Is a Paleo-ish Lifestyle Only For Old Farts?

Time for another post in my favorite category: Real Results. This one is from a reader only 18 years of age who has lost 30 pounds and cured himself of debilitating asthma as well as other ailments. Here’s Calvin’s story.

I really like your website, and I wanted to share my success story with the ‘carnivore’ diet.

I am an 18 year old guy who has been in pretty bad shape since I was born. I was one of those ‘fat babies’ that just got fatter as I got older. I had asthma and strange skin conditions since birth, along with a variety of IBS-like symptoms.

Not any more.

After being on a zero carb meat-diet for just 3 months, I’m astounded with the results. I’ve dropped 30 pounds and actually gained more muscle than I’ve ever had in my entire life (read: short, 18 yrs). My dandruf is gone, but I still have a lingering upper-arm rash commonly refereed to as ‘chicken skin’ on my left arm. In time, I’m sure that will clear up.

The change that has most affected me is the complete disappearance of my exercise and allergy induced asthma. This wasn’t mild asthma either, this was dead serious emergency room stuff… I was, basically, looking forward to a future full of daily doses of oral inhaled steroids and immune repressants.

In order to put the magnitude of being asthma free into perspective, imagine a crippled person who dreams of climbing mountains suddenly being able to stand, walk, and then run. This kind of shift in ones physical abilities and opportunities is really impossible to explain in text form, so try to imagine the liberation one would feel. Asthma now has a cure, I’m proof.

Thanks for the awesome blog full of even more awesome information, keep spreading the truth!

PS: I really don’t see many (any, really) very young people like me going no-carb, is it an unusual thing?

So he chose the no-carb approach. We’ll see if that works for him long term but I suspect that once you don’t have the massive amount of body fat to burn through the no-carb approach might become a little restrictive, boring, or otherwise less optimal. So I’d certainly recommend introducing some vegetables and even moderate starches at some point to see how he does with it. Just keep them in their place.

The postscript is certainly no surprise. I doubt there are many young folks on any kind of dietary regime, because all I see when I see them is junk food and sugary drinks going into their mouths. And many are able to get away with it for a long time, though fewer and fewer because the modern fair sucks to awfully bad.

On the other hand, imagine the power of someone like this young man to really demonstrate to his peers that you can be healthy and vibrant and that these various conditions (including acne — a biggie for the young folks) are abnormalities and not a normal part of life requiring medical interventions, as we were all taught.

Congratulations for another profound and moving success.

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  1. Nick on February 1, 2011 at 11:01

    I think that a paleo lifestyle has just as many positive effects for young people, possibly even more positive effects, than it does for older people. Young people are still developing and living a paleo lifestyle younger may help us to be more akin to our paleolithic ancestors. I actually run a website for young people who would like to adopt the paleo lifestyle.

  2. Brian Scott on February 1, 2011 at 10:24

    Children and teenagers, in general, are at the behest of their parents when it comes to food. Kids will either eat what’s put in front of them or, if they have their parents on a leash, will eat nothing but junk food, so I imagine it’s a rare breed that will go out on a limb like this to take care of themselves.

  3. Melissa McEwen on February 1, 2011 at 10:33

    I joke that I got into it young because I’m a nutritional degenerate. Hehe. My parent have the same problems I had, but theirs didn’t start until they were much older. Also, a lot of young people into this are victims of foolish diet experiments like veganism and so they developed health problems earlier.

    I have lots of friends my age who are into “real food” vaguely, but won’t give up their junk food. I guess they figure that if they feel OK now, that it’s OK? But honestly, a lot of these friends are suffering from awful health problems like PCOS or colitis. I am very thankful for my Paleo/WAPF friends because they aren’t the sort of people who just accept a diagnosis like that. They want to know what went wrong and how to fix it. Guess the average person is willing to accept….it’s no surprise on that subject that a large percentage of paleo folks are generally anti-establishment. Lots of anarchists/liberarians/ and other such subcultures represented. Not the sort of folks to trust their doctors or gov recs.

  4. CG on February 1, 2011 at 10:34

    Whoa, your second to last paragraph is exactly what I was thinking about this morning: “How does it make sense that we need things like acne medicine, which, ironically, increate acne to start out with?”


  5. mari on February 1, 2011 at 10:40

    I’m 15 and have been following paleo for almost a year. I am definitely a rare breed.

    I am not, and don’t want to be, zero carb. I’m not sure it’s optimal from any standpoint.

  6. pfw on February 1, 2011 at 10:55

    Awesome story.

