The Paleo Pitch

We are officially on the road!  More about the first few days of our road trip later this week, because today we’re following up on a question we answered on our Paleolithic Solutions Podcast with Robb Wolf and Andy Deas.  (As an aside, we discovered that recording an hour long Podcast is way harder than it sounds.  We fumbled and stumbled a bit, and still find ourselves saying, “Oh, man, I wish I had said that on the Podcast…” but all in all, we had a great time, managed to get most of our key points across, and were happy to be able to help solve some of our readers’ problems.)

One of our questions, submitted by Tim in Hawaii, asked us to re-vamp our CrossFit Elevator Pitch and present a similar summary of the Paleo diet.  Now, we may not be bio-chemists like Robb, and certainly couldn’t answer some of the more technical questions he takes on during his Podcasts, but the request for a Paleo Pitch was right up our alley.  We’re all about the practical application of some pretty science-y nutrition concepts, and there is nothing more practical than being able to explain to your family, friends and other curious parties why you eat the way you do. As Tim discovered, however, that’s not as easy as it sounds.  He wrote to us about an experience he had trying to explain his daily nutrition to a co-worker.  Tim said, “I tell her and the new supervisor that I recently cut out grains, legumes and dairy.  I also did my best Robb Wolf impression and went into the whole grains have anti-nutrients, etc.  After further small talk they leave.  Not sure I made the impression that I was going for.”

Uh, maybe not, Tim… but it’s not your fault.  There’s a fine line to be walked here – explaining your dietary choices, the science behind them and the resulting health benefits, without losing your audience to overly technical concepts, defensiveness about their own food choices or just plain confusion as you try to override a lifetime of government, doctor and SELF magazine-promoted “healthy eating” recommendations.  So we took a crack at Tim’s Paleo Pitch on the Podcast, and tightened it up here in written format for our readers.

When asked, “What’s this diet you’re on?”,  most Paleo people approach their response entirely the wrong way.  The first thing we mention are all the things we DON’T eat – grains, dairy, legumes, sugar and processed foods. Trouble is, there is probably at least ONE of those food groups in their listener’s diet, and starting the discussion with a judgment of their dietary choices (whether real or imagined) immediately puts the listener on the defensive.  (As we say in our How to Win Friends post, us Paleo people have the ability to make people feel bad about what they’re doing, JUST by doing what we’re doing.)  In addition, jumping into the foods you don’t eat first immediately closes off further conversation if the listener jumps to some fast conclusions about your level of dietary fanaticism, or the restrictive nature of your self-imposed regimen.  (For most people, not eating ANY of those food groups is hard to wrap your head around.)  Finally, that kind of lead-off also places you in the unfortunate position of then having to justify from a scientific (“prove it”) perspective why the foods you don’t eat are actually not that good for you.  And as many of you have discovered, that’s darn near impossible when up against a lifetime of “milk gives you strong bones”, “whole grains have extra nutrition” and “black beans are a good source of protein”.)

So we approached our Paleo pitch from a different angle – emphasizing the foods we DO eat, why we eat them, and the general (and well documented) health benefits associated with the foods we choose. And then we seal the deal with a personal testimonial – how this way of eating has affected YOU, personally. It’s hard to argue with, “Since going Paleo, I put 25# on my deadlift, cut my 5K time by 5:00, lost 10 pounds, and my skin has totally cleared up”, right?

So here’s our final version – Whole9 Paleo Elevator Pitch.  Give it a read, give it a test run with the next person you see, and share your thoughts, feedback, experiences and suggestions in comments.

The Whole9 Nutrition Elevator Pitch

I eat “real” food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit.  I choose foods that are nutrient dense, with lots of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition.  And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat comes from, and buy produce locally and organically as often as possible.

It’s not a low calorie “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy and a healthy weight.  In fact, my diet is probably much higher in fat than you’d imagine.  Fat isn’t the enemy – it’s a great energy source when it comes from high quality foods like avocado, coconut and nuts. And I’m not trying to do a “low carb” thing, but since I’m eating vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal and pasta, it just happens to work out that way.

