Switching from Raw Vegan Diet to the Paleolithic Diet

by Joanne on June 11, 2009

in Food and Nutrition

I’ve tried eating a raw, vegan diet, but the longest I ever lasted was five days. And it was five days of constantly thinking about food, being hungry, and gorging on fats at night. I just couldn’t stick with it.

I’ve given the paleolithic diet a good look, and it makes a lot of sense to me. It’s the diet our species has been eating for a long, long, long, long, long time. So I’ve been eating much more meat than I normally do. The pain in my right hip that I’ve lived with the past year is gone, and my body runs quite a bit hotter.

Most importantly, I don’t obsess about food anymore. When I eat protein early in the day, I’m sated for many hours. My energy needs are met with little food that takes no time at all to prepare. Granted, my recipes are pretty simple. I never learned to cook from my mother and have eaten out of a box, can or bag most of my life or from a restaurant. I bought and cooked my very first pork chop last month.

The hardest thing is giving up hot decaf mochas at Starbucks, which I did on Monday. (I switched to decaf mochas when I gave up coffee. I was probably better off with the coffee.) I love those, and I love hanging out with friends there. Hot tea just doesn’t cut it, but the sugar has to go. Maybe I’ll allow one mocha a week.

My food stamp allotment came in and I went shopping today. I thought I’d give you an idea of the kind of food that I’m eating these days. Please enjoy this video. (P.S. I just got the book The Primal Blueprint from Marks Daily Apple but mistitled it in the video. I also called campari tomatoes caprisi tomatoes. I don’t have software to edit the video, so we’re stuck with it. My apologies.)

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Emergefit June 11, 2009 at 10:49 am

Nice video and post Joanne! I have very mixed feeling here, and may some day write and entire book about the concept. This is a gray subject worthy of much dialogue. Though there is a great deal of opinion here, true dialogue seems minimal at best.

My most immediate thought is this: Though the Paleo or Primal agenda is very much in vogue right now, and with some good merit and utility behind it, I struggle with it as a concept, inasmuch as the concept itself suggests that the last 100,000 years or so of advancement in intelligence, business, agriculture, science, and technology are all for not.

Though I have (many) issues with propagation and advancement in all of these areas, I can’t imagine that they just don’t count in the eyes of Mark Sisson and others like him. Mark’s analogical character, Grok, faced an entirely different set of social, political, environmental, scientific, religious, and technical circumstances than we face.

As I said, I do believe there seems to be utility in the concept of a Paleo agenda and I applaud you for embracing it. I wish you success — though you look like you are already ahead of the game. In the end, your success will come from your heart and your effort, and not your protocol — my beliefs anyway.

The current theme I am working on is the pizza, ice cream and tequila protocol. That is not a joke. I intend to eat nothing but these in August, exercise as usual, an see where these take my body — and my mind. Probably not far from where they are now — that is my speculation.


Joanne June 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Be of good cheer. I’m not a member of the Church of Grok. What I am is a natural hygiene enthusiast who hasn’t found success, health or vibrancy of life with their recommended raw plant diet.

I opened my mind to the health benefits of a meat-based diet through the work of Weston Price in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and through numerous arguments with what I term “histrionic vegans,” who are extremely intolerant of discussion. I then read The Paleolithic Prescription and NeanderThin, and now I’m reading The Primal Blueprint. I’d also like to look at Cordain’s work.

I’m assuming you made a typo by writing 100,000 years. The agricultural revolution started 10,000 years ago, and since then our species has experienced decrease in brain and physical size and increased degenerative diseases. We’ve also found through agriculture a workaround to the natural food-based population control and our numbers have increased quickly. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I live as a result.

The real trouble began, I believe, in the industrial era where our species is now largely informed by pharmaceutical, medical, and banking interests, IOW Corporations, who have legally been allowed to be considered persons in their own right. What people won’t do to other people to make a buck.

We two are coming to paleo from different viewpoints, and so we naturally come to different conclusions. Fortunately, I haven’t found the disregard for advancement that you have. If I had, I would probably also have mixed feelings.

