the “Paleo diet” isn’t

Today, a website I generally enjoy, had an almost entirely credulous and positive take on the “Paleolithic diet” by George Dvorsky. The Paleolithic Diet claims that the reason for modernity obesity and unhealthiness is, essentially, the agricultural revolution; that we evolved to eat like our hunter-gatherer forebears and our current diet is toxic because we didn’t evolve to eat it. The Paleo Diet shuns grains in almost any forms and encourages a lot of meat consumption along with generous portions of vegetables.

Well, look: it’s really important to maintain a healthy weight, and if the Paleo Diet is the vehicle to do that, hey, good for you. I am very happy if more people stop eating so many French Fries and refined sugars, and most people would definitely benefit from more vegetables in their diet. But like a lot of lifestyle changes, the Paleo Diet seems to activate the inner evangelist in a lot of people. And the kind of blanket arguments that this is the way to eat are just not credible. Plenty of people eat grains (and some sugars) and maintain a healthy weight. That’s because, by and large, they eat sensibly and in moderation, exercise regularly, and in general take care with the number of calories they consume and burn. Indeed, despite its claims to being a callback to an earlier age, the Paleo Diet seems to me to incorporate a lot of contemporary thinking, most of it unhealthy: extremism rather than moderation, black and white rules rather than questions of portions and frequency, and a general orientation towards gimmickry and quick fixes rather than gradual and contingent change.

The claim that eating like a caveman is the only way to eat healthily simply doesn’t seem to bear scrutiny. Often, people talking about this diet speak in a sloppy way about evolution, saying that evolution “intended” certain things, which is always problematic. Evolution privileges survivability, and it’s precisely for that reason that there was an advantage in our natural selection towards being able to consume as many different kinds of calories as possible. The agricultural revolution occurred some 10,000 years ago; the modern obesity epidemic is less than a hundred years old. And some of the healthiest diets in the world have a grain base. For example, on many metrics the Japanese are the healthiest people on earth. The staff of life in Japan is rice.

But here’s maybe a more important point: people on the Paleo Diet simply are not eating like paleolithic humans. Rational Wiki has the goods here, listing the type of foods paleolithic humans actually ate, which Paleo diet enthusiasts are unlikely to eat:

  • Small game – really small game – like rats, mice and squirrels.
  • Unpleasant plants, pre-selective breeding. Sour and bitter tastes existed in many plant foods before human interference. Although paleolithic man probably would avoid downright foul-tasting (and likely poisonous) food, the plants that they ate were hardly nice, friendly spinach or carrots. Many modern vegetables are more pleasant mutations of less pleasant or even poisonous plants such as the genuses solanum (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers) and prunus (almonds, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries). Safe varieties were likely discovered by just eating them and hoping it didn’t kill anybody. In addition, paleolithic people are known to have eaten woody stems, stripped bark, and pith: things suspiciously absent from the modern paleo diet that probably contributed to the extreme wear and tear on their teeth observed in fossil individuals.
  • Organ meat – a critical part of paleolithic man’s diet. Does the average paleo dieter eat brains, tongues, stomach, eyes, liver, or kidneys? All of these brought important nutrition to our “healthy” ancestors that doesn’t exist in white meat and cuts of grazing beef.
  • Insects, especially grubs and large beetles, including roaches.
  • Lizards, newts, frogs, turtles and anything else that had meat on its bones.
  • Grains and other starches such as sorghum, wild corn (in both North and South American), potatoes (South America), and a large variety of seeds. Evidence for consumption of legumes such as wild lentils has also been found, along with stone tools associated with processing them.

The point about the vegetables has to be stressed: the veggies people on the Paleo diet are eating are nothing like those eaten by actual paleolithic humans. Vegetables have been through, in many cases, millennia of selective breeding and agricultural  manipulation. The veggies eaten by Paleo enthusiasts, even those that emerge from local organic farms, simply are not like those eaten by cavemen. Neither are the meats, again, even if they’re coming from organic farms; cows, chickens, and pigs have been selectively bred for centuries upon centuries, and the taste and nutritious value of their meat simply isn’t the same as that which we once hunted for.

Again, let me stress: if you’re on the Paleo diet, and it’s working for you, I’m not out to knock it. I’m just saying that the all-or-nothing thinking a lot of people associate with the diet isn’t helpful, and frankly I think the way the diet is justified is founded on a lot of junk anthropology. There are some people who cannot get thin and healthy no matter what their diet is, thanks to genetic predispositions, and those people often require surgical intervention. There are some people who can eat whatever they want and stay healthy. For the rest of us, there are many different possible healthy diets, a lot of individual choices, a commitment to being healthier, and hard work. A little couscous isn’t going to kill you, and eating more bacon isn’t going to solve your health problems. Ultimately there’s just being sensible and making the best choices you can.

247 replies
  1. 1

    Bless you. God, I hate One True Diet evangelism.

  2. 2
    4tehlulz says:

    I, for one, blame refrigeration for obesity. By making food last longer, there is more of it to eat.

    The only path to health runs through spoilage.

  3. 3
    Ronnie P says:

    Not only will the true paleo diet leave us thinner, it will make us downright stunted.

  4. 4
    CVS says:

    Modern obesity has much more to do with sitting in cubes all day, then coming home and eating high starch/sugar fast foods while sitting on the couch than some paleolithic diet that existed 50,000 years ago. You want to know why people were thinner then? They had to chase their food.

  5. 5
    jheartney says:

    One other problem with meat-heavy diets is that there’s no way 8+ billion humans simultaneously on planet Earth can eat that way. If that’s the One True Diet then you really are morally obliged to either go on a crusade to reduce human population (i.e. no kids for you, and no kids for mostly everybody else) till the numbers are small enough that all can be mostly carnivores, or else admit that you don’t care what happens to everybody else and you’re happy to hog a monstrous share of the world’s food resources, all so you can be (theoretically) healthier.

    Oh, one other objection to the notion that paleolithic peoples are the gold standard for healthy living: most of them didn’t make it out of their 40’s. Quite a lot of them didn’t make it out of childhood.

  6. 6
    debit says:

    Funny, my daughter and I were just talking about this. Most people, and I specify most, not all, do not need a special diet to lose weight. It really is (again, for most, not all) a matter of burning calories. Eat a sensible diet and get moderate exercise and the weight should come off.

    Failing that, cut soda and fast food out of your life for six months and see how much weight you lose. You might be surprised.

  7. 7

    Also, pretty sure the Paleo diet only counts if you actually club your dinner to death first.

    Seriously, people and their weird-ass diets are annoying the hell out of me. I read about this “Paleo diet” thing in the New York Times Magazine a year or so ago. Sounded crackpot to me then and it’s crackpot now.

    There’s this thing that people are doing now, this fake science thing. I hear it all the time from my New Age friends, and it’s just the exact mirror of what you hear from global warming deniers. This idea that you can do science better than people who spent years studying and working in the field can do it. It’s like a national disorder.

    I blame the fluoridated water.

  8. 8
    jefft452 says:

    yeah, its bad anthropology, but as fad diets go, I think you have to rate this one as “mostly harmless”

  9. 9
    RossInDetroit says:

    Yeah, boo to diet evangelism. Data point: my diet is the polar opposite of Paleo. I’m a vegetarian and eat tons of grains. I’m 53 and have a BMI that’s dead center normal (5′ 10″, 155 lbs). My blood chemistry is textbook. Doc says “whatever you’re doing, keep it up.”
    But nobody ever got a book contract giving advice like that.

  10. 10
    Baud says:


    Modern obesity has much more to do with sitting in cubes all day, then coming home and eating high starch/sugar fast foods while sitting on the couch

    Don’t judge me!

  11. 11

    What was the average lifespan of cavemen again?

    Ooh here’s one: the Irish Diet. Eat like an Irish peasant circa 1848. It’s a very simple diet of NOTHING.

  12. 12
    Freddie deBoer says:

    @jheartney: That’s a very good point. It’s going to be hard to feed Earth’s future population no matter what. I really struggle to understand how we might achieve it if we dropped grains in large measure.

  13. 13


    But nobody ever got a book contract giving advice like that.

    Umm … .actually ….

  14. 14
    Metrosexual Black AbeJ says:

    I went on some variant of this — really the South Beach diet but probably with more meat than they want — and it works great. I lose 25 pounds and I don’t feel hungry.

  15. 15

    @The Other Chuck:

    Isn’t that the same as the Ethiopian Famine diet?

  16. 16
    the Conster says:

    As someone who recently completed a two week liver detox diet of 7 days of nothing but fruits and vegetables, 4 days of adding only a cup of grain per day plus nuts and seeds, and then 3 days of adding in beans, legumes and a little bit of protein, I can only say that cutting out dairy, sugar, wheat and meat has made me feel like a million bucks, and the weight loss is totally beside the point. The morning stuffed up sinuses, the stomach aches and the waking up feeling tired is gone, baby, gone. I’m shooting for a diet consisting of 80%/20% plants to protein, and it’s very doable. There are so many great substitutes for wheat products, but sugar is really the devil. And yes, I am now one of those really annoying people who wants you to stop drinking soft drinks, especially the diet ones.

  17. 17
    Freddie deBoer says:

    @jefft452: Hey, if a fad diet gets enough people to a healthy amount of calories and an attendant decrease in medical bills/increase in quality of life, I’m all for it. My worry about all or nothing diets is that a lot of people end up with “or nothing;” I’m afraid they’ll be too hard to stick to and then they’ll crash out.

  18. 18

    @Southern Beale: It’s popular, I tell ya!

  19. 19
    cathyx says:

    @Metrosexual Black AbeJ: That’s funny, I always pictured you to be slender.

  20. 20

    On the other hand you have USA Today giving Coca Cola executives a platform to spread their lies and misinformation about drinking Coke for “hydration” ….

  21. 21

    @The Other Chuck:

    Pretty soon we’ll all be on it. Whether we need it or not.

  22. 22
    jefft452 says:

    @jheartney: “Oh, one other objection to the notion that neolithic peoples are the gold standard for healthy living: most of them didn’t make it out of their 40’s. Quite a lot of them didn’t make it out of childhood”

    I remember seeing a documentary about a Doctor who lived with a hunter-gatherer group (in New Guinea I think)

    He said he was amazed on how physically fit everyone was – until he realized that the ones who weren’t fit didn’t make it

  23. 23
    middlewest says:

    I once asked a group of women I work with why they expected this year’s fad diet to work, when all the other ones before had failed. They told me to shut up. I think I learned something important about religion that day.

  24. 24

    @Metrosexual Black AbeJ:

    Years ago I went on a variation of the Atkins diet. I was hungry all the time. Well, not hungry but I never felt “full.” I realized that grains are what make you feel “full.”

    Anyway, it’s all about balance. And exercise.

    If I stopped drinking wine and beer I’d lose 20 lbs in about a week, I’m sure of it.

  25. 25
    Freddie deBoer says:

    Speaking personally: the number one best thing for my diet and health the last couple of years has been a girlfriend who eats very healthy, can cook, and is not at all scared to nag. That constant push towards a healthier diet is really important for me.

  26. 26
    Pen says:

    There’s one thing you need to understand about good ol’ George. He’s a nice guy, but naive as hell. For the last two decades he’s been a strong proponent of Kurzweilian Futurism. You know the type, they’re always going on about how “In ‘The Future’ all our problems will be fixed. We’ll live forever, upload our brains, and sing happy songs around the campfire with our animal buddies”. The guy’s realism bone got taken out or something.

    So, basically, read anything with his name in the byline with a massive grain of salt. Now as for the “Palio” diet…. don’t the people preaching these things ever understand the basic energy in vs energy out formula? If you eat more calories than you burn you gain weight, full stop. It’s not a mystery, and I personally blame high fructose corn syrup and upsized portion control for most obesity issues.

