Hunter Gatherer

Brimming with ideas and a fascinating read. STEVEN PINKER, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

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7 Great Books About Being Healthy

The Paleo Manifesto gets a mention:

Ok, I will not lie, this title does sound a bit gimmicky. Thankfully, the book is not. This book is a love letter for all of those closet anthropologists and sociologists out there. Author John Durant discusses food habits of those way back in the Paleolithic era while bringing all that info back to life and health today. This is a great read for everyone, not just those who enjoy a Paleo diet.

See the full list here.


Interview on New York public radio

Having done a lot of interviews over the years, I really appreciate it when a thoughtful interviewer quickly moves beyond the same old caveman jokes. Here’s my recording on New York public radio with Leonard Lopate. We cover paleo, CrossFit, Atkins, veganism, saturated fat, fermented foods, and more.

Here’s a link to the segment at WNYC.

Interview with Well + Good NYC

Here’s an excerpt:

Arguments about diet typically rely on scientific studies; yours are more based on theories culled from evolutionary psychology and historical evidence. But don’t we need to see large studies that prove the Paleo approach works?

The reality is that people don’t really understand how the human body works. Even the top scientists. And when you don’t understand, you need to use nature as a model, to get an approximation or some good hypotheses for what works. Evolutionary theory is wonderful for generating really smart hypotheses.

And on meaning:

One of the things you suggest people do to thrive is to “make food meaningful.” How is this part of the Paleo approach?

That theme is partly Michael Pollan’s influence, and he’s been very critical of what’s called nutritionism, basically reducing foods into their parts, like vitamin C and calories and fats. Deconstructing food like that takes away its meaning. Diets that depend on counting calories and macro-nutrients, they’re not the type that motivate people to stick to them in the long-term. I didn’t want this book to be a list of foods that you’re not allowed to eat and a list of beneficial micro- and macro-nutrients—that doesn’t motivate me in my daily life. What motivates me is actually making chicken stock for a friend who’s ill instead of heating up a can of soup on the stove. Traditional family recipes are more meaningful than ones that come out of a cookbook. The key to turning a diet into a lifestyle is making it meaningful, integrating it into your life, so that it doesn’t require discipline, it’s just what you do.

You can read the full interview here.

Talks at Google: “Paleo as Biohacking”

I gave a talk at Google NYC on “Paleo as Biohacking.” I talk about ways to use human evolution to quickly generate heuristics for human health.


Review from Elana’s Pantry

Elana Amsterdam runs the very popular Elana’s Pantry and is the author of three excellent gluten-free cookbooks. She just posted a very kind review of The Paleo Manifesto.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Paleo Manifesto by John Durant is one of the most important books of our time on the Paleo lifestyle, right up there with Loren Cordain’s The Paleo Diet, and Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution –a vital addition to your collection if you are at all serious about understanding paleo living on an in depth level.

This too:

In The Paleo Manifesto, Durant provides sophisticated data and research in a compelling and entertaining manner. Whether discussing the negative impact of removing animals (and humans) from their natural habitat, or providing easy solutions to modern day dilemmas, Durant’s book is quite engaging –a result of his fantastic writing style, captivating storytelling and witty anecdotes.

You can read the full review here.

Did prayer emerge to encourage hand washing?

I gave a talk on religion and infectious disease at The Nantucket Project. Here’s a short clip (2 min.) on some of the scientifially-sound purification rituals in the Torah, such as hand washing.


Interview with Paleo Movement

Enjoyed this one.

On fasting on national TV:

I may be the only one of Colbert’s guests who was in ketosis during the interview.

On why I *downplay* the Paleolithic in some areas of health:

If you want to understand thermoregulation, then you really need to understand every major transition: the rise of warm-bloodedness (Animal Age); the rise of hairlessness, sweating, fire, and clothing (Paleolithic Age); the rise of sweat bathing traditions that introduced temperature extremes (Agricultural Age); and the rise of indoor heating and air conditioning (Industrial Age). We’ve even started to tinker with our *internal* temperature by taking fever-reducing medicines (antipyretics).

The Paleolithic is very important, but it isn’t sufficient.

On critics of paleo:

I sometimes wonder what all the fuss is about.