As for the whole Grok analogy, it’s just marketing, and clever marketing at that.

Chris June 13, 2009 at 2:03 am

Hello Joanne,
‘The Paleo Diet’ – it is catchy isn’t it? I agree wholeheartedly with the argument that no particular regime of eating can ever be regarded as ‘optimal’. The Paleo thing is something that I intend to look into in greater deatil soon. My present understanding is very ‘thumbnail’ just yet.
For all I recognise favourable properties within the Paleo regime I do still harbour some doubts. For sure, I acknowledge the importance of evolution in determining what is good for us, and I regard the process of change within diets to arrive at the typical western diet as a process of ‘evolution’. That is; a series of changes over time, often changes are dependent upon preceding events and changes, and that result in marked changes when judged over longer periods.
I agree the ‘Paleo’ regime does make some sense, but I think some features may be overplayed by the proponents. And I am not sure if the concept wholly encourages understanding.
Lots of vegetables and fruit make sense, and I think there is merit in thinking that ‘green leafy things’ (greener and leafier that iceberg lettuce, if possible) are important. Keyword; diversity.
Protein from animal sources makes sense too, but I think portion sizes need not be large, perhaps in the range 3-5 ozs.
The principal difference in my own thinking is that rather than directing us to what we can eat, I think understanding should direct us to what ought to be excluded and why.
Modern food production, including the industrialised nature of delivery, is largely based upon supplying calories, not quality or nutrients. Think about it, much of the tempting stuff on the supermarket shelves are variations on a theme of sugar, starch, or fat. That’s for one reason only, these are cheap and malleable ingredients, less perishable than things that are better for us. Perishable is a problem for manufacture of ‘industrial’ food products, in limits transportation, shelf life, and the potential for profit.
The ‘Paleo’ is distinguished from the modern by being less reliant upon food groups that whose calories are digested and converted into blood glucose too quickly. The ‘Paleo’ is generally lower in GL (glycaemic load), higher in fiber from plant matter, higher and more diverse in nutrients than the ‘convenient’, ‘value added’, and industrialised stuff presented to us in cardboard boxes and plastics. It seems convenience is not so cheap as we thought.
I would advocate that understanding is a better thing to promote than a catchy name. The industry thrives on consumer confusion. Counter measures are needed. Faddy diet plans, that vary enormously in their validity, contribute to the confusion. So while I would advocate that many features of the ‘Paleo’ are good, the name alone has something in common with other fads.

Joanne June 13, 2009 at 9:03 am

Hello, Chris. Thanks for chiming in.

Our current food system does just what you say: deliver calories without nutrient. But then even home-based cooked meals could be problematic for many if we follow the USDA recommendations found in their food pyramid, which lists grains as the predominent energy source.

For two million years our species relied protein and fat for energy, and now, thanks to modern agriculture, it’s refined carbohydrates. And this switch has allowed our species to expand with few controls, but the heavy reliance on grains has caused its own set of problems.

Working at the restaurant, I was annoyed at how many dishes had pasta or bread in them. Every soup de jour contained a variation of pasta. But this can’t compare to going out to dinner as a raw vegan, and certainly not as an 80/10/10er. where most of the menu items are verboten.

If we stuck to plants for energy, we’d either be eating a lot of them all day, or we’d have to eat high-caloric plants, such as starches. If we remove such tubers and grains from our diet, where will we get the calories? From fats, which are found in nuts/seeds and/or meat. So the raw vegan eats lots of nuts. The paleo eats meat and nuts. One choice diverges from our ancestral diet.

My goal isn’t to join a trend and subscribe to or promote a specific diet. My goal is to get healthy, have energy, and find my optimum weight and teach others how to do that. The best way to describe the diet I’m on right now is to call it what others call it: the paleo diet. So far, it’s the only diet I’ve been able to adhere to with any success.

Would you please elaborate on your statement: “The name alone [paleo] has something in common with other fads”? And which features do you believe are overplayed?

