I hear a lot about how the SAD diet tricks your brain by providing certain things in super high amounts. Overstimulation of the brain with extremely high amounts of sugar/fat/salt (three things that were supposed to be hard to come by but vital in the day). In the primal/paleo diet we get the bulk of our calories from fat. I guess I am just wondering if we are doing the same thing - as far as way of thinking.
We are in a rather unique position of being able to obtain unlimited amounts of fat- and high quality at that. We can buy that extra virgin coconut oil and grass fed meat any time of year no matter where we live thanks to the internet. Root vegtables are maligned as a nasty carb cheat.Fruit /dairy is also a "naughty" thing.
I guess what I am wondering is- is it truly primal to live on nothing but the best? Did we really catch an animal daily- maybe 3x a day. The amount of animal eaten on this diet is quite amazing. I am no vegetarian and never have been. But my childhood dreams of being a "mountain woman" as the perfect example of health did not include the ability to kill that much in the way of animals. Root vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, and a FAIR amount of animal/fat seems to be more likely.
Are we falling into the SAD trap of being able to obtain super high calorie/quality foods at any time? Only self control stops us.. I cant imagine that is entirely primal???? I LOVE my uncured beef bacon, omega eggs, raw pastured dairy of course. But nothing feels more "natural" then trying that ugly obscure root from the farmers market that came from a local weed or the stinging nettle plant or the unusual small apple. I dunno. I guess I feel that the paleo/primal diet probably has the right idea (in fact my body screams that it does) but I dont think we were built on the ability to get excess especially quality excess.
I like the quote I heard from Hank Shaw in a radio interview (author of HuntGatherCook). It was "humans are designed to have a little of a lot not a lot of a little". That was one of the reasons he thought hunter gatherers were in much better health and condition than agricultural humans who tended to have their diet revolve around a single staple (corn, wheat, rice). I think the best practice is just to make sure you eat as diverse a range of foods as possible and keep your eating to what is in season. That feels like the most realistic way to optimize eating in our modern world. I also believe we should all learn more about foraging and how to incorporate more edible weeds/greens/etc.
You guys are living on nothing but the best? Can you come and bring me some food then? Or come cook for me? I just had a grisly goat shank that I had to eat because I bought the whole goat and it turned out gamey, but I'm not going to waste it. And earlier I had liver, which I barely choked down. Of course my freezer has some prime stuff, but if you are eating nose to tail, the truly desirable stuff is at most 40%. A good cook can make a lot of stuff appetizing though. Most of that gamey shank went into the stock pot, where it's the foundation for some good sauces.
A lot of paleo/primal folks do eat mainly prime cuts, but emulate the feast-famine thing by intermittently fasting. But no, I diet that's bacon and eggs and cheese and coffee with heavy cream three times a day is probably too rich and most people are going to get fat on it unless they are really really active.
Edit: it's interesting contrasting the two effective approaches on this thread. Travis has a more ascetic approach, whereas I'm always about hedonism. My diet allows me to enjoy super-rich restaurant meals a few times a week. My approach is pretty similar to food critic Josh Ozersky in the fasting part. Otherwise, I've identified foods that satiate me effectively and allow me to enjoy food without overeating. Also, the main super-rich foods I eat are also super-expensive and expensive restaurants do not serve huge portions. I think identifying foods that spur overeating (peanut butter is a great example for me) or halt overeating (liver for me) is very important for building whatever strategy you use. I'm about 1/3 fasting 1/3 simple mediocre meals 1/3 rich, but portion-controlled meals.
I think a lot of paleos trying to lose fat are missing out on the high potential satiety:energy density ratios that can be achieved with a Food diet. Everyone zeroed right in on the most energy dense thing of all (fat) and though one can obviously lose fat eating a lot of it, it's so much more common to stall out before you reach your goal. Sure, an absence of carbohydrates greatly increases lipid oxidation, but it's so easy to out-eat that advantage with such rich foods.
I was fairly resistant to Stephan's ideas at first, but I've since come to agree with him that food reward is at least a dominant factor in obesity. I've interrogated a whole helluva lot of people whom we might describe as "inexplicably lean" i.e. those who pretty much only eat fast/crap food but don't get fat and I've come to realize that though many of them are active (though not strikingly so) etc. the common thread with all of them is that they have what I would consider to be a casual relationship with food. Get hungry, eat some food, continue life. I'm certain that their outlook is the result of their upbringing and the way in which they have reinforced that conditioning throughout their lives. The rest of us who were not given such a gift need to manually forge new habits and overlay them on the old. It takes a long time and remaining tethered to our old ways with hyperpalatable foods is counter-productive.
One good thing about many of the carb-phobics is that they've trained themselves to not require mixed meals. This is huge, in my opinion. It greatly increases mineral absorption due to the perfect phytate:[mineral] molar ratio in the intestinal environment, but it's also far easier to wring satiety out of everything that is eaten.
Additionally, training oneself to be able to eat small portions is a huge step forward in diet control. I used to scoff at the deck of cards meat servings, but if you listen to actual hunger needs rather than hunger wants, you can actually get some good satiety out of much smaller portions than you'd think. Even though it's metabolically costly to metabolize protein, one can still interfere with lipid oxidation by overeating it. Excess is oxidized like anything else, displacing lipids as a substrate.
Given our filtered water consumption, most of us probably need supplemental salt in our diets, but we don't need to put it on our food. Doing so makes a massive difference for how much food in general I want to eat. When you retrain your palate to appreciate more subtle flavors, you still enjoy your food but it becomes far less drug-like. I think that anyone who has any sort of difficulty reining in food intake in the presence of palatable foods ought to take a vacation from them for a few months at least in order to relearn these skills. One can then attempt to occasionally sample these recreational drug-foods and see what sort of resistance they've built up, but it's probably better to just skip it.
It sounds like a really austere way to live, but I feel no deprivation at all eating a diet comprised mostly of baked meat and nuked sweet potato. Once you've retrained yourself, it never occurs to you that this food is bland or tedious. Though it may sound restrictive, it's one of the most liberating things you can do.
This is where the quest for perfection comes in. Many people are trying to use paleo as a guide to optimise their health in today's environment, many more still are using it as a basis for over-achievement from the HG perspective. Even those of us not working out 5-6 times a week are still at work for hours and hours and intending to be a lot more productive than we believe our ancestors typically were. That's why the re-enactment approach doesn't necessarily work.
I think there's plenty of people who are at all kinds of different stages between SAD and Paleo food and habits - it'd be pretty hard being brought up as we are to not be influenced by modern thinking. If we gorge on the animal as if at the hunt we can't necessarily spend a day sleeping it off. If we attend an exercise class we have to be able to perform at the scheduled time, not when we feel like it. So we use what information we can to create as positive a food environment as possible to allow our bodies to do what they are adapted to do - make the best of the situation.
I think we evolve if we remain in this lifestyle. People who are in withdrawal from wheat and other grains may tend to seek foods that are rich and satisfying to ease the stress (speaking for myself.)
At first, I ate tons of bacon and beef (slow-fried) to replace the high-reward foods I had given up. A couple months in I started making bone broth stews but my intake of them was about 25% of my total.
Now, approaching 9 months in, 60-65% of my food intake is based around bone broth stews and other plain foods. I don't shy away from fat at all but I don't add as much extra fat any more either. The stews have more vegetables than in the past. My overall fat intake is down somewhat although I'm not low-fat by any means. A piece of slow-fried beef is now a rich treat.
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