Why I Hate The Paleo Diet.

Why I Hate The Paleo Diet.

O.K. I don't actually hate the paleo movement, nor do I hate vegan, vegetarian or any of the other diets out there, except maybe the low fat fad... What I do hate is the labels, to be more specific the strict guidelines which go with them. #nolabels

So what's my problem with labels? Labels come with strict guidelines that simply stress us out. They're too stringent. When you follow personalized dietary patterns you acquire much more sustainability. When you "group" yourself with a particular dietary theory you tend to beat yourself up for breaking a rule, not being as strict as the guy on the internet or your girlfriend next door. It's difficult if not pretty much impossible to maintain this style of eating. Enter in the 80/20 rule.

One of the things I try to teach my clients is the 80/20 rule. This doesn't mean 80% of the time you are a rock star and the remaining 20% you can live off pop and doritos. As a matter of fact for some of you it may look more like 90/10 or 70/30, this all depends on YOU.

Let me explain.

Lifestyle, social interactions, travel, work influence, relationships and health status all play a role in where you stand with regards to the 80/20 rule.

The concept is that if you follow a particular approach for 80% of the time, you will achieve the majority of the results where you stand to benefit, from that particular diet, during that time. That remaining 20% is then said to not be worth the extra effort.  How so?  Well if you are pursuing that extra 20% you may have to make sacrifices in other areas of your life, which may make that 20% less appealing. They call this the 'law of diminishing returns'



I'm a huge believer that there is more to life than food. *SAY WHAT!* I know, did I really just say that? Yup, you betcha. But before you go shoving that snickers down your throat, let me clarify.


So many factors come into play before we even process our food. I tend to tell clients that if they have had a fight with a spouse, are stressed out about a deadline at work, or any crazy stressful situation, they should skip the heavy meal and just have a juice or soup. Eating something light puts less stress on the digestive system. You see when the mind is busy trying to digest the stress, your gut can't digest the food. 

Another factor is our social belonging, or rather our need for social belonging. Our sense of fun and need to connect are just as important as what we eat. Soul food if you will.  Are you sacrificing having a beer and slice of pizza with a group of friends at the office party because you are so strict on this dietary theory you committed too? How does this make you feel? If sticking to a diet means you are staying in ad cooking meals all the time and missing out on fun social events, this may not be ideal. It may not be sustainable and it may not be healthy. You may want to reevaluate if the 100% mark is worth it for you.

Studies have shown a link between life expectancy and social connection, or lack there of. Social interaction is important, so in some cases pursuing that 20% can actually have greater negative affect on your health and well being than you realize.

I'm not justifying the wild parties getting sloshed and eating crap every weekend, what I am saying is that perhaps being a little less strict could benefit you. Sure have that margarita with the beer in it because your girlfriend swears its amazing and will change your life, just don't have 5.

Now having said all that, i'm about to take it all back... sort of.

There are exceptions to the 80/20 rule. What it looks like to you may be different than someone else. It could be 70/30 that works great for you, or perhaps you need a 90/10? You have to figure out your own personalized ratio, unless of course you fall into the category of health issues.

Always consider your current health status. If you are relatively healthy and not intolerant to any particular foods then this works for you. But if you are under treatment for a condition like SIBO, candida, leaky gut, food sensitivities or other autoimmune disease you may want to stick to 100% or 95/5.  once the issue is managed (if it is manageable) then you can likely waiver a bit, but until then you want to be strict. Healing takes time and patience. 

Something else to take into consideration is if you are looking to lose weight, training for a competition or trying to be at the top of your game.  Perhaps you are in a position where you need to maintain absolute mental clarity, studying or a big exam for example. Then you may want to maintain a 95/5.


With regards to the 80/20 rule, if you have allergies or sensitivities, you can still have the rule just make sure that the food or additive that would create the issue is removed from the equation. 

The consequences of having a traditional crust pizza when you are celiac would not be worth the suffering that would follow.

