State of Nature
December 29, 2012 6:21 PM   Subscribe

“When I spoke at the two Ron Paul events in Tampa, a young man kind enough to pick me up at the airport told me a fascinating story. The vast majority of young Ron volunteers in offices he visited all over the country were paleo. If a kid ordered pizza — which was always the primary or perhaps only campaign food — he was practically booed,” Atossa Araxia Abrahamian writes in The New Inquiry about the paleo diet, libertarianism, and the appealing idea of a healthy, undistorted state of nature to which we can return if we are only pure enough.

Abrahamian makes much use of the work of Marlene Zuk, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota who wrote in the New York Times three years ago:

"As an evolutionary biologist, I was filled with enthusiasm at first over the idea of a modern mismatch between everyday life and our evolutionary past. But a closer look reveals that not all evolutionary ideas are created equal; even for Darwinians, the devil is in the details. The notion that there was a time of perfect adaptation, from which we’ve now deviated, is a caricature of the way evolution works."
posted by escabeche (208 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
Paleo-fanaticism was also a sub-plot in Cryptonomicon.
posted by b1tr0t at 6:22 PM on December 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


In the course of editing the above post I borked the attribution. The lead quote was written by Lew Rockwell and quoted by Abrahamian -- he, not she, spoke at Ron Paul events.
posted by escabeche at 6:25 PM on December 29, 2012


Between the NY Times Style section on it and the Something Awful
goon who followed it I thought of the paleo diet as a hipster thing. It would make sense as a reaction against all the vegans and vegatarians in the scene.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:30 PM on December 29, 2012


Things we do that seemed like a good idea at the time but we don't do anymore for good reasons:

  • Gold standard
  • Paleo diets
  • Thinking it's acceptable to get superexcited about supporting a presidential candidate who published crypto (and not so crypto) racist screeds

  • posted by MCMikeNamara at 6:32 PM on December 29, 2012 [71 favorites]


    I've never understood how paleo dieters justify all that butter, still reducing the empty calories like white bread, fries, etc. sounds better than nothing.
    posted by jeffburdges at 6:33 PM on December 29, 2012


    some of the paleo-fanaticism idea that there was this past state of perfection seems like the whole 'noble savage' canard all dressed up and covered in bacon.
    posted by rmd1023 at 6:36 PM on December 29, 2012 [17 favorites]


    I'm gonna eat a bag of delicious potato chips right now because to Hell with that guy.
    posted by louche mustachio at 6:36 PM on December 29, 2012 [27 favorites]


    Grok, a 30-year-old hunter-gatherer, is upheld by marksdailyapple.com, a leading Paleo site, as a Paleo a role model. Grok, a caveman composite, is “simultaneously his own person/personality (incidentally male) and an inclusive, non-gendered representative of all our beloved primal ancestors.” He’s “a likeable fellow” who has a “strong, resourceful wife and two healthy children.” By modern standards, Grok “would be the pinnacle of physiological vigor . . . a tall, strapping man: lean, ripped, agile, even big-brained (by modern comparison)”
    This is a thing evangelized by people who take Ayn Rand and the nuttier Neal Stephenson characters to heart? I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.
    posted by zombieflanders at 6:38 PM on December 29, 2012 [35 favorites]


    I've never understood how paleo dieters justify all that butter

    There's a pretty broad subset of "paleo" people who pretty much ignore all the evolutionary biology and make their decisions based on modern science and personal experimentation. Not all of them, for sure, but even some of the early adopters sort of regret the "paleo" label since it seems to start fights that don't have much to do with whether or not certain foods make people more or less healthy.
    posted by restless_nomad at 6:40 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    I've been doing some paleo cooking because my man prefers it (something about his particular workout regime) and so far I've found that you can make some really tasty food and then be very, very hungry an hour later because of the lack of starch. And then I eat half a pound of pretzels and/or 1 or 2 entire cans of fruit. But I do use some paleo recipes for inspiration, and it's a good excuse to eat a shitload of bacon and fish.
    posted by NoraReed at 6:44 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    All the paleo people at my gym are pretty clear that most of your food should be vegetables and greens, so I am not sure how it can be construed as a reaction to vegetarians.
    posted by mulligan at 6:45 PM on December 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


    The criticism of paleo people, that their arguments rely on biological determinism, when their arguments are about nutrition and biology, struck me as bizarre.
    posted by kenko at 6:47 PM on December 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


    some of the paleo-fanaticism idea that there was this past state of perfection seems like the whole 'noble savage' canard

    Interesting, I'd never thought of it as a "noble savage" thing. I usually regard these types of beliefs as related to Eden -- all part and parcel with the infinitely recursive belief that things were better in the good old days.

    Now I'm wondering if these beliefs aren't one and the same, and if the noble savage is who we believe we would have been if we were born in an earlier, better time. It would certainly explain how people from "higher races" came to express admiration "savages."

    On the other hand that sort of thinking requires a high level of empathy and abstraction, so maybe not.
    posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:48 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Well, I think there is a certain macho rebelliousness that I've seen among paleo men and among libertarians, so it wouldn't surprise me to see some overlap between them, just like there seems to be some overlap between atheists (also rebellious) and libertarians.
    posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 6:49 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


    So this whole "I've finished first year, and will now apply this knowledge to Fix the World" thing applies to dieticians as well as economists?
    posted by pompomtom at 6:52 PM on December 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


    I've found that you can make some really tasty food and then be very, very hungry an hour later because of the lack of starch.

    Wow, this is weird. That's exactly the reason why I stopped eating carbs.
    posted by gertzedek at 6:53 PM on December 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


    The criticism of paleo people, that their arguments rely on biological determinism, when their arguments are about nutrition and biology, struck me as bizarre.

    Around me I see, incidentally anyway, a large overlap of libertarian bootstrap he-man ideology, hardcore exercise regimens like cross-fit & paleo diet. Maybe it's just that the most vocal of these folks tend to wear their ideology on their sleeves and talk up the diet at the same time, but it lends to a perception of correlation and I don't I'm the first person to notice it.

    Maybe it's just its most obnoxious proponents giving it a bad name, but those adherents anyway are surely adopting a paleo-diet from a political, ideological standpoint.
    posted by Devils Rancher at 6:57 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Paleo-fanaticism was also a sub-plot in Cryptonomicon.

    I don't remember that part, who was it?
    I remember the love letter to Capn Crunch, which seems as non-paleo as you could get.
    posted by madajb at 6:57 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    So ... Politics is a religion, too? Who'd a thunk it?
    posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    I think probably a meat and vegetable based diet has to be better for you than stuff based on grains. The main advantage of a grain based diet has always been price and stability of supply, not anything to do with nutrition. I've been tempted to go to a mostly vegetable with some meat diet for a while. I'm just afraid I'd lose weight on it, because i'm skinny as it is.
    posted by empath at 7:01 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    still reducing the empty calories like white bread,

    The modern wheat could be toxic. and thus the paelo's would be correct.
    posted by rough ashlar at 7:03 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I don't remember that part, who was it?

    Andrew Loeb.
    posted by zombieflanders at 7:03 PM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


    I follow a paleo diet, and it sure makes me poop more. Maybe the Libertarians just like being full of shit.
    posted by TwelveTwo at 7:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


    There has always been disease and poor health. Now, with science, we can start to uncover how the disease process happens.

    In general, the concept that the disease process involves environmental variables more than just "spontaneous genetic randomness" is much more logical. The idea that genes just randomly are set to produce disease for no reason at any given time doesn't match basic cause and effects.

    There is randomness and uncertainty, yes, but not at the levels that we have fantasized into existance in order to make us feel safe and that our choices will come cost free to our physical, mental, and emotional health. We have NEVER been complete masters of maintaining human health across populations. But that doesn't mean it isn't a wonderful goal to shoot for.

    Prevention and maintaining health is certainly ideal to waiting until people have diseases and putting drugs that have side effects and often offer imperfect solutions in their bodies.

    But even in caveman times- breathing in exhaust, soot, fumes from cooking, or metal work, dirt and metals in cookware, lack of sun, too much sun, poor diet, lack of excercise, too much exercise, too much bacterial or mold exposure, too much sleep, too little sleep.... these have always sent bodies away from health. And this is just the beginning of the vast quantity of variables we can measure that affect human health. Too much social interaction or too little, too much peer rejection, too much isolation or too little space for the self--- Too much or too little is really individual as well which is why it's very difficult to draw conclusions from population based studies on what is the "healthiest" state for humans over all (because there isn't exactly such a thing). All of these variables work together to buffer against other variables or join together to spiral the system toward disease.

    And of course the degree of an exposure combined with the age of the person and all their other health variables (and their ancesters exposures and degree of cellular mastery over handling them) determines whether it will offer practice (that the system can use to gain strength) or cause damage that sets the system back in terms of being healthy and prepared for future exposures of various types.

    The concept that rapid change is difficult for most organisms to adapt to is fairly sound, and likely what foods and living conditions were well suited to your ancestors might be beneficial to know. THAT SAID-- our ancestors ate what was available, not necessarily what was healthiest for their bodies.
    posted by xarnop at 7:06 PM on December 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


    A very noticeable subset of my friends have tried or are trying similar diets. For them it's nothing more than a way to lose weight/be healthier. It seems like for those who stick with whatever version of the plan they've devised, it works. It's feels like it's likely to be less related to the "paleo"ness as it is of being in a state where they're paying attention to what they eat, and the fact that cutting out carbs seems to work for a lot of people.

    But I also haven't experienced any weird preachiness or evangelicalism about it, especially compared to how many newly converted vegans communicate.
    posted by flaterik at 7:19 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


    This article was pretty good, the author did her homework. It was nice to have a fairly balanced view of the various sects in the paleo community.

    Here are some things she could have touched on:

    Robb Wolf, who is one of the more moderate paleo advocates, has a separate Libertarian podcast. (Moderate in terms of his paleo dogma, and surprisingly not strident in his political views for the most part.)

    The popular Paleo Strawman is a bit outdated. Over the last 2 years or so, many paleo advocates have reintroduced both rice and potatoes into the diet.

    That whole caveman schtick was just an early model to base an elimination diet on. The paleo model started off very broad and has gradually reincorporated more foods back in as research/anecdata exculpates certain food. The name has stuck, but plenty of people like Mat Lalonde and Stephan Guyenet really laugh at the whole caveman thing.

    A lot of paleo practicioners account for things like gut flora, probiotics, enzymes and epigenetic factors when looking at food tolerance. Maybe some of this is a bit woo, but few respected bloggers see thing so deterministically.

    Many paleo blogger have embraced the inclusion of low gluten grains by companies like Dow and Walmart. They're not inherently against big organizations. Robb's position on Dow's research into gluten free grains is pretty inclusive.

    All in all though a surprisingly not insulting article that nails a lot of truths about the people who follow a strict paleo diet.
    posted by Telf at 7:23 PM on December 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


    Eh, if someone's taking up a paleo diet in place of eating out every day or eating poorly, then more power to them. My opinion on their intentions is largely irrelevant.
    posted by spiderskull at 7:37 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Any time someone whips out some Edenic past of our early ancestors I point out that right now, in the wealthy first world, we are the BEST looking people born. Seriously, we do not have the dietary problems of previous civilizations, no rampant diseases e.g., syphlis, proper dental care and proper sanitation. Because of vaccination and proper sanitation you do not not have scarring/fatal diseases like small pox and heck, leprosy is pretty rare.

    Yeah, those idyllic days in the glorious past where flush toilets were not so common and steady diet being iffy can freaking stay in the past.

    So go all cave man on me, but you better be appreciating that flush toilet.
    posted by jadepearl at 7:41 PM on December 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


    Andrew Loeb.

    Oh, right, the lawyer guy.
    posted by madajb at 7:41 PM on December 29, 2012


    The main advantage of a grain based diet has always been price and stability of supply, not anything to do with nutrition.

    If you honestly think stability of supply has nothing to do with nutrition, try spending a winter somewhere cold.
    posted by mhoye at 7:43 PM on December 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


    But I also haven't experienced any weird preachiness or evangelicalism about it

    I've seen a whole lot of preachiness about it both here and elsewhere; I've learned to stay out of any online discussion of what "healthy eating" is because it tends to fill up with "grains are killing us all!" type comments. There is a subset of the paleo community that seems to take it as seriously as a religion.

    The problem that I have with it and other low-carb diets is the conflation of all grains/carbs into one noxious pile. RDs have been telling us for years to eat less sugar and less highly-processed grains, but that has little to do with highly-nutritious whole grains that are full of vitamins, fiber, protein, and healthy fat. My partner is a diabetic, so we limit our carbs and balance them with lean proteins; it's also true, however, that too little carbohydrate can cause a diabetic's blood sugar to rise. It's about balance, not throwing out whole huge categories of nutritious foods.
    posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 7:44 PM on December 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


    But even in caveman times- breathing in exhaust, soot, fumes from cooking, or metal work, dirt and metals in cookware,

    what
    posted by mhoye at 7:44 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    LOL- I noticed that as well, but I do think contamination in water and cookware of germs and metals and fungus would have been pretty common (and yes I mean clay pots and such). By the time metal work was going on those exposures were not so great either.
    posted by xarnop at 7:53 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    (the exhaust reference I found particularly amusing in reference to cavemen times. My genuine apologies to those who don't find differently functioning brains amusing.)
    posted by xarnop at 7:55 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I think the message is that our ancient fore-bearers did all sorts of unhealthy shit and I have somehow failed to evolved into a being that thrives on campfire smoke, getting nailed in the eye with a flint chip, or saber toothed cat bites.
    posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:55 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Watching fad diets come and go is like sitting on the bank of a river watching boats full of people running around in circles on the upper deck float past.
    posted by The Card Cheat at 7:56 PM on December 29, 2012 [33 favorites]


    Once upon a time I made the comment, "I'm not sure if I'm amused or frightened that people don't get that calories are the fundamental unit of not dying rather than some hideous contaminant that factory farms put into our otherwise nutritious foods."