Eating like this is good for maintaining a healthy metabolism, and reducing inflammation within the body.  It’s been doing great things for my energy levels, body composition and performance in the gym.  It also helps to minimize my risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

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Comments

  1. Michael CFFB says

    Interesting and thoughtful post.. for me, its thru trial and error (albeit quickly) that I have learnt the best way to pass on to patients, family, friends etc what I know is to do it via:

    I eat for nourishment – to nourish my body to do what I need/want to do. I eat to decrease inflammation.

    I eat for performance, longevity and health. I eat this way because it makes me happy and healthy.

    To do so, I eat real food. Mainly yummy meats and veges. Some fruits, some nuts and seeds, LOTS of fats (draws them back in), little starches, no grains and legumes.

    9 out of 10 times, there is always solid interest and a good discussion will follow to which I can further delve into finer and other points to ponder for them. Some may take longer, but there will always be some shift in paradigm at the end of the discussion :)

    Grok on guys!

  2. says

    Great post! Starting with what we DO eat, and also what results we get is very enrolling for those that are listening. We’re always telling people to share and share often, becuase it makes it more real. This is a great approach.

    Thank you!

  3. Matt says

    This is great! I was looking for this exact thing, a concise 30-second summary of eating paleo. Between CrossFit and paleo I lost over 100 lbs and I often get asked what I did/do. I know I can’t get into exercise physiology and biochemistry, but I found telling people “diet and exercise” may be coming off as a bit snarky. And while “Constantly varied, functional movements, performed at a high intensity.” and “Meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar” are easy phrases to memorize and recite back, it can come off canned and isn’t all that informative without more explanation.

    I used to do paleo-zone, and when I said Zone to people who asked, you could just see their brains shut down. I think for most people, “Zone=fad diet from the 90s.” Same thing when I talked about carb restriction; automatically, low carb = Atkins. When I tried to explain paleo I would emphasize the idea of whole foods, but I could tell they equated it more to whole-grain bread and brown rice, rather than to grass-fed steaks and fistfuls of kale.

    I think this is a great starting point that can likely lead to a conversation where you can get more into the nuances of the Paleo diet.

  4. Jonathan says

    Very helpful. Many times I’ve been puzzled about why people get very defensive (imagine ‘very’ being in bold) when I answer their initial question, and now it’s rather easy to see why.

    ‘Oh, I don’t eat bread, rice, or pasta…’

    ‘But isn’t that good for you? I eat wholemeal bread a lot.’

    ‘No, that’s not good for you.’

    ‘Oh.’

  5. Tracy says

    What a non threatening approach – I don’t eat healthy but admire those of you who do. When I have tried to explain my altered eating (again not healthy but healthier than before) I think I lose people when I mention that I don’t eat breads and avoid dairy – now I can put a positive spin on it – thanks!!

  6. Maureen Pfaff says

    This is a great post, I just came off my first month of strict Paleo eating and so have been getting lots of questions from coworkers/friends/family. I kind of stumbled into the leading off with what I do eat because I was definately getting negative reactions with the listing of what we nolonger eat. I also have to tell you that I am amazed at how different I feel when I’m eating Paleo and when I don’t…I’ve experimented a little bit in the last couple of weeks with old favorite foods just to see what happens. I’m a recovering sugar junky so after a month of no processed sugar I had bread pudding with carmel sauce last Friday morning…within an hour of eating it I felt like I’d had 3 martinis, couldn’t walk straight, my ears were ringing and my whole body was buzzing. I’m guessing it was just the mother of all sugar high’s. I’ve noticed that pretty much everything I’ve tried (pizza, cookies, cheeseburger) causes my head to buzz and my ears to ring. Don’t know if I always used to feel like this and just never noticed until I stopped feeling this way for a month. Both my husband and I are total converts to Paleo eating and I have to thank you guys for this great website for inspiring me to take the plunge!

  7. Tim says

    Aloha Melissa and Dallas,

    Thanks for taking on my quandary of the “Elevator pitch.” I loved the input and have come up with a new one that I am going to use for now. What’s every one think?

