Of all of the many, many lies that we are told today, perhaps none are more dangerous than the ones concerning what and how we should eat. Take a look at the US Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid:
Note how the base of the pyramid is made up of grains, grains, and more grains. It sounds really sensible- eat lots of hearthealthywholegrains, minimise your fat and cholesterol intake, live a long and happy life. Great advice, right?
It’s all nonsense.
The inimitable Frost put it best in his book, Freedom Twenty Five:
If we knew absolutely nothing about the ideal human diet, how would we form a rough first approximation as to what we should and should not eat? Imagine we had no American Medical Association, no traditional diets, no National Institute of Health – what would we do?
This is actually similar to a question answered by zoologists all the time. If you have an animal in captivity, what do you feed it? Obviously, you should feed it what it eats in its natural habitat. This insight is the basis for Paleolithic Nutrition, or The Paleo Diet.
Proponents of the Paleo Diet argue that people should eat the foods that our bodies have evolved to digest, such as grass-fed meat, vegetables, eggs, fish, berries, roots and nuts. We should avoid foods that our bodies did not evolve with, and thus often react poorly to, like refined sugars, processed oils and grains.
It is indisputable among anthropologists that the human race suffered a radical decline in health with the advent of agriculture, and the ensuring rise of grain as a major portion of our diet. Humans got small,er weaker, and more fragile when they switched from hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic) diets to grain-based (Neolithic) diets.
It is beyond the scope of this post to go deep into the science and medical facts behind the lies that we have been fed- literally!- by a government and an agricultural industry that appears to be specifically designed to fatten us for slaughter. I do not mince my words here- when I discovered just how badly I had been misled in my approach to food and life, my first reaction was disbelief, and my second was anger. (My third was determination, which is partly why I’m here writing on a Saturday afternoon.) If you seek wisdom and information, take a look at the sources listed at the bottom of this post. The point of this particular post, though, is to tell you about my own personal journey through Paleo eating and Primal living.
Growing up, I was raised on a heavily grain- and rice-based diet, as is traditional for an Asian household. My mother- who, as I have said before, is a phenomenal cook- used (and still uses) vegetable oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil for most of her cooking. I was raised with some fairly healthy habits, in that I always ate a lot of vegetables and my mother never cooked with very much salt or oil (still doesn’t), but that was always outweighed by the sheer amount of sugar and artificial crap that went into my food. As a result of my diet and a pretty sedentary lifestyle, I was always an overweight kid, and by the time I went off to college I must have weighed around 200lbs. For a man just under 6ft in height, this isn’t catastrophic, but it’s sure as hell far from ideal.
Going to university undid some of the damage, in that for the first time in my life I was pretty active. I also discovered, much to my immense surprise, that I actually liked walking, biking, and lifting weights in the gym- things that I had never done regularly in school or growing up. I shed a lot of weight, and by the time I hit working life, I was reasonably lean and fit. I was doing a combination of cardio (running/rowing) and relatively light weights (barbell exercises, chin-ups, half-assed “bench presses” which weren’t really presses at all, etc.- basically, every mistake you’ve ever seen some n00b commit in the gym).
It couldn’t last. Being a corporate drone and sitting down for 50+ hours a week meant that I began regaining a lot of the weight I had shed, mostly because I was still eating a conventional grain-based diet. By the time I’d been working for about 4 years, I was chubby again, and not at all happy about it, even though I was doing what I thought were all the right things at the time.
All of this came to a head a little under 2 years ago when I first started taking regular high-density doses of the Red Pill. I realised that I had to make changes to my life, and fast, if I wanted to become a better man. One of those major changes was what and how I ate. My life changed considerably for the better when I discovered Mark’s Daily Apple. Suddenly, what had seemed to be an impossible puzzle became perfectly clear- it was, in fact, possible to become stronger, faster, leaner, healthier, and happier just by changing the way I ate and exercised.
Why the Paleo Approach Works
The Paleo Diet adopts the view that the human body has evolved only about 2% away from its base genetic code over the last 100,000 years- but our diets have changed dramatically during that time, and not for the better. This isn’t really a diet at all, it’s a massive lifestyle change. It helps you become stronger, fitter, and happier because your body is finally doing exactly what it was designed to do. And the fact is that your body is designed to run extremely efficiently on fat and protein, and very poorly indeed on processed carbohydrates and oils.
By the way, there is some question among Paleo enthusiasts about whether this food or that food is “Paleo”. For instance, Dr. Loren Cordain, author of the original book on the subject, argues that fatty meat is not a good idea. I strongly disagree– protein in nature usually comes surrounded by fat to begin with, and the human body is actually very well tuned to run on saturated fat. Dr. Corain also argues that dairy products are bad for you. I do not agree with this either; I have always been very lactose-tolerant, and I do love milk and cheese.
Ultimately, the point of the Paleo Diet is to find an approach that works and is sustainable. There is no point to adopting a diet that you cannot live with for the rest of your life, which is why most diets aimed at weight loss constantly fail. This one works because the goal is not weight loss- it is optimal health. Weight loss is merely a marker on that road.
How to Eat Paleo
It’s really not difficult. Accept the idea that grains, starches, and sugar are your mortal enemies, and that grass-fed beef/lamb/mutton, pastured chicken/eggs/pork, fresh sea fish, and wild nuts and berries are your friends. Ditch the conventional wisdom that fat and cholesterol are bad or dangerous- they are neither. In fact, your body absolutely requires cholesterol in order to function properly, and the “tests” that your doctor administers for these strange things called HDL and LDL are not “cholesterol” tests at all, because HDL and LDL are actually lipoproteins.
Your first few weeks of eating this way will be tough. You have years worth of bad advice and bad eating to undo. But after a couple of weeks, your body will have undergone the metabolic process changes necessary to re-tune itself to run once more on fat and protein, and you will really start noticing the differences.
And believe me when I say, there is no approach to food that is more delicious than this one.
Here’s a basic overview of what and how I eat throughout the week:
- Breakfast: huge stir-fry made with organic chicken breasts, chopped carrots, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, cooked in coconut oil with grated ginger and gluten-free Szechuan sauce or chili powder, big mug of dark-roast coffee with foamed whole milk, bowl of berries in heavy cream
- Snacks through the day: beef jerky, small amounts of dried fruits, tea, nuts (I eat more nuts in a given week than an entire pack of squirrels)
- Dinner: pastured pork-loin chops, grilled and seared to perfection, with a big salad, glass of red wine, and dessert of unsweetened hot chocolate made with coconut milk and a blended date
- Breakfast: eggs with chopped mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, grass-fed bacon, bowl of fruit in heavy cream, large latte
- Dinner: grilled chicken breasts with salad dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, glass of wine, dark chocolate for dessert
- Lunch: huge salad topped with grilled chicken and melted Swiss cheese, shredded bacon, and big mug of tea
- Snacks: protein shake, beef jerky, nuts
- Breakfast: 0.75lb steak with avocado and spinach salad, bowl of fruit in heavy cream, large mug of coffee with milk
- Dinner: another big stir-fry with chicken and vegetables in almond or coconut oil, dessert of hot chocolate made with coconut milk
- Breakfast: No-crouton Caesar salad with grass-fed bacon, organic chicken breast, and massive amounts of lettuce, berries in heavy cream, big mug of coffee with foamed milk
- Lunch: 10oz ground beef burger without bun, big salad, tea
Saturday (CHEAT DAY!!!)