    FWIW Calvin I went ZC for a year at 25 to try and help with my Crohn’s. ZC is probably unnecessary for most people so unless they’ve got serious issues they don’t need that level of effort to heal up, hence the relatively small number who go that route at a young age. Also, I doubt most 18 year olds have the will/knowledge to even try. Massive kudos for your success.

    • Thomas on February 1, 2011 at 11:16

      How did ZC help with the Crohn’s? I have a friend who has had Crohn’s for the past 8 years, and she takes some pretty serious meds for it. Her diet is not regulated one bit, but she says meat and vegetables give her the most trouble (doubt she’s tried 100%). Any news I can share with her? Advice? Thanks.

      • pfw on February 1, 2011 at 12:52 — Link to my blogpost explaining the hypothesis behind my approach. tl;dr: Crohn’s is an autoimmune response triggered by exposure to bacterial proteins which mimick intestinal collagen (and other collagen depending on your genetics). Heal the gut, reduce the bacteria and stop the cycle of immune dysfunction.

        Maybe after 5-10 years I’ll be truly cured in that my immune system will have desensitized. Here’s hoping.

        Cred: Crohn’s diagnosis was established by biopsy in 2003. I was taking Pentasa 4g/day and had been on prednisone twice.

  7. Sami on February 1, 2011 at 10:57

    I’m 25 but have been eating clean for about 2-3 years now. It feels pretty good knowing I’ve realised a lot in this short time that many haven’t or won’t ever realise when it comes to health & nutrition. Before I just accepted that I was slightly chubby & always had a blocked nose etc. as normal but now I question EVERYTHING, even non health related. It feels good.

  8. Patrick on February 1, 2011 at 10:58

    Meh. Age has nothing to do with it. Sure, lots of kids eat shit but so do adults. In fact, I only ever see adults stuffing their fat faces, standing 3 minutes waiting for the elevator (still stuffing their faces), and then hitting the fucking button TO GO UP ONE FUCKING FLOOR. (Yeah, pet peeve of mine. Anecdotally, I work on the 8th floor, and I usually go up to 5 in the elevator and jog the 6 flights of stairs to 8. Sometimes I do the whole 16 flights, but not often.)

    To the main point (viz., do only older folks go Paleo/LC), I think you have to account for scale of financial independence. If parents aren’t Paleo/Primal/LC, how are low-income/no-income teenagers going to be while living in the same household? Also, most thin kids stay relatively thin into their mid-20s and possibly even up to 30. I didn’t start thinking about my health until I started seeing the symptoms of bad health at 28 (and I stayed complacent for another 2 years). And to be fair, Richard, you were in the same boat, if I understand correctly.

    So, no, kids generally won’t give a shit about low-carb health (or any health) because they think they’re already healthy (if they look to be). If they’re overweight, they’ll often wrongly assume it’s genetics and can’t be corrected without “suffering” through some kind of lifestyle change, thus they don’t bother. Some kids give a damn and make changes, with or without parental support. Fucking awesome — that kind of attitude can’t be lauded enough! But it’s pretty rare.

    Basically, I think some independence (existential as well as financial) is necessary before they start to look at changing how they live.

    • Richard Nikoley on February 1, 2011 at 11:40

      Probably the most effective and sweeping change a young person could make if parents are unwilling to support a full-on Paleo approach is simply to stop drinking calories. That will go a very long way. Also, pass on the bread when it can be helped.

      • Patrick on February 2, 2011 at 06:30

        Absolutely agree. I have a friend who thinks that diet coke is fine because, hey, it’s diet! I kid you not, in university I used to work as a cook in a diner and we’d get people in who’d order two double-patty burgers and a poutine… and a diet coke! Haha! “Oh, but it’s diet. Phew. Thank god for that can of cosmic dietary balance…”

        Your point about eliminations reminds me of The Big Bang Theory:

        Chinese waiter/owner: “No substitutions!”
        Leonard: “It’s not a substitution; it’s a reduction.”
        Chinese waiter/owner: “…no reductions!”

  9. Amanda on February 1, 2011 at 11:01

    Great story! I just wanted to say that the “chicken skin” on the upper arms is actually an indicator of vitamin A deficiency. I used to suffer from that myself, before I started eating real foods and fats (grassfed butter is a great source, so are pastured eggs and of course carrots and liver)! Also, I am not surprised by the postscript, either. I’m only 26 myself and have undergone a drastic shift toward better health since adopting a paleo diet in Sept. 2010 (40 lbs of fat = gone!) and I have yet to inspire one peer to throw out their bagel/granola bar/donut/pizza/pasta/margarine/etc. and eat some real food instead.

