10

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Ever experienced paleo disillusionment?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created August 16, 2011 at 6:35 AM

Ever felt disillusioned with the whole paleo thing?

A few weeks ago, I was pretty stoked about it. Patri Friedman had gotten me into Taubes, intermittent fasting, and paleo after I finished undergrad in 2010. I'd since come across a number of paleo blogs and thought I'd found the next big thing -- and an excellent source of informed, unbiased information on nutrition and health that I could continue to use and share. I made the entire history of Kurt Harris' and Stephan Guyenet's blogs into text-to-speech mp3 files and listened to them like podcasts. I got out my old biochem and neuroscience textbooks, started auditing lectures on metabolism, started reading pubmed articles for fun... and I seriously thought about ditching the economics grad work to do biochemistry or med school instead.

Pretty weird, really.

However over the last week or so, I've become rather disillusioned with the whole paleo thing. My friends think I've become some kind of grandmotherly Puritan food-cultist who underdiscounts the future, I've reminded myself that intervention in metabolism is an extremely limited fix which will likely be surpassed by biotechnology in my lifetime, and the uncritical praise by Harris and others for Stephan's rather poor critique of Taubes and the nonsensical food reward hypothesis has really phased me. The only paleo blog that has put up a reasonable assessment of this seems to be Pal Jabekk. These factors combined seem to have prettymuch killed my enthusiasm for paleo or health science in general. Maybe now I can get back to my macroeconometrics.

Medium avatar

(5639)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

In my scientifically uninformed and humble opinion, the food reward hypothesis is bullshit.

0e395acc856e3353f3f5892e6b09b0e7

(1227)

on August 17, 2011
at 01:07 PM

I look into the mirror and see my own lean 69 year old body and smile. I have never felt better in my life.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on August 16, 2011
at 08:54 PM

I find this question a bit silly. Reasonable people disagree? "Gurus" aren't perfect?!? Gasp! The horror!! If you think it is cut&dried in economics, you got another thing coming.

E639bc85fd42430285596434a6515ad5

(2226)

on August 16, 2011
at 07:21 PM

Can you give a super brief description of those questionable ideas? (Do they involve leanness of meats? An avoidance of starchy tubers? A lack of appreciation for the diversity of ancestral human diets?)

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on August 16, 2011
at 06:39 PM

I think that works for some people though jakey, it depends what your issues are. I don't think it's the answer for everyone, but I definitely think it fits for some people.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on August 16, 2011
at 06:04 PM

Lovely & poetic answer!

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 16, 2011
at 06:00 PM

love this answer, as usual.

F6ea948ab43dc51d72509c0989e670fe

(1639)

on August 16, 2011
at 05:33 PM

Haven't seen the video yet, but point #3 covers it well: (Thanks gone2croatan) http://www.wildnessandwonder.com/2011/08/top-ten-wtf-moments-of-ahs11/

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 16, 2011
at 04:53 PM

@sherpamelissa, i understand binge eating. it was a problem for me for YEARS. but the food reward hypothesis mangles the emotional eating issue quite badly, by linking it to certain types of food, only.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on August 16, 2011
at 04:51 PM

points for calling out stephan's food reward hypothesis for being a completely out-of-date, intelectually weak theory, not to mention rather original. not that taubes is perfect by any means, but i know where i stand in their 'debate.'

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on August 16, 2011
at 04:49 PM

Awww, Futureboy. If you had ever had an eating disorder, I think food reward would make a lot more sense to you. To me, it's everything. It's why I became obese and it's what I had to fix inside myself to get past it.

Medium avatar

(5639)

on August 16, 2011
at 04:25 PM

Here, here! If you see/read something about Paleo that you think is untrue, or unfounded, and you have the resources and the knowledge to reute it, or put it back on course, I say go for it!

60c285ff1dff1ea5af6a5820aa5320cf

(266)

on August 16, 2011
at 04:16 PM

This is what I am loving about Paleo. I feel like at heart it's about listening to your body and eating clean, whole foods. Some people may end up on a different path but it will be where their bodies lead them. Not "common sense" or one-size-fits-all advice. That's just so powerful!

