My Paleo Confessions: This Is How I Really Eat


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Paleo confessions: this is how I really eat

(Update: I don’t consider myself “paleo” per se anymore. I just focus on real food and I’m happily label-free.)

If you’ve been following my Instagram feed you know I’ve been eating my Paleo way around the world. Seven glorious weeks in Sydney and one fast-flying month in Chiang Mai. From some of the world’s best beaches to some of the worlds most magnificent temples. Sights, sounds, tastes and experiences that will live on vividly in my no-longer-autoimmune-foggy-brain long after I return home.

And it’s all been Paleo(ish).

Yep, I added an “ish.” And I am 100% A-Ok with that.

Why I no longer stress about dietary labels

If there was one diet that worked for all of us, the whole world would be their healthiest selves. But the simple fact is a perfect diet doesn’t exist. We all have different bodies, genes, microbiomes, ancestry and lifestyles. What works for me may not work for you. And what works for my mom may not work for me.

After three years of a roller coaster health journey, I’ve finally learned to eat intuitively. To nourish my body with real food that makes me feel good. And perhaps equally important…to recognize when something I’ve eaten makes me feel crappy.

Yes, I’m a Paleo blogger, eater, cook and proponent. But I also believe it’s a framework. A baseline that removes both the glaringly obvious and stealthily hidden toxic foods from the average person’s diet.

But I’m also firmly rooted in reality. And my reality is that while I love my safe and sterile paleolithic kitchen, I choose not to stay confined to it. I’m an itchy footed explorer. And there’s an entire world out there screaming, singing and chanting my name!

Enter the grey zone

For me, there’s only one hard and fast rule, whether I’m home or traveling – I’m 100% strict gluten-free. As a celiac, I’ll be this way for the rest of my life. Because not re-inducing the internal autoimmune rave party in my body is waaaay more preferable.

From there, everything else is a choice. I choose to eat Paleo 80% of the time because it makes me feel awesome. This means no grains, high-quality protein, organic fruits and veggies, raw nuts, no refined sugars and no added nasties (colorings, preservatives, flavorings, etc).

Eating this way calms my adrenals, supports my thyroid and makes my immune system thrive. All good stuff!

But then there’s the other 20%

And I’ll be honest, sometimes that 20% makes me extraordinarily happy! 

Like eating a corn taco at a Mexican restaurant in Sydney. Or whipping up gluten-free oatmeal on the plane flight to Cambodia. Or devouring mangos with sticky rice at a food stall in Chiang Mai.

These are definitely not Paleo – but they’re also not going to kill me. Ironically, becoming a stress-case and complete nutter about the do’s and don’t of Paleo parameters quite possibly could! (PS – take it from a former nutter!)

Yes, food is meant to be nourishing. But it’s also meant to be enjoyed. So if you’re stressing that the veggies used on your dish aren’t from a certified organic farm, you’re completely missing the point of a Paleo lifestyle. Emphasis – lifestyle.

Eat healthy, but don’t forget to live

When it comes to my diet, I do the best I can. I plan ahead, I research, I pack. And I’ve always got a healthy snack stashed in my purse. Always. 

But when I’m in Chiang Mai and it’s 90 degrees out, I may have a few too many sugar-laden fruit smoothies. Just like I probably had a few too many caffeinated flat white’s when I was in Sydney. And I’m sure I’ll have a few too many something else’s in Bali – where I’m headed to next.

And here’s the funny thing. My diet and nutrition have never been better. Because I’m no longer interested in being Paleo perfect. Or really, anything perfect for that matter. I’m more interested in being healthy and happy…for the long term. Which means treating my body with kindness and feeding my soul with a little adventure.

Okay, a lot of adventure – and healthy food along the way!

Do you get stuck following “the rules” of a diet? Or the opinions of a certain “authority” figure? It’s easy to do! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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  1. I loved this blog. I am trying to tame my daughter’s 3 autoimmune conditions, Type 1 diabetes, celiac and hashimoto’s. Plus my other daughter’s high antibodies to her thyroid. So I began researching the paleo Autoimmune protocol (Sarah Ballantyne). Seems so restrictive but I really want to get the 4 children/family on track, detoxed, decreased  inflammation (and to be healthier during this covid/vax season we are all in)  it seems so overwhelming and possibly very expensive. Just wanted your views on this approach and has your thyroid balanced out with/without meds. Thank you so much

