Diet as Dogma

People are dogmatic. We’re territorial, stubborn, obstinate, and we cling to our ideologies even as accumulating evidence invalidates them. I sometimes wonder whether there’s evolutionary precedent for this apparent character flaw – did stubborn dogmatism confer some benefit to our ancestors? Did our tendency to cling to one another, to shy away from that which opposes or clashes with our current paradigm (whether it be a new tribe with different practices encroaching on your land, or a guy you meet at a cocktail party with completely different political views) make us safer? To a point, yes. Being wary of anything new promotes better survival than a tendency to rush headlong into foolhardy pursuits. There’s certainly that human legacy of fear of the unknown, and it normally manifests as dogmatic belief and cognitive dissonance. That much is obvious to anyone who watches the news or picks up a history book.

But there’s also that other legacy we’re irrevocably tied to: the continued expansion of our knowledge base. Grok may have been suspicious of different things and circumstances, but he also conquered that fear and discovered new horizons. By and large humans are explorers and innovators. We refute dogma and blaze new trails even as we cling to fear and ideology. We’re pretty much a walking contradiction, just a big-brained upright problematic ape with existential issues that still manages to do pretty well for him or herself. They don’t call us the most adaptive species on Earth for nothing.

If we were more cold and logical – like the Vulcans of Star Trek – things might get a bit easier, ruled by reason and reason alone. Cognitive dissonance would disappear and ideology would mostly vanish, leaving only absolute fealty to pure data. We’d get a lot done and there’d be absolute scientific consensus, but how much fun would it really be?

No, we’re contradictory and confused. We’ll make the emotionally difficult but realistic decision to put our aging pet to sleep, and then we’ll break down and weep all night. We’ll hear powerful evidence that refutes a deeply held belief and we’ll internally acknowledge its significance, but then we’re somehow able to dismiss it and maintain our delusion. Religious and ethnic clashes dot our history, never ending blood feuds, based on this text or that political cartoon, that continue unabated and will probably do so forever. Futile battles rage across Internet message boards – Playstation versus Xbox, Apple versus PC, vegetarian versus omnivore, Democrat versus Republican, carbohydrate versus fat – and it hardly goes anywhere. Graphs are posted and ignored, studies are quoted and brushed aside. Willful ignorance is proudly displayed. You can almost hear the fingers going in the ears (most people can’t even stand to hear evidence that contradicts their belief – the always dependable “la la la la” defense!).

People have the tendency to cluster around ideas as if they were tangible things and hold on for dear life. When we find something we like, or something that makes sense, like religion or a political stance or a diet, roots are planted and – for most of us – they are permanent. They’re permanent mainly because it’s easier that way. It takes less work to blindly cling to dogma. It’s hard (and humbling) to reevaluate an entire belief system and start over. We prefer the path of least resistance, and we’d simply rather not think too hard. Once the roots of a dogmatic belief find purchase in the hard packed earth of the lazy mind, they’re staying put.

We’re not all like that, though. Some of us have fertile minds, brains that aren’t burdened by an ego that refuses to believe it might be wrong about something. Others are just genuinely curious and thirsty for more knowledge (from any source); these are the same type of minds that shaped our evolutionary progress and brought us tools, mastery of fire, and exploration of new lands. They don’t brush aside graphs or ignore studies that challenge their beliefs. They can’t, because to ignore the truth is to oppose their very nature, no matter the inconvenience.

We’ve all heard the supposedly universal protocol standards for polite company: don’t talk politics, religion, or sex. Not on a first date, and definitely not when you meet your future wife’s parents. It’s not so much that these are impossible topics to discuss calmly and rationally without insults, ad hominem, or physical violence entering the fray, because it can happen. Measured debate on controversial topics does take place, and it’s possible for two people to hold directly oppositional views, express those views, and still remain amicable. It’s just highly unlikely given our propensity to cling to dogma at all cost (and we’ve got untold wars and death and destruction to show for it) and the rarity of people with thinking, fertile, thirsty minds.

A new forbidden topic has emerged, though: diet. I’d even say a diet, for many, is the single most entrenched aspect of a their identity, more than religion (not everyone practices, but everyone has to eat) and more than politics (who isn’t fed up with politics nowadays?). We literally are what we eat, and what we eat isn’t just an isolated characteristic. It’s intertwined with politics (veganism is as much a declarative political statement as it is a nutritional one) and religion. For some, it even becomes a religion with its own set of morals and laws. Diet as absolute dogma can be far more problematic than religious or political dogmas in many ways. See, at least there’s separation of church and state in this country; with diet, though, there’s that looming institutional triangular standard literally ordained by government to inform and (essentially) coerce unwitting citizens into a certain way of eating. Maybe if the nutritional pyramid were built on the backs of rigorous science and evolutionary biology it wouldn’t be so bad, but its blueprints were drawn up by Big Agra and Big Pharma (or worse, terrible, bumbling, bad science).

You’re here, on this site, because you recognize that the official dietary dogma is misguided at best and murderous at worst. You realize that, whatever your religious (non)belief, humans are “designed” to eat a certain way – and that the evolutionary diet is totally incompatible with the reigning dogma. I’m here every day because I see a real chance to make a difference. I see people making positive changes, extending their lives and improving their health. Every day, there’s a different success story in my inbox, but I never get sick of them. We have assumed the mantle of our innovating forebears, those Groks and Grokettes that dared to crack an auroch’s tibia and extract the strange delicious stuff inside, or follow the animals to new lands and new opportunities. We could have died out with the Neanderthal, but we were far too curious and capable to let that happen. Ours is a legacy of pursuing knowledge. It’s all we know.

