So Denise Minger's talk at the conference, on arguing with Veggies, was AWESOME. It left me thinking (and I needed a few days because I'm a bit slow!):
ETA link to Denise Minger's AHS slides: http://www.slideshare.net/ancestralhealth/ahs-slidesdenise-minger
It seems like we paleos often position ourselves as the anti-vegetarian diet. Or at least as the opposite, converse, inverse, reverse, something-verse. At least, that's how I always thought about it in my mind. They're the misguided souls who just don't "get it."
But Minger's talk made me think -- in my interpretation of her information (so this might be different than her intention) -- that, the similarities might outweigh the differences. Or if they don't "outweigh" them literally, there's at least a substantial overlap that that, taken together, makes us feel more like brothers fighting in the sandbox rather than sworn mortal enemies for the fight to the soul of restoring America's health.
More specifically, it seems like the Veggie crowd and us agree on the most important aspects of the way that (for most people) is healthiest: no sugar, no processed foods/chemicals, etc etc (see Minger's slides on the Veggie doctor's recommendations)...
...And that the differences between us and them FEEL SMALL IN COMPARISON TO OUR CORE SIMILARITIES. Veggie diets recommend, little bread; we say no bread; we say have a cow for dinner sometimes, they say never, etc. And many talks including (I think it was?) Taubes' focused on how bad sugar is -- so if we eliminate sugar (as the Veggies also do!), and processed foods, don't we get a huge chunk of the same benefits?
So, that said, my questions are:
PS: I was at the conference but too shy to meet y'all. I'm not sophisticated enough to be able to have smart insights on Paleo the way everyone else at the conference did so I kept to myself! So, hi!
I am a Paleo eater. I am also a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I had my "coming out" here - http://paleohacks.com/questions/51442/compassionate-paleo/51508#51508
(***Kamal - this was the post I was talking about at AHS).
To spare you the hassle, I will copy/paste below because it encapsulates my views on this (rather than retyping). But the bottom line to me - Paleo is about toxin avoidance. It is not about being a meatasaur, low carber, re-enactor, etc. I am a very proud member of this community and a very strong supporter of the movement.
I'm going to make an uncharacteristically emotional comment here - IT REALLY BOTHERS ME THAT SO MANY PALEOS OSTRACIZE VEGETARIANS. If the defense is that Vegans do too, then hasn't your mommy told you two wrongs don't make a right??? I have thick skin and if someone messes with me, my advice is don't bring a knife to a gun fight. But others are not so self-confident. More importantly, this community is squandering a HUGE opportunity to gain the support of a crowd (like me) that is completely onboard with the virtues of avoiding neolithic toxins and actually would lend support to OUR movement.
Last comment - Denise Minger and I have traded notes after AHS. She is going to get some information on my views and maybe will post on it. If so, I hope it helps bridge the gulf separating the "us" from the "them".
From other post on Compassionate Paleo ---
At the expense of being ostracized myself, I am going to go for broke since I think I am likely to have a very different perspective as you will soon read. I might have to pull a Thomas Seay after this…
I was born into a strict Hindu family – meaning Lacto vegetarian (BTW – worlds apart from being a vegan). So for me, being a vegetarian was NOT a deliberate choice based on some ethical consideration or being won over by a celebrity preaching morality, but rather it was something I took as a given based on my ancestral heritage for literally 100s/1000s of years. This is no different than most people with respect to religion – with very few exceptions we are born into it and then rationalize/accept it. I am not at all religious and slave to the ritualistic bullshit (like many here, I prefer to think of myself as spiritual), but I have “ancestral baggage” for lack of a better term. 40+ years of habit, not necessarily conviction.
In 2010, I began a significant nutritional inquiry and started to devour everything I could read. My father, diabetic at 35, died of cancer at age 52. Now as a father myself for a few years, I felt compelled to do good not only by my daughter, but by myself, to ensure the well-being and longevity of our family. This led me to Paleo. I now am a proud and active member of this community. Other than the occassional inappropriate “anatomical” posts (which mysteriously seem to get deleted), I would like to think I am a thoughtful contributor here in recent months.
Ok, so time to come out of the closet….I eat no meat or fish. I do, however, liberally eat whole eggs and full fat dairy. As far as eggs are concerned, I have eaten them since childhood. As absurd as it might sound, my mother when I was a few years old started feeding me eggs unbeknownst to my father because IN SPITE OF BEING A STRICT LACTO-VEGETARIAN HERSELF, she knew that eating eggs would be good for my health (aren’t mothers wonderful!). By the time my dad caught wind of it, I was already hooked and he never said a word (he knew it was good for me too). My death bed meal would unquestionably include eggs! But 42 years into life, I have never intentionally eaten meat or fish. I am not advocating this to be optimal at all based on my last year of nutritional inquiry. I am convinced that meat does the body good. But sometimes good enough is good enough.