I feel I need to mention again that the 20% doesn't mean cookies, cake, pop and cheese doodles. Although it can if that is what you want, but why would you? It could be as simple as eating out at a restaurant and not specifying the type of oil used, not asking for organic veggies. Perhaps having the baked potato or the fries instead of the veggies. For others it might mean having that dinner roll... those can be so tempting can't they?

So preferably no soda or cheese doodles, but if you want to you can. The thing with clean eating is that you may not want to. Once you are used to clean eating, whole food, real food. Those other options just don't hold the same appeal. Sweet things taste too sweet, junk food tastes almost plastic. It's just not worth it. Plus when you start to feel alive and vibrant why would you want to consume something that makes you feel heavy, bloated, crappy or gives you brain fog? So go ahead and have it, but you likely won't enjoy it. 


The beauty of the 80/20 is the psychology of it. As humans, we don't like to be told what to do. The words NO, DON'T or CAN'T seem to instill instant defiance from most of us. So when you aren't told you can't have the cheese doodle, but rather you can if you want but save it for the 20% mark, it becomes less tempting. You are basically parenting your inner child by reframing it from set rules to choices. Brilliant!


Let's get back to some of this low fat, low carb crap. I feel like I need to clarify something here. There are studies to show just about every dietary theory is right, low fat or low carb or cholesterol reducing. Enough already. One of these studies that is constantly coming across my desk is the theory that high fat/low carb is healthier. Then the SAD (standard American diet) diet comes along and craps all over it. When you look at a SAD diet it looks a whole lot different than if you took that and looked at a paleo or vegan etc. Healthy fats are a good thing, so are healthy carbs. A carb is not a carb and a calorie is not a calorie, so can we stop already? A healthy carb like a sweet potato is not high carb, where a slice of white bread is a much different story. The sweet potato is still going to keep you relatively low on the carb scale, so no need to panic simply because it is a carb. Same is said for healthy fats like avocados unlike some of the more controversial ones like lard and bacon fat. 

I strongly dislike when I hear someone healthy, with no reason to be making such dietary restrictions, tell me they are following some new diet craze. Why are you carb depleting? Why are you restricting healthy fats? I get cutting out the refined and highly processed bagels, but why can't you cook with coconut oil? Enough already!

Those sickly vegans and vegetarians giving a good health food trend a bad name are another area that piss me off. Enough with the highly processed and refined food ok? Have you seen the sugar content? Yup they replaced your fat with sugar, they replaced your taste with plastic. A vegan cheese doodle is still a processed cheese doodle, minus the cheese, add in the processed.

You want to exclude meat? Go for it. You want to have a bone broth but still live a vegetarian lifestyle, go right ahead! No one is saying you can't, and if they are - slap them (no don't really, you can get charged for that shit) Just watch out for the SAD style of eating (Standard American Diet) it's the combination of a high fat, oxidized rancid fat and highly refined, processed carbs like white flour and excess sugar, that are creating the recipe for disaster. 


Alright, here it is. You really need to commit to eating clean, in the form of an elimination diet for a solid 30 days. This way, when you reintroduce foods you will see a reaction. This will help you realize what your version of the 80/20 ratio should be. 

When you feel that energy, the overall feeling of healthy, it can sometimes be all the motivation you need. It's a great starting place, but I also understand that life gets in the way. For some of you 70/30 might be a more realistic place to start, but at some point you really do need to go full out at the 100% range for 30 days to really see the difference. Otherwise you can't gauge how well you are feeling in comparison with anything else. That full steam ahead 100% will help you realize whether you can slip down to 90/10 or 80/20 or if 70/30 is better for you, while still maintaining that 99% in how you feel


For some people the path to health can be a scary one, even a little overwhelming. That is why I offer health coaching packages at various levels. We can do this together, you don't need to dive right into this, we can ease you in at your own comfort level.

Most of us have no idea how good we can truly feel! 

Give yourself 30 days, you deserve it. Your future self deserves it.


In some cases people will do the full 30 days and feel that they don't notice anything different than they did before. Perhaps a small energy boost or other small benefit,but not as much as was hoped. If this is the case, the 20% is just not worth the hassle, although in these cases what is typically needed is a deeper assessment. Some problems cannot be fixed with diet alone. While diet is key to many issues, there is sometimes a need for a referral to a functional medicine practitioner or a specialist for BHRT for example (bio identical hormone replacement therapy). Additional testing can often be all that is needed to pinpoint an underlying issue such as SIBO, leaky gut, candida etc. In this case you may require a strict diet to resolve the issue, this is fine. I can always walk you through that as well, then once the issue is rectified we can embark on the rest of the journey. 

For some, specific medications, supplements and lab testing may be necessary, although in most cases it is not. With certain testing you may find that the big change isn't coming from diet alone but rather from dealing with the impaired methylation that you have, or SIBO, or an overgrowth of candida. What about the adrenal fatigue that has gone undetected this whole time, or the fact that you entered perimenopause at 35 when you didn't even know there was such a thing. 

Addressing all issues of health will really bring you forward quickly. This is why I work with some pretty amazing functional medicine practitioners and other specialists and experts in each field.  It's time to reclaim your health!


Rachela Brisindi

Owner/ lead graphic designer

I started working with Holly not even 2 months ago, and I have already made small changes with huge impact. From just adding lemon water to my mornings, to actually writing in a food journal, I have discovered so much about myself and have already noticed that these small changes have been effortlessly incorporated into my daily life, where previously, it was like pulling teeth to make even the tiniest of changes on my own. I find that I am eating with more awareness, living more consciously, and learning to love myself again. It’s not an overnight process but in less than 2 months, I already feel like I’ve gained some control over my health. With Holly’s expertise, I no longer have to worry about feeling overwhelmed with all the mixed messages telling me what I should and shouldn't eat.


  1. Keep up the excellent work Holly.


  2. You’re clueless and know nothing about the paleo diet. The paleo diet is all about 80/20 and flexibility… IF you knew anything about it you wouldn’t act like its this impossible cult to follow 100%… Stop pretending to be a nutrition expert. You’re far from it and embarrass yourself every time you post nonsense like this to beg for attention.

  3. It’s unfortunate that you made an assumption regarding this article based upon the title rather than actually reading the article. The title is meant to get peoples attention… It clearly states in the very first sentence that I do not actually hate paleo or vegan or any other dietary theory for that matter. The article also goes onto state how all diets no matter what one you subscribe to should have a flexible 80/20 but that sometimes this isn’t enough. It’s a great article, to bad you didn’t actually take the time to read it. As far as qualifications go, I am sorry you don’t think a masters in nutrition or follow up degrees (including Stanford University) are sufficient to consider myself an expert in said field. My clients would strongly disagree.. check out my testimonial page. Pretty sure i’m not the one with egg on their face now am I? Feel free to schedule a consult if you would like to learn more about nutrition. 🙂

  4. Dear You’re Clueless,
    As early as the second paragraph, Holly suggests 80/20 rule. How can you comment without even reading that far? Or did you even read the first sentence? I think you should be more mindful next time you comment.

    I love this post, by the way. I totally believe in 80/20 rule but I’m glad I can go as far as 70/30, depending on the situation. I don’t want to have orthorexia but still be healthy with what I eat and not “diet.” Eating for health and enjoyment is so much more important than a label. Thx for an awesome post Holly! We all need encouragement and support!

  5. LOL there’s a reason why You’re Clueless remained anonymous. 😉 That was a great reply too Holly.

    I loved this post! My favorite part was that your life isn’t just about food. Sometimes you just gotta have a Dr. Pepper. Shoot! That’s totally what the Eat Real Stay Sane brand is all about.

  6. I love your posts Erin, you help remind everyone that life is also about living!

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