The Paleo diet is a load of crap. You may as well try it.

The rationale behind the Paleo diet is one of the stupidest pieces of nonsense I’ve seen in a while. But you may as well give it a shot: it might work for you.

Although it’s been around for a few years, I only recently heard about it because a bunch of my friends all discovered it at once and have been nattering about it endlessly. They are mostly basing their information on an introductory website that does a good job of spelling it out. Based on what I read on the website, it’s one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen.

But let me be clear: it isn’t the diet itself that I find objectionable. Once you get down to the nuts-and-bolts of what it recommends that you eat, it’s a pretty reasonable diet. It’s basically another variant of Atkins and other well-known low-carb diets. It’s not all that unhealthy.

But the logic is all wrong.  It’s so mind-bendingly wrong that it makes my brain hurt.

The general idea is that you are supposed to eat the way that cavemen ate. “If a caveman couldn’t eat it, neither can you,” goes the slogan. Why should we eat like cave people?  From the website:

The average Homo Sapien back then: tall, muscular, agile, athletic, and incredibly versatile.

The average Homo Sapien now: overweight, out of shape, stressed out, unhappy, sleep deprived and dying from a myriad of preventable diseases.

So what the hell happened?

Agriculture!

Captain CavemanWHAT???

Oh, sure: the only thing that changed between now and 5,000 years ago is bread.

It can’t have anything to do with the fact that back then people spent every waking moment either hunting things or running away from things, whereas now we watch T.V. or sit at desk jobs.

It can’t have anything to do with the fact that food in general was scarce, so people didn’t have much opportunity to have “Mega-Extra-Large” portions of anything.

And it certainly can’t have anything to do with the fact that the mortality rate was so high, and the average life span so short, that people were in shape simply because the out-of-shape-ones have all died.

KEY POINT: None of these things have anything to do with diet. They have to do with lifestyle.  The reason most people back then were “in shape” isn’t because they had a miraculous diet, it’s because the out-of-shape ones were lunch for the lions.

Moreover, the final recommendation of what you are supposed to eat on this diet is essentially the same as Atkins and other well-known low-to-no-carb diets.  You can’t have pasta and you can’t get smashed on Margaritas every weekend. What a revolution.

The funny thing is, this still has nothing to do with “eating like a caveman.”  You could get your protein from a completely synthetic soy-based manufactured Protein Chip, and the results you saw would be just as good as the results you see from a “Caveman diet.”

Why? Because what is making you skinnier is the fact that you aren’t over-eating, and you aren’t drinking sugary drinks. It isn’t the fact that you are eating “food that was around thousands of years ago.”

KEY POINT: If you go from being a lazy slob who eats anything placed in front of him, to trying this diet, you will see miraculous improvement. But that has nothing to do with this diet.

You can go from being a lazy slob to any regimented diet and you will see improvements, because you are finally paying attention to what goes into your body.

 

What’s my final verdict?

Whether you should use this diet or not is a matter of psychology.

From a purely scientific standpoint, there is nothing that makes the Paleo Diet any more (or any less) scientific than the Blood Type Diet or the BMI Diet or the “Let me measure the shape of your skull to determine what you should eat” Diet. The rationale behind it is totally bunk.

But it’s not unhealthy.  And if what you need (mentally, emotionally) to get you to stick to a diet of some sort is to imagine that you are a macho caveman who can take down a mastadon, then… well, all the more power to you.

If you’d like to try the Paleo diet, then try it.  If the concept appeals to you, then you are more likely to stick to it; and if you stick to it, it will probably work for you.

I wouldn’t recommend it for children or older people, by the way: there’s a reason that infant mortality was high and lifespans were low back then.

But aside from that, there is really only ONE QUESTION you need to ask to determine what diet you should choose:

Can I stick to it?

If you can stick to the Paleo Diet, then you will see results.

If you say you are trying the “Paleo Diet” and you cheat because you can’t deal with it, then you will not see results.

It’s as simple as that.

 

So go ahead and try the Paleo diet. Imagine you are a rough-tough caveman.  Grrr!  Look how manly you are. You might even lose weight.

But if you do lose weight, in the back of your mind, just remember one thing:

You didn’t lose weight because you “ate like a caveman.”

You lost weight because you gave up the pasta and Margaritas.

 



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  1. Nate says:

    Good article. Just one comment on the “But it’s not unhealthy.”

    It is unhealthy when you starting cutting out major food groups from your diet for an extended period of time. Two major things stand out when looking at the paleo diet, avoiding dairy (calcium) and carbs (fiber). Those two pieces are very important to a “healthy” diet, you start cutting that out and run the risk of problems in the future.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I understand your point, and of course ANY diet should be thought-through and approached in a sane way.

      I think there ARE ways that you can have a fully non-dairy diet and be healthy. I’m fairly dairy-intolerant, so I get minimal dairy in my diet, but I can find ways get get calcium in other ways. Similarly, I think a close reading of the “Paleo” diet doesn’t necessarily exclude things like sweet potatoes, it just excludes breads and processed grains.

      So like anything, there are “more extreme” and “less extreme” versions. And let’s face it, most people who even say they are “doing Paleo” are full of **** anyway, because they are still having their cocktails on the weekends.

  2. Sarnath says:

    I told my friend who started spouting paleo, this is nothing new! Just a trend. Try going back 30+ YEARS and reading Diet for a Small Planet or Laurel’s Kitchen!!
    Some people are just plain addicted to “self help”. They spend more of their energy reading the latest “breakthroughs” because it fills them with hope and motivation. So what’s wrong with that you ask?! It is short-lived because none of it is truly sustainable over time. It fills some need in the short term to feel productive and in control. What people really need to do is strip away the fad and go back to the core- read up on real nutrition- the details behind amino acids, proteins, etc…. once you have a core understanding of something, you are really empowered to change yourself and stop the useless cycle of “self help addiction”!! Anyhoo, just my 2-cents since my friend really struck my annoyance nerve with her misplaced exuberance on discovering the secret to it all 🙂

  3. Terry L says:

    Very funny review. I watched about 15 minutes, then said, ‘wtf?’ , these guys are nuts!

  4. Darren says:

    Great article!

    I started looking up the paleo diet after seeing the movie : “In search of the perfect human diet” . I finished watching it and got hyped to try it the next day but while thinking about it at work and all the other diet information I already knew; I realized the diet was pure garbage.

    There is no proof or result comparisons on the net and I’ve lost weight and felt great before on a diet made up of mostly dairy and grains. Which fully contradicts the diet. I also rarely get headaches and never had back problems nor am I ever depressed.

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