Forest for the trees
Posted on June 14th, 2012
I think the paleo diet is amazing. The very idea is intuitive. The food selection is tremendous. And, the approach yields rapid and sustained health benefits. What more could you ask for?
Well, I would ask for the whole movement to become far less silly.
Here’s my grievance. My ground gear, so to speak. Eating a wide array of vegetation and animals which have not been tortured or genetically engineered should not be referred to as the latest diet fad or craze. Instead, I would refer to this as the act of eating food!
I see no need for Whole Foods sponsored magazines on the topic…or $50.00 e-books…or weekend Paleo retreats that cost thousands of dollars to attend. We don’t need any more gurus or subject matter experts to lecture us on every detail of some convoluted, invented theory. We should just remember what food actually is – all those things that actual farmers bring to market every week. Things that live and grow on local farms.
I think that’s about as easy as it gets. Why get fancy, Mr. Fancy Pants?
But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? People do not want easy. Easy makes sense. Easy is intuitive. But one’s intuition is not to be trusted! No, people are reassured by complication and expense. The more options, the better. And we love to lose sight of that damn forest for those beautiful trees! But of course, that is all hokum and hog-wash.
This diet we are talking about is based on a very simple, but very elegant idea. The optimal fuel for your body is dictated by the deep evolutionary heritage sewn into your flesh and genetic code. This is not unlike an optimal fuel ratio required by a carefully designed, high performance combustion engine. Yes, it will run on cheap fuel, but not for long. And not very well. Can the same not be said for cheap food? Is gluten in the gut synonymous with a bit of sugar in the gas tank?
Sure it is.
This simple and powerful idea can be applied to anything, really. Are you taking Tylenol or something else to battle a fever? If so, take the following quote from Richard Dawkins into consideration, delivered during a recent lecture on the topic of evolution in modern medicine.
Is a temperature a Darwinian adaptation by the body to make life difficult for the pathogen? If so, giving someone a drug to bring the temperature down is the very last thing a doctor should be doing.
That’s a very Paleo friendly idea. And rest assured, someone somewhere has likely already published a series of books and lectures titled, “Instead of taking a bunch of drugs when you feel sick and fevered, just rest and stay under the blanket like your body is wildly compelling you to do already!”
Your fitness and strength are no different. What’s the best possible training program for you? Is it the one with the…
- Most exercises?
- Most pain for the most gain?
- Fanciest design?
- Carefully crafted supplement program?
Really, you need only ask yourself a few questions. First, are you doing large, multi-joint athletic movements that have been making humans strong and fit for ages? And second, are you lifting heavy objects with as much effort and speed as possible? If you said yes, odds are you are going to be fine.
Apply the intuition to any example you see fit. If you find one, I’d love to hear it.
This all reminds me of a story. Years ago I had to attend a court mandated driving course. I wish I could share some crazy raunchy details of a wild evening gone wrong, but it was simply a matter of paying a $150 speeding ticket or sit through five hours of instructional and warning videos. I thought it was an easy choice considering that I was completely broke at the time.
To my surprise, the course instructor turned out to be sort of a bad ass. He showed us a total of nine weapons on his person, including multiple handguns and knives. He regaled us with stunt-driving stories. And, he shared one of the most useful tips I’ve ever heard.
When you lose control, either by hydroplaning or driving off the road, you must trust your vehicle. The car doesn’t care that you are sliding. It doesn’t mind being off into the gravel. It’s designed to handle far more than you think. If you put the fuel and service in, it will take care of you.
The mistakes are on your end. It’s you who will jerk the wheel, punch the gas, or slam the breaks. You will be the one to make the bad decision. So don’t.
We should give our bodies what is required. We should follow the maintenance plan. And, of course, we should drive it like it was designed to be driven. This much is obvious.