    “I have been trying to learn more about nutrition over the last year or so and have been focused on eating the most nutrient dense, high quality food that I can get my hands on. I have been trying to eat mostly local grass-fed beef, fish, and nutrient dense vegetables. If I can’t do that I still try to choose the best quality protein and vegetables available. I make sure that I get good fats in my meals from healthy sources like coconut, olives, nuts and healthy animals. We have also been trying to keep less nutrient dense calories or foods with higher anti-nutrient contents out of our meals. This is an intentionally anti-inflammatory way to eat and has allowed me to play harder and recover faster from both workouts and injuries. With all that being said, I can still eat just about anywhere and just try to make good choices. Are you interested in hearing any more about it?”

    Once again thanks for taking the time to help out a Hawaiian trying to get his pseudo science communicated clearly.

    Mahalo

    Tim

  8. says

    Yeah, it all comes back to psyc 101, in that it’s much more effective/efficient/productive to motivate someone with a list of “dos” than with a list of “don’ts”. And we all know that effective coaching is, above all else, effective manipulation of the trainee/subject’s psychology. Training and diet (Paleo) mechanics are, for the most part, fairly well spelled-out — at least, in our tribe; proper (and consistent!) implementation, though, creates the roadblock known as “failure”.

    Great job on the podcast, btw; thought the two of you came across as both professional and knowledgeable.

  9. says

    Awesome guest post recently on Robb Wolf’s site. I thought of a “paleo pick up line” involving someone’s dog a couple of months ago and scheduled it to post today, on the day I heard your podcast mention of the elevator pitch. I think your “pick up line” would score a lot higher though. Excellent advice, and I really liked all of the reasoning that went behind each line. Agree w/ Keith’s comment above, absolutely.

    Best Regards,

    Zach

  10. says

    I love your elevator pitch, and I appreciate how it is positive, inciting open conversation instead of defensive argument.

    Nice work, guys. Thanks for the blog post!

  11. says

    Thanks for all the great comments, suggestions and feedback!

    @Michael: I like your “I eat for health and longevity” approach. If the nutritional choices we’re making today (in an effort to, say, improve TODAY’s performance) isn’t contributing to LONG TERM health and fitness, then doesn’t that defeat the purpose?

    @Matt: Good point! I hear you on the “low carb = Atkins” thing. You need to omit as many of those buzz words from your Pitch as possible, because people have immediate pre-conceived notions about lots of things.

    @Maureen: That’s either the sugar or the grains – very common side effect. I’m going to suggest you always felt kind of crappy when eating those foods, but just didn’t notice it. That’s the entire POINT of the Whole30 program! Good for you for sticking with it, and thanks for sharing here.

    @Tim: I DIG IT! You didn’t need us, dude… that Pitch is solid. It’s really open, uses “plain” words and is designed to prompt a few questions along the way, like, “What are anti-nutrients?” and “What do you mean, nutritionally dense?” Nice work! Thanks for contributing.

    @Keith: Thanks for the feedback. The Podcast was fun, but harder than we thought it would be. Next time, we’d like to record in person from Chico!

    @Zach: Okay, now we have to hear your Paleo pick-up line involving someone’s dog. Go.

  12. Trip says

    I think I’ve screwed this up a few times in the past… mostly because I didn’t know what I was talking about. When people start asking why I don’t eat grains, the conversation always goes sour. I even had someone tell me that his friend “who is a doctor of internal medicine” said that “a person who chooses to eat like a caveman, should be prepared to die at 40.” I just had to chuckle to myself. Anyway, I told him to keep an open mind and do his own research (and I sent him some links), but that it had really been working for me to help me lean out, increase my strength and performance, and generally just feel better.

    In short, I think the best sales pitch is one that doesn’t directly offend CW. Thanks for this post, it may change some lives.

  13. George MacLeod says

    Hi, I heard you on Rob Wolf’s podcast. I started living a Paleo life style 20 yrs ago. No house, car, phone, TV, refridg. washing machine, only a mtn bike and sailboat. No doctor or pills. So many friends, family, and people I meet along the way admire my life but all say I could never live that way with out all my stuff that is my life. In other words my boat is my home, restaurant, car, and airplane. I travel the remote parts of the world in search of beauty, foods, cultures, and sharing my Paleo life. A modern day hunter/gatherer.

    Still trying to find Atlantis but I think I will be one of the first ones there in 2012. Then I will find that woman that can live as a paleo woman. George

  14. Kara says

    Thanks for this…..my Husband has a hard time understanding my choice to do this as he is an “I have to have documented scientific research and proof, not just some guy or doctor who wrote a book about it” type of guy. It can be a little intimidating to explain the exact science behind it, but this approach makes it more palatable.

  15. says

    @Trip: You’ve got the right idea – we tell people to “lead by quiet example”. If you’re sharing YOUR personal experiences with your nutrition plan, it becomes impossible to refute YOUR results with any scientific journal or MD’s claim. Keep fighting the good fight, and thanks for sharing your perspective.

    @George: I’m not sure how seriously to take you – does the internet qualify as “Paleo”? ;) We’ve met a lot of people on our road trip who say, “I wish I could do what you guys are doing”. The answer is, of course, you can! We’ve found great freedom in giving up those material things we thought we couldn’t do without – sounds like you have as well. Thanks for contributing.

    @Kara: Glad you’re finding our way of explaining our dietary choices helpful. If he’s seeing the positive changes in you as you pursue this way of eating, maybe he’ll be inspired to give it a try himself!

    Best,

    Melissa

  16. says

    I like that idea, especially in the sharing of personal experiences with the new eating style. I tend to use the Crossfit: eat meat and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar because it is short, to the point and I can elaborate on the foods I do eat rather than those that I don’t. Your pitch is great and I am going to work on a blend of the two, especially with the performance and other measurements such as energy, skin, hair, and so on. Thanks.

  17. jayhuck says

    I have some friends who have “gone paleo”. I appreciate a great deal about the diet and about the way you try to win converts by using personal testimonials and not upsetting others by coming across as judgmental, most successful groups use these techniques – but I have great difficulty with the claims made by some Paleo-ists regarding grains and legumes. The fact that people have lost weight with this diet is illustrated by the fact that people on this diet tend to eat roughly 36% less calories than people not watching what they eat. There are also well-documented health benefits to some whole grains and legumes. So I have to ask the question, why do people on this diet avoid grains and legumes?

  18. jayhuck says

    The other issue I’ve been having is the claim made by some Paleo-ists that early man did not eat grains or tubers – which is not true. Grains have been reported found in the “fire ashes of some of the earliest human groups.” I see a great benefit to ridding the diet of processed carbs, minimizing sugars and watching your total carbohydrate intake in general, but I still have trouble accepting the claims made by some on this diet. Are people on the paleo diet supposed to completely avoid all grains – are all grains considered bad?

  19. says

    @jayhuck,

    Thanks for your interesting commentary. I see that you’ve also commented on our Grain Manifesto, so you know the key points we make about why we think grains don’t make you healthier. I think the key points on the GM should answer your questions about why recommend against grains in general. Legumes are much the same story: dense sources of carbohydrate (that force your body to release large amounts of insulin to manage the influx of carbs/sugar) that are micronutrient-poor and contain multiple different compounds that provoke inflammation in the gut and elsewhere in the body. We say “no, thank you” to that.

    You should have noticed that we don’t “sell” Paleo by talking about what our ancestors may or may not have eaten. Frankly, we kinda don’t care. But what we do care about is how current-day food affects current-day people, and grains and legumes have way more downsides than upsides for all of us. In short, we recommend against all grains, yes. Thanks for your interest.

