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Why Are We Here, And What Are We Looking For? Food Associations And The Pitfalls Of The Search For Novelty

Yes, I’m serious, and I’m asking a serious question: why are we here?

By “here”, I mean “on the Internet, reading paleo and nutrition blogs, almost every day.” This describes many of us—myself included—and I had to stop and ask myself “Why am I doing this? What am I looking for?”

Are we afraid that one of our number will turn nutrition completely upside down tomorrow morning—and that a few extra days, or even a couple weeks, of eating as we do now will harm us irreparably? Will a new archaeological find prove that Paleolithic humans subsisted mostly on flowers? Will Harvard researchers publish a double-blinded trial showing that corn oil and HFCS are the foundation of a healthy human diet, and we’ve simply been deficient in them for the last six million years?

It seems unlikely.

So why the continual search for our daily “fix” of updates?

Learning Is Fundamental For Human Survival

I’ve previously made the point that the process of learning allows an animal to change its behavior in cultural time, not evolutionary time…and this can be a powerful survival technique. A moth will spiral into any light source and either immolate itself or repeatedly smash against it…until it dies, someone turns the light out, or the sun comes up. In contrast, most mammals are quite capable of learning that fire burns, thorns are sharp, and just because you can’t see a predator doesn’t mean it can’t see you. And while we’re all familiar with the myriad self-destructive behaviors exhibited by humans, we’re also capable of learning that (for instance) the child we see in a mirror is ourselves, not a stranger that always does what we’re doing—not to mention complex abstractions like algebra.

More importantly, throughout evolutionary time, we were able to learn where animals lived and how they behaved, throughout the seasons of the year and over widely varying climactic conditions; we were able to learn how to find, catch, and kill them despite being much smaller, slower, and weaker; we were able to learn how to make stone tools to kill and butcher them; we were able to learn which plants were edible, which were poisonous, and which poisonous ones could be made edible in a pinch; and we were able to learn the myriad other skills necessary to survive in environments quite hostile to hairless apes.

In other words, the process of learning allowed us to adjust our behavior to conditions—such as Ice Age Europe—completely outside our evolutionary context.

Food Associations Are Powerful

Since procuring food is the central problem of any animal’s daily survival, we would expect our learned knowledge about food to exert a powerful effect on our behavior.

I’m using words informally here: “associative learning” has a specific meaning in cognitive science, and refers only to classical and operant conditioning. Technically we’re also speaking of episodic learning, observational learning, enculturation, and so on…but, speaking in the most general terms, we’re associating smells, tastes, textures, images, sounds, and other experiences with the circumstances surrounding them.

I’ve made the point before that the circumstances surrounding food consumption are powerful determinants of whether we ‘like’ a food. The classic example is beer: almost everyone dislikes beer the first time they taste it. We’re told we simply need to ‘develop a taste’ for beer—

—which usually means drinking with friends until we start to associate its bitter taste with intoxication and positive social interactions. Note the universal context of beer commercials: beer = fun times with friends, who are all gorgeous and/or handsome.

Similarly, foods our parents fed us repeatedly as small children often give us a feeling of emotional security in later life: we call them “comfort foods”. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Spaghetti. Chocolate chip cookies. “Just like Mom used to make!”

PB&J

Reminds you of childhood, doesn't it?


If you are a parent, consider the associations you’re creating by frequently feeding your child fast food. Yes, it’s convenient and cheap…but do you really want chicken nuggets and Mountain Dew to become your child’s “comfort food”?

We can demonstrate the important role of learned associations by foods unique to certain cultures. Do these pictures make your mouth water?

BLEEEEAAAAARGH

Those are fermented soybeans, called “natto”.

A chicken embryo, known as “balut”.

Unless you are Japanese or Filipino, it’s very unlikely.

The Food Associations Of Someone New To Paleo

The power of food associations is, I believe, a major reason for the “stickiness” of the online paleo community. We’ve abandoned a way of eating that has powerful positive associations:

  • The comfort foods we ate as a child: PB&Js, mac and cheese, spaghetti, cookies, cake …
  • The foods we “eat out” with friends and colleagues: sandwiches, pizza, burgers, burritos …
  • The “healthy foods” we feel virtuous about eating: low-fat yogurt, whole-grain bagels and cereal, soy lattes, veggieburgers …
  • The junk foods we know we shouldn’t eat, but which are so delicious anyway: candy, cookies, chips and crisps, cakes and pies, ice cream …

In contrast, many food associations of someone new to Paleo are negative:

  • Screwing up an unfamiliar recipe in your own kitchen and having to eat it anyway because you’re hungry
  • Being “that guy” during social occasions (“Burger with no bun. Yes, I said no bun..and can I get veggies instead of french fries? No, I don’t drink beer”)
  • Having to order basic dietary staples over the Internet, instead of just going to the supermarket
  • Being unable to just “stop and grab a bite” when you’re traveling
  • Being completely, utterly sick of the two or three paleo-compatible recipes you’ve figured out how to cook reliably

(Do you have any additions to these lists? Leave a comment!)

Building New Associations: Why We’re Online So Often?

I think that a primary reason paleo eaters—particularly those of us new to paleo—spend so much time online is to build positive associations with our new way of eating.

Having lost many positive associations with a fundamental survival behavior—our drive to eat—it’s easy to feel a bit “down”. Sure, we know how much better we feel physically, how much sharper we are mentally, and we’re unwilling to give that up…but it’s difficult, and often lonely, to abandon decades’ worth of positive associations. When we eat a pizza, we’re not just eating bread, cheese, veggies, and pepperoni…we’re associating the smell, taste, and texture with all the pizza parties we’ve had over the years. When we drink beer, we’re associating it with everything from college keggers to “girls’ night out” to the avalanche of commercials promising good times with beautiful people. When we eat a PB&J, we’re associating it with all the times our parents fixed us one as hungry children coming home from the playground or sports practice. And so on.

Food associations do not trump biochemistry, nor do they magically cause obesity! They can, however, affect our food choices—along with many other factors. I discuss the distinction at length here.

Some Pitfalls Of The Search For Novelty

Unfortunately, there are several pitfalls we can fall into while trying to build positive associations, via the Internet, with our new way of eating.

I believe the underlying reason for most of them is that there’s only so much new information to write about. Back in 2009, “maybe saturated fat isn’t just a waxy form of Death” was a relatively new and daring insight—as was “maybe expensive running shoes aren’t actually good for our feet,” “the Paleolithic really did last millions of years, and agriculture really is a recent development to which we’re not well-adapted,” and “the USDA’s Food Pyramid is an excellent program for producing obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and the rest of the metabolic syndrome.”

However, in 2012, the bar has been dramatically raised by the ongoing hard work of many different authors, scientists, and bloggers. It’s difficult to present an insight that no one has had before, or to find new information that’s empirically useful—and it takes a strong background in the relevant sciences, as well as a substantial time commitment, to find such information or come up with such insights. And we must face the awkward fact that, as we progress beyond the exciting first flush of discovery, we’re unlikely to produce any new insights that overturn the existing paradigm in the way that Paleo overturned the conventional wisdom.

This problem is not unique to the paleo community: it’s shared by every successful movement. What do you do when the excitement of discovery starts to wane?

Yet we’re still combing the Internet in search of…something. Like minds, moral support, better recipes—any sort of positive association to replace the voids left by our abandonment of our old eating habits. But with only so much new information to present, and only so many writers capable of presenting it, it’s easy to fall (or, even worse, to lure one’s readers) into one of several traps.

