"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Carpe Diem!

With 2011 coming to a close, so many people are making 2012 New Year's resolutions. According to this source (and many others), two of the most popular resolutions are "lose weight" and "get fit," which are both certainly fantastic goals. However, many people who make resolutions may start a new diet and/or exercise plan on January 1st, but they don't change their mindsets as well and will give up after just a few weeks (or, perhaps, only a few days). To make a resolution (health-related or not) work, you must change your entire way of thinking-- don't think of it as a "diet" or a "resolution," but think of it as a total lifestyle change. Don't just eat healthy; live healthy.

I've written about the etymology of diet before: it comes from a Greek word meaning "lifestyle." Yet every January 1st of high school, I'd go on a diet (always low carb) and break my resolution within days or weeks; I'm sure many of you out there can relate. I was only thinking about food-- they were always "I'm going to lose weight by dieting" resolutions rather than "I'm going to change my lifestyle and become healthy" ones. While diet did originally mean "lifestyle," it now has that negative connotation of being a temporary thing, and we thus find it socially acceptable to break our diet-related (or other) resolutions. "No one keeps their New Year's resolutions anyway, so now I don't feel bad for breaking mine too! Let me eat that ice cream!"

The Paleo/Primal/real food lifestyle didn't begin for me on a January 1st-- it actually began on a February 1st (2010), and it's now been almost two years! What turned a diet into a lifestyle was my way of thinking-- I actually told myself on January 31, "Tomorrow is going to be the first day of the rest of my life." I did not tell myself, "Tomorrow I'm going to start dieting again," or "Be prepared to stop eating crap starting tomorrow," or "Brace yourself for the carb withdrawal headaches." I had told myself those things so many times before, but they never stuck-- it was only with a different way of approaching a new eating plan that February 1st, 2010, was, in fact, the first day of the rest of my life.
Not only did I change my eating habits, but I also started moving more (goodbye, elevator!), sleeping more (I seriously think I get more sleep than 95% of college students), ending toxic relationships, and educating myself about evolutionary nutrition. After losing weight, clearing up my acne, never getting sick, and feeling all-around better, I knew that this was definitely a permanent lifestyle change!

So if you're going to start something new this January 1st, don't approach it as a temporary resolution. Think about changing your whole lifestyle , even if your resolution (or goal/plan) isn't health-related-- because what's the point of a resolution if you don't make it stick? And actually, why not start your lifestyle change right now? Why wait until the New Year? Why not better your life beginning at this very moment? The "I'll start tomorrow" mindset won't cut it anymore-- because tomorrow, you'll say "I'll start tomorrow" as well. Seize the day!

I recommend reading Frank Forencich's Change Your Body, Change the World, which discusses how we have become disconnected from the world and how we can have much more fulfilling lives by reconnecting with our environment and becoming healthy through evolutionary wisdom. I also recommend checking out this post from Three New Leaves (one of my favorite blogs), "24 Things I've Learned in 24 Years," which has some amazing and inspiring tips, realizations, and comments about life in general that are really worth reading and remembering. Both the book and the post echo living life to its fullest... and how can that happen with the "I'll start on New Year's" mentality?

I think it's great if you're making a New Year's resolution, and I wish you the best of luck in your quest for a better year; however, start your resolution right now and make it a permanent lifestyle change. You deserve the best life possible, so begin today!

Quote of the Day:
"If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, then yours is the Earth and everything that's in it." -Rudyard Kipling, 'If'

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Paleo Semester Completed!

My fourth semester of eating Paleo/Primal at college is almost over, and I attribute a lot of my successes to this lifestyle. It has helped me stay healthy, manage stress better, sleep more, and remain focused on tasks without having sugar spikes and crashes. This post is going to be a bit of a wrap-up of the last few months, but I also want to give a huge thank you to all of my readers and the Paleo/Primal community for being so awesome!

Here are some things I've learned/realized this semester:

1. Many non-Paleo/Primal people are going to think you're insane or just plain weird for avoiding grains, legumes, sugar, processed food, [dairy], etc., and will probably make obnoxious comments to you. However, people can also be super understanding and accommodating.
Most new people I meet think I'm out of my mind when I turn down desserts, pizza, or rice with my Indian food. I've heard comments like, "Wow, I could never do that! That must be so hard/boring!" and "No bread?? How can you not eat bread??" and "Oh, come on, just have a bite!" I don't make comments about other people's food choices, so why should they question mine? However, my friends are absolutely fantastic-- if we go out to eat, they'll make sure I can eat something on the menu, and my roommates will make sure not to use non-Paleo ingredients if we're cooking in our room. My GA (like an RA, but a grad student) has also been great-- when he realized I don't eat grains, gluten, or anything processed, he started bringing fruit to floor events so I can eat something too! So for every obnoxious person, there's an equally wonderful and supportive person!

2. The Paleo/Primal community is awesome... and members actually exist in real life!
As I mentioned a few months ago, I had the amazing opportunity of attending a Paleo nutrition seminar with Diane from Balanced Bites (where I met Kristin from FastPaleo and Stacy from Paleo Parents as well!). It was my first time meeting people who also follow this lifestyle, and it was such an incredible experience to bond with others that share my interest in evolutionary nutrition. Paleo/Primal people do, in fact, exist outside of the internet, and I look forward to meeting many more of you!

3. It has been a Paleo/Primal/evolutionary nutrition-literature-filled semester!
In the last few months, many books and cookbooks have been released that are relevant to this lifestyle. Here's a list, and I highly recommend checking them all out!
-Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis (Wheat Belly Blog)
-Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield (Paleo Comfort Foods Blog)
-Make It Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason (The Food Lovers Primal Palate)
-The Paleo Answer by Loren Cordain (The Paleo Diet)

4. Being Paleo/Primal boosts the immune system and helps you stay healthy (when everyone else around you is sick).
Thanks to this lifestyle, I have an immune system of steel. When it seemed like everyone around me was sick, I remained healthy! Yes, it's cold and flu season, but eating and sleeping well will keep sickness away due to a strengthened immune system. Staying healthy has also allowed me to be more productive in my studies-- my work never suffered from feeling sick, and I never had to miss class or rehearsal due to sickness either. Eat well, sleep well, stay well!