But you know what? I’m starting to notice that old dogmatic view creep in to the Primal community. Those immovable roots are taking hold. On one hand, it’s understandable. When you’ve got the weight of the evidence in your favor, it’s easy to get cocky and dismissive of other views. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I believe the Primal Blueprint to be the path to health, strength, and energy (I wouldn’t have written a book called The Primal Blueprint if I didn’t think that!). I just want to stress that the foundation of the PB and MDA is science – ignored, brushed aside, inconvenient-to-CW science, but science all the same. And, like all good science, it’s constantly being challenged and refined. It needs to be challenged. When I started putting together the PB all those years ago, I was challenging the dietary wisdom I held near and dear to my heart for decades. Decades! And I didn’t stop there. Early readers might recall my prescribing “limited grains” way back when. I realized my error, took a closer look at the science on grains, and changed my stance accordingly. Now I’m just about as big an opponent of grains as one can be.

That’s how you’ve got to do it. You have to welcome challenges and reevaluate your dietary dogmas as needed. I’m certainly of the opinion that we’ve got things pretty well covered with the PB, but it never hurts to refine your argument or gather new evidence. If someone questions the Primal stance on grains, don’t casually dismiss them – convince them! (Of course, if hard data doesn’t convince, don’t wear yourself out.) Even if you’re upset or frustrated and he or she is being clearly obstructionist, think of the debate as rust removal, as a way to bone up on the latest studies and clinical data in support of the high fat Primal Blueprint diet. There’s a whole wide world of people who will actively challenge your evolutionary dietary views, usually with half-truths and CW nonsense, but there are formidable opponents who won’t be so easily swayed or dismissed. You’ve got to be on your game.

I honestly think we have the opportunity to reach more people. The Primal/paleo communities are growing and improving and spreading like wildfire. We have the chance to be at the forefront of a revolution of how we approach food in this country (and this world), but we run the risk of becoming what we rail against: dietary dogma. We should never let stagnation set in, and dogmas and ideologies stagnate as a rule, by definition. You don’t want to force people into accepting the Primal life. You just want to give them the tools to change their life and reevaluate everything they’ve ever been taught about nutrition and fitness.

The forum is one such tool, and it’s a fantastic one for the most part. What we don’t want, though, is name calling or one-upping. No know-it-alls that patronize beginners. That’s beside the point. It’s supposed to be a community of like-minded individuals (sprinkled with a few skeptics and contrarians to keep us honest!) supporting one another in our effort to find truth and change our lives for the better. Support, of course, means challenging each other’s beliefs, but it should be done with real facts.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the heated debates that take place every day, as long as they remain actual debates with actual arguments. I love the fact that support systems and impromptu experts on various topics have sprung up. I like how forum members have a sort of Batcall for Tarlach when it’s a carnivore question or for Griff when it’s about lipid panels. I love almost everything about the forum, but I don’t like the creeping sense of dogma.

So, how about we watch out for that and nip it in the bud? I’ve been submerged in dietary and fitness dogma, and it ain’t pretty. Believe me: avoiding it will only make us stronger. Question your beliefs and challenge the Primal Blueprint eating strategy. Even if the PB doesn’t catch on and go mainstream, at least we’ll know we’re being honest with ourselves and consistent in our application of science to our diet.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so hit me up with a comment. Thanks, everyone.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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94 thoughts on “Diet as Dogma”

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  1. I have to admit, sometimes I get sick of how passionate I am about food and nutrition now. Whenever I’m in a social situation I can almost not shut-up or talk about anything else.

    I guess I just know how much it benefitted me, and I want to help others. Nobody was giving me this information when I unknowingly needed it, and I’d wished they had!

    1. Same. Also, when people are talking and say things like,”do you know how much saturated fat is in that donut??” (ya, cuz that’s the problem) I feel like my head is going to explode!! BITE TONGUE BITE TONGUE!! Sometimes I chime in, sometimes I decide it’s not worth raising my blood pressure for.

    2. Same here too!

      The problem is just that I now notice how unimaginably MUCH wrong information is out there! All the standard remarks about how much fat is in here and how it will make you sleepy in the afternoon? Not the fat is the problem here…

      Once you start pointing that out, it’s impossible to stop, because one thing leads to another, it’s just a huge turnaround in thinking, involving not only nutrion, but also politics, science,….

      For me it’s really a moral dilemma, because I don’t want to be the freak, but I’d also like my friends and family to be healthy.

  2. Mark, you hit the nail on the head. I find the most difficult part of doing science is forgetting to confront my own beliefs. The failure to realize all of the assumptions I’ve made and blind spots I have. They’re very tricky to spot (thus the term “blind spot”), but are the essential ingredient to successful science. I come across this in my peers every day. Our dogma leads us to knee-jerk Pavlovian responses. Just say the word “lard” to a nutritionist (or to anyone not familiar with the primal/paleo line of thinking) and they’ll immediately respond “gross!” or “unhealthy!”. These dogma-induced blind spots are notoriously difficult to challenge (especially in ourselves). I recall a few months ago a large study from some faculty at UCLA was published showing that 50% of first-time heart attack patients admitted to the hospital had LDL levels in the “healthy” range. The authors of the study, and the journalist reporting it, all concluded that perhaps LDL standards are set too high and should be lowered even further. This shows a blind spot in how data are interpreted. Rather than interpreting the data as failing to support the LDL – heart attack hypothesis, they were only able to reinterpret the data through that hypothesis’ lens.

