Real cavemen don’t eat salami


What you see above is half of my lunch for today. Tomorrow’s will be leaner, supposedly healthier, and closer to what a caveman would have consumed.

I won’t allow myself to indulge in salami and mustard for a while, even organic salami and mustard, for these are the processed, fatty fruits of civlization. Also forbidden: the spring roll I also ate (not pictured). And a lot of other treats for that matter: Cheese, hot dogs, beans; even bread.

Starting Wednesday I’m undertaking a one-month experiment in adding aspects of a paleolithic man’s daily round into my 21st-century urban existence. I want to see how far I can travel in the footsteps of our Stone Age hunter-gatherer ancestors — at least in terms of the way I eat and keep fit — while making a living as a writer for the National Post, a daily Canadian newspaper based in Toronto.

In doing so, I’ll be following something of a fad. I was inspired to attempt the lifestyle after reading stories in Maclean’s and The New York Times. (I later came across one in The Washington Post.)

They’re all interesting reads, each highlighting the two principal columns of the paleo lifestyle: eating like a caveman and exercising like a caveman. Whether they call themselves cavemen (or women, though apparently they’re mostly men), hunter-gatherers or followers of the paleo lifestyle, these are people who want to live in concert with the way the human body was designed.

They decry the sweet, salty, fatty, processed and starchy foods of civilization as unwholesome. They denounce boring, repetitive exercise as pointless — calling treadmills “dreadmills,” for example.

Here’s the Times piece on the first point:

The caveman lifestyle, in [John] Durant’s interpretation, involves eating large quantities of meat and then fasting between meals to approximate the lean times that his distant ancestors faced between hunts. Vegetables and fruit are fine, but he avoids foods like bread that were unavailable before the invention of agriculture. Mr. Durant believes the human body evolved for a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and his goal is to wean himself off what he sees as many millenniums of bad habits.

On the fitness plank, here’s Maclean’s Katie Engelhart:

[Art De Vany’s] antidote is to ditch the treadmill and do “random activities modelled on activities of hunter-gatherers.” For him, that means short, intense sprints and lots of “playing”—frolicking on rocks or doing tugs of war with his grandson. Once a week, he ties a rope to his 6,000-lb. Range Rover and pulls and pushes it up his driveway four or five times. “That’s an exercise I liken to our ancestors carrying logs.”

Me can do it! Personally, I like my chances as a caveman. My diet is pretty low on carbs to begin with and I have done pretty well with (other) low-carbohydrate fad diets in the past; you won’t catch me pining for a donut.

I hate exercising in the traditional way, and there are CrossFit gyms, which cater well to paleos, in my city. Also, while I do have a long transit commute to the suburbs for work, Toronto’s downtown and west end (where I live) represent a terrific zone for walking, which is something the Times’s cave-New Yorkers enjoyed about their city as well.

As I prepare to pick up this furry cave-mantle, a number of questions are swirling around my oversized primate braincase, including:

• Will I have to starve myself on occasion to make the experience authentic? Will I have to give blood to simulate injury, and run barefoot to simulate not having shoes? (Paleos do all of these things.)
• Which foods count as paleo, exactly?
• Do anthropologists even think these paleo people maintain accurate ideas about hunter-gatherer lifestyles past and present? How can I ensure I’m behaving like a real caveman and not a cartoon one?
• How much cave-madness will my sensible fiancée tolerate?

In the meantime, I’m going to plunge right in so as not to lose enthusiasm before I even start. (And also so that I can get a full cave-month in by April 17, my birthday, and celebrate turning 32 with a civilization-food menu.)

Next I’ll write up some initial ground rules for eating, subject to change as I do more research into the lifestyle. Then I’ll forage at the grocery store.

Photo by Adam McDowell

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3 Responses to “Real cavemen don’t eat salami”

  1. […] Before I can act like a modern-day caveman, I have to decide on some ground rules with regard to my diet. So far, I’ve […]

  2. […] From his caveman blog: Starting Wednesday I’m undertaking a one-month experiment in adding aspects of a paleolithic man’s daily round into my 21st-century urban existence. I want to see how far I can travel in the footsteps of our Stone Age hunter-gatherer ancestors — at least in terms of the way I eat and keep fit — while making a living as a writer for theNational Post, a daily Canadian newspaper based in Toronto. […]

  3. I applaud you for taking on this challenge and hope that you feel and see the many benefits of a clean, real food diet coupled with natural movement and strength training. I am here to tell you that you can live an urban life, eat delicious filling foods and be primal.

    I run a Paleo Night (dinner party) in Toronto every month for Crossfit Quantum. Our next one is this Saturday March 27th @5pm – if you are interested in meeting some modern day paleo enthusiasts who don’t eat raw meat or give blood, I suggest you come and check it out:
    http://cosmopolitanprimalgirl.wordpress.com/events/

    If that is not enough to convince you, check out the menu and pictures from our last event:
    http://cosmopolitanprimalgirl.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/paleo-nights-2-comfort-foods-all-the-recipes/

    Contact me for details! summer@cosmopolitanprimalgirl.com

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