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Paleo and the Peace Corps

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created November 06, 2011 at 5:28 PM

I'm graduating college this march and was contemplating going to the peace corps for two years. Aside from personal implications, I wondered if I can manage paleo abroad. You are usually given the wage of the standard of living in whatever country you're helping. I know I wouldn't starve, but my diet probably wouldn't be optimal. I've been paleo for 2 years and am very well adjusted to it. Since I don't know where I'd be located, I guess this is a vague question. Anyway, do you think the peace corps and paleo could be compatible?

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on November 07, 2011
at 06:11 AM

thanks for all the responses. this was my only real reservation was the potential long term health consequences. obviously, everyone will have a highly varied experience based on so many different aspects– upbringing, mindset, location, etc. anyway, i guess a large part depends on the location to which i'd be assigned. as i continue the application process, i may email you. thanks again

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 07, 2011
at 03:14 AM

Long time no see, Jae! Hope you're doing well.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 07, 2011
at 02:51 AM

Agreed! If it was trivially easy, it wouldn't be a PH question ;).

Medium avatar

(4878)

on November 07, 2011
at 02:37 AM

Thanks for the jab. My comments included thoughts from numerous PCV friends, some who bailed because it was too hard, and some who made it work. No doubt it can be tough, but you have no idea how close to PCV experiences I've had working internationally. (I'm assuming you thought I was "traveling".) Luckily I was 26 on my first trip, so I had a little more maturity than most new grads when dumped in the middle of nowhere.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on November 07, 2011
at 02:14 AM

I respect that. I just want the OP to know that I think it is not a trivially easy decision.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 07, 2011
at 02:02 AM

Jae, I said *I* would choose the latter ... I chose not to go this route after college and a couple of decades later, I still regret it.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on November 07, 2011
at 01:56 AM

I think fermented CLO + jerky would have been awesome. Unfortunately, in my village, I would have had no way to refrigerate the CLO. Your advice is mostly good but I would not say "definitely choose the latter." It is not an easy decision. I made some big sacrifices in terms of my health. Five years later, I'm not sure if it was worth it.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on November 06, 2011
at 07:56 PM

I am in full agreement with Marie. I too have traveled extensively and discovered that many aspects of my life improved upon entering all these new worlds. Don't let a "diet" or "lifestyle" inhibit anything as there will be myriad ways for you to eat. You have a hell of an exciting journey coming up, go and enjoy, live!

Aa69579f867333b08158c70e25f7daf1

(1826)

on November 06, 2011
at 07:08 PM

Agreed. Do the best you can do with your diet, and enjoy your youth and this time in your life.

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc

(15976)

on November 06, 2011
at 07:03 PM

You can find meat, vegetables, and starch pretty much anywhere on he earth at the moment. Certainly anywhere the corps might send you. The sheer quantity of meat you consume may fall but do what, go explore!!!

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8 Answers

5
Medium avatar

(4878)

on November 06, 2011
at 06:04 PM

You will likely be able to live a Paleo lifestyle easier in emerging markets than our own. You will be shopping local markets, walking A LOT, and with less resources will find a way.

My friends who've been PCVs (successfully) found additional jobs to pay for their desire to travel a little more and live a more comfortable life.

I've traveled extensively in developed and developing countries (Russia, Peru, Guatemala, Belize, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Thailand, Malaysia) and discovered my health improved in less developed countries. This consistent 20 lb weight loss + better sleep + general improved moods + a myriad of physical issues that disappeared every time I left the US really pushed me to take ownership of my health and showed me there is a better way, the old way.

I encourage you to network with older generations (+60 y/os) in the country where you are assigned and to ask them to teach you traditional cooking. From Russia to Thailand, the food tastes sooo much better than what we can find here. You'll come away with some amazing insights to the local culture, improved language skills, and some incredible friendships that will last a lifetime.

Best of luck and look forward to the most amazing physical and spiritual journey you will likely take during your lifetime.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on November 06, 2011
at 07:56 PM

I am in full agreement with Marie. I too have traveled extensively and discovered that many aspects of my life improved upon entering all these new worlds. Don't let a "diet" or "lifestyle" inhibit anything as there will be myriad ways for you to eat. You have a hell of an exciting journey coming up, go and enjoy, live!

4
7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 06, 2011
at 05:51 PM

If I had the choice between not doing the peace corps and staying "real" paleo (TM) versus doing the peace corps and doing the best I could where I was, I'd definitely choose the latter.

For one, I would bet that the traditional diet of whatever country I was in, while not optimal, would have options to make the diet tolerable (though you might have to get over Western sensibilities). Also per Michael Rose's 55 theses, since you're young, you likely have a lot more tolerance for a grain-based diet.

Not sure what you could bring and/or have sent to you, but perhaps a couple of key foods or supplements (e.g., fermented cod liver oil, grass-fed jerky) would enable you to round out your local diet.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 07, 2011
at 02:02 AM

Jae, I said *I* would choose the latter ... I chose not to go this route after college and a couple of decades later, I still regret it.

Aa69579f867333b08158c70e25f7daf1

(1826)

on November 06, 2011
at 07:08 PM

Agreed. Do the best you can do with your diet, and enjoy your youth and this time in your life.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on November 07, 2011
at 02:14 AM

I respect that. I just want the OP to know that I think it is not a trivially easy decision.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on November 07, 2011
at 01:56 AM

I think fermented CLO + jerky would have been awesome. Unfortunately, in my village, I would have had no way to refrigerate the CLO. Your advice is mostly good but I would not say "definitely choose the latter." It is not an easy decision. I made some big sacrifices in terms of my health. Five years later, I'm not sure if it was worth it.

7dc950fc76a046048e683d2a27dced37

on November 07, 2011
at 02:51 AM

Agreed! If it was trivially easy, it wouldn't be a PH question ;).

2
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on November 06, 2011
at 06:48 PM

Join! It is a great chance to expand your views. You will find the food you need.

1
2b2c2e4aa87e9aa4c99cae48e980f70d

(1059)

on November 09, 2011
at 02:45 AM

My son is currently in the Peace Corps, serving in Guatemala, following a paleo diet.

He posts on MDA under PeaceCorpsCaveMan. During training, paleo was pretty much impossible, but now that he living on his own and cooking his own meals he is closeR to paleo than many of us in the US. He is raising chickens, ducks and turkeys and has developed relationships with the local butchers, smokes his own bacon, etc.

0
9a0861d7ef021ceb7d81e548f5eac6bd

on November 08, 2011
at 05:25 AM

Make sure you are careful while serving, my husband lost a good friend who was in the Peace Corp. He was serving in Lesotho. A local held him and a girl at gun point and demanded money, she got away but he didn't. It was a huge loss of such a wonderful spirited person who was really trying to help the world. His name is Thomas Maresco. Just be very aware of your surroundings especially in cities.

0
77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on November 07, 2011
at 01:52 AM

I served in the Peace Corps in 2004-2006 in West Africa.

In the country where I served, it would have been nearly impossible to eat anything close to Paleo/Primal, unless you brought your own money and bought your own food and never ate with locals. (I would discourage you from doing that unless you want to live like an expat and not a PCV, in which case, just joint the Foreign Service.)

I ate almost every meal with my host family or other locals. Everything was cooked in vegetable oil imported from China. Meat was relatively expensive, and of low quality (sometimes rancid), and I never ate more than a few mouthfuls per meal. Fish was available in some parts of the country, but not plentiful unless you were rich. The greatest sources of calories were rice, pasta, cous cous, vegetable oil, sugar, and powdered milk (all imported, except for the cous cous). Fruits and vegetables were largely ignored.

I lost about 30 pounds (not a good thing for me) and was sick an awful lot.

You may have a different experience, depending on where you are placed. I remember reading on MDA about a PCV who was in Vanuatu and he seemed to be having a great time and staying Primal. In other regions, such as West Africa, your food choices will likely be "less than optimal," as you euphemistically stated.

If you want to do the Peace Corps, I think you should be willing to do it without staying Paleo. If your placement allows you to avoid vegetable oils and gluten and sugar, for the most part, great. If not, just roll with it for two years. Part of the immense value of the PC is that it forces you to live like the locals do. You drink their water, you eat their food, you don't act like the special American.

If you feel that being non-Paleo for two years is not worth it, then that's okay, too. Having done it myself, I don't know that it was worth it. However, if you get a good placement, you can easily end up with a much better experience than I had.

My advice would be to talk to as many PCVs as you can. I'm a little disappointed in the advice given here from non-RPCVs. Just because a country is a "developing nation" doesn't mean their diet will be any better than SAD. In my case, I would say it was much, much worse! Also, the PC is not always a magical experience that will be the most amazing journey of your life. It can be, but it can also be a terrible, nightmarish two years.

If you want to talk about your Peace Corps options, you are always welcome to email me (see my profile). I'd also be happy to put you in touch with many other RPCVs who had much better experiences than I did (and some who had it much worse), so you can get a complete picture of what you might be in for.

Best of luck.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on November 07, 2011
at 03:14 AM

Long time no see, Jae! Hope you're doing well.

Medium avatar

(4878)

on November 07, 2011
at 02:37 AM

Thanks for the jab. My comments included thoughts from numerous PCV friends, some who bailed because it was too hard, and some who made it work. No doubt it can be tough, but you have no idea how close to PCV experiences I've had working internationally. (I'm assuming you thought I was "traveling".) Luckily I was 26 on my first trip, so I had a little more maturity than most new grads when dumped in the middle of nowhere.

9ac8a7b68cf079b22de42b703e466e64

(787)

on November 07, 2011
at 06:11 AM

thanks for all the responses. this was my only real reservation was the potential long term health consequences. obviously, everyone will have a highly varied experience based on so many different aspects– upbringing, mindset, location, etc. anyway, i guess a large part depends on the location to which i'd be assigned. as i continue the application process, i may email you. thanks again

0
93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on November 07, 2011
at 12:57 AM

The peace corps has helped destroy a lot of traditional tribal ways.

0
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on November 07, 2011
at 12:52 AM

From what I've heard from people who've done it, your menu is usually limited to what the poor people you're working with eat - often mostly a staple grain like millet, or rice, and you're lucky to get much protein at all. Quality meat and non-grain starches will not be available/affordable in many places you might end up.

That's not a reason not to do it, but you should be aware of the possibility of being forced to eat a rather crappy diet.

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