I may not be a Cheese Slave, but this triple-cream brie is proof that goodness exists in the universe. And that you can taste its pure essence.
A friend sent me a link to a blog called “Cheese Slave,” where the blogger posted her “Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Paleo.” The friend who sent this to me is considering a paleo lifestyle, and wanted to know what I thought. I don’t have room to quote every thing the Cheese Slave writes, so this is how we’ll roll: I’ll post her line items in bold, with numbers. Beneath that, I’ll post the first couple sentences of her comments in italics, with my commentary in blue beneath that. Clear as mud? Good.
If you want to read the rest of her analysis, go check out her post. Which is a good idea, because then this will all make a lot more sense.
1.) I Really Like Cheese
Which is why I named this blog CHEESESLAVE. But cheese is verboten on the paleo diet.
It really depends on who you talk to, but many people (including me) eat dairy, including cheese. Some paleo people promote it, others forbid it. But since Jesus didn’t come down from heaven and teach us what to eat, there’s flexibility on this (and every other rule.)
The biggest thing to watch out for with dairy is the hidden sugar. Also, for people who are lactose intolerant (which is most of the world) it can be a problem. But if it’s not a problem for you, who cares?
2.) I Really Like Bread
Crusty sourdough with lots of butter. Hearty brown German sunflower bread. Croissants. (Yes, croissants. They may be made with white flour, which is very low on the nutrient-density scale. But did you know they are almost 40% butter?)
And is bread really that bad for you? How can it be, when humans around the world have been thriving on it as a staple in their diet for over 10,000 years (and possibly up to 50,000 years)?
I really like bread, too. But I also really believe that wheat does some nasty things to us. The paleo argument against grains is that we were never evolved to eat them (just like a dog never evolved to eat broccoli) and so we don’t process them particularly well. I’ve not only lost 36 pounds this year eating this way, but I’m not all bloaty anymore. My wife no longer suffers from arthritis and neither of us have to go to the chiropractor now. (We used to go frequently.) Grains not only have an effect on your blood sugar, but they also attack your digestive tract and have inflammatory chemicals that make you suffer from aches and pains and have a food baby.
That said, people are remarkably adaptive. Agriculture built civilization. It’s better to eat bread than to starve, that’s for damn sure. For more, read my post on “Is Wheat Bad for You?“
3.) I Really Like Cookies. And Cake. And Pies.
Hey, I understand, you’re on the GAPS diet, you can’t eat grains. That’s cool. I totally respect that. I gave up gluten for 2 years when I was healing my gut in my 20s. (And yes, I did overcome gluten intolerance.)
But would I go without grains for life? No way. I don’t eat sweets every day, but I do enjoy them often. And of course, I do try to use unrefined sweeteners.
Ditto #2. I love this stuff, but it’s not worth it. And now that I’ve given up almost all sugar, pretty much every dessert now tastes extremely sweet to me. Too sweet. Will I cheat sometimes? Probably. If I go to France, I’m eating a chocolate croissant and don’t even try to stop me. But I see this sort of thing as an indulgence and not a staple anymore.
4.) Paleo is Low Carb
By default. And low carb messed me up. See my post: Why I Ditched Low Carb.
Be sure to read the bit about Chris Masterjohn, Dr. Weston Price, the people living near the Arctic Circle and fertility. That was key for me, and really opened my eyes. If you have to eat thyroid gland in order to reproduce, your low carb diet may not be working so well
Most people don’t get messed up by low carb. Most doctors now recognize that low carb is the one thing most people can do to control their weight. Also, those inflammatory chemicals in grains are starting to be tied to the arterial inflammation that causes heart disease. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the coming decade.
As for the need for carbs – you get plenty of complex carbs from fruits and vegetables. Find me some science that says anyone NEEDS simple carbs in addition to complex carbs. I don’t think it’s out there.
5.) The Paleo Diet is Too Restrictive
We live in a world dominated by pizza, nachos and chocolate chip cookies. Are you really going to tell your kids they can’t have these things — ever — because (ahem) “they’re not paleo”?
Why not, instead, learn how to make healthy versions of nachos and chocolate chip cookies and pizza (recipe coming soon)?
The paleo diet is restrictive. Which is awesome, because it’s the non-restrictiveness of the American diet that makes most of us walk around looking like those bubble people from Wall-E. I will trade dietary restriction for the ability to bend over and touch my toes. And not look like I should be rolled into the room with a stick.
And yes, my kids are coping. When we’re at a party, we let them stray a little bit. But we have awesome substitutes for things. Caveman cookies (almond-flour based) instead of wheat-based. Pizza frittata instead of real pizza. The food we eat is really delicious and satisfying, which is why we’ve been able to do this for 6 months as a family with no real complaints or problems.
6.) Paleo is Not Scalable
There’s a reason the hunters and gathers died out. Nothing against hunter-gatherers, but they were all almost completely wiped out by people who ate cheese and bread.
Paleo isn’t entirely scalable, it’s true. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s not a religion, it’s a healthier way of eating. That said, we could be doing a lot better. Mark Sisson has a series called, “Could Paleo Feed the World?” which I haven’t read because I don’t lose sleep over this. The first post is here.
7.) Paleo is Based on Fantasy
The paleo diet is fundamentally flawed. It’s a diet based on misinformation about the past and the present. Paleo adherents believe that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is somehow superior to that of the sedentary agriculturalist. It is a romantic ideal based on fantasy, not reality.
The reality is that living as a hunter-gatherer is not an easy life, and it was not a lifestyle people chose because they thought it was cool or better.
No serious person in the paleo community argues that we should go back to a complete hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The argument is that the food we ate and the sort of exercise we got during that period of human history formed our genetics, and consequently the way our bodies work. We have the advantages of a modern lifestyle, but we can still eat and move the way people did way back when. The food is good, the exercise is less onerous than what most doctors recommend, and you feel good about all of it.
It’s the best of both worlds, so why shouldn’t we enjoy it?
8.) Paleo is Impractical
Is anyone really expecting people to get out and hunt for their breakfast? How about foraging? Are we expected to forage for our all of our meals? On top of working 9 hours per day plus taking care of the kids and getting them to soccer practice?
This is really a repeat of number 7, so see my answer for that one.
9.) Paleo is Expensive
I can make a one-pound loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread for about 50 cents to $1. Compare that to anywhere from $4-12 for a pound of ground beef.
Dried beans cost around 25 to 50 cents after they are soaked and cooked.
If you’re in your twenties and you have a lot of disposable income, then sure, paleo is no problem.
But for a single mom who is struggling to put food on the table to feed her three kids, it’s another story. If she’s on the paleo diet, she’s not allowed to stretch meals with beans and rice and bread. Because it’s “not paleo”.
Paleo can be expensive, but there’s something else to consider: when you go Paleo, you eat less. A high protein, high fat diet fills you up and keeps you happy longer.
Did you know that the average wheat-eater consumes 400 more calories a day than a person who doesn’t? This is because wheat spikes blood sugar, which brings on insulin, which makes you hungry. Multiply 400 calories times seven people (my family size) and you get a whopping 2800 calories of extra food a day. That’s the recommended daily intake for an active adult male!
We spend roughly the same for groceries now as we did before. And the food seems to last us longer. If we were completely broke, we couldn’t afford to eat this way, but people with a normal grocery budget can.
10.) The Paleo Diet is a Waste of Time and Energy
I often see Paleo people on Facebook or Paleo Hacks arguing over whether or not honey is paleo. They proudly pronounce their disdain for milk and other dairy products, as “neolithic foods”.
I ask you, why do people sit around arguing about whether or not honey is paleo? Why not just go buy some honey at the grocery store? Or, better yet, a farmer’s market?
Why not just feed yourself with what is available, and then get on to more important things, such as inventing alternative energy sources or curing cancer?
I think arguing over Paleo is about as fruitful as arguing over religion and politics. Probably less. We all do it sometimes, but at the end of the day we wonder why we bothered.
But the religion angle has significance here. I think for some people, their Paleo/Primal way of life is a sort of religion. The entire thinking is predicated upon an evolutionary perspective, so it wouldn’t surprise me if many Paleo/Primal people don’t subscribe to any higher, overarching belief system. (This is a guess on my part. I’m happy to be wrong.) If your nutrition and fitness program is a sort of religious system, though, and if the question of what falls under the “approved foods” list is like asking which books should be in the New Testament, you’re going to have the sort of debate that led to St. Nicholas punching Arius right in the face.
This is a way of living and eating, and people care about getting it right because it has such good effects. That said, I think people get too wrapped up in all the details. Read about it, understand it, practice it, but don’t sweat the details too much. Chances are you ate differently before, and if you go off the path a bit you’re probably going to survive just fine.
So if you want to eat honey, eat some damn honey! If you want some killer cheese, have it! I do. It hasn’t thrown off my progress yet, and I feel great.