The Paleolithic Diet - Caveman Diet or
The Paleolithic diet, sometimes referred to as the Paleo diet for short, or also known as the caveman diet, stone age diet or hunter-gatherer diet, is based on the assumption that human beings should be eating the foods that our ancient ancestors ate, because that is the diet that we were genetically designed to eat.
It teaches us, and I agree, that most of modern day diseases and health conditions are the result of eating a diet that is not compatible with our biochemistry, gastrointestinal tract and metabolism.
I am a firm believer in the Paleolithic diet because I have the seen the truth of it in my life in numerous ways. I didn't decide one day that I should try the caveman diet and see if it works, I discovered it slowly over the years by listening to what my body told me. I had arrived at a diet that worked for my body and then discovered that it actually had a name, the Paleolithic diet.
In my own life, I had developed numerous addictions including alcohol, street drugs, prescription drugs, sugar, caffeine, nicotine and carbohydrates. I found that the key to sobriety in all addictions lies in diet and lifestyle. Primarily, you must balance the neurotransmitters in the brain and that balance is achieved by eating a diet and living a lifestyle that does not cause overstimulation to or disruption of the neurotransmitters in the brain.
Cravings for your substance of choice cease to exist when this is done. I have maintained more than 24 years of uninterrupted and craving-free sobriety by following a caveman diet and living an environmentally conscious lifestyle. The diet that restores balance to neurotransmitters and stops cravings for addictive substances is one that consists of primarily meat protein, fish, eggs and low-starch vegetables, and a small amount of nuts, seeds and low-sugar fruit.
Additionally, over the years I have dealt with a variety of other health issues including fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, Candida overgrowth, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia, adrenal fatigue and migraines and my son had hyperactivity attention deficit disorder. Again, I found that the diet you eat is a primary factor involved in each of these conditions as well.
Through my healing journey I tried numerous diets including the macrobiotic diet, vegetarian diet, raw diet etc., but each of these made me feel ten times worse and exacerbated all my conditions. Over time I discovered the diet that made me function most optimally and provided the most relief for any and all of my health issues was a diet that resembled that of the hunter-gatherers diet and consisted primarily of meat and vegetables. I resisted this truth for many years and tried over and over to eat otherwise, but my body would not allow it. The message from my body was loud and clear -- eat nothing but meat and vegetables and small amounts of nuts, seeds and fruits.
I am not the type of person who believes something because someone tells me it is so. I must experience something first hand and find it to be my own truth and that is the case with the Paleolithic diet. My body tells me that the healthiest diet without a doubt is the caveman diet.
Why does the hunter-gatherer diet address such a large variety of health conditions? Because all health conditions, both psychological and physiological, have two primary roots -- diet and environmental toxins. When you eat garbage food that is not compatible with your biochemistry and loaded with toxins like pesticides, additives, and preservatives, it destroys your organs and systems, which results in degradation of health.
The caveman diet consists only of organic foods that your body was genetically meant to eat, therefore it does not disrupt or impair organs, neurotransmitters, gastrointestinal function, hormones like insulin, cortisol, progesterone and estrogen, immune function, blood sugar, circulation and blood vessels, metabolism, nervous system function etc.
How Does the Caveman Diet Work
The answer to how the caveman diet works is very simple and basic. It's about getting back to our roots in nature and honoring the wisdom of our bodies.
Professor Loren Cordain, one of the world's leading experts on the Paleolithic diet who has published numerous publications in the best scientific journals around the world, tells us that the caveman diet works because it is the diet that Mother Nature designed, not man. This diet was not created by anyone trying to make money or a passing fad.
The Paleolithic diet is based on extensive anthropological research of the type of foods our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, and this research tells us that when humans ate this diet they were free of all the degenerative health conditions that plaque our society today.
It is the diet that we are genetically designed to eat through the process of evolution and natural selection. The modern day diet that most of society consumes came about by man with the advent of agriculture and farming practices that were not part of nature's original plan for our bodies and this has been detrimental to our physical and emotional health.
By going back to the caveman diet, you are giving your body what it needs to function optimally physically, mentally/emotionally and spiritually.
Anthropological research tells us that the Paleolithic diet was eaten for more than 2 million years, while the current modern day diet which includes grains, legumes and dairy has only been eaten for about 10,000 years. "That means for 99.6% of our evolutionary history" we have been eating a diet of meat, fish, eggs, low-starch vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Furthermore, prior to the introduction of grains, legumes, sugar and dairy, the onslaught of degenerative health conditions that we see in society today did not exist. These foods contain a variety of substances disrupt the brain, nervous system, endocrine system, metabolism and gastrointestinal tract.