- Breakfast: whatever the hell I feel like, or maybe I’ll just skip breakfast altogether and just have a mug of coffee
- Lunch: pig out on grass-fed lamb shoulder chop, big salad, sweet potato fries, beer and wine, ice cream with or without apple pie for dessert, large helpings of Scotch followed by a 2-hour afternoon siesta
Sunday (intermittent fast day)
- Lunch: complete a hard, balls-to-the-wall workout of squats, OHPs and deadlifts, then come back home and eat a huge plate of bacon and eggs with red wine
- Dinner: STEAK!!! And SALAD!!! With really good Cabernet Sauvignon! Or maybe some chicken breasts cooked in leftover bacon grease and a giant side salad, with 90+% dark chocolate for dessert
I’m practically drooling all over my keyboard while I’m typing this. Do I sound like a man on a starvation diet? Do I seem like someone who’s constantly hungry or cranky?
Furthermore, notice what I didn’t write up above. Notice how I didn’t write that I’m eating three times a day. Notice that sometimes I literally only eat once a day- something that is flatly impossible on a conventional Western diet. Notice that I adopt “cheat days” in which I eat whatever I want so that my body satisfies its intermittent cravings for massive doses of processed sugars without driving me crazy. Notice how much emphasis I put on eating protein and fat, and how much I consume by way of vegetables, nut oils, and animal fat. Notice that I do not once write about eating bread, noodles, potatoes (I make an exception for sweet potatoes, once a week at most), pasta, or legumes.
I no longer eat bread, and I don’t miss it. That is a radical departure for a man who used to eat bread with both lunch and dinner. I used to love pasta; I haven’t touched the stuff more than once in 18 months. I used to love hummus; I can’t stand it anymore.
None of this is an exaggeration. All of this is real- some of what I wrote above, I actually did this week. The longest I have ever gone without a meal is 28 hours, which I did last weekend- all I had between Saturday afternoon and Sunday night was one glass of wine, three cups of tea with nothing in them, and lots of water after a very hard deadlift workout.
Results of the Paleo Diet
- You will rarely feel truly hungry. I often go 12-18 hours between meals. Yeah, I’m really hungry by the time I eat, but it’s manageable- I don’t feel like my stomach is eating its own lining. If I really wanted to, I could go in for a hard workout, go for a sprint, or just take a long walk.
- You will feel incredible amounts of energy. When I wake up in the morning and scarf down a huge chicken stir-fry made with coconut oil, I go into work feeling like I could tear apart phonebooks with my bare hands. I feel like bulldozing my sleepwalking fellow commuters out of my way, because they’re so damn slow. I run up stairs two at a time. I jaywalk through rush-hour traffic with a grin that I might have learned from a documentary on sharks. I feel like taking on the world all on my own. I feel like a man.
- You will lose weight- because your body is burning its own fat and consumed fat for fuel. Once your body re-tools itself to burn fat instead of carbohydrates for energy, your body will be primed and ready to perform the feats of strength and power that it was always designed to do. You will have the energy and the fuel to lift stupidly heavy weights, go for wind sprints, and walk miles without getting tired.
- Everything you eat will taste better. You will notice subtle flavours that you never knew before, because your taste buds will slowly become re-wired to eat real food instead of all of the processed crap that you’ve been eating for most of your life. For instance, I rediscovered a real love of red wine when I started eating like this, but now the vast majority of beer tastes simply awful to me. Whenever I go out for drinks with my colleagues, they always make fun of the fact that I’m the one drinking red wine while they’re drinking beer. Well, too bad- I don’t drink beer anymore unless it’s a really bitter and tasteful German-style hefeweizen or steinlager.
- Your health will radically improve. I recently went for a blood test when I fell ill with a very nasty but thankfully short-lived viral infection. At that point I’d been eating full-fledged Paleo for nearly a year, and conventional wisdom dictated that my cholesterol would be through the roof and I’d be a prime candidate for a heart attack- especially given that I have a family history of heart disease, obesity, and spinal problems. My BMI was pretty normal (though BMI is as far as I’m concerned a completely useless metric). My blood test results showed that my HDL was off the scale, and my cholesterol ratio was like 2.8 after a year of eating red meat and eggs and lots of saturated fat. My urine tests showed that, after a year of drinking at least a glass of red wine every night, my liver was in excellent health. In other words, I have the blood of a Viking Alpha warlock badass flowing through my veins. The best part: I never even told my doctor what or how I eat!