  27. 27
    Mnemosyne says:

    You know why the Paleo Diet works? Because people are paying attention to what they’re eating.

    Seriously, that’s it. They’re staying away from fast food, they’re not snacking in front of the TV, they’re only eating from a limited list of foods and — hey presto! They lose weight! It’s like frickin’ magic!

    Of course, if they ever stop paying attention to what they eat, they will gain weight back. Funny how that works.

  28. 28
    Dylan says:

    Different things work for different people. My wife worked in a lap band clinic for a few years, and that doesn’t work for everyone.

    In my case, if I avoid refined food, I tend to lose weight, no matter how much I eat. I think that’s a fairly common thing, but by no means universal.

    The problem with diets is that it is awfully difficult to “study” them in any kind of controlled fashion. You can do animal studies, but they have different physiologies. As a result, there is very little scientific evidence of any kind around diet, and a whole load of received wisdom about exercise, cholestorol, fat etc, that has little basis in fact.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Shinobi says:

    There is some evidence indicating that weight cycling causes many of the problems that are commonly associated with obesity. There is nothing wrong with trying to eat a healthy and well balanced diet, and avoiding foods that make you feel bad. But this constant focus on fad diets and weight loss is not healthy.

  31. 31
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Bread is pretty much all I ever want to eat. Nutrition blows.

  32. 32
    jefft452 says:

    @Freddie deBoer: “My worry about all or nothing diets is that a lot of people end up with “or nothing;” I’m afraid they’ll be too hard to stick to and then they’ll crash out.”

    I did say MOSTLY harmless

  33. 33
    Stuck in the Funhouse says:

    Oh Freddie, and I’m not talking about the paleo diet being any kind of answer. But your post is shot through with the denial of the industrial ages, with all the attendant excuses. We are so neck deep in consuming the barely digestible versions of industrial waste, mixed with just enough actual nutrition, to keep us alive and functioning marginally. Long term, it’s a wonder we don’t start growing third arms or a big bugeye on our forehead from the gumbo of taste bug tweaking garbage we are presented with.

    And plugged into the engine of commerce that doesn’t want to poison a customer to death, at least right away, though just short of that, teasing the primal parts of our pleasure centers with an army of chemical whiz kids.

    Most of it is wrapped around selling the sweetest sweet, that is the cheapest sweet, to keep us pecking on that particular culinary dope bottle. Then there is all sorts of processed joy involved those with a more salty tooth.

    It is all marketed as the most healthy substance in the universe, meaning it’s slow poison that tastes good. I really try to eat these days, by dodging these products. And all my efforts are but a bag of potato chips, or sugar cookie away from utter failure. They beckon with cheap catcalls of cheaper pleasure, every time I visit the grocery, and when I relent and buy them, the rationalizations flow like high fructose corn syrup.

    So I don’t think it is so much a cavemans diet we need, rather than more whole foods, and a lot more willpower/ Welcome to progress.

  34. 34
    cathyx says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Are you overweight?

  35. 35
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: Haha, my wife has been saying that for years — she suspected that any set of instructions limiting what to eat has to work to some degree.

  36. 36

    My dad was a health food fanatic. I grew up with parents who worshipped Adele Davis and Linus Pauling. Vitamin C was the cure to everything and “sugar is poison!” was the mantra around our house.

    I guess I’m grateful because I grew up with very little processed foods, so now I can’t stand them. I’d no sooner microwave my dinner than stick a fork in my eye.

  37. 37
    Eric the Infrequent says:

    Anytime people get on diet evangelism and start yammering about natural equating better, I suggest a salad of nightshade before the conversation continues.

  38. 38
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @cathyx: Slightly now, but was 30 pounds heavier 7 years ago. I’m sure the bread fixation hs a lot to do with the 10-15 pounds I can’t shake regardless of how often I go to the gym.

  39. 39
    Pen says:

    @Shinobi: Not to mention the fact that those cyclic weight issues are probably caused, in large part, by the very fad diets that are supposed to prevent them.

    My tips for losing weight and keeping it off? Stick to the outer edge of a good grocery store as much as you can (ie buy fresh and cook from scratch as much as possible), buy smaller dinner plates, bowls, and utensils, always portion your plate so that no more than a quarter of it has meat, and weight a few minutes before going for seconds. Do those four things and you’ll probably find you don’t need to count calories or otherwise restrict yourself to some fad. Your body’ll tell you when it’s full.

  40. 40

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    And all my efforts are but a bag of potato chips, or sugar cookie away from utter failure

    No, they’re a bag of chips away from one bag of chips worth of failure. You can’t be so damned absolute or you’re setting yourself up to abandon the whole endeavor in frustration.

  41. 41
    Mnemosyne says:


    But this constant focus on fad diets and weight loss is not healthy.

    The constant focus on fad diets allows us to ignore the elephant in the room, which is that the food industry is using scientific methods to get us to eat more and more and urban/suburban “planning” is encouraging us to get less and less exercise. At this point, it’s pretty much proven that countries that adopt a lifestyle similar to that of the US (long hours at work, long commutes, processed foods) also start developing a similar obesity problem.

    If we can make obesity an individual problem that individuals are personally responsible for, then we don’t have to look at the widespread societal problems that actually cause it. That’s why there’s a new “solution” every single year.

  42. 42
    ruemara says:

    I eat a bit like a paleo, but I throw in some grain in tiny quantities. But as I’ve told others asking about my diet success, 1. I don’t eat. If you saw what I eat on my diet phase, you’d run screaming because it’s so tiny. That’s not a secret, that’s just not eating as much as you expend in energy. 2. If you’re healthy and happy, shut up and eat your fucking pizza. I don’t get to eat it, because it’s my body and it loves the carbs and I want to be a lot thinner. So eat and be healthy, just drink more water and work out. 3. I work out. A lot. I do weights 3x a week on top of aerobics 5x a week. I walk up to 3.5 miles before 8 am. No secrets, no funny business, just years spent finding what worked for me and a lot of crazy levels of discipline. I thought the article was interesting, but I see too many people who defy his stated wisdom and do just fine.

  43. 43
    Freddie deBoer says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: Oh, hey– please don’t take this post as an apologia for modern food preparation. You’re right that it’s often a horror show, and we need real systematic change. (More than anything, we’ve got to stop subsidizing flagrantly unhealthy food.) I’m just not sure that the Paleo Diet is the right vehicle for most people to achieve that kind of change.

  44. 44
    FlipYrWhig says:

    BTW, when I was at my heaviest it had a lot to do with eating on my own. Try for any kind of variety and all your produce rots away before you can use it. It starts to feel smarter to eat hoagies from the shop around the corner, because at least you’re not throwing away food before you can even eat it.

  45. 45
    Pen says:

    @Southern Beale: You do realize that, by and large, using the microwave to heat up things like vegetables is actually more healthy, right? It gets a bad rap because “radiation is bad Man!”, but seriously, I’d take a 15-30 blast of H2O excitation to heat up my brocolli than watch the nutrients bleach right out by blanching the stuff. That lightly green water left over after a blanch or steam? Yeah, that’s the stuff you want to be eating. Properly used there’s nothing wrong with a microwave. If you’re using it to heat up your new Hungry Man XXL dinner… well, that’s a different story.

  46. 46
    Stuck in the Funhouse says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    Sorry, sometimes I over state things. Point taken.

  47. 47
    Jason says:

    well…first time posting, been reading for years, so be nice! :)

    If there were any fair studies that showed differently, I’d be open to them. But seriously, the data’s getting to be irrefutable…

    Over 1,000 studies are showing that cholesterol is good for you…and statins are terrible:

    As far as well-done randomized controlled trials, there are 17 that my favorite doctor guy knows of…and every one of them shows better benefits from LCHF/paleo than from other diets:

    And Freddy, remember, thin people aren’t always healthy…1/3 of coronary failures happen in thin people, and with people who have “normal” cholesterol! The country with the highest rate of veganism (India) also has the fastest rising % of coronaries…soon to account for 60% of worldwide coronary disease, according to the BBC:

    It’s totally possible to be fat and healthy, or thin and unhealthy. The data on diets is out there! :) Go and research for what works for you, whatever it may be.


  48. 48
    RossInDetroit says:

    I’m sure someone’s said this but one problem with Americans’ eating is there’s just so goddamn much food around everywhere and it’s dirt cheap. Eating is entertainment and we’re entertaining ourselves to death. If we actually had to spend a significant fraction of our time or income on feeding ourselves like the rest of the planet since the dawn of the human race we’d probably be thin. But we have vast food resources and we are becoming vast people.

  49. 49

    I would guess that sitting in a cubicle all day versus farming/hunting to survive is enough to describe 90% of the variance in our weight gain.

    and statins are terrible


  50. 50
    WereBear says:

    So I’m a mutant. I don’t mind; I’m used to it.

    For decades, since puberty, I have struggled with my weight; and my health. I can diet like nobody’s business; if there were an Olympic event, I would get a gold medal.

    But it never stayed off, it would always come back, with reinforcements. Hey, if you can cut down on your portions and take the stairs instead; good for you! It never worked for me.

    Sure, I had bulimia as a result of a hellish adolescence; I beat it. Tried vegetarianism; gained a bunch of weight, turned deadly pale, and couldn’t get enough sleep. Sure, I was supposed to eat low fat, whole grains, and exercise; I can do that. I kept it to 25 grams a fat a day and I worked out an hour and a half a day; I’ll throw down the gauntlet of willpower and determination to anyone here. I hit forty and it completely stopped working.

    So I got desperate enough to do that “crazy fad diet” of Dr. Atkins; and it worked like a charm. Then I got really crazy and starting doing Paleo for the last year; and dropped a few more pounds. I eat 80% fat, saturated fat, heavy cream, non-starchy vegetables and lotsa lotsa MEAT. I’ve done it for eight years.

    I’ve kept off 70 pounds, gotten my blood pressure to what my PA calls “perfect,” kept double digit triglycerides, blood sugar right where it should be despite rampant diabetes on both sides of the family, and now my arthritis, which used to wake me up in the middle of the night to take more OTC painkillers, is going away.

    So go ahead and make fun of “diet extremists.” Just keep in mind that if conventional nutritional advice let you keep your figure and your health; you are lucky, plain and simple.

  51. 51


    Try for any kind of variety and all your produce rots away before you can use it.

    Juicers are great for that. It takes a ton of carrots or kale to make juice. If it looks like your veggies are getting rough around the edges, just make a glass of juice.

    This morning I had carrot/raspberry/kale/apple for breakfast. Cleaned out the fridge!

  52. 52
    Turbulence says:


    If you eat more calories than you burn you gain weight, full stop.

    Actually, this isn’t true. Gary Taubes cites a few studies where people were forced to eat 6000-9000 calorie per day diets without increasing the amount of exercise they got. The result? They gained 10-20 pounds and then their weight stabilized. As a scientific theory, the idea that human digestion acts like a carnot engine where calories in minus calories out directly equals weight gained/lost is garbage.

    Of course, as a religious belief, this thermodynamic model is doing great; the fact that its predictions consistently fail experimental validation is no trouble at all!

  53. 53
    drew42 says:

    In 1984, Coke and Pepsi switched from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup. Many other junk foods (and non-junk foods) also started to rely more and more on corn syrup around that time.

    Now watch as America gets insanely fatter before your very eyes, starting in 1985:

    I’m not sayin’ — I’m just sayin’

  54. 54
    Mnemosyne says:


    Uh, you probably should have read that article about India:

    The risk factors in India were the same as elsewhere and included tobacco use, high levels of lipids in the blood due to diets rich in saturated fat, and hypertension, the study said. (emphasis mine)

  55. 55

    My problem is that the husband eats completely differently from me. He hates vegetables and would be just as happy eating some crap from the hot table at Kroger as what I cook. But I just can’t eat that way.

