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I have liked and respected Don Matesz and Kurt Harris for very different reasons. Don makes interesting speculations. Kurt is very analytical. His approach to ancestral lifestyle is pragmatic, without lots of “me grok” silliness. But now they seem to have gone off the deep end and have a war going on between them.

After many years of promoting Primal and Paleo, Don made a dramatic exit in Farewell to Paleo. His presentation to the 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium was quite thought provoking. But now he seems to have completely gone back to the conventional wisdom approach of low fat, high complex carbs. In the process, he infuriated Harris.

Unfortunately, to me Harris’ response reminds me of Richard Nixon’s sad last days in office. The level of viciousness is way beyond anything justified by Matesz’s misrepresentations of Archevore. So, while I still think there is lots of useful information in both men’s sites, and while I still think of myself as close to Archevore with some input from Don’s yin-yang ideas, I am no longer whole hearted about sending anyone there.

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1950s Thanksgiving dinner

[Warning: Rant]

“All things in moderation, nothing in excess.” Pericles (or some old Greek).

This has to be the most tiresome quotation of all time. None of the world’s great achievements have come from people taking that as their motto. Steve Jobs started creating Apple with the idea of making something “insanely great” – the Apple computer. He continued to be a jerk about demanding products beyond Microsoft’s moderately good. He tried to live every day like it was his last.

Mark Sisson is not going to bring health to a million people by being moderate. He got his credibility by being an immoderately driven athlete. There is nothing moderate about his daily Big Assed Salad. Our ancestors haven’t eaten daily big assed salads since they came down out of the trees. The Primal exercise concept could be called “moderate,” but Mark would probably immoderately spend 60+ hours/week in “play” exercise if he could.

Doctors and other health “experts” infuriate me when their automatic, cover-your-ass reaction to everything is nervous nelly caution. When I am exposed to a virus or feel like one is trying to get me, I take a totally immoderate dose of vitamin D3, like 40,000 IU daily for three days. The “moderate” approach would be to take “a little extra” D. Why? For any scientifically valid reason? No, just because they have a namby-pamby attitude.

True, something like moderation is often the best course. Kurt Harris articulates it well for me in William Munny eats his vegetables. Harris is definitely not namby-pamby. The title of this blog entry comes from him being called the Clint Eastwood of nutrition. “I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Ancel Keys, for what you done to nutrition.” Hehe. I love it.

Don’t tell me this is “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” Grrrrrrr! That’s a swell namby-pamby slogan for living in 1950s suburbia. Screw moderation. Screw moderation in moderation.

On a practical level, I am thinking about people who would benefit from primal but take the attitude “Sprints are fine, but we shouldn’t get close to our maximum heart rate. Lifting is good  but I play it safe and use the isolation machines at the gym. I take a multivitamin for insurance. Red meat can be part of a healthy diet, just eat it in moderation. Eat bread but watch your calories. And so on.” (Of course, they think it’s fine to eat a vast amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, although, if pressed, they would call this moderation.) Ok, these people are going to be healthier than folks pigging out at McDonald’s. But not as healthy as they would be on the “dangerous Primal diet.”

Chose wisely when to be immoderately passionate. But be passionate about some things. I should note that I often see this attitude in Mark’s Daily Apple forum members.

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Oh, no! Not the four-letter F word (fail).

NOTE: When I started this blog, I followed the blueprint fairly closely without actually labeling myself “primal.” As I have read stuff from other paleolithic and ancestral health theorists, this blog has evolved into something of a critique of the blueprint. If the suggestions below don’t work for you, maybe you should try a different ancestral diet.

Archevore is probably the best way to describe me, although I don’t eat as high a percentage of meat as Dr. Haris recommends. Archevore differs from Primal in two ways reflected in Harris’ William Munny eats his vegetables.