  • The search to imitate old favorites that are now off limits. Fake cupcakes don’t taste like real ones, and they’re still calorie bombs. If you really want a cupcake and you’re not gluten-intolerant, just eat a cupcake!
        However, you’ll find that, as you eat this way for longer and you develop more positive associations with real food, your emotional cravings for childhood and comfort foods will diminish. (Though not to zero…nothing will make a Grimaldi’s or Giordano’s pizza not taste good.)
  • Overselling the part of the system one understands as The Key To Obesity (and everything else.) Insulin, leptin, “food reward”, and the hypothalamus have all taken their turns: I predict gut flora will be the Next Big Thing. (And I’d like to remind everyone that the colon is downstream of the small intestine—so nothing about your gut flora will make gluten grains safe to eat. See, for instance, Fasano 2011.)
  • “Hey, look at me!”—using “Science!” as a tool to distract or obfuscate. For any specific assertion, it’s not difficult to trawl Pubmed until I find a sentence in an abstract that, on the surface, appears to contradict it. See how smart I am?
        The important question, of course, now becomes “Well, what should we do now?” If I can’t answer that, then why should I get everyone all worked up? And I’ll say it again: statements such as “I don’t know” and “That’s interesting, tell me more” do not diminish my stature or reputation.
  • Interpersonal drama. I’ve done my best to avoid it, and to keep gnolls.org safe for calm, reasoned exploration of the science behind paleo. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with some rough give-and-take…
        …but it’s important to ask ourselves questions like “Is anything being accomplished here?” “If I ‘win’ this argument, is that going to change anything?” and, most importantly, “Why am I here? If I’m simply trying to make positive associations with my new way of eating, is this counterproductive?”
        Once again, it’s fine to host such discussions, or even encourage them, because they help weed the garden of ideas…but we all need to ask ourselves if participating in them is furthering our own goals, or just breeding negativity.
  • Jealousy. Any successful movement will accumulate both hangers-on and gadflies. And I can’t resist noting that paleo’s most vociferous critics are either avowedly non-paleo, find it pseudoscientific or “too limiting”, or claim enough differences that they require their own brand—but they can’t bring themselves to leave the party, because they know it’s where the action is.

Conclusion: Two Questions To Ask Yourself

If you find yourself becoming drawn into drama, confused about scientific-sounding arguments, or otherwise feeling negative about yourself or the state of the online community, ask yourself:

“Why am I here? What am I looking for?”

If the answer is “I’m looking for positive associations to replace those I’ve lost,” then perhaps it’s time to stand up from the computer desk. Go outside. Play with your kids or your dog. Lift some barbells or kettlebells. Climb something and jump off of it.

Riding from the summit of Genoa Peak

One of my preferred forms of ascent and descent.

Then treat yourself to a juicy prime rib…

Prime Rib (Standing Rib Roast), cooked medium-rare

Click for my foolproof prime rib recipe, with step-by-step directions.

…and remember that we’re not eating like predators so we can argue more effectively on the Internet. We’re eating like predators so we can live like predators—strong, healthy, alert, and vital.

Live in freedom, live in beauty.

JS


What do you think, and why are you here? Leave a comment…

…and if you find the atmosphere here congenial, feel free to join other gnolls in the forums.

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74 comments

Permalink: Why Are We Here, And What Are We Looking For? Food Associations And The Pitfalls Of The Search For Novelty
  • Howard

    Very interesting article, but I think you underestimate the importance of putting paleo information out there (and “arguing more effectively on the internet”).

    Many of us frequent these sort of sites looking for some sort of social connection, or the opportunity to associate with people who agree with us, at least on some narrow range of topics. What happens as a result is that we get a skewed vision of the world, much like what I get at work. You see, I write software for a living, and the place where I work is full of smart people, many of whom are smarter than I am. So it comes as a shock to go out in public and encounter a sales clerk who can’t reliably make change without the aid of the display on the cash register. Or, as I once encountered, a room full of applicants for a machine operator position, not one of which could figure the average of five 3-digit numbers even with the aid of a pocket calculator.

    The reality is that 50% of the population is below average.

    In the world of nutrition, there are still quacks like Ornish and McDougall, who are frantically screaming that “Eating fat makes you fat!” (that, BTW, is a quote from McDougall’s website). That world is also still full of “research” that comes to whatever conclusion is required by its funding source. The more voices on the other side, the more likely somebody might be led to question the conventional “wisdom” of the USDA, which has led the USA (for the first time in our history) to experience a reduction in average lifespan.

    So, what are we looking for? Maybe a consensus, although real science is not done by show of hands (although a lot of nutritional “science” is). I participate in this discussion (through my blog, and comments on others), because I want to be one of those voices that might lead to people challenging the convention “wisdom”.

  • Hi J. Of all those pictures there was only one which immediately drew a reaction – and that was the one of the roast!  As soon as I saw it, it made my mouth water.  Guess I am doing something right.

     

    I too trawl a range of internet paleo sites.  I enjoy the debate and discussion, and it is nice to read how others are navigating the paleo path.  I used to need reassuring about this kind of stuff – hand-holding particularly around the safety of saturated fat and red meat – but no more.  I am now confident with the evolutionary paradigm and how it should be applied.

     

    The science is interesting but I realised a while ago that the science can get way technical and you can quickly found yourself out of your depth at times.  Often the debate descends in to Google-Fu – and there is little value to derive from such an exercise.  There are battle a-raging at the moment, but if you have things dialled-in then most of us should be able to 'keep calm and carry on' no matter what 'next big thing' emerges. 

     

    I am not sure historically that our diets ever changed that radically from day to day (notwithstanding seasonal factors), and really, that should apply to our diets now – as long as you are following an appropriate diet to start with.  It makes no more sense to allow your diet to swing between extremes as it does for the foods in your diet to swing between nutritional extremes.  Food shouldn't be able to change its nutritional stripes and the change in your diet should, I believe, broadly cycle no faster than a seasonal basis – not on a media basis. (Seasonal changes also allow requirements for nutrients that compete along metabolic pathways to be satisfied).

     

    If you live 'close to the ground' then much of what expresses health seems to come your way.

  • Beth@WeightMaven

    Great article! BTW, my understanding is that it’s not just the intoxication and fun with friends that helps us learn to like beer. Learning to associate it with wings, nachos, pizza, burgers etc helps a lot too ;).

  • Daytona

    Thank you! I often feel a bit foolish for “reading the internets” about a subject that I feel pretty bought into but now I have a better idea why and what I’m looking for. Maybe in 10 years I’ll have built up enough positive, prime rib associations that I won’t need the extra support.

    The internet squabbles on other sites are off putting and depressing, as soon as one starts up, the site is usually taken off of my RSS reader. :) I appreciate that you keep your site free of most of the BS.

  • Mike

    For me it may have started as a search for new and positive associations with this life-style choice I’ve made, but that had faded with time. Where I used to visit MDA damn near daily, now I might stop by once a month to see if there’s anything new. Perhaps I no longer need the support, having embraced the predator within.

    Gnolls is different. I stumbled here from MDA, probably looking for more of what I found there, but discovered something else. I’m not sure how to describe it; this ‘community’ just feels different. I think you wind up here after you’ve lost the weight but are still interested in learning more. Where MDA posts daily (and frankly, at this point it’s mostly fluff and filler) at gnolls you may have to wait weeks to see something new. It’s always worth the wait.

