Like a Caveman

With Tim in the middle of his $25 food challenge, I thought I would weigh in with how I am currently eating.  I had previously written about my $50 grocery bill back in February, but much as changed since that time in my household budget.  I became really interested in what was actually healthy to eat and started reading books (as I normally do).  The first book I read was “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes.  The “story” (it is a non-fiction book)  told was a real eye-opener to me – it essentially puts into question the vast majority of what could be described as conventional wisdom and the human diet.  Essentially, the author of the book goes through dietary studies from the 1950’s and on and explains how, for example the fat-cholesterol hypothesis (eating fat and cholesterol makes you fat and increases your rate of heart disease) was formed as well as how the science used in the studies to reach what is now conventional wisdom, was incorrect.

Secondly, I read “The Primal Blueprint” which basically states that humans are not meant to eat grains of any kind, rather a diet of meat, vegetables and fruits is what we as a species ate as we evolved the consumption of grains, rice, legumes and other carbohydrates is making humans fat and unhealthy.  An excellent summary of the argument can be seen here as a trailer to a similarly argued movie an excerpt is as follows:

“If you could pack all of human history into one year, we’ve only been farming and eating grain since about yesterday which is when we became shorter and fatter.  We only started consuming processed vegetable oils about 10 minutes ago, which is when heart disease became our number one killer.  So, after examining all this human history, the experts came to the obvious conclusion….we need to eat a lot more of these – and so they convinced us that human health depended on foods that we hadn’t eaten for more than 99% of our existence”

As a result of reading these two books, my diet changed significantly.  I ate only meat, fruits and vegetables for a 4-week period.  Over that same period I was monitored by my naturopath, having what is essentially a cellular health reading done at the beginning and end of period to see what my change in diet had done.  Over the 4-week period, I lost approximately 10 lbs.  Some of this weight was water, but approximately 11 lbs was fat.  I gained 3 lbs of muscle, which was interesting as I had curtailed weightlifting from 2-3 times per week to once over the period (I ran a 10 km race in the middle with no training and didn’t want my legs to be sore for the run).  Additionally, my internal cellular health had improved significantly over the 4-week period.  Carrying the diet through to today, I have lost approximately 20 lbs and have noticed no loss in strength lifting weight (I’m actually lifting more mass than ever).  My wife had very similar results, and there are many people on message boards all over the internet who have found that this diet has reversed their diabetes, significantly reduced cholesterol and blood pressure as well as other positive side effects.

So, what do I eat?  Most mornings for breakfast, I eat 3-4 scrambled eggs with a vegetable smoothie.  For lunch, I eat some kind of meat (usually from the previous night’s dinner) and some raw vegetables, and for dinner, I’ll usually have meat with a salad or cooked vegetable.

What is the impact on my $50 per week budget?  From tracking it over the past few weeks, it has gone up approximately 50% (from $50 to around $75 per week).  This number should get lowered significantly over the next couple of months, as I ordered and should receive approximately 300 lbs of meat from the half a cow from a local farm, which will reduce the cost per pound of meat significantly.

The total impact on our household food budget is basically $0 however, as we don’t eat out at all anymore, as most restaurants that we would normally go to don’t offer the food at a cheap enough price to make it worth eating there (2 steaks at a restaurant is very expensive).

Although gimicky, the diet itself makes sense – why eat food that we aren’t meant to eat?  Why not eat like the cavemen?  Just because we can eat grain, doesn’t mean we should – it doesn’t really seem to be helping the health of North Americans over the past century.

Although secondary to eating “properly”, “The Primary Blueprint” also advises to workout like a caveman, as in short bursts.  Rather than running on a treadmill as hard as you can go for an hour (as I used to do) – going on a brisk walk for an hour or so a few times a week is a better way to lose fat.  To increase cardiovascular capacity, sprint like our ancestors did after their food once or twice a week.  Lift heavy weights once or twice a week to build and maintain muscle and you should be in pretty good shape – it’s worked for me.

Have you heard of this way of eating?  Would you try it?  Would you spend more money on food to gain better health?

*Another good video can be found here describing the primal/paleo way of eating

19 thoughts on “Like a Caveman”

  1. Excellent post. Completely agree with your conclusions. See also Dr. Richard K. Bernstein’s Diabetic Solution and Dr. Michael Eades’ Protein Power and his blog Health and Nutrition and Dr Mary Dan Eades blog.

    Low carb (no starch, no sugar) is the only way to keep flabby watery weight off and keep blood sugar in the normal, non-diabetic range (without drugs).

  2. I was very skeptical until you said you also work out like a caveman. It would be silly to eat like a caveman, but live like an office dweller! Healthy eating seems to be a very controversial topic, especially since it’s difficult to prove who is right and whether or not everything else is wrong.

