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Food Faddism


If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s food faddism. The history of full of weirdness, from John Harvey Kellogg’s yogurt enemas that placed yogurt cultures in our mouths and rectums at the exact same time to Sylvester Graham’s graham crackers, created so we wouldn’t eat meat and milk and get all hot and bothered and start masturbating.

We (or at least my students) laugh at all this. But are we any different today with our nutty diets? Not really.

Luckily, there are at least some people pushing back against this. Here’s a discussion of the new Marlene Zuk book exposing the absurdity of the paleo diet. The paleo diet falls under the overarching theme of recent American dieting, which can be summarized as “I want to eat as much meat as possible and will look for any justification to do so.” And do whatever you want, but it’d be nice to avoid the absurd discussions about what our distant ancestors did or did not eat.

Zuk detects an unspoken, barely formed assumption that humanity essentially stopped evolving in the Stone Age and that our bodies are “stuck” in a state that was perfectly adapted to survive in the paleolithic environment. Sometimes you hear that the intervention of “culture” has halted the process of natural selection. This, “Paleofantasy” points out, flies in the face of facts. Living things are always and continuously in the process of adapting to the changing conditions of their environment, and the emergence of lactase persistence indicates that culture (in this case, the practice of keeping livestock for meat and hides) simply becomes another one of those conditions.

For this reason, generalizations about the typical hunter-gatherer lifestyle are spurious; it doesn’t exist. With respect to what people ate (especially how much meat), the only safe assumption was “whatever they could get,” something that to this day varies greatly depending on where they live. Recently, researchers discovered evidence that people in Europe were grinding and cooking grain (a paleo-diet bugaboo) as far back as 30,000 years ago, even if they weren’t actually cultivating it. “A strong body of evidence,” Zuk writes, “points to many changes in our genome since humans spread across the planet and developed agriculture, making it difficult at best to point to a single way of eating to which we were, and remain, best suited.”

But what is evidence in the face of food faddism?

And of course there’s the gluten-free insanity. While celiac disease is a real thing that affects about 1% of the population, the fact that 1/3 of the American public is trying to shun gluten is insane. There is zero evidence that most of these people need to do this. Anecdotally, it definitely feels that a good number of people I have met who are avoiding gluten are, how shall we say, lifestyle experimenters more broadly. More broadly, I think this relates to the paleo diet in the context of how dieting has gone over the past 15 years–again, avoiding grains and eating meat. What makes gluten-free different is the theoretical health benefits as opposed to the I want to eat a steak every night blunt honesty of the paleo dieters.

Obviously, the answer to proper eating is to be healthy and exercise. One can choose whether or not to eat meat for any number of reasons. I was a vegetarian for about 10 years but couldn’t call myself that now, although I have never cooked meat and don’t really plan to. We can have that debate. But it’s remarkable how resilient magic diets are for Americans (and possibly those of other countries, but I can’t much speak to that). They all pretty much defy common sense.

All I can do is eat more wheat and drink more beer. Both of which I intend to do.

PC: I recommend Barry Glassner’s The Gospel of Food on this topic.

[SL]: Related: “I personally feel that it’s unlikely that the richest 1% of humans on earth all suddenly and simultaneously developed allergies to every single common food…”

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  • MAJeff

    All I can do is eat more wheat and drink more beer. Both of which I intend to do.

    Come to Pgh. You can get your wheat in a quite nice whiskey: https://www.wiglewhiskey.com/products#product-13

    • I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more wheat-based whiskies. I know nothing about this. Why does corn work so much better than wheat?

      • MAJeff

        My guess is that it’s simply a historical artifact of what was grown where, and then industrialization growing up on that.

        Seriously, though, check out Wigle. They got a pretty good review recently: http://whiskeyreviewer.com/2013/03/wigle-white-rye-whiskey-review/ Apparently, this is the first white wheat whiskey to get an A rating. (I also love their genever.)

        • I am occasionally in Pittsburgh as well. Maybe I should stop in there.

          • MAJeff

            Well worth your time. You’ll likely not be able to get any of their aged stuff*, but the regular wheat and rye whiskeys, along with the genever are well worth a visit.

            *The most recent release of an aged batch-on Saturday the 2nd–sold out before noon. There were only just over 400 bottles (I took home three). That’s one of the issues with dealing with a small-batch craft distillery. But, I’ll cope. (We’ve also got an AWESOME local vodka distiller. Nowhere near the “odorless, flavorless” standard, it’s delicious. http://www.boydandblair.com )

            • Jerry Vinokurov

              As a Pittsburgh resident, I endorse this product.

              • wjts

                As a Pittsburgh resident, I do not endorse this product. But two out of three Pittsburghers are unlikely to be wrong.

                • Are you saying this from experience?

                • wjts

                  No – I can’t stomach hard liquor of any type. I have heard good things about Wigle from folks who can, though.

                • A respected friend whose opinion on these matters I value highly has told me that he didn’t like Wigle very much. Boyd and Blair, however, is really excellent.

        • chris

          My guess is that it’s simply a historical artifact of what was grown where, and then industrialization growing up on that.

          But isn’t corn native to the New World? It couldn’t possibly have been around when whiskey was invented. So why switch over?

          • Malaclypse

            Guesswork: 1) Corn is less useful as a food than other grains. 2) Corn is easier to grow in North America than rye is.

            • Laughing Loafer

              My recollection is that this is basically right. Most early North American settlers drank rum when they drank the hard stuff. Whisk(e)y production in North America began on the western frontier where molasses were harder to get, especially after the revolution sharply reduced trade with Caribbean colonies. Rye was common there; hence whiskey. Farther west and south, corn grew better than rye; hence bourbon.

              • MAJeff

                And, as whiskey production moved from the western PA part of the frontier to Kentucky, the base grain would have shifted from rye/wheat to corn?

                Makes a lot of sense.

            • cpinva

              no guesswork:

              corn was grown as feed for livestock, what was left over was used to make whiskey, originally for personal consumption and gifts to friends. this is how the va gentleman distillery (among others) got started. same with g.washington’s mt. vernon distillery. as time went on, corn became the primary grain used in whiskey, because that’s what they’d started with in the colonies.

              as scots and irish came over, some tried other grains, that they’d used back in the old country, and that were starting to be more popular crops here. still, corn remains the no. 1 whiskey grain in the US.

              i had occasion, many moons ago, to audit a distillery, and have visited the jack daniel’s distillery, in lynchburg, tn. both events were very educational.

          • DrDick

            Corn (Zea maize) is only really used in the US. Barely, rye, and wheat are used in Scotland and Ireland. It dominates here because it was the dominant grain raised by the colonists in the Transappalchian West. It was more profitable to ship whiskey across the mountains to the markets in the east than it was to ship the grain.

            • cpinva

              i assume you meant barley, used in both whiskey and beer.

              • DrDick

                Damn the lack of edit and preview! (That and my dyslexic fingers).

                • cpinva

                  no problem, it just sounded weird when i read it the first time. i had to read it again, when it dawned on me what you’d meant.

      • elm

        Bernheim makes a solid wheat whiskey. Similar to Maker’s Mark in a lot of ways.

        • Scott Lemieux

          It’s actually what they brought to the open bar at my wedding when the guests cleaned out the supply of Makers.

      • Halloween Jack

        Well, here’s a nutritional comparison of corn with other grains and staple foods. Corn doesn’t score as high as other grains in various nutritional criteria–possibly because it’s got a much higher percentage of water–but it does have a relatively high level of sugar, which is what you need for fermentation. (Malting barley is done to convert as much of that grain as possible into fermentable sugars.)