5. Paleo has helped me stay focused.
Because my blood sugar stays relatively stable due to evolutionary nutrition, I never get "food comas" or become ravenously hungry just a few hours after eating due to sugar spikes/crashes. Thus my studies were never interrupted due to a need for a post-lunch nap or snacking throughout the day/night-- I was able to stay focused on work or studying without making those mid-afternoon junk food runs or the midnight trips to Wawa.

6. Paleo has helped me manage stress.
Penn was recently named the #4 Most Stressful College, but there has never been a point during this semester (or any semester since going Paleo, for that matter) when I felt completely stressed out or overwhelmed. There were certainly plenty of times when I thought the amount of work was going to make me go insane, but I found myself pretty calm about everything. This lifestyle has helped me manage stress better, since my mind and body are working together thanks to proper nutrition and sleep. Those ginormous term papers and scary finals really don't stress me out anymore, whereas my first semester of college (which was pre-Paleo) had me stressing out about every little assignment or exam.

7. Churrascarias = Paleo/Primal heaven.
I had my first experience at a churrascaria this past Friday, when I went to the Fogo de Chao here in Philly. A churrascaria is a Brazilian steakhouse in which so many different types of meat are brought to your table and cut up right there-- you control the amount of meat you eat during your meal due to a nifty little red and green card that signifies when you want the meat to start or stop coming. Fogo de Chao also had the greatest salad bar I've ever seen (and this is apparently quite common of churrascarias)... so coupled with the unlimited meat, it's Paleo/Primal heaven.

I've had such a great semester at Penn, and I look forward to sharing my Paleo/Primal experiences while studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh next semester!

Quote of the Day:
"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver." -Gandhi

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Psych Class and Bogus Science

I once again apologize for not updating much these last few months. This semester has been a lot more hectic than I had anticipated, but it'll be over in two weeks! I'll hopefully update much more frequently over my holiday break.

I'm currently taking Intro to Psychology to fulfill one of my gen-ed requirements, and the class has been okay up until now-- some of the topics I found really interesting (evolutionary psych!), and others I just kind of suffered through (I'm not a science person, so the neuropsychology stuff wasn't exactly my cup of tea). But in all of the topics covered thus far, the information was scientifically proven-- we know, for example, which parts of the brain control which processes. So even though if I didn't understand everything perfectly, there was at least scientifically proven research to back up this information, and I can accept that it's all true.

So why am I talking about my psych class? For the past two lectures, my professor has been talking about food. The second he announced the topic, I said to myself, "Uh oh, get ready for a ton of Conventional Wisdom crap." And I was, unfortunately, correct. He lectured about the calories in/calories out theory (which is false-- watch this link from Fat Head and pick up Good Calories, Bad Calories and/or Why We Get Fat), that fat is unhealthy (also false-- click here, here, here, and watch this clip from Fat Head), that the BMI system is a good indicator of a person's health (also false-- click, and remember that BMI doesn't take into account muscle), and that the obesity crisis wouldn't exist if everyone ate the equivalent of three apples less per week (um...... WHAT!?!??!?!?). Needless to way, it was a very frustrating few days in psych. Where was any of the science behind this!?!? How can someone actually spread that information without having the facts?

What really baffled me was that my professor also acknowledged that people have no training health and nutrition, yet lectured about this topic and made no sense at all. Well, yeah, of course people don't have training-- the movie Food Matters said that only 6% of doctors have nutritional training, so why would anyone else be informed when they can just get information from the equally uninformed (i.e. the other 94%)? It's so sad that people are clueless about health and nutrition; instead, they rely on Conventional Wisdom, uninformed doctors, and Dr. Oz, and don't have the science to back up their choices. (It also doesn't help that the government is spewing crap to us too-- tomato paste on pizza can now count as a serving of vegetables!) I really don't blame my professor for lecturing Conventional Wisdom BS-- it's probably what was fed to him and no one ever pointed out the flawed science. (I raised my hand to comment on the things he was saying, but the class is in a huge lecture hall and he never saw me. Ugh!!)

The information about evolutionary nutrition is out there and makes sense! Humans aren't adapted to eat grains, legumes, chemical-heavy food products, or low-fat anything. We didn't evolve to count calories or carbs or have other people tell us that we need to be a certain weight for our height in order to be considered healthy. And we certainly didn't evolve to take meds for things that can be cured by simply eating the way our ancestors did. Read any of the literature available-- Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Nora Gedgaudas, Weston Price, Gary Taubes, and a host of brilliant Paleo/Primal/ancestral bloggers (Chris Kresser, Jack Kruse, Stephan Guyanet, Denise Minger, and Chris Masterjohn, just to name a few) all can back up claims about this lifestyle with real science. Although all of their views may differ slightly, the basics are still there: eat the food that we were evolved to eat, and check out the science to prove it.

Here's Mark Sisson's new food pyramid, as one example of what real food is:

But would people knowing the science really change anything? Sadly, I doubt it-- people know junk food is bad for them, yet still eat it anyway. However, it would still be a huge step in the right direction if A) doctors were trained in evolutionary nutrition, B) the government got rid of the ridiculous food plate and actually learned evolutionary nutrition as well, and C) some type of Paleo/Primal/ancestral literature became required reading in schools/health classes. While people would probably still make poor dietary choices, at least they'd know which foods are actually good (read: NOT LOW FAT) so they can make educated decisions if/when they decide to embark on a journey to better health.

Quote of the Day:
"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it." -The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama

Monday, November 14, 2011

My "Toss the Scale" Moment

For a long time, I both hated and was obsessed with the scale. I thought whatever number flashed in neon colors at me was magical and determined how I felt about myself. I remember being in seventh grade and getting on the scale for the first time in awhile, wearing a brand new pair of size 17 jeans (I'm pretty sure I didn't wear jeans through sixth and half of seventh grade because I liked the comfort/room of sweatpants)... and seeing a pretty high number. That killed me! I had known, of course, that I was heavy-- especially going to a school where there were only 18 girls in my entire grade, I stood out. I also did ballet, and I most definitely stood out there too. The scale, however, solidified it for me.

It was those size 17 jeans and that pretty high number (at the time) that made me first go on Atkins. Thirty pounds and quite a few sizes smaller later, I didn't stand out anymore. But, of course, I couldn't keep up the low-carbing. I started working at Dunkin Donuts in eighth grade, then went to high school (where I was introduced to carby cafeteria food and essentially lived on pizza and Subway during theatre season) and stopped dancing... By the summer of junior year, I was back up to that size 17-- but was 40 pounds heavier than I was at my heaviest in seventh grade! How the hell could that possibly work out?

