How many times have we all heard this, or its equivalent?
“Sure, everyone knows soda and candy aren’t good for you…but why should I give up bread, pasta, muffins, and all that other wonderful stuff? I’m doing fine.“
You can substitute any non-paleo foods of your choice, and you can phrase it a different way, but they’re all variations of the same question: “Why should I go to all the trouble to avoid almost everything in the grocery store and at restaurants, when I’m healthy and I feel fine?”
The implication is clear: “Sure, I know you’ve got some health problems and you need to be all weird about what you eat, but that’s because you’re abnormal. The rest of us live on that stuff, and we’re doing fine.”
If I had to communicate one concept to the world at large—one reason to eat like a predator—it would be this:
There is an entire level of daily existence above “I’m doing fine.”
This is not to say that everyone in the world can suddenly stop taking all their medication and flaunt their new six-pack at the beach! What I mean is: there are many, many annoyances we take for granted as part of aging, or part of life, that are actually consequences of an evolutionarily inappropriate diet of birdseed (known as “grains”) and birdseed extracts (known as “vegetable oils“).
Are You Sure You’re Healthy? Half Of America Takes Prescription Medication
First, are you sure you’re healthy? Half the people in America (47.9%) took at least one prescription drug in the last month, one in five (21.4%) took three or more, and the numbers increase each year. (Source: CDC FastStats, “Therapeutic Drug Use”)
We can’t blame this entirely on old people living longer, either: 48.3% of people 20-59 are taking at least one prescription drug, right in line with the average.
These drugs are almost all used to treat chronic disease. The top five classes of prescribed medication are: 1. Lipid regulators (statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs), 2. Antidepressants, 3. Narcotic analgesics (pain relievers), 4. Beta blockers (blood pressure drugs), 5. ACE inhibitors (blood pressure drugs). (The full list can be found here.)
Are You Sure You’re “Fine”?
Even if you’re not on prescription medication right now, are you really “fine”?
- Do you need caffeine in order to wake up in the morning, or not fall asleep after lunch?
- Do you still suffer from acne? Headaches? Acid reflux?
- How about stiffness and joint pain? Gas and bloating?
- Do you sleep through the night?
- How quickly do you go through that bottle of Tylenol or Aleve? How about the cortisone, to deal with that random itchy, flaky skin?
- Are you convinced that you must continually restrict your eating to maintain a healthy bodyweight—let alone the body composition you want?
- What’s that stuff hanging over the top of your belt? Even if you don’t care about your appearance, imagine how much lighter on your feet you’d feel if you didn’t have to carry around that extra twenty pounds.
- Can you go more than five hours without food, without becoming weak and shaky?
Biochemical Individuality: Everyone Is Different (within limits)
Not everyone starts with the same problems…and not everyone will see the same improvements. Furthermore, while I’ve never heard of anyone experiencing anything but positive effects from removing birdseed (“grains”) and birdseed extracts (“vegetable oils”) from their diet, it can take months of experimentation and tweaking to find out what types and proportions of Paleo foods produce the best results for you.
For example, we have the ongoing Potato Wars: some people (often the young, male, and/or athletic) radically improve their performance and mood by increasing their starch intake, while others (often older and/or female) find that there’s no such thing as a “safe starch”.
While I personally consume an approximately Perfect Health Diet level of starch, and I view their recommendations as an excellent baseline for beginning your own experimentation, I’m also an athletic male who has never been fat—so I don’t feel the need to evangelize my own potato consumption to those with a radically different hormonal environment.
Frankly, I find the religious fervor somewhat disturbing—and I can’t resist the observation that (with the exception of Paul Jaminet, whose sense of humor still slays me every time) the most vocal proponents of high starch intake tend to be somewhat…starchy. Lighten up! There’s no Low Carb Mafia enforcer waiting to assassinate you, and the Low Carb Boogeyman isn’t going to pop out from under your bed and force-feed you with butter until the Ketostix turn purple.
As for myself, I’m much more concerned with reaching the hundreds of millions of people who still think margarine and whole-grain bagels are healthy.
So don’t be discouraged if your health issues don’t immediately vanish, or you reach a weight loss plateau. It took decades of unhealthy eating to cause your problems…don’t expect healthy eating to fix everything in a week or two. (Or even a couple months…I was still experiencing perceptible improvements after nine months.)
My Own Level Beyond “I’m Doing Fine”
Here are some unexpected improvements I’ve seen in my own life. (Warning: N=1 ahead.)
- I used to be “that guy.” If I didn’t get to eat every 3-4 hours, I became cranky, snappish, and no fun to be around. Now I often fail to eat for 18 hours or more, simply because I’m not hungry.
I can’t overemphasize how liberating it is to not have to find and ingest calories every few hours. Not only does it make traveling much easier…I have more useful hours in my day, and when I become engrossed in work or play, I don’t have to stop prematurely because I’m hungry.
- I’ve never been fat, but I still lost about an inch around my waist…which must have been visceral fat, because there wasn’t much subcutaneous fat to lose.
- After about a year, I noticed that the dark circles under my eyes were gone.
- I don’t fall asleep after lunch anymore.
- Acne is rare. So is itchiness.
- I sunburn far less easily.
- My dental health has improved dramatically.
- Life is more enjoyable when I don’t feel guilty for eating delicious food.
- It’s difficult to quantify, but my baseline mood is improved. I am happier and more confident than I’ve ever been.
Result: I’m in the best physical and mental shape of my life. I don’t feel “fine”: I feel great. Some days I even feel unstoppable. And while I still experience all the usual setbacks, like unrequited love, insufficient money, and dysfunctional bureaucracies, they don’t seem to crush me like they used to…
…and that’s why I still eat like a predator.
There is an entire level of daily existence above “I’m doing fine.”
Live in freedom, live in beauty.
Yes, this is what being human is supposed to feel like. Help me out, readers: what unexpected improvements have you seen, and how can we best communicate this to others? Please leave a comment—and consider forwarding this to anyone you’ve been unable to get through to by other means. The share widget is below.