You Animal: A Primer to Freeing Your Inner Beast – The Preface

This is a preface to a multi-part series that I am excited beyond terrestrial measure to deliver. I’ll make it a very short preliminary story.

Just over a year ago I reluctantly posted about having gone six months using no soap or shampoo in the shower. Water only. I was reluctant because I thought I might get hammered even though I’m pretty in-your-face as a general rule, as those regular readers well know. But this was personal. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, did it anyway and to my welcome surprise, it was picked up by Boing Boing, then Fark, and within days, my blog went from getting 1-2,000 visits per day to more than double that, on average.

But OK, that was a random gift out of nowhere, right? That’s how I saw it, initially, and I didn’t do much about it. But my average traffic doubled to 3-4,000 visits per day and I’ve held onto that and have grown it over the last year. This end-of-year, I did an update and Boing Boing published it, and it got picked up by GIZMODO today. Traffic is astounding. Tens of thousand of visitors per day.

So now I’ll get into the meat of this. This focusses on the principals that guide the 3-4 posts to follow. …But I must deliver some bad news at the same time. The no soap or shampoo deal is at best 5% of the total equation and probably much less than that. I won’t be addressing it until the final post, as merely one of many self-experiments undertaken. just the way it goes and I’m sorry, but if that’s a disapointment, that’s what it is.


What do you think you really know?

I know you know a lot. So much so, you can take a lot for granted…not thinking about it in the least: you don’t guard your step out of your abode in the morning for fear of gravity having been repealed by the gods. You recognize water, instinctively — in the finest sense of a wild animal going back eons — and you drink without thought to consequence. You move about as you do on foot with natural confidence, and now, in machines…regularly in machines of potential lethal mass destruction; you do it every day, and that’s a big deal that you are left alone to contemplate…that important responsibility. Think seriously about that, the potential destruction you could wreak. …Yet you go about it in a relative quotidian trance.

It could challenge the mind, but it doesn’t, and it’s but one example; why it doesn’t is a simple thought experiment I shall leave totally unanswered because, by the end of this series, the answer ought to be obvious to all.

The very coolest thing about the “paleo” movement is that it is totally and completely awash in every sort of ideological persuasion you can imagine. Just spend a week reading comments on my blog. How in the fuck an atheist and anarchist such as I can have fundamentalist Christians, lefty commies, conservative Republicans, liberal Democrats, hippies, spiritualists, scientists, MDs, PhDs, evolutionists, anthropologists, creationists, and whatever and whoever else you can think of…reading, commenting, and largely being civil to one-another on some sense of common ground is to me, less of a step forward than it its a solemn responsibility to recognize, nurture, and keep alive. I’m impressed. I’m appreciative.

This tells me the same thing many have gotten and are coming to realize. We are onto something. It may be big. There is a natural allure. I think it’s complex, and the no soap or shampoo thing I think substantiates the idea that there’s some part of paleo that attracts everyone.

But why listen to me? Well, if you don’t know me you might ought have no reason in the world. You can read my About page. I’ve been around, lived around, done a few things. And I got fat. I fixed that to the tune of 60 pounds, got stronger, got off meds, and lots of other things including recently, a 325 pound deadlift at 50 years old. I went through a bunch of self-experiments to lose that weight, documented here.

I blogged about it. Gotta be more than 1,000 posts by now, since 2007. And eventually, it got some notice, with some help from my friends. I was interviewed in Der Spiegel. Shortly later, Macleans of Canada. A paid article for DRW Magazine. Then a radio interview in Canada. Jimmy Moore interviewed me on his podcast. And more recently, an interview with Healthy Mind; Fit Body.

Doesn’t mean shit if I’m wrong, and that’s all that counts. What it means is that a of of people are listening, and if I may suggest, these are not the people watching Entertainment Tonight. Nope. They’re people like you: on the Internet; slowly, but very  surely getting comfortable with the radical notion that…you’re on your own, but also that you have more knowledge at your disposal — at the tips of your fingers — than did kings and queens of old. But more than that: that you are competent to get it.

But how do you know? I mean: how do you really know? I’m going to submit to you a radical proposition:

  • You can’t know unless you’ve tried it on yourself with success or failure.

It could be inconclusive, in which case you still don’t know…with the saving virtue of knowing that you don’t know. There’s a corollary:

  • All Medical studies are meaningless until you confirm their results personally.

And so here’s my scientific method throughout.

From the starting point of some guy; I read about, think about, study about, research about evolutionary biology in the widest sense. From that, I come up with ideas. I test them on myself. I see how it goes. I blog about it. Readers experiment. They report results in comments. Repeat.

There you have it. We’re all still waiting for the food and drug manufacturers to come give us big paychecks.

The theme will be my own self experimentation bolstered — and in a big way — by my thousands of daily readers who have likewise undergone the same self-experiemnts and have reported their results in thousands of comments.

And I am happy to report that the results have been fantastic, but that’s only because we gained the confidence to think for ourselves, experiment on ourselves, and tell our stories. But above all, readers here are generally in agreement that there’s something about the Animal, that we are him, and that when we respect our nature as such, good and interesting things result.

I will conclude with a stark example of self experimentation. If you don’t know where the tiny South Pacific island Nauru lies, don’t sweat it, because it seems to me that these dear folks have no clue where they’ve even been themselves. So here, let me show you where they’ve been.

I Love My Pizza
I Love My Pizza

And another.

Just back from McDonalds
Just back from McDonalds

I just wonder: is this not one of the greatest controlled & randomized experiments ever? Consider that this is the smallest island nation in the world at 8 sq. miles. You can drive its perimeter in about 20 minutes, in traffic. Population is around 14,000, and it’s about 400 miles from the nearest commercial port from whence products may come.

In the 1980s they got a bit rich, owing to their phosphorous deposits going back to when birds first began to shit (a long time). So it goes full circle. The phosphorous is sold for fertilizer (“Fortified?”) that grows crops that are used in packaged & canned products that, now that the Nauruans have the income, can buy buy back, but for a mere portion of their original profit, including shipping two ways, processing, and packaging. As a consequence, relatively cheap canned and processed foods have entirely pushed out anything fresh. There are zero fresh vegetables, fruits, meats sold in the markets. You want it? Gotta grow it yourself.

That is an economic win-win, if I’ve ever seen one. In pure terms of econimic efficiencly, how can you not possibly marvel?

But there was a huge external cost that they could not have foreseen. So, this is never about rolling back the technological progress we’ve seen or the resultant economic efficiencies we enjoy as a result (more for less; basically), but about simply understanding our natures as biologically Wild Animals in all of this, in a zoo that for some reason finds it a mystery…how to properly feed us, (while all the while, regular zoos have not a problem in the same regard). Take what’s good and works. Leave the rest. And educate.

And with that, let’s get to the short video, about 8 minutes. Check those pictures above, again, and see what a 100% diet of canned, packaged, processded food can do to grandmothers, mothers, fathers, children. You see, the island is now known as “The Fattest Place on Earth.” 95% obesity. 50% Type II diabetes. Watch now.

And so this will be the touchstone and fiber that runs through the rest of my posts.

Update: Just one more reason to pay attention. Here’s the story of a man who linked over here from FARK on New Year’s Day, 2010, hungover, and to have a laugh. Then he proceeded to lose 65 ugly pounds.

Update 3/19/2011: This intended series has now been superseded by a “Hacker’s Quick-Start Guide” that will be published as a free eBook download by the end of March, 2011.

If you like this and especially, if you like the idea of the upcoming series over the next week, please tell your Facebook Friends and you Twitter Followers with a click at the top

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Darrin - Lean, Mean, Virile Machine on January 7, 2011 at 17:18

    Love where this is going so far, Richard.

    I think that getting people to CARE enough about their health and fitness to want to LEARN and TAKE ACTION – instead of either throwing caution to the wind and hoping their insurance covers whatever injuries or illnesses they come down with, or blindly following the status quo on how to live a long, healthy life – is 99% of the battle.

  2. Lauren Romeo on January 7, 2011 at 15:30

    I’ve been reading your blog for about two years. You’ve done a great job! I think the reason you attract such a diverse audience is that all types of people yearn to be healthy. Maybe that’s so we can argue our ideology better.
    So, thanks a million for putting yourself out for us!
    Oh yeah love the recipes.

