Paleo Diet – Another Craze

Some years ago, a dear friend of mine, and perpetually on the search for the miracle diet tried to rope me into following her path on the Atkins diet. It was hard for her to understand why I wasn’t going to join her, after all, she had lost plenty of pounds already, and was feeling great (ready skinny), and I after all, would benefit from loosing a few pounds myself.

No argument there. I could stand to loose a good many pounds. But the diet made no sense to me. Adding to that is the fact that while I eat meat, I am not crazy about it. I prefer vegetable and adore anything that swims. But try to pry carbs out of my hands and you are lucky if you escape with minor injuries like say a broken occipital orb, a dislocated shoulders and assorted, distributed contusions.

After moving to the USA I started to gain weight. Seriously. I blossomed from 115 lbs married weight to 145 within two years and boy did that piss me off. I am quite a bit larger by now (after all we married twenty years ago and I have had two kids since then), but lets not see those numbers in writing other than at my doctors office in my chart. My weight gain (although I’ve been steady in the last 9 years), can be ascribed to one thing and one thing only.

ME.

I went on a diet and hated myself. I became a skinnier but cranky, pissy, crabby, and unbalanced person. My husband one day just handed me a bag of M&Ms and begged me to please eat them. That day I realized that dieting isn’t the answer. I realized that I would need to change the way I saw and treated food in relation to me.

My husband hasn’t gained any weight. The pox on his skinny arse, I say. But he eats the same lunch and dinner as we all do. So why is he not gaining weight. And of course I do put into consideration the fact that men’s metabolism is a a bit stronger than women’s.

He doesn’t snack. I do. End of discussion. That is the difference. We eat healthy at home. We hardly have any processed foods at home other than pasta, bread, condiments, etc. My kids don’t even know what a Twinkie tastes like. Neither do I for that matter.

Now people are following the Paleo diet and lots of my various acquaintances and friends are frankly, in my opinion, nut jobs misguided for buying into this.  Human beings began agriculture roughly 13,000 years ago (some evidence found in the last two years suggest it may have begun as early as 15,000 years ago, but that is still contested). Is someone really going to tell me the human body hasn’t adapted to a larger variety of food items during this time? I think avoiding the food items added in the last say, 50 -100 years is a good idea. People started to cultivate a variety of plants all over the globe between 13,000 and 8,000 BCE onwards and even plant varieties before that eaten by hunter-gatherer nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples would have varied depending on where they are from. And even that changed depending on the migratory route their ancestors would have taken over the course of tens of thousands of years in pre-agrarian times.

Simply put, people’s diets kept changing even before Neolithic times, and the idea that one diet can be ascribed as Paleo is preposterous.

What happened to balanced eating? Strong on vegetables and legumes, whole grains, occasionally a small portion of meats, occasional dairy and eggs. Oh wait, that isn’t as sexy as dramatically sighing at the restaurant about how hard it is to find paleo foods.

 

3 responses to “Paleo Diet – Another Craze

  1. Have you ever read the book “French Women Don’t Get Fat”? The author was an exchange student in the U.S. and gained a lot of weight while here. She also lost it again when back in France. When I was an exchange student in Canada in 1986, I also gained weight. Then I changed my eating habits and cut down on all those chocolate chip cookies and the bread that was served with every meal and I lost the weight while still in Canada. I actually came back slimmer than when I had left Germany.

    The paleo diet is one extreme diet and a vegan diet is another one. You can find faithful adherents for both of them. I have always liked the book “Eat Right 4 Your Type.” I never thought much about food allergies until the birth of my children. My son’s digestive problems were so bad that he was put in the NICU on the day of his birth. Later it turned out that he had severe allergies to dairy, corn, eggs, and wheat. I had been eating all those and they got passed on to him even before his birth and had created damage to his system. I cut all those out of my food while nursing and he had no issues. Later we realized that it was not just the wheat, but gluten. We removed that, but introduced eggs and fermented dairy again. He had no issues. He is still eating this way today. I mentioned the blood type book because we are all type O and the book proposes that those people do not do well with dairy, corn, and gluten and/or wheat, all foods my son and later my daughter were allergic to! The diet suggestions for blood type O are quite close to a paleo diet although the regular blood type O diet does allow grains, just not gluten containing ones. There is a stricter form for people with serious problems and that diet is almost exactly like a paleo diet. Other blood types do better with a vegetarian diet. Some are in between. I don*t believe everything in this book, but for us it has really helped with health problems. I know that there are some people that combine the blood type diet with Ayurveda and also some people that do a vegetarian version of the blood type diet for type O although blood type O people are the “meat eaters.” So I do think that different people need different diets.

