Wow, check out this fabulous news from The Institute for JusticeFree Speech Victory: Court Reinstates Caveman Blogger’s First Amendment Challenge:

Arlington, Va.–This morning, in a big win for free speech, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that diabetic blogger Steve Cooksey’s First Amendment lawsuit against the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition may go forward.

Cooksey ran a Dear Abby-style advice column on his blog in which he gave one-on-one advice about how to follow the low carbohydrate “paleo” diet. The Board deemed Cooksey’s advice the unlicensed practice of nutritional counseling, sent him a 19-page print-up of his website indicating in red pen what he was and was not allowed to say, and threatened him with legal action if he did not comply.

The decision reverses a previous ruling by a federal district judge that had dismissed Cooksey’s case, reasoning that advice is not protected speech and hence Cooksey had suffered no injury to his First Amendment rights.

“This decision will help ensure that the courthouse doors remain open to speakers whose rights are threatened by overreaching government” said Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes. “In America, citizens don’t have to wait until they are fined or thrown in jail before they are allowed to challenge government action that chills their speech.”


The three-judge appellate panel, which included retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, held that it had “no trouble deciding that Cooksey’s speech was sufficiently chilled by the actions of the State Board to show a First Amendment injury-in-fact.”

The appellate panel also dismissed the Board’s argument that its 19-page red-pen review of Cooksey’s did not chill his speech, noting that the “red-pen mark-up of his website from the State Board Complaint Committee . . . surely triggered the same trepidation we have all experienced upon receiving such markings on a high school term paper.”

The case, which has received significant national media attention, will now be sent back to the district court. Click here for George Will’s syndicated column on the lawsuit.

Steve Cooksey said, “I give people simple advice on what food to buy at the grocery store. I have believed all along that my advice is protected by the First Amendment, and I am looking forward to proving that the censorship of my speech is unconstitutional.”

IJ Attorney Paul Sherman said, “Steve’s case raises one of the most important unanswered questions in First Amendment law: Can occupational-licensing laws trump free speech? Today’s ruling means that we are finally going to get an answer to that question.”


For more on the lawsuit, visit Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is a national public interest law firm that fights for free speech and economic liberty nationwide.

It’s cases like this one that make me so pleased and proud to donate to IJ’s free speech division. Congratulations, Steve!

Tips for Going to the ER

 Posted by on 1 July 2013 at 1:00 pm  Emergencies, Health, Health Care, Medicine
Jul 012013

As y’all know, I recently interviewed emergency medicine physician Dr. Doug McGuff about “Avoiding the Emergency Room” on Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the podcast here:

Toward the end of that interview, Dr. McGuff offered some tips for if you do end up in the ER, including being very honest and factual about your symptoms. Along those lines, I recently stumbled across an article with useful tips for getting better care at the ER. Here’s the list of basic recommendations, but check out the article for more details.

  • Avoid nights, weekends and holidays
  • Call your regular doctor before you go
  • Bring a list of your medications
  • Have your medical records and tests handy
  • Make sure your hospital treats what’s ailing you
  • Try to be understanding
  • Bring somebody with you
  • Avoid the ER altogether

Obviously, if you’ve just been run over by a bus, you’re just going to have to muddle along as best you can. However, often you can plan in advance, and in that case, the advice is good!

Hidden Sources of Stress

 Posted by on 22 May 2013 at 11:00 am  Health, Psychology
May 222013

(I wrote this in August 2012 for Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter, but it’s still relevant today.)

I’ve been highly sensitive to stress lately, so I’ve been working to identify and better manage various sources of stress in my life. I’ve noticed some obvious culprits, like inadequate sleep and travel. I was surprised, however, to discover that doing any new activity is a major source of stress for me.

For example, I recently took my first lesson on my horse Lila with a three-day-eventing trainer. Lila had to be in the horse trailer for longer than she’d ever been, stay calm without her stable buddy, and then work in a strange new location. I wasn’t sure that she’d do it. I had to drive the truck and trailer on the freeway, which I’d never done before, then find the stable. Once we arrived, I’d have to introduce myself to this new trainer and prepare Lila mentally and physically for the lesson. Also, it was my first jumping lesson in about 20 years, and I was nervous about whether I’d perform well or not and about whether I’d like the trainer.

In the week leading up to the lesson, I was anxious about pretty much everything about the lesson — about arriving at the right place on time, about Lila’s temper on arrival, about my performance during the lesson, and more. I was excited and hopeful about all that too. I’m easily bored, and I knew that Lila and I needed to stretch ourselves in new directions. Much to my delight, everything went fabulously well. Lila was surprisingly calm, the trainer was excellent, and I learned a ton.