  1. Root vegetables over “Big Assed Salad” antioxidants. (Throughout my blog you will see praise for potatoes, which are marginal in Primal.) There is no paleolithic justification for eating as many nutrient dense salads as possible. Our ancestors haven’t done that for millions of years. They have eaten lots of roots.
  2. Balance over intense focus on “nutrient density.” (I am trying avoid using the word “moderation,” which I hate. But, yeah, you could use that word.)

The Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple are still the best source of information about living a healthy lifestyle. If following the blueprint strictly works for you, fantastic. If not, consider some of the options from this blog, from Karl Harris’ Archevore and from other ancestral health writers.

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“I don’t want to be a caveman/woman. That image doesn’t appeal to me.” Addressing that issue is the main reason my blog exists. Various writers, e.g. Kurt Harris, start from the paleo premise but avoid the caveman imagery. (The cartoon/B Movie image of cavemen turns me off too. I personally think Mark’s Grok is kinda cute.)

“We can’t live like cavemen.” We can live very much like your grandparents or great grandparents lived. Aside from the fact that they ate (traditionally prepared) grains and legumes, they lived very primally. (And in my opinion, traditionally prepared legumes (beans) are healthy.)

“My doctor/dietician/etc. said ________ [high fat or high protein or ultra-low carb] diets are dangerous.” OR “My doctor/dietician/etc. said I need whole grains and legumes to be healthy.” Your doctor/dietician/whatever doesn’t have the latest facts. Read this. And, by the way, Primal is not high fat nor high protein nor ultra low carb, although some people on the plan do it that way.

“I can never stay on a diet.” Here’s my post about that. And see Mark’s Common Stumbling Blocks. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums any time you need encouragement.

“I wanted to lose lots of weight. But I have only lost a few pounds (or have gained a few.)” Primal is not a diet. It is a lifestyle. Throw away your scales. If you are not losing fat, see 17 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight. (If what you want is a quick weight-loss diet, then, yes, Primal is a fail for you.)

“I was losing weight but now I’m not.” See Mark’s Weight Loss Plateaus.

“Eating all that organic, free-range, pastured food is too expensive.” Eating those high quality food is great, sure, but you don’t have to in order to succeed at primal. We can show you many ways to be primal on a budget. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple and search on “budget” for more posts.

“I was a vegetarian for a long time. I don’t want to eat all that meat.” Some followers of primal do eat lots of meat. You don’t have to. Mark’s wife eats no animal products except some fish and protein powders. You can even be a primal vegetarian if you eat eggs and/or dairy. Vegan primal, or any kind of veganism, is not healthy.

“Eating all that fat is gross.” Primal is not a high fat diet. You do need some saturated fat on a regular basis though. This can come from coconut oil, cold water fishes or other not so “gross” sources.

“I won’t give up bread/rice/potatoes/etc.” Many on primal eat some rice and potatoes. (Actually, I eat potatoes once or twice a day. They are good food.) There are alternative flours that can be made into tasty breads and other baked goods. If you have to have some wheat flour bread, cut down the amount. Eat sourdough or sprouted grain varieties. These compromises are not ideal, and they may keep you from losing fat, but you will still be healthy if you are otherwise very primal.

Think of the foods you probably have already given up. Bacon, richly marbled meat, butter, eggs, full fat dairy products, and others. You may be able to eat all of them!

“I’m living at home/in a dorm/in the service/etc.” OR “I have to eat out a lot.” In Mark’s Daily Apple, we answer concerns like these all the time. You may have to do primal imperfectly for now. You can still benefit from the blueprint and go fully primal some day.

“My husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/children/roommate won’t do Primal.” If you do the cooking and they eat it, with perhaps some rolled eyes, but have bread, sodas and other non-Primal things for lunch, be patient. Don’t force the issue. If you cook just your own food, it may be frustrating to have non-primal stuff in the house, but you can do it. But what if your significant other is very anti-Primal and you have or plan to have children. That leads to tough choices. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums and pick our brains.

“I am going through lots of stress right now. I don’t think I can give up comfort foods.” I understand, believe me. I’ve been there. You will handle the stress better if you do the best you can at Primal. Just because you have a big plate of spaghetti for dinner is no reason not to have bacon and eggs for breakfast and a salad for lunch.