    When we first got married it really took him a long time to understand that fast food does not exist for me. At all. Like, my brain has a fast food filter. If we were hitting the road and needed to grab a bite before a long trip, he’d pull into McDonald’s. I’d be like, fine, what am I going to eat? You don’t expect me to eat HERE do you?

    He still doesn’t really understand it. It’s just … never going to happen. Ever. I’ll fry up a mouse with some dandelion greens before I’d eat there.

  56. 56
    cinesimon says:

    I became convinced that being vegetarian wasn’t nearly so unnatural as I was being told at the time(it was 1988; I was 14), when, surprisingly quickly, my innards changed themselves around to suit the new diet.
    In my GP’s words at the time: my intestines now resemble that of a rabbit than a carnivorous human being.

    All this nonsense about looking backward to see what it is we’re ‘supposed’ to eat in order we be as healthy as those super-humans who lived to the ripe old age of 35, is a nonsense. For it to have any merit, we’d also need to change our living standards, culture, cooking abilities and styles, food sources, and on and on and on.

  57. 57
    Cargo says:

    Libertarians love the paleo diet, here’s why : they can eat lots of meat, which sticks it to vegetarians and vegans, and it is directly the opposite advice from the FDA food pyramid, so it’s as anti-government as incandescent lightbulb. It is a manly diet, which allows bacon, beef, eggs, and chicken, giving up french fries is a minor inconvenience. It is just sciency enough to be geeky, thus bringing in the computer software engineers and IT admins who are most of your basic libertarians, relying on the half-sourced science of a Wikipedia page. And it does work, they can lose enough weight on it that they might not need that Medicare-funded scooter anymore.

    Seriously, read a paleo diet book or two, every one I have read the author can’t resist throwing in their rage at government nutritional guidelines and the flaws of the food pyramid every ten pages.

    There’s a thread of this in the organic / health food world, crunchy cons I guess you could call them, anyways, they all love the paleo diet, it hits all the targets of being overtly meat-based, anti-government and techno-geeky. Plus cavemen are roughly on par with libertarian attitudes towards women so it all works out.

  58. 58
    Stuck in the Funhouse says:

    @Freddie deBoer:

    Oh, hey—please don’t take this post as an apologia for modern food preparation.


    I didn’t. But the problem was nailed by Mnemosyne, that it is what we eat, and secondly the quantity of that. There are going to be folks with physiological predisposition to get fat, but I really do suspect that would be a small population of folks, that are fat now, if by some magic we could dispense with all processed and junk food. The reason the Paleo Diet is a likely success for some folks, is not because of what cave men ate, other than the fact it was always whole food for whatever was available to them, that was nutritious. Or, as Mnem says, eating the meats and other items of the Paleo diet, means they aren’t eating the junk.

    This was a good post about something that concerns us all.

  59. 59
    Corbin Dallas Multipass says:

    @WereBear: Surely all of us as serious centrists can agree: the “Monolithic” diet is terrible.

  60. 60
    jwb says:

    @Mnemosyne: If you follow the paleo diet or a traditional low-fat diet, either way you deprive yourself of the killer if also delicious fat-carb combo. With respect to weight loss, really it basically boils down to calorie count (calories in, calories burned). Everything else is just nibbling at the edges. That said, it would be much easier for me to follow a paleo diet than a low-fat diet. For my wife, on the other hand, a paleo diet would be the worst thing imaginable.

  61. 61
    Mnemosyne says:


    People with fibromyalgia can be helped by a gluten-free diet.

    That does not mean that gluten is a poison that is going to KILL US ALL!! any more than G’s allergy to shrimp means that no one should ever eat shrimp.

    If the paleo diet works for you, great, but I don’t think it’s all that different than someone discovering that they have a mild milk allergy and cutting out dairy makes them feel better. Again, no one size fits all.

  62. 62
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Eat less, and exercise.

    Eat less, and exercise.

    Eat less, and exercise.

    Any questions?

  63. 63


    Did you see “Weight Of The Nation” on HBO? Really interesting, got into the science of dieting and obesity a lot. It seems your body does have set points, and if you’ve lost weight, you will always have to eat less than a person who weighs the same as you and gets the same amount of exercise as you, who was never overweight.

  64. 64
    cinesimon says:

    I think to be a healthy vegetarian these days, you either have to be rich(to be able to afford the yummy, nutritious insta-meals), or be a darned good cook. Healthy vege food is also REALLY tasty done right. But it takes time(as in: buy everything in it’s base form – veges, flour, yeast, grains, legumes, herbs & spices – NOTHING ready-made), a passion for cooking – and years of practice makes fricken awesome.

  65. 65


    You do realize that, by and large, using the microwave to heat up things like vegetables is actually more healthy, right?

    That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about packaged foods that you buy in the frozen food section of your grocery store and microwave. Lean Cuisine and crap like that.

    Though I rarely use our microwave. If you’re cooking it’s just as easy to use the stove.

  66. 66
    Suffern ACE says:


    It’s totally possible to be fat and healthy

    …when you are young. Those possibilities decrease dramatically with age.

  67. 67
    Josie says:

    I suspect, Freddie, that you are comparatively young and possess a normal metabolism and body chemistry. Those of us who do not fit that mold have to find other ways. I tried for years to do the low fat healthy diets with no success, even while running five miles per day and lifting weights. My cholesterol stayed high along with my weight. I started to have some good results with low carbing. Then, finally, this year I went paleo (no grains, lots of vegies, protein and animal fats) and lost weight. My blood work was the best it has ever been. Every person has different body chemistry and has to find what works for them. Diatribes on what is wrong with various eating plans are not particularly helpful; neither are reminders about will power and discipline.

  68. 68
    barath says:

    Michael Pollan did everyone a big favor when he summed up all of his years of research into food and eating and diets and agriculture in Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. (When he says “eat food” he excludes what he calls “edible food-like substances” like industrially-processed food.) After trying to figure out this or that “good” nutrient or “bad” food, his advice is really the easiest and most generally applicable answer.

  69. 69
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Usually, but not always. There are such things as food intolerances or hormonal imbalances (thyroid or PCOS) that can affect your weight or your ability to lose weight. There is at least one study linking obesity in children to environmental pollutants.

    But as long as we decide that a person’s weight is somehow a measure of their moral character, we won’t be able to talk about the multiple factors that affect weight.

  70. 70

    I’m still waiting for a Belgian Beer Diet based upon the unique healing properties of WLP550.

  71. 71
    Lojasmo says:

    Though until now, you haven’t seen me evangelize…

    When I quit eating grains:

    My ankle arthritis (debilitating) subsided.

    My good cholesterol went up 17 points

    My bad cholesterol went down 70 points.

    My systolic blood pressure went down 35 points.

    My diastolic blood pressure went down 12 points.


    This is basic evolutionary science, dipshit.

    Carry on.

  72. 72


    I dunno, I made a veggie stir fry for lunch today with tofu (I’m not vegetarian but do eat vegetarian meals). It didn’t take that long.

    I think as with anything, planning is key. Do your grocery shopping on the weekend, bring your veggies home and wash/prep them all before you put them away. That saves a lot of time. Get a mini food processor, you can get a good one for $50. Those are great for grinding up lentils.

    Get a good cookbook. Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook Everything” is awesome. It’s not that hard, if you plan ahead. Make a couple dishes on Sunday nights and just reheat through the week.

  73. 73
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    yeah, but it’s better advice than anyone trying to sell you a diet.

  74. 74
    Corey says:

    The paleo diet is just a mechanism for eating fewer complex carbs and sugars, and eating more protein and good fat. Yes, people get annoying and preachy about it, but by following the diet you generally end up with a better nutritional outcome at the margin, which is what is important.

  75. 75


    This is basic evolutionary science, dipshit.

    If you think your anecdote is “science” there is a kettle I think you should meet.

  76. 76
    Corbin Dallas Multipass says:

    @Southern Beale: I have never cooked single servings of plain broccoli in a stove faster than in the microwave.

  77. 77
    WereBear says:

    @Southern Beale: I did see the documentary; but it did not remotely address my experience, where my calories went up an average of 800-1000 per day, my carbohydrate intake went from 300-350 grams a day to 50 (I tracked for the first six months) and in that time I lost fifty pounds. Without exercise.

    So either I’m a mutant; or the calorie in/calorie out theory has a few gaping holes in it.

  78. 78
    Lojasmo says:

    FYWP. Wanted to ETA: still a fat guy, despite 40-70 minutes of trail running most days, but really don’t care because aside from all the other benefits, my previously bothersome diarrhea is gone also, too.

  79. 79
    trollhattan says:

    As noted above, if we all “went Ted Nugent” North America could only support a few million hunter-gatherers. Not a plan that works.

    Once heard a scientist discussing the vast benefits to mankind of cooking–as he pointed out without breaking down the food with heat, we spend literally hours daily chewing and digesting it, and “going raw” implies not extracting the full nutritional value.

    Anyway, I like food, like variety and like discovering new foods and new ways of preparing familiar foods. My diet in a nutshell (which I don’t eat).

  80. 80
    Stuck in the Funhouse says:

    I have struggled mightily with my weight for the past 10 years, to the point of teetering on the edge as diagnosed pre diabetic, and have slowly reprogrammed the socialized thinking about food in this country that we all were subjected to, to one degree or another. Last doctor visit, got the weight down to 200 lb., though with a BMI that still reads ‘Obese’. But for the first time in a couple of years, the fasting glucose level was under 100. though with high BP.

    Using the word ‘fat’ in describing this problem, I hope does not offend those with similar weight problems. I do it to motivate myself, not to insult others. Mostly cause I hate needles, and don’t want to start poking myself with them daily, like my half brother has had to all his life, as a Type 1 diabetic.

  81. 81
    Corbin Dallas Multipass says:

    @J.W. Hamner: That reminded me of this:

    Came up at Bar Trivia (got it wrong, guessed milk).

  82. 82
    Ruckus says:

    conventional nutritional advice

    I think you need to define that phrase but you are correct nothing works for everyone and sometimes weird things work well. It is calories in/calories out but the type of calories can make a difference for some people.
    I was once in the hospital for about 2 months and there was a 12 yr old boy who had to be weighed in the kitchen on the incoming meat scale he was so heavy, over 350. For 2 weeks they fed him minerals, vitamins and water. He exercised a couple hours a day and he gained 12 lbs. His father was the head of the hospital and none of the doctors had any idea what was wrong. Never did find out what happened to him but I’ll bet he didn’t make it to 20.

  83. 83
    Mnemosyne says:


    You do know that there’s a pretty well-proven connection between arthritis and gluten, right? So, again, there’s nothing magical about cutting out gluten for people who don’t have problems that are known to be aggravated by gluten.

    But, yes, if you have an autoimmune problem like arthritis or fibromyalgia, it’s probably worth trying to go gluten-free. Not because Gluten is Evil and Everyone Needs to Stop Eating It, but because you have a condition that makes it hard for your body to process it.

  84. 84
    Lojasmo says:

    @J.W. Hamner:

    No, my anecdote is not science. You conflated my two statements. Bravo.

  85. 85
    Lojasmo says:


    I still eat gluten…I am just mostly grain free.

  86. 86
    muddy says:

    I know some one who claims tequila ia paleo because they had agave. But they didn’t have distillation, I said.

    I go paleo-ish, with good results, but am not a purist by any means. But I buy ingredients, not anything pre-made or overly processed. Or single ingredients that I feel are too processed, or possibly frankengrained. I was never much for sweets or starches, so basically I am just eating the things I like. My main grain is organic short grain brown rice, and I get a baguette a week (real French type made locally, not supermarket tube bread). I have lost 100#, cured the diabetes and cholesterol troubles, no meds for those. My weakness was juice. Triglycerides in the 700’s. I put myself through juice-hab, that was tough.

