Aileen Reid Reply

    Totally agree. Any diet that cuts out so many food groups is not good. Its also incredibly environmentally unfriendly, no way could we feed everyone on the planet so much animal protein. That paleolithic people ate like it has been discredited many times. There is never one size fits all – everyone is different and some people may respond positively to elements of it such as cutting out gluten but others of us can eat wheat/grains/gluten with impunity. Also dairy. Just a fad like many others. Beats me as to why what celebrities in womens magazines say carries so much weight. But then again we are fed a diet of tripe by the media and people have lost the ability to critique and research for themselves. Anything in black and white on the net must be true!

    1. Brooke Reply

      Paleo is about eating an abundance of leafy greens and veges with a small serving of protein, not the other way around.

      1. Chantelle Reply

        Exactly!! So many articles are saying eating that much meat is so bad for you, when on paleo we are only encouraged to eat approx a palm size of protein per meal. #teampaleo

  12. Judee Hawkins Reply

    I’ve been on 12WBT and Paleo. The latter is fantastic. My fatigue problem baffled medicos but it seems Paleo has solved it. I don’t need a sleep throughout the day. The meals are fantastic. I don’t miss my cereal or biscuits or wheat products at all. For instance this morning I had left over chicken and vegetable soup, my choice – just divine. It’s not hard, not restrictive, planning required as any other weight loss regime. Go Paleo.

  13. Judee Hawkins Reply

    I forgot to say I lost 5 kgs on the first 5 weeks, without even trying, and no exercise.

  14. Bec Reply

    You know, I have not met a single person in real life who looks “healthy” from going paleo. Bad skin, tired, cranky, and their kids who have also been made to go paleo are terribly behaved. I think it comes down to what works for an individual, a celebrity telling saying you must do this if you want to be healthy is dangerous. I like the 12wbt program as it is all about me doing excercise, eating well and taking ownership. I followed another person for a while but it was all about shaming and “I’m right and everyone else is poisoning you” also the other followers were just nasty. If paleo works for you great! If not don’t feel bad it’s not for everyone 🙂

    1. Lauren Reply

      Your comment has me baffled! Poor skin, tired, cranky and poorly behaved paleo children??? All this from eating natural, unprocessed food? Wow!

  15. Johanna Reply

    Paleo is a lifestyle, not a diet at all, and the weight loss is a nice side effect but not the main reason why people chose to live the Paleo Way. A lot of fitness instructors, nutritionists etc say ‘weight loss happens 20% in the gym and 80% in the kitchen’. And again, Paleo is NOT about eating huge amounts of meat: just a palm size of protein, and not necessarily every day. That’s the beauty of it – you can chose what to eat and don’t have to count calories. Just a few exclusions (which are not really hard to do, come on!). Dark leafy greens contain much more calcium than milk (which is also high in carbs and contains lactose which is a natural sugar, but still sugar, and it is highly processed). And nowadays there are sooo many people with intolerances/sensitivities for wheat, lactose, fructose, food additives etc that they have to cut out some food groups. There is a lot of scientific evidence backing the theory behind the Paleo lifestyle – I can just recommend to start with Nora Gedgaudas’ book ‘primal body primal mind’ and her articles on Paleo – every single one with a huge list of references. I didn’t see any references in MB article to back up the validity of the claims she makes about Paleo. I can only recommend to do thorough research into all the diets and lifestyles out there (and I don’t mean reading articles in ‘Women’s Health & Fitness Magazine’ or the weekend paper). A lot of people doing a 10, 12, 14 week ‘diet’ experience great results with weight loss, but after the program stops, they go back to their usual lifestyle and put back on weight. That’s what I hear a lot. Permanent weight loss is not sustainable doing these short-term programs, you have to adapt your lifestyle for good. And that is what Paleo is about – once you commit, you change for good, this is it. Eating real food, from happy and healthy animals and organic produce. And there is heaps of support out there, I’m part of Pete Evans’ 10 week introduction program and he is online every single day helping with questions. Absolutely amazing.

  16. Heather Reply

    Perhaps you could email me a Hot X Bun recipe using butter instead of margarine (seriously margarine#!) Ditch the plain flour for a healthier alternative. Swap out your sugar content for goji berries, cranberries & currants. Seems you’ve weighed into the world of Paleo vs business.
    Hooray for the awakening.

    1. Lauren Reply

      Hahaha – love this!

  17. Naomi Reply

    Who listed chickpeas as essential? A diet too high in them causes laythyrism. So yeah, if you are all for aortic aneurysms, upper motor neuron disease and atrophy of the gluteal muscles, GORGE on those!

  18. Robyn Reply

    I have been waiting for you to introduce some Paleo style recipes but certainly didn’t expect this sort of a review! I have customers (I am a Thermomix consultant) who have had huge improvements in their health since changing to paleo. It appears people with auto immune diseases really do benefit from paleo even though a lot of health professionals are still denying it. I myself haven’t yet gone there but enjoy some recipes and certainly being wheat senstive I find the lifestyle does make sense to me.