Long story short, I yo-yo low-carb dieted junior and senior year, but stayed pretty much in the size 12-16 range. Then I started my quest for weight loss and health second semester of freshman year of college (i.e. through Paleo/Primal/real food), and have never looked back. I also stopped weighing myself at some point last year because it was silly-- why should I go by a number? I knew I was healthy, and I've been out of plus-sizes since early 2010 for the first time since that weight loss in seventh grade... so what was the point?

Today solidified why the scale is stupid. I had to get my vitals taken today so a health form for my study abroad program could be signed, and it turns out I am three pounds lighter now than I was at my heaviest in seventh grade!! I was a size 17 then... and a size 6 now. WHOA.

Clearly, that number on the scale means nothing. It doesn't measure health. It doesn't measure your clothing size. It's completely pointless and only serves to stress people out that they're "fat" if they see a certain number. So stop obsessing over a number, especially if you're working out and building muscle, because muscle weighs more than fat! Want more proof? Check out Everyday Paleo's "Attention Scale Addicts, Part 2."

So toss the scale. If you're keeping track of your progress, buy a measuring tape instead and go by inches-- not weight-- lost. Sure, it's awesome to say "I lost [insert #] pounds," but what does that even mean? Nothing, really! I think it's so much more of an accomplishment if you can say "Well, I didn't lose any weight, but I lost [insert #] inches and am now [insert #] sizes smaller!" That number on the scale doesn't represent anything, so please don't freak out about it! Just get rid of it! You are more than a number!

Quote of the Day:
"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." -The Buddha

Saturday, November 12, 2011

College Paleo

I apologize for not having updated in quite a few weeks-- between midterms, rehearsals, papers, and just general college stuff, things have been pretty crazy around here! But now that the worst is over (I think), I'll hopefully be able to update more frequently.

Speaking of college, though, I'd like to dedicate this post to my fellow college Paleo enthusiasts, because it seems like we're a growing number! When I first started this lifestyle in February 2010, I didn't know anyone else who ate this way-- I was the girl with the weird diet who wouldn't go out for Wawa milkshakes and would eat Indian food without rice and naan. Since most college events revolve around crappy food, living Paleo/Primal can be extremely isolating-- declining gets you away from the temptation, but going and not eating makes everyone question you and make you feel like you're totally crazy. I'm not going to deny the fact that I felt very alone that first year-- my friends were all really great about my decision to eat clean, but it was still hard if they were all going out for fro-yo or ordering in Insomnia Cookies. I thought that I must be the only college student who ate like this-- because who else in their right mind would give up pizza, mac & cheese, hoagies, and cupcakes?

When I discovered the whole Paleo movement this past January and started networking with other enthusiasts, I noticed that I was younger than everyone else. Although this didn't bother me because the Paleo/Primal community doesn't discriminate based on age (or anything else), it still would've been nice to find people around my age who could relate to being Paleo in college. Over the summer, however, especially with the birth of the International Paleo Movement Group on Facebook and the numerous threads on Paleo Hacks, I started noticing more and more younger people entering the Paleosphere. In fact, the blog Primal University was created back in August geared just towards college Paleos! So I'm not crazy: we are a growing number!

Yes, being Paleo in college can be isolating and frustrating. However, there are so many reasons to adopt this lifestyle as a college student-- the main one being for the stronger immune system. Like I've mentioned in previous posts, I don't get sick (knock on wood), and haven't since I went Paleo. My friends, however, are always sick, and I know that poor nutrition (and thus a weakened immune system) is the primary cause. Your body is like a machine-- fuel it properly and it'll run smoothly and won't break down. With so much going on in school, being sick can be devastating-- making things up from missing classes, rehearsals, practices, or meetings is a hell of a lot harder than eating well! Paleo also taught me about the importance of sleep-- while I think nutrition plays the largest part in being healthy, sleep is absolutely necessary, and I think I get more sleep than 99% of college students. (I usually get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, even on totally packed days... I don't know how some people only run on 4 or 5!)

Another great advantage is that it saves you money. Yes, you might spend more on higher-quality food, but you'll save a lot by not going out for pizza, ice cream, sandwiches, milkshakes, fro-yo, and $6 Venti Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mochas (or any of the other crazy-named drinks) at Starbucks. Further, I eat out a lot less now because I just don't trust the ingredients at most restaurants-- I never know if there's hidden gluten/soy/vegetable oil/sugar in the food, so it's easier (and better for my health) to just decline most "Let's go out for food!" invites. Not only will that keep my body happy, but it'll keep my wallet happy too.

I also find that I'm a lot less stressed out about things, and I know that a lot of people in the Paleo community can attest to stress levels dropping since going Paleo as well. Semesters are really busy-- every time you finish one thing, there are five more things to finish too! My first semester of college was the only time I wasn't Paleo, and I remember being stressed out about the littlest assignments; now, I tend to handle things pretty well and very rarely freak out about school or extracurriculars. It's actually pretty amazing how much more time you have to be productive when you're not stressed out about things 24/7! I was completely clueless about cortisol pre-Paleo, but now I realize just how much nutrition is connected to absolutely everything else in your body-- and good nutrition certainly helped decrease my cortisol levels!

Everyone has the right to be healthy and happy, so taking control of your life through eating Paleo/Primal/real food is something that can be done at any age. I strongly encourage everyone to give this lifestyle a try, but I'd really love to see more Paleo students! Less sickness, money saved, and less stress? Sounds pretty great!

Since this is a college-themed post, I'd also like to tell you that I'll be studying abroad in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh next semester, so look out for posts starting in January about my food experiences in the UK!

Quote of the Day:
"With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world." -The Dalai Lama

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Paleo Food: It's Everywhere!

I'm going to give you three ingredients lists for some pretty awesome dishes, but don't click on the links until I tell you:
-Basil Grilled Chicken: black pepper, chicken breasts, fresh basil leaves, butter, grated Parmesan, garlic powder, salt
-Mahi Mahi Lettuce Wraps: mango, plum tomatoes, red onion, jalapenos, cilantro leaves, limes, salt and pepper, mahi mahi fillets, olive oil, lettuce leaves
-Country Style Fried Cabbage: green cabbage, bacon fat, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper (to taste)

Those lists only contains proteins, vegetables, fruits, fats, and seasonings (and a tiny bit of dairy for those of you who choose to consume it).... so they sound completely Paleo/Primal to me. Actually, they sound straight-up delicious! While I love sharing awesome recipes, these three are pretty special-- don't click the links yet-- because of where they come from. No, they're not from Everyday Paleo. No, they're not from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations or Primal-Palate or Nom Nom Paleo. They're from..............

