Today we’re here with fellow podcaster and the lady behind Balanced Bites, Diane Sanfilippo. Diane is a Holistic Nutritionist specializing in Paleo nutrition, blood sugar regulation, food allergies/intolerances and digestive health. She’s also the author of Practical Paleo and The 21-Day Sugar Detox.

I’m sure a lot of you are already familiar with her, but if not, you’re in for a treat.

In today’s show, Diane and I cover:

  • How to eliminate sugar cravings in 3 weeks
  • The scoop on adrenal fatigue
  • Why the nutrition facts are mostly useless, but you should always read the ingredients
  • Special nutrition and fitness tips for women
  • Why our great-grandmothers didn’t need nutrition lessons
  • And tons more…

Cool. Here’s the show:

Diane Sanfilippo: Ditching Dogma and Eating What You Want

Abel: We’re here with Diane Sanfilippo, the woman behind Balanced Bites, a very popular podcast and now several killer books. How’s it going Diane?


Abel: Awesome. Let’s start with a two minute life story. I looked at your background on your blog, it sounds pretty interesting, especially to the people out there. You haven’t always been a Paleo rockstar, right? Tell us about where you started and where you wound up.

I guess in terms of my health, fitness, nutrition background, I was a high school athlete, always in pretty good shape, ate whatever I wanted. And got to college, stopped moving, kept eating the same way I had before, which I’m sure is pretty familiar to a lot of people.

Abel: Yeah, pretty common.

I packed on probably at least around 30 pounds.

When I got out into the working world, eventually I realized that something had to be done about this, and went about it in a way that probably a lot of people are familiar with.

Had some office mates that were doing a Weight Watchers type of thing. I was looking at counting calories and fat and fiber and all that stuff.

And I just got really into reading labels, which was a great introduction, but I was reading them for the wrong reasons. I was looking at the numbers and not the quality of the food.

Abel: Sounds familiar.

Yeah, which is exactly what most people are doing before they realize to flip it around. I actually did well with that, I was eating a low fat, high-carb diet and lost a bunch of weight.

Then I started exercising again, got back into the gym and eventually ended up working with a trainer. I moved out to San Francisco, worked with a trainer for a while, and one day he came back from a certification, CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Certification, and said to me, “I want you to eat coconut oil.”

I said, “You’re crazy. I’m going to get fat if I eat that, you don’t understand.”

I gave him every rebuttal, every reason under the sun why that didn’t apply to me and he didn’t understand.

After having worked with a standard dietitian, nutritionist for some endurance training and nutrition together… again very low fat, high-carb approach, eating tons of food all day, but being hungry all day, too. I suffered with adrenal fatigue.

And about four years ago, I finally started to listen to what my trainer was saying, and tried the coconut oil thing.

I remember at the time it was chicken thighs, kale and coconut oil cooked together. I ate half of what I prepared, and this light bulb went on like, “Hey, I actually probably don’t need as much food as I thought, if I’m getting the right nutrition.”

That started the whole progression for me. I went into creating this organic, gluten free, grass-fed, really high-quality food meal business, and was cooking for about 15 people for several months.

I had meals that I would deliver in a cooler to a gym. A lot of people are seeing this now with the paleo-oriented and CrossFit gyms. It’s starting to catch on.

It was amazing to do that and I learned a ton. But I felt like I really wasn’t teaching people how to be healthy, how to do this in their everyday lives.

It takes time to learn and transition, but it’s not hard once you make eating real food your new lifestyle.

It just becomes second nature.

I went back to school and learned a lot about the science and how to put things into practice.

While I was in Holistic Nutrition School, I went to a Robb Wolf seminar and more light bulbs kept going on for me.

It wasn’t just about avoiding gluten and grains. Being an athlete and really into nutrition, I just melded all of this and decided this was really the path I wanted to take. To keep teaching people about how all of this stuff works. And it’s not just food. There’s so many other parts to it.

Why Did We Stop Eating Real Food?

Abel: That’s awesome. Now look at you. You’re teaching so many people and it’s such a positive message.

I like one of the things that you say, that along the way we stopped eating real food.

Why do you think that happened and what can we do to correct that?

I think some people may or may not love that I have this opinion, but I think that two things are true… One, women are in the workplace now, and obviously that’s me too, and I love it, I would never trade my career for anything.

