A key part to being happy and enjoying a long and successful life is being fit and healthy. I'm sure a lot of those "jolly" fat men will disagree with me and argue that eating and drinking whatever they want makes them happy, and maybe it does in the short term, but in the long term the results will be discomfort, pain, diseases, and a shortened life. That definitely does not sound happy to me. With that in mind I finally got myself a copy of Robb Wolf's book, The Paleo Solution, which tackles a few big issues in our modern diet by comparing it to that of our paleolithic ancestors. It is a great read with lots of science-based information for the nerds (me!) but enough plain-speak and humour to make the ride worthwhile for anyone. Not to mention some scary concepts.
What is this Paleo Stuff?
To break the Paleo diet/lifestyle down to basics without delving into some of the issues Robb tackles in the book is hard, but the underlying premise is that our ancestors from the Paleolithic era had a remarkably low incidence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, infertility, obesity, and so on, mainly due to their diet. They were hunter-gatherers so were naturally fairly active too, but the big principle is that our modern diet is what is causing our modern health problems. Think low-fat, high-carbs is good for you? Think again.
"Hogwash!" is probably your first response and that is fine. I'm sure your doctor probably told you that keeping fat intake to a minimum along with maximising "good carbs" is ideal. Of course, this is probably a doctor that thinks using the Body Mass Index (BMI) is valid for measuring your healthy weight. I wont go into why the BMI is a crock of you-know-what, but if you want to learn more about it's origins and how wrong it is go here and read the article "Do You Believe in Fairies, Unicorns, or the BMI?"
I'm not saying Doctors are bad or silly, because quite frankly they do an amazing job in our society. But humans in general have a preference to accept simplistic theories because they make life easier. Doctors are no different and when it comes to diet the current simple theory has just been accepted for so long that no-one seems to question it. Well almost no-one.
The Paleo lifestyle is gaining momentum and The Paleo Solution is one of the main reasons. But there are other books that are worthwhile too including; The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet For Athletes. You can also check out Robb Wolf's website which has regular updates, forums, and podcasts on all things Paleo. I recommended starting with Robb's Book (that's The Paleo Solution if you missed it) simply because that's where I started and it has some eye-opening information on how our body processes our food.
If you are feeling particularly lazy then I will give you a brief summary:
- Carbs are bad mmmmkay - our Paleo ancestors foraged for food, with little carbs involved. Any agriculture crops like wheat, corn, barely, grains were not accessible. And our bodies cannot handle them well.
- Protein is good - lean protein is ideal. Our ancestors ate lots of fresh caught fish, fowl, game and cattle. The meat was grass feed (note: even the cows didn't eat grains) and was fresh. Just the way it should be.
- Fat gets a bad wrap - some fat is actually quite good for us. Focus on eating fats from animals and nuts, just like our ancestors did because these have no correlation to bad cholesterol. Relax and eat fat. It's tasty.
- Be active - I know it sounds crazy but our ancestors had the fitness equivalent to an Olympic athlete because they were active. Not crazily active, just lots of walking, some running, climbing, etc. you know, the things a good hunter-gatherer does.
A Day in the Life...
Not convinced? let's consider a sample day from Robb's Book:
- Breakfast: Poached eggs and ham, almonds, fruit
- Lunch: Spiced chicken (fajita style) in a salad
- Snacks: Chicken meat, apple, avocado slices
- Dinner: Grilled Salmon, roasted green beans, side salad
Healthy deliciousness! Show me a person who thinks that doesn't sound healthy and I will show you an insane person. Just kidding, but seriously that day sounds pretty tasty and is obviously very healthy. If you are one of those people crying "But where are the carbs?" then get yourself a copy of the book and start reading. It may shock you to realise what those carbs are doing to your body.
Why am I Going Paleo?
Most of The Paleo Solution is targeted at the seriously unhealthy people in our society, so going paleo as a young, lean, and relatively fit 27 year old man might sound crazy but there is logic behind my madness.
Firstly, the whole Paleo concept resonates well with me. I have always struggled to accept many structures our modern society imposes and the thought of becoming more like a hunter-gatherer has a great deal of appeal. Plus if the world is plunged into some chaotic madness than I will be one step ahead on the road to surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.
And then of course there is the range of health benefits that come with this lifestyle. There are the obvious visual effects (less fat, more muscle, increased fitness) and the plethora of positive heath reasons (less heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on). In fact it's pretty much a whole lot of good things and nothing bad.
I would be mad not to try it wouldn't I?