Archive for the ‘Food and Society’Category

God-replacement: filling the void with food

“Oh my god, is she going to talk about religion?”

HAH.  You bet!

Peripherally, at least.  Now’d be a good time to exit if existential questions make you uncomfortable.

We live in a godless world.  That isn’t to say that people don’t believe in God.  They do, and that’s cool.  In my own hyper-qualified, super sciency way, I believe in God, too.  And that’s important.  I’ll get to that in a bit.  My point, however, is about what we, as modern humans, lack, and the crazy ways in which we try to make up for that.

What we lack is Meaning.  Fulfillment.  Serenity.  Assurance.  Gone are the days where we could ease fears about dying with assurances of heaven and limbo and reincarnation.  Gone are the days where we can assume we partake in a beautiful story unfolding throughout a grandiose history.  Gone are the days where we are hunter-gathering humans who have no concern for these things… because in that case what you do is go about your daily life, return home to your cave  at night and make love to your husband(s), and sleep peacefully knowing that your tribe is alive and well.

Today, we worry about things.  We question them.  We live in a world of hyper doubt.   The constant barrage of resources and differing opinions makes living otherwise virtually impossible– and who would want to be a hermit, anyway?   What’s worse than that, however, is how we are situated in this culture of doubt.  Doubt by itself is no evil thing, but doubt in a world in which feelings of support, love, and communal comfort are generally rare is something I would like to call a Big Fucking Issue.

But just you wait, you say.  I like doubts.  I like truth.  I like having the hard facts of the world laid out in front of me.  Even though I know it’s psychologically difficult, I would not have it any other way.

I agree with you.  I am the same.  I cannot sacrifice truth.  I cannot let go of doubt.  We are the modern world.  We are born of it, we breathe it, and we actively construct it ourselves.  Fears about our existence, and uncertainty about purpose….. these are things that we just have to live with, and that’s okay.

The problem is that we don’t live with them correctly.   These desperate fears and anxieties are deeply rooted in our psychologies, probably far deeper than we could ever imagine.  They worm their way in our brains from early childhood on, and our lives are constant reinforcements of the fact that nothing is ever certain.  In some worlds, this might be mangaeable.  If we lived in small communities, if we spent time every evening in the company of people we loved, doing activities that we loved, rather than being isolated by computer screens and our obsessions with internet communities, we might feel less despair.  We might feel less like something is missing.  

If we had more human contact, I think a lot of things would be better in our lives.  This is one of the big ways in which we might ease existential fear.    Because humans–real, live, squishy humans who rub our backs when we go to sleep at night–these are the things that assure us best that we are not alone.  It is crucial for our well-being that we do not feel alone.

But we are, in many ways, alone.  And even if we don’t feel alone generally, we spend a lot more time in isolation these days than is probably optimal.  And then even if we did have optimal human comfort, we might still be floundering.  Meaning still might be missing from our lives in important ways, even though we  can construct meaning in things such as hedonism, activism, and the arts (which I do not deride–they are important for our well-being, too).  We still might be mired down by questions.  Why is there so much suffering in the world?  Why is there so much suffering in my life?  What is the underlying nature of reality?  Is there a god?  What is going to happen to me when I die?   Oh god, please don’t let me die, please don’t let me die…


I think a lot of these questions lead us to live a bit of frantic lifestyle.  Because we are unhappy, and alone, maybe, and because we worry so much about what it means to make a meaningful life, we spend all of our free time doing our best to fill it.  We cannot have a still second, otherwise we have to be alone with our thoughts.  Or, even worse, beyond that: we cannot have a still second because resting would mean that we are not achieving perfection.  We are not getting that promotion.  We are not earning enough money for an HD TV.   And if you don’t take over the world with your ambitions, (or at least get that TV you promised your children) then what the fuck is your life amounting to?

Will you arrive at your 80th birthday party and have terrible regrets?

Is that not one of your greatest fears?

Anyway.  That’s my case for the existential worry.   I think it’s in all of us, to varying degrees.   I think there’s a big, gaping, hurting hole there, and if we don’t fill it with good things like deities or other human beings, we fill it with negative things like perfectionism, consumerism, and mind-numbing devices like TV and the internet.


It’s a bit much for me to say: “solve your existential crisis, be at peace, and you’ll stop exhibiting disordered eating behavior.”  But that is essentially what I am saying.   I am not trying to convince you that it’s 100 percent effective (or that people who believe in God don’t have eating disorders– of course they do).*  But I can tell you that these kinds of worries, the big deal kinds of worries, underlie a lot of the anxiety that manifests itself in our lives in different ways.   And we know that anxiety is one of the biggest triggers of disordered eating.  Believe in God:** salvage your digestive track.


