Paleo diet for weight loss: FAQs and tips for success

by | Sep 26, 2022 | Last updated Oct 21, 2022

  • You can lose weight on the paleo diet, but it can be restrictive.
  • Paleo diet weight loss results vary from person to person. 
  • Focusing on foods with low caloric density, food logging, and having a support system can all help with paleo weight loss.

The paleo diet—eating only whole foods our ancestors ate—is often touted as a way to lose weight. And, yes, there’s research that says paleo can work for weight loss.

But there’s more to the paleo weight loss story. We spoke with Noom coach Ashley Bannister, MS, RDN, to get answers to common questions you might have.

Read on for FAQs about paleo weight loss, along with tips for success.

Note: Consult your health care provider before making any dietary changes.

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A healthier you, wherever you are.

Does the paleo diet work for weight loss?

Yes, research indicates that the paleo diet can work for weight loss

In fact, a meta-analysis suggests that the paleo diet can significantly decrease body mass, body mass index, waist circumference, and fat mass in both the short- and long-term. 

Bannister confirms that paleo can be an effective approach to losing weight, but says that’s because the diet is very restrictive.

“You’re cutting out a lot of foods, so you’re likely to be in a calorie deficit, which will lead to weight loss,” she notes. 

Take processed foods and added sugars. They’re not whole foods, so these are a no-no on the paleo diet. 

By avoiding these often high-calorie foods, you’re likely to reduce your overall calorie intake and potentially lose weight as a result. There is a catch, though.

“It’s not necessarily true that you will lose weight if you cut those foods out,” Bannister explains. “But if you cut those foods out and don’t replace them with extra calories elsewhere in your diet, then it will lead to weight loss.”

Calorie deficits—in which you burn more calories than you eat—are necessary for weight loss. But the problem is that when a diet is too restrictive, it’s hard to stick with in the long run. 

“An overly restrictive diet also tends to backfire when it comes to weight loss, as it’s often unsustainable long-term,” Bannister explains. “So, while you may lose weight to start with, it’s likely you may gain the weight back if you’re unable to stick to the diet for the long haul.”

Ready to make a lasting change?

A healthier you, wherever you are.

How to lose weight on the paleo diet

Losing weight can be tough—no matter what strategy or diet you choose.  

At Noom, we don’t endorse restrictive diets or cutting out entire food groups because these strategies are hard to maintain. However, we understand that people eat in different ways for all kinds of reasons.

In that spirit, here are some steps Bannister recommends for making the wellness journey on paleo easier.

1. Get in touch with the emotional side of eating

Paleo weight loss isn’t as easy as making changes in the way you eat. To keep the weight off long term, you really need to understand and listen to your body. 

You have to know why you’re making the lifestyle choices you’re making—and how to move forward with better habits. 

“Understanding the ‘why’ behind your habits may help you overcome emotional eating or other habits that you’d like to modify,” Bannister says. 

Say you go for the bag of chips when you’re feeling stressed. Ever wonder why you do that? Research suggests that eating carbohydrates can make some people feel better emotionally

The thing is, when you go on a paleo diet for weight loss, you’re giving up a lot of these comfort foods. That is why you need to find alternative ways to feel better on tough days. 

Go for a walk on a nearby trail with your dog. Head to the beach to enjoy the sunset. Do the things you love that bring you joy. You can also take pride in the fact that you are eating more whole foods.

And even if you do eat chips one day, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Paleo will still be there to try again tomorrow. Give yourself some grace—and enjoy those chips. 

2. Focus on foods with low caloric density 

Just because you’re on the paleo diet doesn’t mean you’ll automatically lose weight. The foods you’re eating each day matter. And so does calorie density—the number of calories in a specific food serving. 

“If all you’re eating on the paleo diet is loads of protein and fat, you’re likely going to struggle to lose weight,” Bannister explains. “Understanding caloric density and loading up on low calorie-dense foods will help to push your progress forward.” 

Bannister recommends focusing on fruits and vegetables first and making them the foundation of your diet. These foods tend to have low calorie density and fill you up on fewer calories.  

It’s also important to eat lean meats—like chicken or fish—rather than more calorie-dense meat options. 

“Lean proteins provide your meals with more staying power and keep you feeling satiated for longer,” Bannister says. 

Noom’s philosophy is that no foods are “good” or “bad.” You just need to balance them out. So it’s okay to have a juicy ribeye every once in a while.

If you decide to follow the paleo diet for weight loss, we’ve put together a list of paleo diet foods for you to choose from. Just remember to aim for balance.

3. Track what you’re eating each day 

While the hunter-gatherers of Paleolithic times probably didn’t log the foods they ate, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In fact, research suggests that food logging is actually closely related to weight loss

Bannister says that food tracking contributes to weight loss by giving you more awareness of the food choices you’re making.

You know exactly what you’re eating and how your body responds to the number of calories you’re eating. That way, you can adjust your calorie budget accordingly (and safely) to reach your weight loss goals. 

Tracking your food is especially beneficial on the paleo diet because it helps you see the amount of food you’re eating, so you can better manage your portions. 

“Even with a diet rich in fruits and veggies as well as lean protein, you can overeat,” Bannister explains. “It’s important to be mindful of your portion sizes.” 

A food logging app, like Noom Weight, will use your weight, age, sex, and activity level to recommend a calorie range for you. And then, all you have to do is log your paleo meals throughout the day, and the app will deduct them from your calorie budget.  

4. Have a support system in place

No matter the weight loss approach you take, reaching the end goal is tough—and it can take a toll on you emotionally. Find a support system to motivate and keep you accountable along the way. 

“Having a support system in place will help you stick to your goals when life throws you curveballs,” Bannister says. 

See if a family member will join you on the paleo weight-loss journey or just be a sounding board to keep you on track in your new way of eating. And talk to your family and friends about why you’re doing paleo and what your end goal is, so they can support you. 

Your doctor or dietitian is also a good source of support to get advice on following the paleo diet. A medical provider can also let you know of potential side effects or health benefits and recommend supplements you might need.

Even weight loss programs (such as Noom Weight) have strong communities of people working toward the same goal. Because of that, they are very understanding of one another’s struggles—so it’s a good place to look for extra support with your lifestyle changes. 

Paleo support groups are also available online (on forums like Reddit) for you to get paleo-friendly recipe inspirations and find people to encourage you on the hard days. 

How much weight can you lose in a week on paleo?

Weight loss results for any diet will be different for each person—and the paleo diet is no exception. 

In fact, you can find many stories of people posting online about how they lost weight on paleo, including many celebrities.

For the average person following a paleo diet and maintaining a caloric deficit, it’s possible to safely lose one to two pounds weekly. By the way, this is the amount of weight loss the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends as safe.

How much weight can you lose on paleo in 30 days?

Again, how much weight you lose in a month on paleo will vary by individual. It’s not uncommon to see stories online about how people lost several pounds in 30 days.  

If you stick with the CDC’s weekly weight loss recommendation, you can lose between four to eight pounds in a month. 

But if you don’t lose a full eight pounds in a month, don’t get discouraged. Everybody is different and will lose weight at their own pace.

Is paleo or keto better for losing weight?

It depends. Between paleo versus keto, it’s really about choosing the diet that you’re more likely to stick with—and the one that works better with your body and lifestyle.

“One is not better than the other,” Bannister says. “What’s most important is that you pick a diet that feels good for you and is sustainable long-term. The key to long-term weight loss is sustainable changes that last.” 

Both the paleo and ketogenic diets can help you lose weight, she confirms. 

The paleo diet focuses on the whole foods that we think our “cavemen” ancestors ate and eliminating calorie-dense processed foods for weight loss. 

Paleo might be better for you if you really like the idea of buying organic foods and enjoy eating nuts and raw or minimally processed foods. You might also think paleo is better if you don’t want to count macronutrients, like protein and carbs.

Meanwhile, Bannister says the main goal of the keto diet is to get the body into ketosis—the process of burning energy from fat instead of carbs. Keto is all about cutting out carbs, so you’ll have to track them very carefully.

People who start on keto often report very rapid weight loss. At the same time, some people experience sickness when starting the diet (the so-called “keto flu”). You’ll have to weigh these pros and cons.

Lose weight on a paleo diet meal plan with Noom

The paleo diet for weight loss is no simple feat. But achieving your weight loss goals can be a bit easier if you don’t try to do it all by yourself. 

At Noom, we’re here to help you get to where you want to be with your wellness. So we’ve put together a paleo diet meal plan to get you started.