5

votes

Where is the middle way?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 16, 2011 at 11:38 AM

I had been thinking about this for a while however Mellisa put it into better words than me in her answer to a recent question.

It seems like everyone is like Art and Loren who recommend trimming fat off of grass-fed meat and avoiding fatty cuts of meat OR eating bowls of coconut oil and pound of bacon for breakfast and dousing their chicken with heavy cream. Either people who advocate low-carb OR people eating just fruit. Either people saying fiber is teh devil or people scouring their poor colons with the stuff. Where is the middle way in all this?

Has everyone forgotten that there is another option between all of these extremes?

Where is the middle way in all of this?

8be7a492e2844e2ad5595a6c73974f99

(891)

on June 19, 2011
at 04:43 PM

Agree. Going to extremes is useful in developing our internal guidance. I mean, I would argue that SAD is an extreme I didn't even know I was involved in. So, swinging to VLC and playing around with some rigidity in basic paleo 101 is building useful reference points for my grain/sludge/anti-nutrient soaked gut compass.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 19, 2011
at 01:24 PM

"hear" not "here." damn.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 19, 2011
at 01:24 PM

Yeah, and it gets tough cuz you can easily start sounding like a dick but i mean theres a lot to be said for like "you decide to eat and not eat, no matter what your hormones are telling you." Taubes is right i think, and to a large extent hormones and macros hold sway of weight issues but also choosing to simply not eat so much and/or just eating more moderately needs more attention in our circles. People here atkins, paleo, etc and think "oh cool finally i can just be a sloth and i'll still be healthy." Black and white like always yknow? The truth is grey as hell though, right

Medium avatar

(5639)

on June 19, 2011
at 02:43 AM

Well put Ben...I especially like the lack of control of habits bit. That's so true.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 17, 2011
at 04:39 PM

Yeah, that's true too, Nico. This is one of those areas where there really isn't a "follow this rule always" metric. We always get the rule wrong. My point about "moderation" as a guiding philosophy is that it can fail, too. For instance, people with peanut allergies can't eat them "in moderation." And population studies and average responses don't help them; they have a specific problem. Nothing unscientific about it; they're just in the tail of the "peanut tolerance" curve. And so it is with some of the rest of us, too.

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on June 17, 2011
at 01:36 AM

I dunno: check out Dr. Harris's account of a woman who was convinced that she could only eat oatmeal and chicken breasts. Scientific evidence is really important, and our subjective assessment of "what works" needs to be tempered by scientific evidence- we fool ourselves all the time.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:52 PM

Exactly. And in keeping with the "do what works for you" theme, I also think it's important to not commit to any food ideology (and I say that as someone who eats zero-carb). Eat the way your body feels best long term, regardless of whether it's "extreme" or "moderate" or "sensible" or whatever. Those words are meaningless to your body.

91c2e2a35e578e2e79ce7d631b753879

(2081)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:50 PM

My feelings - and experience - EXACTLY.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:45 PM

Yes, self experimentation is the key to finding what is optimal for you. I never expected any book or diet to work for me, so I learned to take parts from everything and make my own.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Absolutely, the people that make it work long term are the middle ground people, too. Being extreme is hard to keep up for too long.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:20 PM

Wish I could upvote the edit too!

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16 Answers

17
14d2a231fb261051a036a6ab6ca7bebd

on June 16, 2011
at 12:38 PM

The "middle way" is to stop relying on outside influences when it comes to your health. Ultimately, it all comes down to you.

If we continue to externalize everything - THIS Expert says to eat THIS, not THAT. THAT Expert says to eat THAT, not THIS, etc... we'll never truly own our health. We'll always be at the mercy of the next fad. This has been the bane health and fitness for the past 30 years.

Subject matter experts are great sources of information, but they are not gurus. Nobody has all the answers. Seek out as much knowledge as you can, but ultimately you are the best judge of what works for you. Own your own health. Do what works best for you.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:52 PM

Exactly. And in keeping with the "do what works for you" theme, I also think it's important to not commit to any food ideology (and I say that as someone who eats zero-carb). Eat the way your body feels best long term, regardless of whether it's "extreme" or "moderate" or "sensible" or whatever. Those words are meaningless to your body.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on June 17, 2011
at 04:39 PM

Yeah, that's true too, Nico. This is one of those areas where there really isn't a "follow this rule always" metric. We always get the rule wrong. My point about "moderation" as a guiding philosophy is that it can fail, too. For instance, people with peanut allergies can't eat them "in moderation." And population studies and average responses don't help them; they have a specific problem. Nothing unscientific about it; they're just in the tail of the "peanut tolerance" curve. And so it is with some of the rest of us, too.

02736efa3fda31740e8890eed0cb663d

(1813)

on June 17, 2011
at 01:36 AM

I dunno: check out Dr. Harris's account of a woman who was convinced that she could only eat oatmeal and chicken breasts. Scientific evidence is really important, and our subjective assessment of "what works" needs to be tempered by scientific evidence- we fool ourselves all the time.

