What began as my Declaration of Independence from the Paleo Movement last week and culminated in yesterday's rant shall now continue onward, towards the positive and constructive. Some people mistook my declaration as an abandonment of Paleo. No, in fact, it's too many others who have abandoned Paleo as I see it, I was being dragged along, and now I'm getting back to fundamentals and basics.
The essential problem as I see it, is the continual effort to brand and trademark Paleo into some prescription or rigid set of proscriptions; i.e., a diet plan. Or, to precisely make it into the "fad" it's criticized for being. What do I mean by that? Well, lots of things but it really comes down to endless marketing of stuff, and new stuff, and stuff on stuff; and books, and books on books. Hell, I seriously have to take a trip to the used bookstore to drop off about 2 dozen books filling my office by this point, that have been sent to me and that I have no time or desire to read.
I'm not saying these are bad books, or that many of the products out there are not decent, reasonable choices or indulgences. It's just got that...that je ne sais quoi feel to it that soundly rubs me the wrong way. When I put my own cheap little book out there, I emailed it to the small group of folks most influential to my own learning (as a thank you) and who are listed in the book. I didn't ask for a review. I didn't even send out an email to my own email list. I just want there to be something simple for people to give those they love. That's all.
At the same time, not a day goes by—literally—that I'm not hit up for something or the other. Either it's a book to mail to me (where I'm not already on the mailing list anyway), free samples of product—whatever—and of course, the implication is that I need to try it, read it, write about it etc.; and I don't know about you, but I'd just rather not say anything than to give a bad or marginal review. ...But then there's that tinge of guilt because they went to the trouble and all. I guess it's how my parents raised me.
But here's the real deal, touched on actually by the very first guy to influence me, Art De Vany, on the new public site he's developing.
As a pioneer of the evolutionary approach to health, fitness, and diet, I am moving beyond that to bring a fully modern perspective to these subjects. Paleo has finally caught on, after years of work by a few pioneers, but it has become fractionated and splintered and a bit lost. It needs more fundamental principles and a more precise application of those principles to a host of modern diseases. A more basic model of the human physiology is required in my mind, with more emphasis on the chronic nature of modern life, which is inflammatory. And far more needs to be understood about the fractal nature of the dynamics that produce the feeback loops and variations that maintain life within a stochasitc attractor.
While it's not precisely what I have in mind, it does, I think, emphasize my key point and the reason behind my recent changes in attitude and approach.
There is no such thing as "being" Paleo
There's no "doing" Paleo, either. In fact, nothing "is" Paleo. There are no Paleo foods, no Paleo diets, no Paleo bbq sauces, no Paleo cupcakes, no Paleo snack packs. Grassfed beef and pastured eggs are not Paleo.
You can't go to a restaurant and find anything Paleo on the menu. There's no mail order that delivers Paleo. You are not Paleo, you can't be Paleo, and you never will be Paleo. There's no magic formula. There's no such thing as "I'm Paleo," and there never was.
What there is, however, is THINKING Paleo. Get it? Or, in professor De Vany's original parlance, Evolutionary Fitness. It's a state of mind, a way of thinking about all the choices you have to act upon. There are no absolutes, there's only for better or worse. That's it. That's really the whole basic formula.
Over time, knowledge of what's better vs. what's worse improves. That's why we ought to do science—to make better and better choices in our lives...and not so we can beat someone over the head with a study that "confirms" what we've been saying.
I'll keep with Art for a while here because once I began thinking of this recently, I recall how simple and elegant he made it all. And, I was one of the attendees at his Vegas seminar in 2008, along with John Durant—whom I still don't remember meeting . I recall one time on his blog where he posted a picture of some menu somewhere he'd been. Basically, he went down the list and it was not anything like "this is Paleo, this isn't Paleo, etc." Nope. Rather, it was "this is better than this is better than this, etc." He ended by saying "ah, maybe the wrap."
There are no forbidden foods. -- Art De Vany
Here's Art's new public blog.
Well, what more is there to say? For me, I'm just going to do my own thing, not asking to be promoted by others and promoting almost nobody or anything, except those I did way back in the beginning: Art De Vany, Peter Dobromylskyj, Stephan Guyenet, Chris Masterjohn, Mark Sisson (who elegantly always steers clear of all this stuff while helping out others here and there), Keith Norris, Doug McGuff, and perhaps a small handful of others from time to time.
So if you're looking to promote your next book, product or "This is Paleo" doohickey, please look elsewhere because I'll be busy trying to get people to think about the whole context of their lives better, so that they can make better and better choices about what's available—always from a human evolutionary perspective.
As a final note, this is what finally did it for me with the whole LC-Paleo antagonism that Jimmy Moore has promoted over these last months. OK, I was wrong. It does really matter ultimately that someone doesn't believe in evolution on religious grounds. As I said, I wish him well with that, but inasmuch as he seeks to be a voice in the Paleo community at large, this just really has to be accounted for, and so we really have too little in common to reach common ground in this context.
Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution. - Theodosius Dobzhansky
Now, go out there and don't "do" Paleo or try to "be" Paleo. Simply think Paleo. Use the principles, science and knowledge of human evolution to inform your decisions over the many choices you have in life, not really obsessing over the elusive "optimal," but just better and better, over time.
Accept the bumps.