This post is inspired by a comment (several actually) left by Libby on Define Paleo first!. Libby writes:
I simply don't understand the need for so many to vehemently attempt to ridicule or discredit the "Paleo" lifestyle. Whole foods, organic and grassfed when possible. How shocking! And really? Attempting to discredit it because cavemen didn't eat ice cream or something? That's silly. Anyone who understands Paleo realizes its an idea or template, even just a starting point to regain control over one's health, it's not about wearing loincloths and hunting mastodons after a good night's sleep in a cave. All this contention is a waste of time. The USDA, FDA, AHA, ADA....THAT is where contempt belongs, not towards anyone following a whole foods diet and spreading the good word about it. Why be hatin'?
Firstly, can we stop the hate talk please? It's ridiculous, especially when you think I should somehow be directing contempt at the alphabet soup you've got there. Secondly, I am not trying to discredit paleo because cavemen didn't eat ice cream ... it's not me you have to convince on that count.
We've been hearing this term "paleo template" for a while now. Around a year or so paleo was going through some growing pains and infighting, and the worry was over relaxing the rules. On the one hand doing so might make the diet more palatable to a wider range of people. Dairy, especially, is a difficult class of foods for many to eliminate entirely. On the other hand, relaxing things too much risks diluting the message. This was mostly going on in the context of the safe starch debacles and whether paleo = LC or VLC or not. There have been some notable turnarounds of opinion such as Cordain's retraction of canola oil recommendations and relaxing his views on saturated fats. Kudos to him for actually writing this on his website in clear fashion so nobody need accuse anyone of lacking reading comprehension when they don't make their points clear. Others are far less forthcoming or willing to do so. Mark Sisson comes to mind because despite knowing it is pretty ridiculous, his carbohydrate curve lives on.
Some don't identify as paleo, but they acknowledge the marketing side of that label. So all of these diet book authors are trying to unite for some "common cause" ... spread the good word as Libby put it. And thus the "paleo template" was born. I think templates are wonderful for individuals to formulate a dietary lifestyle that best suits them. But they don't work for diets espoused by gurus and wannabes with very specific sets of dos and don'ts. If you put forth a rationale for some dietary prescription, it either *is* or it *isn't*. Robb Wolf has described gluten as Satan's excrement, Mark Sisson has said that there is no reason to ever eat grains ... and yet here they are ceremonially joining WAPF at AHS12. So you align with an organization that stands for much of what you claim humans are not evolved to consume. That doesn't make much sense. I've highlighted here many times how Mark passes judgment against many real whole foods because they contain too much starch, and yet he sells Primal Fuel and supplements.
Speaking of Mark and starch, another stark example of this hypocrisy for profit (look it is what it is) was Mark writing an introduction for the Jaminet's new Perfect Health Diet. Under template notions this seems a pretty reasonable fit. Paul doesn't advise a very high carb intake and he allows dairy like Mark. Readers of the two websites would find much in agreement. Yet if you read the books it is quite clear their beliefs are at odds. Mark believes it is all about the insulin (or 80% of it) while Paul's premise is based on the composition of breast milk, the composition of the human body, and what he refers to as the "cannibal diet" of what the body "eats" when you are not eating. And yet rice is prominently featured in PHD, and highly processed white rice at that. That is a deal breaker because there's no way our "primal genes" were programmed in the paleolithic to consume white rice. Nowadays Mark has relaxed a bit and starchy foods will get the primal seal of approval for the "if you eat rice" and/or "if you eat potatoes" crowd.
The underlying premise of the paleolithic diet is not a "template", it is the absolute belief that humans have not evolved since the paleolithic and that neolithic agriculture is "mismatched" to our primal genes. Forget re-enactments and all of that and focus on just the diet. This is what it is based on. There is no wiggle room there ... or is there? Because the first concession made by Sisson is to dairy if you tolerate it. There is clear evidence of regional adaptations to dairy --it's even in my favorite mainstream nutrition text. So how can you acknowledge that and claim we've made no adaptations to grains? And so in the end we arrive at the only unifying premise of eating real, whole foods. Or do we? No. We hat tip to convenience and market Primal Fuel. Despite promoting the uber nourishing diet, we need Paleologix to transition to the healthy side. Don't get me started on the coconut oil again, but my grandma didn't fry beef in coconut oil let alone Grok. Chocolate? Are you serious?? A stick of butter in your coffee? But non-God forbid a legume, buckwheat or some whole rolled oats? That's not paleo.
See, templates and 80/20 rules don't cut it for the purveyors of diets especially if you are giving "scientific" reasons to support your contentions. You can't say A and promote B who doesn't believe in A. The so-called template is nothing more than one version of what grandma ate. The paleo diet cannot evolve so-to-speak unless science uncovers new information on what we ate back then ...which happens every so often, yet that doesn't change things.
Speaking of science, however, if you are going to cite a study and say it supports your diet, then the diet in the study needs to be that diet. Not some version of that diet based on a template. The most recent study (Ryberg) was low sat fat and high PUFA and still only 40% fat. Whose version of the paleo-style diet does this support? Frasetto's results were astounding, especially given the short time in which benefits were seen. But that isn't the paleo diet Robb or Mark or Paul or Nora or any of the other big name paleo "experts" are promoting. Same Lindeberg.
So in the end, if it is real whole foods, as I've stated innumerable times before, I can get enthusiastically on board. But here's where I see the problem -- Paleo is trying to bring others into the fold where it should be the other way around. The real foodies need to coalesce about this general idea and Paleo TM needs to comport itself in such a way as to be considered a worthy member of that greater community. Junk science and the lack of a coherent consistent message do not help this cause. Look at the reactions to Marlene Zuk who is being accused of being jealous and bitter (sounds familiar) rather than address her real issues. If paleo is misunderstood and misrepresented then correct that. Problem is there's no consensus on what that is. Having people who nobody would take seriously in the real world as messengers doesn't help either.