Imagine that everything you had ever heard about nutrition was wrong. Imagine, that like Woody Allen in the film ‘Sleeper’, you travelled into the future and found that even the conventional experts there decried the use of wheat germ, honey, and milk.
Imagine instead, that conventional wisdom promoted a diet of fat, steak, and heavy cream?
That would be crazy, right?
In terms of economics, that would be like suggesting that printing money in quantitative easing makes inflation worse, that adding debt to an economy to ease the problems caused by having too much debt is wrong-headed, and that if you let politicians control an economy, as well as doing the wrong thing by accident, politicians magnetically gravitate towards achieving the exact opposite of the right thing, by placing their own personal short-term political interests ahead of your long-term economic well-being.
These unconventional lessons are what the growing Misesian school of Austrian economics suggest, centred in Auburn, Alabama, under the tutelage of one of their leaders, Lew Rockwell.
Fortunately, there is also a growing school of nutrition with similarly radical ideas, and one of their leaders is Mark Sisson, based in Malibu, California.
He is the creator of the Primal Blueprint, a radical lifestyle paradigm based upon anthropology, common sense genetics, and two million years of hominid evolution.
Sisson suggests that to maximise our genetic potential, we should all live according to ten basic axioms. All of these are drawn from the human action of our neolithic past, where we existed upon a sporadic diet of plants and animals, where we moved around a lot outdoors, and where we went down when the sun did, to gain much-needed recuperative sleep.
You may have found yourself nodding along to that last paragraph.
Surely it makes sense that if we spent five million years separated from other great apes, with the last two million years of those spent living off wild boar and other similar animals, then evolution would have necessarily adapted to make us thrive on fully-saturated animal fats?
And you do believe in evolution, right?
And yet you might let slip to some sophisticate, in this modern age, that you’re thinking of frying some red meat and a few eggs in lard? If they manage to avoid phoning the police first, they will probably recoil in absolute terror, perhaps making the sign of the cross to ward off evil spirits.
Even worse, if they possess a more intellectual bent they might just ask their government representative to ban lard or at least place punitive taxes upon it, to help prevent a less intellectual fellow, such as you, from purchasing this evil diabolical substance, to save you from yourself.
So what changed?
How did we go from healthy boar-eating primal dwellers, perhaps occasionally scoring a handful of nuts from prized trees, to lard-hating overweight city dwellers, with a cornucopia of cherry muffins and Danish pastries constantly available in a myriad of identikit coffee houses?
Sisson believes this switch is due to the discovery and invention of wheat farming in the Middle East, about ten thousand years ago, allied to similar developments with rice, in the Far East.
A cheap form of digestible energy was suddenly unlocked by Mesopotamian and Chinese grain farmers, and their successful inventive discoveries moved out in waves to almost completely supplant the earlier global primeval existence based upon hunting and gathering.
And so the corporate world of the agri-business lobby was born, ruled over by sedentary corn and rice lords, to eventually promote a diet based mainly upon these same cheap carbohydrates, with the metamorphosis of meat, eggs, and animal fats into multiple devils incarnate.
But have we changed biologically in a mere ten thousand years as compared with the previous two million years?
In the punctuated equilibria of Stephen Gould, evolution can move relatively quickly, and all sorts of dogs can be bred out of wolves in just a few tens of generations.
But does it make sense that we have changed from mobile fat-driven meat and plant eaters, eating foods we can harvest directly from the wild, into static carb-driven grain and legume eaters, subsisting on foods which can only be consumed via the assistance of industrial technology gathered around towns and farming villages?
If you believe that, then what was the evolutionary mechanism promoting this biological switch?
In punctuated equilibria, you have the swim bladders of dried-out fish becoming lungs, to provide lungfish with a tremendous evolutionary economic advantage in conquering the dormant land, where previously only arthropods and plants dwelt.
In dog-breeding, you have zealous human owners eliminating those dogs they dislike, and mating those dogs they do like.
What hidden hand or genetic evolutionary mechanism drove us from being biologically fat-dependent to being biologically carb-dependent, in a mere 500 generations?
If that’s a stretch, let’s ask a more basic question; can you harvest bread?
Yes, you can harvest wheat, but without threshing, grinding, mixing, leavening, and baking, all of which are unnatural industrial processes, wheat is hard indigestible crud, as opposed to berries, nuts, and fruit.
Evolution made wheat indigestible, to prevent animals eating it. That is why the grasses are so successful as an evolutionary group. Because their grassy genes wanted their stored energy to only be consumed by their grassy offspring, so they filled their seeds with poisons (which even after processing cause bowel diseases in many people), and gave their seeds tough cellular structures, to try to break people’s teeth.
Even a bonobo chimpanzee can use a neolithic stone to break open a nut, to eat the nutritious flesh within, but wheat seeds are solid all the way through.
Obviously, the ingenuity of mankind found a way to break into this trapped short-term wheat energy, but at what cost to our ultimate long-term health?
There is, unfortunately, a problem when working out the answers to these many questions.
Despite the case above being fairly straightforward, to my mind, that we are essentially the same genetic beasts that we were ten thousand years ago, it took me personally twenty hard years to discover the primal way of life.