My primary influence has been and continues to be Dr. Kurt Harris and his Archevore approach to Paleo. If are not already familiar with it, please see the following - http://www.archevore.com/get-started/ . One of the fundamental issues is how you define Paleo. Just use the search function above to see the countless debates regarding macronutrients, inclusion vs exclusion of dairy, inclusion vs exclusion of non-gluten grains (like white rice), etc etc. As per the Archevore approach, my definition of a Paleo diet has been primarily based on avoiding the ubiquitous Neolithic Agents of Disease
As a Lacto-Ovo Paleo, I am complaint with the above tenets. Then there are the Paleo lifestyle changes like adequate sleep, activity, lots of sex, etc. In doing so, my well-being and quantitative biometrics (weight, lipids, HbA1C, HS CRP, Deadlift 2x bodyweight, etc) are markedly improved. If you read the Archevore 12 steps, the vast majority of benefits are achieved via the early steps and is more about what you avoid than what you include. I talked to Dr Harris back in May 2011 (which was an amazing conversation). While he in no way suggested that avoiding meat was optimal (he definitely tried to persuade me to eat some good juicy lamb, or at least shellfish!!!), his primary focus continues to be the avoidance of NADs. I point blank told him I was willing to supplement fish oil if he thought I should and he was unequivocal in stating that his preferential approach was to reduce Omega 6 rather than the (hyper) supplementation of Omega 3. In your case, you can just eat some good ocean fish!
The bottom line to me is that as long as you are not vegan, and particularly since you are willing to eat eggs and fish, you can not only survive but actually thrive with the Lacto-Ovo-Pesca Paleo approach in comparison to being a SAD eater. And whatever you do, please don’t be vegan - ironic that a non-meat eater is making that statement : - ) I write this not because of some judgement of the ethical aspects of veganism or position of superiority, but simply because the nutritional deficiencies resulting from the avoidance of full fat dairy are enormous.
I’m not going to lie to you, IT IS VERY TOUGH TO FOLLOW THIS WAY OF EATING WITHOUT CONSTANT VIGILENCE, GIVEN THE SELF-IMPOSED HANDCUFFS. But the important things in life usually are tough. I am able to have my Paleolithic cake (avoiding NADs) and eat it too (honoring family tradition). Optimal? No. Better than the alternative. Hell Yes!!!
Also, perhaps a consideration for you is the impact to key relationships in your life. I am married to a woman of Indian descent and while she too was born into a Hindu family, she liberally eats fish and never passes up a good lamb chop (another myth in the Paleo community. There are more non vegetarian Hindus than vegetarian and rarely vegan). In spite of our dietary differences, this is not an issue between us. And as far as our daughter is concerned, I am not at all going to encumber her with my ancestral baggage so she will be relishing the lamb chops with mama and I will be happy (maybe even jealous?) as she does.
You are concerned about being ostracized by vegetarians. Excluding me, since I am clearly an outlier here in this community, I have witnessed enough compassion and thoughtfulness in this community to believe that you are going to be more than accepted by your new Paleo “family”, so screw your judgmental vegetarian friends. Sure there are assholes here too, but show me a community, organization, culture, race, society doesn’t have them. “Respectfully” tell them to go fuck themselves if they get up in your grill.
Last comment which might surprise you…on behalf of my meat eating brothers and sisters here, I actually took exception to the title “Compassionate Paleo”. This implies the others here are not compassionate because they choose to eat meat. I am bringing this to your attention because I am quite certain that you did not intend to offend anyone. But can you see how people that are choosing to eat meat might be? Something to think about.
As a carnivore, my eating has approximately zero overlap with a vegetarian's. Meat is beyond the essence of my diet, and I didn't become healthy until I fully embraced that. I know that not everyone needs to avoid vegetables to the degree I do, but my opinion is that it is a huge mistake to avoid meat, or even to relegate it as secondary to anything else.
It's certainly a good point that groups that are close in values can easily become polarized about minor differences. We do have the same goals as vegetarians, and even the same vehicle: diet, but our interpretations of the available data are fundamentally at odds, and to me it is irreconcilable.
Denise's talk was great! Who knew she was such a comedian? Ironically I ended up eating two vegan meals at AHS since I like to avoid factory farmed meat as much as I possibly can. They were technically paleo since they were from the raw vegan section at Whole Foods. I don't agree with everything Don says, but the core philosophy of balancing rich foods with "cleansing" foods jives with my own experience these days. I do think animal foods can be eaten to excess, so I don't think it's such a tragedy when I skip out on them. I can always eat meat later. I do think it's nearly impossible to be paleo vegan in the long term, but low-meat is definitely a possibility. A few servings of oysters or insects a month can provide a lot of nutrients missing on a vegan diet.
