It Starts With Food

Feb 1 2015I like rules. I like If/Then statements that say “if something happens, then something else will happen.”  Rules give me concrete plans to follow.

Over the holidays, I got lost in some new titles.  With rules. Lots and lots of rules. Those titles?  It Starts With Food and Whole 30. Being a Nourishing Traditions fan for over a decade, I could appreciate the stories of how high quality meats and veggies nourish our bodies. I’d been doing fairly well over the years with Nourishing Traditions. This was more strict. More paleo than primal.

These books had game on foodie rules. No grains. Not even the sprouted and soaked kinds. No dairy. Not even organic or cultured. No processed foods. No poly-unsaturated fats. No legumes. No sugar. Not even honey or maple syrup or stevia. I could eat meats, and fats like olive oil, coconut oil and ghee, vegetables and fruits, and kombucha (no sugar added).

What I was dying to know was, could I live without my grains? Could I lthrive without my beloved yogurt and black beans? Could I follow the rules and maintain my weight and make this work? And did primitive peoples actually eat this way?

I decided to take it up with my favorite, long deceased dentist, Dr. Weston Price, and see what he had to say about the matter.

In the Summer of 1933, we made contact with large bands of Indians who had come out of the Pelly mountain country to exchange their catch of furs at the last outpost of the Hudson Bay Company. Most of the Indians of Canada are under treaty with the Canadian Government whereby that government gives them an annual per capita bounty. This arrangement induces the Indians in the interior to come out to the designated centers to obtain the bounty. Since it is based on the number in the family, all of the children are brought. This treaty, however, was never signed by the Indians of the British Columbia and Yukon Territory. And, accordingly, they have remained as nomadic wandering tribes following the moose and caribou herds in the necessary search to obtain their foods.

The rigorous winters reach seventy degrees below zero. This precludes the possibility of maintaining dairy animals or growing seed cereals or fruits. The diet of these Indians is almost entirely limited to the wild animals of the chase. This made a study of them exceedingly important. The wisdom of these people regarding Nature’s laws, and their skill in adapting themselves to the rigorous climate and very limited variety of foods, and these often very hard to obtain, have developed a skill in the art of living comfortably with rugged Nature that has been approached by few other tribes in the world. The sense of honor among these tribes is so strong that practically all cabins, temporarily unoccupied due to the absence of the Indians on their hunting trip, were entirely unprotected by locks; and the valuables belonging to the Indians were left in plain sight. The people were remarkably hospitable, and where they had not been taken advantage of were very kind.

    They lived in a country in which grizzly bears were common. Their pelts were highly prized and they captured many of them with baited pitfalls. Their knowledge of the use of different organs and tissues of the animals for providing a defense against certain of the affections of the body which we speak of as degenerative diseases was surprising. When I asked an old Indian, through an interpreter, why the Indians did not get scurvy he replied promptly that that was a white man’s disease. I asked whether it was possible for the Indians to get scurvy. He replied that it was, but said that the Indians know how to prevent it and the white man does not. When asked why he did not tell the white man how, his reply was that the white man knew too much to ask the Indian anything. I then asked him if he would tell me. He said he would if the chief said he might. He went to see the chief and returned in about an hour, saying that the chief said he could tell me because I was a friend of the Indians and had come to tell the Indians not to eat the food in the white man’s store. He took me by the hand and led me to a log where we both sat down. He then described how when the Indian kills a moose he opens it up and at the back of the moose just above the kidney there are what he described as two small balls in the fat. These he said the Indian would take and cut up into as many pieces as there were little and big Indians in the family and each one would eat his piece. They would eat also the walls of the second stomach. By eating these parts of the animal the Indians would keep free from scurvy, which is due to the lack of vitamin C. The Indians were getting vitamin C from the adrenal glands and organs. Modern science has very recently discovered that the adrenal glands are the richest sources of vitamin C in all animal or plant tissues.

FIG. 15. This typical family of forest Indians of Northern Canada presents a picture of superb health. They live amidst an abundance of food in the form of wild animal life in the shelter of the big timber.

The condition of the teeth, and the shape of the dental arches and the facial form, were superb. Indeed, in several groups examined not a single tooth was found that had ever been attacked by tooth decay. In an examination of eighty-seven individuals having 2,464 teeth only four teeth were found that had ever been attacked by dental caries. This is equivalent to 0.16 per cent. As we came back to civilization and studied, successively, different groups with increasing amounts of contact with modern civilization, we found dental caries increased progressively, reaching 25.5 per cent of all of the teeth examined at Telegraph Creek, the point of contact with the white man’s foods. As we came down the Stikine River to the Alaskan frontier towns, the dental caries problem increased to 40 per cent of all of the teeth.”–Nutrition and Physical Degeneration; Weston Price

These Native Americans living in the 1930’s in Northern Canada were still maintaining their primitive eating patterns, and enjoying not only superb physical health, but mental health as well. Bring it on.

So I went Whole 30 hunter/gatherer for 30 days  (Without the actual hunting thing. I didn’t really gather either. Unless you count gathering at the grocery)  And here are my lessons learned.

  1. I can go 30 days without dairy and grains and legumes and sugar and poly-unsaturated fats.
  2. I can maintain my weight on this hunter/gatherer diet. (You can also lose weight on this diet. Your body either maintains or loses depending on what it needs-which is kind of super cool.)
  3. I don’t feel deprived.
  4. When I eat regular meals, I don’t crave pizza. Or ice cream. Or Reese’s Cups.
  5. When I don’t eat regular meals, I crave everything.
  6. Don’t try to get your family on board while you are Whole 30ing if they’re not ready. It makes for a minor disaster.
  7. That being said, you can feed them meals from your program, and they will eat them. Especially if it’s a family dinner affair.
  8. Eggs are really yummy and I can eat them every day. In fact, I’m pretty certain I did.
  9. Your friends will think you’re a little crazy. Actually a lot crazy. Expect a few snarky remarks.
  10. My skin is clearer, my outlook sunnier, my energy higher on this diet.
  11. I can make kefir out of coconut milk!!!!!!!!!!!

A month ago, I said I was going whole 30 paleo, maybe forever, but definitely for 30 days. I did it. And now I’m doing it for another 30 days, just because I can, and just maybe because I wanna live a little like my Native American predecessors. They’re kinda super-badass.