- Your skin will clear up. I used to have mild acne back before I ate this way; every few months it would flare up again and I’d have unsightly spots on my face and neck. Not any more.
- Sensible indulgences like hyper-dark chocolate (minimum 85% cacao content) and red wine will become truly enjoyable and delicious parts of your daily regimen.
- Give yourself one cheat day a week- in my case it’s usually one cheat meal, because I rarely need more than that to satisfy whatever few sugar cravings I have. I never eat sugar any more- or artificial sweeteners, for that matter. I don’t need them. This morning, for instance, I ate waffles and maple syrup for the first time in about 2 years- with bacon and coffee. Tasted bloody great. But now I’m feeling the aftereffects of the sugar rush, and I know damn well that I’m not going to be doing that again for a while! “Lunch” for me will probably be around 3.30 or 4pm, and will probably be my last meal for at least 24 hours.
If you’re still eating the way that damned food pyramid tells you to eat, STOP RIGHT NOW. Put away that bowl of pasta. Toss the cereal in the garbage. Go to your local butcher, green grocer, Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Stock up on grass-fed and pastured meats, organic eggs, nuts, nut oils, butter, and lard (or make your own lard by recycling bacon fat- I do, and by God, food cooked in it is delicious). Fill your refrigerator with delicious leafy green vegetables and tasty fruits, like dates and berries. Abandon your ideas of breakfast being a “special” meal, or of set meal times. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Quit wasting your time in the gym, quit wasting your money on supplements. Become strong, happy, and manly.
For my part, I’ve lost some 10kg- 22-25lbs- while eating like this, probably even more. I’m wearing clothes today that I bought about 10 years ago when I was far heavier and unhealthier. I wear suits like they were body gloves now. I look good compared to what I was before. And I’m not quite done trimming down, either. I’ve got about an inch of belly fat that I’d like to lose, and having six-pack abs would certainly be nice. That means potentially eliminating all dairy products, since milk and cheese are both relatively high in carbohydrates. I’m going to see how that goes pretty soon, once the milk in my fridge runs out, and switch to coconut milk completely as a substitute for about a month. If it works out, fantastic- more data to add to the pile.
I warn you now, though- if you adopt the Paleo approach, you will get a lot of weird looks and a lot of criticism from people who cannot accept such radical changes. I get this routinely from my own family, who abide by conventional medical wisdom and think that what I’m doing is crazy. They just can’t understand the idea that eating lots of fat and cholesterol is healthy. I’ve gotten into some fairly serious arguments with them on this, and it doesn’t matter how much evidence I show them- they still don’t believe me. This is not a diet, this is a massive lifestyle change, and one that will make you a better and stronger man, but if you do this, you may end up alienating people around you. As far as I’m concerned, this is the price you must pay for wisdom, strength, and health.
A man has only so much time left to him before he is called to meet his Creator. When the Lord calls you home at last, to live with Him in eternal glory and blissful rest, your mortal shell will no longer be of concern. But until that time, the single greatest investment you can make will be in yourself, your health, your strength. Do not give in to the temptation to squander that opportunity by doing what so many of your fellows are doing, destroying your body in the process. Do not deprive yourself of this one glorious chance to become better, happier, and stronger. The Lord of All placed His faith in you for a reason- so prove to Him that you were worthy of that trust.
- Mark’s Daily Apple– THE place to get the skinny on the Primal approach to life; consider buying Mark’s book, The Primal Blueprint, as well, you’ll find it well worth the while
- Fast Paleo Recipes
- Keoni Galt’s post on his Paleo baby
- The documentary “Fat Head” goes into the medical evidence supporting everything I’ve written here, and is well worth watching in full- watch it on Netflix or buy it outright
- Martin Berkhan’s LeanGains is a great place to get advice on intermittent fasting, drinking alcohol while eating right, and many other topics besides
- Dan and Mary Eades, M.D.