    I use local VT various flesh items (grass fed beef with omega 3, free-range chicken, eggs, fish of kinds I approve of, dairy etc). Organic vegetables and fruits. Heavier on the veg. I use as much fat as I want, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. I still use butter, but not as much mainly due to butter going on starches a lot, and I’m not having them.

    I found the biggest difference in how I felt and how my body looked after I made the change to the local meats. It costs more, but in taste and effect I feel is well worth it. I have seen a lot more cows this year that aren’t being dairy-ed, so perhaps the volume will bring down the price. It’s not crazy though, I can get the beef for 3.99# as hamburg.

    But if I go out, I’ll have whatever’s offerred, I just don’t do that much.

  87. 87
    magurakurin says:

    An important point in the post to me is the idea that the authors of the Paleo Diet are not being honest in their claims. The problem with it isn’t whether or not it works or doesn’t work for any given individual but that they make claims that it is the perfect diet for anyone and everyone. Without question certain individuals find success with controlling their weight and having a better life through this diet, and that’s awesome. But I think these books would be more honest if the authors of these diets started their books with a preface about how everyone is unique and different and not all types of diets will work the same for everyone for a variety of reasons such as body type, metabolism, personality, etc. However, such honesty wouldn’t translate into massive profits since it would probably prevent the diet from hitting “fad” status as people latch on to the claims of perfection embedded in the diets “scientific” basis.

    Isn’t there an old Buddhist saying “see the moon, not the finger pointing at the moon?”

  88. 88
    master c says:

    @barath: it’s really that simple. Food today is engineered to taste great and is addicting. Chemical Shit Storm as they say.

  89. 89
    kdaug says:

    Know what else cavemen did all day?

    Ran around hunting things.


    They sure as shit weren’t sitting in an office or on the couch.

    You want to eat a Paleo diet, take off your shoes and head for the woods.

    And bring your club.

    (BTW: Cavemen generally lived to 25-30. Have fun.)

  90. 90
    khead says:

    A little couscous isn’t going to kill you, and eating more bacon isn’t going to solve your health problems

    I dunno man. I’m sure my Grandparents’ family never heard of couscous…

    ….but they damn sure thought that lard and pork made up a healthy breakfast. And most of those folks lived into their 90’s.

  91. 91


    Just please don’t act like your dietary fetishes have any scientific backing please? When you’ve got an intervention study that shows an effect you can talk big; otherwise check your rhetoric as you don’t seem to understand what science is.

  92. 92


    This is basic evolutionary science, one person’s experience, dipshit.

    Edited for accuracy.

  93. 93
    muddy says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Years ago I went on a variation of the Atkins diet. I was hungry all the time. Well, not hungry but I never felt “full.” I realized that grains are what make you feel “full.”

    Carbs actually make you hungry for more carbs about an hour or so later. It’s a physiological reaction. It’s fat that makes you satiated. For instance a plain baked potato, not so good. A baked potato with a large amount of sour cream is better, it slows the digestion and lowers the glycemic index.

    What’s important is to eat things that don’t digest really fast. Sugar (and related) is fastest. Simple carbs next, then complex carbs. Then meat, then fat. Just use the right fats. The right meats (when I say meat I mean a variety of flesh items).

    Paleolithic people had much better teeth and were bigger than their medieval counterparts. The earlier death rate wasn’t from heart disease or wev, it was from injuries, and the average includes childbirth gone wrong. The average age doesn’t mean much if you could die from a cut on your leg.

  94. 94
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    A little couscous isn’t going to kill you, and eating more bacon isn’t going to solve your health problems


  95. 95
    Cassidy says:

    My diet is better than yours.

  96. 96
    Lojasmo says:

    Oh, and yes…offal, insects, and various seafood intake is normal practicet, as well as avoidance of nightshade vegetables, sugary fruits, and most nuts.

    Carry on with whatever works for y’all, though.

  97. 97
    Suffern ACE says:

    @kdaug: Maybe every office should be required to keep a pack of hyenas that are released each day around lunch time. Eating fast and climbing into the AC ducts in fear would do wonders for the diet/exercise problem.

  98. 98
    Metrosexual Black AbeJ says:


    I was until a couple years ago and now I am again. But the carbs were killing me, I felt hungry a lot and was gaining weight. I guess everyone is different but for me, bread is bad. I eat tons of rice, quinoa, etc. but avoid bread and potatoes.

  99. 99
    Lojasmo says:

    @Metrosexual Black AbeJ:

    Bread is THE WORST for me (and pasta). If I eat a wheat product I am destined for the throne 30 minutes later.

  100. 100
    Cassidy says:

    @Suffern ACE: Interesting conversation my wife and I had. Her company spent a lot of money upgrading their gym, but no one has time to use it. You’re only able to work before or after work or during lunch. Seems to me, if they’d give people a paid hour to exercise it would be really beneficial.

  101. 101
    Ruckus says:

    @Suffern ACE:
    I worked in an office that could have used this idea.
    But I beat it by working out in the gym for 2 hrs a day. And counting calories. And eating a “balanced” diet. And counting calories. Now I get my weight down by working like I’m 30 and don’t care if I get to SS age. Which I already am.

  102. 102
    Yutsano says:

    I eat. I eat whatever my body is telling me sounds good. And when my body says no more, I stop. The body is a wise machine if we stop and listen to it.

    And I have no banned foods. But the vast majority of what I eat is unprocessed. My body just says that works better for it. I lost 30 pounds doing this. Fad diets are useless to me.

  103. 103
    Liberty60 says:

    It always seems odd to me that the various miracle diets have one thing in common, which is the studious avoidance of portion control. There always seems to be the hook that you can eat all you want, and not exercise.

  104. 104
    kdaug says:

    @kdaug: And once again I was beaten to it upthread.

    Such is the nature…

    Personally, 145lb @ 5’9. Never eat out, and I don’t remember what fast-food means.

    We just make whatever we want.

    And yes, I’ll eat a shitload. A good stir-fry, and 8 servings a day aren’t unheard of.

    Makes for smooth poo.

  105. 105


    (BTW: Cavemen generally lived to 25-30. Have fun.)

    Egggg-zackly. That’s what’s so weird about this “phony science” stuff. My New Age friend always tells me how they do things in India, like India’s so great. Some of the highest diabetes in the world and the highest poverty. Not exactly the example I want to emulate.

  106. 106
    cinesimon says:

    @Southern Beale:
    Oh sure – I meant as a whole. Of course there are some awesome dishes that are cheap, quick and yummy in our tummies.
    There’s only so many quick easy dishes one can make before being vege becomes boring.
    To get over that, and to be well nutritionized(yes thank you – I am Oxford Dictionary’s prototype specialist), it really does pay in the long term to make some effort into being a better cook than ALL the chefs in ALL the restaurants in town!

  107. 107
    muddy says:

    @J.W. Hamner: I had similar results, only my blood pressure has always been and remains low. Most of my family members have gone this way, similar results.

    There is a book by Gary Taubes, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” where he deconstructs “studies” and half the time the numbers say something entirely different than what they put out in the paragraph in the newspaper. Even the South Beach book, which says specifically in the text to add fat to reduce the glycemic index, then provides recipes which are completely low fat. wtf

    For instance GT cites a study where they gave people a hamburger on a bun for a diet, and then said the bad effect was due to it having meat. Perhaps it would be a more meaningful study if they gave them a burger on a plate and not on a plushy white bun! Not to mention that it was probably pink slime meat, or full of drugs. There was a study done through UVM some years ago, they got prisoners in the state prison to volunteer for it. The all meat eaters lost weight, got better numbers. The vegetarians all gained weight. You don’t need to eat as much meat to feel satisfied. It’s like the old saw about how you feel hungry an hour after eating Chinese food. Heavy on the veg, but the worst part is the corn starch, which is about the most refined nasty carb there is.

    I mean, fat, just look at it, yuck, no one wants fat! psh They just can’t get past that. For how many decades have they been saying now to eat grains and not fat? Look how many more fat people there are. Paleo people ate more fat, not because they ate butter, but because altho game muscles are lean, the marrow, the organs etc are fatty. They ate it all.

    It’s the poisons they put in things and the over processing that is the main problem, imho.

  108. 108
    jl says:

    I also think the paleo diet is not very paleo. Especially the no starches stuff. Wild edible starchy roots and vegetables are all over the world, and people have been eating since forever.

    I was reading about paleolithic European diet. They had a potato equivalent that they ate. It was replaced by the South American potato since it was more economical.

    Watch a National geographic special until you see some tribe cook up a mess of manioc root and gulp it down with grubs. manioc is almost pure starch. And there are equivalents to manioc all over the world.

  109. 109
    Yutsano says:

    @cinesimon: If you want a challenge, make ratatouille. It’s all vegetables but getting the balance just right is a fine art. But made right it’s delicious.

  110. 110
    Cassidy says:

    @Cargo: Every glibertarian I know is huge.

  111. 111
    muddy says:

    @jl: You have to beat the crap out of it for hours and hours, that helps burn some calories.

  112. 112
    kc says:

    I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, lib bats.

  113. 113
    Egg Berry says:

    Again, let me stress: if you’re on the Paleo diet, and it’s working for you, I’m not out to knock it.

    That is a weird disclaimer after you just spend X number of words knocking it..

  114. 114

    Husband just got home from work — he had commission meetings tonight — and said he was going to skip dinner but now decided to throw some frozen thingie in the microwave. But it’s Indian so it has to be good!

    What have I been saying, people.

  115. 115


    I am well acquainted with Gary Taubes, but his journalism reveals exactly why you should be skeptical of any fad diet… people find a correlation, or an evolutionary hypothesis in this case, and are off and running before there is really any hard data… and if people are already convinced of the “truth” then said data has a much harder time gaining purchase.

    Is the evidence that convinces you that a paleo diet is the way to go really superior to that which condemned dietary fat decades ago?

  116. 116
    jl says:


    I guess that is the problem. People had to work their asses off to prepare manioc, or acorns in the US.

    Now we just sit on front of the TV on our fat asses and eat ten times as much with no exercise.

    But, point is that, people have been eating big glops of starch for thousands of years.

    Actually, now that I think about it, the national geographic special was on some people who decided to backpack across New Guinea. And they arrived at some remote village where they had a festival where they dumped a bunch of fermented starchy root full of grubs into pit and baked it, then dripped wild honey on it and ate it. I forget the name of it.

    The fun of the episode was the backpackers navigating the high stilted huts the tribe lived in, and which one of them would eat the grubby fermented glop. Lots of pics of the villagers laughing at the crazy white people.

  117. 117


    Doesn’t ratatouille have eggplant in it? Can’t stand the stuff. Got sick on eggplant parmigiana once (actually I think it was the pizza I ate earlier in the day), threw up all night. Now just the thought of eggplant makes me icky.

  118. 118

    @Corbin Dallas Multipass:

    But it didn’t have the delectable infusion of fresh rosemary from the garden that you put in your steaming water, did it?

  119. 119
    Cassidy says:

    @Egg Berry: I think you missed a key point. It’s not the diet , but the diet evangelicals, the “gluten is bad” people and the “Vegan is the only way to eat you murdering piece of shit” people, and now we can add the “I eat like a caveman, but not really and I’m better than you” people. They’re only slightly more obnoxious than the “Haha fatties, I eat nothing but fat and eggs and meat and …snzzzzzzzz” Atkins people. Every fad in dieting brings a new group of converts, true believers and evangelicals.

  120. 120
    kdaug says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    No, they’re a bag of chips away from one bag of chips worth of failure.

    Hey, Chuck, don’t get down on the chips. A couple weeks back I made a chicken/cilantro/jalapeno/lime soup topped with a half-bag of crunched-up stale tortilla chips.

    It was divine.

  121. 121
    muddy says:

    @J.W. Hamner: What convinced me was that I tried one way, and then I tried the other. One worked.

  122. 122
    debit says:

    @kdaug: Recipe?