  19. Andi Reply

    I’m into my 3rd week of a 10 week Paleo ‘activation’ period.

    All recipes are produced by a qualified chef, there are regular features about Paleo lifestyle v other diets, and features by published medical and science professionals. We even have a 10 week fitness plan!!

    No community? The Paleo Way has THE most supportive members in the whole world – and The Tribe are scattered all around the world, growing bigger every day!!

    Big, greedy food producers and supporting corrupt governments should be concerned.

  20. Rachel Koopmans Reply

    7 weeks into a Paleo diet, and I am 7kg down. I am never going back to the way I used to eat. Why? Not because of the weight loss! THIS is why:

    GERD Symptoms: Gone
    IBS Symptoms: Gone
    Auto-Immune Symptoms: Gone
    Mood swings: Gone
    Two week periods: now 3 days with no pain or PMS

    I have never felt better in my life!
    Off to break my intermittent fast with two eggs, two rashers of bacon and some kale all cooked in coconut oil, served with half an avocado, a handful of almonds and some olives, and chased down with some bone broth. Oh, and I’d better give the butter chicken in the slow cooker a good stir, and start preparing the cauliflower rice. It’s a hard life, this Paleo living…. *wink*

    1. Elizabeth Reply

      What kind of foods do you eat on the Paleo lifestyle. Is there a plan or programme that you have followed. Thank you

  21. bella Reply

    paleo is not a diet, it is a lifestyle choice. it is healthy and good food, all this low sugar stuff got more sugar then people need and processed stuff is for the pockets of the big companies, parents will buy its easy to give the children for school lunches ect, most people will buy it so easy to just grab a bar of sorts and eat rather than cook something healthy. I have been there as well I have tried all from shakes to diets and paleo has helped me, I never knew I am allergic to all the grains and dairy since on paleo I feel better and healthier I have resumed exercises food consumption alone will not make a body healthier. it has to be both and all in moderation. The tribe seems to be supportive and a great bunch I would love to sign up to it but my finance wont allow me due to health problems I lost my work and trying to incorporate programs like that are out for me. but research on google and finding what is good for one self helps as well. just have to put a little extra more effort in and take the mind of food. being on paleo after breakfast I feel that full I not even think about the next meal till its time for it. I feel no particular diet planner or whatever you call it should brag out other life style choice. Everyone has a right to choose and make up they own choice and use what is good for them whatever is they want, cheers everyone and good luck

  22. Kate MD Reply

    Oh for goodness sake! So now we all believe charismatic ‘experts’ with no actual scientific credentials? How about formally educated dietitians and doctors? I really don’t understand where this new enthusiasm for alternative pseudoscience comes from.

    There is no long term evidence for the paleo diet.

    I have no beef with people eating whatever they want, but let’s not pretend that there’s any rigorous evidence for the paleo lifestyle in terms of improving morbidity and mortality.

    As for too many chickpeas and the dreadful epidemic of lathyrism, that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard for a long time.

    As I tell my medical students, just because it pops up first on a Google search, or you read it on Wikipedia, does not make it fact.

    Great article, Michelle.

  23. Kim Reply

    hi Michelle,

    I have tried every so called diet under the sun. None I stayed on and lost little weight. Yes I was disaplined whilst on them. Having thyroid, auto immune issues and other health issues will do that. I had to find the real cause and I opted to try paleo. Yes I researched, I read many reviews. So cutting out carbs, processed foods, sugar, gluten and grains and eating small portions of meat and a lot of fresh organic vege is the way to go. My immflammation has subsided, I’m feeling better, I’m not so tired, not bloated, suffering headaches and migraines and as a bonus I’m also losing weight. I don’t have the mind games around food going on, the depression and feeling like I was in a vicious circle. I don’t throw loads of anti inflammatory and pain reducing medication down my throat. Last night I went to a non paleo restaurant, yes my choice, I ate my used to be favourite meal and I couldn’t finish it., it tasted awful Around thirty minutes later I felt so sick, I broke out into a hot sweat, my stomach bloated up, I was burping and the food was repeating on me. I actually vomited when I got home. I went to bed feeling so crook. I had to take pain killers as I felt a migraine coming on. Today I feel like I have a hangover, I’m lethargic and have a dull headache. A big lesson for me my body doesn’t need / like the other food I used to love. No wonder I use to feel awful all the time before paleo. My hubby also has RA & Hashimotos and Dr & specialist amazed at his improved blood tests and reduced acute flare ups. Never has hubby really followed or supported me in the many diets I tried. I don’t blame him either. Paleo he does as he’s also reaping the health rewards. It’s a way of life for us now.

  24. Linda Reply

    Science… I love it! and I enjoyed the video created by Christina Warinner. Wholesome, varied food seems to be the simple key to a healthy lifestyle. Oh and the amount of exercise that ‘cavemen’ would have completed in a day hunting and gathering and just living the nomadic life, I suspect would have been far greater than a lot of us do in our every day.

