Conventional Wisdom holds that grains should make up the foundation of a healthy diet. Ample grains and loads of cardio are the way to a long healthy life, we are told. However, there are a growing number of people who are challenging such notions.
Personally, since I became “primal” (or paleo as it is also called) I have never felt better. Prior to this life change, I was a vegetarian. I ate “healthily,” and worked out constantly, according to Conventional Wisdom. There were brief spells where I was happy with my conditioning, but I was never completely satisfied.
Enter Mark Sisson. Some of the websites I frequent for news and current affairs started posting articles by Mr. Sisson with headlines like “They’re Flat-Out Unhealthy.” He was referring to grains and carbohydrates in general. At first, I was skeptical. He advocated cutting out grains completely, and eating only meat, fruits and vegetables. That seemed out of the question, I liked my morning English muffin and cereals way too much for that. After further research, especially into the studies underpinning his arguments, I decided to give it a go.
The first hurdle was ending my 2.5 years of vegetarianism. Mentally, it wasn’t easy. It was tough to eat animals again, not because they don’t taste great, but because I like them so much. After a few weeks of mental preparation, I sufficiently subdued the “animals are my friends” part of my brain; at least enough to sneak in a bite or two of meat products while it wasn’t looking.
I noticed immediate health gains. While cutting down on my gym going and increasing my intake of meats, by going completely against Conventional Wisdom, I started losing body fat. I am not a large person, and never had an abundance of fat, but without really trying I dropped 6% body fat in 2-3 weeks. I was sold.
The Primal Blueprint, as Mr. Sisson calls it, or the paleo-lifestyle as it is also referred to, is as anti-mainstream as it gets. Worried about cholesterol? Don’t be. Cholesterol is not a great indicator of heart disease, and the way it is measured is flawed. In fact, cholesterol is a vital building block to all life on Earth, and those with insufficient levels tend to, well, die. At least their risk of dying is increased. Trying to eliminate your intake of saturated fats? Why bother? Saturated fat is a great source of energy and makes up almost 50% of our cell membranes, you know, those little things that make up our entire body.
The paleo-lifestyle is not some fad diet; the argument is that it is simply the healthiest way to live given the way humans evolved and how our bodies operate. Having said that, it is not always easy living this way in modern society. Breads, pastas and grains are everywhere, not to mention their carbohydrate cohort, sugar. All of these things are the exact cause of the high levels of obesity in many people. There are plenty of alternative choices to grains, and hardly anyone can argue with a diet made up of locally sourced meats, vegetables and fruit that paleos advocate. Perhaps the mainstream will take notice, signs of the cracking of Conventional Wisdom are already appearing.