    • Sami on February 1, 2011 at 11:09

      It’s funny because my dad (almost 60) is pretty stubborn but when he saw me and my brother’s eating habits (I turned my bro onto this way of eating and he lost a lot of weight), he decided to cut out bread / rice / pasta and he ended up losing around 25kgs in about 6 months, just walking a few days a week as exercise. He still eats some dairy and wholegrain crackers but is pretty happy with the results of course! What’s funny is he still questions my ‘fatty diet’ and my ‘excessive consumption of meat’!

    • Becky on February 1, 2011 at 11:53

      This chicken skin part was my reason for heading to the comments section. In some people, it’s keratosis pilaris. Despite clean eating for almost 3 years, mine has never cleared up completely. It’s fairly ugly, but not a real problem. Exfoliating with a hand towel or loofah and slathering on Aquaphor afterward seems to help keep down the redness.

  10. bubba29 on February 1, 2011 at 11:02

    great post. i linked it to my little blog. thank you for encouraging people to share this great success story.

  11. john on February 1, 2011 at 11:04

    I’m 24 and although, when 17, in seemingly good health with a good physique, I first got into nutrition for the sake of physical performance (sprinting and weightlifting).

    I think the main problem pushing teens away from learning about nutrition is the lack of nutrition knowledge and the idea that nutrition is not “scientific.” The ovewhelming majority of people (and hence parents) think “genetics” is the cause for cancer, acne, obesity, etc, so there is no reason for a 14-18 year old to do any research. Many medical doctors look at nutrition-based solutions as folly, and the trust everyone has in them [doctors] is ridciulous.

    It took me a very long time to even understand how to acquire real nutrition knowledge (I don’t think is widely known about, and even if it is, most people would rather just be told what to do than to figure it out). Actually, the thing that put me on the right track was the observation of frequent faulty logic of guys like Mcdougall and Fuhrman. I personally don’t see how anyone could ever fall for that over something like WAPF, but I suspect it comes from the societal message to [blindly] listen to authority Anyway, there simply is too much bad information and lack of criticism of in the nutrition world, so knowledge gets developed extremely slowly.

  12. Matt Madeiro on February 1, 2011 at 11:25

    I’m 23 and have been doing Paleo (with plenty of potatoes, for that matter. Thanks, Richard!) for about nine months, now, with fantastic results. I didn’t have much way in the way of conditions or illnesses before making the switch, so my Paleo experience has been pretty much about weight loss and getting lean.

    Yeah, I’m okay with that. :)

    My example has convinced my family members and a few close friends around my age, which is a huge perk. I have a few overweight friends who see what I’m doing and still insist on low-fat, high-cardio, but I’m more than happy to let them do their own thing. A closed mind, I guess, is by no means restricted to any particular age group.

    Congrats on the success, Calvin!

  13. Thomas on February 1, 2011 at 11:39

    I have been following a Paleo/Primal diet for three months today, and it has honestly changed my life. I’m 26 years old and have never really excelled at any type of athletics. I played hockey when I was younger, and I earned a brown belt in Judo in my teens, but I was always a chubby kid. Then I left for college and had no clue how to eat, and ended up putting on another 25 pounds, bringing me up to 225 at 5’11”.

    I lost a bunch of that weight after college from being poor and smoking (hmm, food or smokes…) but was never healthy. I always just assumed I would carry extra weight and was never meant to be lean. The bad part is my younger brother by 2 years stays super lean (5’10″/155lbs) all year long by eating whatever crap he can shovel in his mouth.

    Anyways, if you wanted to follow the genetics argument (bullshit) I finally figured if my brother could be lean, so could I. I would just need to get lean a different way. I came across and everything clicked and made complete sense. I had a false start early last year which was thrown off track by the flood in Nashville (read: weak willpower). I saw results though, and this past November I had a moment where it didn’t matter what I had to do, I was going to eat the Paleo/Primal way.
    Three months later, I’m down 29 lbs to 171 lbs, I’m more active than I’ve ever been, I have more muscle than I ever have had before, and I can sprint longer, faster, and for more reps than I’ve every even considered doing. Basically, the Paleo way of eating kicks ass and changed my life for the better. Everyone around me thinks I’m more unhealthy than I was before, where I ate out almost every day, whatever I wanted, didn’t move around, and didn’t care about my health, but they can suck it. I’m still not going to eat those deserts they keep offering me.

    • Pepper on February 1, 2011 at 19:46

      “But they can suck it.” Rock on, Thomas. That’s fucking brilliant

  14. James on February 1, 2011 at 12:30

    This young man needs to get some non-starchy’s in his diet…

    • Richard Nikoley on February 1, 2011 at 12:40

      Its a good blog and a particularly good post for the data. On the other hand, from the post:

      “If this is not enough information and analysis for you to base the bulk of your diet around vegetables and fruits… then you’re just an idiot (and will be a fat idiot soon and will most probably be a fat diabetic idiot soon after.)”

      Which is utter bullshit.

      • Anand Srivastava on February 1, 2011 at 22:02

        His target audience is mostly vegetarian Indians. So he can’t talk too much about meat. He himself eats a lot of meat. He is also more leangains than paleo, so accepts bread etc as rare indulgances.

      • Raj Ganpath on February 3, 2011 at 10:53

        Just saw this. Like Anand mentioned, the target audience is different. I eat about 10-12 lbs of meat per week. Don’t think I need more than that. And the post about vegetables was exactly what… a post about vegetables. It was meant to compare vegetables and other carbs (fruit, grains, beans/legumes etc.).

  15. Pepper on February 1, 2011 at 12:33

    When I first read the title of this post, I thought, “Duh No.” Of course paleo diets aren’t just for old farts. But just half a second’s reflection reminded me that I’m the only sub-50 paleo dieter I know. (Never mind that I only know one post-50, too.) My point is that I wish desperately that Paleo was popular with youngsters, but that’s probably a bit much to ask. How much responsible free thinking is popular with youngsters anyway?

    I think the paleo community’s bias towards older practictioners is primarily because young people have fewer problems with their health. If we are prediabetic, we don’t know it, and we roll on through Ho Hos and Slurpees like it’s our job. Moreover, our bodies are still young and still capable of chugging along through all of the stress we’re putting on it. And if we are struggling with our health, chances are decent that we’ve been raised to think its normal to have acne, be over weight, be depressive, have PMS, or have early onset joint pain. Why think there’s anything worth acting on at all? (Aren’t we all immortal, anyway?)

    It is only when we inch into adulthood and are confronted with our waist size, our grocery bills, our triglyceride numbers and our ever-growing cabinets full of prescription bottles do we have cause for concern. I’d be wiling to bet that most lifestyle-type, relatively informed diets (perhaps such as the south beach diet?) are similarly biased for older practitioners. Moreover, young people haven’t yet had time to be disillusioned by conventional wisdom and fad diets. We are impressionable, and we might think it cool to eat only white or green foods just because Mariah Carey or some crazy woman did it. We might hear mainstream ideas and not think to question them. This may be why I ate a no fat, high carbohydrate diet for four years. I consider myself fortunate that I had something “wrong” with me while in college, because it compelled me to seek new knowledge and methods. That’s how people find Paleo. It would just be really nice if it didn’t take so much of a push to get there.

  16. SarahYoshi on February 1, 2011 at 12:34

    Just wanted to wish Calvin good luck with the ongoing journey! I started eating this way about 1.5 years ago (just turned 21) and it’s definitely odd for my age group – at least in Portland, OR where almost everyone in their 20’s is vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free/raw…

    Keep up the good work and hope you’re having fun with your food too (^_^)

    • bubba29 on February 1, 2011 at 12:42

      betcha you can kick all their asses.

      • SarahYoshi on February 2, 2011 at 11:35

        Oooh you know it!! Especially the sugar-high raw foodies.

    • MIN on February 4, 2011 at 23:02

      Hi Sarah!

      I’m also 21 and looking to eat more paleo/low-carb as a permanent way of life. Just curious – when you are eating with friends and you mention your dietary restrictions, do you get a lot of flak for it? Do you ever feel pressure to eat more normally and how do you deal with it?

      I too live in Portland but am currently in Eugene for college. You are right on about the whole raw foodist thing. There’s so many vegetarians and vegans in Eugene too… Socially, it would be much easier to be vegetarian or vegan around these parts than to be paleo or carnivore.

