Today I’m going to talk about a subject matter that I think about all the time: diet. I think about it all the time, and read about it all the time, but I rarely, if ever, talk about diet. I’m not going to be breaking any new ground here, but I feel the need to get this off my chest so I can get on with my life. It seems that the old saying should be remade to state “Never mention politics, religion, or diet in polite conversation”, since the easiest way to raise a paleo person’s hackles is to talk about how unhealthy red meat is, or visa versa with a vegetarian/vegan. There are many flavors of diet out there, but specifically I’m going to be talking about veganism and paleo(ism?).
First off, why can’t we be friends? Paleo and vegan (in spirit) are both pro-local, unprocessed foods and both hate Monsanto and McDonalds. Both are also anti-dairy in general(Although Paleo does allow one to eat dairy if you it turns out you’re lactose-tolerant, same with grains too, actually). Given the small difference in what the diets perscribe, we really should be holding hands and singing kumbaya and make plans to help out local farmers and fight corporations like Monsanto aka the devil.
But for some reason we can’t get along. Taking morals out of the equation and talking strictly about health, I’ve noticed that a vegan simply won’t try out paleo for two weeks, nor will a paleo person try abstaining from meat for two weeks. Why is that? Why do people refuse to try the other side? Well, my guess is that they both work pretty well. I mean, what happens to a person who goes from eating whatever to veganism or paleo? THEY SUDDENLY START CARING ABOUT THE FOOD THEY PUT IN THEIR BODIES!!! You start to really monitor what you eat. This, combined with the lack of processed foods and probable reduction in sugar, and guess what? You suddenly lose fat, get healthier, and feel better!!
The problem is that it seems to be human nature to say “Hey this worked great for me, so if you’re not doing it like how I did it then you’re doing it wrong. What’d you say?? I’m doing it wrong??? NO YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!!! YOU DIE AND GO TO HELL!!!!” We tend to think there is only one way, and that our way is the best way. This passion can blind us from the fact that what might work for you might not be right for some. Or perhaps what works for someone else may also work for you, if you cared to change things up. But the thing is people don’t care to change things up, at least not very easily. Would it really kill a paleo person to have a meal where the main source of protein is tempeh? Would it really be unhealthy for the vegan to occasionally have some liver (a real super food)?
We always try to take our own personal experiences and then apply them to the world. This doesn’t work because 1) the world is a much bigger place than our own experience and 2) our application is always biased by our beliefs. We tend to accept things that strengthen our belief, and tend to ignore things that weaken them. Just seems like human nature, I guess.
Health vs morals
The argument about which lifestyle is healthier will probably go on decades. Again, I don’t see why paleo and vegan can’t get along because there are quite a few commonalities. Whatever the case, I’m not going to really argue which one is healthier. If it makes you happy, then go for it. I was once called into a debate on FB to argue that grass-fed meat is actually healthy. I try to avoid these things because arguing is useless, for every Super Size Me there’s a Fat Head, but because I was asked to do so I obliged and for my arguments/beliefs I was likened to one who believes the earth is flat. I found that funny because I always viewed the media’s love for veganism as analogous to the belief that the earth is flat: An idea that was once popular but is now defunct by science (Personal belief here, I know “science” can be manipulated).
But I think people tend to confuse health with morals. I guess the idea is that if a lifestyle is healthier than it must be a more inherently moral lifestyle as well, that our bodies are the ultimate judge of what is right and what is wrong, and act accordingly. Morals you can’t argue about. I mean, I could tell you your morals are wrong, but I believe that would be pointless. I understand this is my own personal belief on morals, but I believe there are no “correct” set of morals, there are only your own personal set of morals. And if it works for you, then God bless you. Others may believe differently, but if you believe in something, well, then whatever makes you happy you should follow through on. I should also note that Veganism is much more closely tied to a set of morals (prevention of animal cruelty) then paleo. Probably why it seems that I see a lot of Paleo people will have the occasional cheat (myself included) while Vegans will almost never cheat. When it’s about someone else (or other animals), you tend to stick to your guns more readily than if it’s just about you.
But why do we even fight on the matter? It’s not like a vegan is going to get into a discussion with an omnivore and suddenly be like “Oh my God you’re right, I’ve been doing it all wrong!!!!”
To use an analogy, raising children is like believing what is the best way to eat, a real personal belief based on morals. It’s like Mrs. Hall’s article about how she is raising her kidsand Morgan’s response to it saying she’s an awful mom. These two ladies simply have different morals, and so they are never going to see eye to eye. Parenting styles are highly individualized, and so are eating habits/beliefs.
Again I know I’m not really setting the world afire with this post, but I am going to conclude with my own personal views. I’ve had some inner conflict about being paleo while still caring about animal rights, and this has been going on for quite a while. Early last year, I’ve tried to explain to myself how I can mourn the loss of a pet guinea pig while enjoying bacon. I don’t know if I really got to a full resolution that day, but now after a year or two to let it stew I think I’ve come up with a more complete explanation.
For some being to live, another being must die. Hell this even applies to plants in the equator who compete for the sunlight. For example, even following a vegan diet requires thousands of insects to die in the form of pesticides, not to mention the whole bunch of plants that also have a right to live. So it’s a slippery slope to me. If it’s ok for insects to dieso that you may live why is it not ok for other animals to die? So I feel that while it is alright to eat other animals from a moral standpoint, I feel like you owe that animal something. When you take that animal’s energy and make it a part of your own, that should create the obligation to not waste it, to use it to become the best possible human being you can be. So for me, I try every day to make that day have meaning, to never pass up the chance to do the right thing and better the world around me as I know how. Note that I’m talking about death here, not suffering. I’m very much against animal suffering, which is why I buy grass fed beef, humanely raised pork, and try to buy eggs that came from happy chickens(I try to buy everything from local sources). If I thought I’d be happy living off the land in Alaska, I would.
So that is where my moral compass is pointing. I’ve never heard of another paleo person talk about the morals of paleo, but perhaps now that I’ve written this I may spark some kind of dialogue. Please let me know what you think in the comments.