    Negative Food Associations: Early on in this diet (back when it might have been a ‘diet’ instead a way to eat for the rest of my life) I mentioned my ‘cave-man diet’ to friends. A year later they still bring it up every time I won’t eat bagels or birthday cake. Of course here they are, fatter than last year.

    Cold Thermogenics seems to be a hot topic right now. I’d be interested in your take. My own reading has suggested it’s probably mostly bunk, or at least far less effective than people claim. I find I can’t get beyond the thought that, really, who wants to lay in a bathtub full of ice water?

    Anyway. Another great read. Keep up the good work, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

  • gibsongirl

    I started my internet career with a forum for low-carb support. Now I think there’s actually hope for me to optimize my health and live well. I don’t take anything at face value, but I weigh everything I read. There are so many seemingly well-informed people who dig for science and answers out here! I don’t even pick up health magazines in the waiting rooms any more.

    I’ve been able to shed poor eating habits, poor health advice and a sedentary lifestyle that will, hopefully, allow me to grow old gracefully. I don’t care if I have to get picky at restaurants. After ten years, it doesn’t cause any eyebrows to go up. Once a waitress even complemented my “healthy” choices.

    I appreciate the Gnolls site for the education I get here. Keep up the good work!

  • Jan's Sushi Bar

    THANK. YOU. Like Dakota, I find the recent round of squabbling – well, more like backstabbing and bitch-slapping – in some quarters extremely off-putting. Some of the paleo gadflies, ahem, aren’t worth the time and energy it takes to “debate” them. I find it sad that some bloggers whom I usually find interesting and relevant waste so much space giving credence (yes, just acknowledging them gives them credence) to those who have made it their mission to belittle and ridicule people they disagree with. It is just not worth it and, as you pointed out, extremely counterproductive.

  • Sean

    Good stuff JS.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I have some negativity to breed ;)

  • nmoreno221

    Being new to paleo has given me such exurberace in every aspect of my life, I can hardly sit still anymore. Thanks again for your provocative communication.

  • Timothy

    Good stuff, JS! The process of learning and studying is itself rewarding, even when it turns up nothing. Heck, nothing’s more compelling than a good variable reinforcement schedule. I’ll learn nothing nine times out of ten… but what if this time is number ten! And in fact the rate of reinforcement is much higher on this blog.

    One effect of constant primal trawls is to raise my own standards of what is possible. This girl lifts heavier than me; this guy has made a more incredible transformation. If I compared myself only to those in my local milieu, complacency would dog me. But in the wider world there’s always somebody to admire, emulate, and try to one-up. So I never lack motivation to conquer my goals and set new ones.

    Most of all, as you put it so well in a previous article that I never tire of linking, we don’t know everything about nutrition. We know even less about anti-nutrients. Nutritional science today is about where astrophysics was in the 17th century. I want to know more! Not just for practical reasons, but to better appreciate the infinite elegance and beauty of the human animal.

  • Uncephalized

    Why am I here?

    Because desk jobs are boring, and I’m not allowed to just go outside for 4 hours in the middle of the day if I want to keep getting paid. Plus it will be 100+ outside every day for the next three months…

  • Elliot

    Good sound thoughts. I think you’re probably right that it has a lot to do with a drive to find reinforcement for our choices.

    Have to point out though that the real deep dish to lust after is Lou Malnati’s!

  • Jason Seib

    Fantastic, as usual. Thanks J!

  • Joe Brancaleone

    Well written thoughts here.

    There is lots to be said about exercises in being an “external viewer of self”. This is like soft information in science applied.

    I suppose I could think of my past sum experiences as a mixed bag; there are in fact associations reaching back that are useful to re-purpose in a new context of diet and well being. I don’t mean that search to imitate old associations of comfort foods with new lesser ones, but to draw upon other areas in my younger years.

    I think everyone has certain memories that stand out if you really think about them; where intuitive notions fit so well with a situation at hand. Positive associations were made and one’s understanding of self grew in some way. It may take years and wisdom to allow us to evaluate which of those are kept and can be drawn upon in other disciplines, say newly cultivated intuition as a discipline.

    Maybe it was a combined sense of adventure and connectedness on a road trip; maybe it was successfully taking apart and rebuilding an engine to make it run better only by learning to see how the parts are designed to work together; maybe a certain film gave special insight into the causality of human behaviors and passions. The sorts of things that can contribute to how to build a mindset for a newly adopted way of living, practically effecting even food choices (without going manic).

  • Joe Brancaleone

    And just to piggyback more on that point, I think your post implies that is where the focus needs to go. Away from the search for new divinations from research of the hard information, and towards the soft information of describing the edges of the narrative we are participating in, how to think about what we think and why we implement the things we learn in the ways that we do, individually and collectively.

  • Joe Brancaleone

    Or even within the research of the historical, the questions could shift to more difficult but interesting ones– going from “What did culture X eat, how often and what did it do for them?” to q’s like “Can we put together a causative model that explains their patterns of thought?”… so in turn, what were the underlying reasons and circumstances to bring about *their* positive associative connections, such that inferred dietary patterns among other practiced cultural traits?

  • Domenic

    For me this has very little to do with eating right and being healthy per se, its more of a scientific insight into how humans work best, and how we were meant to live. Its like learning family history, but this is the history of our species.

  • ravi

    i think i still get into my spurts of internet-ing for paleo discussions ’cause i know there is, in fact, no ONE paleo diet – very likely many many variations on the theme (of which we can only “know” the probable basics…) and i look for those who have been creative with those possibilities.

    yes – conformational bias drives all of us to dig around at moments i think, but to see how others do and reason out the paleo path is (still) quite interesting–

    recently i have been ruminating on the assertions of the likes of Graham Hancock on the very real possibilities that we have not had this nice linear evolutionary path (that is rather universally assumed by paleo discussions for lack of better confirmed information) and been considering what previous dietary diversions our species has played with and how they affected our diet. is it hunter-gatherers all the way down (like the turtles…) or have we had longger genetic-influencing episodes of very different dietary intake?

    the question then becomes what exactly are we genetically adapted to? i believe again, certain basics can be postulated but the possible variations prior to the historical record (for which we have a shaky grasp more than a couple thousand years back)- clearly hunter-gathering is the apparent dominant genetic influence, but what else is lurking in our adaptations long laid dormant?

  • Live Free or Diet

    “Do you have any additions to these lists?”

    Go to a big get-together with friends or family. Sit down to the meal, pile up the same meats, cheeses, vegetables and fruits everyone else is eating. Listen to the “band” sing the hits: “You’ll gain your weight back that way.”
    “That Low Carb crap is going to kill you.”
    “People neeed carbs for energy.”
    “Fat isn’t even a food group.”

  • Daniel Taylor

    Great article, JS.

    Reading and re-reading, I think, are vital to forming the positive associations we need. We are reconditioning ourselves- I’m 31 and been paleo for just over 2 years so I’ve had a lot of conditioning to overcome( fortunately for me, it’s easy to get past conditioned ideas once I have legit science or other facts to overturn my previously held conceptions). Long term potentiation is a powerful tool for better, or for worse.

    Personally, I also read the blogs and scientific papers and whatnot out of both pure enjoyment and professional education. Then again, I’m a huge nerd. ;)

    “Why are we here” is indeed an important question to ask. And we must answer that for ourselves; oftentimes going outside and running around and climbing trees provides all the answers and LTP reinforcement I need.

