Leanne Ely Tells Us How to Go Paleo Without Going Crazy


test Jonathan: Hey, everybody. Jonathan Bailor back with another SANE show and delighted to have friend of the show as well as my personal friend, Leanne Ely, joining us today to talk about her wonderful new book and to give us some practical tips to help us stay SANE in the kitchen. Leanne, how are you doing today?

Leanne: I’m doing well. How about you, Jonathan?

Jonathan: Oh, I’m doing well. Well, you’re looking especially radiant. Have you been out in the sun recently?

Leanne: Yeah but I have matched my shirt. Let’s just say that. Yes, I have a little bit of a vitamin D overdose. Let’s put it to you that way.

Jonathan: There you go, there you go. Well, Leanne, I know you’ve been just running around because you have a very exciting new book launch coming out and I want to hear a little bit about what inspired this book because you’ve been doing this for quite some time. You’ve been saving dinner and now you’re saving dinner with a bit more of a Paleo approach. Can you tell us a bit about this?

Leanne: Certainly. Well, my new book is called Part Time Paleo: How To Go Paleo Without Going Crazy and the premise of the book is that it’s a bridge book because there’s so many people out there, they’ve heard about this Paleo diet and all they know is that there’s Neanderthals involved somehow, right? And so, what I’m doing is taking the mystery out, taking the CrossFit out — not that there’s anything wrong with CrossFit — but there’s a lot of people out there that just don’t want to just give up the grains, give up the dairy, and go to the CrossFit gym. And I’m showing people that there’s another way that they can do this and that, believe it or not, Paleo is friendly toward the family and I show them how to do that as well.

And the whole reason that this book came about was because of my own health issues and I was just gaining all this weight and I had a big, round, moon face, found out that I had Hashimoto’s disease, which is a thyroid condition and the antibodies attack the thyroid, which is a miserable way to go and it’s lots and lots of symptoms, lots and lots of issues, but the main thing is it really kills your metabolism. And what I heard about being Paleo, I embraced it because I thought, Well, if anybody knows anything better about how food can really heal your body, it’s me because I’ve seen this happen before. Again and again, I’ve had testimonials from people again and again saying this. And what Paleo diet is really is the ultimate anti-inflammatory diet so it really kills the inflammation.

Jonathan: Leanne, I think you have a unique perspective on this. Certainly, the Paleo diet has exploded. It’s extremely popular. There’s all sorts of cooking and diet-related books around the Paleo Movement but you are not one of the Paleo enthusiasts who “started off” Paleo. You’ve been doing this for quite some time.

Leanne: Yes.

Jonathan: And you’ve really been focused primarily — correct me if I’m wrong — on the family and on practicality. As someone who wasn’t a Paleo native, let’s say, how did you approach this situation?

Leanne: That’s a great question. Because I came through the back door instead of the front door, if that makes sense?

Jonathan: Mm-hmm.

Leanne: So the back door approach to me was, I had been reading, as a matter of fact, Robb Wolf’s book — everybody read that — and that was one of the first things that I read and this whole thing about cooling off the body and bringing the inflammation down and this is how we ate and it was before the whole agricultural movement. I mean, all of this stuff was new to me. From where I stood, it was just, eat whole grains, go low-fat dairy. I mean, this was my whole approach and this was how I was trained as a nutritionist over twenty years ago.

So obviously, things really changed. I had to really shift my thinking and I looked at the research and I looked at all of this and I thought, Well, let’s apply it to yourself and see how it works, and it worked like a charm. And I’m happy to report — I think I shared this last time I saw you, I think last month — I shared with you how my antibodies had come down from 3,000 — which is ridiculous, practically bed-ridden — all the way down to under 100 and I’m almost at a normal range for having an antibody count.

Jonathan: Wow.

Leanne: So I mean, that’s huge and a lot of it has — we did a lot of things but diet is always core, right?

Jonathan: It’s so core. Well, Leanne, knowing that you came in, like you said, from the back door rather than the front door and knowing that you have both practical and professional experience with helping families to eat in a way that’s actually healthy versus the way we were told was healthy but actually made us very sick, what have you found to be, let’s say, the biggest differences between if I go to a hardcore Paleo discussion board, what am I going to see there in contrast to what you’re going to present to me and then why those differences?

