Seriously. Since we mapped the Neanderthal genome, for $30 million I can now find a surrogate mother (Claudia Azula Altucher?) and a professor at MIT can, I don’t know, inject a Neanderthal into her womb.
Or something like that. Something science. Here’s some science: school taught me that neanderthals were a different species.
But you can’t have kids with a different species. That’s the RULES that define “species”!
But now it turns out we all have somewhere between 1 and 5% Neanderthal in us. Which means kids happened.
Which means a Neanderthal woman kissed a human man. Maybe, at least once, a Neanderthal said to a human, “I love you.”
Which means maybe violence happened. And a baby was born. And then something bad happened.
All of this is to say: Screw Paleo. Screw paleo diets. I’m so sick of the paleo diet.
All of this is to say: the paleo diet is a lie. And yet it’s not quite. More contradictions.
I used to eat cereal for breakfast. Two bagels for lunch. And pasta and wine for dinner. The All-Carb diet. I miss those days.
Now I try to be “paleo”. You can’t eat anything. Peanuts? Forget it. I tried to get away with popcorn (“it’s mostly air”). Forget it.
Gluten-free? Believe it or not – that’s not paleo. Check for gliacin. If it’s got that in there (to get the “gluten” effect) then it’s even worse.
Ezekiel bread? Puke! What does it even mean that it is sprouted bread? Is it like a bread plant?
Fruit? Forget it. Too much sugar. And I hate vegetables and meat. I can’t eat anything.
I don’t know what the answer is or what the right diet is.
Important: here are the areas where the most people aged 100 or over live: Okinawa (rice-based diet), Sardinia (pasta), Costa Rica (maize / corn). All live off of starch-based diets and very low animal food.
Here’s the argument for paleo: that for 3 million years, homo sapiens and their ancestors didn’t live off of wheat.
We were nomads and foragers and ate anything we could find: plants, bone marrow, nuts, rodents, whatever.
It was only a mere evolutionary blip ago (10,000 years) that wheat basically domesticated us.
Important: the success of a species is not determined by it’s happiness but by its ability for its DNA to replicate itself.
Unfortunately, humans are not the winner. Wheat is.
Around 10,000 BC, give or take a few thousand years in various parts of the world: Wheat took control of the human race and forced us to settle down and grow it.
What? Wheat.
The results have been a total disaster for humans accept for the fact that we now have croissants to eat. Mmmmm. And French Toast and Pancakes.
Now that we have to protect our vast quantities of croissants we had to settle down into cities and kingdoms. We have to pay taxes. We have wars. We have religions. We burn down forests to grow the wheat.
Lots of good things.
Diet interlaces with lifestyle. You can’t separate them.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO LIVING PALEO (or check it out in infographicform)
I was talking to Nassim Taleb about the paleo diet and he reminded me of one important fact: humans didn’t eat a nice three meals a day spread out every 4 or 5 hours.
Sometimes we’d go for a day without food simply because we couldn’t find any. If you want to eat paleo you have to randomize the time you eat.
We probably also ate different things every day depending on what we found that day.
Nuts, plants, marrow. Marrow!
Do you really think it’s likely we killed a cow and then some lion waited in line while we ate first?
We were LAST in line when it came to eating the meat so we probably ate more marrow. Marrow is soft and mushy and comes from inside the bone of an animal.
It’s also about 96% fat. So if someone tells you to stop eating fat you can tell them that’s basically all humans ate fat for three million years.
The longest living “cousin” in the homo genus is the homo erectus which lived about 1.5 million years (I think sapiens have only been around 200-300,000 years). There’s no photographs but I really can’t imagine that members of homo erectus were obese and lying around watching “House of Cards”.
Let me just say: you know that chart that shows chimps on one side, then chimps slowly evolve into humans by standing up straight? There’s like 5 steps in between. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m always sort of jealous or envious when I hear there was once a species named Homo Erectus.
Back to the real paleo diet: the health benefits of eating bone marrow? Boosted immune system, helps cancer, improves digestion, improves the brain, and on and on.
Do I eat bone marrow? Hell no! But I guess if it was on the menu I’d try it. I probably should. A Bone marrow brioche sandwich.
Here’s what I look for in a diet:
  1. Good sleep. I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with stomach pains like I did for years. So early dinners and no alcohol seem to help with that regardless of what I eat (well, no dessert).
  2. Easy digestion. Which, for me, simply means softer foods than I ate as a kid (no bagels unfortunately for me anymore).
  3. Energy at the right times. Which means I try to eat dinner for lunch (eggs, vegetables, or fish) and breakfast for dinner (pancakes!) .
And, for breakfast, drugs. I mean…coffee. I mean coffee with coconut oil.
Most people are not what I would call paleo-intelligent. I am very paleo-stupid.
In fact, for hundreds of years we’ve been encouraged to be paleo-stupid.
We’ve glorified and even worshipped the concept of “focus”. 100 years ago if you worked in a factory you might operate one machine over and over again, a 1000 times in a day, 6 days a week, for 60 years.
And even now, with the Internet revolution, pseudo-entrepreneurs are encouraged to “focus” much like the factory worker.
We are told in schools to find our “major” and then in graduate school we are forced to get more and more specific under the mentorship of people who did the same thing twenty years earlier.
