The Primal Parent

Are You Really Primal or Are You Just Grain Free?


Holidays in the Paleo community. Ah, isn’t it a relief? We can still eat all the same stuff everyone else eats with just a few tweaks and substitutes. Record scratch. What? Are you serious? You really think this stuff is Primal? I mean Primal. Primal.

I know this is not what you want to hear right in the middle of the holidays when you’re already addicted to the crap you said you’d indulge in just this once until it turned into four weeks of hell.

Sorry to be so cynical but I only wish there had been someone around to tell me this in all the years I was shuffling for alternatives, sabotaging my health, and never letting go the reins that tethered me to misery: food processing.

All the photos I’ve been seeing all over the Paleo food blogger’s websites are astounding! Do you honestly think a chocolate bar is Primal? Or coconut flour muffins, or pie made with agave not sugar, or almond butter cookies, chocolate coconut flour cake, nut bars, or even smoothies?

All this stuff looks good doesn’t it? But it isn’t what our ancestors ate! It isn’t what helped us evolve into these upright, big-brained singular creature that we are. What is all this talk about evolutionary nutrition anyway? How many people preaching it are actually doing it?

If the Primal diet isn’t providing the results you expected, then you might just consider the fact that you may not be as Primal as you thought you were. These foods AREN’T Primal:

Chocolate (I’m sure they had soy lecithin, vanilin, and cocoa butter in mass, isolate quantities 100,000 years ago)
Nut bars (Right, our Primal ancestors ate loads of squished, shelled nuts, mixed with piles of sticky dried fruit, and then baked in a stone oven? Nope.)
Smoothies (Umm, when were blenders invented? And how much fructose did our ancestors really dine on in a given sitting?)
Alternative flours (Flour is flour – nutrient depleted junk)
Pies (All of the above plus)

Substitutes substitutes substitutes. They don’t give results. Yeah, you’ll be healthier than you were before you started this – giving up the SAD does wonders – but your health won’t soar. Sure you can exercise your way to thinness but you won’t be free of sickness and modern ailments.

Why did it take me so long to recover from all of my problems? Because I wasn’t Primal. Because I thought that if all the components of some meal came from legal Primal foods, that somehow made a whole mixture of their extracted ingredients Primal. This just isn’t so.

Once you get the bars, breads, and pies all packed up into a yummy treat, I’m sorry, but it’s modern. Maybe we could rename all these “Paleo” adherents and simply call them “grain free.” At least that would be honest.

Being Primal takes a commitment to a real new life. It’s not about working the system. There is no “system” with loopholes for you to sneak through.

Primal is nature. Being Primal is being natural.

The real Primal lifestyle requires that we stop looking to food for fun. Food is sustenance. Food is healing. Food is nutrition. LIFE is fun!!!

The whole idea of getting together and using food as a source of entertainment is agriculture based. When all you eat is meat and vegetables, who cares about eating? It’s just not that big of a deal. We put food in our mouths like we put gas in a car. It’s just necessary. It’s not a party at the Shell station!

But when all you do is work your ass off all day in an agrarian society damn right you’re going to make a banquet of all the foods you’ve spent the year growing. And your world will revolve around preparing them, farming them, perfecting them, talking about them, thinking about them, sharing them, protecting them, and fighting for them.

We have been addicted to food for 10,000 years. Isn’t it clear that even the processed “Primal” foods are addicting? Truly being Primal is kicking that addiction in all it’s forms.

I understand that a lot of people use these foods as a way to transition out of the modern diet, but how long is that “transition” going to last? So, are you really Paleo or are you just Grain Free?

Related article:
Persuading Kids to Go Primal

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  1. I’m pretty sure cavemen didn’t have computers either, but I’m not going to give mine up… and seems you aren’t either. Living a paleo or primal lifestyle isn’t about reinactment, you know that.

    Cocoa butter and cocoa powder have antioxidents and heathy fats. Many “treat” ingredients even offer spices and ingredients (like coconut milk, ginger, etc) that have healing properties and are rich in vitamins and minerals. Surely, you’re not suggesting by saying “flour is flour” that a Tollhouse cookie is equal to a Paleo-ized chocolate chip cookie make with dark chocolate sans soy lechitin and almond flour and coconut oil?

    Paleo/Primal isn’t a religion or singular interpretation for anyone, these are “treats” made Paleo(ish) or Paleo friendly by using ingredients that don’t make people sick and bring back memories of their youth. You may not need it, for quite a few of us we enjoy having social gatherins with non-evangelical-paleo-people where we can bring dessert and open a discusion about healtheir foods. If you don’t want to eat it, don’t.

    But the blanket statements about what other people are or aren’t, the judgements, and the dramatic traffic grabbing headlines don’t bring us all together as a real food community attempting to bring about change for the entirety of society.

    • On the contrary. I am waiting for the day I get to give up my computer. But for now, I have to make a living so that I can buy myself some land and later live a simpler life.

      When I said flour is flour I think it’s quite obvious that I’m not suggesting, “that a Tollhouse cookie is equal to a Paleo-ized chocolate chip cookie make with dark chocolate sans soy lechitin and almond flour and coconut oil?”

      I was referring to the lack of nutrients in the four – not what is inside the whole cookie.

      The suggestion of the article ultimately was, Stacy, that If the Primal diet isn’t providing the results you expected, then you might just consider the fact that you may not be as Primal as you thought you were. I think that’s a pretty valuable point. I’m sure there are a whole lot of people out there that are still suffering and just haven’t figured out why.

      I know you’re upset because I linked to your page. It wasn’t meant to be a personal attack. These are the foods I’ve seen popping up lately and I made note of them. It is fine that you eat what you eat. I certainly don’t hate the community for eating treats. But for the many many people who haven’t found success in Paleo, they might just consider that the treats they consume on a regular basis are, as I said, sabotaging their health.

      I don’t mean to be evangelical. But if results are what you’re looking for and coconut flour isn’t working for you, try another way.

      I’m not trying to bring people together as a real food community. I am trying to ask questions about the ground we stand on. That is what is most important to me.

      • Eh, I’m not upset you linked to our site. It is what it is, we make treats with ingredients that are grain, dairy, legume and refined-sugar-free. That’s my definition of Paleo. Yours is different.

        We love making paleo(ish) treats and seeing families cook together and kids be able to eat something similar to their friends for an occasional that doesn’t make them sick. There’s nothing more than I enjoy than getting e-mails from parents about how their kids finally feel normal because they have a grain or dairy allergy and finally have recipes their kids enjoy.

        I wish I would’ve heard more inflection about “if you’re still not getting results or suffering” in the post – that didn’t come across to me at all. That, absolutely, would be appropriate and I myself have made similar posts regarding weight-loss and stress reduction and getting sugars of all kinds out of my personal diet.

        However, asking the entire community to do that or telling them they’re simply rain-free if they don’t doesn’t unite us and offer society a chance to get on-board. I’m with Alex.

        • Got to agree with Stacy and Alex.

          And BTW, I like going to the gym, and I’m not boring (a reference to another judgment in a previous post).

      • Now that’s a position I can get behind. I think alot of folks advocate adhering to Paleo principles 100% at first and then slowly reintroducing foods into the diet after that initial period, judging what effects each food have. Some people thrive on dairy, others gain weight and feel sluggish and have digestion issues.

        While my post below (written before I saw this response) vehemently differs with your intial post, I do agree with what your saying here. Tough questions should be asked and, for some people, the answers might not be what you wish they were.

      • If you’re interested in going truly primal, check this out!__promotion-1

      • Land ownership isn’t Paleo either, really. It’s a farmer habit. You don’t need to own land if you’re not growing things on it.

        I laugh every time I see a Paleo blogger brag about being libertarian. Sure, hunter-gatherers like their freedom, but the whole reason modern foragers are having so much trouble is so much land is being privatized and taken out of their hunting territories. When you can be arrested for trespassing because you’re pursuing an awesome hunt, that kind of puts a crimp in your nutrition.

        I understand land ownership can also be a survival tactic in a world overrun with farmers, I really do. But the implications of following an ancestral forager lifestyle… I don’t think most Paleo eaters think all the way through them.

        • I’d like to live in the mountains with a little land so that I can live the hell out of the city. I don’t eat plants so growing isn’t my intention. Hunting isn’t something I know how to do. Maybe I’ll learn someday, but until then I’d be pretty happy with some chickens and cows. I’m not looking for a complete return to Primal ways. But I am looking for something more peaceful and clean.

          • “I don’t eat plants so growing isn’t my intention”

            Love it!!!
            Reminds me of J. Stanton: “Eat like a predator, not like prey”

            Sidebar: I don’t think it’s really about Paleo re-enactment, but more about following a similar dietary composition made up mainly of the same types of foods. So steak, occasional fruit, occasional veggies, rare sugar are all in, and everything else is pretty much out. Crushed coconut meat, yes; coconut flour, probably not.

          • I’d recommend you go hunting — primal on many levels, and a great way to escape the confinement of urban life.

          • Huh. Cows and some chickens mean you need pasture. The average dairy cow won’t produce without some grain. Steers are a major pain in the ass. Neither are compatible with living in the mountains.

            Chickens need some grain if you want eggs, and if you are in the mountains something: raccoons, coyotes, foxes, opossums, snakes….will eat your chickens and/or your eggs.

            And butchering is annoying, tedious, messy, and—oh yeah—a pain in the ass. Blood from hell to breakfast, more offal than you ever thought possible, flies, yellowjackets and stink.

          • i am with you here- my wife and i would love this some woods and animals around and not much else

      • Peggy, we applaud your perspective, and your willingness to question whether something makes *sense* or not. Like we often say, we’re more concerned with health than history, and it’s a tough case to make that “Paleo” desserts are healthy, both physiologically AND psychologically. How mentally and emotionally “healthy” is it to mimic the old processed junk food and desserts you used to eat? Not very, in our opinion.

        Concerning the idea of “bringing people together”: we think that open, honest discourse brings people together. We even think that disagreeing brings people together *when it is done respectfully*. We do not think that a laissez-faire attitude towards health brings people together – it simply leaves them on their own little island without a chance to engage, question, explain, self-assess, and compare. Question things, but most importantly, question yourself.


      • Peggy. I have been following the Primal Blueprint since August. I have lost 82 lbs (started at 425). I did this just in diet change in the first 5 months. The last two months, its been a struggle to keep off the weight I lost. Its been a huge plateau for me. Then I was sent this blog you wrote, at just the right time I needed to read it. I truly feel that I need to get to a more purist paleo platform, to hit the next phase of my weight loss. Thank you for writing this. (also considering incorporating some Trophology Philosophy in there).

        I have been using The Primal Blueprint protein shake as a meal substitute 3 to 4 times a week. It also helps me practice IF. In your opinion, should I be looking to drop that all together and focus on just whole meats and foods? Or do you think having a substitute like that could still be considered paleo? It’s not like they had this kind of product 10,000 years ago. Any thoughts you have, as I engage in the next phase of my paleo evolution, would be very helpful.


        • Jae,

          That’s so great to hear that you have been so diligent and even willing to take it to another level! I cannot say for sure if there is really some value to protein shakes or if it’s just a way for rich guys like Mark to get their names on products. If they didn’t sell anything, where would they be, you know? I have done shakes and I have known a lot of people who have done shakes and I have never known them to really be of any benefit. What is immensely helpful is bone broth which is chalk full of nutrients, protein, and even gelatin which helps the body better assimilate protein. It doesn’t taste as scrumptious though… Other amazing foods are organs and certain veggies – all mixed into a slow cooked broth is ideal. Personally, I think shakes are a gimmick – at the very least, they are nothing that nature can’t deliver herself in an even better package. Good luck to you! I believe you will reach your goals. Namaste :)

        • Shakes are fine. They offer a useful way of getting protein into your quickly and without having to a) spend a fortune on whole foods, b) having to consume vast amounts of foods to get the same protein levels and c) they’re excellent for those people that are either short of time or simply can’t stomach food at certain times of the day. I always have a shake first thing in the morning with some almond butter, almond milk and coconut oil.

          I do fear that the initial post is not just extreme but leads others to take primal to another level which really isn’t helpful or realistic.

          What next, are we all going to to using toothpaste? Really? Have you read the list of ingredients on some of those tubes?