If you are having health issues, particularly, obesity, food addiction, sugar or carb cravings, compulsive overeating, alcoholism, irritable bowel, Crohn's or any bowel condition, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, food sensitivities, type 2 diabetes, addiction of any kind, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, manic-depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, Candida overgrowth, adrenal fatigue, neurotransmitter imbalances, hypoglycemia, memory problems, hormonal imbalances, arthritis, insomnia, any autoimmune disorder, acne or cancer etc., your first course of action is to change your diet.
Foods Allowed on the Paleolithic Diet
You will find some slight variances in the allowed and disallowed list for the hunter-gatherer diet depending on who you talk to, but here are the general guidelines and what I have found to be true in my own body.
The general rule of thumb for determining if a food you want to eat is on the paleolithic diet foods allowed list is this -- (if it can be eaten in it's raw and natural state and if it doesn't have to be cooked to be eaten, then it is allowed. This doesn't mean you have to eat it in its raw form, it just means that you can.)
Processed foods of all kinds should be avoided, you should be eating foods in their whole and natural state as much as possible.
- Meats of all kinds. (Chicken, turkey, beef, buffalo or bison, duck, pheasant, lamb, venison etc.)
All meat should be unprocessed and organic. You should not be eating bacon, sausage, chicken fingers, lunch meat etc. from your local grocery store. Wild game is preferred, because it resembles the food of our ancestors more closely than our modern day chickens, turkey, and beef. Meat should be "free-range" and "grass fed" as they too resemble the food of our ancestors more closely, provide the proper fatty acid ratio and these animals are raised humanely.
- Fish - (should be Wild Alaskan, not farmed.)
- Eggs (Free-range or cage-free and not fed GMOs)
- All Non-Starchy Vegetables
- Nuts of all kinds. (Keep in mind that peanuts are not a nut, they are a legume and legumes are not allowed) Cashews are restricted by some and allowed by others, because they are poisonous if eaten raw. So this is your call.) Nuts are better for you, if they are sprouted.
- Seeds of all kinds.
- Oils from allowed plants. (This means if it is a food on the allowed list, then you can consume it's oil. For example, walnut oil, olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil are the best choices. (Note that in The Paleo Diet book Cordain says you can eat canola oil, I disagree with this. Canola oil has been linked to a variety of health conditions. Cordain changed his position on canola oil in his Paleo Diet Cookbook and now advises against it.)
- Fruits of all kinds. However, fruits that are lower on the glycemic index like berries are most recommended. Dried fruits are very high in sugar and should be limited. Fruit juices should be severely restricted or avoided all together.
- Small amounts of honey. I recommend extreme restrictions on this food.) Some people allow small amounts of maple syrup, but again I encourage extreme restriction. Our ancestors did not have access to honey very often, so it wasn't something that was eaten frequently.
Foods Not Allowed on the Paleolithic Diet
- No sugar of any kind - this includes organic sugar, organic cane juice, evaporated cane juice, maple sugar, date sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc., etc.
- No barley malt, rice syrup, agave, fruit juice. Some people allow small amounts of maple syrup and agave, but they are not an official part of the caveman diet and should be restricted for occasional treats.
- No sugar substitutes and/or artificial sweeteners.
- No caffeine
- No alcohol
- No chocolate - Although you may notice that many Paleo enthusiasts allow chocolate in their diet, chocolate was not in our ancestor's diet and chocolate is also a mind-altering and addictive drug that has many detrimental effects on the mind and body. Read more about chocolate and raw cacao. It may be eaten as special treat on occasion by some people, but not regularly.
- No additives, preservatives, nitrates, artificial flavorings or colors
- No yeast
- No grains of any kind, including whole grains (wheat, oats, corn, barley, rice or alternative grains like millet, quinoa and millet)
- No dairy
- No corn (corn is a grain, not a vegetable)
- No legumes (beans, peanuts and peas)
- No peanuts (peanuts are a legume, not a nut)
- No peas (peas are a legume not a vegetable)
- No soy (soy is a legume)
- No pesticides or herbicides (All foods should be organic. Our ancestor's food was not tainted with these chemicals and neither should ours.)