  123. 123
    Yutsano says:

    @Southern Beale: Trust me it doesn’t taste like eggplant when it’s done. It’s a medley of flavours and textures that wake up the palate. And I’m not just saying this because I’m French. :)

  124. 124
    WereBear says:

    I’m not saying Atkins or Paleo is for everyone. I know plenty of people who eat in a way that would put me in an insulin coma and yet they stay thin as pencils.

    But if your pancreas is not from the Planet Krypton, and you eat Food Pyramid, with lots of starches without any fat to buffer the blood sugar impact; it’s going to give you chronically raised insulin levels and then Metabolic Syndrome. I’m just warning ya’ll because I care.

    Because I know I’m not the only mutant on this planet.

  125. 125
    lol says:

    Kind of annoying that I’m seeing the “cavemen didn’t live past 35” canard getting tossed around.

    Childhood disease, especially back then, was a *huge* killer and it dragged down the average a lot. If half the group died as babies and the rest lived to 70, guess what the average life expectancy is?

    Humans aren’t so much living longer as not dying sooner. People didn’t die of old age in their thirties back then – they died from starvation or disease or injury, usually very early on in life.

    Life expectancy went up leaps and bounds the past 100 years because people aren’t dying as children from disease or from war in large numbers as young adults. Life expectancy at retirement has only gone up a few years and most of that has gone to rich people who can afford life extension medical tech.

    Why is it annoying to see here? Because all the arguments for raising the Social Security retirement age usually begin with “Well, people are living longer so we need to adjust the retirement age to match”.

  126. 126
    jl says:

    Me, I have found that I can either not exercise vigorously 5 or 6 days a week and always fight putting on weight. Or, I can exercise and eat pretty much as I please and stay lean. So, I figure, exercise and eat relatively healthily, and there you are. Problem solved, and you get to have fun eating too.

    Stupid diets, I say forget them. Just exercise, if you can.

  127. 127
    Hypatia's Momma says:


    (BTW: Cavemen generally lived to 25-30. Have fun.)

    This is not, in fact, true. An average age of 30 might be more exact, but only because of high infant mortality. Adult mortality, especially among males, would have been pretty low. At the last anthro lecture I attended, the estimated age at death for surviving adults was given as closer to 60, if not higher.

  128. 128
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Southern Beale: Ugh. I guess you’re southern, so one of the few areas of the world where Indian would be the low sodium choice…but still.

  129. 129


    it really does pay in the long term to make some effort into being a better cook than ALL the chefs in ALL the restaurants in town!

    Well, I must say I’m a pretty fucking awesome cook. My repertoire is very simple, nothing fancy — if you want foam on everything, I ain’t your chef. But I have made some meals lately that have rivaled anything you can eat in a restaurant here in town, and I’m not even talking those apostrophe-ess places (Chilli’s, O’Charley’s, Applebee’s, Friday’s, etc.) but some of the more upscale places, too.

    Tonight I broiled a swordfish steak and served it over a bed of spring greens with a lemon/olive oil vinaigrette. It was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

    That’s the other thing I never, ever do: buy bottled salad dressing. I can’t imagine why anyone would do that. All you need is some olive oil and vinegar, and you have your dressing. I add chopped fresh herbs, maybe a dollop of Greek yogurt or mustard … grind of fresh pepper … better than anything you’d get at the Hidden Valley Ranch.

  130. 130

    @Suffern ACE:

    LOL. I love Indian food but not in a frozen container. We have a friend from Southern India who is a chef and his food is so incredible, I can’t imagine eating anything else.

  131. 131


    That worked for me until my late 40s. Then all the exercise in the world didn’t help. Eventually you have to cut back on the food.

  132. 132
    Cacti says:

    I wanted to start the paleo diet but couldn’t find a butcher that carried woolly mammoth steaks.

  133. 133
    muddy says:

    @jl: I read there was this island in the South Pacific that when discovered the people had a diet of fish and coconuts. Were completely fit. They moved the people to New Zealand and they all got massive right away and had heart disease and diabetes. I can eat coconut oil up with a spoon, I don’t gain weight from that. Inuits eating their traditional diet ate meat and blubber. 100% meat and fat. Perfectly healthy. You don’t even get scurvy unless you are eating a bunch of carbs first. Now Inuits eating standard western food, many of them now with the obesity, diabetes, cholesterol issues.

    Clearly there are not really many actual paleo foods around now, aside from various hunted meats. But if they found rice by a riverbank, they might get a handful of it. Not a big bowlful. And not white. The reason populations that eat mainly white rice are thin is that their overall caloric intake is small.

  134. 134

    @Egg Berry:

    This is the distinction between you own personal choices about your diet, and public policy that encourages others to follow your diet. It’s great you’ve had success with this diet, but I’m not ready to change USDA recommendations without more data. Unlike Freddie I don’t mind if you want to be “evangelical” about it, but there are public policy ramifications that I think are not trivial and that we have screwed up in the past.

  135. 135
    muddy says:


    But, point is that, people have been eating big glops of starch for thousands of years.

    Yeah, starches and cultivated grains for thousands of years. Meat for a couple million, and the marrow was very instrumental in developing our big brains that we argue on blogs with.

  136. 136
    Cassidy says:

    Fuck it. Protein shakes and creatine!

    Serious question from the more sciency crowd: is solid food a requirement. If you are taking a good multi-vitamin and ingesting all your proteins, carbs, fats, etc. through some sort of shake or smoothie, can you live off that after you train your body to not want the solids?

    No, I’m not planning to do this. It’s just always been a curiosity of mine since the invention of meal replacement and protein shakes.

  137. 137
    dSmith says:

    The average paleolithic person had a life expectancy of 35 years. When we switched to agriculture it dropped to 20 years. Life expectancy did not return to the paleolithic levels until the early 19th century. To be sure there were many other factors like war, contagion and famine but being paleo had its advantages.
    If I eat 2000 calories a day of grains, starches, veggies and a little meat I am hungry all the time and eventually start eating more. With the paleo I’m losing weight, I feel pretty good and I’m not hungry all the time.

  138. 138
    debit says:

    @Southern Beale:

    That’s the other thing I never, ever do: buy bottled salad dressing. I can’t imagine why anyone would do that. All you need is some olive oil and vinegar, and you have your dressing. I add chopped fresh herbs, maybe a dollop of Greek yogurt or mustard … grind of fresh pepper … better than anything you’d get at the Hidden Valley Ranch.

    God, yes, this. I cannot understand why people buy salad dressing, or any sort of “sauce” mix in packets. It’s so easy to make from scratch.

  139. 139
    Yutsano says:

    @Southern Beale: I’m sold! Is he Tamil by chance? That’s good stuff right there.

    And not to brag, but the work Dawg hates eggplant too. I got him to eat some I cooked (in a Turkish style sauce) and he said it wasn’t bad. Won a bet with wifey on that one. :)

    @debit: Hell you can even make your own ranch dressing. All you need is the ingredients. And I even know how to make homemade sour cream.

  140. 140


    Yes he IS Tamil! How did you know?

    We always have to tell him to go easy on the spices though. The first time he cooked for us it was so spicy we couldn’t eat it.

    He and his wife lived with us for a while until they found their own place, and our house smelled like an Indian restaurant for months.

  141. 141
    Svensker says:

    @Ronnie P:

    Not only will the true paleo diet leave us thinner, it will make us downright stunted.

    Actually, if I remember rightly, paleo humans were bigger and taller than agrarians.

  142. 142
    muddy says:


    I eat like a caveman, but not really and I’m better than you” people.

    I hope you aren’t aiming that at me. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, I just tried a lot of things (not fads, sensible food plans), and this is what *finally* worked. And the fact that it fits my natural preferences makes it easy to keep up. I didn’t lose 100# with surgery. Nor a lot of exercise, I have a heart condition (from a virus, I always feel I need to add). But this worked, and it has been 10 years. I started doing it before I ever heard paleo-diet, but now that has become a convenient shorthand.

  143. 143
    Hypatia's Momma says:


    I cannot understand why people buy salad dressing, or any sort of “sauce” mix in packets. It’s so easy to make from scratch.

    In my area, even crappy bottles of vinegar and of olive oil are more expensive, combined, than one bottle of good salad dressing. Not everyone can afford to make everything from scratch because it is NOT always the cheaper option.

  144. 144
    Svensker says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    What was the average lifespan of cavemen again?

    Average lifespan had more to do with diseases that weren’t curable, particularly childhood diseases. Lots of people lived to be pretty old…if they made it to their 20s (and if the women made it through child bearing).

  145. 145
    jl says:


    I agree to a point. Starchy vegetables were not a daily staple to which a little meat and fibrous vegetables were added, they were eaten more sparingly. And I think eating mostly whole grains is better than refined.

    But I need at least some whole grains every day, so I have them. And if there is slice a cake once in awhile, I won’t pass it up.

    So, I am a dietary omnivore, and slob, by any fad diet standard. Too, bad, I like to eat what I want and won’t give it up.

    Edit: when I was 50 pounds overweight, I did do a restricted starch diet to begin with. Just a big breakfast before (edit: I meant after) exercising with whole grain mush and fruit and milk. And damn I love mush and fruit. Just protein and fibrous vegetables rest of the day. After a few days of that I felt really weird and craved some grain.

  146. 146
    Yutsano says:

    @Southern Beale: It seems like a lot of south Indian immigrants are Tamil. If they didn’t get lured to Sri Lanka that is. The Tamil have had it rough. I hope his place is doing well. In fact you probably gave him invaluable lessons on the relative palates of Americans. You helped them more than you realize. :)

  147. 147
    debit says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma: But you can make four or five equivalents of a bottle of italian dressing with one bottle of olive oil and less than half a bottle of vinegar.

    ETA: I actually do agree that eating a healthy diet is usually more expensive than eating processed food.

  148. 148


    Don’t you need fiber for, ya know, poop and stuff?

    That said after my mother’s final stroke she lived on Ensure shakes for 2 years administered through a G-tube. But I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do that.

  149. 149
    feebog says:

    Tonight I took my son out to dinner at Macoroni Grill. I had my choice of steak, pasta or fish. I selected the sea bass at 440 calories instead of the pasta at 1100 or the steak at 1900. We split two lo cal appetizers and a berry torte for desert. total calories for me, about 750. It’s that simple. I love me a good steak, but eat red meat and starch every night for dinner and there is no way you will keep the weight off.

  150. 150
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    …and then you cannot afford the vegetables on which to put it.

  151. 151
    Steve in DC says:

    I quasi follow paleo rules, though I did before I heard it.

    Portions of quality animal products, and I eat the organ meat as well. Heavy on the fish though for the most part.
    Lot’s of fruits and vegies! Minimal cooking. Minimal grains if that… I do rice now and then, but meh. Some legumes nuts.

    The problem with paleos, vegans (well these have more than one), vegetarians, juicers, all of it is simple. The basic “health” of their diet boils down to “don’t eat processed foods and don’t drink sugar water” which is a giant “well no shit Sherlock” moment and then tossed in with all sorts of near Evangelical levels of moral outrage and venom.

    It’s all the same logic when you boil it down just what flavor of the religion you want, though in diet terms I’d rate most vegans worse than Santorum is for Christians.

  152. 152
    Suffern ACE says:

    Various gruels. No bread. Boil those grains for a few hours. Salted meat and no green veges after the first frost. That’s the preindustrial diet. Get rid of tetanus shots and we’ll be good to go.

  153. 153


    He’s a private chef, doesn’t have a restaurant here. Does cooking classes and private chef-y things like that.

    U.S Immigration gave him a helluva time on the visa front, his wife said it’s ‘cuz he’s Tamil.

  154. 154
    Mnemosyne says:


    I still eat gluten…I am just mostly grain free.

    Gluten comes from grains. If you’re grain-free, you’re also gluten-free by definition.

