You know when you’re on the bus reading a funny book and you burst out laughing? This happened to me- I just finished reading this hilarious book entitled, “Three Men in a Boat”. The story begins by introducing the three main characters, these older men perhaps in their seventies or eighties reading an “illness almanac” for the symptomologies of various diseases and complaining about all the health maladies they think they have. This may be sort of depressing except as the reader you are quite aware that they are not at all that ill, but in fact the humor lies in the self diagnosis based on very vague symptoms. At the end of the first paragraph, the main character is convinced he has every malady except housemaid’s knee. While these characters clearly aren’t in such bad shape, the increases in chronic illnesses and diseases amongst our modern population and their association with nutrition made we wonder about the Paleolithic times where chronic diseases did not exist … and for this we need to go back, waaaaayyy back.
If you read my previous blog “Thoughts on the Food Cycle”, you would remember that the last proposed strategy to improve our food system I mentioned is adopting a food system and diets that stem from the way things used to be hundreds to thousands of years ago. This is the very principle of the Paleolithic diet, a diet that was first popularized in the mid 1970’s by gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin. This diet has been adapted and promoted by several others and the Paleo movement is officially founded by physician Loren Cordain.
A Paleo diet is one that mimics the hunting and gathering age of our ancestors by only eating food groups that this population thrived on. The rationale for adopting this type of diet is based on the premise that our genetics haven’t changed much since the dawn of agriculture and therefore the ideal diet for health is one that resembles that of our ancestors. Enthusiasts of this diet argue that when we consume a diet similar to that of the hunter-gatherers we are largely free of diseases of affluence. Further research suggests that the Paleo diet has shown improved health outcomes when compared to other common diets. And if eating only fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and seafood doesn’t turn you on there’s more- imagine this as you’re daily work-out routine: you’re jumping from log to log and swinging from vine to vine, clambering around like a monkey… in a swoop you pretend you gather bunches of berries and greens for dinner and then sprint back to your cave as you run away from a saber tooth tiger.
Excuse the pun, but there literally is a Paleo movement at our midst! The Paleo workout bares a similar premise to the Paleo diet in that it is all about getting back to the way things were in caveman times… so if a saber tooth is after you, you better bust a move; and not just any move but motions that were typical to the body when it had to survive in the wild, this includes exercises that involve sprinting, clambering on all fours, lifting and throwing heavy objects. Instead of working one muscle group at a time, a Paleo work-out works many different muscle groups and includes both a cardiovascular and a strength component. Even more exciting, the regiment can be improvised in the outdoors with trees, lakes and heavy boulders, naturally.
The Paleo movement isn’t without its critics however. The paleo diet continues to be a controversial topic amongst dietitians and anthropologists. Critics have argued that the reasons that hunters and gatherer types of societies were free of diseases of affluence may be due to other factors including the reduced calories in their diet, shorter average lifespans, or a variety of other factors, other than dietary composition. Additionally, some researchers suggest there is a lack of accuracy in underlying evolutionary logic of the diet and for modern humans this diet could pose health risks such as nutrient deficiencies.
What do I think? Well personally, I appreciate several aspects of the Paleo diet including encouraging the consumption of tons of fruits and vegetables! However, I do not believe in the elimination of all refined foods personally. In general, I discourage overly restrictive diets unless you receive a rationale from a registered dietitian or physician about your individual needs- always do your own research too! The Paleo diet also completely eliminated my favourite food group – carbohydrates. Besides enjoying the taste of carb rich foods- like breads, pastas, rice and so forth, if we choose the better types of carbohydrates more often (WHOLE GRAINS!) they can provide us with plenty of goodness- fiber, minerals and vitamins. Also, if you decided you love Paleo fitness and cant wait to clamber around like a monkey- what will fuel your activity? You guessed it, carbs.
In terms of my thoughts on the Paleo fitness workout- I kind of like it! More research has been conducted on something called “high intensity interval training”- which is fancy lingo for doing short bursts of activity as hard as you can. Research has shown that this type of activity is great for weight maintenance or weight loss, strength and well as cardio health! Further, it can easily be adapted to our busy schedules as the experts are saying you can squeeze 8-17 minutes of this type of activity into your life and see results. Well then! I’m going to go climb and tree and throw some heavy rocks and stuff …
This blog was written by Elis Halenko.