11
Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:04 PM

wherever you want it to be.

ETA: i dont mean to be glib. i just think that in experimenting with all the different versions of paleo that people might try something to an extreme. its funny that paleo itself is considered an extreme diet by most of america, but within paleo we have zealots of all different stripes. fanatics tend to be the loudest, but i think the vast majority of us ARE the middle ground.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:43 PM

Absolutely, the people that make it work long term are the middle ground people, too. Being extreme is hard to keep up for too long.

66e6b190e62fb3bcf42d4c60801c7bf6

(12407)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:20 PM

Wish I could upvote the edit too!

7
9e2180e7bfd688eb52d4f0c536172024

(2004)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:48 PM

I think the Perfect Health Diet is in the middle. It is fat-friendly, but stresses the importance of being well-nourished in protein, carbs, and micronutrients.

7
7e1433afbb06c318c4d90860d493c49d

(5959)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:14 PM

My version of paleo has always been middle-way spectrum. Neither super low carb, nor super high carb. I've had life-long issues with carbohydrate metabolism, and my N=1 experience keeps telling me, over and over again, to limit or avoid starch and certain fruits. Beyond that, it's simply a matter of eating real food and avoiding NADs.

91c2e2a35e578e2e79ce7d631b753879

(2081)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:50 PM

My feelings - and experience - EXACTLY.

6
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:56 PM

My own impression seems to be that most paleos do occupy the middle ground. Those positions are simply less attention-grabbing.

5
667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:48 PM

I've done it, too. I ate only animal products for over three months, enormous amounts of fat and protein.

I think tinkering with one's eating and watching and controlling its effects on body comp is a great way to really understand all the issues surrounding cals and macros. I don't think extremes are bad at all. Course, this assumes one has enough self-control to manage things well.

I did my extremes after reading about similar extremes from authors and authorities. Again I don't think its bad at all. I never was religious about it - I knew that I'd try something and then fix it if it didn't work. There is an element of control-of-habits that I do feel is missing in at least American society today. People are always amazed (not in a good way, just shocked kind of) that I routinely do these self-experiments. I think its a great way to make yourself understand fuel's effect on the body.

Right now, I am indeed, after years of extremes, settled into a relative middle path of equal parts protein and carbohydrate and the remainder of cals coming from fat. I don't drown anything in some wonderoil, I don't eat huge amounts of some amazon berry, etc.

I recommend people try more things out on themselves. That is how you will learn that despite what someone's book may tell you, calories do matter and so do hormones and macros.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:45 PM

Yes, self experimentation is the key to finding what is optimal for you. I never expected any book or diet to work for me, so I learned to take parts from everything and make my own.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 19, 2011
at 01:24 PM

"hear" not "here." damn.

Medium avatar

(5639)

on June 19, 2011
at 02:43 AM

Well put Ben...I especially like the lack of control of habits bit. That's so true.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on June 19, 2011
at 01:24 PM

Yeah, and it gets tough cuz you can easily start sounding like a dick but i mean theres a lot to be said for like "you decide to eat and not eat, no matter what your hormones are telling you." Taubes is right i think, and to a large extent hormones and macros hold sway of weight issues but also choosing to simply not eat so much and/or just eating more moderately needs more attention in our circles. People here atkins, paleo, etc and think "oh cool finally i can just be a sloth and i'll still be healthy." Black and white like always yknow? The truth is grey as hell though, right

5
Medium avatar

(19469)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:29 PM

I think it is easy to be swayed by extremists. If you watch the news, you might think that this country is split between socialist liberals and gun-totin' conservatives, but the day-to-day reality is that most people don't clearly define themselves as one or the other.

When it comes to diets, its the same thing. I appreciated ready GCGC by Taubes because I now have a much better understanding of the effects of carbohydrates, but does that mean that I am now afraid to eat any carbs? Heck no!

Well, maybe I was scared of carbs for a little while, but that's the point, eliminating fruit from my diet made me feel worse, not better, so I had to trust my own body and my own intuition regarding what foods to eat.

4
98bf2ca7f8778c79cd3f6c962011cfdc

on June 16, 2011
at 02:23 PM

I see paleo as a philosophy that encompasses many different food plans. There really are many paths to paleo God. Our extremists are so important as they set the parameters for us. Between the extremes we see a full spectrum of possibilities. Or at least we can see if we so choose. Operating within this given spectrum each of us can and must find out what works best for our bodies and our lives.

8be7a492e2844e2ad5595a6c73974f99

(891)

on June 19, 2011
at 04:43 PM

Agree. Going to extremes is useful in developing our internal guidance. I mean, I would argue that SAD is an extreme I didn't even know I was involved in. So, swinging to VLC and playing around with some rigidity in basic paleo 101 is building useful reference points for my grain/sludge/anti-nutrient soaked gut compass.

4
254ea62982c287995e11bc3cfd629407

(822)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:36 PM

Matthew,

Good question. I'm just at my beginning exploring Paleo and will likely never fully commit to a degree that I can't go off the reservation once in a while.