But it has really taken away from a lot of the time and focus that we had to prepare food.

And at the same time, more convenience foods were developed over the last 30 to 60 years as there was war time and we needed women to be doing more work.

But then the food companies really saw this opening for, “Okay, we don’t have as much time to be cooking, what can we do to make it easier?”

Maybe in the beginning the intentions were great. Maybe it was some preserved foods or canned foods or frozen, but then over time the types of ingredients that got put into those foods and the processes by which they’re made becomes less and less real.

Fewer traditional methods are being used, more cost cutting, and additives that we just don’t want to be eating are in our food.

That’s part of it. I really think it’s a matter of convenience and cost. In our paleo/primal community, we’ve shifted a lot of that perspective.

Food for me is a big priority. I don’t have a new car. My car is a 2001, it’s the very first car I ever bought and I’ll drive it until it’s dead. That’s not to say somebody else can’t have a new car and do whatever they want, but for me I know that’s another several hundred dollars a month that I’m putting into my food.

It’s just all about the perspective that we have.

I really think the detachment from how food is made and grown also makes it so that people are potentially less willing to spend money on it or less willing to recognize it as a priority over things like the car, the cable, and all this other stuff.

So it’s a combination of a lot of things primarily based around convenience and also believing that these foods were food from the very beginning.

I have an ad from an old Life magazine that I love. It’s a whole page that’s yellow with a giant letter A on it. It’s a marketing pitch for margarine. It’s modern margarine. I’m saying this with finger quotes. Modern margarine, and they’re promoting the vitamin A content that it’s fortified with.

Naturally raised, grass-fed butter is very rich in vitamin A, and they tried to replace it with this modern margarine made from vegetable oil that they would enrich. I just think it’s really funny. That’s the kind of stuff that really clicks.

This is where things started to get derailed. When people believe there’s something better than natural food.

Abel: It’s really interesting how all that works.

My grandmother is turning 89 this year, and talking to her about food is a completely different experience than talking to people today.

I think you’ve talked about this before, you didn’t use to need lessons in nutrition. You didn’t need paleo and ancestral health gurus or diet gurus, because people just knew that eating starch made you fatter than you otherwise would be.

And very simple concepts that seem to have disappeared, that the quality of food has gone way down, convenience foods have gone way up, and all of a sudden we’re getting fat.

Absolutely. Some of this I actually recently heard Chris Masterjohn talking about with traditional cultures and traditional wisdom, as well as Dr. Weston Price’s work. And just understanding that there was an element of innate wisdom we get from food and the land. And from other animals and plants.

We learn about how our bodies react to those foods and what we might need or not need and then continue to adapt it.

But when we are so out of touch with what’s natural and what’s real food, we’re also out of touch with what’s not making us feel well. It could be in our food.

But the mentality today is, “I don’t feel well, what pill can I take for that?”

Rather than, “What am I doing that might be making me not feel well?”

Understanding that wellness is a state of equilibrium balance and health. We all have that right.

It’s a birthright to find that balance of wellness. @balancedbites Click To Tweet

Abel: Absolutely. Talking about what you were referencing before in terms of the value of food or the amount that we spend on it, which is something that people struggle with.

I made huge bounds when I stopped being in my permanent mindset of being a poor college kid that I somehow extended to my adult life, where I was not willing to spend money on food.

If, for example, cheap eggs were $1.25 or $5 at the farmer’s market, I was going to get the $1.25. I think a lot of people are still stuck in that.

But now after years of eating this way and the rewards are very clear.

I’m amazed that food isn’t more expensive. For the quality of food that I get, I’m amazed that I spend what I do.

And we don’t have to work for it. The hardest work we do is finding a farmer’s market to buy directly from the farmer.

I found in my local farmer’s market right here in my small town in New Jersey, the Caldwell Farmers Market, a local meat and egg producer who is charging, I want to say $4 a dozen for pastured eggs.

Mind you, they’re $7 to $8 in San Francisco, and I was paying it happily.

I don’t have a farm or a yard. So if someone is going to do this for me, I will pay you what you tell me you need and that’s the market price.

Abel: We grew up with chickens in the backyard, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to get eggs for $8 a dozen than having a bunch of chickens running around.

Although my hat goes off to all those folks with chickens because it’s pretty cool, and there’s nothing better than grabbing an egg and then eating it within a few minutes.

