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Note: this post has been updated.
The best side-benefit of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle has been the way I've been constantly, gently, inevitably nudged toward a life of greater thoughtfulness. The SAD pushers, the low-fat freaks, the whole-grain garbagemen – the Miss Trunchbulls of the School of Fake Food – set the stage for years of disconnection from my food, my nourishment, and my place in this world; and living more TTP (Thoughtfully Through Primalocity) changed that for me.
I didn't even know there was a such thing as a “Grass-Fed Cow” until around the time I began working out with Coach Rut. Primal? Paleo? Ass? Elbow?
The great thing is, I can't un-know something like that. Once I was introduced to a way of eating that's more than a Diet or a well-intentioned yet skewed morality play (V*g-ism), I was able to free up some previously bogged-down brain-space for actual, obsession-free, gratitude-filled, thoughtful living. (There's a first time for everything, no? Har, har.)
My breakthrough was realizing that I'm part of a perfectly, beautifully orchestrated Plan. Humans deviate wildly and unknowingly from this central harmony, but it's there, and bringing myself into alignment with it by nourishing myself more fully bonded me to it. Call it Mother Nature, call it The Force, call it whatever you want. To me, it feels like appreciative living. It's everything that unites all of us.
Just a quick side note: I do not smell like marijuana or patchouli. Though I enjoy being barefoot, I also have several pairs of
pain spikes high heels and I enjoy things like reality television and electricity. So no, I'm not a total hippie – but yes, I definitely believe there's a beautiful and deliberate harmony to Nature that we're well-served by tuning in to.
So I've continued to learn and explore. I've learned so much from the ideas presented by the Paleo, Primal, and Weston A. Price camps. (Update: I completed training as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, and learned innumerable things from that experience; I'm now working on my Master's Degree in Public Health.) I don't agree with everything everyone says, and I'm prepared to defend that perspective. A few points I believe in based on the integration of ideas from my background and academic study:
1) I think food quality is critical to success. Nothing from a grocery store is going to nourish like something from a sustainable local farming operation engaged in integrated pest management and good soil management practices. Sometimes it's impossible to eat local/pastured – it's not always possible for me – and I respect that; but most of us can make the effort to seek out those resources at times. We vote with our dollars, after all. The Weston A. Price Foundation is a leader in this respect.
2) I don't think fish oil supplementation is a good strategy (I used to, but I don't anymore) and short-term supplementation is only useful if you've got a plan in place for correcting your 3:6 situation through Real Food. I think many folks are too quick to encourage the use of too much Fish Oil. (Update: I have taken the fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter oil blend for several years, which is vastly different from Fish Oil.)
3) I think dairy products like grass-fed butter and ghee are fully health-promoting, and raw milk products from cream to butter and yogurt are absolutely worth testing and incorporating into the modern diet. Yes, we are “human animals” and we can eat like we're just hunting and gathering and fighting for life in the wild; but we've also honed the ability to think, love, appreciate and create. So nourishing, traditional foods like raw full-fat dairy (if it's legal in your state, try finding it here) are absolutely useful in a nourishing diet. The work of Weston A. Price convinced me of this. Many traditional, non-westernized cultures thrived because of the nutrients (namely, vitamins A, D and K2) they obtained from their animals. Once you're sure you're not sensitive to it (and you're probably not), you should try it out. You don't have to like it and you don't have to use it, but do NOT swear it off without giving it a try.
4) (Updated) For the vast majority of people, grains are totally inappropriate and unnecessary. We have more choices available, so we're not bound by regional availability as traditional cultures who made heavier use of grains likely were. The occasional slice of traditional fermented sourdough or homemade bread from ancestral, non-hybridized grains may be OK, but most folks don't take the time to seek the proper grains or prepare them properly (soaking, fermenting and sprouting).
5) I think probiotics are best obtained and maintained using real, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and raw milk yogurt.
6) I think knowing where your ancestors “came from” is an invaluable way to tackle proper nutrition for you as an individual. There is no one-size-fits-all truth (Kitavans vs. Aborigines) but there is a framework (traditional/evolutionary) that's appropriate for everyone.
7) There are a few tweaks you can make to your food plan depending on your goals – whether they be weight loss/gain, athletic performance, or treatment of psychological syndromes. All of these can be accomplished with a nourishing, quality-conscious, traditional-foods type diet. The excuse “I can't do this ‘diet/lifestyle' because _____” is totally invalid.
I use the word “nourishing” a lot. Because without an eye for what's making me more fulfilled, more grateful, and more connected to my world and my body, I'm not nourishing myself – I'm just dieting. I want to build my intuition, my self-respect, and my connection to the world – starting with my food.
(Coming down from soapbox…now.)
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