Paula Deen, y'all.

That's right, those are Paula Deen's recipes, so go ahead and click on the links and check them out now (because they really do sound yummy!). While I absolutely love Paula Deen and would love to do an entire Paula/Paleo post, I actually have a point I'm trying to make here: Paleo/Primal food is not strange, and you can find recipes everywhere, including Paula Deen's site!

I had dinner with some of my hallmates a few nights ago, and I had mentioned to them earlier about Paleo (it came up when I wouldn't take free granola bars that people were handing out on campus), and they were shocked that my dinner plate looked so normal. I had a big salad with baby spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, and sliced up beef in extra-virgin olive oil-- and I'm sure it looked just like the salads other people in the dining hall were eating! I'm not sure what my friends were expecting, but it led to a more thorough discussion about my lifestyle and made them realize that people on the so-called "Caveman diet" don't just eat raw meat or do the whole reenactment thing. In my personalized version of Paleo/Primal, I eat "normal" things like salads and cooked meat and all types of veggies and fruits, and sometimes I even have cheese or dark chocolate. Breakfast for me is bacon and eggs, which is pretty much identical to breakfast plates all over the world. I usually don't have to make too many modifications to things at restaurants (it's pretty easy to just get a protein with a side of veggies), and most of my meals look "normal" to most people.

A lot of people have no idea what to eat when starting their Paleo/Primal journeys, or they feel totally overwhelmed when going out to restaurants or having friends over. Some other people think they can only eat things labeled Paleo/Primal (like "Paleo [adjective] Chicken" or "Primal [adjective] Tomatoes") or that exclusively come from Paleo/Primal blogs and books. However, as demonstrated by the Paula recipes, you can find suitable dishes pretty much everywhere without those labels. It's really not that hard: proteins, veggies, fruits, good fats, nuts, seeds, (maybe dairy). So easy, a caveman can do it! With all of those food groups, I really don't think Paleo is restrictive at all-- there are so many options, and now with so many cookbooks out on the market (by the way, check out Make It Paleo, which just came out!), I don't see how people can become bored with this lifestyle. In fact, Robb Wolf's Food Matrix creates 81,000 different meals!
While the internet is an amazing resource for Paleo/Primal recipes, a lot of the food people eat is already totally okay. My dorm had a Mexican food night earlier this week, and I had awesome dinner: chopped beef, chicken and veggies, and guacamole (pssh, who needs chips for guac when you can eat it with a spoon!?). How is any of that difficult, strange, or restrictive? If you already eat from the Paleo food groups, you're doing well: you can get Paleo foods pretty much everywhere without people looking at you like you're insane. "Weird" foods are things that come in packages, are loaded with chemicals, and don't resemble anything that can be found in the wild. I think it's more bizarre for a vegan to eat something like "meatless meatballs" than for a Paleo enthusiast to eat cow heart or chicken liver. What the hell is a "meatless meatball" anyway?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, you're probably going to face situations like potlucks or dinners* with friends and family. Dishes don't need to be "Paleo" this or "Primal" that-- just make real food. No one's going to think it's strange if you show up to dinner with a protein or veggie dish that isn't swimming in chemical-laced sauces-- real food is what nature has intended us to eat, and so many people eat real food every day without even realizing it. We're kicking around doing a potluck on my floor soon, and one of my hallmates was like, "I look forward to trying your Paleo food." My response was simply, "It's not Paleo food-- it's just real food."
*Note: There probably are going to be situations where there might not be Paleo/Primal options (like if there's no salad and all of the protein is breaded or sauce-covered), so plan ahead and bring your own dish so you know there's definitely going to be something you can eat.

I absolutely love this chart from FitBomb:
While it's definitely accurate, there's a lot more overlap between Paleo and other ways of eating than most people think.

If Paula Deen can make Paleo-friendly recipes, then it's pretty much guaranteed that you can find Paleo-friendly recipes everywhere. So the next time someone calls your way of eating restrictive, weird, or boring, instead of saying, "I don't eat grains, processed foods, legumes, [dairy], sugar, etc.," go with, "I eat so many different types of fruits and vegetables, lots of animal protein, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, [some dairy], and most things found in nature." People will be more open to the idea of things you do eat instead of things you don't. Positivity is key!

Good luck, and wow your friends and family with some awesome Paleo/Primal dishes this holiday season.

Quote of the Day:
"The body is like a piano, and happiness is like music. It is needful to have the instrument in good order." -Henry Ward Beecher

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ron English's Cereal Boxes

If you recognize that obese version of Ronald McDonald, it may be because you've seen Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock's documentary about only eating McDonald's to prove that fast food causes obesity. (Please, please, please watch Tom Naughton's Fat Head, which is not only incredibly informative, but also shows why Spurlock's arguments were flawed.) I'm not blogging today to talk about Super Size Me or any other food documentary, however-- I'm going to be talking about the artist behind the obese Ronald McDonald, Ron English, who came out with a new piece of "popaganda" this week that really relates to the obesity crisis.

The brilliance of this piece is that, at first glance, it looks like a regular shelf of cereal boxes. Look more closely, however, and you'll realize that Capn' Crunch is "Cap'n Corn Starch" and Frosted Flakes is "Sugar Frosted Fat," and that most of the cartoon characters, like Ronald McDonald, are obese. English, who is known for manipulating brand advertisements to reflect the truth, has put these altered boxes throughout a supermarket in California... and this move has gained a lot of attention. This photo has circulated all over the internet, and it even showed up on the front page of MSN. Here's a screen-shot I took of it, which includes an MSN poll about cereal:

Based on this poll, only ten percent of people don't eat cereal. And those 17% who eat "healthy" cereals are probably eating crap with ingredients lists like this:
^^That's Kashi GoLean, one of the supposedly "healthy" cereals that is advertised like crazy as "a good source of whole grains" or "a good source of fiber" or B.S. like that... when in reality, it's just fake food that'll spike your insulin levels and make you sick (and all of that soy is so unhealthy too!).
But I digress. Ten percent of people don't eat cereal (based on this poll)! So that means ninety percent of people do-- and that, ladies and gentlemen, is English's point. With the obesity levels rising like crazy in the U.S., it really shouldn't be a surprise that cereal, arguably the biggest breakfast staple out there, is a main culprit. It's convenient (throw it in a plastic bag and go!), it's addicting (carbs and sugar are addicting-- hence the "low carb flu" people get when they cut these out), the advertising draws in kids (bright colors and cartoon characters are always a hit)... oh, and most of them are "fortified with vitamins and minerals" (insert eye-roll). Society doesn't vilify cereal the way it does fast food-- yet cereal is just as bad, if not worse!

