My absolute favorite aspect of the Paleo/Primal way of living is that, as a culture in itself, it’s constantly in flux. This is a little ironic because it’s based on the way people lived and ate thousands of years ago, but thanks to a small but very enthusiastic community of very smart people we’re constantly tweaking and investigating certain points in the hopes that we can continue to work towards something that will help people achieve the healthiest and happiest state of being.
***Case in point: vintage Paleo advocates lots of lean meat and very few if any starchy carbs like sweet potatoes. Fat really isn’t your friend and were still pushing a low-ish carb approach all around. In the last couple of years there have been some dramatic shifts in how we think about the importance of fat, especially animal and saturated fat, in our diet. In 2005 the publication of Cordain’s The Paleo Diet for Athletes also brought up the point that, if you’re active and especially if you do a lot of metabolically demanding exercise (ie endurance sports and/or metcon-heavy Crossfit), you NEED more carbohydrate to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue for optimum performance. Bring on the sweet potatoes!
I could go on about all of the “little” things that have changed in the Paleo prescription, but I’m hoping to dedicate more time to some topics individually in the future…because I’m a huge dork and actually think internet research is fun J
Enter Kurt Harris’s coining of the term “Paleo 2.0” back in March. One of the fatal flaws of vintage Paleo is its obsession with what Paleolithic peoples did or did not do in real life instead of what habits actually optimize health and performance. The Paleo diet works because it forces us to look at the differences between Neolithic and Paleolithic ways of eating and living and identify which differences are responsible for the rise of modern disease. (See also: “Why Paleo 2.0?” for a bonus nerdgasm)
“Paleo 2.0” refers to “using all available science, and not just evolutionary speculation” to optimize our health and well-being.
Say whaaaat? It means we need to constantly keep up with available science and trial and error to find out what ACTUALLY makes us healthier individuals. Paleolithic habit are a good base, but what happens if I start eating a little dairy? What about sweet potatoes? What about nuts? What about 20 mile runs?
I made some changes in how I live/eat/exercise, so do I feel better? Worse? OK, WHY???
WHY am I suddenly recovering faster and how can I continue to do so? WHY do I lose MORE weight with LESS exercise?
What should we make of this new medical study that says this I-don’t-know-what is good/bad for me when I was always told it wasn’t?
WHAT is it about the chemical composition of grains and legumes (for example) that tears holes in my gut? Are there other substances out there that do the same thing that I don’t know about? Is EVERYTHING that Paleolithic peoples ate OK for me?
Bottom line: never stop asking questions, never get too set in your ways.
If you’re like me, you gave Paleo a shot and realized, “Holy Cow! I don’t know exactly what happened but I feel awesome!” and decided that you wanted to stick with it for the long haul. But then I read some articles about the potential benefits of adding more fat in my diet (for example) and, “HOLY SH*T! I’m sleeping better and my hair is shinier and my hormones stopped screaming like Ozzy!!! AND I DIDN’T GAIN ANY WEIGHT!!!! In fact, I LOST body fat!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Paleo makes the best use of science I’ve ever known for a “diet.” Science changes ALL. THE. TIME. Like so many other sciences, too, Paleo is falsifiable and we can therefore make it most effective when we recognize it as such.
(Side Note: I was an English/Philosophy major…so shout out to my man Karl Popper! WOOOO!!!!)
We have a responsibility to ourselves and those we choose to influence to keep an open mind and be willing to dig deep for answers. Like any other good science, we may never reach the perfect, flawless solution but we can always inch a little closer.