What Is the Paleo Lifestyle Really About? | Well.Org

Pedram: Hi everybody, back with Cliff Hodges,
going to talk about some Paleo wonderment today. We had a great conversation last week
about what it’s like to be surviving out in the woods and what it means to us in the modern
world. Paleo is such a hot topic right now. No one better I know to talk about it better
than you because you’re a dude who’s out there living it. Cliff: Doing my best, taking it to all angles
in life, absolutely. Pedram: It’s good to see you again man. Cliff: It’s good to see you, too, Pedram. Pedram: Let’s lay the groundwork because some
people might not even know what Paleo is and let’s catch them up. What is Paleo like, Paleo
diet, Paleo exercise and all that? Just define it for us real quick and then I’ll give us
a springboard into it. Cliff: Sure, absolutely and I think the term
Paleo that most people are familiar with right now is in reference to the Paleo Diet. The
Paleo Diet is a term that was most often I think believe coined by Lauren Cordaine, who’s
a doctor and nutritionist who studied basically the diet of human beings before agriculture.
The Paleo era exist on this planet before agriculture so before the introduction and
mass harvesting of cereal grains. In most commonly, the term Paleo refers to the Paleo
diet, meaning eating a diet based on meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds,
but no grains, obviously no processed foods. Pedram: No Twinkies in the Paleo diet? Cliff: No Twinkies unless there’s a certain
plant out there that I’ve never heard of. Pedram: The Twinkies shrub. Basically anything
you could find out in nature that was edible is what our ancestors ate. Really guys what
this boils down to is for hundreds of thousands if not millions of years biologically, we
evolved around certain types of foods, certain types of input that our bodies recognize as
food. Then within a short amount of time, we got into this agricultural thing where
all of a sudden we realized that we could harvest crops and start really nudging them
towards having a little bit more carbohydrate and having better yields.
Just making it easier for us to hang around our village and walk out there and grab, instead
of cruising around working for it. We saw very big differences in bone fossil density,
in teeth density and all sorts of things. Something happened when we stopped being the
kind of bad ass cavemen and women that we were into becoming the agrarian societies
and a lot of it was organization and structure and we were able to come together. We were
able to stay in one place and stay safe in one place which led to the development of
literature and a lot of things that I don’t want to pooh-pooh because civilization-society
has some cool stuff going on. But there was a price to pay. Cliff: There’s a price to pay and some people
get confused because when I start talking about a pre-agrarian diet, people think, “God,
agriculture’s been around forever, the fertile crescent, the development of farming grains.
We’ve been eating cereal grains and bread since biblical times.” The way I try to explain
it to people is that remember in elementary school, in high school they’d show you that
history of the world and they’d tell you the history of the world where a timeline that
wrapped around this room, the amount of time on that timeline that human beings even existed
will be like a pinhead. This is the same thing, but now if you zoom
in on just the amount of time that human beings have been on this planet and you stretch that
out around the room as a timeline, the amount of time we’ve been eating cereal grains and
farming and having modern agriculture is the pinhead. We exist for many thousands, tens
of thousands of years eating a wild diet, eating animals that we harvested ourselves
in the wild, fish that came out of the ocean and fruits and vegetables that are not only
grew naturally, but also grew only at certain times of year with the seasons. Now, we walk
into the supermarket, we get whatever we want, whenever we want. Quite often our stomachs
talking to us, our instincts and really what modern food industry has driven towards us
has proven to be not the healthiest thing in the world. Pedram: A lot of the diseases that we’re looking
at, whether it be gluten intolerance and all the stuff that’s coming from GMOs and all
we just did a story with Jeffrey Smith about genetically modified foods. There’s some scary
stuff coming out that’s showing that we’re getting thick eating processed foods. Cliff: When people think processed food, they
think like you said Twinkies and Twinkies and diet soda and it’s not just Twinkies and
diet soda, but it’s these cereal grains, especially wheat. The term gluten-free, I think everyone
knows even if you don’t fully believe in it is become the new buzzword in restaurants
and supermarkets because of the problems that we’re starting to see when our diet is being
based solely on this. It came from a good place. It came from human beings building
a civilization and trying to make things easier and have more leisure time, be able to build
an industry around this. We haven’t realized is our bodies just aren’t made to process
this. From the scientific perspective as opposed
to just the evolutionary perspective, what we’re really trying to do here is control
inflammation. All these problems that are popping up, diabetes, people are now relating
Alzheimer’s to diet, bone density issues, obesity, really it all boils down to inflammation
in these cereal grains and these processed foods and high sugar foods are causing a huge
amount of inflammation in our body. Pedram: To that point guys, what this means
is for hundreds of thousands of years if not millions of years, your body has recognized
certain things as food. Then what happens now is all of the sudden, you take a molecule
that is absolutely new to your body’s cellular memory. It has no idea what this stuff is
and you eat it. The body might say, “Ok.” Basically what it
does is say, “Friend or foe.” If this is a friend, we’re going to digest it. It’s going
to be calories and we’re going to grow into our day with it. But if it ends up being foe,
then you start developing antibodies and say, “Hey, this doesn’t register as food, therefore
it must be something that’s out to get us.” That creates (a) a potential autoimmunity
disorders. (B) Lots of got inflammation, leaky guts syndrome, all kinds of things that lead
to mal-absorption, depression, neurodegenerative cognitive issues. There’s so many things that
are coming out of that literature, that body of work now that it makes your head spin. Then from there, what happens when you’re
spending all your energy trying to break down food that’s not yielding calories the same
way and you’re putting it all in the immune system to fight yourself is you’re tired.
We’ve got stagnant, tired people eating food that isn’t being metabolized into energy,
wondering what the problem is. Cliff: Bringing up tired people I think is
a really good segue into talking about look Paleo-living is a lot more than just the Paleo
Diet. In my line of work I get people asking me about this all the time saying, “I just
need to eat meat or chicken and an apple every day.” I’m starting to tell people you also
need to vary that diet. You also need to pay attention to your sleep patterns as well because
what we’ve done is for thousands, tens of thousands of years as you said, we’ve lived
a life that has really been dictated to us by the planet. The food we eat is dictated
by the seasons. You used to go to walk in the supermarket and get certain foods all
the time. We had a life that was dictated by the planet as far as what we ate, when
we went to bed and when we waked up and we lived a very seasonal life. Now all of a sudden,
the roles are reversed. Instead of the planet imposing its cycle on us, we are trying to
impose our schedule on the planet and we’re getting into a lot of problems with that. Pedram: We’re dragging so we’re getting pharmaceuticals
to try to help us through. We’re taking our Lunesta to sleep and our
Metformin to digest foods. It’s just this litany of things that we’re doing trying to
feel back to normal. Again, the original clause of “let thy food be thy medicine,” goes back
to saying, “What was food?” We talked about this with Dr. Sarah Godfrey the other day
is even the foods, the vegetables that we’re eating nowadays are very different than the
vegetables our Paleolithic ancestors had access to. It was mostly fiber, lots of work getting
a little bit of calories out of a lot of mass. You didn’t have the same readily available
sugar in the vegetables. You didn’t have these heads of lettuce that look like what you see
in the grocery store. Cliff: What all of our modern farming industry
has done is to maximize calorie. We’re getting larger fruits and vegetables, more calories
in our fruits and vegetables, but at the same time that we’re increasing the size and the
weight of these plants, we’re actually also drastically decreasing their nutritional value.
The level of antioxidants and vitamins that are existing now in these fruits and vegetables
has significantly plummeted as well. It’s almost like we’re just stuffing ourselves
full of empty calories and it’s just not working. You’re starting to see movements back to small
farm agriculture, small organic communities supported agriculture, eating more local.
It’s not just about celebrating eating local, it’s really about eating healthier because
you know where this food comes from and it’s grown in a much more organic and natural cycle. Pedram: A lot of people talk about Paleo being
this throwback to a nostalgic day where you could just cruise around and club a deer over
the head. Those days, as I’m looking at a deer over your head, I want to segue guys
into saying that this gentleman teaches people how to carve bows out of wood himself. They
have to go with a hand-drawn bow to pull an animal the right way, just like our Paleolithic
ancestors did. How long does it take for you to say pull down a deer after hours and hours
of stalking? I need people to know this because anyone of you out there who eats meat and
says, “Oh my god, how can you kill a deer?” I’m calling you out as being a hypocrite because
you’ve got to know what it’s like to take a life to appreciate what you are putting
into your body. That’s just a moral thing that I always draw. Cliff: That’s when I really talk to people
about living a modern Paleolithic lifestyle, I fully appreciate that look, we don’t have
the game populations. We have a much larger human population. It’s not necessarily feasible
at all for everybody on this planet to be going out and feeding themselves 100% off
of hunted meat. That being said, I truly believe it’s an experience that is part of the human
experience on this planet and needs to be felt because first of all, it’s the most environmental
way to eat meat. You’re not involving an industry. You’re not buying meat that’s been hopped
up on antibiotics and pumped up with steroids. It’s also really about being connected to
your food source and understanding that sacrifice and understanding the flow of nature and how
we fed ourselves as human beings for thousands and thousands of years. I teach classes where people come out. They
make all of their own equipment. They start literally with a log from a tree, carving
it with hand tools all the way down to a shooting huntable bow, the way that people did on this
planet for tens of thousands of years. We also teach these people to make stone point
arrows and arrows out of all-natural materials. Then we focus a lot on animal tracking, stalking,
hunting and really putting the time in to slow down and step out of our normal daily
life and see what it really means to be a human being on this planet, feeding themselves
from the planet. It takes time. It takes commitment. For me, the average bow has anywhere from
40 to 80 hours of work in it. Each arrow has anywhere from five to ten hours of work in
it. Then for every animal that I hunt and take
with an arrow in the field, I probably spent 20 to 30 days sitting out in the woods tracking
and getting to know that animal before I actually take the step of trying to harvest it. Pedram: That is a far, far cry from pulling
through Mickie D’s drive through and getting a Double Mac. That’s I think where the disconnect
is also really profound in our culture is it’s so convenient and so easy. We don’t know
what we’re getting, but we know we can get it like this. Cliff: Most kids that I see coming through
some of my more kid-focused summer programs, we bring up, we have a day where we talk about
food, everything from wild edible plants to hunting and trapping. One question I bring
up to kids is I ask them, “When they get those hamburgers from the store wrapped in plastic,
where do they come from?” On average today in 2013, about eight out of those ten kids
in my summer camps have zero connection between a hamburger and plastic wrap and a cow. As
far as they know, a cow is the thing that is on the side of the road eating grass and
generally understand the milk connection there. But there is zero connection to the lifecycle
and that circle of life and that hierarchy of life of predator and prey and where our
food source comes from. The further we move away from that, the more problems we’re going
to have taking care of our bodies, as well as taking care of our planet. Pedram: Amen to that. I remember my first
time, I was hiking through Nepal and we were staying, you just find a family and say, “Can
we stay in your barn?” The guy said, “What can I get you for dinner?” I just unknowingly
being the city idiot that I was, turned around and said, “How about some chicken curry?”
He goes, “Okay great, which one?” I go, “What?” He points to a bunch of chickens down there
and it was this eerie feeling where all of a sudden it occurred to me that I had to play
executioner and pick which one of these poor birds was going to be my dinner. That’s when
I had this flip in my brain were I said, “I could either stop eating meat right now or
I need to watch this happen and more importantly, participate in this happening and I need to
figure out this is a moral decision for me from here on in. You don’t take this lightly.” Cliff: You don’t take it lightly and it makes
us more aware people and I think just more in tune with what it means to be a person
on this planet to at least have that experience once. Like I said, I tell them all my students,
“I know it’s not feasible to do this every day. You’ve got bills to pay. You’ve got a
job. You can’t spend 100% of your time making bows and arrows and sitting in the woods,
but have that experience once in your life and know where we really came from originally.” I think when you start tuning into some of
those more natural rhythms and cycles of life is also as we discussed last week how we start
reducing our stress levels and we start spending more time out in the woods and out in nature
and learning that that symphony, that harmony of natural sounds and natural patterns is
very important for us as human beings. I think when we do that, when we spend more time outside
is also when we start to see our sleep cycles return to something slightly more normal and
we start to become healthier people. Pedram: Amen to that. Quickly, we’ve talked
a lot in our popular culture about the Paleo Diet. Everyone’s talking about the Paleo Diet.
If you don’t know what the Paleo Diet is, you are probably living in a part of the world
that’s probably about ten years behind. Everyone’s on the Paleo Diet in the big cities or at
least Paleo modified. What about Paleo exercise? What about Paleo lifestyle? It wasn’t just
about how our ancestors ate. These dudes were cruising around all day. It was not easy. Cliff: It’s how we moved. It’s how we built
our shelters and spent our time hunting and spent time working in a much more tribal society.
That’s what we’re also doing now is really trying to mimic that type of exercise. Human
beings are in my opinion, were very on a daily basis, very anaerobic animals. Especially
when we were hunting, we were operating on short bursts of speed and power. That’s where
all of these new fads of high-intensity interval training, things like cross-fit come into
play. We’re starting to do things, instead of isolate
one muscle group to build up your bicep when do you do that on a normal daily basis. We’re
doing full body movements, running, jumping, squatting, throwing and we’re doing it in
a short burst of speed and power. The results that we’re getting compared to a traditional
gym regiment of an hour on the treadmill and ten sets of ten on the cable row machine it
is incredible. People are seemingly, finally coming to fruition of what their bodies to
potential is physically when we switch to that more interval-based, full body, as they
call “caveman exercise type of training.” Pedram: The bicep curl is a beach muscle.
It is not functional in any way, but crawling up a creek bed or getting up a tree that could
be useful. That’s really what it is. It’s about not being a limited mammal and
being able to move around freely. Cliff: For thousands of years, we were exercising
this way not to get exercise, not to get bikini abs, but we’re doing it to stay alive. It
was the hunt or being hunted. Human beings were for many thousands of years predator
and prey. So we had to learn how to move quickly to feed ourselves, but also to stay alive
and to be able to take care of our families and our villages and our tribes. When we return
to this as all part of this modern Paleo movement, we start eating the right way. We start moving
the right way and exercising the right way. We’re learning that look this is where our
true potential is as human beings. It’s not sitting in a desk and drinking lattes and
eating bonbons all day long. Pedram: That’s unfortunately, some of us have
become contained in such a way so look if you are a desk jockey, if you are stuck in
some office cubicle calling that work and you’re doing that eight hours a day, there’s
a few things, let’s get some take home tips maybe that people can start doing to start
feeling a little more vital. Then segue them into a more Paleolithic type of movement pattern.
What would you say for someone that sits around all day? Cliff: For somebody who sits around all day
if you want to take basic advice, both on diet as well as exercise, on diet before I
even getting into the specifics of the Paleo Diet with clients, I just tell them if you
can’t identify the plant or animal it came from, don’t eat it. That will take out about
80% of the garbage that we put into our mouths each day. There’s a whole lot more you can
do, but that’s sort of rule number one that comes to moving towards a more Paleo Diet.
It’s just identifying that living food source. On an exercise basis, I tell people move away
from that concept of long-slow cardio. We’re finding that a two to three mile run each
day at a very slow pace gets your heart rate up for the period of time that you’re running.
You might sweat a little bit and then your heart rate goes right back down. So I’m really
encouraging people to get their body in an anaerobic state which for most people means
interval training. If you have weights that’s great, but even if it’s just running then
do sprints, a lot of sprint work with short breaks in between, but keep that intensity
up. Do anything that moves your full body and try to get your body moving fast enough
and intense enough that it’s something that you can’t sustain and do it over and over
again with rest intervals. Pedram: If you’re sitting too much, get up
and stretch, stay hydrated. Natural White would be wonderful if you can get it. Cliff: Spend some time outside, a little bit
of time outside each week. Get that Vitamin D in the daytime and see the stars at night
at least once a week. Pedram: I love it, love it. I come up from
a part of the world where the stars look like streetlights and the moon might shine once
in a while. When you’re in a big city it’s really hard to see stars so take a drive.
Everyone’s within half an hour of a good starry sky if it’s done right. Cliff: Absolutely. Pedram: Cliff, thank you very much for your
time. I’d love to have you back and keep doing this. I think you’re an inspiration. We had
such a great time and doing our training with you out there that I’m looking forward to
getting back out in the woods and making a bow. It’s good, clean, healthy fun and it’s
good for you. Cliff: It’s a pleasure Pedram and you are
always welcome out in the woods with me. Pedram: Excellent, good to see you my friend. Cliff: All right my man, take care. Pedram: Good, thanks.

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Reader Comments

  1. 3ye3ye3lack3ird

    Loved this video. This is exactly why I'm trying to get myself into a Paleo lifestyle. Thanks for this and hope to watch more about awesome nature stuff or healthy living.

  2. Pedram Shojai

    Thanks! Yeah we have a whole movie called "Origins" coming out next year on this subject- filmed much of it in Africa tracking wild game and learning how our ancestors survived. Fun stuff 🙂

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