    I also think that women have to deal with hormone issues once they are past 40 that causes them to gain weight and I do think that women need less meat than men. It is interesting that most paleo fans and proponents are men and quite a few more women are in favor of vegan or vegetarian diets. And among the “paleo” diets there are so many versions now, that it is hard to choose. Some include dairy, some include buckwheat, some include honey and maple syrup while others tell you to avoid all those foods completely.

    Do you know about the Weston Price Society? The big cookbook they put out is “Nourishing Traditions,” an interesting read about food traditions from all over the world.

    I have never been on a diet, but I do try to eat thoughtfully. There is so much conflicting information out there, that it is hard to make up your mind about food, though. So after reading a new food idea or book I always come back to the blood type diet (with some personal changes to it). The main idea has worked well for us.

  2. Hi Eva, thanks for your long comment. You made many good points. The issue I have is with the idea that someone goes and ‘sells’ a preposterous idea to millions of people and they buy it without thinking about the lack of logic behind it. It makes sense to avoid eating things that you know make you sick, but to stop eating things because someone comes along and tells you that you should eat foods that people ate over a hundred thousand years ago is nuts. I noticed that people aren’t flocking to eat grubs or other insects. But that would have been part of a true paleolithic diet. Why aren’t those included?

    Human beings have been exposed to a variety of foods all over the globe for tens of thousands of years. The notion that our digestive systems haven’t adapted is ludicrous. Refined sugars and grains are a newer phenomenon and sound science has shown that these are something best eaten as an occasional treat, and then in small quantities. But cultivated grains have been around since Jericho and Çatal Huyük.

    It makes sense to eat a diet which works with your body. But to just adopt a diet based on the ideas of what one person thinks paleolithic people ate isn’t logic based. It’s marketing.

    I am glad you found out about your son’s digestive challenges early. A friend of mine has a daughter with severe allergies, but she was diagnosed a bit later after much misery for all of them. Looking at your adorable children, I can tell they are thriving in every way.

  3. You are right about the “diet dictocrats” as Sally Fallon in her book “Nourishing Traditions” calls them. But you get them from each camp, just look at Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. McDougall, any vegan blog, any low-fat promoters, etc. They all tell you to exclude certain things, soy, meat, eggs, dairy, fat. fish, etc. They all back up their claims. They all have reasons to believe that their program is the best and the other programs out there are not nearly as good. The paleo people do the same and exclude all grains or certain grains. Why they don’t eat insects I don’t know. Maybe a paleo diet from Africa would include them. There is a diet war going on! Food has replaced religion for some people I think. And sometimes certain food recommendations claim that their recommendations come straight from the Bible.

    I am just tired of any claim that believes that there is just one diet for everyone. (Sorry, but this guy with his shawl on the right is really annoying while I am typing this. The constant movement of this video makes me dizzy.) And I am tired of people that think they know the answer to the diet question, no matter what camp they are from.

    So I think we kind of are upset about the same thing, right now “paleo” is all over the place, it will get replaced by something else soon. Whenever there is something extreme, sooner or later, the tide will turn, but that does not mean that the new thing is not equally crazy.

    Food sensitivities and allergies are hard to find out, so I feel for the daughter of your friend. And they might change as life progresses. I am glad we found out what was causing Jonathan’s problems. Without our determination and our not believing everything what the doctors said this would have not happened. I am so happy we insisted on seeing an allergist with Jonathan, even though our pediatrician thought we were crazy.

    Luckily, there are some people out there that are in the middle food wise. They just won’t appear on the front page of the magazines.

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