  • That Paleo Guy

    And this post, J.S., is exactly why you are still in my Google Reader, and still on my blogroll, at a time when I have hit unsubscribe and unfollow on many others.

    Nice.

  • Miki Ben-Dor

    One of the commandments in Judaism is to “contemplate it (the Bible) day and night” the actual word in Hebrew (hagita)also means “think” and “study”.
    This is quite necessary in my opinion,as to obey hundreds of “Mitsvas” (commandments)on a daily basis is completely unnatural so one needs to be permanently motivated.
    To most people, eating Paleo is an experiment in solitude, ie unnatural. A constant contemplation may therefore be a good strategy to stay on course.
    Another motivation for people to be present on-line is the feeling that we have found a truth that can save the world and we feel a duty to tell it. I know these are big words and when we see the same motivation and know-it-all style in other people like vegetarians it may look pathetic but there is no sense denying it as it is quite apparent to everyone who reads Paleo blogs.

  • Lauren

    I’m with Timothy and Howard – self education and community. Now, I’m in an unusual personal circumstance that exacerbates a sense of isolation (I’m an expat and SAHM) so perhaps both of those aspects loom disproportionately large for me. But yeah, you swim upstream all day and by evening want o ta) hang with other tired salmon and b) arm yourself for the next day’s struggle. At its simplest, paleo equals JERF. Got it. Move on. But the social and political implications, the history of the alternatives, the reasons smart people speculate that it works… that’s good stuff. I’m not at all inclined to preach any gospel, nor to sit in any choir. As Paleo Periodical recently posted, after a while ‘is XYZ paleo?’ questions digs about arterycloggingsaturatedfats get old. The re-wiring is complete (I associate childhood foods with rancid seed oils, not a hug from the past). What’s left is the search for tribe, and knowledge.

  • Lauren

    Nonetheless, you’re spot on that I need to GO OUTSIDE more often!

  • [...] will eat what they want to eat.  J. Stanton’s latest post on Gnolls.org, beautifully titled Why Are We Here, And What Are We Looking For? Food Associations And The Pitfalls Of The Search For N… helps illuminate exactly why we become so attached to certain foods, good for us or [...]

  • js290

    Always looking for ways to make this information relevant to other people. We have to be vigilant in taking responsibility for our own health.

    BTW, thanks for linking your response to my question! Keep up the fantastic work!

  • Txomin

    Clever post.

  • Pauline

    I confess I am utterly bored by most of the paleo stuff out there. I don’t read blogs for community or to help others (I find most people do not take kindly to being told they’re doing it all wrong). You see, my diet was ok before I stumbled across paleo (I always prefer home cooked food to anything you can buy outdoors).

    I don’t search for permission to eat whatever the dickens I please nor do I need to defend the way I eat to others. And I’m frankly bemused why some have stumbled down the replication route (coconut and almond flour are awful). Eat the real thing and be done with it. Besides, when you eat real meat, fish, fowl children’s food by comparison is disappointing and dull.

    It was my penchant for anti-establishment which attracted me initially. Then it was looking at the pics of hot men. It led me down the path to reading Muscle Smoke and Mirrors, watching videos of men using their bodies to do things I would never do. It led me to reading blogs in the manosphere. It gave me a new appreciation for men who are masculine in thought and behaviour; the fearlessness, the daring to do and contradict. Love it. Surprisingly, it is my new love for men which has resulted in me appreciating my body more. And for that I will always raise a glass to the paleo/primal/ancestral health crowd.

  • Howard:

    I agree that it's important to have a diverse chorus of voices — if only to make it clear to anyone new to paleo that it's not just the same fifty people congratulating each other.  

    However, instead of trying to present something new each day, my approach is to maintain an index that makes my previous work easy to find.  There's plenty of gold in the archives of many paleo bloggers, but it's several years old and therefore difficult to find (Dr. Eades is a great example).  This is a limitation of blogging in general: it takes extra work to maintain any structure but “the latest thing is the important thing”…so we fall into the novelty trap.

    Yes, 50% of the population is below average.  The simple fact that my articles run several thousand words means I'm not going to reach everyone.  That's fine: none of us can stuff knowledge down anyone's throat — and most people simply end up doing what everyone else around them does, no matter how “smart” they are.  Lead by example, never give up.

    Asclepius:

    Exactly.  If we keep ourselves centered on basic principles, e.g. “Eat close to the ground,” or my own “Eat foods you could pick, dig, or spear.  Mostly spear,” it's much more difficult to be knocked off-center.  

    I really like your parenthetical aside “(Seasonal changes also allow requirements for nutrients that compete along metabolic pathways to be satisfied).”  That's a solid insight, and I'd like to see you explore it further!

    Beth:

    You're right.  Certain foods become associated with each other by being consumed together so frequently: it's a self-reinforcing cycle.  Pizza, wings, nachos — “bar food” in general — gets associated with beer.  Etc.

    Daytona:

    I'm glad I could provide some insight!  Thanks for the kind words.

    More soon…

    JS

  • Mike:

    “Perhaps I no longer need the support, having embraced the predator within.”

    That’s the place I’m trying to help people get to.  Plenty of places can tell you how to eat paleo: what’s necessary is a change in identity, from “I’m on a diet” to “This is who I am now.”

    “I’m not sure how to describe it; this ‘community’ just feels different. I think you wind up here after you’ve lost the weight but are still interested in learning more.”

    Eat Like A Predator tells you everything you need to know about what to eat.  I’m more interested in exploring the science behind it: why it works as well as it does, and how it changes us to function optimally.  As a bonus, the more we know about why this is indeed the natural diet of humans, the less likely we are to be swayed by the next diet fad…and the easier it is to convince the skeptical.

    “A year later they still bring it up every time I won’t eat bagels or birthday cake. Of course here they are, fatter than last year.”

    You can open the door, but they’ve got to walk through it on their own.

    “Cold Thermogenics seems to be a hot topic right now. I’d be interested in your take.”

    I haven’t done enough research to make any definitive pronouncements.  

    That being said, I do not agree with the currently fashionable view that cold is purely a hormetic stressor: there are effects on thyroid function, just to choose one example.  Maybe I’ll take a look at it once all the controversy isn’t so fresh…right now it feels like picking at a scab.

    gibsongirl:

    “Once a waitress even complemented my “healthy” choices.”

    It’s currently quite fashionable to dump on Atkins — but he was willing to stand up and take arrows in the back for decades.  I respect that.  

    While I’m not low-carb myself (relatively speaking…I tend to eat a Perfect Health Diet level of starch), I don’t feel it necessary or find it productive to dump on low-carbers.  Frankly, if it weren’t for the previous efforts of the low-carb community, we’d have a much harder time convincing people that it’s OK to eat a lot of meat and eggs.

    Thank you for the vote of confidence!

    Jan:

    I’m glad you appreciate what I do!  

    I’m not interested in telling anyone else what they should or shouldn’t be saying or doing.  I’m just reminding us to ask ourselves “Am I furthering my own goals by reading or participating in this?”  

    Sean:

    Keep doing what you do.  I hope I made it clear that I’m not telling anyone not to argue — because it’s necessary to weed the garden of ideas.  

    As I said to Jan, each of us needs to ask ourselves if it furthers our own goals to participate.  Sometimes I get sucked into it myself.