  3. @ dabcan – Here’s a summary of what is done by my naturopath, which is called Bioimpedence, which I took from a naturopath website (

    The staggering North American obesity rate is 33% of all adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1,2 Given this trend, assessing your body composition is vitally important. Research has shown that body composition is directly related to health. A normal balance of body fat is associated with good health and longevity. On the other hand, excess fat in relation to lean body mass—or altered body composition—can put patients at risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.3,4

    That’s why bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) is an important tool in the FLT program. Improving patients’ key BIA markers may help reduce their risk for many serious health conditions.

    What is BIA
    BIA is a simple, in-office test that converts electrical measurements into quantifiable information about the patient’s
    Body composition (lean tissue, fat tissue, and body water)
    Fluid distribution (intracellular water versus extracellular water)
    Tissue health.

    How BIA Analyzers Work
    BIA is performed in our office with a computerized bioimpedance analyzer (such as the Biomarkers Body Scan Analyzer 2000), using electrodes similar to EKG electrodes. After factors such as gender, age, weight and height are entered, the analyzer measures reactance and resistance and the built-in algorithm calculates the markers for tissues, fluid compartments, fat mass and phase angle. The imperceptible electrical current passes through electrode pads placed on the right hand and foot. In minutes, you’ll have measurements to help support an effective, personalized therapeutic lifestyle changes (TLC) program.

    What BIA Measures
    BIA assesses body composition using electrical tissue conductivity, in order to provide:
    Bioimpedance Measurements. A printout of the patient’s resistance and reactance. BIA gets this information through a direct measurement of the body’s impedance (resistance to the flow of alternating current).
    Mass Distribution. Mass consists of lean body mass (or fat-free mass) and fat mass. Lean body mass is further broken down into key components—body cell mass and extracellular mass. Body cell mass is the total cellular mass of living cells—in other words, metabolically active body tissue. Extracellular mass is the body fluid and tissue found outside the cell.
    Water Compartments. Total body water has two components—intracellular and extracellular water. Intracellular water is fluid within the cell. Healthy cells maintain their integrity and hold fluids. Extracellular water is fluid outside the cell. An increase in extracellular water may signal a disturbance in the cellular membrane—and a risk for a variety of chronic diseases.

    How BIA is used in clinical practice
    By establishing baseline measures for each patient’s markers such as Body Mass Index (BMI) and ECM/BCM (ratio of extracellular mass to body cell mass), we can help patients track their FLT progress and motivate them to stick with the program. BIA measurements show them whether they’re improving or need to make modifications.

  4. @ Robert: Diet makes up about 80-90% of your body makeup. If I didn’t work out at all, this would still work, I just wouldn’t gain/maintain as much muscle. The positive impacts would still be there – less body fat, less yo-yoing of blood sugar, and generally better health.

  5. Just to add another book to your reading list, try the China Study – your diet may slim down to fruits and veggies (and less than 10% animal protien) after that read! It’s a very technical read but interesting and I think more research should go into how good animal protiens are for us in what amount. I imagine in our caveman/monkey days meat was a treat and most of our diet was foraging the trees and bushes.

  6. @cielia

    The last Ice Age ended some 15,000 years ago. At that point our ancestors had already populated most of the globe. I doubt they could find any fruits and veggies to speak those days. Early humans must have lived off wild mammals and the extinction of the megafauna can be seen as proof of their success.

    IMO, the early Chinese must have (over time) adaptated their eating habits to their surroundings, just like their ancestors before them.

  7. We eat about 80-90% paleo and have for years. This is part of the reason why we don’t go out to eat much but if we do go out, I don’t limit myself since it’s only about once a month. If I want battered fish and chips, I’ll have it (but split it). 🙂 I’ve researched this stuff for years and find the science annoyingly contradictory. I’m afraid that I’ve just decided to look anecdotally within my own family tree to figure out who ate how and how long-lived and healthy they were. My father’s siblings (born 1915-1923 or so) have almost all suffered from dementia and those who did died in their late 80’s and early 90’s whereas none of the older generation of centarians had these issues. I’m not sure if it comes down to processed food or less exercise or what.

    When you get your animal, are you going to request that less fat is taken off? I grew up with levels of saturated fat intake that you just don’t see anymore in store bought meat and they might assume you want it trimmed off if you don’t ask. I think the higher fat / semi paleo diet is the major reason why my father is still as sharp as ever and on no medication at 90 y.o. And I suppose it’s less expensive, you just moderate your portions a bit.

  8. I get what you’re saying, but I question it’s validity based on the fact that a caveman’s average lifespan, if I had to speculate based on historical averages, was probably only about 25 years. People quite regularly live well into their 80’s now. With that in mind, you must wonder if the caveman diet really makes sense.

  9. Adam has beat me to the obvious point that lifespans and cause of death are vastly different these days compared to the past, thus only a comparative study to people of today would be valid.

