(note: this post is in no way meant to disparage the authors of the books pictured above. These are men I know and respect, and you should also.)
We have officially entered The Paleo Diet Generation. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.
Why am I lamenting entering a generation of people who are aware and informed about the Paleo Diet, a structure for eating that I support? It is simply because Paleo has now officially become a “diet” in the popular sense. That is always the beginning of the end for any great health concept. Once a health concept becomes a diet, a whole bunch of other stuff happens…. none of it good. This is the process of corruption that takes place when some humans get their hands on a good idea. It’s part of the problem that so many refer to when ideas “go mainstream”. “Mainstream” is just a euphemism for corruption of some kind, and it’s a very real phenomenon.
Here’s a model for the problem of “going mainstream”: do you remember that old party trick where a bunch of people sit in a circle and the first person whispers a short story in the ear of the person to his/her right, who in turn tells it to the person on their right, and so on. When the story gets to the last person in the circle, it gets compared to the original and there is always some level of corruption that has taken place as each person conveys their own interpretation of what they heard. Some of this corruption is conscious, some of it unconscious, but it is always there. The more people in the circle, the greater the level of corruption to the story. This is what happens even when the intent is to be as accurate as possible. Imagine what kind of corruption can and does take place when there is an incentive to actually distort the concept for some other purpose… say, financial gain. No matter how great the concept, it doesn’t stand a chance against human nature.
“One of the problems with the word “diet” in the mainstream mind is that diets are believed to be things that we do ‘for a while’ and then we can get back to our real lives.“
We know that the Paleo pattern for living has gone mainstream because it is now referred to almost exclusively as a “diet”, when those of us that have studied the concept recognize that it is a complete lifestyle. More accurately, it is a way of being in the world. It is far-reaching and will affect every part of your life if you take the time to understand it. To refer to it as a “diet” cheapens it tragically, and will ultimately relegate it to the scrap-heap of diet history like so many before it: Zone, Adkins, South Beach, et al. All of these “diets” actually contain kernels of health concepts that any of us would benefit from, but as soon as they became a “diet” that achieved mainstream status, they opened themselves up to this corruption.
Some of this corruption is self-inflicted – as the originators of the concepts succumbed to the temptations of a book deal or some other profit-making scheme (and who can blame them). Because the word “diet” is such a hot-button in the public mind, most marketers will insist that this be part of the marketing campaign. Then, others will smell money like blood in the water, and they’ll find a way to skew the concept to meet some specific need in the mind of the public, or simply to put their own stamp on it. And so the corruption begins. By the time you hear about “The Paleo Diet” you never know what you’re getting. That’s where we are.
One of the problems with the word “diet” in the mainstream mind is that diets are believed to be things that we do ‘for a while’ and then we can get back to our real lives. Or, that can be ‘modified’ to meet our ‘individual needs’. Those of you that understand Paleo can immediately spot the problems with these attitudes. And there is no stopping it. That word “diet” is an automatic trigger for any number of distortions of healthy eating that will just help people avoid the actual work of eating right.
“If you are still among those that have benefited from the paleo concept and know it as much more than a “diet”, how about refusing to refer to it as a diet.“
Then, the scientists and doctors will get ahold of it, and they will always find a way to discredit anything new because they haven’t “studied” the life out of it yet. Results be damned, it hasn’t received the proper “scientific scrutiny” and, therefore, it must be a “fad” or “trendy” or just plain crap. Is any of this sounding familiar?
We’re already seeing Paleo go down the same road; a veritable tsunami of “Paleo” instructional and recipe books and other services. And you’ll usually find the word “diet” tacked on somewhere. By the time any of these get to you, there is no guarantee what you’re getting.
If you are still among those that have benefited from the paleo concept and know it as much more than a “diet”, how about refusing to refer to it as a diet. Anything labeled as a diet is doomed to corruption and ultimate failing and disrepute. It is the human influence on anything resembling a plan. Your food is nothing more than an extension of your other lifestyle beliefs.
“Simply said, eat only that which was available on the planet 10,000 years ago in its original form and that causes the body to thrive.“
My advice to anyone that has health as a goal: learn all you can about historical human lifestyles and model them closely as a starting point for anything else you may do. Not only will I never refer to this as a “diet”, I am also fairly certain to not use the word “paleo” any more either. I can no longer have any confidence that you will know what that is.
We won’t ever change that; the only hope is to refuse to use the word. If you do choose to use the name “paleo” to characterize your eating, just remember that, no matter what anyone whispers in your ear, the qualities that paleo espouses are mostly stuff you already know you should be doing. Simply said, eat only that which was available on the planet 10,000 years ago in its original form and that causes the body to thrive. Does this sound familiar? Whether you’re actually doing it or not, you didn’t need the word “paleo” to teach you that. What that word will mostly do from this point on – especially with the word “diet” attached – is to give you permission to either corrupt it or dismiss it entirely. And either would be a shame.