Still — and this seems downright silly of me in retrospect — I didn’t realize just how stressful the whole experience was. I underestimated it — first, because it wasn’t work-related and second, because it went so well. As a result, I didn’t give myself the downtime that I really needed afterwards: I just pushed myself into more work and more stress without a break. That was a big mistake! As usual, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

So here’s my advice du jour: Pay attention to the myriad stressors in your life — particularly the stress of new challenges and new activities, whether at work or at play. Don’t pile up one stressor after another, or you won’t be able to keep doing your best!

Vitamin D and Respiratory Infections

 Posted by on 20 April 2013 at 10:00 am  Health
Apr 202013

Here’s some good news from The Vitamin D Council on the role of Vitamin D in preventing respiratory infections (upper and lower).

Recently, Dr Jaykaran Charan and colleagues of the Indian Institute of Public Health published a meta-analysis of all randomized controlled trials of vitamin D and respiratory tract infections. …

Dr Charan combined the five randomized controlled trials he found that were conducted … and found that the combined relative risk for a respiratory infection was about half for those taking vitamin D (relative risk = .58). The dose of vitamin D in the five trials ranged from 400 IU/day to 2,000 IU/day, with one using a single dose of 100,000 IU. The length of the trials ranged from 3 months to three years.

The authors concluded,

“On the basis of this study, we conclude that vitamin D is useful in prevention of respiratory tract infections.”

Indeed, that has been the experience of many who supplement with Vitamin D, including me!

Personally, I keep my Vitamin D at about 80, and that requires taking about 2,000 IU per day. (Based on what I’ve read, I want it above 60 and below 100.) However, people vary wildly in their respond to consumption of Vitamin D, so I’d recommend blood testing. If that’s not convenient to do through your doctor, you can order this test from ZRT lab for $65.

As for the kind of Vitamin D, be careful that it’s not in some nasty oil like soy, as the capsules often are. I’ve used these drops from Carlson for many years. They’re in coconut oil.

Also, I routinely take an extra 10,000 IU of Vitamin D when I travel — or when I feel like a cold might be coming on. I keep an extra bottle in my travel kit for just that purpose… because wow, those respiratory infections suck!

If you want to know more about what Vitamin D does for the body… and how most people are deficient, go peruse the site of the The Vitamin D Council, starting with this page: About vitamin D.

Never Too Rich or Too Thin?

 Posted by on 13 April 2013 at 10:00 am  Ethics, Etiquette, Health
Apr 132013

A few days ago, I stumbled on this blog post — Think Twice Before You Praise Someone For Losing Weight. It piqued my interest because I often ponder questions about weight, health, and body image. Also, it seemed relevant to the question I’ll answer on moral judgments of obese people on Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Radio.

The blog post begins:

It’s really the most natural reaction: when we see a friend, colleague, family member, or acquaintance who has visibly lost weight, we love to say to them, “You’ve lost weight! You look great!”

These statements are usually made with the best of intentions. We are genuinely happy for them, we want to show them that their hard work and sacrifices are being noticed and deserve to be acknowledged. But I want to say something that may seem controversial: we should all think twice before acknowledging or praising someone’s visible weight loss.


First, we don’t always know how or why that person lost the weight for which we are commending them.

For example, my friend Anna has Lupus, and at one point, she rapidly lost 30 pounds in a couple months. She was constantly getting positive affirmations about how great she looked and to keep up the good work. For a number of reasons, Anna chose to keep her diagnosis confidential (to most people). So, she was caught between two worlds: one in which she had to reveal why she was losing weight, and another where she just had to grin and bear it.

Anna said, “Every time I heard those words, it was like a punch in the stomach. It not only made me feel disgusted about my body, but it also put me in a position where I wanted to share my diagnosis with people, just to shut them up.”

My cousin’s professor faced a similar dilemma when she returned to the university from summer break, having lost a visible amount of weight. She was greeted with the same seemingly positive affirmations. What no one realized was, her mother had died weeks before. Her weight loss was a result of stress.

The smiles and the effusive praise offered to these two women were in direct opposition to the pain that caused the weight loss to begin with.

And even when someone isn’t dealing with an uncontrollable circumstance, like a death in the family, or a terminal disease, we don’t know how someone arrives at his/her weight loss.