Taming The Sugar Beast

Abel: I’ve read a bunch of your books and they’re all awesome. I know your background is in graphic design, and the design is fantastic, just stunning. Thanks, by the way, for sending Practical Paleo. To all you folks out there, that’s Diane’s book, and we’ll talk about it a little bit later. She called it a weapon.

It’s over 400 pages, beautifully designed, and I can’t wait to go through the whole thing in detail.

But I did want to talk a little bit about sugar cravings because a lot of people deal with this right now.

There’s a lot of hubbub about your detox program with sugar. Can you talk about why it’s such a struggle for people?

It seems like it’s something that sticks with them. Even if they do do a detox, it’s something that they keep struggling with. So can you talk about that a little bit?

I think there are a few reasons why people struggle with sugar and carb cravings. The first of which is usually just that it’s so ubiquitous. It’s in everything. Either it’s added sugar or it’s refined grains, that’s sugar in your body.

People often don’t realize they’re eating sugar all day long. If you’re eating six small meals a day with things like whole wheat crackers and whatever else, that turns to sugar to your body.

We’re told that eating every two hours is normal and healthy and desired. But we don’t need to eat that often.

I think that’s one of the issues, and the hidden sugar that’s in everything. It’s one thing to eat dessert, but to be eating bread or breakfast cereal that you think is healthy…

The first or second ingredient in a lot of these cereals marketed as healthy is high fructose corn syrup. People aren’t reading the ingredients. That’s part of it.

The other is really primarily lifestyle-related. We’re not sleeping enough. We’re burning the candle at both ends.

I just did an interview with a doctor about adrenal fatigue, and how we’re constantly looking for ways to feel better.

We’re going throughout the day and just looking for these pick-me-ups, whether it’s caffeine, or a buzz from sugar.

A lot of people are working in offices, and they’re feeling tired or bored and there’s junk food around. It’s easy to grab.

Sugar has addictive qualities. One of the biggest things that happens on a physiological level, is how “bad carbs” are extremely depleting to the body.

No one has addictions to fruit and sweet potatoes. Those carbs are not the problem.

It’s the Pop Tarts and the Cheerios and the whole grain bread and the pasta. The things that people can’t imagine giving up.

On the physiological level, what’s happening is that we’re depleting our nutrient stores so badly, that we’re starving at a cellular level for nutrition.

And what we end up grabbing are just more empty foods.

We need vitamins and minerals to help us metabolize the carbohydrates—B vitamins specifically, chromium, magnesium, all these different minerals.

We need them to metabolize these carbohydrates, but when we’re eating refined foods and we’re eating sugar, we’re not actually filling up those nutrient stores.

So, that’s a big problem related to sugar cravings. People are hungry. They’re eating enough calories, but they’re still hungry for something because they’re just not getting the nutrients they need.

Abel: How do you reverse that? Do you just go cold turkey, do you cut things out one at a time?

What’s the best way for most people to get off the sugar wagon?

Well, I think it’s different for every person. The 21-Day Sugar Detox program I wrote is a whole food based detox. No gimmicks.

And I have supplement recommendations just to help support the body during the process, and to help with sugar cravings.

For some people, the jarring effect of lifestyle changes, physiological changes, and the physical and emotional changes that people feel when these foods are taken away is very strong and it’s very real.

Some people, it’s painful physically. Someone who’s been eating a very high carb diet and we essentially reduce their carbohydrate intake, drastically for some of them.

For other people it’s more of the emotional like, “I can’t eat this or that?”

That’s not really what I’m trying to do with the program because it’s a choice. You choose to commit to yourself. It does not matter to me if somebody does it or not. I’m not attached to that.

But when somebody makes the commitment to themselves to try something for three weeks and just see how you do. Plan and prepare, recognize what is real whole food and what isn’t. And really separating yourself from the mainstream flow of what people consider to be food. And realize that you are eating amazing food.

There’s more to life than bread, and you won’t go hungry. Click To Tweet

Some people say to me, “You don’t eat grains?”

I’m like “Do I look hungry to you?”

But that’s why I did this. This program has three separate levels.

Essentially it’s very low sugar, and pretty low carb. There’s certain whole grains that are allowed like quinoa and rice, but not “whole grain bread”. No refined foods. Gluten-free.

