Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
22 May

Top 8 Most Common Reactions to Your Grain-Free Diet (and How to Respond)

As I’m sure you’ve seen, eyes raise and questions arise when you order a burger wrapped in lettuce or discard a “wrap” and eat the contents. And then, when you answer with “Oh, I don’t eat grains,” minds boggle and mouths gape as they stumble to grasp the notion of someone who doesn’t eat bread or pasta. Eventually, though, they fire off responses, challenges, questions, and proclamations. This isn’t right, this isn’t possible, this doesn’t agree with their idea of how people should eat. It just isn’t normal. You’re not normal, and you should be ashamed of yourself for introducing a new paradigm. But not all are personally offended by your decision. Some are honestly curious and flabbergasted. Some just want to know why someone would give up grains and how they get along without them.

So, what kind of stuff do we hear out there in the wild?

Rather than just linking to yet another MDA post, maybe on why grains are unhealthy or how to give them up, let’s take a look at the eight most popular and prevalent questions and then try to come up with some good responses to them. I’ll give both longer ones and succincter ones (that you can fire off in an elevator).

“Oh, is that a low-carb thing?”

While grains represent an easy, cheap source of carbohydrates (that most sedentary people simply don’t need), they also contain “anti-nutrients,” proteins and lectins and other nutritional factors that impair digestion, perforate the intestinal lining, increase inflammation, and can even exacerbate or (possibly) induce auto-immune diseases. Since the purpose of life is to reproduce and that grain has to make it into the ground to germinate and turn into a plant, grains don’t want to be eaten, and they use the anti-nutrients to dissuade consumption in lieu of the running, climbing, flying, crawling, biting, and stinging that animals use to survive.

Response: “Kinda, but it’s more than that. In order to survive and spread their genes, a grain uses anti-nutrients to dissuade animals from eating them. Some animals have adapted quite well, but humans haven’t, so I choose not to eat them.”

“I could never give up bread. And aren’t grains the staff of life?”

For the past several thousand years of human history, bread has been a staple food. The ancient Egyptians baked it. The Greeks and Romans made it. You probably grew up with it. It was – and is – cheap and filling. Today, because billions simply need calories from wherever they can get them, grains are the ticket, the “staff of life.” But it’s not like we’ll wither away into nothingness, all because we failed to heed the biological dietary necessity to eat grains ordained by some higher power. Grains aren’t the staff of life in an inherent sense, but rather because they’re cheap, reliable, and easy to work with. They provide calories and a modicum of nutrients to people who absolutely require those calories, regardless of any nutritional downsides. Having joint pain and bloating because you ate some whole wheat, while unpleasant, is better than dying of starvation because you refused it.

Response: “An unfortunately large number of people are forced to subsist on grains as a staple, because they’re cheap and plentiful and calories are scarce, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to eat. Grains aren’t necessary if you have access to plenty of fresh animals and plants.”

“Where do you get your fiber?”

As if only cereal grains contain non-starch polysaccharides. As if all the world’s inulin, pectin, chitin, beta-glucans, and oligosaccharides are found solely in wheat, barley, rye, rice, oat, and corn. As if some of the richest sources of soluble fiber – you know, prebiotics, or the kind that our gut bacteria can ferment and convert into metabolically-active short chain fatty acids – aren’t fruits, roots, nuts, and green vegetables. And, as if the richest sources of insoluble fiber – the metabolically-inert stuff that pretty much nothing can digest and which serves only as a bulking agent for improving the robustness of our bowel movements – aren’t whole grains.

Response: “I get my fiber from fruits and vegetables. Best of all, our gut bacteria can actually digest the fiber from fruits and vegetables, thereby producing short chain fatty acids that improve our metabolic health. Grain fiber is just a bulking agent that fills your toilet bowl.”

“What about the USDA food pyramid?”

What about it? Take a look around you. The obesity rate is the highest it’s ever been, and almost everyone who’s not obese is “just” overweight. Diabetes is on the rise. People live out the end of their lives relying on a complicated cocktail of pharmaceuticals and medical apparati just to eke out a few more years. All this, despite the majestic, all-powerful USDA dietary recommendations informing everything we put into our collective mouths. How’s that USDA food pyramid working out for us so far, I’d like to ask. I’m not necessarily assigning a causative role to the pyramid (though it certainly plays a role, in my view) in the obesity epidemic. I’m just saying that it has done absolutely nothing to stanch the rise of diet-related illness. I’m saying it doesn’t have a real impressive track record.