  2. Hi Lisa,

    I have been binging your videos on YouTube the last few days and I think I have managed to see them all! Absolutely love them. So I’m now diving into your website. I can totally relate to this blog post. I have been struggling years and years with fatigue, upset stomach and weight fluctuations. Always been on a diet, but never managing to find something that works. And I have always been hard core or not at all. I’m not celiac or lactose intolerant, but I have IBS. After having tested low carb high fat many years ago, I knew my body responded well to it, but I still didn’t manage to do it long term. It’s only been since April 2019 that I have been able to live this lifestyle more sustainable. My mantra is listen to your body and stick to the 80/20 rule. And finally, it totally works for me! I’m more of a liberal LCHF/paleo rather than keto, but I sometimes indulge in carbage that has zero nutritional value and that’s OK. Although I LOVE hummus and falafel, my stomach doesn’t. Sometimes I still have it though, if I know I will be home the rest of the day…

    Anywho, I just wanted to thank you for your fab website and YouTube channel. I have always been interested in nutrition. I’m currently off work due to work related stress (and baking is my therapy) and have found a new love for (vinyasa and ashtanga) yoga. Your story has inspired me to re-think my life a bit and made me consider a new career path within the health sector, that I might not have considered before. x Maja

    1. Hi Cherry – Thanks so much! Yes, it really is all about mental health and how you put your minds towards things :)

  3. Hi Lisa, I’m allergic to both tree nuts including coconut. While I can tolerate a bit of almond or cashew here and there, I really can’t tolerate any coconut or walnut products at all. Do you know of replacement products for some of the coconut products that you use? Especially something like full fat evaporated coconut milk? I don’t know what to use in place of some of the products you use and still keep things non dairy, etc. Also, is there a good susbstitute for when you use almond (or any other nut) flour? I don’t want to just substitute anything willy nilly (like for your chocolate mug cake) and not get similar results.

    1. Hi Rhonda – I think it really depends on the recipe, if it’s sweet or savory and how it’s cooked. If there’s a particular recipe on my website, let me know in the comments on that recipe and I’ll try to help you out!

  4. So far I’m sticking fairly close to the “rules,” but that’s b/c I’m new to this, trying to lose weight, and want to find what makes me feel best. My digestive system is already much happier and I don’t want to jeopardize that. But I love to bake and am trying to find my limits– I don’t want to add excessive amounts of “permitted” foods such as nuts & raw honey that prevent me from losing weight or neglect protein & veggies and thereby turn my Paleo diet back into a “SAD” one. But, yes, occasional consumption of off-plan foods isn’t going to break the world or ruin my life. I also enjoy the challenge of making tasty meals that stay within the limits– new grounds for culinary exploration. I’m in the midst of trying to afford higher quality foods and learning to incorporate new items such as bone broth, fermented foods, and gelatin into my diet; overhauling is definitely a process! I named my Pinterest recipe account as “Paleo-ish”. Find me here if interested: :)

    1. The great thing about paleo is everyone traversing their own wellness journey, learning their bodies and healing (where necessary). I did strict AIP for 6 months (years ago), and now have found my version of paleo. Whatever you feel is best, truly is the best path for you! :)

  5. I love that you say Paleo(ish) because that is what I have been doing. It has been 6 weeks since I began my Paleo journey and to make the transition easier for me I allow grass-fed butter, grass-fed cream for my coffee only, and an ounce of 60% chocolate per day. Allowing some of these “grey area” foods has allowed me to transition easier and stick to the plan without feeling like I am missing out on something. I love to eat out too so sticking to higher end restaurants less frequently has allowed me to enjoy the experience more and not stress to much over every single ingredient. I feel great, am losing weight and have not had any severe stomach upsets since beginning this journey!

    1. Jolena – that sounds great! And a perfect paleo template for you! I know you’re gonna keep on rockin it! xo

  6. Thank you! I have been at this for a year and a half and I just. Cant. Do. It. So I recently went and got tested for what foods are inflammatory (I have R. A.) and was surprised at what I found. Wheat, barley, flax and rice were all negative. Just corn was positive. Nor did gluten (blood test), jalapenos, eggs or milk come up positive. Yeast was positive so I still can’t have bread, but I can have a whole wheat tortilla, PRAISE THE LORD!
    I figure with this kind of knowledge I can stop guessing and trying to cut EVERYTHING out of my life and start living! Thank you for reassuring people like me that I don’t have to live by anyone else’s rules. There’s just too dang many of them!

    1. Oh Stacie, my pleasure!! :) Food is definitely medicine and the wrong foods can really muck us up. But a stress-laden diet and lifestyle can ironically do just as much damage to the gut as the wrong foods! Eat clean + do the best you can + enjoy life!! My secret formula. xo

    2. What kind of test did you have that told you specifically what causes you inflammation. I need this test! That’s awesome!