4.15.2013

Thoughts on Paleo Backlash

I recently got a question from a friend asking me what I thought about this article, "Is the Popular 'Paleo Diet' a Bunch of Baloney?" which details some of the popular criticisms of the Paleo movement. After writing her a lengthy response, I realized that this was a great opportunity to talk about the current backlash against Paleo, the responses from authorities in the Paleo community and my thoughts on what Paleo means for me.

Paleo Backlash:

Recently there's been a bunch of attention paid to anti-Paleo arguments, and a bunch of new writing out there on the downsides of the Paleo Diet. The above article being one of many which rehash essentially the same arguments. The recently released book Paleofantasy is a more in depth critique but the essential points are the same:
  1. Human evolution did not stop in the Paleolithic era.
  2. We've never been perfectly adapted to our environment.
  3. There was no one Paleo Diet because humans eat differently all over the world.
To their credit, these are solid points, and they deserve to be addressed. Unfortunately they seem not to realize that these arguments have been floating around the paleo community for years, and HAVE been widely addressed and put to rest. Now, however, the current surge in the popularity of paleo has led to a resurgence of these arguments which skip over a lot of the discussion that's taken place. I'm not going to go over all the main responses to these points because as I said they've been thoroughly discussed in the community. Here are a couple of resources that I have found to be extremely helpful in deepening my understanding of the Paleo lifestyle:
  1. Chris Kresser's Revolution Health Radio: Thoughts on Paleofantasy Skip forward to minute 22 to hear the applicable discussion. He breaks down the arguments made in the book and gives what is, to me, a phenomenal response. He also discusses the benefits of the Paleo Diet from a purely scientific perspective showing how there's a strong argument for eating paleo without even bringing the evolutionary argument into play.
  2. Beyond Paleo: From a Paleo Diet to a Paleo Template by Chris Kresser
  3. Is Paleo even Paleo? And does it even matter? by Chris Kresser You can tell I love this guy :)
  4. Paleofantasy and the State of Ancestral Science by Paul Jaminet
  5. Is It All Just a “Paleofantasy”? By Mark Sisson

Now a couple of my thoughts on the subject:

As far as the general argument goes, it has its place. Historically, people would have eaten whatever they were closest too, in order to survive. If something was available, they would have huge incentive to eat it, which means potentially eating things like...partially rotting animal corpses and potentially poisonous foods they have no knowledge of, etc. So, clearly, the use of "Paleo" as a term for defining a diet needs to be put into its proper context. My feeling is that eating paleo is no more or less than a helpful way of thinking about the types of foods we eat, and why they're good for us, and not about literally asserting that whatever humans ate 10,000 years ago was somehow perfect.

What is clear is that there are certain foods that have become staples of modern diets that we are not designed to digest well, and this leads to a whole host of issues in the body. For me, Paleo is about saying, "I am a biological creature whose genes have barely changed in the last 10,000 years. I have a body that needs fuel. What fuel works the best? What fuel am I designed to utilize?" And what comes from that is the recognition that people just aren't designed to eat white sugar and masses of grains, among other things.

We have the ability to look back through history and archaeology and combine that knowledge with modern science to come to the best conclusions about what the healthiest diets consist of--and that, to me is the core of the Paleo idea.
A caveman probably never ate this exact meal. But it's really good for me. (My IG)

1 comment:

  1. Good points! I love seeing the response from the Paleo community to this book, which does seem a little outdated? and like it's not taking everything new into consideration. Of course we wouldn't say that we should eat exactly what our ancestors ate and nothing else, no questions asked. I just hope the mainstream gets the message that this is such a great way to eat and what our bodies want!

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