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Curious novice, more interested in primal psychology than physiology

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  • Curious novice, more interested in primal psychology than physiology

    Hi, and I must begin by saying I don't currently follow a "primal" lifestyle as described on this site, so at the moment I'll probably come off as an outsider. But I'm very interested! I'm definitely a huge fan of unprocessed foods and fresh vegetables and high-quality meats and lots and lots of seafood. Just not yet convinced enough to give up bread.

    Speaking of bread, sorry if my username offends you, cornbread being a very unprimal food, but it's an old nickname of mine and it's hard to break the habit of using it as a username. It's almost always available.

    But in a sense, I've been trying to pursue a primal lifestyle in every way but physically for a long time. In my early teens, I got interested in studying humans in the paleolithic era, and read everything I could on the subject. At the time I was most fascinated by their spiritual lives, and started following a very primal, earth-based spirituality myself. It seemed to make so much more sense to worship and commune with natural forces and entities that affect our lives every day than some transcendent, abstract god that doesn't seem to be very interested in us. (Apologies if that's offensive to any religious people on the board, it's just a personal preference.)

    I also decided long ago that I would never live alone, because human beings are made to live in groups. The fact that modern Westerners tend to live alone or in very small family units (one or two parents plus some number of children, with no aunts or grandparents or friends to help with the burdens of family life) really depresses me. People used to live in close proximity to their whole extended family, and would depend on each other to help out in hunts, gathers, childcare, cooking - everything. So why is it that humans are now urged to live alone or with only one other adult, raise their children alone, and stand completely independent or else be seen as slackers or leeches or incapable? Right now, by economic necessity, I live in a house with my partner and have to drive thirty minutes to visit my parents or my friends, but we plan to move back within walking distance of my parents and hopefully many of my friends within a few years, and definitely before we have any children. If possible, I'd live next door to at least one friend or family member who's willing to share meals and childcare duties and other forms of help, not to mention company and conversation. Because it's healthy, it's fun, and it makes life so much more enjoyable.

    My mom the psychologist agrees with this approach. She once told me that, when she first became a mother, she struggled to figure out why she was having so much trouble doing all that was expected of her: staying home and caring for her children while her husband was working. Then she thought back to what she knew of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle: if she was a hunter-gatherer, she'd be living in close proximity to several other women who all were sharing the duty of childrearing and gathering, and they'd be doing it together. If she was busy cooking, she could hand her baby off to another woman for a few hours in exchange for sharing the meal. If she was lonely, she could work alongside another mother and they could both watch over their children together. But in the modern Western lifestyle she was living, she was alone, and everyone she knew was at work during the day. Knowing that this was not a natural situation, and she literally wasn't made to be doing it, made her feel less guilty and less like a bad mother for being bored and lonely and stressed all the time.

    I could go on and on, and frankly you all probably know it by now. It's about more than just food and exercise: primal living should be about community, family, spirituality, work, play... everything, really.

    I've enjoyed reading the Mark's Daily Apple blog, but I'm a bit disappointed that so few posts are devoted to behavioral and psychological aspects of a primal lifestyle. Then again, I'm also pleased that there were any at all. I'd like to see more, and get a chance to talk about things like that on the forums. I'm interested in food and exercise too, but there are some specific reasons that I'm not entirely prepared to go on a strictly paleo diet. Yet.

  • #2
    Hi Knave. Welcome. I enjoyed your post. I doubt that any of it would offend the vast majority of us, although I quit the forum once after getting roundly flamed when I made a post about native American burial and green burial in general. (summary here)

    Here is a post about the same themes you mention.
    Ancestral Health Info

    I design websites and blogs for a living. If you would like a blog or website designed by someone who understands Primal, see my web page.

    Primal Blueprint Explorer My blog for people who are not into the Grok thing. Since starting the blog, I have moved close to being Archevore instead of Primal. But Mark's Daily Apple is still the best source of information about living an ancestral lifestyle.