Let me tell you a quick story.

I have been an anxious person for 23 years.  I don’t think there has been a moment of my life that wasn’t consumed by anxiety of one sort or another, and I think, too, that a great many of those moments were overlaid with pressure, by impatience, by irritability, and by anger.  I don’t know if I would have been able to attribute those nasty personality traits to my existential crisis, but I might have ceded the point to you if you asserted it yourself.  I was a high-strung, angry person.  It sucked.

I did a lot of eating.

For a variety of reasons, many of them scholarly and some of them experiential, I have come to see death as less terrifying.  I have come to feel a Buddhist-type release of my attachment to the world, and I have morphed into a more spiritual, less nihilistic being.

My anger has dissipated, my anxiety has floated away, and my eating…

well, it happens less.

I have always known that I ate to fill a loneliness hole.  I felt isolated, and the mechanical act of ingesting food made me forget that fact.   Now that I don’t feel so existentially lost and afraid, and now that I am at peace with existence and myself when I am alone, I don’t feel the need to fill the void with food.

It’s something to think on, anyway.



*but I can tell you that it is almost 100 percent definitively known that the greater belief one has in “something beyond humans” spanning from apophatic mystic conceptions of God to the Dao to a man with a beard in the sky, the greater psychological stability and well-being he exhibits.

**God-type thing.



02 2012

Pepper’s advanced paleo archives: >200 kick ass posts for growing your perspective

Click here for the Introductory Archives.

What follows is a natural extension of the work I’ve done on the last two archives.  My primary aim in starting those archives was to provide to my readers with an overview of the vast wealth of research and work out there showing why an evolutionary perspective is important.  If that list of blog posts doesn’t convince you to give paleo eating a shot, I don’t know what will.

But I also struggled, when compiling that list, with thoughts like: “yes, but…”  For example: I wanted to present a clear picture of weight loss.  But there isn’t a clear picture of weight loss!   Even more controversial is CarbsGood versus CarbsBad, or InsulinOkay versus InsulinBad.  There exist, also, different opinions on ketosis, dairy, macronutrients, hormone regulation, how bad wheat is for non-celiacs, whether or not it’s good to eat fruit, hell, even the metabolic advantage… The point is:  there exists one consensus:  Paying attention to evolution is a good idea.  But what are the particulars?   What are the nuances?  Where is today’s cutting edge and insight? I’m really interested in these dialogues, and I know thousands of you are, too.

Here, I have compiled different positions on ‘controversial’ topics.  Instead of trying to convince you to go paleo, here, I am hoping to open your mind and show you the vast intellectual debate, exploration, and integrity going on out there.  It’s pretty amazing, and it is ridiculously difficult to keep up with, but I do my best.  The advanced archive is, thus, as follows:

Table of Contents:

Evolutionary History

Contemporary Non-SAD


Weight management and body composition: calories in v calories out?

Metabolic Regulation


Raw v cooked

Infectious diseases


Gluten and grains toxicity


Fructose toxicity





Evolutionary history

The case of the missing extinctions

The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization

The health of hunter-gatherers versus agriculturalists

The worst mistake the history of the human race by Jared Diamond

Estimated macronutrient and fatty acid intakes from an East African Paleolithic diet

Early man in UK 780 000 years ago

The evolution of costly traits

Things that get on my nerves: the thrifty gene hypothesis

Ethnobiological commentary: Professor “gumby”

What can the diet of gorillas tell us about humans?

No baked potatoes for ancient Europeans

The new genetics: introduction and Part IV: Who’s in the driver’s seat?

How long does it take for a food related trait to evolve?

Contemporary non-SAD

Nutrition and physical degeneration

The Mbuti of Eastern Zaire

Okinawa: the island of pork

Masai and atherosclerosis

Exercise and body fat and hunter-gatherer activity

The Tokelau Island migrant study

The Tokelau Island migrant study: the final word

SAD versus traditional Japanese diets

Loren Cordain Plant-Animal Subsistence Ratios and Macronutrient Energy Estimations in Worldwide Hunter-Gatherer diets

The Inuit: Lessons from the Arctic

Mortality and lifespan of the Inuit

Cancer among the Inuit

Interview with a Kitavan

Kitava: wrapping it up

Cardiovascular risk factors in Kitava: Part IV

Kitavans: Wisdom from the Pacific Islands

Kitava and Uric acid

Living on Kitava

Leptin and lectins: Kuna

Say hello to the Kuna

Genetics and disease: the Pima

More Masai

Contradicting conventional wisdom: Bantu and Masai

Glucose tolerance in non-industrial cultures

Potato eating cultures

In search of traditional Asian diets

I’m so bored of the Kitavans

The Mediterranean diet: Pasta or pastrami?