Leanne: Well, for me, the biggest difference is you have to present it in a way that isn’t so rigid that you’re going to tell somebody if they eat a piece of bread, they’re going to die because, one, they’re not and, two, you’re just giving suggestions and showing the evidence on why this might be a better choice for you, how to do something different, how to shift things and change things out so that you’re not missing that bread, that there are other options out there and that if you take your family along with you — here’s the kicker — just don’t tell them what you’re doing.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Leanne: I know that sounds crazy but, really, give them a baked potato but instead of giving them a white potato, give them a purple potato because purple potatoes have that many more nutrients and also the phytochemicals — you can see them, all that color. When you eat by color, you certainly know. Yes, it’s going to be higher carbohydrates and, yes, it’s maybe not the very best primo Paleo choice but it’s certainly not death on a plate. It really isn’t. So those are the kind of things. I’m a lot looser.

And I have in the book, Part Time Paleo, I’ve got Part Time Paleo Rules that if you are going to decide that you are going to eat cheese, for example, that you use it as a condiment and you are very particular about your cheese and making sure that you have aged, good, raw, if you can, organic cheese that’s been aged at least 120 days because that will break down the lactose and that’s what people mostly have problems with — casein as well but lactose is the number one problem.

So those are some of the things. It’s a little more tolerant and the most hardcore Paleoistas out there might say, “Oh, well, yeah, no.” But on the other hand, this isn’t a hardcore Paleo book; this is a book for the curious and for the people who are thinking, maybe I want to cross over that bridge and maybe I don’t but here are some really cool recipes in the meantime. And if you have to, throw some rice in there. I’m not going to — nobody’s going to come blow up your house.

Jonathan: Just don’t post about it if you’re in discussion groups.

Leanne: Yes, yes. Stay off the boards, yeah. Somebody will blow you up.

Jonathan: Leanne, what have you seen in your own family and in your practice as being the three or so biggest turn-offs to this ancestral “just eat foods found in nature” type lifestyle? And basically if you could help people with three things to help them start to make this transition to — and I don’t even — and I think you would agree even — say our goal is to make everyone Paleo. Our goal is to get everyone eating anti-inflammatory nutrient-dense foods that are going to heal you.

Leanne: Exactly.

Jonathan: So what are the biggest steps we can take today that are unique to your book and help us to overcome some big barriers that people may have if they think it’s, Oh, it’s the caveman diet?

Leanne: Well, I think once people start to embrace this idea of nutrient density, for example, and understanding and recognizing that foods that are colored all the way through — like I said, the purple potato versus the white potato and berries instead of an apple — these different foods have such nutrient density and they just start to recognize that and add those in, it crowds out the worst choices. So I’ve seen this with myself, I’ve seen it with my family, and I’ve noticed that rather than say, “Give up sugar,” everybody’s like, Oh, let me scratch my head. “Is that — Really?” Scratch. “Really? You’re going to tell me to give up sugar?”

Everybody knows that sugar’s bad. It rots your teeth, it rots your body, and it addicts you. Everybody knows that. Well, if you can crowd the sugar out and instead start saying, Have this delicious filet mignon that is just melting with a little butter and mushrooms and all kinds of goodies on there. And then you’ve got these roasted asparagus, you’ve got this gigantic gorgeous salad, you’ve got a baked butternut squash. Where’s the room for the sugar? There’s no room there. And what happens over time, as you’re eating like this, you become more satiated. That’s because the fiber’s doing its job, the protein’s doing its job, and the good fat is doing its job and it’s very satisfying and you lose that sweet tooth.

And I don’t know about you but, for me, it was interesting. My mother is now living with me and there’s some care giving and what have you and she still likes that Greek yogurt so I got her some plain Greek yogurt. I hadn’t had any in a long time. I took a bite of it and it used to be, years ago, Greek yogurt was bitter and awful and I didn’t like it. I tasted it this time and it tasted sweet so I checked the label. There’s nothing added. It was just the natural milk sugar. I could taste it because I had gotten rid of all the over-sweet stuff in my life. Does that make sense?

Jonathan: It absolutely makes sense. I joke that when you start using carrots as a sweetener —

Leanne: Yes.

Jonathan: — you know you’ve overcome it because you could be surprised. You put carrots in a smoothie and if you are completely over your sugar addiction, that’s going to be plenty of sweet for that smoothie, which is shocking, I know.

