Melissa Joulwan and Kellyann Petrucci, Living Paleo for Dummies (Wiley/For Dummies, 2012)
Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.
I’m gonna start out with the book’s biggest, most glaring failure: it never addresses the main reason critics say the paleo diet is untenable. (For those reading this where outside links cannot be provided, a concise summary of what everyone else saw in those links: “even if you take at face value the idea that the human genome has not changed much in the last 2.8 million years, the food has, so there is no way for a modern human being to eat a diet approximating, much less mirroring, that of our paleolithic ancestors”.) With that said, however, I think it would be hard to refute one of the basic tenets of the paleo diet, whatever you think of the rest of it: getting processed foods out of your diet—and out of your body—is a Good Thing(TM). In other words, I’m going to start out by saying “take this with a grain of salt, or perhaps a few shakes of garlic powder and a pinch of ground cumin, but don’t dismiss it out of hand.”
Part of me wants to call this “your basic diet book”, and the diet parts of it are, including those ridiculous claims that if you eat a certain way for a period of time (in this case thirty days), your body will adjust to this new routine and you will never crave the old, bad-for-you stuff again. (Anyone who has ever managed to quit smoking for over thirty days knows exactly how true that statement is…and nicotine is a piker when you compare it to processed sugar on the craving scale.) Where it distinguishes itself is in the “exercise” portion of “diet and exercise”. There are a number of diet books out there that ignore exercise entirely, and in general, those that do address the subject do so in a cursory fashion (e.g., Pierre Dukan’s charge to “never take the elevator” as an exercise cure-all). Living Paleo for Dummies devotes about a third of the book to exercises, much of it able to be done without expensive equipment or the like, putting it within reach of the average consumer (especially the average consumer who, eating this way, has just seen his disposable income shrink. Do you know what a can of coconut milk costs? I do now…). It’s all rather likable, even if I did keep it in the back of my head that Joulwan and Petrucci kept studiously avoiding the critical assessments of paleo when spinning out unsubstantiated claims about, say, exposure to sunlight curing depression.
It’s not a bad little book; I’m definitely not sending it the way of the great auk, and I’m not just keeping it around for the recipes. But you’ll want to be sure to approach it with a critical eye. This is a good rule of thumb when dealing with any diet book, but it’s especially true in this case. ** ½
Fun news clip (uploaded by Melissa Joulwan) from an Austin program featuring Joulwan debating the merits of Paleo. I love this…