  17. Calvin (a different one) on February 1, 2011 at 13:45

    I’m a 19 year old who got turned onto Paleo after a bad bout of E. coli. I realized I had NO idea where my food was coming from (was it some undercooked Hamburger Helper? A burrito? Cookie dough?) so I did a bunch of research and landed at Mark’s Daily Apple. From there, it just made sense; the science was difficult to sort through, but I really clicked with the evolutionary logic of it. I wish I would meet more people my age who eat this way, so far I haven’t met one. But I do like seeing guys wearing VFFs at the gym! At least something is getting through.
    I didn’t have weight issues, or any other major problems, but of course I had allergies and frequent colds like most people. My motivation is that I want to know what I’m eating, and who produced it; I drive out to a nearby farm to pick up beef and lamb, and research most of the producers who supply the food at my co-op. Plus, I realized that I DO care about my health; I’m not invincible. My mom had cancer, despite looking healthy at the time, and my uncle recently died of it. I see the grief degenerative diseases have on my grandparents. These things could happen to me! Why not eat deliciously primal, and sidestep all that pain?
    My two cents anyway. Young paleos: we exist! Just, not too many.

  18. William on February 1, 2011 at 15:06

    You are very fortunate to have found “Free the Animal,” which leads me to my only advice: Never, and I mean NEVER take anything for granted. Folks your age may have a tendency to view common things such as the internet as a given. I’d dare say most of us who discovered paleo/primal living later in life, would never had come across such a fine way of living, without the internet. Sure, there are books, but I think many copies sold, by authors promoting their work via the web.

    Excellent work, young man, keep at!

  19. rob on February 1, 2011 at 15:31

    The “clean eating” thing is interesting, I have seen references to it in the comments of paleo blogs.

    Seems there are three things converging

    low carb
    clean eating

    They aren’t the same though they have a lot in common. Three intersecting circles.

  20. Cam on February 1, 2011 at 16:32

    Great success Calvin! As far as not many young people following Paleo, I’ll agree and disagree. I think it depends on the crowd they’re in, esp. if its close to something like CrossFit. I’m 22 and have been Paleo for 2 years, and never going back. Let’s call it preventative maintenance for the future. I have many friends who I’ve explained paleo to, and man is hard to stick, unless they are seriously interested in fitness. Us young guns just think that we can eat whatever we want and because we’re young, it doesn’t matter. I usually get the “Yeah, I’ll eat better when I’m outta college”. Yeah, right. I used to try and convert everyone to Paleo, but now I’ve become more selective in who I think an handle the “radicalism”, and actually pick and choose who I think is worth me telling it to, lol. I have friends that just laugh at me and say, “You alternative people are so weird!”. Uh actually, you are alternative. I eat the way we evolved. You eat to die fucker!

  21. Matthew Strebe on February 1, 2011 at 17:00

    I’m 18 and have been eating moderate-CHO paleo for two years now. What this basically translates out to is that I will gorge on meat and tubers and have vegetables when I feel like it. I went from 195 pounds in sophomore year of high school down to 142 at the end of junior year (wrestling, despite its many benefits, will result in a detrimental level of weight loss), and then stabilized at a healthy 165 at 5’11”. I also maintained paleo in my senior year while running cross-country 5Ks and track in the 800m.

    I am in my freshman year of college now, and buying and cooking my own food now makes it even easier to adhere to a clean paleo life style. Budget constraints often mean that I eat more potatoes and legumes than my beloved cuts of meat, but the exigencies of now demand that I stick to a strict budget.

    I do agree that most people my age are completely clueless when it comes to their nutrition. I have seven roommates, two of which are vegetarian, the rest that think vegetarianism is the optimal human diet and eat very little meat. They are better than most other people, who will just eat garbage without regard to what is in it or where it comes from. Discussions on my intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, “excessive” meat, and their intake of soy, wheat bread, peanut butter, et cetera never end well. It has gotten to the point where I say nothing and let them go their own way; perhaps in time they will grow wise to the benefits of evolutionary living. Until then, I’ll eat a dinner plate-size pile of lamb leg and shout out a big “FUCK YOU” to anyone who tells me its unhealthy.

    • VW on February 1, 2011 at 17:04

      I survived on Ramen noodles and rice for much of my undergrad life. Crazy, man.

      • Richard Nikoley on February 1, 2011 at 17:18

        As badly as I did eat in college – so many late night pizzas – and the first two years were in the dorm, so the cafeteria was the food source, I still managed to do halfway decently once my room ate and I rented an apartment. We had friends into grilling meat, so when budget allowed, that’s what we did.

        Another remembrance was Thusday nights for Cheers, followed by Hill Street Blues. We met as the apartment of a PhD candidate in Chemistry, a former dorm neighbor. Aps were ruffles chips with sour cream with salsa mixed in. At least some decent fat. Then we would have an enormous salad with lots of bacon bits and big chunks of carrot & celery with creamy and chunky blue cheese dressing. Not at all Paleo, but we knew good food.