A lot of people really struggle with getting grains and refined foods out of their diet. I try to get people off of sugar, refined foods, and sweeteners. They’re still eating some dairy.

The next level is cutting out all grains, and the last level is basically like a strict paleo plan that also reduces carb intake with the caveat that if you’re an athlete or you’re training in some way.

There are caveats there, I’m not going to strip carbohydrates out of somebody’s diet completely who is not going to feel well without them. I recognize their place.

We have alterations for athletes, alterations for breastfeeding and pregnant moms. It’s absolutely safe for anyone. Again, it’s just whole food..

Some people do it once and either stick with it or go back to their old ways afterwards. And some people can’t stick with it all 21 days. I just think at the end of the day it’s a learning process for every person.

I’ve done it myself a few times and I think it’s one of the hardest things to do ever with my diet. For me the sugar detox is one of the hardest things, but after doing it a few times, I’ve learned a lot about what I can handle, how much sugar or how much carbohydrate I can handle, when I can handle it. If I’m on vacation or if I’m stressed out, what’s the different tolerance.

Abel:That’s a good point.

I just like the learning process that people have with it. I really love the supportive nature of the group and they get to really talk to each other and help each other through. It’s a cool program. I have a lot of stuff in the works to continue to develop and expand that program over the next year or so. It’s a fun one.

Abel: Very cool. So for you personally, what is your carb spectrum most of the time?

Do you limit yourself or do you kind of go crazy on some days, not so much on others?

How does that look for you personally?

Well currently since I’m pretty much recovering from a lot of stress and fatigue after working on a book for a year and a half…

Abel: Driving yourself crazy.

Yeah, year and a half plus of travel. I try to practice what I preach as much as possible.

I eat real whole food, whatever kinds of food I feel like eating. It’s summer, so I have been eating more fruit than usual. I’m not big into starchy food.

I’m not super athletic right now. If I were training harder, I would be preparing some sweet potatoes more often so that they’re ready for me after workout.

But I’m lifting a few days a week. I’m definitely not trying to be low carb right now. I know that there are great benefits to that.

I had some really amazing body composition changes about a year and a half ago. I went very low carb ketogenic about four for to six months.

Abel: Oh wow.

Yeah, just cyclic. I was doing like more carbs on the weekends basically. Five days on, two days off. It was easy for me. Comfortable, and my training matched that.

I wasn’t doing any sort of high intensity work. I was lifting and doing some gymnastics training. I really was training appropriately for it and it worked very well for me.

But the way my lifestyle is now, I just can’t stress out about food or think about it that much. I really just eat whole food, whatever I feel like eating, whatever looks good and is in season.

I know the balance of my plate needs to have protein, fat and maybe some carbohydrates. So I know if I sit down to a bowl of fruit for breakfast, that’s not going to work for me.

I don’t want a bowl of fruit for breakfast. I grabbed a grape from my mom’s plate this morning, and I had four scrambled eggs, sauerkraut, liverwurst and some pickles. That was my meal.

Abel: Wow. Wait, pickles for breakfast?

Yeah. You know what I really like…I like that tart fresh taste as a contrast to the rich taste of eggs and liverwurst. I like the sauerkraut and the pickles. They’re local pickles. Really good.

Abel: I’ve got to try that.

I mean breakfast was at like 1:30pm. I’m a little jet lagged right now.

Abel: Oh yeah. I know how that goes.

What you said about a bowl of fruit for breakfast reminds me… When I was in college years ago, I was staying with my girlfriend who had a really sweet mom.

Every morning, she would make us this enormous fruit salad bowl that was just pure fruit with like a 16-ounce glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. I just wanted to die within 30 minutes after eating that stuff.

I had to finish it out of politeness, but I just felt so terrible. I definitely like getting some protein in there and a green smoothie is also one of my favorite breakfasts.

Nothing gimmicky, like you said. But just putting kale, carrots and avocado in there. Just terrific stuff and you feel like a rock star for the rest of the day.

Yeah, so funny how that happens.

Abel: Now, so you were talking about adrenal fatigue. I’d like to hear your opinions on that and maybe your personal experiences as well.

Opinions on it?

Abel: Yeah. Just go nuts.

