Wednesday, August 26, 2015

I’ve been a bad boy. 

I’ve been partying too much and writing too little. Too many late nights and too few early mornings. These past few months I’ve seen more dj’s than yogis, drank more beer than Kombucha and had more 4am finishes than I would like to admit... 

I’m sorry for neglecting you, dear reader. It’s been a crazy few months - my last summer in New York. 

My fiancé Stacey and I just booked our one-way flight home to Melbourne, where we will be getting married early next year and starting a new life. I’m excited. I might even quit modeling and get a “real” job. I might have to change my blog to 'The Paleo Real Estate Agent'.

While I am excited about moving home to the fifth-time-running ‘Most Livable City’ in the world, I do have mixed emotions. 

I love New York. 

I don’t believe in love at first sight but I did fall in love with New York very early on in our first encounter. That was back in early 2007. I was a green 21-year-old model with less than $2500 in the bank and a crappy ski jacket I’d borrowed from a friend that was excruciatingly inadequate for the February chill blasting down the great avenues.

My first week in NYC in 2007

That first three month trip to New York was truly eye-opening for me. I arrived clueless, naive, curious, without one single friend, staying in the biggest shit-hole dump you’ve ever seen in South Bronx. Yet within a couple of days I was on my feet, having a blast and relishing in the amazing buzz of the city.

In many ways it was the best three months of my life - a real turning point in my life. New York was the catalyst for all my future travels and the start of my self-discovery. I left knowing that some day I would return here to live.

It is incredibly seductive this city. It sucks you in. You get swept up in the sheer energy of the place. The wattage per square mile is incomparable to any city I've been to.

If Melbourne were a Toyota Corolla and London were a Mazda 6, New York is a Bugatti Veyron. The place is nuts. It’s the best and worst of the Western world, concentrated into a tiny island, and flooded with too many people and too much money and limitless opportunities and temptations.

I do love it. But like any truly loving relationship you have to take the ups with the downs. 

New York sucks sometimes. In fact it sucks often, but usually only for an instant. Then it is amazing again. It goes like this most days. New York I love you. New York I hate you.

It’s freezing cold and boiling hot. It’s dirty. It smells like crap, especially in the oppressive humid summer heat - concrete streets piled high with bags of leaking trash. 

It’s hard to walk 50 yards without stepping over or around either a brown puddle of frozen, cigarette-butt-peppered sludge (winter), a strewn patch of spilled garbage (summer), or a desperate homeless person or legless veteran (year-round).

"Greatest city in the world."

Everything is an effort here. Every trip to Trader Joe’s (grocery store) feels like there is an impending hurricane with people scrambling over one another for the last can of coconut cream and lines snaking 75 yards back to the entrance. And that’s just a typical Tuesday afternoon. It’s hard work.

Our apartment is so small I can simultaneous touch three walls of our bedroom without getting out of bed. You couldn’t bathe a Puggle puppy in our bathroom sink, let alone swing a cat!

Yet I still love it here. 

While the intensity and density can drain you at times, I find it elevating for the most part. 

New York is a double-edged sword: The incredible buzz facilitates your hustle. Then sometimes the incredible hustle kills your buzz.

But even when New York gets too much a few days away and you’re gagging to get back to her.

A wave of warming satisfaction floods my body driving back towards the city after a weekend upstate - right at the point when cresting the last big hill in Jersey and that iconic skyline rises up from nowhere. It’s magical.

New York, New York... So nice they named it twice. 

Yet it’s been a struggle here. For the first time in a long time I have not been making a living from modeling. I have had to step back to hospitality to supplement my income - bartending private events for the rich. It’s not a bad gig to be fair. Very good money for the hours and often fun. 

I’ve worked parties for David Schwimmer and Dolce and Gabanna. I’ve poured shots for Paris Hilton in an $80 million dollar townhouse on the Upper East Side and opened $3000 bottles of Bordeaux in a billionaire’s residence in Greenwich. I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff and heard some very interesting conversations. 

 Me and Domenico Dolce at his Christmas Party

Me and David Schwimmer at his house party

But it’s taken a toll on my lifestyle.

I’ve been drinking far too much. There is too much temptation in this city. Every night is a good night to go out. Every friend that visits from Australia is another excuse to go out. Every weekend means another two or three events to attend. 

