So you’ve read books about the paleo diet before — how is The Paleo Manifesto different?
So I spent a lot of time thinking about what sort of book it should be.
I knew I couldn’t just do a re-tread of Loren, Mark, or Robb’s books. They know their expertise better than I do, and candidly, I had just witnessed the lukewarm response to Art De Vany’s book — which, in all likelihood, would have been received enthusiastically just a few years prior.
Timing is everything. It had to be fresh.
But traditional publishing is slow.
Really, really, really slow.
So I had to think ahead to where the paleosphere would be in a few years.
Back then, it was abundantly clear that paleo would continue to grow in popularity. Inevitably, it would start to draw criticism — and that criticism would probably argue that the paleosphere over-emphasized the importance of the Paleolithic. I also figured that the initial backlash would probably be based on a caricature of paleo — the “cartoon caveman” — because that’s how the media portrayed it. And it was just too easy.
Time to reveal a few things.
- My book actually downplays the Paleolithic
I elevate what we can learn from other ancestors, both prior to the Paleolithic (Animal Age) and after it (Agricultural, Industrial, and Information Ages). 80% of Part One has nothing to do with the Paleolithic. Putting “paleo” in the title was the most effective way to convey the thrust of the book, but the book is about far more than the Paleolithic.
- It covers *way* more than food
There are chapters on fasting, movement, bipedalism (standing, walking, running), thermoregulation, sun, and sleep — as well as ethics and the environment. The two chapters on food comprise about 15% of the book.
- It is not a diet book or cookbook
In my very first pitch to publishers, I insisted that the world “diet” not appear on the cover. Plus, I’m a crummy cook. So there are no recipes or no meal plans.
- It is not a biology textbook
Many people know far more than about molecular biology than I do. If you like to geek out on interaction effects between ghrehlin, a zinc deficiency, and glucose intake (or whatever), then you’re going to be disappointed.
- It is not a holy book
There is no single list of foods that you are or are not “allowed” to eat. Do I offer general guidelines on which classes of food and preparation methods I believe to be healthier than others? Yes, I do.
- It is a manifesto
A manifesto is intended to clearly and forcefully present a worldview — and to motivate people to action. The order is important: before you can motivate people to action, you have to find sources of meaning with the power to motivate. So a lot of the book is about finding meaning in your life: not just which foods you eat but how you eat them (traditional recipes), not just exercising more but rediscovering a reason to move (functional fitness).
And how our actions influence other people, other species, and the world.
- The paleosphere will read the book first, but is not the primary audience
Don’t get me wrong, I think the vast majority of folks who eat paleo are gonna like it. (Hopefully love it.)
But I’m a big tent kind of guy, and I wanted to write a book that appealed to and included more people than those who use the words “paleo” or “primal” — and not just for the fuzzy feelings or moving a lot of copies (though that would nice).
I want to change the food system. I want to change government policy. I want to change the conventional wisdom. And I want to help the hundreds of millions of people suffering from chronic health conditions.
But you can’t do any of that if you don’t reach people.
So I was constantly trying to strike the right balance between introductory material (for the mainstream) and advanced material (for the paleosphere and academics); readability (for the mainstream) and geek out stuff (for health fanatics).
And yes, I wanted to entertain, provoke, and inspire. Because that’s how to motivate people, individually and collectively, to change and improve their lives and the world.
I hope you like it (and think you will).