Balanced Bites Podcast 109 John Durant

Podcast Episode #109: Special Guest John Durant of The Paleo Manifesto

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Topics:Balanced Bites Podcast #109 | Special Guest John Durant

1.  John on The Colbert Report [5:02] 2.  John’s Fly Fishing Lure Hair [8:04] 3. The Paleo Manifesto; paleo 2.0 [9:57] 4.  Meaning and motivation.  [16:23] 5.  Movement and motivation [19:28] 6.  Fasting Traditions [23:35] 7.  Vegetarianism/Vegans [26:35] 8.  Meet your Meat [45:34] 9.  Perfection is not always the goal. [52:30] [smart_track_player url=”″ title=”#109: Special Guest John Durant of The Paleo Manifesto” artist=”Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe ” color=”00aeef” social=”true” social_twitter=”true” social_facebook=”true” social_gplus=”true” ]


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Diane Sanfilippo: Hey everyone! Welcome to episode 109 of the Balanced Bites podcast. We had a little ordering issue go on, so you guys may have heard Liz announce it was episode 109 last week, but that was 108, this is 109. I am on my own here today with an interview that I know you guys are going to love. But first off, let me give you some quick words about our sponsors. We are sponsored by two of our favorite companies. First off, Chameleon Cold-Brew, handcrafted in Austin, Texas using organic fair trade coffee beans, small-batch processing that creates a low acid brew. It is perfect for your cold beverages. Or, it’s getting a little chilly now, so you can certainly heat that up. I would recommend heating it up on your stovetop. Maybe you can make yourself a little pumpkin spiced beverage at home. Liz and I love this stuff; you can check them out at, and check out the podcast blog post every week for an amazing offer from them.

We are also sponsored by Real Skin Products. They are a co-venture with Pete’s Paleo. Be sure to check out Real is an all natural body care line focusing on the highest quality ingredients, and their motto is if it is not something you would put in your body, you shouldn’t put it on your body. It’s fantastic. Great deodorants, and, you know, really potent stuff that you don’t have to worry about having that “au naturale” thing going on because you will be covered. What else can I tell you about Real Skin…. they have got a 10% off coupon for our listeners through the end of October. Just use the code BALANCEDBITESROCKS to get that discount. So, that’s it from our sponsors.

My guest today is John Durant. {feedback} There he is! John is the author of the new book, The Paleo Manifesto, which is generating major buzz all across the internet. We haven’t really seen a paleo book like this before, and it is by one of the original cavemen in this whole modern paleo movement. Some of you may remember John’s appearance on The Colbert Report a few years back; well his book is finally here. I’m excited to have him on the show. Welcome, John.

John Durant: Thanks! It’s great to be here.

Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. Are you in New York City again today?

John Durant: I’m in Manhattan.

Diane Sanfilippo: Okay, I knew you were traveling.

John Durant: So you may…. well, I’ve been sort of all over recently, but back in the Big Apple.

Diane Sanfilippo: Back in the NYC. Well, let me just give your bio here really quickly, and then I’ll let you introduce yourself a little bit more. John is the author of The Paleo Manifesto, as I mentioned. He studied evolutionary psychology at Harvard prior to founding Paleo NYC and the Barefoot Runner’s NYC clubs. He has also been featured in the New York Times, Colbert Report, NPR, and the New Yorker. He blogs at Okay, sorry. It’s Friday afternoon, and I am wiped out from this whole week. So, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself since some of them may not be familiar yet with your work and, you know, what you have been contributing to this whole community.

John Durant: Yeah, I guess I started eating paleo about 7 years ago, and I had, like you mentioned, I studied some ev-psych in college. It wasn’t health related, but I basically learned how to take an evolutionary approach to different subject matters, and then when I was at my first full time desk job, like many people, my health sort of hit a wall. I didn’t want to do some fad diet. I came across this evolutionary approach, and, like many people, I was like, oh, that kind of makes sense. Look at what people do in the wild, what we did for millions of years, and use that as a jumping off point to start to think about how to be healthy in a lot of different areas, not just diet. And, yeah, and then being in New York City and looking like a caveman is …

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: Makes it easy to get people’s attention. So, after some of that media about 3 years ago, pretty much went into hiding. Went into my cave, and was writing this book.

1. John on The Colbert Report [5:02]

Diane Sanfilippo: How did that happen with The Colbert Report? How did they catch wind of this? Was it from the Paleo NYC group?

John Durant: There was a New York Times style section piece.

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh, okay. That’s right.