        Another remembrance was of a friend, a med student, with a black belt in karate and afeter evert workout he’d come home and fix a fired rice with lots of veggies, and sometimes just a veggie stir fry, so I began doing that a lot.

        I’m glad I at least got an independent, self-motivated lesson in preparing my own food and not eating out of boxes and bags all the time. Of course, this was the first half of the 80s.

      • Richard Nikoley on February 1, 2011 at 17:20

        Typos = iPad

  22. Whitney on February 1, 2011 at 17:39

    I started a Paleo lifestyle at around 22 years old and my husband was 23. He was told about it by a friend. Strangely, in our circle of friends I’d have to say about 30% or so are Paleo or Primal. We even had a Thanskgiving bash in 2009 that featured only Paleo food. :)

    I’m 24 now and we’re raising our 10 month old daughter strictly Paleo. So far, so good. And I’m only hoping that the food choices we make for her as parents stick around with her for a while.

    FWIW – I was a vegan starting at around 17 years old. My parents obliged. Then I moved out after college and had no energy eating vegan (and working 60+ hours a week) so switched to eating meat -also got married to a guy who WASN’T vegan and I sure wasn’t going to cook two meals. The two years of eating conventional put some pounds on me. I switched to Paleo, got pregnant a few months later and didn’t gain any weight. Go figure.

  23. Gene on February 1, 2011 at 18:54

    I’m 22 and have been trying to eat Paleo as much as I can, but it’s often difficult with beer and pizza floating around.
    Another big problem is the budget. Frozen, preserved crap from Jack in the box is just so much cheaper than grass-fed beef.

    Anyway, I’m pretty skinny already(6’0″, 150 pounds), so my goal is actually to gain weight/muscle.
    I’d be interested in hearing from people who actually eat Paleo and trying to gain weight. I assume it’s just “eat more meat, idiot!” Right?

    • Richard Nikoley on February 1, 2011 at 19:25

      Canned tuna is like 40g of protein per can. I imagine sardines are good too. On the dairy side, cottage cheese is great if you tolerate.

      And you can supplement with some whey. Pro Complex is 3 g carb, a whopping 60g protein.

      • V- on February 2, 2011 at 05:53

        I’m surprised this is the first comment about budget. Paleo is expensive (an worthwhile investment if you thinking about the big picture– but expensive). Kids are generally poor.

        Sardines and liver have become a few of my cheap staples and I couldn’t tolerate the taste of either six months ago. I enjoy them now but my enjoyment was acquired. Of all things tomatoes (sardines in tomato sauce or adding tomato paste to my pate) seemed to be the best crutch into the world of canned small fish and strong offal. FWIW I’m not sure where tomatoes fall on the paleo spectrum.

        Another observation. I drank a ton of booze in college while following the SAD, in a way that I needed a drink most nights. The need for a drink didn’t stop until I adopted LC/paleo half-assedly a year ago (in my 30’s now) even though I tried quitting cold turkey several times before then. Now I still drink, but the need is gone, I can go without when I choose. The amount of money I spent on alcohol over the last decade would have gone a long ways to adopting paleo sooner.

      • Erik on February 2, 2011 at 06:29

        Eating on a budget is an interesting point. At 19, I ended up getting turned on to Paleo as a result of wrecking my health eating on $15 or less per week after getting laid off for a few months. This meant, for me, lots and lots of heavily-subsidized grain products and sugar. Most of my fat and protein came from peanut butter, margarine, and the college food I occasionally got for free through my friends at the local university.

        Obviously, these days I’m spending a good bit more than $15 a week on groceries. But it got me thinking, just how cheaply could one do paleo?

        I have yet to sit down with a pencil and paper, but I’m quite sure that by making eggs your staple, with butter for cooking and extra fat, frozen spinach (microwaved with more butter of course), and maybe liver twice a week, you could keep it well under $20 per week, at least based on the food prices where I live (SoCal may be a bit different). And I’m talking a dozen eggs a day, here, since I can usually find them for under $1 per dozen.

        That might not be the ideal paleo diet there, but it’d still be pretty damn good, nutrition-wise. Could get pretty monotonous, of course, but with such low costs it might be feasible to buy other things to add to your omelettes or scrambled eggs and add more variety.

      • Owen on February 2, 2011 at 17:12

        I’m with Erik- animal fat is one of the cheapest sources of calories whether it’s ghee, butter, egg yolk or heavy cream. You can get 1500 kcal for as low as $1, which is maybe not quite on par with white rice, but substantially lower than most of the food people eat.