I did nine weeks here with zero booze in 2013. I had zero social life for those nine weeks. I went out a bit, drinking soda water and leaving before midnight but I didn’t particularly enjoy that. I preferred staying in by myself and ignoring all the social pleas from friends. It was unsustainable. 

On the flip side, drinking several nights a week is also unsustainable. I’ve felt the least healthy I have been in many years. My workouts have suffered and my diet, while still pretty good, is not as good as it has been or could be. 

Part of the reason I haven’t been writing much these past six months is because I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I didn’t want to tell people how to live a healthy lifestyle while I am not living one myself. 

And I thought you might like to hear about all this... my confession.

Those of you who know me understand that I’m far from perfect. I’ve always liked to party. But those of you who don’t know me might wrongly assume I’m the picture of perfect health - always 100 percent Paleo and working out out like a madman. 

Well I am not. I am very human. I eat ice cream. I drink beer. I sleep in. I pass on workouts if I’m tired or hungover. Not all the time, but sometimes. 

The good news is that I’ve realized that I don’t have to be perfect. In fact, perfection is a terrible goal. The pursuit of perfection almost always guarantees failure. 

Remember that adage I often repeat? Don’t let perfection get in the way of improvement.

You don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be perfect. But we can’t let our circumstances get in the way of trying our best to make the right choices most of the time. 

In my next article I’m planning to delve into this very topic: how to manage when circumstances are less than ideal; how to mitigate some of the damage when you’re being bad; what isn’t worth compromising on and what is. 

I’ll explain how I’ve dealt with my less-than-ideal lifestyle of working late, drinking too much, eating out, partying and coping with the New York hustle while maintaining at least a baseline of condition and not throwing it all away. 

Let me emphasize the fact that what I have been doing is unhealthy. Excessive alcohol consumption is bad for your health. Going to bed at 4am is bad for your health. I am not trying to excuse this behavior. I am also not going to tell you that you can maintain this kind of lifestyle forever without long-term consequences. 

But I am telling you that if your current circumstance are not perfect you can still do your best to mitigate the damage. I believe you can work nightshifts and still maintain your mood and libido. I believe you can drink alcohol and still maintain your six-pack and max deadlift. It is not ideal, but it is possible, at least in the short to medium term. 

I can’t wait to move back to Melbourne, live by the beach, get up early, focus on training, eat well and spend quality time with my family and friends. Yet I am going to miss New York, dearly. And even though my lifestyle of late has been anything but healthy, I’ve had an absolute blast.

I've been driving the Bugatti Veyron, hard. And I love it. It's crazy and exciting and fun. But I've discovered that I'm not the type of person who can drive a Veyron slowly and sensibly. It's time to hand the keys over before I crash. I would be far safer and a much better driver in a Corolla.

I’ve been a bad boy. But hopefully I’ve learned some good life lessons. Circumstances won’t always be perfect - and neither will I be. But one can always get back on the path to improvement.

The Paleo Model. 

PS - Hope you enjoyed the post! You can follow me on Facebook to find my latest posts and share them with your mates.

An apology: Melbourne, I am sorry. You are not a Corolla. That was for dramatic literary purposes only. You are at least a BMW 328i like I had in LA. Loved that car.

Some old pics from my travels:

Backstage for a show in 2007

Riding round on my fixie in 2010

Times Square

View of Central Park from the Top of the Rock

My 'Animal Onesie Pub Crawl' 30th Birthday Party

Shooting with budding Supermodel Nina Agdal with the iconic 
Empire State Building in the backdrop

I loved that car. West Hollywood, 2011.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hi guys,

Long time no see! 

I apologize it's been some time since my last post. New York winter was unforgivingly brutal and kinda froze solid my creative flow. Thankfully I managed to escape on an amazing vacation to Tulum with the fiancé, then to Barbados to renew my visa, and now it's well and truly spring and I finally feel myself again and ready to write. 

I created The Paleo Model Blog because I'm passionate about nutrition, fitness and writing and because I genuinely enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with you. I don't make any money from this blog and it takes a lot of time to create good content so sometimes it's difficult to find the motivation. The last few months being a case in point. 

But fear not! I'm back. And I hope you enjoy this post that has been percolating in my grey matter for some time. 


I often get complimented on my skin. "I hope this isn't creepy but you have the softest skin I've ever felt" is actually a variation on a phrase I've heard more times than any normal human should. 