    But science is a labor of love, and so I continue to confront my biases every day. Usually it takes someone else to point them out to me. Every time they do it makes me very uncomfortable and perhaps even angry, but in the end I’m so thankful for their help. If my ideas and beliefs can’t stand up to scrutiny, then they’re not worth holding on to.

    Here’s the battle cry folk: “Let’s go out, every day, and try to falsify everything we believe in.” That’s the mantra that will lead us forward in our quest for the truth.

  3. Right on cue. I was just beginning in the forum…starting to get in that debate mode. I do get into heated debates with my husband

    “We need grains and carbs to fuel our brain, protein is just used to make the cells of our brain”

    “But grains actually have a toxin in them that only certain animals have an antitoxin to”

    “As soon as you start getting sick from not eating carbs, you’re off this diet”

    I roll my eyes “I still eat carbs in the form of fruit. And I’m not going to get sick. I’m only going to get healthier. It’s not like I’m NOT eating.”

    So unfortunately he will just have to believe when we don’t get sick (he has agreed to go mostly on this lifestyle change with me so that I don’t have to make two different meals 🙂 I love my hubby)

    1. When he starts to see the changes in your skin, eyes, energy level, mood swings, and sex drive, he will change his mind. 🙂

    2. You do need carbs – more specifically glucose – to fuel your brain (parts of it, anyway). It’s just that your body is perfectly capable of converting amino acids (the constituents of protein) into glucose. If you couldn’t do this, you’d likely fall into a coma from low blood sugar if you didn’t eat glucose for a while – say, you slept in, or decided to do an IF day, or just ate a steak with no veggies for dinner, etc.

      Of course, the fact that you don’t fall into comas upon doing these things is proof that you do not, in fact, need to eat carbs (and certainly not grains.)

  4. “If we were more cold and logical – like the Vulcans of Star Trek – things might get a bit easier, ruled by reason and reason alone.”

    Not quite, as documented in How We Decide. Lehrer shows that if the part of the brain that orchestrates our emotions is damaged, the person suffering that brain injury becomes completely incapable of making a decision.

  5. I think the best way to avoid preaching or getting caught up in dietary dogma is to reply on principles, and the Primal Blueprint is such a foundation.

    While _most_ of us generally recognize the superiority or optimality of a higher fat and lower carb approach within the confines of Real Food (TM), we must realize that Real Food can include everything from a high-carb Kitavan diet to a zero carb inuit diet and everything in-between.

    This suggests an opportunity when confronted by people who dismiss your diet as “oh, it’s Atkins.”

    What I say is that Atkins is focussed on low carb and paleo/primal is focussed on the principle of real food, unprocessed.

    So, how about you get started on a real food diet that’s moderate, even higher carb, but natural carbs like roots & tubers? See how that works, and, follow a few paleo/primal blogs & forums and see how others are eating, self-experimenting, adjusting and see if you can identify with any of it.

    …Now, as far and the corporate/media/institutional juggernaut on dietary dogma goes, that’s a whole other issue for me and my policy is to show no mercy ever. My intention is not to convince, but to destroy.

    1. “My intention is not to convince, but to destroy.”

      Hahaha, loved that!

    2. Richard, for the 3 years that I’ve been eating Paleo/primal, I’ve often included a small amount of tubers like yams and sweet potatoes without much negative effect — in how I feel and in my body composition.

    3. My problem with eating yams/tubers/etc. (starchy paleo foods) is that this has starkly negative effects on some people. Sure, maybe it works for Kitavans, and people who aren’t predisposed to have insulin/blood sugar/weight gain problems, but it is not as broadly applicable, IMO, as the principle of low-carb, high-fat nutrition. And in this case, it would seem that Kitavans have a tolerance for starchy foods – but it does not mean they are inherently good and holy just because they are Real Foods ™.

      Then I keep bumping up against honey. Honey is a whole lot of sugar, totally paleo, and definitely a Real Food ™. I would recommend against consumption of honey by anyone, really.

      1. So I know that I’m replying to a comment that is, in internet time, like a thousand years old, but . . .

        I think one thing to keep in mind about starches (in addition to individual and population-level diversity in how well they may be tolerated) is that they seem to have very different effects on:

        1) people who are overweight/obese vs. people who are/have always been lean (carb restriction promotes fat loss but high carb diets do not necessarily cause fat gain in lean people, especially in the context of a “real food” diet)

        2) sedentary vs. active people

        3) people (like the Kitavans) who have never been exposed to highly-rewarding and metabolically-deranging foods (mostly processed foods) vs. people who have (like us).

        I think number three is probably the least talked about but most important, but that is just my two cents.

  6. This post seems like it has come at a great time. Sometimes the forum can be a victim of group think. There should be a mandatory rule that if people find studies or evidence that goes against the primal blueprint, they should post it to see what everyone thinks. The PB is not static and in a few years could be a bit different than it is now. The PB is based on science, and when the science is forgotten, the whole system suffers.

    1. YES! If you sweep contradictory evidence under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist, you’re undermining the whole process and allowing unsubstantiated beliefs to corrupt the whole undertaking.

  7. Mark, great topic! It’s great to remind ourselves to be open-minded, and to always keep learning.

    But … but … that ain’t no fun! Now that we’re so nice and kind and civil, can we go back to arguing?

    “My intention is not to convince, but to destroy.”


  8. Thanks for this post Mark – it was very timely for me! Not just from the Primal Blueprint perspective, but even from CrossFit and Primal Fitness angles, your advice holds good water. We can all do with some calm wisdom.

  9. I would equate my view on religion the same as diet. If you go out in the world with an “i’m right, your wrong” attitude (Wether you are right or wrong)
    You are going to turn people off. FUNDAMENTALISM is not pretty no matter the dogma it comes from. People might however come around to your way of thinking, when they see you living you beliefs with success. DO what you DO…EAT what you EAT for YOU. Everyone elses diet is their buisness. You can provide info and resources for those that are intrested. You’ll get more followers that way, then jamming it down everyone’s throat:-) I am eating primal, becasue it has liberated me from food addiction…i agree with your information Mark, but primarily I go with it becuase it FEELS right not becasue all the facts. There is a certain amount of INUITION that plays into choices about religion or diet and I think that is a good thing!

    1. Hear, hear! Me too. I think women, in general, are more tapped into intuition, rather than study after study. Does this feel right to me? Is my body doing better this way? The answer (for me) is a resounding YES!

      I have also been freed from the deathgrip of food addiction. Grateful every single day.

  10. Not much convincing needs to be done when the discussion is on the health benefits of food found in nature versus food manufactured by laboratory test tubes and milling machines — the intuition is that natural, unprocessed, unmilled, real foods win, hands down. The debate rests thus solely on whether manufactured food can be as healthy as food found in nature — or as Richard N. calls it, Real Food. Manufactured food fails to compare, and often succeed only at failing our health. The evidence is overwhelming.

    For anyone that wants a solid collection of data for debate, just invest $10 in Gary Taubes’s Good Calories, Bad Calories. It’s a feast of science that supports the Paleo/Primal Diet.

    1. A lot of people don’t agree with “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and point to the fact that the studies and premises taubes bases his arguments on are outdated. Also, I have heard that even taubes himself admits to cherry picking data that suits his argument and throws out data that does not (Although I have not seen or heard the quotes myself).

      1. Also, Jimmy, the older (so-called outdated) data used in Good Calories Bad Calories are very valuable as they record dietary transitional periods of whole populations and their epidemiological responses. Taubes warns in the book that research performed within a certain period is limited to that specific context, and thus the need to refer to older data collected during the transitional and pre-transitional periods. His book therefore includes a generous amount of these data, and I believe this is a critical factor that the book’s critics misunderstand.

        Also, I’m only aware that Taubes himself criticizes other researchers for “cherry-picking” data to support their hypotheses and dropping those that don’t. In the book he gives a fair number of examples.

  11. Wow, thanks for the mention, Mark! I made a point of learning about lipid panels because my previous doctor constantly harangued me about my cholesterol levels and it got on my nerves. I’m glad to be a resource for the community now.

  12. Fantastic post, Mark, thank you. I must admit, I was getting a little fed up of the aura surrounding the forum last week and I was wondering whether I wanted to be part of it any more. I always try really hard to tell people that the way I eat now works for me, certain foods don’t work for me but at the end of the day, it’s up to them what they eat – it’s their life. I’m not saying I always manage to remain so balanced, because I’m so enthusiastic, but I don’t think I’ve ever been dogmatic about it – I’m too new to PB I think to be like that!

  13. At some point, we all have to take our m=1 personal my-thologies, which are the conjectures we hold tentatively to make decisions (our mental maps), and test them empirically on ourselves via n=1 self-experiments, Patient of One clinical trials, to see what works, what doesn’t work, and where to look next. Like Aaron Blaisdell mentioned above, the deductivist/falsification perspective is the best we can do, I suspect, in avoiding our blind spots and hedging against the Popper/Hume/Black Swan/et al. epistemological problem of induction: set out each day to falsify your tentative, working hypotheses that you live by. That should be our default modus operandi. Then, from this negative empiricism approach, re-edit your story, your iterating my-thology, in light of data points that disconfirm your theses. It’s the best we can do in light of the murkiness of causation and the humble limits of being human.

    1. This. Trying to prove yourself (or your hypothesis) right all the time will only lead to confirmation bias coming out of your ears. Better to actively seek out information (or changes in your various routines) to see if something you thought was true just might be wrong.

      Still, we have the problem of only having older studies because “scientists” – I use the term loosely for individuals in the medical and nutrition communities – have been seeking only to reaffirm what they already “know” or how to manage problems with the information they already “know.” They don’t seek to prove themselves wrong. Old studies show what they show given what was known at the time they were conducted, but that does not necessarily invalidate them. What is a problem is that with the trickle of information that is coming out in favor of a primal-esque lifestyle, studies are still not being done to directly assess the overall effectiveness of conventional nutrition recommendations. It simply has not been done, ever.

      Oh. GCBC is more of a chronological narrative than anything. It talks about the industry of nutrition science and how politics within got us to our current state of affairs. Of course it uses old studies; studies relevant to the time period being discussed and the scientific community’s reaction to them. Where that’s not happening, it’s more of a black mark on the current scientific community for not actually investigating things that should have been followed up on decades ago. Taubes doesn’t really call for people to believe one thing or another, just to think. And more importantly, to properly investigate these things that people get so riled up about.

