Cavemen (and women): stay out of my 21st century
Ah, the joys of modern living: paved running pathways line scenic waterways, fresh food is available mere blocks from most residential areas, and every Barnes & Noble is flooded with hours upon hours of mildly entertaining fitness and diet books for me to peruse on quiet weekend afternoons.
Especially in January, when everyone and her dog are on the lookout for the latest, greatest weight-loss method. Now, the New York Times is pleased to announce, we’ve got a winner for 2010: the Caveman Diet.
In Sunday’s Style section, the Times explores a diet fad that I’ve written up, with much skepticism, several times. To make a long, bizarre story short, the Caveman Diet is a food and fitness approach that mimics the – apparent – habits of our long lost ancestors. Raw meat, fasting, and exercise routines that would allow one to “flee from a mastodon” are all integral. And, according to Caveman devotees – photographed by the Times inside what appears to be a Museum of Natural History exhibit (bizarre Times photo number two last week) – the result are impressive: they’ve lost fat, muscled up and feel “in touch with their inner ancestor.”
Oh, my. How many ways do I hate this entire idea? So many ways. Mostly, though, it comes down to this:
“I didn’t want to do some faddish diet that my sister would do,” Mr. Durant said.
Ahem. First of all, Mr. Durant (whom the Times generously describes as “a cheerful Jim Morrison”), women aren’t the only ones attracted by faddish diets. Men are too. And know what? I’d say you’ve probably been hook-line-and-sinkered into a diet fad yourself. Because nothing says “diet fad” like no carbs, 24-hour fasts and an at-home meat locker. I’ve seen it before, and I’ll see it again. Week one, it’s bacon-and-eggs for breakfast and a glowing smile as the pounds melt off. Week four, it’s nibbling “just a little” of my lunchtime bagel. And week eight, you’re binging on donuts in the bathroom and scrambling to rub the powdered sugar off your nose for fear that someone finds out what a phony you are. Shame.
But what might really sum this disaster up are the following nuggets from the Times piece, as Cavemen devotees remark and reflect on the roots of their new (for now) “lifestyle”:
Andrew Sanocki, 38, a former Navy officer, explained that he preferred working out on an empty stomach near the end of a fast, and then following up with a large meal. This is a common caveman schedule, intended to reflect the exertion that ancient humans put into finding food. It is as if, Mr. Sanocki explained, “we’ve gone out and killed something, and now we have to eat it.”
Oh, but Andrew. You didn’t go out and kill anything. Which means you just starved yourself, and then panted through a glycogen-deprived workout, for no reason at all. Unfortunate for our ancestors, they didn’t have modern research to show that eating before a workout boosts energy levels and improves recovery.
Another caveman trick involves donating blood frequently. The idea is that various hardships might have occasionally left ancient humans a pint short. Asked when he last gave blood, Andrew Sanocki said it had been three months. He and his brother looked at each other. “We’re due,” Andrew said.
Giving blood is a great idea, but not as an imitation of “various hardships” that might lead to massive blood loss. I’ve actually never, ever heard of someone creating an entirely self-serving reason to sacrifice a pint of their own blood for those in dire medical need, so this is a first. Nice one, guys.
They regularly grumble about vegans, whom they regard as a misguided, rival tribe. But much of the conversation is spent parsing the law of the jungle.
Hey now! First of all, take a look at my blood tests and race times, and then tell me that I’m misguided about healthy habits. Second, there’s no tribe here. Most vegans I’ve met dislike most other vegans they meet. I dislike most other vegans I meet. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t all hold tree-ins, believe in consensus decision-making and weave beads into our dreadlocks. Also, law of the jungle? Ha.
And while we’re discussing misguided ideas, let’s get back to the point: I think it’s misguided to live in the 21st century, enjoy its luxuries and amenities – like at-home meat lockers – and then use those amenities to create bizarre parallels between yourself and a caveperson. Also misguided: The Times reports that Durant and co. took up the diet after “researching health concerns online.” Yes. That is a very good idea. And a great way to take up a fad diet that even your sister would fall for. Good luck getting laid after letting that quote slip.
I give our country’s cavemen three months before they’re back to pasta and tired of – er – jungle laws. That is, if they last that long:
Unfortunately, life was short: If you made it to age 30 or so, you had done well.