The way many people actually eat paleo or primal (i.e., often incorporating some traditional dairy) basically boils down to Michael Pollan’s principles but more pro-meat and anti-seed (grains, legumes, nuts, seeds). Is that really so radical a notion that critics need to “debunk” paleo?

At the same time, paleo advocates need to be careful not to overhype it and to approach thoughtful critics with a little humility. I thought it was great how the Paleo Movement Magazine interviewed Alan Aragon, a vocal critic of paleo. Good for him and good for you.

Now let’s step back and put things in perspective. For the last few decades, “healthy whole grains” have been treated entirely uncritically. That paleo has brought attention to the notion that there might be *a few* drawbacks to a heavily grain-based diet is a triumph of the most basic form of critical-thinking: pros and cons. The same point is true of the entirely uncritical attitude towards traditional fats.

Please, tell me— who is being unscientific here? It was the people who treated “healthy whole grains” as nectar of the f*@$ing gods and fat as the evil boogeyman.

Read the whole thing here.

The Federalist interview: Is paleo more than a fad diet?

On paleo becoming a status competition with religious purists:

The other thing is that with any comprehensive approach to food, just as in politics, it becomes a status competition to be who can be the most pure. Right? “I am more paleo than thou.” And it happens in the vegan community. Once a lot of vegetarians started eating fish well then the true believers needed a new word, so they’d all be softies.

Domenech: Like The Simpsons’ episode where the guy says, “I don’t eat anything that casts a shadow.”

Durant: Exactly! Yes, that seems to happen in any group. You get your purists and there are folks saying out there how if every meal isn’t grass-fed beef, then you’re going to get kidney stones. You know, silliness like that.

But if modern religions emerged, in part, to improve health, then maybe a little religion is exactly what we need.

Durant: Different eras of human history have different health challenges and during the Paleolithic it was avoiding wild animals, and getting enough food, and things like that. In the agricultural age it was avoiding germs and infectious disease, that was the dominant health challenge. Today the health challenges are different. The health challenges are motivating people to move more, avoiding a diet, heavily industrial diet that can make you overweight, and taking daily actions that will prevent these chronic health conditions.

During the emergence of Judaism the importance of daily actions was huge. You know, in the Jewish tradition it wasn’t always about belief or attitude. Taking daily actions was extremely important. When you realize that many of those daily actions were hygienic actions that helped people avoid germs, you’re like oh, all right, so they had many of these rules where they had to wash their hands multiple times a day, just like we do today. And so in some sense today we have to find ways to motivate ourselves and take the daily actions required to be healthy human beings.

You can find the rest of the interview here, including commentary on whether paleo is a fad, eating on a budget, and what vegans get wrong (and right).

Podcast with Robb Wolf

Here it is — and it’s a good one.

We go behind-the-scenes and discuss my strategy embedded in The Paleo Manifesto.

  • Why it’s easier to agree on gorilla health than human health (Animal Age)
  • Using the Paleolithic as a starting point, not an ending point (Paleolithic Age)
  • Biblical hygiene, and the importance of culture (Agricultural Age)
  • Learning from the British about how to “not die” (Industrial Age)
  • Lessons from hackers, health as computation (Information Age)

Check it out.

And here’s the blurb Robb was kind enough to give:

The Paleo Manifesto is likely the most important contribution to the concept of ancestral health since Boyd Eaton’s original The Paleolithic Prescription.”
–Robb Wolf, New York Times bestselling author of The Paleo Solution

Detroit News: “I am very sick of caveman jokes.”

Fun column in today’s Detroit News:

“I am very sick of caveman jokes. I’ve been laughing at caveman jokes for seven years.”

Or at least pretending to. After the 2,000th GEICO reference, the smiles are as labored as a mammoth in a tar pit.

 Oh, well played, Neal Rubin — well played.

“The Paleo Manifesto” is not, by intent, a diet book. Shopping his proposal to publishers, he insisted that the word “diet” not be on the cover.

That probably cost him some offers [JD: it did], but it left him pleased with the final product, a highly readable blend of scholarship and occasional snark. (“If I’m not going to eat like a vegan, I sure as hell don’t want to act like one.”)

The rest of the article is well-written and entertaining.