In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, the Paleo or “caveman” Diet has become one of the biggest food trends world-wide.
For the uninitiated, the Paleo Diet involves eating like what our ancestors may have done during the Palaeolithic era (i.e. The Stone Age, when we were all living in caves). That means that artificial flavours, added salts and sugars, processed foods, grains and dairy are all big no-no’s if you’re on this diet.
The internet is filled with supporters who swear black and blue that this diet is the best thing ever invented, and why we should all follow it. One Australian celebrity chef even tried to publish a Paleo diet cookbook for babies.
It’s detractors say it’s mad, and cutting out things like grains and dairy is the dumbest thing you can do to your body. But one thing is for sure, the reason its popular is because people who follow it lose A LOT of weight.
Now, as philosophers one of the most useful tools we have to determine whether anything is worthwhile is the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method can be applied to just about any argument, or action and is really just common sense (and the cornerstone of the scientific method). Here’s a 3 step guide in how to apply it to the current Paleo Diet:
1. Does the argument work?
2. Can you think of any situations in which the argument may not work?
3. Refine the argument further.
Repeat these steps.
What does this have to do with the Palaeolithic Diet? Let me explain:
- Does the argument work? The argument raised by people who support the Paleo diet is that if you are overweight, the diet will help you lose weight, and therefore the problem is not with your lifestyle choices in what you eat, but with modern food in general. The socratic method, however, would point out that this argument is categorically wrong.
2. Can you think of any situations in which the argument may not work? Now, I’m not taking sides here. I’m simply saying that maybe, maybe the reason that people who are on the Paleo Diet lose weight and feel awesome, is because they’re swapped out eating a large BigMac meal for lunch for a fist full of nuts instead. Counter-wise, perhaps the reason why they have lost weight has more to do with the fact that they’ve stopped eating a family sized pizza all to themselves, and have started munching on broccoli instead. Now, maybe – just maybe it’s not the diet itself, it’s the change in having ice cream for dessert and instead having a punnet of blueberries that’s helping you lose weight. Because if you’re eating almonds instead of a big mac for lunch, of course you’re automatically going to be healthier than the sloppy joe eating person next to you.
3. Refine the Argument further. Okay, so, again, I’m not taking sides on the Paleo Diet. A lot of people like it, and given the fact that the World Health Organisation has now defined obesity as an epidemic I think it’s safe to say that anything that helps people lose a bit of weight off the waistline is going to help. However, that being said… maybe it’s not necessarily the diet itself that is helping. Perhaps people not eating crap and exercising has more to do with weight loss than an internet craze fad diet?
Just an idea.