  155. 155

    OT but the LA Kings have won the Stanley Cup!!!!

  156. 156
    Yutsano says:

    @Southern Beale: That’s the Sri Lanka thing. He probably had to prove he wasn’t associated with the Tamil Tigers which were on the terrorist organization list. At least he got through eventually.

  157. 157
    Steve in DC says:


    Actually red meat is not all that bad, it’s the sort of red meat they feed us here and their method of cooking it, no red left and slathered in corn fats!

    Actual wild red meats, deer, bison, ostrich, are just fine, even properly grown cattle is fine. It’s just not an actual option for most people.

    And good luck with the fish, farm raised or fresh!

    In DC you can get quality meats from various locations, but it requires you pay several times the price because it costs money to grow it properly and pay the workers a proper wage, and the ability to take a day off and either pick it up or arrange a group buy. That puts it well out of the reach of most people.

    I’ve worked with others on it. By buying bulk slaughter loads of properly produced meat the price goes down, it’s not going to be cheaper than what’s at Safeway but it is truly organic and free range and not made by slave labor. It has to be bought in advance and you pick it up prebutchered and drop it off in the right place and people come for their pick up.

    We also sell some of our venison and other goodies after hunting, this is cheap enough people can afford as we are basically only asking back enough to cover the costs, but a lot of city people are iffy about eating deer.

  158. 158
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    @Suffern ACE:
    Quite a few humans have lived in areas that don’t have “frost” with which to contend and they had a large selection of plants and other sources of protein (fish, for example). Keep in mind that most humans aren’t from England.

  159. 159
    debit says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma: It’s weird, but I switched grocery stores a few months ago. I couldn’t stand the long lines and angry customers at my local “we’re super cheap!” store. Instead we started going to a the upscale place further away, with the baggers and the carryout/drive up and the Wondrous Deli of Wonders.

    Funny thing is, I actually spend less there, because we’re eating differently. They have awesome produce and meats, so we buy that, eggs and cheese, bread from the bakery and the occasional box of pasta for when we’re lazy. That’s it and we’re eating healthier and spending less than we used to. Now, we’re both adults and there are only two of us, so I can’t say it would work for a large family, especially if one had teenagers, but paying a bit more and using it prudently can actually be the more economical way to go. YGMV, of course.

  160. 160
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    “Paying a bit more” only works if you actually have that bit more to pay.

  161. 161
    Mark S. says:

    Late to this thread, but how much did our paleo ancestors eat other humans?

  162. 162
    Cassidy says:

    @muddy: Not at all. So far this thread is a lot of “this works for me”. I love hearing these kinds of stories. I’m happy for people who found a diet that works for them and addresses their individual needs and I’m happy you have that available. I hate being preached at that only one kind of diet works, so far absent from this thread, and i took that as Freddie’s point.

    @Southern Beale: Sure, I guess. That’s why I’m asking.

  163. 163
    Steve in DC says:


    Junk psychology but oh well!

    Some people tend to eat less when they enjoy it, others just eat till they “are full”, it varies. Also one of the reasons higher end places go with larger portions eaten over a longer period with more drinks and you walk away just as full even though you swear it wouldn’t fill a bird.

  164. 164


    And yet, they let M.I.A. in the country. Go figure.

  165. 165
    Steve in DC says:

    @Mark S.:

    Depends on what ancestor, it spreads a mad cow like disease, may more may not have killed off the Neaderthal’s (and I know I spelled that wrong).

    It’s generally a bad idea.

  166. 166
    debit says:

    @Steve in DC: I’m not getting your point.

    @Hypatia’s Momma: I understand that money is an issue. I’m not going to sic the olive oil police on you because you buy bottled dressing.

  167. 167
    Mnemosyne says:


    Bread is THE WORST for me (and pasta). If I eat a wheat product I am destined for the throne 30 minutes later.

    Okay, now I know you’re just messing with me. Dude, if eating a grain product makes you sick, you have a gluten intolerance.

    If I’m not very careful about what kind of dairy I eat, my digestive system goes crazy. That’s not because dairy is evil and no one should have it, but because I’m lactose intolerant and my body can’t process it.


    I dunno — if I were you, I’d start to worry that my years with cats were turning me into an obligate carnivore. You don’t have any signs of a tail sprouting, do you?

  168. 168
    muddy says:

    @Steve in DC: I’m glad I’m in Vermont, where there are good farmers and it’s a big deal to most people I know to buy local. I know this would be a lot harder in a city.

    My summer garden feeds me in the summer and most of the winter with what I put up. I buy up meats when there is a good deal and put it in the freezer. I have the time to do all this, many don’t.

  169. 169
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    I don’t buy bottled dressing. I use olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My point is that snarky remarks aimed at those who can’t afford to make dressings and sauces from scratch is, at best, a very real ignorance of poverty.

  170. 170
    Yutsano says:

    @Southern Beale: And Sully. Our immigration system is fucked up.

  171. 171
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    Not just time is needed. One also has to have the resources. It doesn’t help to buy the meat if you live in a building with a refrigerator from the 40’s and you can’t afford to buy a new one.

  172. 172
    debit says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma: Hah hah hah!! Okay, that was funny. First, my comment was not snarky at all. Second, lady (I assume by your name that you are a lady) I was once so poor that I ate one meal a day. That was if I was lucky. I dreamt of food and woke up crying. A food commercial could make me drool. I have been so hungry I contemplated eating things you wouldn’t believe. So yes, I do believe I understand poverty in all of its manifestations. Enjoy your soapboax.

  173. 173
    different-church-lady says:

    Beezus Uck, quack dieticians: OMNIVORE. O-M-N-I-V-O-R-E. “From Latin: omni, meaning ‘all, everything’.” Look it up if you have to.

  174. 174
    different-church-lady says:

    @Lojasmo: Celiac disease. You had it checked?

  175. 175
    Cacti says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma:

    I don’t buy bottled dressing. I use olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My point is that snarky remarks aimed at those who can’t afford to make dressings and sauces from scratch is, at best, a very real ignorance of poverty

    Honestly, I think part of the problem w/ salad dressing is that most people don’t realize how easy it is to make your own vinaigrette. I didn’t until I took an interest in cooking.

    As for the ingredients, store brand balsamic, red wine, or rice vinegar is cheap, ditto for store brand dijon. Olive oil would be the most expensive ingredient, but you’d still be getting a better value than buying a bottle of most pre-made dressings.

  176. 176
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    I’ll quote it again for you:

    I cannot understand why people buy salad dressing, or any sort of “sauce” mix in packets. It’s so easy to make from scratch.

  177. 177
    kdaug says:



    It’s simple. Just dump the chopped-up chicken, jalapeno, garlic, carrot and celery in a crockpot. (I usually throw in a tied cheesecloth filled with the cilantro stems, some red pepper flakes, and bay leaves.)

    Let it go about 8 hours.

    Then squeeze some lime on it, throw on some cilantro leaves, and crush some old, stale tortillia chips.

    Nom-noms. And the best part is how the house smells after a couple hours.

    ETA: If you’re going to throw in noodles (I prefer Udon), wait until you’ve removed the crockpot from the heat, or you’ll overdo them. Let the noodles cook on the residual heat. (Bastard’s going to take 3 hours to cool anyway.)

  178. 178
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    Thanks for actually reading the entire debate, during which that particular issues was addressed.

  179. 179
    debit says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma: And how is that snarky? Listen, when one is poor, and I speak from experience, one does not worry about whether or not one gets the ranch or italian dressing for your vegetables. One gets the giant size can of Ravioli with the dent it for a discount, a bag of potatoes, some day old bread and peanut butter and hope like hell it’s gong to last until you have money again.

    ETA: I really don’t understand your going after me on this and it’s bringing back a lot of shit for me that’s still painful to deal with, so I’m going to ignore you now.

  180. 180
    Joel says:

    I, personally, love some woody stems in my diet.


  181. 181
    Mnemosyne says:


    Is this the recipe part of the thread? Because I made a really good slow cooker Irish oatmeal for breakfast this morning.

    It was a little overdone because our stupid crockpot runs hot, but still pretty dee-lish.

  182. 182
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    @debit: It’s not as if you’re alone. Lots of us have been digustingly poor; homeless, even. Sneering that it’s just sooo much easier to make from sauces from scratch when people can’t afford the separate ingredients with which to do so is, as I said, at best, ignorant.

  183. 183
    muddy says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma: Well, no. I kind of felt that sort of thing went along with living in cities, along with having to carry your food up the stairs after carrying it home.

    I don’t have much money (poverty line), my extended family went in on a freezer for my birthday one year. It’s about the size of a washing machine. My point was living in a rural area, the products are available to me, I can garden, and I can plan myself out to only buy things when they are a good deal, and I have various strategies of putting the food up. Drying, canning as well as freezing. it is time consuming, but I have the time. I do buy the better food products, but then I don’t have it for other things. I make that choice, but it’s not an easy one for me.

  184. 184
    Cacti says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma:

    Thanks for actually reading the entire debate, during which that particular issues was addressed

    No, you addressed the idea of “paying a bit more”.

    DIY dressing can cost l-e-s-s per volume than pre-made.

    You’ve heard of “less” before, no? It’s the opposite of “more”.

  185. 185
    debit says:

    @kdaug: NOM! Thanks, I’m going to give that a try. Cilantro and jalapenos are just meant for each other. I do a pumpkin soup with them (and a little cumin) that is just about perfect on a cold winter day.

  186. 186
    Hypatia's Momma says:


    I really don’t understand your going after me on this and it’s bringing back a lot of shit for me that’s still painful to deal with, so I’m going to ignore you now.

    I’m sorry you have been forced (presumably by threats of violence) to continue responding to someone pointing out that lots of poor people can’t afford to live up to your standards in sauce making.

  187. 187
    Hypatia's Momma says:


    n my area, even crappy bottles of vinegar and of olive oil are more expensive, combined, than one bottle of good salad dressing. Not everyone can afford to make everything from scratch because it is NOT always the cheaper option.

    I hope that helps.

  188. 188
    debit says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma: Good god. I tried to be polite, but seriously, you have issues and I don’t have the energy or desire to deal with them. It’s pie time.

  189. 189
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    Is there anything, anything at all, that can’t be sold to a gullible public as the one true diet?

  190. 190
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    Well, no, you didn’t try at all. Continuing to argue that I’m wrong when I point out that not everyone can afford to make sauces and dressings from scratch is not polite at all.

  191. 191
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    I really wish I could do some of that but I’m one of those urban dwellers with barely enough counter space to cut up vegetables, much less try to do canning. There’s a community-type kitchen not far from here that, I think, might offer the resources but I’ve never been by there when they are open.

  192. 192
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    @Quaker in a Basement:
    I might once have thought that there were limits but there are people out there drinking colloidal silver. So.

  193. 193
    Steve in DC says:


    We have VA wine country not all that far, granted it’s a drive and a days worth of a trip, but it’s rather good and rather close all things considered. We also get fresh seafood directly up the Potomac from the Bay and Maine, again, good stuff but the warf is a fiasco.

    The issue is the devastating income gap in this (very blue) area. The white college educated crowd is very socially liberal and engages in productive food… the poor people, eh most just say fuck em and ignore them (nobody here would dare pay the staff more).

    However if you got outside of the city a bit, you get a more rural and down home area, food pooling is HUGE.

    We’ve actually got a rather famous farmer around here leading the food movement nationally. The real question is how do we get more good food in peoples hands, we’ve fixed the transportation issue… but if you’re going to convince white social liberals with advanced degree’s they should pay the riff-raff more so they can afford it that’s pissing up the wrong tree. Remember, gay marriage for all, end social security is the sort of Democrats the graduate degree set is in most urban settings.

