Paleo Challenge Rules

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.


An in-depth, 4-week reverse dieting course for women who feel like their metabolism has slowed down, think they might have hormonal imbalance and can’t lose weight no matter what they do.

Hi, friends!

A bunch of you guys asked for additional details about the Paleo Challenge I’m doing with my CrossFit box. I asked my coaches if I could share some of the specifics on my blog and they agreed, so here they are:

The Paleo Diet is an effort to eat like we used to back in the day… WAY back in the day. If caveman couldn’t eat it, neither can you. This means anything we could hunt or find– meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional fruits and veggies, and seeds. Sorry, the pasta, cereal, and candy will have to go! Instead, you’ll be making things like chicken stir fry and Paleo spaghetti. Yum!


The rules of the Paleo Diet are to eat foods with very few and all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed.

Omitting all of the following foods and beverages will help you regain your healthy metabolism, reduce systemic inflammation, and help you discover how these foods are truly impacting your health, fitness, and quality of life. Obviously, since we are going off of a point system in this challenge, you can eat these foods. However, the more you indulge in them, the more you are limiting the extent of your results.

  1. Do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Equal, Nutrasweet, xylitol, etc. Read your labels because companies sneak sugar into products in ways you might not recognize. However, for the purposes of this challenge, we will allow Stevia as the only approved sweetener.
  2. Do not consume alcohol. It just isn’t good for you and you’re trying to make a lifestyle change, right?
  3. Do not eat grains. This includes (but is not limited to) wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, sorghum, amaranth, buckwheat, sprouted grains, and all of those gluten-free, pseudo-grains like quiona. Yes, we said corn”¦ for the purposes of this challenge, corn is a grain. This also includes all the ways we add wheat, corn, and rice into our food in for the form of bran, germ, starch, and so on. Again, read your labels.
  4. Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kind (black, red, pinto, navy, white, kidney, lima, fava, etc.) peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts (no peanut butter either). This also includes all forms of soy””soy sauce, miso, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and all the ways we sneak soy into foods (like lecithin).
  5. Do not eat dairy. This includes cow, goat, or sheep’s milk products such as cream, cheese, kefir, yogurt (even Greek), and sour cream”¦ with the exception of clarified butter or organic butter.
  6. Do not eat white potatoes. This is somewhat arbitrary, but if we are trying to change your habits and improve the hormonal impact of your food choices, it’s best ot leave white, red, purple, Yukon gold and fingerling potatoes off your plate. But DO eat sweet potatoes! Just go light if weight loss is your goal.


You will have a possible total of 20 points per day. You will start with 15 points. You will add bonus points based on fish oil consumption, mobility, CrossFit, and sleep. You will subtract points based on the quality of foods you eat. Here’s the breakdown:

15 points for a full day of all Paleo-friendly meals and snacks
+2 for CrossFit
+1 for extra mobility (outside of class)
+1 for at least 6 grams of a quality fish oil
+1 for 7+ hours of sleep
20 possible points per day

Deducting points

-1 point off for every serving of: deli meats, bacon, sausage, beans, hummus, peanuts, agave, honey, salt, peas, dried fruit, most salad dressings, red wine

-2 points off for every serving of: dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, butter), soy products, quinoa

-3 points off for every serving of: cereal, grains, wheat, oats, corn, tortilla chips, bread, rice, pasta, noodles, hot dogs

-4 points for every serving of: soda, juice, sports drinks, potatoes, fried food, chicken wings, most restaurant appetizers, pizza, cookies, baked goods, ice cream, frozen yogurt, sweets, pancakes, ketchup, processed marinades, BBQ sauce, sugar-added dried fruit, beer, and ALL alcoholic drinks (besides red wine)

Note: If you are going off the reservation, it’s important to know how many servings you are eating. For example, 1 can of soda is 2 servings. This means that if you drink an entire can, you must subtract 8 points. Moral of the story: don’t do that.

Note #2: There are no portion restrictions in the challenge, but be smart. If you are eating an entire bag of trail mix, you are not eating Paleo; you are doing more of the same stuff you did before. Use this challenge to change your habits.

Bonus points

There is a potential for 5 extra bonus points per day (as shown above). Here’s how to get them:

  1. You get 2 extra bonus points for everyday you participate in a CrossFit workout. The benefits of Paleo are magnified when combined with a training program that combines constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements (i.e. CrossFit).
  2. You get 1 extra bonus point for everyday you consume at least 6 grams of fish oil.
  3. You get 1 extra bonus point for everyday that you do more than 20 minutes of mobility, outside of class. Check out for ideas.
  4. You get 1 extra bonus point for every night that you sleep more than 7 hours.

