The other day, when I was updating the gym's Facebook page, something a friend had posted on the newsfeed struck me as quite odd. If you're a Facebooker, you're already aware that the "newsfeed" is a way for folks to voice their feelings and opinions, as well as share photos and videos. It's Facebook's version of Twitter, if you will. Well, this particular friend started doing the Paleo diet a few months ago, apparently. She shared a photo of--and I'm not kidding you here--meatloaf stuffed with ham and wrapped in a latticework of bacon. I was seriously mystified by this photo, because along with the photo she said something along the lines of "I love Paleo!!!", #PaleoRulez, #LoveBacon or some nonsense.
Let me rewind for a second and define the Paleo diet, as per Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Diet book:
"The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility."
I copied and pasted this straight from his website www.robbwolf.com, in case you were wondering. And honestly? I totally agree with him. If a person is disciplined enough to stay on the Paleo diet, I personally believe that Paleo will net said person some incredible results in terms of the way their body performs, feels, and looks on a daily basis. The bulk of the diet is derived from lean protein, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats derived from oils (olive, coconut, fish), nuts, seeds, and grass-fed meats. Grains like pastas and breads, beans, rice, and anything processed isn't part of the diet. Basically, if God made it, you can eat it. If humans engineered it, steer clear.
Mr. Wolf's work has helped to inspire many folks, from devoted athletes, fitness buffs, to casual dieters, to live a healthier lifestyle. So what was up with my friend's photo, then?
Well, besides looking pretty mouthwatering, it's actually not that good for you! And this is what had me stumped. On one hand is the Paleo diet with sound principles and good intentions, and on the other hand was this monstrosity of a future heart attack. I don't even want to know the amount of preservatives, sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat in a serving of this meatloaf! It doesn't take a good knowledge of nutrition to know that a ton of bacon and ham all the time is a bad idea. It was as if this friend of mine took the Paleo diet down to it's simplest form of "Grains are out, meat is in", and turned the dial to 11. I can picture the thought process, "Oh! If it's encouraged to eat more meat, I'll eat more bacon and ham! They taste the yummiest. And yay! It's still healthy because it's PALEOOOO!"
And this brings me to my point: what happened to moderation? Be reasonable! If Coca Cola came out with a study today saying that Coca Cola uses a certain chemical that prevents the common cold, would I start drinking Coke every day all day? Heck no! At least, I'd hope not. Because for every positive aspect of a product, there is always some kind of drawback. In the case of soda pop, there are many--carbonation and sugar isn't good for teeth or the waistline respectively, to name a few. Other things that come to my mind are wine and how it's "heart healthy" because of it's antioxidants. Know what else has antioxidants (way more than wine, actually) and won't make you a fatty if you have a lot? Raspberries. That's right. Raspberries. Look it up.
So while technically the ham-stuffed bacon-wrapped meatloaf falls under the "protein" category of the Paleo diet, it doesn't exactly reside in the "lean" section. Ham and bacon have been around for 100s of years. They've always been a luxury, and most people weren't able to have it all of the time. Why, under a new label, would they all of a sudden be acceptable as a dietary staple? Because it's a guarantee there are more folks out there who think like my little Facebook friend--you give them an inch, they take a football field and run out of the stadium with it.
At the Perform Better workshop in Seattle last April, Dan John gave an informative, but funny speech about his approach to nutrition and training. He said something along these lines (And Dan, if you ever read this, I apologize if I butchered your words. I'm going from memory, here!), "Be reasonable. Eat like an adult. Stop eating cereal for dinner. Eat a decent amount of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and water with every meal. Because a reasonable diet and exercise will trump hardcore anything every time."
Although I laughed when he said "Stop eating cereal for dinner" (I've been guilty of this, but I also wasn't an adult! College doesn't count), the part that stuck with me most was his last sentence. What happened to moderation? Nobody ever said eating well and exercising had to be miserable. As long as you enjoy it and are taking strides towards your goals, who the hell cares how you're doing it? But I'm willing to bet that ham-stuffed bacon-wrapped meatloaf doesn't fall under Dan's definition of "reasonable".
Be reasonable, folks!