Friday, May 25, 2012

This is rarefied air, and that's OK: why it's just fine if paleo/primal eating remains a "cultish" thing.

I have heard a lot of talk lately about trying to get more and more people into paleo eating, and I think that's great. I know Robb Wolf has often mentioned attempts at achieving a heavy paleo buy-in from the medical community, and I agree wholeheartedly that support from doctors, nurses, physical therapists, etc. would probably attract a lot more interest in the paleo way of life. I think that's very cool.

And there are a whole bunch of great nutrition-oriented folks like Mark Sisson, Liz Wolfe, Diane Sanfilippo and Mr. Wolf himself, to say nothing of wonderful organizations like the Weston A. Price Foundation, who are fighting the good fight every day trying to get more and more people in on this amazing way to live. And I think that is also very cool.

But then I also hear discussions -- or maybe it is fretting, actually -- about whether paleo is "sustainable"on a worldwide basis, were the whole world to try to eat that way.

And that's when I start to get cynical.

You know....  I hate to sound like a big jerk, but.... I don't care whether it is "sustainable" for the whole world, because, as far as I can tell, the whole world is never, ever going to eat this way in numbers substantial enough to warrant that concern. And this is not pro-America bashing of the rest of the world; I don't think all, or most, of America is ever going to eat this way either.

I look at it this way: almost nothing about me is "mainstream." My taste in music, books, movies, etc. is all offbeat and weird, for the most part. My political stances take so much from both major parties, and some from neither, that I end up identifying most with a group considered by the major parties to be on the fringe (libertarians).

I am a guy who listens to punk rock, likes Hunter Thompson and Douglas Adams books, doesn't identify with any major religion despite living in the most religious society in the western world, thinks a movie had better be weird to hold my attention, works out in what is still a "fringe" style of gym (CrossFit), has never watched American Idol, Survivor, or Dancing With the Stars, and generally doesn't give a damn what you do with your life as long as you don't hurt anyone else.

Should I be surprised or concerned -- or thinking, "What if everyone did this?" -- that the way I eat is out of the mainstream?

I am thinking no, and I am thinking that sometimes those of us who wonder -- or fret -- about this kind of issue quite possibly forget just how far out of the mainstream we are and how unlikely it is that the masses are going to embrace our eating habits any more than it is likely that Kathy Lee Gifford is going to announce that she's always been a big Sonic Youth fan, so this whole Kim/Thurston split really has her bummed.

Today, I noticed that an FB acquaintance mentioned that he had ditched sugary soda for a month. Good for him, but, y'know, in the circles we paleo folks run in, that, well, ain't shit. It's nice; it's a start, but a small one. But whoa...the reaction he got from most of his pals over just this meager step was mindblowing even for cynical ol' me. "Why?" one asked. "I would die," another said. And another noted that he had done the same thing for the past eleven months under doctor's orders, but.... "I miss it, but as long as I have no other dietary restrictions, I can make this sacrifice."

Holy balls. Really? And then I realized, yeah.


And these are not stupid people. They are college-educated folks making good wages doing smart things, and they eat like shit. You know why?

Because most people eat like shit.

And that's what I think we forget sometimes. Most of the country is stuffing in things from packages with ingredients that you cannot find in nature, or else eating at "restaurants" that are feeding the customers delicious-tasting sugar and grains with a helping of processed seed oils.

The paleo world, especially when it intersects with CrossFit, tends to remove us from our figurative isolation tanks that we otherwise would be in, dietarily speaking, and put us in these wonderful, supportive communities of super-effing healthy people who -- to steal a phrase I saw on Twitter and I don't remember where, or else I'd credit it -- "live clean and train dirty."

And I love those healthy communities, but they are not "the real world," and, I'm sorry, but cynical effing me thinks they never will be.

Yeah, just like in some towns there is a pretty cool independent radio station that is more popular than you might expect, there will be places where CrossFit and paleo get more than the expected market share, but it is still nowhere on the level that anyone needs to worry about "sustainability" of this lifestyle for the global masses. And it isn't going to be.

The masses ain't on board. They may come on board in bigger numbers, but, let's face it, most people are not going to ditch sugar, grains, legumes, etc and go paleo. But that's OK.

So.... Celebrate your weirdness, folks. Hang out with your weird friends. Do weird fun things and eat weird, awesome food.

Oh, and celebrate and encourage others to join The Paleo Clan of Weird. That type of work is, as I said, a very cool thing to do. But know that all of this is never going to be a top-40 hit.


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