When I run into paleo skeptics, here is one of the techniques I use.


Paleo Skeptic: But really, who’s to say there’s an ideal type of human diet?  And haven’t we adapted to a more modern diet?

JLD: Let me ask you a question.  What is the healthiest thing to feed infants?

Paleo Skeptic: Uh, breast milk.

JLD: Why?

Paleo Skeptic: Well, because that’s what’s natural.

JLD:  What do you mean by natural?

Paleo Skeptic: I mean, it’s what mammals do.  It’s what infants are adapted to.  It’s what we’ve done for millions of years.

JLD: Fine, but we’ve evolved since then — and we’ve developed a sophisticated technology called infant formula.

Paleo Skeptic: Yes, but it hasn’t been long enough.  And infant formula isn’t as good as the real stuff.  Maybe one day we’ll develop a formula that is, but we’re not there yet.  And there’s a lot of research that suggests that breastfeeding infants is good for the long-term health of the baby.

JLD: It sounds like you already believe in the general paleo approach, just for a limited window of life.

Paleo Skeptic: …

JLD: Right?

Paleo Skeptic: Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy.  But here’s my number.  So call me maybe.


This example, as described, isn’t a scientific argument by any means.  It’s just a talking point.

Keeping that in mind, my point is that there are a number of ways in which many people already believe in this general approach, they just don’t call it paleo.  Or they use the same lines of reasoning to justify an organic farmer diet.  So just find a way to re-frame their existing beliefs in a new light.  That way, they don’t have to change their belief system — something which few people ever do.

13 Responses to “How to persuade paleo skeptics: Paleo Diet for Infants”

  1.  So it’s a pickup argument too? You got her number! Nice!

    Seriously, though, that’s a good way to back someone up against the Paleo wall. I hadn’t thought of that myself and I breast fed a baby for a year and a half!

    I usually try to get the skeptic to see that we are animals that have manipulated our environment, but animals nevertheless. I ask them who is the only creature on the planet who gets sick, naming off ten or so diseases peculiar to humans, and ask them if we really know what we’re doing or if we’re just side stepping nature. I tell them I’d rather function optimally like an animal rather than fall apart like a human.

    It doesn’t work reallly well. It’s too bleak maybe.

    • Karen P. says:

      Are we the only animals to get sick? I know the flu virus for example has animal reservoirs (Swine flu, bird flu, etc.). And chimps get a variant of HIV, as do cats. There was a virus striking rabbitis recently that caused weird growths on their faces, I think it was a type of HPV. Anyway, yadda yadda. ­čÖé We shouldn’t forget that humans in the wild had plenty to contend with, including parasites and infections. The Paleo template is great and can certainly help our immune systems and possibly prevent many scourges of modern life, but it can’t confer total freedom from discomfort.

      Maybe you just meant colds? But I have to say, I got a doozy a few weeks ago (have a toddler at home) and I’m still wrestling with the aftermath. And if I read one more time that Art De Vany hasn’t gotten sick in 30 years, I’ma hurt someone. ­čśë

  2. Sid says:

    I love this approach! Simple and effective. I never know where to start when I try to explain paleo/primal eating to people. Thanks!

  3. Matthew Allen Miller says:

    There are a couple that I like to use. One is the zookeeper/petowner approach: If you wanted optimal health for your animal, wouldn’t you want to feed it its natural diet — the diet eaten by its ancestors and its brethren in the wild? The other is the cannibal approach (insppired by a Taleb quote), which isn’t an arguent for Paleo per se, but for grass-fed/pastured meats: if you were a cannibal, would you rather eat an old fat baseball pitcher who abuses steroids (for example), or an Olympic sprinter (for exmple). 

  4. Anonymous says:

    My militant vegetarian friends think I’m nuts.  They think that meat will lead to an early grave and can’t image a life without quinoa, wheat and rice. 

  5. Michael says:

    I really like this John.  I always try to lead people to the conclusion of a paleo approach on their own, but my dialog tends to revolve around what to feed animals in the zoo.  This is a much better starting point.

  6. uh says:

    One day, a mad genius will start the world’s first, perhaps only, Paleo PUA blog, and my life will be complete.

  7. Janet says:

    Thank you for suggesting this approach! I do get frustrated with what most people believe. In reality, I have decided to tell people that it works for me, I read the reasearch, don’t listen to the media and to use what works for them (& can plainly see that their approach is NOT working for them). I am a personal trainer, 47, have survived a near fatal accident. So I let my now healthy, lean 16% body fat, clear skin & happy disposition talk for itself!

  8. This is brilliant—streamlined, simple and inarguable from what I can see. Glad I found it.

    Also want to add that Petco, I just learned, sells a scary array of doggie supplements—calcium, bone and joint health, weight loss…the list goes on and all these pills are to help heal dogs from what I always thought were human ailments and issues. Of course when you read the ingredient list on the back of a bag of dog food you see all sorts of processed grains, soy and other items that are simply not food to canines. I’ve found that I do make a little headway with this explanation of why Paleo/Primal works. 

    Great post, and thank you!


  9. Melissa says:

     Love this. I’m a middle aged recent convert to paleo although I was going that way because of autoimmune issues.  Recent crossfitter and long time breastfeeding advocate!  Infant formula has so much stuff in it including added corn syrup and other sugars. 

  10. Mike says:

     A great analogy, a pleasurable read.

  11. Eric says:

    I tried this approach when discussing Atkins and breast milk and saturated fat.  I said "Babies eat lots of saturated fat, and it’s the healthiest thing for them!"  The skeptic said "Well, babies don’t eat saturated fat long enough to get heart attacks and strokes."

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