About the subject line of this email. I bet you’re expecting me to say the best diet ever is paleo…or maybe keto? Or maybe keto paleo (yes, that’s a thing–of course it’s a thing).
Close, but not quite.
As you may have noticed from our brand name, paleo is near and dear to my heart. I still love and follow the principles behind it (plenty more on that below).
And growing evidence supports keto for weight loss and especially for people with conditions like type 2 diabetes. It may also be effective for many more medical conditions.
That’s why our offerings have expanded over the years to include keto items in addition to our paleo-friendly lineup.
But in my opinion, the best diet ever is actually an ancestral eating pattern called seasonal eating.
Seasonal eating means you primarily eat whole foods that are currently in season where you live. They don’t need to be 100% “paleo,” just healthy whole foods are fine, and local whenever possible.
If you buy your fresh foods from truly local farmers and farmers’ markets, you’re guaranteed to eat what’s in season. Use high-quality snacks (ahem) and convenient homemade recipes to round out the rest of your diet.
For people who don’t have access to a farmer’s market, a nifty site called Seasonal Food Guide can help you determine what types of produce are in season where you live.
The really interesting thing about seasonal eating is that if you live more than approximately 30 degrees North or South from the equator (USDA hardiness zone 8 or below), carbs don’t grow where you live in the winter due to a lack of UV light (remember, plants can’t produce starches or other carbs without photosynthesis).
That means you automatically enter ketosis due to a lack of carbs.
Think about it. The only fresh foods that are really available locally in the dead of winter most places are animal products (meat, eggs, seafood) and maybe some winter greens and dried nuts.
Some scientists actually think our bodies detect what season it is using sunlight and air temperature, then adjust their “metabolic program” according to what food should be available.
Eating “imported” bananas or tortillas in winter every day, while living in a Northern US latitude, isn’t exactly natural. And it probably isn’t healthy, either.
And that’s why I humbly argue that seasonal eating is the ultimate diet, period.
It’s customized for your body according to what foods are available locally, it allows plenty of healthy whole food carbs in spring and summer and early fall, and it puts most people into ketosis effortlessly in late fall and early winter.
Seasonal eating is also ultra-simple. I highly recommend you try it, but also follow what I call the “90% rule.”
That means you eat according to plan (such as seasonal eating) 90% of the time, and the remaining 10% of the time you allow yourself to enjoy food at social events, meals out, or other treats in moderation.
If you eat three meals a day, that means two free choice meals every week.
Or if you would rather take a full day off from watching your diet, you can do that once every 10 days or so (but don’t spend that whole day at the restaurant buffet, either).
For people who really like to let it all hang out, how does a long, three-day weekend with no dietary restrictions whatsoever once a month sound?
Take it from me, the 90% rule is a good way to achieve sanity and balance around what you eat.
I’m personally convinced that not stressing out over what you eat is one of the real keys to a healthy relationship with food.
Of course, true health isn’t all about food, either. In the past 13 years since I founded this business, I’ve become more and more fascinated by applying the ancestral or paleo paradigm to other areas of life, too.
For example, our human ancestors without a doubt had access to fresh clean air and slept in the dark without exposure to artificial lights. Fixing those two areas alone can be huge for your health in our modern society.
But what’s really intrigued me recently is applying the seasonal ancestral perspective to other aspects of health along with diet.
In contrast to summer, when it’s natural to eat lots of carbs (and top up our vitamin D stores with plenty of sun exposure), the decreased sunlight in fall and winter leads to increased cold exposure and some behavioral changes (from an ancestral point of view).
Contrary to popular belief about “fattening up” in fall and winter, it’s a natural time for our bodies to ramp up fat-burning and lose weight as we tap into the fat we stored over the summer.
Here’s what you can do to stay in sync with this season and make sure your body gets the message:
1. Instead of staying indoors all the time, go outside every day and expose your eyes and skin to the fall and winter sunlight, preferably multiple times per day.
2. Gradually ramp up your cold exposure. This can be as easy as going outside in a t-shirt, or for the brave, taking cold showers or dipping into the local body of water. It’s one of the fastest ways to boost fat-burning and also raises dopamine levels.
3. If you have a fireplace or patio fire pit, light a real fire and sit near it for the infrared light, which reduces inflammation in your body. Otherwise, you can also use a heat lamp or infrared sauna for a similar effect.
4. Traditional or Finnish saunas are another great way to warm up thoroughly and sweat more in between your cold exposure bouts.
5. Engage in intermittent fasting to mimic reduced food availability in fall and winter for added health benefits.
If you have a health condition or aren’t sure how to implement them safely, talk to your doctor before trying cold exposure, saunas, or fasting.