30 Day Paleo Diet Experiment – Terminated

At the beginning of September, I decided to have a go at the Paleo Diet. In brief, you could call this the caveman diet, the stone age diet, the “don’t eat anything invented in the last 10,000 years” diet. So you can see that there’s a lot of things that you can’t eat when eating Paleo(lithic)ly. No:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Grains
  • Cereals
  • Flower
  • Dairy (Milk)
  • Cheese
  • Sweets
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • etc etc

Now I should say, that I agree with most of that, but I wasn’t doing the Paleo for the reason most do. I wasn’t doing it to lose weight. There’s no doubt at all, that if you follow a classic western diet, or even the recommended high carb, low fat diet, you will definitely shed the fat on this diet. No question. Not only that, you will feel full of energy and probably the healthiest you’ve felt since being a hormonal teenager.

But I am already at a good weight. In fact, many of my friends and family think I should be putting a few pounds on! I also have good energy levels and rarely feel tired. That’s what 2.5 years of the Zone Diet has done for me, a story I’ve told a few times on this blog. So the reason for trying Paleo, was to see if it would make me feel even better… and the short answer is: it didn’t.

You see my diet was already close to a Paleo Zone diet, as recommended by Crossfit. The Crossfit dietary recommendation is simply:

“Eat meat and veg, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar.”

However for me, I would have to rewrite it slightly, to be more like:

“Eat meat, fruit and dairy, nuts and seeds, some veg, little starch, occasional sugar, no wheat.”

Yes my balance of fruit to veg is probably off, but that’s down to lifestyle and lack of time to prepare veg for every meal. I also don’t eat wheat as I’ve discovered it simply doesn’t agree with me. The major addition is the dairy though. I drink a pint of milk a day + eat cheese regularly. That was the thing that really put the stopper on a proper paleo diet. Removing dairy would mean no:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Chocolate *
  • Ice Cream *
  • Cakes, even wheat free ones *
  • Even salami!

* = these foods can be “zoned in” on the Zone diet, and so are not taboo from a Zone perspective.

Milk crops up in a lot of places that I must confess, I hadn’t originally thought about. I like the zone diet, because you can eat anything you want, so long as you adjust portion sizes to compensate. So that occasional chocky bar, whilst not condoned, can be fine, so long as you balance it with some protein. Or indeed, a few glasses of wine are ok with a meal, as long as the meal is light on carbs to compensate. The point is, with the exceptions of bananas, offal and egg yokes, nothing is off limits on the zone. (And they are only strongly advised against, at least in most circumstances.)

Whereas a straight Paleo diet is the opposite. It heavily regulates *what* you can eat, but places no limits on when or how much you eat. The zone diet is quantitative; the paleo diet is qualitative. So ironically, doing a Paleo Zone diet is actually the worst of both worlds, you are restricted in what you eat, and you can only eat certain proportions!

Either way, I simply decided, that for the gains the paleo might have brought me, it simply wasn’t worth the sacrifice. That’s a personal choice and I applaud the Paleo diet’s goals and ideals and heartily recommend it, if you are hoping to lose weight and currently struggling. Personally, I’d try the Zone diet first, it’s worked for me. And indeed I mostly follow a paleo zone diet, but with dairy and the occasional sugar and wine, however 90% of the meals I eat are simple meats, nuts and fruit & veg. A healthy and balanced way to live in my opinion.

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • oTwo 14 September 2009, 9:50 pm

    Hey, intresting article. I just want to remind you of a few things.

    Most worldclass athletes, Crossfitters, tri-athletes and even mixed martial artists agree that they only got the results after 5 weeks.

    Most agree that the first two weeks were hard and afterwhich they thought they will not recive much benifit of following paleo. All agree that it was after about 5 to 6 weeks that they found the really good benifit.

    I was at CrossFit competitions not so long ago in Ontario. I talked to so many athletes and the ones doing paleo (ALMOST ALL) agree that they were able to add more training sessions to what they already do after 5 weeks of paleo.

    The answer is consistency. Stick to it. even a month is not so good. It should be more than that.

    Sugar is addictive, unless you stop eating sugar you will always want fastfood, and basically more things that have sugar on them. Not going 100% strict means ou get no benifit at all. At LEAST for the first month you have to be very strict otherwise the results will slow down a lot.

    On paleo its about hormon control rather than not intaking so much calories or anything like that.

    Also. Dr. Berry Sears the founder of the zone has confessed to eating paleo and admits that athletes should focous more on paleo and make it a zone+paleo when there reasy to step up thier training.

    For longer term health and fitness benifits its about what you eat not how much. I can eat mcdonalds and compliment it with zone, guess what, im not gonna make benifits. So is it with icecream, once only and you ruin hormonal response so its seriously important that your strict.