Weston A Price and Sub Saharan tribes

The good Scots diet

Thailand: land of the coconut

Merrie Olde England

Koreans and beef

Surprising facts about Japanese foodways

Eating by the seasons in Russia

Australian Aborigines: Living off the fat of the land


9 Steps to perfect health number four: supplement wisely

Multi-vitamins boost breast cancer risk

Any point in antioxidant supplements?

Antioxidants do more harm than good?

Is red wine good for you?

Folic acid

Vitamin D supplementation bad?

The vitamin primer

From seafood to sunshine: a new understanding of vitamin D

Vitamin A on trial: does vitamin A cause osteoporosis?

Copper-zinc imbalance: more problems with plant based diets

The great iodine debate

Vitamin B12: Vital for good health

Vitamin B6: the underappreciated vitamin

Magnificent magnesium

Mineral primer

Are protein supplements as good as advertised?

Adiponectin supplementation: body fat loss

The mechanism of green tea

Vitamin K2: a summary


Fish oil or not?

Mark sisson on multivitamins

Throwing the gauntlet: omega 3 supplementation recommendations

Plants and plant compounds are not essential or magic

Weight management and body fat storage: calories in v calories out?

The China Study: Carbohydrates, fat, calories, insulin, and obesity

Clarifications about insulin, leptin, and reward

Carbsane: Why I eat low carb

Calories, fat, or carbohydrates: why diets work (when they do)

The twinkie diet for fat loss

Non-exercise activities like fidgeting may account for 1000 percent difference in body fat gain

How to lose weight

Spontaneous calorie reduction on low carb diet

3500 calories =? 1 pound?

A calorie is a calorie!

Exercise versus diet for weight loss

Leptin, Insulin, adipose tissue, and regulatory hormone

Is insulin resistance really making us fat?

The body fat setpoint: how to change it

Why we get fat

Carbsane Vs Taubes on Why we get fat

Do other theories dispel the calorie hypothesis?  Carbsane response to Guyenet

Views on insulin and obesity

Fasting insulin and weight loss

Low carb, central adiposity, estrogen, and insulin resistance

Regulation of circulating adiponectin

Atrial Natriuretic Peptide: Another fat mobilization hormone?

The myth of starving cells

Microflora and energy balance

Low carb and leptin

Where does insulin resistance start?  The adipose cells

Growth hormone, insulin, body fat accumulation

Growth hormone secretion decreases with age, but not how you’d expect

Butyric acid: an ancient regulator of metabolism, inflammation and stress response

Insulin, leptin, aging, and health

Leptin resistance and sugar

Leptins and lectin

Physiological insulin resistance

Our body’s priority is preventing hypoglycemia, not hyperglycemia

Intermittent fasting, engineered foods, leptin, and ghrelin

Growth hormone: the fountain of youth

Insulin is a door-man at the fat cell night club, not a lock on the door

Insulinogenic is not hyperglycemic

Insulin and glucagon

Insulin resistance and P1K3

Type I diabetes, adiponectin, and leptin

Fat: the endocrine organ

Fasting insulin and weight loss

Fasting insulin and weight loss on a water fast

Growth hormone, insulin resistance, and body fat accumulation

Stephan Guyenet’s recent thoughts on carbohydrate and reward

Thoughts on obesity inspired by Stephan Guyenet


Short term effects of adding carbohydrate to a very low carbohydrate diet

Dangers of zero carb diets, part IV

A brief discussion of ketosis

The effects of consuming a high carbohydrate diet after 8 weeks in ketosis

Ketones and ketosis: physiological versus pathological forms

Ketosis, methylglyoxal and accelerated aging: probably more fiction than fact

Thoughts on Ketosis I and II

Autism and ketogenic diets

Why a ketogenic diet reverses kidney damage in type I and type II diabetics

Ketogenic diet

Ketosis in a low carb diet

Raw vs cooked:

The China Study: Are raw plant foods giving people cancer?

Raw paleo and food re-enactment

Raw paleo and zero carb: right for the wrong reasons

Raw journey Part I

More raw truth about raw vegan diets

Infectious diseases

Nutrition and infectious diseases

Fats and absorbing endotoxins

Short term effects of adding carbohydrates to VLC diets: endotoxins

Does celiac require an infection?

Heliobacter and glucose



Polyphenols, hormesis, and disease, part II

Polyphenol hormesis follow-up

Mother Earth and polyphenols

Gluten and grains toxicity

Quinoa, millet, emmer and einkorn wheat

Reactions to bread: gluten or fructans?

