Me & "The Community" ~ Part II: Is it time for a PALEO Diet?
Pragmatic Ancestral-Lineage and Evolutionarily Oriented
(Claiming copyrights! You read that here first!)
It's been a while since I wrote Me & "The Community" ~ Part I: Where I'm coming from ..., and this time of reflection in the aftermath of AHS12 seems like as good a time as any to finish off Part II which is about where I see myself fitting -- or not -- into the community as a whole. These two posts were inspired by an email I received way back in June that read in part:
Hi Evelyn, I just wanted to throw a bit of support your way regarding your blog. When I first ventured into this paleo/evolutionary nutrition thing, it was through the Fathead/Gary Taubes route, so I wasn't always open to reading your site, but I did occasionally, and it always challenged me and opened up my mind a little. Now that the days of obsessing about ketosis are over, I feel I've reached a much more balanced place with my current diet, and I do generally attribute that to people like you who are battling against the kind of glucophobia Jimmy Moore encourages. I've seen almost immeasurable benefit from this way of eating, and it's not blunted or reversed at all when I eat a decent amount of plant starch, and I'd like to thank you for helping me get to that point. If it wasn't for the dissenters, I don't know how long I'd be peeing on sticks.
I do have a couple questions for you, though, and forgive me if you've addressed this on your blog before and I just haven't seen it. Do you consider yourself a part of the paleo/whatever community? Do you find any value in it at all? I know there's been a lot of talk about your "pathological obsession" with debunking paleo, but it seems to me that you've put an awful lot of effort into immersing yourself in this world when you could have gone about debunking vegan gurus just as easily. I don't think you'd be spending so much time trying to clarify the science and give us some credibility if you didn't think the approach was at least a little bit useful. Or maybe I'm wrong and you do just enjoy being a stowaway on the USS Paleo?
I kinda liked that last line -- a stowaway on the USS Paleo -- for it's many connotations. To be honest with you, I don't know myself where I fit in. Just when I think I'm viewed in one way, I'll get an email from a most unexpected reader who views me entirely differently. This whole thing traces back to the origins of this blog which really just was a way to organize my research all in one more easily searchable and linkable place and share it in the process with any who might benefit. I never really even remotely considered doing any of this as part or the entirety of any sort of way to pay the bills, and I certainly didn't have any sort of diet or program to promote. My personal story has its successes but I do not hold myself up as any sort of model. In the end, the stuff I blog on here is truly independent from who I am as a person, my looks, my weight, my age, my gender. Aside: I find it rather amusing the number of times I'm thought to be male when someone only knows the pseudonym CarbSane attached to my work. I'm not telling anyone to eat like me or not eat like some other person. I'm hoping to provide an understanding of the underlying science so readers can make informed decisions for themselves and what's best for them as individuals. But this is where I cannot for the life of me understand the LLVLC cabal and its immense influence on the paleo/primal community or even the influence of their own low carb community. This community is dominated by obese long-time advocates of a diet that's not working for them and yet the actors continue to profit off of the desperation of their fellow obese man. If there's anything more stark than the differences between the pictures coming in from AHS vs. the LC Cruise, I don't know it.
My only real goal in starting all of my research was to manage my own health, which is excellent thankyouverymuch, and be able to communicate honestly with my doctors about my diet and lifestyle. I'm not out to change the medical establishment and USDA guidelines and all that jazz. Don't get me wrong, I think changes are needed. But my view is that absent changes in the politics and role of government in this country, it will be next to impossible to affect change within the establishment. Better chances, I think, with building an alternative system with integrity. And there's the rub. You do not counter the debacle that is the USDA Food Pyramid and cholesterol & saturated fat phobia with more dubiously substantiated claims of ketosis healing all ills. Just because saturated fat is not "artery clogging" does not mean you need to eat "lots of healthy saturated fats". Just because LDL is not the be all and end all biomarker of CVD doesn't make fluffy large LDL "protective".
Here's where I just cannot stand by silently as people become self-appointed experts peddling diets based on Science Krispies. I cannot. It is my understanding that Jack Kruse's keynote speech at PaleoFX was a call-to-arms of sorts -- now (then, March) was not the time for infighting, the community must unite for the common goal. The movement ... the mission. Problem is, nobody has defined it. There is no single position upon which to erect a tent that includes all of the various factions while allowing the factions to remain true to their brands and beliefs. To join the movement, you have to check your beliefs at the door it seems, because even the simple concept of JERF (Just Eat Real Food) cannot flourish without all sorts of gimmickry in the name of science, and a host of books on how to turn your real food into "name your diet" friendly junk food.
It just hit me that this community is like the Bill Clinton of the nutritional/fitness realm. I'm not talking politics or ethics or any of that. One thing that always bugged me about Bill Clinton was that he had no core values. And again, I'm not talking morals or philosophy here ... I'm talking those innate values one might associate with an individual. There are people who you just know, agree or disagree, are going to stick by their beliefs no matter the winds of change that blow through. The person that doesn't change their position just because someone else changed theirs. Sure, there are drawbacks to inflexibility, and let's face it, we ALL make compromises. But all of us have some sort of threshold of balance there, an internal cost-benefit meter with a red zone we won't cross into. Bill Clinton has, and had, a very low threshold -- eye on the prize, cut deals with the devil, so as to remain on track for the goal (and again, in the interests of keeping this apolitical, I'll not speculate on what that goal might have been). As a female who came of age in the era of the ERA, who both benefitted from and was hampered by the stigma of affirmative action, worked most of my life in male-dominated circles, I'll never get over what the 8 years of Clinton did to feminism in this country. On the one hand you had Hilary as Co-President and various women appointed to positions of power in the administration. On the other hand, we got Monica Lewinsky.
