Where the Paleo Message is Failing

For the past two years I have done numerous posts on nutritional topics. I’ve documented and shared the huge improvements in my health that I’ve had once I adopted a lower-carbohydrate and more paleo diet. During the real estate and stock market bubble I witnessed how conventional financial wisdom was wrong. Real estate doesn’t always go up and it is not always a great time to invest in the stock market. As bad as Americans are being lied to on the financial markets, the nutritional lies are far worse.

Several of my friends and readers to this site have been inspired by my nutritional journey and have made positive changes to their diet. I have 3 friends that have lost in excess of 60 pounds and many more that are 20-30 pounds lighter. I’m not the only one that has figured out that the paleo diet works. There is now a widespread low-carb/paleo blogger community.

beef-short-ribs

100% grass fed – Beef short ribs

The message that conventional nutritional wisdom is wrong and that a pre-agricultural diet is superior for optimal health is growing. However, I have noticed a clear pattern on who is listening to the message and who is ignoring it.

People Who Are Most Receptive to the Paleo Message

  • Men
  • People with engineering, financial or scientific backgrounds.
  • People with health problems that conventional medicine has failed to solve.
  • Adults between 20 and 40.

People Who Are Least Receptive to the Paleo Message

  • Women
  • People without degrees or with more humanity based degrees.
  • People who view their own health shortcomings as their fault.
  • Adults over 40.
  • Vegetarians (of course)
  • Cardio junkies – runners, bikers and other sugar addicts.

Now there are exceptions to the lists above. They are generalizations, but the pattern is clear. The paleo message for whatever reasons is failing with the people who need to hear it the most. Older adults and women make up a high percentage of the obesity problem. Women also tend to make the food purchases for their children. And we all are aware of the childhood obesity problem.

It is probably just a matter of time before paleo eating becomes more widespread, but part of me thinks the failing message is the fault of the paleo blogging community. What started as a simple message of returning to a diet from our evolutionary past has become an industry. Books, seminars, DVDs and even conventions. What is next? Paleo certification. 🙄 Blog posts that used to be simple and straight forward now read like medical journals. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those posts, but I already know the message and I am a nutrition geek. I do know that people without a science or engineering background are not going to be receptive to chest beating cavemen linking to PubMed abstracts.

What to do? For me it is all about communicating self empowerment and making gradual positive permanent changes. People need to learn to trust themselves and feel in control. Replacing one expert with another does not build this skill. The paleo message at its core is really quite simple. I hope I am wrong, but I don’t see the paleo message getting to the people who need to hear it the most.

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MAS

Critical MAS is the blog for Michael Allen Smith of Seattle, Washington. My interests include traditional food, fitness, economics, and web development.

11 thoughts on “Where the Paleo Message is Failing”

  1. I might also add that change is hard for people, especially when it sounds complicated. and frankly (myself included) people are lazy.

    So if indeed the “paleo message at its core is really quite simple” then that’s the message that needs to get out. Paleo also isn’t really a catchy word. It sounds caveman like and we’d like to think we’ve evolved…

    Look at other self-help “diet” programs: South Beach Diet (sounds fun), The Zone (sounds simple), The Mayo Clinic Diet (experts), The 4 Day Diet (easy and quick)… you get the picture. Its all about the rhetoric 🙂

  2. @Jenn – Excellent points. I never thought too much about the name. It does sound kind of sitting around a campfire grunting. That might appeal to 20 year old males, but not the majority of us.

    I don’t think people are as lazy as they’ve been lead to believe. Demoralized is probably a more accurate term. Some people are making lots of money by convincing the public to eat unhealthy foods and then convincing them they are powerless to make the changes needed for better health.

  3. Maybe “lazy” was overstating, but I do believe that most people only change when they have to. Some people have to hit bottom, or find their current situation or state of health intolerable.

  4. Paleo bloggers who would like to be more successful at inspiring people to change their behaviors might want to take a look at health promotion theory. It is one strategy source that public health folks have been using for years to encourage healthy behaviors (sometimes successfully and sometimes not so much). Ironically, it is largely based on the same set of behavioral theory advertisers use to devise their tactics.

  5. What are the long-term effects of a paleo diet? I get the weight loss part and such but will it cause an increase of plaque buildup in the arteries?

    thanks

  6. @thomas – It is inflammation that leads to many of the modern health problems. Grains, factory meat and processed seed oils are highly inflammatory. A paleo diet eliminates grains, favors grass-fed animals and avoids seed oils. It is how humans ate prior to agriculture for 2.5 million years.

    To see the benefits of a paleo diet, one need not adopt every behavior. I still eat dairy and have ice cream during the summer months.

  7. Thanks for your reply. Although I am basically vegetarian (for animal cruelty and health reasons), I don’t have anything against those who eat meat. Occasionally, I will eat meat but I try to avoid it. I realize the inflammatory effects of the above-mentioned, but still eat it.

    I am trying to come up with a mainly vegetarian diet but includes meals of eggs, cheese (for taste), and whey protein. My main problem is energy. I always sort of feel down physically. I can sort of function but can fall asleep at the drop of a hat (almost too easily).

    I am always amazed by people who have a lot of energy. I think that having low energy causes a loop of depression or lack of enthusiasm in general. Do you have energy problems? Or more pointedly, what level of energy do you generally have b/w 1-10 throughout the course of a day (assuming 8 hours sleep). Mine is probably a 4. I would like to be a 7.

    Any advice? thanks

  8. I really don’t what to stray too far off the topic of this post, which is about how the paleo message is failing to get to large section of the population. However, I will say that my energy levels are higher on a paleo diet than when I did different variations of the vegetarian diet. Moving from being fueled primarily by carbs to primarily fats has increased and leveled my energy.

    I will do a post or two on vegetarian diets at some point. Talking about diets can be as touchy as politics and religion, so I will be delicate.

  9. What a fantastic blog!! So glad I found it via a friend’s post on Twitter.

    Interestingly, this post just showed up on my radar as I’ve embarked on Paleo eating this week. Feel fantastic.

    The name definitely threw me off, as I’m more of a girly girl than a grunting she-woman, but a friend was persistent.

    Where might I find some simple, reasonable post that simplify Paleo please?

    Thanks!!!
    Lori

  10. @ Lori – Maybe I need to post my own paleo overview, because most of the definitions I’ve read are either way too detailed or more extreme than they need to be.

    Look at the list on PaNu. I would add one habit a month from the list and test it for 30 days. Listen to your body. I follow 8 of these in the summer and 10 in the winter. The first 6 on the list are the most important.

  11. That would be fantastic! 😀 I’ve been eating (mostly) this way as far as I can tell for the past week and feel SO good!

    Thanks for all the great info!

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