I Have No Problem With Your Paleo Diet But Please Don't Invent A Bunch Of Fake Science To Prove It's The Best Way To Eat

If eliminating gluten and processed foods from your world makes you poop better and your skin all glowy, go nuts. May neither a bagel nor a cupcake darken your gaping maw again. But let's not use evolution as an a reason to not eat a baguette with some brie.
Publish date:
June 27, 2013
food, diets, science, paleo, M

Listen guys, I’m in grumpy mode. This week has been weird (I’m blaming it on the supermoon) and I have been drinking a lot of wine. So I’m apologizing in advance if I seem a little bitchy; I feel a little bitchy.

Now that we've covered that.

Like Louise, I am all for everyone eating whatever they want. I legitimately do not care what other people put in their bodies. I like it when people like the things I like, but I don’t judge people for their diet choices. I don’t even judge Hannibal, because Mads, you guys. Mads.

But, I do take issue with other people using "science" to get me to eat like them because their way is The Best. I’m all for sharing recipes (even healthy recipes like spaghetti squash!) and tips and I would love to hear about coconut water getting rid of your headaches, but don’t try to convince me to change my fundamental views on food.

Which is what tends to happen when I talk to hardcore Paleo people, because sometimes the fans ruin everything.

I don’t actually think it’s the worst diet out there; I love a diet that lets me eat a lot of meat. But my favorite thing about it is that it eliminates processed foods, and -- though you wouldn't know it -- I actually think processed foods are not good for you. They are engineered to be delicious, and I respect the amount of research that goes into each and every tube of Pringles, but vegetables are a better choice (I feel ridiculous typing this, because “Duh, Claire”).

I don’t mind programs like Whole30, as these types of things can help you isolate what foods your body legitimately does not react well with. That is great. People on these types of diets are probably healthier than me, but so is most of America and all of Japan.

What I cannot deal with is hand-wavy “science” that I get foisted upon me at birthday parties and bars that support the Paleo lifestyle. If eliminating gluten and processed foods from your world makes you poop better and your skin all glowy, go nuts. May neither a bagel nor a cupcake darken your gaping maw again. But let's not use evolution as a reason to not eat a baguette with some Brie.

The Paleo diet is based on the idea that our bodies have not evolved to deal with the changes in our food brought about by modern agriculture and the food industry. If this were the case, why are there so many of us? The success of a species is measured by the size of the population, and there are a lot of fucking people walking around, so I would say we evolved just fine. I would say we’re fucking killing it.

So when I found this article, I briefly fell in love with the author and was like, “YES. THANK YOU. YES.” You should actually go read that, because Ferris Jabr spent a lot of time researching this topic.

Some key talking points include:

Paleo people didn’t live that long.

Paleolithic women often hunted for days over a period of miles to find food. Sometimes they would just harvest organs from something a bigger predator had killed. They were super ripped, but not a lot of them made it to 40. According to this study, “old age” wasn't even a Thing until the beginning of modernity.

Our food has evolved.

The chicken of today is not the chicken of yesteryear. We have manipulated every source of food we have ever touched. For better or worse, you simply cannot eat what cavemen ate. Eating one of those giant turkey legs may make you feel like you are a caveperson, devouring the spoils of your hunt, but that turkey was selectively bred to have giant legs. Wild turkeys do not have legs that big.

Every meat, fruit, and vegetable we consume has been altered by humans. This doesn’t make them unhealthy, it just makes them not “caveman food.”

What people hunt and gather varies by region.

As you can see, some hunter-gatherers eat/ate meat and vegetables exclusively, but some of them also eat/ate dairy and/or roots (boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew). I mean, if I were a hunter gatherer, I’m pretty sure I would just eat whatever I could hunt and/or gather. That’s the point, right? It could be an elk, it could be a potato or a carrot, and it could be a half-eaten candy bar I found on the floor. If I could gather it, I would eat it.

Also, there are modern hunter-gatherers. One group are called the “Hiwi” and they eat a lot of roots. They are also not that healthy. They have parasites. You can read a full study about them here, if you are into that kind of thing.

I could keep yammering about this, but I think you get the point. Eating a diet of mainly lean protein and vegetables is not a bad idea at all, but the science used to justify the Paleo diet is oversimplified. I enjoy talking about science (even at parties), but when it becomes a “Science, it’s whatever you want it to be!” type of conversation, I start to get annoyed.

I know this is making me sound like some sort of elitist, so let me clarify: I am fully willing to discuss, educate, debate whatever. But if someone presents a diet theory as infallible, scientific, proven fact and is unwilling to hear other theories, I’m going to change the subject. That’s all.

Because really, food and diets are very complicated issues. There is no magic diet that suits everyone. Not only are there allergies and sensitivities and diseases that greatly affect what people can consume, there are social and economic factors as well.

If you are privileged enough to live in a culture where you have control over your diet, and you wish to do so, do it.

Just don’t tell me I haven’t evolved to the point of being able to digest a cupcake; I’ve been perfecting cupcake digestion my whole life.