  25. Lynda Reply

    Paleo is definitely the way to go, just read all the success stories. I suggest Michelle and Rosemary Stanton try it for themselves.

  26. Dale Reply

    I appreciate all the information I can get about nutrition and healthy living. What I struggle with is the nasty tone in which some of it is delivered. Let’s put our facts and beliefs forward without the judgement, I don’t think it’s helpful for anyone.

  27. Janelle Reply

    I totally agree with Dale,when reading through the emails on this matter, I felt as though I was listening to Ferrell cats fighting or something, didn’t seem to benefit much from the information bar the fact it can certainly be delivered without so much judgement and harshness.

  28. Cass Reply

    I would how many Paleo supporters are eating true Paleolithic diets?

    Wild brocolli and carrots? Rabbit meat including the internal organs? Seal blubber? Almonds that contain arsenic? True bananas versus the made made farmed ones available in the shops.

    I support anyone’s choice to eat whatever makes them feel good but please don’t call any food you buy in a shop Paleolithic because it is only a distant cousin to what Paleolithic people ate (depending on the region of course as they didn’t eat the same thing).

  29. Birra-li Reply

    I really like how Michelle doesn’t censor comments. It shows a remarkable confidence in both herself and her followers. I came across Paleo by accident as my children love MKR and I liked Pete and Manu’s facebook pages to get an idea when the next series was airing. Pete’s page had many posts and links to articles written by neurologists, Dr’s etc. I followed the links, read the information came across Gary Fettke No Fructose, and went to a talk he gave in Hobart. Everything he said made complete sense, I guess being a practicing surgeon and UTAS medical lecturer helped, as he has the brains to make the science simple. He called it KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid). It was a revelation to find out how carbohydrates convert to fat and how our bodies can use ketones to fuel the brain. I was gob smacked to discover how much we are encouraged to over eat, a palm full of protein a day – a lot less than I’d grown up on. I have change my diet, to real food that is seasonal and organic. I could never go back to the diet I ate before as my mental health has improved in ways I find impossible to put into words, losing 13 kg, without exercising because of a strained ankle, and keeping it off for 10 months, is just an added bonus. I hate the word Paleo but I agree with the principles of HFLC and because I’m bitterly allergic to dairy, gluten and legumes I find I eat more of a diet that would fall into a Paleo bracket. I think it is interesting to keep in mind that the word diet is used to explain the foods we ingest, everybody is on a diet.

  30. Simone Reply

    I’ve been a fan of the whole ‘I quit sugar’ (Sarah Wilson) thing for a while now and have recently been trying out lots of the paleo recipes and LOVE them! I’m losing weight without thinking about it at all. I’m no longer thinking about food all the time and having cravings. I still have coffee, milk and wine, so not being that strict but I’m loving the way my body is reacting to these small changes.

    Having said that, I love to exercise and love MB’s workouts. I completed the advanced 12WBT last year and I’m going to do the Learn to Run program in May.

    I would really love to see some ‘paleo’ recipes in the 12WBT in this round and in the future.

  31. Anna Reply

    It seems to me that experts are focussing their attention on debunking the paleo diet and that’s not helpful. It’s not prehistorically accurate, they say. So what? I know it isn’t as I’m sure those who follow it also know that. Or its about eating a whole load of red meat and we all know that’s bad for you. Well, its not about that, there is so much more to it. And – the standard trite – its not according to current guidelines. Again, so what? We all know these have changed time and time again as new research comes forward and old research is de-bunked.

    What the experts are conveniently ignoring is that so many people feel so much better – both physically and mentally – when they follow this way of eating. And that cannot be denied. Surely, they could better use their time trying to find out why this is so rather than denying it.

    For many years I suffered from unexplained stomach upsets and often felt quite lethargic after eating (not overeating, just eating). I would wake up groggy with persistent brain fog until mid to late morning. I would always feel like lying down for a nap after a meal. I consulted doctors but they had no idea. Oh well, I thought, I am just not a morning person and I have a weak stomach.

    But it got so bad that my stomach started to swell up after eating and I felt so ill and so tired for hours afterwards that I wasn’t able to function properly at all. That got the doctors attention. Perhaps, I might have food sensitivities. So I cut out diary first and then gluten, and then grains and legumes, and finally sugar. So pretty much without intending to, I went Paleo or close enough to.

    And WOW! Did I start to feel better! Bright and energetic, I could go for hours and hours without even feeling the need to eat. I did this for about six months, until I felt my gut was healed and then a couple of months ago, I thought I would try re-introducing some of the forbidden foods. Well, I felt OK for a month or so but slowly and surely my old symptoms are starting to reappear. And I know that its time to go back to Paleo and to stick to it!

    I previously completed about 3 rounds of 12WBT finishing up about this time last year having lost 15 kg and having hugely improved my fitness (and muscle tone). It was shortly afterwards that I got really sick and had to sort out my diet. Now I want to join up again and get back to my old 12WBT fitness level. I too would absolutely love to see more paleo recipes!

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