Health & wellness

Nell Stephenson revamps the caveman diet

Chris Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

WHO

Nell Stephenson

WHAT

A nutritional consultant, Paleo lifestyle coach, and author of the new book “Paleoista: Gain Energy, Get Lean, and Feel Fabulous With the Diet You Were Born to Eat,” Stephenson only dines on foods that people might have eaten 10,000 years ago. This is often referred to as the “caveman diet.”

Q. What is the Paleo diet?

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A. The Paleo diet is the way that we as humans are supposed to be eating. It’s fresh vegetables, fruits, wild fish, free-range poultry, grass-fed meats, and healthy sources of fat. Everything’s fresh. Nothing’s processed.

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Q. Are some foods excluded?

A. Exactly. No grains, no dairy, no legumes, no refined sugar.

Q. What is a Paleoista?

A. It’s a word that I made up, which is a combination of the Paleo diet and fashionista. There are a lot of great books on the market right now, but they tend to be largely dominated by men and sometimes it’s a primal or caveman approach. The Paleo diet is a great way of eating and it doesn’t have to be done caveman-style. We can do it in a modern way without having to forgo style and grace and femininity.

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Q. How long have you been on the diet?

A. I began eating Paleo in 2005. My diet was healthy, never eating fast food and eating veggies and fruit, but definitely eating my fair share of grains and legumes and dairy. I figured out for myself that I had a gluten sensitivity. After I cut out gluten and started to feel so much better, I thought, well, if I ate something that I thought was so good for me for so long and it turns out it was actually doing a lot of damage, I wonder what else might be in the same category? Put it this way, if you’re walking around feeling great, you don’t really have a reason to start thinking that there might be something wrong with the way you’re eating. I think because I was actually feeling desperate, I felt like I would try anything to not have stomachaches all the time.

Q. Let’s talk about breakfast. Without grains and dairy, what do you eat?

A. It’s a fair question because we are conditioned to think of breakfast as being a grain-heavy meal. The first thing to do is think outside the terms of breakfast foods vs. lunch foods or dinner foods or snack foods. In my opinion, food is either food or it’s not food. If you start the day with grains or any refined carbohydrate, even if it’s something you view as healthy like oatmeal or a whole-wheat bagel, you’re still setting the stage for your body to have an insulin response. Some people would look at what I eat and say, “Oh, there’s no way I could eat steak and broccoli for breakfast.” It does take a little getting used to.

Q. Are there any foods that you miss?

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A. Honestly, not at all. For me it was a process of figuring out what foods make me feel awful and not eating them. Honestly, I won’t touch anything that has gluten in it with a 10-foot pole, nor soy, nor any of the grains, legumes, or dairy. I know if I eat those things, I’ll feel awful. Time is precious. I don’t want to waste any time feeling poorly.

‘Some people would look at what I eat and say, “Oh, there’s no way I could eat steak and broccoli for breakfast.” It does take a little getting used to.’

Q. With such a limited menu, what does a Paleoista serve at a dinner party?

A. I love entertaining. I think the key is that the focus is always on what you are serving rather than what you’re not serving. I’ve hosted many, many dinner parties. The biggest one was a Christmas dinner that I hosted for 65. I had such variety, nobody was complaining about the fact that I wasn’t serving bread and pie. Rather, it was a platform and an opportunity to teach people about all the many, many different possibilities that you have on the Paleo diet.

Interview was condensed and edited. Karen Given can be reached at kgiven@hotmail
.com.