Here are some real cereal statistics, from Cerealizing America by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford:
"-Americans buy 2.7 billion packages of breakfast cereal each year. If laid end to end, the empty cereal boxes from one year's consumption would stretch to the moon and back.
-The cereal industry uses 816 million pounds of sugar per year, enough to coat each and every American with more than three pounds of sugar. The cereal with the highest amount of sugar per serving is Smacks, which is 53% sugar.
-Americans consume about 10 pounds, or 160 bowls of cereal, per year per person.
-49% of Americans start each morning with a bowl of cereal."

Let's examine one of the other brands that English targeted, Lucky Charms (or "Yucky Children Charmer"). This cereal was one of my all-time favorites pre-Paleo-- the song on the commercial was catchy, the marshmallows were addicting (even though they kind of tasted like cardboard... huh...), and I just loved everything about it. However, if I ate a big bowl of Lucky Charms in milk for breakfast at, say, 6:45 before school, I'd be ravenously hungry again by 8:30 or 9:00. Here's the label:
Let's see... high in carbs, a ton of sugar, a bunch of ingredients that I don't recognize (oh, wait, "color" is a food?), and corn syrup... amongst other things. But it's "made with whole grains, [it's] fortified with 12 vitamins and minerals, and is a good source of calcium." Seriously, General Mills? You're trying to pull this off as healthy? Give me a freaking break.
Kids see the cute leprechaun, the bright colors, and the promise of marshmallows, so they bug their parents, who then see that this cereal has health claims* and buy it for their kids. The kids then have crazy sugar highs (and crashes), can't sit still or concentrate, and are starving again a few hours later. Sound familiar? (And, of course, this isn't even mentioning all of the other learning and behavioral issues that are results of processed, sugary, chemical-laced foods!)
The most ridiculous thing about Lucky Charms is that, despite the claim by General Mills that they've been making their cereals healthier since 2005, they can't reduce the sugar in this particular cereal anymore because, according to The Wall Street Journal, "not only do the cereal's frosted oats need to taste sweet enough to keep kids clamoring, they have to float in milk for at least three minutes." Um... Just think about that for a second. They want their "food" to "float" for at least three minutes. WHAT THE HELL!?!??!?
*Note: One of Michael Pollan's food rules is to avoid foods that make health claims. Based on Kashi and Lucky Charms, can you see why? (Actually, I'm pretty sure cereal breaks all of Pollan's rules.)

I recently finished Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, which essentially argues that wheat is the biggest culprit of weight-gain due to "high glucose and high insulin," "cycles of satiety and hunger... this is the foggy, irritable, hungry hypoglycemia that occurs 2 hours after your breakfast cereal...," "gliadin proteins," and "leptin resistance." (His blog is pretty great, so here's the link to the full post.) Think about it: does a bowl of cereal or a slice of bread really cure your hunger? Of course not! So you keep eating more wheat, and the cycle never ends*-- more food, higher insulin levels, more weight gain.... and bam, you're diabetic and obese. While I don't completely agree 100% with "lose the wheat, lose the weight" (there are so many other foods and factors for weight loss too), getting rid of wheat-based products (i.e. cereal and most processed food, which contains wheat) will eliminate carb addiction, help regulate insulin levels, improve satiety, and help with curing certain Western diseases (like type 2 diabetes).**
*Note 1: The night before I went Paleo/Primal/LCHF/JERF, I had a huge bowl of Fruity Pebbles for dinner. An hour later, I was still starving so I went and got a hoagie from WaWa. Yes, cereal was the second to last thing I ate pre-this lifestyle. I am never, ever going back to that! The cycle of needing to eat every few hours was horrible!
**Note 2: Other grain-based products have wheat-like effects too... like corn. Yes, corn is a grain; it is not a vegetable. If you're looking to lose weight or heal your gut, I'd suggest eliminating all grains (and gluten!), and not just wheat products.

I think what Ron English did was awesome. While I don't think his piece of popaganda will change anything in this country, I think it's great that the ridiculously unhealthy properties of cereal are being vilified and are finally in the news. If his cereal box artwork encourages just one person to make healthier choices, then it is absolutely a success. Hopefully, though, it encourages many more people to stop eating these fake, processed, sugary, nutritionally inferior foods!

Ron English's take on Fred Flintstone:

Quote of the Day:
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, said, "Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Food Matters

This week, you can watch the documentary Food Matters online for free! Click here. It's absolutely worth watching simply for its main theme: just eat real food. As I watched it, I took notes, and I'd like to share some of the information I learned, as well as some pretty awesome quotes (and you know how much I love good quotes!).

The documentary opens with one of my favorite quotes by Hippocrates, "Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food," and we are soon shown a rather ironic statistic, "Less than 6% of graduating physicians in the USA receive any formal training in nutrition." This is scary-- the people who take the Hippocratic oath don't know how to treat patients using food as medicine! This is also the basis of our "sickcare" system; one alarming statistic the documentary then presents is, "26% of patients who are discharged from hospitals are more malnourished than when they went in. And the reason they go in, in 80 or 90% of cases, is related to their poor state of nutrition." Imagine what our country would be like if the other 94% of doctors were educated in nutrition! Oh, that's right, it won't happen-- as the movie states a few times in various ways: there is no money in health, and "the medical profession just treats disease; they don't go back to the primary causes because they can't. They don't understand... what chemicals come out of your food."