  10. @ Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom: The animal we’re getting is grass-raised, grass finished – I’m hoping to get basically the entire half of an animal (less skin, and the hooves) – I’d rather eat it then it go to waste. I’m sure I can find a recipe to use all of the offal and bones and stuff in one way or another.

    @ Adam / George: Human Life Expectancy 10,000 years ago was 33 years, which doesn’t seem like a long time, but this was longer than civilized successors until the early 20th century. Life expectancy reached a low of 18 during the Bronze Age (~3300-1200 BC in Ancient Egypt), rose to 20-30 through Classical Greek, and was only between 30 and 40 as late as the early 20th century. There have been skeletons found that are estimated to be 94 years old from over 15,000 years ago.

    We currently live in a world that has houses, plumbing, modern medicine and food at a grocery store….We don’t have to hunt to eat and don’t have to worry about predators eating us. You’d have to think that the 94 year old must have been somewhat mobile or something would probably would have been able to eat them 🙂

    It’s up to you though really, what do you think makes sense, the prescribed low fat, high carb/processed food diet that makes up the majority of what North Americans are told to eat or things that have basically no ingredients in them (they are what they are)? I’ve lost 20 lbs eating what many people would consider terribly unhealthy. This same diet has been followed by many people who have reversed their bad cholesterol problems, diabetes, IBS, Chrohn’s…..

  11. Here’s another very well thought-through critique of the China study:

    I like the idea of paleo diet but for me, the problem is ethical. Small food budget means the meat and eggs one buys are very unlikely to be brought up humanely and on pastures. On top if it, there are considerations for the world population and the amount of land and water necessary to grow and feed the animals…

    I am stuck between wanting to do paleo for health, and reducing meat consumption to once a week for ethics.

  12. Oops – didn’t notice the latest reply on getting grass-raised animals. How and where do you find that on a limited budget in Canada?

  13. @ IngaG – Have you read the “Vegetarian Myth”? Ethically, I think the best thing that can be done is either grow your own meat and food so that you know what is put into it, and how the animal is raised. In the book the author basically states that whatever kind of food you eat you are not ethically “clean” if you’re eating for example soy-based foods, the field for the soybeans had to be cleared, pesticides and fertilizers sprayed etc. killing probably more life than if you just ate a cow.

    The first 14 pages of the book can be found on the authors website here:

    Alternatively (which I have done) I sourced my meat from a local farm that follows the methodology that I would follow if I was growing the meat myself. If I were to buy conventional beef which is grain-fed to put in my freezer, it would cost approximately $2.25 per pound. The beef I bought, which is grass-raise and grass finished is $3.90 per pound. Although considerably more, it is still cheaper than most meat I can find in the grocery stores that is conventionally raised. The freezer that I’ll keep the meat in will pay for itself on the first half-cow I buy from savings.

    I have also sourced locally (and ethically/drug and grain free) animals (chickens, lambs, rabbits, geese, pigs). Although not cheaper, they are close to comparable. While fruits and vegetables are in season in Ontario, I enjoy as cheap of produce as possible.

  14. $3.90 per pound is a pretty good deal. I have a brother that has a feedlot and another that raises grass fed and he charges $4.00/pound to non-family. Really it’s the equivalent of maybe $1-2/day which is cheap IMO when it comes to food. If that’s a hardship Inga, I’d get someone to buy the higher priced cuts (t-bones etc. at $6+/pound) and lower your costs even more. I just picked up close to a month’s supply of dirty meat (fell on the floor, contains heart, lungs, offal etc.) and a box of meaty femurs for my dog and it was about $40. That’s cheaper than the garbage dog food. So even if you don’t want the bones + misc. Dave, you could probably sell them to a dog owner.

    Dave, I’d confirm that the 300 pounds you’re getting is just dressed, not trimmed as it seems like a low dressage weight – here’s what I mean:

    Here’s a marrow recipe if you’re so inclined: 🙂

    I was also a controller for a time at a company who had pork and beef feedlots and I wouldn’t be quite as worried about hormones, antibiotics etc. here in Canada as they are in the States as our restrictions are tighter. On sites like, they have really old and cherry-picked research, much of it from the US so I don’t know if it’s that valid. Having said that, I was nauseous for 2 days after my first experience of a 1000 hog enclosed operation (due to ammonia) and almost cried the first time I saw cattle in a feedlot as ours were raised for breeding and show purposes. Free range is definitely more humane. And much better for you than oreos and cheetos. 😛

  15. I find this really, really interesting. I tried a high protein (meat and fish), no carb (almost) diet for about 2 months and I lost about 30 lbs. This is without exercise, just a little brisk walking everyday for about 15-20 minutes. Worked for me. I just had my second child last year, and I am thinking of doing this again.

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