    I think I'm going to stand on that hand.
    posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:58 PM on December 29, 2012 [22 favorites]


    You've omitted the fourth and fifth axes of this particular form of crazy: Crossfit and worship of the military. Take it from someone who's met a bunch of these people.
    posted by indubitable at 8:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


    Anecdata point: I cut wheat out of my diet about three months ago purely as part of going low-carb to lose some weight. The chronic scalp eczma I'd suffered from since I was a teenager stopped IMMEDIATELY. I was totally taken aback, as I'd utterly dismissed the possibility of it being an allergy.

    I do know a few paleo guys (mostly Crossfit dudes) and I think they would be a bit shocked if they realized the actual paleo diet involved eating a lot of insects and raw plant roots, and some rotten meat, but mostly being extremely hungry.
    posted by unSane at 8:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


    unSane and undubitable, is there some overlap between the paleo guys and MRAs? Because that would seem to fit with the macho biological determinism stuff discussed in the article.
    posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:05 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    All the serious paleo folks I know are women, so if there's overlap, it's not enough to scare off a bunch of social-justice-activist lesbians.
    posted by restless_nomad at 8:07 PM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


    So go all cave man on me, but you better be appreciating that flush toilet.

    For real. People who can idealize one backwards, ridiculous, grossly regressive notion don't seem to have a lot of trouble idealizing lots of others, apparently. Does anyone think that humans haven't evolved since then?

    I mean: lactose tolerance. The ability to metabolize alcohol. The ability to digest spicy food, for Christ's sake, the spices that inhibit bacterial and fungal growth in warm climates. As far as paleo-anyone is concerned, all that shit is unheard of, like modern agriculture or tools or vaccines or refrigeration or damn near anything except how the worldgods tell us that the dead spirits of the animals remain so we remove the skin with the sharp rocks and let them commune on the altar of the fire god briefly and maybe pull it out before it's a black rock then eating the hot flesh will fill our bellies and we might not shit ourselves to death like Thag's brother Thog did in the beforedays.

    Humans are the apex predator of every square inch of this planet that isn't a mile underwater, and it's not because of the dietary restrictions faced by our distant ancestors. It's because of how we overcame those restrictions.
    posted by mhoye at 8:10 PM on December 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


    The idea that genes just randomly are set to produce disease for no reason at any given time doesn't match basic cause and effects.

    The diseases tend to come on more frequently with age, which makes perfect sense. As soon as your tribe can thrive without you, Nature needs you dead to free up resources.

    Disease and death are not an aberration. They are part of the "natural" human life cycle.

    We can try to control the onset of diseases and in general not aggravate the situation, but don't believe for a second that nature doesn't want you dead.
    posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:12 PM on December 29, 2012 [13 favorites]


    Yeah, my paleo guys are not at all jock-y. Crossfit is very right-wing in general, though, but the ones I know are quite the opposite. One's my hairdresser. Probably a Canadian thing. And yeah I know as many paleo women as men.
    posted by unSane at 8:12 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    It is weird to encounter people who deliver some mythology about their food choices based on misinformation about what pre-agricultural peoples ate, and what hunter-gatherer cultures eat today. The "no tubers and no grains, ever!" thing particularly makes no sense to me when people ascribe it to some prehistoric model, because we know that prehistoric people ate the fuck out of tubers and grains when they could find them.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 8:12 PM on December 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


    And I see that there has been dial back on the "tubers and grains are bad" position, as discussed already in the thread. Legumes next, I hope! Prehistoric people ate legumes wherever they could find them.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 8:15 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Well, I assume that agriculture would begin with trying to grow the things that you're already finding around you and eating.
    posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Legumes next, I hope! Prehistoric people ate legumes wherever they could find them.

    The point is not that legumes are evil, it's that some people digest them poorly and right now there's no way to know if you're one of them without eliminating them for a while first. That's the direction paleo as a movement is trending - towards individualized elimination diets - not towards any particular set of anthropology.
    posted by restless_nomad at 8:18 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    unSane and undubitable, is there some overlap between the paleo guys and MRAs? Because that would seem to fit with the macho biological determinism stuff discussed in the article.

    Probably not. There are quite a few women involved in Cultfit and paleo dieting, and I can't imagine MRA types coming within 10 feet of a living, breathing woman. I haven't personally seen that kind of unpleasantness, anyway.
    posted by indubitable at 8:24 PM on December 29, 2012


    restless_nomad I would appreciate some expansion on that point. Specifically: does anybody have any data that the people who digest legumes poorly and the people who find legumes exceptionally fart-o-genic are the same folks? Because I love beans and they don't make me fart nearly as much as broccoli and cabbage and V-8 juice do. As I understand it fart gas comes from stuff that you don't digest but your gut bacteria feed on so it seems at a simple level that if beans don't make you fart much you are digesting them just fine.
    posted by bukvich at 8:25 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    The farting problem is not the major objection - it's the lectins and phytates. Basically, some people seem to have an autoimmune response to some of these compounds.
    posted by restless_nomad at 8:30 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


    A very cursory google search tells me that there were no white people in the paleolithic.
    posted by Meatbomb at 8:31 PM on December 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


    Robb Wolf, who is one of the more moderate paleo advocates

    Man, I misread that as Robo Wolf and thought, I'd read the hell out of that paleo-blog.
    :(

    posted by hap_hazard at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    marksdailyapple.com, referenced in the article as a popular paleo blog/site, has its meal replacement powder "primal fuel" prominently displayed on its website. You know it's primal because the logo is a caveman in dreads doing crossfit with a spear.


    30 Servings per Canister
    20 Grams of the Highest Biological Value Protein
    9 Grams of Delicious Fat (From Coconut)
    5 Grams of Natural Sugars (No HFCS)
    6 Grams of Soluble Fiber (as Prebiotics)
    Natural Chocolate and Vanilla Flavors


    Wow. Primal Fuel sounds just like the whey protein isolate based meal replacement powder my ancient forbearers would have consumed. Good thing this isn't another fad being used by con artists to milk middle class people with more money than sense.
    posted by stavrogin at 8:35 PM on December 29, 2012 [26 favorites]


    restless_nomad, I get what you're saying and I think it makes great sense for people to be aware of what foods work best for them and their bodies, but I have gotten so many "cavemen didn't eat beans!" lectures from ill-informed people that it is a running joke between me and my husband now.

    Cavemen ate beans.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 8:46 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Yeah, paleo is an excellent example of why framing matters so damned much. The evolutionary aspect was originally just a jumping-off point for research but of course people hear it and want to argue with that and not with any of the actual research or evidence that's come from it. And the cross-pollination with the Crossfit diehards doesn't help a bunch - those tend to be some people who know that they are doing the Only Right Thing.
    posted by restless_nomad at 8:52 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I have no desire to role play a caveman, but I've been eating this way for a while now, and I feel great. More energy, stable mood, fat loss etc. And this is without giving up booze.
    posted by Greener Backyards at 8:53 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Anybody know of a good source to deflate anti-bean alarmism not paid for by the bean growers associations?
    posted by bukvich at 8:57 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    If a caveman jumped off a bridge would you do that too?
    posted by mazola at 8:59 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Schoolyard rhymes?
    posted by indubitable at 9:01 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Maybe because I eat carbs, but I have a problem with Ron Paul's racist past.
    posted by mkelley at 9:11 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    as long as it's a naturally occurring geologic formation that happens to function as a bridge, sure?
    posted by cendawanita at 9:12 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Wanted to agree with restless_nomad again on this. There's a big difference between the initial hypothesis of the paleo diet and the way it's practiced now. Anyone who's kept up with it will acknowledge that it's very much turning into a systematic elimination diet based on individual tolerances. The SEDBOIT diet, I just came up with that.

    It's fun to get your chuckles imagining that the paleo diet is people playing a Caveman LARP, but if you look at how the whole "Ancestral Health" thing has progressed, a lot of the sillier ideas have been shed.

    People threw out the paleo diet as a hypothetical starting grounds for where we could make sense of all the problems with the Standard American Diet. (Obesity, Type II diabetes, possibly Alzheimers, metabolic syndrome etc etc)

    Some assumptions have stuck. (Wheat causes some weird issue in some people, some people don't do well with dairy, cutting out processed crap tends to help you lose weight, grassfed beef is pretty awesome for you, get a good variety of natural fats for better health etc.) Some things have been proven silly and therefore abandoned. (Low carb is always best, avoid potatoes, rice is going to kill you, calories don't matter etc.)

    It's a bit like saying early models for the solar system were a bit crap, so any ideas that have come from astrology in the last few years are subject to ridicule as well. I'm not going to make fun of Stephen Hawking for believing in equants or geocentrism. That wouldn't make a lot of sense. I think we can stop making fun of paleo folks for dressing up in furs and hunting dogs.
    posted by Telf at 9:13 PM on December 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


    Every time I read a paleo recipe that calls for dairy products, I laugh.

    I mean, I get that "paleo" is macho shorthand for "low carb". But still. Lol. At least vegetarians and vegans somewhat attempt to live by the precepts they put forward (and in the case of vegetarians, for most people it is exactly what the name implies).

    Also, we evolved to eat everything. A carb-based diet isn't good for us sedentary folks because it supplies too many calories, and in an inefficient manner. But carbs are not bad for you, per se. A century ago it was common for working class people to live on bread, schmaltz, and sweetened tea. If carbs were unambiguously Bad For You, the human race would be extinct.
    posted by Sara C. at 9:13 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    The modern wheat could be toxic. and thus the paelo's would be correct.

    That interview you linked to is sadly such a load of shit. E.g:

    "This thing has many new features nobody told you about, such as there's a new protein in this thing called gliadin."

    Gliadin has been in bread since it was invented. Indeed, you can't have gluten without gliadin. As gluten is made of two components, gliadin and glutenin. Rye flour has no glutenin - which provides the elasticity of bread - only gliadin, which provides the extensibility. Rye flour is one of the oldest extant grains.

    If that's the level of knowledge dude brings to his anti-flour nonsense, he needs to try harder.
    posted by smoke at 9:14 PM on December 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


    I guess the major issue here is whether or not people think that our current dietary models are optimal, or could be improved upon.

    I think there's a lot of silly woo woo nonsense in this whole paleo business, but there's a lot more silly nonsense in veganism, or extremely low-fat Healthy Choice TV dinners, or Dr Oz and his product of the month.

    I have to give credit to people like Mat Lalonde, Stephan Guyenet, Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser for asking interesting questions and modifying their models over time, as new information comes in.

    Resting on our laurels and assuming that we know everything we need to know about nutrition, and that this perfect knowledge is disseminated by the USDA is a bit suspect to me. I think the original articles picks up on that general mistrust of big government agencies.

    I think the paleo movement is healthy in that it constantly asks incisive questions about health and then challenges them. There are enough people out there systematically testing assumptions, that we are learning some interesting things.

    A lot of the old assumptions we had about nutrition are patently incorrect or over simplified, I'm glad there are people out there trying to improve our nutritional models.
    posted by Telf at 9:22 PM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


    it's very much turning into a systematic elimination diet based on individual tolerances.

    Then I'm not sure what makes paleo either unique, or new in that regard. People have been doing eliminations diets for decades, and prior to that - and even now - more people simply avoid foods that "don't agree with them". I often think a lot of fad diets - just like responses to them - are built around responding to strawmen and extreme stereotypes rather than realities.

    I can understand this in a way, as someone with a chronic medical condition - colitis - that at times can severely mediate what I eat. Social pressures, and idenitties around food and eating are very strong. But I think it's also important to remember that these pressures can be ephemeral and often self-imposed or extrapolated.
    posted by smoke at 9:22 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    "no tubers and no grains, ever!"

    This brings up a pretty excellent point.

    So, if you're paleo, can you eat beets and turnips and carrots and such? If so, why are they OK but potatoes are forbidden?

    I mean, ancient hunter gatherers are going to eat whatever edible stuff they dig out of the ground. They're not going to be all, "Oh, wait, but this has a really high glycemic index... Nuuk, you didn't spear any antelope today by any chance? You didn't? Well, I guess we starve then. At least our corpses are going to look hawt and ripped and shit."
    posted by Sara C. at 9:23 PM on December 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


    Does anyone think that humans haven't evolved since then?

    I mean: lactose tolerance.


    Considering that the majority of people in the world who are lactose intolerant are also not white, it is probably not a good idea to suggest that they are somehow less evolved than the white people who can properly digest milk as adults.
    posted by elizardbits at 9:25 PM on December 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


    Anyone who's kept up with it will acknowledge that it's very much turning into a systematic elimination diet based on individual tolerances. The SEDBOIT diet, I just came up with that.

    But what I wonder is this. The people who went vegan and experienced a boost in health after eliminating animal products from their diet -- I assume there are such people -- are they "paleo" in this sense, and if so, does the word "paleo" have any meaning more specific than "diet that restricts certain foods?"
    posted by escabeche at 9:28 PM on December 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


    towards individualized elimination diets

    I don't mean to be rude, but why?

    I mean, I assume most people who do paleo are generally healthy folks who don't suffer from debilitating health problems that are likely connected to eating habits. (If they were, they wouldn't be "paleo", they would be celiac or allergic to shellfish or diabetic or whatnot.)

    So why eliminate all this stuff from your diet, if everything is otherwise pretty much OK for you, foodwise?

    "I don't digest beans well" does not equal "beans make me fat".

    I don't know a ton about nutrition, but it seems to me that undertaking a radical elimination diet for no particular reason, when you're perfectly healthy, and you're not under the direction of a doctor, is sort of a pointless thing to do.
    posted by Sara C. at 9:29 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Ah, MeFi loves any excuse to point and laugh at libertarians. Threatened, much?

    Regardless, this idea that a state of nature is any kind of ideal is easily dispelled. For the most part, all you have to do is look at animals to know that a natural state of being sucks. Animals are beat-up, parasite-ridden, and diseased. They're alive, but many, many of them are miserable.

    Humans have an unusual set of dietary needs, and there aren't very many places in the world where you can eat only local wild game and vegetation and get everything you need. Without our huge brains, our bizarre set of genetic deletions that prevent us from making many of the vitamins we require would probably have killed us off long ago. In my view, the only reason Nature tolerated such a defective creature was because we, more or less, spit in its face and lived anyway, ripping what we needed out of the world.