The more I think about it, the more apt the Clinton analogy is apt for what has gone on in the community this past year or two. A lot of women were involved, possibly Hilary herself, in keeping the Lewinsky affair under wraps. Yet I dare any woman to separate the facts from the figures involved and tell me that a married President of the United States having an affair with an intern who could be his daughter is acceptable to you. And when the scandal broke what did they do? Painted Lewinsky as some mentally unstable, delusional stalker (Hmmph ... sound familiar? But I digress ... ) and there were many women involved in that as well. Oh ... and they blamed and smeared Linda Tripp and brought lawsuits and made fun of her looks and whatnot as well. And many, many women had a hand in this. (Double hmmph ... sound familiar? But I double digress ... ) I was in graduate school when the Clarence Thomas hearings were on CNN and I watched most of it in the student union building between 6 hour runs and listened to the running commentary from the National Organization of Women, NOW and a parade of female politicians. Then FF to a Democrat in office and purported champion of women's rights, and I was seeing this very same parade of women dismissing far more egregious behavior by a far more powerful man with a far more subordinate woman in age and accomplishment being excused. And let's not forget TailHook ...
The various factions of The Community are like NOW and Patsy Shroeder and all the rest. Forget whether you identify with NOW or agree or disagree with their agenda. Had it been GWB and Monica, and not Bill Clinton and Monica, is there a person in the audience reading this who thinks the aftermath would not be dramatically different? But NOW checked its principles at the door because ultimately it was more important to them to keep a pro-choice President in the WH who would appoint judges that would uphold Roe v. Wade than any of those little nuances over what constitutes sexual harassment and appropriate conduct in the workplace or for the Commander in Chief. And this is what The Community is asking of various members in pursuit of some nebulous common goal.
The only thing I can see uniting the community is anti-establishment fervor at this point. I mean over on Ancestralize Me, the lovely blogger Laura writes of manning the WAPF booth at AHS12. Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson joined WAPF? I commend these two for trying to coalesce some sort of coherent movement and rally around where we agree vs. quibbling over where we disagree. But can there be any more stark example of where there is disagreement than between WAPF and paleo? WAPF is all about soaking grains and raw dairy while true paleo is against both and if there is one unifying theme remaining in the whole paleo-primal-LC-WheatBelly-safestarches juggernaut it has got to be the eradication of grains as human food from the planet!!
But now here's where my Clinton Administration analogy falls apart -- there IS no unifying cause after all, except SAD is bad -- and what is I keep hearing about tearing down vs. building up? But that detracts from my point so let's move on. The thing about Clinton and NOW and various other special interest groups who supported his administration through the Lewinsky and other scandals is that their's was a mission of ideology and opinion. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, sociopolitical matters are matters of opinion and beliefs and while some may be subject to evidences, there's no such thing as clinical trials to test policies out before implementing them. True, much can be learned from history ... but I won't go there except to say that in The Community as in politics, few seem truly interested in doing so.
No, in this Community, especially given the renegade factions that are emphatic that the science backs their positions, there can be no room for compromise. Either gluten and lectins and phytates and saponins and fructose and glucose and PUFA and O6:O3 and ... and ... and ... are indeed deleterious to health based on the purported scientific rationale, or they are not. Can't have it both ways. Last I checked, soaking wheat does not remove gluten. Innumerable formerly paleo-darling foods are very high in O6's, not to mention that from Atkins-to-Taubes nobody in the LC community ever cared a wit about O6:O3 ratio in a world where mayonnaise is its own food group. Either wheat is murder or it is an appropriate staple in the diet. Either insulinogenic foods are fattening and bad or they are not, and you don't get to pick which insulinogenic foods you like and which you demonize. I could go on. I'm sure you get my point, so I won't.
Bottom line, when you listen to people who are either paleo/primal first and those who are merely adapting paleo to their needs and aspirations. When Terry Wahl's says to start with a paleo diet and experiment n=1 from there W.H.A.T. D.O.E.S. T.H.A.T. M.E.A.N??? If you're not dairy sensitive, it means dairy is OK and Dr. Cate's cave drawings of Grokina milking yaks speak to you. If you're suffering digestive woes, it means no vegetation perhaps, while Wahls' version is heavy on veg and fruit. What's next? Harcombe v. Wahls on the 5-a-day campaign? In the absence of even a cohesive message -- dare I say concensus -- folks are being asked to check their understanding of the science at the door and shoosh up criticizing X because they are working towards the same goal as you.
Same goal? Hard to claim that when nobody has laid out just what that is. And it's different than being asked to set aside opinion and beliefs to be asked to set aside facts. Facts that are routinely mangled by so-called leaders, movers and shakers, who have a deeply vested financial interest in their versions of science however flawed. Don't sign me up for that.
That said, I don't think all is lost or hopelessly flawed in having some gimmickry and such in one's message. If you can get vast swaths of the population to not only listen but participate and reject the health-periling lifestyle most Americans are hopelessly embracing ... there's a positive. Both low carb and paleo approaches have produced amazing outcomes for many people .... just don't forget the rest of those it does not or did not work quite so swimmingly for -- including so many who advocate for some lifestyle nonetheless.
It's been said that "paleo" is being kept because it's trending on Google, catchy, better than ancestral or eat-like-Granny and all that. Perhaps what's needed is a new PALEO that CAN actually encompass various factions without requiring all of them to check half of the basics of their plan at the door, rather than continually redefining and diluting and contorting "paleo" to include all manner of things that are anything but to any but the most entrenched and invested purveyors.
To be continued ...