John Durant: In the Sunday style section.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

John Durant: A few weeks before, and it was just a producer read it, thought it was funny, pitched it to Colbert. He had read the same article over the weekend, thought it was hilarious, and they were like, we have got to have caveman guy on!

Diane Sanfilippo: {Laughs}. He’s not selling car insurance.

John Durant: That’s right. That’s right. And that’s what is pretty cool about that show, is they will occasionally have complete no-name people on. So, I went on the show. It was super fun; it went really well. And then, for people who haven’t seen it, it ended on a sort of a funny note. He asked me about my dating life.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: Eating this way. And I said that my ideal woman eats meat, is a celiac, and is lactose intolerant.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Do you still feel that way? That was a few years ago now.

John Durant: I still feel that way.

Diane Sanfilippo: I actually said the same thing, too, when I was kind of like, out there and dating. It was like, ugh, I just want to meet someone who is totally gluten intolerant {laughs}

John Durant: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Because it would just make life so much easier than having to explain why I don’t eat bread or any of those things. Yeah.

John Durant: I love women with severe digestive problems.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

John Durant: I don’t know what it is, but there is just something in the way she moves. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Wow, we are both kind of punchy. Well, I’m also laughing because you and I first met, it was at Paleo NYC; we actually, I think had gotten together a few times with Paleo NYC functions. I know there was something at one of your apartments, where we did this panel of, it was myself, you, and Melissa McEwan, and Christian, and a whole bunch of people that we just kind of did this Q&A…

John Durant: Right. Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: And there were like a billion people jammed into your apartment.

John Durant: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: Was that just like a paleo 101 talk? I don’t even remember what that was.

John Durant: Yeah, it was just a beginner’s session.

Diane Sanfilippo: Okay.

John Durant: I mean, the virtue of New York City is that there are so many people that it was easier early on to get a critical mass.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

John Durant: Of folks that were interested in this. But, yeah, that was fun.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, that was crazy.

John Durant: Everybody passes through New York, so you kind of get to meet everybody.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Yeah, I actually don’t think I was living there at the time. I think I was just, like… I don’t even know how anybody knew who I was, but, yeah, I think I was traveling to teach, and was probably just home. Yeah, then I remember, I don’t know if that was the first time or if this was the second time that I met you, but I think the first time I met you was at a restaurant with just a handful of us, myself, you again, Melissa. I think Chris Masterjohn was there, and that was the first time I met him, and I was like “ohh, Chris Masterjohn!” Like, I did not put 2 and 2 together there, at all. We were having this conversation, and I was like, this guy is really nerdy, like, he knows what he is talking about! {laughs} and then I realized who he was.

John Durant: He may know more about fat soluable vitamins than anyone in the world.

2. John’s Fly Fishing Lure Hair [8:04]

Diane Sanfilippo: It was… I remember we were actually talking about why people… I literally remember asking him why people don’t convert omega-3’s very well, like from, you know, the whole plant-based forms into DHA, and he started talking about the reasons why we can’t elongate or desaturate certain polyunsaturated fats, and I was like, why does this guy know so much? {laughs} It just was, you know… I never had a face with a name at the time, so… whatever. It clicked for me at that point. But, I do remember laughing because when you showed up, in full caveman glory, you had a feather in your hair, and it was like, this totally crazy conversation. I was like, what is going on with John’s hair, why is there a feather? Can you tell my listeners about the feather in your hair? {laughs}

John Durant: Well, uh, you know, folks like Steven Tyler…Steven Tyler has an entire squirrel in his hair…

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: There was that trend, maybe 2 years ago or so.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

John Durant: Where people were sticking; it wasn’t, well, it was feathers, but it was fishing lures.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s right.

John Durant: They were actually fly fishing lures {laughs} and this craze took off, and all these urban women were getting fly fishing lures in their hair, and it was driving up the price of fly fishing lures in other parts of the country, and all the fly fishermen were like, what the hell is going on here?

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: But you know, yeah, I rocked it. I went to the woman… there was a woman who was written up in the New York Times for it, so I reached out to her, and she’s like… I was like, I’m not going for a bright pink or anything like that, I need Captain Jack Sparrow meets Dances with Wolves.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughing}

John Durant: And she was like, I can do that.

Diane Sanfilippo: That’s awesome.

John Durant: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: I just remember being like, only John Durant could have this in his hair, and it would totally work.

John Durant: You have to have at least a little bit of confidence to try to pull something like that off.

