The history of dietary scamology is older than mankind; it began when the first primeval predatory invertebrate camouflaged itself to trick some doofus diatom into becoming dinner.
The history—the science, really—of human dietary scamology (a.k.a. ‘fad diets’) is a bit more recent and, in the case of those diets named after people, places or things, a lot more complex.
To Name But a Few:
The Atkins Diet: Created by Dr. Robert Atkins in 1972, the premise behind the diet is that weight gain is caused by processed carbohydrates and insulin, not calories. Therefore, the immediate appeal is that Atkins is suggesting that you can lose weight simply by eliminating candied brussels sprouts and kelp chips from your daily regimen and replacing them with cheese, steak, butter, bacon and burgers.
Unfortunately, a lot of Atkins’s research has been disproven and his clinic declared bankruptcy in 2005. Just as well, since eating large amounts of saturated fats leads to heart disease and other nasty stuff. Also, the diet is nearly impossible to maintain and gives you bad breath.
Incidentally, Dr. Atkins passed away at the age of 72—overly thin, overly stank-breathed and overly dead—at a time when the average lifespan of an American male was 76.5 years.
The Hollywood Cookie Diet: Another ludicrous diet with an obvious plus side: Cookies. Only Tinseltown minds—the same ones that convinced us that Dude, Where’s My Car? is funny and that Tom Green can act—could make someone believe that eating four cookies a day is a viable nutritional program. But that’s exactly what it offers: Four cookies throughout the day followed by a ‘healthy dinner’. On the same comedic level as Beverly Hills Ninja, The Hollywood Cookie Diet claims that it works because it is based on caloric restriction.
Well, no shit sherlock; you are essentially down to one meal a day, right? In that case, have I got an even better diet for you. It’s called The Ice Cube Diet. Four ice cubes per day plus one cookie for dinner; weight loss is quick and brutal. If you’re interested in marketing rights, Hollywood, have your girl call my girl.
Richard Simmons’ Deal-A-Meal: Not much to be said about this idiotic, overly-hyped, ludicrously complicated diet plan—where you have to transfer cards representing ‘portion points’ from one side of your wallet to the other every time you eat something and quit when all the cards are gone.
…Except for this:
It managed to turn Simmons from a pudgy, whiny, obnoxious little bitch into a skinny, whiny, obnoxious little bitch.
The South Beach Diet: Another silly-ass program so convoluted that I don’t even feel like going into it; only to say that South Beach Diet weight loss is not caused by what you are ingesting, but by the stress caused by worrying about what ‘phase’ you are in.
The Sea Salt Diet: My favorite: I see salt and I eat it.
Veganism: This isn’t a diet so much as a dickwad, hypocritical ‘animal rights’ lifestyle movement. Absolutely nothing containing animal or fish products can be eaten or worn by self-righteous ‘vegans’. Unfortunately, unless said vegan lives on a self-sustaining, pesticide-free farm, stats show the following: Per acre of cropland under cultivation there are around 4.5 million insects; include springtails and mites in the figure and the number rises to 124 million. If only the impossibly low figure of 1% of these little lives are killed in a yearly (or more) Pesticide Holocaust, that’s 1.24 million horrible deaths per acre of vegetable farm.
Pass the burgers, poozles.
And Finally, The Latest and Greatest Blah-Blah-Blah Diet:
The Paleo Diet: This may well be the silliest one of all. In case you haven’t yet been bombarded with hype by proponents of this strange way of eating—which has no conceivable raison d’être except that diet people are running out of ideas—is based on the nonsensical notion that Paleolithic people were healthier, taller, more muscular, agile and athletic than we are.
Now, if you actually believe this, you probably don’t need therapy so much as a mental trip to Lourdes, but here are a few stats:
- Paleolithic humans rarely lived past forty; major cause of death was infectious diseases.
- Infant mortality rates averaged 25%, and infanticide was not uncommon.
- The average height of a Paleolithic guy was 5’5”.
Now, as for muscularity, agility and athleticism of Paleo people, I won’t dispute.
But, raise your hand if you genuinely believe that this had to do with the fact that they ate mastodon instead of McDonald’s and not to the fact that they actually had to hunt down the mastodons they ate instead of driving to Kroger (as you know goddamn well you’re going to do) to pick up all the allowable foods on the Paleo Diet.
Speaking of Which…
The foods that are permissible on the typical Paleo diet are as follows:
Eggs: An odd egg, this one: Because unless you are eating quail eggs or ostrich eggs exclusively, chicken eggs really shouldn’t be permitted since the Paleolithic era ended with the advent of agriculture in c. 10,000 BCE and chickens were not domesticated for another two thousand years.
Meat: Beef, obviously, but like the chicken, cattle were not domesticated until 8000 BCE and most versions of the diet don’t allow dairy—so, go figure. The pork tenderloin and baby back ribs you’ll probably be eating on your Paleo Diet didn’t show up on the Cro-Magnon sideboard, since pigs required yet another millennium to be raised in the back yard. If you were truly true to your school, all you’d eat for meat is eland, dog, lizard, reindeer and cave bear—plus, woolly mammoth when you could get it. (I checked at my local Kroger, and the manager said he hadn’t stocked mastodon since the spear was invented.)
Fish: Shellfish is good, because you can gather it easily and eat it raw—during most of the Paleolithic era, man did not have fire. With fin fish, the Paleo Diet would prefer that yours be wild, not farm-raised.
Fruits, Veggies, Nuts and Seeds: Most are allowed, with the exception of green beans and peas.
What’s not allowed is easier to list, since it includes essentially everything that came after agriculture: Peanuts, sugars (and beverages sweetened with them), Doritos, dairy, non-plant oils, Hostess Ding Dongs, all grains—and that includes popcorn, pasta, Frosted Mini-Wheats and bread.
So, Is the Paleo Diet a Scam?
Let me put it this way: If you eat as outlined above, you’ll likely find your blood lipids improved; you’ll lose weight and lose pain from autoimmunity and find the signs and symptoms of insulin-resistant Type 2 diabetes not only reduced, but in some cases, reversed.
…So, in a Word: Yes.
Why? Because most versions of the Paleo Diet discourage alcohol—and last I checked, that includes wine.
Now, if you are suggesting that early man did not drink wine, I’m gonna get all pissy and hold my breath until I turn blue. Hell, wild animals get plastered on naturally fermented fruit that they’ve found; a study cited in Scientific American (July 28, 2008) show that creatures in the Malaysian rainforest love to drink fermented palm nectar.
To quote the observing animal physiologist Frank Wiens, who noticed a ‘strange yeasty odor wafting from the palm’ along with a beer-like froth: “This indicated that there might be alcohol involved…”
Sure enough, he measured, and the sap had an ABV of 3.8%—about beer level.
So, if the tiny Malaysian pentailed treeshrew can have a botanical bartender, isn’t it silly to assume that naturally fermented products weren’t enjoyed by homo habilis and all the pie-eyed Paleolithic party-animals that followed?
Of course it’s silly.
But, choosing the right wine to go with roast glyptodon and cave bear burgers might tax the skill levels of the most anal sommelier, because we have no idea what it was that Fred Flintstone’s grandparents might have stumbled across in their hunter/gatherer lifestyle.
What I can say is that wine production goes back to 7000 BCE—same year as pig domestification, so if the Paleo Diet people can have their bacon tips and pork rillettes, my cavemen can have their vintage bilberry swamp juice.
If it was grape swamp juice, however, it was probably species Vitis vinifera subspecies sylvestris, the ancestor to all modern wine grapes.
Since you won’t find that at Kroger either, go with the earliest modern varietal believed to have evolved: Muscat, which Pliny the Elder called ‘The Grape of the Bees’ just before his date with Vesuvius.
In any event, my own foray into nutritional therapy laid a quail/ostrich egg in Hollywood, and faded into the same sort of obscurity that Tom Green enjoys; neither of us had enough ‘pizarkle’—as the La La Land punani say.
Screw them: I offer it up without the slightest sense of self-contempt or contrition:
The Chris Kassel Diet: If you want to gain weight, eat more. If you want to lose weight, eat less.
And drink all the friggin wine you can hold.
Ah, if only it were that simple! Consider: http://youtu.be/bTUspjZG-wc . Wasn’t wine typically very sweet in the middle ages and before? I seem to recall reading that.
Yeah, Nick, but the Paleo era, from which the diet is supposedly taken, ended 12,000 years ago. A long time before the Middle Ages.
Yeah, I’m not disagreeing re: paleo wine, just talking about what historical wine must have been like. Who knows what it was like in the old incarnations we’re aware of? If Egyptian kings are buried with the stuff, who knows what it tasted like? I find that whole topic fascinating.
Tim Ferriss has an exciting Paleo + wine kind of Taubes-like approach to eating that he’s discussed in his “4 Hour Body” book. It’s compelling. http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2012/07/12/how-to-lose-100-pounds/ Gary Taubes is also fantastically well-researched and -spoken on this topic and worth the read (all satire aside).
I do too. And yeah, it pretty much had to be sweet–as a preservative. Or sugar added for the same reason, along with spices. And then there’s mead.
Actually Paleo says Wine is OK, especially Red Wine.