  14. I’d like to see a follow-up article on paleo/primal proselytizing.

  15. Great and timely post Mark. As a newbie I know I’ve found myself in a few “heated” topics in the forum. I appreciate your research and PB approach to diet which I am just wading into. At the end of the day, I’m never going to simply chuck out the window other studies, books, research or diet that has worked for me simply so that I can sign on for some new prescription. You keep the pieces that work and keep your mind open to finding more of what works. And the best way to do that is to keep your mind open enough to actually have a dialogue and risk shattering some of your beliefs.

    1. Thanks for your comment–I couldn’t have said it better myself!
      Right now I’m reading “Politically Incorrect Nutrition” by Michael Barbee, and what an eye-opener it is!
      I ‘ve been avoiding the forum for awhile after encountering some dogma that Mark referred to–so this post was serendipitious for me. Glad the mood is shifting. 🙂

  16. Nail-on-the-head, Mark. Thanks for the post–helps in keeping it real.

  17. Having recently felt like a target to dogmatic primal devotees in forums/daily post responses, I understand and agree completely. However, I am also struggling with the flipside: since changing my lifestyle, I’m down thirty pounds and I JUST WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW HOW EASY IT IS!

    Sometimes, that enthusiasm seems to get the best of me, and like first poster Grok, I find myself a bit frustrated that I don’t seem to possess the necessary editing equipment to know when and when not to wax primal on the friends I encounter every day, both online and in person. It is a tangled web we weave, it appears, considering the conflicted nature of knowing the truth but yet not wanting to alienate those we share our lives with by expressing our learning so passionately that we ostracize them.

    I guess it’s a bit like being a missionary who is always running the risk of being cannibalized for the sake of his cause. I’m not religious, per se, but the metaphor rings particularly true for me.

  18. The only problem I have with your dogma is your opposition to endurance running. I(and many others) believe Homo sapiens developed as endurance runners.Your diet is right on, but go watch 100 mile trail race and tell me that isn’t what we were meant to do.Modern homo sapiens can’t run long distances injury free because of modern shoes, and probably 90%+ run on concrete or pavement, not trails, like Grok.I would like to see you become open to this idea.

      1. a)No, I am not new here.

        b) Yes, I know who Mark is.

        Sorry, I thought we were able to discuss ideas here.

  19. I would have to agree with Dave. I do understand the wear and tear of endurance training as well as the free radicals and depressed immune system but I have a hard time believing that running for an hour or hour and a half is really harming me. My body is conditioned to it and I feel so great there is simply no way I’d give it up. Of all the exercise options out there, our bodies were built to walk and run. It takes no special talent or equipment and the way it clears my headed and burns up any stress I’m dealing with is priceless. Otherwise, I’m on board with just about everything else I’ve learned here.

    1. Del Mar Mel,

      Running for an hour and a half will not harm you if you are reasonably fit as long as you only do it once in a while. I can still run trails once in a while even though I never “train” by running. I like being able to apply my PB fitness to just about any endeavor. That’s partly the point.

      And, yes, humans evolved to run. Either loping along at a “low level aerobic, fat-burning” pace or for a few quick sprints. We were not meant to run at high heart rates day in and day out burning primarily carbs and becoming dependent on replacing those carbs every day. The hunter-gatherers referenced by others here don’t run very fast for very long and they certainly don’t run daily or even close to daily. The Tarahumara are a unique exception (who run basically as a form of transportation, communication and to keep from going stir crazy). And they are NOT as free from lifestyle diseases as has been advertised.

      Running long and hard every day like many marathoners do has consequences in joint wear, immune suppression, increased risk for heart disease (yes, I said it)and a decrease in almost all other levels of fitness. If one chooses to run long and often, who am I to deny that form of pleasure or meditation. I did so for years. All I’ve ever said is that it is NOT the fountain of youth, nor is chronic cardio close to the best way to improve health or even cardiovascular strength.

      1. That is a very good answer. When we run trails, most times the trails are technical or mountainous,and the very best trail runners would rarely average much over 5 miles/hour.Steep grades are often walked during an ultra.Due to the very nature of this type of exercise, this would preclude you going into an anaerobic threshold for very long.Perhaps some do, I don’t(can’t!).
        Compare this to a road marathon or road ultrarunner, the best are around 12 miles/hour. I can only imagine what their heart rate is.That is where the damage is done, IMO.
        I have been relatively injury free(except for sprains and strains due to not paying attention)and sickness free since converting to the trails. I can see, though, how a random injury could cost Grok his life.

  20. I’m not sure you can equate the science cited here as to the benefits of tabata style workouts as “dogma”. Dogma, to me, evokes a notion of mindlessness, whereas science proves, or, at least theorizes in an effort to prove.

    I’ve posted a photo in response to Dave’s previous post. It’s “awating moderation”. It says a lot.

  21. Great idea. But your current forum setup will probably continue to breed these problems. I think there are a few upgrades that would make for a much better Primal forum and community:

    1 – badge system – as a new member, I have no way of knowing if someone who sounds authoritative is, in fact, representing your PB view or company or is just a troll. A badge or icon indicating such would be a quick visual cue

    2 – monitoring – only someone on the server end can prevent trolls and trouble-makers from causing unnecessary disruption and dissent.

    and this means:

    3 – moderators – volunteers given the task of making sure the conversation stays civil

    As of now, the forum seems more of a free-for-all that is only loosely tied to your Primal Blueprint book and lifestyle. I think a community forum is a good and healthy thing, and it is extremely valuable to those of us just getting started (we have a LOT of questions) but a bit more structure and oversight would go a long way in preventing people from walking in and walking right back out on their first visit…

    1. I disagree. A free-for-all is a basic primal characteristic. Allow natural selection to work its magic and the forum will evolve based on the merits of discussion rather than the censorship of moderators. The only reason I would be willing to join any forum is if freedom of expression is fundamental.

      1. Normally, I’d agree that yes, it’s survival of the fittest around here. However, it seems that there are many “experts” on this forum and I know that I, being a relatively new member, would benefit from having more Mark-recognized authorities labeled as such in these posts.

        In these forums, it becomes a bit like Wikipedia: anybody can contribute. Not that that practice is inherently a bad thing, but take a look at the erroneous information being spread around over on Mark’s book review on “The Vegetarian Myth”. Illustrates my point.

        1. But even Wikipedia has multiple levels of editors and administrators who constantly monitor content. They can lock pages and ban user accounts and IP addresses.

        2. When it comes to the internet in general, we all have to be experts … just like we are all experts of our own body. It is up to each of us as individuals to decide what is best for us and what is not, what is good information and what is bad.

          For me, it is nanny forums which lead to the dogmatic views of the few in control (the topic of this post btw) … regardless of the levels of censorship put in place, censorship is censorship.

          In my “opinion”, the forum (all forums for that matter) should be be used to share ideas … good and bad ideas alike. Just like our living planet, the internet mimics life and its evolution. If you have confidence in the human mind, the good information will thrive and the bad will survive along the fringe of useful knowledge or perhaps even become extinct.

        3. And Wikipedia is a hive of scum and villainy, the likes of which are difficult to duplicate. It’s terrible. It is Prime Example #1 of insane, irrational dogma, precisely because of its incredibly stupid administrative structure (lookin’ at you, Secptre).

          Moderation can be useful, but an overly heavy hand will just draw more trolls. They will always be there, messing things up because they can. They will hop IPs if you block one. Make new accounts if you close them. The more you engage with them, the more interested they are. The onus is on the community to roll their eyes and move on ASAP.

          There is NOTHING wrong with dissent. So long as debate over dissenting issues is carried out in a rational, adult manner. To see someone hoping to quell dissent kind of makes me nervous, actually.

          Deletion of outright crap, and reminders to stay civil? Sure, why not. I don’t see post count stars or anything like that helping, because people who don’t know jack can rack up a huge postcount while still being relatively uninformed.

  22. I’m quite happy to state a firm belief. I have been studying diet and nutrition for over 4 years now and try not to stick my nose in unless I know something about the subject.

    But I resent it when I am called a ‘zealot’ following some paleo dogma (which happens often). That implies that I have not done my research and I am blindly following some weird ideals. It is usually a response when someone has no facts to back their argument and it reverts to ‘name calling’. I have researched in depth most aspects of my diet and I do not make ‘life altering’ diet decisions lightly.

    I’m sure many people here understand how hard it is to get friends and family to accept what you are doing. I try to keep this disruption to a minimum by getting my fact straight so it doesn’t change. If I stop eating something, it is for good reason.

    I’m happy for people to disagree with me and I learn the most from the heated discussions, when I must either try to prove my point or concede defeat. My WOE has changed a few times over the years as I learn more and that’s the reason I check into forums like this all the time. I never know what I’ll be researching next.

    I want to learn more. Prove me wrong. Lets all learn something.

    But I have a short fuse, so only stir me up if you are prepared to duke it out!

    I do get frustrated with people who start arguing about things that I now consider basic knowledge. Especially if they dismiss my personal experience as of zero consequence.

    The same is happening with others on the forum.

    The collective of the MDA forum is growing in knowledge each day and I don’t think it is bad if basic tenants exist as we all ‘know’ they are true. It doesn’t mean they can’t be challenged, but there’s only so many times that people want to spell out the basics for newcomers.

    How about some merged threads and stickies (with moderators that can remove repetition or re-direct threads), so newcomers can logically follow the threads on the basics and come to their own decisions?

  23. Good Calories Bad Calories is a top book to become familiar with to help shoot down any grain/low fat diet going around. The research is there!

      1. actually the research itself is undisputed. Research is research. It is the conclusions reached from said research that is controversial. But Taubes’ conclusions have not been refuted. Debated, yes. Argued against, yes. But that’s about it…

  24. Hi Mark,
    I enjoyed reading this post, as well as the replies.
    As a Certified Personal Trainer, and Nutritional Consultant, ‘diet’ is 80% of what I do. I currently eat 90+ percent paleo, and just getting most ppl on whole food is a tremendous start! Being open, honest, and realistic with others on the PB Model is the best way to open their eyes to it.
    As I am not an MD, my most common, yet poignant statement is “Give it a try…see how you look/act/sleep/feel/perform.”
    On the other hand-and maybe other can relate- I tend to get a little preachy with my family and loved ones…none of them will listen to a darn word of (only slightly kidding).
    Be well,

  25. I agree with Max – suggest that folks give it a try, “it” being whatever diet or eating plan they want to try. And sometimes it can get frustrating when I’m talking to someone about a sound eating plan with proven scientific data, and they are convinced that the latest fad touted by the media is just as valid. I think people are still looking for a quick fix, and until they are ready to give that up and get serious, it can be difficult to convince them of the benefits of the paleo diet.

  26. sorry the flakedon but as… phuq the ‘left-foot’ writer whose names eludes ‘
    Angels fly..cos they take themselves.. and their dogmas lightly !’ I added the dogma.

  27. I have been lurking around this site for a few weeks now but this is my first comment. I bought and read the Primal Blueprint book about a month ago and found its principles fairly convincing and in general, a very good foundation for an optimal lifestyle of quality health.

    Although I’m in agreement that we as a species are extremely similar on a genetic level, I think there is enough diversity in the epigenetic response of our species to the environment (including diet), that any of us should be able to build enough variety upon the PB foundation without it evolving into a “dogmatic diet”. Perhaps that is why the 80% rule is suggested in the book?

    Based on my recent research and experimentation into discovering my own optimal diet, I believe that our species is very well adapted to taking advantage of the diverse environments of our planet and for better or for worse has allowed us to conquer and exploit those diverse environmental resources (including food).

    In other words, maybe 20% of us have the epigenetic ability tolerate grains in our diet (or consider lactose intolerance on an ethnic or world-wide population level for example). How would you use that 20% probability in Las Vegas? Are you one who risks blazing new trails or safely clings to ideology? Is the risk-to-benefit ratio in your favor? What are your goals? Those are the questions to ask when drifting away beyond the 80% PB nutritional fundamentals.

    So I view the “primal lifestyle” more as a foundation for optimal health rather than an optimal or health lifestyle in and of itself. I have considered joining the MDA forum or starting my own blog to express/document my own experience/journey in search of my optimal lifestyle for good health … perhaps I’ll do both?

  28. I predict in the next ten years we’re going to learn a lot more about genetics and how to tailor one’s diet to one’s genotype. Of course gene expression and epigenetics play just as big a role, but genotype is still important. I wonder what we’ll learn?

    The paleo crowd (I include myself) pays a lot of attention to carbs and insulin, but not as much to salt, advanced glycation end-products, and other factors that may influence health. It’s good to zoom out now and then and consider the big picture. I love the spirit of this post and the comments!

  29. “Lyle McDonald Gary Taubes calories” yields no results. I asked for a URL, not a junk search.

    Looked at Google’s substitute results and can’t say I’m impressed. Lyle picks out a few things he disagrees with and then sums up by saying, “Taubes book is garbage.”

    This is not a useful or accurate summary of a book that in 601 pages systematically strips away much of the nonsense surrounding present dietary advice for suporting health and preventing disease. Does Taube’s book have flaws? Yes. Is it garbage? Not by a long shot. Good Calories, Bad Calories is an important if somewhat overly didactic work that will benefit the reader who reads carefully without prejudice or favor.

    Taubes most important contribution is in bringing attention away from the nonsense surrounding “reducing diets” and back to what is most important. As Taubes says in his Epilogue, “The scientific obligation… is to establish the cause of obesity, diabetes, and the chronic diseases of civilization beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    Taubes makes a strong case in his 601 pages that processed carbohydrates like refined sugar and flour make a unique and devastating contribution to these problems. Lyle’s blanket dismissal of Taubes book over a few points he disagrees with cherry picks evidence the same way he accuses Taubes of doing. This is not a scientific attitude. We must always guard against our own confirmation bias if we are to learn anything new. Lyle’s a very smart guy. It’s too bad if he’s forgetting to watch out for the blinding effects of self certainty.

    Don’t let Lyle’s narrow focus on a minor subject like the existence or non-existence of a “metabolic advantage” blind you to the very real points raised by Taubes on a much broader plane.

    1. Actually, they sorta did. There’s a thread on his forum. Some of them are bagging on Mark’s body composition, yet they fail to post pictures of themselves… and are probably a 1/3 his age.

  30. oh Jane – if you won’t read the book (which answers your question) don’t expect any one here to take your comments seriously. But just because we can’t fully re-create Grok’s diet and environment doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get close.

  31. It’s not often that we will take drastic action with a commenter, since we encourage debate. In fact, there actually aren’t that many naysayers out there. Having said that, you’ll note that we have removed comments from Jane Carraro, MichaelS, Rick Santos and Lisa because a) they are all the same person and b) he/she just couldn’t play nice.

    1. If he-she-they looked into the history of the peoples who ate the crap he was advocating as part of the “healthiest people in the world” diets, he would have found that:

      A.) Yes they did/do eat those things
      B.) They fermented the toxins out

      These were conveniently forgotten practices when man started cranking out high volume & industrialized versions of these crops.

  32. Thank you very much for this post.

    I have been pondering the same things of late, and am amazed at how utterly different people can be convinced of the most polarised things. It’s so difficult to keep uprooting one’s own views in order to refine or re-learn, because as humans I think we immediately want stability and security. So we seek what confirms our existing views, and such company that agrees with us.

    I applaud the constant struggle of a “fertile mind”, but I am also a little wary of a society where intelligent people do not dare state a concrete opinion, and the intellectually understimulated instead holler categorical statements right, left and centre. (Such as what apparently happened with the McGovern report.)

    Again, Mark, thank you for all the work you put into this and how accessible yet scientifically strict and sound this blog is.