Eating gluten causes symptoms in some people who don’t have celiac disease

The China Study: Wheat might not be so bad for you if you eat 221 g of animal products daily

Traditional preparation methods increase nutritional value of grains

Wheat: in search of scientific objectivity

Minerals, milling, grains, and tubers

The argument against cereal grains

Avoid poison or neutralize it?

Where are all the healthy whole grains?

Wheat and lactose: no one is tolerant of WGA

Gluten sensitivity: promises and problems


Potato diet interpretation

Potatoes and human health, part III

Weight loss on potatoes

Interview with a Kitavan

Kitava: wrapping it up

Potato eating cultures

Taters, eh?  Saponins in potatoes are possibly important

What’s the trouble with sweet potatoes?

Fructose: controversy?

The China Study: Fruit consumption and mortality

The fructose index is the new glycemic index

The bitter truth about fructose alarmism

Why did we evolve a taste for sweetness?

Fructose, not HFCS: Serenity now, death earlier?

Fructose and the tropics

Paleo and fructose

Fructose in fruits may be good for you, especially if you are low in glycogen

Lipogenesis versus adipose tissue gain: Fructose?


Devil in the milk

Dairy fat and diabetes

Pastured dairy may prevent heart attacks

Cheese’s vitamin K2 content, pasteurization, and beneficial enzymes

Cheese consumption, visceral fat, and adiponectin levels

Lactose intolerance: Often a result of ‘silent’ wheat derived bowel disease

A taste of dairy

How dairy entered the human diet

Dairy and its effects on insulin secretion

Mark Sisson’s definitive guide to dairy

Lactase persistence in Europe

Casein versus gluten


How to raise HDL

HDL and immunity

Cholesterol and innate immunity

The central role of LDL receptor in heart disease

Myths and truths about cholesterol

What cause heart attacks?

The China study: Cholesterol seems to protect against cardiovascular disease

Meta-analysis finds no evidence that saturated fat promotes heart disease

Does dietary fat increase cholesterol or promote heart disease?

Statins and the cholesterol hypothesis, part I

Can a statin neutralize the cardiovascular risk of unhealthy dietary choices?

Dirty little secrets of the fat-heart hypothesis

Coronary heart disease: possible culprits part II

The Choline Smackdown (why you should save your liver and eat cholesterol containing foods)

When your brain is hungry for cholesterol

The diet-heart hypothesis, oxidized LDL, part II

Macronutrients: how many?  Is this even the right way to think about food?

9 Steps to perfect health part 2: Nourish your body, or, not all macronutrients are created equal

The myth of the high protein diet

Low carb diet trumps low fat

Positive and negative feedback on replacing protein with carbohydrates

Can you be lean on a low protein diet?

Protein, satiety, and body composition

Can protein turn into fat?

Dangers of zero carb diets: can there be a carbohydrate deficiency?

No such thing as a macronutrient: carbohydrates

No such thing as a macronutrient: fats

FODMAPs (a carbohydrate)

Carbs deserve a presumption of guilt

Carbohydrates: no dietary requirement but metabolically critical



06 2011

Eat. Real. Foods. But. Science. Wins.

The paleosphere is in a bit of an upheaval these days. Are carbs in, or are carbs out, or, fuck it, why are we thinking about food that way in the first place?  Is gluten in, or is gluten out?  What about wheat in general?  Or fructose?  There’s a lot of metabolic shit going on it, and yes, it really is very complicated.  However, the majority of the science is starting to promote, these days, a method of eating that eliminates processed goods and is as Real as possible.  That “Realness” is the subject of this post.

.I don’t eat fruit.  Fruit is a a natural food, but I don’t like the way it makes me feel.  It’s the first step for me on a long road towards addictive behavior.  Sweet things have that effect on me, and I’m not sure that’s ever going to change.  They also tend to make me fat.  I don’t know if this is because I overeat them or not.  I can’t be sure.   Science says maybe.    To be safe, I generally just stay clear.

Yet Richard just wrote a great piece highlighting results from a natural fruit vs. processed fructose study.   The lesson?  Fruit is not, in fact, the devil.  This is good science, and I’m glad to read good results, even if they go against my “feelings.”  Go read it. Richard is a great writer, and the information in that article is priceless.   No one is arguing that high amounts of fructose aren’t poisoning.  They are.  It’s called Pepsi.  But it seems as though the natural stuff (in moderation) isn’t harmful.  I am reminded, thus, of the mantra of Paul Jaminet: the poison is in the dosage.  Amen.  With some things it’s a small dose, and with others it’s a moderate size dose, and with everything it is a matter of our internal environments.   Science can tell us the level of toxicity of a given food, and then we need to integrate it into our diets as we see fit.  Have an apple if you want an apple, for god’s sake.  Don’t eat them if you don’t want to.  Eat french fries, too!  There, I said it.  And I mean it.  You are not going to die.   Jesus.