    • #3
      Hi Knavecornbread,

      I have also been interested in paleolithic humans, due to a degree in anthropology. Some of my first spiritual training was in shamanism or shamanic techniques, to be more respectful and modern. "Shamanism" (although that word is specific to the area of Mongolia and Siberia) was probably the first form of spiritual practice of our paleo ancestors/hunter-gatherers(HG). It is still the spiritual tradition of modern-day HG's if they haven't been mixed in with the Abrahamic religions.

      It would be difficult to answer the question about why nuclear families are more common in our society today, instead of extended families. There are many factors, including commuting for our job, not having to own land where we live, etc. Then again, there are modern cities with homes containing extended families. Most of my family comes from Singapore, and I know a few homes with extended family members residing together instead of the nuclear family, so perhaps it's a cultural thing with Americans.

      Of course, we must remember that the main reason for the Paleo/Primal diets is for people to get healthy...ALL people, regardless of faith/belief, lifestyles, etc. It's romantic to think of trying to become more primal in our lifestyles to match this amazing diet...some people might practice shamanism and nature/ancestor reverence, "go native," join drumming circles, go camping and do primal exercises, hunt their own food... but I'm also realistic in that I love my iPhone, my Tempurpedic mattress, my Prius, my house/electronica dance-club music, etc.

      BTW, have you thought of slowly weaning yourself off of breads instead of going cold-turkey?


      • #4
        Originally posted by Anthrocavedude View Post
        Of course, we must remember that the main reason for the Paleo/Primal diets is for people to get healthy...ALL people, regardless of faith/belief, lifestyles, etc.
        It would be nice to have more attention on psychological health as well as physical health, though, especially since I've struggled with mental health issues that may very well stem from something in our modern culture (I seem to remember that there's evidence that mental health problems increase as societies become more modern). I see mental health as just as important, if not more important, than physical health. A drumming circle would be an excellent way to remedy some of the isolation that comes from our socially disjointed lifestyle. Sure joining a drumming circle is no more psychologically fulfilling than joining a book club or a church choir or something, unless you have a personal preference for one over the others, but it's still a social and creative outlet that many of us forgo in favor of solitary, uncreative hobbies like single-person video games or watching youtube.

        Cell phones and the internet are extraordinarily useful for keeping us connected when we're not physically present, such as keeping in touch with extended family who live out of town, but I'd rather use a phone to arrange an in-person meeting with someone I care about than forgo the in-person meeting just because I have a cell phone to replace it. And I think many of us would choose the same way, if it's practical to do so.

        Originally posted by Anthrocavedude View Post
        BTW, have you thought of slowly weaning yourself off of breads instead of going cold-turkey?
        I can definitely see the value in reducing it, yes, but here's the thing: I have a lot of reason to think there would be more value in reducing or eliminating dairy, eggs and meat than wheat. Now, before you jump all over me for "buying into the veg*n propaganda" (I've seen the way some people talk about vegetarians and vegans on this board, and I find it somewhat rude), hear me out.

        Several members of my family developed arthritis in middle-age, including my dad. It was very distressing to him, not just because of the pain but because he's a musician and it affected his ability to play. For a few years he suffered through it, but then heard that some people are relieving their arthritis symptoms by going vegan. He did some research, concluded that it was worth trying, and did. All of his arthritis went away, and was very clearly exacerbated by any accidental animal product consumption. Later we found out that his sister (my aunt) had the same thing happen to her, although she had gone vegan for different reasons and the relief of her arthritis was a pleasant surprise (evidence that it's not just a placebo affect). Here's an article on the subject, including a lot of info about the reasons it might be happening: Hot Topics: Diet: The Only Real Hope for Arthritis

        So I'm thinking, it would be worth reducing my intake of animal products to a minimum, so I can possibly delay or even prevent the onset of arthritis, which in my family at least seems to be caused by eating animal products. And so I have been eating fewer animal products, eating more vegan meals, and learning to love various plant sources of protein. At very least it's good practice in case I have to go vegan later in life, and at best it's preventing an ailment that would severely affect my quality of life.