3. The Paleo Manifesto; paleo 2.0 [9:57]

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, it totally worked. It was awesome. So, I wanted to talk to you about the book, because I remember, I actually think you had just gotten a book deal one of those times that we kind of were hanging out or went to dinner or whatever it was, and I remember it was like this big news, you know, John just got this book deal, and it was a couple of years. It’s been 2 or 3 years now since that happened, and now the book is out. And so, why don’t you just tell people a little bit about why you took your time, and how you really kind of crafted the angle that you took, because this book is really not, you know, it’s not just another paleo book, and I know you have said this before, but it’s really not about like the paleo diet. It’s really not about just what to eat and why and any of that stuff; it’s really a different angle on the thought process behind this whole thing. So can you tell them a little about how you evolved your position on what you were even writing about?

John Durant: Yeah. Back in 2010 Robb Wolf’s book had just come out, which was fantastic, and Art de Vany came out with a book; so I sort of knew at that point. Look, there are already half a dozen books that focus on food and fitness, and use hunter/gatherers in the Paleolithic as the mainline of evidence. And so I knew that if, 2 or 3 years from then, if I came out with a book that was just repeating that, it probably would not get the greatest reception. {laughs} So, I had to sit down and think about, where would the conversation be a few years from now. And I figured there would probably be an initial wave of criticism against paleo as it was growing, which has happened, and then we would be on to paleo 2.0 or 3.0. And, in two big ways, moving beyond sort of paleo 1.0 or 2.0; going far beyond diet and taking a look at overall lifestyle in tons of different facets. And then, I don’t just focus on the Paleolithic. I use it as a starting point, but I also look at what we can learn from ancestors before the Paleolithic, and more recently. So, the basic structure of the book, there are three parts; past, present, and future. The past is a short history of humanity. The present is more practical in subject areas of food, fasting, movement, standing, walking, running; thermoregulation, hot and cold, sun, and sleep; and then the third part is fairly short, and it is about affects in the environment. So, the goal of this was to provide sort of paint a holistic picture of a lifestyle and a worldview informed by an evolutionary perspective so that people could sort of get a sense for… so much of what people are talking about is taking a holistic approach to health and fitness. Not just food. Not just exercise. But sort of the 7, 8, 9, 10 things that are important from gut health and how many antibiotics you take, to standing, to sleep, to all these different things. And so I wanted to really have a statement; a strong statement, a manifesto, for why it was important to take an evolutionary approach. And then I don’t just talk about the Paleolithic. My part 1 has 5 chapters; Animal Age, Paleolithic Age, Agricultural Age, Industrial Age, and Information Age, and each one of those has fun stories about what we can learn from that point in our history and apply it to today. I won’t go too much in depth into each of those right now, but the Animal Age chapter is a trip to the zoo and what we can learn from how to keep gorillas and primates and other species healthy in captivity. The main lesson there is you take the best of modern medicine and modern medical technology and you combine it with mimicking the natural habitat of a species, and that is how you keep animals alive for a long time and prevent the onset of chronic health conditions. Zookeepers around the world don’t call it paleo; but that is the approach that they take.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: Right? {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, totally.

John Durant: And then the Paleolithic, I get access to Harvard’s fossil archive. They have a cool fossil archive. I get to hold an 80,000-year-old hunter-gatherer skull with a beautiful set of teeth. I get a tour from Dan Lieberman, who is chair of human evolutionary biology. That is fun. And some of the material there is what you have read in other paleo books about what we can learn from hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic. The Agricultural Age is about, the bible, really, and as infectious disease exploded in early cities how a lot of early religions help people adapt to that habitat through things like handwashing and bathing. The Industrial Age is about the British and the health problems they face since they were the first to go through the industrial revolution. And then Information Age is about biohackers and what we can learn from silicone valley techies.

Diane Sanfilippo: {Laughs}

John Durant: About hacking the human body. And that is then sort of the framework that I can then apply in each of these other chapters from food to fasting to movement. I sort of step through those different ages and arrive at sensible health conclusions, sort of based on our history.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think one of the reasons why I really like your approach to this whole thing is that it does, as you said, gives a holistic picture, and it provides, to me, a much more… I don’t know if this is the right word, but this is really what it feels like to me; its more of a visceral connections with why are we eating this way?

John Durant: Yup.