  33. My story is a lesson on how bad dietary rules can replace common sense.

    I was a strict vegan for 3 years then a vegan raw fooder for 7 years after that. I had very strong emotional and ethical reasons for doing so and they kept me in this lifestyle. The idea of eating meat was abhorrent to me and upset my whole system and psyche due in part to the constant negative reinforcement of meat being bad all around by all the groups I associated with and the vegan diet gurus. And so I never explored eating any other way until I developed a tooth abscess during a citrus juice fast a few months ago. It was my third tooth abysses in 4 years of being a raw vegan and the second on the same tooth (I had already had a root canal on that one 3 years previously due to an abscess). MInd you, I had never had any abscesses before I became a raw fooder and in fact, was told by several Dentists that I would go to the grave with my teeth, they are that strong and healthy. So when that occurred I had to seriously re-evaluate my lifestyle when I was thought I was being so health conscious and following all the rules outlined by trendy raw food “gurus”.

    Upon evaluation (thank God that I was still was able to think for myself!) I realized just how much sugar and citrus I was consuming on a daily basis and how my body was responding to all the sweet sticky desserts, fruits and fruits juices, dates, incessant use of agave and honey and the like in a most powerful way. Why had I done eaten all this sugar? I recall way back when I was told by one famous raw food guru that I could literally eat dessert all day long as long as it was raw. On top of that I was liberally consuming raw chocolate and Kombucha, two other often called raw health foods which also contain sugar plus caffeine and small amounts of alcohol. My body was literally deteriorating due to the over consumption of all of these irritating and harmful substances and I didn’t feel well either. I had constant headaches and felt hungry all the time and I was aging prematurely (developing fine lines and dark circles under my eyes when previously there had been none. I was blessed to have always looked many years younger than I was so this was another strong signal that something was wrong. I was highly concerned about all this yet fear kept me from exploring other dietary options until that last tooth abscess. Why would I question what I was doing when I was being told by so called raw food experts that I was doing the best for myself to avoid any future health issues (and yes they do tell you that!). At my first vegetarian potluck a well known vegan came up to me and told me “congratulations, you’ve just made the decision to avoid heart disease, diabetes and arteriosclerosis”. Well the 4th abscess was my wake-up call that I was wrong and so were they. After my tooth abscess was healed about 3 months ago I knew I had to make some changes. It took me 2 months of research to decide on the Primal plan. At this stage I really thought it couldn’t do me any more harm and at least I would enjoy eating real food again.

    I literally sweated with my first bite of meat. I had had 10 years of brainwashing to overcome and it wasn’t easy. I thought I would die eating all the meat, eggs and dairy, but I was determined to stick to it and see what happens. My body had a difficult time adjusting at first. I had lost the ability to digest animal protein so I had to eat it in small amounts working my way up to bacon AND eggs for breakfast. But after two weeks of doing Primal I was starting to notice real improvement. I no longer had headaches, felt tired in the afternoon or right after eating. I no longer felt hungry or deprived all the time or slept poorly or had the shakes. I also no longer felt irritable or just plain miserable (it can also be very lonely doing only raw food). I also no longer had foggy head. Being a hypoglycemic, that was a constant problem. Best of all, I was loving what I ate and no longer felt deprived and was even downright happy to be able to eat all the foods I really loved and craved.

    Well, this all taught me a very valuable lesson in reality vs. delusion and about giving other people that much power over your life. It’s a dangerous trap that many of us fall into at one time or another. I’m grateful that survival is our only instinct because it’s survival that made me wise up and realize my primal needs and how denying them was seriously harming me. The Primal program turned out to be the best dietary program for me and for my husband too by the way. He also started the Primal way of eating right alongside me and has overcome 20 years of being overweight due to trying to maintain a low fat high carb diet. He lost 12 pounds in 4 weeks and is looking and feeling better than ever. Even though I did make the change in time, I often ponder on how far I would have let my health go adhering to my own dogma and the dogma of those I chose to listen to. Thank you Mark from both of us. I don’t hold you up as a guru or anything but I sure am happy that I found your site and all the information you present. It really impacted my life and my husband’s in a very positive way.

    1. Chris, I feel for you! I too have been vegan (100%) since 1985 and raw since 1999 (100% except for about for or five cooked carb snacks within that time), but I was lucky to pay attention to the fundamentals of nutrition and not get hooked into any dogma. It is not that easy, but my tenacity only led me to success. I know many others (not my own clients) who have failed on a raw vegan diet, but it was only b/c they failed to eat properly. Cooked or raw, meat or veg, you have to adhere to the proven basics of human physiology. Of course it is much much less work to eat the way our fast food packaged cooked hi processed refined society eats. BUT even if you choose the easy way out, you still have to limit your animal food intake to less than 5% total calories, limit processed foods like pasta and rice and bread, and of course eliminate all the sweet snacks and so-called “food” that most people gorge on. Fruit is still the predominant food when it comes to health and athletic prowess.

      1. “Chris, I feel for you! I too have been vegan (100%) since 1985 and raw since 1999 (100% except for about for or five cooked carb snacks within that time), but I was lucky to pay attention to the fundamentals of nutrition and not get hooked into any dogma.”

        Not sure where to even begin with that. I wonder if vegans are capable of understanding what they say. I would consider the quoted statement as very strong evidence that veganism destroys the ability to think clearly.