In combination with this whole nutrient depleted status that we have after 20, 30 years or more of eating refined foods. A lot of us grew up on that stuff so we’re trying to make up for a lot of lost time, and it’s not a lost cause and it’s worthwhile to do. But it takes some time to really build back up these nutrient stores.

We’re inducing a lot of stress with physical activity, mental stress, emotional stress, all these things deplete our bodies and we don’t often do enough things to rejuvenate, rest, recover.

Often when somebody is not feeling well, they ask what can they do about it.

I’m like, “You need to do less. I don’t want to give you one more thing to do. I want to take some things away.”

I don’t want people out there misdiagnosing themselves or being like, “Oh, I have adrenal fatigue“

But the reality is, if your energy doesn’t feel great all the time, if you exercise and you are tired the rest of the day, or the next day, if you need coffee all day to make it through. If you need some sort of stimulant, and you’re  not sleeping. All of these things that are really common. It’s really common too with people who are pretty health conscious.

But I think it’s just a matter of people getting in touch with what’s making them not feel well.

And often it’s not something they need a prescription for. It’s something they need a lifestyle prescription for like, “Hey, you need to rest more. You need to do more fun things. You need to be sleeping and recovering and all of that.”

A lot of women who come to me with… I mean, they’re just at their wits end. Ready to break and they’re begging me, pleading with me, like, “What can I do? I’ll do anything.”

That’s where I’m like, “Do less.”

I’m being silly here, but that’s my “guru answer.”

Whatever it is you’re doing, you’ve just maxed out. They’re crying to me, and I’ve been there.

When I ran that meal business, I would go in to train with my trainer and I came in on more than one occasion and basically he said, “How are you doing?” And I started crying.

Abel: Oh no.

This is a sign that you’re depleted, you know what I mean?

If you get to the gym, and somebody says something, and it sets you off and you start crying, you probably have some fatigue going on there. There’s just so many signs.

But a lot of times we just ignore the signs. It’s a huge red flag. And then women are just getting to the point where they’re not getting their periods anymore. Men are to the point where their sex drive is down because their testosterone is off.

That’s it, that’s the last stop. We wait until these things are beating us over the head before we really do something about it.

Abel: What are some things that you can do? What are some quick tips for people out there?

Rather than compare yourself to people who do more, be completely honest about how much you’re doing all the time.

Years ago, the first time I was dealing with adrenal fatigue, I was comparing my level of training to Olympic athletes. As if that was a good idea.

They train four to six hours a day, so me training two hours a day is fine. But I have a job. Training is their job. They train for the games and then they stop and rest.

Abel: Yeah, that’s a good point.

Comparing ourselves to others and how much can we do, and always assuming that doing more is better. We may be achieving more, but at a cost to our health. I think that’s probably one of the biggest issues.

Be honest with yourself about what’s going on with your health and how you really feel. And don’t be dismissive of the little things.

That doesn’t mean people should be a hypochondriac or try to biohack every last detail. That’s an added stressor. Some people love it, and geek out on it, and that’s totally cool. I don’t want to diminish that if that’s what you love to do, but if you’re stressing over it, it’s probably doing more harm than good.

I like for people to recognize what’s going on and sometimes it just takes one conversation with a lifestyle coach.

People seem to be out of touch with physical, emotional, mental health. Constantly driving the diet and lifestyle boat, but forgetting this energy. What are we doing to refill our energy tanks?

This is stuff that Paul Chek talks about a lot and I just love his perspective on this. Working in versus working out.

Or constantly just draining your battery. And that was funny because I wasn’t going to go to Los Angeles to the CrossFit games for the last week. I was, “No, I’m too tired. I need to not travel.”

Then the mental stress and upset of missing out on it and not being with my friends was really getting me down. Then I realized, you know what? I can go there and I can chill out and not burn myself out while I’m there.

I’m really glad I went. Because I got to do a lot of mental and emotional recovery. Just hanging out with my friends and enjoying life for that week.

Abel: That’s very cool and that approach is really not common enough in this society.

There was a great post that Brad Pilon did over at Zen Habits, and he talks about how we need to stop praising obsession as a society.

This is something that I can really identify with. There’s a big difference between obsessing over something and being dedicated to something.

And you need to allow yourself that flexibility to let loose like you did in LA or going to a bachelorette party instead of getting an extra workout.

Oh, yeah. My workouts are the first thing to go in place of fun.