From reading several blogs on paleo, it seems oils and fats are the key difference between the paleo diet and other diets. So that’s going to be my next subject of study. Ironically, the book Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill was one of the first books I ever read on health, and one I found so fascinating that I got hooked into learning about health. I had been reading only fiction up to that point and using Wesson oil, which I immediately threw out.

damaged justice June 14, 2009 at 11:34 am

My goal isn’t to join a trend and subscribe to or promote a specific diet. My goal is to get healthy, have energy, and find my optimum weight

Likewise! I’m finding myself trending toward zero-carb (though I probably won’t go all-meat unless I have to for medical reasons), because every traditional native diet seems to have resulted in no significant health problems until the natives started eating “white man’s food” (refined carbs/sugars)…and the more fat and meat they ate, and the less of everything else, the healthier they tended to be.


I struggle with [Paleo/Primal] as a concept, inasmuch as the concept itself suggests that the last 100,000 years or so of advancement in intelligence, business, agriculture, science, and technology are all for not.

Naught necessarily :) Agriculture was the root of a great deal of progress, but it also caused a demonstrable decline in human health. As Ken Kesey said, we should “take what [we] can use, and let the rest go by.” Something isn’t good/bad just because it’s old/new!

Joanne June 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I think going zero-carb would be a mistake, if by carb you mean all plant matter. We need the alkaline minerals and other nutrients found in plants. A salad provides very few carbs but a load of nutrient. If by carbs you mean grain products, then I’m right there with you. However, many of the villages Weston Price visited often relied on some sort of grains locally grown as an energy source, and the people were none the worse. As you say, it was the white man’s food that did them in.

Dana June 19, 2009 at 12:02 pm

As far as “advancement disdain” is concerned, you’re operating from the assumption that what we’ve been doing for the last several thousand years IS “advancement.” I invite you to take a serious look at how our modern cultures, economies, and technologies are constructed and consider what would happen if a major disaster occurred and these all disappeared overnight. Hurricane Katrina was instructive. Meanwhile, a supervolcano went off several hundred thousand years ago and is thought to have caused a bottleneck in human evolution, as human beings existed at the time and were greatly impacted by the resulting climate change. But–and here’s the important thing–they DID survive. Would we? I have good reason to doubt it. Most of us in the developed world lack any more than rudimentary cooking skills (I include myself in that number), cannot build a shelter, and cannot identify edible wild plants. We’d be screwed. (Again, I include myself.) I cannot term that state of affairs an “advancement” regardless of how many pretty gadgets it has produced. It’s all well and good to say we “don’t need” to know those things thanks to specialization, but that’s all academic to someone faced with surviving on their own because the social support systems have broken down. We owe it to ourselves to drop the cult mentality about “progress,” especially with all the other obvious costs we have paid to our detriment which you have also mentioned.

The Inuit and Maasai go zero-carb and are none the worse for it. I’m suspicious that all that acid-alkaline talk means basically nothing. We get ridiculous amounts of minerals from animal foods. I think we do well with some plant food because we’re non-obligate carnivores, like dogs, who can also eat plant foods and benefit from them. (Probably why they were one of the first animals we domesticated–we relate well to them on several levels.) Primates, after all, originated as insectivores. “Insectivore” is a somewhat archaic phrase from a time when the definition of “meat” meant “food from a critter on the hoof,” which is why the Catholic Church allows fish consumption during Lent. We can get away with eating plants, but we don’t need them.

Glenny D July 3, 2009 at 11:43 pm

You guys might be interested in Stephen Guyenet’s blog. It’s a treasure trove of info:


Chris Masterjohn is also good.