I have only recently adopted its lifestyle, which is solving a large number of my own issues, the best of these being that my weight is now plummeting downwards from an obscene number that can only be revealed at a later date, towards the lean fit weight I possessed at eighteen years of age.
I’m about halfway between the two now, with a constant rate of progress down towards that lower figure.
And I was lucky enough to enjoy lots of informational advantages in my educational life. I should have realised much earlier that carb-living was unnatural and a lifestyle to be avoided.
So what were these particular advantages from which I should have known better?
I studied medicine for three years, which included modules in anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, and neurology. After realising I would make a poor doctor, I switched to psychology, and achieved a good degree in that, primarily because of my dissertion in genetics and anthropology, in which I discussed at length a theory that the recurrent ice ages distilled the intelligence of mankind, by continuously winnowing away the less intelligent hominids within each ice age, until only the most adaptive and intelligent were left.
This remnant would spread out over the Earth, after each ice age, to become the core of the improved hominid population. The next ice age would then wipe out another huge tranche of the least intelligent of this group, to repeat the process. Think of human intelligence as being the golden coin in the pocket that survived numerous spin-wash cycles, while the paper monies disintegrated.
We survived, or so the theory goes, because our growing intelligence enabled us to cope with the rapidly changing environments caused by these recurrent ice ages.
The less adaptable hominids, each ice age, were wiped away by their lesser abilities to adapt, which includes those near-survivors of the last ice age, the Neanderthals, who disappeared from Gibraltar, in southern Iberia, about 35,000 years ago.
Despite this education, bestowed upon me by the hapless taxpayers of England, I was still unable to make the mental leap that the primal blueprint buried deep within our genes is as valid today as it was ten thousand years ago.
It takes a heroic genius like Mark Sisson to make that kind of unconventional leap. Even his use of the word ‘primal’ marks out his far-sightedness, because it’s a positive forward-looking word which as well as meaning ‘first’, also means ‘the best’ (witness ‘Prime Minister’ as opposed to ‘First Minister’), or the thing towards which we should aspire (the ‘Prime Directive’ of Star Command, in Star Trek).
The rest of the movement uses the negative word ‘paleo’, which has connotations of ‘old’, and ‘the worst’, or certainly ‘old-fashioned’ in a negative light, or the bad thing that we are progressing away from or even evolving away from.
So how does the primal lifestyle get someone to the point where they can drop those lard fears, inculcated into most of us by vast legions of vested interests?
Even with my fortunate education described above, it took twenty years of insidious weight gain for me to come to my senses, and only because I am pre-disposed towards distrusting government propaganda because of my belief in Austrian economics.
Even with that interest, it took me fifteen years to reach Austrian economics through a long road of Adam Smith, P.J.O’Rourke, and Ayn Rand, to eventually discover Ludwig von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard, and Hans-Hermann Hoppe.
My final Austrian breakthrough was achieved by a single pivotal book, which is Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt, which I recommend to anyone who is interested in finding out what is really going on in the economic world at the moment.
But until recently, there has been nothing similar in the ‘Paleo’ movement. You stumbled from one magnum opus to another, all too difficult or too challenging to take in at first glance. In Austrian economics terms, it’s like stumbling across Human Action in a second-hand bookshop, published in German, with a foreword in Mandarin, as your first glimpse into the complex world of Ludwig von Mises (though that complexity is based upon a small set of simple axioms).
In other words, only those truly dedicated and sufficiently rugged individualists could make that breakthrough.
Even Mark Sisson’s earlier magnum opus, The Primal Blueprint, is difficult to take in, via one hit, because although it is complete within itself, with a solid platform built up over many years, just like Human Action, it is difficult to discern a basic action plan from it.
The Primal Blueprint book is perhaps even more analogous to Murray Rothbard’s mighty work, Man, Economy, and State. It’s all there, in glorious erudite detail. It’s just too much to soak up in one sitting.
Fortunately, Mr Sisson had filled this gap in his own market. He has created a nutritional similacrum to Economics in One Lesson.
The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation book is just superb.
In bite-sized colourful pieces it lays down what you need to know and what you need to do to get primal. The philosophy is all still in there, and so is the history, the rationale, and mission; but it is all magnificently digestible.
First up, the key axiomatic concepts are dealt with in the human genetic story; then the action items are laid out for you to get working on; then a 21-day plan is created for you to get primal as rapidly as possible.
The entire book also enables you to defend yourself against the forthcoming torrents of propaganda the entrenched bureaucracies of conventional wisdom will drench you with for daring to step outside of their much-embroidered tent.
After reading the book, you shall be able to buy your lard with confidence and if the checkout clerk dares pull a face at your shopping basket, you’ll be able to make that punk’s day with your erudition and knowledge.
The primal lifestyle is so much more than the Atkins diet, and so much more motivational, because you learn that you are doing the right thing by your genes, which are embedded within the central core of every single cell of your body. Mark Sisson’s primal blueprint may even overturn the entrenched bureaucracies one day and deliver us into a common sense future, if enough people adopt it.
So get yourself a copy to help that wondrous day come about.
Or if you’re already sold on the idea, and you already have the Primal Blueprint on your bookshelf, then get a friend a copy for Christmas.
You could save their life.