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What Paleo is Really All About: Health in Body, Mind and Society

Let’s take a look

Body

This is the part most everyone has down to some degree or the other. One thing I found of interest over the last week of promoting the package of various products and services I was promoting is that a number of sites doing the best in sales were basically food blogs. That is, they don’t delve into any other aspects of the whole sphere I call paleo or Primal.

These folks just cook decent and appealing food, take pictures, and put up a post now & then—or often. A perfect example is young George, at Civilized Caveman Cooking. He’s built quite a substantial following over the last two years basically just pumping out food. One thing you might notice is the variety, along with plenty of baked good & “”paleo treats.” Yea, that sort of thing gets critiqued and criticized (sometimes rightly so—I’m a bit down on entire cookbooks that are nothing but sweet indulgences). On the other hand, why ought it matter for a blog that has it all? Seems like a little something for everyone and a lot for some.

Perhaps more importantly, if someone can’t get away from the treats, it’s better they be made with things like real eggs, real dairy, nut flours or butters, etc.

In the even larger scheme of things: meat, fish, fowl, vegetables (starchy too), fruits & nuts (and dairy if it works), get it yourself and prepare it yourself. And that’s it. Just let nature take it’s course in terms of health, well being and body composition.

There’s also the element of fitness using the gym or whatever other means one uses to train or condition. Plenty there as well. For some, that’s their focus, with food being a means to that end. Just another approach for folks to consider depending upon their stage of life.

Mind

Unfortunately, most of the attention here focuses on things that are equally related to the body, i.e., the mind-body connection or integration. Think things like getting good sleep, mediation, relaxation, proper posture, standing more and sitting less, watching Teevee less, some cold exposure, even barefoot walking and running.

That’s all fine, but my chief complaint is what seeks to pass for critical thinking. Even worse, the absolute sloth I see often touts itself as the epitome of scientific correctness (SC) you should be striving for. Even more worse, in some circles, this attitude reaches dimensions where its entire raison d’être is to dis-integrate the work or thinking of others for the purpose of unbridled deconstruction, smearing, tearing down. This usually takes place over various nutritional, health, or weight loss plans, ideas, programs. The method is to ignore at all costs the larger picture in order to focus in on some obscure metabolic process or cycle. It’s endless disputes over carbohydrate levels, what sources they come from, blood glucose levels, insulin levels, various hormonal levels, body temperature, cholesterol levels and and on & on.

But like Angelo Coppola says: “humans are not broken by default.” What that means to me is that the vast majority of people ought never need concern themselves—much less obsess—over all these various measurements unless they have clear and specific clinical reason to do so (diabetes being the classic example). Food is medicine. The first and foremost medicine.

In short, so much of this is so worthless on so many levels. Equally, pill popping, to me, is in itself a related, enormous exercise in deconstructionism when taken to the extremes so often now, where people sit around and compare notes on what prescriptions they’re under. As I’ve written before, such deconstruction has its various highly valuable places—antibiotics, various drugs of all sorts in emergency and trauma situations, and the handful of chronic conditions where people need to be on lifelong meds.

Back to the subject of the deconstructing nit-picking for the purpose of smearing and tearing down others, it far from strikes me as anything more than an attempt to parasitically prop one’s self up above the generally good work of others. It’s almost never constructive critique for the purpose of helping improve the overall value of someone’s work while concurrently examining one’s own assumptions or beliefs.

David Brown emailed me this, which began the inspiration for this post: Excerpt from an essay by John Stuart Mill entitled Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion.

There must be discussion to show how experience is to be interpreted. Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument; but facts and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it.

Very few facts are able to tell their own story, without comments to bring out their meaning. The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment, depending on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong, reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right are kept constantly at hand. (norms of rational conversation are allowed to do their work)

In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that can be said against him, to profit by as much of it as was just, and to expound to himself and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious. Because he has felt that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and by studying all modes in which in can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of the human intellect to become wise in any other manner.

The steady habit of correcting and completing his own opinion by collating it with those of others, so far from causing doubt and hesitation in carrying it into practice, is the only stable foundation for a just reliance on it; for being cognizant of all that can at least obviously be said against him, and having taken up his position against all gainsayers – knowing that he has sought for objections and difficulties instead of avoiding them and has shut out no light which can be thrown upon the subject from any quarter – he has a right to think his judgment better than that of any person, or multitude, who have not gone through a similar process. [emphasis added]

“…Correcting and completing his own opinion by collating it with those of others.” I call that synthesis and dot connecting. It’s rare. It’s always tear down Taubes, Moore, Lustig, Wolf, Eades, Colpo…rather than saying something like “all these people seem to have significant parts of an overall, greater picture. How about see what can be put together, related, one to another? Nope. “He said a toxin.” “There’s an anti-nutrient in that chapter.” Toss it out and while we’re at it, let’s smear him so he becomes less enthusiastic about offering any ideas at all.

Now guess what? Those who make an exclusive practice of tearing down and smearing others over perceived errors, or approach, or practice will be the first to read that Mill quote above and interpret it as justification for their destructiveness. Therein lies the problem.

Society

My larger bugaboo, and the principal subject of an upcoming book in a paleo / Primal context. More on that at a later time as things develop. In the meantime, here’s a basic practical approach to my views on society, my 18 minute presentation at last year’s Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard: paleo Epistemology and Sociology.

Richard Nikoley—Paleo Epistemology and Sociology from Ancestral Health Society on Vimeo.

A more in-depth treatment here on the blog was my 9-part series on Anarchy Begins at Home. I’ll give you a thumbnail sketch.

  • Rather than worrying about national and international politics and geopolitics, who “Teh Next President” is going to be, how about take a look around where you live?
  • You’re part way there with your emphasis on pastured animal products, wild caught seafood, and organic produce from small, caring producers you trust, maybe even know on a personal basis.
  • Wanna be involved in politics? OK, again, instead of worrying about your next president, how about worry about who your city council members are, the mayor, the county supervisors? How about the board of directors of your homeowner’s association? How about a neighborhood or even a block committee to keep a watch on things, encourage certain standards of behavior and educate accordingly, instead of trying to use the force of the State?
  • Want pooled health insurance? How about community pools of say, 10-20,000 people, where health practices can be better encouraged, instead of trying to scale to 300 million people you will never know or influence in any way?
  • See a small neighborhood near you that manages its affairs better than the one you live in, and your efforts to improve things chez vous have not yielded much result? Move there! Go where the good people are, and stop trying to force everyone to live by your standards wherever you happen to be, or to make the world at large your back doorstep.

That’s just a primer, but I would like to see paleo folks discussing societal structure a bit more, and without resorting to the shortest route: forcing people. Rather, find ways to identify common ground in your relationships and form smal communities where the values and actions of other individuals can actually be accounted for and even influenced with a little meaningful effort.

It will get you way, way farther than a voting booth and writing your Congressman ever did.

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

38 Comments

  1. Nigel Kinbrum on April 12, 2013 at 11:07

    How do you distinguish between positive criticism (criticism for the purpose of improving something) and negative criticism (criticism for the purpose of smearing, tearing down)?

    For example, back in Jan 2010, I contradicted Taubes “calories don’t count” stance. I wrote it as positive criticism. Others may disagree.

  2. Richard Nikoley on April 12, 2013 at 11:21

    “How do you distinguish between positive criticism (criticism for the purpose of improving something) and negative criticism”

    Don’t have time to read now, up against the clock to beat the traffic out of town. But, just as you describe the piece you wrote. I have criticized Jimmy Moore a few times, probably will again. I never attack him personally, tear down what he’s trying to accomplish. Quite the contrary. I would like to see if I might influence him this way and that, a bit, and that it even improves his effectiveness.

  3. Eddie Mitchell on April 12, 2013 at 11:26

    Hi Richard

    Just watched your presentation, very impressive and struck a few chords. I am not over knowledgeable about the Paleo way of life, but I feel a lowcarber has much in common. Most of my thinking has been on the physical aspects of the right diet. I have not considered the spiritual side of a dietary lifestyle. Having said that, it seems to me in some ways, I have been a Paleo man for a long time. You last slide says a great deal. With this in mind, the following may appeal to you.

    Many years ago, and when a young man, I read a book by the actor Sterling Hayden called the Wanderer. It had a profound effect on me then, and to this day . A passage from this great book.

    “So it is no wonder that the mass of people regard the wanderer as a cross between a romantic vagabond and an irresponsible semi-ne’er-do-well who can’t-or won’t-fit in. Which is not to say that those who are fated to stay at home and toe the line do not look at the wanderer with envy and, yes, even awe, for he is doing what they would like to be doing, and something tells them they will never do it unless they either “strike it rich” or retire -and once retirement rolls around, chances are it will be too late. They know that too.

    This would seem to mean that the whole thing is largely a matter of luck, with which I would be the first to agree, having been blessed with good fortune through most of my working life. But I would be remiss if I didn’t add that if you want to wander, you’re going to have to work at it and give up the one thing that most non-wanderers prize so highly-the illusion of security. 

    I say “illusion” because the most “secure” people I’ve encountered are, when you come right down to it, the least secure once they have been removed from job and home and bank account. While those unfortunate enough to be locked into some despised and unrewarding job are even worse off. And if I have been favoured with good luck all down the years, I can also quickly single out scores of men and women spread around this beleaguered old world who, without “luck”, have managed to live lives of freedom and adventure (that curious word) beyond the wildest dreams of the stay-at-homes who, when fresh out of school, opted for that great destroyer of men’s souls, security.”

    In my opinion a truly great book, ISBN 978-1-57409-048-2

    The secret of life could be, take or earn what you can get or need, give whenever you can. But be beholden to no one.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 12, 2013 at 17:15

      Eddie

      1st, word in total.

      2nd, everyone is too busy trying to live at everyone else’s expense, now. Cannibal Pot Hysteria: who goes into the pot, who gets to feast.

  4. Grant Curle on April 12, 2013 at 11:27

    Good post. Seems like paleo is suffering the blow of legitimacy. Now the dogmatic rather than the rational begins to take seat as the institional paradigm creeps in. Your totally in the ball with the anarcho syndicalistish viewpoint. There is no point in just changing diet and leaving everything else a fucking mishagas as the positive social feedback will just be swallowed up by the same crap. Freely spreading what usefull skills we have outside of mainstream culture will do more good than pissing on one anothrrs shoes. Mobile not si giid fir ttyping…

    • Richard Nikoley on April 12, 2013 at 17:32

      High Grant. Just a plain anarchist, me. I don’t celebrate corporatist anarchists ( anarcho capitalists) nor power to the people unions.

      Anarchism is to me exclusively individualist.

      I think people will defend their earned assets and property, so I can’t fall in line with Prodhon either. It would require the force of State to stop them.

  5. Eddie Mitchell on April 12, 2013 at 11:59

    Try this for size !

    “The culture and civilization of the White man are essentially material; his measure of success is, “How much property have I acquired for myself?” The culture of the Red man is fundamentally spiritual; his measure of success is, “How much service have I rendered to my people?”  Ernest Thompson Seton

    If only we could get back to and live like this.

  6. Todd on April 12, 2013 at 14:57

    @Eddie Mitchell

    Sounds like a good read. Thanks, I’ll check it out.

  7. LeonRover on April 13, 2013 at 06:58

    PS

    Cue “Somebody laid the mountains low, while the town got high”

    “Who will provide the grand design, what is yours and what is mine ?”

  8. Grant Curle on April 13, 2013 at 07:37

    .
    My bad, the elitist core needs to have a turn over of values AND people.

  9. marie on April 12, 2013 at 18:12

    Richard, I’m thinking it is anarchy with a small “a”, perhaps. Because the center is the human individual, while exactly because of this it can also reach the most, one at a time?

  10. John Roberts on April 12, 2013 at 22:02

    Hi Richard,
    I remember you from the old days of AOL in the early 90’s when we had a small NT bulletin board. I was J0R0.
    I like the term voluntaryist. It implies that everything that can possibly be done is determined by free-will and free-will is determined by the individual. Context is everything.
    And another concept that implies the same idea is to be an internal monarchist (self-ruled) while at the same time being an external anarchist (no other rulers).
    Glad to see that your principles have not changed much, if at all, and have been consistent.

  11. Abhoriginal. on April 13, 2013 at 17:39

    Relevant to the conversation about anarchy.

  12. Grant Curle on April 13, 2013 at 05:42

    Good point Richard however a functional Anarchy still relies on social impetus to make the wheel turn. I can get behind the special snowflake of individuation but it only exists in relation to other members of your pack. That’s part of the paradox of being human, individuality is essential for human survival but you can only be individuated through the process of socialisation which leads to cooperative (corporate) social function. Corporatism is a really cool phenomenon if it is arranged in function rather than hierarchy ,which as I understood from my friends in the Sioux nation was how they had such a successful civilisation (before the first major plague hit them). Safeguards were put into place to help make sure that the structure didn’t become static through archetypal role reversals and this sort of thing, the heyoka or upside down man phenomenon really illustrates this. I have yet to watch your video but as soon as I am done with my morning client I’ll give it whirl.
    Marie, I ‘m watching you and maintaining a strict no beverage rule 😉 Cheers

  13. LeonRover on April 13, 2013 at 06:48

    Grant Curle,

    Yes, the Sioux nation experience or even the Fenimore Cooper idealisation of the Seneca Confederacy finds little resonance among the West Coast Elites. They have placed their attention on Cro-Magnon & Neanderthal mythmaking.

