The Paleo Diet made it on to the Dr. Oz Show! Although Dr. Oz has mentioned paleo before, this time around he actually devoted half an episode to it. It aired yesterday, and although I PVR’d it, I was reluctant to watch it, worried that paleo would be misrepresented a la the Gary Taubes fiasco. I just finished watching it, and I’m pretty stoked…
What I liked:
- The two paleo representatives were Loren Cordain and Nell Stephenson (aka Paleoista). Most of the presentation was done by Nell, meaning a female presenter targeting a female audience. There has been a lot of talk about the media only focusing on men with regards to the paleo diet, with the whole caveman stereotype and carnivorous meat eating. So this female-friendly approach will go a long way in clearing up that stereotype, as well as making paleo more accessible to all of the moms and wives who statistically do a lot of the grocery shopping and cooking for the household. As an aside, it’s also great that Nell is not “skinny fat”, but rather is toned and fit – a great body image for the paleo lifestyle.
- Although weight loss was mentioned, the focus of paleo’s benefits was health (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure). Also, two women spoke about how the paleo diet had drastically improved their health. One woman used paleo to help with her thyroid issues while losing 30lbs. And the other described how she had completely cured her multiple sclerosis (MS) and was symptom free for 4 years, after previously being numb from the waist down and walking with a limp. That was amazing to watch, and Dr. Oz was highly supportive.
- Nell made it clear that paleo is not the Atkins diet, and there was an emphasis on the quality of the food (“free range poultry, grass-fed meats, wild salmon, local organic produce”).
- It was really easy to understand both what to eat (veggies, protein, fat, fruit) and what not to eat (inflammatory foods: grains, legumes, dairy, and refined sugars)
- When Dr. Oz asked Cordain, “Weren’t prehistoric men and women primarily vegetarians?”, Cordain nipped it in the bud, saying that wasn’t the case (and he backed his answer up with concrete science).
- It was great to see such a point being made about how breakfast should be similar to your dinner. That’s huge because people consume so many grains for breakfast (cereal, toast, pastries anyone?). Instead, Nell recommended meat, dinner leftovers, etc.
- The sample meals looked tasty and easy to prepare (here are some more recipe ideas).
- Bonus points for Nell’s shout out to 99% dark chocolate.
Room for improvement:
- Very little mention of the importance of fats, especially saturated fats. Not surprising considering that Loren Cordain is still rather fat phobic.
- I don’t believe in cheat meals, much less 3 of them per week. However, Nell did qualify that you should give the paleo diet at least a 30 day trial run, and that if cheat meals are what you need to get you to transition to full on paleo, then the tradeoff is basically worth it. I especially liked what she said afterwards: you might be surprised to notice, after re-introducing some foods as cheat meals, that these foods are actually making you feel unwell (similar to the elimination diet concept). So the cheat meals seemed to be more like a “carrot” to get people on board (with the “stick” following closely behind: feeling like crap after indulging).
- Fruit certainly shouldn’t be eaten as part of every meal, and there was no reference to the fact that fruits are typically sugar bombs.
- You don’t have to eat several small meals a day.
- No mention of avoiding vegetable oils – should’ve been added to the don’t eat list.
- No mention of carbohydrates although by eating the stuff on the “paleo plate”example (2/3 veg, palm-size protein, some healthy fat, some fruit), you will be eating a relatively low-carb diet by default.
- Lack of explanation as to “why”. The logic of “why” we should eat this way was the “aha” moment for me (our bodies are adapted to the hunter-gatherer diet and we didn’t start eating all the “bad” stuff until approximately 10,000 years ago, when the food supply changed due to agriculture, etc.). A lot of the viewers may have benefited from even an abridged explanation as to why our bodies aren’t meant to eat all the stuff that is restricted on the paleo diet. (If you’d like to learn more about they “why”, one of my favourite books is Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas).
I’m pretty happy with what I saw. It was a very well orchestrated introduction to paleo. Sure, there was a lot left out, and there were a few things I didn’t completely agree with, but on the whole, it was very well done. This politically correct approach, where battles are chosen carefully, and only key information is presented so as to not overwhelm is the way to go. I even didn’t fully mind that the saturated fat issue wasn’t raised, since I think the goal of spreading awareness about paleo was achieved. The first step is to get buy-in from the viewers, and once they’re sufficiently intrigued, they will find the whole story out for themselves. And some of the main aspects that needed to get covered in order to get that buy-in certainly were – especially in terms of demystifying the paleo diet, breaking down that caveman stereotype and showing how easy and accessible paleo really is. And if to do that, veggies need to be overemphasized, and saturated fats downplayed, then so be it (for the time being). And most of all, I was pleasantly surprised at how supportive Dr. Oz seemed of the paleo diet. It’s so encouraging to think of how far the paleo movement has come, and how millions of viewers who watched this episode were introduced to the paleo diet, some of whom will actually research it further and potentially adopt it as a lifestyle.
Here are the links to the videos if you’d like to watch the show yourself:
(The last part, where the two women describe how the paleo diet cured their illnesses, is sadly not yet available online. Hopefully it’ll will soon, as it may be the most impactful part – I will provide links once/if it does.)
Did you watch the show? What did you think?