It then goes on to explain something we know quite well: that cardiovascular disease is a disease of civilization due to the "Western" diet, and that it can be "arrested or reversed" without surgery by just eating real food. While I completely agree with the movie's idea that eating "too much of the wrong thing and not enough of the right thing" is the underlying issue here, I do not like the fact that they mentioned meat and fat in the following phrase about foods that are the "wrong thing": "fast food and meat and fat and sugar and starch and processed food that has few vitamins." Meat and fat don't belong in that sentence, unless it said "bad/trans fats" or "factory-produced meat" or something of that sort-- meat is the best source of Vitamin B12 and other necessary nutrients, and (good) fat is crucial for survival. Oh, and there are good starches too, such as sweet potatoes-- not all meat, fats, and starches are bad!
But I digress. The main theme of this part of the movie, which I agree with 100%, is that processed/unhealthy/frankenfoods are the main cause of Western/neolithic diseases. This can be best summed up by the following graphic by Dr. Kurt Harris in the "Paleo 2.0" post over at archevore.com:

The film then covers a topic that is incredibly important in our health-- sorry, sick--care system: prescription drugs. Here's a frightening bit of information: according to the journal of the American Medical Association, "approximately 106,000 Americans die from pharmaceutical drugs each year... these are people who took the medication as directed (doesn't count overdoses or misuses)." In ten years, that's over a million people, and that is scary. And this is simply because the drug companies "pay the regulators, who are supposed to overseeing the drugs. They pay the academics, who are meant to be researching the drugs. And very often, the trials that they run will be run by people who are part of the drug company. They also put adverts into the medical journals... most [of which] are supported by drug company advertising." This isn't surprising at all, of course-- we've become a drug-dependent nation. Or, in the words of the movie (and I love this quote), "The whole country has come to expect the idea of taking a pill to fix an ill." Sad, but true. It's not okay that we're a "Fast Food Nation," but it's perfectly acceptable that we're a "Drug Company's Dream Nation"? Health is health is health-- and "giving the body drugs doesn't really promote health." (Note: Life-saving drugs such as antibiotics, for conditions that cannot be treated by altering dietary/lifestyle habits, are a completely different story.)
I think this is my favorite quote from the movie: "When in doubt, use nutrition first." So many diseases of civilization can be cured by proper nutrition! Why screw up your body (or, god forbid, be one of those 106,000 people who die per year because of drugs) when you can help yourself through food? Oh, that's right, because 94% of doctors don't understand proper nutrition, and there's no money in making people healthy. Sigh.

The next part of the film covers the link between poor nutrition and depression. It explains that depression can be treated with Vitamin B3 supplementation (or eating foods that contain it, such as animal products, vegetables, and seeds)-- there's a lot of evidence showing the poor nutrition/depression link, so this isn't surprising at all. What I found particularly interesting, though, is that Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wanted to use niacin (B3) and vitamin therapy for the people in his program because he knew that it helped with depression and sobriety-- however, "AA, which had already been infiltrated by the medical profession, rejected it." Once again, the medical profession failed at holistic treatment... which brings me to the next interesting fact: "Two handfuls of cashews gives you the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac." While cashews have a mixed status in the Paleo/Primal community (click), this quote still demonstrates how proper food can be so much more beneficial than a drug with a ton of side-effects... and it's cheaper too!

The documentary then discusses the link between poor nutrition and cancer. It cites the study of Japanese, who have the lowest rate of cancer due to their tradition diet, and how the "Western diet" can completely change that: "You take a Japanese woman from Japan, where the incidence of breast cancer is very low, and transplant her into America, and she changes her lifestyle, the incidence of breast cancer starts creeping up to that of the American woman, which is roundabout up to 30% now." We once again see crappy foods being the cause of neolithic diseases-- "with good, healthy, normal, rich, organic food, you can reverse these diseases," and the film shows many examples of this!

The final section is a fabulous wrap-up of many of the points stressed earlier. I love this quote: "We must make nutrition the primary prevention strategy for the population. And we have to be as zealous on nutrition as we are apparently on global warming. What we need to be able to do is persuade the public that you are what you eat, food can change your mood, you are whatever you've ever done to yourself, and the choices you make directly affect the outcome of your life."
I also really love this one: "People should stop being patients and start being people. Why not be healthy and happy? Why not!?"

I really enjoyed this documentary-- it provided a lot of great information and stressed the good nutrition-good health/bad nutrition-bad health connection. My only issue with it is that it really only promoted plant-based and raw-food diets. As I stated earlier, it lumped fat and meat in with crappy food in that one section-- even though we know that fat and meat are very good for you!-- and only mentioned the health benefits of vegetables and fruits. For example, one of the main guys interviewed is a raw foodist, and constantly stressed raw, plant-based stuff (as well as "super foods" like goji), such as in this quote: "When we choose raw, organic, plant-based foods, we take the power back and we decide that we are going to have quality..." While that is true, grass-fed/free-range meat and healthy fats (like coconut oil!) give us "power" and "quality" as well. However, I'm glad that this movie didn't vilify meat or fats (except in that one little section) by saying silly things like "Meat causes cancer" or "Fat makes you fat and causes so many health problems," but instead just focused on cutting out processed crap, not taking drugs, and taking control of our health by eating real food. I'm totally on board with those ideas!

So definitely watch this movie this week-- it runs for only about an hour and 15 minutes, so you can certainly squeeze that into your day! The information is fantastic, and it's something you can share with your friends and family members who truly believe that taking drugs is making them healthier. Just eat real food.

Speaking of watching things:
"I, Caveman," a new two-part series on the Discovery Channel, premiers tonight at 8PM, and it features Robb Wolf! Here's the commercial for it:

Quote of the Day:
"Wheat can also reach deep down into virtually every organ of the body, from the intestines, liver, heart, and thyroid gland all the way up to the brain. In fact, there's hardly an organ that is not affected by wheat in some potentially damaging way." -Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis (which I'm currently reading-- it's awesome, and I highly recommend it!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

College, a.k.a. Candyland, a.k.a. Gluten and Sugar Fest

College should be renamed "gluten and sugar fest" or, perhaps, Candyland. Almost every event I go to has pizza, cookies, soda, cupcakes, chips, sandwiches, pretzels, ice cream... the list goes on. It's no surprise, then, that there's the "freshman fifteen" or just general weight-gain when some people go off to college due to the copious amount of craptastic food. Why eat healthy when you can just live on the free pizza at club meetings or the free pastries and soda at major campus events?

This is Candyland. It probably has the same sugar content as the food at some campus events:


It doesn't bother me that it's everywhere-- after more than a year and a half of Paleo/Primal, I got over the sugar cravings a long time ago. It does bother me, however, when there are no Paleo options at a huge food event on campus (or elsewhere, for that matter). Yesterday, my school's president hosted a Junior Welcome Back Picnic-- I went to the one for sophomores last year, and I had a ton of Paleo options (vegetable kabobs, berries, high-qualities cheeses [nom, brie!], chicken, burgers...), so I went this year. I had one option: the mini burgers (sans bun). And since the place was completely packed, there wasn't really the option of getting more than two of the tiny patties. Pssh-- those wouldn't keep anyone full!