Foods That Can be Eaten in Moderation on Occasion
- Potatoes (potatoes are poisonous if eaten raw) However, please note that one medium potato is the equivalent of a half a cup of sugar. So it is very important that they are not eaten regularly.
- Salt - (there is disagreement about this issue)
- Sweet potatoes, yam or beets
- Vinegar (There are different opinions on whether this should be included or not. Balsamic or apple cider vinegar should be used in place of grain based.)
- Quinoa (This food is not really a grain, however, this food is high in carbs, thus can be very problematic for candida, addictions of all kind, but especially sugar and carb addiction, as well as adrenal fatigue and other health conditions.
Slightly more than half of your meal (somewhere between 4 and 8 ounces) should consist of meat protein and the rest should be low-starch vegetables, with a small amount of nuts, seeds, fruits, and healthy oils. In my personal experience, my meals consists of about 6-8 ounces of meat and about 5-6 ounces of vegetables with healthy oil and some meals include a small serving of fruit and/or nuts. My meal must contain a minimum of 6 ounces of meat or I cannot maintain proper blood sugar levels.
To understand more thoroughly why things like grains and legumes are removed from diet, and why you should eat more meat, you should take a look at the following pages:Why You Shouldn't be a Vegetarian.
Beyond the Paleolithic Diet
With all that being said, following the caveman diet is not the answer to all diet related conditions. It is the largest and most important piece of the puzzle, however, there are other factors that must be taken into consideration as well.
I encourage you to learn more about the hunter-gatherer diet to understand the science, truth and reasoning behind it, but keep in mind that although the basic guidelines will encourage health for most people in the general population, additional modifications and restrictions are likely to be needed for certain health conditions.
Although following the general guidelines of the caveman diet will lead to better health, you must fine-tune it to fit with your unique biochemical needs to achieve optimal health.
For example, the Paleolithic diet encourages the eating of "unlimited" amounts of fruits and vegetables. Anybody with Candida overgrowth must limit their consumption of fruits, because it will flare yeast overgrowth. They should stick to fruits that are lower in sugar and reserve high sugar fruits for special occasions. Additionally, people with Candida usually can't eat nuts that freely because of their mold content. For some people they feed the yeast and many others are sensitive to them. So they may need to be restricted or avoided as well. People with leaky gut may need to avoid nuts for at least a period of time as well.
People who are dealing with drug or alcohol addiction, food addiction, sugar addiction and compulsive overeating would also need to restrict their fruit intake, as the natural content of sugar in these foods can trigger a binge or a relapse.
Those dealing with hypoglycemia, adrenal fatigue hormonal imbalances anxiety disorders,depression,attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,or other neurotransmitter issues or any type of autonomic nervous system dysfunction usually need to restrict their fruit intake as well, because the natural sugar content tends to aggravate these conditions, if eaten too frequently or too much quantity.
If you're trying to lose weight, you will probably need tighter restrictions on your fruit intake, and be cautious with the nuts as well.
You should also take a look at the following pages to understand more thoroughly how fruit impacts your health and gauge your sugar intake.
On the other hand, if you are an athlete, then you will likely need a few more carbs later your workout. In this case, you can include carbs that are a little more Paleo friendly like sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash or fruit along with your four to eight ounces of animal protein. However, for all other meals, your diet should be traditional Paleo. You can learn more in The Paleo Diet for Athletes: The Ancient Nutritional Formula for Peak Athletic Performance or The Primal Blueprint, which I provided the link for previously.
Although traditionally alcohol is not allowed, the author of The Paleo Diet and most other Paleo folks allow a small amount of alcohol on an occasional basis. Although this may be acceptable for the general population, this is not acceptable for people with Candida, adrenal fatigue, sugar addiction, food addiction, insomnia, addiction of any kind, food sensitivities, alcoholism, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hyperinsulinism, anxiety disorders, depression and hormonal imbalances. Alcohol is a sugar; the most refined sugar you can consume, and thus it will aggravate all these conditions.