It’s a good article, and I definitely recommend reading the rest of it: Think Twice Before You Praise Someone For Losing Weight. (It goes on to discuss some other cases, as well as make some important qualifications.)

Obesity is undoubtedly very common in our culture, and as people have packed on the pounds, the view that low body weight means good health seems to have taken hold in a very strong way. Yes, that’s been a change in the culture, as these 1950s weight gain ads for women show.

Yet the fact is that being underweight is often a sign of health problems — or it’s a risk factor for death if a person becomes ill, because their body lacks reserves (muscle or fat) for survival. I’m not making that up, as various studies (such as this one) show that being underweight is associated with increased mortality.

My point here is not to extol obesity or anything, since that comes with its own practical difficulties and health concerns. Rather, my point is that we (me included) need to reject the now-standard assumption in our culture that a thinner person is a better person — healthier, sexier, happier, whatever. Often, weight loss is for the best… but not always!

Addendum from April 19th

As for the question about moral judgments of obese people that I answered on Sunday’s Radio Show… the question was:

Is it right or wrong to condemn people for being obese? Obviously, obese and morbidly obese people have made mistakes in their lives. Are they morally culpable for those mistakes? How should other people judge their characters? If I see an obese person on the street, should I infer that he is lazy and unmotivated? Should I refuse to hire an obese person because I suspect he won’t work as hard as a non-obese person? Is obesity a moral failing – or are there other considerations?

My Answer, In Brief: Given that weight is not a good metric for health and that obesity has many causes, for a person to assume that obese people must be morally or psychologically weak is empirically false and morally unjust. If you notice that in yourself, fight it!

Download or Listen to My Full Answer:

Via Vital Objectives, our own Christian Wernstedt shared the link to the podcast on Facebook, with the following remarks, which I agree with wholeheartedly:

This audio clip has has a good discussion on what one should keep in mind when judging weight problems in both oneself and in other people.

As a coach/practitioner I would add that helping people getting rid of excess fat is one of the most difficult issues to deal with because it takes time and effort to achieve in a *sustainable* and *healthful* way, but is very simple to do in a shortsighted and harmful way.

You want to lose fat and pose for before and after pictures? Tape worms, starvation or HCG would do the trick!

But…the body stores fat for reasons which often add up to the life serving option versus the alternatives.

Therefore, simplistically and narrowly targeting the fat storage process (my fancy way of saying “fad diet” or “60 day detox”), and you might, for instance, each time you do this, functionally age your hormonal profile and ultimately end up buying the loss of 10 pounds today for being awarded the body comp of an ostrich later.

Alas, I’ve lived that. The main reason why my thyroid gave up the ghost, I think, was that I was fasting too often for too long in an effort to lose a few more pounds. The result was months of mental and physical disability, followed by years of health problems, plus 30 pounds of weight gain. Lesson learned.

Tim Minchin: Thank You God

 Posted by on 4 April 2013 at 2:00 pm  Atheism, Funny, Health, Religion
Apr 042013

Oh Tim Minchin, how I do love thee!

I saw Tim in concert in Boulder a few years ago… and he was awesome! If he comes to your area, don’t miss him!

Feb 092013

A few weeks ago, I completed my fifth sheet of SuperSlow training, i.e. another 16 sessions. If you’ve not read my prior posts on SuperSlow, check out:

Here’s the latest sheet:

Here’s a summary of my progress on various movements, starting from Session 64 from Sheet 4 to Session 80 on Sheet 5. All the machines are Nautilus, except the lower back and the torso rotation. As before, only Leg Press and Lower Back are done every session; all other movements are done every other session.

As you’ll see below, I decreased my weight on a number of machines. The decrease in leg press was the most significant — and most helpful — since that enabled me to start making gains again. Ultimately, I increased on the two machines that I care most about: leg press and lat pull-down. Still, I hope to see better progress in the next sheet.

Every week:

  • LP: Leg Press: 285 to 235 to 260 lbs. I wasn’t making any progress since moving my seat forward, so my trainer dropped my weight 50 lbs. Finally, I was able to get past 2 minutes 30 seconds, and my form was much better too. Since then, I’ve made steady progress back toward 300 lbs. That makes me happy!
  • LB: Lower Back: 182 to 160 lbs. Oddly, this decrease in weight represents progress. I began doing a wider range of motion, which is significantly harder, so I had to decrease my weight.

