Is a pretty good full body workout. Three feet is plenty, thanks.
Three years ago I started transitioning to paleo. I had been aware of paleo for quite some time but had never found a way to make it work for me. Then I stumbled on Free the Animal, Mark’s Daily Apple, and others that provided ways for me to think about a practical implementation of this diet. Many lifestyle changes that occur in January are a function of New Year’s resolutions, but in my case the date is coincidental. That’s just when I had some free time to find the right web sites. Over the course of about a month I got off of grains and processed food.
I immediately began to feel better. Several health conditions improved and my weight began to normalize. I haven’t looked back.
So I’ve now gone about a year without soap (except for hand washing), shampoo, or hair conditioner. I shower with just water just about every day.
How is it working out? Just fine.
First, I don’t stink any more than I did washing with soap. Believe me, my wife would let me know. I think that has a lot to do with diet. I do use deodorant on work days.
Second, my hair is in good shape. I have learned that in cold dry weather (Fall and Winter) I need to make sure not to rinse the oil out of my hair. I just wet it, but don’t keep my hair under the water or scrub. If I rinse too much my hair gets frizzy and dry. I used to use baking soda and cider vinegar, but found that it was not solving any problems I had. Plus, getting vinegar in your eyes is not fun.
Third, there is no third. I’m glad I no longer buy into the idea that humans need products to strip the oil from their body and then other products to repair the damage from that stripping.
Clifton Harski has a post about things in paleo that are easy to make fun of.
In summary: don’t be a Paleo knucklehead. That is a term I just made up for a dogmatic Paleo groupie who doesn’t use all the resources he/she has available (technology, improvements in science and understanding of physiology) to make intelligent decisions and instead bases everything on an idea/ideal which doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. On the other side, don’t be an anti-Paleo dickhead…that’s a term for someone who dismisses ideas just for having a title attached to it, which means you’ll miss out on potentially good stuff just for being obtuse.
Right on. Paleo, when it is useful, is a template for thinking about how we, as genetic hunter-gatherers, can best function in a big, complex, technological civilization. It is not a caveman re-creation society. Classifying anything into “paleo” or “not paleo” on the basis of whether ancient people or modern hunter gatherers do it a tail-chasing exercise that makes anyone who associates themselves with paleo look silly.
Whenever a paleo blog goes dark, I wonder whether the blogger dropped off the wagon.
It would take a lot for that to happen with me. The health benefits of this lifestyle has been immense for me. I’m not going back to an industrial Western diet. No way.
I have, however, been very, very busy. More later.
“Vegetables are not food. Vegetables are what food eats.”
“Salad is just a vehicle for cheese, bacon bits, and dressing.”
“If we are supposed to eat veggies, why do they taste so revolting? Broccoli can make me ill just smelling it.”
These are comments from a Facebook conversation I participated in not long ago that started out with a discussion about why being a vegan isn’t something the people making comments really cared to do. Of course, it is easily possible to find comments out there from vegans about how inherently revolting meat is. The point is not about veggies or any other particular class of food, but about impulsive reactions to food that become lifetime habits of avoidance.
In my experience, these are not uncommon kinds of sentiments. They have never made sense to me because I am good at liking food. I can enjoy almost any well prepared meal. I like trying new things and usually enjoy them. Of course I have preferences, but that’s not the same thing.
Being good at liking food is a skill. I remember, in college, consciously deciding to develop this ability. I grew up in a normal, Irish Catholic household, with fairly generic American food, in the late 60′s and 70′s. I didn’t try yogurt or many other “exotic” foods until I was in college. I decided then that I would learn how to like food. And I did, by trying lots of different kinds. After awhile, it was easy to like most any food that was skillfully prepared with quality ingredients. Some foods are an acquired taste—I need to try them several times before I learn to like them. Others are love at first bite. A few things I have not learned to like: beets, green peppers, most sushi. If I had to learn to like them, I probably could (well, maybe not beets). But I like most things.
I encounter many people without the skill of liking food. They react to new foods as if their first impulse to dislike them has an eternal validity. They don’t know how to like food. They have a set of foods they find palatable and any new food that is not immediately liked (usually due to similarity to food already liked) is eternally placed in the “ick” bin.
That’s a problem for the expansion of the paleo template for eating. Many people have imprinted on processed food, restaurant food, and food that children eat. That’s it. They can enjoy a microwave pizza, but a home cooked meal made from fresh whole ingredients tastes mostly wrong to them unless it’s from a small subset of foods from childhood. They are “finicky.” I think that more and more people don’t know how not to be finicky. In an environment filled with fast food, convenience food, and other crap that has been designed by food scientists to be palatable but not satiating, real food tastes wrong. No amount of pushing “fresh fruits and vegetables,” complaining about “food deserts,” or taking soda machines out of schools will fix this problem. I’m not sure what will. I find some of those foods palatable as well, but I like real foods well enough that it’s easy for me to choose those instead.
More and more people seem to have been trained to be nauseated by any foods that are not awful for them. How do we get past that?
I’m a big believer in capitalism. In my lifetime, capitalism has pulled a billion people out of starving, soul-crushing poverty. Yay capitalism!
Unfortunately, when applied to food, capitalism tends to push for what is simple to sell. And what’s simple to sell is mass-produced junk food. The paleo template represents resistance to this basic pattern of efficiently producing cheap palatable junk that fills the belly but generates malnutrition and disease. Over the last 15 years or so, paleo has gone from something no one’s heard of, to laughed at, to argued against, to an approximation of a mainstream trend.
That’s made especially manifest when Oprah magazine recommends paleo. Sort of like when the Gap moves into trendy urban spaces and thereby drains all the edginess away, when the “cave man” diet is a popular trend, then the market inevitably zooms in to distort it. We’ll see “paleo” restaurants in a number of cities and “paleo” frozen dinners in upscale markets. The word “paleo” will be corrupted to mean gluten-free and low in sugar. What it won’t mean anymore is real food, because it’s hard to make serious profits off of real food and most people have no idea what real food is. It’s much easier to pick just a couple of parameters and make food that meets those technical requirements in the cheapest manner possible that still sells. That’s what paleo will come to mean in terms of mainstream products.
Eventually, paleo will be old news and the mainstream will move on to some other fad.
“Oh, yeah, I used to eat that stuff. How early 21st!”
In the meantime, the big companies will try to profit from it. For the next few years, much of what paleo actually means will involve resisting what the market wants “paleo” to become.
If you’re setting up a paleo blog and looking for a name, feel free.
Most experiments involving humans and other animals that you read about are group comparison studies. In this kind of research, one or more experimental groups are compared to a control group. The experimenter measures one or more variables in each group, does something to the experimental groups, and measures the same variables again. Then, statistical tests are applied to determine how likely it is that the average measured differences in each group are caused by the experimental manipulation. This method works pretty well for the purposes of most experimenters, but it has a number of potential disadvantages.
For example, it ignores (in fact, treats as “error”) variability among subjects. A drug could, on average, cause great improvement in some condition while, for a few subjects, causing significant worsening. In a controlled experiment like this, it might look like the drug does good stuff, without detecting that some subjects are harmed. Also, group comparison studies cost a lot of money and take a long time.
In the paleosphere, there is considerable discussion of “N=1″ experiments, by which they mean people experimenting on themselves. I thought I’d discuss the science of experimenting with one person, because paleo folks often have a good understanding of group comparison studies while not knowing much about the science of experimenting on one organism at a time.
The most accurate technical term for an experiment on one organism is not N=1, but rather a “single subject experiment.” This kind of research also has its limitations, but has the significant advantage that it shows how the variables manipulated in the experiment apply to one individual. That’s exactly what most paleo folks are interested in.
The critical thing about any experiment, this type included, is control of all the relevant variables. It is necessary to demonstrate, in a very convincing way, that the effects we see in the experiment are caused by the variables we control, and not by random factors or other variables that we may have manipulated by accident. The wrong way to do a single subject study is illustrated here:
This is technically a “case study” or “pseudo-experiment.” What’s wrong with it? When we switched from a generic crap diet to a real food diet, symptoms improved dramatically. How is that not convincing? No matter how well other factors are controlled, there is no particular reason to think that some other event, happening at the same time, could not have been responsible for this change. No researcher worth his or her salt would find it believable that we have demonstrated that our intervention really changed the subject’s symptoms.
This is what an actual single subject experiment might look like:
What have we done? We’ve conducted a reversal. We started with a crap diet, collecting enough data to establish that the numbers are basically stable. Then we switched to a real food diet and symptoms improved dramatically. So far, so good, but it’s not very convincing—symptoms sometimes randomly improve, and it might have happened even if we hadn’t changed the diet. To control for that, we switch back to the crap diet, and symptoms get worse. Interesting. For good measure (and because we’d rather not end on a crap diet) we switch back to real food. Once again, symptoms improve.
Assuming we have controlled for other variables (we did not take a special medication on the same days we were eating real food, for example) it seems vanishingly unlikely that symptoms would have randomly gone up and down like this as a result of random chance. We’ve conducted an actual experiment with one subject, establishing control over the experimental variable we were measuring (symptoms).
But isn’t there supposed to be a control group, you might ask? The subject is acting as his or her own control in this experiment. It’s OK, really it is. What about statistical significance? There are ways to apply inferential statistics to this kind of experiment, but they are generally considered a waste of time. If the pattern is anywhere near ambiguous with visual inspection, then experimental control has not been established. The data above are not at all ambiguous.
Statistical significance is used to determine whether it is likely that the results obtained with a sample group (100 volunteers, for example) would be the same if that experiment could be conducted with the whole population we are interested in (all U.S. adults, for example). In a single subject experiment, that’s really not the question we are asking.
There are lots of ways to complicate this kind of experiment. We can explore more than one set of changes over the course of multiple sequential conditions and reversals. A more complex version, comparing the relative effects of diet, exercise, and combinations of the two, could be done, for example. We can do the same experiment with several people, conducting multiple concurrent single subject experiments (this is called a multiple baseline experimental design). The second chart above, however, shows the basic template for a single subject reversal. It would not be too hard to do with yourself.
If you are interested in the theory behind this methodology, the classic (and quite readable) text is Tactics of Scientific Research by Murray Sidman. The most used modern textbook is Single Case Research Designs by Alan Kazdin.
I’ve been thinking recently about the relationship between sleep and food. When I began intermittent fasting (randomly skipping meals, usually breakfast) I found that the most important rule for success was this: I can either go without sleep or without food, but not both. If I stay up late or slept poorly, I need three meals per day. Failing to follow that rule leaves me only semi functional. If I get enough sleep, two meals in a day is no problem.
Last weekend was the daylight savings time switchover. We lost an hour. On Sunday night, for reasons I don’t understand, I woke up several times and had trouble getting back to sleep. On Monday I ate a normal breakfast and lunch, but still came home ravenous and craving carbohydrates.
I wonder if the paleo emphasis on sleep quality might be almost as important as that on food quality. Lots of Westerners seem to push off as much sleep as they can and compensate with coffee or energy drinks. In the long run, that in itself may be a recipe for terrible health.
Then at FuturePundit this week, I ran across a link to a study on sleep and appetite.
The researchers studied 17 normal, healthy young men and women for eight nights, with half of the participants sleeping normally and half sleeping only two-thirds their normal time.
Participants ate as much as they wanted during the study.
- The sleep deprived group, who slept one hour and 20 minutes less than the control group each day consumed an average 549 additional calories each day.
- The amount of energy used for activity didn’t significantly change between groups, suggesting that those who slept less didn’t burn additional calories.
- Lack of sleep was associated with increased leptin levels and decreasing ghrelin — changes that were more likely a consequence, rather than a cause, of over-eating.