Mainstream Media’s Take on the Paleo Lifestyle

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

Helen Keller

U.S. News and World Report ran this story today in the on-line version of the magazine.  Not sure if this story is to go to press in the print version or not; I’d like to see the story in print, if for no other reason than to simply gauge John Q. Public’s reaction.

All in all, I guess you can chalk this up as a favorable review of the Paleo lifestyle; as favorable, at least, as we’re likely to find in any mainstream publication.  As excerpted from the article:

On its merits. History aside, the paleo diet has health merit. Except for the dairy and grain issues, it’s pretty close to the tenets of the traditional eating patterns like the Mediterranean and Asian diets and other dietary patterns that focus on plants, fish, lean protein, “good” fats, and whole grains. (Cordain says Stone Age eating is closest to a Japanese-style diet.) It also fits into the small but growing movement turning away from factory-farmed meat and toward eating animals fed what they’ve evolved to eat, like grass rather than grain.

Now, if we could just shake this damn energy balance notion once and for all.  Hell, even the mention that an “alternative” viewpoint (a.k.a., Taube’s, a calorie is not a calorie) would give me reason to cheer.  And then, of course, we’ve got the whole “proper exercise” issue to contend with.  Again, as excerpted from the article:

Ungar and Leonard don’t blame our modern diet-related health problems on any specific food group. Rather, they’re convinced that our major problems these days are the lack of that diversity in our diet—and a positive energy balance. In other words, unlike our Paleolithic forebears, we are taking in more calories than we burn off. “The difference is not simply in what we’re eating but in what we’re doing,” says Leonard.

The greater availability of cheap, high-calorie, high-fat foods is contributing to high rates of obesity, he says, but so is the fact that we aren’t moving anymore. “If you add even an extra 30 minutes to an hour of moderate exercise a day, it’s going to get you to a point where it will make a difference in your long-term energy balance,” he says. “Slow and steady is the mantra. You didn’t see people in farming and herding societies sprinting around. They moved at a low to moderate level of intensity over the course of an entire day.” (emphasis mine)

Uh-huh.  Well, Just a thought — I’d like to know what part of hunter-gatherer is consistent with farming and herding?  I guess that’s an idea, though, that’s lost on both Ungar and Leonard.

Progress in fits and starts, I suppose, is better than no progress at all.

In health,


*A late edit:  Here were my thoughts as posted on the US News and World Report article comment section —

Right Idea…mostly

A hearty thanks to Katherine Hobson for spelling out the basic tenants of the Paleo lifestyle. Between her article, and Richard’s (of Free the Animal) comment, readers new to the “Paleolithic lifestyle” will gain much valuable insight. I hope this sparks a curiosity that will culminate in the conversion of many new “Paleo disciples”. To be critical, though, I have to say that both Unger and Leonard have missed the boat when it comes to exercise prescription and energy balance.

Our paleo ancestors lived an explosive and sprint/power-dominant lifestyle that was anything but what is depicted here as the “slow and steady” farmer/herder lifestyle. This is exactly the point of the Paleo lifestyle – to consume what the body was engineered via eons of evolution to thrive upon, and to push the body physically in such a way as is best suited to encourage development of a powerful, explosive phenotype (i.e., infrequent bouts of short duration, high intensity exercise).

On the point of energy balance, one must remember (1) that the human body is anything but a closed energy system, therefore rendering the “energy balance theory of weight control” the fool’s chase that it is, and (2) the overriding contribution that insulin plays in the partitioning of ingested nutrients, and insulin’s response to the inordinate (and totally alien to our genome, I might add), ingestion of carbohydrates – especially simple carbohydrates, and those derived from grains. This, in effect (and to cop a phrase from Garry Taubes), renders one ingested calorie not necessarily equal to another ingested calorie.

12 responses to “Mainstream Media’s Take on the Paleo Lifestyle

  1. Hey Keith.

    I added GHR’s in my routine over a month ago and I have become very comfortable doing explosive sets of 3’s. I wanted to add weight and I’m curious if you see any benefit in holding a dumbell over wearing a weighted vest?

    If you prefer holding a weight, Should I hold it across the chest or higher up towards my chin or forehead?

    Thanks. P.J.

    • P.J.
      I prefer to use a db held to my chest. On the negative portion of the motion, I’ll move the db up under my chin so as to add a little more resistance to my glutes/hams. It’s a great assistance exercise.

      • Thanks. Yah I built my own GHR for only $30.

        That’s my buddy on it.

        I really like trying to explode as fast as possible from the bottum posistion. I’m hopeing this can be one more tool to increase my sprinting speed.

  2. I’d be cautions throwing out the notion of energy balance. While I certainly agree that arguing that “a calorie is a calorie” is an overly simplistic notion, to take the other extreme and argue that they don’t matter is equally wrong.

    As a counter point, google for counter arguments to Gary Taubes and you’ll find and give it an honest read.

    I’m a big fan of the paleo approach, but some of his rhetorical tactics make us as a community look bad.

    • Chris,
      I’ve always agreed that an over-indulgence in caloric intake from any source will lead to weight gain and fat accumulation. My point is that, in the real world, were/when satiation must be taken into account — if the proper macro-cals are ingested (fat, protein) — makes it damn-near impossible to naturally ingest to the point of weight gain.

  3. No disagreement from me there. I didn’t mean to sound overly confrontational in my post. I’ve heard people (not you) argue that calories are irrelevant, which is a provably false claim that makes what we advocate lose credibility.

    I agree though, since switching to paleo I’d dropped from about 10% to 6-7% bodyfat without any caloric restriction whatsoever. I feel MUCH better too.

  4. I HATE-LOVE GHR situps… my trainers WARNED me the NEXT DAY my abs would appear ‘bloated’…because hypertrophic results are a GIVEN. The ones the opposite way are good, too for the back.

  5. Be careful with the GHDs and work into them slowly though. My girlfriend did a workout that consisted of 3*30 of them over a year ago (she’d done up to 20-30 at a time previously).

    She did enough muscle damage to get Rhabdomyolysis and spent two days in the hospital on IV fluids. Her CPK was measured at around 70,000 but they suspect they may have been over 100K before she was admitted.

    On the plus side, her kidneys don’t appear to be any worse for wear for it.

    On the downside, she still swells in her midsection when she does core work – an the doctors have been unable to explain why.

    Not putting the exercise down, I still do them and think they’re great, but don’t underestimate them.

    • Ouch! Rhabdo by GHD work; that’sgotta be right up there with waterboarding.

      Hey, nice GHD deck, btw. Good idea to go with a platform.

  6. Chris,

    I’m so sorry to hear that happened to you GF!! She is very lucky to experience no residuals. That is f**cking scary-nuts. Fortunately I guess I’m too LAME to overdo anything at Xfit. Right now.

    RHABDO is serious, life-threatening stuff — if one survives without losing a liver lobe or kidney(s). Wow.

    Do you think she has some kind of predisposition for muscle breakdown?
    –like statin intolerance in the family history
    –mitochondria dysfunction (research has shown a link betw statin-rhabdo and statin-myositis cases it turns out) — we’ve discussed this at TrackYourPlaque
    –over/use of NSAIDs (advil, motrin, aleve, the like) or Tylenol which can affect kidney/liver disposal of drugs and metabolites like creatine/CPK
    –dehydrated that one day (since prior GHR days were totally FINE)

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