For the past couple months I’ve been experimenting with the Paleo Diet, also known as the Original Human Diet.
I first heard about it last August through John Durant, organizer of the barefoot run to Brooklyn with Born to Run’s Christopher McDougall. John’s site, Hunter-Gatherer, presented some very compelling arguments and I led to quite a bit more research and reading.
At the time, based on some food-related ideas in Born to Run, I’d been experimenting with a more vegetarian diet–with lousy results. Sure I felt virtuous, waking up in the morning and swigging Soy milk, I read a bunch of articles, tried to emulate everytihng Scott Jurek was doing, but it just wasn’t working for me. I was completely sapped.
Maybe it’s because I’m sleeping better, but I’m finding it much easier to get out of bed in the morning.
I wasn’t drawn to Paleo for any health reasons. Here at just-shy of 40, I’m probably the fittest and healthiest I’ve been in my life. I’m 6 foot 7 inches and at the end of summer I weighed about 195 pounds with a BMI of 22 and a resting heart rate in the mid-50s. Thin, but healthy.
After six weeks of Paleo eating, several things happened. I wasn’t hungry all the time. Snacking had been reduced to a handful of nuts every so often. I have more energy. My head seems clearer. My moods seem to be more stable. I lost almost 15 pounds (I didn’t think I had anything to lose, let alone 7% of my body weight). My face is thinner, or so friends keep telling me, many seem to be wondering if I have a wasting disease. And most odd, my knuckles seem to have shrunk. The other day, which was admittedly quite cold, I waved to someone and my wedding ring flew off. (Not happy about that part.)
It’ll be better in summer when I can wear less clothing and reveal my newfound ripply-ness.
Several things about Paleo appealed to me.
1. The evolutionary foundation for the Paleo diet just completely tickled my inner nerd. Basically it goes like this*: Humanity has existed, in basically the same form for about 2 million years.
The main reason I decided to experiment with Paleo was to increase my endurance so I could run further.
Several things happened. My knuckles are smaller, to the point that my wedding ring is loose. I have more energy. Somehow, I lost 15 pounds.
Also, every Paleo-advocate just came across as ridiculously virile, a distinct difference from the frail, sallowness of so many vegetarians. I know plenty of vegetarian health-nuts, but the cavemen just seemed like superheroes by comparison.
A word that seems to get used by a number of people is “Thrive”. I love the philosophy inherent in that. Humanity did not conquer the planet by being sick and weak. We’re not just brilliant, we’re strong, adaptable and unstoppable.
There seems to be a lot of crossover between the NYC’s barefoot running and paleo communities. A lot of that has to do with John Durant, butI think ther’s also a natural synergy. Many barefooters have come to a profound respect at the specialization and capability of the human body. We reject that idea that people weren’t meant to run, or that our feet are weak bony lumps on the end of our legs. Paleo is a natural fit, it’s not about weakness, it’s about how amazing people are. Much like removing our shoes to free the strength and abilities of our bodies, Paleo adherents remove some things from the diet to loose the unstoppable spirit of humanity.
It has been difficult to read about the potential relationship between
There is an image here I can’t place, but it’s similar to the stripping of a whale carcass. We’re literally flaying away the fat from our bodies and in doing so we’re revealing a
I can’t place it. It’s not the leg-braces scene in Forrest Gump, though that kind of works too.
The muscled, bronzed figure that emerges as the fatty, weakened shell is stripped away is the true form of mankind. It lives in all of us.
One other thing. The idea of thriving as a human being is not just a physical act. When we’re healthy, all the systems, are honed. Mental acuity, temperament
There’s a phrase that came to me the other day, Triumphant Humanism. In short, we humans are amazing. We just need to remove some of the crap that gets in the way of us thriving. Maybe that’s shoes, wheat, whatever.
So this month there was a loosely organized Paleo Challenge. I sort of did it in November.
Right now I’m probably 80% Paleo. I still take milk in my coffee and eat bread and pasta occasionally, but I’m now acutely aware of exactly how my body feels afterwards.
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The only annoying thing is that, apparently, I’ve lost weight in my face. So friends are telling me I’m wasting away. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see it.
* I have no interest in getting into arguments about Evolution. I respect the beliefs of others and I expect visitors here will do the same.
It’s fascinating how one’s head transforms an environment. People who I talk to about this always ask me, “what do you eat?” At first, I wondered the same thing. But after two months, I look around and wonder why people are eating all this stuff.