For me, and I think for many, it's all about gradients. As a guy nearing middle age and previously seeing my blood numbers getting all screwby, Paleo made sense at the foundational level of getting away from high amounts of sugar, sodium and processed foods. Ok, done (grudgingly so!).

Next, was adding in foods that did specific things for me (more Omega 3's, more zinc, etc), and deleting other things that were verboten (legumes, starchy carbs). Done.

Next will be finding better resources for "cleaner" foods - grass-fed beef, organic fruits and veggies, etc. Also to investigate further with maybe a Whole30 routine to see if dairy is entirely bad for me.

All the while, I'm monitoring my reaction to adding/deleting things. I think I'll find a balance of what works for me and my body, and will continue to research and listen to those in the community. Regardless, if there is anything I'm learning, is that zealotry is rarely good and experimentation with what works and what doesn't is the most important aspect of this journey. Good luck, brother!

3
417ac0e162dc468b8ca61a574e5cd3c0

on June 18, 2011
at 02:41 AM

With respect to just the animal-fat issue I tell my patients/clients this: If the animal's fat is/was naturally-occurring, then don't worry about it , you're good to go. And if the animal's fat is there due to 'un-natural' causes (cheap, CAFO Beef), then you shouldn't be eating it anyway.

Consider this:

By the late paleolithic era our ancestors, who are virtually genetically-identical to us, had long-emigrated around the globe and lived nearly everywhere on the globe at varying latitudes with some even living well above the arctic circle. Animal food sources at higher latitudes generally contain high levels of fat (due to the animals' need for thermal protection and also as stored fuel in early winter due to seasonal non-availability of food of hibernators.) Examples: whale, caribou, Polar bear, Salmon, etc. Animals in equatorial regions generally contain lower fat (due to lower need for thermal protection and lack of strong seasonal variations in food availability..therefore no need to hibernate, for instance). Examples:Duiker, Antelope, monkey, cats, etc. So, we know that for many thousands of years, our late Paleolithic ancestors generally got along at varying latitudes, eating a wide variety of animal-fat as a % of calories in their respective diets. For instance, arctic-dwellers ate higher % animal fat and equatorial peoples ate lower % animal fat. We also know that, in general, virtually none of these groups suffered nearly any of the chronic 'diseases of civilization'. So, in my opinion, it is difficult to make an argument for either high-fat and/or lower-animal-fat exclusively, as our ancestors varied pretty widely.

So remember to ask yourself: Is the food-source's fat component naturally-occurring or not? I do not think it is a perfect rule, but it helps clarify things for folks and opens up more choices for many trying to go 'Paleo'.

Cheers.

2
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 19, 2011
at 02:01 AM

I like the middle ground. I was prepared however to go to extremes when my issues weren't resolved after only 5 months on Paleo. I lack patience. Getting a marginal adrenal function result on my cortisol test is sending me back to the middle road though. Extremes will ultimately make my condition worse. No sense going there even for the sake of experiment.

2
8c5533ffe71bd4262fedc7e898ead1ba

on June 16, 2011
at 01:37 PM

I also think most of us are middle-of-the-way. Personally, I don't do dairy 'cause I'm allergic to it. I do eat fruit because I run long distance and need the extra carbs. I only trim fat to the extent that I do or do not want the taste.

Though, honestly, coconut milk (or even better cream) is the food of the Gods and you all know it. ;-)

2
1568416ef28477d1fa29046218d83ddd

(6235)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:34 PM

"The uncompromising attitude is more indicative of an inner uncertainty than of deep conviction. The implacable stand is directed more against the doubt within than the assailant without."

Eric Hoffer, a man who knew more about extremism than most.

2
31cd30cb210f9d13bf990a3410fce31c

(423)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:05 PM

I agree that the middle way is whatever way works for YOU. I think most people experiment when starting Paleo to see what works for them. For me, I wouldn't think of touching grains, even as a cheat and have cut out most dairy products but once a week I'll have some Red Mango frozen yogurt and deal with the sugar. It minimally affects the way I feel and I move on. Sometimes I'll have a spoonful of peanut butter because I LOVE peanut butter. These adjustments work for me. I think that once someone finds what works for them, this really becomes a maintainable lifestyle and not a "diet".

Jamie

1
A8d95f3744a7a0885894ee0731c9744c

(3761)

on June 16, 2011
at 01:56 PM

Sharing results and recommending an approach to doesn't mean that there are set-in-stone systematic "paleo" methodologies. Paleo has become too individualized for that.

I think "the middle road" doesn't necessarily exist, because everyone does paleo a little differently.

1
Eedf46c82d0356d1d46dda5f9782ef36

(4464)

on June 16, 2011
at 12:25 PM

I'd bet most of us haven't strayed too far from the "middle" you speak of - it's just that the fringes that are more likely to make big blogs about things... more likely to get on stage and yell "look at me and what I've done!"

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