Berto's comment on my previous post got me thinking about my view that this latest Paleo dust-up is more than a couple of egos, that it is a fight between the fatties and the cross-fitters.
Who owns Paleo??
There seem to be two routes into paleo. The first is through the "crossfit" guys, those who are young and lean, but want to get even more ripped. This camp also includes young hip vegans who have recently become "meat-curious"
Then there are the "fatties". It is this group I am going to focus on more now, because this is the path that I took.
Most fatties, as the crossfitters like to call them on the interwebs, start their diet wars by following some CW diet program. It usually starts with them cutting out some soda and fast food, and that plan does seem to work pretty well for the men, and the younger people.
If reducing junk food doesn't work, they start to try other things. This might involve skipping breakfast and adding in exercise, or going to a "healthy" low-fat diet containing lots of diet yogurt and Kashi bars. Or, ordering a turkey burger instead of a beef burger. If that doesn't work, they go to a cleaner low-fat diet, or mess with their meat intake. They might add in even more exercise (even though the actual studies show that exercise is a poor way to lose weight, especially for women). There's probably a stint involving some kind of diet shake or bar in the mix, too.
Lots of times, this plan results in some health improvement and the loss of some weight, probably around 15 pounds or so. Eventually, if they need to lose more, they might join Weight Watchers, Dr. Oz's ShareCare or even [redacted]people dot com, and get really serious. Some folks follow the recommendations of these CW organizations for years and never get anywhere. These are the people you see week after week in WW meetings or racking up lots of "sparky" points. Mostly fat old women, but there are also lots of younger women with diabetes and PCOS and depression. They usually try lots of things: vegetarian, vegan, marathons, fasting, juice, etc. They are eating stuff that Dr. Oz recommends. Contrary to what the Crossfitters are saying, these fat old ladies aren't eating SAD. They are failing in their weight loss attempts despite doing all the right things: Blueberries. Lean Proteins. Olive Oil. Soaked Walnuts.
Now, the crossfitters have NO IDEA what some of these fat old women have been doing to get into better shape all these years. The fat older ladies weigh and measure their food and themselves regularly, eat on small plates, count out each and every nut, count their steps on the pedometer, try just about every diet they can think of. They recommit every few months or so, or every Monday morning. One diet they rarely try is the paleo diet. And that is because the CW diet experts hate paleo. They don't even want the fat old women to know about it. That's why people like me aren't allowed to post links to my blog on [redacted]people, and why Dr. Oz can be so nice to the hundreds of guests on his TV show and still be such a little brat to Mr. Taubes.
So, the next crazy thing these fat old ladies try is to cross over to the dark side, and go on a low carb diet. Now, you have to be either pretty brave or pretty stupid to look into the low carb diet. Once the fat old women have read GCBC, broken through that barrier, and have lost a bunch of weight, they want to find a way to incorporate healthy clean eating in with low-carb. That's when they find diets like Protein Power and Paleo. Again, most Crossfitters assume that they are all on Atkins, and that all those Atkin's people eat tons of bars and fake stuff. Some do, most don't.
Now, the real problem is, they have just escaped the tyranny of CW, only to be hit with conventional crap talk by the paleo blogosphere. (Aravind and Dr. Harris come to mind here.) For me, I really noticed it on Paleohacks in early summer, and then after the AHS11, all hell broke loose. There were lots of comments about low-carbers having puffy red faces, and the "who does that Taubes guy think he is?" kind of stuff. There was also a systemic disregard for the experiences, intelligence and viewpoints of fat people. Earlier this year, I sent a ton of my hundreds of fat [redacted]peeps over to the Paleo blogs, but they had become such an embarassment, and downright hostile to fat people that I no longer recommend most of the sites anymore.
I came to think that not only was this much more than just science, as some penned, but that it was much more than mere battling egos. It was about bashing fat old people, and in the most CW way.
I really noticed a shift at AHS11, right after Taubes made his comment. The man next to me, who apparently heard about the paleo diet only yesterday and clearly (to me at least) was never fat, had an interesting response to the exchange. Of course, he hadn't read anything about Guyenet's theories or had read any of Taubes' books. He kept trying to lecture me about carbs. He said, "You know, why do you talk about eliminating carbs, don't you know there are carbs in that food you're eating?" (I was munching on a fairly unrewarding raw zucchini.) Huh? Duh? Who knows more about the carb content of foods than a low-carber??? It was clear that he was not aware of low-carb talk and his belief that fat people are stupid was showing. (Primer: "carbs" are foods that contain lots of carbs, foods on the carby list, like potatoes, rice, wheat. Zucchini is not on that list. Yes, we know that zucchini contains carbs but it is not a "carb".)
During and immediately after the conference, there was a flurry of attacks against fat people by the paleo demi-gods. And, I am not talking about the luminaries who spoke and who have the largest audience for their books and blogs, but more the commenters and hangers-on-ers, the people who think because they read some stuff or know someone really well, that they can define how it is for everyone else. Just really nasty stuff, all just different versions of, "Fat people are fat because they are lazy and weak-willed."
So, do Guyenet and his buddies have anything better to offer to fat people? They already get scoldings by CW dietitians and exercise coaches for eating saturated fat and not moving enough, get lectures on belly fat and portion control by their doctors, told it's calories in calories out, and then told they are stupid Dr.Oz-watchers who eat too much tasty food and cheat on their food diaries. What's next, all your food through a straw (oh, we did that in the 70's, remember jaws wired shut?), or size 3X hair shirts with tight belts so they are even more uncomfortable? Let's take their kids and health insurance away, fine them, discriminate against them in employment and take all their salt and pepper and their wok away until they behave themselves.
In the paleo world, carbs aren't the enemy anymore. Fat people, people who have different body chemistries and reactions to dietary interventions are the enemy. This is so much bigger than Taubes vs. Guyenet. Stanton and Kruse have both commented that they don't have a horse in this race. Well, maybe Taubes and Guyenet and Lustig and others are competing with each other. But they are just messing around with theories. The real fat people are messing around with their health. Maybe Taubes and Guyenet have placed their bets, but it is the real fat people who are truly in the race.