One of these breakfasts is not paleo

Over a week ago, I briefly discussed my plans to experiment more with a paleo-style diet. I decided to quit eating oatmeal for breakfast, cold turkey (no pun intended). I was going to stay off oatmeal for at least two weeks. Well, fourteen days of no oatmeal have gone by.

Here are some photos of actual breakfasts I’ve had during these two weeks.

Warning to the purists: one of these breakfasts is not paleo.

Eggs, broccoli, walnuts

Egg, lentil soup

Eggs, broccoli, soup

The three breakfasts depicted

I also often use spinach in place of broccoli, and typically also eat a handful of nuts before anything else for breakfast, and take fish oil and vitamin D (the only supplements I take regularly).

Which is not paleo?

Of course, the lentils are not paleo. However, Tim Ferriss eats them, and I like them and find them filling.


At first, I was having a lot of trouble maintaining my weight, because of a calorie deficit from skipping the carb and sugar heavy breakfast, and eating less pizza. I piled on more veggies through the day (mainly, eating more for breakfast and lunch) and have been eating more chicken and beef. I am still dependent on brown rice for lunch and dinner. I will try to formulate an experiment to reduce or eliminate that.

My diet is still nowhere near paleo, because of the rice, some pizza cheating, and still eating a snack of a slice of rye bread with almond butter on most days. But the oatmeal is gone, and I don’t feel like going back. The protein/fat/veggie loaded breakfast makes me feel so much better. I am more alert from it, and when I exercise before lunch, I believe that I am more effective.

I’m considering swapping out some of the rice in favor of lentils, for the fiber and protein. Of the legumes, I find lentils most filling.

Controversy over paleo, and the nature of belief

Recently, a criticism of the paleo diet has been going around on the Web. It was offered by the anthropologist Barbara J. King. She loves animals, is mostly vegetarian, and is concerned about factory farming and the environment. As an ex-vegetarian, certainly I share many of her concerns, and Abby and I go organic and local with our food choices (whether meat or anything else).

But I think King weakens her voice by combining completely independent issues within one critique: one issue is purely scientific (what kind of diet is best for human health, and for which humans), and the others are ethical or philosophical or political. I think all the different issues should be analyzed and debated separately, then the interactions addressed. For example, what if a paleo-style diet is better for health for a substantial part of the population, and yet the demand for it creates pressure on food production? Then some kind of trade-off would need to be discussed. Or what if people moving to paleo results in fewer people eating processed food, sugar, and other products of entire industries that are arguably not beneficial to either people’s health or the environment?

There are a lot of “what ifs”. I believe King basically loves animals and would prefer to eliminate their use as food, globally. And that’s fine: I respect the views of ethical vegetarians, the way I respect Christians and Hindus and others who have some fundamental beliefs not to be questioned. But I think that if one starts with a fixed assumption that colors everything else in one’s life, one has to realize that one has weakened one’s ability to ask unpleasant questions that might have an undesirable answer. For example, someone who believes an embryo is a sacred life form has any moral choice other than to find every possible bit of argumentation against abortion, regardless of many questions surrounding it that lie outside the scope of the fetus.

Similarly, I’m sure a lot of paleo fans simply love eating meat, and now have a ideology suitable for rationalizing what they want to hear. From what I can tell, there’s also some intersection between paleo and certain political orientations as well. All this is very interesting to me as an observer of humanity, but for myself, I just want to know what’s true, what works (for many definitions of “works”), and have little patience for ideology. I want to know the answers, even if they call into question things I currently believe. In fact, I get excited when I’m wrong, because that means I’m alive and learning; since I don’t accept that by age 30, I’d already learned all the answers, I’d be pretty disappointed if every year since then I didn’t find something that I was wrong about and needed to correct!

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