Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Procrustean Error: fitting humans to an unnatural world instead of restoring the natural order

Nassim Taleb, the philosophical and geographical flâneur (a stroller, physically and metaphorically, who has a "complete philosophical way of living and thinking" and a process of navigating erudition, that is, deep learning through experience, experimentation, socializing and self-directed reading, rather than through formal insitutional education) discussed in his The Bed of Procrustes the modern tendency to try to make life and the world fit our narrative notions instead of adapting our ideas to reality or admitting ignorance. Below are examples of modern variants of the Procrustean error supplied by Nassim and the Swedish "diet doctor," Aaron Eenfeldt, which involve medicating or even surgically altering our bodies to try to adapt them to modern diets and lifestyles instead of trying to restore the foods and environment we are naturally adapted to:

"Procrustes, in Greek mythology, was the cruel owner of a small estate in Corydalus in Attica on the way between Athens and Eleusis, where the  mystery rites were performed. Procrustes had a peculiar sense of hospitality; he  abducted  travelers, provided them  with a generous dinner, then invited them to spend the night in a rather special bed. He wanted the bed to fit the traveler to perfection. Those who were too tall had their legs chopped off with a sharp hatchet; those who were too short were stretched (his name was  said to be Damastes, or Polypemon, but he was nicknamed Procrustes, which meant "the stretcher").

[W]e humans, facing limits of knowledge, and things we do not observe, the unseen and the unknown, resolve the tension by squeezing life and the world into crisp commoditized ideas, reductive categories, specific vocabularies, and prepackaged narratives, which, on the occasion, has explosive consequences. Further, we seem unaware of this backward fitting, much like tailors who take great pride in delivering the perfectly fitting suit—but do so by surgically altering the limbs of their customers. For instance few realize that we are changing the brains of schoolchildren through medication in order to make them adjust to the curriculum, rather than the reverse." -Nassim Taleb, PhD, The Bed of Procrustes (see for more info)

Regarding bariatric surgery: "It's like trying to surgically alter our bodies to adapt to industrial food." -Aaron Eenfeldt, MD, "Evolution of a Diet Revolution," 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium, (see for more info)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Update on What I'm Eating

[Edit - Warning: Please don't take my diet info as a recommendation for you and do your own homework. 

2.2.14 The below diet was low in resistant starch and I think this contributed to gradually rising fasting blood glucose that peaked at 115 mg/dl and I started to also feel colder, after it had deceptively early on made me feel warmer and good. Adding more resistant starch into my diet helped reverse this within days. Other people are reporting serious illnesses from diets that were too chronically low in carbs and resistant starch and kept them in chronic ketosis, and also reporting other benefits from resistant starch. Please read up on resistant starch.

I'll leave this diet here as a warning to myself and others to not do this. Surprisingly, not even the carby foods were enough to prevent my FBG from rising and other issues. I suspect that resistant starch is particularly important.]

My description of what I've been eating is overdo for an update, as I've expanded my food selection significantly since the more heavily carnivore phase, which I had been hoping I could do some day. Eating almost no plant foods provided many benefits, but my past chronic constipation was worsening again after initial improvement, so I reintroduced some foods to my diet and I've been emphasizing softer animal foods like eggs and marrow.

I don't seem to have problems with root veggies that are edible raw, such as parsnips and carrots, and it's interesting that recent paleoanthropological research has led scientists to hypothesize that pre-human primates like Australopithecus and Ardepithecus
consumed raw roots and tubers and nuts as staple foods, possibly more so than fruits (EARLY HUMANS SKIPPED FRUIT, WENT FOR NUTS).

My Current Staple Foods:

Fertile chicken eggs and duck eggs
Grassfed ground beef
Fats: Bone Marrow, Suet and Tallow, Lard (all grassfed or pastured)
Tuna, Yellowfin, wild, Hawaiian sushi grade or regular, frozen

Salmon, wild, sockeye, frozen or wild "fresh" (previously frozen) or sushi grade, wild clams, and other wild fish
Liver, GF beef/lamb
Heart, chicken
Carrots and Parsnips (edible raw, spicy, high potassium, a starch I can tolerate, one local farm grows excellent-tasting parsnips, but they're no longer sold at my local market)
Lemons (low sugar, alkaline, high vit C; I squeeze the juice out of them)
Blackberries (moderate sugar, high vit C)
Duck breast
Bone broth usually made with pastured marrow bones
Raw fermented cod liver oil, mint flavored (for the vitamins A and D)
Raw high vitamin butter oil (for the vitamin K2)
Water, mineral water, teas

My Current Secondary Foods:

Really Raw brand fermented raw honey (does wonders for my hair and scalp flakes for some reason, though this didn't work for a friend of mine)

Fresh figs (not dried)
Strawberries (low sugar, high vit C), raspberries 
and some other fruits
Pastured ground bison or pork, pork loin, top round steak, ribeye steak, wild oysters and other meats/fish/organs
Celery and other nonstarchy, low-toxin veggies [edit: but starchy veggies also appear to be important]
Ginger, fresh or pickled
Wasabi mustard
Sea salt, black pepper, spices

I try not to get carried away with fruit or raw fermented honey. If I eat too much of either, I start to develop skin and dental problems like chapped lips, dry skin, scalp flakes, increased dental plaque and loosening teeth. Tubers that require cooking, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, produce similar symptoms in me and little or no of the benefits from honey and fruits re: GI functioning, hair and scalp condition, or taste, so I only eat them occasionally. [Edit: But I now consider tubers especially important because of their resistant starch content when raw or cooked and cooled for 8-12 hours or so. I get around the problems by supplementing with potato starch and eating dried raw plantains and other foods rich in resistant starch that I appear to handle better than freshly cooked hot tubers. 2.2.14]