Lets all Go to Paleo Hell Together

OK, but not before we know what we’re missing.

  • Researchers Zero in on the Perfect Diet for all Humans
  • The Paleolithic Diet is the Diet For One & All, Scientists Say
  • Locusts Formed an Important Part of the Paleolithic Diet

And so if I’m not going to hell for that bit of disrespectful chicanery, perhaps this’ll do it.

Do you know how to cheat well? First off, let me say that “cheat” is really the wrong word. It should rather be on the order of “sin,” or something like that to more convey the gravity of going off doctrine. After all, there are all those good folks out there digging through PubMed each and every day to deliver to you that which you could not have possibly known otherwise: that an evolutionarily appropriate diet, focussing on Real Foods is going to give you a foundation of suitability from which you can then build individual optimality.

Do we really need confirmation over and over and over and over and over that the saturated fats and lipoproteins in natural plant and animal foods is OK; indeed, even good for us?

What in the fuck are we searching for?

So in honor of sayin’ fuck all that, for good, I’m putting up photos of my most recent sins; one at a restaurant, and the other, still digesting here at home.

This is from a small stand that’s been around since long before I was born: Happy Hound, in Los Gatos. They do dogs & burgers. But they also do BLTs. Click to enlarge.


The bun is toasted, and the bacon counts six thick strips. The frys are to make me regret it, as well as the loads of soy oil-based mayonnaise. This was a couple of months ago and I still have mixed feelings over my sinful decision, owing to the digestive distress felt for hours afterward. And I’ll still likely have to face paleo Judgment Day, someday. Sin now, pay later.

I’ve been eating really good with excellent feeling for far too long, though, and so today, I had had enough. Somehow, three Thomas English Muffins ended up in the fridge at the end of my wife’s grills & frills weekend, and I had been eying them. For a day. My wife was misnamed Beatrice. “Eve” would have been more appropriate for the temptress.

It’s never my fault.

It was over 30 years ago that I had an idea: tuna salad on a toasted English muffin would taste very good. …And there was light. And it was good.

Broiler toasted English Muffins

By this point, it was all over. You actually have to cut the Thomas’ in half on your own, giving credence to the illusion that you’re really not selling your soul to the Devil.

The tuna is very special, however. One might say Godly, but then one might risk cataclysm in putting it together with the Devil’s handiwork. I’ll let High Seas Tuna worry about that. It’s their job, and I paid them well for my last batch.

I make my tuna salad differently about every time. I have no recipe, just principles: lots of mayo, pickle, other crunches. … An aside about mayo: I don’t do the various Paleoish versions of home made, and that’s because it’s been a couple of months since I had a drop of it. I’ll just chalk it up to laziness and sin when the rare opportunity presents.

In this case, it was the can of tuna, drained, juice of a half lemon, half handful of chopped onion, half handful of chopped celery, half handful of chopped cornichon (gherkin) pickle, a pinch of salt, pinch of pepper, pinch of powdered garlic, pinch of dry dill weed, and 1/8 teaspoon of yellow Indian curry.

The last is that “secret ingredient” that when you don’t know, causes you to ask, “what’s that?” For this batch only, which was a single can, I also put in about a tablespoon of Greek olive oil and just a dash of apple cider vinegar. Then, you mix it up, smash it down and let it sit to cure for at least an hour.

Sin Well

Problem was, there were three English muffins, but I wanted to leave one for Eve, if nothing else but to reflect on what she had done to me. I mean, who knows? This could kick off three thousand years of Epically Proportional paleo Purgatory… A few dozen intrepid, inferior bloggers might get together and write a paleo book that ends up being The Paleo Book to End All Paleo Books (kinda Biblical) and 3,000 years from now, my wife is still known as Eve, but I’ve been redubbed: Adam.

And if there was any doubt, I used the rest of the tuna in a corn tortilla.

Sin Very Well

Alright, time to go look for the rods, switches, cat o’ nine tails and the sjambok.

