A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Get Back to Your Roots with Paleo: An Interview with Matt Madeiro

Welcome to Day 24 of the Minimize Yo’ Butt Fitness Challenge.

This week we’ve been talking about the Paleo diet. Today I am super excited to share an interview with Matt Madeiro from Three New Leaves. We talk all about going Paleo and how what we eat really impacts our entire lifestyle.

Matt was so nice to help me out when I first started switching my diet over to Paleo and I think you’ll find his insight incredibly helpful and down to earth. So, let’s get to it. There’s also a fun surprise after the interview that you won’t want to miss!


Faith: The term “Paleo Diet” is still new to plenty of my readers. What is your basic explanation of what Paleo is?

Matt: My Paleo elevator pitch tends to run like this: Paleo is a return to our roots. It asks a few simple (deceptively so!) questions like “Why do we get sick?” and “Why do we get fat?” and does something funny: it tries to offer a genuinely simple solution to both of those problems. Paleo makes the argument, overall, that our diet is the greatest influencing factor on our health. Exercise helps, sure, and genetic factors have an influence, but the biggest takeaway by far concerns what’s on your plate.

Want to be healthy? Change what you eat. Eat the foods we evolved to eat during the long course of human evolution (meat, fruit, vegetables and starch), and minimize contact with the food that has been introduced in more recent times: whole grains, as a (controversial!) example, but with great emphasis too on the modern processed crap stocking store shelves across the globe.

It’s a refreshing change of pace, I think, from an entire food industry that has us convinced that our health is beyond our control. Paleo empowers you to dramatically change your health for the better, and it does so without a lot of the number-crunching, guilt-inducing complexity we’ve come to associate with good health.

Faith: What are your “5 Food Rules for a Modern Day Caveperson”?

Matt: My 5 Food Rules are a concept introduced in my latest eBook, Roots, which has a section on rethinking what (and how often!) we eat. I’ll list them here:

  1. Eat Whole, Eat Natural, Eat Simple (90% of the Time)
  2. Think Whole, Think Natural
  3. Experiment, Experiment!
  4. Eat Your Fish!
  5. Eat Your Offal (or Damn Well Try!)

In brief, they’re five simple guidelines for eating both simply and healthily. Beyond just what’s on your plate, however, they also encourage you to think healthier, and to shift your relationship with food in the opposite direction from all the complexity and guilt we carry today. Put the five rules in action and I think you’ll discover something remarkable: a way of eating — a way of living — that makes excellent health easier than ever before.

Faith: I would love to switch my kids over to Paleo too, but I’m having a hard time coming up with snack ideas. What are some healthy Paleo snack choices?

Matt: Here’s a handful from the top of my head:

  • Beef Jerky
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Any kind of raw vegetable, honestly, paired with a homemade sauce (hummus works too!)
  • Sardines
  • Dark chocolate
  • Bacon
  • Fruit
  • Shakes (combine fruit with coconut milk for happy, healthy times!)

All of the above are a pretty dramatic departure, of course, from the soft drinks and cookies we consider snacks today. When I first went Paleo and nixed both of those food products, I did find myself craving the occasional candy bar, and I wouldn’t be surprised if any kid making the switch had similar cravings to start with. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, though: reducing your intake of sugar has the wonderful advantage of making natural foods taste bolder and more flavorful as the taste buds begin to change.

Now? I eat 99% dark chocolate with a smile and find conventional chocolate painfully sweet. It takes time, parents, but stick with it: Paleo snacks grow more appealing by the week.

Faith: I’ve read some Paleo followers who add dairy into their diet and some that don’t. What’s your opinion on cheese, yogurt, etc.

Matt: Dairy, for me, is the epitome of a “grey area.” I’ve seen enough health concerns not to drink conventional (pasteurized, in this case) milk, but think there are still health benefits to fermented dairy like yogurt, pure dairy fat like butter, and certain forms of cheese. I wouldn’t chow down on a slice of American cheese, in other words, but I have no problem with feta, goat cheese, and cheese in its aged (often stinky) forms. Butter, likewise, is a popular fat to cook with in my kitchen, and pretty popular with Paleo types for having only minimal amounts of the dairy components that are often linked with problems amongst the lactose-intolerant.

The trick, for me, is moderation. I don’t react badly to dairy, as far as I can tell, so putting a reasonable amount of cheese on a salad is the absolute least of my concerns. It’s worth experimenting, of course, to see how well your own body handles dairy products, and to then  incorporating some form of them (cheese, yogurt and butter are best!) if dairy doesn’t appear to do you any harm.

