by Kale Brock.

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For a moment, can you do me a biggy and forget the stigma associated with this word? Because I know that right now there is a lot of stigma associated with it.

Some synonymous terms you could use throughout the perusal of this here little spiel might be JERFing, healthy, primal, what great-great-great nonna’ ate and more. Whatever this word means to you as a unique individual, hold that in your mind for the next 15 minutes.

Because as we’re going to see this word can mean and should mean completely different things to different people. I’m going to dispel some myths right now. Some myths about the Paleo diet, and some myths about food in general. I’m going to bring to your attention cultures around the world who are routinely living what we would call ridiculously long, healthy lives free of disease. And the exciting part is you and I are going to look at how we can actually re-approximate their way of life in our own modern-western lives. yes, it’s possible! My work has become this. To help people re-approximate extremely healthy cultures in our lives here in the west.

Most of you know my health story. About how at the age of 16 I had to make some serious reevaluations of what i thought was a healthy way of life. So I encourage you to, like I had to at the time, hold an open mind about the whole ‘health equation’ – just let go of what you think you know for the next 15 minutes even, you’re more than welcome to pick it back up again and trot along afterwards – I won’t be offended – but to hold an open mind and entertain an idea without taking it on is paramount to us moving forward with this health crisis we currently see ourselves in.

So let’s get to it. Let’s have a look at that big scary loaded word that is Paleo. Let’s define it. This is the way I see it.

Paleo: To eat, move and think (to live) according to one’s ancestry, taking care to avoid foods that have been processed or farmed in inappropriate ways, genetically altered, or modernised to the point of being non-conducive to health and far-removed from ancestral foods.

Does that sound appropriate?

Now let’s define the word health, which is important because this word, too, is very open to interpretation. When you walk around saying how good you feel doing this or that or eating this or that, you’ve gotta remember some people might not have ever felt that way before, so what you’re saying may as well be in another language.

Health: A balanced state between the physical, emotional, and chemical aspects of the body, allowing one to live with energetic abundance, optimism, happiness and a body free of disease. To thrive.

Notice here that we go above simply surviving – health is actually thriving. How many of you know people who are just surviving right now and not really thriving? Just sort of coping with the reactions they’re getting from their body and not really controlling them or enjoying them? I certainly know a few.

Before we look at what Paleo is in 2015 I think we need to determine its history. Where in history (and in current times) have cultures thrived with abundant health, and how did they live?

We’ll look at cultures who were energised, fit, strong, had great teeth, immune systems and who lived long lives free of chronic disease. Does that sounds good to anyone? It certainly sounds good to me. The best part about this is that some of these cultures still experience this health status today, and we can re-approximate it in our own lives – imagine that, feeling confident that you’ll never get given those chronic disease labels so gloomily dished out in doctor’s offices around the world.

Our first point of call for the information we want here is Dr Weston A Price. Many of you would have heard of him. The famous dentist traveled the globe in search of answers to, originally, dental problems, but by the end he had identified that overall health could be well predicted by whether or not a culture lived according to their traditional ways. If cultures avoided the ‘four white devils’; white flour, sugar, processed salt and pasteurised milk, they seemed to live relatively (and sometimes extremely) healthily. Some tribes indeed exhibited outstanding health, in fact the indigenous Australians he noted as some of the healthiest specimens of human beings he had ever come across.

Price also noted that those people who left the traditional way of living and adopted a more western style of life began to suffer from the same afflictions their western counterparts couldn’t figure out. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, neurological issues. And he also found that when these people moved back into traditional ways of life, they often left these ailments behind – now thats interesting, because this suggests that to a point, damage is reversible (act now). This should be an empowering piece of knowledge.

What Weston A Price did was to identify some key factors that seemed to be present in all cultures that lived strong, long, healthy lives. They were;

– Wholefoods minimally processed grown in mineral rich soil

– Fermented foods of some kind (Yew!)

– Clean, mineral rich water supply

– Toxin-free environment

– Plenty of sleep, rest and relaxation

– Healthy engagement and a feeling of community

– A positive, optimistic outlook on the future.

How many of those can you tick off? And I mean that – its a serious question because if we are interested in living lives like those of these cultures, then we should be addressing these things. You can be eating the perfect diet but neglecting the other 80% of factors in here and as a result not thrive. Yes, it’s important to talk about food but what about everything else life involves? Who eats all day and does nothing else? Okay, some people do, but they’re not thriving are they. This is a multi-faceted equation, and you’ve gotta’ be the best health accountant you can be if you want to have a balanced health account.

Sir Robert Mccarrison was someone else who looked at long-living cultures; specifically the Hunza tribe of northern Pakistan. He actually lived with this tribe for 7 years as a doctor and surgeon but the interesting thing is he was basically out of work. He said;

“… in their natural, primitive state, exhibited perfect mental and physical health…They lived on fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, dried fruits, legumes, wholegrain foods and goats’ cheese and butter. Meat was only eaten on ceremonial occasions, this is, infrequently. Everything was organically grown in mineral rich soils. In their way of life, there was no refined sugar, no pasteurisation of milk, no hydrogenation of oils, no chemical fertiliser, no chlorination or fluoridation of water and no inoculation. My own experience provides an example of a race unsurpassed in perfection of physique and freedom from diseases in general … among these people the span of life is extraordinarily long; and such service as I was able to render them was confined chiefly to the treatment of accidental lesions …. or the treatment of maladies wholly unconnected with food supply.”

Sir Robert Mccarrison documented individuals living to approximately 140 years of age. Yes, 140 years old. Yet we here in the west claim the bodies just sort of ‘conk out’ at around 80 or 90, even younger nowadays. But of course, you can’t tell ‘them’ that can you.

‘That’s what happens when you get old, Kale.”

‘You’re 50.”

‘And you’re 23 what would you know.”

Mccarisson, and subsequent doctors who studied the Hunzas found no incidence of the health ailments afflicting the west. No diabetes, cancer, arthritis, stroke, alzheimer’s, heart disease. Nope. Nothing. Just a coupla’ cuts and bruises from living in the mountains. They found that the Hunza people were highly mineralised. They ate food which grew in soil fed by glacial run-off, and they drank mineral rich water. They were happy. They had purpose, and they loved the community.

So you could say that the Hunzas are the closest humans can get to perfection. To living with the human body and allowing it to reach it’s full potential. So again, we come back to those ‘longevity factors’ as I like to call them.

– Wholefoods minimally processed grown in mineral rich soil

– Fermented foods of some kind (Yew!)

– Clean, mineral rich water supply

– Toxin-free environment

– Plenty of sleep, rest and relaxation

Healthy engagement and a feeling of community

A positive, optimistic outlook on the future.

How do these look for you?

Because these are all questions, areas of your Palaeolithic life that you should be addressing, and if you’re not, well you’ve got some work to do. And don’t say you’ve tried everything until you’ve tried this. Does living a really long healthy life free of disease sound good? I think it’d be wise to check out what the Hunzas are doing.

Notice also that in the Hunza diet, not a lot of meat is consumed. And grains are consumed also. So why are we being told a Paleo diet excludes grains and has meat in nearly every meal? Granted, the grains we eat are very very different from Hunza strains but this caveat, this paradox, should be questioned. We are only being exposed to one type of Paleo diet in the west. And although I agree with a large part of it, I think we need to acknowledge that a Paleo diet is extremely different depending on where you look in history, and where you look geographically.

Take for instance the Inuits, living in the arctic and thriving off a 90-95% animal fat-based diet.

And the complete other end of the spectrum, the Yanomami around the amazon thriving off a 90% carbohydrate diet.

And the Masai in east Africa, living off 85% fermented dairy products!

Hang on – milk? Paleo? In this instance yes! Again, there is a big difference between fermented organic dairy mixed with blood (the Masai style) and pasteurised, homogenised dairy mixed with antibiotics but again I point out these paradoxes because we have locked ourselves in to one version of a Paleo diet. And it’s nearly impossible to say that this version works best.

A vegan diet? 30 bananas a day? Chicken and rice all day? The people who say these diets are best for everyone are violating one of nature’s clear laws; biochemical individuality, that is that everybody is different, and that everybody will adapt and change depending on their environment. Vegan might be right for you, personally, at this time of your life, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. I know a lot of unhealthy vegans, and I know a lot of unhealthy ‘paleo heads’, the trick is you’ve gotta’ become aware of how what you’re eating affects your body, and change and adapt in order to get the result you want.

So this is where we might look to science to confirm which one is best – but how on earth can we accurately study any diet?

One of the major problems with studying diet is that its almost impossible to control for extraneous variables in any dietary experiment without crossing some serious privacy and moral boundaries. We could put a group of people on a Paleo diet and another group on a Mediterranean diet and measure their ‘health’ after 6 weeks. But how many of these people smoke? How many are stressed? How many exercise? How many are telling the truth about the foods they ate? Are they religious and going through lent at the time?

The inherent uncontrollability of any dietary study is one of the reasons that Ancel Keys, the diet-heart hypothesis guy was so heavily criticised by his peers throughout his entire career. Because Keys made assumptions about the low-fat diet and ignored variables which ultimately could have swayed the outcome of his observational studies to a massive extent! There are even cases in his career where he literally left out evidence which did not substantiate his theory that low-fat diets prevented heart disease.

And it’s a sad thing because as sure as I am that the Paleo diet works for so many people, it will face the same challenges under scientific scrutiny that any diet will face. We can always look at individual mechanisms of food with science, and I do think its a very powerful thing (ie how well lactobacillus acidophilus down-regulates inflammation in the Peyer’s patches of the small intestine) but in terms of overall health we need to look at it holistically. Like I mentioned before, food is only one part of the equation.

So the best we can do is to identify where cultures are thriving and what they are actually doing, how they are living so that we might be able to (coming back to the main point) re-approximate their lifestyles in our own! The science will catch up later, I can guarantee, perhaps we’ll work out that minerals and trace elements are the underlying factor (in my opinion this is one of the main factors), or maybe its exercise, or happiness? Or maybe its all of these factors working together (most likely) in a synergistic supportive relationship allowing for the human body to live extremely long and healthily!

But my question is this – do we wait until science can confirm that living 140 long, happy years free of disease is indeed associated with lifestyle or do we act now and copy what tribes like the Hunzas are doing?

The thing is, it’s not up to me, or Pete Evans, or David Wolfe, it’s up to you. Ultimately you are the one who has to make the decisions surrounding your health. You are the one who has to live with those decisions and guide yourself through this whole ‘health thing’ called life to hopefully make it through to the end and look back and say, ‘hey you know what I had a damn good time.’

My job starts and ends about here. It’s to point out to you some options that you have, to get you to a point of making an informed decision about the food you eat, the drink you drink, the exercise you do, and the stuff you slather on your skin. And you can only do that when you have information to base your decision on.

So this is me, leaving it with you, do you eat the broccoli, or the pizza? Do you eat the lamb or do you eat the fish? Do you sprint or do you walk? Do you choose to be happy, or do you choose to be sad? You have the power to make these decisions, and the wonderful thing about being a human is that we learn from these decisions. We learn what’s best and we learn what made us feel damn good last time so we do it again, and we learn what made us feel bad last time so we (hopefully) don’t do that again.

The game of health can be a tricky one if you let it, but if you choose it, it can also be a simple, fun, flexible, enjoyable game. There are no winners or losers, just results you have to live with, so what results do you want?