Leanne: No, you’re absolutely right. That was one of the most delightful unexpected consequences, if you will, about following this plan that is just — not only did I not want sweet but the things that previously — I mean, I taste the sweet in broccoli now. You can taste the sweetness that’s naturally occurring in foods that you would have never thought had sweet. And that’s a big relief for a lot of people because I know there’s a lot of people out there that are so addicted to sugar and we all know that it’s as addictive, if not more so, than heroin. There’s a lot of different things that you and I both know and have read and written about and spoken about but being able to just crowd out the sugar with the good food and have it and just rejoicing in the fact that there’s butter melting on your steak. Right? I mean, real butter.

Jonathan: I think we’re all onboard with this idea and I think we’re all onboard with the idea that sugar’s bad for us, like you said. I think we’re all onboard with progress rather than perfection, which it sounds like is the message of your new book, Part Time Paleo. But what about our kids and what about our spouses? I realize and I love your recommendation that don’t tell them, I’m going to change everything, but when it’s time for dessert, what do we do? Or when it’s time to pack the kids’ lunch, what do we do?

Leanne: Well, I mean, lunches are always going to be a challenge because especially if you’re the standard PB&J — but using a wrap — there’s Paleo wraps out there. You can go with the organic corn tortilla, which is a Part Time Paleo fix, by the way. You can go with something like a lettuce leaf. Kids aren’t going to be necessarily climbing onboard so if you can give them things that they can pour, like a pasta sauce, that they can pour out and put on zucchini noodles that you make. My kids — I mean, little kids like that and will eat that. So you have to really experiment and see, for their lunchbox, what exactly can I do and get away with. And those little Bento lunch boxes are fabulous because they have little compartments for everything and if you put a little bit of this and a little bit of that, everybody’s going to have a really good time with it and not be so freaked out that the PB&J’s missing.

And then for your spouse, I think that we need to, as their partner, say to them, “Look, this is what I’m doing and these are the reasons why it’s important. Here’s the research. Can we have an intelligent discussion about it?” And not in a condescending way, of course. And just see if we can’t get to some kind of an understanding. My husband is not 100 percent onboard and we’ve got all kinds of stuff in my pantry. Somebody walked in there, they’d go, Oh, what’s this? And I’d have to say, “Well, my husband happens to like those stupid crackers that I wouldn’t consider.” But we have to realize that we’re sharing our space with other people and they’re not necessarily going to come onboard. You have the opportunity to cook for them but you don’t necessarily need to take away everything. Just crowd it out and then find suitable swaps. And even in the dessert department, I mean, it would be better for you to make like a chocolate flour-less cake for a birthday using fabulous organic chocolate and just the best possible ingredients that you can for the rest of it and then you just go with the very smallest sliver or you don’t have any and you give it to the rest of the family. Those are the kind of little choices that we make along the line.

And one last thing and I will say, if you have little kids and they go to a birthday party and you walk in and there’s Doritos and M&M’s and Cokes and everything else there, you just let them go. You don’t say to your kid, “Here’s what my child can have,” and hand Ziploc bags to the hostess with their little snacks and all this other stuff. Just you let — what happens is your kids are going to start to make the correlation that when I eat this way then I feel good and I don’t want to eat this stuff. My kids did it and I swear it’s true. They get it. They can dial into that.

Jonathan: Leanne, this really rings true to me because we often hear this “eat like your ancestors” message but at the same time, we also hear “eat like Grandma ate.” And Grandma had bread sometimes and Grandma had potatoes and Grandma had cake on occasion — and people might be shocked to hear me saying this because I’m Mr. Don’t Eat Starches And Sweets — but I think there’s two messages. One is if you’re very sick and you’re trying to heal yourself, you’re going to have to take a little bit of a different approach than if you’re otherwise healthy and are just trying to continue your health — just like if you broke your ankle, you might need to stay off your ankle completely for a little bit until your ankle heals.

But I think what we’re talking about here especially with the family is — and correct me if I’m wrong — but this is less of a hardcore nutritional therapy to quickly cure disease but rather, like you said, a bridge to say, If you’re not ready to just jump off the deep end yet, here are some steps you can take that are in the spirit of the Paleo Movement and founded back by the same research but again, they’re going to give you more of that on-ramp.

Leanne: Exactly. That’s exactly right. I mean, that on-ramp is so important. And you know, I think what you said too – it’s important and that’s a really good way to look at it that you’ve got Grandma or Great-Grandma’s way of eating and then you’ve got our ancestral health so let’s combine the two and Grandma certainly didn’t drive through the drive-thru, did she?

Jonathan: Yeah.