    Nancy:

    “Being new to paleo has given me such exurberace in every aspect of my life, I can hardly sit still anymore.”

    Hearing comments like yours helps justify all the time I spend on writing and research!

     

    More to come!

    JS

  • pam

    wow. your writing is very enlightening.

    i can think about few negative associations for most Americans, at least for my husband. (he is not that young either!

    despite being on lacto-paleo diet for ~2 years & having lost most of his sweet tooth, there’re few things that he has not acquired a taste. they just gross him out.

    . _strange_ animal parts (like bone, organs, skin, eyes, blood, shell fish, fish with bones, animal with face/eyes, etc)

    . animal fat or fatty meat

    . fermented vegetables

    . fermented fish/shrimp sauce

    . sea vegetables

    his idea of animal food is very American (meat have to be in very civilized — cut into neat piece, no skin, no bones, no fat, no eyes/face/ears, etc, etc)

    below are his “positively association” food that are impossible to break:

    . soft drinks (sweet & bubbly)
    . chips/crackers

    so i try as best as i can.

    since i did not grow up in this culture, i have an easier time. we dont’ eat very civilized food.

    i always found American boring & tame, even before i switched diet. most is “in want” of palatability.

    most fermented food seem an acquired taste.

    (i soy milk is also an acquired taste. i don’t mean those flavored boxes in US grocery.

    a lot of us prefer soy milk “salted (w/ soy sauce & vinegar + toppings).

    regards,

  • Brad

    Great post!

    “I think that a primary reason paleo eaters—particularly those of us new to paleo—spend so much time online is to build positive associations with our new way of eating”.

    I agree that this explains, at least in part, why so many spend so many hours online. Though, i think this is natural human behavior – we often search for information that supports our beliefs. Marketers say that this helps avoid post-purchase dissonance; after we buy something, we look for things to reinforce our purchase. The same can be said about almost anything we do.

    The pic of you on the mountain is awesome. Where exactly is that?

  • Heather

    Thank you for this article. I have been waiting very impatiently for you to post a new one. Like others I stumbled across you – MDA being my first Paleo/Primal site and the beginning of an “experiment” since I had already been successfully “dieting” for the previous six months. I like “This is who I am now”. I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe it since it is no longer a diet and that is perfect: “It’s who I am.” My additions? Being treated like I’m still “on a diet” when I’ve been doing this for more than a year. And why am I “on a diet” when I’ve lost my weight and I am healthier? Thank you for the perfect answer. And thank you for this wonderful site.

  • Timothy:

    I agree: I'm definitely here to learn.  The trouble is (as previously mentioned) that as the knowledge base of the community continues to grow, it's more and more difficult to unearth anything new to teach people!

    Don't worry, I've still got plenty to say…but my articles are, shall we say, labor-intensive.

    I agree that we're in a nutritional Dark Ages, so to speak…all the advice from governments and “experts” has actually managed to make the not-so-great agricultural diet far worse than before.  The advantage we have, as predators, is that we're not in the dark: archaeology and ethnology tells us a lot about what's healthy to eat while we're waiting for the science to explain exactly how it all works.  

    And you raise a good point about inspiration: “I could do that/be like that” can be a powerful motivation.

    Uncephalized:

    Having done many years in the corporate trenches, I can sympathize.  Keep in mind that most of my photos are taken on weekends…

    “Plus it will be 100+ outside every day for the next three months…”

    That's what the days around full moons are for: exploration by night!  And even without the moon, headlamp technology has got to the point where bike riding at night is completely doable for under $100…let alone hiking, which is trivial by comparison.  Contact me if you want some pointers.

    Also, keep in mind that every day is “Bring A Kettlebell To Work Day.”

    Elliot:

    Touche!  I'm partial to Edwardo's myself, even though they're not old-school enough for a lot of Chicago folks.  But I won't turn down Malnati's, either…frankly, I think of Giordano's, Lou Malnati's, and Edwardo's as the Big Three of Chicago pizza.  (Gino's has apparently fallen off somewhat in recent years AFAIK.)  And none of the “Chicago-style” pizzas I've ever eaten outside Chicago have been even remotely Chicago-style, with one single exception: Zachary's in Berkeley.

    Jason:

    You're welcome!

    Joe B:

    “External viewer of self” is a great analogy.  It's good to take that step back sometimes and ask ourselves “Am I making progress towards my goals by doing this?”

    And yes, associations are extremely powerful — particularly those made in younger years, when our heads weren't already full of knowledge and experience.  We're continually building the future out of our past.

    I have no intent of telling anyone else where they should focus their own attention, and I have no intent of abandoning my search for new scientific knowledge!  However, there's plenty of information already out there — too much for anyone to comprehend.  My skill lies in presenting that information so that you and my other readers can understand it.

    Meanwhile, I will continue to present a narrative of being human that lets us live in freedom and in beauty.  That's what The Gnoll Credo does, among many other things, and that's what I'm doing here.  Diet and exercise are just the beginning.

     

    More soon!

    JS

  • Domenic:

    Exactly.  If we don't know what humans are, how can we hope to figure out how humans should live?

    ravi:

    That's what I'm going through in the Big Brains series: what evidence do we have for how our ancestors lived and ate?  The narrative has changed remarkably in recent years: for instance, knowing that bipedalism preceded both cranial expansion and our departure from the forest makes it clearer how our transition from forest to open woodland and savanna-dwelling could have happened, and how our diet would have changed as a result.

    I'm not sure what you mean by “things other than hunting or gathering”, though, as that covers such a wide range of dietary strategies.

    Live Free Or Diet:

    That's true.  It's funny how people will eat the same things we're eating, plus a whole bunch of junk, and then claim we're the ones who are going to die.  So if I threw the hamburger away and ate nothing but buns with mayonnaise (e.g. soybean oil), ketchup, mustard, and pickles, I'd be healthier?  Let's think about that for a moment.

    My favorite one is the claim — advanced to me by someone with a published nutrition book — that “Nothing can be burned for energy without being first converted to carbs.”  Um, no, dude…you're beta-oxidizing fat right now, unless you just ate.  The level of general ignorance is astounding…

    …but it's not usually their fault.  It's the fault of a system of education and governmental advice designed to make us consume the giant surpluses of chemically monocropped corn, soy, and wheat that our agricultural policy rewards Big Ag with, to the tune of billions every year.  

    Keep being healthy, happy, and proud.  Those with eyes to see will ask questions.

    DT:

    Absolutely.  As I said before, the more we know about why eating like a predator works, the less likely we are to be bamboozled into abandoning it.

    Jamie/That Paleo Guy:

    That means a lot, coming from you.  You're one of the few people who continues to advance the knowledge of the paleo community with careful, patient, hard work.  I look forward to seeing you at AHS!

     

    Continued…

    JS

  • Ignacio

    Makes me happy and confident to read that it happens to you and others as well… I mean, going back every day to the same paleo websites. In spite of having reached a point where I already feel awesome, and of being convinced I already know everything one needs to know about how humans are supposed to eat, to exercise, to think, and to understand life, in spite of all that I keep coming back online, most of the times to find nothing “new”, naturally.
    If you ask my opinion, I think that this habit continues to happen because this movement, Paleo or whatever you like to call it, it goes so f*cking deep into our existence, into our soul and into our history as a species, it´s so huge, that once you discover it, it´s like you are BORN again. Remember the Matrix? The red pill? Exactly that is how I feel, I was born again. So now I dont want to go back into the lie, the matrix, who could? I want to stay in touch with you, real people who live the real way, the human way, our way, the paleo way, I want to read your thoughts, reassuring my knowledge in the meantime. I want to keep reading and learning about real life and I really dont mind if they are always the same things written in different words. I love life and I thank Paleo websites for loving it too and for spreading truth.
    I wish there were real “paleo” people, or real “paleo” meetings around me, but there aren´t. Maybe I should start them. But until that moment comes, here I am, always coming back to our own paleo meetings at gnolls. org.
    Thank you, JS, for hosting them.
    That is the reason I´m here.

