Chauvinism is bad for your health

There’s been a debate raging on various Paleo blogs lately regarding the amount of fat we should eat. Anytime the S word gets tossed around I sort of shift in my seat. Macronutrient ratios are always a topic for debate amongst armchair nutritionists, Cross Fitters, primal eaters and the like; frankly it smacks of chest-beating gym-junkie stuff and doesn’t interest me much, except that I’ve been feeling some niggling discontent with the broad shape that my diet has taken of late. I took the WAPF food pyramid and removed all grains but, as the weather warmed, found it left a heavy feeling. In my case vegetables need to take up that foundation niche, pushing animal foods up a spot and leaving fruit at the tip.

So this Primal Wisdom post, suggesting that the amount of fats most paleonü blogs suppose to have been in the ancestral human diet is a vast overestimate, tickled my interest on a personal as well as theoretical level. Immediately this Archevore post parried with photos of a plains bison slaughter showing thick fat deposits (you are warned, should you click through) and a soliloquy to offal. Relative richness of savannah animals aside, what this discussion did not fully consider got my feminist spidey-senses tingling.

Palaeolithic humans are considered to have been hunter-gatherers. The nomenclature sets us up for a fall, since modern hunter-gatherers are more accurately gatherer-hunters. On a day-to-day basis it makes far more sense to get your calories from a few known plant sources that have predictable harvest periods than it does to expend huge amounts of time and energy on hunting. Fishing falls somewhere in the middle, along with grub or insect gathering. The PW post points all that out. What it doesn’t expressly say is that that’s women’s work; it’s not sexy. The Archevore – and, I now realise, pretty much everyone else chiming in – ignores “women’s food” entirely.

If I say ‘cave men’, what image springs to mind? Is it a small group of women and perhaps children, strolling through their territory with baskets slowly filling with berries, plants and tubers? Or is it a group of men with spears surrounding a mastodon? Is it seasonal gluts of water lily roots or moth larvae, or feasting on a Roasted Leg of Something? Sure, we memorialise Christmas dinner and not Tuesday breakfast, but it doesn’t mean that toast, apple and tea over the kitchen sink is not the far more common meal. To our common ancestors hunting was celebrated, perhaps even sacred. Considering the effort required to kill a hairy rhino or doodle on a cave wall, it’s not surprising that images of quiet meals of steamed fern tips with pine nuts and charred minnows are less common than the spear-throwing scenes, but this selective bias is obfuscated by pseudo-scientific smoke about macronutrient ratios and the nutritive availability of raw versus cooked. Is the vilification of starchy foods not at least partly about rejecting the Venus of Willendorf in the search for lithe, robust virility? A bowl of mashed potatoes and seaweed sounds about as far from Tarzan as you can get, which is not where the vocal young male Paleoites want to be.

No matter how much they want to think that Grok ate roasted leg of sabre-toothed tiger 6 days a week (and fasted on Sundays), vegetable matter (and probably small fish) are quite likely to have been the bread and butter of the cave-people diet. Look at it this way: Grok’s health was important at and shortly before he got that certain twinkle in his eye, but we owe our existence to Grokette’s. She needed to be born of a healthy mother, enjoy good nutrition herself, and not only raise Grok’s children but enrich the lives of her grandchildren as well in order to have an impact on the history of our species. We are likely to have inherited a genetic proclivity for the diet she thrived on. Grok could have fallen off a cliff in a fit of post-coital bliss and it wouldn’t matter now, regardless of how well he could throw a spear.

In a stroke of cosmic justice, chauvinism may actually be bad for your health.

Update: Peggy Emch has posted about beauty reflecting health, and "healthovers" are discussed in the comments.


  1. Wow, no comments on this? I think you make a great point!

    1. Thanks! In rereading this I have to say that I still hold this position, and the bulk of paleo bloggers still hold their meat/male-centric one, although the chest-beating seems not to be as virulent since they discovered Weston Price.