Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Did cavemen eat cheesecake?

This week, I'm trying a dietary experiment called the Paleo Diet, after having it recommended to me by a friend who said it was helping her make progress with her physical therapy. Basically, the diet involves eating only that which our Paleolithic ancestors would have had access to before the advent of agriculture: lean meats, vegetables (although not legumes), fruits, nuts, and eggs. The theory is that this is the healthiest possible diet because you're eating what humans have evolved to live on. I'm sort of on board with this theory (here's more info, if you're interested:, at least more than most fad diets. Although I think 10,000 years is probably enough time for our bodies to have come around to the whole cultivated grain thing, I must admit 50 years (or even 50,000) is not nearly enough time for our bodies to figure out how to process atomic fire Cheetos.

Probably not food.

Although I've tried to eat healthier for brief periods of my life (sadly always returning to the warm, transfat-rich embrace of processed foods after a couple of weeks or so), I've never subscribed to a particular diet before. This one seems virtually impossible to maintain fully as a lifestyle choice, mostly because we live in an advanced, modern society which is heavily dependent on agriculture, and especially cereals. However, I thought trying it for a week might be an interesting experiment. And then if it works out, I can try to at least scale back on grains and diary a little. At any rate, I've always wanted to try eliminating refined sugars for a week just to see how it affected me because I feel like sugar is as close to an addiction to something as I've ever had. This diet seems like the only way to actually accomplish this, as sugar is in virtually everything. Secondly, one of my greatest fears is of becoming lactose intolerant, as I eat dairy at basically every meal. However, I'm starting to think that I'm eating a little too much dairy, and learning how to make food without dairy seemed like a worthy endeavor for a week. Thirdly, I thought (and this notion could be way off base), it would make for some interesting blogging.

The good thing about this diet is that you don't have to restrict your fat or carbs at all, so long as they come from plant or animal sources (avocado, lean meats, olive oil, eggs etc). The bad thing is that you can't eat any of the following: dairy, refined sugar (or really any sugar added to things except for honey, and then only in moderation), grains, salt, or potatoes (with the exception of yams).

I've actually been doing the caveman thing since Monday (making this, amazingly enough, day 3). I was going to make a post just at the end of the experience, but I've decided to do it at the halfway point instead (2 1/2 days is halfway through a week, right?). For one, I've been keeping a log of my experiences, and I think it might be too long for a single post. Secondly, I need to post it here so that I have some accountability to actually finish this thing. If I know I have people expecting a post on this, it will make me less likely to cave on the fourth day. So tune in this weekend (or Monday...whenever I get around to actually posting) to see me do it up hunter-gather style. There will be whining. There will be pointless revelations about the American diet. There will be recipes for kale chips. Make sure to stop by!


  1. That is an interesting theory, about how people have evolved to eat these things and shouldn't eat cheetos, but shouldn't the real question be why does sugar taste so good? Maybe someone should create a diet based on the theory that things that taste good are healthy because why else would we have evolved to want them so much!!? SUGAAAAAAAR!!!!!

  2. I am curious how someone whose life-long diet has been so evolved toward grains and dairy will react to such a sudden change. One week of this diet will be hard, but how can only a week really impact your health (other than make you cranky and an unpopular dinner companion)? How about 2 weeks? Remember, it's for the blog!

  3. Two weeks? I can barely make it through one! It is definitely an interesting experiment though; I think I'm learning a lot about how to avoid my previous dependencies.

    And Carolyn, your theory sounds very much like my previous (pre-vegetables-are-friends days) hypothesis that if vegetables were really that good for you, they would probably taste better. Oddly, sugar isn't the thing I miss most, although I guess it sort of is, because it's in all the bread and dairy items that I do miss. It's in everything--I can't even have smoked salmon!

  4. I've never heard of this diet. It sounds like it would be REALLY hard because everything we eat is processed. Good luck! I will be here, reading your blog as I eat my sandwich. :P