Monday, August 02, 2010

The Paleo Diet

I've been trying a new diet. I hesitate to post on it, because its hard to explain it without sounding like some kind of nut. Here's my best shot.

During my travels last summer, I listened to an excellent audio course from the learning company on neolithic Europe. I was very impressed by Prof. Adams' account of the transition from the paleolithic to the neolithic. It prompted me to write this rather bitter post about how this transition made human beings to be morally worse than they were before.

Another thing that struck me at the time was the extreme dietary change involved in this transition. The agricultural revolution, which marked the end of the paleolithic, took humans off the diet they had been on for about 2 1/2 million years -- lean meat, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nuts -- and put them on a completely different type of diet, one based on some starchy staple such as barley, wheat, rice, potatoes, yams, etc. There was apparently a period of time in which Europeans stopped thinking of vegetables as food for humans. The human race forgot about its original diet, and we are still basically eating neolithically today. The Neo diet is enshrined in the carb-heavy, fat-phobic "food pyramid," which is the basis of Michelle Obama's campaign to "reform" government school cafeterias.

How did this extreme change work out for humanity? In one way, it was a spectacular success. These starchy staples were cheap to produce, and switching to them sparked a population explosion that is still going on today. Now, there are six billion humans on Planet Earth, and many of them would surely die if these low cost, starchy foods were to disappear overnight. The neolithic diet enabled billions of people to experience the great gift of life who would never have existed otherwise.

But low cost generally means lower quality as well. Could it be that the diet that we ate for our first 2 1/2 million years is higher quality, in the sense of being more oppropriate to our genetic makeup, than the one we ate for the next 10,000? As Prof. Adams tells it, neolithic Europeans were markedly less healthy than paleolithics. In fact, they lost stature - literally. Archeological evidence indicates that with the new protein-poor diet, human beings lost five or six inches of height.

So at the time I thought to myself, maybe somebody should come up with a sort of "hunter-gatherer's diet," based on humanity's original dietary regime.

Recently I found that there actually is such a thing, and I'm trying it out. It's explained very well in this book.

If you follow it rigorously, it's a remarkable weight-loss program, which at the moment is actually why I am doing it. So far, it's working: I've lost four pounds in a week, and I have had no cravings for any of the things that are not on the diet. This is remarkable, because there are a lot of things that are off-limits: grains, legumes, dairy -- even fruit juice (the only paleo beverage is water).

The theory is that there are no cravings because I am eating the diet that I was genetically designed to eat. The cravings you experience on other weight-loss regimes are your body's way of saying I'm not supposed to do this! This is so wrong! I hate you!!
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