Is Paleo Extreme? (part one of many)

The amount of misinformation available is so great, and so predominant, that finding truth amidst all the “fact” is like finding a needle in a haystack. How are we supposed to even recognize the truth when we see it? So much sifting and hunting and looking and sorting is required; it is a lot of very hard work.

I feel this way about a lot of topics; chief among them being diet and nutrition. I have studied nutrition since high school, and not just as extracurricular reading. I’ve taken classes and have certificates in nutrition. We’re talking twelve years of reading and study and trial and error – it has taken me twelve years to finally find what I honestly believe and consider to be the truth of diet & nutrition amidst all the “fact”.

And, as I have found with most topics, the truth is so far distanced from popular, common thought & practice that at first glance it is extreme. At first glance, it is just the opposite swing of the pendulum. It is just another “craze” diet that surely will eventually show itself to be impossible to sustain and unhealthy in the long run.

I am referring the paleo diet – a traditional foods diet without grains – eating the way cavemen and early men ate, before the industrial revolution, when mankind still grew and killed to feed his family. When we still worked and subdued the earth, instead of polluting and raping it.

When I first came across the paleo diet, I thought it was extreme. I dismissed it as unsustainable and unhealthy in the long run – mostly because I still believed that grains were the staff of life, and I still had this bug in my ear about vegetarianism and wanted to try it. I did – I tried it, and it’s worst. Not because it isn’t do-able, or acheiveable: I was hard-core, man, I was vegan! I was also eating myself. In three months I lost so much upper body strength that it was hard for me to lift and carry my one-year-old son. (Read this article: Vegans are Cannibals.) It is dead-on accurate. I know because I lived it. I can introduce you to vegan families whose children have some of the worst dental problems I’ve ever seen. But it’s hard to argue with conviction; and vegans are nothing if not convicted.

And so at first glance, Paleo is just another fad diet, the opposing side of the great food debate. They argue that we are designed to eat animals and fat; vegetarians claim that all that meat just rots in your gut. (Which, by the way, is 100% scientifically false. Read this.)  Who to believe? What to believe? Sift, sift, sift through it all, trying to the truth in the midst of the propaganda. In the middle of these opposing views is the Standard American diet, looking sometimes like a great, tried & true, middle of the road option. At first glance, it touts balance and wisdom, and it is after all backed and supported by our government.

But what if the paleo diet doesn’t come up short? What if time proves it? I can already vouch for you that vegetarianism is flawed and unhealthy. What if our Standard American Diet isn’t in the middle of the road of two extremes (veganism and paleo)? What if the SAD is itself the extreme, and we are so far gone and away from how our bodies are designed to eat, and evolved eating, that we can’t recognize it for what it really is? We already are two, maybe three, generations deep in being so distanced from the origins of our food that most children, and many adults, don’t realize that only girl chickens, and all healthy girl chickens, lay eggs, and lay eggs every day. (True story: it is a summation of a conversation I had with the 8 year old girl that lives next door.) So is it possible, then, that since we don’t even recognize real food, or know how to grow and make real food for ourselves, isn’t it possible then that we are living and eating an extreme and unsustainable diet right now?

What if recent scientific study, funded by the government, isn’t right about their findings – or even worse, they are only publishing and pushing part of the findings, the part that supports their agenda? (True story: watch the movie FatHead.)

What if grains are bad for us? Even Weston A Price, whose traditional foods dietary guidelines include whole grains, includes them only if they are soaked or sprouted (an enzymatic process that changes the chemical structure of the grain).

Personally, grains make me sick, in more ways than one, so how can it be part of my healthy diet? And I am not the only one: celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, is considered a genetic disorder, and it affects (according to reports) 1 in 133 Americans. (These figures don’t reflect folks like me, who have this disorder, in some form, without it being documented by a physician.)

Genetically, 1 in 133 people can’t digest the majority of grains. That’s a lot of people whose bodies can’t digest what the American Food Pyramid says needs to supply 6-11 servings -the bulk of our daily calories. And this number doesn’t include soy, corn, rice, dairy, peanut and other legume allergies, whose numbers are rising more and more every year.

The correlation is that those things make up more and more of our sad, SAD diet every year. Fast food hamburgers and tacos are made out of soy byproduct and cheap scraps of beef from cows fed on corn and soy, topped with cheese made from vegetable oil (an oxymoron if there ever was one), and sandwiched between two slices of good ole American highly processed wheat and corn syrup solids. Our problem isn’t just that we are eating too much and not moving enough, or that somehow we are genetically mutating and suddenly incapable of eating these “foods” – the problem is that we aren’t eating food. We’re eating soy, corn, and wheat, and not much else.

To me, all roads are pointing to this: Eat Real Food. Eat real food as close to its point of origin, and its original form, as is possible. If it comes in a box, a bag, a can, or anywhere in the inner aisles of the grocery store, don’t eat it. It’s not food. Grow what you can. Kill what you can. Make what you can. If you don’t know how, learn. Eat and live like you still are at the top of the food chain.

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