    Conclusion is this, eat paleo. When your ready to step your game up then do both paleo and zone. It is much more important to cater to WHAT YOU EAT, not HOW MUCH YOU EAT. Train hard, eat properly and live life as RX’d

    Omar =))

  • chris 15 September 2009, 11:23 am

    no flower! 😮 = no broccolli. I’d have thought flowers fit perfectly into the paeleo recommendations of something that you can gather!


  • Colin McNulty 15 September 2009, 8:40 pm

    :p @ Chris. 😉

    Omar, thanks very much for the excellent post. There are a few issues I see with what you say. Most people coming to the Paleo, don’t do so having started with the Zone. As a result, I agree that 4-5 weeks to start feeling good makes sense. It took weeks for me too when I first started the Zone.

    I can’t possibly step up my training. I train 4 times a week, and that’s pretty much the maximum my schedule allows, but also the most amount of time I’m prepared to invest. Take today for example, I left work at 4pm to go to the gym, and wasn’t home till 7pm, partly due to travel time and partly due to the training I’m doing at the moment. It’ll be the same tomorrow.

    I’m not sure I agree that the quantity free Paleo is about hormonal control. On the paleo you can eat as much sugar, in the form of nature fructose in fruit, as you want in one sitting. Although granted, that would have to be a lot of fruit! The Zone is all about hormonal control, and that’s what I do.

    Maybe it’s just where I am, but I’m not sure that a life without ice cream is worth it! I’m already at a strength, fitness, weight and body comp level beyond my wildest dreams only 3 years ago. I don’t see it getting much better than this.

  • Colin McNulty 16 September 2009, 6:18 am

    Omar, perhaps an example daily menu would help illustrate. Here’s everything that I ate yesterday, split across 4 meals:

    – 1/2 lb of roast beef
    – 1/4 lb of wild atlantic salmon
    – 1 lb strawberries
    – 2 satsumas
    – 1/3 of a whole pineapple
    – 6oz blueberries
    – 1 peach
    – 1 kiwi
    – 2 figs
    – some black olives
    – 42 almonds
    – water
    – 3 cups of coffee
    – and……. 1 pint of organic whole milk
    – 1 oz soft cream cheese

    As I see it, there’s nothing on there that’s not Paleo, except the milk and cheese. (Though it seems some people do do Paleo+Dairy.) What do you think?

  • Matt Baldwin 25 September 2009, 5:56 pm

    Loved this post. Brother I am with you. I follow what I call a Flexible-Paleo-Zone diet. Mostly I do the CrossFit recommended foods, but like you, I do a little sugar, a little dairy (less than you), more fruits than veggies. I also do a LOT of fat, but Zone portions and ratios of Protein and Carbs (about 22 blocks of protein per day, ideally).

  • Colin McNulty 25 September 2009, 8:07 pm

    Cheers Matt. I’m sort of coming to the conclusion that I follow a Paleo+Dairy diet, with about 10% cheat rate.

    That’s a great weightloss chart you’ve got on your blog; you’ve had an amazing year in 2009! 22 blocks of protein per day? Wow, that’s a LOT! I eat 15!

  • james caudill 24 March 2010, 9:07 pm

    The crossfit gym I go to (www.lowcountrycrossfit.com) has started a 30 day paleo challenge and about 30% of us are doing it. I definitly noticed that my workouts were a LOT harder during the first week of the diet. I could finish them, but it was like I just didn’t have what it took to really bust out my best performance. I’m in week two now and slowly feeling some improvement. It’s most likely from my body getting used to pulling more energy from fat than carbs. (Determined that from my fitday food journaling). I’ll try to update this again in a couple of weeks on my progress as far as energy and sleep quality goes. All in all, if you’re going to try it, make it last and stick with it, we’re all doing it.

  • Matt Everhart 26 March 2010, 6:20 pm

    I would say it is based ENTIRELY on the type of person you are. I HATE the Zone diet because it is so incredibly tedious to measure everything I eat. There is no way I could ever follow it.

    Paleo allows you to eat whatever you want within the restrictions of the types of food allowed, but doesn’t care about measuring or counting anything.

    As long as I shop and buy the right foods, there’s nothing in the house to temp me otherwise.

    Now – I will say eating out is a pain in the butt…NO restuarant is healthy and absolutely none of them will really allow you to stay within the paleo diet, but you can get close.

    Zone dieters like the idea of measuring everything that goes into their body, knowing exactly to the letter what to expect from a caloric perspective.

    Paleo would argue that Zone allows you to eat any crap you want as long as you stay within your measurements. Paleo controls what goes into your body producing a healthy machine with NO junk going into your body.

    I would also argue against the idea that Paleo is for weight loss. It’s not – the paleo diet is for healthy, clean fuel consumption. Weight loss is a beneficial side effect.

    Anyway, not trying to contradict you at all – I would simply say the two diets are for two completely different mindsets.