For most of us, comfort food means carbs. Try, try, try to avoid grain carbs, except white rice. If you want carbs, choose yams, potatoes, white rice, traditionally soaked and rinsed beans and oats. Pile on the pastured butter, cheese or sour cream. Our ancestors seem to have eaten lots of roots and tubers. Go ahead. Just watch your total carbs.

“I can’t cook.” The basic Primal foods are easy. Bacon and eggs, salad, grilled or fried steak/other meat, steamed or roasted vegetables. We have easy recipes. And we will give you cooking tips.

“I hate exercise.” Do you hate cardio? Weight lifting? Guess what? You don’t have to do either. The goal of Primal is to get you through “exercises” quickly so you can have fun. More

“I do about 100% for a while, then I go on a carb binge.” Some people, including me, need to take small steps or set limits to how completely we are going to follow the blueprint. Trying to follow primal to the letter leads to a junk food binge and giving up. I would never have started a strict Primal diet. Right from the start I was very clear that I wasn’t giving up dairy, potatoes, white rice, corn or corn tortillas, or beans completely.

“I have tried Primal several times. Or I sort of did it.” Other people need to start very strictly. Otherwise they slip more and more, eventually not being primal at all. Once you have been strict for a while, say at least a month, you might be able to add back some marginal foods.

Mileage may vary. You may need to tweak Primal for it to work for you. You may need more or fewer carbs than recommended. You may need extra of some vitamins or minerals. If you come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums and tell us what’s happening, we can probably help. Before you do, keep track of your food for at least a few days in FitDay, NutritionData or some other tracking program.

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How will the Primal Blueprint become the standard healthy lifestyle in the U.S. or the world? Will it ever? I think that a certain percentage of the world will always choose unhealthy foods and lifestyles. But there is a chance of convincing the ones who do want to be healthy that something like Primal is the way to go.

Primal has a better chance of going mainstream than other “paleo” approaches, but only 80/20 Primal. The world can’t and won’t ever be close to 100%. I am not sure that most people will ever call themselves “Primal” or “Paleo.” That doesn’t really matter.

There is a chance that low carb will become the standard. The research piles up that low carb/moderate fat is healthier. It is mostly Atkins-related research but it has begun to convince people about low carb/moderate fat in general.

More and more people are realizing that they are “gluten intolerant.” We know that gluten is bad for everyone. We can eventually convince people that other substances in grains and legumes are harmful too.

There is widespread recognition that sugar is poison. There is already recognition that processed foods and junk food are unhealthy. Likewise, the importance of staying active and getting exercise are already mainstream health concepts.

In general, we have to work from what people already accept. As I emphasize in my Selling Primal page, we have to avoid coming across as crackpots. Most people will never see themselves as “cavemen” and “cavewomen.” But they might well think of themselves as living like great grandma and grandpa in the good old days, to the extent they can in the modern world.

So the task of getting health conscious people in line with Primal is not that hard. Getting the majority of people to live in a healthy way seems overwhelming.

Perhaps the biggest problem will be getting the government to stop putting out pro-grain and other deceptive propaganda for agribusiness. That will be hard. Money talks. Maybe when the cost of diabetes treatment skyrockets high enough, government bureaucrats will listen. Diabetes already costs $174 billion a year. At the current rate that the disease is increasing, the cost will eventually dwarf that figure. And diabetes is only one of many diseases that could be largely prevented by a Primal lifestyle. Maybe if enough people die, folks will wake up.

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I have been doing this lifestyle for about a year. I have lost lots of fat. Just about every part of my body is thinner. It used to be hard to find a watch band or ring big enough for me, gloves too. Now, the ones I have are loose. A top hat that used to be snug now falls down over my eyes. I touch my face and am shocked to feel cheek bones. My belt has tightened at least a couple of inches. When I walk, I feel light.

I HAVE LOST A GRAND TOTAL OF ABOUT 7 POUNDS!!!