Response: “Since the USDA food pyramid was released in 1992, the obesity rate has increased unabated. What about it?”

“That must be terribly inconvenient. What do you eat for breakfast? What about sandwiches? What about dining out?”

Well, you see, all you gotta do for a bread-free sandwich is spread a little mayo on your right hand, some mustard on the left, and pile on the avocado, the deli slices, and the tomato slices in between. Easy as pie. Seriously, though, I don’t get this question. Have these people never heard of bacon and eggs? Omelets? A steak and salad? Do they think a sandwich is indivisible? That once you place the final slice of bread atop the meat, lettuce, and cheese the sandwich can never be altered, that you physically cannot pry the bread off the innards? Have they ever even witnessed the creation of a sandwich? Are they going to weird fascistic restaurants that force you to consume the bread and pasta? I just don’t get this one. I really don’t.

Response: “Just take off the bread and eat the other stuff. Bam.”

“Everything in moderation, I say. I don’t like to deprive myself of anything.”

Ah, yes, the eminent voice of reason. “Everything in moderation”, they say. Trans-fat? Bring it on, or else it’s deprivation! Margarine? Slather it on my veggies! Must not deprive! Arsenic? Sure, I’ll have a bite! Why not? That said, I’m just not seeing where the deprivation comes in. I fail to see how not eating a food that leads to poor health, digestive upset, and bloating is somehow deprivation. You could say that I’m technically depriving myself of feeling like crap by not eating grains, but that’s a good kind of deprivation. If you want to be quite literal, eating grains deprives you of a full, healthy existence.

Response: “When I eat grains, I feel terrible, bloated, and not like myself. The way I see it, I’d be depriving myself of a full, rich, healthy, happy life if I were to eat grains in moderation. Besides, do a rib-eye, some buttered broccoli, and a glass of red wine sound like deprivation to you?”

“I’ve been eating grains all my life and don’t seem to have a problem.”

You may not have an obvious problem now, but that’s only because you’ve grown accustomed to your body and it to your diet. The signals of discomfort are dulled, and the intensity of the pain has reduced. You’ve gotten used to the stomach upset, the intermittent bouts of diarrhea. You know how all those “things just happen” as you get older, a view that is reinforced when you see the same thing happening to everyone else around you (all of whom also happen to eat grains)? How you start going downhill at 40, it becomes hard to lose weight, all that stuff. Spend some time looking at what everyone is eating – grains, grains, and more grains – and you might notice a connection.

Response: “I felt the same way until I tried ditching them for 30 days. All those little niggling aches and pains and complaints that I figured were just an inevitable aspect of life have disappeared. I feel better than ever.”

“Where do you get your minerals?”

Although whole grains may look nutrient-dense, simply looking at the mineral content of a whole grain on a nutrition website tell you very little about how your body absorbs (or doesn’t absorb) those minerals. Remember those anti-nutritional factors present in most whole grains? Another one is called phytic acid, which binds to minerals in the grain and prevents their absorption in the gut. Calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and several others are susceptible to the lure of phytic acid, and research shows that cultures who rely on grains for the bulk of their macronutrients and micronutrients display deficiencies in these and other minerals.

Response: “Since they’re bound up to phytic acid, the minerals in grains aren’t really even all that bioavailable to your body. What you see listed on the nutritional facts isn’t what you’re actually absorbing and assimilating. I get my minerals from plants, fruits, and animals, which our bodies can actually absorb.”

Whenever you deviate from the norm, people are going to ask questions and try to challenge you. That’s fine and totally understandable. Remember – there was a time when all this Primal stuff sounded crazy to you, too. We are different. And people are going to react. They’re going to be defensive, inquisitive, accusatory, or all of the above. Try not to be defensive yourself. Try to maintain composure and think back to when the idea of giving up grains was utter madness, take a nice diaphragmatic breath, and respond. This is a time to educate, and perhaps even inspire. Utilize it.

