Guest Post: Paleo Eats and Treats

Nutrition Advice

It’s OK, it’s a Paleo treat…  
Not so fast.
On more than one occasion I have had clients come to me in the gym and ask me why they are not losing weight, why they are not having the results others are, why various health probems they were previously experiencing are still occuring despite “going Paleo.” Normally I answer this question with another question: “What is an average day of nutrition for you?”
When most of us “go Paleo,” we miss the foods we used to eat, both physiologically and psychologically, so we look for ways to bring back these old foods into our diet that were pleasurable in some way. And could anyone really blame us for this? Pancakes are delicious. So are brownies, cookies and other baked treats, but as the Princeton University study showed, refined sugars are as addictive as cocaine or heroin. It is not really our fault that we have cravings for these foods. So by going Paleo and handing back the refined sugars and refined carbohydrates that illicit the drug-like response on the pleasure centre in our brain, we will then begin to seek out a way to achieve the same pleasure from ‘paleo’ foods; just as we did from the empty calories of refined sugar and carbohydrates packed full of gluten and harmful lectins, and contain very little to no vitamins or minerals.
The main message that most people take away when they discover the Paleo diet is the negative impact that grains, dairy, legumes and refined sugars have on the health of our digestive system and immune system and while this is the correct message it is only half the message. The other half of the message and the one that is really important to weight management and body composition is the impact to our hormones, mainly insulin, but also leptin.

When it comes to determining what our metabolism uses for fuel or for what it will store away in our adipose tissue (body fat), insulin is the gate keeper. High insulin levels in the body will result in fat metabolisation being blocked and only blood glucose being burned for fuel or more likely stored in the adipose tissue. The purpose of insulin in the body is ultimately to control blood glucose levels to keep them within a very narrow band preventing a hyperglycaemic (high blood sugar) or hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) state, as the former results in severe damage to cells and the later resulting in death; neither are very desirable states if you ask me.

But insulin does not just fight one battle While insulin is on the war path to stop fat being mobilised and burned for fuel when levels are high, it will launch another battle against lepin. Leptin is a hormone released by adipose tissue that makes its way to the brain to say there is enough body fat, to stop eating and go do something active. High levels of insulin block this message so not only does high insulin cause calories to be stored as body fat, it also prevents hormonal messages reaching the brain to tell us to stop eating, so we reach for another brownie or slice of cake, with more carbohydrates, more insulin gets released and perpetuating cycle of calorie ingestion and storage in fat cells occurs.

When people do change to eating a Paleo or a wholefoods diet their main focus remains on the negative health impacts of foods such as wheat and dairy has on our gut health or immune system. They will tend to remain eating a mix of macronutrients that are still typical to a normal Western diet; high in carbohydrates, moderate protein and low in fat. The reality of a wholefoods diet is to be closer to how we have evolved to eat so there should be an increase in proteins and healthy fats in our diet and a dramatic decrease in the proportion that carbohydrates make up in our caloric intake; the purpose being to keep insulin levels low, and avoid foods that cause digestion issues, inflammatory problems and hormone imbalance. And this is where the problem of constant “Paleo treats” or “Paleoised foods” starts to come to light.

When clients tell me that their daily meals look something along the lines of “Paleo pancakes” made using coconut flour and banana then covered with agave syrup for breakfast, or a daily afternoon snack of “Paleo brownies” or “paleo pizza” for dinner, it is no wonder that weight loss has stopped and athletic performance is declining. Yes, they have given up refined sugar, wheat, grains, oats and legumes that cause chronic inflammatory issues and affect gut health, but they have just traded them for “paleo” friendly food items that are still carbohydrate dense foods that cause the same hormonal issues through their impact on insulin as the refined sugar, wheat, grains, oats and legumes.

I am not saying that we should never treat ourselves but rather keep “Paleo treats” for just that – treats. Enjoy your “Paleo pancakes” but have them on a Sunday morning as part of a rest day, and the same goes for all the other “Paleoised” foods that are still carbohydrate dense; pizza, brownies, cookies, pancakes, etc. whether they are Paleo or not are still sometimes foods, not everyday foods. Keep the diet based on a good amount of quality protein, a good amount of healthy fats, and keep the carbohydrate intake to calorie scarce nutrient dense sources based around fresh vegetables. If you need something sweet after a meal, enjoy a piece of fruit or a bowl of berries.

Simple answer: Eat clean, eat enough to support activity level, train hard, and treat yourself occasionally; not every day.
About Gavin Crown 

Gavin is a certified CrossFit Coach and Personal Trainer, currently serving as a Subject Matter Expert for Aussie Strength Equipment, as well as  the head trainer at CrossFit Perth. With nearly 15 years experience in competitive sport, Gavin recognised the importance that proper nutrition plays so through extensive research, self experimentation and questioning conventional dogma of nutritional theories, he has been able to apply what he has learned to help clients improve athletic performance, loose excess weight and improve overall quality of life.

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Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.


Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!


Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!


I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

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I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.