I would note that not all veggies are sugar-free! There is tons of processed vegan crap out there. But I'm happy to ally myself with veg*n real foodies to get more gluten-free, processed-soy free, sugar-free options out there. I notice gluten-free and soy-free has gotten big in the vegan community. I guess they noticed that those things suck ;)
Plus, I hear coconut oil is trendy with them now too :P
Totally. I noticed, with a smirk of recognition, that a lot of things I was eating after going Primal were similar to what my sister ate on raw vegan. With huge exceptions of course.
I think, ultimately, the "movement" needs to ally itself with other branches under a common umbrella of Real Food. We all have the same enemies: poor health, Industrialized Food Complex, ineffective and damaging government subsidies, etc. Sure we have specific ideas about what constitutes the most optimal human diet, but if we don't band together, we are pathetically outnumbered and outgunned. Our similarities are more than our differences.
Do I think you can be vegetarian Paleo? Yes. Will it be optimal? No way. But that doesn't mean that we have to eat meat at every meal. I think Melissa's approach is sound.
As one of the ex vegans (ex raw vegan!) I agree with her. Even though I eat LC to VLC, I rely heavily on greens and coconut - both heavily emphasized in raw vegan diets. After a while I added mollusks (no sentience), then fish. Then I just added meat to the mix and took out a lot of fruit.
For me, environment and health were the biggest issues, along with total hatred of factory farming both on environmental and animal life quality issues. Not to mention the human costs in huge factory slaughterhouses. Once I figured out that all of those could be better achieved with a paleo diet focused on sustainable food, bye bye to the banana people.
It depends on the persons reasons for being veg*n, but a lot of veg*ns are quite possibly tomorrows paleos. Be nice, we come around.
I forgot to mention that one thing that really opened my eyes was learning about permaculture, which is an extremely sustainable method of food production (on the verge of creating hunter-gatherer conditions) that really requires both animal and plant components. Also, because I was already a horticulturist working with other agriculturists, and attending sustainable ag conferences, I was exposed to what good food production looks like. It doesn't look like factory farming. Seeing one of those (factory farms) without the knowledge of real food would make almost anyone give up meat.
[Denise's slides are now online at Ancestralhealth slideshare as are most of the others.
I wasn't at the conference, and haven't heard Denise speak.
But I was a (bread-eating, sugar-using) vegetarian for many years, and it seems to me that the big thing vegetarians and paleo adherents have in common is that both groups reject the conventional wisdom on how one should eat.
Vegetarians look at the government-sponsored food pyramid thing and say "well, that's clearly crazy, so I'll do this other thing." Paleos are right with them in that reaction! We are, however, quite far apart when it comes to what that "other thing" - the better diet - is.
I think I would have switched from the vegetarian diet to the paleo diet years and years ago if only I'd had the right information put in front of me. I suspect that this is true of many vegetarians.
As a former mostly vegan who switched to Paleo I can see, in sentiment for sure, the connections. For me, once I gave up the things that were making me feel sick (grains, legumes), it was such a small jump to Paleo and I couldn't see any other way of getting enough protein and being healthy (allergic to dairy, gave that up 35 years ago).
As other have said, I think the preponderance of former vegans here is a pretty clear indication that Minger is right.
I agree with the sentiment that has been stated by a few people on this thread, that vegetarians and even vegans (along with WAPFers on the other side of the spectrum) have a lot in common with Paleos under the umbrella of the Real Food movement. Compared to the rest of this country, vegans and paleos are probably the most extreme and crazy sounding... we have that in common.
One of the big changes that I'd like to see in this community and be a part of is a push to actually DO more to change our food system, and take up the banner of activism that has so long been the purview of vegetarians and vegans. We need to start raising chickens, growing more vegetables, working on farms, educating low income members of the inner city and so on. Not just talking, but DOING. We need to support with our dollars and our time the reality that we want. It feels soooo trite by this point to say this, but if we all try harder to be both Paleo and self sufficient in the smallest way, we'll start to make a change happen. Once we get concerns of animal welfare (happy animals on complex, varied use farms), environmental sustainability (ditto) resolved as well as much anecdotal health benefits from including sustainable and intensely healthful animal products in people's diets, we won't have to "fight" vegetarians or vegans. They'll just come around. Our propaganda will be a natural antidote to theirs.
But talking won't accomplish that. I just built a coop and am getting my chickens next week. Next spring I'm thinking of quitting my job to go WWOOFing at homesteads in America. We need our young people to rise up against the status quo of unhealthfulness and materialism. It's kind of scary, but so was giving up bread.
If we could just get them to eat liver, they'd be fine. If liver could be unhinged from the stigma of meat, I think we have a real chance at optimizing the health of millions of vegetarians. Unfortunately, a lot of veg*ns complain about how nauseating delicious meat smells, so you can only imagine how tough a sell liver would be. Maybe we need to slip organs in their vegan chili?