So I was a little frustrated and ended up at the dining hall afterward anyway. Fine. But you know what bothers me more than lack of options? People that question the way I eat. When I ordered those mini burgers without the bun, the guy in front of me gave me this look and was like, "No bun? Seriously?" to which I responded, "Yeah. Gluten is evil." Then I walked away.

Since becoming Paleo, I've gotten a lot of comments from people about my decision not to eat like crap. I went to an event last year and didn't have a piece of cake, and a bunch of people were absolutely horrified, saying things like, "What do you mean, you don't eat cake!? How could you not eat cake!? That's crazy!" Or every time my friends and I go out for Indian (my favorite cuisine), people always comment on the fact that I don't eat rice, naan, or any of the desserts. Why!? I don't say things like, "Oh my god, you're eating cake/rice/cookies/pizza! How could you possibly eat cake/rice/cookies/pizza? That's crazy!" (However, I do think to myself that they are crazy for eating that crap-- I just keep my thoughts to myself, because food is definitely an individual choice and no one should tell you how to eat. That being said, if someone asks my opinion on said crappy foods, I will most certainly speak up!) So why is healthy eating questioned? Why do people feel the need to comment?

That's why it was so nice attending a Paleo seminar with Diane from Balanced Bites last weekend at CrossFit Center City (Philly). Not only did I learn an absolute ton of information about nutrition, but it my first time meeting Paleo people-- and it was even cooler meeting some big-name bloggers like Stacy from Paleo Parents and Kristin from Fast Paleo. (Paleo enthusiasts actually exist outside of the internet!!!! Ahhhh!!!! So exciting!!!!!) Having lunch there without any sugar or gluten in sight was amazing-- everyone was eating real food, and no one was questioning my food choices.

One of the things I love the most about the Paleo community is that we share a lot of the same experiences-- we all know how it feels when people question our decisions to avoid grains ("But how can you possibly be healthy without whole grains!? They're so good for you!!"), to eat fat ("You're going to get heart disease and become obese!"), to pass on sugary crap ("Oh, just one bite won't kill you!"), to not believe in anything the USDA says ("But you have to follow the food pyramid!"), to not eat grain-fed cows and chickens ("But vegetarian-fed animals are so healthy!")... We've all heard it before, and we know just how annoying it is when we get bombarded with questions about our lifestyle from people who only know what Dr. Oz and their doctors tell them. So to spend the day last weekend with members of the Paleo community who all understand my frustrations with people who feel the need to question how I eat? Priceless.

I'm an anomaly on campus. I don't support the Candyland-style approach to college eating, but I will never make a comment to those who do. It's not my place, and it shouldn't be their place to question my approach to eating either.

Quote of the Day:
"I call wheat one of Satan's excrements, throwing off fructose and linoleic acid in there too..." -Robb Wolf, Episode 95

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The ABC's of Paleo

I'm a linguistics major; I enjoy letters and words and alphabets and all that jazz. So with my linguistics classes kicking off for the semester, I give you the ABC's of Paleo!

A is for Ancestral Health, another term for the way we eat according to our ancestors. Just last month, there was the first-annual Ancestral Health Symposium, and a lot of the speeches from it are online, so check them out-- they're awesome! Click here!

B is for Vitamin B12, an essential vitamin that can only be obtained from animal products and is necessary for a properly functioning brain and nervous system. Deficiency in this vitamin can lead to a myriad of health problems, including anemia, fatigue, depression, dementia, and more. It is for this reason that going vegan is so dangerous-- without B12 supplementation, you will get very sick... and even then, it is much more ideal to get this vitamin from the actual source, i.e. animal products.

C is for Customization. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to Paleo/Primal-- some people need low-carb, some higher-carb, some people can do all-meat, some people do well with a lot of veggies... Just because a book or blog or podcast says that you should eat one thing or avoid something else doesn't mean that this is the best option for you. Finding a Paleo/Primal lifestyle that works for you will take time-- your body will know when you've found the right balance of macronutrients and Paleo-approved foods.

D is for Vitamin D, another absolutely essential vitamin that is necessary in achieving optimum health. It is responsible for "bone health, calcium and phosphate concentration, reducing inflammation and regulating the proliferation and differentiation of cells" (source) and promotes a healthy immune system. The best way to get Vitamin D is by going out in the sun, but some foods (particularly certain types of fish) also contain it... or you can supplement. But why supplement when you can just go outside in the sun for a little bit every day? (For more information on Vitamin D, click and click.)

E is for Evolution, the reason we follow the Paleo/Primal lifestyle. We didn't evolved to eat processed crap, GMO "foods," grains, legumes, refined sugar... The list goes on. We didn't evolve to eat a diet devoid of animal products, and we certainly didn't evolve to eat grain-fed animals either. Check out this paper, "The western diet and lifestyle and disease of civilization," which explains how we've all become sickly since the dawn of agriculture, and how eating like our pre-agriculture ancestors is the best way to achieve optimum health.

F is for Fat! If you're following this lifestyle, you know that gone are the days of lipophobia-- no more low-fat, reduced-fat, non-fat products! Fat is absolutely essential for all of your body's functions, and it won't make you fat (I promise-- read this or this and watch this for the real reasons we get fat), and it won't clog your arteries either (check out this great post about how the lipid hypothesis is a big lie). So eat your bacon, coconut oil, and avocados-- they'll keep you healthy! (Here are a few guides to Paleo fats: click and click.)

G is for Gluten, something that you should avoid at all costs. In fact, the road to hell is paved with gluten! Gluten is actually a protein found in many grains (like wheat, barley, and rye) that is responsible for the elasticity of the dough. It not only causes serious inflammation in the gut, but is also the cause of many other health problems. For information about why gluten is the ultimate evil, check out "Why Grains are Unhealthy," "The Grain Manifesto," "Is Your Gut Leaky?", and "Excessive bloating from gluten."

H is for Hunter-Gatherer. Before the Agricultural Revolution (which was only 10,000 years ago), humans lived as hunter-gatherers and they were extremely healthy, tall, and strong. Once agriculture happened and people settled into towns/villages/cities, our hunter-gatherer ways were no longer and, as a consequence, our health was no longer as well. Speaking of hunter-gatherers, check out John Durant's blog... appropriately titled Hunter-Gatherer.

