Recently, in my humble opinion, there has been this shift of almost anti-paleoism coming from the "paleo" community and I am curious where everyone thinks this movement is headed. I was reading a recent response by Melissa McEwen's, who I respect immensely and not calling out in anyway, regarding a poop hack and she said "Finally I got it to go away altogether by just well...not eating paleo." Also, Kurt Harris, another respected individual in this community, has totally detatched himself from paleo and Matt Lalonde's speech at the Health Symposium had a sort of anti-paleo feel to it. The kicker for me was Robb Wolf's podcast (Episode 93) when they were just bullshitting at the beginning he went on a rant about Paleo Orthodox and how we might need to hit the reset button and start all over. By the way, many of the points Robb made during that "rant" were very valid and hit home with me.
When I first started Paleo I read Robb and Mark's books and I loved them because they were simple and to the point. To my beginners eyes it seemed the focus was eliminating grains, legumes, Dairy (Robb's book), PUFA's, processed foods and generally going VLC or LC while eating grassfed/wild caught/free range moderately high fat meat and fish. I also began reading some others blogs who had a WAPF feel to it with fermented veges, butter, and such. However, like everything things seem to be evolving and there are many, including Robb himself, who have accepted items originally thought to be avoided (rice, potatoes, etc.) and have eliminated items originally thought to be ok (nuts/seeds, high fat meats, fish oil, some fermented veges, etc). Now I am not saying I disagree with these thoughts or this movement cannot or should not evolve, but it has certainly caused some sort of a Paleo Orthodox which has definitely turned off many who we rely on to pass the message away from the term Paleo. Also, it seems to confuse people who start Paleo using Robb or Mark's book as a starting point. they seem confused when they witness the Paleo Community eating dairy, rice, potatoes, etc. It's almost like we are presenting to the rest of the world like we are a little unsure of what we are doing.
Now you may think that I am hanging this whole movement on the term "Paleo." Well you are partially correct. I think if we want this thing to catch on and not just be a cult movement we need a term to define the lifestyle we are promoting. Simply saying don't eat processed foods doesn't seem like an effective marketing tool because most laypeople don't view grains and PUFA's as processed. Or promote an elimination diet and introduce foods of individuality seems like it would get a "that's to realistic" response. Do I think the term needs to be Paleo, no, but just as Robb mentioned podcast 93 we cannot be battling within ourselves if we want this thing to be accepted by both the medical/academic field and the layperson.
I realize that ever movement is going to have orthodox views, but it seems that it is slowing us down and confusing not only the outside viewers but the "members" themselves. On top of that many of our "leaders" are turned off by the self righteous dogma.
With all the different concepts that seem to touch the original paleo concept, should we, as Robb said, hit the reset button and essentially start over or can we come together as a community and make this thing catch fire?
Get Free Paleo Recipes Instantly
Whether it's called Evolutionary health, Paleo, Primal, Weston A. Price, Achivore, or the Paleo "template", the general consensus is to gather wisdom from the past, hold it up to the light of science, and apply it in the present to ensure a healthy future.
The "movement" isn't like Atkins, a traditional top-down model, but rather a manifestation of emergent behavior. Groups of people all over the world are responding to the pressures of capitalism, commercialism, and technology by looking for tangible relics of the past, something that can give them footing in our uncertain world.
Speaking of footing, barefoot running, MoveNat, and Cross-fit parallel these sentiments in the arena of physical exercise, which is why Paleo, Primal, etc. was quickly co-opted by such groups.
Rallying around a singular "diet" for the purposes of promoting a "movement" may work for religions, but I would like to think that this is about something bigger than winning the diet wars.
I think it may be a mistake to consider this to be a "movement" as such. We're just a diverse assemblage of people who are trying to be healthy and are (for the most part) using an evolutionary template as a starting point because it simply makes good sense. A particular individual's addition or subtraction of certain foods should be based on their personal experience and research, not on what is popular or "paleo."
The creation of hierarchies, factions and an official canon is less than optimal for the free exchange of ideas.
Well, I think we've had questions before about what the "core" of paleo is, but I would like to think that amid all the disagreement there's still consensus around a few things:
1a. Limit fructose. 1b. Limit linoleic acid. 1c. Limit/eliminate wheat, many other grains.
2a. The diet-heart hypothesis is wrong; therefore get your fats from healthy (saturated) sources. 2b. Don't eat processed foods, mostly because they are poor in micronutrients; get adequate micronutrients.
I really don't think there's anyone out there who disagrees with these, is there? Note that this more or less fits what Kurt Harris said in his Paleo 2.0 post. It's the big three, plus my simplified version of some of the "corollaries" to the big three.
Note that this conception would make room for paleo vegetarians and also higher-carb paleos.