  194. 194
    Cacti says:


    Good god. I tried to be polite, but seriously, you have issues and I don’t have the energy or desire to deal with them. It’s pie time.

    It has decided it’s king/queen of board poverty, because “in my neighborhood, blah, blah, blah”.

  195. 195
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    For example, on many metrics the Japanese are the healthiest people on earth. The staff of life in Japan is rice.

    And as we’ve exported the ‘Murrican way of life to Japan, they’ve been experiencing skyrocketing rates of heart disease. My dad, a cardiologist, says this is why so may cardiology conferences are being held on the west coast these days: They want Asian doctors to be able to attend.

  196. 196
    Steve in DC says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma:

    Turns you into a smurf! And colodial silver people tend to fall into also being vegan and anti vaccine, they aren’t the brightest and hawk some dangerous ideas.

  197. 197
    Steve in DC says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:

    Actually the most healthy in Japan aren’t doing it off rice. It’s the seafood, seaweed, and sweet potatoes, the rice has fuck all to do with it. The Okinawa diet is an interesting one from several aspects.

    The Japanese also smoke and drink more than we do, so emulating their intake isn’t all that great of an idea.

    Let’s also not forget that the global poisoning of seafood stocks is going to cause havoc for the Japanese.

  198. 198
    muddy says:

    @Steve in DC: It’s said that during the Great Depression, Vermonters didn’t notice it much, as they were poor as dirt farmers with 2 sets of clothes (one only for Sunday), and only a woodstove for heat in the kitchen only. Frost on the bedclothes upstairs. No one had any money, so no one worried about it. But they always had food. People came out from the cities in cars and with nice clothes, and thought the poor Vermonters were the lucks with all their “free” food and “free” wood.

    Only free when you put in the hours.

  199. 199
    El Cid says:

    I lean more towards the Quaternary glaciation diet, in which my regular diet of fruit and opportunistic meat-eating is interrupted by dramatic chilling of the climate to which I’m not adapted, so it involves lots of wandering and attempting to eat things with which I’m inexperienced as long as it’s not trying to kill me.

  200. 200
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    @El Cid:
    Megafauna are very high in cholesterol, so eat them sparingly.

  201. 201
    El Cid says:

    @muddy: Conversely, many rural Southerners were already starving even when they had full time mill jobs, since the bosses paid them too little to afford to buy enough food.

    Then of course there were all those working in the idyllic pastoral sharecropping life, in which starvation / malnutrition were also constant lifelong friends.

  202. 202
    El Cid says:

    @Hypatia’s Momma: They seem to help out by making sure my opportunities to eat them are quite limited.

  203. 203

    […] if the Paleo diet described by Freddie here were easily available, I would eat the hell out of it. Organ meat, frogs and such? Hell yeah, I’m European, that […]

  204. 204
    kdaug says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    Get rid of tetanus shots and we’ll be good to go.

    Yurp, you’re getting to my point.

    I have a new product.

    It’s the “Black Death” hygiene and diet plan.

    Free rats for everyone!

    (Wagons not included).

  205. 205
    Steve in DC says:


    I’ve been there and it’s amazing. It’s just that urban areas are more and more public transportation reliant, and that’s a good thing. But my ability at income $$$ to take a weekend to get out to rural VA and purchase real food on a weekend off and “the help” class people to most here that work over the weekend on 35k or under with no ability to access a car are completely different situations.

    I’ve tried working with local coops, but it doesn’t drag the price down. And at the end of the day a buck is a buck, if something is 10 a pound at safeway, 20 a pound if we lose money or 25 if we break even, and 35 a pound from a real butcher the math just doesn’t add up.

    Some items like eggs and chicken we can oddly enough get cheaper in bulk, the farmers markets are nice but it’s still double safeway or giant at times (the major chains here) for fresh produce.

    This is the deep irony of mass farming, we’ve cut food prices in half at the expense of farm workers wages and food quality, it hasn’t been a good thing.

    I’d like to think there is a way to fix it… but there isn’t. The main consumers here of free range products are rich white people, who demand more and more artisional stuff and the post graduate crowd prides itself on who paid more for what… which in turn drives prices far out of those with lesser incomes.

    We crossed the river when who you bought from was a matter of pride and how much you paid and how artistic it was became a matter of pride.

  206. 206
    Steve in DC says:

    @El Cid:

    That was Edwards entire selling point, granted he was a cad and a sleeze, but instead we got Mr. Wall Street Obama, it’s too late to worry about that. It’s just how Wall Street the next four years are.

  207. 207
    lacp says:

    Campbell’s The China Study convinced me of the value of a vegetarian diet and the harmful effects of animal foods. Unfortunately it didn’t convince me to change my eating habits.

  208. 208

    @The Other Chuck: You should write that up as Another Modest Proposal.

  209. 209
  210. 210
    John Weiss says:

    “Evolution privileges survivability…”

    Not exactly. Evolution “favors” the fortunate, much like one’s wealth-making. It’s nice to be good, but nothing trumps lucky.

    Evolution is a process that “favors” nothing.

  211. 211
    keestadoll says:

    @Steve in DC: My husband is a merchant mariner that has run cargo ships out of Alaska to Japan since Fukushima. Their local waters, which were already quite over-fished, are now completely useless because of fallout. So, when in Alaska, there are TONS of fish being loaded up and sent to Japan. I don’t think that made it into the MSM.

  212. 212
    keestadoll says:

    A pervious post noted skyrocketing obesity coinciding with the intro of HFCS. Another graph worth looking up is the obesity rate compared to the introduction of genetically modified corn and soy products into the US food supply. Hell, I knew tons of kids back in the day whose entire diet consisted of doritos and coke and could count on one hand how many of them were even remotely overweight. Fast forward 20 years: kids today, still eating Doritos and coke, but it’s not the same Doritos and coke. Maybe it’s not so much junk food, but this generation of junk food. G’night y’all!

  213. 213
    Gretchen says:

    It makes me crazy when people insist there’s one true diet for all the humans on the planet. If you said there’s one correct amount of daily sunshine everyone should get on their skin, whether Swede or African, you can see that’s silly. An Asian-American of my acquaintance, whose ancestors didn’t keep dairy animals and are mostly lactose intolerant, will insist that nobody over the age of 2 should ever eat dairy. But people descended from centuries of dairy farmers can digest milk, and it’s a valuable nutrient for them. There’s a lot more attention to gluten-intolerance now, and a recognition that while bread is the staff of life for many people, some can’t handle it. Turns out this is more common in Irish people. Ireland is too cool and damp to grow wheat well, and what they managed to grow was mostly exported.
    Evolution was still operating pretty strongly a hundred years ago, with many people dying before they could reproduce. We should be looking at what our more proximate ancestors ate and did well on, not looking back 50,000 years. A lot of evolution and differentiation has taken place since then.

  214. 214
    dsale says:

    Yeah, “mostly plants” seems to be forgotten by many paleo dieters…

  215. 215
    TenguPhule says:

    If you eat more calories than you burn you gain weight, full stop.

    Untrue, after a certain point your body will simply expel those excess calories as waste.

    In it goes and out it comes!

  216. 216
    Ken_L says:

    Ummmm do people not eat rats, mice and squirrels in your country? *Sidles away in embarrassment*

  217. 217
    Tim says:

    Wouldn’t at least some of that meat have to be eaten raw? Fire is a recent discovery. By the same logic of evolution that they use to argue the efficacy of the diet, it seems to me that the meat should be raw. Good luck with that; enjoy your tapeworm.

  218. 218
    Auldblackjack says:

    There was also a fair amount of “feast or famine” in the way hunter gatherers lived. If all you’re doing is feasting, …U R not doin’ it ‘rite!

  219. 219
    Applejinx says:

    I’m not paleo but there are a lot of resemblances. Technically I lost 30 pounds and got a lot healthier, though my focus wasn’t really on that…

    I get celiac depression, so cutting out gluten was a HUGE DEAL psychologically for me. It was like stepping out of an existential void into the world. I was being poisoned until I wanted to die, most of my life. Figure that out and it wakes you up real quick. Seems like for me it was about gluten blocking vitamin B6 absorption- which is kind of an important vitamin.

    This video is pretty neat- “Sugar- The Bitter Truth”. This guy is some kind of high-powered biochemist doctor, when he backs up what he says it’s REALLY hard to follow. He does it anyway because he’s that kind of a nerd but he’s aware how boring it is to show your work.

    Basic concept- ALL sugar acts like a low-grade toxin like alcohol but without the buzz. HFCS is unfairly demonized because all sugars are just as bad and they all should be demonized, in essence.

    Sub-concept- it’s not about calorie intake and burning. He’s funny about that- citing how many hours you’d have to run to ‘burn’ one cookie! That model is not happening. It’s not what you eat, it’s ‘what you DO with what you eat’ so calorie counting is absurd, and exercise other than to make you feel good and get your body working is also absurd. It’s absurd as a way to ‘counterbalance’ calorie consumption.

    I eat meat and won’t touch wheat stuff, but I do eat rice. I cook everything- every meal involves cooking. And I exercise for a few intense minutes at the end of each day- using dumb-bells that have gone up to 40 pounds each, gradually. Ten press ups, ten out to the sides, ten situps holding the dumbbells to my shoulders and then ten more without them, five bicep curls, five lift-them-to-waist-height, five twirling them back and forth. That’s it, but I’ve been doing it for years. It seems to be about the maximum strain you’ll attempt, rather than necessarily sitting there for hours lifting metal all day.

    I think the main take-away from the whole paleo thing is, mainstream American food is really, really bad for you in myriad ways.

    Oh, and I also have a massive emotional catastrophic reaction to ‘sucralose’, which isn’t a sucra or an ose, not that that would be much help either apparently. ‘sucralose’ is a trade name for some kind of chlorocarbon or something, and it screws me up hardcore if I ingest it, and it’s snuck into freaking everything. It’s in _vitamins_.

    Gotta cook everything from scratch, anymore. This world has become really freaking weird.

  220. 220
    Van says:

    Have to agree with Freddie. It’s not a ‘Paleo’ diet. A better name would be ‘ Middle-aged douchebag who believes following the articles in ‘Mens’ Health’ magazine will give him six pack abs diet’. Some other points:

    We’re all going to die, no matter what you eat.
    Dietary/nutritional research of all stripes is notoriously bad so take it with two grains of salt.

    All foods have toxins and poisons in them, including meat.
    Fat accumulates toxic chemicals and toxic chemicals are everywhere in the modern world, including in grass fed, organic beef.

    High fat diets are associated with higher risks of colon cancer, but so is being overweight.

    It’s probably better to be a little overweight then underweight because if you get sick or suffer major trauma your body has more resources to heal itself.

    Paleo man ate whatever was around him that was edible. most likely had intestinal parasites, and at times was near starvation. He also ate very chewy fibrous foods and had very few dental problems( especially cavities) and no overbites( read this in Science magazine).

  221. 221
    Applejinx says:

    Well, the point being that ‘what is around us that is edible’ for typical Americans now constitutes more than one hundred and forty pounds of sugar per year. Everything is loaded with sugar, HFCS and strange chemicals.

    Paleo man may have been near starvation (though to hear paleo practitioners tell it, he probably didn’t end up feeling ‘starving’ half as much as a modern person filling themselves with sugar and grains, because of more efficient triggering of an enzyme called leptin)

    But he did NOT stuff himself full of the astonishing variety of strange chemicals masquerading as food we see today, largely economically driven by capitalist pressure to make greater profit, and further driven by desperation to compete in a race to the bottom that has food loaded with a nasty one-two punch of salt and sugar to trigger cravings for more.

    Market-driven health care is a ridiculous notion. Maybe to some extent market-driven FOOD SUPPLY is an equally ridiculous notion, if it only leads to carefully crafted doses of weird chemicals, salt and sugar, designed above all to provoke more consumption. Food’s job is to fuel the organism. The corporation’s job is to goad the organism to buy more food. So far the corporations are winning, bigtime, and people are fucking themselves up, bigtime, trying to comply with what their bodies are being programmed to do.