FACT: A few years ago I was a shirtless greeter for Abercrombie & Fitch at the flagship London store. This involved getting my photo taken with hundreds of people a day... With my shirt off.  

Essentially a lot of people have touched my skin (in a non-creepy way... for the most part).

I'm half Italian and half Irish-descent Australian. Dad's side has thick, smooth, tanned olive skin. Mum's side has thinner, freckley, dry, pale skin (sounds worse than it is). My skin is a mix - a bit on the thin and freckley side but not dry and I do tan. 

Genetically I would say my skin is quite soft, clear and resilient, if not a little orange. I have mild carotenemia, a condition whereby my body doesn't properly excrete carotenoids from food so these natural pigments accumulate in the skin giving it an orange tinge, which makes me look like I always have bad fake tan on. I don't help the cause by eating several carrots every day! But all in all my skin is pretty good and I'm thankful for that. Yet, like all of us I'm still prone to sun damage, wrinkles and aging. 

While genetics clearly play a role in the expression of physical characteristics like having flawless skin or having acne, I still believe that your lifestyle and environment are the biggest determinants as to the health of your skin. 

And while we can't do anything directly about our genetics (yet), we can in fact indirectly impact the way our genetics are expressed by manipulating our lifestyle and environment. 

This ability to affect gene expression via lifestyle change is now being explored through the field of epigenetics, and it gives hope to all of us with a genetic disposition to obesity, heart disease or acne.

Now is probably a good time to stress the fact that I am not a dermatologist nor doctor and I am certainly no expert on skin care. 

I do, however, know a fair bit about nutrition and have read and listened to a bunch of dermatologists, doctors and health experts talk about the skin. I can also talk about my own experience, whatever that's worth. 

Firstly let me emphasize that even as a model I do not make much of an effort with my skincare routine. I do, however, pay close attention to my diet. Which brings me to my first point:

Good skin comes from the inside.

Your skin is a reflection of your internal health. Yes, genetics plays a role, as does your environment. If you work in a chemical factory in northern Norway and smoke two packets of cigarettes a day you're probably not going to have glowing skin no matter what you eat. But if you live in a reasonable environment, like most of us, and you take some measure to limit direct hazards to your skin - like the Australian sun - then you should be able to improve your skin by improving your diet. 

It's what you put in, not what you put on. 

L'Oreal doesn't want you to know this but you can't buy your way to good skin with cosmetics or hygiene products. 

My Nonna, at 87, has better skin than most Aussie women in their 50s and her idea of a skin care routine is soap, a damp face cloth and olive oil. I'm 99% sure she's never put anything on her skin that couldn't be added to a salad or baked in a cake. And unlike Mum she's certainly never spent $100 on 50mL of Estée Lauder Resilience Lift Cream. 

You see, if you've eaten minimally processed, whole, real foods for your entire life - much of which grown in your backyard and nearly all of which cooked in your own kitchen - your skin should reflect your healthy diet. 

Healthy fat is essential to healthy skin. I attribute Nonna's (and my) soft skin to the high quantity of healthy fats in our diet. For me this means daily slugs of extra virgin olive oil, spoonfuls of coconut oil and regular consumption of eggs, nuts, avocado, oily fish and butter. 

Healthy dietary fat is the foundation of good skin. Fatty acids and cholesterol are the building blocks of our hormones, our connective tissue and our skin. Restricting fat intake is one of the worse things you can do for your skin and overall health. Eat more fat!

On the other end of the spectrum certain processed foods are kryptonite for your skin. The two biggest enemies to your skin are sugar and dairy, with industrial vegetable and seed oils being a close third. 

All three of these modern dietary mainstays can contribute to inflammation - the insidious, nasty type of systemic inflammation that when in excess of what the body can tolerate manifests itself as skin irritation, breakouts, acne, rashes and itching. In more severe circumstances unchecked chronic inflammation can lead to (or at least correlate to) autoimmune and metabolic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and heart disease. 

In particular, anything that tends to chronically elevate insulin - such as a high (refined) carbohydrate diet and/or dairy (I've spoken before about the insulinogenic effect of dairy) - will tend to worsen the health of your skin. 

It's a hormone thing. Anything that throws your endocrine (hormonal) system out of whack will result in funky stuff happening to your epidermis. 