The average successful person probably has close to 20 or 30 careers in his life. This is a paleo career.
Our paleo ancestors knew every plant and animal in a several mile radius or larger of where they lived. They knew what was edible, what was poisonous, where the lions lived, what bars the Neanderthals caused trouble in, and so on.
I don’t even know my neighbors.
I wish I were a little more intelligent about the basics of living. Like how to use a microwave. Or assemble a baby carriage. I have a PQ (paleo quotient) of about 50.
There’s even evidence that paleo people had larger brains than us. They had to keep it all in their heads. No google to help them keep track of everything. No evernote.
“NO! That’s poisonous!” That’s what paleo people could say. I can’t say that. Except about bad relationships.
So gradually as a species we’ve been less intelligent despite all of our great war machines and stock exchanges and C++ and many other fun things.
Nobody knows. But my guess is: paleo-people didn’t own anything. How could they? They were nomads. They moved.
45,000 years ago when humans crossed the solid arctic tundra from Siberia to Alaska in -60 degree temperatures they weren’t carrying a lot of books and plates and beds and tables.
But in just a few thousand years after that they inhabited every region from Alaska down to Argentina, passing through every weather regime possible without dying off.
No other species in history has ever done that.
The only way they could do that was by owning little and being super adaptive to every environment including the new foods and animals they found in that environment.
New food didn’t kill them. (“Ahhh! Bread will kill us!”). They adapted and lived and built empires. Starch-based empires.
Now we’re mostly stuck. Our masters have nailed us into our current locations like a hammer.
People are often afraid to change or move but for three million years that’s ALL we did was change and move. It was the key way we survived and succeeded.
Being good at adapting, changing, uncertainty, and a little fear, is the soup for success.
And it was only when we started owning things that we started going to war to protect those things and building stories around those objects about why they were important enough to protect.
And then we invented the great story of money. Paleo people had no money.
Just think of what skills you need to hunt for animals and forage for food. It’s simple.
You needed to run. You need to have good reflexes. You need some strength. You probably need to stretch and climb and have balance.
And yes, you probably need to kill people with your bare hands.
So that’s all the exercise you should focus on.
Nassim mentioned to me he had special sneakers that modeled the shape of the foot more accurately and he spends 20 hours a week walking on non-flat terrain. They probably didn’t pave roads a 70,000 years ago.
It’s simple: sleep when it’s dark outside. Be up when it’s light outside.
It’s hard for people to do this. But a few tips:
  • blackout shades so no street light comes in
  • no screen time after 6pm
  • eat as early as possible
Any screens at all makes the brain think it’s the middle of the day. Not paleo.
Every tribe probably had an alpha male and female. Chances are the alphas had more sex than the others. But we don’t know anything at all about this.
One thing we do know: the neurotransmitters in our brain evolved based on how we were able to get along with other members of our tribe.
Companionship and friendship are the keys to happiness.
For instance: if we love someone (and hence increased our chances of reproducing) then oxytocin gets triggered.
If we found food that we wanted to share with the tribe, or if we saw food that we would like to eat (perhaps found by someone else), then dopamine would be triggered. Either way we would want to form bonds in the tribe so we can eat.
If we got hurt or were being chased by a lion (separating us from our tribe), then endorphins (naturally produced morphine) get triggered (“runner’s high”)
And if we felt like the tribe might no longer like us, cortisol would get triggered and we’d be anxious about where we stood with the tribe.
Paleo love means today I can try to make a friend, call a friend, love someone, kiss my daughters, kiss kiss kiss. Paleo kissing.
Humans killed everyone else because we can tell stories. And gossip. And lie.
Religions, cities, money are all big stories that allow millions of people to cooperate with others who believe in the same stories.
It’s built into us that we love stories.
The classic experiment is that if you sell a product on Ebay and have a story around it, people will pay up to 300% more than if you have a story about the product.
  • ABS: always be storytelling.
  • Reach out to friends every day.
  • Randomize your food in every way (and eat soft foods)
  • I vary my daily routine
  • Sleep when it’s dark
  • I own as few things as possible
  • Be intelligent about your surroundings and the world you live in.
  • Think about today. No need to plan too much for the future. The best predictor of a success future is a successful today.
  • That’s a true paleo diet. A paleo life.
Will this make your life better? I’m not sure. It’s certainly made mine better.
One more secret: humans are the only species to develop a pre-frontal cortex.
What does that mean? It means we not only evolve. We adapt.
That’s why we can read and nobody else can. That’s why we can tell stories (“money”) that both Al-Qaeda and Warren Buffett believe in.
So Paleo life means being ok with adapting. Means adapting faster than the people around you. Paleo uncertainty is the key to paleo success.
I would love to have a Neanderthal child. To raise one. We would arm wrestle. It would get taller than me. Probably smarter than me. And then maybe I would kill it.
I threw all my belongs out a month or so ago. Paleo materialism.
Maybe it’s too early to tell the results. But one thing I found out is that I accidentally threw out a lot of the things that were in my head also. So I don’t care anymore.

James Altucher writes at Altucher Confidential and is author of Choose Yourself and The Power of No. The above originally appeared at Altucher Confidential