I know I didn’t cover everything. I must have missed more than a few. So, readers, tell me: what else do people say when you tell them you don’t eat grains, and how do you respond?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. We tell people that grains are high calorie foods with minimal useable nutrients. Grains are used to fatten up cattle, and I don’t want to look like I’m living on the feedlot. There’s no point trying to eat a “low-fat diet.” Even if you eat no actual fat whatsoever, all your grains and starchy foods turn straight into sugar once they’re digested and are stored by your body as fat.

    Miss Understood wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  2. I had outpatient surgery awhile ago. When I came out of recovery and was waiting to be released, the nurse offered me a plastic wrapped industrial cranberry orange muffin to eat. I passed and reached into my bag and pulled out my plastic bowl of grilled chicken and salad. She looked at me, laughed and said “that’s why your stomach is so flat”!.

    Ida Palma wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  3. I LOVE this post. Thank you for the quick and easy talking points. I hate all the questions because I often don’t know how to answer with enough authority. I also hate trying to explain that it’s not a “diet” as others have mentioned, but an ongoing lifestyle. People just don’t get it.

    Jessica wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  4. I say that all humans, or at least most, have an inherent intolerance to grains, some just more acute than others.

    Shipmaster Mahoney wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  5. I have been TRYING to go grain-free for months. Part of the problem is that living with grain-eaters means that the stuff is EVERYWHERE. And I swear, sometimes it feels like they are sabotaging me. “Oh, I forgot you don’t eat this” is such a common refrain. I have Celiac-Sprue, but they still “forget” that they can’t put flour in potato soup, sauces, etc. They throw sugar in EVERYTHING, even my coleslaw. It’s like they can’t accept that I am allergic to the wheat, and that I do not want to eat sugar and grains. I just get so freaking tired of it.

    Maybe some of this will help me in my situation. Because I WANT to be primal. I am sick and tired of being SICK and TIRED. Sorry, I got a little ranty. Anyway, thanks for the responses.

    AndreaLynnette wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • You’re just going to have to cook your own food.

      Orielwen wrote on May 22nd, 2012
      • I do. And they throw their garbage in it anyway. “The sauce was thin, so I added some flour to thicken it.” That kind of stuff.

        I’m going to have to start locking up my food to keep it safe.

        AndreaLynnette wrote on May 23rd, 2012
    • Potato flour (or starch) works great in potato soup for thickening.

      Aaron wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • Arrowroot flour is my new “go-to” thickener.

      Honeybuns wrote on May 22nd, 2012
      • Xanthum gum and ager ager are emulsifiers too.

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  6. When I told a coworker I was off grains, like no pasta, bread, tortillas, etc, she (who is quite overweight) said, “What else is there?”. Hmmm….wow.

    Katydid wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  7. My 350 lb. neighbor who is on statins and a sleep apnea machine told me I eat like a girl. This really through me for a loop. I just laughed and said, “how is your diet working for ya?”

    JoeBrewer wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  8. My go-to answer to question number 1: “It’s not a low carb thing so much as a grains-are-trying-to-kill-me thing”. The looks on people’s faces…

    Kate P wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • Lol! Great reply!

      spincycle wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  9. I’m still so surprised when people seem personally offended by my family’s Paleo lifestyle. I think deep down they feel threatened, like, “Wait, I don’t want to change what I eat, so I need to make sure that you are a crazy person so I don’t need to feel convicted to change my lifestyle.”

    The most common question I hear is, “How long are you going to do this? You’ll go back to eating grains, right?”

    I usually tell them that I haven’t missed grains so far — in fact, I feel much better without them — so this is a permanent change.

    Kirsten wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • “I think deep down they feel threatened, like, “Wait, I don’t want to change what I eat, so I need to make sure that you are a crazy person so I don’t need to feel convicted to change my lifestyle.””

      ^^ This exactly.

      PrimalNewborn_M wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  10. I started eating primal about 3 months ago and I noticed that the eczema that has been with me for 30 years is completely gone. Has anybody else had any similar reactions? Not to mention how much better I feel and that I’ve dropped weight without cutting down on calories.

