carbgrrl · 2010-04-27

Paleo-empiricism, or: carbgrrl alunda ool

A chance encounter in a blog comment thread a few months back led to my discovering an incredibly rich vein of metabolism/nutrition research, commentary, and community known as “Paleo”. Since then, I’ve spent a lot more time reading, and pondering, and trying-out, than writing (sorry it’s been so quiet around here).

What is paleo (or the paleo diet, or the primal diet, or the evolutionary metabolic milieu, or…)? Below I’ll provide links to what have become favorite sources, but here’s my description: It’s a way of eating and living that takes advantage of our best knowledge of how humans evolved to eat and live in order to optimize our health and longevity today. It tries to provide the “why” to the “what” of metabolism science that I’ve been exploring here for a little over a year. And to a first approximation, it’s not all that different from my take-aways from the Atkins book I read in 2004.

It’s all been very exciting, for a variety of reasons.

First, it seems that many folks writing on this subject came to it the same way I did, through reading (The Great) Gary Taubes’s Good Calories, Bad Calories. There’s what you could call a “paleo movement history” that stretches back decades in some cases, but there’s a modern movement that’s suddenly become extremely active and prolific, in large part due to the publication of GCBC and the controversy it stirred. Thanks, TGGT!

Second, there is an admirable tone of rationalism and empiricism that pervades the discussions — on the intertubes, no less. What really works, and why? How can we test outcomes, not just make guesses? There are even real cardiologists and other medical professionals blogging on this stuff, bucking the conventional-wisdom trends of their profession and making a real difference in people’s lives. The blogospheric disagreements can get pretty “hot”, but facts and research are still king. Offering scientific backing to smart skeptical readers has been an essential part of why I write about this stuff, and it’s wild (and not a little intimidating) to find so many more sources.

Third, I had gotten stuck in my efforts to control my weight with a classic Atkins-style low-carb approach, and so I knew I didn’t have the whole picture but wasn’t sure what else to try. I found several answers (and a metric ton of finger-lickin’ recipes) among the paleo sources, with relief, and they confirmed some sneaking suspicions I was beginning to form.

I’ll expand on the above themes over time. But for now, here’s a quick tour through the top paleo-and-related sources that have come to rest in my feed reader (not meaning any disrespect to the many other great sites!):

  • Free the Animal by Richard Nikoley: This site is how it all started to snowball for me. Richard is relentlessly honest with himself and his readers, has a wicked tongue at times, and produces “food porn” like you’ve never seen.

  • Fat Head by Tom Naughton: At Mark Wilcox‘s urging, I finally saw the movie, and then found the blog. Great stuff, served with great humor (Tom’s a professional, people — don’t try this at home).

  • PaleoHacks by Patrik: Crowdsourced paleo knowledge and ideas!

  • PāNu by Kurt G. Harris MD: He’s the guy who calls it the “evolutionary metabolic milieu”, or EM2 for short. (Handy paleo acronym finder here.) Hey, and he does Venn diagrams too; what’s not to like?

  • The Healthy Skeptic by Chris Kresser: Thanks to this guy, I actually kicked my 18-month Prilosec OTC habit. Awesome.

  • Primal Wisdom by nutritionist Don Matesz: I got my first exposure to serious hunter-gatherer society research here.

Read, cook, move, and enjoy…

Oh yeah. What’s with the babbling in the post title (again)? Having seen the movie Caveman way back when, some friends and I picked up on its made-up vocabulary and use it to this day. “Alunda” means love, “haraka” means fire, “ool” means food…)