Why people fail at Paleo and what to do about it

Accommodating Your Learning Style…

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Why many fail…

I get a lot of emails from people who are Paleo (although most are not nearly as Paleo as they think), and are discouraged by their lack of success.  The problem is many are under the impression that simply adopting the Paleo diet is going to push them to the upper echelon of body transformation.  But if people are thinking that Paleo alone is the solution, they are in for a great deal of disappointment. Going Paleo is NOT enough if you are trying to transform how you look because the process is more multifaceted than it might appear.

We need to go no further than the world of golf to understand the layers of complexity that exist.

Case Study: Golf

In order to play golf you need golf clubs. (It’s true. I tried to play using a hockey stick and an umbrella, and neither worked very well.)  But having golf clubs does not mean you will be a successful golfer. Golf clubs are simply the primary tool needed.  If you want to experience success in golf, then you need to successfully navigate the other components that influence the final outcome.

Some of these include…

  • swing mechanics (how you actually swing the club)
  • golf course management (each hole varies in length and obstacles presented whether it be water, sand traps or neighboring jungles and each requires a specific strategy based on your ability)
  • individual shot selection (each shot requires a decision about the best club to use based on where your ball landed and how far you are from the hole)
  • weather conditions (wind, rain or very dry conditions affect each shot)
  • handling emotions ( the heat of a competition with elicit a variety of reactions that need to be managed…OR IGNORED AT YOUR PERIL)
  • recovering from lousy shots (how well can you recover from crucial mistakes)

There are other elements that come into play, but my point is to illustrate that to succeed at the game of golf requires that one become adept at identifying and then successfully handling its other key components. Failure to recognize these, limits any success people may experience.

Idea worth stealing…

Paleo is to body transformation what golf clubs are to golf: a crucial component in the process, but like golf clubs, means nothing if you can’t successfully negotiate the other components.

The bigger picture…

My success in the area of body transformation has not been accidental.  It has come because early on this time around (read as, “after failing at this miserably for the first 45 years of my life) I recognized  that this was far more complex than a simple diet and exercise issue.

I believe that body transformation consists of 8 components, each vitally important to the final outcome.  Below are the components I work at each and every day on my journey to achieve mastery in this area. I will never achieve mastery, but that is what I strive for.

I finally understand that the cast of supporting characters  in body transformation (which most don’t know exist) are as important as the lead character (Paleo).

1. Dietary component

This is where Paleo comes into play.  This is the primary tool you use to help create transformation. But like the golf example above, simply going Paleo does not in any way guarantee success just as simply having golf clubs or going to the driving range is not going to guarantee you will become an exceptional golfer.

2. Movement (exercise) component

Reshaping how your body looks requires that you move it in a way that enhances its functionality. Do you have a program that targets the 4 aspects of what I deem to be a highly successful body [1. speed and power 2. flexibility and balance 3. endurance 4. strength] or do you just DO STUFF in the hopes something magical will happen?

3. Environmental component

Unless you live in an underground bunker or a space station (and if you do, SWEET!), then you must learn to successfully navigate the environments you will inhabit.  Home is the easiest to control, but you spend half your day or more outside your home, so 50% of your success comes from your ability to navigate your work and social environments.  It won’t matter how Paleo you are if you can’t successfully deal with these situations (and trust me, many can’t).

4. Tactical component

Golfers don’t just show up at a golf tournament the morning of and just start playing.  They arrive a few days early, play practice rounds and study the surroundings of each hole.  They then (in conjunction with their caddy) come up with a plan about how they are going to play each hole. How do you deal with your work environment? Do you study the surroundings and plan out strategies to deal with the bowl of candies on the secretary’s desk for instance.  How about when you meet your friends for drinks on Thursday night?  Do you know how you are going to play that event or do you just show up and hope miracles will happen?

5. Emotional/psychological component

In sports, it’s called choking when an athlete fails to deliver when the chips are down.  How do you react when the chips are down?  What do you do when you have just had an argument with your spouse? How do deal with the stresses that come with your job, your marriage and in-laws? These all factor into the final outcome and consistently derail many well-intentioned people. Do you even know what situations derail you?

6. Analytical component

So baseball players will spend hours each day reviewing video footage of their previous at bats searching for any clues that might lead to a successful outcome the next time they step to the plate.  Do you dissect your failures or simply beat yourself over the head with them and tell everyone who will listen your tales of woe? Do you analyze your wins to find out why things went so well? You would be surprised how few people actually take the time to breakdown their wins and thus don’t really know why they were successful. Sadly this prevents them from being able to consistently repeat success.

7. Social component

It’s funny that we think peer pressure is something we only experience when we are young.  Well I have some bad news for you.  You are still a victim of peer pressure.  Who you hang out with influences your choices whether it be your spouse, your peeps you hang with or your boss and co-workers.  Whether you care to admit it or not there is an innate pressure to conform rather than take a position on something that is contrary to the group.  If you are not aware of these dynamics your transformation goals are doomed!

8. Intellectual component

Are you constantly seeking out new ideas to test and implement? How much learning are you doing to arm yourself with as much great info as possible so you can succeed in this venture long term? Do you just do this at the beginning or is this a lifelong pursuit? (Note: it better be the latter!).


1. This is a mindset shift, so embrace the notion that your lack of success is simply a result of not being a student of the game and understanding all the components in play.

Do you want a PDF hard copy of this article to study in more detail and scribble ideas on as you concoct something that is tailored specifically to you?

You can download a copy of the entire article here:Why people fail at Paleo and what to do about it

Commit to becoming a student and the teacher will appear. 

2. Print off a copy of the chart [The 8 components of successful transformation] and place it in an area you can review it often.  If you keep a journal (I do and it is invaluable) then paste it in there. Wherever you put it, commit to knowing what the 8 components are. Feel free to make this your own as well.  Change the names, or add or subtract as you see fit so the components more accurately reflect the realities of your life.

You can download a copy here: The 8 components of successful transformation

Success is impossible to achieve if you don’t know what is causing you to fail.

3. For those who really want to make the most of this post, I have copied the write up above with the 8 components and added boxes after each section so you can take notes and reflect on areas of weakness and possible solutions to start testing. Don’t just think about this stuff.  Make your own notes and come up with your own theories about what may be limiting your success.

You can download a copy here: The 8 components of successful transformation-worksheet

What are you prepared to do? If not this, what? If not now, when?

What do you think?

I am really interested to know two things.  Which areas do you struggle with? What insights can you share that could lend some insight to myself and others?

To making shift happen,