If you follow health and wellness at all – or simply spend any time watching TV or browsing the Internet – you are surely familiar with the buzz around the “Paleo Diet.” I talked about it a bit in my piece entitled “On Weight and Diet” a few months back. I am generally pre-disposed to like the Paleo Diet because it has shown good clinical results for weight loss and because the proponents of this diet were among the first to see the problems with the old orthodoxy with respect to total cholesterol (which I covered here).
After reading a number of the go-to books in the Paleo movement, I tried “eating Paleo” for the better part of a year. One of the central tenets of Paleo eating is that, because grains are a relatively new addition to the human diet, we are not well adapted to digesting them like we are to “ancient” foods like green veggies and meats. This was a bit of a loss for me as I have always enjoyed whole-grain foods and breakfast grains like Kashi and Bear Naked cereals in particular. So, even though I knew that a lot of literature finds that whole grains are associated with healthy outcomes, I decided to minimize my grain intake for a while. As far as breakfast goes, the Paleo folks have a great answer: eggs! And, since eggs are delicious and extremely nutritious, it didn’t take much to convince me to climb aboard.
A new diet always takes a bit of adjustment and I found mine soon enough: I had to include dairy and starches simply because my workouts began to suffer from a lack of carbohydrates. While the Paleo folks have an answer (“lipid adaptation” to get more energy from fats) this simply didn’t work for me given the kinds of short, intense workouts that I generally favor.
Fast forward a few months and I am intrigued by a new trend in wellness care: deep medical checkups involving detailed analysis of one’s blood, saliva, urine and stool. The sheer volume of biometric measures taken by doctors at groups like BodyLogicMD (which is where I went) is just staggering! Everything you could want to know and more is tested, analyzed and reported. With all of that testing, we come to “expectations.”
I expected that the Paleo diet would be well adapted to me because the logic – that we should eat foods that humans have eaten for millions of years – seemed pretty reasonable. But theory is often different from reality and, in my case, theory and reality were not at all in line. It turns out that the detailed testing of my own personal biochemistry revealed that I actually digest grains very well. The food that I must avoid? You guessed it: eggs.
The lesson, of course, is to be careful when embracing any diet or exercise program. It is easy to get caught up in the “movement” – especially when the science behind it is reasonably well established, the proponents are all lean and fit and your friends think it is a good idea. But “movements” tend to promote a “one size fits all” mentality that may not apply to you and that may even end up interfering with your actual goal to live a long and vital life.