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Oh my goodness, where to begin?
A lot of people keep asking me about food, and my philosophy on food, which is why I dedicated an entire section of my personal website to discuss the topic. But I almost hate to even say anything because I’ve found that food philosophy is a lot like religion – either you agree with me and therefore I’m a true believer OR I will say or do something that you disagree with, which will make me a heretic in your eyes.
Nonetheless, I believe that there are serious deficiencies, not just in the state of most people’s health, but in the fundamental understanding of what food and diet are all about. And, after more than 20 years of trying to figure out what’s going on, and how we came to this situation, I’ve finally got some answers that I believe are worth sharing.
Diets and Losing Weight
If you’re looking for tips on how to lose weight, you’re in the wrong place. If you want a “diet” that will help you slim down, I know one that works: simply stop eating. No, I am not saying that facetiously. Depending on how overweight you are, you can go without eating anything for months.
I’m sure you learned that people can only survive 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. The first two are true, while the second is not. I’m not just “guessing” that either. I’ve seen it documented on film. I can’t find the link at the moment, but when I do, I will post it here.
I disagree with most “diets” (meaning what to eat/not to eat in order to lose weight) because ALL DIETS work for a brief period of time. The issue is not how to slim down 10 pounds/4 kilos in a week, but how to truly understand what a sustainable and long-term relationship with food looks like.
I have successfully discovered and implemented a healthy diet for humans, cats, and dogs, and they all look different. I wrote an entire book about a healthy diet for cats, which you can find at the bottom of this page (or from the home page). Information on a good diet for dogs will be forthcoming one day.
This page, and the majority of my writing on this site, will address what is a healthy and sustainable diet for people, which is a more complex issue. But instead of me just saying “eat X and Y, and avoid Z and Q”, it’s essential to understand the history of food, and what all of this means for us living here today in the present.
A Short History of People and Food
If you ask the average person to imagine what life was like 15,000 years ago, they’ll often imagine it was nasty, brutish, and short, where people rarely lived past age 30, and had to scramble hard just to get a mouthful to eat. This is not true.
Likewise, I fully understand the paleo diet movement, which has a lot of merit, but it is equally true that we are modern people living in a modern world, and it’s nearly impossible to recreate a paleo lifestyle. First, few of us have the natural resources to hunt and grow our own foods, and secondly, a lot of the foods available today have been severely modified from their paleo original form.
Nonetheless, something happened about 12,000 years ago in a region now known as Anatolia in what is modern Turkey. I’m not saying that prior to that, all life was good, but what I am saying is that the single most important revolution in human history occurred at this time, and almost nobody knows about it.
It’s often referred to as the Neolithic Revolution, which is (perhaps) the right label, but is almost never a truly useful understanding of what actually happened, and why. If you parse modern understanding of the Neolithic Revolution, what you get is: “People just suddenly started farming because of how fun and awesome it was”.
After reading uncounted numbers of Sumerian texts, as well as Assyrian and Babylonian records, to say nothing of the transmogrified tales in Genesis (Bible), it’s clear that it really wasn’t that awesome or fun for the people caught up in this particular revolution.
If you don’t understand why people started farming, then you can’t understand where modern food (and food philosophy) comes from, which leads us to the ridiculous situation we’re in today, with billions of unhealthy people being counseled by government scientists that the “solution” to childhood obesity is that kids should exercise more.
I’ll have much more to say on this in my posts, but for now let me just clear up a few things I don’t believe in, and categorically know are untrue.
Food Facts I Disagree With
Obesity and modern diseases (stemming from a poor diet) are caused by…
- Too much salt
- Not enough exercise or physical activity
- Too much fat
- Eating too many calories
- Eating meat
- Eating a vegetarian diet
- Too much sugar
- Not eating “paleo”
- Fast food
- Not eating raw food
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Bad luck
- Drinking alcohol
- Modern food
I’m sure there’s a few more that I forgot because there are simply too many food “facts” to keep track of.
Here are a few things I do not believe are unequivocally bad for you:
- Being overweight
- Eating salt
- Eating fat
- Eating a lot of calories per day
- Fruit juice/fructose
- Not weighing/measuring food
- Eating meat
It’s Not Just About Food
Today, most people focus on food either as a matter of personal health (weight, diseases, etc) or as a factor in society (healthcare costs, etc). Occasionally, the lens gets pulled back a bit further, as people focus on diet and its impact on the environment (raising billions of cows adds methane, a greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere).
Those are all noble pursuits, but I propose something far more significant: food is the fundamental factor in every aspect of modern life. Yes, I am saying that food is the prime mover in issues as (seemingly) diverse as war, racism, crime, depression, the economy, money (especially wealth disparity), mental illness, taxes, slavery, and a whole host of problems that have plagued the human race seemingly since the beginning of time.
The ancient texts mirror the daily newspaper – in general, life sucks, people are doing really bad things to one another, and our fellow animals, plants, and the entire planet are being ravaged, polluted, and are rapidly heading towards complete destruction.
If you were somehow able to read every single book and text that’s ever been written, you’d correctly come to the conclusion that humanity’s experience of life on this planet pretty much sucks. Yes, there are a few bright spots, but the scales are weighted far to the negative side, with class inequality, murder, and mayhem far more representative than random acts of kindness and social harmony. For every person living in a quasi-egalitarian democracy, there are 50 living under brutal regimes of caste-based inequality and government repression. And for every healthy person, there are 50 who are dying either from malnutrition or from an over-consumption of junk foods.
Everyone wants to be one of the lucky few, who is healthy, is not repressed by a brutal and murderous government, and has enough material resources not to have to eke out a daily struggle against deprivation and suffering, but you don’t need to be a statistician to know that the lucky few are just that – few.
Most world religions (and atheist social anthropologists) will tell you simply that’s the way it is. You can either follow supernatural dictates and get your ticket punched for a glamorous existence in the afterlife, or follow certain “reforms” and slightly improve things in the here and now, but generally speaking, “human nature” is corrupt, wicked, and/or evil, and there’s little that can be done aside from wave a magic wand (or wait for a wand waver to appear) to transform humanity overnight into something more angelic.
I understand where this sentiment is coming from, and, rationally, it makes sense given the available evidence. And yet whether we look to birds or bees, it is glaringly obvious that humanity is drastically unique in this sense, a race of creatures which disproportionately suffers compared to the billions of our neighbors inhabiting this planet. But why is that? Why is humanity so desperately sick, with the vast majority of its members suffering so much on a daily basis?
To solve this “case”, you’ve got to apply a little Sherlock Holmesian logic, remembering the dog that didn’t bark in the night. Yes, the available evidence does point to some inherent defect (“Original Sin”) in humanity’s fundamental character. But once you know where to look, you can see just how much evidence is not available, and is therefore not being considered.
We’ll get to what that evidence is, and how to find it, and what it means, in other posts on this site. But I can tell you that once I started knowing what to look for, I was able to trace it down through history right to its source: food. Specifically, what happened about 15,000 years ago. And once you can identify that culprit, all the rest unravels in a neat little string, everything from war and taxes to wealthy inequality, mental illness, and yes, of course, obesity and a chronic undersupply of physical health.
It’s a surprising journey, I promise you that much. So stick with me here as I follow this story from its ancient beginning right to where it ends, here in the modern world in which we all live.
My continuing posts on this subject can be found here.