    Tessie wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • From childhood I always had hayfever and a severe allergy to horses. Any contact with them, even second hand contact ie if I touched someone who had been stroking a horse, made me sneeze and wheeze, come out in a rash, and puffy, itchy eyes. This wouldn’t have been too difficult to cope with, other than the fact that my husband has 3 horses! I’ve been gluten-free for 3 months, and grain-free for 2. A couple of weeks ago I noticed I hadn’t been sneezing and wheezing at all lately. I wanted to test how much I’d improved so I went and stroked the horses, cuddled them, rubbed my face in their mane, and .. absolutely nothing, not so much as a tickly nose. A fantastic added bonus that I never expected.

      Liz wrote on May 22nd, 2012
      • I’ve run a 100% dairy free, grain free “experiment” since mid-March. And I’ve only used two allergy tablets this season. Usually, I’m miserable. But I’m not sure if it’s the no-grain, or the no-diary, or the combo. Last year when I was 95% primal with diary and a very occassional piece of toast, I still had terrible hayfever.

        karen wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  11. My favorite thing to point out about the USDA food pyramid is…well…it’s the *USDA* food pyramid. Not that I can imagine the FDA or HHS being willing to argue with it right now, but it’s kinda’ fun to watch people realize that their eating guidelines are coming from the grain department rather than the health department. 😀

    Adrian wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • The first two key activities straight from the USDA Mission Statement: “expanding markets for agricultural products and support international economic development, further developing alternative markets for agricultural products and activities…”

      There is no balance in those statements. They don’t care what the “agricultural products” are, just that they want to find more and new uses for them.

      Meesha wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  12. I usually get the “everything in moderation” argument. The SAD consists of wheat at every meal (breakfast cereal, lunch sandwich, lasagna dinner with a side of garlic bread) and every snack (Nutrigrain bar, doritos, pretzels). Doesn’t sound like moderation to me. Heck, I wouldn’t recommend any food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, not even spinach or eggs! I think grains have become insidious, and because they come in so many different forms, most people don’t even realize they are eating them 5-6 times a day.

    spincycle wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  13. I took Prilosec for 16 years for (I’m only 38) for GERD (reflux disease). It was so bad I could tell time by it…..

    I cut grains and have not had to take a pill in almost two years. At one point I starting eating the “old way” and had to take pills again. For one, I am done. Not a diet, a choice.

    Rick wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  14. I only wish people knew how dense meat and veggies really are. I have WAY too many people telling me I need to get my blood work done yet it’s the same people saying this that are on meds for blood thinning/clotting, diabetes, etc. INSANITY!

    Chris wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  15. I gave up grains for one week and my arthritis in my knees all but disappeared. I went back on grains and it came back. I do love my bread but I keep it to a bare minimum now, once or twice a week, and never the day before I have to do a lot of walking. I feel great!

    Mary wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  16. On a Boy Scout campout, I got into a conversation with a dietician and OB/Gyn, both of whom “knew” that you needed to eat carbs to survive, and they had the training to prove it. I quoted the results of the arctic explorers who discovered the Inuits and then told them I have personally thrived with little or no carbs. That cemented my “low-carb-looney” reputation. However, a few months ago, one of our assistant scoutmasters, a mid-30s, very fit individual came up with high blood sugar on his annual physical. A friend of his, a cardiologist, told him he needed to do something. Remembering my comments on the subject, he started a paleo diet. Lo and behold, his fasting blood sugar went down 20 points in six weeks, his energy levels went up, and he lost almost ten pounds. He was ecstatic. His diet comment was classic “the food pyramid is bulls**t.”

    Damien Gray wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • This goes to show that when we think our information is falling on deaf ears, it may not be as futile as we first believe.

      Aaron wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  17. Great responses. Personally, I got a dose of reality. I have been doing Primal for a while and about a week ago, I was put in the position of having to eat a bagel for breakfast at a business network meeting and then a sandwich and fries for catered lunch.

    I felt terrible all afternoon long and had to fight to keep from going to sleep in a 3pm powerpoint meeting.

    That day made me fully aware of the fact that I am not missing anything not eating grains and recall how bad I felt that day.