    • Laura C

      Ah, but whiskey distilled from wheat should still be gluten-free, because distillation. So it won’t do for Erik’s purposes.

      • Bah. Will have to stick to beer I guess.

        • Marek

          There’s always wheat beer!

          • mark f


  • Sherm

    And of course there’s the gluten-free insanity. While celiac disease is a real thing that affects about 1% of the population, the fact that 1/3 of the American public is trying to shun gluten is insane. There is zero evidence that most of these people need to do this.

    This drives me fucking nuts. Heart disease is probably our biggest health issue and there are millions of people struggling with their blood pressure, but good luck finding low sodium products in the grocery stores. But there are now literally aisles of gluten-free products for the sheep who have read the Wheat Belly Diet and/or have heard about the benefits of a gluten free diet for the handful of people with celiac disease.

    • It’s not just about that. There are people touting gluten-free diets as an amelioration for autism, for instance. Some important people (not meaning Jenny McCarthy but science-based doctors) are behind giving that a shot.

      • Sherm

        Yeah, I am well very aware of that from reading and from my own personal experiences (I have an MD client who swears by the gluten free diet for his autistic son and who has tried to sell it to me for my son with possible ADHD). But, like people with Celiac disease, that is a very small percentage of the market for the gluten free products.

        • People take that association and run and say they think more clearly on a gluten-free diet and so on. It’s like the new hemp: solves all problems.

          • Sherm

            Exactly. Or they cut out bread and lose a few pounds and attribute their weight loss to cutting out bread rather than to cutting down on calories by virtue of cutting out bread.

            • Food items advertised as gluten-free have a pretty good chance of tasting like cardboard, so sure, maybe a few pounds might go for a bit…

              • djw

                Also, I’d sooner drink warm and flat Coors fucking Light than any of the gluten free beers I’ve sampled.

                • I’ve had New Grist, and I would prefer it to warm and flat Coors fucking light.

                • djw

                  That may have been a slight exaggeration, but you get my drift. (and with the DFH gluten free number, it may not be an exaggeration at all)

                • I wouldn’t buy New Grist myself, but it isn’t as horrid as some of the better-selling beers.

                • MAJeff

                  There’s always Yuengling *ducks*

                • wengler

                  New Grist is all right. Very light and sweet.

                  A beer for those that don’t like beer.

                  Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee. Their IPA is pretty good too.

            • Halloween Jack

              That’s really the Secret to All Diets: the reason that people lose weight on them, at least initially, has less to do with the specifics and more to do with their taking the time to look at what they’re putting into themselves and thinking about it rather than just stuffing it in their pieholes. Of course, eventually they plateau and give it up, or figure out ways to cheat, or just get bored with it, and gain the weight back–and we know that yo-yo dieting is bad for the heart; I think that that’s what killed Elvis. (Everyone thinks that he ODed on prescription drugs, and his heroic pill-popping probably didn’t help his health, but he originally got on drugs (speed, especially) to slim down in order to fit into those rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuits, then he’d go back to Graceland and start hitting the fried peanut-butter-and-banana sandwiches and gain it all back.)

      • Jon

        Hey, don’t knock the gluten-free diets too hard here! Those of us diagnosed as celiac greatly appreciate the increased food options available to us!

        (Ok, technically I’m only diagnosed with dermatitis herpetiformis; I didn’t have an intestinal biopsy since there’s already a clinical result that I react to gluten.)

        As for the autism claims, my guess is that there’s a portion of autistic children who really are gluten intolerant. And that they’re happier and easier to communicate with when they don’t feel bad due to an auto-immune reaction. So for some small subset of autistic people, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it’s true. And then lots of other parents want to believe that the same is true for their child, too. Even though it isn’t.

        • cpinva

          i don’t think anyone was suggesting that gluten-free is bad per se, just that, as with many things in our fad conscious society, what starts out as a help for a specific problem, gets translated into “good for everyone”. while it probably causes no harm, any positive effects are, for most people, more psychological than real, the placebo effect.

          • Jon

            I completely agree. At the same time, it’s quite nice to have a variety of choices in stores finally!

            When I was diagnosed 7.5 years ago, the selection was much more limited. And at that point, I think it quite often was healthier to eat gluten free, largely because it usually meant you’d need to make your own food. But that was a side effect of needing to pay more attention to my food choices rather than anything inherent to the food not containing gluten.

            • cpinva

              yeah i’ve notice a significant increase in items marked “gluten free” in the grocery store lately. honestly, until i read this blog post, i had no idea why anyone would want/need “gluten free”, so this has been educational for me.

        • At a conference I was at that provided ample catered lunches with gluten-free and vegan options, after the first day the organizers had to put up signs asking people to only take the gluten-free food if they had a dietary requirement to avoid gluten.

          This was a situation where the gluten-free options were directly analogous to the gluten-containing ones — things like hamburger buns, cornbread, and pasta. There wasn’t really any reason for someone who would normally eat gluten to decide to eat those.

          Interestingly, they didn’t have to put up a similar sign for the vegan food, although I think that’s partly because there were so many practicing vegans and vegetarians there (it was a kind of crunchy-granola tech conference in Portland, Oregon) that they got enough for everyone to have as much as they liked.

          Also, come on, who can look at a pot of mac and soy cheeze and not just kind of feel a little bit sad and lost.

          So I do think that in this case people were grabbing gluten-free food not because of curiosity but as a “hey, why not, it’s probably better for me” impulse.

          • cpinva

            “Also, come on, who can look at a pot of mac and soy cheeze and not just kind of feel a little bit sad and lost.”

            that just sounds…………terribly, terribly wrong.

    • On the flip side, unlike gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance among adults is widespread, especially among non-Europeans. Despite my mostly northern European heritage, I figured out last year I’m lactose intolerant (stopped having dairy for a few days and the heartburn I’d had for 15 years stopped immediately, and now I hardly ever get it). But unlike all the gluten-free stuff, about the only lactose-free stuff you can find is low-fat or skim milk, and Breyer’s lactose-free vanilla ice cream.

      Three other things: everyone knows paleolithic man in North America was eating air-shipped Peruvian raspberries in January.

      Pasture-raised meat is more expensive, but I think it tastes much better–especially the cheaper cuts, like skirt steak or ground beef–is better for the environment (not sucking water from the Ogalalla Aquifer to grow corn outside Dodge City KS or creating a system overly reliant on just a few crops like soybeans) and is much better for your; leaner and much higher in omega-3 fatty acids. It’s more expensive, but it should be, because most of us eat too much meat.

      Evolution didn’t factor in osteoporosis, since it occurs after the child-bearing years. And the paleo diet–which is very low in calcium–is a great way for a post-menopausal women to end up with a broken him. [And also for kids on it to have weak bones.]

      • Cian

        How do you get enough calcium if you limit meat and are lactose intolerant?

        • Me, I take a cal-mag-zinc every day. It has the added benefit of making my cramps less severe.

          • Yeah, calcium supplements, and also getting sufficient vitamin D, which is related to your absorption/retention of calcium. And not just through diet, but also through sunlight (although most of the US doesn’t get enough sunlight at the right angle to be sufficient; my wife says old women in South Asia mostly aren’t stooped, but many South Asian women in England are, owing largely to the difference in amount and intensity of sunlight).

            • DrDick

              Actually, we do get sufficient light if you are not darkly pigmented. It is why Europeans and northern Asians depigmented.