I is for Intermittent Fasting, a technique in which you fast for a period of time (could be 16 hours, could be 24 or more-- here's how to do it). There are many health benefits associated with IFing, including "increased longevity, neuroprotection, increased insulin sensitivity, stronger resistance to stress, increased mental clarity" (source) and more. So don't believe that crap about how your metabolism will slow down if you skip a meal!

J is for JERF: Just Eat Real Food. This is a pretty easy one-- real food doesn't come in a bag or box, doesn't need a nutritional label or ingredients list (I mean, c'mon. Broccoli-- Ingredients, Broccoli. So difficult!), and would be recognized by your great-great grandmother.

K is for Ketosis, a condition during which your body burns fat stores for energy. This can be reached by eating low-carb, so your liver changes fatty acids into ketones... which will became your main energy source and will keep your blood sugar low. Ketosis has been shown to be good for you health, so don't believe the "Your body needs carbs!" argument, since that's just not true. (Note: Paleo/Primal does not need to be low-carb or ketogenic-- some choose to stay low-carb or even zero-carb, but others choose to have a much higher amount of carbs per day. See C: Customization.)

L is for Lift Heavy Things, one of the components of Paleo/Primal fitness. Heavy lifting is essential for putting on lean mass-- you don't need to work out for an hour every day on the treadmill to get or stay fit! So start lifting weights, do bodyweight exercises, go out into the woods and move some rocks or logs, pick up heavy boxes and move them to the other side of the room and back... There are a million ways to lift heavy, so pick one (or more) and put on some lean mass!

M is for Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint and the amazing website Mark's Daily Apple. His approach to evolutionary nutrition is "Primal" (what's the difference?) and is a really big voice within the Paleo/Primal community. If you ever hear about Grok (the fictional caveman), thank Mark Sisson!

N is for Nora T. Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body, Primal Mind. Her book is one of my absolute favorites on evolutionary nutrition, and her website and podcast are full of really fantastic information. Here's one of my favorite posts of hers, "Top 10 Nutritional & Dietary Mistakes People Make."

O is for The Omnivore's Dilemma, a fantastic book by Michael Pollan that examines our food culture-- processed/factory food, organic food, and food we hunt/gather ourselves. It's a must-read, as is his other book, In Defense of Food. Pollan is a fabulous writer and is really well-known for his food rules, such as "Avoid products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronounceable, and C) more than five in number," "Don't eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food," and "Avoid foods bearing health claims." Check out this New York Times article of his, "Unhappy Meals."

P is for Play, a really important part of this lifestyle. In Exuberant Animal, Frank Forencich talks about how we are, at our roots, animals-- we should be outside and move freely and play! Playing has been known to decrease stress and promote happiness with, of course, leads to health and longevity. Check out this great post, The Lost Art of Play.

Q is for the Quilt, also known as Dr. Jack Kruse, who runs this great blog and is a wealth of information both there and on PaleoHacks. His site is incredibly detailed and informative, and covers everything from leptin resistance to epigenetics to the brain/gut connection. It's a site you should definitely check out for all types of health issues.

R is for Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution and owner of robbwolf.com. He has an awesome sense of humor, and his book, blog, and podcasts are all hilarious and informative. Check out this great video, Ask Robb Wolf Anything!

S is for Sleep, a really important component of the Paleo lifestyle. Our bodies need sleep (and by "sleep" I mean "at least 8 hours in a completely dark room") in order to function properly and keep our immune systems strong and healthy. Sleep does everything from helping your memory to boosting your athletic performances to helping you cope with stress. Here's a Definitive Guide to Sleep and tips for Sleeping like a Cavebaby.

T is for Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It. These are both books that explain how fat does not make us fat; instead, it is the bad carbs and sugary, processed foods that people eat that cause obesity and other health problems. He also writes awesome health articles for the New York Times, such as "Is Sugar Toxic?" and "What if it's All Been a Big Fat Lie?".

U is for Unconventional, which is what this lifestyle is to 99% of people. Our views are anti-Conventional Wisdom-- we don't buy into the "low-fat, high-carb, whole-grain" diet that has been one of the major causes of the obesity epidemic. We know that our bodies don't need grains or run on carbs; we know that it's okay to be barefoot; we know that fat is good and won't make us fat. People think we're crazy, but it is our unorthodox views that will lead us to have better health than those who blindly follow the Food Pyramid/Plate and the advice of their doctors who don't know anything about proper nutrition.

V is for Vibram FiveFingers, a brand of minimalist shoes that is quite popular among the Paleo/Primal community. For more information on minimalist running and VFFs, check out "Paleo From Head to Toe with the Barefoot Lifestyle," "Vibram FiveFingers" at MDA, and read Born to Run.

W is for Weston A. Price, a dentist who examined the link between dental health and the Western Diet, and found that the teeth of people who ate indigenous diets were, essentially, perfect, whereas the teeth of those who ate diets high in processed crap had dental problems. His book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, should be required reading for everyone (especially doctors and dentists!), and his legacy lives on through the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), which has chapters all over the world.

X is for Xocolatl (hah- I came up with an X word!), the word in Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) that is the most likely etymology of chocolate due to a combination of xococ ("bitter") and atl ("water" or "drink"). Dark chocolate (that is, 70% cocoa content and higher) has been shown to have a lot of health benefits, and Mark Sisson calls it a "sensible vice" and gives tips in this post about chocolate consumption in the Paleo/Primal lifestyle. (Dark chocolate is also used a lot in Paleo baking, like in these scones or this cake.)

Y is for YOU. Paleo isn't a fad diet-- it's a lifestyle all about making YOU healthier, happier, leaner, and stronger. People are going to try to sabotage your efforts by saying, "Oh, just eat one cookie-- it's okay!" and "One piece of bread won't kill you!" But don't listen to them-- this is your body, your life, and your choices. Don't let other people bring you down or make you sick. Believe in yourself, and know that only YOU control your own present and future health-- not doctors, not the FDA or USDA, not the media, not your friends. You can do it, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Z is for Zinc, a very important mineral that is essential for digestion, healing wounds, fighting infections, the immune system, brain function, fertility, bone health, eyesight, clear skin, and quite a few other things that will add to your health. Meat, seeds, fish, and 100% unsweetened chocolate are all good sources of zinc.

Quote of the Day, in picture form (from Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida):