Paleo as a School of Thought

On occasion, I’ve noticed some consternation in the paleosphere about what constitutes a truly “paleo” approach to diet. Undoubtedly, I’ve got my own share of pet peeves. I’m annoyed when paleo advocates disparage saturated fat, recommend canola oil, or insist on lean meats. I don’t like that many people equate paleo with low-carb, as if potatoes are on par with wheat. I regard talk against “processed” or “industrial” foods as seriously misguided, since foods are not rendered more or less healthy by mere processing or mass production per se. I’m not concerned with whether cavemen ate some particular food or not.

However, I try not to get too fussed over my disagreements with other paleo eaters and advocates. That’s because, in my view, paleo is a school of thought based on early science. Let me explain what that means and why that matters.

First, “paleo” is a nutritional school of


  • Here’s some interesting debate on the value of Vitamin A between Dr. Cannell of the Vitamin D Council and Chris Masterjohn writing for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Personally, I’m pretty solidly in the pro-cod-liver-oil camp with Masterjohn. I suspect that he’s right on the science, and personally, I’ve seen huge improvements in my overall dental health thanks to cod liver oil. Even more remarkably, the inflamed and painful section of my gums from last summer’s gum surgery is now only a tiny bit sensitive thanks to rubbing two drops of fermented cod liver oil on it every day or so.
  • Dr. Kurt Harris on The Only Reasonable Paleo Principle: “a food being evolutionarily novel was a likely condition for it being an agent of disease, but that novelty was neither necessary nor sufficient for agent of disease status.” See also The Paleolithic Principle: The Panu Version and Health

How Paleo Has Enhanced My Life (Speech to Ringers Toastmasters Club)

[My friend Robert recently gave this speech at the Ringers Toastmasters Club in NYC about his transition to the paleo lifestyle. I recently joined the club myself. /CW]
I absolutely love food. The taste of piping hot lasagna, the fresh scent of garlic, the crackling sound of eggs frying on a pan, the feel of a knife going through a thick juicy steak, the red, white and blue sight of strawberries and blueberries topped with whipped cream. Yummy! Put beer in front of me and I yawn. Offer me the most exquisite wine and I will pass. Hard liquor? Forgetaboutit. Freshly ground coffee smells good but as Cyrano says: “No thank you! No, I thank you! And again I thank you!” However, put food in front of me, and I will respond.
Unfortunately, I haven’t always liked the best and healthiest foods. Growing up poor, I developed poor eating habits.

Simplifying: an almost Paleo diet

Mark Sisson’s newsletter the other week says:

It’s nice to have goals, but you have to have a plan of attack to succeed. Full health is achievable, certainly within a year. But break it down, start with a few specifics. Make this “the year I stop drinking soda!” or “the year I go camping once a month!” Let total health blossom as a result of achievable goals.

For me, this was the encouragement I needed to proceed with a plan that I had made for myself. A while ago, I blogged about the advice I gave my dad to start paleo gently. Recently, I have taken a page out of my own book and relaxed the requirements I had set for myself initially, focusing on the following principles:



    1. is a

high-fat high-protein diet

    . I tell my kids, “meat is what gives you energy to do

Paleo Nutrition for the Endurance Athlete

Someone recently asked,

My boss and I got her to go paleo after reading Taubes’ books. She training for a 120 mile bike race at high elevation (10,000 ft and above) and she’s wondering how that’s going to work into the paleo lifestyle. She usually loaded up on carbs before a big ride. Is that still what she should do now? She has several 50 mile rides planned before the big event, so she’s willing to experiment with different things.

This is a great question! I am an endurance runner and have been eating paleo for a couple of years now. Nutrition while running was something I needed to tackle early on when I switched from the SAD to eating low carb, then to paleo. Traditional endurance-athlete foods never really sat well in my stomach (Gu, Power Bar, Hammer, etc), and I was making do with consuming granola bars and …