    If we try to return to some mythical state of nature, we will return to being beat-up, parasite-ridden, and diseased. And we might achieve an entirely new thing: extinction.

    I'll take modernity, thanks.
    posted by Malor at 9:29 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Ah, MeFi loves any excuse to point and laugh at libertarians. Threatened, much?

    Keep telling yourself that.
    posted by mhoye at 9:32 PM on December 29, 2012 [34 favorites]


    The people who went vegan and experienced a boost in health after eliminating animal products from their diet -- I assume there are such people -- are they "paleo" in this sense, and if so, does the word "paleo" have any meaning more specific than "diet that restricts certain foods?"

    No, not particularly. I mean, what makes an elimination diet "paleo" is the set of assumptions about what you should try to eliminate - namely, grains, legumes, and dairy. If instead you eliminate dairy, eggs, and meat, you may be doing an elimination diet, but no one would call it paleo.

    I mean, I assume most people who do paleo are generally healthy folks who don't suffer from debilitating health problems that are likely connected to eating habits. (If they were, they wouldn't be "paleo", they would be celiac or allergic to shellfish or diabetic or whatnot.)

    In my experience, that assumption would be faulty. Most of the people I know who have climbed on the bandwagon have had autoimmune conditions, migraines, chronic allergies, metabolic syndrome, or some other long-term condition that they figured was worth the experiment to see if it would improve. The rest of the people were hardcore athletes looking to maximize their performance and recovery. People who are in perfect health with their current diet don't usually bother to change their diet. In my case, my doctor has been 100% supportive and generally in favor of my gluten-free experiments, because it seems to work at least as well as the prescription that probably won't make me go blind. Probably.
    posted by restless_nomad at 9:36 PM on December 29, 2012


    Ah, MeFi loves any excuse to point and laugh at libertarians. Threatened, much?

    Nah. Laughing due to amusement. To be fair, I have a dark sense of humour.
    posted by pompomtom at 9:36 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


    Humans have an unusual set of dietary needs

    What?
    posted by rtha at 9:36 PM on December 29, 2012


    Humans have an unusual set of dietary needs

    Actually, we're unusual in that we don't have much in the way of dietary needs. We can pretty much get by on whatever. Part of what makes us human is that we are omnivores who can digest a fuck ton of random shit.

    My main issue with most health fads is that they assume humans are like koalas, when really humans are like rats.
    posted by Sara C. at 9:37 PM on December 29, 2012 [34 favorites]


    A very cursory google search tells me that there were no white people in the paleolithic.

    ... elsewhere, a billion perplexed Hindus raise an eyebrow in North America's direction.
    posted by mhoye at 9:40 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Just one quick example: we die without Vitamin C, which most other animals, if they need it at all, can make for themselves.
    posted by Malor at 9:40 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    A few minor responses:

    Smoke,
    You ask what makes the paleo diet unique. I'll say that it's probably that that it happened to become popular with the modernization of the internet. It's kind of the perfect storm of people gaining acces to things like internet forums, twitter, facebook etc. The community spread and people like talking about things on line. Kind of like how furries are a thing now because of the internet.

    Elizardbits,
    I don't think anyone is placing a value, heirarchy, or teleological goal on evolution here. Nobody thinks we're evolving towards some higher state, so I don't think there a racist undertones in this on.

    Escabeche,
    I'd argue that any diet has merit if it causes you to become more mindful of your food choices. Ironically, there is a big overlap in the eliminations found in both raw vegan and paleo communities. It's just that paleo folks don't have to worry about low EPA/DHA levels, lowered access to b complex vitamins, iron deficiencies in women or potentially low protein levels. The whole not eating frozen dinners and 7-11 hotdogs thing is probably universally good. (Though possibly elitist and economically difficult for many.)

    Sara C,
    I think the key word to argue over is debilitating. Someone mentioned the eczema thing above. I get really bad eczema on my elbow when I eat bread. I get a bit of acne and a phlegmy throat when I drink a lot of milk. I learned both of these things when experimenting with paleo. It's about making choices. Sometimes I'd rather eat pizza and drink beer then worry about having a gross peely elbow for a few weeks. It's nice figuring out how your body handles things. Some people have worse issues, it's nice learning how/if you can control them.
    posted by Telf at 9:41 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Just one quick example: we die without Vitamin C, which most other animals, if they need it at all, can make for themselves.

    Surely without these tricky dietary requirements, humans could dominate whole continents.
    posted by pompomtom at 9:43 PM on December 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


    My main issue with most health fads is that they assume humans are like koalas, when really humans are like rats.

    I think you'd find that many paleo folks got into their line of thinking through Pollan and The Omnivore's Dilemma.

    The paleo folks that I know don't put much credence in magical superfoods like Acai etc. It's unlikely that our bodies are set up to reap amazing benefits from a fruit that only exists in a small part of the world. (Goji berries, Acai, Moringa etc.) In this I think paleo people are pretty smart. On the other hand they do have an obession with things like coconuts, grassfed meat and wild fish. That's more based on their micro/macro nutrient profiles though. Not some secret magical ingredient that is the key to perfect health.
    posted by Telf at 9:47 PM on December 29, 2012


    Malor, we get vitamin C by eating most fresh foods. It's only really a problem for people who are away from typical food sources for years at a time, like sailors during the golden age of sail.
    posted by Sara C. at 9:48 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Considering that the majority of people in the world who are lactose intolerant are also not white, it is probably not a good idea to suggest that they are somehow less evolved than the white people who can properly digest milk as adults.

    I absolutely didn't intend to be putting some moral value on "evolution". On top of being some seriously reprehensible bullshit, which you're right to call me out for, that would also be a gross misunderstanding of what "fitness" means in that context. All I'm saying is that humans continue to evolve and the paleolithic was, in those terms, a goddamn long time ago.
    posted by mhoye at 9:50 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    think you'd find that many paleo folks got into their line of thinking through Pollan and The Omnivore's Dilemma.

    They must have read it really selectively.
    posted by Sara C. at 9:50 PM on December 29, 2012


    Sara C,

    Agree with you regarding the Vitamin C thing. It's interesting to note that most northern european populations didn't really have access to fresh fruits/veggies for 6 months or of the year. It's something I think we forget with super markets and internationally sourced produce.

    Your average Rus, Pict, Celt etc wasn't enjoying a whole lot of oranges in the middle of January. (Obviously other sources might be available.)
    posted by Telf at 9:52 PM on December 29, 2012


    They must have read it really selectively.

    In practice, it's a kind of minor step from eating little/no processed food to eating few/no grains. The typical paleo menu and a Michael Pollan real food devotee's menu would be pretty damned close. A gluten-and-lactose-intolerant Pollan adherant's menu would be pretty much identical.
    posted by restless_nomad at 9:56 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    The Paleo diet at this point is basically just suffering from some really bad marketing. It's almost indistinguishable from Michael Pollan's various prescriptions, but Pollan is revered while Paleo is derided.

    If you strip away all the philosophy and BS evolutionary biology arguments, the Paleo diet has you eating a ton of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and nuts. Seriously, there is very little to mock about the diet itself.

    Its fans, alas, are often extremely mockable.

    Given the poor state of nutrition and obesity in America - and I myself am one poorly-nutriented, obese American, so I put myself squarely in that demographic - we could do a lot worse than to adopt the Paleo diet on a widespread basis.

    Please, I implore you: save your vitriol for the nutritional targets that truly deserve it. Like the Baby Food Diet, or the Maple Syrup Cleanse.
    posted by ErikaB at 9:57 PM on December 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


    ...think you'd find that many paleo folks got into their line of thinking through Pollan and The Omnivore's Dilemma.

    They must have read it really selectively.

    I'd actually make the case that you're interpreting paleo selectively and burning a straw man here.

    The paleo community is pretty much just taking the whole "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." thing and running with it.

    I think most of them are pretty down with the eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

    I also think most of them would agree with just about everything Pollan has argued for. Again, stop imagining people dressed up as Flintstones characters eating brontosaurus ribs in their foot-powered cars.

    Think of the dude who goes to the farmers market on his bike to pick up some grassfed local beef to put into his home-grown salad. So pretty much a middle class white dude who's trying to eat healthy despite his hectic computer programming job.
    posted by Telf at 9:58 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    There is vitamin C in fresh meat, in my understanding.

    The modern association between scurvy, vitamin C, and citrus fruits in particular is mostly just misinformation based on the fact that the British navy chose to carry citrus fruits in order to combat scurvy. Which is probably more about some properties of citrus (long lasting and easy to transport due to the rind) and some aspects of the British empire (lots of territory in climates where citrus could be supplied easily).

    Also, in Northern Europe people have stored fresh fruits and vegetables since time immemorial. It's not that hard to dig a root cellar to keep hardy late season produce like beets, turnips, apples, and the like. The remainders might not be real appetizing by the time April rolls around, but they'll keep you alive.
    posted by Sara C. at 9:58 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Sara C,

    Right. Hence my use of the words fresh and other sources. Think we both agree on this one.
    posted by Telf at 10:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    The paleo community is pretty much just taking the whole "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food." thing and running with it.

    I don't know about your grandmother, but mine eats wheat, potatoes, rice, corn, beans, and dairy products. Those are food, regardless of what the fad diet of the week says.
    posted by Sara C. at 10:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


    Telf - re vitamin C, just clarifying since so many people assume avoiding scurvy means specifically consuming citrus fruits.

    In reality, you pretty much have to be a sixteenth century conquistador to be at risk of scurvy. Vitamin C is pretty vehemently NOT hard for humans to acquire in food, and our need for it does not represent some kind of fragile dietary quirk.
    posted by Sara C. at 10:02 PM on December 29, 2012


    Oh my God I am SO HAPPY there is a column about this. I am involved in the lifting community which has always been pretty conservative and blue-collar. But the Crossfit/Paleo people brought a whole new brand of self-aggrandizing libertarian crazy. Take the normal pompous attitude of people who've lost a lot of weight, add deep paranoia about The Man, mix in the Dunning-Krueger effect, and the results are . . . definitely memorable.

    People find out cutting out processed foods, eating meat, and doing squats makes them feel better, and suddenly they hop on the Everything! You! Know! Is! Wrong! train and it takes them into the varied lands of The-FDA-Is-Poisoning-Us and Doctors-Don't-Know-Anything and Grains-Were-Created-By-Satan-To-Destroy-Humanity.

    And God forbid you meet one who has only been able to lose weight after Paleo and Crossfit (do not mention to them that they've only tried fad diets in the past and this is the first attempt they've made at changing their whole lifestyle). They will get this crazed gleam in their eye and start raving about how you must try it and how it will change your life and then they'll spit out a wave of mangled biochemistry and exercise science gobbledygook. Lord help you if you don't know enough to counteract the revolutionary fervor with sane programming and food recommendations, because six months later you'll come out with shoulder surgery and you'll have lost all your friends because you refuse to go out lest you eat curly fries or drink beer. But that's OK--because you'll have new friends, Crossfit friends, and you're wearing a smaller size of pants, and you don't mind the torn labrum and chronic hip pain that much because it means you're an athlete, right, that's what Crossfit says, no pain no gain, and when has Crossfit ever led you wrong?
    posted by schroedinger at 10:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [41 favorites]


    This was such a great article, and I’m glad I got a chance to read it. It articulated something I’ve been noticing too when reading many online discussions about nutrition and fitness: the paleo diet (and I would add the Starting Strength weight lifting program to this as well) definitely seem to be part of a larger right wing/libertarian worldview that appeals to people who imagine themselves to be some sort of He-Man type.

    One of the most popular articles on the Hacker News site (where many of the participants seem to be libertarians) recently has been Everything You Know About Fitness Is a Lie from Men’s Journal. It's about a guy who's been working out at a gym with a personal trainer and thinks everything is going ok and then one day, "My conversion moment came in a garage-like industrial space next to an ATV rental yard in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was lying on a concrete floor, near puking, having just humiliated myself on the king of all strength exercises, the old-school back squat. 'The best thing I can do for an athlete,' coach Rob Shaul said to me as I struggled to get up, 'is to make him strong. Strength is king, and you're fucking little-girl weak.'"

    I can see why the rhetoric behind the paleo diet and starting strength would appeal so much to people who are also enamoured with the writings of Ayn Rand. The next sentence in the Men's Journal article is: "Shaul makes a living by designing strength-and-conditioning programs for Special Forces units heading to Afghanistan."

    I find the whole topic of the relationship between nutrition/exercise/sports and ideology to be fascinating. A few years ago there were stories in the news about how jogging is considered to be a right wing activity in Europe. From the Foreign Policy Blog:
    Sarkozy seems to be confirming a French belief that jogging is an activity for self-absorbed individualists such as Americans, the Times of London reports. The editor of V02, a sports magazine, told the left-wing French newspaper Libération, "Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the right." The Times writes that sports sociologist Patrick Mignon thinks that "French intellectuals have always held sports in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness." ... A leading French philosopher, Alain Finkielkraut, says Sarkozy should stop his un-French and "undignified" athletic activity, which involves the indecency of exposing one's knees. Finkielkraut thinks strolling is more cerebral and says, "Western civilization, in its best sense, was born with the promenade."
    I think in North America jogging is considered left wing. I’m sure this is partly why the paleo/starting strength people are so against it.

    I'd love to read more about this topic. How do different exercise regimes, sports, and patterns of food consumption end up belonging to different political ideologies.
    posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:06 PM on December 29, 2012 [22 favorites]


    Sara C,

    Sorry! I was talking to you under the assumption you had read some of my previous 3-4 comments in this post! My apologies, I didn't realize that you were too busy to address all the points I had made before.

    In this case, you are 100% correct! Those guys who bring atlatls to Central Park for squirrel hunting totally don't eat like your grandmother! Everyone knows that tubers are poison!!!1 Dairy products are going to kill us all! I mean did you know that we're the only animal that drinks the milk of others! How weird is that huh? Also rice, did you know that gives you beri beri or something? That's why Asian are so short! I only eat wild elk meat that I kill with my bare hands. That's why I live in yurt in my mom's back yard.

