Paleo is not a weight-loss “diet.” It’s a way of eating for health and longevity – which, for some people, involves weight loss as one piece of the big picture.
With that said, weight loss is an important goal for a lot of Paleo dieters, and it’s certainly very motivating as an outward sign of changes under the hood. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. Goals are motivating. If a number on the scale or the measuring tape helps you stay enthused about making healthy changes, there’s nothing bad about keeping track of it.
The trick is to recognize that weight loss – especially scale weight – is not a perfect measurement of health. It’s that balance of tracking weight loss without being dominated by it, or letting the scale push you into making unhealthy choices like starving yourself.
It helps a lot if you know what to expect, so you can zoom out and look at the big picture, instead of getting trapped in short-term thinking during one bad week. So here’s a quick overview of what weight loss looks like on Paleo, some pitfalls to avoid, and tips for seeing the forest, not just the trees.
In Brief: Paleo Weight-Loss Basics
For the newbies in the audience, here’s a quick run-down of how to tweak Paleo for the best weight-loss results (bearing in mind that everyone’s body is different, and you may need to play around with your diet to find something that works). If you already know the drill, you can skip down to the next heading)
- Eat high-quality protein and healthy fats at every meal. Do not skip either protein or fat in order to “save your calories” for dessert.
- Do not starve yourself. Lasting weight loss means working with your body, not against it. It is possible to lose weight without being hungry, foggy, or cranky all the time.
- Find an enjoyable way to be physically active and do it regularly. Walking is a perfectly legitimate option.
- Focus on meat and vegetables; limit Paleo “cookies, ” “pancakes, ” and other treats. Avoid large servings of nuts, dried fruit, fruit juice, and liquid calories.
- You should not need to count calories (or carbs, or grams of fat, or anything else). But it does help to keep a food journal simply recording what you ate every day, in case you need to troubleshoot.
So once you’re doing all of these things, what will the weight loss end up looking like?
Weight loss does not look like a straight line down from your starting weight to your goal weight. Wouldn’t we all love that! Instead, here’s what to expect for the first few weeks.
- Initially, most people see a very rapid loss of 5-10 pounds in the first week. This is encouraging, but don’t expect it to last forever: it’s mostly water weight.
Why so much water weight? Every gram of glucose (carbohydrate) in your body holds on to 3-4 grams of water. So when you lower carbohydrate intake, you’re losing a whole lot of water weight along with the carbs. This isn’t good or bad; it’s just a physiological effect of lowering carbs.