I also have no trouble with calling it "ancestral" instead of "paleo" -- we can let the evolutionary reasoning into the description of our diet at some later point in a hypothetical discussion.
But we can present a unified front by sticking to the core.
Well, I consider myself to be a nearly Paleo, mostly Primal, sorta Ancestral, Perfect Health (I wish!), Archevore, WAPF leaning Honey Badger!
I take what I learn from anywhere and everywhere. I try things and see what works for me.
Call me paleo if that's easier - it's what my friends and family use when telling others about me - "He's Paleo."
Then I have to explain - "Well I do eat white rice and high fat dairy and by god a cookie now and then. And no, honey and agave syrup are not health foods."
You know, even Cordain was putting some distance between himself and Cordain at the AHS.
I don't mind the differences and even the squabbling. Some people seemed peeved that so many low carb proponents were at the AHS. Not me. Give me all sides. Love it!
I think one of the problems is that the core orthodoxy of Paleo stems from the books written by Dr. Loren Cordain.
Unfortunately, over time research and changing ideas have revealed the Cordain version of paleo to be rather inadequate.
- Average hunter-gatherer macronutrient ratios are not useful, and have no basis in reality.
- Starches are not inherently problematic, except for people with damaged metabolisms.
- Limiting food sources based on paleolithic availability is a poorly contrived hypothesis.
Overall, I think Dr. Kurt Harris' approach is more sound, but I don't think it requires extricating oneself from the general paleo concept to be utilized.
Understanding and accepting that the human diet has always been incredibly diverse and dependent on context will help one to also accept that paleo should be less about one optimal diet, and more about providing a logical framework for developing a meal plan that suits you best.
That's why I prefer the term "ancestral." It includes the evolutionary story, which is very effective, while divorcing from the "paleo" word which has been contaminated by bad science. Seth Roberts is right...stories ARE important and I don't want to call it the no-PUFA/fructose diet either.
Paleo is generally not seen in sci literature either, besides the questionable articles by Cordain. Evolutionary medicine is the non-commercial term used by a variety of respected scientists, doctors, and biological anthropologists.
But no, there is no book out that expresses these ideas well for beginners. We need one.
I started the Paleo diet 8 years ago, before Rob was writing anything online, or most other people. I was never low carb back then, and I don't think most people were either. It seems like the easiest way to prepare food is to be roughly isocaloric with macronutrients so I guess people drifted toward that direct. The focus was never on the amount of carbs until like 3-4 years ago when I started hearing about these guys like Rob and that old shirtless dude who talks about Grok. People generally just focused on eating "Paleo" and some people found they felt better with more fruit and tubers for a lot of carbs, some people were the opposite. Nobody cared about others macronutrient intake and I still don't give a crap about what another person feels best on. It seemed like we were universally healthy, and it still seems like people on whatever macro distribution, as long as they eat Paleo foods, are doing fine.
I think when we move beyond identity we can get to the good science. That's why I'm digging what is happening. People are bringing their n=1's to a forum like this, and if our data is consistently refuting the theoretical data in the "paleo" tomes, then we need to grow and examine our own assumptions.
People like black and white answers, but I don't think we're anywhere close to being able to provide a straightforward "put this in your mouth, in this percentage, and you will be superhuman." We've come a long way in figuring out where to start, but personal responsibility and self awareness need to take it from there.
I agree it is a marketing nightmare, and maybe we're not as ready from prime time as we thought we were. I think a system like paleohacks provides a new model to help people move more quickly towards figuring out what works for their own wellness than the old model of "do what this book says".
I agree with Robb that if we're going to make any headway against the Industrialized Food Complex, we have to band together. Our differences are far fewer than our similarities. To argue over whether it's okay to eat rice or whether dairy is okay or not is to completely miss the point.
I'm coming around to an idea more centered around Real Food. Maybe I personally adhere more to a Primal diet, but I think there's room for all the variations in Real Food. If we could all push a Real Food agenda to the rest of 'Merica, we might actually make a dent. This message is too important to let it fail due to nerd infighting.
I think it's beneficial that there's debate and disagreement. I saw Guyenet vs. Taubes as being far from drama, it furthers the discussion. But I worry that in discussing such minutiae, we're going to miss the opportunity to invite people in. It gets too technical too quick. So it's great to explore this stuff, but at the end of the day, guess what? You're eating Real Food. To relate it to Buddhism, I'm approaching this more Mahayana than Theravada.
Just remember: We're all more similar than we are different.
This is an overly simplistic response to your well thought out question, but I don't think we have to worry about some of the most basic ideas here. There are some core ideas that will continue to make the "paleo" concept viable, whether or not there is broad agreement and unity in the "movement."