    Matt Everhart
    Blackhawk Fitness

  • Colin McNulty 27 March 2010, 9:22 am

    Thanks for the great comment Matt. Fortunately I do agree with you, which is why I would describe my diet as Paleo food + Dairy eaten in Zone proportions. (Note, since writing this post, I have ditched sugar and wine completely.) E.g. yesterdays food consisted entirely of:

    – roast chicken (done myself so I know there was no sugar glaze etc)
    – salmon fillets
    – cheese
    – tomatoes
    – plums
    – a kiwi fruit
    – a peach
    – almonds
    – olives
    – milk

    From that food, I ate 5 times yesterday, eat meal / snack was balanced as per the Zone.

    A lot of people seem to get hung up on Weighing And Measuring (WAMing) the zone, but it really doesn’t have to be the chore people make it out to be. If you WAM everything you eat for just 2 weeks, by the end you will have dialled your eye in to what makes up a “block”. E.g. I can go get a hunk of cheese and cut off very nearly a block by sight. Similarly for all meat. And how hard is it to eat almonds in multiples of 3? I would say it’s a pretty simple and easy diet to follow.

    It doesn’t have to be 100% accurate either, the Zone actually gives a range of proportions, it doesn’t have to be an exact science. Indeed there are 3 different ways of “measuring” the zone, the simplest of which is as hard as mentally dividing your plate up into thirds, that’s it, easy!

    Anyway, there are many paths up the mountain, each will find the one that servers them the best. I like to take the best of what the zone and the paleo “diets” have to offer and combine them.

  • Phentermine 6 August 2010, 8:56 am

    I have heard of it, but haven’t tried it. I do not eat grain very often though as I follow (and sometimes slip up) a gluten free diet.

  • Christina 26 September 2010, 8:53 am

    Hi –

    I’ve done Zone with great results and just tried the Paleo.. felt better than Zone, but no weight loss (which is how I came across your blog). I find the arguments in the Paleo diet against milk weak (bc of fat, but what about lowfat dairy?) and couldn’t figure out how to make milk “zoned.” It seems complicated.. I’d love if you could share how you do it!



  • Colin McNulty 26 September 2010, 1:56 pm

    Hi Christina,

    If you just follow a Paleo plan, you can eat as much fruit as you like, which is a sure fire way to not lose weight. Fruit is still carbs / natural sugars and you need to limit their intake to lose weight. If you follow a zone prescription of paleo food, you should get the best of both worlds, which is what I do.

    As for milk, it’s one of the few foods that’s treated as both a protein and carb block on the zone. So if you had a cup of milk and a macadamia nut, that would be a complete 1 block snack: 1 block of protein from the milk, 1 block of carbs from the milk, and 1 block of fat from the nut. Though personally, I would just get full fat milk (which is still 96% fat free remember!) and count it as a complete self contained snack, including the fat.

    Hope that helps. Colin

  • autumn 13 January 2011, 9:41 pm

    Can you help me learn how to do the zone diet?

  • Jason Griggs 30 April 2011, 12:30 am

    I have recently started the Paleo Diet and I have a decent understanding of the overall methods. Ten years ago I tried the Atkins Diet and i lost 70 lbs, kept it off for a while but I slowly forund it again. The stark diference between the two plans are the availability of melon and other low sugar content fruits on the PAleo as well as the prohibition of bacon and other fatty protiens as well

    My Question:

    If faced with a social situation and there no vegetable or lean protien availabe which is a better choice a carb or a fatty protien? In other words should I eat the pizza or the hotdog, sans the bun?


  • Colin McNulty 1 May 2011, 8:54 am

    Hi Jason, good question. First, I don’t think I agree that Paleo “prohibits” bacon and other fatty proteins, but they are less desirable than lean meats. The reason is the protein to fat ratio. If you read Cordain’s The Paleo Diet book, on p102 it lists the fat and protein content of meats and so sorts them into Can Eat / To Avoid lists.

    Looking at the list, anything with >50% protein content is on the Can Eat list, and anything with >50% fat content, is on the avoid list. I read this as saying, don’t get all your protein from fatty meat sources, there are other more desirable alternatives.

    BUT that doesn’t mean fatty protein sources are taboo. So to answer your question, if choosing between a pizza or a hotdog, I’d take the fatty protein every time. The reason is, a high carb intake will spike your insulin every time, which is bad; fatty protein source won’t, it’s just not ideal.

  • Jason Griggs 2 May 2011, 3:54 pm


    Thank you for the reply. I printed the list of +50/-50 protein and the fruits and vegetable carb list and I am keeping them close on shopping trips in the back of my mind when dining out.

    Thanks again.


  • Full-Fat Paleo + Dairy 7 August 2011, 6:24 pm

    The broader paleo / primal / evolutionary view has moved beyond Cordain’s low-fat paleo, e.g. see http://huntgatherlove.com/content/are-you-faileo-diet

    Also, unlimited fruit is NOT paleo in the sense the modern fruit is much sweeter and available all year round. For those who tolerate dairy, butter and cream are great. Best summary IMHO: http://www.archevore.com/get-started/

  • Colin McNulty 7 August 2011, 10:38 pm

    Hi Scott, thanks for the interesting links.

    I agree that lean fat is not a good idea Paleo wise. I particularly like the line “Inuits threw the lean meat to their dogs!” I also agree that unlimited fruit is a bad idea too, though I have no idea if modern fruit is sweeter than fruit 10,000 years ago. How do you know that?

  • Brianna 27 November 2011, 7:53 am

    A Paleo diet does not necessarily need to be free of milk – I drink unrefined goats milk. Also, someone on a strict Paleo diet will not be eating large amounts of sugar. Some, like me, won’t go anywhere near fruit because it effects the results of the diet.

    An important thing to remember about the Paleo diet is that it is normal for people to eat larger portions of meat and veg etc. because they don’t have the high levels of carbs found in things like grains, cerials and potatos present in most modern diets to fill themselves up.

    And starting the Paleo diet is hard. I spent the first two weeks struggling with depression and severe cravings until it started to improve – first to the point where I felt the same as I had before I started the diet, and then better than I can ever remember feeling.

    Also, it is not impossible to eat out, though it is often necessary to slightly alter the meal on the menu (I’ve yet to come across somewhere that won’t do this for me). If you can’t find a salad on the menu, you can often order one of their sandwiches minus the bread. Dinner menus are even easier, with most options based on meat. Steak and salad, lamb chops with steamed vegies, a roast dinner are all enjoyable and viable options.

  • Ben 20 March 2012, 3:41 am

    How much fruit should I eat a day on the paleo in order to lose weight. Today I had an apple a pipaya, a small orange a cup of oj and some grapes. Is this too much ?

  • Colin McNulty 20 March 2012, 8:00 am

    Hi Ben. I would say that wasn’t too much, but some would say that was towards the upper end of the amount of fruit you should eat. Watch out for the (heavily processed) cup of OJ, which will have a high glycemic index and possibly some unwanted additives. I don’t drink OJ for that reason.

    It’s very easy to over eat with fruit, it tastes nice because of the relatively high level of carbs. Grapes for example have more than you’d realise.

    Having said all that, I have a piece of fruit with most meals generally, though it’s often just a small plum or small kiwi for example.

  • Mahindra 6 April 2012, 6:42 am

    Thanks for that. I gotta run a test with the Paleo diet too and really measure the diffence!

  • Stacey W. 4 July 2012, 9:39 pm

    Hello all,
    I started the Paleo Diet for 3 reasons. # 1 weight loss, because I don’t have a Thyroid, it really works for me. # 2 Lifestyle change, so that I can maintain what I have started and keep it that way. # 3 Health, because I lost my Thyroid due to cancer in 2004 it really affected everything in my body, especially my metabolism! I have been on several diets, and all have failed, and then I figured how can I go wrong with the Paleo Diet. I have lost, thus far, 17 lbs in 3 weeks and I feel better than I have felt in years!! I agree, that the 1st week was the most difficult, however, I told myself that I had to do it for myself and my health because I was going downhill fast!! I guess It’s all about opinion, but I’m really happy that this is working for me. Good luck to all of you whatever you may choose 🙂

    Best Regards,

  • Sarah 17 August 2012, 10:21 pm

    Dairy isn’t paleo. At all. You aren’t doing anything paleo with dairy – I think this posts represents the paleo diet for those who haven’t heard of it…I was eating paleo with dairy for about 3 weeks wasn’t seeing the same results as without. In fact, I’d say I can actually go to the bathroom now since giving up dairy on paleo, before it was like a revival of the atkins diet.

    Someone posted above that you can eat however much you want, like loads of fruit in one sitting. NO, I think it’s mentioned in every book about the diet that avoid sugar and only have extra light amounts of fruit, because it was very rare for our ancestors to find fruit in the wild in many parts of the country.

    Also, eating a lot on paleo isn’t very easy. You get full quickly from meat and veggies and then over the course of just days your appetite decreases. If you were eating portions of regular food and not feeling full, you would be in a constant cycle of trying to control the portions and then over-eating at times. I am never hungry on the paleo, sometimes you can go 2 days without anything but water or tea and not realize it, it’s crazy. Once again, fasting was a regular part of our ancestor’s diets because they couldn’t just walk down the the local store or restaurant to eat.

    In the end, it’s what you’re comfortable with. That’s it. Anyone can follow a diet, but lifestyle changes are larger. If you’re tired of eating processed, refined crap…then go paleo!

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