  20. jayhuck says

    Dallas,

    It appears you didn’t read my post very well. I’m telling you your science is wrong. We have new evidence now that whole grains and some legumes don’t actually do what some Paleo-ists claim, in fact it appears they do the opposite. Whole grains are not broken down by the body in the same way that processed grains are and as such do not, if eaten in proper proportions, do NOT cause the insulin spikes you claim they do. There is also recent evidence that whole grains actually reduce inflammation as well, not to mention all the evidence that shows they can reduce bad cholesterol and help reduce the chance of many types of heart disease. What I’m saying is that your science is poor and you need to revisit the many health benefits of whole grains. I’m sorry, but fad diets like this, that are really just a different type of Adkins diet need to be called out for what they are – a FAD

  21. jayhuck says

    I highly recommend you read In Defense of Food if you haven’t already which shows why nutrition science that tries to take one or two components out of food and make health claims, good or bad, about it is bad science.

  22. says

    @jayhuck,

    In response to your claim that whole grains reduce inflammation, here is one example: http://www.ajcn.org/content/87/1/79.abstract This study shows that switching out processed foods in favor of whole grains reduced inflamation – but did NOT show that the addition of whole grains had inherent benefit, it simply showed that displacing more processed food with less processed grains was a step in the right direction. It’s a “less bad” choice. However, there was no comparison of whole grains vs a grain-free diet, so saying that whole grains reduce inflammation is a logical fallacy. I’ve read ALL of Michael Pollan’s books, and have appreciated his stance on “nutritionism”. While we respectfully disagree with your supposition that the Paleo diet is a fad, we’re also not here to “convert” you. We only wish to share the information that has changed our lives (and the lives of thousands of readers) for the better. If you choose another road, we are not offended.

    Best,

    Dallas

  23. jayhuck says

    Dallas,

    You can find good testimonials from people who’ve ascribed to all fad diets in the last several decades. I appreciate that you have had good experience with the diet. Overall I think its a good diet, but it is a fad diet – one of the better ones, but still a fad diet. If you are having a good experience with it by all means stick to it, but don’t make pseudo-science claims about grains that are inaccurate – Please!

  24. says

    @jayhuck,

    I’m not interested in starting a pissing match, so let’s agree to disagree. We have the obligation to do our best to share information that we know to be beneficial, and if you’d like to start a “Whole Grains Are Health Food” blog, feel free. I won’t come over there and disparage your perspective, and I’d appreciate it, if you’re not interested in a constructive dialogue, that you refrain from making sweeping, unsubstantiated claims here. If you’d really like to share scientific references about what is contained in whole grains that make them so healthy, please feel free to email me via the contact info at the top of this page.

  25. Heather S says

    One of the main “arguments” that I’m getting from my family is that the Paleo diet consists of eating a lot of meat. My mom argues that studies of people living in the “blue zone” who have the worlds best longevity eat very little meat and lots of rice. Also, red meat is a major cause of high cholesterol, heart disease, etc. I made the point that Paleo doesn’t require the consumption of red meat. There is chicken, seafood, fish, etc. Any thoughts on this or have you heard this argument before? I know a main objective of Paleo is not longevity but quality of life and overall health. I brought this point up and my mom said that these folks in the “blue zone” have very few health problems as well. Thanks!

  26. Michael Patterson says

    I think we would be wise to stick to the diet of Yahweh ( you know, The Lord God Almighty) set out for us. He designed us!!! See Leviticus Chapter 11 and forward……

  27. ray13star says

    This can work if you have a lot of money to do everything organically. Trouble is, not a lot of people have the money to eat Kolby style meats and organic produce.

  28. chantel says

    My husband sent me a link about this way of eating, and I somehow landed here. Very interesting. For me, I am interested because I aim to cut gluten from my diet. I was recently tested for Celiac Disease but it was negative, however I believe I have a gluten intolerance/allergy. I definitely believe that cutting glutten from the diet can help with inflammation, etc. and it is in fact the only way that a Celiac sufferer finds comfort. I think this is a valid lifestyle, and while I probably won’t follow to a tee, I think it is pretty simple once you figure out what foods are ok and what aren’t… I certainly am over having processed foods put into me :)

  29. Scrappy says

    Why does there need to be a pitch or “elevator pitch” at all? If you’re offending people with your diet…or anything for that matter – why not just keep it to yourself? “If you can’t say anything nice; don’t say anything at all.”