    Andrew Murphy wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • QUOTE

      … had to fight to keep from going to sleep in a 3pm powerpoint meeting.


      C’mon. Grok would have been the same. Powerpoint = lethargy. Nuthin’ to do with food (IMO).

      Cal wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  18. lol my favorite is “where do you get your fiber?” Seriously this is the first question i get asked… every single time. my answer: “I’ve always suffered from constipation so I ate more and more oatmeal and grains to solve it. I am more regular and feel better now than I’ve ever felt. Grains are evil!” :) thanks MDA!!! btw I always say ‘grains are evil’ haha

    Javier T wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • Okay, my TMI Moment of the Day:

      My crazy (nosy, judgmental, gossipy) grandmother asked me the fiber question a couple of weeks ago. So I asked her, “Why do I even need fiber?” and she replied, “Well…you know…so you don’t have bathroom issues.

      I confess: love to mess with her.

      So I told her, “I have plenty of bathroom issues! Elle Decor and House Beautiful are my favorites. But I never get to look at them anymore! Ever since I started eating lots of fat, everything just slides right on out.”

      It’s okay. She already thinks I’m a deranged, doomed harlot anyway…

      More Butter, Please wrote on May 22nd, 2012
      • hahahahaa…. More Butter–that was hilarious! Thanks for the great belly laugh.

        mila wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  19. And about moderation, MDA says full fat dairy is ok in moderation if it does not affect a person negatively. Therefore i have it in moderation.
    I cannot do grains in moderation because they kick off CRAVINGS for more grains. So best to leave them alone

    Gayle wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  20. Awesome. You summed up the logic I arrived at about the whole “staff of life” thing. For religious reasons, I really had to think about not eating grains based on what is said in the Bible. With some thought, I realized that civilization could only have gotten so far without grains. Populations would have been limited to smaller groups, and the massive communities from which so many technological advances have come would have been impossible.

    Grains, in spite of their harmful health effects, have been essential to moving civilization forward, and they’re still essential as a source of calories in many parts of the world. But those of us fortunate enough to live in more developed economies no longer have to rely on them, and can eat more in accordance with how our bodies were designed.

    Podsixia wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • If grains allow an organism to live long enough to reproduce (as opposed to starve do death with their absence), then they are beneficial to the propagation of that organism.

      This whole life thing is a sliding scale. However, quality of life is different from quantity of life.

      Aaron wrote on May 22nd, 2012
      • Thanks Aaron, I totally know what you’re saying. The point I was trying make, poorly, and I guess it’s more an unsubstantiated theory than a point anyway, was more anthropological perhaps than biological/evolutionary.

        I was just saying that I think without grains and agriculture, it wouldn’t be possible for humans to congregate in groups larger than a few hundred, because game and forage within a practical distance would become scarce. We’d hit our carrying capacity in the ecosystem and groups would have to split off and go somewhere else where the environment could sustain their needs.

        Grains made it possible for people to congregate in the thousands, which in turn led to the innovation and advances in learning and technology that have gotten us into the modern age. Like I said, it’s just a theory that seems logical to me. I don’t think there would have been a Renaissance if the largest group of humans living together was just a few hundred.

        Podsixia wrote on May 22nd, 2012
        • interesting that the “environment doesnt seem able to sustain our needs” with 7 billion of us….i think grain eating served its purpose and now its time to re-evaluate. also,we can raise animals instead of hunting them, so we can still live in large groups.

          Hopeless Dreamer wrote on May 22nd, 2012
        • Evolutionarily grains may have helped bring humanity into a modern age – they may also be the downfall of humanity.

          The carrying capacity of the planet without using petro-chemical derived fertilizer is much less than the current almost 7-billion hominids.

          So maybe wheat is literally killing humans, just slowly, over a millennia.

          Egalitaire wrote on May 29th, 2012
        • You’re wrong! The God of Abraham really does believe grains are good – after Abraham almost sacrificed his only son to form the Covenant, but then saw ram instead. He figured God must have wanted that as a sacrifice but then God was like “NO! do you see that grass the ram is eating? YES! THAT! Sacrifice THAT!”. That was the sacrifice that marked the beginning of the covenant, so the foodstuff that was sacrificed signified symbolically what was valued.
          Because God loves grains. For further proof see: Cain & Abel – see what each one sacrificed and how god reacted.
          When Jesus split bread to feed poor people along with fish, it wasn’t because bread and fish were associated with the poor due to their low cost and abundance, it was because Jesus knew how awesome bread was.

          mm wrote on June 10th, 2012
    • I like to tell my Christian friends that as punishment Adam and Eve were sent out to til the soil, whereas previously they ate from the garden.

