Is it The Paleo Diet, or The Paleo Religion?

Diet or Religion?

We Paleo crew are such an excited, intelligent, passionate bunch, it must sometimes be hard for people on the outside to believe that we are anything other than obsessed. I guess most of us are….I know I am. I’m obsessed with this amazing way of eating and living that we all call “Paleo”. The question is, is it The Paleo diet, or The Paleo “religion“?

People with deeply seated convictions are everywhere. Sports fans can easily become obsessed with a particular sport and a specific team. People frequently talk about sports, hang-out in sports bars, go tail-gating, decorate entire rooms in their favorite team’s colors, and practice all manner of equally obsessive behavior. Some people only buy domestic vehicles and some people only buy imports, but both sides place rude little stickers on the rear windows of their vehicle of choice, designed to display both their own fierce brand loyalty, and their distaste for other people’s brand choice. Some people out there are loyal Windows PC users, in contrast to the people who are purist Apple Mac users. Do you see where I’m going with this? Having strong opinions, and being obsessed with something is not unusual. We Paleo practitioners are obsessed with eating what we believe to be truly healthy food, and adamantly avoiding what does not fit into that category. Is that an unhealthy thing in and of its self? I don’t think so.

In my opinion, there always comes a point at which an obsession, no matter the focus, can become unhealthy. If a persons life becomes completely consumed by an obsession, it can get to the point where everything but the focus of the obsession is ignored and left behind. These neglected elements can include relationships, obligations, and responsibilities in all areas of the person’s life. The idea is to incorporate an obsession into your life, but don’t allow it to get out of hand, and consume your entire life. The obsession should be kept in its place, and allowed only the portion of your life that it deserves or requires. This is easier said than done, I know.

When we’re talking about the Paleo lifestyle, we’re talking about a way of life that encourages truly, scientifically supported, healthy eating. We’re not talking about the “conventional wisdom” idea of healthy (or the USDA’s idea of healthy) we’re talking about only eating what humans were designed to eat, and none of the crap that humanity has “designed” for us to eat over the last hundred years. We’re not talking about being obsessed with porn, base-jumping, or home-made explosives, we’re talking about diligently eating what we believe will lead to a lean body, and a long, disease-free life. Being Paleo is about being fully aware of everything we place in our mouths, and what it does to our bodies. How can that be detrimental?

Obviously, we can end-up pushing people away or unwillingly repelling our family members and friends, when we make drastic changes to our lifestyle. People don’t respond well to drastic dietary changes. It’s like it offends them that you chose to no longer eat the same unhealthy crap that they still cling to, under some false illusion of healthy eating. People look at you like you kicked their dog if you turn down their offer of a Christmas cookie, or some Halloween candy. Do they really think that such foods are healthy? Do they simply care so little about their own health, that they desire to bring you down into their chocolate-filled pit of despair, to wallow in the collective misery with them? Who knows, but rejecting someone else’s dietary choices is almost as offensive to them, as telling them that their shoes are ugly.

Being Paleo means eliminating the majority of the most (known) metabolically harmful foods. We realize that not all fats, proteins and carbohydrates are created equal. We know that calories don’t matter a great deal. We know exactly what to eat, and what to avoid, in order to reach our own personal highest level of health. We read textbooks, history books, studies, articles, and many of us are learned in biology, physiology, chemistry, genetics, anthropology, and biochemistry. Hell, many of us, or our mentors, know more about human nutrition and metabolism than the average medical doctor! Is it any wonder that we are passionate, evangelical and defensive of our lifestyle? We don’t just do things because it’s popular, fun, or supposedly ethical in some way…..sure ethics are part of the equation for us, but everything we do or subscribe to, is supported by copious amounts of scientific data. If you tell us that we’re wrong, we say “prove it!”. After all, how can anyone disprove 2.5 million years of evolution?

Paleo is a “template” not a religion. We certainly do believe what we know to be true about nutrition, and health…..I guess you could say that we put our faith in the idea that living Paleo is going to help us to avoid an early death from one of the multiple diseases of civilization that plague today’s society. You could also say that there are several possible candidates for the official title of “The Paleo Bible”, from the many Paleo books that are currently in circulation. Plus, many Paleoites practice “exclusivity”, by avoiding vegans, vegetarians, and other nutritional persuasions, while banding together into small tribe-like support groups. There isn’t really any organization, or governing body to speak of, so realistically maybe Paleo is more of a Cult, than a religion. I say that jokingly, but it’s kinda true!