Leanne: And neither did our ancestors. There was no such thing. And when Grandma baked a cake or something, it was maybe for Sunday dinner. They didn’t have it every night after — it was for celebrations and the food was good whole well-thought-out meals. They put some thought into it. It wasn’t just, Here’s some crap that I’m going to rip the plastic off and stick it in the microwave and here’s dinner, folks. It was well-thought-out meals. Our ancestors had to go find it and had to hunt it or dig it up or pick it along the way. So if we can kind of pick from both pools, so to speak, and that’s how we would fill our plate, then I think that’s when we start making wise decisions.

Jonathan: Leanne, I want to close and this is really your area of expertise because one of your claims to fame is your other wildly popular book, Saving Dinner, and let’s talk about Grandma for a second. The world that Grandma lived in — let’s talk about specifically Grandma — was very different in terms of Grandma’s roles and responsibilities and society’s expectations on her. In the modern world, where like the cover of your book, Saving Dinner, where women are expected to have a cape and be like Superwoman because they have to do everything, so let’s say we buy in to everything we’re talking about here, Got it. We want to make good, truly healthy, nutrient-dense meals but I’m working a twelve-hour day and I’ve got three kids and a husband that doesn’t really help out. What do I do?

Leanne: Well, the first thing is that you need to recognize that you’re not a one-man show, that you have this lovely family, a spouse who is just as able-bodied as you are, and your children which, that’s your little tribe and those little people need to be helping as well. So everybody can help out and though it’s harder in the younger years because it involves a very messy kitchen because you’re training kids how to cook and the water’s going everywhere as they’re cleaning lettuce and — you know the whole thing — and it just takes longer but if you spend that time, that is an investment that you will never regret because when my daughter turned twelve years old, she cooked a meal all by herself, cleaned it up all by herself, and when she was a freshman in college, she cooked for her college dorm Thanksgiving dinner.

Jonathan: Nice.

Leanne: So it is something that can be done and it’s something that can be trained and especially your husband — I’ll tell you what, they’re good in the grocery store. They take forever if they’re not used to this but they are good in the grocery store and they’re good helpers at home and if we all did this together and we consider it a family privilege and not a chore and not somebody — nobody likes being a martyr. Who likes that? And who likes being around a martyr? It’s boring, it’s dull, and everybody rolls their eyes, Oh my gosh, I don’t want to listen to this. “Why do I have to do everything?” No, you don’t. Everybody together. Bring them in and if you’ve been doing that, bring your family in and say, “Hey, that’s it. I’m not doing this anymore. What I need to do is get onboard as a family.” And bring them in., they’ll do it.

Jonathan: Yeah, and what a wonderful gift to give your children. This is something that they can carry on throughout their entire lives. So many people today, they just don’t know how to cook so not only — instead of thinking, Oh my god, how am I going to cook all this stuff? Well, it’s almost like that “Teach a person to fish versus give a person a fish.” You could cook for your kids if you want or you could teach your kids to cook and then you don’t have to worry about it and they can take care of themselves for the rest of their lives, which is amazing.

Leanne: Absolutely. I mean, you would teach your children to floss their teeth, you would teach your children how to bathe and how to take care of themselves and wash their clothes. Why wouldn’t you teach them to cook and how to pick their food? We have to do this. This is setting our children up for success in life and feeding yourself is one of the most important, healthy tools that you can give them.

Jonathan: Leanne, I love the close on this because I think it shows the really unique take that you can bring to all the attention the Paleo Movement’s been getting and that’s this combination of teaching your children and incorporating your family and the principles of a nutrient-dense Paleo lifestyle. So I’m very excited to check out Part Time Paleo. And then, where can folks learn more about it?

Leanne: Well, if they go to SavingDinner.com, they can find out all about it. There’s a banner right there about Part Time Paleo. And PartTimePaleoBook.com is also out there and there’s extra goodies there. For people who already have bought the book, they can check out extra goodies that didn’t make it into the book but I’ve put it on the website.

Jonathan: I love it. Well, Leanne Ely, it’s always a pleasure to chat. Thank you so much for what you’re doing to make this accessible to everybody and I look forward to your next big project.

Leanne: Thank you, Jonathan. It was a pleasure.

Jonathan: Well, listeners and viewers, I hope you enjoyed this chat as much as I did. Again, our wonderful guest today is the always delightful Leanne Ely. The book we’ve been discussing is Part Time Paleo. Be sure to check it out at SavingDinner.com and remember, stay SANE.

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