      Farm food is punishment LOL

      Jane wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Some of us are fortunate enough to live in such ‘under’developed communities that they have never needed to rely on them…

      Feather wrote on May 20th, 2013
  21. hahahaha I love this! I hate getting asked those questions, especially when I don’t always know how to respond. Paleo for life! :) Great post.

    Kelsey wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  22. I usually get the same reaction one would get who is a fundamentalist Christian trying to alter someone’s belief system. I think the remarks and comments like, “Oh, never mind, you don’t eat [sugar, bread, etc] is a way to get back at me for their hatred of their own inability to accept the truth, and then make the change. Facing the reality of your diet and the fact that you “aren’t all that” is tough for many, mostly men. Women tend to listen more, but most men make excuses.

    Sonny wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  23. I’ve had a couple “debates” on FB with friends about all this. At one point, I was told to drop it because you (Craig) represent a VERY SMALL percentage of the population and that the “vast majority of us are thriving on grains and bread.”

    At that point I decided to just drop the debate, but it always haunts me. Frustrating. But thanks Mark for the good words. I’ve taken the quick approach over the last few months of describing how good I feel and why and then move on. Help those that want to be helped at this point.

    It’s hard to see those “Wheat Bellies” out there and you just know the answer.

    craig almaguer wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • I’d then ask them what is the rate of obesity among the population that is “thriving on grains and bread” as well as diabetes, heart disease, etc. Then compare to the paleo/primal/low carb crowd. (Anyone know if there are actual numbers for that?)

      Lissa wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  24. My favorite response when I told a co-worker that I didn’t eat grains (basically low carb): Why? You don’t need to lose weight!

    I have never been overweight and have no major health problems, but after reading about and doing some (minor) research decided that primal/paleo was healthy, not the ubiquitous whole grain, low fat advice. (For the record, I never ate low fat anyway…without a weight problem, I never saw the need. And diets are all about weight, right?)
    I have seen a few benefits since going primal at the beginning of the year: I don’t need as much water, I don’t pee as much, I don’t need to eat breakfast every day, I don’t need the late night cup of cereal and milk, I don’t feel bloated in the 2nd half of the day and I lost my baby weight easy-peasy. But, these are not the best selling points when communicating with people about primal. I have no awesome personal success story. And I’m literally surrounded by family and friends with weight issues, arthritis (juvenile and adult), autoimmune disorders, diabetes, gluten intolerant…I could go on. But I can’t just point to me and say, look! It works! They are all just convinced I have good genes and could eat anything and look this way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely grateful for my health and grateful to my parents for practically raising me primal before primal even existed, but I am so saddened and frustrated to see it ignored by people who would benefit from it so much more than I do!
    I am trying my best to live by example and keep up with the research so that I have answers for people when I can’t give them a personal example. Thanks, Mark, for being such a wealth of info. I always point people here first, because of your moderate, simple approach.

    Meesha wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  25. Bless you Mark! I’m sending a copy of this brilliant piece to many of the ‘unbelievers’ I know.

    Susan wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  26. I have a friend whose response is simple but elegant. When asked why she doesn’t eat grains, she simply says, “for health reasons”. I think that about sums it up. They likely assume she has a health problem, but she just wants to continue to enjoy good health.

    Tracey McDonnell wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • RIGHT ON! That’s what I say, too. While many people might like to hear about a great way of eating like primal/paleo, for most people there are just too many mental roadblocks (installed by the CW) in the way to welcome any details, and it’s too easy to sound preachy (takes me about 5 seconds), so I limit my responses to one or two words, if the conversation progresses. Reverse psychology? Yes, but it’s much more friendly than launching a verbose explanation about something.

      I think once the paleo thing gets more exposure and some more studies are done, people will be more receptive. It’s going to take a while, though.

