Eating My Way Back To The Start

Dear Audy,

Would you like to hear some more about food and stuff? Of course you would! Food is important. Very, very important. Without it, we die. When we eat badly, we suffer.

It’s been eight days since I hit the rocks hard after jumping from a junk food cliff. I have barely stopped thinking about food this entire time. I have been shopping, cooking, plotting, planning and most importantly, learning.

I’ve been eating meals that look like these!

I’ve finished reading The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf. I cannot pretend that I understood all of the biological jargon involved, but I have happily come away with the gist of most of what the author is trying to explain, as well as a hunger to study anthropology further.

The Paleo Solution combines an anthropological view of diet with plenty of biological science and studies to support the theories. This was a wonderful dive in point for me. I can easily become bored reading the long names of different parts of my body and how other long-named parts interact and form substances with even longer names. There is plenty of this included, however the parts of the book that really spoke to me were those about earlier humans and the accounts from real people who have tried out the Paleo approach today.

“Instead of metabolic pathways, genetics and biochemistry, we consider living, breathing people and how their diet affected their way of life. This is a microcosm of the world-changing shift all of our ancestors made. A change from millions of years of the hunter-gatherer way of life to the ultimate global experiment: agriculture.”
-From The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf.

I have heard it said before that in order to escape the highly processed unknowns of modern and common foods, one should never put anything on their plate that their great grandmother wouldn’t have eaten. This made sense to me, so I guess it’s not a huge leap that, really, perhaps we need to be going back even further.

Millions of years. People survived for millions of years without grains. Without bread. Without cake or cookies. Without strangely concocted mixed grain, gluten free substitutes.

“…our genetics were selected for survival in a hunting-gathering lifeway and we were damn good at it. We evolved and adapted to this way of living and the interaction of our genetics and our environment made us who we were, and who we are. Our genetics are virtually identical to those of our early human ancestors from more than 120,000 years ago.”
-From The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf.

Here are some interesting things that I did not know about our hunter-gatherer ancestors:

  • They were as tall, or taller than modern Americans and virtually free of cavities and bone malformations that are common with malnutrition.
  • They were also virtually free from degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • They were powerfully built with strength and endurance on par with modern athletes.
  • They had a lot of down time to spend socialising and relaxing.

  • Here are some interesting things that anthropologists are able to tell us about how early agriculturalists’ health compared with their hunter-gatherer predecessors:

  • Farmers showed a significant increase in cavities, approximating at 7 per person.
  • Farmers showed greater instances of bone malformation and malnutrition.
  • Farmers had a much higher rate of infant mortality.
  • Early farmers actually had a shorter lifespan than hunter-gatherers.
  • Farmers showed signs of iron, calcium and protein deficiencies, whereas this was rare in hunter-gatherers.

  • What went wrong?

    Wolf begins this discussion with one about hormones. I had no idea that hormones were responsible for controlling hunger and just about everything from our level of body fat to our thinking. It’s going to take me quite a while to remember what these hormones are and what each is responsible for. Thankfully, the book is written in such a way that it’s quite simple to follow and understand without the need to memorise every fact along the way.

    After growing up in a society that hands out the “Healthy” Food Pyramid in primary school, it was hard for me to swallow that perhaps we don’t need to eat carbohydrates at all. That whole section at the bottom of the pyramid, the biggest one of all, the one we have been told to eat most from, might actually be a food group that should be avoided. Wowsers.

    “…there are no ‘essential carbohydrates’. Our bodies can make all the carbohydrates it needs from protein and fat. Although glucose is critical for many of our tissues, the redundant mechanisms in our bodies for producing glucose indicate it was a fuel that was transient in our past.”
    -From The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf.

    It boils down to the fact that the way in which our body processes carbohydrates (which are basically complex sugars) leads to a system that is suffering hyperinsulinism and both high in and prone to inflammation. I’ve had CRPS for five years, I certainly don’t need anybody to try and convince me that inflammation can be a ridiculously huge problem, I am currently living evidence of this. I was, however, interested to learn about how out-of-control inflammation is also a big player in cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

    “It’s difficult to find a disease that is not effected by hyperinsulinism.”
    -From The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf.

    The scariest of which is cancer. Cancer is basically cells growing where we don’t want cells growing. Wolf explains that our cells have a mechanism called apoptosis that protects us from cancer. This is a safety mechanism that picks up on cells growing in an uncontrolled or abnormal manner and kills them off. Frighteningly, elevated insulin levels interfere with and derail the process of apoptosis. It’s very possible that through our modern diet, we are increasing our risk of developing cancer by messing with the systems evolution has installed to protect us from this.

    Pretty much, the huge switch that humans made toward using grains as the staples of our diet coincides with the development of the diseases that kill most of us today: Cancer and cardiovascular disease.

    By the time I had read this, I was extremely glad that I had already committed to trying the Paleo approach for myself. I was glad to have a fridge and pantry free of bread-like things that I might binge on in a time of weakness. Again and again, Wolf urges his readers to just try it for themselves. You don’t have to believe him. Try it and see what happens.

    Well, I’ve never really been one to back away from a dare…

    “Listen, I’m not trying to be a jerk here, I’m trying to help improve, possibly save, your life. This book is full of ‘science’, but none of that matters compared to your personal experience. Get in, do it, and then evaluate critically, OK?”
    -From The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf.

    So, whilst I have been reading all of this fascinating stuff and learning to challenge what society has raised me to believe about food and fat (in particular), I have been trying this out for myself. It’s only been a week, but here’s what I have already noticed:

  • I feel less bloated.
  • I feel more in tune with when I am hungry and when I am full. I have been eating regularly and not in the sporadic fashion that had become my norm.
  • I feel continually motivated to keep up the extra work it involves to feed myself like this.
  • I’ve had sugar cravings, I’ve had carb cravings, but mostly I’ve had no desire to give in to them. I actually went out for dinner one night and didn’t eat the mashed potato on my plate. I just instinctively did not want to put it in my mouth and I listened to that instinct.
  • I’ve broken the diet once, for an anniversary dessert. 7 years with my prince seemed worthy of eating crumble. It didn’t taste as fantastic as it used to. It tasted a bit wrong.
  • I get a kind of sugar high from eating an apple, also from a mandarin. And they taste unbelievable.
  • I don’t miss cheese at all. Usually, if I stop eating it, I miss cheese. I cannot explain but I have finally taken on the power demonstrated by that guy in Buffy and the gang’s weird dreams, circa season 4, “I wear the cheese, the cheese does not wear me.”

  • As well as the emphasis on the Paleo diet, Wolf also examines the Paleo lifestyle and fitness levels in comparison to people today. Sleep appears to be incredibly important. Without enough sleep, our hormones start getting messed up, which is a little bit horrifying if we are already messing them up with a carbohydrate heavy diet. It’s also important to exercise, but not overdo things, because once again that leads to hormone disruption, namely problems with over-releasing cortisol. Strength and power are as important as cardio fitness, our muscles are there to work and we need them to do that to keep the whole system running.

    It’s a lot to take in. I am still digesting this information and will probably need to read many more books to fully understand it. Thankfully, I can just keep trying it and see how I feel in the meantime. If you have found this blog post interesting, then I strongly recommend getting yourself a copy of The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet so that you can read what I am banging on about for yourself.

    It is fascinating, fascinating stuff. Yet, a little familiar. Kind of like when you go camping and sit, in the fresh air, under the stars and think “My goodness this feels right”.

    Love & Olive Oil,

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  • 2 thoughts on “Eating My Way Back To The Start

    1. Maria

      Yay! Good girl! It is so lovely to hear that you are enjoying eating less processed foods and more whole foods. I don’t eat grains at all. On occasion, I eat some quinoa and oatmeal (I don’t cook it) as it is important on Gerson for its protein and selenium. Other than that, it’s just fruits and veggies. When not on Gerson, I do eat nuts and seeds, and I don’t eat oatmeal.

      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Thanks Maria! I am feeling much better having so many fresh veges in my diet. Really glad I was finally to make that change! It’s fun discovering things that I’ve just never even heard of before, let alone eaten ;D xx

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