        Paleo becomes expensive when it is either high-animal protein or high-vegetable/fruit, although a lot of people do define it as either one or both of those things. If you are cutting dairy (including ghee) then it’ll be more of a challenge to keep the cost down unless you have a reasonable source for tallow, lard or coconut oil. Or you can use a lot of 80/20 ground beef and rump/round roast type of cuts in place of ribeye.

        Also potatoes seem to have a good amino acid profile and can be used in quantities for additional protein and to soak up fat if carbs aren’t an issue. I also like mashed bananas for the latter purpose.

      • Candice on February 2, 2011 at 15:17

        Just wanted to share that bottled is always better than canned (most have BPA linings)
        There is a brand called Tonnino which comes in bottles – but it is more expensive
        than Chicken of the Sea so maybe not for someone who is on a tight budget.

        Love cottage cheese with cinnamon! Best breakfast ever.

    • Pepper on February 1, 2011 at 19:53

      Maybe, but not necessarily. I remember that Mark Sisson once recommended adding a dozen eggs per day. A friend of mine bulked up 10 pounds in a month just by adding a gallon of milk per day, if you’re okay with dairy and are on a budget.

      I’d also make sure to get sufficient carbohydrate, especially if you’re lifting often. Glycogen stores are important if you want to bulk up. This is one of the reasons the Leangains guide recommends getting in some starch every day. And Richard sure seems to be having success with his potatoes.

      If you want to eat frozen foods, frozen veggies can be steamed and coated in butter for pretty cheap, and it’s easy, too.

      • Richard Nikoley on February 1, 2011 at 20:02

        Just to be clear, it’s only starchy on workout days, post workout preferably. The other 4-5 days of the week are LC.

    • James on February 2, 2011 at 06:44

      For me, part of the Paleo Concept includes intermittent fasting. I find that by fitting this element into my day as I imagine it would be in Paleo times, I can strictly eat organic/free-range/grass-fed and still save 25% compared to the S.A.D.. Walking around in my 40’s with six-pack abs and A+ blood-stats aren’t bad either, not to mention the money and misery that will save me in the future.

    • Calvin on February 2, 2011 at 12:16

      I’m in college on a tight budget and managed to gain 25 lbs of lean mass eating paleo and hitting the school gym. The thing that worked for me was eggs and liver. Both are way cheap, delicious and packed with protein. Also, I cut way back on veggies; they’re just too damn expensive and have so few calories. Pretty much just onions and sweet potatoes. Heavy cream was a great addition; you get a lot of calories for your dollar, and I can’t get enough of the taste. To vary things up, I bought whatever meat was cheap at the time, usually ribs or ground meat, the occasional fish (canned or whole from the Asian market) and if I had the money, some kale.

      I’d say don’t worry too much about grain-fed; sure, it’s not ideal, but with large ruminants, the repercussions of a grain diet aren’t quite as bad as they are for poultry (according to PaNu, the fat in non-ruminants is more subject to change and more sensitive to diet). You can go grass-fed once your budget allows. Eventually, I found a way to get grass-fed relatively cheap, but it involved investing in a chest freezer on Craigslist and buying a whole lamb from a farmer just outside of town, which may not be possible for some people to do.

  24. T Z on February 1, 2011 at 20:37

    My chicken skin of 40 years are gone after I cut wheat from my diet.

  25. kei on February 2, 2011 at 01:19

    I’m 17 and I have been following a mostly paleo diet for about 1.5 years. I haven’t been very successful in losing some excess bodyfat, my primary goal, but now I’m more interested in improving my strength. I get 1-2 pimples only occasionally now whereas I used to get small clusters (yay) but I still have tons of blackheads that always come back when I remove them- not to mention very dry/chicken skin and other mild health issues. I will continue to experiment with my diet to see if I can resolve these problems. However, from a scientific evidence based point of view, I think the diet will pay off in the long term.

    Unfortunately, I can’t say the same of the diets of my peers. Most or nearly all of the students at my school are of normal weight. And, a significant number them are in fact, rather lean. However, grain laden cafeteria food and sweetened cafe lattes is the norm at my school. I wince when I see kids at my school rush to to the cafeteria to buy a mid morning snack- energy bars, cookies, more cafe lattes, etc.

    I think a common misconception among people my age is that looking healthy (not overweight) is equivalent to actual health (well, I suppose this is true for some older people too) and that if you’re young, you can eat whatever you want. Also, I really wanted to stand up on my chair and argue back when one of my science teachers preached the wonders of vegetarianism during her lecture but I resisted for fear of being crushed alive by her massive 130 kg body.