Faith: What are you favorite “Paleo-approved” treats? Do Paleo desserts exist?

Matt: They do! And in abundance, I’m happy to report, as I’m pretty sure it’s human nature to long for the sweet stuff.

I’m not much of a dessert guy myself, that said (red velvet being the exception), so I’ll have to defer the question to my favorite Paleo recipe site on the ‘net: www.health-bent.com. Brandon and Megan Keatley have some pretty incredible recipes on offer for anyone wanting to toy with the sweeter side of life, all with the added benefit of being fairly low-sugar and grain-free.

Their Paleo banana bread? Superb.

Faith: No one eats perfectly all the time. I liked your explanation of how cheating and intermittent fasting can work together. Can you give us a little recap about that?

Matt: My perspective? Cheat meals are dumb.

The next time you’re making bedroom eyes at a birthday cake (at your son or daughter’s birthday party, no less!), remember one thing: you have a choice.

Option one: deny yourself for as long as possible. Remind yourself that you’re not quite at the weight you want to be, that you’ve already eaten oh-so much today, and that you don’t need a slice, really, and then feel absolutely terrible when you put a small piece on a plate and start diving in. Beat yourself up about it. Lament what a terrible person you are, how you’ll never lose the weight, and spend the next day in misery, imaging how every little bite went straight to your thighs, hips, etc.

Option two: have a slice. Enjoy it.

Like you said, Faith, no one eats perfectly all the time. We’re human. We can try and be perfect, sure, but that’s stress we honestly don’t need, especially when the modern world likes to throw processed food at us every single time we scratch another holiday off our calendars.

Here’s a different approach. It’s simple, but not deceptively so, and it’s the approach I’ve used over the last six months to enjoy the occasional treat while still losing weight.

If you eat too much one day, eat less the next.

And that’s it. Enjoy the cake/pizza/whatever for what it is: an occasional indulgence, the kind of special treat that makes you happy for having eaten it. Realize, too, that you can just skip a meal to balance out the excess calories, and suddenly you’re an expert with Intermittent Fasting recognizing that the body won’t break if you skip the occasional meal, and using this knowledge to skip out on all the guilt and negative emotions we so often pile on ourselves for not being perfect.

Don’t stress. Eat less. And don’t forget to smile.

Faith: I’m finding myself struggling with a lot of repetition in our menu planning. I don’t want the family to get tired of eating the same thing all the time. Do you have suggestions or resources for simple Paleo meal ideas?

Matt: You’re in luck!

Regarding recipes and such, Paleo has pretty much exploded in popularity over the last twelve months. Here’s a small sampling of the sites you can visit for meal ideas:


I tend to be pretty experimental with my dishes (beef and sauerkraut being a recent favorite), but meal ideas are never in short supply if you work with the links above. If I can recommend a book, too, Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals is absolutely stellar for anyone wanting to create something delicious in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Faith: I find it easy to eat Paleo during the summer when so many things are in season. Is it harder to eat Paleo during the fall and winter months?

Matt: For me, at least, it hasn’t proven difficult. Seasonality just encourages me to experiment a bit with my cooking — to try fruits and veggies I normally wouldn’t work with, and to work in as many colors as possible on my plate. At the end of the day, too, there’s no harm in falling back on fruits and veggies that aren’t necessarily in season (thanks, modern food industry!). As long as it’s natural, I know it’s benefiting my body to consume it, so there’s no need to worry too much beyond that.

Faith: In your opinion, how is Paleo better than other low-carb diets like Atkins and South Beach?

Matt: The distinction, in my mind, is this: Paleo isn’t inherently low-carb. It can be, and most people tend to cut back on their carb intake when first starting out, but the overall message of Paleo is significantly less strict. The latest thinking in the Paleo world is that your macronutrient ratio — your split between carbs, fat and protein — doesn’t actually matter much at all. The determining factor, instead, is what you eat, the sources of your nutrients versus how much you bring in of each.

This has been true in my own experience too. I freely enjoy fruit and potatoes, now, at levels that might make a fervent low-carber cringe, and have seen nothing but benefits in both my health and physique. Through it all, I’ve been reminded of this one simple point: the body has evolved over thousands of years to handle a wide variety of macronutrient intakes. Why stress, then, about how many grams of this macronutrient or that?