Ashley August 10, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Dear Joanne,

You only tried the raw vegan diet for 5 days. You say you haven’t “found success, health or vibrancy of life with their recommended raw plant diet.” But girl, you’ve only given it 5 days! You’ve gotta stick with it longer than that. I’m into my seventh month on this diet and I would say that the good results (all that stuff you read about on the internet) didn’t start pouring in until the third month. The first six weeks were difficult. My body definitely went thru detox. I had cravings. It was not easy. But now, are you kidding? I would never go back. I get little flashes and glimpses of how I used to feel, before switching to this diet – I’ll suddenly remember how tired I used to feel for no reason sometimes, or how I used to feel sad and anxious for no reason, and often struggled for energy. I was addicted to caffeine. I would feel really, really awful if I didn’t eat clockwork regular meals – I definitely think I had some blood sugar issues going on. But now, all of that is gone. Now I will suddenly feel happy and optimistic for no reason, instead of tired and depressed.

I appreciate your site, I just can’t take seriously your dismissal of raw veganism when I feel like you haven’t yet given it a serious shot. Do you know it took me six or seven attempts before this? I’ve tried to go raw since I was 25, and it didn’t actually work til I was 34. I wasn’t ready to give up certain aspects of my life – big, cooked starch meals, alcohol, refined sugar treats, caffeine, etc. Finally I was ready, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it is unfolding for me.

Try again! Don’t give up! I can promise you it is so, so worth it.

Joanne August 11, 2009 at 5:19 am

Ashley, I haven’t found success with it because it was too hard to follow. Despite believing in raw food as the ultimate diet, I was never able to adhere to it. It took you 9 years to get on the diet. Most people will never be able to follow this diet, which means it’s not a realistic diet for the human species.

My advice to you is to read up on vegan nutritional deficiencies, and make sure you supplement accordingly. You’re going to feel great for a while from just getting off processed foods and coffee, but over time you may suffer from nutritional deficiencies. If you run out of B12, you can cause damage that will take years to recover from.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and I hope you stick around.

Dr Elena Manrique September 18, 2009 at 7:33 am

Hi Joanne I found your video absolutely lovely, it was phylantropic, educational, enlightening! you have a great personality too. Are you a teacher?
This is Elena Manrique 51 year old general physician from Mexico City and certified by Inflammation Research Foundation from Boston Mass, and Instituto para la investigación de la inflamación, Guadalajara Mex. It is the Zone Diet, and I am doing a research in all these topics for my intention is to have an educational CD for my patients and my doctor friend´s patients. All you showed in your table was so yammy!!. If I were invited to dinner with you the only thing I´d bring is olive oil and garlic and a bit of sea salt. Also of the omega 3 I´d bring you the omega 3 from Barry Sears (www.ifos.org) for other trademarks (I do not know about the one you bought) have mercury, PCBs, Dioxines and Araquidonic Acid, and better stay away from those.
I just loooved all the stuff in your table, specially Shitake mushrooms that I found out (50 Secrets from the Longest Lived People- by Sally Beare) that is for immune boosting. It was very brave and loving of you to do such a video. I was thinking in doing just slides but maybe I´d dare to do a video like yours.
I want to share with you my best choices in the web that are: http://www.drmercola.com and http://www.ultrawellness.com (Dr. Mercola´s and Dr. Hayman´s) they are so much of this anti-inflammatory medicine, recently there was a Meridian Tapping TEchnique summit for treating aaall kinds of traumas and stress, so good an impact on my level of stress ans suffering, amazing.
Ok Joanne thanks again for having posted your video, you transcended in my life and also on what I will do for the better, now after I saw it.
A big hug, Elena.

Joanne September 18, 2009 at 11:17 am

Hello, Elena. Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. No, I am not a teacher by profession, but I feel I am meant to be a teacher. So I teach whenever I can, whenever someone will listen.

I already have the olive oil, garlic and sea salt, so no need to bring that :) I also have butter (both cultured and not), bacon grease and coconut oil. Yum!

I’m glad you liked the video. If your heart is in it, you should make your own video. It’s a lot of fun, and more interesting than a slide show. And it’s not too hard if you have editing software.

Best of luck to you.