3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

(2369)

on August 16, 2011
at 03:51 PM

I agree that we can probably assign a range of diet factors that will work for most. I think the big mistake is the thought that when you find your spot within this range, it will remain static. I see a lot of posts from hardcore exercisers that mention fatigue, cortisol issues, etc. after a while doing low-carb paleo. I wonder if that range might have to be adjusted depending on your age, previous or current metabolic damage, the amount of healing from years of SAD, etc. On a macro level, we're genetically very similar. On a micro level, differences in even one nucleotide can be drastic.

Ccdf3fbcaec76e025ff94d03cc4daf9a

(536)

on August 16, 2011
at 03:06 PM

Love the post! Dont give up on Econ, it was my major and I loved it. I know a little off topic for a Paleo website, but I thought I'd give you props. Hope to go to grad school soon!

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on August 16, 2011
at 03:01 PM

Well not "easily", but in general there should be somewhat of a consensus on what is the optimal human diet. Maybe we have not come to this determination as of yet, but I think it is a viable ideal.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on August 16, 2011
at 02:58 PM

Yeah, I like Sisson's aproach also. I would say that I feel the answers for everyone should be darn near the same. We are less distinct from each other than we think and I do feel we could easily designate a species specific diet. Where I think your point of different answers for everyone comes in is to what degree and how have your homeostatic mechanisms been damaged by stressors up to this point.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on August 16, 2011
at 01:04 PM

Of life.........

Ec7cb2a7a68655954a01f03e95be1383

(1453)

on August 16, 2011
at 09:59 AM

Food is not everything. It's something we figure out and then go on living. Go with what is reasonable to you, observe how you feel and read as much about it as you want but don't confuse ongoing scientific disagreements with your personal choices. Its hard not to identify with the whole paleo concept without falling into religion, and it's healing that your strong identification gets rifts so you can evaluate whats really important for you in life.

Ec7cb2a7a68655954a01f03e95be1383

(1453)

on August 16, 2011
at 09:59 AM

Food is not everything. It's something we figure out and then go on living. Go with what is reasonable to you, observe how you feel and read as much about it as you want but don't confuse ongoing scientific disagreements with your personal choices. Its hard not to identify with the whole paleo concept without falling into religion, and it's healing that your strong identification gets rifts so you can evaluate whats really important in live.

0c939bdddc3d8f8ef923ba8a72aeda71

on August 16, 2011
at 08:08 AM

"violence is a necessary component" .. of what?

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14 Answers

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7
3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 16, 2011
at 05:09 PM

I suppose this is one advantage of not considering myself "Paleo" per se, but merely a low-carb hanger-on, lol. I've certainly used the ideas of various Paleo gurus at times as one of several supports for my way of eating, but my point of entry was low-carb. And since going "zero-carb" (term of art, there -- it really just means animal products only), the "Paleo" label has become even more tenuous for me, since clearly the number of meat-only traditional societies cannot be much higher than zero; even the Inuit are looking dicey in that regard.

And beyond nutrition, I've been interested in evolutionary psychology -- warts and all -- for many, many years, long before I ever heard of Loren Cordain or Mike Eades. So I've always had "Paleo goggles" of a sort through which I examined society and, to a lesser extent (sorry to say), my own life and lifestyle choices.

I'll eat this way as long as my health continues to thrive, which over the last four years it certainly has, to a degree that still seems miraculous to me. And I'll always be fond of the idea of the "Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation," even as it gets pushed and pulled by new discoveries and hostile challenges, and I'll continue to view society and my life through that lens. But the final arbiter of my decisions will always be my body and its responses to how I care for it, and never the degree to which I comply with the most recent thinking in Paleoland, Evolutionary Biology Land, or even Low-Carb Land.

Afterthought: I wonder if the degree and length of attachment or excitement people feel about any conversion experience -- and changing your diet drastically could certainly be considered a conversion experience -- scales to the degree of benefit they derive from it? In other words, I've wondered if I'm such a "fundie" (I've been accused of that by people who are uncomfortable with ZC, and I'm considering wearing the label proudly, lol) because I was so fucked up before I started eating this way. People who were relatively healthy, and who derive small to moderate benefit from the change, might find their enthusiasm flagging as time goes on, and understandably so.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 16, 2011
at 06:00 PM

love this answer, as usual.

