A fresh perspective on Vegan vs Paleo

nutrition Dec 28, 2018

I tuned in last week to cheer on Dr. Joel Kahn as he stood as somewhat of a vegan underdog in a debate against paleo advocate Chris Kresser, moderated by the growingly popular, meat-loving Joe Rogan

 

 I must admit that hearing both sides of this scientific debate was indeed entertaining. It was like two kids on the playground, throwing rocks back and forth at one another. Only these kids were a little more respectful, and a little more knowledgeable.  

 

As arguments were thrown back and forth, the air became a little tenser. Each side stated their opinionated point with some degree of clarity and conviction.

It went a little bit like this…

 

“This is how it is.” “No, you’re wrong. This is how it is” “No, actually this study shows how it is” “Well, that study is wrong. This study really shows how it is”

 

If you want to listen to or watch the entire 3:47:39 conversation, go for it!

When it comes right down to the regurgitation of scientific literature, I’d have to say that Chris Kresser had a leg up here. He was rattling off studies to prove any point that came out of his mouth. The problem was, however, that he seemed to lack an understanding to actually move the conversation forward. 

Dr. Kahn, on the other hand, had a deeper connection with the scientific ground that he stood on. This was evident in the way that he was able to traverse across topics, more limber to defend his stance against eating meat/saturated fat.

I don’t want to offer a play by play of the debate, nor do I want to single in on and “debunk” any scientific points made. My intention is to offer a fresh perspective on the matter, suggesting we all consider changing the way we look at the topic at large.

We all love a fresh perspective

 

 This age-old debate of meat vs vegetables, carbs vs fat, paleo vs vegan is stale and dated. As with anything, it is susceptible to revitalization through modern trends and styles. However, when it comes to ways of eating and living, I hope that our decisions are grounded more deeply than fashion preferences. Just because bell bottoms are cool enough to come back around every few decades doesn’t mean we should also fill our plates with food items that businesses tell us to be fashionable or “healthy.”

How we eat and live is, of course, the predominant factor of our health individually, and collectively. What we choose to put into our body on a daily basis is, of course, going to be a powerful predictor of how we feel and what acute and chronic diseases we become susceptible to. More importantly, collective dietary choices of human beings dictate global outcomes from climate change and pollution to political and social forecasts.

What I’m suggesting is aligned with one of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein.

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

That is to say, our nutritional dilemma comes from a scientific foundation. The problems that we face now, both individual health and collective wellbeing, have evolved from this scientific basis. We’ve worked to manipulate foods, isolate nutrients, and hone in on vitamins, amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, and calories as an attempt to better understand the whole. In this reductionist model, it is natural to lose the forest through the trees. Big picture debates bring a breath of fresh air as things are discussed from different, broader angles. But, the perspective remains “scientific” nonetheless. 

I put “scientific” in quotes only because science of today is different than science even 100 years ago. Historically, scientists were on the quest for the truth, guided by nothing other than their inherent curiosity. Today, scientists are guided by different, external forces. That’s not to say that pure and clean science doesn’t exist, but the scientific environment at large is contaminated by industry funding, political subsidies, and of course, research bias.

I’m suggesting that when it comes to choosing ways to live and eat, we ditch science.

While placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials, epidemiologic studies, and meta-analyses are great – I think the information we have gathered from scientific methods has plateaued. It’s time we look past science as we know it. 

Before you toss this out and label me as a heretic, hear me out.

How humans work

We, humans, are wise, intuitive, loving, compassionate, and peaceful creatures. Despite what the evening news and internet headlines state, we are all intuitive and loving beings.

We live in an “outside-in” world where it is normalized and socially accepted to receive information, guidance, and affirmation for our actions from the outside world. We look to the outside for everything – from nutritional recommendation to clothing styles to evening plans. The “outside-in” paradigm is so pervasive that we are actually led to believe that our external environment is responsible for our inner state of wellbeing.

 In actuality, we live in an “inside-out” world where each and every creature harnesses infinite creative potential and all-knowing wisdom – true superpowers if you ask me! What’s more is our loving nature, deeply connected to the everlasting sea of oneness that knows no barriers, boundaries, or walls in this universe. We are created from the infinite energy source that created all other life forms. We have the answers to all questions, even those yet to even be asked, programmed inside each and every cell of our being.  Our optimal wellness is available in each moment, independent of the external environment in which we find ourselves.

If the above were only half true you’d now know to look inside, rather than outside, for the answers to your questions. This includes questions about eating animal products.

If you were to do this, trusting the inherent wisdom our your body and soul, you would never, under any circumstances be wrong. Talk about a truly individualized diet!

When I tune into my inner wisdom, I resonate with life. The life in my body craves life in other forms – fruits, vegetables, flowers, leaves, seeds. I feel resonant and enlivened when I think about these items. 

This isn’t necessarily to say that I “crave” these foods. I believe that most cravings are inauthentic, or skewed messages from the body. For example, the body sends a message that it is hungry, and then thoughts or perceptions are projected onto that physiologic sensation. These thoughts could have to do with a TV advertisement, billboard, scent, or past memory concerning some sort of food.

 

Interpreting the body’s authentic messages is a subtle practice that involves quieting the mind while trusting the body and soul. 

I resonate with one definition of vegan – “someone who would never knowingly cause unnecessary harm of another life form.” Based on this definition, I trust we are all vegan.

As Dr. Sailesh Rao pointed out in our recent conversation, “we live in a world based on normalized violence… what we are doing is transitioning into a world based on normalized non-violence.”

We see violence everywhere in our world. Of course, we see it in the food system, but we also see violence when we look closer at the economy, politics, and other social and environmental sectors.

Evolving along 

I find it interesting that the paleo movement was formed after taking a look at how our ancient predecessors lived and ate. They arbitrarily cut some food products out, such as grains, beans, and dairy, arguing that these cultivated foods are a product of more modern agriculture practices adopted in the last 20,000 years. Note that butter is an acceptable food, despite, of course, the fact it is a cultivated dairy product, because… well… is it possible to live without butter? (JOKE!) 

 

All joking aside, we, human beings, like all other creatures in this beautiful crazy world are in fact evolving. It is certainly a ridiculously slow process, making it next to impossible to actively study, but we are indeed evolving, whether we like it or not, for better or for worse – well, most certainly for better – because that is what evolution is all about. Selecting the genetic characteristics that lead to “better” human beings – “better” of course being measured on a scale of human procreative capacity.

Given that we are indeed evolving – genetically, physiologically, immunologically, socially, psychically – I think it’s best to keep our focus on the present and the future when it comes to our health and wellbeing, and not on the past. A paleo diet was great for our caveman ancestors given the tools, resources, knowledge, and experience available at the time. It allowed them to live to the ripe old age of 32 years before getting eaten by a tiger.

Needless to say, we live in a different world today. We have direct access to incredible tools, resources, knowledge, and experience – sometimes too much for our own good! It is important that we tune in and follow the inner guidance, using our ever wise “inside-out” technology.

In the past, I have felt disheartened and discouraged by the world in which I live. I’ve thought my sole actions could never have any sort of impact on friends or family, let alone the world at large. Maybe you’ve also wondered, why bother focusing on your health and wellbeing if the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

I’ve learned how individual choices and actions can indeed have a broad impact. I’ve experienced the power of collective choice and observed the momentum that we can create. In fact, we are in the midst of such a momentous time right now, all the reason for the aforementioned podcast debate and this response to it.

Proactivity

In the end, it is critical that we all wake up to our inherent creative power as humans. While our presence may seem minuscule and bleak, our individual impact on this world is enormous.

Just the other day I forgot this. I was in a depression, feeling like my presence in this world really didn’t matter. Aside from my immediate family and friends, no one would know if I didn’t exist, or so I felt. The thought that all I was doing on this planet was consuming and wasting resources led me to a low and heavy-hearted mood.

After that cloud passed, I remembered how large my impact really was.

There are a lot of activists in this world, holding signs and marching against all sorts of causes. Vegans, abortion, black lives matter, LGBTQ, women’s rights – there are a lot of loud voices out there in the world. A lot of these voices come from a source of hurt, anger, or againstness. The actions that follow take on a similar flavor.

 

True proactivity comes from a place of love, compassion, acceptance, and non-violence. That is the most powerful protest that can be made. Pro-love, pro-life, pro-peace. Not anti-war, anti-hate, or anti-death.

If you take away anything from this, take my encouragement.

Be proactive in your choices and remember the powerful impact they have on yourself and on your world.

Make choices connected to your inherent wisdom and remember that inner strength and conviction trumps any randomized placebo-controlled study out there. 

Take action from a place of love and acceptance, emotionally detached from outcomes.

Express compassionately towards other life forms, most importantly the 7.7 billion brothers and sisters that co-inhabit your home, this precious earth.

Blessings.
Dr. Benjamin

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