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Paleolithic diet is so easy, cavemen actually did it

Cordain writes that our Paleolithic ancestors were "lean, fit and free from heart disease and other ailments that plague Western countries." Now, he adds: "Look at us. We're a mess. We eat too much, we eat the wrong foods, and we're fat."

No argument on that last part.

It's near impossible to even guesstimate how many people are eating Paleo, but you'd likely find followers at one of the 1,000-plus CrossFit affiliates across the country, including at least 15 in the Washington area. Most are educating their clients about eating Paleo, says Chris LaLanne, owner of LaLanne Fitness in San Francisco and the grandnephew of the fitness guru Jack LaLanne. The younger LaLanne is a writer for Cordain's Web site, http://www.thepaleodiet.com.

The shadow of doubt

Of course, there are skeptics. Harvard professor of social sciences and paleontology expert David Pilbeam writes by e-mail: "I think it's quite possible there have been at least some genetic changes since the Neolithic [the period after the Paleolithic when anthropologists think farming was born] that would modify digestive processes (enzymes, etc.) to adjust to what have been in many cases quite radically transformed diets," and he points to most modern humans' ability to digest milk.

Jeremias is tired of feeling like she has to defend what she chooses to eat, and has reached a point at which she's not concerned with the nitty-gritty of the scientific data. "I feel like I shouldn't have to be an encyclopedia of medical research," she says. What's important is that she's never felt healthier.

Still, she says, "I hesitate to talk about it sometimes, especially with my friends because I feel like I'm kind of a weird eater now." Her best friend, a vegetarian, teases Jeremias by calling her a paleontologist.

Jeremias lives in a group house in Mount Pleasant with four other people in their 20s, including one who's into drinking green health shakes, a quasi-vegetarian and, according to his housemates, a "pizza-by-the-slice guy." Jeremias keeps her own white mini-fridge on top of her housemates' beer fridge (Jeremias rarely drinks alcohol, which is not strictly Paleo). In September she attempted to wow her housemates with a five-course Paleolithic extravaganza, she says, "so they can understand why I'd want to eat this way." It worked, though not to the point of converting anyone.

Anna Shoup admits, "We were kind of skeptical at first," but then came that dinner: sesame tuna; lettuce wraps with ground turkey and veggies in an almond-butter sauce; a fennel-and-apple salad; a "pasta" dish made with spaghetti squash noodles and coconut milk; and roasted asparagus. While Jeremias is out of earshot preparing lunch after the shopping trip, Shoup reports, "It was amazing."

Modernity does intrude, even for the most ardent Paleophile. Dark chocolate "is my cheat," Jeremias admits. "Everybody has that one thing that they need for their sanity." She sometimes puts chocolate chips in her Paleo pancakes (almond-nut butter, eggs, unsweetened applesauce, vanilla and cinnamon fried in coconut oil).

But now when she does eat off the diet: "I immediately feel physically ill, bloated and really lethargic. I think [before eating Paleo] I was probably feeling like that all the time."


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