This means that stress is a huge factor for your skin. You need to manage your stress. Likewise, good sleep, adequate (but not excessive) exercise and sun exposure, and avoiding things like the contraceptive pill and excessive alcohol consumption will all help optimize your hormones and thus get your skin as healthy as possible. 

Ultimately, healthy skin comes from the inside. Optimizing your nutrition and other lifestyle factors is the only tried and true method to achieving healthy, glowing skin. 

On the flip side, you do also need to pay attention to what you're putting on your skin. All those creams and lotions might be doing more harm than good. 

I don't like to fear-monger but cosmetics and personal hygiene products are full of nasty junk. Industrial chemicals, skin-drying alcohols, endocrine-disrupting parabens and cell-breaching nanoparticles of metal oxides are pervasive in all but the most natural of skincare products. 

Just go and pick up your shampoo or moisturizer and read the list of ingredients. It's terrifying. 

A good general rule (which my Nonna unintentionally lives by) is not to put anything on your skin that you couldn't eat. 

It may seem silly to think of drinking Vaseline shooters but we absorb substances transdermally (through the skin) just as we absorb substances via digestion (through the gut) so those chemicals listed on your volumizing shampoo are entering your body one way or another. 

Now I'm not telling you to go and throw out your entire bathroom cupboard and start concocting your own deodorant out of apple cider vinegar, baking soda and coconut oil (although that would be pretty bad-ass). And I'm not saying you can never use a cleanser or moisturizer again. But it would be wise to reconsider which products you're putting on your skin and whether you can find a safer more natural alternative. 

For example, it is becoming increasingly evident that most sunscreens could be quite harmful. A 2014 study by The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 75% of the 2000 sunscreens they tested contained potentially toxic and carcinogenic compounds such as oxybenzone, which has been linked to cancer (Kunisue, 2014). I suggest downloading the EWG app and only choosing sunscreens that get a safety rating of four or below. 

To conclude, I'm going to leave you with some actionable bites of advice... 

The Paleo Model's skincare tips:

1. Minimize your consumption of sugar and dairy. Specifically, avoid added sugar (soda, sweets, treats, packaged foods), refined carbohydrates (grain/potato/cereal products), high fructose foods (dried fruit, agave, "natural" sweeteners) and dairy sugars (lactose) and dairy protein (whey and casein). Pure dairy fat in the form of butter of ghee is fine.

Note - Not everyone needs to avoid dairy or restrict sugar to have good skin but for most people with bad skin dairy and sugar are the main culprits. 

If you have acne I strongly suggest you completely eliminate dairy for 30 days and limit sugar/carbohydrates to only vegetables sources and less than three pieces of fruit per day. After 30 days slowly reintroduce to discover what your trigger foods are. 

2. Minimize your consumption of processed modern foods, particularly industrial vegetable and seed oils, refined grains and other non-Paleo crap. If you don't understand what I mean by this read some of my other articles. 

3. Eat more fat. Replace those refined carbs with healthy sources of whole food fats such as oily fish, eggs, nuts, coconut oil, olive oil, butter, cacao, avocado, etc. 

4. Don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't eat. Try olive oil and/or coconut oil as moisturizer. Substitute natural, organic or even home-made products for commercial chemical ones. 

5. Optimize your hormones by improving lifestyle factors such as sleep, stress management, exercise, supplementation and by limiting exposure to environmental toxins and things that can disrupt hormonal balance like excessive alcohol, phytoestrogens, the contraceptive pill or overtraining. 

6. Drink plenty of good quality water. Coffee and some alcohol should be fine as long as you stay hydrated. 

7. Get some sun exposure, not too much, and use a safe sunscreen. Don't get burnt.

8. Leave your skin alone. If you have oily skin then using drying (foaming) cleansers, acne treatments or harsh medications, or simply by over-cleansing, scrubbing and moisturizing your skin can actually make matters worse by disrupting the natural balance of good and bad bacteria on your skin, causing more breakouts.  

If you optimize your nutrition and lifestyle you can mostly leave your skin alone except for some basic cleansing and moisturizing once or twice a day and it will sort itself out. 

Less is more. 

And ladies, don't wear too much makeup! Truth be told most of us lads don't like a face full of makeup. Natural beauty is far more attractive than a mask of makeup. Basically if we can tell you're wearing makeup you're probably wearing too much. Also, powder mineral makeups should be avoided as there is some evidence that the metal oxide particles can lodge in your lungs and potentially cause harm down the road.