    I think the diet is great, but very similar to high protein/low or no carb diets – if you like it, why argue about it – do your own thing – and leave it at that.

  30. Scrappy says

    Also, some food enthusiasts might prefer to actually enjoy the flavors and tastes of non-paleo foods. Doesn’t that figure into quality of life?

  31. Lori says

    This is basically Atkins with the addition of fruit, which is added into phase 3 or 4 anyway. My sister lost almost 100 lbs on Atkins and totally kicked her sugar habit. Wish I could kick mine, maybe I’ll try this spin on Atkins cuz I really missed fruit when it was forbidden and could not lose any weight past phase 1 on Atkins. We’ll see if my metabolism will handle fruit and fats and still lose weight. Thanks!

  32. says

    For those of you visiting us from Yahoo! – welcome! This is just one article on our site, so we encourage you to check out our other articles and learn more about our perspective on Eating Good Food.

    You don’t have to buy everything grass-fed, organic or local to eat healthfully. We’ve got an article on our site called Paleo Poor (http://whole9life.com/2011/01/paleo-poor-your-guide-to-the-grocery-store/) that helps you maximize your grocery store dollars.

    In addition, our program is not just Atkins + fruit. While the Atkins diet certainly got some concepts right, our program is not focused on weight loss – and we pay far more attention to food quality and maximizing nutrition. We’re health-focused, and while that often plays into weight loss in a really sustainable, permanent fashion, we don’t encourage crash diets, deliberate caloric or carbohydrate restriction or non-sustainable efforts simply to lose weight. We take a bigger picture, long-term approach to health, fitness and wellness, and we think if you read a bit more about what we do, you’ll see our approach is balanced, sustainable and feels very healthy and happy for our participants.

    Please visit our Whole30 program (www.whole9life.com/category/whole-30) for more information about our program, which will help you change the way you eat for the rest of your life.

    Best to all,

    Melissa & Dallas

    owners/founders

    Whole9

  33. guil says

    ya this was probably put out by chipotles mexican grill or sum meat company. for a real proven diet with people living longer try “GRACIE DIET”

  34. Guin says

    The caveman diet I followed years ago was mostly made up of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, roots and nuts, i.e, stuff you kill, pick from the ground, shrub, vine or tree. If it requires anything beyond cooking (read: processing), chances are it’s not on the plan.

  35. Frank says

    I wish I had read this when I started on this journey 5 months ago. I have managed to completely botch the paleo introduction with my wife, and every meal suggestion leads her to believe I am judging how and what she chooses to eat.

  36. Gordon says

    I love this! As I age (now 52), I think its a bit easier for me to say “rather than restriction, I prefer to think of it [my diet] in terms of direction. I want to live a good long, health-filled life and my diet should provide me the optimum nutrition and fuel to do the stuff I love doing. So, I’ve really just re-directed myself when it comes to what I put into my body.”

  37. mikeBernard says

    I found this very interesting. There is recent (2011) legit scientific data explaining how gluten causes “leaky gut” …..

    http://somvweb.som.umaryland.edu/absolutenm/articlefiles/1445-Zonulin%20and%20Its%20Regulation%20of%20Intestinal%20Barrier%20Function,%20Physiol%20Rev%202011.pdf

    What I got from the research is that, basically, gluten, which is found in most grains (yes, whole grains too!) is a type of lectin. Lectins are often contained in plants and occur naturally to fend off animals; they are not really meant to be eaten. Once gluten is in your intestines it raises your intestine’s ZONULIN levels.

    Zonulin, at normal levels, acts as your intestinal wall’s gatekeeper allowing good substances to permeate through your intestinal walls and into your blood, and not allowing the harmful substances to get through. When zonulin levels are raised, more bad substances, which are usually not “allowed” out, are able to get out. Therefore, leaky gut! ah! Don’t risk it homies! Do you want crud from your intestines getting into your ENTIRE system? (yes, your brain too!)

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