              • I’ve seen a map in a book on how women can keep strong bones that has a line that runs roughly through N California through Kansas and out to Virginia. South of that, per the book, sufficient light, but north of that, no. But either way, yes, you’re right that pigmentation matters.

                • DrDick

                  A study was done in Britain many years ago which showed that British children could get sufficient sun from just having their faces exposed for about an hour a day in winter.

        • Not a ton of calcium in meat. There is in shellfish, and I think also in green leafy vegetables and legumes. But if you’re lactose intolerant–at least for us in the US and probably other wealthy places like Europe and Japan–it’s easy to find lactose-free milk. Also, lactose is broken down in yogurt (although I’ve had some problems with it) and it’s not too bad in most hard cheeses.

          There’s also the issue that just because our ancestors did it doesn’t mean we should. After all, among other differences, they had smaller cranial cavities than we do.

          • Leeds man

            “it’s not too bad in most hard cheeses.”

            I read somewhere that hard cheeses have less lactose per gram than white bread. I’m lactose intolerant, and cheddar doesn’t bother me at all.

            • Same here. Pizza is a bit dicey; w a Lactaid it’s OK, but not OK without. I think Mozzarella must be on my tolerance dividing line. But hard cheeses don’t give me a problem.

              Last time I had sour cream was via nachos the night Michigan passed right-to-work. I drank several beers, but nowhere near enough to explain the convulsion at 3:00 AM that came so fast I could barely lean over the side of the bed before the spew.

              • Sherm

                One more reason to top nachos off with guacamole rather sour cream.

                • cpinva

                  i have nothing against guacamole per se, it just tastes bland. i’ve never quite figured out the attraction.

                • gorillagogo

                  i have nothing against guacamole per se, it just tastes bland. i’ve never quite figured out the attraction.

                  Sounds like you need a better guacamole recipe.

          • BTW, I suspect few paleo dieters reflect on the fact that modern cattle are nothing like the animals available to paleo people, and that the meat most of them are are eating to be more “authentic” is fattened on maize, soybeans and other crops that, like the cattle, were not found in anything like their current form. And it’s not like paleo man was taking down many large animals, what with their simple spears and the occasional hole they could lure an animal to fall in to.

            Paleo people, if they eat normal store-bought meat, are simply downstream from the normal non-paleo diet, because they eat the meat of cattle that’s fed a diet even more different than modern cattle’s ancient ancestors than an omnivorous diet that includes cultivated grains is different from our own ancestors’ diet.

            • Sherm

              That’s a good point — they don’t eat fruit because modern fruit is allegedly nothing like the fruit which was available to the paleo people, but they eat fattened up cattle.

        • DrDick

          Leafy green vegetables are high in calcium.

        • charlie

          The dark leafy greens are high in calcium (i.e. kale, spinach, collard, turnip, etc.) To really go for the high content though, try nori and other seaweed greens used in Japanese sushi and soups.

      • JoyfulA

        As another all Northern European background who became lactose-intolerant as an adult (no heartburn; instead, horrendous bloating), I’d like to complain that all skim milk (lactose-free or regular) is now treated to give it the “mouth feel” and opaqueness of 4% milk.

        As far as calcium, I can eat cheese that’s hard enough to slice (not ricotta, etc.), and I do eat some daily, but it isn’t enough. I’m prescribed 4 Tums/day for the calcium, as well as D^3.

      • DrDick

        Actually, average life expectancy was into the mid-50s by Neanderthal.

        • But that still doesn’t matter for evolution, as it’s a trait that manifests after mating.

          • slybrarian

            Not necessarily, thanks to kin selection. If someone survives longer post-menopause, that does leave them around longer to support their children and grandchildren without continuing to add more dependents, thus increasing the chance that those grandchildren will grow up to spread genes. It’s sort of like how honeybees can still select for workers that are better at honey-beeing even though they don’t reproduce.

      • ajay

        everyone knows paleolithic man in North America was eating air-shipped Peruvian raspberries in January.

        There were no palaeolithic men in North America. (Or palaeolithic women.)

        • herr doktor bimler

          The “Early Mesolithic Diet” just doesn’t have the same ring.

        • I guess that means the raspberries all spoiled on the shelves.

  • Brandon C.

    I’m really glad that I’m not the only person who thinks the paleo diet is absurd on its face. The idea that we can even eat anything close to what our paleolithic ancestors ate is just as insane as claiming to know what they ate without evidence.

    It bothers me that I have friends who went to school for biology that believe this crap. Like the entire planet just stopped using natural selection once we hit the Paleolithic era.

    • Sherm

      There is some merit to it in that its organic and doesn’t allow you to eat bullshit processed food. The problem is that it stands like a house of cards on the mistaken notion that meat was as available to the “cavemen” as it is to us today and thus serves as an excuse to eat too much red meat.

      • Njorl

        If you consider bugs to be meat, they might not be that far off.

        • DrDick

          They ate a wide range of animals, including deer and horse, rabbits, marmots. Fish and shellfish were also a big part of the diet.

          • Kind of depends on where you’re talking about. People have been perfectly willing to chow down on bugs and frogs and such if that’s what’s available.

            • DrDick

              Not much evidence of that in the archaeological record, but there would not likely be anyway. There is good evidence for high consumption of other animals, however. Doesn’t mean that they did not eat bugs (which is pretty common around the world), just that it was not likely necessary. Fish and shellfish are a better source, if only because they are larger.

            • cpinva

              “People have been perfectly willing to chow down on bugs and frogs and such if that’s what’s available.”

              exactly. humans have an amazing capacity to adapt to their surroundings. part of the involves utilizing what food sources are readily available. bugs, frogs, small varmints require a lot less expenditure of energy to acquire, than larger, potentially nastier, game animals do. you get taught these kinds of things, in survivor training, for big bucks. hell, i was taught some of it, in the boy scouts (most of my troop leaders were military).

              if it weren’t for our ancient anscestor’s eating bugs, we wouldn’t have chocolate covered ants now. yummy!

        • gorillagogo

          Heh. My high school history teacher was from Swaziland and he would talk about how beetles were a main food source there. He also mentioned that the idea of eating fish just completely grossed him out.

      • Yeah, this. If you admit that it’s bullshit at its base, but still grocery shop with “could a caveman have acquired this?” as a principle, you’ll wind up with more peanuts and fewer Doritos in your diet.

        But whatever, I’m still eating the occasional pizza and drinking as often as I feel like. Cavemen can go to fucking hell on that score.

        • jefft452

          Agreed, this is why I’m not all that hostile to paleo-nutters
          Most fad diets are actively bad for you
          This one can best be described as “mostly harmless” with the unintended consequence of reducing your deep fried snickers bar intake

          • Anonymous

            It is mostly harmless, but the harm that exists (as it exists wherever bullshit evo-psych is repeated, accepted, expanded, and then multiplied) is quite real. Not, perhaps, for the yuppies who engage in it, but that kind of (subtly and not so subtly racist and sexist) quasi-science does have victims.

        • cpinva

          But whatever, I’m still eating the occasional pizza and drinking as often as I feel like.

          i suspect the drinking part would put you well within early man’s range, as alcohol (mostly beer, or beer-like drinks) was one of the earliest known technical processes engaged in by modern man.

          • The evolutionary development of consciousness immediately raised a pressing need: some way to turn it off. I suspect one of the very first complex verbal messages ever spoken was something along the lines of “god damn do I need a drink”.

            • DrDick

              Actually, a fondness for mind altering substances (especially alcohol) is widespread among primates. Chimpanzees will gorge themselves on fermenting fruit at any opportunity.

              • cpinva

                “Chimpanzees will gorge themselves on fermenting fruit at any opportunity.”

                if you were a chimpanzee, wouldn’t you? just to try and escape the conscious realization that, well, fuck, you’re a goddamn chimpanzee!

      • Brofic_ebooks

        I’m pretty sure that a majority of people think Clan of the Cave Bear was a docudrama.

        • cpinva

          “I’m pretty sure that a majority of people think Clan of the Cave Bear was a docudrama.”

          probably the same folks who think The Handmaid’s Tale is a “how to” manual, rather than a cautionary tale.

      • DrDick

        They clearly ate substantial amounts of meat, given the remains of animal bone in habitation sites. Chemical analysis of the human remains, however, suggests that the bulk of the diet (about 60%) was from plant sources. The most common items are nuts, grains and seeds, and starchy roots and tubers. It is also worth noting that the meat they ate was lean meat, with much lsee fat than ours, and they ate organs and marrow as well.

        • cpinva

          “It is also worth noting that the meat they ate was lean meat, with much lsee fat than ours, and they ate organs and marrow as well.”

          yes. the meat they ate came from (mostly) wild game, which tends to not be very fatty (ever seen a fat deer?). once an agrarian lifestyle took over, and livestock were fed, rather than having to scrounge for food, the fat content in their bodies started to increase. wild venison has little, if any, fat. same with wild turkey, squirrel and rabbit.

          • DrDick

            Even early domesticated livestock, which was mostly “free range” was much leaner than what we eat now.

        • Anonymous

          Also, the sites in which bone and other animal remains are found suggest both that (a) access to meat varied, and was largely confined to certain select times of year and (b) that animal by-products like bone were kept around and, well, used. Hence the accumulation of bone that might otherwise suggest a largely carnivorous diet.

          • rea

            I’s a bold anonymous commentor that dares correct DrDick on a point of anthropology.

          • DrDick

            You are aware that meat can be dried and stored for future use? It is also the fact that while the quantities varied, game was available pretty much year round in the areas where early humans lived. Finally, chemical analysis of Neanderthal skeletons indicates a diet high in meat.

  • c u n d gulag

    FSM, I smell another McMegan food piece coming out for everyone to mock!

    She’s probably trying to whip-up some Neolithic bechamel sauce as we speak, in some crude stone pot.

    And then she’ll probably try to tell us how much better we’re off than we were in the 25,000 BC’s, what with electricity, and “better than Ronco” made bechamel makers, and should be thankful for free markets and such, which ancient man didn’t have, since a saber-toothed tiger was his/her own one-cat “Austerity” plan, and whipping-up some bechamel sauce for a “Low-and-slow” baked Mastadon feast called for more “all-purpose flour” than existed in the entire world.

    • Man, bechamel sauce is delicious. Don’t front.

  • I can see the appeal of these things. The people who get all culty about are a bit much, but it’s tough to know how to get into healthy habits without getting into a boring rut and breaking it in a huge way, like “fuck all this inconsisent fruit, I’m just gonna eat Pop Tarts for breakfast.”

    Last week I switched to a set diet, beyond cutting soda and that type of thing, for the first time ever (semi-paleo) and so far I like it. It’s not that I’m counting my calories or eating the exact same thing at the same times every day, but I’ve changed the sort of things I snack on and what I’ll consider when making or ordering lunch. For me, a former fat guy who doesn’t want to spend a ton of time or money food shopping, it helps to have a simple & recognizable set of guidelines. I don’t know if it’ll last, but so far it seems to leave a lot of options.

    Diff’rent strokes, of course.

    • Diff’rent strokes, of course.

      And that’s kind of the key. People vary enough that the “one size fits all” approach to food and health works about as well as it does with clothes.

    • We’ve switched to a diet that revolves around making as much homemade stuff as possible. More fresh ingredients that way, less processed stuff, and you immediately realize that, say, homemade sandwich rolls are more filling than the store bought stuff, so you wind up eating less too.

      • nixnutz

        I’ve been on a diet for a while now where I’m using one of these apps to count calories, I lost 40+ pounds and now I’ve reached my goal but I’m still counting so I can get used to eating the proper amount.

        But on that system it’s actually easier and more accurate to eat packaged stuff and at chain restaurants because I know what I’m getting.

        Not that I’m preaching this plan but I eat lots of Kraft macaroni & cheese, Zatarain’s red beans and rice, canned soups, I still like white bread, white rice, grilled cheese etc. and it’s worked well so far.

        I think what it comes down to is that intake and exercise are going to determine your results and the actual diet you choose mostly effects your ability to comply. And that seems to be one problem with lots of these fads, they don’t seem sustainable.

        Of course if I’m like everyone else in the world I’ll almost certainly gain all this weight back over the next few years but it has been an interesting exercise.

        • Otherwise known as “why straight calorie counting is stupid.”

  • I was recently diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I get that I’ll need to change the way I eat, to include a lot more vegatables and to increase the amount of whole grains I get. But when my doctor started extolling the benefits of going vegan, I just looked at her and said, “No. Not going to happen.” Any diet that specifically excludes things I eat and enjoy now is pretty much doomed to fail, both when the original condition is exacerbated by the stress of obsessing over what I eat, and then when I fall off the wagon and say, “fuck this” because I’m so miserable about not being able to have the occasional bowl of ice cream, or go out for fondue with my wife, or eat sushi.

    • Any diet that specifically excludes things I eat and enjoy now is pretty much doomed to fail

      Supposedly that’s part of the success of the recently-reported Spanish study that showed people w existant cardio-vascular problems having far fewer heart attacks and strokes on a Mediterranean diet than on a vegan diet. It appears–and this has seemed likely to me for years–that the volume of calories matters much less than does the quality of the food you eat, the kinds and quality of the fats you eat, and how much sugar and processed foods you eat.

    • STH

      When my partner got diagnosed with it, his doctor referred him to a diabetes education center and that was a big help to us. We both went (I’m the cook in the house) and they really made it easy for us. It’s been very doable for us and I don’t think it would have been if we’d gone vegan. I think you’re right–you have to find a way to make it work so that you don’t feel deprived.

    • Halloween Jack

      Before you get too much into the whole-grains thing, look up something called the “glycemic index“. (Note that the list published there is abridged; the full list is in a medical journal article, but of course there are other sources online and in various books.) Also, there’s no reason why you can’t have the occasional bowl of ice cream, pot of fondue, or sushi. The real point is to track where your blood glucose levels are and reduce your carbs overall; you can reduce your levels significantly just by cutting out things like sugared soda. (Of course, lots of people demonize things like the artificial sweeteners used in diet soda, but it’s nowhere near as bad for you as having out-of-control blood glucose, by any reliable measure.)

  • Robert

    A paleo diet can sound silly and be wasteful if done in an extreme way, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. Avoiding processed food/carbs, sugar, omega-6 oils, leads to improved health. Meat isn’t magical, but protein is filling and satiating and prevents over-eating. Moderate supplementation of Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc, Iodine, etc. is hardly a terrible idea.

    For me, those are the core tenets of paleo. I still eat lots of rice and potatoes – and actually most paleo blogs support certain carbs like rice and potatoes and sweet potatoes.

    I don’t know if wheat if harmful for me – it’s probably not – but I avoid it anyway just in case. I find it easy to since I enjoy rice more anyway. I wouldn’t turn down creme brulee bread pudding or a margherita pizza, but I don’t make sandwiches anymore.