A good diet can probably be boiled down to, Richard concludes, as consuming Real Foods.  This lines up with common sense, in many ways, and it’s an idea that people the world over feel comfortable with.  Billions of people might sign a petition if Richard started one.   It’s nice to know, too, that science is lining up with that intuition.  Huzzah for everybody!   Eat the fruit of the planet!  And all will be well.

Yet there exists a Megatron of a caveat, and it goes a bit like this:

Intuition is not always right. Richard would agree with me.*   While Richard does in fact conclude that Real Foods are the answer, it’s important to bear in mind that the bulk of his post is concerned with the very detailed, thorough study conducted about a specific fructose issue.  This post was based on science.

For example: a whole hell of a lot of people include “whole grains” in the Real Foods category of foods.  Smart dieters, however, question that idea, based on science. Smart dieters do not accept current ideas just because they “nice” or “the USDA said so” or — worst of all — “they feel good in my body.” Smart dieters listen to a variety of sources, including society, science, and their bodies, and they then filter that information into an appropriate diet plan.   Intuition is all well and good, but it is not the answer.

Science, flawed as it is, always wins.  Check out this recent post by Dr Eades.  The idea of “listening to your body,” above all other things, is the shittiest, most moronic, shit shit shit on the planet.  Sadly, ashamedly, I often say it to avoid awkwardness or coming across as abrasive.  “Try different diets and see how you feel!” I say.  Fuck me.    What I mean is: “experiment on yourself, and do what feels good, but make sure you’re not conflicting with sound science.”  Dr Eades makes a great analogy.  Should people who are trying to quit smoking “listen to their bodies?”   Should recovering addicts or alcoholics “listen to their bodies?”  Should people who need to lose weight but feel lethargic from being sedentary their whole lives “listen to their bodies?”  Ack!  No!  Sometimes toxic substances and bad situations put our bodies at a disadvantage, and we are no longer capable of intuiting the proper decisions.  Sometimes we are tempted with substances far beyond our natural abilities to handle.  Sometimes we have to just fucking deal with the contemporary world, and buck up and face facts.  Society is not always right.  Your feelings are not always right.  Your ideas are not always right.

So I stay on guard.  I continually revise and edit my views and practices, based on a lot of different input.  I have a lot of quotes taped to my wall, but in the center of them is one word: “listen.”  Yeah.  It’s the solution to a million problems, I think.  Listen to Real Foodists.  Really.  And Do What Feels Right. And, hell, Listen To Pepper If You Don’t Think She’s Crazy.  But make sure none of those things get in the way of optimizing your health and your life.  If I could make a pyramid of the things I listen to, it would go like this:

Evil Doers



Conventional wisdom

The contemporary zeitgeist


My intuition



My body

Science (note how Science is not a Scientist)

My brain (principles, not rules: testing old ideas against new ones, reasoning)


I like this list, god damnit.  My brain goes at the top simply because I have no other option (sup Kant), and I’m fine with that.  I like my brain. Society and tradition and ideas of “Real Food” are pretty low on my priorities.  And note even that my body beats out scientists.  Just because someone performs experiments doesn’t mean he isn’t biased or is flawless or delivers or interprets information adequately.  He might tell me he learned some important information– for example– that the China study showed animal-based diets lead to heart disease– and I should trust him why?  Being an expert is awesome, but it isn’t the end all be all.  Psychologists have, in fact, shown that expert opinion is so divisive that crowds choose the “proper” course of actions as often as experts do.

Then comes my body, which is super important.   No one knows it better than I do, and no one has experienced how it reacts to certain foods the way I have experienced them.  Fructose isn’t all that good for me.  Neither are carbs in general.  It just doesn’t work.  I also find I am really sensitive to omega 3 and 6 imbalances.  I eat more fish than normal people do.  So shoot me.

But I do these things both because they feel good and they don’t conflict with science. I’m not saying that science is a god or a panacea, but an integration of our experiences with science is the closest damn thing we’re ever going to get.

So walk hand in hand with your feelings, and revel in the fruits of the earth, but keep your ear on the ground.  We can predict, but we never do know what a good experiment will reveal next.


*an egregious presumption


06 2011

What’s on the web? Pepper’s paleo archive: 120 relevant and awesome posts

How much is on the web?  Too much?