7
3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on August 16, 2011
at 01:36 PM

Post-undergrad blues? Not sure of your future? Sounds something kind of like that. I mean I seriously doubt biotech is going to make all of this discussion a moot point in any time soon. That is a far overestimate of our understanding and control of how the body works. We really have barely scratched the surface.

I think getting out that neuroscience text and biochem was a GREAT way to critique/reference the processes your hearing and reading about. These bloggers are just people like you and me. You can and should challenge their ideas. They get caught up in their own notions as easily as anyone. Blogs arent everything, just one mans view on a narrow topic usually.

Medium avatar

(5639)

on August 16, 2011
at 04:25 PM

Here, here! If you see/read something about Paleo that you think is untrue, or unfounded, and you have the resources and the knowledge to reute it, or put it back on course, I say go for it!

7
F6ea948ab43dc51d72509c0989e670fe

(1639)

on August 16, 2011
at 07:28 AM

I was very disillusioned for a period of time during the summer. During one point, I thought that donuts were the perfect creation. sigh.

I think what got me back on what a series of "issues" with my intestinal track, reminding me that wheat wasn't a great option for me. For me, the science and reasoning behind it are secondary to feeling better. Every time I get off track, I get fatigued, crabby, bitchy and feel like my immune system hates my sinuses.

Even better, AHS happened and there were a lot of posts that encouraged me to get back on track. #AHS11, thank you for giving me ideas that starches are okay, that violence is a necessary component, and courtesy of Robb Wolf: "science works, bitches!"

So now, I'm back. Hope this helps!

0c939bdddc3d8f8ef923ba8a72aeda71

on August 16, 2011
at 08:08 AM

"violence is a necessary component" .. of what?

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on August 16, 2011
at 01:04 PM

Of life.........

F6ea948ab43dc51d72509c0989e670fe

(1639)

on August 16, 2011
at 05:33 PM

Haven't seen the video yet, but point #3 covers it well: (Thanks gone2croatan) http://www.wildnessandwonder.com/2011/08/top-ten-wtf-moments-of-ahs11/

7
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on August 16, 2011
at 07:23 AM

I think you are experiencing an important moment in your personal evolution. Paleo can be an identity, it can seem all clean, and straightforward, "the way" if you will. Your current identity is being challenged by those who helped create it being in disagreement. Nutrition is still a very young "science", it more closely resembles a religion in my experience. We need the people we admire, and who are on the front-lines of research to disagree, and really hash out their differences until we can distill what is indeed factual from what we wish were factual.

I still have a hunch that "nutrition" is the next barrier for human society to break through if we are going to thrive rather than our current model of letting things go haywire, and then attempting to medicate ourselves back into a state of normality. Nutrition needs thinkers like you, but then again so does economics. The honeymoon phase is over, give yourself time grieve its passing, see which way you lean, and then get down to the real work.

6
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 16, 2011
at 04:36 PM

If you start actually studying biological anthropology you'll get REALLY disillusioned. Cordain and Art De Vany used to be my heroes, but these days it's clear to me that they have some very questionable ideas.

E639bc85fd42430285596434a6515ad5

(2226)

on August 16, 2011
at 07:21 PM

Can you give a super brief description of those questionable ideas? (Do they involve leanness of meats? An avoidance of starchy tubers? A lack of appreciation for the diversity of ancestral human diets?)

6
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on August 16, 2011
at 12:55 PM

I don't think I got disillusioned, but there was definitely an exciting honeymoon phase of learning and feeling incredible with my new way of eating. I was devouring information and fat at new and amazing levels! Then, as with most things, it's just a little less exciting on a daily basis.

I still believe this is the best way of eating for my health and mental wellness, so I will continue to do so, even if it's not quite so amazing as it seemed 10 months ago.

5
C0fcb48d7da4f76fac17318efd2cd6b8

on August 16, 2011
at 05:11 PM

Every time I look at a metabolically deranged wheat/HFCS/industrial oil/diet-coke belly I get inspired.