    • Or you could just eat reasonable amounts of many foods and not worry too much about it.

      • Robert

        That’s harder than it sounds. Consider that most processed food is designed to be addictive. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all

        • MAJeff

          For me, the basic difference is “food” vs. “food-like products.” I make my own pasta sauces (per, the Prego example) instead of purchasing processed sauce. Yes, it takes a longer afternoon (although much of the time is simply letting the sauce simmer). I simply make a lot more stuff because I want food, and not a food-like substance. It just means making bigger batches and freezing/canning them.

          Time can be a luxury, though.

          • We had this discussion a few weeks ago on here, where Erik railed against home delivery of food, but my wife and I spend very little shopping these days because we get our food–all organic, all within 100 miles (except some “cheating” during the winter), and meat and dairy pasture-raised–delivered once a week to our house. We get a vegetable box, eggs and milk every week, and add frozen meat based on what they have and what we want. It uses less gas to have one large delivery van drive around to a bunch of houses in a general area vs having everyone individually drive, and it shows up on our back porch every Thursday. Fruit and cooking essentials like onions/garlic/parsley/cilantro/ginger we get at the corner market, everything else we can usually get in a once-a-month trip to a unionized grocery store. About the only thing it’s hard to get without going to Whole Foods is bulk grains, but we combine that with the trip to Dominick’s or Jewell-Osco. So the extra time spent cooking is offset by the time gained by not having to go out and shop.

          • DrDick

            Yep. I eat very little prepared foods, preferring to make my own.

            • MAJeff

              I know that prepping food can take some more time, but it’s often a one-time prep time. For example, when I make my own pasta noodles, it takes more time in one afternoon, but long-term it’s not a huge imposition. Whether it’s noodles or sauces or stews, the long-term time commitment levels out, particularly with regard to nutritional value.

            • rea

              How many people do you guys cook for? because it wasn’t too much trouble mking everything from scratch when I was cooking for one or two, but cooking for 6 or 7 regularly, all my former scruples have gone right out the window . . .

              • DrDick

                In my case, just me, but I was doing it when I had a family of 3.

              • Cian

                I found cooking for 4 was fine, as long as I was quite disciplined. That meant bulk cooking, lots of freezing and learning how to cook leftovers (it’s quicker to make a meal with already roasted chicken). Slow cookers can be your friend.

      • Vegan

        Including meat? It seems a little ridiculous for a person who spent 10 years as a vegetarian and still mostly avoids meat to call out others for being unreasonable and worrying too much about it.

        • There are plenty of reasons to avoid meat outside of health faddism–largely the massive environmental impact of meat production. There’s also a moral question about eating animals, which is legitimate although it never particularly motivated my decision making. But these are issues entirely separate from health faddism.

      • mpowell

        This basically ignores the substantial evidence that eating the wrong types of foods induces you to want to eat too much of those foods. An urge which is impossible to resist for probably 90% of the population. It’s much, much easier to control caloric intake if you are also actively managing your appetite.

      • cpinva

        “Or you could just eat reasonable amounts of many foods and not worry too much about it.”

        “moderation in all things.”

    • chris

      Avoiding processed food/carbs
      . . .
      I still eat lots of rice and potatoes

      Seems legit.

      “Processed” is a term so vague as to be useless. Cooking is a process. Heck, even cleaning is a process, and you certainly don’t want to eat food that hasn’t gone through *that*. Removing the inedible parts of animals/plants is a process.

      What you really want to avoid is excessive sugar, salt, and fat. (A lot of times this is added, but some foods start with enough sugar or fat that you shouldn’t eat too much of them either.) Complex carbs are harmless in moderation.

      • Cian

        Industrial processed is probably closer. They tend to result in foods that have very little fibre, and which contain fats that are very bad for us (e.g. trans fats) – in addition to additives (sugar, salt, flavorings and certain types of preservative).

    • Cian

      Wheat is fine. The problem is refined carbs, such as white flour, which has a very high GI (unrefined flour has a very low GI, and is actually pretty good for you).

      • STH

        THIS. It drives me nuts, the whole “wheat is poison” bullshit that doesn’t distinguish between highly-processed white Wonder bread and highly-nutritious whole grains.

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    Obviously, the answer to proper eating is to be healthy and exercise.

    Sez you and Eva Braun Obama! I will defiantly sit on my couch playing WoW while your drones rain broccoli down upon us all. You’ll get my deep-fried, bacon-wrapped pancakes when you pry them from my pudgy, dead hands!

  • AcademicLurker

    Avoiding processed food/carbs, sugar, omega-6 oils, leads to improved health.

    I think this is the key. Many people insist that they notice real differences in their overall health/energy levels when they go on the latest paleo/gluten free/ whatever diet.

    I suspect the real benefit that comes from these diets is that one way or another they steer people away from the worst of the high carb/sugary processed foods.

    • MAJeff

      Hmmm…”eat real food, not too much, mostly from plants.”

      Seems to be a fairly good rule.

      • DrDick

        Yep and really closest to that of our ancestors.

    • AcademicLurker

      That was meant to be in block quotes, not bolded.

    • The safest diet advice I’ve ever seen: “If you see a food advertised on the TeeVee, don’t eat it.”

      • Max Daru

        The stricter version of that is: avoid eating foods that have a label. Hard to do that 100%, but a good rule of thumb.

        • Jon H

          Take-out food generally doesn’t have labels on it. At least, not by the time it is served. I’m not sure this is such a great plan.

    • Cian

      Also they steer people away from low fibre wheat based products, which are pretty fattening. Which I suspect is why a lot of people misdiagnose themselves as gluten intolerant. “I lost 15 pounds, I must be gluten intolerant”.

      The gluten intolerance thing is particularly odd, when you consider how common lactose intolerance is.

      • commie atheist

        This all seems too legit to quit:

        On his website, Brooks states that his potential followers must first prepare by combining the junk food diet with the meditative incantation of five magic “fifth-dimensional” words which appear on his website, some of which are words from Kundalini yoga.[27][28] In the “5D Q&A” section of his website Brooks claims that cows are fifth-dimensional (or higher) beings that help mankind achieve fifth-dimensional status by converting three-dimensional food to five-dimensional food (beef).[29] In the “Question and Answer” section of his website, Brooks explains that the “Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese” meal from McDonald’s possesses a special “base frequency” and that he thus recommends it as occasional food for beginning breatharians.[30] He then goes on to reveal that Diet Coke is “liquid light”.[30] Prospective disciples are asked after some time following the junk food/magic word preparation to revisit his website in order to test if they can feel the magic.[28]

        • Halloween Jack

          He then goes on to reveal that Diet Coke is “liquid light”.

          Cherry Zero or GTFO.

      • cpinva

        the world is full of gullible people.

      • I remember an interview he did with Joe Franklin back in the 70s.

        Joe was on really late at night…I mean, REALLY late…and I had to double check my joint to see if I picked up the PCP by accident.

        What a fucking nutbag this guy was.

    • mpowell

      Okay, but some of these diets actually specifically identify simple carbs as the problem, especially HFCS, and identify dietary alternatives. Or in other words, it’s hardly accidental and it’s also not a fad. The concept has been around for nearly a century. The paleo diet puts a spin on it, but it is similar to the atkins and similar diets. Avoiding sugar is the way to go.

    • esc

      Oh my yes. I just don’t understand how it is that a person could give up virtually all fast food, convenience foods, most snacks, etc, and then be surprised that they feel better having to live on food mostly cooked from scratch. How shocking.