          And I guess next you’ll be eating raw gut and intestine for the nutrients, after all, we need to REALLY be primal right?

          • Well yes. I think it is ideal. Im fully perfectly primal in the MDA way but still do not have perfect health- posts like this can guide individuals like me towards what is essentially the ideal. Good for you if your health soars on the primal blueprint alone. And yes, some people do eschew modern toothpaste- from memory, Primal Toad uses a mix of coconut oil and baking soda.

  2. I love you Peggy! If you haven’t alienated any yet, I doubt you will :) This is such a great post. As the community builds and gets mainstream the concepts are bound to get watered down too. It’s good to have people like you to remind everyone what’s what. At least, that’s what I think.

    I remember the first time I tasted something baked with coconut flour. I’d been what you call “a primal saint” up until then. I felt like crap afterwards. I knew then it wasn’t for me.

    What’s interesting to me is whether it’s easier to go “cold turkey” and then go back and feel how awful some foods make you feel (I JUST, just learned my final lesson with nuts) or whether it’s easier to transition with some of these other food products (I know, non-food products). Personally, I’m a rip-the-bandaid-off kinda girl.

  3. LOVE this. Absofreakinglutely dead-on.

    I only start feeling crappy again when I start fudging on being truly primal.

    • Jamie and Dara, I agree! Thank you Peggy for this post (and this site :) ! – I am really going to re-evaluate the way I eat and live…it was a very timely post for me.

  4. Just stumbled across this blog. I’m glad somebody said it. I could not agree with you more on this subject. Tapioca and Agave nectar are not hunter gatherer foods. I find it a bit irresponsible that so many paleo blogs (the primary reference for a lot of people) are promoting these even more processed versions of food and calling them paleo friendly.

    I would just like people to call the food what it is. Junk food. Grain free junk food is still junk food.

  5. Hi Peggy,
    I have a couple thoughts: if life is fun, and food is a necessary component of life, couldn’t/shouldn’t food be fun? I guess it seems like saying, “well, I have to work to earn a living, so I don’t need to enjoy my job.” I try to enjoy every bit of my day, because it’s all I have. Once I eschewed processed foods, cooking became a large part of my life, so making food taste good became fun. So, while I do not eat treats that often, I guess I need to be filed under “grain free.”
    That being said, I do admire your primal-ness and I mostly think of my grain free status as just a stopping point on the way to primal. It takes time to adapt to these things (for me at least) and I see myself getting further and further from the tofurkey-eating vegetarian I used to be. I started my paleo life by eating meat, veggies, and lots of fruit, nuts, and paleo pancakes (and other grain free desserts). Now I eat bone broth, meat, fat, occasional offal, lots of veggies, and a grain free dessert every once in awhile. Who knows what will be my next stop on the way to primal?
    Thanks for your thought-provoking blog.

    • That’s a good point Stephanie. Definitely, even eating just meats and veggies can be delightful so that’s not exactly the point. It’s the pursuit of fun in food that can, for some, lead to destructive eating.

      • I know… I see it both ways. I work in a functional medicine clinic, and for so many people on the SAD, lack of enjoyment for cooking and food preparation is what makes getting off processed foods so difficult. So, for that reason, I think food needs to be a fun part of life. But then there is the other side, where it becomes easy to shove your old, shitty ways of eating into a paleo disguise (to paraphrase the whole30 folks) and then go on to say paleo isn’t working for you.

        • Agreed Stephanie. That’s sort of my vested interest in this post. I think there are many people going Paleo with the help of these blogs and recipes. But then they don’t get the benefits and disparage the whole of Paleo. For me, I’m wondering why everyone is so mad here. We use names to define and identify things. Paleo means this. Look. You can walk miles everyday and do light stretching everyday. It’s wonderful for you! Good for you. But it’s not yoga, so don’t call it yoga.

  6. I’ve been reading your posts for a while now and I appreciate your point of view but really? When did eating Primal or Paleo become a pursuit of the pretentious?

    Kicking the addiction in all forms?
    I don’t see any recipes on here for eating grubs and worms. When was the last time you went and hunted an animal, killed it, stripped its skin and ate its intestines?

    Moving even slightly down the Primal road should be praised and not scorned.
    Who cares if people don’t go all the way with it? There is no way humans can go back to being truly Primal, we have irreversibly changed the eco system and very little of nature is any longer natural. I don’t know about you but I personally live in a house and when I go out I walk on a pavement.

    As Primal and Paleo people we have the chance to improve the health of some very sick people by educating them, we shouldn’t be wasting it by alienating those that try.

    So, are you really Paleo or are you just pretentious?

    • :) Right on, Alex

    • It isn’t pretentious to dream of an ideal human nature. My god, I certainly know “Primal” for all it was, will never be again. But I’m a dreamer and I love to think of the way things might have been and who we might have been.

      It also isn’t pretentious to suggest that paleo(ish) treats might not be working for some people. Maybe you’ve forgotten, since you’ve read a lot of my posts, that I struggled for many years to overcome my health challenges. And, what you don’t know, is that I get emails almost everyday from people who are struggling just as much.

      My tone may have been pretentious – I have a way with that sometimes – but I don’t think my message was.

      Let me just make it clear that I’m not looking down on anyone for what they eat, but my website attracts people that have a very difficult time regaining health. If they’re anything like me, eliminating modern foods, even the “Primal” ones might just help.

    • Hmm.. are you really right, or just self-righteous?

    • Paleo people had homes too. If those homes were tents and were taken down and moved around, so what? Would you tell a traditional Lakota from the 1800s that her tipi wasn’t a house? She’d laugh at you.

      We do have “Primal” people in this world. They’re struggling to survive because the #$%^ing farmers took all their good hunting land. There is no “can’t go back to Primal”–it’s being done. Next!

  7. I absolute love this post Peggy.

    Flours are cheating… best if you just accept that there is not such thing as making apple pie with “paleo” friendly flours- that would just never match the real thing, sorry my friend but you’ll have to just not eat it. period. the premise is not making something paleo or try to find ways to make it paleo.

  8. This is the distinction between Primal and Paleo. When Mark Sisson coined “Primal,” he specifically included foods that the Paleo community shuns that fit his guidelines for health. His philosophy was to use our evolutionary past as a guideline while also using the best innovations that modern science has to offer. While using almond flour or chocolate may not be Paleo, they are definitely Primal. That is an important distinction.

    Besides, if you truly want to emulate our ancestors’ diet, then what you would be eating is largely raw organ meats, raw eggs, small rodent bones, handfuls of dirt, drinking blood, and mixing it up with the occasional insect. There is some evidence that our ancestors had a difficult time digesting raw vegetables and very little evidence that they ate kale, coconut oil, or most other Paleo staples. And, if you’re being this strict, then you should also limit yourself to the types of meat, fruits, and veggies (well, organs, bones, and bugs) that would be found in Africa. If we are trying to eat 100% the way we evolved to eat, then no foods from any other part of the world should enter our diets.

    If someone is seeing health benefits while avoiding grains, Frankenstein oils, and other processed foods, while simultaneously getting outside and exercising in a more natural manner, who cares if they enjoy the occasional glass of wine or almond flour cookie? Especially if it keeps them from backtracking into a SAD diet.

    Food is sustenance, yes, but it’s also enjoyment. Same goes for sex and exercise and bonds of community. You can certainly have all of these things without enjoying them, but why? You could only copulate for reproduction purposes and do exercises that you hate, but why do that when you have an alternative? You could sleep on a slab of stone like our ancestors and try to let that broken leg heal without modern medicine, but why? This, to me, is tantamount to monks in the Middle Ages wearing hair shirts and only eating porridge.

    Some folks need to turn their diets into a Puritanical religion. That’s why veganism has adherents. But for the rest of us, I like to think we’re well adjusted enough to understand the difference. My blood work looks great, I feel great, my deadlift numbers are up, my sprint times down, and I enjoy the occasional food that would make you say I’m not Paleo. And you know what? i’m not. I’m Primal. There is a distinction. Being Primal is a lot more than being simply grain-free. Read up on

    • Actually “Primal” was started by Aajonus Vonderplanitz. He owns “The Primal Diet” and Mark Sisson can’t even say it on his website. Primal is a cool word referring to our ancient past. There are just now beginning to be distinctions between dairy and not dairy and other little things distinguishing the words Primal and Paleo. I’m not talking about any of that anyway. If some food doesn’t appear to do you harm, then I wouldn’t worry about it – be it dairy, alcohol, or whatever. What I am talking about is eating great big mixtures of “Primal” ingredients and expecting great results. It’s not like I care if people eat those things – my daughter sometimes does, my boyfriend too, and on rare occasion I do too – but if a person isn’t getting results with those inclusions, then it’s time to re-think their method. I would guess that you do not, yourself, struggle with addiction. So many people do. And when they go Primal and try to eat these treats, their efforts or forfeit. That’s pretty sad since we’re all just trying to get healthy here.

      Being Primal is about way more than being grain free! I could go on and on about Primal lifestyle and often do.

      • Thanks for the info about Aajonus Vonderplanitz. I had actually never heard the name, but I’m now reading some of his work. But even with Aajonus, he advocates raw vegetables (which research shows our ancestors probably rarely ate), vegetable juice (which we would have never made until the Neolithic era), and coconut cream (which, again, our Paleolithic ancestors wouldn’t have eaten).

        Even when it comes to meat, our ancestors didn’t eat beef or chicken. We ate the organ meats left over when lions finished eating a baby elephant. We wouldn’t have had steaks, as those parts of the animals would have been the first that the larger prey we scavenged from consumed.

        So the question, to me, then becomes: how strict do we go? Do we only ship ourselves elephant and gazelle organs from Kenya in an effort to be truly Paleo? Or do we use the past as a guideline, experimenting with our diets and ourselves with science as a guide. I think the latter is more reasonable.

        Now, within that, comes the potential for abuse. Almond flour pancakes every morning would not be healthy (though they still wouldn’t equate to the diabetes causing white flour pancakes many people eat). But neither would a vat of coconut oil every morning.

        I do suffer from food addictions. Horrible ones. Throughout my childhood, I was medicated with food. As an adult, I self medicated for many years. But that’s how I use these “borderline” foods. I work twelve hours a day, try to squeeze in a workout and social time, then come home to spend time with my family (who is equally as busy). This means we need convenient food more often than someone who works from home might. Rather than backslide and get the number 5 at Taco Bell, a little (Sisson-style) Primal cooking can do wonders.

        Ultimately, what we need to remember is that we are part of a movement, whether we want to be or not. That movement is trying to cure diabetes and heart disease while improving the environment and economy by encouraging consumers to focus on locally produced vegetables and grass-fed meats and dairy. While we can disagree about the particulars, we are at the forefront of this shift in view. To paraphrase Krishnamurti: “You’re Paleo is not my Paleo.” :)

        After all, there’s a thousand ways to skin a cat (which our ancestors did before slurping down said cat’s liver).

        • All so true Brad! You know, I have found that the more “Paleo” I go the better I feel. And that’s kind of the point I guess. I’m not importing elephant parts and then probably leaving them outside in the dirt to rot a bit here and there, but I realize that if I did I would feel great! Definitely some of what Aajonus does isn’t really “Primal” but part of why he does what he does is because he’s had to recover from terrible health. Much of what I do isn’t technically Primal either but there are some supplements I’ve had to take in order to bring my body back from disease. I don’t think most people can say that they’ve eaten rotten meat for healing purposes, eat raw meat every day, and make every attempt to be as Primal as possible living in the city. And I’m NOT AT ALL advocating that people be as extreme as I am. I’m ridiculous with my discipline and my ability to be hard core. For me it works well. It’s what makes me tick in a way. We don’t all need to do it the same. I really don’t think we all need to be living in the forest and killing our own food to be happy. Although I might argue that it may make us happiER. Hehehe. But who knows really. Anyway, I know that many people out there get carried away with Paleo substitutes and it hurts them and they’re not sure why.

          • Interesting article, and I’ve only read the responses up until this point, but I wanted to comment. I “get” what you were trying to say in your post, and you made valid points, but with the back peddling/softening of your responses to what others like Brad are saying, I hope that you’re aware that your original words came across as judgmental/harsh/off-putting. If you truly want to help people who aren’t getting the results you think they could be getting by eating more purely paleo (and I think you do), then I’d suggest you try and state your case in a more graceful way next time.

          • I agree, the comments from Peggy are very very different to the original point. If it were me I would change the original article to be more in line with the comments she has made afterwards.

            I don’t think the article accurately reflects what Peggy really wanted to say.

            But perhaps it does and it was posted in such a way as to get as many responses and publicity as possible?

      • Aajonus also recommends wheat products for celiacs patients…

        He should have never called his DIET primal, he doesn’t deserve it.

        I do whole heartedly agree with you that chocolate and coffee, alternative flours are not primal/paleo.
        Also wine isn’t primal.
        I have never baked anything with alternative flours, EVER. I eat dark chocolate and I get ill and my face turns grey and I have to recover from whatever it is for days…it’s toxic.

        I do however LOVE whole coconuts :)

    • Primal simply means first, original. Mark talks about evolution dozens of times on his site, books, etc. He added blueprint and called it his. Thats his “brand” if you will.

      Primal = Paleo

      So, if you’re primal, you’re paleo. There is no one way to live this lifestyle. I understand where Peggy is coming from. Thousands are failing at this lifestyle. One main reason is that they may not be strict enough. Nuts can be almost as bad, if not worse then non gluten grains.

      • Hey Todd. I’m glad you could see that I wasn’t meaning to hurt you personally by mentioning smoothies! I respect what you do and what all of the Paleo bloggers are doing. Every one of us is changing lives in our own way.

        They don’t call it link love for nuthin!

    • There are “Paleolithic” people all over the world, so by definition they wouldn’t be eating African food. It’s a myth that the Paleolithic era ended several thousand years ago. For thousands of people all over the world, it never ended.

      Coconuts certainly would be Paleo or Primal for people living in that area of the world. Sorry.

      • I don’t think anyone suggested coconuts weren’t Paleo or Primal? Simply coconut flour? And any other flour for that matter.

  9. I am going to enjoy my life and live it as healthy as possible….I have two young kids and a husband who made this change with me and I refuse to let them suffer through all the kids eating cookies or cupcakes in school and them left feeling like freaks. Do you hunt your own meat and spear it to death? Doubt it….Do you cook that meat? I’m sure you do….Do you cook that meat on a stove? Pretty sure I know the answer to that as well. Do you cook that food in toxic cookware (ie..nonstick and even stainless steele..yep, stainless steele leaches nickel which is highly toxic)…I bet you do. So are you really telling me that you are going to look down on people who try to make this lifestyle something that isn’t rediculously overwhelming? Should people make paleo cookies every day? NO…Should they do it once a week? NO…But every once in a while…ABSOLUTELY. I make almond flour. Are you really trying to tell me that by grinding the almonds down that they all of a sudden become unhealthy? REDICULOUS. I get that you want to show people that it is a dangerous road to do it all the time. But you kinda come across like the paleo police….don’t judge people that are TRYING to be as healthy as they can

    • Trish, I’m not judging anybody. I’m just hoping that people who need to ask themselves these questions will ask them. There are so many brilliantly healthy people out there who are fine with occasional Primal treats. And there are others who are not. This post is for them.

  10. I agree with this so much. When I first went paleo I was making cakes all the time, I had just replaced my gf flous with almond flour, and I was using a ton of honey. Then I realised that I was cheating myself, especially since I was not buying beef since it was “too expensive.” Once I gave up baking I suddenly had the money for the paleo foods that really nourish me, and I have felt so much better! I bake a couple times a year now, but if a recipe says 1/2c honey as an ingredient, I pass it up, because that is not primal!
    My biggest challenge right now has been using dark chocolate to bribe myself to get to class on time, which worked, but then I got used to eating chocolate a couple times a week. So Sunday I made jerky and that is going to be my new food reward.
    Even though I don’t have sugar cravings and eat mostly meat and veggies, I still really depend on food emotionally. Like, if I don’t have a delicious dinner with plenty of fat in it, I’m in a bad mood till the next day. The difference is that even if I am getting emotional comfort from eating, I’m getting satiated from the amount of protein and fat that I need, and not over eating. My goal right now is to replace food’s importance to my emotional well being and to just enjoy life and not need a good dinner to get me through a tough time. I don’t want to be dependent on a cookie, even if it is made out of beef.

  11. “We put food in our mouths like we put gas in a car. It’s just necessary. It’s not a party at the Shell station!”
    I couldn’t help but laugh my a$$ off after reading this part. I started to envision what it would look like pulling up to a red light at the corner Shell station and seeing the festivities as people pumped gas into their cars. You have hit the nail on the head with this blog post, Peggy!
    I am most definitely paleo, and same as you, I have noticed all the preparing, processing and especially baking of all kinds of recipes on many paleo sites. Some of these recipes are quite complicated looking. You hit every point head on in this article like a true paleo advocate.
    Speaking of transitioning…yeah, how long is it supposed to last? Well, it certainly is an individual thing; but if you want near-perfect health, then you have to eat near-perfectly all the time and get there in the quickest manner possible. I say near-perfect, because in an imperfect world, we’ll never reach perfect health. It just isn’t in the cards.
    Some people can go cold turkey, but others may need to do it gradually. Then there is a group of people who will use the transitioning phase as an excuse just so they don’t have to go completely paleo–ever!
    I love when people say if you want to be healthy just eat in moderation. Well, that doesn’t fly with me either, because eating in moderation will only result in moderate health. But some people are perfectly content with that–to each his own.
    Kudos to you, Peggy, for putting into print what a lot of us true paleo disciples are thinking!

    • After years of eating this way, I have seen that food affects my health and emotions; it affects the way I perceive and interact and think and work. I guess you could say I’m a perfectionist in that I really really like to feel my best. For me being strict Paleo is the good life. It’s definitely not a religion. It’s just a freedom from 2 decades of suffering. I know there are a lot of others seeking the same freedom. And there are yet others who are not. My beloved boyfriend is content to feel like crap quite a bit more often than I am. More power to him. And whatever path my daughter ends up choosing is also her choice. But I like what I like and I’m sharing that here on my website.

  12. Interesting post! I DO agree that to be as optimally healthy as possible would require following a strict primal diet 100%. I recently did so for 30 days and felt truly amazing in so many ways. However, I readily admit that I’m not yet willing to continue doing so all of the time. I really do enjoy baking and have fun experimenting doing so with “new” ingredients such as dates, ground nuts, coconut milk, roasted pumpkin puree, coconut, seeds, etc. I also of course noticed I didn’t feel nearly as great 10 days after reintroducing “primal” treats and substitute foods, such as dark chocolate, cookies, pancakes/waffles, etc. I binged a bit the first couple of weeks baking cookies every few nights and have slowly gotten over it. But still haven’t gone back to 100% strict adherence and likely won’t until after the holidays. I guess for me the joy of baking, savoring a hot chocolate chip cookie, or eating a delicious slice of cheese on occasion is still worth the stuffy nose and bloated belly. The plate of cheese/bean enchiladas I ate Saturday night (totally deviating from grain free for the first time in 4 months) was definitely not!

  13. This post is very relevant to something I was discussing with my mom this morning, except we were talking about breastfeeding advocacy and the problem with saying “Breast is best.”

    The problem is that most people can’t identify with “best.” They themselves are not perfect, and are satisfied with being “just okay.” When we glorify breastfeeding beyond what it is (baseline nutrition for babies and toddlers) by calling it “liquid gold” and “wonder food,” we put it on a distant pedestal in the sky; it becomes something that perfect, selfless people do. If breast milk is so insanely amazing, then formula must be pretty good at one step down, and most people are okay with “pretty good.” We need to flip around our perception of the two – breast milk is not better than formula; formula is worse than breast milk. Breast milk is satisfactory and complete, formula is deficient.

    Anyway, my point is that a lot of people, even people in the paleo community (who, as a rule, care about what they eat), don’t feel like their health needs to soar. Feeling really good is enough, they don’t need to jump out of bed ready to conquer the world every morning. It’s a balance that is different for everyone. For me, I need for my RA symptoms to be in complete remission, which requires me to be grain-free, but not sugar-free. I know that if I want my skin to be clear and to not be constipated, I need to be dairy-free. Okay, that’s easy enough. I do indulge – on coconut milk smoothies loaded with fructose, on “paleo” muffins now and then, on heavy cream in my coffee sometimes, I don’t IF, I barely exercise other than what keeping up with my 12 month old demands, I stay up long after the sun goes down, I drink vodka sodas now and then. I choose to pick the big battles with my food choices, and leave some room for the little things that don’t cause immediate repercussions.

    So…am *I* paleo? Or just grain-free? It depends on who you’re asking. You’d say grain-free, which is completely reasonable and doesn’t offend me at all. I say paleo, because although I do sometimes eat SAD-substitute, grain-free food, I’m not doing it under the delusion that it’s truly paleo. I wholeheartedly agree with the principles of the Paleo lifestyle, even though I don’t personally employ all of them all the time. I think Paleo is the end-all, be-all of health and well-being. My response to friends and family who have any little health complaint is “Paleo.” Headaches? Paleo. PMS? Paleo. Allergies? Rashes? MS, RA, Crohn’s, IBS? Paleo, Paleo, Paleo.

    So, maybe I’m intellectually paleo and grain-free in execution. That’s cool with me. I know what Paleo is, and more importantly, I know what it isn’t.

    • Susie,

      I don’t think anyone can say it any better. Do you mind if I quote you for a blog post?

    • Susie, I think it’s great that you know what you want to get out of Paleo and you strive for that. “I’m intellectually paleo and grain-free in execution. That’s cool with me. I know what Paleo is, and more importantly, I know what it isn’t.” A lot of people, however, don’t know what paleo is. As I was writing the post, I thought of scrapping it and just writing on “what is Paleo.” But the problem with that seemed to be that everyone has a “what is Paleo” post and I’m pretty sure very few are reading them. This post is intended to target those who maybe have been fooling themselves or truly don’t know. For many others of us, we consciously make the decision at times to endure some amount of suffering to stray a bit off the Paleo path. And that, of course, is fine.

      Thanks for sharing the conversation you and your mom were having about breastfeeding. Indeed, most people don’t care about perfection or greatness. And calling breastfeeding great just doesn’t mean much then. Thankfully, there is an effort to call formula bad and not simply calling breastfeeding great.

      • I actually don’t have a “what is paleo” or “what is primal” post!! I’ll have to get on that… my perspective on what it is is vastly different then anyone else.

        I really need to work on it and publish it next week…

  14. I have to agree with Stacy from Paleo Parents who noted that there was NOT an emphasis in your post on “if you are still not getting results or suffering…”. That was not how it came across at all in spite of your backtracking. And you sound a lot like the “religious” vegans in your judgmental view of what makes someone pure Paleo or not. I create a few grain, sugar, nut and dairy free desserts because I have a family with food allergies and a life that includes situations in which people are inevitably going to consume some type of dessert. We rarely indulge in these treats. When I first noticed traffic to my blog was huge for dessert recipes and far less for other recipes I was a bit frustrated. I had some of the same thoughts you expressed in your post. But I realized that the treat recipes are often the most challenging things for people who are trying to transition to a better way of eating. Maybe they have a school bake sale or a party where they CHOOSE to provide a healthier alternative. People need help figuring out how to cook with coconut flour because it is not something they will see explained on the Food Network and it can be tricky. Does that mean I advocate people eat this stuff all the time? Of course not. I have recipes that include nightshades. Should people with autoimmune diseases eat those? No. If you are someone who doesn’t feel well when you eat coconut flour or chocolate, then don’t eat it.
    Again, I think you could easily have made a point that people have to truly examine what they are eating and make changes if they are not getting results.. But many people have a really long way to go to remove unhealthy foods from their diet. Why discourage folks who may serve their kids a Paleo treat once in a while? My kids have been far more cooperative in eating paleo if they get to have treats now and then. How is that a bad thing? Unless you are living in a cave and eating insects on a regular basis I think you are being really hypocritical, pretentious and judgmental.

    • The issue at hand here isn’t the definition of primal or paleo, it isn’t even really about food. The issue here is HEALTH and the trust that desperate people place in experts to solve their health problems. People with real illnesses finally abandon hope in the medical profession and place their trust in these “true health’ blogger experts selling a magical formula to regain health without giving up beloved food adictions.
      I’ve spent ALL of my 26 years cronically ill with digestive, skin and immune system issues. When I found primal/paleo/grain free and all this great info online I thought I was saved! But, you know what? After over a year of being a grain avoider and sticking to the ‘mainstream’ safe lists of so called paleo and primal foods, I am still suffering from incapacitating symptoms. And you know what I finally realised? It was time to stop trusting experts and messiahs to tell me about my own body. No direspect to Mark, but people have to stop the Sisson-worshiping and do the hard work themselves to actually figure out what is best for their own bodies. By all means, stand on the shoulders of generous contributers like Mark, but don’t expect their texts to be a panacea.
      Ask your body, are you subsituting your health for paleo substitutes?

      • “No direspect to Mark, but people have to stop the Sisson-worshiping and do the hard work themselves to actually figure out what is best for their own bodies. By all means, stand on the shoulders of generous contributers like Mark, but don’t expect their texts to be a panacea.”

        Well said!!

        • Really Toad, really?…

          You profess to love almost every post by Mark Sisson that I’ve seen on MDA and most of what you post just regurgitates stuff that he has said…

      • Except that for some of us, Mr. Sisson is all we need to reclaim our rightful health and vitality. I’m not into gurus or messiahs of any kind, but boy, am I grateful for a few folks out there, including Mark.

        • I totally agree. If it wasn’t for Mark and his free info on his web site, I would be very, very ill right now.

          I’ve cured every ailment I’ve had with the exception of lingering digestive distress. The promotion of making the bulk of your meals the vegetables backfired BIG time…then, I clicked on the link to Peggy’s website via MDA!

          I only felt what foods were bad for me because I’d already eliminated a HUGE part of the toxins becoming a primal blueprint follower. If it wasn’t for people like Mark Sisson…I would’ve never ended up on this path, I found out about all this typing the word “grains” into google.

          Peggy takes the whole thing a bit further, which is awesome, because I totally agree.

          • I don’t want anyone to misunderstand my point. I love Mark’s site: the information he shares has done me a lot of good and I share it with my family in hopes it will do them good too.

            I don’t have any objections to the man or what he brings to the table, it’s the expert worshipping phenomenon that I find unsettling.

            By all means ask yourself “what would Mark Sisson do?” or “what would Robb Wolf do?” you’ll probably come up with a kiss-@ss answer. Just make sure to ask yourself “does this work for me?”

            Consulting yourself is the key to standing on your own two feet.

      • @missaralee — Have you symptoms improved now without the “paleo substitutes” and “safe” foods in your diet?

          • I still get unnexpected flare-ups of the old symptoms, but now instead of accepting it as a part of life, I try to figure out what got me and how to avoid it in future.

            I am an experiment of n=1, and unfortunately other peoples’ safe lists aren’t right for me.

            I feel a thousand times better when I’m really strict about what I eat. I’ve eliminated a lot of foods, including a ridiculously long list of veggies but I’m still tweeking it. The problem I have lately is a low appetite: without the carbs from fruit and veg, the small, strict meals I eat leave my daily calorie counts stupid low and it takes me a couple days to notice since I just eat when I’m hungry and my body is happily burning up my fat stores and fasting.

  15. Wow. What a post. I agree completely on everything you said except for treating food solely as fuel. I feel amazing when I’m strict but I just can’t maintain it! It’s too stressful! (would love your thoughts on that nice contradiction). But I do enjoy cooking and how food creates and binds relationships, family and community.

    • Roar,

      There’s nothing wrong with enjoying food per se in my opinion. But for some people, taking the focus off of food is what they need to get over food addictions and to succeed with the diet changes. I know this was true for me. When I love food (something so many other people seem to be fine with) I end up eating foods that I shouldn’t eat or I indulge too much in foods that maybe I would be okay eating on occasion. Focusing on food doesn’t work for me. In fact, I don’t even like family gatherings where food is at the center. I don’t do well eating most foods that other people eat and so I can’t even enjoy them anyway.

      I used to go to Weston Price meetups in the SF bay area and would never even eat at the pot lucks. But I wanted to hang out so I went.

      Now, for people like me, who just aren’t all that into food, I have discovered many other things that can also bind people. And I really do think it’s a shame that many of us miss out on those things because our lives are so centered on food. But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. If people are finding happiness in their lives, that’s the important thing. So my enjoyment is music and outdoors stuff and other people it’s food. I’m not sure there’s really an intrinsic problem with that!

  16. In the replies that you have mad to commenters you say that the point of this blog post is to say basically that if you are not seeing results think about all the treats that you are eating, but there was actually very little about that in the actual post. What I got from it was you saying that almond flower, coconut flower, chocolate and nut bars are junk. I do not often make sweet treats, but every once in a while I will, I would assume that most people who are taking the time to educate themselves about what is going into their body and doing their research on either paleo or primal do not eat them on a regular basis. When it comes to the nut bars are you just attacking the form that they are in? I do have to agree with many commenters above in that you came off very pretentious, and your later comments defending the blog have little to do with what is actually written in the blog.

  17. Hi Peggy, thanks for writting this post – it is just the kick in the butt I needed today. After cooking for friends and family in the last two weeks and making “paleo” treats for them I am sliding back into a direction I don’t want to go. I’ve come along way from my former processed food, coke zero, soy heavy diet in the last year and am more that happy plodding along with my bone broths, some veggies and ferments and meat (often raw!! now thanks to you :)
    as soon as I start to add more taste bud rewarding food combo’s (like pumpkin bars with honey and almond butter) I am no longer content and I slide back into old ways looking for more pay offs and back come my aching joints, mood swings, bloating etc etc.
    I always look foward to your posts.

  18. Thank you Peggy for having the courage — as always – to ask the difficult questions and get us thinking. I agree wholeheartedly with your post.
    All the best from Sydney!

  19. I think there is a difference between feeling passionate and conveying that and sounding condescending. While I may agree with some points, the tone, which is a devilish little bastard when it comes to writing, can come across different than intended. I think that may be the case here, because while I may agree, even as a person in transition, I’m a bit put off by the post.

    • Yeah, I was a bit put off by it too when I read it again! Generally, when I have a few days to edit, I tear the devilish tone out but, now with the book in progress and everything else, the blog is a bit more raw. Believe it or not this post actually sounded uplifting to me when I wrote it. And, as I have found out from a few other commenters, one of my main themes didn’t come across but in one measly sentence. But hopefully the post wasn’t a total flop. Doesn’t seem to have been anyway.

  20. I absolutely agree with what you are saying (with the bars packed full of nuts, and the smoothies, and the flours). I mean, why dump a quarter cup of sunflower seeds on your salad simply because it’s a paleo food (given that they are raw seeds!).

    However, my question to you – (and forgive me because this is the first visit to your blog, so you may be this way and I simply don’t know!) Are you truly primal? Meaning – do you only eat foods that are located/grown in your area that you don’t have to have flown in? For example – I LOVE avocado. It seems that in the paleo world avocado are one of those great fat sources. However, I don’t believe avocados occur naturally in many areas of our country. So, to me, it seems that eating avocado (for me, given my geographic location) is not primal/paleo because it simply was not what my ancestors ate if they were here.

    My family and I definitely believe there is merit in the primal/paleo food lifestyle. But after thinking about the “true” definition of paleo, it simply isn’t realistic for us. Now…we still eat paleo foods. But most do not originate in our area, so is it really primal/paleo? I don’t know…I guess it depends on definition.

    Also – protein. A lot of what I read about the paleo diet is that you need x amount of protein and x amount of carbs (from non-starchy sources). Well, that’s great. And I do agree in our modern times, that we can certainly balance our diets (which I agree with), but true primal eating would definitely not include meat protein at every meal. And I’d be willing to bet once that primal family got a source of meat, they ate only meat until it was gone without adding in their veggies.

    But, I truly do agree with you. We found a DELICIOUS muffin recipe that we still make but to me, it’s not paleo. Using two cups of almond meal doesn’t mean it’s healthy or good for us, you know? Is it better than using wheat flour? Maybe. We’re just trying to eat whole foods as close to their natural state as possible.

    • Dusti,

      For me that level of Primal is a goal. (It’s definitely not a goal for most people and that’s totally understandable!) But personally, I really would love to eat only local, grow my food, raise my own animals. Although, that’s not really Primal either if you think about it because there’s not much hunting and gathering going on. I would move in with a hunter gatherer tribe and live that life if I could. That’s always been a kind of day dream of mine. But right now, if ever, doesn’t appear to be the time for that.

      I have had a whole lot of health challenges to overcome and even after many years I still have some issues that tether me to very careful eating. Then again, maybe going and living with a hunter gatherer people would cure me. I bet it would. Okay, anyway, that’s a dream for now.

      I do my best in my current situation to be as “Primal” as I can be for my health and I have goals to include other things at some point in the future. I don’t use non-stick pans or stainless steal as one irate commenter accused me of doing. I eat pasture raised foods. I eat lots of raw foods and I don’t generally eat much muscle meat. I sit on the floor to do my work. I sleep in the dark. I exercise often. I rarely drive – walk everywhere. I mean, I could go on and on about all the changes I’ve made to my diet and lifestyle. Really, after 6 years I could go on and on. You make these changes little by little until eventually, you’re a veritable weirdo!

      But really truly, totally Primal? Of course not. Not here. Not now. But I have found that for me, “Paleo treats” are destructive and I know that they are for lots of other people out there too.

  21. Peggy, I’m curious why you care – and I ask that with no snark, simply curiosity. Paleo/primal is about people eschewing CW and eating for well-being on a universal continuum – health, strength, pleasure, inward and outward. There’s no wrong in any of those things, what does it matter how people organize themselves under the large tent, unless this has morphed into a religion?

    What I find interesting in these conversations is the asceticism – ironically, often among those who eschew conventional organization. It serves to prove the point that everyone worships something. I think it would be a shame to become a cult, instead of a really cool community with an accessible message.

    “I’d like to buy the world a bowl of bone broth” is a better campaign than “you’re impure, I’m better than you.” I’m not willing to do that – not thinking for ourselves, is how so many of us ended up sick.

    • Why I care. You know, I’m not a big people person so I really can’t say that it’s because I care about people. I’m just driven to think about stuff more than anything. But the heat in the writing probably comes from all the emails I get from people who just can’t seem to get it together, an that’s sad. I wish I could help them understand that it might be their method that’s not working out. But on a personal note it’s because of the people I’ve been very close to who have or have nearly killed themselves with food. Now, the one who did kill herself – inadvertently of course – was my sister. My absolute best friend on the planet. She always tried so hard to be Paleo or when not Paleo then some version of healthier. But just couldn’t kick the habit of cheating frequently, taking prescription drugs, never exercising, etc. Her level of ill health simply wouldn’t permit those things. I couldn’t do all of that and survive either. Some of us need strict Paleo. Some of us don’t. But for those of us that do, maybe a kick in the ass would help. Maybe not.

  22. Spot-on again, Peggy! And it looks like you’ve hit a nerve too! You’ve certainly hit on some things that I’ve been thinking about recently, although the divide between thought and action sometimes seems overwhelmingly large. Let’s just call it a work in progress right now, with room for improvement.

    Actually, I wanted to ask you for some reading suggestions. Not so much about the food aspect, because I know what I need to do there (it’s just doing it….). I am having some major stress issues and I wondered if you could point me towards some books that are good resources for managing stress. I’ve already read the Mood Cure, per a previous article of yours, and I’ll be re-ordering it from the interlibrary loan for re-reading. Do you have any other suggestions, more in a mental/behavioral direction? I need a quick relaxing routine so I don’t throw a student out the window. And when I sit on my horse it’s like I stuck her tail in an electrical socket. My horse, my husband, my body and my students would all benefit if I could get the stress down! I know you’re super-busy yourself, and I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you could send my way. Thanks so much, and keep the great articles coming!!

    • Thanks Laura! I added and answered your question on my Facebook page. Hopefully that helps.

      • Thanks Peggy! I “like” you now! Not that I ever use Facebook, really. There are already some great suggestions and I will keep an eye on it as my much-needed vacation gets closer, and hopefully go back to school a little more centered. Keep up the good work, you’re the best!

  23. Looks in mirror, hangs head in shame, walks away sulking.

    All kidding aside thanks, this plays in perfectly with what my wife and I were talking about today. Is our 11yo daughter to extreme. I think she is the only one who gets it, it’s fuel not fun.

  24. I do love baking and making treats…but my body does not like eating them. LOL…Peggy you are right, if one’s body has some internal issues it is not worth it to get into the complicated replica foods. However, I can digest and love well made chocolate, like Theo’s dark chocolate or the unsweetened dark chocolate. I really need it the curb cravings and it doesn’t upset me…but coconut flour YIKES>….major nastiness afterward.

    it is sad, because nuts and all this stuff is delicious.

  25. i’ve been following your blog for sometime and I truly appreciate your candor, Peggy. Please continue writing more posts like these.

    People raise their hackles when shown a mirror — they don’t like what they see and become defensive and angry, as evidenced by some of the commenters on this post.

    There was nothing in your post that was ontoward and I take umbrage with those who claim they didn’t “get” that your post was directed towards an audience experience lagging problems after going paleo/primal. It doesn’t even matter if your post was meant for the whole of the paleo community–those who advised simply passing on grain-free junk food recipes if one doesn’t find them acceptable, should take their own advice–if you can’t bear facing the truth about constructs you have created and labeled as “paleo” or “primal”– then pass. Move on to another writer who doesn’t pose a threat to your conceits.


  26. It’s human nature to try and game a system. One sees this behavior in every endeavor under the sun. I’m a hardcore paleo / 5×5 / intermittent fasting type of guy and these systems work for me…I look better than great. However, if other people want to game the system, fine let them, their personal results will speak for them. Keep up the great work Peggy and keep walking the talk.

  27. Awesome. I call myself Paleo all day long and wonder *why* I can’t seem to lose weight…um, a few chips here and there, some wine and cheese. Yup, got it, thats why. Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants.

  28. hahaha:) great and funny article:) especially : ” It’s not a party at the Shell station!” lol:)

  29. Wow Peggy, as usually a great, honest, brave article of yours :) You don’t know how much inspiration and courage you give to me. Funny that you wrote this, because it’s exactly the same I was thinking these days: try to keep it simple. I’m trying an all meat-fish-seafood diet with some carbs in the form of rice and yams, and as soon as I see my mind wants to add more stuff to my food or make complicated recipes, I repeat to myself: keep it simple.

    I love the sentence about food not being fun. LIFE IS FUN! I’m going to write it on my kitchen’s board.

    Thanks so much for what you’re doing, Peggy. I don’t know if I will ever get rid of acne and my other health problems, but anyway knowing and reading you is making a big difference in my life. Thanks, really.

  30. Wow Peggy, as usually a great, honest, brave article of yours :) You don’t know how much inspiration and courage you give to me. Funny that you wrote this, because it’s exactly the same I was thinking these days: try to keep it simple. I’m trying an all meat-fish-seafood diet with some carbs in the form of rice and yams, and as soon as I see my mind wants to add more stuff to my food or make complicated recipes, I repeat to myself: keep it simple.

    I love the sentence about food not being fun. LIFE IS FUN! I’m going to write it on my kitchen’s board.

    Thanks so much for what you’re doing, Peggy. I don’t know if I will ever get rid of acne and my other health problems, but anyway knowing and reading you is making a big difference in my life. Thanks, really.

  31. I think it’s strange that this post elicited angry comments when I have found similar statements and undertones in many of your previous entries. Either people haven’t been reading very closely or they don’t understand your message after many, many months of posts. I get it. I love it. Because it’s inspiring, because it guides when I go stray, and because it’s a reminder of why I eat raw liver while others dine on bagels and muffins for breakfast. I will bet the “It’s not a party at the Shell station!” remark will go down in Paleo, Faileo, Primal, Archevore, whatever you want to call, “eating real food for your own health” history.

  32. One of the reasons I like reading your blog is that you post controversial things that other blogs do not. When you really look at it, most of the paleo blogs that are out there get a bit repetitive after a while. Once you know the basics of “paleo” you are typically left only reading about various recipes. That being said I understand where you are coming from and I myself have noticed all the paleo treat recipes have increased really since Halloween, and I know it has a lot to do with the season we are in.

    It is tough to fully give up traditions. I made a pie on Thanksgiving with an almond flour crust, but I did not fool myself into thinking for one second that it was “paleo.” I know the risk I’m taking every time I eat out in a restaurant as well, I know they are using crappy vegetable oils. It isn’t easy to really be primal in the modern age, but I decided when I started this that I wasn’t going to stress out over it. I’m confident that my diet now is immensely better than the diet that came before it, and I can see that reflected in my health, my mood and the scale.

    Anyway, really just wanted to say cheers and keep doing what you do.

  33. If you guys don’t like what you’re reading, or you feel judged, then STOP COMING TO THIS SITE.
    I love coming here and reading what Peggy has to say. I don’t feel judged or slighted, and I think it’s ridiculous that she can’t just post what she wants without having to worry about who she’s offending. This is HER WEBSITE. She can write anything she wants.

    • Seriously? She can write whatever she wants? Well blow me down – who’da thunk it!

      I think everyone gets that – just like by having a comments section, others can write in response. If YOU don’t like that, why do you read the comments? Are you searching for an echo-chamber?

  34. Personally, I’ve found that paleo treats give me just the same digestion / heartburn / blurry vision / jitteriness issues that I get from regular, white-sugar, wheat-flour desserts, so if I really want something like that I just get the real thing, eyes open to the impending side effects.

    Back when I really believed in the whole ”legal’ ingredients = good for you treat’ thing I kept trying and trying to make stuff that I’d feel good on AND that was a culinary success and I just ended up eating more of it than I had ever eaten of the non-paleo stuff. Since I stopped, I’ll still occasionally get the baking bug (like, 3 times a year) and inevitably what I bake makes me feel like crap, but now one sample and it goes in the garbage. The monetary waste and the pointlessness of the whole endeavour keeps me from doing it for another few months.

    The point is, you’re right, it’s easy to get married to an idea and keep on acting with the premise that it’s incontrovertible truth even when your body is telling you otherwise. Growing up in a culture where everyone always feels like crap, it’s surprisingly hard to really pay attention to your own body and say ‘hey, this is no good.’ I think this is one of toughest things for people to learn.

  35. I guess I am not wanting to be a “strict” primal eater since it is nearly impossible to know exactly what I should eat. Our ancestors began feasting together around camp fires cooking meat and savoring tasty berries that were in season at the time long before agriculture came into existence. I am sure that if paleo people found patches of wild berries in season, they would happily gorge themselves on them. The difference between then and now was there were seasons for some foods, no refrigerators and grocery stores to make items available 365 days of the year. So feasting and gorging on fructose loaded fruits was limited to the seasonal ripening which would mean just a few weeks per year that they were available, and the rest of the year for insulin and hormones to balance out just fine. There was no single group of foods that were exclusive for year round with the exception of a few cultures like the Inuit who rarely ate foods that were not fish or meats.
    With all of the mixing of cultural genetics, it would be impossible to know what “seasonal” foods would be right for each individual person, and could literally drive somebody nuts and make them totally OCD trying to figure it all out. I applaud the people who take the time and effort to constantly figure out exactly what works best for them, but speaking of things that aren’t fun….I would say that is DEFINITELY not my idea of fun.
    Personally, I think food should be fun, and I have no interest in converting my habits to making food some chore of daily life. Sometimes it is a chore of just prep and consumption for sustenance. But since eating is something that most people will do multiple times per day their entire life, getting people to stop enjoying it seems like advice that would cause some people to give up long before they found the perfect foods for their body.

    • The problem is that the SAD has messed many of us up so badly that we have had to be go nuts trying to figure out how to be well enough to even be able to have any fun. For me food used to be a great source of fun and it used to be quite miserable at the same time. Now it is less fun, not gross, but not especially fun but it is so much more rewarding.

      It depends on how you look at it and, of course, where you are at with food and your own health.

      I really do have to wonder about people who derive so much pleasure from eating. It seems to me that if you go get fuel for your car every day or so, you’re not going to get all excited about it each and every time. Now, if a bunch of friends happen to meet up at the same place while everyone is getting gas then I guess it would be a party at the shell station. But day after day, if you’re getting all excited to put gas in your car I’d kind of have to wonder if there’s not something special about the petrol if you know what I mean. ;)

      • Different strokes for different folks? I’m a sicko who actually loves grocery shopping at my co-op, the Farmers’ Market, online with local food producers. Then I daydream constantly about what my next meal will be. When I travel, I get excited about trying out restaurants there, and being Primal has only added to the fun challenge of it. My husband thinks I’m crazy because I’ll have just finished a huge meal of ribeye steak and broccoli, and I’ll already be talking about what to eat for breakfast.

        My point being that it may not always be the ingredients. You may just be more like my husband who doesn’t care what he’s eating as long as it provides him with what he needs. I actually think he would get all his nourishment from a pill if he could. ;) Not very Primal though.

        • See, and in the paleo/primal times you would’ve been the ‘Cook’ …or the ‘Cutter-upper’, or the ‘Chemist’.

  36. Sheesh people, take it easy! Defensiveness is a sign of insecurity and it doesn’t look good. Feel confident in how you are living your life – take the advice or recommendations that you need and leave the rest! Primal Toad, you are awesome and I know you are not being dissed, so nice job not taking it personal. You are truly an example to live by. I love smoothies by the way.

    I personally used nut flours a lot at first to transition and wean myself off certain foods. I don’t use them anymore because I found they were making me just as sick as regular flours. I do really think they help some people stick to the grain free thing though, seems like the lesser of evils.

    And I feel reminded by Peggy’s article that I was too pre-occupied with food and it was driving me crazy for the longest time! I find a lot of freedom in just eating for fuel. There are certain times to make a feast and those are really fun and special times, but I was way too stressed trying to make these elaborate meals everyday!

    Thanks for keeping it real Peggy.

    • Lol. I knew Peggy was not dissing me. In fact, I still need to write a smoothie guest post for this blog ;)

      Thanks for the kind words Holly! I agree with Peggy here for the most part and I may do a few follow up posts in fact. This blog is pure honesty – what is said is what the writer believes.

      It seems as if most primal/paleo bloggers just blog about what the “gurus” believe in and I am guilty of that myself.

      I’m working hard to stop that and hopefully this post has inspired me to truly venture out onto my own journey.

      I’m helping my brother and sister live primally now so I have some work to do!

  37. I just thought I’d post this link for a little perspective:

    That is what most people willingly call “food”. That the word “food” actually makes it into the headline is astonishing, right? The fact there is bickering over what essentially amounts to the definition of “primal” is silly on one hand, because infighting when it appears many commenters are essentially on the same “side” is a bit exhausting and unnecessary. However, I think there is something really important about this post no one clearly addressed:

    Peggy, with a BA in Philosophy, you’d know that everyone knowing and agreeing to first premises are the basis for human understanding and all communication. Without that, we’re lost in the conversation.

    In that regard, I’m with her! A clear definition is critical if we are to know where we stand in relation to what is truly “primal.” There is no value judgement if you are meeting or not meeting the definition, it would just be a fact, you either are meeting the definition or you are not. Am I right that was the point of this post, ultimately? Defining the term?

    Then, of course it could be decided whether science can address the questions of ultimate health, or if it is about individual experience, or both, etc. Ethics about value and responsibility for the physical well-being of the individual and their children, etc. But none of that can be addressed without first answering: what IS primal, anyway?

  38. Peggy-
    I understand where you are coming from. Both of my sons have terrible digestive disorders and we have to keep it very strict for them. They cannot eat nuts. They cannot eat even raw cheese or raw milk kefir. They cannot do coconut milk much less smoothies, nut bars, cookies made with paleo flours etc. I severely limit fruit as well. Sometimes they walk around with a lime, licking it all day, as it is the closest thing they have to a sweet. They eat, meat, eggs, low carb veggies and fats. My 3 year old begged for a jar of duck fat in the fancy grocery store, to the amusement of the other shoppers. He eats that off a spoon. Once I was looking for ideas of things to send to school with my son on Paleo/primal sites and one lady sends Boar’s Head lunchmeats and sliced deli cheese and store bought sushi all the time. Another sends chocolate, paleo cookies, yogurt, tons of fruit with her kids, even baked potatoes on occasion. Obviously it is better than a lunchable, but my God, my kid would die with that much sugar, even if it is just fructose and lactose instead of twinkies. And don’t even get me started on Boar’s Head. It is still loaded with junk and is not pasture raised. I’d still love to find someone doing real LOW CARB primal lunches for little kids to take to school, so maybe I should look deeper at your site.

    For my husband and myself, we are currently grain-free/refined sugar-free, but not primal like our kids. I rarely bake primal treats because that seems cruel to my kids to be eating cookies that they cannot eat, but I have been known (once a month haha) to make a pan or primal brownies after they go to bed. I like those brownies, but hubby quit after eating just one last time because the stricter he gets, the more he realizes how those foods do not agree with him. And I don’t want to eat a whole pan of brownies. We do feel better getting rid of even the primal junk, but I actually do not enjoy most meat, and make up the fat with raw cheese and nuts and coconut smoothies for myself. He just works so many hours he cannot always avoid going off diet. We both plan to get as close to primal as possible in the near future, because once you start listening to your body, you can tell what makes you feel better.

    I don’t want to take away from any of the people who are Primalish, because just getting rid of gluten can make people’s health take staggering leaps forward. Getting rid of all grains, starches and corn and refined sugars, even better. Perhaps some people do not have the same level of digestive damage that the people in my family have and they can thrive with a bit more variety or a few more treats. I actually look forward to the day when I can make a treat for my child’s birthday or Christmas, instead of packing him HB eggs and some steamed carrots while his cousins gorge on everything under the sun. But we are not there yet, and that is okay. When people hit plateaus in fitness or in regaining health, they need to assess what they are doing and determine how they can make positive changes. You are just asking them to turn that same critical eye towards their diet, and perhaps recognize the stumbling blocks they are putting up to feeling truly free of chronic health issues.

    When I read it yesterday, I thought the tone was a bit condescending. After all, at least the paleo/primal treat parents are trying and sending homemade goodies with their kids and not packing a pop, a nutty bar, a sugar free yogurt and a sandwich with a bag of chips with their kids, right? But then I let it marinate overnight, and I think that you are just not pulling any punches and asking people to be reflective.

  39. Hi again, Peggy!

    I just started reading all the comments people have left and I felt I had to say something.

    What people don’t get is that some of us are really damaged. Damaged by diet and modern lifestyle, by prescription drugs and antibiotics. And then you start living “primal”, and see all the stories about that people eating tons of nuts and chocolate and coconut muffins, who are suddenly cured from their ilnesses and also appear to be happy, fit and gorgeous. And you are not healthy or fit or gorgeous and here is what you think: you think that something is really wrong with you.

    And you know? Some of us need to heal. I do need healing, because I just can’t accept living with my acne, joint pain, hormonal and blood sugar issues anymore. I need to get clear in order to feel beauty and healthy. I need to feel good to live the life I want to live, to be able to practice the hard climbing and hiking that I love, to get fertile and have kids. I need my health, I really do.

    And Peggy gives me hope and inspiration. Why? Because I see her pictures and I read her and I can see the healthy, beauty, strong primal woman I would like to become. And I see there is a way to get there. It’s hard, sure it is, and when I see myself eating raw fish and liver I sometimes feel sad about myself. But there is a way, and for some of us is harder but it’s totally worth it.

    I would love to be healthy and eat processed food of all kinds. I really would. But it happens that I can’t. And if I have to choose, I choose health. And it’s great when somebody tells you the truth no matter how unpleasant it is. Because for you this post may be hard, pretentious or judging, but for me it’s full of hope.

    • Amen!
      Sometimes I get down about the fact that I still can’t figure out what triggers what symptoms and it seems like my body can’t digest anything perfectly, but when I read Peggy’s posts I feel so much hope, because I see that it can be done. No matter how hard it is, the solution can be found and perfect health can be achieved even by the most problem-ridden of us.

      The people who are taking offense at this are either in denial about their own bodies or are healthy with the version of paleo they’re doing and just missed the point of the blog altogether.

  40. reading all this. I have one more opinion. The united states is currently having an obesity issue to put it mildly. The author of the article to me is trying to convince you not to make the same mistake twice. Think of white flour vs wheat flour. We were told that whole grain flour is better for us than white flour. So what was our response? We ate a shit pile of whole grains. To make it simple, this more than anything else is most likely the reason we are getting fatter than fatter. So sure coconut flour is better for you grains but that doesn’t mean you should be eating large quantities of it as it too will work against your fitness goals.

    To take offense to this article is to miss the point. “Many people are addicted to food”, and until you break the addiction food will control you rather than the other way around. That said, I don’t think it has to be all or nothing. You can still enjoy food and even learn to love new foods by shifting away from the ones that are getting in the way of increasing your performance.

    As far as who is more primal than who, being primal is nonsense. Nobody uses a spear and everybody is buying their clothing in malls. We live in cold climates and have to deal with those constraints as well. So this argument of who’s more primal is silly. None of you are unless you are living in a cave somewhere and hunting and gathering everyday. But if you buy your food from a grocery store you are not primal by definition.

  41. Hi Peggy,

    I really admire you for being truly paleo. It was a long journey for you, and its quite a big commitment. I absolutely agree with what you say, but I’m not at that stage yet I suppose.

    For me, and for many, I think some innovations offer benefits and enable you to stay as paleo as you can; I ate a lot of nut-flour things during my transition – I don’t any more, the idea of bread has just stopped appealing to me.

    However, I think that even though hunter-gatherers didn’t have blenders, throwing some avocados, coconut milk and coconut butter in a blender still makes for a meal with quite a primal nutrition profile? I don’t personally make smoothies, but I think its fine occasionally. Also, some ‘processed’ food – e.g. coconut butter – still remains a whole food as long as its without additives, right?

    I think that sometimes its ok to take advantage of innovation.

    And its very true that everything is so food-centered. Gosh, when was the last time anyone starved? Do we really need those little sandwiches and sausage rolls they serve at presentations and whatnot? are those few seconds of tastebud pleasure (not that sweet glop qualifies as pleasure for me any more) worth it?

    Ironically, when I went primal, and stopped looking to food for kicks and having a gazillion snacks a day, I have come to enjoy food and cooking much, much more. I love my buttery eggs for breakfast and look forward to a great stew for dinner. I have learned to enjoy real food rather than stuff that’s being processed to be unnaturally, artificially palatable and addictive. No wonder people’s tastebuds are desensitized.

    Grok On, Peggy, you’re awesome!!!

    • “I think that sometimes its ok to take advantage of innovation.” I agree Milla! The whole “blenders aren’t primal thing” was kind of bullshit really if you think of it. It’s more the ingredients than the blender that can be problematic.

      • Haha, well, you never know, maybe some innovative caveman made a blender out of a coconut shell and a sharpened stone blade attachment, but it escaped the clutches of the archaeologists. I doubt they’d hide a discovery like that, since it’d really bolster the whole smoothie/sugar mush industry.;-)

        The point about the fruit/glucose thing is very true; pre-blending it makes the glucose more available, I think, even if the fruit is technically paleo. Glycemic-wise. I donate blood on a regular basis and thats the only time I have any sort of juice/smoothie to fend off the light-headedness. Better option than the candy they shove at you (quite persistently I must say. Last time I donated I was scared the nurse would force-feed me her straciatella biscuits). Though lately I’ve been looking more to coconut water as post-donation recovery, since the fruit around here in the UK in the winter is kind of uninspiring.

  42. I understand the argument of your blog. However, I wonder this: do you use things like coconut oil? or any oil of any sort, or butter when you cook? Because if you do, by your definition, that would be non-paleo/primal and thus make you simply “grain-free”. I see the basic tenants of your argument over and over again on many primal/paleo sites, but I find it odd and contradictory that most people who consider themselves primal/paleo use oils- which a caveman would not have used because they would have lacked the ability to figure out the “extraction” process. Not to mention, all oils/butters are, by technical definition, processed foods. Thoughts?

    • Jamie, possibly by no fault of your own, I think you missed the point of the post. I am not trying to judge what is Paleo and what isn’t and I’m not trying to condemn people for eating unpaleo foods IF THEY WORK. But the fact is that Paleo treats don’t work for most of us and I have been very surprised to see so many pictures and recipes of them. I do eat a little oil (although not much because I find it irritating) and I even have some skim milk sometimes (shudder), and even potatoes. So what. Whatever. What I don’t do is jepordize my health by fooling myself into believing that junk food, as long as it’s called Paleo, isn’t junk food. And honestly, even if you do fool yourself like that, I’m still not judging you. We’re all on our own paths. But somebody’s got to come out and remind people that treats are treats and they probably won’t make you feel great.

      I’m not 100% Primal. I’m way more Primal than most, but there are a few things that I have found work alright for me beyond the usual Primal guidelines.

      I don’t care if you’re Primal or not. (Are you really Primal was probably a bad choice in titles.) Primal treats are the only issue at hand. Not dairy, not potatoes, not oils and butter, and not any other minimally processed foods. Now, we could seek to define Primal and all of the ways in which any deviance might be harmful. That would be interesting. But that’s not what I was trying to do here.

      • I think primal treats are a joke. I was just pointing out a small fallacy in your reasoning and the title you chose. The biggest problem with people using treats to transition into a primal lifestyle is that they don’t tend to give them up. I never had an issue with “treats” because I don’t think the primalized version of “treats” are very tasty. I’d rather have real mousse once a month than some sort of gross substitution just so I can feel ok about what I’m shoving in my pie-hole.

        I saw on another blog for Whole 30, or something similar, endless questions about condiments and processed foods that omitted certain things like soy, grains, legumes, etc, but were “acceptable” for the plan even though the plan clearly states you should NOT consume processed foods of any type. Again, I encounter the contradiction that processed foods aren’t allowed, but oils/fats that don’t come from meat are allowed.

        I just find the contradictions interesting. I think instead of stating “no processed foods” or “no standard diet substitutes”, the plans would more clearly convey their intent with the stipulation that some processed foods (see oils/fats) are allowable because they have great nutritional value and enhance results and satiety whereas the other things do not.

        • Jamie, I agree with your point. There was definitely a problem with the title. :P

          When some food is health promoting, it may behoove us to consume it, even if it’s not “Primal” and especially when we’re trying to reverse the disease of modern life. Some of these extras are absolutely necessary. I’m not so primal hard core as to say don’t take borage oil or progesterone cream even if you’re trying to overcome PCOS. Sure they didn’t have borage and progesterone cream but they also didn’t have PCOS.

      • I did enjoy your blog post, despite what my response may imply. I think it’s an important topic to bring up with people who claim they’re eating primal. ;)

  43. Pingback: Re: “Are You Really Primal or Are You Just Grain Free?

  44. Pingback: Re: “Are You Really Primal or Are You Just Grain Free?

  45. “It’s the pursuit of fun in food that can, for some, lead to destructive eating.” Yes, this is me!!! Excellent blog post, and I couldn’t agree with you more. I have not made as much of an improvement in my health as I expected because, as someone pointed out earlier in the comments, grain-free junk food is STILL junk food! This is definitely a timely post for me and opens up my awareness of how much I am truly living the Paleo lifestyle. Thanks, Peggy!

  46. Wow!
    I’ve not read all the comments, but some readers really took it badly…shame.

    I’m pondering a few things myself along these lines. My understanding of Primal vs Paleo would be Sisson as opposed to Whole30 (Whole 9?? I never know which number to refer to!). I’ve dabbled in various “styles” but you know what I never understand? Why do people need labels? And then fight because their labels are different? I just don’t get it. I don’t call myself Primal because I don’t have a “Grok” tramp stamp. I’m not Paleo because I drink milk on occasion, or heaven forbid go nuts and eat CAKE*.

    My own version is based on “Can I farm it”? So local meat of any kind, and vegetables/fruits I can grow in reasonable quantities. So from this viewpoint white potatoes might come into it, but grains simply aren’t worth the growing and processing (never mind the lack of nutrition). Interestingly, the ingredients for “junk” could be grown, but not in such vast amounts. I may get a bowl of almonds, once a year perhaps – that’s a far cry from bags of almond flour.
    If I’m struggling with a binge, I try to limit the damage, but I actually find “dessert/treat/junk” recipes to be almost dangerous. It saddens me to see these recipes proliferate over those of my own priorities, so I look elsewhere for inspiration.

