What is Paleo?
- To me, Paleo means Humans are not Broken, by default (see below).
- To the media and many others, Paleo is Loren Cordain’s trademarked The Paleo DietTM: lean meat, no dairy, no alcohol, no starch, etc. For what it’s worth, I think his diet is orders of magnitude superior to the Standard American Diet.
It is not, however, the diet that I practice, nor is it the Paleo diet
practiced by most people who label their eating under a Paleo umbrella.
- Robb Wolf is a leading thinker and advocate of Paleo, and this is what he says. Mark Sisson offers a Primal spin and Chris Kresser suggests moving to a Paleo Template. The Whole 9 offers practical implementation advice, which can be a great starting point.
- Paul Jaminet says his Perfect Health Diet (PHD) is more Paleo than The Paleo DietTM
and many other implementations of Paleo. By this, he means that his
diet more closely emulates what most people ate during the Paleolithic
period. This is the Paleo-esque diet that most closely resembles my own.
However, my approach includes legumes, more vegetables, occasional grains, and less meat and starch than the PHD.
- Many people who consider themselves to be Paleo eaters eventually start to eat a diet that resembles the diet advocated by the Weston A. Price Foundation…usually everything except for the grains and legumes with some variance on partaking in dairy.
- When Paleo becomes a dogmatic system of do’s and don’ts, it is natural for people to push the limits of those rules. As such, many recipe websites and apps have come to feature calorie dense foods that are not particularly nutritious.
These can include desserts, dips, snacks, and even entire meals…just
about anything. While the foods themselves can be perfectly fine when eaten occasionally, and are fantastic to prepare for special events — they can also derail certain health goals like weight loss when eaten regularly. I wrote about this in an article called You Might be Getting Too Good at Paleo. I recommend Eating Dinners, Not Menus — deeply enjoying real food and not obsessing about the rules once you find yourself seated at the dinner table.
- Sometimes, I refer to Paleo as PaleoTM — this doesn’t refer to Cordain’s diet (which is The Paleo DietTM), but rather a form of Paleo that is blatantly commercial, uninformed, and that is designed to benefit the propagators rather than the readers / users / followers.
- A popular mantra in the Paleo community is: Paleo is not an historical reenactment, but rather it is a logical framework.
I agree with this insofar as it rejects the dogmatism of “If Paleo man
did it, I should do it.” However, epidemiological studies and research
tell us that cooked legumes are healthful and promote longevity as well as a happy gut microbiome, yet most Paleo eaters avoid them. This may tell us reenactment carries at least some weight with Paleo eaters and thinkers. The phytate argument may be incomplete. Many Paleo “approved” foods contain phytates and lectins; they are not unique to legumes.
- I believe biomimicry (nature mimicry, reenactment, etc.) is a valid
starting point for hypothesis formation and experimentation. See my
post, On Paleo Reenanctment. Forming a hypothesis based on observations and experiences of nature is in no way a naturalistic fallacy.
- I suggest listening to Latest in Paleo Episode 76: The Yoga of Eating with Charles Eisenstein. In this episode, we discuss emulating the motivation of Paleolithic man, and not simply the content of their diets.
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.”
— Matsuo Basho