Ever felt disillusioned with the whole paleo thing?
A few weeks ago, I was pretty stoked about it. Patri Friedman had gotten me into Taubes, intermittent fasting, and paleo after I finished undergrad in 2010. I'd since come across a number of paleo blogs and thought I'd found the next big thing -- and an excellent source of informed, unbiased information on nutrition and health that I could continue to use and share. I made the entire history of Kurt Harris' and Stephan Guyenet's blogs into text-to-speech mp3 files and listened to them like podcasts. I got out my old biochem and neuroscience textbooks, started auditing lectures on metabolism, started reading pubmed articles for fun... and I seriously thought about ditching the economics grad work to do biochemistry or med school instead.
Pretty weird, really.
However over the last week or so, I've become rather disillusioned with the whole paleo thing. My friends think I've become some kind of grandmotherly Puritan food-cultist who underdiscounts the future, I've reminded myself that intervention in metabolism is an extremely limited fix which will likely be surpassed by biotechnology in my lifetime, and the uncritical praise by Harris and others for Stephan's rather poor critique of Taubes and the nonsensical food reward hypothesis has really phased me. The only paleo blog that has put up a reasonable assessment of this seems to be Pal Jabekk. These factors combined seem to have prettymuch killed my enthusiasm for paleo or health science in general. Maybe now I can get back to my macroeconometrics.
I suppose this is one advantage of not considering myself "Paleo" per se, but merely a low-carb hanger-on, lol. I've certainly used the ideas of various Paleo gurus at times as one of several supports for my way of eating, but my point of entry was low-carb. And since going "zero-carb" (term of art, there -- it really just means animal products only), the "Paleo" label has become even more tenuous for me, since clearly the number of meat-only traditional societies cannot be much higher than zero; even the Inuit are looking dicey in that regard.
And beyond nutrition, I've been interested in evolutionary psychology -- warts and all -- for many, many years, long before I ever heard of Loren Cordain or Mike Eades. So I've always had "Paleo goggles" of a sort through which I examined society and, to a lesser extent (sorry to say), my own life and lifestyle choices.
I'll eat this way as long as my health continues to thrive, which over the last four years it certainly has, to a degree that still seems miraculous to me. And I'll always be fond of the idea of the "Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation," even as it gets pushed and pulled by new discoveries and hostile challenges, and I'll continue to view society and my life through that lens. But the final arbiter of my decisions will always be my body and its responses to how I care for it, and never the degree to which I comply with the most recent thinking in Paleoland, Evolutionary Biology Land, or even Low-Carb Land.
Afterthought: I wonder if the degree and length of attachment or excitement people feel about any conversion experience -- and changing your diet drastically could certainly be considered a conversion experience -- scales to the degree of benefit they derive from it? In other words, I've wondered if I'm such a "fundie" (I've been accused of that by people who are uncomfortable with ZC, and I'm considering wearing the label proudly, lol) because I was so fucked up before I started eating this way. People who were relatively healthy, and who derive small to moderate benefit from the change, might find their enthusiasm flagging as time goes on, and understandably so.
I think you are experiencing an important moment in your personal evolution. Paleo can be an identity, it can seem all clean, and straightforward, "the way" if you will. Your current identity is being challenged by those who helped create it being in disagreement. Nutrition is still a very young "science", it more closely resembles a religion in my experience. We need the people we admire, and who are on the front-lines of research to disagree, and really hash out their differences until we can distill what is indeed factual from what we wish were factual.
I still have a hunch that "nutrition" is the next barrier for human society to break through if we are going to thrive rather than our current model of letting things go haywire, and then attempting to medicate ourselves back into a state of normality. Nutrition needs thinkers like you, but then again so does economics. The honeymoon phase is over, give yourself time grieve its passing, see which way you lean, and then get down to the real work.
I was very disillusioned for a period of time during the summer. During one point, I thought that donuts were the perfect creation. sigh.
I think what got me back on what a series of "issues" with my intestinal track, reminding me that wheat wasn't a great option for me. For me, the science and reasoning behind it are secondary to feeling better. Every time I get off track, I get fatigued, crabby, bitchy and feel like my immune system hates my sinuses.
Even better, AHS happened and there were a lot of posts that encouraged me to get back on track. #AHS11, thank you for giving me ideas that starches are okay, that violence is a necessary component, and courtesy of Robb Wolf: "science works, bitches!"
So now, I'm back. Hope this helps!
Post-undergrad blues? Not sure of your future? Sounds something kind of like that. I mean I seriously doubt biotech is going to make all of this discussion a moot point in any time soon. That is a far overestimate of our understanding and control of how the body works. We really have barely scratched the surface.
I think getting out that neuroscience text and biochem was a GREAT way to critique/reference the processes your hearing and reading about. These bloggers are just people like you and me. You can and should challenge their ideas. They get caught up in their own notions as easily as anyone. Blogs arent everything, just one mans view on a narrow topic usually.
The good feeling from eating well keeps me going. I learn new things every day here on Paleo Hacks. I have tried several other diets. As I dive deeper into the science the Paleo diet holds true. More than a diet but a way of eating for life to obtain optimal health.
I don't think I got disillusioned, but there was definitely an exciting honeymoon phase of learning and feeling incredible with my new way of eating. I was devouring information and fat at new and amazing levels! Then, as with most things, it's just a little less exciting on a daily basis.
I still believe this is the best way of eating for my health and mental wellness, so I will continue to do so, even if it's not quite so amazing as it seemed 10 months ago.
If you start actually studying biological anthropology you'll get REALLY disillusioned. Cordain and Art De Vany used to be my heroes, but these days it's clear to me that they have some very questionable ideas.
Every time I look at a metabolically deranged wheat/HFCS/industrial oil/diet-coke belly I get inspired.
Every time I look at my sixty nine year old husband's newly lean and beautiful face and incredibly active body I get inspired.
Every time I look back over my life and remember how many physical and psychological problems I had pre paleo, well then I get inspired by my new sense of calmness, clarity, energy, enjoyment of life, and optimism I feel for life.
I only experience paleo disillusion when I get bogged down in occasional bouts of paralysis of diet analysis.
I think my biggest disillusion has been learning that there are so many different interpretations of what paleo is and not all of those are in synch with what I've learned in the many years that I've been studying the whole health/obesity issue. So, I find that I have to pick and choose my sources.
I think anyone who bought into the carb hypothesis is feeling a bit disillusioned lately. I know the feeling, but after some reflection, admitting that I was wrong makes me feel even more confident. When you know that this isn't a religion, that we are open to new evidence, this whole experience becomes a lesson in humility and skepticism. It doesn't have to mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater though.
Not sure if you agree with that hypothesis or not, but you might want to consider that Taubes still is right about a great number of things... and the things that he may have gotten wrong really have nothing to do with paleo.
My friends think I've become some kind of grandmotherly Puritan food-cultist who underdiscounts the future, I've reminded myself that intervention in metabolism is an extremely limited fix which will likely be surpassed by biotechnology in my lifetime...
I disagree. What's odd is everyone has a tendency to think all breakthroughs have pretty much already happened or are going to happen in their lifetimes. The principles behind paleo would have suited you in 1900, in 1950, in 2000. Yet at any one of those points in history someone believed we were on the verge of eradicating all disease. And now, in 2011? We have an obesity and diabetes epidemic.