There is not agreement about salt on the Paleo diet, but here's my view. As with most things in life, moderation is the key for salt intake. Adequate salt intake, but not excessive intake helps you cope better with stress, supports hydration, prevents insulin resistance and arterial plaque formation and moderates aldosterone, an important hormone produced by your adrenal glands that among other regulates blood pressure, kidney function, potassium and salt levels. It may even help you live longer. So feel free to salt your food to taste. People with adrenal fatigue and some other health conditions may not have enough salt and need more salt in their diet. However, traditional table salt should be avoided, as it is stripped of its nutrients and has sugar added. Sea salt or rock salt should be used. I prefer a salt called, Real Salt.Although flax seeds and flax seed oil is considered one of the healthiest oils you can consume on the caveman diet, flaxseeds are very high in phytoestrogens and therefore anyone who is estrogen dominant may have trouble with this food, because they upset the balance of hormones. That has been my experience personally. I can't consume flax seeds or oil, because it makes me feel so aggressive I could punch someone, because of the increase in estrogen. This is important, because much of the population is estrogen dominant, due to the high levels of endocrine disruptors in our food and air.
Additionally, many people have undiagnosed food sensitivities, intolerances or allergies that need to be identified to achieve optimal health. Just because a food is on the allowed list of the Paleolithic diet doesn't mean it is a healthy food for everyone. For example, eggs, garlic and chicken are on the allowed list, but many people don't tolerate these foods and when they are eaten they contribute to degenerative health conditions. So one needs to identify their unique food sensitivities and then remove those foods from their diet as well. This can be done through an elimination diet or with a test like the ALCAT test.
As mentioned above, honey is on the allowed list in the traditional Paleo diet. However, only on an occasional basis. Our ancestors did not eat honey on a regular bases. It was something they had access to only once in a while. Honey is a sugar and therefore causes an increase in blood sugar and insulin, a disruption of neurotransmitters and stress on the adrenal glands, thus if eaten in excess on a regular basis can lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc., just like any other sugar. It will also exacerbate depression, anxiety, adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, alcoholism and addiction, because of the impact on neurotransmitters and the autonomic nervous system. In most people with sugar addiction or food addiction, honey will trigger cravings and a binge. Additionally, honey of any kind will feed Candida significantly, and should be avoided or restricted to a special occasion.
Although fish is encouraged on the Paleolithic diet and healthy in most respects, it is nearly impossible to find fish that isn't contaminated with mercury and other toxins from our polluted bodies of water that will disrupt neurotransmitter functioning, the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system. So, unless you can find a source that guarantees safety, fish needs to be restricted. Additionally, fish is treated with formaldehyde in its processing. When you buy fish, it should not be farmed fish. It should say "Wild Alaskan Fish" as that is the safest and cleanest fish you can find. It is especially important for people who have heavy metal toxicity to have clean fish sources.Be sure eat lots of sulfur foods like broccoli, cauliflower, eggs, cabbage and garlic, because sulfur attaches to heavy metals like mercury and removes them through your elimination process.
A couple of other points you want to be aware of: There is not agreement in the Paleolithic community about what types of meat should be eaten. In one camp they say that meat should be lean and in the other camp they say it should be rich in fat. Personally, I take the middle ground on this issue; animal fat is essential for a healthy brain and body. As Mark Sisson explains in The Primal Blueprint, fat is the preferred fuel for the human body and has been throughout most of our evolution. I eat both lean and fatty cuts of meat, but I don’ like chicken skin, so I remove it. So you have to make a judgment call on this issue and do what feels best. But, be sure to educate yourself on the facts about saturated fat; it does not cause disease when taken from grass-fed sources. Be aware that Cordain has been highly criticized for his conservative stance on fats. I love Cordain's work, it has been instrumental in my life; however, if I go too lean then I am not satiated and begin to crave fat. So find what works best for your body.
Nuts and seeds contain a substantial amount of phytates, substances that inhibit mineral absorption, so if they are eaten too extensively can contribute to mineral deficiencies. Too much phytic acid may also decrease activity of some digestive enzymes, irritating the gut and contributing to leaky gut. Nuts and seeds are common foods to develop a food sensitivity to and may contribute to leaky gut in that manner as well. Furthermore, nuts and seeds tend to have more Omega-6 than Omega-3, which can disrupt fatty acid ratio and contribute to inflammation.
For these reasons, they are minimized in the diet and often eliminated from the diet completely, at least for a period of time in people with an autoimmune condition. However, phytates may be an antioxidant that can help risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer, when eaten in moderation. Additionally, phytates can be significantly reduced by sprouting your nuts and seeds before eating them.
