Monday, August 24, 2015

Trust No One

I have become increasingly disillusioned with the paleo space lately as more and more talking heads peddle their own version of a "real food diet," almost always accompanied by an entire branded line of various food like substances - Bulletproof Ice-cream anyone (only $US92) - and/or supplements, supported by dodgy science and even more suspect reasoning. Frankly, admitting to eating a paleo diet or living a primal lifestyle has come to be synonymous with admitting that you have the IQ of a dead monkey. 

There are still a few smart people out there, wandering now in a wilderness of morons, Jamie Scott from New Zealand, Tim Noakes from South Africa, and Stephan Guyenet, in the US, all come to mind. But, increasingly the space is occupied by a new brand of charlatan making a good living off the desperation and gullibility that is so characteristic of most of humanity. 

Doug, half way through a long day of exercise

Most of new tricksters preach a series of dogmatic principles that are patently ludicrous, yet have come to be accepted as "facts" simply through repetition. Listening to a podcast while I stacked wood this afternoon, I heard a couple of talking heads (JJ Virgin and Dave Bulletproof Asprey - both of whom appear to be making a very good living peddling recycled drivel) espouse at least a dozen of these "facts" in the space of ten minutes. And that is what prompted me to write this list of the top six stupid paleo "ideas" floating about in the tribal lands.
  1. "Most people exercise too much." This little nugget came courtesy of JJ Virgin (and I've quoted it verbatim), but, I've heard roughly the same thing from at least a dozen other "paleo" peddlers. No-one really needs any kind of statistical study to know that this is patently ludicrous, a glance around any public space is sufficient. But, if you need statistics, consider that in the US only 20% of adults get the recommended (between 1.25 to 2.5 hours per week) amount of exercise per week.
  2. The food pyramid caused the obesity epidemic. Now, I haven't looked at any countries food pyramid for a decade or more, so I had to use Google to pull up both the Australian and the US food guides and, what do you know, neither food guide recommends a diet of highly rewarding processed food like substances with vast quantities of added sugar. In fact, both the Australian and the US government recommend whole foods, just like the ones I eat. The food guide did not make us fat. Consuming a diet of heavily processed highly palatable food like substances while doing very little in the way of exercise caused the obesity epidemic.
  3. Aerobic exercise is inherently bad for your health. This platitude is generally accompanied by all kinds of warnings about elevated cortisol levels, increases in fat mass, loss of lean muscle mass, and various other scare tactics. Again, it's patently absurd. Aerobic exercise in moderation is a healthy, some would argue, necessary precursor to health. It is only when aerobic exercise is taken to the extreme - multiple hours running every day, every week, every year - that it becomes actually harmful to health. If you have limited time to exercise, traditional steady state aerobic exercise is not the most effective or efficient way to improve your health, but it is a far cry from being inherently unhealthy. Sometimes I wonder if all the "paleo pundits" eschewing aerobic exercise are simply frightfully out of shape.
  4. There are very few people in the population who benefit from drinking their calories as promoted by any one of the charlatans flogging overpriced coffee with excessive amounts of added fat, fruit and/or vegetable smoothies, or any other source of liquid calories. The exceptions are people who are critically ill or have their jaws wired shut. For the vast majority of the population this might work as a weight management strategy in the short term, but that does not make it synonymous with long term health.
  5. Eating too much fat will make you fat just as surely as eating too much sugar. Most of us are past the low fat phase and have embraced some form of carbohydrate restriction individualised to our own particular circumstances and goals, but that does not mean that eating copious quantities of fat - bacon fried in butter washed down with a side order of butter in your coffee - is a healthy option.
  6. If it comes in a packet, it's processed food and should be eaten sparingly. It does not matter whether that much hyped nutrition bar is marketed by big food, the latest hipster or comes with a glowing endorsement from your favorite podcaster. Our first choice for nutrition should be real food as close to the source as possible. If you've got to unwrap it, don't eat it, that's how simple it is. 

    Sure it's a big pack, but it won't kill me
I could go on. I feel as if I am just getting warmed up to the topic, but, I've already written over 800 words so perhaps it is best to leave the rest of this list for another blog post. Until then, follow the maxim of Fox Mulder (X Files) "Trust No-one" particularly those that are trying to sell you ice-cream.

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