When you’re looking for advice, or for specific information, sometimes it’s really hard to find what you’re looking for.  That’s why I try–but it really is so hard–to be as comprehensive as possible with my posts and my pages.  I want to support healthy thinking and disordered eaters as well as contribute to the Paleo Zeitgeist, and, perhaps most importantly, help my friends and family and other newcomers get going with new nutrition and new diets.   This is a huge goal and a diverse set of desires, which is why it’s so impossible to be comprehensively awesome.

Because I so desperately want to provide good information to my readers, I have begun compiling an archive of relevant posts.  It’s almost impossible to google what you want to know about nutrition and find a good answer these days.  Almost always Paleo Hacks comes up for the first ten results, and then some other advice forums.   I’ve started automatically typing -”paleo hacks” into every search bar for this very reason.  It helps, some.   But still I am often stymied.  This is because what I am really looking for is the Good Stuff.  And what I hope I am giving to you, here, is exactly that.  I should have done this sooner.  I should have started years ago.  But better late than never, I am certain.

I decided to finally get started on this because I want to open up my readers  to the vast wealth of research going on out there.  Yes, it’s about cutting grains.  Yes, you should cut sugar.  Yes, you should balance your omega 3 and omega 6 consumption.  But why?  How many different ways does that impact your health?  How many different body functions and micronutrients does your nutrition impact?   How many different opinions are there?  Almost countless amounts.  What I touch on in my blog is nothing. Nothing!  It truly is.   What I even touch on in this post is nothing.  The tippiest, tippiest point of the iceberg.   Stars of the paleo movement are day in day out out there on a rowboat next to the iceberg, chipping away at science, digging through academic journals and staying up to date on the latest research, and I want to help you find and navigate them.  For a number of reasons, I am not one of these stars.  Instead, I filter through their material and sometimes read the academic stuff, and do my best to live  and eat and recommend eating habits accordingly.   If you know me personally, you will not be surprised to learn that I have read each of these blogs in their entirety (along with the rest of the blogs in my blogroll on the right) at least once.  I think they all deserve that deep of attention and analysis.  It is unfortunate that I only have a handful of posts from each blogger on here.  All the more reason, however, to follow the link and see what you can learn.

What follows is a collection of articles by various scientists, doctors, nutritionists, and paleo lifestyle-ers on a variety of health topics.    This is so far away from comprehensive it’s ridiculous.   However, I do not want to overwhelm my new readers.   Instead,  my hope is to provide what I think is both healthy blog diversity and perhaps the best investigation on each topic. Some topics I miss and some I know I don’t do justice to– such as intermittent fasting, and also, weight loss– but 120 is, I think, a good enough starting point.  I have been working on this for many days, and it’s time for me to start going to school again.

So what’s out there that I think you should be reading, and why?  What follows are some specific articles and also general recommendations.


For the updated archives (250+), please see this post or this page.



Feel deprived? Throw a hearty ‘fuck you’ at American culture

What the fuck.  I live in the most abundant age, and in the most abundant place, that this planet has ever known.  As mentioned before, there are more choices in my life than I could ever, ever possibly imagine.  And yet: I feel as though I don’t have enough.  I can’t eat enough.  I can’t consume enough.  I can’t do enough.  I can’t be enough.   What the fuck is going on?

Someone once pointed out to me that we were raised in a culture in which our grandparents and parents suffered deprivation.  I acknowledge this point.  My father, for example, is an extraordinarily frugal man because of the frugal and tenuously stable environment in which he grew up.  I’ve learned a lot from him, and I’m grateful for this experience.  But my father feels more secure and content than practically every person I know.  I think this “Great Depression” theory is a pretty poor explanation for my feelings of deprivation.  If I really were feeling the pains of that time period, or of the giant monetary burdens I am shouldering during this century’s own clusterfuck of an economy, I might, instead of feeling deprived, be overjoyed at the abundance of cheap choices available to me.  Indeed: it seems to me that those who lived through such frugal times do not quail at the abundance of our culture, but instead (I think) tend to happily proceed on minimal means and take advantage of whatever benefits come their way.

So, big deal.  People are deprived all over the world.  The problem really is is that we exist in a culture designed to make us want more.  Choices are abundant, and we live in a sea of variety, such that every time we make a choice, we end up regretting the choice we did not make.  I feel this pressure in a big way in deciding which graduate school to attend in the fall, and I feel this pressure in a more mundane way when choosing what foods to eat a buffet.  And since this problem is more mundane, it effects more of my daily life.  Still using the buffet for an example, I always try to get as much of it as possible, because if I don’t try every food then aren’t I being deprived of something I could otherwise have at minimal cost?   Think about the PIES for god’s sake.  Apple, blueberry, strawberry, mixed berry, pumpkin, banana cream, key lime, lemon meringue… jesus christ thank GOD I am paleo and I don’t have to make that kind of choice anymore.   Even worse, this tyranny of choice doesn’t just apply to my taste buds but to my sense of nutrition: if I choose to go for the seaweed because of its iodine content, I am instead missing out on the lycopene in the tomatoes!  Woe is me!  How can I ever be healthy?  How can I ever be satisfied?  How can I ever meet all the needs society is insisting I have?