The nightshade family, which includes foods like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, paprika and cayenne and potato contain a variety of naturally occurring substances called alkaloids, that are a form of a natural pesticide to protect the plant from predators. Solanine is one of the most well-known. Some people have an inability to excrete these substances effectively and thus they can produce a variety of symptoms like fatigue, joint and muscle pain, muscle tremors, pain in the stomach, heartburn or other gastrointestinal distress and a variety of other undesirable symptoms. This is usually an issue with the liver. So people who have problems with detoxification or other liver disorders and people with arthritis or other inflammatory type of conditions often have to eliminate or reduce the nightshades.
Nightshades also contain lectins that contribute to leaky gut and saponins that can contribute to leaky gut and an immune response. For all these reasons, individuals with an autoimmune condition, food sensitivities and Candida overgrowth do best if they avoid the nightshade family. Furthermore, some saponins found in the nightshade family inhibit an enzyme called acetyl cholinesterase. This enzyme breaks down your primary neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, that regulates your autonomic nervous system and is crucial for mood and many cognitive functions. If it is not available to do its job, then acetylcholine builds up in excess. Too much acetylcholine results in depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks, and a wide variety of other potential brain and nervous system symptoms and conditions.
Too much consumption of a food in the nightshade family can actually result in toxicity. However, not everyone has problems with the nightshade family, so this is another gray area where you should make a judgment call. Some people may not tolerate any, while other people may be able to tolerate small amounts, or just eating them on occasion. For example, in my own life, tomatoes cause me a great deal of physical pain in many parts of my body and make me feel just awful if I eat them frequently. However, I can eat a small serving in a salad once in a while or have a little a tomato sauce now and then without too much problem. If you don't have symptoms from these foods, then you may want to include them, if you do, then you may want to avoid them. But again, like many things, moderation is the key. They probably should not be eaten every day. However, potatoes should also be restricted because they are as high in sugar as sugar itself. A medium sized potato is the equivalent of a half of cup of sugar, so it is not healthy for you in many ways. The sugar in potatoes will trigger binges for the food and carb addicted, and can result in cravings for the substance of choice in the drug and alcohol addicted.
Some nightshades like tomatoes and eggplants contain traces of nicotine. So, if you are in the process of trying to quit smoking, this is something to be aware of, as the natural nicotine could potentially trigger cravings for a cigarette.
Although eggs are enjoyed in abundance by most Paleo folks and are a rich source of nutrients, the egg white does contain a variety of anti-nutrients, like Avidin and Lysozyme that are present to protect the embryo, that can be hard for some people to break down and thus can bind to and inhibit absorption of important nutrients and contribute to leaky gut and autoimmune disorders.
However, Professor Loren Cordain recommends limiting eggs to 6 per week, even for healthy individuals, because of these aspects. Alternatively, you can just eat the yolks. Furthermore, in an evolutionary context, eggs were only available to our ancestors seasonally, so they weren't eating eggs year round.
To find out if nightshades or eggs are problematic for you, you should eliminate them for a period of time and then reintroduce them to see if they produce symptoms. If you don't experience any negative effects from either of these, then they can be eaten in moderation.
Although dairy is not part of the traditional Paleolithic diet, you will find that many Paleo people who call themselves Primal allow it, and butter, ghee and full fat yogurt are good sources of fat and protein and have a variety of health benefits, if tolerated. Many people have a dairy allergy or sensitivity and lactose intolerance, which means it would contribute to things like leaky gut, inflammation, auto-immune disorders, and all the associated conditions that go along with them, so these people should avoid dairy. However, if you have no digestive or immune issues with dairy, then butter and full fat yogurt can be beneficial for those with adrenal fatigue, low cholesterol, hypoglycemia, fatty acid deficiencies, and depleted neurotransmitters.
The same applies to cheese, but cheese and yogurt are high in lactose, which is milk sugar, so if it is eaten it should be moderated. The lactose can be a trigger for a craving for some people with sugar, food, alcohol or drug addiction and it will feed Candida if eaten in too big a serving on too frequent of a basis. Lactose will also trigger insulin, which means if you are trying to lose weight or have insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes you will want to moderate dairy. Furthermore, just like whole grains, dairy contains exorphins, which are naturally occurring opiate-like substances that can deplete production of your natural endorphins, and lead to addiction. Please read up on dairy to determine whether it is a friend or foe in your life.
Also, the protein in cow's milk is a gluten cross-reactor, meaning that individuals who are gluten intolerant can generate antibodies against it in the same way that they would gluten. So, if you are gluten intolerant, then dairy needs to be avoided. This would include all dairy products, even ghee, which has only trace amounts of protein.