    At home, the hardest part for me is that my parents insist that I eat some grains (I can often get around this. Potatoes are my friends ;). What’s even more frustrating is watching my family follow a SAD diet. For instance, my dad refuses to eat eggs because of fear of cholesterol while at the same time, he eats lots of bread and rice! Similarly, my sister and mom love to eat sweets and pastries. My sister is leaner than me but I worry for my all of family’s health after having read research about the fallacies of the lipid hypothesis and the adverse effects of gluten and excess carbohydrates.

    Convincing my parents to eat a more paleo diet is almost as difficult as convincing them into believing that the earth is flat (my age doesn’t help). I think my sister is somewhat convinced but I can’t imagine her giving up her beloved cookies and low fat high sugar ice cream. I do hope I can shift my family’s perspective on health before serious damage and medical conditions occur. On the other hand, my mom now cooks more meat centered meals (accompanied with rice) rather than pure carb based food (pasta, fried rice, etc.) because of my diet so I thank her for that. And she buys butter instead of margarine!

  26. Alex on February 2, 2011 at 01:47

    From personal experience I can say that it wasn’t until my forties that I suddenly realised my body was no longer gracefully coping with the dietary indulgences I had brought with me from my youth. I think this is a factor in why most people on and espousing paleo/primal/low-carb diets are generally in their mature years. I think there is a certain amount of elasticity in the way the body copes with a less than optimal diet but as time goes on that elastic cannot be stretched any further and it either springs back with a vengeance (and boy does it smart!) or it snaps completely!

    To younger people who tend to scoff at my WOE while chomping on a chocolate bar, sandwich or pastry and say “I eat lots of carbs and I’m perfectly fine”, I just make like Wednesday from the Addams Family movies and say “Wait…..!”.

  27. Warren on February 2, 2011 at 09:29

    Good story! I was a fat kid/teen/adult and still struggle @ 36. Low carb helped but still working at it. If only these resources were around in my anti-meat days.

  28. […] February 2nd, 2011 · No Comments · Myth of Authority, Primitive Wisdom, Principles TweetI was very pleased to see the enthusiasm over Calvin's self-experimentation and ultimate astounding success as passed along in my post yesterday. […]

  29. Katie "Wellness Mama" on February 2, 2011 at 18:20

    Congrats! I’ve never thought about it, but you are right… the majority or dieters in general tend to be older. Granted, stats say that people put on weight as they age (how could they not with the usual diet these days). Sadly, I am seeing more young people in my nutritional counseling, and they come in because of serious health issues. I’m young too (24) and it is sad to see the diet most people eat. The assumption seems to be that as long as you are thin, you are healthy.
    That is fascinating about the asthma though. I’ve been trying to convince my brother in law to go full paleo forever, but he clings to the grains and his asthma is getting worse. Going to pass this along though!

  30. D. Bushman on February 2, 2011 at 20:46

    Damn, I wish I could say I’ve had as much success as he has. Way to go Calvin!

    I can’t say that I would be doing Paleo if my mom wasn’t around, but I’m only 18 and I’ve been doing this for around a year. I haven’t really lost much weight (something like ten pounds), which seriously is my primary goal here, but I have noticed that I feel a hell of a lot better 99% of the time (that other 1% comprises the migraines I get from the occasional “oh, this probably won’t kill me,” thoughts that lead to the rare doughnut or piece of birthday cake). I haven’t got much of an issue with my appearance as is, so I’m content to feel well until I graduate high school and have more time to devote to exercise and kicking some of my more questionable vices (like air-popped popcorn) to the curb. If nothing else, at least I’m not constantly starving all the time like I was back in the good (and by “good” I mean “horrible and frustrating”) ol’ low-fat days. And, you know, I’m pretty sure I’m cheaper to maintain for my mom now, since I’m not constantly shoving food down my throat to sate an insatiable hunger. XD

  31. Paul C on February 3, 2011 at 07:43

    The two things the began my journey to better nutrition are usually not faced by 18 year olds. One, my dad died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 63, when I was 38. Two, I began having severe GI issues that demanded attention. The first was an attention-getter, the second was the catalyst for action.

    I’m glad to hear the stories of the youth posting here, that it doesn’t take a life-or-death situation to begin the search for a better path. Decades of subclinical chronic inflammation can cause damage that may be irreversible by the time it shows up as a symptom, so the importance of putting thought into this as a young person is constantly on my mind, as a father of four.

  32. Nastia on February 4, 2011 at 07:58

    Doubt he could exclude all carbs possible, but that doesn’t matter. I’m just happy for that kid.

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