The Commercialization of Paleo (1)When I first discovered the Paleo lifestyle a few short years ago, the Paleo community was a different world.  There were a few well-known Paleo authors and bloggers (Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, and Loren Cordain immediately come to mind), but there weren’t a plethora of resources available to people who were interested in living a real food lifestyle.  The Paleo community, as it existed then, was a tight-knit group of people who mostly connected with each other through the Internet, many of them interested in biohacking to reach optimal health.  The year 2012 proved to be a big one for spreading the message of Paleo though as the first Paleo(fx) conference was held and Diane Sanfilippo published her first bestselling book about Paleo.  The world was ripe for a health revolution and the proof was in the Paleo pudding.

As people started to take control of their health through a Paleo lifestyle, some were inspired to share their stories and help others.  I started this blog in 2012 and my mission was, and continues to be, to help others make healing changes in their lives through the power of real food and other ancestral health techniques.  As a registered nurse, I am uniquely prepared to help others transition to this lifestyle and manage their chronic illnesses.  I specifically wanted to learn more about how food impacts the body, so I decided to become a nutritionist and I attended theNutritional Therapy Association.  I began practicing as a real food nutritionist and functional health practitioner.

Not long after this, Paleo exploded into the mainstream.  Suddenly, the “Caveman diet” was on the tip of everyone’s tongue!  This was exciting and rejuvenating and I was filled with such hope that our sick care system could be turned around!  As a result of the movement’s growing popularity, a lot of resources entered the marketplace and it was truly wonderful.  Paleo cookbooks, recipe blogs, books, magazines, seminars, conferences, podcasts, health coaches and all kinds of products to simplify Paleo living became available.  I was thrilled that the movement was gaining traction and I now had so many resources at my fingertips to share with my patients, friends, and family.

At some point, a subtle shift started to take place in the community.  What started as a movement to help people re-learn how humans were intended to eat, move, and live, ended up with flooded inboxes of “Paleo” cupcake recipes and desperate marketing ploys to partake in the latest Paleo book bundle.  And a bit unexpectedly, helpful links to purchase that expensive clothing modeled by your favorite Paleo blogger abounded on social media.  A lifestyle that was supposed to be about helping people to connect with their food now somehow requires numerous packaged and convenience products, as well as the latest fashionable clothing and accessories.  As enthusiastically coined by Paleo Magazine, the “Paleo Prepared-Food Movement” is now a real thing.  Yep, Paleo has arrived.

The free market forces support the commercialization of Paleo.  Bloggers and entrepreneurs in the Paleo community wouldn’t be selling their products and services if people weren’t buying them.  Furthermore, no one is bad person because they desire to make a living off something about which they are passionate.  My services are also based on ancestral health principles, although I tend to shy away from calling it “Paleo” these days.  There are more than enough people out there that need the help.

When it comes to Paleo packaged foods and convenience products, make no mistake:  My diet is far from “perfect” (whatever that may mean) and there are hectic times when I appreciate healthy convenience foods and I crave certain junk foods.  However, I know that packaged foods are not necessary for living a real food lifestyle.  People who are new to the Paleo lifestyle today may not realize that it can be done without all of these enticing, and often costly, convenience foods.  All of a sudden, the Paleo movement is looking a lot like the gluten-free movement.  My concern is not simply with the substance of the packaged food products or the fact that these products are in the marketplace (in many cases, I am grateful that they are).  Some of the products are high quality and they provide a decent alternative to the standard-American diet equivalent.  I see this onslaught of packaged foods in the marketplace as significant because it indicates that the broader conversation is no longer about healing our broken food system.  Popular Paleo bloggers used to talk about how to connect with farmers and the people producing the food; now, they suggest shopping lists for Wal-Mart.  It’s the heart and soul of the Paleo community that is slowly simmering out and I believe that is a direct result of decisions to compromise on certain values in order to make Paleo appeal to the masses.

I also have concerns with the numerous health coaches and practitioners that have aligned themselves with the Paleo community.  When these health care practitioners have a firm understanding of ancestral health principles and they have the proper education and clinical experience in working with patients, it is a blessing.  Functional medicine is the way of the future and I hope that it continues to become more accessible.  Unfortunately, in my practice, I see a lot of patients that have been taken advantage of by practitioners that are more concerned with making money from functional laboratory testing and supplements than getting to the root of the patient’s health issue.  My main point with this is that it pays to do your research when choosing to work with any health care provider.

Somewhere in the midst of the commercialization of Paleo, the essence of what this community used to represent has faded, but I still see sparks of it here and there.  For a while, I wanted to distance myself from the community because I’m moving in the direction of minimalism in all areas of my life and the blatant consumerism perpetuated in the community is a big turn off to me.  I changed the name of my blog to exclude “Paleo” and I stopped blogging for other Paleo websites.  But after much reflection, I’ve decided to renew my connection with this community because I strongly believe in the power of real food and ancestral health.  Although I only have a modest following on my blog, readers have told me that “The Paleo Nurse” still resonates with them.  As far as changing the broken food system, the Paleo movement will be relegated to the sidelines unless some people remain willing to talk about the importance of having a relationship with your food and knowing from where it comes.  It may not be the most popular message in today’s Paleo circles, but I am willing to take that on.  Not to mention that there truly are a lot of wonderful people involved in this community that are making a difference in people’s lives.

My goal is to continue to help others discover the benefits of a real food lifestyle that is grounded in ancestral health principles.  I have 12 years of real world clinical experience of working with the chronically ill behind me (9 years as a registered nurse).  I have the credentials and experience to serve as a bridge between conventional and functional health care.  I have my own personal experience about how this lifestyle has healed my autoimmune disease and changed nearly every aspect of my life.  When I do find the time to write on this blog, it’s from my heart and I promise that it will always stay that way.  I will never compromise my values and beliefs in order to make a few extra bucks.

I hope that you will continue to follow this blog as I share more about real food nutrition, primal fitness, and minimalist living.