    So, what label am I?

    *My usual disclaimer applies in that I struggle with sugar, binge eating, etc etc.

    • I LOVE LOVE LOVE that definition. Can I farm it? Not that growing our own food is very Paleo, but we’re looking to emulate not to become, since that clearly isn’t possible.

    • Love your definition MonkeyGirl as it is very similar to mine. Whenever I shop, which has evolved to be about 90% farmers markets now, I ask myself if I would get sick if I eat this item in it’s raw state. I have nothing against cooking, but I have to be willing to eat my food in its raw state before I bring it home.

      After doing a multi-month paleo experiment, I’ve switched over to a multi-month plant-based experiment (Thrive) in order to get yet another lifestyle perspective. There are a few things I dislike about both and envision myself coming up with a hybrid of the two when I am finished experimenting.

      Peggy, I stumbled upon this blog post yesterday and am very happy I did. Keep up the great work.

  47. Hey Peggy, Great post. It really hit home. I totally get your point and can appreciate your bravery and straightforwardness.

    Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you…I have some organic grass-fed liver in my freezer and I’m wondering how much to take per week and what your “system” is! Please share! Your ideal of what paleo is makes so much sense to me and I’m trying my best to get there :)

  48. No, it’s not primal. I’ve been confused on many things but from day 1 I have rejected the replications of SAD desserts. I don’t mind if others want to eat them, but for each recipe I ask myself, how much of the whole (insert nuts/coconut, etc.)would you have to eat to get this much (insert milk/flour, etc.?) The 2 treats I ingest are coffee and (this month only) dried unsweetened cherries dipped in high-cocoa chocolate–and I don’t try to kid myself that they’re “primal.”

  49. lol! thanks for a good laugh. i still laugh when people bug me to help them make “healthy” treats.

    btw, you can still improvise and stay clean. for example,

    but i dont eat eggs much, theyre not the best lipid profile and pastured eggs are $8/dozen

  50. Peggy, to me all that this post highlights is the difference in philosophies under the banner of Real Food. I personally don’t care how people get under that banner, just that they do. And then from there, tweak for personal optimalization. I don’t personally agree with WAPF ideas about grains, but I won’t argue that WAPF is pretty damn awesome for many other reasons.

    I fall more in line with Sisson’s Primal Blueprint than hardcore Paleo. I used to think I could “cheat” here and there, but as time goes on, I find it’s less and less pleasant. I’m not battling food issues or any health issues, so for me it’s merely a comfort factor. I did a Whole30 in October and found the experience mostly positive but far from a panacea. But since then, I’ve scaled back on dairy and alcohol, two moves that seem to add a boost to how good I feel on a daily basis.

    But. I am very thankful for Elana’s Pantry. When I can bake an awesome dessert that folks don’t realize is grain- and refined sugar-free, it’s a great gateway to talking about this lifestyle and making it more accessible. People see that it’s not about suffering. My goal is to make things like that only for social occasions, and I usually reduce the honey by half (or completely if there’s chocolate).

    But the dichotomy between Paleo or just grain free is a false one. You can have these treats and still be damn close to Paleo because you are probably also legume free, veggie oil free, and SAD free, not just merely grain free.

    My biggest gripe, and I’ve blogged about it, with these treats is that people are calling them “Paleo”. They are not. They are Primal, or gluten, grain, refined sugar, and dairy free. The only truly Paleo treat I know of is fruit.

    Thanks for the discussion! Entertaining as always. :)

  51. I’m finding that the cleaner I eat, the cleaner I need to eat. When I first started this whole low-carb/grain-free/paleoish journey I found that every single book and blog I read had a different list of foods that were allowed or not allowed. It all depended on how damaged the writer’s health was, what foods they themselves could tolerate, and what their interpretation of the science was (and the science is of course constantly evolving).

    So, I just decided to jump in, cut out the biggies (cereals and refined sugars) and sort the rest out as I was going along.

    I felt absolutely magic within days.

    But the longer I continue, the more things I’m finding I need to cut. For instance, my DH and I were stoked to discover that the turkish place in the mall will do an Iskender without rice for $2 cheaper than a regular Iskender (an iskender is like a doner kebab on a plate, with rice instead of the bread wrap). It was awesome. I felt great after eating it, primal living was going to be a snap! Fast forward a couple of months of eating paleo-ish to tonight – we have the Iskender. A couple of mouthfuls in, and I’m not happy. The meat tastes ‘funny’, the dressing is gross, and I can’t even think why I ate the hummus (I guess it was because it was there – oops). And an hour and a half later I still have indigestion.

    There are other things that still need tweaking – I’m going completely dairy free next to see if that will help with my residual acne and constipation – I’m upping my Omega 3s and looking into sleep hygeine stuff (dark room etc etc) to try and balance the estrogen/progesterone swings and further help my PMT (which has improved massively, but could still get better).

    On the other hand, I’m super glad that when my 4 year old carb-addict daughter begs and begs and begs to make muffins, that I can relent every so often and bake something that doesn’t have wheat flour in it. (Stacy’s chunky monkey muffins are our favourite, because they don’t have almond flour either – I hate almond flour). For this child, banning baked goods outright means that she completely GORGES on them whenever she comes across them – something I’m wanting to avoid.

    So yeah, I hear what you’re saying (in your follow-up comments anyway :) I did find the initial post kinda annoying, but I get that, too – I’ve blogged. sometimes the message gets lost. shrug).

    The label ‘primal’, ‘paleo’ ‘paleo 2.0′ ‘archevore’ – yawn. I just don’t care. But it’s good to be reminded to keep tweaking, and that the cleaner the food, the better the results.

    And I’m just thankful that I can’t stand the flavour of almond flour, or I may have strayed further into the territory of treat foods :)

  52. Hi Peggy,

    I’m glad you brought this up. Could you please answer a question for me?
    Is red wine considered primal, in your opinion? (I’ve heard differing rationales for this on various sites and am honestly confused).

    Thank you for being so straightforward!

    • P.S. If you want to postpone an answer to this question for maybe a future “what is paleo” article (or your book) that’s fine with me!

    • I think that most people, if they really look at it, would agree that alcohol does harm. I would like to think that it doesn’t, myself, but the fact is it does. From there it is just a choice as to whether or not you want total remission from what ails you or not. Paleo treats and alcohol do more harm to some than to others. Hopefully you can figure out which class you’re in. In my case, alcohol isn’t good for my body. Sadly.

  53. Yep, agree with you with one caveat: I utilize smoothies with a base of red kale and coconut milk. I usually add egg yolks, and other veggies if I have them. I figure the beating the veggies receive from the blender frees up a few more nutrients normally inaccessible due to the general incompatibility of cellulose products and our digestive system.

    But all those coconut flour products or chocolate products? Feh, not for me. As a former “foodie” I appreciate an interesting and colorful menu but such foods strike me as just more processed food. Granted our ancestors may have dried and (hand-) ground coconut meat to make flour but it wouldn’t have been adulterated with the ingredients used today. If it is not, in order of importance, fat, protein, and vegetable, I don’t touch it. If someone desires a coconut-flour food, fine, no skin off my nose but the proliferation of such items is branching too far from the paleo “framework.”

    A side note: arguing against modern tools, such as a blender, is a bit specious. I am a “minimalist” jogger; I wear thin-soled, VERY flexible, almost elastic, shoes with a wide toe-box, no arch support, and no thick heel. I catch flack from a couple of die-hard barefoot runners arguing that shoes are not natural and so should not be worn, even in the winter. My counter-argument is our ancestors were not stupid. When they moved from Africa to colder climes, they would have started wrapping their feet in animal skins or something. (Archeological digs support me.) Hell, even the now-famous Tarahumara wear tires strapped to their feet and our Native American brethren’s footwear is known world-wide.

    My point here is that not all inventions in the last few hundred years are bad. We know cooking some foods free up nutrients and cooking with electric stoves and iron skillets is more convenient than a camp fire and a skewer made from a tree branch. A day without coffee is a day without sunshine. Shoes allowing one’s feet to flex naturally is a good thing and more comfortable. Using a modern tool such as a blender to pre-chew, if you will, a mostly-cellulose vegetable must surely be a helpful addition to chewing one’s cud.

    • Yeah, the blender bit should have been left out. I have no proof that blenders are bad. Supposedly they are quite bad for eggs, but that’s all I know. What I really wanted to say was that turning 5 pieces of edible fruit into an easily drinkable cup of juice probably isn’t something we’ve adapted to process. As we know, fructose is rather bad for us.

      Thanks for the thoughts Old, and not quite as fat, Guy!

      • You are correct of course about turning fruit, a.k.a., bags of sugar, into a liquid meal. After I stopped ingesting fructose, either from fruit or the ubiquitous High Fructose Corn Syrup, I stopped having gout attacks. (Conventional Wisdom says a high-protein diet is the cause of gout.)

        About the eggs: I also have heard the egg proteins are delicate. I asked about that on a blog elsewhere and a woman claiming to be a cellular biologist assured me the proteins remain mostly intact. Besides, I add the yolks for only the last two or three seconds of blending.

        • Smoothies are most definitely primal! Don’t let Peggy tell you otherwise ;)

          I add just egg yolks a lot to my smoothies. I cook the egg whites in lots of butter.

          I add fruit to most of my smoothies but its nothing like Jamba Juice. I would accept life in prison if I was creating Jamba Juice like smoothies and calling them “Toadally Primal.”

          Adding greens to smoothies can be VERY beneficial. Our body absorbs more nutrients from blended greens compared to greens eaten raw in a salad. I do both!

  54. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. My parents have been going Primal, but they definitely struggle with the notion of not trying to give up things without replacing them with a substitute. For myself, I sometimes create those recipes as a hook to get SAD eaters to give this way of life a try, but it’s pretty rare that I eat anything that isn’t animal, vegetable, or fruit.

    That being said, I don’t think that the statement “We put food in our mouths like we put gas in a car” or the notion that “sharing [foods], protecting them, and fighting for them” is limited to a farming lifestyle are on point.

    In many ways, farming alleviates the need for thinking about food, as it takes away the uncertainty of where your next meal will come from, so I don’t think it follows logically to assume that we didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about food before agriculture. After all, your own ability to eat meats and vegetables without worrying or thinking about them is a product of their ready availability.

    But the main thing is that cooking is an inherently human activity. Sharing food is an inherently human behavior. Ritual is an inherently human behavior. There’s a reason that our pre-agricultural ancestors drew pictures of prey animals on their cave walls: food was absolutely something that we thought about and ritualized and protected and fought over before the development of agriculture. And that’s what the holiday indulgences represent, I think. They are a way of celebrating the bounty that the world gives us, and has always given us since we first evolved.

    I want to be clear that I’m not endorsing primal substitutes as a day-to-day way of life. But the notion that cooking is an adulteration of our relationship with food, or that food is nothing more than fuel, or that celebrating with food is a problematic behavior (it can be – don’t eat your feelings – but it definitely doesn’t have to be) or isn’t primal just doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t imagine anything MORE primal than honoring our oldest and most fundamental relationship to the world around us. From time immemorial, we have fought for food, commemorated food in art, shared food as a method of group bonding, and otherwise celebrated the edible bounty of nature. Ignoring that seems decidedly non-primal to me.

  55. i have only read about 1/3 of the comments so far but i think if you are so deeply offended by her post you will serve yourself best by taking a deep look within at what YOUR issue is.
    if you try to change those issues i think it will set you free from your problem of reacting negatively.

    is that pretentious?