Workouts For Strong Women

Abel: That’s okay. As long as you get some workouts in. You said that you lift, right?

And for guys out there, I think it’s pretty easy to incorporate the things that we see as being effective exercise into their lives through sports. Because you’re naturally sprinting and lifting and that sort of thing. So guys are pretty comfortable doing that.

But I see far too many women just strapping themselves to an elliptical machine for three hours a day.


Abel: But it sounds like you don’t do that. So why is that?

What is your approach, and what do you tell women is most effective in terms of exercise?

What’s funny is that I was definitely one of those people who had to learn it myself. Through my own experience.

I couldn’t believe it by just being told that this is “right to do for your body.”

So I get it, there are people who will hear this and be like, “I don’t believe her.”

But I used to be a chronic cardio type of person. I think a lot of us were on that path.

So what I usually tell women specifically is that getting fit and lean to whatever level is healthy for you is more about your hormonal status than anything else.

The type of hormonal response you get from chronic cardio is primarily a stress response. Sure, for a while you may burn calories and it maybe effective. But then if you overdo it, it can start to backfire and just pile up the stress.

Growth hormones respond to lifting heavy things.

So when I talk to women who are like, “Oh, I want to lose weight”, or, “I want to lose body fat”, I explain to them that… And this might be an oversimplification, but I think it works well.

You’ve got your inner body and your outer body. And you’ve got your muscular structure and then the fat on top. And for the most part, your muscles are going to be growing or responding to exercise.

And that doesn’t mean an elliptical machine. You’re not going to build any muscle really on an elliptical machine, unless you’re starting from being a couch potato.

But if you want shapely arms, shapely legs, you need to put some muscle in those parts of your body.

You might put on that muscle, but if you haven’t been paying attention to your nutrition, you might not be losing fat.

So that’s where women will, if they first put on some muscle and they haven’t figured out that they need to change what they’re eating to be able to lose some body fat, they may put on more weight.

That can happen, but generally over the next few months with changes to their diet and cutting all these refined foods out of their diet, the fat starts coming off the body.

And then you’re left with something that’s shapely and lean.

I’m not like someone who thinks that women all need to be shredded. I just mean not carrying around excess body fat.

So lifting weights is really great for that.

When I went through my first round of adrenal fatigue, I learned so much about how little you need to do to be healthy and fit.

And I think that’s a lot of what guys like Mark Sisson talk about, lift heavy things, sprint, and then walk a bunch, enjoy life and eat well.

Abel: Yes.

It’s like this big secret, that there’s five points to being in shape and being healthy and people are just constantly trying to do so much more and you just don’t need to. It’s just not necessary.

If you love running, that great. But that doesn’t mean you should over do it. Just like you shouldn’t over do it with lifting weights.

There has to be periods of rest in between.

So, it’s really all about hormones and figuring out how to get the best and appropriate hormonal response from your body.

One of the things I talked about with Dr. Kalish is like, “We love that if somebody’s really healthy, they can exercise. Five or six times a week or even everyday.”

Exercise is a great thing. But you don’t get to do that if you’re not already very healthy. And you may have done that for the last 20 years. And that may’ve worked just fine. But maybe now you’ve hit a point where that was too much for you. And it’s not returning in a positive way anymore.

If people start gaining body fat doing the same thing, it may be that your body can’t handle it for that long. So, really looking at what you’re doing and re-assessing it if it’s working or not, and not being dogmatic about it.

And feeling like, “Well this always worked for me in the past.” I could decide that doing a ketogenic diet and lifting a certain way and whatever worked for me in the past, and maybe I should do that again now. But I know that my stress level rate now is so different than it was in the past.

I know that the exercise component needs to be what I’m doing now. Just lifting, not getting into adrenaline release when I’m training.

I also know that if I cut my carbs way back, that’s a stressor for my system. And I’m not in a place where my body can handle that one more stressor.

It’s going to be like pulling that piece out of the Jenga puzzle and the whole thing is going to collapse. You have to leave that piece in place.

Abel: You do need to be careful with yourself. And we all kind of teeter on the brink from time to time.

I think it’s really important to know, like you said, that just because something worked for you before doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work again.

Many childhoods were spent shoving captain crunch down your throat. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to help you get shredded.

We think that if something worked for us, then of course it will work again. But we forget that all these other parts have changed.