        And my two favorite sources of non-animal protein? Seitan, which is literally made of wheat gluten, and beans. If I went vegan and paleo, I'd inevitably lose all the protein sources that I enjoy. So far, there's no evidence that I, personally, am negatively affected by gluten, but there is plenty of evidence that I'm negatively affected (in the long run) by animal products. So I'm reluctant to reverse that mentality without significant further study.


        • #5
          Hi and welcome. I've been interested in HG anthropology / history for a long time and eating this way has made me more interested. I'm an agnostic / practically athiest though so I pay no attention to spirituality questions. Here are a few of my favorite reads from the past year or so:
          The Journals of Lewis and Clark: The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Lewis & Clark Expedition): Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Bernard DeVoto, Stephen E. Ambrose: Books
          Sex at Dawn:
          Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes
          1491 - not so much about HG anthropology, but still awesome

          Also - why is it impossible to give up grains? Are you married to a baker?
          If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least and this (personal fave):


          • #6
            Hi Knavecornbread,

            I'm sorry to hear about the family arthritis and inflammation. I can understand how reducing the meat/animal protein can help a person. I'm curious if you've read Mark Sisson's books and articles regarding arthritis and inflammation? The Paleo/Primal diets are supposed to reduce these problems. I'm not a doctor, but perhaps the reason why your father and other family members are having some success with reducing arthritis by turning vegetarian is because they are NOT eating Paleo/Primal. In other words, the problem might not be eating meats/eggs/a lot of animal protein....but that they are eating these foods *outside* of the Paleo/Primal diet context. In a non-Primal/Paleo diet, one would have to (& probably should) lessen meat/egg consumption in order to stay healthier on wheat/grains/beans/legumes/potatoes. Whereas, eating meats/eggs/animal proteins *within the context of a Primal/Paleo diet excluding all grains/legumes/potatoes/processed foods* seems to do the trick nicely for many folks who have emailed in testimonials.

            Either way, whichever approach your family members take, they would most likely win and get healthier because they would be eliminating meats/eggs/animal proteins (non-Primal), or they would be eliminating wheat/grains/legumes/potatoes (choosing to go Primal). One should not combine all of these foods, so whichever your family chooses, I wish them good health.

            I know you are interested in the psychological/mental health topics as well. You might be interested in visiting Robb Wolf's website: Robb Wolf | The Paleo Solution book and podcast | Paleo diet, Paleolithic nutrition, intermittent fasting, and fitness and reading some of the blog/testimonials from people who have gone Paleo -- especially on the positive changes they feel when it comes to stress, anxiety, ADD, etc. I found it very encouraging. I've combined my Paleo/Primal diet with two healing systems (EFT and ThetaHealing) and I feel very calm and centered compared to before.

            Whichever path you choose, good luck! :-)


            • #7
              Originally posted by tfarny View Post
              Why is it impossible to give up grains? Are you married to a baker?
              If you actually read my posts, you'd notice I didn't say it was impossible, just that I'm not convinced to yet, and that I name my reasons quite clearly.

              I'll consider reading those books though.


              • #8
                Well I read the first really long one, not the second, thanks for jumping down my throat for a little joke. Sheesh.
                Before I ate primal, joint pain / incipient arthritis was one of my long list of health complaints - in m mid 30s I had inflamed hip joints sometimes, sore knees and elbows. My dad had a hip replacement a few years ago, and my mom has arthritis. For me, at least, going primal immediately and so far permanently removed all arthritic symptoms. My father is semi-primal and he says the same thing.
                What happens when many people go vegetarian / vegan is they remove a lot of the same crap that us primal-ers remove: junk food filled with oxidized seed oils, mainly. The main dietary cause of tissue inflammation. Vegans pretty much HAVE to cook all their own food, as they can't even eat standard bread. Sounds suspiciously like primal in that regard. Whether the health benefits your family observed were caused specifically by the lack of meat (haven't ever heard of this) or by removal of something else is very, very hard to know.
                If you are new to the PB - please ignore ALL of this stuff, until you've read the book, or at least and this (personal fave):