Thoughts on Accepting/Denying Influence

I’ve been leading an exercise group at the park for a few weeks now. Nothing too formal, just some friends meeting up. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ll probably talk more about this sometime in the future.

But today, a friend of mine returned my Primal Blueprint Quick & Easy Meals, which got everyone sort of going off on the nutrition tangent. And then, of course, the vegan-pushing movie Forks Over Knives came up (see my take on that here). I find it difficult to give Paleo/Primal the attention it deserves in these conversations when there are a lot of people and a lot of ideas in a small amount of time. I feel mildly bad that I mentioned that some of the basis for the film—namely it’s foundation of The China Study—has been debunked without having the space to expound on those ideas. I hope it didn’t come across as trying to shut someone down. But if you haven’t seen Denise Minger’s chronological, point-by-point rebuttal of the movie, be sure and check it out when you have some time to devote to it. It’s epic. I feel like I was fairly generous to the vegan agenda by saying that some of the results are the same initially and that our goals are very similar, but that I feel like vegans run into trouble in the long term.

The prevailing theme that emerged for me from this conversation is that people are suffering from information overload about nutrition. I think a lot of folks really want to make the right choices for their health, but don’t know what that is. So who do we believe and why?

Look at that cute, sweet, fluffy, tasty bunny.

Sure, there are similarities between Paleo/Primal and vegans. But there are obviously some major differences. If someone is trying to decide between the two, it’s going to come down to:

  1. Conscience. Do they have trouble eating animals? Plain and simple. I will never argue with someone about this. I’ve begun to think of eating animals as a duty that isn’t to be reckoned with if you’re interested in true, optimal health. Kind of like Arjuna’s duty to battle his own friends and family, if you’re familiar with the Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita. We can absolutely fight for humane animal treatment and proper feeding, and we can even feel reverent about the sacrifice these creatures make so that we can live and thrive. But we still have to eat them.
  2. Whether or not they believe in evolution. While this is not absolutely necessary (lots of religious folks follow the Paleo template), it certainly helps. If you believe that we evolved side-by-side with animals that were capable of turning inedible plant matter into edible and nutritiously-dense meat for us, then it’s a no-brainer. Meat-eating and cooking appears to coincide with the increase in hominid brain size that we can see in the fossil record. It supplies us with essential nutrients that can be found nowhere else, making substitutions or supplementations impossible.

I, for one, align myself with what has made sense for millenia. Just because we can choose differently does not mean that we should. Our bodies need us to listen to and heed its needs. And by needs, I don’t mean the “need” for a second scoop of Brownie Jamocha Nutter-Butter Fudge Sprinkle. I mean, what do your cells need for optimal function? What does your brain need to protect and repair itself? What do our muscles and bones need to be strong into old age? Nutritionism aims to answer this by breaking everything down into component parts, but I choose to ignore that message and go with a more holistic approach. I don’t eat “calcium” or “Vitamin E”. I don’t always know why eating something is so good for me, but I’m happy to oblige all the same. And I’ve never felt better.



3 Responses to “Thoughts on Accepting/Denying Influence”

  1. i have been a long time directed by number 1 (been vegan for years, partly because i practise buddhism – and by the way – i love the baghava gita ! ).
    But i have always been skeptical and continued my investigation around nutrition. yes i beleive in evolution, and that’s why now, i a able to eat meat without (very little) guilt.
    and the fact i feel GOOD is for sure the best reason.
    When we are with friends/people, we can be a ” living example “, and when people are interested, we can plan seeds by telling them about primal, and let them grow freely. (feeling poetic with morning lol ! )

    • I also practice Buddhism, but never interpreted it into diet. I think suffering is so wide, that even a plant-based diet includes suffering (distressed farmers, migrant workers, genetically-modified crops, government subsidies, etc.). So I take a deep breath and try to acknowledge that I am not free of the cycle.

      Eating animals is just another part of that cycle. And yes, the evolutionary context helps relieve guilt, I agree. :) In the end, we have this one life and we have to take care of ourselves in the best way we can. It’s a fascinating dilemma.

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