Every other week:

  • PD: Lat Pull-Down: 120 to 130 lbs. With this being first in the session, I’ve been able to make some progress.
  • CP: Chest Press: 70 to 75 lbs. With this machine, a five pound increase is good!
  • Row: Row: 60 to 65 lbs. I alternate between pulling and a 2 minute static hold. I still hate this machine because I struggle with form.
  • CR: Calf Raises: 305 to 300 lbs. I only did this three times in 16 weeks, so my weight dropped by five pounds.
  • Ab C: Ab Crunch: Steady at 20 lbs. I’m okay with that.
  • Hip AB: Hip Abduction: Steady at 95 lbs. I think I’m at my max weight, at least for now.
  • Hip AD: Hip Adduction: Steady at 115 lbs. I think I’m at my max weight, at least for now.
  • Lower Back (see above)
  • Leg Press (see above)
Every other week:

  • LE: Leg Extension: 70 to 65 lbs. My trainer dropped my weight to give me a better range of motion.
  • LC: Leg Curls: LC is a 90-second curl of the leg, with progressive intensity, backward against a stable frame.
  • Lower Back (see above)
  • Leg Press (see above)
  • Bicep: Steady at 50 lbs: It’s hard to make progress with this machine given that it’s immediately after leg press. Oh well!
  • Tricep: Steady at 85 lbs: Again, no progress. (My trainer dropped my weight for this — and now that I look, biceps too — on the final session. That was just a one-time thing though.)
  • Rot T: Rotate Torso: 44 lbs. I’ve struggled with this machine, because I’m often so exhausted at the end of the workout.
  • New MXCP: (Funky MedX Ab Cruncher Hold): 75 lbs: This machine has been really painfully difficult lately.

Honestly, I really struggled with my workouts on this sheet — mentally and physically — but I’m already doing better on my current sheet. So I look forward to my report on that.

P.S. If you decide to try my SuperSlow gym — now TruFit Health — in south Denver, please tell them that I referred you!

No Gluten, No Migraines

 Posted by on 15 December 2012 at 10:00 am  Food, Health, Medicine
Dec 152012

Since high school, I’ve suffered from periodic migraines. Mostly, they were manageable with pain medications, although quite unpleasant. However, I had certain periods in which they were so frequently and painful as to be debilitating. (In college, I had to drop two of my five classes one semester due to unbearable and frequent migraines.)

Happily, eating paleo largely eliminated my migraines. As a result, I could safely leave the house without my migraine medication for the first time in years. That was so liberating!

I still had migraines but only rarely — perhaps just one per month. I noticed that I was particularly prone to get them when pre-menstrual, but I couldn’t detect any pattern otherwise.

However, in the summer of 2011, I had two experiences that made me think that gluten might be the lingering culprit. While at the Ancestral Healthy Symposium, I ate some “brown eggs” made by my mother-in-law. They were made with regular soy sauce, which includes a tiny amount of wheat. Result? Days of migraines. Then, a month or two later, I ate some chicken wings at a restaurant that had been dusted in flour. Result? A sudden migraine in the middle of the night.

So I decided to experiment, to see if I could give myself a migraine by eating gluten even when I wasn’t already feeling prone to a migraine. So I bought a loaf of bread. (Yes, that seemed very strange to me!) I ate a one slice with butter for lunch.

The next day — just about 24 hours later — I had a migraine. Since that experiment, I’ve been super-strict about avoiding gluten. I don’t make assumptions about the menu when eating at a restaurant: I ask.

As a result, I’ve had just two migraines in the last six months — and one was due to something “gluten-free” not being really gluten-free. (Yup, I knew better.) Hence, when someone tells me that paleo is just pseudo-science or a fad… well, you can imagine my reaction.

I don’t think that gluten causes everyone’s migraines. But I think that people with migraines would be smart to try a gluten-free diet — or better yet, full-blown paleo. It might do a world of good!


The following comments on the validity of a evolutionary approach to nutrition are from an email that I wrote to an Objectivist philosopher skeptical of the paleo diet. (The email was sent many moons ago, and I only just found it again.) My comments stand pretty well on their own, I think, and I hope that they’ll be of interest to folks interested in thinking about paleo in a philosophical way.

I cannot point you to a single study that definitively proves the superiority of a paleo diet. For a hundred different reasons — most of which probably aren’t on your radar — such a study is not possible. (Gary Taubes and Mike Eades have written on that problem.) Nonetheless, a whole lot of smaller, more delimited studies (as well as well-established biology) support the claims made by advocates of a paleo diet. Plus, people report looking, feeling, and performing better — with improved lab values — on a paleo-type diet. Each of us has our own experiences and experiments to draw on too.