    There. Now your above comment are pertinent to what I've been saying. Sorry for not conforming to your earlier framing of the argument. My bad.
    posted by Telf at 10:06 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Sara C,
    Sorry for the snark. You've been very respectful in the conversation, it's just frustrating to feel as those we're discussing two different interpretations of a label. I'm trying to make an argument that the paleo movement has moved past a lot of the earlier tropes. By you bringing in the dairy/potatoes thing, it gets a bit frustrating. I think your points have been fair when we're addressing the same things.
    posted by Telf at 10:11 PM on December 29, 2012


    The biochemistry failures are just the best . . . The ranting about "transglutaminase" and whatnot without really understanding what an enzyme is. I remember reading one blog entry written by a coach who was listing rules for gym members following a Paleo challenge. He warned them to stay away from anything with phosphate in it because it was unnatural. I guess he'd missed the physiology lectures that explained phosphate ions formed the basis of the buffering system in his cells?
    posted by schroedinger at 10:13 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Telf, you're getting kind of aggressive which is irritating for a nice calm discussion on the internet.

    The bottom line is that the paleo diet is -- depending on who you talk to -- either bunk or some kind of weird No True Scotsman "neither paleo nor a diet". Which is... whatever. Frankly I don't have a dog in this fight aside from thinking the whole conceit is a little bit silly.

    Bottom line, humans can survive on most things, there is no such thing as a food that is inherently Bad For You, and honestly most of us are probably doing just fine. Especially compared to most other people on the planet, and most people over the last many thousands of years.

    If somebody has massive diet-related health problems and calling themselves "paleo" gets their engine running enough to recover their health, then great! But I'll keep eating french fries sometimes, ok?
    posted by Sara C. at 10:13 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Also, this:
    Take the normal pompous attitude of people who've lost a lot of weight, add deep paranoia about The Man, mix in the Dunning-Krueger effect, and the results are . . . definitely memorable.

    Is spot on. Especially with the Dunning-Krueger effect point.

    I feel like every CrossFit Affiliate has at least one member who'd happily don a black/brown shirt the moment a charismatic leader started to rile up the disaffected masses. I work at a gym that is also a CF affiliate and the Eva Braun-like zeal I see in some people's eyes is worrisome. I mean, it's nice to push yourself hard every once in a while, but it's hardly worth wearing a silly outfit for.
    posted by Telf at 10:16 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Sara C,

    I do apologize for the aggressive tone, but please read my comments. When I write something like:
    Sometimes I'd rather eat pizza and drink beer then worry about having a gross peely elbow for a few weeks. It's nice figuring out how your body handles things. Some people have worse issues, it's nice learning how/if you can control them.

    Realize that when you say:
    But I'll keep eating french fries sometimes, ok?

    That we're probably in agreement over a lot of things. My issue is largely with you ignoring the points that have already been made multiple times earlier in the thread.

    Regarding the No True Scotsman fallacy, I'd rather say that it's a bit silly to make fun of people based on what was believed 10 years ago rather than what's being tested now. It's not that one group of purer, it's that within the community a lot of the sillier beliefs have been discarded. It's frustrating to see people glibly poking fun at outdated stereotypes.
    posted by Telf at 10:22 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


    Andrew Badenoch of Evolvify has a post up about how libertarianism is incongruent with the lifestyle of hunter-gatherers
    posted by vespabelle at 10:23 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Jasper Friendly Bear, the ideology/nutrition/fitness intersection is a really weird one. I don't know whether libertarian leanings drive someone to a nutrition/fitness regimen that espouses a particular attitude or whether it's the other way around. I think the Paleo/HardKore Exercise/Maximum Strengf! thing appeals to the same people who really liked Fight Club--it's a way to separate themselves from the modern human, who in their minds is a lazy dumb couch potato who follows Weight Watchers and only reads popular fitness magazines.

    The Paleo/Crossfit Human is strong, self-made, embraces pain, ready for anything. Modern American society can lead to a feeling of disconnect with the world and with one's own body. The back-to-nature set combines developing a reconnection to the body with a nigh-cultish sense of community. If you are someone who is feeling lost and alone and hopeless about fitness, then a group of extremely fit and attractive people welcoming you into their gym and supporting you in your efforts is quite the siren song. You're told you've joined something special and secret, that the fitness magazines and doctors have it all wrong and you're lucky enough to be a part of their special fitness club. And if what they're preaching works for you, well, you end up jumping right in with whatever they're saying, no matter how crazy it gets.


    I feel like every CrossFit Affiliate has at least one member who'd happily don a black/brown shirt the moment a charismatic leader started to rile up the disaffected masses. I work at a gym that is also a CF affiliate and the Eva Braun-like zeal I see in some people's eyes is worrisome.

    And the number of potential brown-shirts is heavily influenced by the community of the gym itself. There's generally an inverse correlation between the actual non-Crossfit athletic experience of the gym owner and how vehemently they support everything Greg Glassman says, for example.
    posted by schroedinger at 10:24 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    In reality, you pretty much have to be a sixteenth century conquistador to be at risk of scurvy. Vitamin C is pretty vehemently NOT hard for humans to acquire in food, and our need for it does not represent some kind of fragile dietary quirk.

    Or eat only ramen. I knew a guy in college that got scurvy in this manner. It was a lesson for all of us. At least squeeze some lime over that shit.
    posted by stoneweaver at 10:25 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    So, speaking as a paleo-most-of-the-time-eater who is not a Libertarian but who does frequent the Mark's Daily Apple forums, I have to say that yeah, a large number of the tribe are Ron Paul supporters, but a few of us are lefty-leaning bleeding heart liberals who are just trying to be healthy and happy and eat grassfed cows. Yum.

    I don't much care for the nuttier paleo nuts, and they exist, in spades. You learn to politely circumvent them and go on with your life. There is a lot of woo-magical-thinking in the paleoverse, but for the most part I ignore the rabbit holes and just do what I do and be happy.

    Here's what I know: I struggled with low-fat/high fiber diets and I struggled with being vegetarian. I went vegan for a year and watched my energy and recovery rate plummet, my thyroid/cholesterol scores go haywire, and my body weight rise. Despite cooking nearly all my own meals, and eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and eliminating every source of cholesterol in my diet.

    I started eating paleo because, okay, it was a fad diet and I was about to get married and needed to fit into a dress. There are worse diets to go on when you want to try and lose a few pounds. And at first, my intent was to do it a few months, then go back to "normal". But when I cut out grains, two things happened: my blood tests suddenly became picture-perfect normal, and my hunger vanished. I had literally been hungry for over two decades, battling hypoglycemia and hypothyroidism. For whatever reason, paleo fixed the former and normalized the latter. It cannot grow back my destroyed thyroid tissue -- nothing can fix Hashimoto's once it's set in -- but it did help, and I've got the blood tests to prove it. To me, that's not bunk.

    My husband (then-fiance) joined me, and he says it's helped his arthritis. His cholesterol for the first time ever is measurable. He also lost about 40 pounds. I haven't really lost beyond an initial 10, but I haven't gained either. Neither of us feels like we have to suffer for our food choices.

    Here at the 6 month mark of my pregnancy, I have especially noticed that when I do eat grains (and I do, because pregnancy, that's why) I get bad, bad heartburn. But all other tests are great and normal and everyone from my midwife to my doctor is pleased with my progress. It helps that I've never suffered from a meat aversion.

    I eat a lot of veggies. I eat a lot of protein. I avoid sugar, and I avoid grains. I have fruit or chocolate when I want something sweet, and I eat cultured dairy because it doesn't seem to hurt me. I have no trouble getting carbs, even without the dairy; sweet potatoes are great, and so are regular potatoes. I don't buy processed foods anymore, and yet I spend less time in the kitchen.

    Yeah, there are crazy people using paleo to make a buck; they're assholes and I ignore them. Yeah, Mark started marketing a "Primal Fuel" and instantly got smacked with the backlash of it -- but he also has tons of free content on his website that anyone can access, no paygate to stop you. Yeah, the caveman/Grok stuff is lame and silly, but it works for some people, so whatevs.

    Diet is, in many ways, like a religion or a political party for some people, and I've met nutballs everywhere in every diet community (the "Eat to Live" forums were particularly...interesting). Growing beyond the Internets: I have family members who are fanatical about cutting fat out of their diet, but don't think twice about eating handfuls of pretzels and pitas. And if eating a loaf of bread makes you happy and your ideal weight, then by all means, please keep doing it. But there's merit to trying new things rather than banging your head against the wall and hoping that maybe, this time, the wall will crack instead of your head. It took me twenty years to come around to that realization, and now I am happy and eating food that nourishes me.

    But yeah, there is at times a rather unsettling thread of manifest destiny holier-than-thou bullshit running through the paleo community. I indulged in it a little when I, too, saw amazeballs results from my diet changes. I've mellowed since. What matters is that my household is healthy. I don't care about the labels, except that they brought me to that place.
    posted by offalark at 10:29 PM on December 29, 2012 [16 favorites]


    I am grateful for the paleo fad - makes finding new gluten free recipes a snap.
    posted by stoneweaver at 10:29 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Is this goat cheese? Because I have lactose reflux...
    posted by mazola at 10:32 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    I try not to have an opinion about anybody's diet other than mine.
    posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:33 PM on December 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


    In terms of the Paleo/Libertarian connection, Gary Taubes' Reason magazine interview is great background for the appeal of paleo to libertarians.

    If Gary Taubes is right, then very bad ideas about diet have been put forth as federal dietary guidelines and are potentially part of what is driving the obesity epidemic, and these recommendations are slow to change.
    posted by psergio at 10:40 PM on December 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


    I'm not a huge food guy by any means, but it's strange to me we've gotten this far without talking about the tradition and culture surrounding food. Food is probably the way most people interact with culture the most often, and a no-carb diet can eliminate major parts of national cuisines.

    I guess this gets to the larger point, which is what food (or what anything cultural, I suppose, is for). Our prehistoric ancestors had nothing like violins to make music with. Still, I think we're undeniably richer as a species for violin-based music.
    posted by Apropos of Something at 10:51 PM on December 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


    > the actual paleo diet involved eating a lot of insects and raw plant roots, and some rotten meat, but mostly being extremely hungry.

    Which might be good for you. [well, restriction doesn't mean extremely hungry and I'd rather be un-hungry than live to 100]
    posted by morganw at 10:58 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I'm not a huge food guy by any means, but it's strange to me we've gotten this far without talking about the tradition and culture surrounding food. Food is probably the way most people interact with culture the most often, and a no-carb diet can eliminate major parts of national cuisines.

    I'm very interested in the foods we were eating 50, 100, and 200 years ago. I've made my own sourdough, and what grains my household eats (rice, corn, buckwheat) I soak, sprout, or ferment. (In fact, I'm neglecting to soak my buckwheat for tomorrow's pancakes as I type this.)

    I'm also very curious about what my grandparents (well, the ones I knew/know) ate. Which did include bread and pasta and Oleo, but also included a lot more animal fats. I loved the Little House on the Prairie cookbook when I was growing up, and I rescued a few of my grandmother's cookbooks before she could give them away.

    Some of the stuff in them is fascinating. I especially liked the pasta recipe that recommended 1/2 pound of pasta to serve four. Hah.
    posted by offalark at 11:00 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I'm guessing that a diet of fresh fruit, berries, nuts, and vegetables, eggs, good lean meat and fish, running fast every once in a while, picking up heavy things, getting a good sleep, maybe for god's sake taking a nap, sounds like a pretty healthy lifestyle.
    posted by sfts2 at 11:08 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I knew a guy in college that got scurvy in this manner.

    Did you actually, or was it a friend of a friend type situation?

    Because, seriously, vitamin C is used as an additive in a lot of processed foods (look for it on ingredient lists as "ascorbate" or "ascorbic acid"). It's really staggeringly hard to get scurvy nowadays, even if you only eat junk. Because there's vitamin C in the junk.

    I mean, if you personally know someone that this truly happened to, then wow, that's really wild. But, seriously, you don't need to eat citrus fruits to get vitamin C, y'all.
    posted by Sara C. at 11:14 PM on December 29, 2012


    I knew a guy in college that got scurvy in this manner.

    My boss got scurvy from his junk food diet. All the fridges at the company are now stocked with pineapple juice because he decided that was the fruit whose taste he could put up with.
    posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:20 PM on December 29, 2012


    I especially liked the pasta recipe that recommended 1/2 pound of pasta to serve four.

    I think if we could get back there, fewer people would be so obsessed about labeling themselves a "veg" this or a "paleo" that. Eat food. Not too much. You know the rest.

    In traditional Italian cuisine, pasta is a small first course. The gigantic mounds of pasta Americans expect is not at all the way the dish was designed to be consumed.

    (Then again people in our grandparents' era also boiled the shit out of their pasta, which might have caused it to expand more, serving more people with less dry pasta. Which, ew.)
    posted by Sara C. at 11:20 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Did you actually, or was it a friend of a friend type situation?

    Well, whether it's real or not in that case, it's a common legend.
    posted by Celsius1414 at 11:23 PM on December 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I still honestly want to know if people following a paleo diet eat root vegetables that aren't potatoes. For example carrots, beets, turnips, celeriac, sunchokes, etc.
    posted by Sara C. at 11:31 PM on December 29, 2012


    Yes, of course. Potatoes themselves aren't "not paleo" by any standard I've seen (although, as should be clear, there are a lot of standards and they don't all agree.) What I have seen are the observations that a) the skins of potatoes contain some nasty substances, maybe peel them first and b) white potatoes contain a ton of starch and very little nutrient, so yams/sweet potatoes are a better bang-for-your-buck choice. And since when people following a paleo diet are trying to lose weight (as many, but not all, of them are) they're cutting carbs primarily, so potatoes are probably not going to be on the menu.
    posted by restless_nomad at 11:38 PM on December 29, 2012


    Did you actually, or was it a friend of a friend type situation?

    Yes, I seriously did. He lived next to me. You have to eat a crazy limited diet and drink pretty much exclusively water. It's super easy to reverse, and caught very early these days. But the pirate jokes last forever.
    posted by stoneweaver at 12:01 AM on December 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


    I think in North America jogging is considered left wing. I’m sure this is partly why the paleo/starting strength people are so against it.