    Gosh. Woke up and I’m a radical. On the other hand I’m 44, six foot, 180 pounds and not overly plagued by hunger or the feeling I am ‘dieting’, and I’m working on looking good for a 20 year old (because why not?). So I guess I don’t mind being a radical hippy commie DFH.

    In a debate like this they ought to associate all the debators with naked pictures of themselves… I’d like to see if those who are more radical than me, are on to something…

  222. 222
    muddy says:

    @Steve in DC:

    I’ve tried working with local coops, but it doesn’t drag the price down. And at the end of the day a buck is a buck, if something is 10 a pound at safeway, 20 a pound if we lose money or 25 if we break even, and 35 a pound from a real butcher the math just doesn’t add up

    I never pay even close to $10/# for any flesh, even local organic. Then again I don’t buy high end cuts. I would not be able to do as I do at those levels.

    We crossed the river when who you bought from was a matter of pride and how much you paid and how artistic it was became a matter of pride.

    It remains a matter of pride here, and they have commercials during the local evening news reminding people to “buy Vermont first”. Not sure about the “artistic” part, do you mean “artisanal”? There are high end niche products of course, but one can get great meat and cheese etc. of great variety without going there.

    80% of Vermont workers are in small business, I guess we just go around buying each other’s stuff. The unemployment rate here is about 5% I think.

  223. 223
    muddy says:

    @Gretchen: I don’t see how hundreds of years of evolution is going to stack up against millions of years. Math.

  224. 224
    muddy says:

    @Tim: Fire is not a relatively recent discovery, they have evidence of 500,000 years and probably longer.

  225. 225
    Boohunney says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Now a big “fad” amongst foodies is drinking “Mexican Cokes.” Apparently they are made from cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

    If it was a real Paleo diet everything would “taste like chicken.”

  226. 226
    rmirth says:

    @Cargo: Yes, it’s so “non-PC”. That’s its appeal to a lot of libertarian types.

  227. 227
    Someguy says:

    Paleo marketing is faddish, but a higher protein and higher fat, more fiber and lower grain (starch & sugar) diet seems to be a lot healthier from a blood sugar / diabetes standpoint. I switched over to lower carbs a couple years ago and took a lot of weight off. My beloved pasta and rice are now just rare treats. I’m not totally paleo but try to take all my grains whole (lower sugar, higher protein, higher fiber) and will have 3 servings of vegetables with meat for dinner or lunch, rather than a serving of meat, one vegetable, two refined grains. I also cut way back on dairy; there are a lot of sugars in most of it. The single biggest change, other than having to buy smaller pants, is that I don’t have high and low energy levels during the day, I cruise with a steady, mildly energized feeling. A PhD/MD friend of mine explained that the paleo food and whole grains are slower burning, there are no insulin spikes and the blood sugar levels stay more stable as a result, hence the lack of peaks and valleys. Short version: I don’t feel like I need to take a nap after lunch any more.

    Is it possible that the food pyramid that the FDA pushed on us for two generations wasn’t really the result of science, but the result of farm lobbying by Big Ag and the judgments of farm state senators, happy to push more grains and grain by-products into the food chain?

  228. 228

    @Freddie deBoer: I’m kind of sad I missed this thread; 200+ comments is just more than I have time to read today. So I’ll have to confine myself to what you wrote. So here it goes: most of your article is cringingly ill-informed. C’mon – basing your opinion on one article (!) from io9 (!!)? Weak.

    You got two things right: 1) There are a lot of ‘paleo’ evangelists. To which I say, so what? What is it that you do regarding education? What is this whole blog about? There are evangelists about everything. Why should a diet be any different? 2) The ‘paleo’ diet isn’t really paleo. True, and it isn’t really a diet either. If you read more about it, you’d know this (the title of your post should be “The Paleo Diet Isn’t [Well-Named]”).

    The first thing any of the actual proponents will tell you is that the ‘paleo’ diet is more of a template and a set of guidelines than a fad or a “one true diet.” One size does not fit all. There wasn’t one true diet for our paleolithic ancestors – there was a range of diets based on geography and other factors.

    The second thing they will tell you is that many/most of the foods that our paleolithic ancestors ate no longer exist. What they are advocating is essentially an examination of human biology. What did we evolve to eat? What diet supports optimal health? Sure, there may be many answers to this line of inquiry, but these are scientific questions with answers that can be tested.

    All of the criticisms that I’ve seen in the comments either demonstrate a lack of understanding of what paleo is trying to accomplish, or have been thoroughly addressed by the paleo community.

    I expect more from you, Mr. deBoer – you usually write some of the most incisive and well-informed posts. This one is a stinker.

  229. 229
    arika2.5 says:

    Diets like the Paleo and Atkins will stress out your kidneys a lot. If you have any propensity towards kidney disease, diets like these can bring it on. We should all be eating less animal protein.

  230. 230
    Barbara says:

    Way late to this party, but I just read an article on the subject of “famine foods,” that is, those foods that our ancestors ate to survive, even in to modern times. Well, there is a guy at Purdue University who maintains a whole website listing those foods (and is trying to find more of them). Unlike paleo diet sites, it’s not exactly sophisticated web design, but it gives you a better idea how our ancestors actually survived:

  231. 231

    So, back in ye olde days, farmers didn’t eat grains?

    People who got up before dawn and worked like mules until sundown avoided grains and worried about their weight?

    yeah, that’s persuasive – not

  232. 232

    @arika2.5: dietary protein does not cause kidney damage. Chronically elevated blood glucose does. You are correct in that the evidence shows a diet high in protein puts additional stress on damaged kidneys. But then, walking is good for you, unless you have a broken leg.

    @someofparts: back in ‘ye olde days’, there were no farmers, only hunter-gatherers. Ten thousand years of agriculture doesn’t stack up well against two million years of evolution.

  233. 233
    Someguy says:

    So, back in ye olde days, farmers didn’t eat grains?

    If you are doing 14 hours of manual labor a day, 7 servings of grain won’t hurt you, and the exercise will regulate blood glucose levels and probably avoid diabetes. The farmers of yore didn’t eat seven servings of twinkies and Wonderbread either; they typically ate whole grains. This is similar to ironman triathletes eating all day long – you can take in 5,000 extra calories safely because the body is burning them and doesn’t much care what it eats, it just needs fuel right away, though the burn rate of simple carbs is noticeably faster than the complex carbs.

    If you’re eating the same amount of refined grains and working in an office, you will get fat and blow a pancreas.

    More veggies, more lean protein, fewer grains. You’re free to do it your way of course.

  234. 234
    Ruviana says:

    @lol: I got so excited seeing this I didn’t finish reading to the bottom of the thread: THIS! And also too greater maternal and infant mortality. Women died a lot during childbirth. A lot, depending on where you are, still do. So that also affected the mortality statistics. Modern h/gs and small scale horticulturalists, few as there are, live into their 70s and are in generally good health, barring things like accidents, etc.

    ETA: And Hypatia’s Momma beat me to it. But it really can’t be emphasized enough, so there’s that.

  235. 235
    LanceThruster says:

    I remember reading somewhere that contrary to the dioramas showing the fearsome caveman with a spear, the animals we faced in the era were themselves pretty fearsome so that we most likely got a lot of our calories from sucking the marrow out of the bones as we scavenged the kills of other predators.

  236. 236
    Mnemosyne says:


    Now a big “fad” amongst foodies is drinking “Mexican Cokes.” Apparently they are made from cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.

    When I have a soda, I do usually try to get one made with cane sugar instead of HFCS. Not because HFCS is poison, but because it has a nasty, burned aftertaste to me that I don’t like.

    But I tend to be sensitive to sweeteners. I can’t stand any artificial sweetener, and stevia is the frickin’ worst of all. Snapple and stuff like that is way oversweetened, so now if I drink any bottled drink, I go with Honest Tea, which has about half the amount of sugar per bottle as Snapple. (Snapple tries to fool you by giving the nutrition information per 8 oz., but it’s a 16-oz. bottle.)

  237. 237
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    I wish schools would stop teaching that particular myth (along with the “Caveman = violent misogynist/sociopath” one).

    Yes and no. We know that hominids were hunters, at least as far back as Neanderthals, because we’ve found examples of their graffiti on cave walls. In areas of the world that were most severely affected by the Moving Walls of Cold Death, hunting larger animals was likely a better energy investment than hoping to stumble across a carcass.

  238. 238
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    @Knight of Nothing:
    To be fair, they could be using “diet” in its biological sense, not in the popular one. Maybe.

  239. 239
    Gretchen says:

    Because things that have happened recently have more effect than things that have happened in the distant past.
    My ancestor a million years ago died shortly after giving birth. Not much effect. My grandmother lived to raise her children. Large effect.

  240. 240

    @Hypatia’s Momma: true enough, and I admit I was being slightly willful in order to make my point. But one simply does not call paleo eating a ‘fad diet’ and mean ‘diet’ in the nutritional/biological sense. They are using it as a pejorative term meaning ‘eating for weight loss.’ Weight loss is not the goal of paleo eating, it’s just a nice side effect.

  241. 241
    Violet says:


    But I tend to be sensitive to sweeteners. I can’t stand any artificial sweetener, and stevia is the frickin’ worst of all.

    Me too! I can’t stand artificial sweeteners. Even agave has an aftertaste for me. Sugar is the one sweetener I seem to be able to handle. I remember seeing TV commercials for diet sodas and “real people” exclaiming that they can’t tell which is which (like a taste test) and I know I’d be able to tell it in one sip.

  242. 242
    Hypatia's Momma says:

    @Knight of Nothing:
    Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I meant the proponents of the diet might be using it that way.

  243. 243
    Mnemosyne says:


    When I was in high school, I had a friend do a blind taste test on me because she was absolutely convinced that I was lying when I said I could taste the difference between Nutrasweet and sugar. She even tried to fake me out and claim that I was wrong, but then finally had to admit that, yes, what she’d given me had Nutrasweet in it.

    I’m kind of okay with agave syrup, though I get some alarming intestinal symptoms if there’s too much of it. And I’ve discovered that maple syrup really is the perfect sweetener for oatmeal — one or two teaspoons will do ya for an entire bowl.

  244. 244
    Violet says:

    I have the same problem with agave. I can only have small amounts of it or I too have intestinal issues. I like maple syrup too, but it does have maple flavor, which doesn’t work with everything especially for cooking.

  245. 245
    polyorchnid octopunch says:

    @Eric the Infrequent: Hey, a tomato salad’s pretty awesome by me.

  246. 246
    Bob2 says:

    I think all those years hanging around Yglesias, Megan, and other bloggers has rubbed off on your writing Freddie.
    You clearly don’t understand the subject matter or bothered to read the research in your link.

    Yes, I understand the premise of your argument is to not fall for a fad diet name, but then you fall into the trap of not actually addressing any of the issues involved in why aspects of the paleo diet work, and more importantly, how the junk science/research on nutrition has come back to haunt us now.

    This is pretty superficial.

  247. 247
    Erika says:

    Plenty of people eat grains (and some sugars) and maintain a healthy weight.

    Plenty of people also eat tons of junk food and still maintain a healthy weight. Different people have different metabolisms and react to foods in different ways. It doesn’t seem impossible to me that some people have a harder time maintaining a healthy weight when eating refined carbohydrates. I count myself as one of them.

    The issue, to me, is that the food industry, the diet industry, and nutritionists have been pushing high-carb/low-fat diets for 30 years, and, in the meanwhile, Americans have gotten fatter and fatter. Is the culprit solely self-discipline? Or is there something wrong with the eating advice they’ve been pushing, namely that, 30 years ago, there was no clinical evidence that high-carb/low-fat diets are good for you?

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