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Americans in pursuit of the perfect diet

  • Sarah Trejo shops for fresh vegetables and fruit at the Santa Rosa Farmer's Market on July 17. Trejo prepares her meals for a paleo diet that encourages eating plants and animals and foods that have not been processed. (Conner Jay / The Press Democrat)

Financial planners Sarah Trejo and her fiance, Matt Everson, eat like cave people.

For a year and a half, the Santa Rosans have been on the Paleo (short for Paleolithic) diet, which has them attempting to eat like our Stone Age ancestors — except for the occasional lapses into tortilla chips and guacamole.

They initially lost 10 pounds on the diet, which Trejo discovered when training for a triathlon. Since then, they've maintained their weight, have more natural energy and better digestion, and Everson no longer suffers from acid reflux, a condition in which stomach acids splash back into the esophagus.

The Paleo diet, basically meats and vegetables, with no dairy, no sugar, no alcohol, is one of the latest and hottest diets in a choice of weight-loss plans that swell as fast as most Americans' middles.

Based on an idea advanced by Colorado professor Loren Cordain that prehistoric hunters and gatherers ate healthiest, it backs up by a million or so years the famous notion by food writer Michael Pollan to avoid anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

Santa Rosa nutritionist and author Patty James thinks the Paleo is similar, although stricter, than the long favorite Atkins diet.

“Meat and lots of vegetables,” she said. “In theory, nothing wrong with it. But too much protein can be hard on your kidneys, which is something to watch for in both Paleo and Atkins.”

She also points out, “We don't have the same bodies as they did in Paleolithic times. We don't run for 30 miles to kill a woolly mammoth. Our hunting means getting in cars and driving to the grocery store.”

Still, she recognizes Americans' obsession with dieting — and their confusion over finding the perfect one.

“There's a lot of information and choices out there,” she said. “People want a quick fix and when it doesn't work, they go to the next diet.”

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