Throw away your scale! Go by how your clothes fit.

How come I haven’t lost more “weight”? In my opinion, it is mostly from greater bone density. (Some greater muscle too. But I haven’t done much weight lifting or other resistance training.) About a year and a half ago, I had to have a tooth pulled. My body was reabsorbing it and my dentist couldn’t save it. My doctor recommended calcium.

From Mark’s Daily Apple I found out about the importance of vitamin D for calcium absorption, and started taking lots of it. Later, I learned that we need vitamin K to direct where the calcium goes. Magnesium is important too. But because I eat dairy, I no longer take calcium.

Vitamin D: Sun Exposure, Supplementation and Doses
Vitamin D: Confounding Factors
Deconstruction Vitamin D
Vitamin D: Loose Ends

Vitamin K: Should I Supplement? (Personally, I do take vitamin K. From other reading, I think most of us don’t get enough, even if we are Primal.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have bone density tests to prove that I have greater bone density. But it’s my story and I am sticking to it!

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Update July 31, 2011. WARNING! RANT! Apparently vegans can’t handle the reality of Paleo and Atkins. It is quite obvious that they have had a vote in campaign to inflate the vegan and vegetarian successes and trash Atkins and Paleo. I try very hard to show respect for vegetarians and vegans but they are obliviously living in a smug, self-rightieous Bambi fantasy world. END RANT!

Update, June 20, 2011. Of the 20 diets/lifestyles, only three had more “Yes, it worked” than “No, it didn’t work.” Weight Watchers had 1787 yes to 770 no. Atkins had 855 yes to 439 no. Paleo had 3062 yes to 76 no.

Perhaps you saw or heard about this report Best Diets. They rated Paleo as the worst of 20 popular diets.

First, the report is talking about classic Paleo (“if the cavemen didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t either”) not Primal. The primal approach is to take what we know about Paleolithic hunters and gatherers to generate hypotheses about how we should live (not just about what to eat.) Very different.

Even from the standpoint of Paleo, the report isn’t accurate. One of the Paleo leaders, Dr. Loren Cordain, explains that here. There are studies supporting Paleo.

“Diets that restrict entire food groups are difficult to follow.” – I would have trouble following the strict version. I’m not giving up dairy, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant) or rice. But I don’t have to on Primal. People in Mark’s Daily Apple always mention how easy Primal is to follow after the first few days.

The report also says that Paleo can be expensive. It can. But no fair saying that without mentioning that it can be very inexpensive. In the Mark’s Daily Apple forum, people frequently ask how they can do Primal on a budget. We tell them it’s easy. You are encouraged to buy cheap cuts of meat, including “variety meat” like liver. Raise some vegetables or go to farmer’s markets. You don’t have to shop at Whole Foods, although I do.

“With such a heavy emphasis on meat, this diet isn’t vegetarian- or vegan-friendly.” – You can do vegetarian Primal.

Too bad readers will be turned off to the best “diet” (lifestyle) by this inaccurate report.

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It is becoming apparent that the first humans, and their ancestors, tended to live in the areas described in the following quote, not usually in caves. (Not necessarily on geological faults. But in a mixture of grassland, trees and marshes.)

“Several lines of scientific evidence suggest that Australopithecus africanus (like the ‘Mrs Ples’ fossil from Sterkfontein) was adapted to mixed, or mosaic habitats — landscapes with trees and open grassland, with some wetland marshy areas. The study suggests that it was the type of mosaic environment created by tectonic earth movements near rivers or lakes.” Human Ancestors Lived on Shaky Ground

The Perfect Health Diet authors Paul and Shou-Ching Shih Jaminet say:

. . . for at least 3 million years ancestral humans have flourished mainly in open woodland habitats near rivers, lakes, and seashores. The available plant foods were mainly the pith and underground storage organs of starch-containing plants. Archaeological evidence confirms that starches have been, with animal foods, the primary calorie sources of ancestral humans for millions of years. Old Diets, New Knowledge: For Auld Lang Syne

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