Are You Too Stupid to Understand Your Health?
diet paleo warrior spirit
I discovered that there is a huge debate on the accuracy of the Paleo diet, with scientists and doctors arguing on both sides and fitness professionals defending their stance for or against Paleo.
The arguments against Paleo boil down to:
- It is not accurate. Humans didn't eat the way the diet says they did.
- It is not healthy, having too much or too little of some nutrient or other.
- It is overly simplistic and ignores the needs of balance.
Arguments for Paleo:
- It doesn't matter if it's accurate. It works.
- The USDA standards of nutrition are wrong anyway, so judging Paleo by those standards is a mistake.
- Its simplicity it what makes it useful to the majority of people.
Now, of course the real value of the modern Paleo diet lies in its emphasis on eating wholesome foods and developing an awareness of how foods we take for granted can actually harm us. It is important to think about the role food's quality plays in our health and to develop an awareness of food sensitivities. The diet works, as long as you are smart about it, understand the principles and are consistent (the same can be said of most things.) So what if the name isn't 100% accurate? So what if it isn't the most finely-tuned diet for every conceivable situation? It works 90% of the time.
But you may have noticed that I'm a stickler for integrity, and it bothers me that some of the biggest supporters of Paleo argue that it is useful because it provides a way for people to be healthy without thinking about it.
I know you are busy, and I also know that diet is probably not the center of your world. Maybe you don't have a lot of time or energy to think about it. But my goal as a writer has never been to make life easier for you by simplifying the glorious complexity of life that gives it its beauty.
In fact, I'd say my goal is to make life more difficult by encouraging the expansion of awareness, understanding the implications of our actions, accepting responsibility for directing our lives, and holding ourselves to the highest standards. We need to moderate things to stay sane, but our goal is not to shut off our minds and go through life on autopilot, even if we're on the right track.
That is why, when I set out to explain the basics of nutrition in my book, I didn't dumb things down. I explained the nuances and complexities believing that you are smart enough to handle them and can think through how to apply them to your own life. For example, where a lot of Paleo-advocates would just say, "avoid dairy," I tried to explain why dairy is problematic, how to get around the problems, and the factors that differentiate raw, grassfed milk from industrially produced milk. The decision is up to you.
That, I believe, is what distinguishes the Warrior Spirit: a willingness to accept complex decisions and the need to think through things. The soldier mentality follows orders, freed from the need to make decisions by the chain of command or the circumstances of war. The warrior can even decide whether or not to fight at all, something a soldier cannot do (these distinctions are purely semantic. I define the words to create a category of behaviors encompassing the idea I want to express. I'm not talking about real-life soldiers/warriors, just the mentality I represent with these labels).
Do the best you can with the foods we have. Do the least harm environmentally, find what foods let you thrive, and enjoy the inventiveness of human culinary tradition.
I still accept the premises of the Paleo diet, and I will always consider myself a part of the community that calls itself Paleo, Primal, or Ancestral, because, whatever we call ourselves, we all share similar principles of nutrition. And, despite the love of a simple set of guidelines for what to eat and what not to eat, most of those who have succeeded on Paleo have done a lot of testing, questioning, and thinking for themselves. They make nuanced decisions based on their life circumstances and their personal situation.
My experience has been that eating mindfully, whether 100% Paleo or not, has been better for my health than mindlessly following the healthiest diets.
Photo credit: AmySelleck on Flickr