Another thing that places the Paleo lifestyle separate from your average religion, is that the Paleo nutritional prescription is very dynamic and relative, based upon individual energy requirements, physical activity level, starting body-weight, and level of existing metabolic derangement. Existing diseases, food intolerances, allergies, and nutritional deficiencies also have to be taken into account, which often leads to vast variations in the actual diet of each participating individual. This is how it is supposed to be. Human nutrition is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. The Paleo diet was the original human diet, so I believe that if you happen to be human, it’s definitely for you. But, it’s up to you to find your own personal variations WITHIN the Paleo diet, based upon your own very personal needs.

Sometimes you might hear people say, “that’s not Paleo!”, or “Paleolithic man wouldn’t have eaten that!”. Who cares!? Sure, we can look at anthropological evidence that can help us to see the general scope of foods that we should be eating, but there is no written rulebook for this stuff. We don’t know for sure, exactly what Paleolithic man and woman would have eaten on a daily basis, every day of the year. All we can do is eliminate the foods that we KNOW are detrimental to our health, and the rest is largely based upon how well you as an individual, tolerates a certain food and how well it fits with your goals. If sweet potatoes make you put on weight in the form of body fat, then maybe you should avoid them. It’s all a game of trial and error.

This philosophy is precisely why the best way to start out with the Paleo lifestyle is to commit yourself to a 30-Day, jump-in head first Paleo/Primal challenge. You start by strictly eliminating the majority of the common offending foods for 30-days, and after that time, you can begin adding some of the “safer” foods back in to your diet, to see how your body reacts. It’s a great way to nail down any existing dietary intolerances or sensitivities. If you want to do this and need a step-by-step guide, check my 30-Day UN-Challenge eBook.

Is it the Paleo Diet, or the Paleo Religion?

It’s neither. It’s none of the above. Paleo is a LIFESTYLE. Paleo is a TEMPLATE. Paleo is whatever you NEED it to be. It’s the original human diet. Sure, some people get pretty religious about it, but that’s because it’s the real deal! It’s worth defending, because it just works. You can’t argue with the results.

If you haven’t already joined in the Paleo fun, you should. What are you waiting for? Come over to the Paleo-side of the force!


So, do you think we are a bunch of obsessive nuts or truly concerned with our (and others) health? Please leave your comments below to let us know what you think!  And if you found this article useful, please click the ‘LIKE’ button below to share on Facebook!  Thanks for visiting!


Go to, and download my 30-Day UN-Challenge eBook now……It’s a step-by-step guide to your personal health revolution.


Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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2 Responses to Is it The Paleo Diet, or The Paleo Religion?

  1. Misty November 16, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    This is a great blog post Barry. I personally practice a paleo diet with the occasional raw dairy thrown in. I guess I’m considered Paleo + Dairy. This works for me, I feel great and I’m lean and healthy without hunger.

    While I practice Paleo eating, I still blend a smoothie with coconut milk, kale, brazil nuts, coconut oil, etc. and drink this about 4 out of 7 days a week. It’s easy for me, I love it and most importantly, I feel well with it. I have experimented with a blood glucose meter and find that I do just fine despite Robb Wolf’s disdain for liquid food.

    I work with clients myself and find that strict Paleo is overwhelming. I can’t practice such a dogmatic attitude with these folks or like you mention, I will only chase them away.

    It’s taken me 11 years to gain the knowledge I have and to make these transitional changes myself.

    We won’t agree on everything but at this point I think we can agree that trans fats, HFCS and wheat are evil foods benefiting no one. Start with that and build up the rest!

  2. Brandy Sullivan November 17, 2011 at 8:05 am

    A lot of people get annoyed with me, especially family. They call me the food nazi. But the more changes I make, the more I feel the difference,the more excited I am. I LOVE talking about diet. People can be hostile or think I am a freak, but that’s ok. If being healthy means I am a freak, then I am happy to be one. Thank you for your time and effort to spread the knowledge.