Commercials, advertisements, companies, even schools, universities, and governments… they depend on us feeling deprived.  Its our deprivation that makes us consume their products and services.   Don’t have enough education?  The University of Phoenix is here for you!  Too fat?  Try my food!  Too ugly?  Try my eight billion dollar cosmetics industry!  Chasing progress (but not perfection) is all well and good, but American culture positively pounds it into us.  If you don’t have this new thing or that new fad or God knows what popular personality trait, then you’re just not cutting it.  You need to be perfect to find happiness, to find a lover, to be complete.  This sucks.  Idiots.

This is present in all aspects of our lives, and in all forms of consumption, but it is particularly striking in food culture.  What kills me the most is that…well, we have this abundance.   We have established that this can lead to unhealthy thought patterns.  Even worse, however, is that we are given feelings of inadequacy to go along with the deprivation. We see commercials and advertisements and friends with freakishly mutant genetics and start to develop a crazy idea: other people have what I want, but they don’t suffer negative consequences.  That woman on the TV can eat chocolates and not have fat thighs!  My friends can eat dairy without developing acne!  My brother can eat pounds of ice cream a day without nary a negative side effect!  Why am I so unique, and so deprived, and so incapable of having the same pleasures as everyone else?  We are simultaneously bombarded with signals that scream: “you need more products and variety!” and signals that scream: “these people are perfect, why aren’t you?” and it tears at our souls, it really does.

Our culture of abundance is structured to make us feel deprived, and it is these exact feelings that give us patterns of disordered and binge eating (not always, of  course, but often enough.)  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this thought, or had friends or clients share it with me: “I’m tired of eating what I’m supposed to eat.  I’m tired of eating when I’m supposed to eat.  I’m tired of following rules and having to watch myself so closely and censor all of my food choices.Honestly, I hate this more than anything.  I feel it intensely, and I acknowledge its power, but I still have a hard time getting over it.  Why can my roommate eat five times a day?  Why can she eat carbohydrates?  Why can’t I?  why can’t I?  Why can’t I?

This is because there is SO MUCH out there telling us to eat more, tempting us, telling us its possible to eat these awful things without having negative consequences, and making us feel like our dietary choices (re: a paleo diet with regular meals) is a deprivation diet.  Ugh.

What this says to me is that what we really need is psychological freedom.

We need to acknowledge that our feelings of deprivation are external in origin. And not only that, but they are deliberately instilled in us by consumer culture.   How dare they?  How dare we?  What the fuck are we doing to ourselves?  Is there a solution?

Well.  There are a few.  They’re not panaceas, but they do help, some.

First, acknowledging the power of this cultural machine is a big help.  Once you acknowledge what kind of sway food culture has over you–whether it’s by advertising, by the abundance of choice (like me at a Taiwanese buffet!), by friends who eat conventional diets and seem to do just fine, or by people who pressure you to partake in unhealthy foods–you can fight it.  You can see it coming and dodge.  You can hide.  You can use whatever strategies you have in your arsenal, from outright anger to, again, hiding from the media, to help alleviate the psychological pressures.  One way in which I’ve really helped myself feel better is by moving away from America.  Honest.  And I don’t watch TV.  So I am no longer ever confronted with images of beautiful, leggy, clear-skinned, elegant women all over advertisements.  I don’t spend time wishing I were them.  Another way you can do this is to make a point of never, ever watching commercials.  Every time they come on the TV, put it on mute and open up a book.  Or stop perusing those horrific Self or Cosmo or Shape magazines.   Pay attention to what they’re saying to you: the message is always “indulge, indulge, indulge,” because they already know, and are trying to cultivate, your feelings of guilt and deprivation.  They’re not helping you, no matter how much they insist this is true.  Instead, they are deliberately crafting their self help magazines to make you keep needing their help.  Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it all.

