What makes the Paleo diet different is that it isn’t just a diet — it’s part of a lifestyle, and a revolutionary one at that. The Paleo rallying cry is that the artificial, top-down, and shrink-wrapped environment we’ve been conned into accepting is killing us. The good news is that we can free ourselves and live healthier, longer lives by taking responsibility for our health and survival.
However, judging from discussions and articles I’ve seen on pro-Paleo sites, many who think they’re living the Paleo life don’t understand the vital importance of physical fitness. And many more still depend exclusively on technology — firearms — for self-defense. I’d like to propose a pro-Paleo regimen that fills in these gaps.
When I first read about the Paleo lifestyle, I was already exercising, and thought I was eating properly. However, what I learned about Paleo turned my world upside down. I’d been starving myself trying to lose stubborn inches around my belly, and was failing miserably. But only six months after I started the Paleo diet, I dropped from 195 to 165 pounds, and shrank my waistline from 40 to 34 inches. And I’ve kept it off.
What really struck me about the Paleo revolution was how it dovetailed into a way of living that promoted personal liberty. Paleo’s basic message is that we have adapted a lifestyle that’s counter to our hunter-gatherer nature. A sedentary lifestyle plus a diet of over-processed, high-carb, sugary food has all but crippled us, as the increase of obesity, heart disease, various cancers, gluten intolerance, and depression indicates.
Worse, this counter-productive lifestyle has the blessing and backing of both the FDA and the Department of Agriculture, as well as their corporate kin Big Pharma and Big Agra. Meanwhile, Madison Avenue portrays this toxic way of life as not only fun, but glamorous. “Consume mass quantities” of the stuff touted in ads and in TV sit-coms, and you, too, can be cool and popular.
The Paleo diet is a revolt from the fare prescribed for us by government nutritionists. In fact, the Paleo diet recommends the very foods our dietary overseers condemn, such as meats and eggs. Add tree-borne nuts, fruits, fish, and poultry, and you’re approximating what our Paleolithic ancestors ate.
But the diet is just part of the Paleo lifestyle, which stresses giving the body everything it needs, including the activities it was designed for, such as lifting, running, and throwing. It also makes us confront the forces that have herded us into our modern, unhealthy lifestyles. Those forces are aligned with Big Government and Big Business, which want you to be dependent on them for everything, including your diet and personal safety. The Paleo lifestyle encourages breaking away and relying on your own resources.
Keeping in shape is a vital part of living Paleo, and fitness is vital to self-defense. There are a number of reasons we shouldn’t rely exclusively on firearms for defending ourselves and loved ones. Guns may not be readily available when you need them. Guns may be more than what you need in a given situation. And guns, even when properly maintained, can fail. So it’s nice to have other options.
Strength training is the most effective means of boosting your self-defense capabilities. Not only have weight lifting programs been proven to increase testosterone levels, which are very handy in a fight, they also improve cognitive abilities, including selective attention and conflict resolution skills. (I fully subscribe to the philosophy that avoiding a fight is the best way to win one.)
While we’re talking about basics, there’s nothing more basic to self-defense than the art of knowing how to make and use your fists. A recent article in the Journal of Experimental Biology argues that human fists evolved for punching. A daily workout with a punching bag will teach you a great deal about how to throw a hard, fast punch. If you’re unsure about your form, take a quick course in boxing and basic self-defense. Should you be even more ambitious, learn martial arts. For the older set, I suggest those forms that emphasize low kicks, such as Ishin-ryu, rather than Muay Tai and Taekwondo.
If you want to really go Paleo in your fitness and self-defense training, learn how to use primitive weapons. If you take oriental martial arts, you’ll be introduced to the bo (fighting staff), the nunchaku, and the tonfa (T-baton). These are very practical weapons, and learning how to use them will teach you how to improvise weapons from available resources.
And there’s nothing more Paleo than such primitive weapons as the sling or atl-atl (dart-thrower). They’re easy to make, and are deadly long-distance weapons. There are a number of online resources that will show you how to make and use them. I thoroughly enjoy target practice with the sling. It’s something you can do in a municipal park — just find a deserted soccer of baseball field. Tennis and golf balls make effective substitutes for stone and lead projectiles.
To paraphrase Paleo guru Mark Sisson, if you really want to challenge the status quo and try something old, work out and learn the ancient arts of self-defense. Even if you never have to use these skills, the confidence you’ll build and the sense of accomplishment you’ll gain will make the effort well worth the investment.
M. C. Tuggle is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina. An avid weightlifter, outdoorsman, collector of American Indian relics, and student of martial arts, he is also a student of military history, and has given presentations on Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign to several historical societies. His novella Aztec Midnight has just been published by The Novel Fox.