      BillP wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  27. Can’t wait to hear what my Doctor will ask next month at my yearly check up. She hasn’t seen me this year.I went Primal in Jan. I’ve lost 36 lbs. so far and still working on it — got 15 to go. At my age, 67, I’ve got a lot of work to do to get in shape, but felt the weight loss had to come first. Someone please tell me the wrinkles that have deepened will even out with time and work. Actually, the wrinkles aren’t that bad I’m so glad to be thinner and so much more comfortable. Grains once upon a time were my best friend, no more.

    Tanya wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • In response to the fact that grains have been eaten for centuries and bread was not shunned in the Bible, most people don’t know that grains, especially wheat, bear little resemblance to the grains from even 50 years ago. Wheat has been hybridized and altered to possess resistance to pests and droughts, and has been altered to grow much shorter for ease of harvesting, and yield ten times as much per acre. It has had the gluten increased to make lighter dough. And grains are now sprayed with more chemicals than decades ago, are raised in soil first stripped bare by”round-up” which kills natural healthy organisms in the soil. Corn is mostly all genetically modified. Grains now are not at all like they were a century ago, much less in Bible times, and even if they were, by the time the grains are ground, processed, package, shipped and stored before being consumed, little of the nutrients they ever processed remain.

      Miss Understood wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  28. My friend and a personal trainer whom I never use. She leans more vegan in her mind, and will only accept me not eating grains as required by the government pyramid/plate and beans too by accepting thatim allergic or sensitive. Otherwise I couldn’t possibly be healhy without. She does eat meat, but no offal for her bvitamins as she can’t get that naturally in her tofu. It’s become my response for most people is just claim allergic to it and folks just back off.

    Tamara wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  29. Hi, Mark. GREAT post!!!!!! Thanks for keeping it straightforward. I get soooo tired of people nodding like they understand and saying, “So you’re basically doing the Atkins diet. Got it.” No, they don’t.
    Would you mind terribly if I carried you around in my pocket for the next half-century or so? I need your words quite often. 😉

    Lori wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  30. I think my favorite response was, “How can you eat like a caveman? Cavemen came from all over the world and ate different things so do you just eat like a caveman from your region? But the cavemen in Peru probably ate potatoes, they had all those potatoes there.” Um, argumentative much?

    Tiffany wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  31. My favorite experience was a fast-food place near Chicago where the two assembly line cooks froze and looked at each other when I ordered “no bun”. They seriously didn’t know how to serve it and I had to tell them it would fit in their plastic bowls. :)

    I’ve never had a reaction anywhere else in ten years. BTW, Hardees has the romaine-wrapped burgers, in case it hasn’t been mentioned.

    carol wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  32. I just say it’s a food allergy thing and leave it at that. The way I say it let’s the enquiring mind know that their curiousity will not be satisfied.

    If I get pressed I say something like, “well, if you were allergic to peanuts, would you eat them? Same thing here.” I don’t bother to go into a bunch of hullaballoo about it.

    Thanks Mark for presenting management tips for the real-life issues that we paleo’s face.

    Patti wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  33. I get all of these questions from friends and coworkers all the time. And I agree with what someone else said that people often do find my choices to be offensive for some reason. I think it’s because I choose to not eat grains even though there is no obvious medical reason for it. I think they feel it reflects on them for some reason. Weird. These ‘elevator’ answers are GOLD!!

    I recently had surgery on my foot for an injury. In the process, I had to go through a bunch of medical questions with a bunch of new doctors (ortho surgeon, anesthesiologist, etc). They were all so amazed at my health! When one doc asked if I had problem with heartburn/acid re-flux and I said ‘not since going paleo’, all 4 other people in the room at the time stopped what they were doing and looked at me. He said ‘really?’ and when I said yes, there was a lot of sudden interest in the diet. I shared more website and book recommendations that day!

    Cat wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • “Not since going paleo”

      I love that!! Awesome answer!!

      BillP wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  34. Another great post.

    #1 is the one that kills me. Primal/Paleo eating is not inherently “low-carb” – frankly, it’s not inherently anything, other than sensible and natural. It can be specifically tailored to any individual to fit their exact needs. Maybe you’re severely overweight, and are shedding pounds after becoming keto-adapted. Maybe you’re Nell Stephenson, and need copious amounts of fruit and starches. Personally, I eat just as many, if not more, carbs on paleo than I did on SAD.

    Become an intuitive eater, eat natural foods, and eat whatever you need to optimize your health. It doesn’t get more primal than that.

    Michael wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  35. I love the one about everything in moderation. I feel so much better and younger too. I have more energy and I just started in January. Lost 25 pounds almost pain free except for foggy days. Walk from 5 to 20 miles a week and am loving it. Life is so much more full filling

    shirley wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  36. I was amazed at how much better I felt after giving up most grains (I have some rice every now and then), but that was before I realized that I’m severely gluten intolerant. So people tend to back off after I tell them that. But I’m having trouble with the primal diet. Been doing it for a little over a year and I’m heavier than I’ve ever been! I work out several times per week, eat lots of meat, veggies, and natural fats, nothing artificial (except the occasional indulgence of a gluten free sammich). What am I missing? Someone please help!

    Jaime wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • Who can say…but one thing you might try, is to back off on the fats, since they’re the most caloricly-dense component (so a little goes a long way.)

      I had the opposite issue; I was just eating lean meats and tons of veggies, and found I had to make a conscious effort to add some fat to my diet so I wouldn’t lose weight too fast (if that was even a problem.) It was momentarily puzzling but solved by just stirring some fat into my meat-veggie melange that I nuke up every night.

      BillP wrote on May 22nd, 2012
      • Backing up on the fats won’t do anything if this guy is already greatly overweight (unless he eats like 20,000 calories/day) since fat cells make leptin to tell your brain that you’re too fat & must waste reckless amounts of calories to get thin before you get eaten by a predator for being the slowest in your group. If you fix insulin resistance/elevated insulin levels in blood/elevated blood glucose levels by going low carb (esp. zero carb in extreme cases) then somethign else must be the problem….

        Try a 2-day fat fast: less than 10% calories from protein, 90% fat … if that helps your body was turning a lot of protein into sugar and still carb-addicted. Remember it’s low/zero carb that really helps to lose excess fat once you’ve messed up your carb metabolism and have gotten fat.

        Don’t do dumb workouts like excessive cardio… lift heavy things infrequently.

        Do intermitten fasting: Try to eat only in a small window i.e. 4-6 hour window. This will keep you at a fat-burning state longer (and will help your cells get rid of more junk proteins and may make you live longer and will improve your brain)

        It is possible something else if keeping you fat or aggravating the problem i.e. a medical condition like a malfunctioning thyroid

        mm wrote on June 10th, 2012
    • Have your thyroid checked. And don’t test only TSH, get the Free T3 and Free T4 checked as well. Also do a Complete Metabolic profile, an iron panel, B12 and Vitamin D. Then stop in at to check your results, log into their Facebook groups and see what these very wise and experienced people have to say. Thyroid-adrenal-iron imbalance is the most common cause of inability to lose weight.

      Lissa wrote on May 22nd, 2012
    • Intermittent fasting and/or an eating window — eat within an 8 hour timeframe each day and don’t eat outside that timeframe. i.e., eat a big breakfast and then lunch (or a very early dinner, like 2 or 3 pm) and then stop eating for the day.

      karen wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  37. I got the raised eyebrows from a new doctor I went to see this morning when I told her I take my coffee with heavy cream. My husband wanted me to get my cholesterol tested because of the increase in fats. The doctor is very interested to see the results because I’ve lost weight with the change to primal. I’m interested in the results too!

    Michele wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  38. Aren’t you worried about your heart!? Isn’t saturated fat bad for you!? What do your blood tests look like!?

    …This is what I hear all the time.

    primalmontana wrote on May 22nd, 2012
  39. I love this article. Myfriends cal me crazy on a daily basis but if they felt how I do then they would realize that they are the crazy ones. I have NEVER felt so good about myself EVER… Everything is better, food, exercise, sex, everything!

    I love my diet… there, i said it… i love how I eat and I have no idea why I ever ate any other way!

    Justin wrote on May 22nd, 2012

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!