Hence, as I said in a thread on Facebook: “I think I’ve got very good grounds for saying that a paleo diet is (1) healthy for most people, (2) far superior to the diet of most Americans, (3) exceedingly delicious and satisfying, and (4) worth trying to see if you do better on it, particularly if you have certain kinds of health problems.”

I’m not claiming certainty, nor do I assume that my current diet is optimal. We have tons to learn about nutrition and health. Yet that’s hardly a reason to ignore what we do know — or to suppose that we can just keep eating however we please without experiencing pernicious consequences down the road.

Moreover, people are doing themselves harm by eating the standard American diet. In my own case, I was on my way to type 2 diabetes (based on my doctor’s blood glucose tests) and liver disease (based on a CT scan showing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). We can’t assume that the standard American diet is a safe default just because it’s all around us — just as people shouldn’t assume that the standard American religion is a safe philosophical default.

To address your skepticism about an evolutionary approach to nutrition, let me ask you the following… Imagine that you were given a dog to care for, but you’d never seen or heard of a dog before. Would you say that the fact that dogs are very close relatives of wolves is irrelevant to the question of what you ought to feed this dog? Wouldn’t that evolutionary fact suggest that the dog needs meat, meat, and more meat — not tofu or corn or alfalfa?

That evolutionary inference certainly wouldn’t be the last word on proper diet for the dog by any stretch of the imagination. Yet that inference would help guide your inquiry into the optimal diet for the dog — and guide your feeding of him in the meantime. That evolutionary perspective would be particularly helpful if the government and its lackeys were busy promoting a slew of false views about optimal canine diet. Ultimately, it would help integrate and explain your various findings about canine nutrition, since the nature of the canine was shaped by its evolutionary history.

On this point, your comparison to evolutionary psychology is not apt. Evolutionary psychology is a cesspool. But that’s not because inferences from our evolutionary history are difficult, although that’s true. Evolutionary psychology is a cesspool because it depends heavily on some false philosophical assumptions — particularly determinism and innate ideas.

The same charges cannot be made against an evolutionary approach to nutrition. We know that every organism is adapted to eat certain kinds of foods rather than others. We know that human biology was shaped over the course of millions of years, during which time we ate certain kinds of foods but not others. That suggests the kinds of foods that we’re best adapted to eat. Moreover, we can see in skeletal remains that when people switched to other kinds of foods, particularly grains, they declined remarkably in basic measures of health. Then consider what know about the nature of wheat, including its effects on the gut. Top that off with the positive effects people experience — improved well-being, fat loss, better lab values, less autoimmunity — when they stop eating wheat. Then you’ve got a compelling case against eating wheat.

The evolutionary perspective is not merely a useful starting point in such inquiries, to be discarded with advancements in modern science. It’s relevant causal history: it explains why we respond as we do to wheat. That enables us to integrate disparate findings about wheat (and other foods) into a unified theory of nutrition. That’s hugely important to developing nutrition as a science.

Essential Versus Optional in Paleo

 Posted by on 24 November 2012 at 10:00 am  Epistemology, Food, Health, Philosophy
Nov 242012

When I developed my list of Modern Paleo Principles in early 2010, I’d hoped to be able to sort out the essential principles from the optional tweaks. So forgoing grains would be essential to eating paleo whereas intermittent fasting would be just an optional tweak that a person might never even try. Sounds reasonable, right? Perhaps so, but the attempt was a total non-starter.

Almost as soon as I sat down to write out my list of principles, I realized that I couldn’t possibly separate them into “essential” and “optional,” except in a few clear cases. Similarly, I couldn’t rank its principles by priority except in a very rough way. Despite the core features of the diet captured in my definition — avoiding grains, sugars, and modern vegetable oils in favor of high-quality meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables — that just wasn’t possible.

But… why not? Why can’t we identify the essential versus optional principles of a paleo diet or rank its principles by priority? The answer is more interesting than I supposed at first. I see three major obstacles — (1) the value of health, (2) individual differences, and (3) the science of nutrition. Let’s examine each in turn.

Health Is Not Your Ultimate Value

Health is a major value, but it’s not a person’s proper ultimate value. Health is not all that matters in life.

A person’s ultimate value is (or rather, ought to be) his own life. Consequently, people can make legitimate trade-offs with respect to health, in order to serve other, higher values. For example, a paleo-eater might choose to eat restaurant salads with canola oil dressing at business lunches because that’s what best serves her career, even if that risks some harm to her health. Or a paleo-eater might enjoy the occasional “Mo’s Bacon Bar,” because the taste is just so worth the sugar hit. Such choices would be totally legitimate: optimizing health shouldn’t be treated as an out-of-context duty.