Here's the ideas I see:
1) The idea that humans are an evolved species and that, like most other evolved species, we likely have an evolutionarily appropriate diet that can help us to optimize our health;
2) the idea that many diseases of modern civilization can be traced to diet, and in particular to the introduction of modern industrial processing of neolithic agricultural products;
3) the concomitant idea that most of our paleolithic ancestors ate in a way that was much more evolutionarily appropriate and were not subject to the diseases of modern civilization;
4) the idea that a better, more appropriate diet can be achieved by eliminating or limiting our exposure to those dietary elements that can be linked to the diseases of modern civilization.
"Paleo" is not magic or religion, or a movement. It's an idea about how people ought to eat.
I think it's good that the views are constantly evolving. The "lean meats" thing has relaxed considerably as has the mega-doses of fish oil that were recommended. Nuts and seeds are being found to be more problematic. All these adjustments are made easier by having more and more people on a basically similar diet and figuring out which of the 'fringe foods' work well and which don't.
To be stuck in a rigid identity would not be a much better situation than the diet dictocrats have found themselves in.
The other problem is trying to simplify (i.e. grain,legume, dairy free) for the public at large. Maybe white rice is okay and butter is okay, but at the risk of confusing the masses we say grain/legume/dairy free.
Kind of like the gov't telling everyone to reduce fat and cholesterol to avoid explaining mono/poly/saturated fats, or LDL particle sizes.
I don't think this motley crew is losing its identity. The idea of what is ancestral/paleo/primal is changing, for example, to include foods that are considered heretical by rigid knee-jerking zealots (potatoes, rice, yadda yadda yadda). I'm glad to be a part of a group that challenges its own beliefs and moves on. This whole thing is still in its infancy. There's bound to be confusion and there will be those who bow out. Turbulence is good; it means people are thinking and experimenting. If there were no disagreements, we would be participating in a vapid echo chamber.
As far as this being a movement, I wouldn't call it that. Movement sounds like a media creation (It's sweeping the nation!!!!!). It makes me imagine a bunch of us marching down the street in minimalist shoes while gnawing on rib bones, with the cameras rolling, while some idiotic anchorman spews carefully scripted nonsense.
It's nice to be open-minded and inclusive but there is no way you can call your diet "Paleo" and eat dairy. On the other hand, late Paleolithic humans almost certainly ate a fair amount of tubers but not until they had fire to cook them.
I don't like the term "Ancestral" diet because it is too vague. My grandparents were my ancestors but I wouldn't want to eat everything granny was eating back in 1950. :)
The core concept behind Paleo, as I see it, is that modern nutrition science is a muddled and incomplete mess. So the only way to be certain that we are eating foods that are optimal for our health is to eat the foods that the human digestive system evolved to eat. Simple.
Basically this means eating anything that was available to humans from a million years ago up to a few thousand year ago when agriculture and animal husbandry took previously unknown foods and made them the foundation of the civilized diet.
So the core of paleo is no dairy, no grains, no legumes with tubers in a gray area.
Unfortunately a lot of people seem to want to take this simple concept and then modify it to fit their special cherished dietary desires. So they add in dairy or they try to make it be all about low-carb or they turn it into Weston Price and so forth. This isn't a bad thing necessarily because the Paleo influence is still there.
But it's important to remember the core concept.
Living the paleo lifestyle is about as human as being human gets, it is constantly evolving and changing much as the human species did over millions of years. We are just starting to scratch the surface in understanding human metabolism, diet, environment, etc. I would expect almost all the noted names in paleo to revise their thinking and beliefs over the coming years as new research and experimentation add more & more to what we know. We cannot just assume we have all the answers and just sit still, we will then stagnate. We are meant to question and challenge and try new things, its what humans do best.
hemant, i hear you. for the record, i'm keeping it old school! LC, no starches, no grains, no legumes, yes to nuts & fats.
for the record though, i don't think that there's any science behind the idea of avoiding tubers & potatoes. it's ridiculous to pretend that 'paleo man' did. but you know what? i still do!
whole food atkins is probably the best description of what many of us do, but nobody would be comfortable with that.
To be continuously evolving the Paleo concept is to do what is natural at that period in time... so it's not so un-Paleo for it to change based on an indiviuals circumstances or seasonally alter the menu. We all have to try and see how we feel on a singular level. The best quote I feel I've heard in my life time is by Robb Wolf "If they don't buy in, F*@k em".
IMHO all things cool always start small and underground (crossfit, kale, "grass-fed", American Apparel, your favorite dive, hoodies etc,), and then they get popular and then something else becomes small and underground. Sort of the nature of trends, not saying Paleo is a trend but if you feel good about what you're putting in our body, Paleo or not it doesn't matter.
Community to me is BBQ'ing and drinking beer with cool people, Paleo or not.