Every time I look at my sixty nine year old husband's newly lean and beautiful face and incredibly active body I get inspired.

Every time I look back over my life and remember how many physical and psychological problems I had pre paleo, well then I get inspired by my new sense of calmness, clarity, energy, enjoyment of life, and optimism I feel for life.

I only experience paleo disillusion when I get bogged down in occasional bouts of paralysis of diet analysis.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on August 16, 2011
at 06:04 PM

Lovely & poetic answer!

0e395acc856e3353f3f5892e6b09b0e7

(1227)

on August 17, 2011
at 01:07 PM

I look into the mirror and see my own lean 69 year old body and smile. I have never felt better in my life.

5
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 16, 2011
at 06:39 AM

The good feeling from eating well keeps me going. I learn new things every day here on Paleo Hacks. I have tried several other diets. As I dive deeper into the science the Paleo diet holds true. More than a diet but a way of eating for life to obtain optimal health.

4
154d799847153f5589f99496a9bdbb71

on August 16, 2011
at 02:10 PM

I think anyone who bought into the carb hypothesis is feeling a bit disillusioned lately. I know the feeling, but after some reflection, admitting that I was wrong makes me feel even more confident. When you know that this isn't a religion, that we are open to new evidence, this whole experience becomes a lesson in humility and skepticism. It doesn't have to mean you throw out the baby with the bathwater though.

Not sure if you agree with that hypothesis or not, but you might want to consider that Taubes still is right about a great number of things... and the things that he may have gotten wrong really have nothing to do with paleo.

My friends think I've become some kind of grandmotherly Puritan food-cultist who underdiscounts the future, I've reminded myself that intervention in metabolism is an extremely limited fix which will likely be surpassed by biotechnology in my lifetime...

I disagree. What's odd is everyone has a tendency to think all breakthroughs have pretty much already happened or are going to happen in their lifetimes. The principles behind paleo would have suited you in 1900, in 1950, in 2000. Yet at any one of those points in history someone believed we were on the verge of eradicating all disease. And now, in 2011? We have an obesity and diabetes epidemic.

4
B14dc4aa1ddefbec3bc09550428ee493

on August 16, 2011
at 10:30 AM

I think my biggest disillusion has been learning that there are so many different interpretations of what paleo is and not all of those are in synch with what I've learned in the many years that I've been studying the whole health/obesity issue. So, I find that I have to pick and choose my sources.

2
7d64d3988de1b0e493aacf37843c5596

(2861)

on August 16, 2011
at 03:10 PM

I don???t really see why Paleo disillusionment would come now.

I think it had become pretty clear quite a while ago that Guyenet and Harris had pretty much turned away from Taubes??? Carb/Insulin Hypothesis, that people like Jaminet never really put much stock in it scientifically, and that people like Masterjohn never bought it to begin with.

Here is a statement KGH made about it last year: http://freetheanimal.com/2010/12/weekend-links-quick-hits-gary-taubes-art-de-vany-denise-minger-the-china-study-chris-masterjohn-and-real-results.html#comment-53991

A lot of Taubes??? supporters are framing this as Carb/Insulin Hypothesis vs Food Reward Hypothesis, but this isn???t just the case. Guyenet, Harris, Jaminet, Masterjohn, and many of the other scientific types rejected Taubes long before Guyenet started posting about Food Reward.

KGH has posted extensively about NADs and that talking in terms of macronutrients is pointless. He has made it perfectly clear that ???carbs??? is not a NAD.

There just should not be any surprise or shock about this.

I think it has been just as disillusioning for many people for quite awhile to see to Paleo people keep talking about ???carbs??? and ???insulin spikes??? being the one and only cause of diseases of civilization when so many of the scientific types like Harris and Guyenet have been trying to point people away from it. ???Carbs??? and ???insulin spikes??? are a step backwards from talk about NADs and other interesting aspects ancestral health.

2
3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

on August 16, 2011
at 02:30 PM

The paleo idea is evolving. Relax and enjoy the ride. I think we will find that there is no one answer for everyone. Some will need more carbs, some less; some will be totally intolerant of certain foods like gluten, nightshades, salicylates, etc. and some less so; some will benefit from Crossfit-like intensity, some won't. I've always liked Sisson's list of Primal Laws - they emphasize moderation and doing what works for you. Biochemistry is complex and no one person knows all the answers. The beauty of the paleo scientific community is that it is open to observation, evaluation, re-evaluation, and subsequent change (unlike many other scientific communities I have observed). This odd combination of hardcore scientists, bloggers, and sites like PaleoHacks has produced something very unique. Enjoy it!

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on August 16, 2011
at 03:01 PM

Well not "easily", but in general there should be somewhat of a consensus on what is the optimal human diet. Maybe we have not come to this determination as of yet, but I think it is a viable ideal.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on August 16, 2011
at 02:58 PM

Yeah, I like Sisson's aproach also. I would say that I feel the answers for everyone should be darn near the same. We are less distinct from each other than we think and I do feel we could easily designate a species specific diet. Where I think your point of different answers for everyone comes in is to what degree and how have your homeostatic mechanisms been damaged by stressors up to this point.

60c285ff1dff1ea5af6a5820aa5320cf

(266)

on August 16, 2011
at 04:16 PM

This is what I am loving about Paleo. I feel like at heart it's about listening to your body and eating clean, whole foods. Some people may end up on a different path but it will be where their bodies lead them. Not "common sense" or one-size-fits-all advice. That's just so powerful!

3f5bbb444498a24f1a9720d75fa7c903

(2369)

on August 16, 2011
at 03:51 PM

I agree that we can probably assign a range of diet factors that will work for most. I think the big mistake is the thought that when you find your spot within this range, it will remain static. I see a lot of posts from hardcore exercisers that mention fatigue, cortisol issues, etc. after a while doing low-carb paleo. I wonder if that range might have to be adjusted depending on your age, previous or current metabolic damage, the amount of healing from years of SAD, etc. On a macro level, we're genetically very similar. On a micro level, differences in even one nucleotide can be drastic.

1
Medium avatar

on August 16, 2011
at 05:30 PM

Disillusioned? What problem were you expecting it to solve that it didn't?

I've never been obese, but no longer having reactive hypoglycemia and changing my hunger signals from a madman with a megaphone to a slight nudge is incredible.

1
218f4d92627e4289cc81178fce5b4d00

on August 16, 2011
at 03:44 PM

You should try living in Japan, the odds are really stacked against you here and it often gets me down. Grassfed? what's that? go to 90% of regular supermarkets and you cant find even a single can of coconut cream/milk, I want to scream after walking down an aisle purely of noodles, and then one of soy products - "you people are killing me! get a clue!" I truly envy people who have great access to bona fide foods especially all the American Paleo folk who seem to have it pretty good. Every time Robb Wolf recommends something, an item on his podcast that is at Trader Joes I want to cyber headbutt him.. The majority of my friends think I am nutjob, though luckily two of them are enlightened and also try to emulate as much as possible a paleo lifestyle. Rice is sacrosanct here and very hard to avoid, lucky it isn't the evilness that is wheat and Chris Kresser's views on rice give me hope, so I just avoid it as much as possible and and eat it every now and then. Sometimes like the character Cyber in " The matrix" I wish I could get plugged back in to the Matrix and forget about Paleo, but I can't - There is no going back now

Some of the Kerry-esque "flip-flopping" that is going on within the whole movement can be disillusioning, but overall I truly believe I have found my 'niche' even if it isn't perfect, it's much better gluten 'cubby hole' I used to reside in. As far as all the bickering over what causes Obesity etc, to be honest everyone is right, but no one is 100% right. I view it like a set of scales you have to keep it balanced at all times. If you load one side of the scale with too many carbs you better be balancing it with some serious cardio exercise on the other etc. Carbs aren't evil, the wrong ones are, or too many out of context can be. Food reward has it merits for sedentary lazy people eating crap, it's whacking the balance of their scale way off.

Anyway Whakahekeheke, relax step back a bit, seems you have overdosed on the literature and paleo-verse. Take your time, figure out what it really is you want.

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