  3. Russ Thornton on January 7, 2011 at 15:38

    Great setup, Richard. Eager to see your forthcoming series.

    Hadn’t seen that video before . . . scary to think that is the future we’re currently creating for ourselves in the U.S.

  4. Jennifer on January 7, 2011 at 16:24

    I was part of the first wave of boingboing-ers to arrive on your site, and I must say I’ve been hooked ever since! Love the food photos and the rants and the blog in general. That was an interesting video about Naru, can’t say I’m surprised much by the result of the influx of a so-called Western diet, but thanks for the link. And looking forward to the next posts!

  5. Patty on January 7, 2011 at 16:46

    That amazing amount of daily traffic is well deserved Richard. I learn something or am forced to think about something a little differently with almost everyone of your posts, and that keeps me reading. Looking forward to the rest of the series, and I hope your traffic doubles again in the coming months!

  6. Jessi on January 7, 2011 at 17:00

    I’m curious if the water-only study has been replicated by long-haired females.

    I’m also curious about how one would go about shaving (especially as a female) since shaving cream is primarily soap-based.

    • Helen on January 7, 2011 at 19:13

      Yes, it has…by this long-haired woman, at least, and I have waist-length hair. And I shave the same way…no shaving cream or soap or anything like that.

      • Helen on January 7, 2011 at 19:18

        p.s. I just re-read your post and realized that I didn’t really answer your question about shaving. To shave my legs, I just get in a tub of warm (not hot) water and after wetting my legs, I just shave away as if I had shaving cream on them. I shave my pits in the shower…just wet skin and a blade works great.

    • Lark on January 18, 2011 at 10:38

      I’m female and don’t shave (I have better things to do with my time and money) so this isn’t an issue for me.

  7. Max on January 7, 2011 at 19:12

    Excellent post! Can´t wait to see the rest of the series.

  8. Bill on January 7, 2011 at 19:33

    I haven’t used shaving cream on my face for about 10 years. Cheap razors and water do the trick for me.
    Viva La Evolucion!

  9. jonw on January 7, 2011 at 21:17

    at first this pissed me off, but it’s done pretty well… fuck us if we can’t take a joke.

    • Gene on January 7, 2011 at 23:58

      This is pretty damn funny.
      “Eventually they’ll be completely numb and essentially be just large blackened lumps that you’ll be able to use for just about anything – not just in the kitchen, but even for hammering nails or breaking small rocks.”

  10. Dr.BG on January 8, 2011 at 01:17

    Hey Paleo KINGHOTNESS,

    Thank you for pointing out the astounding (but predictable) endocrine and metabolic changes that have occurred on the island of Naru as a result of changing their economics and food choices from their traditional, ancestral diet. They are a mirror regression of other cultures like the Pima Indians. The diabetes rate you posted is SCARY and now they face being an even sicker, fatter, damaged country more than the U.S.

    Lookin’ forward to your wonderful series! Personally I think you should post your latest lean picts on the frontpage of the blog since they are so inspiring… *haaa ahaa!* because UR SO HOT IN PICTS AND IN PERSON. AND you smell you GREAT too.


    • michaelf on January 8, 2011 at 07:32

      This .is.a.great.point.

      You should just use Martin’s pictures, he IS one beautiful son of a bitch!

    • Helen on January 8, 2011 at 08:55

      Didyou notice how the news whores were demonizing fat, though?

      p.s. Apologies to any ladies-of-the-night out there, btw.

  11. Aaron Curl on January 8, 2011 at 05:24

    Your site proves that if you are passionate about something you can inspire change and make waves. So, keep up the great work.

    I had never heard of Nauru until I read this. Now, I have a the link of a video about Nauru on Facebook and at least 500 more people will become aware. I don’t know why I waste time posting the links I do on facebook but I’ve been doing it for a year now so, I can’t stop now.

  12. Joel on January 8, 2011 at 06:15

    I’m interested so far. I’ve been decreasing the amount of grease-dispersing product that I use on my person, because soap and especially shampoo exacerbate serious problems with my skin (since about a year ago, my hands sometimes split open for no reason). I quit shampoo as soon as I realized how much pain it caused me, and find that soap is a good stepping stone on the way to using only water.

    I’m skeptical of the paleo diet on some level, because I know I’m adapted to consuming lactose, and strongly suspect I’m adapted to a high-starch diet (people with my ancestry typically produce four or so times as much amylase as hunter-gatherers, who, in turn, produce about twice as much as most animals). I’m down with the evolutionary biology approach, I just don’t think it accounts for how strong a selection pressure diet can be. In a sense, I think you aren’t recognizing just how important diet is to health and fitness in the context of deep time, even though I agree with you as to how important it is in the present.

    An interesting topic I don’t think your blog has addressed is the positive role of uric acid. It serves many of the purposes in the human metabolism, that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) serves in animals whose liver has the normal suite of enzymes. As we lost our ability to produce vitamin C, we also lost our ability to produce allantoin (important in its own right; a good reason to eat comfrey, but I digress) so that uric acid could build up in our system and serve as a replacement work-horse antioxidant, leaving enough vitamin C around for the precious roles where it’s irreplaceable.

    Linus Pauling was half right in saying it’s wise to make up for our mutant livers when we get sick, but he didn’t account for the role of uric acid. People deficient in zinc don’t produce enough uric acid, and so zinc can help that limited group to get over a cold. Chicken soup has lots of hydrolyzed proteins, probably gelatin from boiled bones, and as those amino acids are broken down for energy they become uric acid. The macrobiotic remedy of eating only rice until recovery, and your suggestion of fasting, would also lead to a breakdown of proteins, in this case a re-cycling of cell matter to scavenge essential amino acids, but the result of increased uric acid would be the same (I realize autophagy itself might have some benefits, but I’m less sure of them).

    Interestingly, people with gout tend not to get MS.

    Just something to consider. Keep up the good work, and congrats on your successes!

    • Richard Nikoley on January 8, 2011 at 11:33

      “I’m adapted to consuming lactose”

      Most paleos consider that if dairy suits you, use it. Call it lacto-paleo.

      “I’m adapted to a high-starch diet”

      You may be. Carbs may not be an issue for you, and if you would follow the blog of Dr. Stephan Guyenet ( you’ll find that while he’s very paleo friendly, he also regularly makes the point that manny primitive cultures have thrived on very high starch diets. And then there are those who can thrive on near zero carb, such as the Inuit.

      The point being, it always come back to you. There’s no way you can know until you begin self-experimenting within the general context of “paleo” and see what works best. Personally, low-carb works best for me most of the time, but I do moderate carb refeeds a couple of times per week, typically after an intense, fasted training session at the gym.

      “An interesting topic I don’t think your blog has addressed is the positive role of uric acid. It serves many of the purposes in the human metabolism, that ascorbic acid (vitamin C) serves in animals whose liver has the normal suite of enzymes. As we lost our ability to produce vitamin C, we also lost our ability to produce allantoin (important in its own right; a good reason to eat comfrey, but I digress) so that uric acid could build up in our system and serve as a replacement work-horse antioxidant, leaving enough vitamin C around for the precious roles where it’s irreplaceable.”

      Interesting. I’ll make a note to look into that. BTW, isn’t it excess uric acid that causes gout? You might find this interesting:

      “Chicken soup has lots of hydrolyzed proteins, probably gelatin from boiled bones”

      Well, most paleos are very much into bone broths & stocks, from all sorts of animals.

      • LCforevah on January 10, 2011 at 10:29

        OOOooooohh, this is so weird! I just finished reading this chapter about gout because I was searching for some info on gout so that a friend of mine could send the info to her boyfriend. He needs to lose a lot of weight but is convinced that eating low carb will worsen his gout!

        I emailed her the info and hope that she and her boyfriend can now go on low carb. Fructose and gout, who’d a thought.

  13. Just an observer on January 8, 2011 at 06:21

    An anarchist (as you call yourself) is having some kind of financial enterprise?

    Bloody ignorant Americans!

  14. Earl Cannonbear on January 8, 2011 at 08:53

    Ya, that’s right. According to the ABC news piece it’s really quite simple.

    All the people of Nauru need to do to solve their obesity problem is to eat less fat and do more aerobics.

    That will fix it.