  56. I’m ok with “paleo” or primal treats or whatever you want to call them. It’s the holidays and YES, I’m going to be doing my own baking as I absolutely can not eat holiday goodies with gluten or dairy. I have tried going through the holidays without eating any treats. When it comes to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, I would just feel left out and feeling like the freak. That was not good for me emotionally. What I do now as a compromise is I bring my own home baked desserts for holiday dinners and share them (I especially like watching others reactions). Do I think I should be eating these from Thanksgiving through New Years? No, but I doubt the Paleo sites that are posting these recipes are condoning that either. I’d rather be eating my desserts made with pastured eggs, pastured homemade ghee, and all organic ingredients with less sugar than the run-of-the-mill crap you buy in the store. If I eat in moderation and only on the holidays, my body can take a day of decadence here and there. More than that and I run into trouble. This post came off as pretty “Grinchy” or “Scrooge-ish” to me, and turned me off to your message overall, though I do think there are some good points. It’s all about delivery. For me, a how to survive the holidays post would be more useful. I’m glad you clarified things in your comments. Oh, and I’ve got a great recipe for chewy meringe chai cookies, if you want the recipe!

  57. Brilliant article! Totally agree with everything you said. I have been slapping myself silly arguing with myself on this same issue. But it is the holidays and I do not want to feel left out, eating is still very emotional for me, that and I am transitioning a carbavore husband to paleo which is extremely treacherous so I do still make baked goods occasionally even though my meals are getting more basic.

    Quick question what do you think of main meals made up of various components like a stew with parsnips, carrots, beef, spices and homemade broth?

    • I’m pretty sure hunter-gatherers stewed meat with root veg and slurped up all the liquid once they started making receptacles and vessels wherein they could do that. Nomadic peoples in Russia (gypsies) mostly made (and some still do) stews in the winter months in clay pots; they technically aren’t paleolithic hunter-gatherers, of course, but they still are a more traditional sort of people. Besides, you’re not feeding any sort of wheat-related addiction (have you read ‘Wheat Belly’?) with stews. It’s just a way of preparing your animals. :-) Stew away.

      P.S. I hope someone in my family gets me a crock pot for Christmas!! :-)

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  59. A thought: If someone’s making a lot of stuff with coconut and nut flours, the fiber’s pretty filling and there they are getting tons of fiber and maybe not so much of the fat they need. That could be an explanation for the poor health right there. I have found studies stating that the more fiber you eat relative to the fat you eat, the less calcium you absorb. Stands to reason that’s true for other minerals too. Plus you just plain need fat and fat-soluble vitamins to absorb and use minerals, so having less of those things in your diet isn’t doing you any favors.

    The other piece of this is that if you’re overdoing the agave or honey but you’re not eating much in the way of liver or eggs, there goes your protection against the agave and honey. Liver and eggs contain choline that prevents non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Agave is one of the (if not THE) most concentrated sources of fructose in the modern human diet. It’s worse than HFCS. Fructose in the absence of choline is what builds up fat in the liver.

    There are other examples, if people think about it, of ways in which some foods can displace the nutrition of other, more important foods. If you’re eating too much displacing food and not enough nourishing food you will wind up in trouble and it doesn’t matter if all your foods are Paleo or even if they are processed.

    The Anasazi found that out the hard way.

  60. Peggy:

    All very interesting.

    Today I came across Greg Glassman’s article, “What Is Fitness And Who Is Fit?” It explains in excruciating detail the results of Glassman’s effort to define “fitness.” (Note: Glassman is the founder of Crossfit.)

    I admire him for his effort and clarity. He may not be entirely right, and there may be other definitions, but he put a lot of work and thought into defining fitness as he sees it.

    By clearly articulating a definition, everyone knows what Glassman believes fitness is. It’s not a term he bandies about (like big box gyms do). This has a lot of value, valuable, because when people go to a Crossfit gym, they know what fitness means, in that gym, and it’s that definition that guides their efforts. There’s no vagueness and no confusion. Just a lot of effort within a clearly defined framework.

    That’s not to say that Crossfitters are mindless and without opinion. But, from what I see, people love the clarity. You can go to any Crossfit gym in the world, and everyone’s on the same page, speaking the same language.

    Yes, there are people who believe they’ve embraced Crossfit more and better than others, but everyone’s on board with the essential principles.

    I think the discussion your post has lead to demonstrates the need for a clear definition of Primal. I’m not sure where the effort would lead, or whether one definition ever could be agreed upon, but I think people who use the term “Primal” (especially bloggers) should make a Glassman-like effort to define the term.

    Without a clear definition, I think it’s premature to debate whether particular foods and activities are or aren’t Primal. It’s like putting the cart before the horse, or so it seems to me.

    I look forward to reading more.


  61. Love this!

    Such a great reminder to take a step back & really think about the food choices we’re making. It is a choice after all.

    I was just thinking this morning that my diet has morphed into “grain-free” from primal. Yes, grain-free is better than full of grains, but not ideal by any means. Today has been totally primal (paleo even). Always good to re-evaluate!

    Maybe there are some people who feel just great eating primally substituted baked goods – I am not one of them.

  62. bravo. this ‘primal’ bs is getting out of hand.

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  64. I get what you are trying to say. Your honesty and straightforwardness is what I like about your posts, but this post was sanctimony and judgement of epic proportions. You say that was not your intention, but that was the effect it had.

    Primal is a lifestyle, with many interpretations of it. From what I can tell you live a version of it yourself, as you seem to only really eat meat. Yet plenty of veg is part of primal.

    No, our ancestor did not have primal cupcakes, nut bars etc… While those primal cupcakes may not be nutritional superstars, food should be enjoyed. If those foods in moderation help someone eat healthier and live a healthier lifestyle, who are you to heap scorn upon it or them?

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  67. I have a friend who is a paleo-anthropologist. She studies what cavemen actually did eat. She hates the “paleo diet” because it bears no resemblance to what was actually eaten in the Paleolithic era. I can’t really argue with her. I drive to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to buy grassfed beef, organic chicken, and vegetables that were grown on a farm, that I cook on my charcoal grill or electric stove in my air-conditioned house. Quite frankly, I like indoor plumbing too much to want to actually live like a caveman.

    I find that eating baked goods made with coconut flour or “paleo pancakes” is such a horrible substitute for the real thing, that it’s best for me to avoid them altogether.

  68. Two things (directed not at Peggy, but the naysayers):

    1. Paleo/Primal/Whatever is just about eating things SIMILAR to what we evolved to eat, for which there is strong medical and scientific evidence. It’s not about anything not related to diet and exercise, so absurd reductionist arguments like “Why do you use a computer?” or “Why do you eat beef and not gazelle and elephant?” are missing the point entirely.

    Connected to that last one, Dana also brought up the good point that there were (and are still) paleolithic peoples all over the world that ate very different game and plants depending on the environment. You don’t need to eat only things that come from Africa to be Paleo or have tremendous health benefits, that’s just absurd.

    2. I never got the impression that Peggy was saying anybody who eats a grain-free, not-strictly-paleo treat occasionally is bad or not paleo or somehow inferior. Correct me if I’m wrong Peggy, but what I got out of it was:


    Some treats with coconut and nuts and stuff may be fine occasionally, but just eating normally and cooking with almond or coconut flour is missing the point of Paleo entirely. I realise some people use these to transition, and that’s fine, but “transition” needs to be the key word there.

    I personally don’t eat any of that stuff or ever cheat on Paleo, and I’m even slowly making my diet “stricter” (I use quotes because cutting out nuts and replacing most of my veggies with liver isn’t exactly ascetic or testing my willpower at all). I’m just the type of person that if I cheat once, it’ll quickly be twice, then four times, and on and on until I’m just eating shit again, so I don’t do it… and honestly, I don’t miss it.

    I don’t personally begrudge people the odd smarter treat, but people have to be careful, because it’s a slippery slope and they could find themselves starting to gain weight and get unhealthy again by eating too much of these “Paleo Substitute”-type foods. I know I’m not alone when it comes to one tiny cheat leading to complete failure, so be careful people!

    • Re: “know I’m not alone when it comes to one tiny cheat leading to complete failure, so be careful people!”.

      You’re definitely not alone. Thank you!

  69. I am an ex-paleo/primal dieter. I completely agree with your statements. Many people enjoy the idea of eating what our ancestors ate but then think that whatever they can make out of seemingly unprocessed foods is acceptable (although how almond flour can be seen as unprocessed staggers me). YOu are right – if you are making smoothies high in sugar that would have never happened. Many people who say they are paleo are not. Primal is a different story as Mark Sisson seems to have a very relaxed (read sloppy) approach to what hunter gatherers actually consumed, and I think he is partly the reason why people think they can eat chocolate bars.

    Having said that in terms of health there are two approaches one can take. You can go back to the beginning and eat what we ate back as we were hunter gatherers. OR you can track back from the current day until you reach the point where our problems arose. I think this second approach is what Gary Taubes has done and I tend to stick with his advice – just cut out insulin. I may return to paleo one day but for now, and for the first time, I am no longer feeling hungry and that is saying something.

  70. Addiction and Thinking. In both respects I understand why many misunderstood your initial post as vehement/condescending, and why I know it was meant to be neither.
    I, too, lost my sister due to addiction. Not food, but it could quite as well be chocked up to that. It was hard seeing her tell herself (in action) that it was okay to do the things that were destroying her mind, and ultimately contributed to her death. Small choices can have big consequences, for yourself and others.

    That said, I’m really struggling myself with addiction. I know I feel better eating a certain way, and I’ve come a long way reprogramming myself to listen to my body and eating what I know will nourish my body, but with kids, family, and the other excuses I give myself, I find myself loosing… (to sugar, that crafty bastard!)
    Awareness is only the first step- implementation and follow through is another- one which most justify, and others, as myself, lament their failure and attempt to try and trust their gut feeling the next day (pun intended)

    Many have trouble questioning their programming or thinking for themselves- some never are able to escape (or want to escape), other make it part way and pat themselves on the back, and still others are able to break free of the lemming mindset and realize that their is a plethora of information out there, but it’s up to them to digest it and even further, its up to them to discover most of it for themselves (Learn by doing).

    Keep up the great posts, and thank you for sharing and being yourself.

  71. This is certainly an interesting discussion. While I don’t share your point of view, I certainly respect your conviction. Going ‘paleo-modern’ has really changed my life, and I’m fanatical about the way I do it, but I think living Paleo or primal is like cooking a good steak – everyone has a way of doing it that they think is the absolute best, but there are a lot of ways to go from raw meat to a tender, juicy (or dry and tough) piece of beef. For me, I like it salted for about an hour ahead, and seared medium-rare in a skillet with plenty of olive oil; I like my Paleo with ‘good’ treats and sweets.

    Thanks for opening up this debate – it’s been really interesting reading all the comments and gaining a better understanding not just of how others interpret Paleo, but how I do as well.

    • You’re welcome Kiki. I’m glad you can look at it objectively. That’s healthy. :) One could present all sorts of angles on a given subject but in one post, we present one angle. So, I too am thankful for the comments for leading the way to so many more angles.

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  74. Life is fun. Food is fun. I celebrate both. And food is healing and health and all that good stuff too.

    I listen to my body to find out which foods work for me and which cause problems so I can avoid those. That led me to what I call a paleo diet: non-starchy veggies, grass-fed meat/wild fish, eggs, fruit (no juice), coconut, nuts (I try not to go overboard w/nuts but I am a recovering vegetarian), occasional dairy. I create desserts from healthy whole foods, and yes I use chocolate in those desserts (unsweetened, I don’t do processed sugar or loads of honey for that matter).

    Maybe I eat too many vegetables or fruits for it to really be called paleo, perhaps I should simply call it a whole foods diet. But then again, I was never much for following strict definitions, I used to call myself a vegetarian and even a vegan, though I ate fish/seafood quite regularly. And yes, I am aware of exactly what it means to be a vegan. Maybe I should just eat what my body tells me to and not worry about giving my diet a label.

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  76. How about acorn “flour”.
    “The acorn was a major staple of the Chumash Indian diet. Although bitter, they used a time-consuming method to make this food staple edible. They ground the dried acorns into a powder, put the powder into a basket and filtered the powder with water to remove the bitter tannic acids. When the acorn powder was filtered sufficiently, the preparer transferred the powder to a watertight basket, mixed in water and cooked it with heated stones. After it was fully prepared, the Chumash ate this acorn soup with every meal.” They were also skilled hunters & ate seafood, but acorn “flour” soup for every meal…that’s primal.

  77. Unless you’re eating wild foraged and hunted foods (not feral mind you!) Pretty much everyone on paleo or primal is just grainfree.

    I get what you’re saying though, its amazing how much junk food people cram into paleo. Tons of dates, honey, etc..

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