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. Hugh Anderson on October 25, 2011 at 19:29

    This post touches on some things I’ve been thinking about recently, specifically if I can get behind dietary absolutism of any kind in the paleosphere. I was reading the most recent Whole9 update of their 30 day challenge the other day and while reading it I was fighting an internal battle with myself about whether or not their message is worth sharing with the general public. One statement in particular threw me off – “Programs that offer built-in cheats or rationalizations for less than healthy food choices simply do not work long-term. ” This is bullshit. I’ve been around long enough to know that “no cheating allowed” approaches can fail people who would’ve found more long-term success had they been more flexible about cheating. In fact, I think there’s actual scientific literature to back me up on this (see:

    • Lee on October 25, 2011 at 23:58

      Their gig is no cheating at all, for 30 days. Hardly long term.

      I imagine they want people to feel the best they possibly can, in order to gain the greatest percentage of long term compliance. If you don’t know how good you can feel those hours of upset guts following the BLT wont have the same effect, it’s just what happens after eating.

  2. Carlos on October 25, 2011 at 15:34

    Paleo hell? but it’s all perfectly Hormetic!

  3. SAD eater on October 25, 2011 at 15:38


    Just a bit of trolling here.

    Sin? What a fucking joke. Most normal non-orthorexics are able to sin everyday without having to write a blog post to assuage the guilt.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 25, 2011 at 16:17

      Go fuck off, ignoramus.

      And pay attention to that last word. You’re obviously new here.

  4. pfw on October 25, 2011 at 15:57

    Aw, I was hoping for some crappy news stories. You shoulda rickrolled us!

  5. golooraam on October 25, 2011 at 16:30

    Richard – it is post like this that have me luv ya more and more each day – freakin flawless!

    love me burgers and fries and corn tortillas and english muffins – down with treating food like religious dogma!

    well done !

    • Richard Nikoley on October 25, 2011 at 16:45

      Don’t sin Golooraam, but if you do, do it rarely and sin well.

  6. Andrew on October 25, 2011 at 16:31

    Interesting — this tendency to label ideas (that we don’t personally fully identify with) with religious terms like dogma, orthodoxy, or sins. It’s particularly common for anti-paleo polemicists to use this rhetorical style in place of a substantive argument. That makes it even weirder when people who actually “get” paleo start talking the same way… even quasi-satirically.

    Is that a commentary on the paleo community we inhabit actually being overly dogmatic, or an expression of the evolved human bias to self-justification? Maybe a little of both, but I’m inclined to give more weight to the latter.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 25, 2011 at 16:40

      Interestingly, Andrew, you’re not asking why _I_ do this and why it’s important for _me_ to do so.

      Rather, you seem to want to generalize when you have a specific example by an individual right in front of your face who has been known to competently answer questions.

      • Andrew on October 25, 2011 at 16:59

        I might have wondered why, but you already offered a generalized explanation in the post by way of a couple paragraphs with an anti-intellectual bent. This was followed by, “in honor of sayin’ fuck all that.” That’s not exactly mincing words.

        If the reason you flatly stated isn’t really the reason, then I hope you’ll forgive me for missing what you left out.

      • Richard Nikoley on October 25, 2011 at 17:17

        Nice question begging, Andrew, and I do mean that in the classical and not popular sense. “Anti intellectual?”

        Is that really what you think of me? State your premises, sir.

      • Andrew on October 25, 2011 at 18:30

        No, that’s not what I think of you. Quite the contrary, and that’s why I used words like “weird” in my initial comment.

        folks out there digging through PubMed each and every day to deliver to you that which you could not have possibly known otherwise [*sarcasm noted]… Do we really need confirmation over and over and over and over and over..? What in the fuck are we searching for? …fuck all that, for good

        I can’t figure out how to take that any way other than anti-intellectual.

        And I’d answer your rhetorical question about confirmation through facts, “yes”. Some people need to know answers to the why questions.

        Do we really need more excuses to eat shit than what our evolved preferences motivate, and our social group and immersion in advertising reinforce incessantly? I don’t think so, but it’s bound to resonate because it’s what people want to hear.

      • Richard Nikoley on October 25, 2011 at 21:16

        “I can’t figure out how to take that any way other than anti-intellectual.”

        I’m just going to chalk that up to differences in age and experience and that is not meant in the slightest way to be condescending. I have simply come to a point where I am quite relaxed to do whatever I happen to feel like doing and I never, ever worry about what people who aren’t going to get it in the whole context of the whole thing think.

        And I never care about snapshots.

        Do we need more excuses?

        Who needs excuses? Either you’re generally in, or you’re out.

        And there’s a difference between making excuses and giving a platform for those who generally do well on a quotidian basis but from time to time have a time, and this is a place where they can say yea, fuck yea, I did that and damn if I didn’t regret it and damn if I won’t do it again.

        Live well, Andrew,

  7. Laurie D. on October 25, 2011 at 16:39

    While both of those meals would have put me in migraine and joint pain hell for days, it was a fun post to read. I do “sin” with Udi’s gluten free breads from time to time (they make an awesome raisin bread) and who can resist M&M (apparently, my “apple”). Interesting that you write about religious connections best of all. 😉

  8. Chris Tamme on October 26, 2011 at 07:34

    This reminds me that I need to get back on track. I have been using way to many excuses that have been leading me to eat crap more then the occasional and sporadic sins. My wife popped the kid out and I have found a new job so back to my regularly scheduled program and a huge grass fed roast in the crock pot for dinner tonight.

  9. Lynch31337 on October 25, 2011 at 18:03

    I used to enjoy happy hound on occasion, until I learned that an acquaintance would regularly piss in their pickles. After that I just can’t go back.

    Tried a five guys burger protein style yet?

    • Richard Nikoley on October 25, 2011 at 18:09

      I discount the piss & cumm stories because, what are you going to do? If true, which I doubt, do you think it’s isolated? And do these guys have trepidation over eating out themselves and does it really matter in the end?

      I have a nephew and niece working at five guys in Sunnyvale and I have indeed scheduled that as my next fall from Grace.

    • Kevin on October 26, 2011 at 07:52

      Sadly I have found that most Five Guys are unwilling to do “protein style,” because the lettuce they use is shredded, not whole leaf. So when I find myself at a Five Guys, I take it as an opportunity to “sin well” and just eat the damn bun.

      • pfw on October 27, 2011 at 07:42

        I’ve eaten at five guys twice, asked for no bun, got no bun. They just wrapped it up in the wrapper and handed it to me. I guess if your job is to yell ” PATTIES” every thirty seconds you don’t really care how you serve it.

  10. Michael P (@PizSez) on October 25, 2011 at 18:04

    I “sin” occasionally, too. Posted about one a little while back, here:

    Anyway, what’s up with people not getting the point here? It’s not like it’s unclear.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 25, 2011 at 18:13

      Uh, thank you, Michael. Jesus, I’ve read it like three times and I can’t see past the shtick myself.

      • Michael P (@PizSez) on October 25, 2011 at 18:46

        That would be because there’s nothing beyond the schtick. It’s just supposed to be goofy. I mean, come on: a potato chip sandwich? (Although I do like ’em.)

    • Bodhi X. Knight on October 25, 2011 at 18:22

      Michael, I check your page and burst out laughing when I saw your cheat… Freakin’ hilarious man.

      Richard, I love these posts. It’s the reason I read your blog. You don’t beat around the bush so to say, when it comes to your opinion. Bravo sir. Sin like you mean it, I say!

  11. Ian M. on October 25, 2011 at 18:27

    Great post. Everyday I look forward to reading your thoughts. The troller doesn’t get it and never will.

    I enjoy the occasion sin; garlic fries, in n out burger (with a bun) and crepe at the local French restaurant.

  12. Stabby on October 25, 2011 at 19:08

    I have been cheating here and there. I do feel best when I don’t, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. There are a couple of courses of action for those who eat bad food. 1. Panic and succumb to self-loathing for being weak. or 2. Get laid, drink tea and go to bed on time. These things have a potent transient anti-inflammatory effect whereas panicking will only exacerbate things.

    Maybe the title should be “Let’s all go down together, after a trip to paleo hell?” Bit too much? Totally awesome? Don’t feel compelled to answer.

  13. Jeff C. on October 25, 2011 at 19:17

    It will take you five years to recover from this, Richard. Easily. Then when you are on your deathbed (dying from a disease of civilization), within sight of Paleo puritans ascending an escalator to heaven, you will be unceremoniously dropped into a Hellmans-lubed zoom floom sraight to hell!

  14. Giuliano on October 25, 2011 at 23:57

    I cheated too yesterday, with a gorgeous focaccia topped with Burrata cheese, Crude ham, Parmesan, and Rucola. (I live in Italy, and i think you Richard know what I’m talking about)

    PS. I started my paleo thingy few months ago and man I have to tell you, your blog is the coolest one i follow, both deep and funny. And i really REALLY appreciate your approach to life.


    • Richard Nikoley on October 26, 2011 at 03:27

      When I was in Rome and Monterroso for a week last July (pics and video on the blog if you search), I think I had two cheats all week: a pizza once and a lasagne. The rest of the time it was octopus and other fruit of the sea. In France, it’s gonna be a baguette jambon & butter.

  15. alex on October 26, 2011 at 00:04

    My last cheat was a good old fashion poutine.

    Thats french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. add smoked meat sandwich for complete cheat goodness.

    • Chris Tamme on October 26, 2011 at 07:36

      Poutine is one thing that I don’t get. Had it in Montreal once and just couldn’t get on board.

  16. Paul Halliday on October 26, 2011 at 02:32

    Yeah, if you’re going to trat yourself, do it with something seriously tasty and enjoy it! Yorkshire pudding, for me, filled with meat and veggies. Love it!

    Crisp sandwiches are awesome! I might well indulge again if I’m ever around a couple of slices of proper sticky white bread, and Poutine looks fantastic! What’s not paleo about it?

  17. rob on October 26, 2011 at 04:20

    I think the problem people tend to have with going off-diet is “former fat boy syndrome” where you are scared that if you stray from the path by even a tiny bit you will revert to your old self.

    There’s a funny scene in the movie Dodgeball where the Ben Stiller character tempts himself with a slice of pizza while delivering electric shocks to his nipples ….

  18. Mike Gruber on October 26, 2011 at 08:14

    I feel ya on the wife leading you into temptation. My wife made a batch of peanut butter cookies for her brother’s birthday the other day. I might have “tested” a few … burp. Man, those are good. 🙂

  19. Zach on October 26, 2011 at 09:32

    I started keeping a public food log on twitter (only good use I’ve found for the service so far) and it reveals all my shameful secrets. Somehow, despite all those Hail Mary’s I’ve been saying, I still give into temptation and eat things like jerky made with soy sauce. It’s all my coworkers, I’m telling you, eating their processed food and stumbling me.

  20. ryan on October 26, 2011 at 10:23

    The funny part is most people would consider the tuna on an English muffin an extremely healthy lunch…well besides exposing themselves to mercury…because that stuff will kill you 😉

    • Richard Nikoley on October 26, 2011 at 10:52

      Actually, the merc level in High Seas stuff is super low. All their tuna are smaller, line caught. Why it’s so expensive.

      • ryan on October 28, 2011 at 10:56

        Sarcasm lost in internet translation! damn you winking guy for not getting the point across!

      • Richard Nikoley on October 28, 2011 at 11:01

        That’s what comments and being a bit vague are for. 😉

  21. Joseph on October 26, 2011 at 18:04

    The man who cannot laugh at himself is one sorry SOB.

  22. Mild Speculation on October 26, 2011 at 20:18

    I liked this post. We think and talk a lot about “freedom” and how we are lab rats eating industrial poison, but religiously adhering to a strict paleo-diet is not any more free, in my book. At a point, the restrictions become stress-inducing which might just be worth a burger and fries here or there.

    Funny you mention Five Guys, as that’s one of my favorite “sins”, in addition to BBQ (hush puppies and maybe even fried okra to go with it) and Mexican fajitas.

    Over the last year I have gradually backed off strict Paleo and now I eat about 1/3 strict paleo, 1/3 loose paleo (including rice and potatoes, sometimes corn), and 1/3 entirely non-paleo (sandwiches, chips, ice cream, etc.). I have suffered no ill effects and in fact I spend less time thinking about food, feel fewer blood sugar crashes, and have no desire for binging.

    While I’m going, I think a similar point should be raised in the paleosphere about exercise dogma. I see so much about lifting and sprinting but hardly anything about steady state cardio. Excessive cardio is clearly bad, but a couple 30 minute easy-moderate steady state sessions a week nicely complement the strength/interval type workouts.

  23. Geoff on October 27, 2011 at 03:59

    Nice work, Richard. Real, as always.

    The Coke cup in the background of the burger shot was a nice touch. Tell us you washed that meal down with a big hit of HFCS. Or maybe it was some ice cold draft beer in that paper cup?

    To me, one of the benefits of eating well, and feeling well is that I actually know when I’m sinning. When I step out it’s my conscious choice. So when I fall from grace, I make damn sure to enjoy it, as you did. Most of the poor bastards out there eat meals like the ones above all the time and don’t even enjoy them. To transgress without joy: now there’s a real sin for you.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 27, 2011 at 06:04

      Nope, it was a diet coke and that’s because regular is just too damn sweet tasting. But I will tell you this, some time back I spotted an A&W place, pulled off and had a draft root beer in the frosted mug. I don’t think I had had one in decades.

  24. Morning Links | The Primal Challenge on October 27, 2011 at 06:59

    […] Nikoley suggests that we all go to Paleo hell […]

  25. Jscott on October 27, 2011 at 10:05

    “I have simply come to a point where I am quite relaxed to do whatever I happen to feel like doing and I never, ever worry about what people who aren’t going to get it in the whole context of the whole thing think.”

    -I came to believe that Paleo [framework] could restore me to sanity [being fully human].

    Sometimes that involves food. Two hours of eating/cooking a day is hardly enough to fill any blog worth engaging with.

    That is why I am here. Thanks for letting me share.

    (I am typing this while sitting in a chair. #cheating)

  26. […] that lend the most buyer's remorse; but just the other day, I had the same sort of thoughts about admonishing everyone to go to Paleo hell with me. It's not like I don't talk about a cheat meal now and then, or my scotch. But this was a post […]

  27. Linda on October 27, 2011 at 15:22

    Richard, keep telling it like it is. And let the people who think they know it all go fuck themselves. 😛

  28. […] Richard Nikoley … rods … cat o’ nine tails … and a temptress who should have been named “Eve.” […]

  29. Razwell on October 30, 2011 at 06:30

    Good article, Richard. Dogmatism definitely sucks.

  30. Primal Toad on November 7, 2011 at 16:38

    With my peanut consumption I’m for sure going to paleo hell! That looks amazing Richard!

  31. Monica Hughes on November 19, 2011 at 19:23

    Tuna torture…. English muffins and tuna? Holy crap that looks good!

    Well, this post is a little late since you’re now doing strict paleo, but I enjoyed the post. Soooo tired of the paleo cult. Now that Thanksgiving is rolling around, we’ll have people posting all sorts of “primal” Thanksgiving recipes that turn a traditional American dish into something that looks like (at least, with the food pics posted on the internet) a stomach-turning monstrosity.

    I do react to gluten very badly now: the latest encounter had me doubled over for hours crying like a baby. But still, my goal is just to replicate the taste of my mom’s amazing pie without sending myself to the emergency room. It’s Thanksgiving, for Christ’s sake. I guess I don’t mind people making primal pies… what I mind is the attempt to convince oneself and everyone else, that such pies not only taste AS GOOD, but BETTER, than one made with wheat flour, cream, and sugar. I am willing to make what I see as reasonable substitutions when it comes to pies: reduced amounts of sugar and flour substitutions so that my stomach doesn’t turn into a rock. And for those with dairy sensitivities, perhaps substitution of coconut milk for cream makes sense. But I ain’t gonna spend 5 hours in the kitchen grinding nuts and trying to make a nut crust stay together anymore. No. Nor am I going to delude myself that a pie with coconut sugar is all that healthier than a pie with some refined sugar. Sugar is sugar, especially if you don’t have it often. Some of this stuff is driven by the low carb movement rather than rationality. Seriously, how much more dangerous is a pie crust made of tapioca and rice flour compared to nuts?

    A pumpkin pie with a nut crust, no sugar, and coconut milk … No, thank you. I see the fawning over how great this stuff is as analagous to the delusional rantings of the vegans who want to convince everyone that their Tofurkey is better than the real thing. (There are religious analogies, too, of course: like those who claim they have been “healed” of “fornication”… or whatever. Seriously, best to just have it out in the open, folks.)

    I have literally had paleo freaks drop into my Facebook feed telling me that by making pie 2 or so times a year, I’m trying to kill my husband. Just say no to religious fundamentalism!

    • Richard Nikoley on November 20, 2011 at 08:07

      Nice rant there, Monica.

  32. Holiday Odds & Ends | Free The Animal on November 22, 2011 at 09:57

    […] have been defiled by things like rice & potatoes. They'll have to wait until we get back in our Rocket Ship to Hell. Retweet 0 Like 0 StumbleUpon […]

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