Ok, so that’s the important stuff. My box actually provided a whole packet of info, so if you have specific questions, just let me know. I’ll do my best to answer or ask my coaches if I don’t know. And, of course, this info is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Paleo. Check out these websites for more info:

I plan to play along with the scoring for the Paleo Challenge, but I already know I’ll veer off course a bit with my food choices. For instance, I understand the potato thing, but I don’t totally agree with it (I need carbs in my life!) and plan to eat them over the next several weeks, even if it means subtracting 4 points every time I do. I’m also planning some wedding splurges (hello, champagne and cake!), so I’m just going to do the best I can with eating Paleo, do what works for me, and not get all caught up with the numbers and little details.



Yesterday’s lunch was a bunch of leftovers from the refrigerator: grilled chicken, chopped up Sweet Potato Wedges, roasted cauliflower, and avocado. Random, yet delicious.

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Once I finished that bowl of goodies, I wanted something more to eat, so I whipped up a smoothie with frozen banana, mango, vanilla egg protein, pumpkin pie spice, and almond milk. De-lic-ious!

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I spent the rest of the afternoon plowing through work (I seriously got a ton done yesterday!) and then took a break around 3:30 PM to walk Murphy. I ate a quick snack of Sweet Potato Wedges with a scoop of almond butter before I took him out.

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After my walk with Murphy, I went to CrossFit with Mal. We both had busy days yesterday, so we were itching to get our CrossFit on. Here’s last night’s workout:


Dead Lift 8 x 3 @65%. Rest 1 minute between sets.


3 Rounds of Complex:

Clean Grip Dead Lift

Hang Power Clean

Front Squat

Reverse Lunge (from front rack)

Bent-Over Row

*6 reps of each exercise. You cannot put the bar down once you begin. Rest 2 mins after each complex.

Rx: (135, 95)
L2: (115, 75)
L1: (95, 65)
Beg: (65, 45)

I used 155 pounds on the Deadlifts for the strength part of the workout. Our coaches came around and helped us with our form while we did them. I have a really bad habit of looking up when I do Deadlifts, so I tried to work on it last night. You’d think it’d be an easy fix (uh, just don’t look up), but as soon as I put my head into neutral, I’d pick it up again. It was actually kind of funny because it was so automatic even when I was trying not to do it!

Last night’s WOD kicked my butt, and it was totally my own fault. I was a tad too ambitious with the weight (I used 75 pounds) and ended up crashing and burning on the third set. I felt really great at CrossFit last night, so I went with it and loaded up my bar with what I thought was a good weight for me, but, on the final set, I dropped the bar 3 or 4 times, which is the exact opposite of what you want to do during a complex. The point is NOT to put down the bar between exercises. I still got a good workout, but it was kind of a bummer that I couldn’t properly do it. I really just need to take it slow and remind myself that it will take some time to get back to where I once was with my fitness. It’ll happen. I just need to be patient.


Last night’s dinner was broiled chicken with sautéed red bell pepper, onions, and green beans in coconut oil with Sunshine Sauce. Holy delicious.

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Mal really liked this meal. He must have said how much he enjoyed it a half dozen times while eating it last night. This one is a keeper (the guy and the recipe).

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P.S.  I’m hosting a giveaway on Trading Up Downtown for some Teddie Peanut Butter!



  1. Just a question about the paleo diet – do you know why it is that you are not supposed to eat beans? Thanks!

  2. Good for you for being so dedicated to your healthy eating! Glad that you found something that makes you feel so great 🙂 Hope your colitis gets better soon too. Also, didn’t mention this before but in one of your recent posts I noticed your arms look a-mazing! So strong and healthy!

  3. oh my goodness, some controversy on the site today! lol. not sure why people feel so free to comment negatively on someone else’s life choices… judgmental much?

    seriously, i have considered paleo but just haven’t quite made the leap yet. i don’t have any serious health issues, so i have more flexbility than you do and can afford to take my time (and see if it works for you haha)! i love the idea of eating healthy and i try to do that in my own way every day, which is what you have always noted on your site. each person has to find what works for them – in nutrition and exercise. i give you a lot of credit for listening to your own body and instincts, and it helps me to witness your efforts through the blog – honestly.

    side note – nice workout! 75 for that complex is bold! 🙂

  4. your food all looks pretty darn healthy and balanced to me! Pretty jealous of the sweetpotato/nut butter combo.. looks delicious!

