The Paleo Principle is Neither Authoritative nor Dogmatic

I had to stop and make sure my readers -- if they haven't already -- see what I'm going to link to, as it's critically important.

First, let me give you an intro from my perspective. I have some fears that the "paleo" phenomena --seemingly growing in popularity -- risks becoming a victim of its own success. I'm seeing more and more of things I personally find distasteful, such as:

  1. Romanticizing the primitive. I wouldn't trade my modern comforts for a primitive existence for anything. There's just no substitute for a warm, soft bed, a dry place to live sheltered from the elements, and modern transportation. I know nobody else would either, but it's often hard to tell from some things I'm seeing out there.
  2. Eschewing the modern simply because it's modern and/or not explicitly based on some aspect of our evolution. The barefooting movement is an example. I go barefoot because I love it when conditions are suitable and other times I use the Vibrams. But I thank god for shoes. They're absolutely necessary and, sure, while probably not as orthopedically optimal as barefooting, assess the risk against smashing a toe, driving a stick through your foot, ripping off nails and other serious trauma that shoes deliver some protection for.
  3. Inflexibility & dogma. Look, the myth of "authority" is what got us into this modern health disaster and being authoritative in a dogmatic fashion is going to eventually bring unintended and unforeseen consequences. Lighten up.

Now, before I steal too much of Kurt's thunder, go read his post.

Let's say involuntary periods of hunger were something that we are so adapted to that we metabolically depend on them to avoid some diseases. Maybe we are less likely to get cancer if these periods happen to us with some regularity not found in a modern food-abundant environment. Because intermittent fasting might enhance our modern health, do we then say this was a "good" part of paleolithic life, even though the experience might have been uncomfortable and terrifying for paleo man or may have killed weaker members of his kin when it happened?

Yea, I have certainly had good success with IF and have even found it uplifting, at times. But I also know I can end it at any time. It makes a critical difference. Plenty more great insights where that came from.

In the end, I think it's best to keep it simple. It's about tweaking as much as you can from your own genetic makeup by synthesizing an environment for yourself that might, just maybe, fool your genes into keeping you around far longer than they give a damn about doing so (reproduction). While it's [educated] guesswork, we have reason to believe we're on the right track simply because of the body composition and health improvements of so many we've witnessed.

  1. Eat real food (meat, fowl, fish, natural fats from animals, coconuts & olives; veggies, fruits, & nuts) that you shop for and prepare yourself most of the time. Add a little dairy if you like it and can tolerate it. Find the range of balance that works best for you in terms of fat, protein & carbohydrate ratios. I say 'range' because I think you ought to mix things up; seasonally, or whatever method works for you. Especially: cut out grains, sugar and vegetable oils. Consider supplementing with omega-3 fats.
  2. Allow yourself to go hungry every day, at least a little (first meal of the day is a good time -- don't eat until you're truly hungry). Every once in a while, go hungry for a whole day.
  3. Get plenty of sunlight; and, probably supplement vitamin D.
  4. Run very fast sometimes, play hard when you can, and push and lift heavy things around when you have the urge. Do it briefly and intensely; not too often and not too long. Once to twice per week for 20-30 minutes each is plenty. But always push yourself for that brief time.
  5. Get lots of sleep.

Now, the above is really nothing like Paleoman lived since his existence was, by definition, genuine. We're just crudely modeling, so perhaps a little less romanticization is in order; and especially, dogma. Seriously, I read some comments on various blogs and forums, and it makes me think how utterly ridiculous it would be for the Inuit to try and tell the Kitavans how to eat & live, and vice versa -- assuming they would even if they could, of course, which is doubtful.

Comments

  1. Sylvie O says:

    Well said Richard! And no need to eat termites to make it real!!!

  2. “It makes me think how utterly ridiculous it would be for the Inuit to try and tell the Kitavans how to eat & live, and vice versa”

    Excellent point to put things in perspective!

    Grok on!

  3. Well said! Too many folks are obsessed with the last 10%, so to speak, when 90% is more than good enough. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you’re going to die, anyway.

    • anand srivastava says:

      In life like in software perfect is the enemy of good enough.

      Don’t strive for perfection so much that life is no longer good enough to live.

    • Other people are “obsessed”, we’re just enthusiasts. As to the last 10%, I guess it depends on which 10%, eh?

  4. Great post. One of the best things about primal/paleo is that it can be easily integrated into how we live today.

  5. Hell. Yes.

    And this is why I read you Richard, because even when there’s the occasional thing I disagree with, there’s solid frickin’ gold like this most of the time (to address some of the posts a week or more back).

    • Thanks, Andy. I appreciate the ability so many of my readers have to make critical distinctions. Frankly, I sometimes don’t care much for what I post, but if I had to ensure I did, I might never post anything.

      Mostly, I just go with my flow, which sometimes ebbs.

  6. Jeanie Campbell says:

    Ditto to what Andy said. I love to read your blog because you really tell it like it is. Plus your food porn is outstanding.

    • Sometimes I wonder if I go overboard on the food porn, or, if owing to my stage in life — which could change — my luxuries are too out of touch.

      Perhaps I could so a bit more simple stuff. I’ve really been enthusiastic with the SVS but I know that I need to keep it real as that’s just too out of touch for many very supportive readers. It would be like blogging back in the 70s when the microwave came out and was way out of touch for many.

      Thanks Jeanie.

      • Well, you could balance the food porn with a little scotch porn. I sip the occasional whiskey once or twice a week myself, and it’s always nice to see a snifter full of what others are drinking.

      • Richard,

        I don’t think you are out of touch with your food porn. In fact the more innovative your porn, the more I like it. Sure, not everyone is going to have a SVS but a switched on cook won’t copy everything you do – they’ll just use it for inspiration. Kinda like girl porn I guess. We can’t have everything we like the look of, but we can at least use the porn to improve on the real thing.

        Tin Tin

  7. Yeah, I like Kurt’s points about not trying for a Paleo “reenactment”. I picture a bunch of people dressed in Civil War-era uniforms debating whether their local Confederate company’s uniforms of the era were butternut or tan-gray and if they were woven in Richmond or Atlanta.

    • I think the Civil War uniform argument is a fantastic point. Hell, let’s argue about the tree used to make false teeth during the 18th century, same difference.

      Best,
      Skyler

    • Oh my, but that’s a damn good analogy, Guy.

      Back in ’79 I went off to Chattanooga, TN for my first year of college. Having grown u in NV, I just could not every get the fascination with the civil war in the romantic sense I experienced everywhere.

      Weird, to me.

      I loath Civil War reenactments. 620,000 ignorant soldiers died and untold civilians. What a waste, in life and, now, time and effort romanticizing something that ought to be our shame.

  8. Most people just don’t know how to be skeptical. They have to be dogmatic. They collect studies that support their point of view and ignore those who don’t. They dismiss other people’s experiences when it contradicts what they believe. They are paleo versions of Ancel Keys.

    • I’ve been reminding myself of that participating in discussions on eatinganimals.com
      I realized how much more you learn when you talk to people who don’t necessarily agree on everything. there’s a lot of misconceptions and blindness out there, but also some genuinely intelligent people who disagree for good reasons.

    • Good admonishment for all, CFS.

  9. Hi Richard,

    To echo this great post, I wrote an essay a few months ago that resonates well:

    http://epistemocrat.blogspot.com/2009/08/ancestral-fitness-choice-architecture.html

    It’s all just ancestral mimicry, only where useful and fruitful, searching across all ancestral time. That’s all. I am not sure why folks are mistaking this mythology for anything but a valuable heuristic for self-experimenting.

    Cheers,

    Brent

  10. “Most people just don’t know how to be skeptical. They have to be dogmatic. They collect studies that support their point of view and ignore those who don’t. They dismiss other people’s experiences when it contradicts what they believe. ”

    What a great line!! I immediately twittered it!

  11. Great post, Richard, and Kurt’s too. It’s amazing how religious people get about eating.. and maybe concentrate too much on length of life rather than quality of life. Maybe intermittent fasting and not eating dairy would make me live longer, but I don’t want to go hungry (unless I’m too enthusuastic about some activity that I forget to eat) and I do want to eat lovely cheeses. So a balance is good.

  12. I love this post.
    Calm, realistic, simple, no strong language.
    I can forward it to many friends knowing that it is going to be useful.

  13. It only starts being simple when people have made the lifestyle their “own”
    If not they will keep getting caught up in all the details. Just my 2 cents.
    Great post!

    Marc

  14. I think your concern that paleo-living is becoming a victim of it’s own success is a valid one.

    Paleo is not about throwing out centuries of technological advancement, leaving our cozy homes and retreating to a life of cave dwelling and hunter-gathering.

    It’s about comparing two radically different ways of living and choosing those habits that work best.

    House is better than cave
    Paleo nutrition is better than McNutrition
    HIRT workouts are better than surfing the net

    When I describe Paleo-life to people, the biggest impediment to understanding is the name – Paleo, Caveman, Primal, whatever…all these names conjure up a mental picture of Captain Caveman ( ).

    Only when people get past the idea of eating like a caveman do they see the benefits of this lifestyle

  15. SerialSinner says:

    “I’m seeing more and more of things I personally find distasteful, such as:

    1. Romanticizing the primitive.
    2. Eschewing the modern
    3. Inflexibility & dogma ”

    Great post Richard, couldn’t have said it better.

  16. Actually, if I could find a community out there that lived without all of modern day’s comforts, I’d go and live with them. So don’t say no one wants to give up “a warm, soft bed, a dry place to live sheltered from the elements, and modern transportation,” because I would.

    Just putting that out there. :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Subscribe ← The Paleo Principle is Neither Authoritative nor Dogmatic [...]

  2. [...] For many of you it's and upside-down world. You logically come to reasonable hypotheses based on evolutionary principles, do your research, self-experiment, achieve amazing results and learn that most others who roughly [...]

  3. [...] few weeks ago I wrote a post on diet as dogma. Free the Animal says there’s nothing authoritative or dogmatic about Primal living, and he’s [...]

  4. [...] to, and I loath the possibility of Paleo becoming a Luddite-esque religion. I blogged about that (The Paleo Principle is Neither Authoritative nor Dogmatic), and it got picked up by Sisson in a Weekend Link Love [...]

  5. [...] Yet when it comes to food and breaking down technical information in an engaging and informative manner Richard is well worth the read. Is he rude sometimes? Yes. Does he say things the way I would say them? No, but one thing he has going for him is that he is a paleo who doesn’t think the “paleo way” is a dietary prescription thundered down from Mt. Sinai. [...]

  6. [...] Yet when it comes to food and breaking down substantive technical information in an engaging and informative manner Richard is well worth the read. Is he rude sometimes? Yes. Does he say things the way I would say them? No, but one thing he has going for him is that he is a paleo who doesn’t think the “paleo way” is a dietary prescription thundered down from Mt. Sinai. [...]

  7. [...] Why? Cause it's too weird, I fear. We don't live in caves without modern convenience, I'd not want to, and I loath the possibility of Paleo becoming a Luddite-esque religion. I blogged about that (The Paleo Principle is Neither Authoritative nor Dogmatic)… [...]

  8. [...] is indeed an effective mythology, a principled framework we model and use for guidance, it's neither authoritative, dogmatic or religious in nature. What you need to do it to get things 80-90% right, pay attention to how you feel, primarily, and [...]

  9. [...] Why? Cause it's too weird, I fear. We don't live in caves without modern convenience, I'd not want to, and I loath the possibility of Paleo becoming a Luddite-esque religion. I blogged about that (The Paleo Principle is Neither Authoritative nor Dogmatic)… [...]

  10. [...] international popularity we're currently enjoying into a Shiite / Hezbollah hysteria over doctranary authority & dogmatism.So what do you think? At what point ought not someone refer to themselves as "paleo?"To [...]