Another solution, though not an easy one, is to turn it around.  Instead of feeling deprived because you can’t partake in this food culture, feel sorry for everyone involved in it.  Your diet is right and your lifestyle is awesome and it’s actually (really, it is) quite sad that they don’t have a truly healthful, fulfilling diet.  If you’d like, permit yourself to partake in this culture occasionally.  Writing yourself off from it entirely might make you feel even more deprived, and you don’t want it to have this kind of power over you.  Philosophies of asceticism are abstaining are dumb (*usually).  Life is short.  Instead, be the ruler of your own mind and your own body, and exist above popular ideas and consumer culture.  Come down and mingle with it from time to time, show it who’s boss, and then head on back up to your lofty spot of awesome health.  You are in control of your health and your diet (or at least most of the time!) and that is a completely badass, empowering fact.  Every day you choose to follow the paleo lifestyle (or a similarly good one) because it is right and it feels right and it’s so good for your body.  Fuck cookies!  They taste good but they destroy your liver.  You don’t need that shit.   Your diet is not just tasty but is awesome for you, and I feel sorry for all the idiots out there who are deliberately ignorant of these facts.

Finally, I know that this is easier said than done.  But I really, strongly believe that feelings of deprivation are huge components of disordered eating.  They make us crave fulfillment and indulgence and immediate pleasure, and food can give us that.  Especially when the exact thing we feel deprived of is, in fact, food.   Try not to view your healthy diet and your progress away from bingeing or grazing behaviors not as a step into deprivation but a step forward into the light of psychological freedom.  Without food on the mind, and without that desperate wishing and need so common to disordered eaters, we are free to feel all sorts of new positive emotions.  This is perhaps the most wonderful and empowering fact of paleo dieting.  It is a long and a hard road, sometimes, but increasing our awareness of what’s hampering that progress does nothing but compel us forward.

And, like I’ve said perhaps a million times, though a million is surely never enough: progress is the true goal.

Columbus (the idiot occasionally had one or two eloquent thoughts) once wrote:

“Following the light of the sun, we left the old world.”


Leave the ugliness of consumer culture behind.  Transcend its call, and rise to a life of progress and holistic health.  You’ve got the tools.  All you need is a bit of attitude, a confident swagger, and a eye on continually building your self-love and progress.

And Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Is vegetarianism an eating disorder?

No.  But Time Magazine certainly likes shocking article titles.

What this Time article covers is a study performed in Minnesota back in 2008. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the University of Texas observed that young vegetarians are at increased risk for binge eating and unhealthy weight control behaviors.  Ick.

Using the results of Project EAT-II: Eating Among Teens, researchers  analyzed the diets, weight status, weight control behaviors, and drug and alcohol use of 2,516 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 23.  Participants were identified as current (4.3%), former (10.8%), and never (84.9%) vegetarians. Subjects were divided into two cohorts, an adolescent (15-18) group and a young adult (19-23) group. They were questioned about binge eating and whether they felt a loss of control of their eating habits.

In the younger cohort, no statistically significant difference was observed with vegetarianism and weight status.  Among young adults, however, current vegetarians had a lower average BMI.  They were less likely to be obese than never vegetarians.   Off the top of my head, I would guess that this has to do with discipline and more sincere adherence to the vegetarian diet.  Many who convert to vegetarianism in young adulthood do so during “enlightenment” at university.  I suspect that a lot of vegetarians in high schools, on the other hand, lack the moral steadfastness, supportive community, and resources of university students.  In fact, a 2001 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health revealed that the most common reason teens gave for vegetarianism was to lose weight or keep from gaining it.

Among the younger cohort, vegetarians engaged both in more extreme unhealthy weight control behaviors and in bingeing behavior when compared to never vegetarians.  Among the older cohort, a higher percentage of former vegetarians engaged in the same disordered eating habits.  This seems to indicate that adolescents who practice vegetarianism are at greater risk of all types of disordered eating throughout their lives.

Young vegetarians and those who have practiced vegetarianism in their youths experience an increased risk for disordered eating. This points to something pretty obvious.  Vegetarianism serves as a means, if a poor one, at losing weight (recall that there’s no statistically significant BMI difference) for young adults.   Those who battle body image and self esteem turn to vegetarianism to help them.  It is a means to weight loss.  But it is also a mode of restriction.  Whether or not this indicates life-long disordered eating and restriction patterns, or whether it indicates that this behavior in high school encourages lasting feelings of deprivation and restriction is unclear.  What is clear is that vegetarianism masquerades as a healthy option for young adults, and helps them restrict without broadcasting to those around them that they may in fact be in trouble.  I do not like this, friends.  Not one bit.

Writing in the article, Ramona Robinson-O’Brien, Assistant Professor, Nutrition Department, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University of the University of Minnesota states, “Study results indicate that it would be beneficial for clinicians to ask adolescents and young adults about their current and former vegetarian status when assessing risk for disordered eating behaviors. Furthermore, when guiding adolescent and young adult vegetarians in proper nutrition and meal planning, it may also be important to investigate an individual’s motives for choosing a vegetarian diet.”  Yes.  Word!  Furthermore, stop promoting deprivation-inducing eating plans as healthful.  Ack!