  5. Have to disagree with the comment on alcohol. In moderation, alcohol can actually be cardio-protective, but then again I guess cavemen didn’t have alcohol!

      1. Not everyone who follows the Paleo diet has IBD. I was just mentioning that it’s an overstatement to say the alcohol is “just isn’t good for you.”

    1. @Cristin: “Cavemen” (Homo sapiens, for the record) also didn’t have protein powder, or domesticated animals, or domesticated plates, or chicken eggs, or almost all of the foods that people on the so-called “Paleo” diet, eat. To eat a truly Palaeolithic diet, you would need to be eating seasonally available foods that you or your immediate family personally gathered or hunted from the area immediately surrounding you home (in practice, the distance that could be walked with the food you have collected).

      1. I know what the Paleo diet is, I’m not trying to argue what it is about, and clearly I just used the term “cavemen” as a laymen’s term. We are all considered Homo sapiens, not just the humans that lived 200,000 years ago. I was just mentioning that alcohol isn’t 100% “unhealthy”. I’m not trying to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t eat/drink. I respect Tina for the choices and sacrifices she is making to feel better.

  6. So how does Paleo feel about Protein powder? Surely cavemen didn’t have that back in the day. I still can’t wrap my head around something that is so rigid–they’re like Nazis.

      1. @Claire that Nazi comment is very offensive. No one is forcing people to follow the Paleo diet, it’s a choice, something the Nazi’s DID NOT give people. And no, I don’t follow Paleo, I’m just offended by your comment.

  7. Wow. My jaw dropped reading some of the comments. Do people forget this is YOUR life. If they don’t agree why do they still read YOUR blog that documents YOUR life. Thank you, Tina, for posting despite the naysayers. 🙂

    1. Ok here’s what I don’t get. all the people saying, “oh my god! why are people writing such rude judgmental comments!!?? OMG! it’s tina’s blog she can do whatever she wants.leave her alone!” YES this is all true. BUT IT IS A PUBLIC FORUM THAT SHE CHOOSES TO MAKE PUBLIC!!! She is making money off of this blog which to be honest im amazed at. I mean taking pictures of spoonful upon spoonfuls of nut butter brings in the cash!?? amazing. anyhooooo, if you choose to open your life up to the world and share initimate things about your bleeding, stomach issues, etc, then people are going to comment. It’s the give and take of having a blog. That all being said, you handle yourself in a very classy manner, Tina. I think you’re blog is nice. even though i still cannot believe how you make a living doing this. but you know what? kudos to you for being able to do it. I wish you good health always.

  8. I am interested in your thoughts on this article:, mostly because the Paleo diet intrigued me until I started researching it and found things like this in well known and respected scientific journals.

    Also, you mentioned this last flare has been hard for you to kick, even though it is mild, which corresponds to your change in diet. Do you not think these are related? I am curious on this point as I am also suffering from GI issues, and wondering how to tweak my diet to ease up the symptoms.

    1. @Jen: Thanks for the link! I remember learning that human ancestors ate mostly plant food and only supplemented it occasionally with meat that they hunted, but I had never seen a study about it. I will definitely check that out!

  9. this looks fun! My husband and I are vegan, so not eating beans/legumes & tofu would be hard for us…but I love this and I think I will track my points! I just pledged Unprocessed October, I’m pretty good at eating unprocessed…but every now and then a fig cookie comes into the house 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!

  10. I bet you couldn’t WAIT for the negative comments to roll in on this post, huh? 😉 Seems like just putting “Paleo” in a post’s title invites rudeness for some reason.

    I’m excited about your challenge! I recently started eating Paleo (like, I’m 5 or 6 days in), but I researched it for months and even spent a solid 10 hours one weekend reading through info on some of the sites you list above and others, as well as educating myself on farming subsidies, the Agricultural Revolution, and other stuff, just trying to come to a conclusion. I couldn’t find anything that 100% convinced me until I read The Paleo Mom’s section called The WHYs Behind Paleo (I’d link but I’m afraid it will get my comment blocked). That did it for me. I don’t know whether I’ll eat as strictly Paleo forever, but I knew after reading those posts that it was absolutely worth trying.

    Good luck with your challenge, Tina, and thanks for being real (even if it’s unpopular), as always. 🙂

  11. Wow, while I might not agree with everything said in this post, I just want to applaud you for taking the time to respond to SO many questions/criticisms about the Paleo lifestyle. That takes sincere dedication and shows that you care about your readers. I just want to commend you for answering so many questions and critiques, often with links to information supporting your decisions. Way to go, Tina. I hope you find balance in YOUR life that makes you feel the healthiest. I suffer from a lot of digestive issues and so many people think THEY know what’s best for me. I love advice from the peanut gallery! Ha!

  12. I liked (ironic tone, there) the blanket generalization about alcohol “It just isn’t good for you”. While there are risks of drinking heavily, there are also many articles about the benefits of moderate drinking when it comes to people’s lifestyle.

  13. I find the concept of the paleo diet completely ironic. I studied anthropology in college and can tell you that humans were eating forms of bread/grains about 2000 years before potatoes were domesticated. also why would you want to eat like a caveman , we were still a primitive species that knew nothing about nourishing our bodies . We were lucky to live day to day on whatever we could find. Do your research and not just read the pro paleo papers. And yes whenever you add more vegetables you will feel better. That’s simple logic , please don’t contribute this to your paleo lifestyle. Eat veggies ! But why on earth are you afraid of grains ?!!! We’ve been eating them for 12,000 years !

    1. @Cara: I have to disagree with your view on grains being healthy (or at least healthy for everyone). There are far too many cases of Celiac or allergies to gluten-rich grains these days. It’s estimated that 1 in 133 people are Celiac and only 10% of those are aware of it. You don’t need to go all crazy Paleo, but that certainly is food for thought. Look around you at all the obese, diabetic, unhealthy people and ask what they eat on a daily basis. I’ll bet foods rich in whole grains are responsible for it. I was diagnosed with a severe wheat allergy a year and a half ago, and have since been the healthiest I have been in my entire life. I no longer get migraines (the norm for me used to be 2-3 times per week), I am no longer lethargic, I lost weight, etc. I DO eat rice and quinoa, which are so far working well for me, but you’ll never see me touch those amber waves of grain again. 🙂

      1. @Danielle: My thoughts EXACTLY. I’m newly diagnosed Celiac and I will gladly take some Paleo type foods over any grain of wheat EVER AGAIN. For me, the reaction the next morning is severe enough that I have to take a sick day at work. Grains aren’t for everybody. Although, to be fair, the wheat we eat today has been so modified it’s Franken-wheat. No wonder so many people reject it. And corn is on the same path.

        1. @Katrina:

          Don’t forget about Franken-meat too.
          Our meat industry is a monstrosity. I know there are a lot of free range and organic alternatives but not many where I live and those offered are not affordable. Yes. Wheat is super modified, but there are issues with many of our food sources nowadays.

        2. @Katrina:

          I think for me, having no health issues, eating grains is great. I think the key is eating unprocessed whole grains – not a lot of refined grains that you find in the typical American diet. And not a whole lot of them…But for Tina, who has some digestive issues, eating a modified diet like this could be beneficial. To each their own. I like the paleo diet’s reminder to eat a lot of vegetables and nutrient dense foods.

      2. @Danielle:

        the term “grain” does not equate to wheat. like you mentioned there are plenty of grains out there including oats, quinoa, spelt, and amaranth that do not contain wheat for those who are intolerant.

        it’s also important to note that celiacs disease is an immune disorder, which is different from a wheat allergy.

        1. @Chloe: Agreed, the two (allergy and immune disorder) are very similar in symptoms and treatment. If it’s gluten-free, it’s wheat-free. So I follow a gluten-free diet. I was just pointing out that there are a LOT of people who cannot eat what is dubbed “healthy whole grains” that is part of most foods you see served in restaurants, in the markets, etc. because wheat is the prime “healthy whole grain”. We have only just scratched the surface on issues related to consumption of gluten.

      3. @Danielle: But most grains don’t have any gluten. I admit I have not read any of the paleo literature closely so I’m certainly not an expert, but I don’t think gluten sensitivity or celiac disease are reasons to cut out rice, millet, etc. as others have mentioned.

        1. @Sandi: My post was for Cara initially as she believes a diet rich in bread/grains is healthy. But I’ve been studying a lot lately and all fingers point to issues with wheat, and other gluten rich grains. I never suggested cutting rice, millet, etc. out – I eat rice and quinoa – but rather do some research. I don’t follow a strict Paleo diet, but a variation by which I no longer drink diet Coke, nor can I eat wheat (allergy). I am increasing the amount of vegetables I consume, cutting out ALL processing foods (potato chips are my kryptonite) and once in a while toss in some Nutella to be happy. Paleo is something to consider, or at least the very principle of cutting out foods that are unhealthy.

    2. @Cara: The majority of what we were eating “12,000 years” ago is NOTHING like what we eat today. It’s also prepared like NOTHING we eat today. I’m sorry, but this argument might be valid if we were eating einkorn bread that was fermented for two weeks before baking. Or if the only way we ate corn was in its original high-starch maize form and soaked in ash before cooking.

  14. This week I made the spaghetti squash bolongnese from the Practical Paleo cookbook. It was so yummy. Great alternative to pasta.

  15. Hi Tina,
    I think it’s good for you to eat a diet that works for you. To heck with the haters!! 😉 I was reading back on some of your older posts (mostly on Crossfit since I’m starting it on Thursday) and I read your sponsored by Reebok & they pay for your dues? Is that true? That’s awesome! I wish they would pay me to Crossfit…maybe someday, I need to get better (and get started) at it before I can even dream of something like that.

  16. Tina, I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and I finally decided to comment. I read what you say because you are genuine, caring, informative, and fun. I might not eat and exercise the way you do, but one thing we have in common is our desire to listen to what our bodies are saying to us and our willingness to make changes in our daily choices. Keep on being true to yourself. You are endearing and authentic and you challenge me to make healthy choices.

  17. Geez, apparently paleo is controversial! I have to admit I’d never try it (I’m actually vegetarian working on going vegan – but because of some of the same underlying principles as paleo, actually, such as including as much unprocessed whole foods as possible), but I can see it has its pros and cons, just like any other “diet”, which will work differently for different bodies. The one thing that people seem to be hating on the most, how stringent it is/can be, is exactly what you aren’t doing! And I think you’ve made that clear, you *tend* towards a paleo diet, not that you follow it 100%, you do what feels like it works for you body. I find it all very interesting to read about!

  18. Tina-

    Can you make a big batch of Sunshine Sauce and use it throughout the week? Or, do you make smaller batches for each meal?

  19. Hi Tina, thanks for sharing the ins and outs of the challenge. I appreciate you being upfront and transparent. I am little surprised at your decision to participate in such a strict diet. Your “Why I Don’t Do Diets” post is one of my favourite blog posts from any blog and one which I have a link to on my own blog.

    Apologies if you have addressed this already (I don’t get the chance to read all of your posts), but why the change of heart?

    1. I never claimed I wrote that part of the post. As I said in the first paragraph, the info is from the Paleo Challenge packet from my CrossFit box. I had no idea where my coaches pulled it from.

      1. @Tina: I think as a blogger with lots of readers it might be nice to link to the original source now that’s been pointed out…I understand you didn’t realize before.

  20. Yikes!! This has turned into a heated topic. I can understand why many people find it questionable though, especially because it seems to be the new trend in “diets”. For me, something like this would never work just because I am not a big meat eater and never have been. Besides, I have two kids and I would never want to take away dairy, beans or grains from their diet as I think they are essential for their growing bodies. I want to eat in a way that I can feed my entire family.

    Of course while Paleo many not work for me, who am I to say it won’t work for others. Honestly, if I feel like your posts are getting too paleo heavy, I just skim down to the parts that interest me!! Good luck with the challenge and good luck with your doctor appointment tomorrow. I hope you can FINALLY get some answers!!!

  21. That challenge sounds awesome! I’m glad you’re being reasonable about it, we’re all human 🙂 that chicken looks awesome! Is the skin still on? Looks nice and crispy!

  22. I hope you find some answers to your colitis issues. Whether or not the answer is strict Paleo, whole30, or your own mix of what works, kudos for putting the info out there. What might not work for some people could be the magic answer for others. I used to shun the gluten-free people and happily gobble my wheat products. Now my life is so much better because I found a way to treat my digestive issues with real food, but no gluten. And if they ever make a magic pill to make my toxic relationship to sugar disappear, I’ll sell my running shoe collection for it. Good luck tomorrow!

  23. To be honest this sounds like an eating disorder cult, what is the reason for only sweet potatoes, yes they have more nutrients, but from the Paleo standpoint what is the purpose of that?
    I very much enjoy reading your blog Tina, but I really like your stand that you “don’t do diets”, I understand you’re only doing this for a short time because your box is, but being a National Eating Disorder Association Intern, I challenge strongly the motivations behind people who cut out entire food groups under the guise of health. Soy is a complete protein for vegetarians, if you’re worried about hormones, there is organic milk.
    I eat mostly whole foods, and try not to eat much processed foods, I get that part because long ingredient lists often mean chemicals that aren’t actual food, but I would have to say this Paleo challenge your box is presenting disturbs me. I think it’s just TOO far.

    1. @alicia: I think it all depends on your relationship with food. Personally, I don’t think doing a 60-day Paleo Chalkenge is like joining an “eating disorder cult.”

  24. ill be honest i havent read the blog recently, but i understand you’re still suffering from colitis. a huge bummer 🙁 and im wondering if you ever read up on any of that stuff i sent you before from my nutrition classes? the research about auto immune diseases being helped immensely by a plant-based diet, no oil, no salt, no added sweeteners. i spent a week at dr. fuhrman’s immersion a few months ago, and i keep in touch with the healthy eating specialist at WFM yonkers. she has been following the eat to live lifestyle for the past 5 months, lost 21 lbs, cut her body fat in half, and every.single.ailment that was bothering her has literally disappeared. it might be something to think about if you aren’t noticing changes on the paleo diet. just figured i would check in 🙂 good luck on your challenge

  25. We did a similar Paleo Challenge at our box, but it wasn’t based on points. I like the point idea, though I didn’t particularly follow it, since I love dairy and sweet potatoes too much! I agree with many aspects of the Paleo way of eating, but there are a lot of things I don’t agree with, i.e. whole grains or dairy?? How can one get enough calcium or vitamin D from leafy greens, without consuming any dairy products? I look forward to reading about how your challenge goes!

  26. Whoa! I’m going to paste something here I posted on PaleoHacks about the food group argument:

    “Food groups” are a recent construct that really have very little to do with nutrition and more to do with politics. If it were about macronutrients, roots, tubers, and legumes would be paired with whole grains, and dairy would be lumped in with either fats or meats + eggs, instead of hanging out in their own clique. Micronutrient profiling might shift things even more. In this perspective, a paleo diet only excludes certain botanical groups–not nutritional (excluding cereals and pseudocereals, but not tuber-based starches, for example). And there are plenty varieties of plant life and animal life that are deadly to eat. A meal of oleander and polar bear liver will surely kill you. Does excluding those things and other poisonous foods too “exclusive” of a diet to be healthy? I believe the concern over excluding a food should only be permitted under one of two conditions, 1) are you malnourished in a nutrient that can only be obtained from that food? and 2) does excluding this food make the entire lifestyle too difficult (ie. encourage binging, undereating, make it too difficult to get a well-rounded diet, encourage other unhealthy habits, etc.).

    Now, on the subject of nutrients: there is nothing in grains/legumes that you can’t get IN BETTER AMOUNTS in other foods. Of all the “food groups” containing what we understand to be real food, whole grains are the LEAST nutrient dense of them all. Also, animal foods are far more bioavailable than plant foods. This means that the nutrients you consume from animal foods are more readily used by the human body than those coming from plant foods. You may have to eat a MASSIVE amount of vegetables to obtain the same nutrition you can get in a small portion of animal food. And yes, animal foods do happen to be extremely nutrient-dense. Also, most plant foods contain phytates, but legumes and grains, in particular, contain levels that in excess can cause nutrient deficiencies in the body because phytates bind to certain nutrients causing them not to be used. Traditional cultures that depending on grains founds ways to prepared them to neutralize these anti-nutrients (long souring as is sourdough, soaking–like the Scots did with oats in haggis and the Mexican nixtamalization of maize, and sprouting). These days, a true traditionally prepared grain product is hard to find. For most, this level of preparation is certainly not worth the effort. I’m a freak, so I do prepare most my grains like this, but it’s balanced out by the fact that I don’t eat grains every day, and certainly not in portions as big as I used to.

    I think it’s unnecessary to fault someone for NOT eating something. I don’t eat gluten. It creates inflammation in my body that leads to chronic respiratory infections. Am I missing out? Not at all. There are plenty of other foods I can eat. Is it inconvenient? Sure, at first, but I adapted. I have a coworker whose IBS flares in response to beef. Grass-fed beef makes my world go ’round. This doesn’t mean I need to pressure her to eat beef. She can find those nutrients elsewhere.

    I used to be semi-vegetarian. I ate a lot of beans. 1-2 times per day. I didn’t eat much meat. Maybe a small serving two or three times a week. I ate oats and bananas for breakfast. I drank soy milk. I even have a significant log of what I ate during an elimination diet (gluten, dairy, corn, and soy) where I ate a lot of beans, not much meat, a “reasonable” amount of “healthy” fat, and lots of gluten free whole grains (except for one week where I didn’t have anything but quinoa in the house. I was noticeably less bloated that week). I had my bloodwork drawn right at the end of that long diet. You know what? My already borderline HDL DROPPED 13 points. Also, during this time and the year or so prior while I was still eating semi-vegetarian, I had chronic headaches, fatigue, erratic periods, killer PMS, and zero libido. I was irritable all the time, and the times I ate more beans, particularly soy, my cramps would worsen and I’d sink into an unexplainable depression.

    Turns out, I have PCOS. I began eating eggs for breakfast instead of fruit or grains. I ate nuts for snacks instead of granola bars. I ate more meat instead of beans. I became more liberal with animal fat. Grains are an occasional treat. And you know what? My headaches are mostly gone. My PMS has greatly subsided. I actually HAVE a libido now, and my cycles are regular for the first time in my entire life (I’m 24). I’m much happier, and my skin is actually clear for the first time since 3rd grade.

    My health isn’t “perfect.” But this shift has improved most my issues (and NOTHING has worsened). If paleo is even helping ONE of Tina’s complaints, I’d say it’s a worthy start. For many (including myself), paleo isn’t the panacea. It’s a tool. From it, I have learned more about nutrition than I ever thought possible. I’m personally more interested in what I *do* eat than what I *don’t* eat, but now I know *why* I don’t eat much of certain things. Gluten gives me debilitating seasonal allergies. Sorghum and millet give me bloating and gas. Fruit makes me hungry. Beans, especially soy, give me mood swings, horrendous menstrual cramps, and stomach cramps when eaten in excess. Eating more red meat and animal fat keeps my moods lifted. Potatoes, when accompanied by sufficient protein and fat, satisfy better than any grain.

    Let her find out what works for her.

    Meanwhile, here is an interesting post from Melissa McEwen about ancestral diets and gut health. Melissa is a great example of balance, in my opinion. While she doesn’t strictly follow Paleo now, she learned from the science, and has since adopted an eating pattern that works best for her in light of her previous IBS.

  27. Loving the whole challenge and the point system. If I didn’t have a race coming up in less than 2 weeks I’d have to jump on it for fun. 🙂 Thanks for posting all the links too. I’m about to open a few. And how in the heck do your sweet potato wedges always look so perfect? Mine never look that good. LOL.

  28. I’ve suffered from disordered eating but would never dream of telling you what you should and shouldn’t eat! It’s your blog, if people don’t like it they can stop reading. Simple! J

  29. Tina, if it works for you, do it girl! I strongly believe in everything in moderation. I have made a huge effort to cut out processed foods and my stomach issues have totally disappeared. Everyone needs to find what works for them.

  30. Wow that Paleo sounds quite tough but at least the points allows you to a few treats. Will be interested to hear what differences you notice being on it. I may try the challenge myself one day but will need to strategically pick a month with fewest social events!

  31. I am a huge fan of paleo, but I lean towards the Weston A. price way of preparing and eating foods if I’m going to do the traditional route and go for maximum nutrition while including a wide range of foods. I’m trying to figure out my digestive problems, so my diet is all over the place while I experiment. I am now seeing a paleo-minded doc and my hormone test results have revealed that my stomach is not healing properly due to my anemia; it’s not getting the materials it needs. So in actuality, my hormone problems are more important to fix before my gut, as it’s closely connected.

    You should see my doc, Tina, she’s amazing, and so smart! Too bad she’s in NY. Maybe a train trip? Hehe

    Good luck with this. I think eating nutrient-dense foods, whether paleo or vegan or somewhere in between, is never a bad idea!

      1. @Tina: Pretty crappy still! 🙂 But as you know these things take time to figure out. Gut issues are so complex, it becomes a part-time job! I’ll LYK if I have any major breakthroughs. x crossing fingers for us both…

  32. I don’t get the potato thing – white potatoes are such an awesome source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and fibre. The only thing that makes them unhealthy is deep frying them or mashing them with tons of butter and cream! And they’re so tasty. I think if I were doing this challenge I would have to cheat and eat them anyways too. 😉

  33. Holy heck, you’ve created quite the buzz with this post! Keep doing what feels best for your body, not everyone is the same thus not every lifestyle/ diet is right for everyone… I went back to my GI last week after a bad flare-up and have started to incorporate gluten back into my diet because I am still experiencing the occasional debilitating pains. Another example how gluten-free works for some and not others!