If you follow these basic guidelines there is no reason why you can't walk around with glowing, blemish-free skin your whole life like my Nonna! Who knows? Maybe one day someone may also say to you, "wow, I don't mean to be creepy but your skin is incredibly soft". 


PS - Thanks for reading and if you liked this post please share it with a friend. Every extra person I reach makes writing these that little bit more worthwhile. And follow me on Instagram @davidsciola for shameless selfies and travel pics. 


Kunisue T, Chen Z, Buck Louis GM, Sundaram R, Hediger ML, Sun L, Kannan K. Urinary Concentrations of Benzophenone-type UV Filters in U.S. Women and Their Association with Endometriosis.  Environ Sci Tech 2012 Apr 17;46(8):4624-32. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I can trace my passion for nutrition and fitness back to 1997. I was a pudgy twelve year old and I wasn’t happy about it. I was sick of my self-identity as a tubby kid. I wanted to be a healthy, strong and fit guy. I wanted to be a leader. So I gave up sugar and started doing push ups in my bedroom every night. I never looked back. 

My self-education into health really started to deepen after I finished my undergraduate degrees. I was traveling the world modeling and had ample free time to delve into the scientific literature and nutrition research. But it was only when I discovered Podcasts about three years ago that I found the ideal vehicle for ingesting incredibly useful and succinct nutrition and fitness information anywhere at anytime. The beauty of the podcast is the interview format. You can listen to an expert in one particular field of study distill their entire life’s work into one hour of good Q & A. 

When you’ve listened to hundreds of doctors, trainers, researches, anthropologists, athletes and authors share their raw knowledge you begin to see certain patterns emerge - certain truths that seem to transcend different disciplines and biases. 

I’d like to share with you 10 major truths I’ve learned from listening to over 1000 hours of health podcasts. 

1. The pursuit of health is a highly individualistic one. Every human is infinitely complex and so must find their own path to wellbeing. There is no one-size-fits-all diet or training regimen. Veganism, Paleo or CrossFit may work for you but it won’t necessarily work for everyone.

2. There are no shortcuts to health and fitness. Biohacking is an interesting field but no supplement, piece of equipment or guru can help you cheat your way to your goals. There is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to your health. Making good choices, consistently, year after year is the only tried and true method to long term success.

3. The effect of exercise on health is an inverted U-shaped curve. Zero exercise is bad. Some exercise is good. Too much exercise is bad. If you are not an athlete you probably don’t require as much exercise as you might think. Integrating lots of movement, like walking, into your lifestyle is key. Then a couple of short, higher intensity “workouts” per week is probably enough to achieve your fitness and body composition goals, given that your nutrition, sleep, stress-management and otters lifestyle factors are optimized.  

4. Don’t trust anyone whose primary concern is financial gain. You begin to sense which health ‘gurus’ are in it for the money and which ones genuinely want to help people. Be very skeptical of any health advice from corporations and government bodies. It is clear that we have been grossly mislead for decades by organizations with vested interests. You don’t need five servings of dairy or six servings of whole grains a day to be healthy, as much as the dairy and grain industry would like us to believe it.

5. You are not a slave to your genetics. The field of epigenetics is teaching us that the expression of our genes is influenced by our environment. This means that our lifestyle choices greatly impact our physiology and health. It is within our power to prevent disease even if we are predisposed to it.

6. Everyone should have some kind of mindfulness practice. So many of the most successful and productive people I have listened to have a mediation practice. It seems to be very common among high performing people. But you don’t necessarily have to meditate to rest and reset. A long walk by yourself, some intentional breathing or a good yoga practice can be incredibly effective ways to maintain inner balance.

7. Intangible things like gratitude, relationships, humor, purpose and meaning are crucial to health. You can have an ideal nutrition and fitness regimen but if you are bitter, resentful, lonely and unhappy you are not in good health. Health is far more than the the physical. Wellbeing means having a healthy disposition. You need to nourish your emotional being. There’s no point having a well fed body if you have an undernourished soul.

8. Perfection is not the goal, consistency and small improvements are. "Never let perfection get in the way of improvement" is one of my mantras. It’s much better to be mostly good over a lifetime than to be perfect for a few weeks or months. Trying to be 100% perfect is a certain path to failure.

9. A sustainable, easy and enjoyable lifestyle is the goal. There is no point doing anything that you cannot sustain over the long term. Find what works for you - that you can maintain with little effort - and just stick to it.

10. Your idea of optimal nutrition and fitness will evolve over time. Sometimes you will be wrong but it doesn’t matter. Maintain an open mind and be flexible, not dogmatic. All that matters is that you do the best you can with your current understanding and always strive for improvement. 

My top five health podcasts: 

If you liked this post and want to see more bite-sized microblogs and photos please like The Paleo Model on Facebook. 

Thanks for reading. You guys rock!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Many people still accept a Hobbesian view of prehistoric man - that life was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. 

We’ve all seen the depictions in cartoons and movies of hairy and disheveled savages grunting, waving clubs, tearing raw meat from a giant femur with their teeth and dragging women around by their hair. 

But according to evolutionary psychologist Dr. Christopher Ryan, this ‘Flintstonization’ of Paleolithic man is unfair and just plain wrong. 

Ryan argues our hunter-gatherer forebears were actually quite civilized. They were well groomed, highly social creatures who loved, laughed, played and were probably a lot happier in the most primal sense than your average modern man who has been ‘civilized to death’ (Ryan, 2014). 

A hunter-gatherer life was necessarily about living in the moment. In a nomadic tribe material possessions were a burden. Amassing land, things, or power was simply not an objective. Community was everything. Your life literally depended on your fellow tribesmen. Everything was shared, including the raising of children. There was no state, no land-owners, no taxes or fences. A hippy dream! 

According to Ryan, the average hunter-gatherer only ‘worked’ a few hours a day and spent the rest of their time at leisure, bonding - playing, sleeping, having sex, building relationships, living. 

Sure there were plenty of rough times with weather, famine, injury, lack of medicine, warfare and wild beasts that could potentially kill you, but overall life wasn’t so bad. It certainly wasn’t solitary, brutish and poor.

A member of the Hadza Tribe

Littered throughout the literature on contemporary hunter-gather tribes are countless anecdotes of the inexplicable joy and happiness present among such tribes. Being human means deriving pleasure from simple things - food, shelter, companionship, belonging. 

Modern society has become so complex yet trivial and so detached from our base needs that most people in developed societies need constant stimulation, distraction, pharmaceutical intervention, drugs and alcohol or some other addiction (whether it be exercise or Netflix) just to cope, let alone to be “happy”. It really seems that the more ‘civilized’ become the less happy we are. 

When your biggest anxiety in the day is not getting 40 likes on your latest Instagram post (i.e. a trivial fear) you end up being more neurotic and less happy than when your biggest fear in the day is being trampled by a wooly mammoth (i.e. a real fear). 

Now I don’t want to romanticize Paleolithic times. As much as I love the outdoors and understand the immense satisfaction from getting back to basics and going ‘bush’ once in a while I’m an urban dude, a tamed homo sapiens domesticus fragilis

Comparing me to a hunter-gatherer is like comparing a shaky Chihuahua in a Louie Vuitton bag to a wild wolf in the Alaskan wilderness.  

I am not pining for a hunter-gatherer existence. I don’t even think we should be trying to emulate or replicate aspects of that era, unlike some other Paleo zealots out there.

I mean, if you want to hunt some of your own food, fashion your own sandals out of elk hide and go to bed at sundown that’s totally cool with me but I’m quite happy being a Millennial dude with an iPhone for a hand and having my neatly packaged wild salmon being available at my supermarket from 7am - 11pm seven days a week. 

I’m not saying that my urban life makes me happy, but I’d sure rather be part of our messed up society than an outcast, off-the-grid freak with no community at all. 

So yes, I am “Paleo", but only in the sense that I use an ancestral health framework to inform some of my nutrition choices. I am not in anyway trying to emulate a hunter-gather lifestyle! That’s silly. More on this later.

What I strongly disagree with, however, is this ignorant argument that cavemen died young thus why should we eat like them? 

There are two major flaws in this logic.

Firstly, cavemen did not die that young. People keep quoting an average lifespan of between 25 and 40 years in the Paleolithic era. This is highly misleading. Yes the average, ‘mean' age is quite low when you include a very high infant mortality rate. But infant mortality has always skewed life expectancy downwards until as recently as the early 20th century… not long after we realized it was probably a good idea to wash your hands before delivering a baby!  

During the Upper Paleolithic, life expectancy at birth was 32 years (Kaplan, 2000). But a 15 year old - who made it through infancy and into adolescence - could expect to live another 39 years, to the age of 54. 

Compare this to Classical Roman times where life expectancy was 20-30 and at age 10 one could expect to live 35 more years, to 45 (Frier 2001). 

Even in the early 20th Century life expectancy at birth was still only 31… less than in the Upper Paleolithic! So even by this crude measure it is unfair to pick on the Paleolithic as a period of particularly short life spans when in fact life expectancy has always been this low right up until last century. 

So even using basic averages for lifespan our Paleo ancestors were actually doing just as well, if not better than the Ancient Romans or Medieval Brits. But were hunter gatherers really dropping dead at 40 during a Mammoth hunt or did many live a lot longer than that?

Well, a more pertinent statistic to look at instead of the average (or ‘mean’) lifespan is the ‘mode'. The mode is the value that occurs the most frequently in a set of data. 

Take this set of data points: [0.3, 0.7, 1, 1, 2, 4, 7, 7, 7, 9]. The average (mean) is 3.9, while the mode is 7. Big difference.

The best known study into longevity among hunter-gatherer tribes concluded that the mode age amongst a variety of different hunter-gatherer tribes across the world ranged from 68 to 78 years of age, with the overall mode calculated to be 72 (Gurvan, 2007). 

This means that, by and large, if you didn’t perish as an infant or succumb to infection, illness, warfare or walk off a cliff in the darkness of the night then a healthy hunter-gatherer could expect to live to a respectable ripe old age, even by modern global standards.

So this notion of brutish cavemen dropping dead of old age at 30 is plain bullocks. It’s a myth. 

The second biggest flaw in the “trying to eat like a caveman is stupid” camp is that the Paleo diet is NOT about trying to replicate a caveman diet. I have drummed on about this so much that my neighbors have been lodging ‘relentless percussion’ noise complaints with the landlord.

But my drumming can’t compete with the ignorant argument resonating loudly throughout the mainstream media by your run of the mill “eat-a-balanced-low-fat-diet-with-heart-healthy-whole-grains” blog commenters, dietician and nutritionists. 

You know the ones. They talk like this: trying to eat like a caveman is stupid and as if you would want to live like a caveman anyway since they dropped dead before they were even old enough to get heart disease from all that red meat, and they were ugly and stupid and dragged women around by their hair, blah blah blah. 

Talk about Homo sapiens ignoramuses!

The Paleo diet is not a recreation or replication of some imagined caveman diet from 30,000 years ago. 

Rather, the Paleo diet is a template or framework for optimizing modern nutrition by looking to our past and pondering what we may have eaten for 98.5 percent of our evolution before agriculture came along and changed everything. 

And why would we want to do that? Well, from all the research that has been done over the past century into hunter-gatherer societies - both contemporary and ancient - and by looking at some alarming modern health trends there is some fairly compelling evidence suggesting the following:

  • Hunter-gatherers generally had superior bone density, structure, stature, strength and overall robustness of health than modern agricultural humans (Ryan 2014).
  • Hunter-gatherers did not seem to suffer from most modern ‘diseases of civilization’ such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease. Not to say that it definitely didn’t exist but it was rarely, if ever, observed (Cordain, 2010). 
  • At the advent of agriculture human health took a sharp decline: stature diminished, infectious disease proliferated, infant mortality increased, life expectancy decreased and malnutrition was widespread (Nicholson, 1999).
  • While we have been able to combat the above maladies with technology such as public sanitation, food fortification and modern medicine our collective health has taken another turn for the worse in the last few decades. 
  • The modern epidemics of obesity, diabetes and heart disease are escalating. Today one-in-four Americans have some form of heart disease. By 2050 it is predicted one-in-three adult Americans will have diabetes (CDCP, 2015). 
  • Life expectancy in the US may be on the decline (Olshansky, 2005)
  • It seems increasingly obvious that the industrialization and commercialization of our food since the mid 20th century has been a major culprit in our health decline. The more processed, adulterated and unnatural our foods are, the fatter and sicker we become. 
  • A diet of whole, real, unprocessed, organic, wild, raw, grass-fed, non-GMO, unconcentrated, additive-free, local, fresh, healthy animal and plant foods is clearly the best way to eat in order to thrive and to avoid the preventable diseases that end up killing most of us.  

Now frankly, my dear reader, I don’t give a damn how you arrive at your healthy diet of choice or even what that diet constitutes. As long as you are improving your health and it is working for you then that’s all that matters.

If you have an issue with cute, fluffy animals being murdered so you can ingest their wonderful nutrition and you’d rather eat quinoa (impoverishing Bolivians) and almond milk (worsening the drought in California) to fuel your 90 minute 40.6'C / 105'F Bikram session (contributing to global warming) then power to you! 

There are plenty of paths to better health. NONE OF THEM ARE PERFECT. So you can take your sustainability issues, write them down on a little piece of recycled paper, and burn them. Homo sapiens sustainabilis hypocritis.

As you all know I follow a Paleo template because it makes sense to me. Avoiding animal products does not make sense to me. Eating a lot of carbohydrates does not make sense to me.

And so I focus on healthy fats, lots of above ground vegetables, some roots and tubers, some fruit and berries, wild-caught seafood, some meat - preferably grass-fed and not factory farmed. I eat some full fat fermented dairy. I strictly avoid milk, gluten and industrial vegetable and seed oils.

But I am not dogmatic and I certainly consume my fair share of neolithic foods. I drink wine, tequila, vodka, sometimes a few low-gluten beers. I eat white rice. I’m even partial to a few corn tortillas or some premium full fat ice cream once in a while. 

And if the Paleo Police have an issue with my impurity they can get stuffed because I know my diet is 90 percent awesome. And then 10 percent of the time I go treat myself by doing some things that are clearly bad for my health but oh so much fun - like drinking a couple of Old Fashions or clubbing until 4am in Brooklyn. 

You see life is not meant to be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”. It was not like this for our Paleolithic ancestry and it shouldn’t be like this for us. 

Being Paleo is not about trying to be a bad-ass, spear hurling, rock carrying caveman. It is not about creating a perfect grain-free, dairy-free, legume-free diet and sticking to it 100 percent. But it is about avoiding most industrial junk foods to prevent becoming your typical fat, sick and nearly dead Westerner. 

Modern Americans may have a higher life expectancy than our Cavemen ancestors. But not necessarily that much higher - currently it is 78 (World Bank, 2015). And when you consider that the quality of later life for your average American (or Australian) is pretty poor these days we may not have advanced as much as we think. 

Four-out-of-five Americans suffer from at least four chronic illnesses by the age of 67 (AARP, 2015). Most rely on serious pharmaceutical and medical intervention to prolong a pretty crappy life for the final few years, often in a care facility, only to finally succumb to complications from metabolic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or Alzheimer's. 

The good news is that these diseases are preventable by making the right lifestyle choices over time, especially nutrition. And the best way to optimize nutrition is to focus on a real, whole foods diet… like the Flintstones. 

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AARP (2015). ‘Chronic Conditions Among Older Americans’:

Christopher Ryan, PhD (2014): Tangentially Speaking Podcast:

Ryan, C., & Jethá, C. (2010). Sex at dawn: The prehistoric origins of modern sexuality. New York: Harper.

Frier, Bruce W. (2001). "More is worse: some observations on the population of the Roman empire". In Scheidel, Walter. Debating Roman Demography. Leiden: Brill. pp. 144–145.

Gurven & Kaplan (2007). 'Longevity Among Hunter-Gatherers: A Cross-Cultural Examination’:

Hillard Kaplan, Kim Hill, Jane Lancaster, and A. Magdalena Hurtado (2000). "A Theory of Human Life History Evolution: Diet, Intelligence and Longevity"Evolutionary Anthropology 9 (4): 156–185.

Loren Cordain (2010), The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy By Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat, John Wiley & Sons.

(OFR) Obesity Facts and Resources. In Campaign to End Obesity (accessed September 2013).

Olshansky et al. (2005) 'A Potential Decline in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st Century':

Timothy M. Ryan and Colin N. Shaw (2014). 'Gracility of the modern Homo sapiens skeleton is the result of decreased biomechanical loading’, PNAS 2015 112 (2) 372-377

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2010). Number of Americans with diabetes projected to double or triple by 2050. [Press Release] (accessed March 2011).

Ward Nicholson (1999), ‘Longevity and Health in ancient Paleolithic v Neolithic Peoples’: