This post is a follow-up to Loosening the Paleo Collar, where I try and determine what aspects of the Paleo diet were responsible for the benefits I experienced. Instead of following an ever increasing stricter interpretation to achieve more results, I took the opposite approach and started removing behaviors to see where the true benefit resided. Besides having a curiosity on these matters, I had another motivation and that is the topic of this post.
Peanuts Are Unhealthy, Right?
In early 2009, I watched Art De Vany’s Evolutionary Fitness Seminar. I was very new to the Paleo diet. I wanted to learn more, so I took notes and started thinking about ways I could make changes in my diet and behavior. At one point in the lecture De Vany mentions how we shouldn’t eat peanuts, because they contain a carcinogenic toxin know as aflatoxin. This wasn’t a problem for me. I loved almond butter just as much as peanut butter, so I formed a new food rule and avoided peanuts for almost 2 years.
Then at a Thai restaurant I had a dish made with a peanut sauce. My mouth turned instantly numb. I had trouble speaking, almost like I had been injected with Novocaine. This had never happened to me before. I stopped eating for a moment and instead of panicking, I calmly told myself that I was going to be OK. I slowly finished eating my meal and by the time I left the restaurant the numbness was gone and I was fine. Since that incident, I purposely expose myself to peanuts 2-3 times a year without getting any side effects. Dealing with a numb mouth is one thing, what if I had gone 5 or 10 years without peanuts and then had a far worse exposure?
That incident got me thinking.
The Resiliency Axis
It is not enough that we pursue a path of becoming more healthy. If we aren’t developing resiliency, then we could just be building up a new form of fragility. When we become fully committed to a diet, be it Paleo or whatever, we construct a bubble between us and what we see as toxic. This is a safe environment for losing weight and getting healthy, but we are still in a bubble in a toxic world.
Intermittent Fasting is about building resiliency over eating schedules and being comfortable with the state of hunger. Weight training and cold weather exposure are other strategies used for increasing resiliency. Why not dietary hormesis?
Maybe this post won’t make sense to those that don’t follow a strict diet, but I am aware of a lot people in the Paleo and WAPF (Weston A Price Foundation) groups that get exponentially more neurotic about elements of their diet that have the least impact. Everything must be grass-fed, organic and free range to them. I’m not kidding when I say that I know people who spend hours every week investigating the practices of local farms. While I am glad that someone is keeping tabs on what Local Farmer X is feeding to his heirloom chickens, I don’t see these people as having greater health outcomes than me. In fact, I see the opposite.
Obsessing about what is unhealthy is unhealthy. It makes you less resilient. It is important to discover what your dietary enemies are, but unless you have a life threatening allergy, running from them 100% of the time may not be the most healthy response. During my trip to Ohio, some gluten exposure gave me a severe headache and stomach pains. What if I had exposed myself to trace amounts of gluten on the days leading up to my trip? Would I have felt better and enjoyed my trip more? Sure it isn’t healthy, but my resiliency would likely have been greater.
Another one of my amazing graphics.
RED is the path I see many in the PALEO/WAPF groups following. In their obsession with becoming more healthy, they lose resiliency. The GREEN path is the alternative. Once you’ve become healthy and realize that any additional incremental benefit introduce greater fragility then shift focus to resiliency.
Pick Your Poisons
We live in a toxic world. Constructing walls of super clean eating is excellent way to get healthy, but once you’ve healed, the next step might be to focus on increasing your resiliency to that toxic world by carefully picking your poisons in small doses. It has been over two years since I posted on what I eat and what I don’t eat. In my next post, I will revisit this topic with a bias towards resiliency.