Eat natural. Eat well. That’s the big message, I think, and why I think Paleo holds so much more appeal — let alone longevity — versus other diets.

Faith: What were some of the surprising benefits you experienced after going Paleo?

Matt: The biggest? Simplicity.

I don’t count. I don’t stress. I eat whatever natural food that appeals to me at the time, and sometimes I don’t eat at all.

That’s about it. I’m still a little wonderstruck when I think about it. Who knew strong, vibrant health could be simple? Who knew it could be easy? Who knew there was a way to eat that would bring me nothing but weight loss and happiness over the last year I’ve been doing it?

Health doesn’t have to be hard. That’s my biggest takeaway from over twelve months of a Paleo lifestyle, and that’s the one lesson I’ll be carrying with me for every happy, healthy year I spend on this earth.

Thanks for the interview, Faith. I hope this helps you on your own journey to better health!

– Matt

Win a Copy of Roots

If you want to win a copy of Matt’s book, Roots, then today is your lucky day. Leave a comment and tell me why you deserve to win it. I’ll pick my favorite answer and send you your free copy. I’ll be giving away another copy of Matt’s book at the end of Minimize Yo Butt, but this is your chance to get one early.

Here’s a small glimpse of what Roots brings to the table:

– How to lose and maintain weight for easy, effortless health. And the best part? You don’t need numbers.

– How to wake up without an alarm clock — and sleep better before you do.

– How to save time (and money!) on your hygiene routine and still smell sparkly clean when you step out of the shower.

– How to counteract inactivity, which might just be one of the biggest changes we can make for our health.

The list goes on from there.

I’ll announce the winner on Monday. If you just can’t stand the suspense, you can head on over to Matt’s site and order a copy of Roots today.

Be sure to check back Friday. I will be sharing more about our family switching over to Paleo and share my progress with Minimize Yo Butt. If you have any questions about Paleo, feel free to include those along with why you want to win a free copy of Roots!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for updates or follow me on Twitter. The only way my blog reaches more people is if you Tweet it, Like it on Facebook, or share it with your friends. Thanks so much for reading!

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  1. How to counteract inactivity? Sign me up! I’d also love to save time on my hygiene routine. I don’t know if I “deserve” to win, but I am working hard to live a healthier lifestyle and would love to have access to the information in Matt’s book.

  2. nopinkhere says

    I don’t know that I’m deserving, but I am becoming more curious about “paleo” eating. Any acquaintances I know who do it seem to have a lot of inconsistencies. I feel like I need more info!

  3. I loved Matt’s first book…I’d really like to win a copy of Roots! I am a bit of an obsessive compulsive type (that is a gross understatement!), but I am trying to learn to minimalize without going overboard…as I tend to do so often. I love to read Matt’s work…it brings me such balance!

  4. I agree. I don’t know if I deserve it but I am starting a new path on my journey to a better me. Over the past two years I have had a complete transformation. I lost 36 pounds doing weight watchers. The past year I have worked with a trainer and added mire muscle. Now I’m “too heavy” according to weight watchers. I’ve been reading blogs like nerd fitness, and Three New Leaves and I feel like it’s time to go on a new journey. A Paleo journey and I think this book would help me as I go down that path.

  5. Great post Faith! Thanks! I LOVE to cook…and sometimes “not so good for you” things. But lately I have been trying to reform my and my family’s eating habits to a more “real” food diet. The garden in my backyard has definately helped with that! But with 4 kiddos who like to search the cupboard for crackers and such-I am having some weird GUILT over it! I know by watching them that if I have what I call “real” food AVAILABLE, they will eat it…so I really should get over that guilt-huh? LOL Also something that I find really sad is that when you grocery shop-it is seemingly less expensive to eat BAD than it is to make healthy choices. I am saddened that it is a factor in food choices for some people.

    Someone I once knew mentioned that she didn’t buy much fresh fruit because it is so expensive for her. Yet her kids were downing Little Debbie snack cakes. They are CHEAP. ugh

  6. I would love to win the Roots book! I am currently at the start of my journey of rediscovery…I’m losing weight (12 down…140 to go) and I’m working out in our home gym daily with my wonderful husband. I am really focused on eating “clean” and paleo fits right in! It seems to me that the simpler my eating habits and more I want my environment to be simpler and clutter free as well. Roots looks like an excellent addition to my “new” way of life.

    Thanks for a great interview…love all the resources. And thanks for this opportunity.

  7. I would love to see my kids grow up to be healthy eaters. This seems workable for our whole family!

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