    I wonder if it might be unacknowledged guilt in respect of Post Civil War actions in the Great Plains?

    Slainte

  14. Grant Curle on April 13, 2013 at 07:08

    Leon Rover,
    For myself if someone has fully identified with an ideal they are half brain dead already as the next step is fundamentalism. Guilt is guilt, its programmed into us to keep us servile to any cause except our own. What I am seeing here is an opportunity to get involved in a conversation that is equitable. Pretty sure no one in these threads will call me fucking whitey, unqualified, misogynistic or my favourite, attempt to punch me in the head (true story!). As far as elitism, well, that goes without saying. Every group will form an elitist core, the trick is to make sure that core continually turns over so it doesn’t become the vatican.

  15. LeonRover on April 13, 2013 at 07:43

    Quite a Titanic observation.

    And

    “Time wounds all heels.”

  16. Grant Curle on April 13, 2013 at 07:49

    UnSINKABLE I tells ya! Love the pun man!

  17. LeonRover on April 13, 2013 at 07:55

    “the elitist core needs to have a turn over of values AND people.”

    Turnover occurs when the core plants itself in a new environment: it is called colonisation.

  18. Grant Curle on April 13, 2013 at 08:28

    “Turnover occurs when the core plants itself in a new environment: it is called colonisation” true if it one of the rare cases of that internalised power structure actually moving. Makes sense however if you have a disenfranchised group within a society that basically has to pick up and hit the bricks just to survive. The group morality in that case will definitely differ from the homegroups as there is going to be an inevitable backlash against the system that marginalised that particular group to begin with. So then are we dealing with “core” as the ruling ideology or are we dealing with core as the governing social group? Don’t know if there is a “shut the fuck up” rule on the comments section or not. I am sure someone’ll let me know if I am making a fool of myself

  19. Richard Nikoley on April 13, 2013 at 09:14

    Hey John

    Yep, I recall the screen name. Good to hear from you.

  20. marie on April 14, 2013 at 18:41

    LeonRover, +1 Eagles tune.
    I ‘see’ your guilted western end-of-the-earth paradise…… and ‘raise you’ one sailing closer to the heart :

    (though with time, the concept of ‘men in high places’ has become by default rather broad)

  21. Kim Carlisle on April 14, 2013 at 07:41

    Hey Richard,
    Someone nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. It turn, I need to nominate 15 other bloggers that inspire me. I put you as one of them, because not only do you encourage others to eat healthy, and lose weight (among other things), but you also encouraged me to start my blog….so thankyou.

  22. LeonRover on April 15, 2013 at 01:40

    Marie,

    Cream of the crop?

    Note: Clapton’s there!

  23. marie on April 14, 2013 at 18:20

    Grant Curle,
    “Don’t know if there is a “shut the fuck up rule” in the comments section….I am sure someone will let me know…” – ahaha, you’ve no idea how ironic that is around here! Needn’t look far, just remember Misandry/Misogyny comment section……QED.
    Beverages however, now they are never safe 😉

  24. marie on April 15, 2013 at 09:36

    LeonRover,
    ‘all men will be sailors until the sea frees them’.

    “And you know you cannot leave her for you touched the distant sands” , but …
    Suzanne holds the mirror : “for you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind”.

    I’ll let the river answer :

    Meanwhile, Eric Clapton in full psychedelia is priceless!

  25. marie on April 14, 2013 at 20:29

    Eddie,
    service often leads to servile, nor can I agree with Seton’s interpretation of the culture (singular) of Red man.

    However, on your first comment, wow, not a quibble!
    Thanks for sharing that book reference and re. wanderers, I thought you might enjoy reading anything by this man (perhaps you already have of course, but what that heck, it’s a nice quote I think;) – he wandered from east coast to LA skid row, then as a migrant worker :
    “My writing is done in railroad yards while waiting for a freight,
    in the fields while waiting for a truck, and at noon after lunch.
    Towns are too distracting.” – Eric Hoffer
    For myself, I like a few key concepts such as :
    “Saul, a fanatical persecutor of Christians, became Paul, a fanatical Christian. For the “true believer,” Hoffer argued that substance of any particular group is less important than being part of an energized movement.” (Wiki)
    – which wraps around to a problem inherent in the mentality/psychology of people submitting.

  26. Eddie Mitchell on April 15, 2013 at 04:42

    Marie

    Thank you for introducing me to the writer Eric Hoffer. I look forward to reading some of his books soon. I find ‘outsiders’ particularly fascinating people. The books of Roland Huntford on early Polar explorers such as Shackleton, Nansen and Amundsen are amongst my favourites, re-read many times. These guys were only truly happy when they were as far from most of the human race as possible, I can understand that.

    BTW Jay came back to me re keto diets and cancer and suggested “I would recommend looking for Thomas Seyfried and Eugene Fine who are doing work on ketogenic diet and cancer therapy. I think there may be a YouTube video of one or both of them talking about their work.”

    Regards 

  27. marie on April 15, 2013 at 08:30

    Eugene, I found several talks and excerpts online for both, and even one by Klement popped up at the Ancestral Health symposium. Thank you for the great pointer.
    “…as far from the human race as possible, I can understand that.” – laf, yeah, I have those days too.
    Huntford reminded me of an old British tv series “The Last place on Earth” – trip down memory lane, thx 😉

  28. Richard Nikoley on April 15, 2013 at 09:50

    It was a couple of years into my seagoing years. I knew I always loved it but could never put a finger on it.

    Then at a get-together to see one of our fellow guys leave to go elsewhere, the ship’s captain nailed it for me.

    “My favorite day going to sea is the first day. That’s when you get away from all the people trying to help you.”

    Back in the mid 80s, then, there was no Internet, mail was sparse. In general, you could only get a personal message from a land-dwelling Earthling if it was horrendously bad news.

  29. marie on April 15, 2013 at 10:01

    Richard, nice. And bent nails have proven strength 🙂

  30. LeonRover on April 15, 2013 at 10:24

    Richard,

    At the age of about 9, an English teacher read us The Kon-Tiki Expedition, the balsa raft which sailed westwards from Callao, Lima to the Tuamotu Islands.

    In it, there is an account of the trip , mid passage. It describes being in the middle of the Pacific, gathering flying fish, using nets for plankton and being within a three mile radius world.

    Nothing else in the whole world, except 6 Vikings on a raft, and no personal messages.

    Other writers, Forester & O’Brien later captured that same mid-voyage feeling, but none so well as those earliest spoken words.

  31. Eddie Mitchell on April 15, 2013 at 10:33

    “When a man stares into the abyss and nothing is starring back at him, it is then, that he finds his true character”

    Some old geezer in the film Wall Street.

    OK I’ll get my coat !

  32. LeonRover on April 15, 2013 at 10:47

    “When a man stares into the abyss and the abyss is staring back at him”

    then you know he’s been reading “The Sirens of Titan” and about to be converted to “The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent”.

  33. Dan on April 15, 2013 at 14:24

    Well Richard, once again I have to thank you. After Melissa’s post last week, and then writing my ‘I’m crazy about food’ comment on your post I just pretty much thought maybe me and food shouldn’t mix. But after reading this post, and pondering about it over the weekend I think you are right. I think my problem isn’t with food it is with getting fixated on shit that doesn’t matter. I especially like the part where you said some people just like blogging about food by putting up recipes. And that is why I got back into it again. So I think I will just do the food thing, and not worry about the diet thing.

  34. LeonRover on April 16, 2013 at 05:31

    There ARE Sirens on Titan!!!

    Vonnegut was correct – and Dawkins is about to be elected Pappa in The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent.

  35. Richard Nikoley on April 15, 2013 at 17:18

    Dan

    Unless you’re very solid yurself, putting up your own food pics isn’t going to help, it’s going to hurt. Why? Because all those pain in the ass extras you do for the sake of a pick where you’d have been fine without them and lived to cook another day.

    It’s no race to food pics, man. Leave it to the pros, and I’ll show you one very soon.

  36. marie on April 15, 2013 at 18:29

    LeonRover, +1
    empty to staring abyss and sea to galactic sirens, linked through a novel on free will and the purpose of human history that more directly relates to the post….and somewhere within which a rich man is banished by a global religion.
    Will be enjoying that for a while, mon cher.

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