And so that’s really one of those tricky things. It’s hard for people to figure out what will work for me now. But nobody really has the answer. You just have to try it, and see how it works for you.

Intermittent Fasting for Women

Abel: There’s been some cool stuff going around the Paleo sphere lately about the differences between males and females when it comes to things like fasting, diet, exercise, and that sort of thing.

I’d be really interested in hearing your opinion about some of those.

There’s research I’ve seen on fasting that says it has a lot of positive proven effects for men, but there can definitely be some negative side effects for females.

Have you talked much about that?

For most people, I don’t think it’s a necessary part of their lifestyle and mostly for the reason I was just talking about. It’s an added stressor. And if you already have 10 stressors, you don’t need one more.

And it doesn’t mean that there aren’t positive effects of fasting. But for folks who aren’t adapted to being able to last that long without food, without feeling really uncomfortable and having a stress-free response from it, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal or something that’s going to be so life-changing for people.

I do think it’s useful when somebody gets off of those refined foods and lowers their carb intake. And I don’t even think you need to be ketogenic to do this, but just having 300 grams of carbs and sit around all day type of diet.

I do find it useful that I know I can last longer without food than I used to. I’m not afraid to leave the house without a snack.

And for me, those shorter burst where it’s not necessarily like a planned out fast, but just this idea that if it takes six to eight hours to get to my next meal. It’s sort of that just regular daily, this is how long I go between meals, and that is a bit of a fast.

It’s not punctuated the same way people think about intermittent fasting or that kind of thing, but to some extent it’s like you might start to feel hunger. To me you start to feel hunger and push it off and wait. That’s an element of fasting.

So yeah, I have heard some of the same things about it may not be as beneficial for women. If you’re interested in it and your lifestyle is otherwise not super stressful, it can be a useful tool to potentially even reduce stress in your life.

A lot of people who come to me at first eating six, eight, 10 times a day, they’re eating a piece of fruit, and then an hour later another dried fruit, and on and on.

If this mentality of getting to a place where you’re doing some fasting and punctuating and closing off your eating window is less stressful for you, because you don’t have to think about food all day, then I’m all for it. Cool.

If that feels good for you and works for you, go for it. And some people want to just eat once a day.

If you like it, and it feels good for you, do it. If it’s not working for you, stop doing it. Click To Tweet

Again that dogma.

Abel: That’s a good point. There’s a massive difference between having the freedom to go without food and not rely on food all the time, versus obsessing about it and thinking about it all the time.

And the difference between that and having like a one hour eating window every single day. There are definitely extremes.

Personally, I enjoy the ability to skip a meal every once in a while and I definitely do a one day fast, like once a month, something like that. I’ve done it more often and I can definitely attest that it can be a stressor.

You’re probably familiar with lean gains and that sort of a thing, I’ve done that. You can get shredded fast, but at the same time, you have to adapt it to your personal situation, whether male or female, this bodybuilder mentality.

Many of us are trying to make up for lost time of depleted nutrient stores, and I really like for people to make sure they get the right amount of food. Thinking of it from a micronutrient, vitamin and mineral, phytochemicals, that kind of thing. Getting all of that into your body.

I don’t know if one meal a day, how efficient is that? Is your body as efficient at using that as it might be if you ate that over two or three periods that were separated by six hours. I don’t know. Maybe it’s efficient for getting you lean and shredded.

Abel: Is that good for you? You have to ask yourself.

I think any time we try and manipulate our hunger signals and our appetite signals versus trying to normalize them, I’m not sure that’s a positive thing.

It’s interesting and it can serve a purpose, but I’ve had to work with a lot of recovering figure competitors and recovering bodybuilders for whom the mindset around food, and the way that it affects their body, is so off.

I like bodybuilding in terms of strength training and all that, but I think the aesthetic element of it, the same way doing like weight cutting and all that kind of stuff. It serves a purpose, right, but it can set up some bad habits and bad mindset around food. Too much thinking about food, you know what I mean?

I don’t really even think about it right now. I’m like, “I want to eat this, I’m going to eat it.”

Abel: Which is very nice.

And I don’t ever want to eat bread so if people are like, “Oh what’s your food, what are your cheats”, or whatever, I’m just not interested in garbage food.

For me, eating whatever I want is within range of real whole foods and some chocolate basically.

Abel: Yeah, chocolate.

My vice is chocolate…

An Overview of “Practical Paleo”

Abel: I hear that, I hear that totally. So we’re coming up on time, but I want to make sure that we talk about your new book which I actually have in my hands right now and it’s weighing me down.

I’m giving you a workout, see?

Abel: Yeah, exactly. I appreciate that. And it came with a cool magnet too, I’m stoked to put that out.

Yeah, there’s a purpose for that.

Abel: Awesome. So let’s talk about that a little bit. One of the things I really liked when I was thumbing through was different meal plans for different goals, like fat loss, performance etcetera.

So why don’t you give us an overview of the main points of the book?

What I really wanted to do was set up something that would explain some of how food works in the body and really getting into a lot more in digestion than I think a lot of sort of paleo oriented books ever have.

A lot of books will talk about leaky gut, but don’t really talk about the entire north to south process from mindset to chewing, all the way to poop.

And the recipes in the back, over 120 recipes, but what I wanted to do with these meal plans is sort of bridge the gap. You know, “Hey, you know about what is real food now and here are the recipes,” but there’s this element of, “I’ve got this other thing that I’m dealing with.” So what might be some tweaks or nuanced things about this whole paleo, real food perspective, that’ll be different for me?

And people, unfortunately sometimes really identify with a condition. They identify themselves as, “I have this, so dot dot dot.” And that’s okay. What I’ve set up in here, my background and my education and experience, is much more around the clinical application of nutrition, and looking at ways to support the body with food. And that’s really all it is.

There’s a baseline of what real food is. From there, there are modifications to be made if you’re looking for fat loss.

If you’re looking for athletic performance and certain nutrients that are a little bit more important for different goals. I’ve outlined in every meal plan, diet and lifestyle recommendations, what I consider you should be adding and what you should be avoiding.

And some of those are food and some of those are lifestyle, training, sleep, all that kind of stuff.

And then nutritional supplements and herbs to consider. What I really want this to be, outside of just a resource for those of us who kinda already believe in this stuff.

If you know someone with thyroid condition, maybe they’re hypothyroid, have Hashimoto’s. You can hand them this book and it’s like here, understand how food works in your body. Check out this meal plan and these recipes and it’s all here.

If you want tons of science and references this isn’t the book for you. Totally fine, there’s plenty of books out there with that. This is based on my experience, my education as a practitioner, this is what we do. We focus on foods.

Abel: Practical paleo.

Exactly. We focus on food and making it easy for people and that’s why, you’ll see as you flip through this, lot’s of pictures and graphs and charts.

Abel: It’s beautiful.

That’s how I learn. I learn through listening and I learn through pictures, and I don’t think that there’s any shame in that. Reading words for me doesn’t solidify things the way you and I are having a conversation about it, or I can put it into something visually people can just, no pun intended, but visually digest and make use of it.

And I’m not a doctor, this is not like this will cure you but this is what will support your body.

One of the other things I just wanted to mention too, and almost all of the recipes, I noted, whether they included common irritants and allergens, like nuts and eggs, which is pretty common in most cookbooks or allergen related cookbooks. But I also included nightshades and FODMAPs in those little indicators. And whenever possible, I put in an alternate idea if you aren’t able to eat nightshades, and I did that specifically for the purpose of the autoimmune protocol in this book.

Hopefully that’ll be really helpful.

And the magnet that you got, not everyone who gets the book will get a magnet.

Abel: Oh man.

But in addition to the food guides, there are guides to digestion and guide to healing a leaky gut. Answering really common question. And I have a guide to poop in the book, as I mentioned.

Abel: A guide to poop.

I’ll tell you what, in the seminars and the workshops, it’s definitely the slide that gets the most laughs, and response, so people are going to love that. I think it’s page 75.

Abel: That’s great. Well, thank you so much Diane, and thanks for sending that book. And to all you folks out there, I encourage you to check it out.


Discover how to drop fat with chocolate, bacon, and cheesecake. Plus: learn the 3 worst foods you should NEVER eat and the 7 best exercises for rapid fat loss. Click below to to claim your FREE gift ($17 value)!

Where to Find Diane Sanfilippo

Abel: So, if you want to hear more from Diane, go and check out  or find her on social media @balancedbites on Twitter, and @DianSanfilippo on Instagram.  

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