    After all, the same prescription has been such an outstanding success in Western countries.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 8, 2011 at 08:56

      you’re right of course,, Earl. I chose not to piss on that part as I thought it would detract from the overall message in the intro. But I will bring it up later.

    • Summer on January 8, 2011 at 19:15

      You also gotta love the 1 minute big pharma commercial before it played… would have been even more ironic if it was for atherosclerosis or diabetes instead of for breathing problems.

    • Flying Burrito on January 9, 2011 at 16:07

      I zeroed right in on that non-sequitor too in a nanosecond…it made me wince to the core of my being…very troubling…and you know the locals aren’t going to stand for the “conventional wisdom” cure (the prescription to eat less fat and exercise more) and just go and fall off the wagon all over again.

  15. […] Subscribe ← You Animal: A Primer to Freeing Your Inner Beast – The Preface […]

  16. […] OK, the first post in the series is up: You Animal: A Primer to Freeing Your Inner Beast – The Preface. Also, just this morning, one man's story since linking over here from FARK on New Year's Day, […]

  17. Chuck Currie on January 8, 2011 at 21:15

    That Nauru video is total lame stream media bullshit! If you didn’t know better, you would now believe that eating Spam and frying your meat and fish in oil will give you type 2 diabetes! Obviously, no one at ABC has ever heard of Gary Taubes – let alone Richard Nikoley. I need to go sit down and put my head between my legs before my head explodes.

    Richard, thank you for your website and all the thought that goes into it.

  18. Keithallenlaw on January 9, 2011 at 21:43

    It’s a shame the ABC journalist wasn’t educated on the real cause on the fat problem.
    Instead of relating the problem to empty carbs and sugars, he went on fat bashing
    campaign. Though I do understand there are bad fats, I feel the excess carbs is what
    done them in. So sad.

    • Matt Brody on January 11, 2011 at 07:54

      Though in their case when the meat is mostly SPAM instead of the nutrient-dense options available with a line or net, I suspect nutrient deficiency is playing as large a part in their health woes.

      • Chuck Currie on January 11, 2011 at 08:13

        I would suspect that their “nutrient deficiency” is derived from the flour and sugar they consume, not from eating spam. Spam is pork shoulder and ham in a can. Here’s what Wikipedia says – “Spam is typically sold in cans with a net weight of 340 grams (12 ounces). A 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving of original Spam provides 310 Calories, 13 grams of protein (26% DV), 3 grams of carbohydrates (1% DV), 27 grams of total fat (41% DV), including 10 grams of saturated fat (49% DV). The cholesterol content of Spam is 70 milligrams (23% DV). A serving also contains 57% of the recommended daily intake of sodium (1369 milligrams). Spam provides the following vitamins and minerals: 0% vitamin A, 1% vitamin C , 1% calcium, 5% iron, 3% magnesium, 9% potassium, 12% zinc, and 5% copper.”

        A little salty but otherwise not bad (it certainly won’t give you type 2 diabetes).

  19. Matthew on January 10, 2011 at 05:57

    Hey Richard you’ve probably already thought of this, but once you finish your intro series you should probably link to them in the top bar “Where to get started” or something like that, so they don’t get lost in the annals of the blog.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 10, 2011 at 07:51

      Yep, that’s the plan. I’ll put it all together on one page.

  20. The Fattest Place on Earth : Sunshine & Starlight on January 10, 2011 at 09:56

    […] is an interesting video that I found over at Richard Nikoley’s blog Free the Animal. It highlights what happens when a society changes from being hunter-gatherer […]

  21. […] set out to do a newbie intro to Paleoish and really, frankly, ended up kinda falling flat on my face — in the sense that I just could not […]

  22. Sali on January 25, 2011 at 01:53

    Jessi, I noticed in another thread that olive oil was recommended for shaving instead of soap, and I plan to try that. If the tub becomes dangerously slippery from the oil, one person recommended using shampoo to clean the oil away. lol
    Just shaving with water – and especially if a cheap razor is involved in the equation – can be painful!

  23. Jesrad on September 1, 2015 at 00:23

    Pressing forward as ever, Richard. You’re still an inspiration year after year.

    As for Nauru there’s even more to it than biology: This place is quite simply the ultimate stage of entitled social-democracy.

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