  34. I LOVE EATING PALEO-esque! Although Wouldn’t call me strict (I think there are all variations) because peanut butter and hummus are still in my diet. Everyone is different-do what works for you/what you like. I don’t get why people freak on other people’s eating choices. Women are the worse about it.

  35. Hi Tina! This is my first time commenting, but I had to leave some kind of message after reading all the crazy comments on this post.

    I have a severe case of IBD which, of course, is no where near to what you have to deal with. But this summer I finally worked up the courage to see a gastroenterologist and instead of prescribing any kind of medicine or fancy invasive tests he told me to try three diets: Two weeks each of no dairy, no fructose, no gluten (not at the same time). I felt OK doing each one, but I still had problems. I took a chance and decided to go two weeks of Paleo. That was four weeks ago.

    I have NEVER felt better. Like you’ve said, I have so much more energy, I sleep better, my face has cleared up, I feel like I can wake up and go work out. Paleo is not a diet for me, it’s a way of life. I don’t think I’d could go back to what I was eating before because I felt sick most of the time. Just wanted to let you know I think you’re doing a great thing for your body! Good luck! 🙂

  36. This comment section is out of control. I don’t know what I would do if I had 200+ people critiquing my every bite! Thanks for sharing your food choices and fitness adventures, even if they sometimes welcome negative feedback.

    Good luck with the challenge and hope you start feeling better soon!

  37. I just don’t understand this whole “eat like our ancestors” but then embracing modern medicine. It confuses me. Can’t you just eat what makes you feel good without labeling it? I don’t really have an opinion either way… but I can see why the labels trigger such strong opinions.

  38. I think most people who are critiquing the attempt to eat an anti-inflammatory diet don’t realize what it’s like to have an inflammatory bowel disease. For the average person (who was born with genetically strong bonds between the cells in their intestinal lining) eating beans and grains is likely fine and probably helps prevent them from getting constipated. But for someone who has IBD (and who has or is on the verge of having diarrhea every single day) abstaining from these kinds of foods can get them to a level of ‘normalcy’ that other people take for granted.
    I think people really need to have some compassion here for Tina who is struggling to find a solution for something that can seem so out of control at time.
    And doctors don’t know everything – when my brother was diagnosed with colitis his GI doctor suggested a diet super high in fiber (e.g. Fiber One cereal every morning) which was the worst advice ever!

      1. @Tina: @Tina: OMG Tina, people are mean, LOL when did you eat carrots or cake, its NOT their freaking problem! I am reading the comments now at these post, and I am amazed, don’t people have other things to hate on, or worry about??!! You are making some great choices for your body, you said you will eat more of a Paleo diet, and a lot of readers react like you just said”I will smoke every single day, and will get drunk every night”!! I wish you luck with the challenge, and I plan on joining you on October 5th! Take care!

  39. I’ve only read the last page of comments, most of which were super supportive so I’m afraid to scroll back! Just wanted to say that I appreciate how upfront you are about your journey into a more Paleo lifestyle. I follow it 80% of the time because my “symptoms” of a grain diet aren’t as severe as yours, but they are still there. I tiptoe around Paleo talk on my blog because I’m afraid of the backlash (except for when I post recipes). What is it about the Paleo Diet that gets people so upset? (I think meat is essential to a healthy diet but I don’t go around verbally attacking vegans…)

    Anyway, good luck with this challenge and good luck with finding the support you need!

  40. I rarely ever comment on your blog, but I had to after reading this! Keep doing what’s good for YOU…I know that everyone is entitled to sharing their opinion on a public forum like this, but some of these comments are ill-researched and frankly, offensive. It’s your body and your life…so whatever works for you, I wish you the best of luck with it! Choosing how to eat is such a personal decision (and when other health issues are thrown in the mix, it becomes even more personal), and others need to be respectful of that.

    I’ve been testing the Paleo waters lately as well…just a modified version of the diet (still eating peanut butter and putting half & half or cream in my coffee), and I have to say that I feel fantastic and am learning so much about my appetite and body.

    Best of luck to you — I look forward to all of the amazing recipes you continue to share 🙂

  41. tina,
    you are very brave to post this and of course you will have some controversial comments on it as well. I too am wondering why you would not try a vegan diet. there is sooooo much data on why that helps eliminate inflammation in the body. when you get a chance, please read up on the gerson therapy. i think there are a few movies ont eh subject as well. one more thing i am jsut wondering about. how is paleo any different that atkins was in the 90’s?

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