anthropology

Paleofantasy

Author: 
Marlene Zuk
Pic: 
Though much maligned in the paleo diet community, this is a book you should give a chance. A great primer on evolutionary biology and a caution against making too much of paleolithic "just so" stories.
Reading Category: 

Paleo Fantasies: Debunking The Carnivore Ape Narrative

Every two years or so I notice a cyclical trend in the online “paleo” community. It’s the resurgence of dogmatic carnivory. It has two main themes: plants are “poisons” that cause most of our health problems and humans “evolved to be” very low carb. Always an undercurrent with some very zealous devotees (“The Bear” of Grateful Dead fame was probably one of its most prominent popularizers), it suddenly finds popularity among normally more moderate people, picking up some non-paleo low-carb followers in the process.

Paleofantasy

I guess I’m kind of late to the party on reviewing this book, but I actually haven’t noticed a lot of reviews of it, which is surprising given the amount of buzz the articles about it generated. I also suspect some reviewers didn’t actually read it, since they seemed abnormally fixated on defending their paleo diet, when the book only has two out of ten chapters devoted solely to diet and covers many other topics.

Breaking Up with Paleo

 I occasionally get emails and tweets admonishing me for being hostile to paleo and low-carb, having moved on and having to take a glancing blow behind me. It’s not an unfamiliar experience– I received the same when I stopped being vegan.

The truth is that I’m not hostile to paleo, low-carb, or vegan. All three represent food subcultures that taught me a lot about food and how it affects my health. I am thankful for that. Unfortunately all have quasi-religious underpinnings that can be detrimental to health. They are also hostile to critics.

Slim is Not Simple

 When people use the contact form on the bottom of this site, maybe they should take a few seconds and think about two things I don't tolerate very well, which are

  • packaged industrial products being sold under "real food" or "paleo" labels
  • complete and utter misuse of history to sell a particular diet

Maybe don't send me that stuff, because I will post about it, and I will criticize it. Or maybe on the latter case, just leave the historical narrative out of your spiel if you can't waste more than an hour thinking about what it might actually imply. 

Can you digest bone?

 Possible too gross for some, via John Hawks, this article that mentions a most interesting experiment mentioned in an article on strange science:

Anthropologist writes that the paleo diet is not the key to a healthy future

I'm going to call the paleo diet portrayed in the media the PaleoStrawman diet. It contains only lean meat and non-starchy vegetables. The meat comes from factory farms. The latest place it has showed up on is NPR, where anthropologist Barbara King contends that it is not the way to a healthy future for the world. She says she has interacted with paleo dieters online and has read Paleo magazine, but it doesn't show at all.

She says:

Physical Anthropology Texts

 In a world where college classes, particularly large impersonal introductory ones, are often more pricey than they are worth, it's wise to learn how to study on your own. My inbox is a huge mess, but I have gotten towards the bottom and found an email where Richard from Free the Animal asked about anthropology texts. Here are my favorites, most of them recommended to me by Professor Ralph Holloway:

Ancestral Health Symposium Talk!

 I usually don't like to watch people speak about stuff. Maybe that's why I almost never went to lectures in college. I prefer to read things. As Data from Star Trek might say, I find it to be the most efficient form of assimilating information. So you can watch my talk on Vimeo thanks to AHS, but if you read much faster (or you are hearing impaired), you can read the transcript below, which was donated by Averbach Transcription, which is run by a paleo enthusiast and you should consider hiring him if you need a transcript:

Deep Green Insanity Addendum and new Comment Policy

 I've tangled with a lot of opinionated folks since I started this blog. But I never expected the response I got to my post on Lierre Keith. It reminds me that as much as vegans and animal rights activists irk me, we are all trying to make civilization a better place, even if our ultimate visions are different. Wasn't there a movie about this?