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If 2013 was the year of paleo going mainstream, then it looks like 2014 may be the year the mainstream starts fighting back with criticisms of the paleo diet. They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but that hasn’t stopped followers of the paleo lifestyle from bristling under recent criticism of our way of eating.
In response to the Mother Jones article, Diana Rodgers , author of Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go, criticized the journalist for overplaying Pollan’s comments on paleo specifically and wrote a fabulous point-by-point defense of the paleo diet on her blog Sustainable Dish.
I’m not going to join the chorus of paleo defenders because these folks have done such a great job of that already. We see this in the traditional diets eaten by more modern groups (who all maintained excellent health until they were introduced to industrialized food).
Yes, it is hard to eat a diet comprised only of nutrient dense real foods in our modern industrialized society, especially if you don’t have a lot of kitchen skills, are very busy, or have a palate that is used to eating only highly processed convenience foods.
To be successful on a paleo diet, you really have to cook (although there are meal delivery services in most metro areas and some that even ship throughout the country).
Compared to how easy it is to eat a crappy diet today, eating a healthy paleo diet is difficult.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, treat or manage a chronic disease, or just improve your health, there is no guarantee that the paleo diet will deliver. Similarly, there is not one single scientific study that unequivocally proves the efficacy of the paleo diet.
The idea of the Paleo diet has been around for decades, but it's really taken off over the last couple of years, with a slew of books, blogs, and a prominent podcast espousing its virtues. After hearing one too many first-person accounts of startling and positive changes in people's lives after going Paleo (and despite Michael Pollan's warnings about fad diets), I had to give it a shot.


More to the point, the contemporary approach to Paleolithic eating ignores what must have been the overriding reality of actual Paleolithic people: the scarcity, inconsistency, and lack of variety of their diet.
For example, the traditional diet of Aboriginal Australians consisted mainly of animal products along with a variety of plants, but the composition varied depending on whether they lived in the lush subtropical coastal areas or the harsher desert interior.
Only because the crappy industrialized stuff that comprises the bulk of the the standard American diet (which goes by the perfectly appropriate acronym SAD among paleo and real food foodies) is so cheap by comparison today. The scientific understanding of the diet continues to evolve over time, based both on research and anecdote.
These are valid criticisms and I don’t want them to keep others from at least giving this way of eating a shot.
Despite a wildly different rationale and back-story, the practical everyday dietary reality of doing the Paleo diet is very similar to the Atkins diet. First and foremost is that while Paleolithic-era humans may have been fit and trim, their average life expectancy was in the neighborhood of 35 years. It's absurd to think you're eating like Paleo-man if you're having filet mignon one day, lobster the next, and duck the next, while also consuming eggs and a supermarket's worth of vegetables, nuts, and berries. To approximate the diet, the modern paleo eater has to seek out grass-fed meats, eggs from chickens living on pasture, and organic fresh fruits and vegetables. Paleolithic diets surely varied by region, but mostly they probably consisted of a few staple foods, with periods of abundance and not infrequent periods of scarcity. The Kitavans of Papua New Guinea ate virtually the opposite diet, consuming mainly root vegetables along with fruits, vegetables, fish, and coconuts. Farming introduced easily produced grains into our society, and bread, pasta, and other starch-heavy and processed foods into our diets.


And many of the "criticisms and concerns" levied against Atkins ought to be considered relative to the Paleo diet as well.
People have survived into their 90s and beyond on very simple and traditional diets of pasta, bread, vegetables, and small portions of meat.
With very few exceptions, you will not be able to pick up the phone and get a paleo-friendly meal delivered to your house in 30 minutes or less. There are unfortunately no conclusive long-term studies on either diet, and the long-term effects of low-carb diets are not truly understood. All the positive evidence for Paleo is first-person and anecdotal, but we're left to wonder how something that feels so healthy, and make so much historical sense, could be wrong. But perhaps the deepest cut was a "US News comparison" of 20 diets (including Atkins, veganism, the Mediterranean diet, and Jenny Craig) that ranked Paleo dead last on criteria like nutrition, ease of following, weight loss, and safety. It's as though anyone into Paleo had quit drinking long before anyway and never looked back. By returning to the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, the proponents of Paleo claim, we can restore our happiness, health, and waistlines. The latter, along with fast food, sugary sodas, and the like (sometimes referred to as the American diet) are to blame for the current obesity epidemic and many of our society's food-related health problems.
Someone with will-power and a concern with their body that is beyond the pale for the majority of people, and who's probably been successful at any number of approaches to eating, exercise, and overall lifestyle.



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