My fad diet

Reading anything about food in the popular press or online these days makes me feel like a criminal. That’s because I changed my eating habits a couple of years ago and I no longer eat processed foods, grains or anything out of a packet. I only eat fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and fish.

My crime? Well, when people ask me how come I look so healthy, I tell them I am on a permanent diet which is very close to the paleo, or caveman, diet. The word paleo never fails to get a reaction, usually a disapproving or distasteful expression, but a growing number of people are becoming interested. The unfavourable reactions are very odd, because they confirm that acceptable eating standards have sunk so low that a balanced diet of fresh food is now considered by many to be a fad.

I think the negativity stems from fear. I heard a comment from an American doctor who said that people would rather change religion than give up eating bread. And this fear makes people focus on what they can’t eat instead of what they can.

I say my diet is close to the paleo diet, but I haven’t gone ‘full paleo,’ as I still eat potatoes and a little bit of dairy, and I still drink coffee and wine (separately!) but the main difference these days is that I predominantly eat vegetables and fruit and I eat more fat but less meat than I used to. I also eat organic produce when possible, but I’m not religious about it.

The health benefits have been enormous. All those stomach aches, niggles, pains and discomfort I accepted as normal for years have gone. I rarely get sick. If I catch a cold, it’s mild and goes in a day or two. My weight, which used to fluctuate between 90 and 100kg, settled on 85kg a year and a half ago and hasn’t moved, even when I neglect my exercise. I have a full blood test every six months and everything is bang on where it should for my age (57), or better. Physically and mentally I have never felt better or more energised.

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This is a very common result for people who follow a paleo-like lifestyle, who find that many long-endured ailments completely disappear after a simple diet change. So why all the bad press and the vilification of people like (Paleo) Pete Evans?

My thoughts are that the hostility stems mainly from three sources:

  1. The Food Industry. The widespread and growing popularity of healthy eating constitutes a huge and very real threat to the processed and fast food industries. People are turning away from packaged products which are disguised as food, but which are actually delivery systems for corn syrup, wheat and added sugar. Fresh food is the enemy, as people can consume far less – and avoid unhealthy addictions to sugar infused products – to stay healthy. It’s no surprise when mainstream newspapers, which are filled with food industry ads, run negative stories about paleo.
  2. Nutritionists, Dietitians and GPs. It’s very hard to embrace a huge shift in the way people need to eat to remain healthy when all your years of training say otherwise. A growing number of practitioners are seeing the light, but when I still see ‘qualified’ people recommending white bread as healthy in a Sunday newspaper, I am dismayed. But it is understandable as there have been so many recent developments, no wonder many of them are out of date and can’t keep up.
  3. People who listen to 1 and 2 above are often violently opposed to paleo. They presumably believe eating fresh food is harmful. They are the foot soldiers of the food industry, which is quite happy to sacrifice them in the same way that the cigarette industry used its addicted customers for years. Ignorance is easily overcome by knowledge, but don’t expect education from the media.
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Another interesting aspect of my diet is that I have gone back to a variation of my childhood eating habits of meat and two veg, pretty much like anyone in the western world who grew up before the 1980s, before the serious large scale additives began infecting our foods. I even use lard and butter in my common sense diet, just like my parents and grandparents.

To me, it is no coincidence that people born since the 1980s suffer far more from a huge number of allergies, complaints and illnesses which were virtually unknown to previous generations. Research into diabetes, Alzheimers’, rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune diseases has shown diet plays a big part. As Hippocrates so aptly put it, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Should you eat more fresh food? Well, that’s a no brainer. Should you go part or full paleo to improve your health and wellbeing? That’s up to you. I wouldn’t recommend a radical change to your diet without research.

All I ask is that when you get the urge to stick the boot into paleo, don’t knock it unless you have tried it.

In my case, the proof is in refusing the pudding.

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