Technically, I believe that we are not supposed to consume dairy; however, since it does provide a variety of benefits and some people donut seem to be impacted negatively, I am on the fence a little bit about whether this should be included in the diet or not. So exercise caution. If you fall under one of the categories I've discussed above, then avoid. I, personally, do not experience negative effects from butter, yogurt and ghee, so I permit them a couple times a week. I don't feel well if I eat cheese very often, so I avoid it most of the time.
Even if one includes dairy in the diet, I don't recommend consuming it every day. When dairy is consumed, it should be the raw and cultured type, like full-fat yogurt and butter or ghee. It should always be organic and derived from grass-fed cows. Dairy should never be eaten as "low fat." The fat needs to be present or otherwise you're left with a bunch of sugar. The fat will reduce the impact of the lactose on blood sugar, insulin and neurotransmitters. Full-fat is much healthier for you in every way. I never encourage the consumption of milk.
People who have an autoimmune disorder, find they do best if they eliminate eggs, nightshades, nuts and seeds and dairy.
Pork is a food that is allowed on the Paleolithic diet and many Paleo folks are pork lovers. However, it is my opinion that pork should be avoided. Pork harbors parasites that are not killed when it is cooked, and thus can be passed on to you, which can destroy your health. The only way to kill them is to freeze the pork for 6 months before eating.
Another very important point to consider -- the Paleolithic diet states that you can eat as much as you want until you are full, as long as you are eating from the "allowed" foods list. Although this may work for healthy people, for many people who have an appetite switch that is malfunctioning from years of ingesting unhealthy foods like sugar, caffeine, white flour and exposure to environmental toxins, this will not work right away.
Some people, like those with neurotransmitter imbalances, Candida overgrowth, food addiction, compulsive overeating, hypoglycemia, alcoholism, hyperactivity, addiction in general, sugar addiction, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalances, etc. don't feel full until they have overeaten. Their appetite switch never says "full."
Once you start eating healthier, it takes time for the body to regain homeostasis. In my personal experience, following the Paleolithic diet does "reset" the appetite switch, but it takes time. So in the early stages of transition, self-discipline on how much food is consumed will be required.
Sometimes, other factors need to be taken into account like what is "realistic" and "doable" and you may want to allow yourself some leniency. It may not always be possible or desirable to be on a "strict" Paleolithic diet. For example, I personally follow a caveman diet on a day-to-basis, however, I do allow butter and yogurt in my diet a couple times a week, and once in a great while I will eat something made out of whole wheat and some legumes. On Thanksgiving I will eat pie with unbleached wheat crust and sweetened with chicory root and I'll bake a fresh sweet potato. So there are occasions when I may stray, but 95% of the time I adhere.
So, although some people may say you should follow a strict Paleolithic diet every day, I say you should allow yourself to be flexible and realistic to some degree. However, when you do stray, you want to remain within reason. You'll notice that when I do stray that my choices are still very healthy foods, I never allow white sugar, bleached flour, caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, flavors and dyes etc., and neither should you. Follow the caveman diet the majority of the time, but a little straying here and there will not be too detrimental.
However, how compliant you need to be on the diet also depends on your level of health and what kind of symptoms or conditions you are dealing with. For example, if you are trying to overcome an addiction, healing from an autoimmune disorder, are already insulin resistant, or have type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, exhausted adrenals, or high blood pressure, then you do not have some of the luxuries that other people may have. You must be much more compliant than the average bear.
If you're new to the caveman diet, you don't have to change everything overnight. You can do it in steps if you need. Get rid of the really bad stuff first like sugar, caffeine, white flour etc., and then work on the other things each week. In Professor Cordain's book, The Paleo Diet, he suggests you transition to the diet in phases and has what he calls "open" meals. I think this is a really good idea and that is what I recommend as well. Change is a process and takes time, so be patient and kind with yourself, but also be disciplined and consistent. It is my belief that we should try and stick as close as possible to Paleolithic eating as often as possible, but we don't have to be perfect.
Last, but not least, it's important to understand that eating Paleo is about developing a new way of living, not just following a diet. You are making permanent lifestyle changes and embracing a different set of values; not a temporary change in food choices.
Furthermore, it is most effective when it is combined with other changes in lifestyle that simulate behaviors of our ancestors, like managing stress, engaging in mild to moderate physical activity, getting adequate sleep and sunshine and communing with nature.