      My husband has celiac disease, and we think the faddists are hilarious, but also super annoying since we worry that not every restaurant worker takes his questions/requests about gluten seriously because of them.

  • How I know the Paleo diet was full of crap?

    It leaves fruit off the menu. Criminy, fruit would have been near the top of the list for any “caveman” to eat: rich in sugars, filling, and sweet. Berries, nuts, all those are off the menu too.

    • Sherm

      Exactly right. Any diet which says that you cannot have fruit and legumes is not a diet worthy of consideration.

    • Any diet that rejects fruit as unhealthy should not be taken seriously.

    • Robert

      Some paleo diets restrict fruit and nuts. Some don’t. There’s not a single paleo “bible” that everyone follows.

      The general paleo idea on fruit is that some fruit is great, but as a sole calorie source it’s not a good idea because it’s too much sugar.

      • Which goes back to my previous point–who on earth would say that we should eat fruit as a sole calorie source? We bounce back and forth between these extremes. It’s all silly.

        • Robert

          Steve Jobs? ;o

          • Halloween Jack

            Jobs would just go on occasional fad diets, and evangelize for them for a while. One story had him lecturing someone about the joys of veganism while he was eating refried beans, until someone told him that, unless he specifically requested them otherwise, the beans were probably prepared with lard. Also, the original Macintosh team wouldn’t hire anyone who didn’t like pineapple on their pizza.

        • Cian
        • Robert

          But honestly, I’ve encountered lots of people who recognize that white sugar might be unhealthy, but who also think that endless amounts of fruit is okay because it’s “natural.”

          • MAJeff

            Ah, juice box kids.

          • Sherm

            Endless amount of fruit is ok because fruit, unlike white sugar, is low in calories, high in fiber, and otherwise extremely healthy. Please don’t equate fruit with white sugar.

            • Right, there’s a certain amount of energy expended to digest the fruit, plus there are other nutrients line minerals and vitamins to be had.

        • marijane

          A pair of nutjob Australians promoting a diet called “30 Bananas a Day”. They call themselves “high carb raw vegans”.


          Criticism of the pair seems to indicate that it’s more a cult than a diet.

      • Sherm

        That seems rather disingenuous. Isn’t it fair to say that fruit is frowned upon and limited on a paleo diet?

        • oldster

          First I frown upon it, then I eat it.

          It tastes better that way, also it ripens the bananas quicker. Something about the ethylene gas being catalyzed by the frown-rays beaming from my eyes.

          Plus, I’ve lost weight! On the other hand, I have a lot more frown-lines than I used to.

        • Robert

          The original poster stated that the paleo diet rejects fruit. I don’t think that’s true.

          Too much sugar is frowned upon. To the extent that the fruit is high in sugar, you could say that fruit is frowned upon. I eat lots of blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries. But I don’t consistently eat bananas or oranges – perhaps 1 per day.

          • The people I know on paleo diets are told, no fruit, limited nuts, and no legumes at all.

            • LeftWingFox

              Sounds like a rebrand of Atkins…

      • djw

        but as a sole calorie source it’s not a good idea because it’s too much sugar.

        Did we really need a new fad diet to clarify that for us?

      • DrDick

        Fruit and nuts, however, were central to actual paleolithic diets, as were starchy roots and tubers and seeds.

        • That was central to my point about the Paleo Diet

      • jafd

        It may be noted that a Paleo Berry Patch – or Fruit Tree – would likely be producing ripe fruit for only a week or so each year, and a Perambulating Paleo Extended Family would likely remember where and when to pass by there and gorge themselves.

        ‘Twould likely be a literal Spring Break when they left the cave where they’d spent the winter eating acorns and venison jerky, heading to where the berries where gradually turning red. (And, living on such a diet for the winter, you’ll realize why Grandma called rhubarb a ‘spring tonic’)

    • DrDick

      They also preserve well (dried) for use in winter. We know they ate a lot of fruit.

    • gmack

      I’m no expert on the paleo diet but after some quick searching, I can’t find any evidence that paleos reject eating fruit. To my mind, t’s not a low carb diet (a la Atkins); rather, it rejects certain kinds of carbohydrates (i.e., those coming from grains). It is opposed to most legumes too, iirc.

      Anyway, I’ve long thought that the evolutionary theory underlying the diet was absurd, but I do have a good friend with long term food related health problems (including celiacs, among other things), and she claims that since starting the diet, she feels much better. Make of that what you will.

      • Review of the bible on Paleo

        Relevant bit:

        Fruits are generally allowed. Some advise that people who need to lose weight should limit consumption of high sugar fruits, especially dried fruit and juices. Some say everyone should limit these.

        • gmack

          OK, but that’s rather different from saying that paleo diets “leave fruit off the menu,” which suggests that fruit is forbidden. As far as I can tell, there is no version of the paleo diet that actually eliminates fruit, and the one person I know on the diet does not do so.

          Which is not to say that “limiting” fruit makes much sense either, at least for most people. From all that I can gather, it looks like the diet is based on nonsense evolutionary premises and probably isn’t terribly healthy under most circumstances. Of course, as in the case of my friend, there may be exceptions.

          • Sherm

            The Paleo diet people give lip service to eating fruit in an attempt to distinguish themselves from Atkins, but when push comes to shove, many common fruits are in fact forbidden and/or extremely limited. Basically, they allow fruit which was similar to the fruit available to the paleo people, like the crabapple on the ground in your backyard rather than a “high sugar” macintosh or red delicious from the orchard.

            And legumes are not allowed, which is absolutely inane. No peanuts, no kidney beans, no black beans, no soy beans, no chick peas….. All very healthy foods.

        • Jon H

          That’s rather ambiguously worded. It could just be “dried fruit and juices” that everyone should limit, and even non-Paleobros think fruit juice is generally not much better than soda (if it’s better at all).

  • Chesternut

    My own trick is spirulina and walnuts and cashews and almonds. Easy to digest ; provide plenty of energy. No carbs, or very little.

  • BTW, anyone looking for a great diet, one that is guaranteed to work?

    Eat as tho you have gout. My god, I’ve lost 15 pounds in 3 weeks, and the food can be pretty tasty if you prepare it right, and I haven’t been able to exercise at all because, you know, gout hurts.

    • muddy

      I had gout several years ago, several attacks. My pharmacist recommended Tart cherry juice, it’s great. Have not had gout in years. I guess black cherry does the same, but to me it tastes like cough syrup.

  • I am amused that there’s one Amazon review of the book–negative, of course–from someone calling himself a “paleo enthusiast”. The review appears to have come out at least a week before the book.

  • Chesternut

    Plenty of fruits and vegetables, of course. I love squids as well!

  • David W.

    My wife is gluten intolerant and the upside of this fad is that it’s easier for us to dine out.

    • Laura C

      Yup, this is a food fad I’m very enthusiastic about, because it so expands my options. And with actual gluten intolerance/celiac expanding as a proportion of the population, I don’t worry too too much about it being a bubble that bursts.

    • Anonymous

      I was just about to say exactly the same thing. Normally I get annoyed with people who do faddish stuff like this, but just 10 years ago (even less, actually), there was almost no awareness of gluten-free diets. Eating out was almost impossible – servers didn’t know what gluten even was, let alone whether it was in any of the food. Now tons of restaurants have gluten-free menus, and even if they don’t, they’re very good about going back and finding out which dishes are safe. Of course it is still risky, but it’s a lot better than having the waiter just stare at you blankly when you ask about gluten. And it’s also nice that I can now find gluten-free baked goods that don’t taste like drywall – that was nearly impossible 10 years ago.

      As someone who actually needs to keep to this diet for real, medical reasons, I’ll take a bunch of people glomming onto it as a fad if it means I can eat out without it being an ordeal, or occasionally eat a decent cupcake.

      • JoyfulA

        Two or three years ago, our church began offering (in addition to the usual bread) gluten-free crackers for communion.

        Last week, I was tipped off that faddism might be involved by a fund-raiser that offered regular and gluten-free varieties of turkey-corn soup.

        • Hogan

          Utah Phillips once said a Catholic church in his part of rural northern California was offering the first low-fat high-fiber host. It was called “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Jesus.”

          • Anna in PDX


        • rea

          All communion wafers are gluten-free at the time they are eaten, since they have been transubstantiated into the flesh of Jesus.

          • Halloween Jack

            Long pork: the other white meat.

    • Warren Terra

      I have a close friend who’s legitimately gluten intolerant, so I’m sympathetic to the difficulties it imposes. But I’m sick of the faddists – especially after a long conversation with someone who insisted going gluten-free had made them happier and healthier, but refused to contemplate seeing a professional to determine whether this indicated they had a genuine medical issue they had to treat properly, preferring instead to dick around with their diet and their health.

  • Lecturer

    The Paleo Diet seems to be the gastronomic equivalent of the folks who say that you’d be happier in an open relationship because bonobos.

    • oldster

      Wait, so now you’re saying I *shouldn’t* eat bonobos?

      • Hogan

        Of course you should. Just don’t add any salt.

      • Pasture-raised bonobo is really high in omega-3 fatty acids.

      • mark f

        I think they’re more into quickie traditional sex.

      • You can eat her so long as she’s ok with it. Some bonobo chicks are fussy.

    • Kathleen F.

      They’re not just an analogical “equivalent”; in my experience, they are often exactly the same people.

  • JKTHs

    I’m on the see food diet and it’s given me plenty of energy and healthiness! Everybody should do it!!!

    • CaptBackslap

      A few weeks ago, a friend mentioned seafood. In my goofiest voice, I said “I’m on a seafood diet,” fully expecting to not even have to finish the joke, but somehow he had never heard it. I was flabbergasted.

  • Chesternut

    What about curd? It contains plenty of protein, doesn’t it? This and cottage cheese can act as excellent substitute to meat, can it?

  • Chesternut

    Anyone who wants to sculpt one’s abdominal muscles needs to avoid potatoes, pasta, pastries and bread and rice. That’s pretty well known. Avoid!!

  • high-pH Chemist

    What’s wrong, Philouza? A few too many of Mr. Graham’s crackers?

  • Rodolfo

    Gluten free is probably a fad, but it helps me and some other colon cancer patients. Our bodies act strangely, and the wide variety of labeled products allow us choices our bodies can tolerate.

  • I remember when Atkins was all the rage and thinking:

    I like meat. In fact, I really like meat.

    I still don’t want to eat that much meat.

    • DrDick


  • Chesternut

    Why would anybody consume process food is beyond me! Avoid high quantity of salt to stay young. Avoid process fat, seriously. And avoid white sugar! Soda and process food ain’t even tasty anyway!

    • Listen to him, he’s a poster boy for what processed foods can do to a kid!

    • Halloween Jack

      Are you Dr. Bronner’s ghostwriter? OK! OK!

    • Jon H


  • Oddly enough, nobody bought my diet book. It was called:

    Hey you! Put that cheeseburger down and get your ass to the gym!

    • cpinva

      “Hey you! Put that cheeseburger down and get your ass to the gym!”

      catchy title, i’m shocked it didn’t make the nyt’s best-seller list.

  • I switched to the paleo diet last month, largely for two reasons:

    1. There’s not a dietary need for grain, so why not experiment with getting rid of it on the off-chance the paleo theory is right.

    2. It’s extremely hard to have an unhealthy diet if you cut out processed foods, but doing that leaves few grain options.

    Eating as much meat as you can is of course stupid, unless you are actually a caveman and your next meat might be weeks or months away, in which case gorge. But for the rest of us, there are things called fruits and vegetables.

    Plus, burgers are just better if you replace the bun with two large leaves of lettuce. It’s thinner than the bun, so less stuff between you and the meat.

    • But the meat juice just drips off instead of soaking into the delicious bread.

      • muddy

        That’s why you lick the plate after.

    • STH

      There are plenty of grain options that aren’t excessively processed: brown rice and 100% whole wheat bread are two of them. And grains contain useful fiber, vitamins, and protein. There’s no reason NOT to eat them.

      • Also, quinoa, barley, multigrain breads. Those are (mostly) not processed as much as wheat and so retain their bran and husks when used.

  • As Paul Campos would no doubt tell you if he wasn’t too busy arguing with insane lawyers, there really haven’t been any combination of diet and exercise that have been effective on a population level in causing large long term weight loss.

    Individually/Anecdotally people obviously have success in losing lots of weight with various strategies, but there really is no magic bullet. Presumably that is why these fad diets keep popping up… because we really really really want a damn magic bullet.

    • There is a Magic Bullet, but everyone knows it’s the Slap Chop that’s going to make America skinny again.

    • Eat less exercise more.

      Oh, but that takes….you know….effort.

    • wengler

      Yeah Campos needs to bring it back and do a BMI post. Back when posts usually got 10-20 comments, the BMI ones would always get 10 times that.

    • Cian

      Actually there are, the problem is people don’t stick to them. Because changing your habits, particularly when you live in an environment where your habits are the norm, is hard.

      People in the US are fatter than the world wide norm. It’s not a coincidence that they eat worse, eat more and get less exercise than the world wide norm. Or that those sub-sections who do eat well and do get exercise, tend to be far thinner.

      • chris

        Actually there are, the problem is people don’t stick to them.

        Isn’t this a little like prescribing abstinence as the solution to teenage pregnancy and STDs? The fact that people won’t or can’t stick to them is WHY they fail. It is not an excuse.

        • Right, I think of compliance as part of any diet/exercise paradigm. Part of the theory behind any of these “eat all the protein you want!!” diets is that they are easier to stick to for many than “become a vegan”. Though to my knowledge (somewhat limited – not my area) nobody has proven that these diets have better compliance or better long term prospects than your basic eat less calories and exercise more type intervention… which is not great once the people running the study stop calling you every week to see if you exercised and to go over your food journal.

  • Anonymous

    this post and most commenters seem mostly concerned with establishing whether some particular form of diet or another is really better for you. The deeper issue I think is the way orthorexia (yes there’s a word for it) has taken such a hold on us as an avenue for self-culivation. These kinds of diets have
    become contemporary forms of spiritual hygiene, both producing and proving the virtue of their adherents– food as self-help, and and an ever-expanding domain of mandatory self- management.

    • djw

      well said.

    • To be clear, I am very much not concerned whether a particular diet is better for you. I think the whole idea of that is basically hogwash.

      Definitely agree with the rest of this.

      • rea

        I am very much not concerned whether a particular diet is better for you. I think the whole idea of that is basically hogwash.

        Now, wait a minute–you didn’t really mean to go that broad, did you? Because if the idea of any particular diet being better for you is really hogwash, we could just as well live on bacon and bonbons.

        • bexley

          bacon and bonbons.

          Bacon and bonobos surely?

          • Bacon-wrapped bonobo….mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    • I think that’s a narrow view of the role of food in life. A lot of things that give pleasure are bad for you. Finding a balance between avoiding a period of crappy health leading to premature death while also enjoying sensual pleasures–especially as a way to come in to communion with others–has a place in a full life.

  • Anonymous


  • CaptBackslap

    Has anyone opened a genetics lab that purports to tell people their “ideal food genotype” yet? There would be no limit to how much someone could charge rich suckers for that.

    • wjts

      Not to my knowledge, but I dimly remember hearing about some fad diet designed around blood type.

    • nixnutz

      “Nutrigenomics”, of course that’s a thing. Seems like they’re specifically targeting parents of autistic kids rather than rich suckers in general but it’ll probably spread.

  • I can’t believe you’re dissing the paleo diet! I myself eat only raw baby wolves. Running them down is an excellent cardio workout, and the fur provides roughage. The only downside is all the pissed off zookeepers.

    • Bill Murray

      I thought part of the paleo diet was making your clothes and outer garments from the fur. That’s how you identify others on the diet

    • Wait. Do you have an isolation tank in a lab in your basement?

  • 4jkb4ia

    As I wrote in another context, it is hard enough to go without grain for a week. (I was excited because quinoa is in enough demand for Pesach that I was able to pick up a jar of certified kosher-for-Passover quinoa at the local supermarket. I have never cooked quinoa but you can get very tired of 8 days of potatoes.)

    Food is an easy target for the values of purity and authenticity combined, even if the two values are often in conflict in American culture. Although it’s easy to see that many of the substances you are presented with in the supermarket are not really food, people may need an extra level of discipline instead of the ambiguity of trying to follow all the health claims out there.

    OT, but why I stopped by: George Vecsey–Where are the Yankees I Loved To Hate Always good to hear from Vecsey. If Cashman has to beg Derek Lee to come out of retirement it is not looking as if the Yankees are going to do anything this year.

    • Sherm

      Cook it just like you cook rice. About the same cooking time as white rice, which is much shorter than brown.

      • BigHank53

        Many rice cookers will do a perfectly fine job with quinoa as well.

        • Anonymous

          That’s how I cook it. I don’t even know how to cook rice (or quinoa) on the stove. Rice cookers are so, so much easier. For quinoa, I just add about 1/3 more water than I do for the same (dry) volume of rice, and it does the rest.

    • CaptBackslap
    • elm

      Sherm’s right. It’s a lot like cooking rice. Personally, I like rice better than quinoa, so I tend to only eat quinoa on passover, but it makes a good rice substitute. My problem is that there aren’t any good chili sauces to use in my stir fries to put over the quinoa. If only sriracha was kosher for passover!

  • wengler

    The best food advice is probably ‘Don’t eat shit all of the time’. Human bodies are pretty adaptable when it comes to food. We are the only animals that likes our food warmed up after all.

    • Well, some other animals eat their meat warm right from the source.

  • Scott P.

    I am 40 years old, and in my lifetime literally every form of food has gone through both ends of the “eat it, it’s healty” — “no don’t eat it, it will kill you” cycle. Eggs, bread, trans fats, chocolate, alcohol, meat, fruit, you name it.

    • You haven’t lived until you’ve gone the rest of that route: “Eat it, it’s healthy; don’t eat it, it will kill you; no, eat it, it’s mostly healthy.”

      I’ll know I’m old when it circles back once more.

      • Sherm

        Yep. I’ve been trying to get my Dad to stop eating eggbeaters and to stop making egg white only omelets. This ain’t the 1980’s anymore; we know that high cholesterol does not result from simply eating foods that contain cholesterol. Enjoy some real eggs.

  • herr doktor bimler

    There are plenty of reasons to avoid meat outside of health faddism–largely the massive environmental impact of meat production

    There does seem something self-indulgent about the theory that a carnivorous diet is necessary for optimum health but can only become available to most of the human population if that population is reduced by 90%.

    • chris

      Well, to be fair, the population was even lower than that in the actual paleolithic period. The idea that there is some tradeoff between how many people we can keep alive and how many people we can feed in a way that leads to actually *good* health is not necessarily wrong, although if proven, it would lead to some awkward decisions.

      Also, you can make the exact same argument about fresh fruits and vegetables — there’s a reason they’re so expensive they only feature heavily in upper-middle-class (and above) diets. Most people have to include a substantial share of the cheapest starch they can find because it’s all they can afford.

      In fact, the whole idea of “access to so much food I’ll get fat if I don’t choose carefully from it” is literally a first world problem.

  • herr doktor bimler

    from John Harvey Kellogg’s yogurt enemas that placed yogurt cultures in our mouths and rectums at the exact same time to Sylvester Graham’s graham crackers, created so we wouldn’t eat meat and milk and get all hot and bothered and start masturbating.

    Kellogg was preoccupied with preventing masturbation too, so there was a consistent but disturbing confluence of obsessions here.
    Let’s just say that they were worried about colonanism.

  • Dave

    I think what we have just learned is how much the commenters here are interested in their own lifestyle as a thing of merit, regardless of how trivial the choices they make, in fact, are.

    Personally, I’m working towards level 3 in Hypocritical Sanctimony, and when I achieve it, I expect to live to be 120.

    • Hogan

      So you managed to confirm what you already knew? Amazing.

    • So you’re Theta Clear?

  • ChrisS

    I love diet threads … go to a body builder or some other body conscious forum and you will find pages of flame wars over what to eat, when to eat, and how to eat all and each opinion has “facts” to back them up. It’s usually a pretty fun read.

  • muddy

    I wonder if some of the “gluten” issues people have these days is not due to the gluten itself, but rather to the fact that it’s Frankengrained.

    • LeftWingFox

      To me, that comes down to “Do the science”. What is the process that made the change? What was the change that was made? Is that affecting our bodies? How is it doing so?

      That’s going beyond the basic control questions: Are there really more people having gluten issues, or are more people actually looking for it now that the food fad has put it into the collective consciousness? Can we distinguish between those who have been positively diagnosed with celiac disease, and those who are benefiting from either the placebo effect, or unrelated benefits, such as a reduction in the amount of calorie-dense foods they consume?

      • I believe the autism connection comes from work that says that autistic kids produce more of X chemical, said chemical being helped along by wheat gluten. So the idea is pure hope: reduce a symptom (not really a symptom but an indicator) and affect the disease. I don’t think reduction of the X factor has been shown to be therapeutic at all, whatever else the gluten-free diet does, but I’m not up on the reading.

        • LeftWingFox

          Well, this was more about modern wheat being a “frankenfood” than the autism link but it still applies. Its still an anecdotal observation; the start of research, not settled science.

        • herr doktor bimler

          For me, the trouble is that autism has a history of attracting charlatans and grifters and snake-oil salesmen, and the concentration of them seems to be strongest in the field of “treating autism through diet” (see, for instance, the GAPS diet). So when I hear that someone is promoting bowel dysfunction as the cause of autism, I tend to pigeonhole them with the charlatans and grifters until proven otherwise.

  • herr doktor bimler

    Has anyone built a dietary movement about the Bramble-Lieberman scavenger theory, that our ancestors occupied an ecological niche competing with hyenas, so the meat component of the paleolithic diet was carrion?


  • heckblazer

    Yogurt enemas almost sounds prescient in a world with fecal transplants.

    • Well, I learned something new today.

      • Believe it or not, however, there’s science behind those.

        • heckblazer

          Not only that, but the idea of re-introducing beneficial gut flora to improve health was also the idea behind the yogurt enemas.

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