Intro to Paleo

In my last post, I spoke about 'eating paleo' as part of my next steps. In this post, I want to give you a bit more details about what the paleo diet is. I will keep this simple, as there are a lot of great resources out there that talk about paleo. If you are already aware of what paleo is, just skip on down to the end, where I point you to more resources. The basic idea As the name suggests, the idea is to emulate our paleolithic ancestors - to eat and live like paleolithic humans. Use them as a good starting point, a template - be inspired by their lifestyle, and see what it translates to today. More on some of the awesome+smart people pioneering this. So, how did the paleo human eat and live? They slept soon after the sun went down, woke up when it rose. They ate when they were hungry, and when they had the food for it. They fasted when food supply was restricted, while on a hunt perhaps. Since paleo refers to a period when there was no grains, no soda, no fast food, no chips. You get the drift. That meant our paleo ancestors ate a diet of mostly meat, seafood, fruits, animal products and vegetables. They walked - a lot. And they did a whole lot of sitting around and doing nothing as well. And they were fit! Real fit! But didn't they die young, you ask. As Ron Hoggan says,

High rates of infant mortality and life spans of less than 30 years for Paleolithic humans would be most unlikely. Humanity could not have grown and spread around the globe given such a limited lifespan. A first child would be likely to enjoy its mother’s nurturing until puberty. Mom would be 26 to 29 years old by then. The next child would have a mother who was 29 to 32 years old. But that would mean that she had probably died before the second child reached puberty. If such suggestions of Paleolithic life spans were accurate, we should have numbers and be geographically restricted in ways that approximate other primate populations. Something is obviously wrong with such assumptions about the life span of Paleo Humans. The most likely alternative is that our Paleo ancestors lived longer than is currently suggested.

Still not convinced? Let's think about it. The amount of medical facilities available today are extraordinary. Technology has improved, an obvious understatement. So, getting badly injured then might mean death, while today it might mean a couple of months in the hospital. That can definitely skew the average age down. But the average age was not 30, but about 50% higher than that at least. And if you discount infant mortality etc., and look at the average life expectancy at 45 or so, it is about 25 years (45+25=70). That means a lot of them lived to be a lot older than that too - and weren't old, senile and lying in bed all day. They lived healthy, active lives. They didn't suffer from cancer, or die of a heart attack. "Uhh, How do you know that? They died, didn't they" you say. We know by observing hunter-gatherer societies that continue to live today like our paleo ancestors did, the Kitavans for example. > Kitavans straddle the line between agricultural and hunter-gatherer lifestyles. They eat a diet primarily composed of tubers (yam, sweet potato, taro and cassava), fruit, vegetables, coconut and fish, in order of calories.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="429" caption="What? Only 28"? Hmm"][/caption] Their macronutrient split looks like this -about 70% carbohydrates, 20% fat (most of which is saturated), and 10% from protein. But that's very irrelevant, and the only reason I am bringing it up is to show the irrelevancy. Other cultures, like the Kitavans exist out there - the Inuit and the Masai for example. The Inuit eat a diet high in fat - about 80% (if fat causes heart attacks, the Inuit must be falling like sticks, right), while the Masai eat a diet low in carbs, and rich in milk, meat, and blood - high fat again!

"Wait, hold up a bit" you say. "These guys are behind the times, to be eating like how our ancestors used to eat. We've evolved since then. We cannot be expected to eat like this". Evolution. Ok. Long story short - no. Our bodies are better suited for eating like how we used to, and not how we at today. Evolution is a very long process. Very very long. What about the diseases and stuff these guys suffered from?- "lack of sudden cardiac death and exertion-related retrosternal chest pain among Kitava's 2,300 inhabitants (6% of which were 60-95 years old), as well as among the remaining 23,000 people on the Trobriand Islands" - from the Kitava study, by Lindberg (and others) - one of the anthropologists who has studied this a lot, one of the pioneers!

  • No signs of dementia or poor memory
  • No evidence of stroke, atherosclerosis, heart attacks etc.
  • No cancer and stuff like that.
  • They died from, falling from trees, accidents, being killed in a fight, of infections (malaria etc) or of old age. They did not die from the hundreds of diseases we die from.
  • They were not worried about cholesterol numbers. Not like those numbers matter, but that's another story (they do matter if they are really terrible, obviously)
  • They did not have overweight people, and obviously haven't heard of obesity.
  • Obviously, no blood pressure issues etc. You get the drift.
  • Even stuff like baldness - uncommon or nonexistent!

They didn't stop with just healthy. These guys were strong, fit, powerful, ripped individuals. Back then, and now. They were flexible too. And no, they did not do yoga. Pretty awesome huh! But I am not gonna have a heart attack... True, not everyone's gonna have a heart attack. But almost all of us, due to our sub-optimal diets suffer from a bunch of issues, ranging from mundane to deadly. I am not gonna list everything here, except for auto-immune disorders. Switching to paleo has 'cured' people of auto-immune disorders like Hashimotos, lupus, multiple sclerosis. That's just one small example. Long story short It is possible to eat a whole range of foods and be healthy. As long as you avoid stuff like grains, industrial seed oils, sugars (too much of it anyways), and any other processed food you can think of. Walk around a bit, play some sport, maybe lift some weights, hang out with friends, get enough sleep - you are golden. If you want to know moreStaffan Lindberg is one of the leaders of the research group that is doing pioneering stuff in this stuff, one of the leading experts in the field. Art De Vany - wanna see a 70+ year old guy who is fitter than you? Look no further. He has a book out, which might be a good starting point. And then there's Robb Wolf, who is really taking Paleo mainstream. I first came across Robb's website a couple of years ago. At that time, he was a little more 'rough around the edges', and I ignored what he said because he refused to talk about vegetarians. Pretty stupid of me to not listen to stuff, even if it was not directly useful to me. I've met Robb at one of his nutrition seminars, and he is a great guy to talk to. He emphasizes that people shouldn't take this paleo thing too seriously and turn it into a religion. And if it turns out he was wrong and is called out, he puts his hand up - that doesn't happen too often though. Not a bad guy to have - pioneering the paleo movement! Like he needs my endorsement, considering he has a bestseller out there, and about 200,000 or so people that he's helped. My next steps Like I said, I am going to eat paleo. That means eating meat. Something I haven't done in 3 years. I am gonna slow dip my toes into it, because I don't know the first thing about cooking meat. Thankfully, I had a friend cook my first fish for me. If any of you are interested in trying out paleo for 30 days, send me an email. Let me see if I can organize something for that. I know a lot of my readers, you guys, are vegetarian. And might've been reading me because I combine getting fit with eating healthy. I know that's definitely possible, and this is just continuing the experiment, and the easiest person to experiment on is me. I have learned a lot from trying to maximize performance while eating a vegetarian diet. Now, I want to compare it to the paleo diet. I will continue to experiment, and keep writing about it. And this doesn't mean I've forgotten what I've learned while being vegetarian. So, stick with me :) What do I hope to get out of this? Well, am gonna find out. Reported success of thousands of people with paleo include amazing increase in performance, drastic improvement in quality of life, getting rid of stuff that they've suffered from for years, to even saving their lives. Me - I don't have any dire issues, my athletic performance is pretty good, inflammation is under control etc., so my returns might be minimal, or hey, maybe it will surprise me. I won't know until I find out, but I am very cautious about my expectations. See you at the Olympics.

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