  • Miki:

    “To most people, eating Paleo is an experiment in solitude, ie unnatural. A constant contemplation may therefore be a good strategy to stay on course.”

    Exactly.  Instead of being associated with eating alone and being “that guy” at social occasions, we're trying to associate paleo with positive social interactions…even if they're just on the Internet.

    “Another motivation for people to be present on-line is the feeling that we have found a truth that can save the world and we feel a duty to tell it. I know these are big words and when we see the same motivation and know-it-all style in other people like vegetarians it may look pathetic but there is no sense denying it as it is quite apparent to everyone who reads Paleo blogs.”

    I'm not sure we can save the world: it doesn't want to be saved, and I'm reasonably sure it's beyond saving anyway.  But I think we can provide information that will help some people save themselves.

    Lauren:

    “What's left is the search for tribe, and knowledge.”

    That's a great summary, to which I don't have much to add, except that I'm doing my best to provide both.

    js290:

    Thank you!  I do my best to write articles that are understandable to everyone, not just people who are already Paleo, so that my readers can help others understand why they eat the way they do.

    I'm glad you found my response helpful!

    Txomin:

    What do you mean by “clever”?  

    Pauline:

    “Surprisingly, it is my new love for men which has resulted in me appreciating my body more. And for that I will always raise a glass to the paleo/primal/ancestral health crowd.”

    A Standard American Diet of packaged, processed foods, made from fertilizer and pesticide-soaked GMO grain and soy products, is a great way for a man to lower his testosterone and become estrogen-dominant…which has profound mental effects as well as physical effects.  Eating like a predator changes one's attitude as well as one's body, an effect particularly noticeable as one exits one's 20s.  (You can get away with almost anything when you're young…as people get older, it starts becoming obvious who's figured it out, who's bought into the conventional wisdom, and who's just said “the hell with it”.)

    Men are not defective women (the feminist fallacy), women are not inferior to men (the masculinist fallacy), and neither “should” be more like the other.

     

    Almost done!

    JS

  • pam:

    Great observations!  One characteristic of packaged food, including “fast food”, is that it doesn't look anything like real food.  A surprising number of kids don't understand that hamburgers are made of cows.  (The only exception I can think of is KFC, which is obviously chicken parts.)

    Particularly in America, we have this idea that babies must be fed “baby food” and kids must be fed “kid food” (e.g. bologna on white bread, mac and cheese, applesauce, etc.)  I think this is what leads to the fastidiousness you report in your husband, and which most Americans have to some extent: their “comfort foods” are all mushy, homogenized things that don't look like food at all!  

    In contrast, if you feed your child real food, they'll eat it…sure, they'll complain at first, but about two hours later they'll be hungry enough to eat anything.

    Brad:

    “i think this is natural human behavior”

    Absolutely!  That's why so many of us are doing it.  We're social animals.

    The picture is from Genoa Peak.  It's actually a miserable grind to get up there on a bike…the road is mostly too steep to be rideable.  We did it because, well, we'd never done it before, so why not?

    Heather:

    “My additions? Being treated like I'm still “on a diet” when I've been doing this for more than a year. And why am I “on a diet” when I've lost my weight and I am healthier?”

    Exactly!  Um, perhaps because you like being healthier?  People are so used to the concept of “dieting as temporary misery” that they don't understand it's possible to make a real change for life — not just to look good in a swimsuit on vacation.

    That's what gnolls.org is about: saying “This is who I am now.”

    Ignacio:

    That's both profound and touching, and I have nothing to add.  Welcome home.

     

    I'm caught up!  Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful comments.

    JS

  • I'm here because I'm home … this is one place I can slide in, put my feet up in front of a great fire and listen to folks who have assembled wisdom from what it is they have read, heard and encountered. I can also be one of those people who do just that for other sliding in and putting their feet up.

    We are a disparate people now, no longer tribal, no longer family even. We do need to take that back.

  • Jeffrey of Troy

    @Ignacio

    Neo: why do my eyes hurt?

    Morpheus: because you’ve never used them before..

  • [...] Devoured a ton of paleo blogs and podcasts. Perhaps too many. I did read an interesting one over at gnolls about why we read so many of these blogs when we already know everything there is to know. It [...]

  • Paul:

    Yes.  gnolls.org is far more than weekly science articles, and The Gnoll Credo is far more than a novel.

    Jeffrey:

    That wide-eyed period of discovery is both painful and wonderful.

    JS

  • Andrea

    Oh. My. Gawd. Thank you so much for the best navel-gazing anti-navel-gazing wake up call ever.

    I’m going to take a walk.

  • Andrea said:

    I'm going to take a walk.

    Good on you! Walking is pretty much the other foundation of humanity, eating being the other.

    Walking is de-stressing. It doesn't matter whether you walk around the block or go out to the hills and walk. Walking is absolutely fundamental to the human frame.

  • Andrea:

    Enjoy your walk!  Don't forget to climb a tree or two along the way.

    JS

  • [...] the 11th fitness domain: self-confidence How exercise “really” prevents low-back pain Why are we here & what are we looking for? Food associations & pitfalls of the search for … How bad do you want it? My journey into CrossFit (video) Digital media & [...]

  • Susan

    Oh, this article is so timely for me personally…I’ve been eating like a predator for about 6 months now and have been continually trawling and devouring so many sites. My initial motivation was to acquire basic information and guidelines; next, the scientific justification (Thanks, J.S.!), now, it is more for moral support. Speaking of which, I could use some right now because I’m beating myself up for once-a-week cheats, indulged in for purely emotional reasons. Also, I’ve given up once-a-week dates at a local micro-brewery with a good friend, which makes me a little sad. And finally to combat the continuing frustration I feel from the regular anti-paleo jibes from even good friends. (One of these said friends is well past obese, eats the SAD, has sky-high blood pressure, and gets no regular exercise.)
    Lately I’ve taken to limiting my exploration to this most excellent site, mostly because I’ve gotten sick of the bickering and in-fighting elsewhere. Thanks for all your effort.

  • You know, I've heard about this in-fighting (on paleo forums?) but not seen much. I keep to the recipes/cooking forums within, so maybe miss the “politics”.

    As a predatory eater, you're home.

    What you may have seen and read on some other paleo forums – it's about personal responsibility. J goes to some length to show us how our good health can be maintained by keeping to a rigid paleo formula, but using simple carbs where we are fighting fit and active. Other paleo bloggers like Richard Nikoley over at 'Free the Animal' are running a close wind on actually living – being paleo and enjoying the ffff out of your life at the same time. It was fun to see J and Niko chatting recently.

    Anyway, what Niko seems most keen about is enjoying those little privileges that neolithic living brings us. Beer and spirits, largely.

    So many paleo forums seem so hung up on emulating neolithic food, paleolithically (if that is even a word) and that really is not the point of paleo. Change your habits and eat different!

    Do enjoy a drink, thought …

    It saddens me to see you leave your local micro-brewery. Back up – paleo. Grain, fermented is fermented and so more acceptable. Distilled, better … in the end, both are malted, too, so two or three processes to render them palatable.

    I enjoy beer. I drink maybe 10 pints a week. I also enjoy cider, which would be some of that 10 pints. I do like spirits – whisky, where I may get through a bottle a week with friends. That does sound like a lot, but it's social. That is the key – is your life better without some things, or is it enriched by virtue of sharing with friends.

    Paleo is very much about enriching life through things which might not, on the face of it, be paleo – Crossfit, mountain biking, climbing, marathon running, drinking. None of these are paleo, many strike against paleo in terms of chronic cardio, yet they enrich the lives of those doing it – life is better with some thing in.

    Certainly, life is better without doubt or guilt.

    Eat pure, drink water, enjoy life's little extras.

    DO NOT make a habit of dipping into neolithic and modern foods as an indulgence – there are sensible indulgences, which include chocolate, spirits, cider, red wine and even beer. Be unsensible, but do savour the hangover – this tells you that you did something wrong.

  • Susan:

    There's often a lot of jealousy behind the anti-paleo jibes.  Misery loves company — and you're denying them the pleasure of commiserating.  

    If the jibes don't stop, you might consider broadening your social circles.  When we change ourselves, we sometimes find we have little in common with the people we used to spend our time with.  (And junkies who go back and hang out with their old junkie friends usually end up using again.)  Look for social activities that depend on being physically active: for instance, I volunteer to build hiking/biking/horse trails (swinging an eight-pound doublejack all day will make you strong in short order), and I've joined the local community gym/rec center.  You might not find anyone who's paleo, but at least you'll find people who respect your efforts instead of denigrating them.

    Does your local microbrewery serve hard cider?  Nutritionally it's still soda, but it's far preferable to the gluten in beer.  There's also the option of wine or a mixed drink, if they serve those.

    Once-a-week cheats aren't such a big deal unless they turn into a binge.  The easiest way to avoid that is to make sure you cheat as dessert, after an otherwise complete meal.  Sure, I drink a can of Coke every once in a while…39g of HFCS for dessert once every couple weeks isn't going to kill me.  If you're going to cheat, enjoy it without guilt and move on.  You can't improve the past…you can only improve the present moment.

    Paul:

    The infighting has waned somewhat since I wrote this, but it comes and goes.  The latest salvo involves a few scientists trying to claim a monopoly for their pet hypotheses (dismissing most of biochemistry in the process, though they'll never admit to it.)  

    You Englishmen do love a pint!  I've never been able to force myself to enjoy the taste of beer, and I've tried many times.  Even a fine Scotch is something I enjoy infrequently.  

    JS

  • Susan

    J.S.,
    Thank you for your support and encouragement. I have been trying to think of ways to expand my social circle. The difficulty lies in the fact that I am an almost 52 y.o., single, very-fit female. My spare time is spent on my bike, on the hiking trails with my dog, and, a few days a week, in the gym. I probably don’t have to tell you that there are very few people in my peer group who take fitness and healthy eating seriously. Among my current friends, I can rarely find any one willing to leave their lawnchair long enough for a ride or even a walk around the block. My gym crowd seems to consist mostly of rehabbing seniors and the self-congratulatory mirror-gazing bodybuilders. The trail volunteer is a great one…We do have a nearby National Park, and I know they have teams of volunteers to maintain trails. Time for me to swallow my natural shyness and get out there.
    And thanks for giving me permission to forgive the cheats…the self-flagellation is far worse than the passing metabolic consequences. I do confine them to desserts, and clearly recognize them as eating for comfort out of loneliness and feeling overwhelmed with so many lifestyle changes. I know they will be self-limiting if I can start to meet other people who are fitness and health minded. Now all you need is a gnolls:match site where we can find local friends/dates! Keep that in the back of your ever-fertile mind. Oh, and thanks for the science AND the kindness.

  • Susan:

    I recommend worrying less about your age and more about shared interests.  You're looking for new friends first: save the dating thoughts for later.  And young people often have infectious energy, as they still believe that their own life has possibilities beyond whatever routine they've fallen into due to circumstance.

    JS

  • Eva

    We are here because it’s not all figured out yet. Not everyone who eats paleo gets completely healthy. It may be possible to eat paleo and still lack important nutrients, depending on what specific food choices you make. There are probably individual diffs on specific needs. HOw impt is calcium? How do you know? What about magnesium, vit E, etc? Many paleos assume that some nutrients are not needed as much if you eat healthier in general, but we don’t KNOW that for sure. We don’t know it’s true for everyone. There may be islands of safety or maybe there is not. What about if you have metabolic derangement/damage already? There’s been a lot of talk that makes it sound like you are basically kinda screwed if you are already damaged. But I bet there are ways to fix and heal that could be still figured out if we knew more about things like micronutrients and how it all exactly works. Paleo helps a lot of people but it doesn’t help everyone and even those who it helps can still have probs that do not go away. We can stop looking once we have all the answers and everyone is healthy or knows exactly how to get healthy. Paleo does not yet have all the answers so keep looking!

  • Paul N

    @ Susan

    I second J’s suggestion about getting involved with the Nat Park or some trail building type thing – almost everyone who is involved is quite motivated about it. Also, a local hiking club/group is a good one – leave the gym to the gym rats – exercising in the real world is so much better.

    All that said, I wouldn’t discard your old social circles completely, the trick is to not let “being paleo” define all the discussions people have with you, there is more to life than that. When the discussion does come to food, I often talk of “just eating real foods” to avoid being labelled as a follower of a fad diet.

    And if you eat real foods, and avoid the grains, you are pretty much at the Perfect Health Diet.

    Agree totally with the comment about the energy of young people. Even if their energy is sometimes misdirected, the mere presence of youthful optimism is inspiring – I see it whenever I am out snowboarding, but that doesn;t mean I’m following them through the terrain park, I’ll stick the real slopes!

    Traditional communities really mixed people of all ages, that is something that modern communities have lost, to our detriment.

  • Paul N

    J,

    I completely agree with your prediction about gut flora being the next big thing. It is actually one thing that applies across all “diets” – they are all better with healthy gut flora. some diets.of course, are better at maintaining that than others.

    The popularity of the GAPS diet is illustrative, and I know someone who has managed their food allergies by “healing and sealing” their gut with this diet. Took them a year, but after a decade+ of food problems they are better than ever. They now see food as a pleasure rather than a potential minefield.

    I think also the fact that a leaky gut is practically impossible to heal by any drug therapy, only by removal of the irritants and a healing period, lends itself to a dietary solution. It is becoming more obvious just how many “diseases” from allergies to skin conditions, are symptoms of leaky gut/poor gut flora.

    It is just sad watching people buy no-fat “probiotic” sweetened yoghurt in their attempt to improve their digestion.

    After discovering kefir, there is just no going back!

  • Eva:

    You're correct: the basic dietary prescription for humans is relatively well-established, but it's much more difficult to fix someone who's already broken.

    Paul N:

    “Traditional communities really mixed people of all ages, that is something that modern communities have lost, to our detriment.”

    Absolutely true.  The first and worst example is “school”, where we send our children away to be raised by…other children.  And this fixes in our minds the idea that we're only allowed to socialize with people our own age.

    Re: gut flora, the problem isn't that we don't know it's a big deal.  The problem is that it's an incredibly complex microbiological community that we're just beginning to understand!  Compared to our knowledge of our own biochemistry, our knowledge of the gut microbiome is decades behind.

    JS

  • Paul N

    JS,

    We may indeed not know that much about our gut biome, but that didn;t stop many (not all) traditional peoples from having healthy gut flora.

    My concern is that the more we learn, the more we try to tweak things, just look at where we are with drugs…

    the important thing to understand, is that complexity is vital (as it is with any natural system) This makes it really hard for “industry sponsored” research, as they are always looking for a “single” thing that does the trick.

    More (variety) is more (quality) when it comes to our gut flora, and that is probably a reflection of the variety/quality, or lack thereof, that most people eat.

    We will see ever more probiotic pills and similar (highly processed) “nutritional supplements” coming out. The more of them I see, the more I just eat real food, and my own cultured/fermented creations – its not that hard!

    Looking forward to your next post!

  • Ric Aspen

    There can be many different reasons why people come to this web site time after time, even if nothing new seems to have been posted. I am not looking for food associations at all. I’m looking to make sure that I really understand the paleo diet. Because of it’s simplicity, it’s sometimes hard for me to believe I really “got it.”

    There must be something I missed, so I’ll just go back to that website and see if I can find what I overlooked. It seems like something is missing, right? What’s missing is all the confusion surrounding all those complicated diets concocted by folks who want to be worshipped for how smart they are, and want to be noticed for all the hard work they put in to get their medical degree or their degree in nutritional counseling.

    And, they want to make back some of the money they spent on getting that education by selling you their diet book or their online diet program. The problem is that it’s near impossible to understand those diet programs let alone conform to them.

    I also like coming back to this website just to rub shoulders with my fellow cavemen.

  • [...] first point was hammered home by J. Stanton’s article “Why Are We Here, And What Are We Looking For? Food Associations And The Pitfalls Of The Searc… which ranks as one of my favorite pieces I have ever read on the internet.  As he usually does, he [...]

  • Diane

    I like to read paleo stuff because I like to feel a part of a community. I’m the only one I know eating this way. I can’t get my partner to join me even though he suffers from so many ailments due to the SAD way of eating. I’m also still in a learning phase, finding new ways to improve my fitness and health. This site was one of the first ones that helped me. I lost 30lbs and feel young for the first time in my life and am embarking on a new level of fitness and health, plus I have learned to cook and to enjoy cooking.

  • Paul:

    Good points…and I'm glad to be back.

    Ric Aspen:

    You're right: it's sometimes difficult to accept that it's Not That Complicated.  As I've said before, if humans needed an entire book to learn how to eat, we'd have starved to death long ago!  And I say it directly in “Eat Like A Predator”: “Anyone can write a diet book—and most of them make nutrition complicated so that you’ll keep buying books and going to meetings.”

    That being said, the books are important, because they can give us the reasons and the science, not just the instructions.

    Stop by anytime.

    Diane:

    Yes, that's a big part of it: I have a great community here…but none of my close friends eat this way, and I don't know anyone locally who eats this way.  However, I've been an outlier for my entire life, so I'm used to it.

    JS

  • Walter

    I took a break from all Paleo and low carb sites in Feb. Took Dr. Eades posting to bring me back. Caught up to this post here. Not sure how many of the sites I used to visit I’ll go back to.

  • Walter:

    It's been a slow summer…but Paul Jaminet is back, I'm back, and things are starting to pick up again.

    JS

  • Julie

    I loved this post, and I think you’re absolutely right. Now off to explain to my family why I’m obsessed with reading about Paleo!

  • Julie:

    Don't be too concerned if they don't seem to understand…people are used to being told “I found the best diet EVER”, watching their friends lose 20 pounds — and then gaining it right back again once they fall off the wagon.  It takes a while before they'll be convinced you've actually changed your life.

    JS

  • JayJay

    I’m continually given crap for not sending my child to factory-school. Even though I know without a doubt that I’m doing absolutely the best thing for her ever.

  • JayJay:

    At least in America, homeschooling has a reputation as “what the crazy religious zealots do so their child won't learn about evolution and sex” — as I'm sure you know.

    JS

  • Jen W

    Jay-Jay,

     

    One of my fellow Aikidoka (people who train in the Japanese martial art of Aikido) is a home schooled 12 year old and no she's not crazy.Laugh

  • JayJay

    I’m in Australia and yes most home schooling groups are religious nut cases. It is so hard to find good quality education stuff thats not jesus flavoured. But I figure the best education is outdoors and learning about real stuff anyway.

    I see tiny kids in uniforms travelling to school in the wee hours of the morning in a metal box, to learn what to think, when to eat and ask for permission to go to the toilet. I just don’t get it.

    Thank You Jen. Home kids are usually only crazy if their parents are crazy fundy loony

  • Jen W

    No problem.  Yes, it was quite an eye opener for me.  I've met both her parents and they are not crazy loonies that I can tell.  granted I know her father more than her mother, but I doubt loonies fundies would let their kid practice a Japanese martial art.  In fact I could see crazy fundies thinking martial arts were evil devil worshiping cults Laugh

     

    Jen

  • Steve

    J. Stanton:
    “the basic dietary prescription for humans is relatively well-established, but it’s much more difficult to fix someone who’s already broken.”

    Perhaps nearly 2 decades of vegetarianism didn’t completely break me, but certainly left me much worse for wear and exhausted all the time.

    Now I have no choice but to do my best to fix it.

    When I started, I could only work out about once per week. After ~8 weeks on/off in ketosis (mostly due to a stubborn liver), I can work out almost every day and not be fatigued. My endurance and mental alertness is still not where I want it to be – my hope is that for someone with a broken metabolism, keto-adaptation may simply take a much longer time than for people who didn’t screw up their bodies so badly.

  • Looking back to the conversation above about schooling … I twigged very early on that school was about little more than social conditioning. Moving about to the sound of a bell. I grew up in an industrial area and some of my first jobs were in industrial settings.

    My school days taught me well … bell … break … bell … dinner … bell … home.

    I actually had a very good schooling with a number of very strong and memorable teachers. I learned a lot and much of what I learned there I continue to apply in my daily life – a confidence to speak, an ability to write with a good grasp of English, an ability to quickly calculate in my head, the list goes on.

    I look at what kids are learning today and despair. I heard on the radio the other day that our Education Minister (who is an absolute prick, BTW … Michael Gove, look him up. Pob?) considers spelling a thing of past since we all have spell checkers now. Okay, the calculator put pay to being able to calculate in your head, but come on …

    I despair.

    In February, I will be a Grandfather to a hopefully fit, healthy and beautiful Granddaughter. Whatever her schooling, she will learn a lot from me, and it will be fun. I have nothing but the absolute respect for home schoolers – you guys keep doing that and we'll be all the better for it as a species, having strong, free thinkers in our midst. We need them.

    I'm wondering how I can duck out of working to become a full time teacher to one new life.

  • Steve:

    Vegetarian propaganda is ubiquitous and persuasive — if you're not well-versed enough in the science to realize the degree to which it misrepresents reality.  I'm glad you've found a path to better health, and I wish you the best on your journey.  If I may, can I ask why you're trying to stay keto?

    Paul:

    Congratulations!  I hope your grandchild is the first of several.

    JS

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