What does that mean? It means that no principle of paleo can be treated as “essential” — in the sense that if you violate it, then you’re doing wrong, you’ve fallen off the wagon, you’re no longer paleo. Paleo is not a religious dogma: it has no Ten Commandments — nor even a “thou shalt.” (That’s for the vegans!)

Instead, paleo involves a set of principles to help guide the actions that impact our health, particularly diet. However, if a person is willing to pay the price for deviating occasionally from those principles — if that’s not a sacrifice for him but an enhancement of his life — then he ought to deviate. That’s the rational approach.

Your Health Depends on Individual Context

People are not merely fodder for the aggregate statistics of epidemiologists. They are individuals — and each person’s particular background, constitution, and circumstances matter to his choices about diet.

For example, one paleo-eater might be diabetic, another hypothyroid, and another in perfect health. One person might be disposed to heart disease, whereas another would be more likely to suffer from cancer or stroke. One person might suffer terrible effects from eating wheat, whereas sugar might be the downfall of another. A paleo-eater might be able to find a source of grass-fed beef that matches his budget — or not. A person might have 200 pounds of fat to lose — or 20 pounds of muscle to gain. One person might look, feel, and perform better eating starchy tubers while another does better avoiding them. One person might need to work hard to eliminate the soy from his diet, whereas another has none to remove. One person might live with a supportive spouse, while another lives with a hostile vegan roommate. One person might prepare all his meals at home, while another must eat in restaurants, while another must eat in the college dorm.

In short, people’s backgrounds, constitutions, and circumstances are often hugely different in ways that will affect what they can and should eat. People will implement a paleo diet in very different ways, based on those differences. To claim, as a universal generalization, that certain paleo principles are essential while others are merely optional would be to run roughshod over those individual differences. Instead, each person needs to discover what’s more essential versus more optional for him. Each person need to focus on his own life and values. The experiences of others are often useful guides or hints, but they don’t determine what’s essential versus optional for you.

The Science of Nutrition Is in Its Infancy

Ideally, with further development of science, we might be able to identify certain universal mid-level principles, such as “avoid foods that irritate your gut” or “avoid foods that promote the formation of small LDL.” Then people could focus on those principles, rather than adapting the particular recommendations of paleo to their own cirucmstances. Those kinds of integrations would be useful, undoubtedly, but I see at least three problems with aiming for that.

First, the science of nutrition is not as advanced or definitive as we might like, except on a few issues. I’m routinely amazed by how much we still have left to learn — on the value of tubers, on the different kinds of fats, on carbohydrate sources, and so on. So right now, we’re not in a position to clearly define and defend such mid-level principles. The science needs to be more settled for that.

Second, such mid-level principles wouldn’t be particularly helpful for guiding a person’s everyday choices about what to eat — unless he already knew, for example, what irritates guts in general and his gut in particular. So even if armed with a slew of solid mid-level principles, a person would still need to discover how to implement those principles well in his choices of what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Third, even if all that were known, individuals would still vary in their responses to foods, and they’d have to determine much of their own optimal diet by their own n=1 experiments. For example, people respond very differently to gluten. Personally, even small quantities of gluten give me migraines, but no digestive upset. Others have a different response — or no response at all.


One important conclusions from these reflections on the value of health, individual differences, and the science of nutrition is that even though the various paleo diets have a common core, the principles of paleo cannot be designated “essential” versus “optional” nor ranked in order of importance.

Of course, we can define a paleo diet, because it means something definite. We can also identify the general principles of a paleo approach to health; that’s what I hope that I’ve done with the Modern Paleo Principles. That’s crucial for doing paleo well, I think.

Yet to think of some of these principles as universally “essential” versus universally “optional” would be a mistake. Instead, they should stand in our minds as “more or less important for me.”

Of course, as an advocate of people, I’m interested to know what’s more or less important for most people or for people with certain medical conditions. Still, the individual’s mileage will always vary.

Also, a person often requires a few weeks or even months to learn how to implement the basic principles of paleo well in his own life, then even longer to tweak and optimize. For people really concerned to eat well — and to be fully healthy — that can be well worth the trouble!

Even with the broad range of paleo, we cannot hope to find a “one-size-fits-all” diet, except in a very broad way.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha