Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Who Are Your Paleo Diet Heroes?

Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. When it comes to paleo, who are yours? Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
Who are your paleo diet heroes?
I was pondering this question recently after someone asked me how I “discovered” paleo.  Perhaps surprisingly, I realized that I had found my way via 1990s low-fat fitness star Susan Powter, who recommended the work of the herbalist Susun Weed, who led me to the work of Sally Fallon and the Weston A Price Foundation, and from there I found my way to paleo.
Here are a few of the people who stand out in my own paleo pantheon. It’s interesting that many of them probably wouldn’t describe themselves as “paleo” – but nonetheless, their work has enhanced my understanding and appreciation of the paleo diet:

Mark Sisson

I had noticed Mark’s book The Primal Blueprint long before I found my way to paleo, but I’m ashamed to admit I dismissed it as “just another fad diet book”.  How wrong I was!  When I eventually got round to reading it, I was impressed with the range of information he presented, and how elegantly he was able to merge sound nutritional, fitness, and lifestyle practices.  I’m also really impressed by how well he comes across in audio and video interviews – enthusiastic, informative, and inclusive.  He doesn’t scare people into turning paleo – he encourages them with top-class information.  His blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, is essential reading for anyone who cares about their health, in my opinion.

The Jaminets

After noticing some friends on Facebook raving about the book The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet, I decided to check it out.  Chock-full of information, I found their discussion on safe starches to be particularly beneficial in the context of a sound grounding in paleo eating principles.  I also really appreciate their excellent analysis of the use of supplementation on the paleo diet.  They have a lively and informative blog, too, and one that shows a pleasing level of interaction with its readership.

Weston A Price

Although more an advocate of a traditional, rather than paleo, diet, I think there can be no doubt that many of today’s modern paleo practitioners owe a great debt of gratitude to this man who so assiduously and clearly documented the detrimental effects that a modern diet of processed foods had on the health of indigenous peoples.  His observations on the critical role played by fat-soluble vitamins in human health – documented extensively in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration – have done a great deal to help dispel the fat-phobia that has dogged conventional nutritional advice for decades.

Sally Fallon

As the founder of the Weston A Price Foundation, Sally Fallon has been the torch-bearer of Price’s nutritional philosophy in recent years.  The Foundation’s website contains an impressive array of well-researched articles and links to suppliers of paleo-friendly products.  She’s also the author – with the reknowned lipid chemist Mary Enig – of the cookbook Nourishing Traditions, which contains a huge number of recipes which are easily adapted to paleo precepts.

We’re not finished…I have more paleo diet heroes to give a shout out to!

Nancy Deville

Nancy Deville doesn’t describe herself as strictly paleo, but she’s definitely a powerful advocate for a diet of whole, real food.  Her website and blog is regularly updated with great information on her own journey to health and vitality.  At sixty years old – with the looks and energy level of someone much younger – it’s clearly working well for her.  I reviewed her excellent book Healthy Sexy Happy a while back, and I’m still recommending it to people I care about.  I particularly like the fact that her programme goes beyond simply a focus on bodily health, and incorporates a wise approach to mental and spiritual fulfilment, drawing on such rich sources as Buddhism.

Dr John Briffa

John Briffa is UK-based doctor who blogs about recent research findings in health.  He takes care to analyse the findings in such a way that enables his readers to look beyond what the media – and, sometimes, even the studies’ authors – are concluding from the findings.  He’s also the author of Waist Disposal – a great little book on weight loss which combines a basically paleo diet with a sensible approach to exercise.  It’s the book I regularly recommend to those who want an accessible, non-intimidating introduction to a paleo way of eating and living.

Zoe Harcombe

Like John Briffa, Zoe Harcombe is another UK-based personality who is helping to burst the bubble of conventional and fad dietary practices.  Her dietary approach is inspired by the work of Gary Taubes, and contains significant nods towards paleo.  Most importantly, she’s doing a great job of profiling a diet of whole, real foods in some major UK-based newspapers and magazines.  Her blog is also a great mine of information for anyone who’s confused about the right way to eat.  Check out her blog section called “The Knowledge” for some particularly enlightening information on the current obesity crisis.

Susun Weed

I have to finish by acknowleding Susun Weed, since it was my trust in her (I’d already benefited tremendously from her excellent and comprehensive information on using herbs to enhance health and wellbeing) that meant I felt confident in giving the Weston A Price Foundation approach to eating a serious go.  I felt so great, I was then able to spread by paleo wings – and I haven’t looked back since.  Thanks, Susun.
So, those are my heroes of the paleo diet.  Who are yours?  What was your journey to paleo, and who helped you along the way?