    In his book The Cure for Everything!, Canadian researcher Timothy Caulfield brought up an interesting point: current research suggests that resistance training can be more beneficial than aerobic exercise to most individuals, but from a public policy standpoint, promoting aerobic exercise seems more effective at improving health outcomes for the general population. Canadian and American governments tend to focus on aerobic exercise in their public health campaigns. The fitness experts (scholars and "elite-level" trainers) tend to think that more emphasis needs to be put on resistance training, such as weight lifting.

    I find the dichotomy illuminating, aside from the obvious stakes trainers have in promoting exercise regimens that many people would (feel they) need professional help to start.
    posted by fatehunter at 12:35 AM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I still honestly want to know if people following a paleo diet eat root vegetables that aren't potatoes. For example carrots, beets, turnips, celeriac, sunchokes, etc.

    Yes, though I'm wary of sunchokes, and have been since before I went paleo. On my first dinner date with my now-husband, I made him lamb chops with roasted sunchokes. Two hours later we were on the couch and watching Blade Runner and...well...the date turned explosive and not in the way I'd intended.

    We laughed about it then, and we laugh about it now, but I haven't eaten a sunchoke since.

    The paleo community as a whole has stepped back from treating potatoes as Deadly Poison.

    'Course, hard to talk about potatoes and diet without mentioning that they're a nightshade. I had a friend in college who'd been told by a doctor not to eat anything in the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, etc.), and that was twenty years ago. I remember macrobiotics also cautioned against them.
    posted by offalark at 1:05 AM on December 30, 2012


    I follow a paleo diet and I also do Crossfit and I can assure you that I am nothing but a centrist. That said, some of the people in my gym (i refuse to call it a box) scare me (i.e. hardcore libertarians and conservatives).
    posted by RedShrek at 1:15 AM on December 30, 2012


    I had a friend in college who'd been told by a doctor not to eat anything in the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, etc.), and that was twenty years ago. I remember macrobiotics also cautioned against them.

    This is unscientific woo.

    AFAIK it comes from pre-19th century European reactions to American nightshades (potatoes and tomatoes) imported as potential new foods. tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants are perfectly good foods to eat.

    Also possibly ayurveda, but I think that's alliums, not nightshades. Or maybe both. But meh. Any philosophy that says you shouldn't eat perfectly good foods of Type X for arbitrary metaphysical reasons should be ignored. In fact, the presence of all these ancient beliefs about alliums or nightshades or bottom-feeding fish or purple elephants or whatever sort of proves that it's all bullshit and you should eat whatever.

    The worst was when I worked with a bunch of people who were into the idea that it was dangerous to drink either hot or cold beverages.
    posted by Sara C. at 1:27 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    a) the skins of potatoes contain some nasty substances, maybe peel them first

    WTF??? The skin is where most of the nutrients are. This is idiotic.
    posted by wilful at 1:28 AM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


    I was only going to skim the comments on this article, but ended up reading the whole thread, because I was so fascinated with the amount of piling-on exhibited here. There is not a shred of tolerance for a difference of opinion on display. I am so surprised by this smugness-bordering-on-hatred, I am at a loss for words, honestly.

    I thought the article had its merits, and was well written. But everything exists in context, and there is a multitude of contexts surrounding things like paleo diets or crossfit, because they have no central guiding force behind them. To lump all these contexts together into the form you personally find most unwholesome is bad manners, to say the least.

    I will throw my 2 cents out as a counterexample. I don't do paleo - I am a committed amateur bread-baker, who can't imagine a life without lots of delicious carbs. I am seriously into crossfit, however, and I love it because it makes me fit and fitness makes me happy. My crossfit gym is full of men and women (the ratio is very nearly 50/50) who have different reasons for coming - some of them very likely of the libertarian self-sufficiency mindset describe in the article, others discovering the capabilities of their bodies for the first time, and others just looking for someone to tell them what to do at the gym 3 times a week. The things we have in common is sharing a community. This community is one of the most important things to me, and to see them (us) described like so:

    But the Crossfit/Paleo people brought a whole new brand of self-aggrandizing libertarian crazy. Take the normal pompous attitude of people who've lost a lot of weight, add deep paranoia about The Man, mix in the Dunning-Krueger effect, and the results are . . . definitely memorable.

    is upsetting of course, but even more so plain fascinating as an example of how one very diverse community can be so quickly and ruthlessly bashed by a member of another community that is typically liberal, and as a rule exactly against this kind of a thing. This is not information sharing, this is raw emotion, and it's name is hatred (or loathing or something very similar). I sincerely hope that the author of this comment, as well as a few others in a thread, take time for serious introspection and soul-searching in the future, to understand why they feel the way they do, and that it will lead to greater understanding among all.
    posted by blindcarboncopy at 1:48 AM on December 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


    I focus on foods with a high ratio of nutrients and/or flavor to calories. I therefore minimize my consumption of crapy wheat, potato, and rice products, but indulge more when I find quality ones, i.e. visiting France, Italy, or Spain. I eat meat and cheese in roughly half my meals now but not usually in monstrous quantities, unless I'm eating out. I eat fruit, vegetables, nuts, beans, soups, etc. the rest of the time.

    There is no shortage of bullshit nutrition around but many diets still work because they replace the fast empty calories in snack foods, sweats, white breads, etc. with slower more nutritious food sources. In particular, one should never worry about eating fruits.

    Example : An avocado has roughly 150 calories. A piece of bread has roughly 100 calories. In your lifetime, how many times did you consume more than one raw avocado during a single meal? Zero perhaps? How many times did you consume more than one piece of bread during a meal? How many times did you consume twice or three times the amount of bread you'd planned? Our avocado tastes better than bread, offers more nutrients than bread, and creates less risk for excessive consumption.
    posted by jeffburdges at 1:51 AM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


    Your average Rus, Pict, Celt etc wasn't enjoying a whole lot of oranges in the middle of January. (Obviously other sources might be available.)

    They ate angelica. It's still a good idea. I tried to grow some, but failed. Will try again soon in a different part of the garden.
    posted by mumimor at 2:19 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Paleo was cool like, 250,000 years ago. But we've moved on, people. Mesolithic is where it's at.

    Geez, some people are into retro, like the fashions and music of the 1970s. Other people are into retro-retro-retro-retro-retro-retro-retro...
    posted by twoleftfeet at 3:13 AM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


    I do know a few paleo guys (mostly Crossfit dudes) and I think they would be a bit shocked if they realized the actual paleo diet involved eating a lot of insects and raw plant roots, and some rotten meat

    Evidence from a documentary.

    posted by ersatz at 3:26 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    As someone who hunts and studies with subsistence hunters, and who thus eats more raw, fresh killed meat than anyone else you know, let me just mock the idea that "paleo" food is "cooked." "Paleo cooking" is an oxymoron for morons, and unless you also hunt and kill your meat you are full of shit with most of this, never mind the idiot version of biology it entails.

    Yeah, I've eaten a raw caribou kidney in the field while butchering. Have you? What about an eyeball? If your Carhartts have never been soaked in blood, you ain't paleo.

    Our ancestors had to WORK for their calories. You go to the store for factory farmed steak which you then cook in a stove. Big difference.
    posted by spitbull at 5:41 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


    And of course Paleolithic hominids didn't have Carhartts or guns either.

    These people are stupid. But of course they also voted for Ron Paul, so we knew that.
    posted by spitbull at 5:49 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    True Paleos eat at their standing desk.
    posted by Thorzdad at 6:21 AM on December 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


    Resting on our laurels and assuming that we know everything we need to know about nutrition, and that this perfect knowledge is disseminated by the USDA is a bit suspect to me. I think the original articles picks up on that general mistrust of big government agencies.

    There's a healthy distrust of big government agencies and there's distrust of big government agencies elevated to an ideology. Just because the latter entails more distrust than the former doesn't make it more right.
    posted by hoyland at 6:42 AM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


    The thin edge of the wedge for me in all this stuff was reading Ishmael in high school, which then led me to want to study anthropology when I got to college. There are a few things which I think aren't controversial among real, academic anthropologists:

    1. Human beings thrived relatively contently for many thousands of years with neither monocrop agriculture nor the state.
    2. Civilization* (settled life in cities, with all that entails) was a path taken by some cultures, who outcompeted their hunter-gatherer and horticulturalist neighbors by demographics and extermination.

    *not a value judgment, just a way of describing a particular social structure.

    I don't think it's too way-out radical, once you are aware of those facts, to re-question whether absolutely everything about civilization has changed human life for the better. This is one of those basic "history is written by the winners" things. In my case, I lean toward "libertarianism" because to me it's the closest thing in the American political vocabulary to anarcho-socialism (which I think best describes tribal societies).

    If it's possible to investigate both the advantages of civilization AND the advantages of the social structures and lifeways of non-civilizational cultures, and combine them -- why make fun of that? That investigation includes finding limits, and altering things to make them scale if possible.
    posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Yeah, I've eaten a raw caribou kidney in the field while butchering. Have you? What about an eyeball? If your Carhartts have never been soaked in blood, you ain't paleo.

    Our ancestors had to WORK for their calories.


    I'm guessing you used a gun or bow, which also makes it not really working for it like paleo people did. Use stone tools, close to naked, no car, house, etc. and then maybe you can call yourself Paelo.

    Lets also be real here, early man was mostly scavengers. Without tools, we are crap predators, bad teeth for it, bad eyesight, no claws, etc. Before tools we ate what was killed by others, and insects, small rodents we could catch, fruits and nuts. Geologically speaking, us using tools is practically yesterday.
    posted by usagizero at 7:02 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    If you watched me eat for a few weeks it would be easy to mistake me for a paleo guy, but my diet is actually the result of burning 600 or so glucose test strips figuring out what was making me pre-diabetic.

    Potatoes may not be poisonous to you, but they sure the hell are to me.
    posted by localroger at 7:16 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I spent an hour looking at this bean panic issue. The most informative thing I found was a post on the Straight Dope board in response to a question very similar to mine, i.e. what the heck is up with the bean panic or something like that.

    Poster said there is one specific lectin protein in beans that will make you ill if you eat it raw or significantly undercooked. As little as five raw red beans will make you sick. I have never known anybody who eats raw red beans. A raw red bean is nearly as hard as granite. Then I read the Umberto Eco fascism piece that anotherpanacea posted in the Occupy thread (it is marvelous) and on Eco's pages I found this:

    The Bean Umberto Eco writing on the "greatest invention of the millennium."

    I remain ever vigilant but will happily continue with my bean consumption for now.
    posted by bukvich at 7:22 AM on December 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


    WTF??? The skin is where most of the nutrients are.

    Not really most of the nutrients -- the insides of potatoes also have a lot of nutrients -- but the skin is nutritious and it contains most of the potato's fiber, so it's wrong to remove it. Scrub potatoes with a brush and water and then cook them with their skins on. It's also much easier and cost-effective to avoid all of that silly peeling.
    posted by pracowity at 7:48 AM on December 30, 2012


    pracowity, suddenly I have a craving for lentils to go with my pigeon tonight
    posted by mumimor at 8:01 AM on December 30, 2012


    Paleo has been useful for people like my husband, who has food allergies galore (wheat, dairy, eggs, and soy) because there's now lots of recipes for the things he can still eat: meat, vegetables, rice, fruit and quinoa.

    Before that he spent several miserable years off and on steroids for hives, and spent all his time in the bathroom after he ate.
    posted by emjaybee at 8:18 AM on December 30, 2012


    Sometimes while camping -- "roughing it" to some degree -- I will turn philosophical. I picture my pioneer ancestors truly roughing it: pushing westward in covered wagons and on foot. I imagine them dreaming of a house and a shower and a bed and three square meals.

    Then I picture them laughing at me for eschewing all that so I can get "closer to nature."

    I can imagine the same thing with some distant paleolithic ancestors, after being shown the wonders of the modern world, laughing at their "paleo" descendants for thinking beans, bread, and potatoes are the work of the devil.
    posted by Celsius1414 at 8:22 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    After 38 years, I have determined that the best way for me to stay in shape is to engage in intense physical activity as part of a group, in a location that is convenient to my home or work, that has flexible hours, and that is led by someone who knows what they are doing, and who can spend some individual time with me to make sure I'm doing it right. CrossFit is perfect for that, I've been doing it for 6 weeks, and I just love it. I feel great, I'm getting stronger, and I feel confident that I'll be able to lose the 25 pounds by August (when I get married) that I am aiming for, as well as just reorienting myself to a healthier lifestyle.

    My gym has nutritional resources on its website, and has organized a 45 day "Paleo Challenge" starting Jan. 3. I'm going to do it, because, hey, 45 days isn't that long, and I can use an organizing influence to cut down on alcohol consumption (the limit is three drinks a week).

    But I've been sort of following Paleo, and it makes sense to me. I was generally a big meat and vegetable person before, and do things like buy shares of grass-fed beef. I'm working my body really hard, and I need the protein to build myself back up. I was eating way too much bread, noodles, etc., and I feel better, with more energy, now that I've stopped that.

    After the 45 day challenge, I will likely eat small portions of brown rice and beans, but to tell you the truth I have always had a hard time digesting a lot of beans (I learned this in 2.5 years in the Peace Corps in Central America). Whole chickpeas make me sick, I'm not sure why.

    I don't think I will be able to live without yogurt, cheese, or alcohol (or bread sometimes), so I'm not going to try. Yogurt and cheese feel good for me. I'm not in this for a fad, but for a healthy life.

    Basing a diet on what you think people lived like thousands of years ago makes no sense, just like basing Constitutional interpretation on what you think people were thinking 220 years ago. Its just fabrication, disguised as objectivity, to support a point of view. So that gives you an idea of my politics right there.
    posted by oneironaut at 8:26 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Basing a diet on what you think people lived like thousands of years ago makes no sense, just like basing Constitutional interpretation on what you think people were thinking 220 years ago. Its just fabrication, disguised as objectivity, to support a point of view. So that gives you an idea of my politics right there.


    Bingo! The worse part of it is they have no issue forcing it down everyone else's throat. (i.e. booing anyone who brings in a pizza)
    posted by empty vessel at 8:37 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Cavemen would have went apeshit for pizza.
    posted by mazola at 8:44 AM on December 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


    Ah, MeFi loves any excuse to point and laugh at libertarians.

    Regardless, this idea that a state of nature is any kind of ideal is easily dispelled... If we try to return to some mythical state of nature, we will return to being beat-up, parasite-ridden, and diseased.


    Coming back to the subject of the linked article, I think the reason it resonates is that non-libertarians feel the same way about attempts to return to some mythical state of the unfettered free market.
    posted by escabeche at 8:47 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


    mazola there is a cute movie The Gods Must be Crazy where an empty coca cola bottle falls out of the sky into the middle of a tribe of bushmen who have never seen anything like it. If it had been a pizza there would have been instant Hobbsian war of All against All.
    posted by bukvich at 8:50 AM on December 30, 2012


    I watched the Reason magazine interview (How the Government Makes you Fat) with Gary Taubes, and the John Stossel interview with Gary Taubes and Peter Attia that were linked above in the comments. In the Reason Magazine interview, Taubes is asked (at the 8:25 mark) about why the paleo diet is so popular with libertarians. One of the reasons he gives for its appeal to libertarians (and as well people in the economics profession) is that his research provides another example of how the government's good intentions end up going horribly wrong.

    This is one of the classic right wing arguments. The government went out to make people healthy and instead did the opposite and made people fat. In his book The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy, Albert Hirschman lays out three most common types of arguments put forth by conservatives:
    (1) the perversity thesis, whereby any action to improve some feature of the political, social, or economic order is alleged to result in the exact opposite of what was intended.

    (2) the futility thesis, which predicts that attempts at social transformation will produce no effects whatever—will simply be incapable of making a dent in the status quo.

    (3) the jeopardy thesis, holding that the cost of the proposed reform is unacceptable because it will endanger previous hard-won accomplishments.

    Andrew Gelman also has an interesting discussion of the "Law" of unintended consequences: What kind of law is the Law of Unintended Consequences?
    Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt wrote this Freakonomics column, which concludes, “if there is any law more powerful than the ones constructed in a place like Washington, it is the law of unintended consequences.” What I’m wondering is, what sort of law is this? Obviously it’s not a real “law” like the law of gravity or even one of those social-science laws like Gresham’s law or the statement that democracies usually don’t fight each other. But it’s supposed to be more than just a joke in the manner of Murphy’s law, right?
    posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 9:07 AM on December 30, 2012 [9 favorites]


    I ought to start a time-travel pizza delivery service to the Paleolithic age: piping fresh pizza delivered to your stalagmite in 750,000 years or you eat free.
    posted by mazola at 9:10 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    but even more so plain fascinating as an example of how one very diverse community can be so quickly and ruthlessly bashed by a member of another community that is typically liberal, and as a rule exactly against this kind of a thing.

    For what it's worth, my Crossfit bashing is based on:
    - extensive personal experience with Crossfitters and their overwhelming ignorance
    - The overwhelming ignorance of Crossfit's founder, Greg Glassman
    - The overwhelming ignorance of Crossfit's Dear Leaders, like the leader of Crossfit Endurance
    - The charlatan behavior of Crossfit's Dear Leaders (see: the leader of Crossfit Endurance's wholesale invented athletic claims, Glassman's wholesale invented athletic claims, Glassman's claims Crossfit could give you a 700lbs deadlift in two years, etc)
    - The tendency of Crossfit to turn on anyone who dares object with what Greg Glassman says (see: Dan John, Robb Wolf, Greg Everett, Mark Rippetoe, affiliate owners who object to any Crossfit HQ policy, et cetera)
    - The continual boasting by Crossfitters that they're the "Fittest Athletes on the Planet" (whatever that means)
    - The continued use of movements in the workout that promote injury among the trained and untrained (see: Olympic lifts with poor form, kipping pull-ups with trainees who don't have the strength for a full pull-up, sumo dead-lift high pulls, high rep box jumps, GHD situps, et cetera)
    - The promotion of poor form (see: the statement that "20% slop" is necessary in your workout or you're not working out hard enough)
    - The promotion of these movements and high-rep workouts that incorporate these movements by Crossfit HQ itself, such as in the Crossfit Games
    - The relentless exploitation of the female body
    - The conflation of "having abs" with fitness
    - The idiotic programming
    - The disingenuous behavior of Crossfit HQ vis-a-vis its affiliates, where it supposedly only allows a "one owner/one affiliate" model and "supports its affiliates", and yet has surreptitiously been allowing employees of commercial gym systems to affiliate. Thus effectively allowing affiliates within commercial gyms and destroying the future ability of actual one-owner affiliates to compete.
    - When HQ has been confronted with the plethora of bad affiliates (due to the ease of attaining Level 1 certification and affiliation) or worries about the spread of commercial gym affiliates and possible loss in affiliate quality, they've waved their hands and said "The free market will take care of it". Of course, in the meantime the smaller owners are run out of business and multiple trainees have developed SLAP tears.

    . . . And I could go on.

    I am fully cognizant that there are intelligent affiliates run by intelligent strength-and-conditioning coaches who refuse to "drink the Kool-Aid". And thank God for them. But if I express disdain towards Crossfit, it is disdain based in extensive experience within the community itself and observance of the behaviors of its leaders.

    And to tie this in with the overall libertarian theme, the worst, the absolute worst aspect of all of this, is when you injure yourself through a poorly-programmed Crossfit workout because you don't know better, or your affiliate fails because a nearby commercial gym with crap programming simply has more resources for advertising and equipment and gym space, Crossfit explains it is your fault. Not their fault for poor affiliation policies, for promoting ignorant gym owners, or for promoting poor movements and poor form. Your fault, because the free market works perfectly all the time, and you're the one who did the workout, and you're the one who got injured. Go on the main Crossfit forum and see what happens if you bring up objections to a certain movement. Employees of Crossfit HQ will come in and explain you need to take responsibility for the injuries you've engendered doing workouts they programmed and they knew have engendered the same injuries in the past.
    posted by schroedinger at 9:12 AM on December 30, 2012 [21 favorites]


    Special diets are great if they work for you and make you more healthy, or if they inspire you to be more healthy in other areas of your life. I just don't really understand why people have to then develop some kind of mad religious fervor about it and start relentlessly proselytizing about it. It's fucking exhausting.

    Anyway I am pretty sure you could create the most epic and terrible of all televised bloodsports if you brought 2 dozen healthy cavepeople to the present day and said "the last one left standing gets this large pizza with everything and cheesy breadsticks and a 48oz soda". You wouldn't even need to give them weapons.
    posted by elizardbits at 9:14 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    Schroedinger, I got into CrossFit wearing thick lenses of skepticism, because I tend to back away from activities when they become too demanding of my time outside the gym (like the taekwondo dojang that required volunteer work in order to become a black belt, or all the catty infighting around competitive Ultimate [your experience may vary]), but I had good friends who went to a specific gym and spoke highly of the trainers, and who assured me the community stuff was optional.

    So, the trainers at my gym won't even let me try pull-ups without an assistive band because I'm not strong enough yet--kipping is a good amount of time away. They scale every workout to each individual participant depending on their ability, fitness level, and any injuries. Activities are swapped out for others (e.g. dumbbells for barbells, lunges for single leg squats), repetitions are cut in half, weight levels are changed out. There is a morbidly obese guy in our gym, and people recovering from injuries and accidents. Each workout is scaled to them, and they are watched closely. They watch me closely too, because I don't have the movements down yet--that said, they monitor everyone's form for safety.

    That said, I understand CrossFit is faddish, and the potential for abuse is high. But my trainers are great, serious, and perfect for me.
    posted by oneironaut at 9:24 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I am fully cognizant that there are intelligent affiliates run by intelligent strength-and-conditioning coaches who refuse to "drink the Kool-Aid". And thank God for them. But if I express disdain towards Crossfit, it is disdain based in extensive experience within the community itself and observance of the behaviors of its leaders.

    I'd been interested in Crossfit earlier but trying to separate the wheat from the chaff has been a challenge. Would you mind if you could point me to some of the more sensible resources?
    posted by cendawanita at 9:26 AM on December 30, 2012


    I'd been interested in Crossfit earlier but trying to separate the wheat from the chaff has been a challenge. Would you mind if you could point me to some of the more sensible resources?

    Cendawanita, I would just tell you to visit the gyms in your area, talk to the coaches, ask to observe classes. You want to see and learn how they treat novices, how careful they are with them. Ask to speak to people in the class. Go where you feel comfortable. That's what I did.
    posted by oneironaut at 9:31 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    If it had been a pizza there would have been instant Hobbsian war of All against All.

    Not if the pizzaiolo did his job and cut it into slices. Pizza is probably the ultimate egalitarian food, so it would hold up just fine with most existing hunter-gatherer tribes that we know about.

    (Modern hunter-gatherer societies are so focused on egalitarianism that they make Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" look moderate. It helps to keep more people alive if there are complicated systems about whose turn it is to eat the gazelle's liver, rather than one well fed Lord who takes it by right.)
    posted by Sara C. at 9:31 AM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


    Thanks oneironaut! I hope I'm able to do that soonish.
    posted by cendawanita at 9:37 AM on December 30, 2012


    I just don't really understand why people have to then develop some kind of mad religious fervor about it

    Because it's food, and food is weirdly always kind of connected with religion for us. I don't know if it's all humans or just modern ones. But think of how many religions you know of with very strong ideas about food.

    My suspicion for many years has been that the reason we're seeing such an upswing in eating-based identities ("I'm a vegetarian", "I'm paleo", "I'm gluten free*", etc) is that it strokes the same part of our brain that, a century ago, would have been strongly identifying with a particular organized religious group.

    *I'm talking about folks who use that as an identity, not framing it as celiac or the like. Obviously there are people whose bodies cannot tolerate gluten, and that's not what I'm referring to here.
    posted by Sara C. at 9:41 AM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Hi Cendawanita,

    I'm sure Schroedinger is working on a good response, but there are a few classic articles on this subject. There are now a number of ex-CrossFit affiliate owners who were pushed out due to ideological differences a few years ago. Founding thinkers like Robb Wolf, Greg Everett and a few others.

    The first thing to consider reading is 8 Ways to Unf**k your CrossFit by John Scheaffer.

    Certainly listen to Robb Wolf's take on CrossFit. Here's an article with some more details.

    Greg Everett has a good 2 part series on his issues with CrossFit.

    The under appreciated site Breaking Muscle has a solid article on picking a decent CrossFit gym.

    Basically, the coaches should be able to evaluate your limitations, scale appropriately for everyone, give good coaching cues, have programming goals and incorporate some dedicated strength training. Be wary of gyms with lots of "Girls" WOD. Be wary of gyms that program workout with 100s of "pull ups". Be wary of any gym that has you wrenching a heavy barbell above your head on the first day.

    That's a good start.
    posted by Telf at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]




    I fall into the there is no one type of diet that is perfect for everyone camp. I was vegetarian for several years and long story short I developed a health issue that ended up being related to the diet and no matter what I tried diet wise was only corrected when I added some meat back in.
    To this day I get some vegans and vegetarians insisting that if I had only done A or B or C, D, E plus T I would be fine. My response was and is, me not being able to be healthy on such a diet does not mean that other people can't be or aren't perfectly healthy eating that way and a knock on the diet.

    Last year for the first time a check-up showed higher levels of cholesterol and my doctor talked about a pill. I asked him to give me at least six months to see what I could do to bring it down sans pill. It was then I discovered this paleo type eating. As many have said there are different versions and ideas about it. I picked one and tried it out.

    The first week sucked, then I felt great. More energy and just generally felt better. I lost weight and better yet actually felt the energy and motivation to exercise. For about 2 months I stuck to the recommended food plan pretty much to a the letter just to see what would happen.

    Then I started to become a 'bad' paleo according to some on the discussion boards I was on. I added some of the no no foods back in, including the bad bad grains and legumes. The thing was that by then I could more easily tell how my own body responded to them and how I felt eating them. I ended up getting the same responses I did from vegetarians.

    Long story short, now I eat in a way that this paleo thing definitely influenced and helped me look at eating a bit differently then before but it is something that works for me. I'm glad I tried it. In the long run it has helped my health. My cholesterol did go down and I don't need a pill.

    The big plus about it is that I finally figured out a way of eating where I can still eat things I love, like butter and bacon and not feel like I'm doing something wrong.

    So here is my diet preaching. There are many different ways of eating. Trying new ones isn't necessarily a bad thing. You can learn from it and learn things about your own body from it. Filter through the BS manifesto stuff and adjust until it works for you in all respects.
    No one diet is the best for everyone.
    posted by Jalliah at 9:57 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Thanks so much Telf! I'm reading through all the links now.
    posted by cendawanita at 10:00 AM on December 30, 2012


    Sara C, I've noticed a lot of paleos are former vegans and vegetarians who converted and now proselytize against their former diet. Especially the ones who found their new diet fixes some actual medical condition. Those are usually the loudest preachers. And the ones who most often post pictures of their crossfit blisters to twitter, along with pictures of their next deadlift in sepia tone and shots of themselves posing with organ meats. Paleo.Crossfitter.Iconoclast.Ashly.

    They also have these moments when they eat impurely, they have a bit of gluten or too many carbs, and suddenly the diet stops working for them. They have "gluten hangovers". A part of what makes the diet work for some people is a sense of belonging. It's also a big part of what motivates crossfitters, which is why they're willing to pay so much more.

    And the religious ones tend to have a sort of sectarian feud going on with fruitarians. Especially the 30bananasaday nutcases. Which kind of encapsulates everything good and bad about the Internet.
    posted by stavrogin at 10:02 AM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


    > I still honestly want to know if people following a paleo diet eat root vegetables that aren't potatoes. For example carrots, beets, turnips, celeriac, sunchokes, etc.

    My in-laws eat a paleo diet, as my MIL has debilitating migraines and she's always on the lookout for possible ways to treat them. (She says she still gets them, but they're not as severe -- and we're talking "trip to the ER and then three days in bed" sort of migraines). At Christmas dinner we joked about how potatoes weren't Paleo, and then she ate a small amount of them. Because it was Christmas dinner, and there were mashed potatoes, and she knew that for her a small serving of potatoes would be okay.

    There's no one legal definition of a Paleo diet, so it's difficult to say what someone following a Paleo diet would eat.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 10:03 AM on December 30, 2012


    Well, sure, but that's like when I used to be a vegetarian, but I would eat a couple bites of turkey at Thanksgiving because otherwise it would drive my mother insane and I would be relegated to hours of lecturing about how Vegetarians Are Stupid.

    Breaking your diet because it sometimes makes sense is not the same thing as "my diet actually allows me to do this thing that is fundamentally against the nature of the diet". Which is where I get all confused about paleo. Either you are attempting to eat a diet closer to pre-agricultural people or you are attempting to drastically cut carbohydrates from your diet. Those are pretty much the accepted definitions of that diet.

    You can't stop doing the diet (or take a cheat day, or evolve your concept of what you should eat) and then say "Oh, but I'm still paleo, I've just decided that cheetos are definitely paleo-approved because Reasons."
    posted by Sara C. at 10:14 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    cendawanita, I wrote this response to a similar AskMefi question. Unfortunately the best ways to tell if your Crossfit is good or not is if you already know what good programming is and how movements like the Olympic lifts and squats and deads are supposed to be performed. Which a novice won't! But the articles Telf linked are good.

    In addition: ideally your Crossfit gym will do mobility work at the beginning. They'll include a strength-training element that is SEPARATE from their metcon (metabolic conditioning) element. Ideally your metcons will not be lasting over twenty minutes, and if they do it's on occasion and because the trainer is preparing you for a Crossfit competition. 20+ minute metcons for novices and general fitness are not good in general.

    Ideally your Crossfit gym will also:
    - Not have you do kipping pull-ups until you can do a full pull-up, or if they DO have you do kipping pull-ups they are in small quantities and you're also doing shoulder stability work. This is because kipping pull-ups are extremely hard on the shoulder capsule and can lead to labral tears (tears in the connective tissue of the shoulder) in the long run if you haven't built up enough muscle around the capsule to stabilize it. Rule of thumb is if you can't do at least one strict dead-hang pull-up, you don't have enough muscle around your shoulder capsule to stabilize it.

    - If they have you do glute-ham developer situps, they are not in large quantities and they're careful with them because it's pretty easy to get rhabdo from those.

    - They don't have you do sumo-deadlift-high-pulls, because those are bad for the shoulder.

    - They don't have you do high-rep Olympic lifts (the snatch and the clean-and-jerk), or at least strongly discourage it.

    - They don't have you do high-rep box jumps, or if they do you land fully on the floor and pause before jumping again, not bunny hop up and back. This is because the "bunny hop" method puts a lot of stress on the achilles tendon and can lead to achilles tears.

    There are also other programming reasons why not to do those that have to do with picking the correct exercise for the desired stimulus. But the above at least prevents dumb injuries. If you have a gym that does the above, you can be reasonably sure they have a good handle on the physiology of the body and what constitutes smart programming. You can also be reasonably sure they're going to teach you good form, or at least try to.

    Some gyms will incorporate the above because they're used in Crossfit competitions, so if you want to compete in Crossfit you have to be familiar with them (because Crossfit HQ is not so intelligent about its programming).

    If your gym doesn't do the above--that is, they go straight to kipping pull-ups, you see a lot of high-rep snatch or clean-and-jerk work, high-rep box jumps, then ask them their rationale. If they're defensive, dismissive, or confused, you don't want to go there. Actually, if you bring up any (reasonable) criticism of Crossfit and they get very defensive and dismissive, that's not a good sign.

    Really, really do your research, read all those articles Telf linked, because the downside of joining up with a bad affiliate is totally preventable injuries you'll have for the rest of your life. And you'll be out at least $150/month.
    posted by schroedinger at 10:37 AM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Hey Sara,

    Most paleo advocates recommend something along the 80/20 rule. This is stated clearly in the Primal Blueprint and has been repeated many time by Robb Wolf. Quotes such as, "I've never advocated people be complete nut case orthodox paleo-wise and never ever have a pizza again or never ever have a sandwich again" are pretty common.

    Nobody is going to die because they eat a chip. Pretty much, eat right 80% of the time and the other 20% shouldn't be too bad. Unless of course you do have some allergen/inflammation issues. Then the whole gluten hangover/migraines/irritable bowel thing may be aversive enough to mute one's desire to eat Cheetohs.

    As has been mentioned numerous times up thread, paleo diets aren't necessarily low carb nor are people seriously trying to recreate some mythological perfect diet.

    So yeah, you can take a cheat day and you certainly can "evolve" your concept as you learn new things. You won't get kicked out of the secret paleo club. Please don't think of this as some binary thing.
    posted by Telf at 10:42 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


    google has brought me to this: John McPhee tribute to Euell Gibbons in the New York Times from September 2010. This is why (some days) I love the friggin' internet.
    posted by bukvich at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


    oh excellent excellent points, schroedinger! Thank you and to the rest who've been so kind to answer. :)
    posted by cendawanita at 11:24 AM on December 30, 2012


    If it's possible to investigate both the advantages of civilization AND the advantages of the social structures and lifeways of non-civilizational cultures, and combine them -- why make fun of that?

    I don't have any criticism of that, but it just seems the definition of "primal", "tribal", or "paleo" seems to be based on someone's arbitrary notion of it, which is more often than not romanticized.

    You're eating differently. That's great. No need to add all the other stuff to it.
    posted by FJT at 11:52 AM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I don't have any criticism of that, but it just seems the definition of "primal", "tribal", or "paleo" seems to be based on someone's arbitrary notion of it, which is more often than not romanticized.

    Which all of the people who have actually investigated/tried paleo have been repeatedly saying is not actually the desired attitude or outcome. "Paleo" and the caveman thing is a poor marketing choice that has (as is evidenced in this thread) done way more harm than good to the core desire, which was to figure out why modern people are dying in droves of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

    The only people romanticizing, or even really talking about, cavemen in this thread are the anti-paleo diet folks.

    (And here's a rundown on the nightshade thing - again, it's more a "this may bother some people, try eliminating it" thing not a "this will kill you dead despite how everyone has been eating tomatoes and potatoes daily for generations" Personally I don't seem to react to nightshades - some people do seem to.)
    posted by restless_nomad at 12:04 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I wonder if anybody doing elimination diets use proper experimental design to determine causality? You know things like ABA designs and dosage testing to look and see if there are the magnitude effects that should occur.

    I really think a vast majority of the food allergy crowd are people who have an idealized idea of what human digestion should be like and/or would be better served by wearing trousers with waist sizes that actually fit their girth.
    posted by srboisvert at 12:04 PM on December 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


    Sara C. said: This is unscientific woo.

    Can you cite research backing up this claim? I really am curious where your thoughts on this am coming from.

    I cited my friend from college and macrobiotics as examples -- these sorts of diets pre-date paleo by quite a bit. Macrobiotics is largely based on woo, and I won't argue that. But I've heard plenty of anecdotal evidence that cutting out nightshades has helped people, especially people with autoimmune disorders.

    I am honestly interested in reading studies/research that call into question the anecdotes.
    posted by offalark at 12:43 PM on December 30, 2012


    Ah, MeFi loves any excuse to point and laugh at libertarians. Threatened, much?

    Actually, yeah we're threatened. Because of this:

    Coming back to the subject of the linked article, I think the reason it resonates is that non-libertarians feel the same way about attempts to return to some mythical state of the unfettered free market.

    Because we already tried a free and unfettered market. It was called the industrial revolution. It sucked. People died in large numbers in horrible ways due to diseases, from being locked into factories that caught fire, from overwork, from malnutrition and famine, from dirty water, from filthy tenement housing, from pollution, from a complete lack of governmental oversight or regulations of food or drugs.

    We're laughing because many of the ideas put forth by libertarianism are fucking insane and if we don't laugh we might start crying or screaming in anger instead.

    Every time I've had a discussion with a self-professed libertarian about how to regulate these kinds of abuses of the land, of the proletariat or common working man they don't seem to have any real answers beyond handwaving and/or apologetics about how the free market should voluntarily provide those things because it's in its own best interests to provide these things for a healthy workforce or something.

    This is purely wishful thinking. Companies today only barely, begrudgingly provide some of the things that it should because they've been mandated by legislation. It's bloody delusional and insane and ignorant of history to think that any competitive major company would voluntarily provide them without strong regulation.

    We can already see this happening right now in modern times in China's special economic zones where it's about as close to a real world libertarian paradise as we've seen since our own industrial revolution.

    Companies like Foxconn installed suicide safety nets instead of actually improving working conditions or raising wages.

    Note that we haven't even begun to address public health and safety issues like health care, policing, fire departments, clean water, good roads or any of the other "common good" stumbling blocks of libertarianism.

    And why is it always that I end up arguing with some rich-ish white libertarian guy about these things? Every single time I get into this argument it's someone who has always had enough, who has been presented with racial, economic and sexual privilege and opportunity.

    It's never someone who has been denied work or housing due to their race, sex or economic status. It's never someone who knows what it's like to eat out of a dumpster to survive. It's never someone who has been at the mercy of public health care.

    Yet despite all of these good fortunes and privileges their arguments tend to be reduced to the a single line item that they're annoyed at having to pay taxes. Y'know, this might be less of a problem if the companies that didn't pay their taxes actually did pay their taxes, which they tend to not pay through creative financing even when it's the law.

    And libertarians want to remove those regulations!? Excuse me, I have to go to my laughing place again or I'm going to go utterly mad.

    posted by loquacious at 1:18 PM on December 30, 2012 [25 favorites]


    If you don't want to wade through all the crossfit drama linked above I snipped a part:

    at that point that he estimated that one in thirty affiliates was actually decent, and wasn’t actively damaging the reputations of everyone who shared the common name but was doing good things with their little piece of the world. That was over a year ago. The count on affiliates at that time hadn’t broken 1000 yet. I spoke with him again a few months later and he said that it was probably one in fifty at that point.

    (from one of the greyskull rants. It's almost like a linux microsoft apple flame war.)
    posted by bukvich at 1:22 PM on December 30, 2012


    The only people romanticizing, or even really talking about, cavemen in this thread are the anti-paleo diet folks.

    I'm also counting the "over-enthusiasm" and fervor as part of the romanticizing.

    We can already see this happening right now in modern times in China's special economic zones where it's about as close to a real world libertarian paradise as we've seen since our own industrial revolution.

    I'm not a libertarian at all, but I wouldn't point out China as a libertarian paradise, especially since a lot of corruption and abuse of power is done by, well, the government and those connected to the government.
    posted by FJT at 1:39 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I am honestly interested in reading studies/research that call into question the anecdotes.

    Generally, the burden of proof is the other way around in medicine.
    posted by en forme de poire at 2:09 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I guess the major issue here is whether or not people think that our current dietary models are optimal, or could be improved upon.

    I just don't understand why anyone thinks looking back to the diets of our prehistoric ancestors is relevant to the search for a diet that will keep people living in a modern environment, living a modern lifestyle, healthy into our 80s and beyond.
    posted by straight at 2:17 PM on December 30, 2012


    restless_nomad posted a link to an article with references to studies linking certain nightshades to autoimmune issues.

    Sara C. specifically posted that it was "unscientific woo". I am assuming this means there is, somewhere, science to prove that, and I would like to read and digest these counterpoints.

    But in other news: with the myriad of food allergies out there, why is it so hard to believe that some people react unfavoarably to compounds in certain foods?
    posted by offalark at 2:18 PM on December 30, 2012


    Can people in this thread not just discount other people's reports of what people have said to them as if that didn't happen? I get that you people for whom paleo works great as a nuanced approach would never say ill-informed stuff like "cavemen didn't eat beans" or "tubers are toxic". I get that the leading pro-paleo researchers don't say anything like that.

    But there are lots of people who do, just like there are lots of ill-informed vegans who will tell you urban legends about steak rotting in your colon for seven years. People get stuff wrong in ridiculous ways. That's what I thought the Abrahamian article was about.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 2:23 PM on December 30, 2012


    Ok, haven't read all the comments but really, this:
    right now, in the wealthy first world, we are the BEST looking people born
    needs some sort of response. How can you possibly believe that? The Masai, the Nuer, the Himba, just off the top of my head. Tough, beautiful, muscular healthy people abound in the developing world. Strong people with a marvellous sense of self.
    posted by glasseyes at 2:25 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I just don't understand why anyone thinks looking back to the diets of our prehistoric ancestors is relevant to the search for a diet that will keep people living in a modern environment, living a modern lifestyle, healthy into our 80s and beyond.

    Well, the logic, so far as I understand it, goes something like this:

    - People are contracting diseases that seem to be related to diet
    - This seems to be relatively new - the historical record suggests that these diseases weren't prevalent in the distant past.
    - Perhaps if we figure out what's changed since that time, we can narrow down the causes of these diseases
    - Let's start with the earliest records and examine paleolithic man's diet and work forward from there.

    And Sidhedevil, I totally understand that there are a lot of people spouting ridiculous stuff out there, but it's really hard to have a conversation where I'm trying to talk to you* and you're talking to someone who isn't here.

    * You in the generic; I'm not trying to accuse you of anything.
    posted by restless_nomad at 2:26 PM on December 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


    It is unscientific woo that nightshades are bad for everyone, all nightshades, universally. It would be unscientific woo to claim that everyone can eat nightshades with no problem.

    I say this as I am eating a gluten-free peanut butter cup that would send one of my friends to the hospital with anaphylaxis (peanut allergy) and put another friend down for the count with migraines (chocolate allergy). And the gluten-containing version would send me to bed with joint inflammation for days.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 2:27 PM on December 30, 2012


    Offalark, that article indeed references a series of papers, but in support of relatively circumscribed claims such as "tomatoes contain glycoalkaloids," and not really in support of the claim that "nightshades are linked to autoimmune issues." The one paper they reference which appears to discuss a possible connection between the two is from a journal (Journal of Neurological and Orthopedic Medical Surgery) that does not seem to be indexed in Pubmed, and the article's topic also appears to have little to do with the rest of the content of the journal, both significant red flags.

    If you search, e.g., "nightshade arthritis" in Pubmed, one of the 2 articles you get actually suggests that an alkaloid from a nightshade has anti-inflammatory properties and could be useful in treating arthritis. There is also one case report about an elimination diet helping an individual with Sjogren's disease, but this is basically a very detailed n=1 anecdote (and importantly, the elimination diet covered lots and lots of other foods besides nightshades).
    posted by en forme de poire at 2:34 PM on December 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


    r_n, maybe the problem is that there are two conversations in the thread that are at kind of cross purposes, which I think might actually be a problem with the linked article also? One strand is "people say silly, dogmatic things about what they identify as a paleo diet, and sometimes reveal that they have a weird and not all that factual narrative about what preagricultural peoples did, and what's that about, anyway?" and the other conversation is "wow, a lot of people seem to be ill-informed about the research behind the paleo diet and what data sets it draws on, and what the actual recommendations leading researchers make".

    I'm not sure why having the second conversation needs to preclude having the first, though maybe it's too unwieldy to have both in one thread. The first is more fun for me, and the second isn't useful to me (since my digestive system is so fucked up that I had to work with a nutritionist to make a list of "safe foods" which is quite a bit narrower than the paleo diet), but then again I have my own blog, so if the consensus is that "silly things self-identified but ill-informed paleo dieters say" doesn't fit in this thread, that's cool.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 2:38 PM on December 30, 2012


    Sara C. specifically posted that it was "unscientific woo". I am assuming this means there is, somewhere, science to prove that, and I would like to read and digest these counterpoints.

    Just because somebody, somewhere, is allergic to eggplant, doesn't mean that the entire nightshade family is Bad For You.

    I'm sure there are medical conditions where nightshades are contraindicated. Acid reflux and tomatoes comes immediately to mind.

    But, again, the idea that people, in general, should avoid eating all foods that are related to X simply because somebody knows someone whose doctor told them not to eat X is bullshit woo not far beyond the belief in Morgellons.

    In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the fad for otherwise healthy people going on elimination diets is about as "healthy" as the Master Cleanse fad of a couple years ago. It's not going to kill you or anything, but it's also not a good universal approach to food.
    posted by Sara C. at 2:45 PM on December 30, 2012


    Oh, r_n, I see now what you meant. Yeah, I don't mean that people should, or would want to, engage with the third parties who have told me "Cavemen didn't eat beans" other than to mention that those people aren't representative of the state of research within the paleo diet community if they feel like it.

    "People who say 'cavemen didn't eat beans' are wrongly representing paleo" works for me. "Nobody says 'cavemen didn't eat beans,' you're wrong" not so much.
    posted by Sidhedevil at 2:46 PM on December 30, 2012


    r_n, maybe the problem is that there are two conversations in the thread that are at kind of cross purposes, which I think might actually be a problem with the linked article also?

    Yeah, the article itself offers a not-particularly-nuanced description of the paleo diet to start off with, which undercuts its entire thesis. It annoys me particularly because focusing on the he-man libertarian strain - which totally exists, don't get me wrong - ignores all of the women- and family-focused writers, cooks, athletes, etc, who aren't particularly libertarian even if they are sometimes super evangelical.
    posted by restless_nomad at 2:52 PM on December 30, 2012


    "mazola there is a cute movie The Gods Must be Crazy where an empty coca cola bottle falls out of the sky into the middle of a tribe of bushmen who have never seen anything like it. If it had been a pizza there would have been instant Hobbsian war of All against All"

    Really really really not. Those people are co-operative and sharing to the bone.

    Funny thing, in one of my home countries the head of state was - actually dead, as he was on a life-support machine nobody could bring themselves to switch off - out of action for more than six months. Life went on as normal. Human beings aren't the aggressive anti-social creatures many expect us to be. We naturally live in groups, co-operate with each other and don't need draconian laws to not go around killing each other. Hunter-gather societies regulate themselves through peer-pressure and relationships, they don't need some sort of scary external authority to behave decently.
    posted by glasseyes at 2:53 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Sara C: Ah, okay. So yes, I would agree with you that All Nightshades Are Not Bad for All People.

    However, I am willing to believe that for some subset of humans, nightshades cause very real issues such as arthritis and other autoimmune-related disorders. Speaking personally, if I were to suddenly acquire debilitating arthritis, I would very seriously consider elimination diet before or in conjunction with medical treatment. I've just had too many friends lose quality of life while they sat around waiting for drugs to take their effect.

    And honestly, I would say the autoimmune protocol is much easier to follow than the Master Cleanse. Tedious and difficult to eat out -- if you can eat out at all -- but not as risky as limiting your diet to lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper.
    posted by offalark at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    What I don't get is: in some places, like southern China, people eat almost anything including dogs and snakes. And one never hears about allergies. (Yes, I see people from all parts of China regularly). And in other places, there is no limit to the problems with food. Where I live, this separation is between urban districts: in one district, almost everyone is allergic to something, in the next almost no one is.
    Once, I asked an Indian friend how the children learn to eat spicy food. She couldn't answer because it was a stupid question. Children eat what is on the table, because otherwise they go hungry. There isn't a fridge full of snacks and soft drinks.

    I have an allergy and I do vegetarian months now and then to keep my weight reasonable. I'm not out to ridicule anyone. But I wonder how this can all be.
    posted by mumimor at 3:38 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    My major issues with the promotion diets meant to reduce/eliminate autoimmune symptoms are:

    --Autoimmune disorders are notoriously unpredictable and changable, and many of these diets/protocols are essentially like "cut out all these things perfectly and then wait 6 weeks and see if your symptoms subside" which seems designed to engender a lot of false positives;

    --Autoimmune disorders often come with serious limitations of resources due to lower capacity for employment, fatigue, physical limitations, high medical expenses, and other issues. Doing an extensive elimination diet often requires a significant outlay of time, effort, and/or money;

    --People often blame or judge those with autoimmune disorders for "sitting around waiting" or not following these kinds of diets, reducing the overall social support available for people who have autoimmune disorders and are unwilling or unable to adhere to a specific elimination diet.

    On a personal note, I have auto-immune related arthritis and I generally never talk about it because the constant barrage of dietary advice is so obnoxious, persistent, and contradictory. Alas, no one offers to be responsible for purchasing, cooking, and cleaning up after these diets (and convincing the people I live with to go along with them or cede significant fridge/storage space), they just tell me how obvious it is that my current diet is the cause of all my difficulties despite there being no significant evidence to support that.
    posted by the young rope-rider at 3:41 PM on December 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


    In reply to Glasseyes:
    Ok, haven't read all the comments but really, this:

    right now, in the wealthy first world, we are the BEST looking people born

    needs some sort of response. How can you possibly believe that? The Masai, the Nuer, the Himba, just off the top of my head. Tough, beautiful, muscular healthy people abound in the developing world. Strong people with a marvellous sense of self.
    As the originator of the statement let me clarify, that members of the wealthy first tier are the best looking at this point FOR the first tier. I am not stating that there is not good looking elsewhere but that right now, due to better hygiene, medical practices and reliable, if not abundant, food resources people in the wealthier nations enjoy a level of physical well being that is astonishing in comparison to previous centuries, in particular, the Hobbesian, "short, brutish and nasty" period.

    My response is to the rhetoric of the "good old days". What the good old days means, in terms of health of the general population, is not enticing at all.
    posted by jadepearl at 3:46 PM on December 30, 2012


    Autoimmune disorders often come with serious limitations of resources due to lower capacity for employment, fatigue, physical limitations, high medical expenses, and other issues. Doing an extensive elimination diet often requires a significant outlay of time, effort, and/or money;

    Sing it, sister. I have found, through a couple of years of experimentation, what works to control my arthritis, but I still struggle - and sometimes fail outright - at compliance, because a home-cooked grass-fed meat-and-vegetables-only diet is fucking hard. And expensive. Especially when I have no energy or can't use my hands much or can't stand/sit in one place very long. It's just so much easier to microwave something, even when I know - I know - that it's just going to prolong the flare. I don't have the fridge-space issue, since I live alone, but doing the goddamned dishes is sometimes just out of my reach, and that means no complicated cooking because all the pans are dirty and I don't have any plates and fuckit Domino's has gluten-free pizza nowadays anyway.
    posted by restless_nomad at 3:51 PM on December 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


    I knew a guy in college that got scurvy in this manner.

    Did you actually, or was it a friend of a friend type situation?
    I had scurvy in my early 20s - when I rocked up to my GP he said "what's a young man in this day and age doing with scurvy?". My diet at the time was, of course, completely fucked, but it was all quickly and easily reversed.

    But, as stoneweaver said, it's 15 years later and I still get "the guy who had scurvy" jokes from my friends.
    posted by russm at 4:05 PM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


    > What I don't get is: in some places, like southern China, people eat almost anything including dogs and snakes. And one never hears about allergies

    There's research -- for example, here, the first study I found -- about food allergies in China, if you're interested. Anecdotally, I've heard that soy allergies are on the rise in China because of increasing use of artificial breastmilk.
    posted by The corpse in the library at 4:34 PM on December 30, 2012


    it's 15 years later and I still get "the guy who had scurvy" jokes from my friends.

    I want credit for the restraint I have displayed here.
    posted by pompomtom at 7:19 PM on December 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


    All these people with cancer, I heard someone yelling above. Do you have rates of various types of cancer from the Paleolithic era? Do you have them for the 19th Century? Early 20th Century? Would you consider these reliable? Do you think awareness of cancer and reporting of treatment sought for it matter? How does the fact that the U.S. has no universal health care and little in the way of preventative medicine affect cancer rates and treatment here (if you're just talking about the U.S.)? But let's not think about such difficult questions and statistical matters. Let's rant about rates of cancer and tell people to stop eating peanuts and soy stuff, all because we care so darned much about cancer.

    Thank you for this post and the thread.
    posted by raysmj at 7:47 PM on December 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I don't understand your point. Surely if you're concerned about preventative medicine and cancer, you're concerned about nutrition?
    posted by The corpse in the library at 8:38 PM on December 30, 2012


    My point was that this is never mentioned, or rarely mentioned, by the most vocal or evangelical followers of this diet, at least the ones who I've come across (including people I thought I knew well enough, not just people on the Interweb). That there might be a strong appeal to and involvement of libertarians in this helps this make a bit more sense, but I know for sure that not everyone who's a dedicated follower is a hard-core libertarian.

    But, to answer your question more fully, if we did have universal health care, many of the more into-it types would go on about how the vast majority of doctors and the USDA and the FDA, etc. will never let you in on the truth, so universal health care wouldn't do any good.
    posted by raysmj at 9:12 PM on December 30, 2012


    Raysmj,

    I'd assume that most paleo proponents are probably more interested in preventative measures. There's some promising line of thought investigating using ketogenic diets to treat certain kinds of cancers. There are lots of interesting dietary links that people are starting to look into. Hopefully cancer rates could be reduced rather than treated after the fact. (Obviously food isn't a cure all.)

    On the other hand, there was that recent article about Dinosaurs with tumours. I'm pretty sure a T-rex's Cretaceous diet beats the stuffing out of anyone's Paleolithic diet.
    posted by Telf at 9:32 PM on December 30, 2012


    it's 15 years later and I still get "the guy who had scurvy" jokes from my friends.

    I want credit for the restraint I have displayed here.
    good point, you've done better than usual in restraining yourself. credit where credit is due.
    posted by russm at 11:36 PM on December 30, 2012


    200 comments in and nobody called me out on my astrology/astronomy boner upthread? Metafilter is either getting more polite or less observant.
    posted by Telf at 2:27 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


    My reading comprehension is in retrograde.
    posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:52 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


    schroedinger, just wanted to chime in and say that your response to that AskMe question was extremely helpful for me in finding a CrossFit affiliate that I liked earlier this year, and it ticks every single one of your criteria (every once in a while there is a high-rep Olympic-lift WOD but they're pretty uncommon). I've had a great experience and knowing the right questions to ask really helped. I'm really happy with the trainers and while most of them eat paleo to some extent or another it's not heavily evangelized at all.

    I do get the sense that when CrossFit is good, it's almost in spite of the corporate headquarters and the culture it encourages rather than because of them. And you really, really have to do your homework before you decide to take it on. It's unfortunate that the top-down structure isn't set up in a way that weeds out the bad affiliates (or prevents them from affiliating in the first place), but the headquarters appears to have other priorities.
    posted by Kosh at 9:09 AM on December 31, 2012 [3 favorites]


    gertzedek: "I've found that you can make some really tasty food and then be very, very hungry an hour later because of the lack of starch.

    Wow, this is weird. That's exactly the reason why I stopped eating carbs.
    "

    It's almost like different people respond differently to the same foods!
    posted by Deathalicious at 7:43 PM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


    When I self-diagnosed my pre-diabetes, the first couple of weeks of avoiding glucose spiking foods (aka just about all carbs) were very hard. I had cravings, was hungry much of the day, etc. Then after a couple of weeks a switch flipped and I was cool. No desire to eat carbs at all. Eating starchy foods triggers the craving for more starchy foods. This does not seem to be an individual quirk; everyone I've talked to who has gone the whole distance has agreed that if you aren't eating starches you don't crave them. I can think of some sound evolutionary reasons this would be the case.
    posted by localroger at 8:16 PM on December 31, 2012


    I gotta say, I've gotten a kick out of seeing Paleo folk have to defend their diet from the perceptions based on extremists, weirdos and woo — as a vegetarian, I have to deal with that shit all the fucking time (often from paleos who want to bag on the idiot french fry vegan), and I'm hoping that it's a moment of cross-diet empathy.
    posted by klangklangston at 9:13 AM on January 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


    Yeah, there is a very large parallel between paleo types and the vegetarian spectrum, for sure. Although probably it's true of any way to look at food - there's definitely that range amongst locavores, self-avowed foodies, etc.
    posted by restless_nomad at 12:18 PM on January 1, 2013


    And by the way Thorzdad, I just got a standing desk (in lieu of a new office chair), and it really is fantastic. I feel a heck of a lot more alert all day, and my back does not get sore anymore by the end of the day. Highly, highly recommended to all.
    posted by oneironaut at 6:08 AM on January 2, 2013


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