Lydia May 4, 2010 at 9:24 pm

I have read a book with something that may explain what is going on for you. Have you read Dr Abravanel’s Body Type diet approach? He basically breaks it down into four types – Ps, Ts, As and Gs. He claims that the Ps in particular do not fare well as vegans and do thrive on meat – they are usually the same types who thrive on Atkins, Paleolithic diets etc. The same diet will be poisonous to the As and Gs of which I am one, so a raw vegan diet can work for me. It also explained why two of us in our household thrive as vegans but two don’t do well at all. (2 x As and 2 x Ts who need eggs).

So it may be right for you that meat is working (however if you are a P, dairy will cause you to gain weight and should be excluded from your diet at all times). Only 5% of the population are really Ps, although a lot of meat lovers would love to be. I hope this helps you on your journey.


Jacob December 6, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Hi, I am a recovering raw.vegan. I had a myryiad of serious health problems. Through trial and error I finally discover that calories do matter. Phytates do matter and grains nuts.and seeds destroy your body. Especially raw uncooked. Heed my warnings. By almost dieing I painfully realized that after a year of fatigue , anemia, frequent dizzyness. deppression and mood swings. It was the starches suger, nuts seeds and grains all along doing this. High oxalates from spinich and mosy plant foods especially tomatoes prevented me from absorbing iron and calcium. I ate 1 slab of meat. Drowsy in 20 minutes. Then it went away, all symptoms evaporated. Its been a week. I have most of my former strength back. Moods are stabalized. Ill never eat nuts seeds grains, ever again. also lettuce blueberries, and onions. I only eat natural human raised meat sometimes I eat cheese. Sometimes. I always eat lettuce with meats and other veggies. The fiber and enzmes work to digest. Stay away from drugs cooking veggies, heating veggie oils, and of course NSGS. Just keep at it till you get it. You wont regret it. Hope I was helpful.

Jacob December 6, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Apologies for the typos.

Doing Raw Right March 29, 2011 at 8:11 pm

You can’t say you “switched” from raw vegan to paleo because you never were a raw vegan (5 days don’t count).

I’m raw vegan for years – thriving on it and not skinny or hungry all the time.

Paleo and raw vegan (primal vegan) are very similar except we get our fat needs met through nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and oils.

Both paleo and primal-vegan (raw) eschew heavily processed foods.

The live-er, the better!

Zach July 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm

I’m all for skepticism, but not for the sake of skepticism.

Mark Scisson’s Primal Blueprint diet is understandably a very controversial one. It criticizes a lot of conventional wisdom that many doctors, physicians, and dietitians regard as canon. It’s not as if Mark intends on creating a new body of conventional wisdom that we should worship and never critique, however. Mark encourages compromise, exploration, and keeping a critical and open mind when it comes to everything. Mark hasn’t just made all of this wisdom up, either, he cites relevant information and scientific research and when it comes to conventional wisdom on things like saturated fat, and he points out inconsistencies in the research that’s so widely acclaimed. And believe me, there are gigantic inconsistencies.

What’s annoying to me is when people wave around a PhD and people take what they say as truth simply because their opinion is expert. Unfortunately having a PhD doesn’t magically make what you say true, and a lot of — I’d say most of what is taught in terms of nutrition, is false. The lipid hypothesis is a complete and total sham, and the government approved nutrition facts and food pyramid are also a complete sham.

Yet perhaps the most irritating argument is the “well I see you have some good points but I’m still sticking to the diet I’ve always had”. This argument prides itself on being skeptic — except when it comes to the conventional wisdom! You’re not being skeptic just by saying you’re skeptic, and to look for the truth you have to attack the substance of an argument with hard, scientific evidence, not anecdotal bullcrap and junk science. Think the paleo diet is ridiculous? Only think it has “a few good points”? Please enlighten me, I would love to know why I should still be eating 300 grams of carbohydrates a day as part of a “healthy, balanced diet”.

Zach July 10, 2011 at 3:44 pm

As for vegan-paleo living, it is certainly possible. It may be much more difficult to find “paleo-kosher” food, but Mark Scisson keeps an open mind when it comes to vegetarian-like paleo diets. Meat just happens to be a great source of a lot of different nutrients and if you happen to be primal, you know you’re getting the right stuff (so long as you’re getting grass-fed meat).

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: