Count me surprised.
At 140 comments so far on my last post about being a blogger first, expanding my topical area beyond just Paleo diet and exercise mostly, the support is pretty damn remarkable. Even some commenters like Nakhil Hogan who disagree with me on my approach to politics (stop voting, fer crissakes!), have their hearts solidly in the right place. For most of them, their minds will eventually follow. I've been at this aspect of my online presence for 20 years, now, and when the heart is right, the mind follows, eventually.
I'll cover more of the political angles in a subsequent post. For now, in one comment to that post, I wrote:
I view the paleo movement as a movement to liberate the mind toward independence, individuality and freedom in a human evolutionary context.
It’s not about fucking paleo brownies and cookies.
At a point, one commenter added:
What would be the bestest possible Paleo product? Imo a line of Paleo frozen dinners from a subsidiary of Lean Cuisine. Takes all the stress and wasted time out of preparing a healthy Paleo dinner for your family.
Commenter Brent replied, in A++ fashion, in my view:
I can’t tell if this statement is meant to be ironic or serious, but I am seeing that attitude expressed more frequently as paleo goes more mainstream. And it indicates that the paleo movement is close to jumping the shark.
I am reminded of some investment advice I got a while back, which is basically: when the mainstream jumps on an investment idea, sell. Now, a paleo lifestyle is not something I’m going to leave, but – like others – I may have to leave the label behind as it starts to become a marketing term instead of a lifestyle concept.
I saw the same thing happen with low carb when it became a “fad.” One thing I will always be grateful for, from my low carb days, is heightening my awareness of what I was eating, as opposed to just how much of it. In addition to cutting down on carbs, Atkins admonished his readers to also cut out hydrogenated oils and some artificial sweeteners, like aspartame. Suddenly I was checking food labels for ingredient lists instead of just macronutrient content. It made me laugh at ludicrous products like Better’n Peanut Butter, with its inch-long ingredient list of processed additives that made it “healthier” than a product that was made of “roasted peanuts and salt.” That kind of thinking led me to paleo/primal living.
Paleo is (was?) a concept, not a brand, not an ingredient list, and not shorthand for gluten and/or dairy free. The latter is what the food industry wants it to be, because they can make their crap without gluten, and simply use a whole bunch of other potentially toxic crap to make the same foods palatable. They did the same thing with maltitol, which made products sugar free and “low carb,” but also caused diarrhea.
You may or may not have seen the report on the gorillas in the zoo whose health improved when they were taken off their diet of standard-issue gorilla food pellets. The which were high in sugar and other processed crap, but met all the “nutritional requirements” for gorillas, but was giving them heart disease and making them lethargic. Their health and energy improved when they were given whole foods more like what they would eat in the wild: fresh leafy vegetables and fruit. Sound familiar?
A “healthy Paleo frozen dinner by Lean Cuisine” is contradictory. Frozen dinners are the equivalent to food pellets for zoo humans. I’m looking at my copy of Paleo Magazine and I see an ad for “Paleo Coffee Creamer” – which is an oxymoron. Paleo creamer is called “cream” – preferably raw from 100% grass-fed cows. The act of sourcing fresh, quality ingredients, “wasting time” by preparing them properly, and enjoying them with good company is what makes the meal Paleo, not just its gluten/dairy content. Paleo is about changing our attitudes about our food – its quality and preparation – and our lifestyles. I think Richard’s point is that it is also about changing our mindsets towards life in general. That is, breaking away from the mindset of civilization – aka, the zoo. In other words, free the animal.
Again, Paleo is a concept. When we start looking for Paleo in convenient, processed, pre-packaged containers — so that we can continue being zoo humans eating their food pellets — the concept is dead.
OK, so a few years back when the first packaged snacks you could order like Paleo Kits came on the market, I was glad for it. Have ordered them a few times and they seem pretty wholesome to me. Same with Jerky Chews. I'm sure there are others. But where does it stop? It probably doesn't, and I find it a tad sad.
As everyone knows, I'm not religious and I'm not at all in favor of The Church of Paleo either. At the same time, the notion of sanctity transcends religion. In the narrative of Jesus tossing the money changers out of the temple, It's not about Jesus, sky fairies, or anything supernatural. It's about the idea that some things are sacred, and we should hold ourselves to high standards and low compromise. To put it in purely secular terms, it would be like having vendor booths set up for the photographer, caterer, planner, decorators, et al, at your daughter's wedding.
It's about there being an appropriate time and place. And Paleo, if it means anything at all, is about a little more effort, a little more care, a little more involvement, a little more time and attention. It's about the sanctity of something fundamental about not only our physical health, but our mental and social health. Think families going out and sourcing their food with care, collaboratively coming up with menu plans, all hands on deck for the preparation, and enjoyment mutually...sitting around the table talking to one another.
Saying grace, optional. Or, just take a moment of silence to contemplate "Mother Nature," or something.
How far removed is that idea from getting stuff in a bag or box with "Paleo" stamped on it, that takes no more effort than point and click, and which the family members grab to take on the road before heading out the door?
How about a new Paleo book being published almost weekly, now?
How about print and blog publications that are little more than vehicles for advertising all of the foregoing, and very light on substance?
...And all the while, a guy like Jimmy Moore gets criticized relentlessly for some of the sponsorships he has, even in the face of his clear move to cleaning things up with higher quality, including embracing Paleo in general and promoting grassfed and pastured animal products. At the same time, the Paleo world seems to be moving in the opposite direction.
So as a free market capitalist kinda guy, all this might surprise you. And honestly, I'm torn. I have no problem with making money...on the contrary, it's a virtue.
But I also believe in freedom and policing one's self and ourselves. So proceed with caution. Ask yourself when you opt to buy that next whatever in a bad or box, whether you're advancing your values or taking a step back.