4. Meaning and motivation. [16:23]

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s not about the minutia or the nutritionism, you know, all the stuff Michael Pollan talks about it. It’s not about, you know, you need this vitamin or this amount of carbohydrate or protein; it’s not about any of that. And that is not really, you know, at the end of the day, that is not what matters the most. It is not quite to the biohacking side of things, but I really kind of want to blow my brains out sometimes when we get too far down this rabbit hole of like, you know, the protein carbs and fat ratios, and every vitamin and mineral and all of this stuff because it is more important to me that people understand this stuff that you are talking about because when they are asking those questions, I feel like they don’t understand this part. Like, they want to see the science of why, you know, saturated fat isn’t killing them, and I’m like, can you just wrap your head around the fact that what Kellogg’s is telling you to eat is complete load of crap? Like, can we disconnect you from that and reconnect you to this whole other way of thinking.

John Durant: Exactly! And there are really two parts to being healthy. The first part is knowing what to do, and the second part is doing it. And it’s really the second part in many ways that is harder. You know, people know that they should exercise more. Everybody knows that, right? People know that Coca-Cola, you know, a dozen Coca-Cola’s a day is not healthy for you. People know that. I hope. The hard part is finding ways to motivate yourself over the long-term on a sustainable basis for the rest of your life to make healthy decisions and lead a healthy life. So a lot of the book is about that why, and motivation, and meaning, and finding meaning and motivation in the way that you cook. Digging up old family recipes. Or, you have a great chicken stock recipe in your book, and okay, we can make chicken stock because its healthier for us and we’ll be closer to optimal health, but it is also more meaningful to make chicken stock for a friend or a loved one who is ill instead of heating up some chicken noodle soup made by Campbell’s and you stick it in the microwave and take it to them, you know.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: Right?

Diane Sanfilippo: I have actually driven around San Francisco with broth to a friend before, like, years ago. I literally was like, you are sick, he’s like what can I do, I’m sick? I’m like, I’ll bring you some broth. {laughs} And I actually…. I’m laughing because you are explaining this whole story, and I’m like, yes. I did that. I am that crazy person. But we got disconnected from the why the chicken soup works because we started eating the Campbell’s chicken soup, and we forgot that the reason why it works is partially that it’s a totally different food when you make it from a real chicken, right?

John Durant: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: And part of it is this other fact that you are probably alluding to already here, just that connection of what’s going on.

5. Movement and motivation [19:28]

John Durant: Yeah, the meaning, the motivation. And it’s not just in food. A lot of my chapter on movement…you know, there are a lot of books out there that will list all these studies of the physiological effects of movement and exercise, and it’s like, we know. People, I think, know by now that there are tons of benefits from moving more and exercising more. The challenge is motivating people to do it. So, I spend about 7 or 8 pages on Crossfit. Not in terms of debating optimal exercise protocol, which people can do until the cows come home. 3 sets of 10, or 10 sets of 3, or, you know.

Diane Sanfilippo: {Laughs}

John Durant: Should we do kipping pull-ups or strict pull-ups. I’m not really interested in those debates. What Crossfit has done extremely effectively is motivate people. Motivate people to put it all on the line for a given workout, and then to keep coming back. If people are describing; and I’m not saying it is the perfect approach for everybody, and some people don’t like it and find it doesn’t motivate them; that’s fine. Find something that motivates you and do it. Great. But, by turning going to the gym into a sport, people who like sports, people who like that competition and camaraderie, really take to it. And that is as much about motivation as it is about how many reps of a specific exercise you are doing.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that… its funny, I actually just brought dinner over to a friend’s house last night. She had a baby, probably two months ago, and I read some article on the internet, so it must be true, saying that if you are a single or a non-child person, that the way to hang out with your friends who have recently had children is to bring food to their house. {laughs}

John Durant: Yeah {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: So, I basically was like, okay, check I can do that. So, it was funny, I said this exact thing to her about why I find Crossfit to be pretty amazing is that as a former athlete, you know, basically former high school athlete, I didn’t play sports in college, it is that motivation factor, and as somebody who had a competitive spirit and who loves the camaraderie, but I don’t really need to kick a ball anymore, and you know, its just not for me anymore. It’s hard to kind of bond with people on a team as, you know, a 35-year-old kind of stepping into the gym, you don’t have that same connection that you have with a team that you, you know, moved through school with for years and years. But, you know, you do get the sort of instant camaraderie around, you are doing this thing as a community, and I think that is where the power is, so I’m really glad you mentioned that. But, I think the other interesting thing that you just said was this motivation factor, what kind of just struck me was I think a lot of people are eating paleo, and I get this question a lot from reporters who kind of ask me, why do I think paleo is growing so quickly? And, you know, I think Crossfit is a huge part of that, right, because Crossfit is growing so quickly, and you know, Robb Wolf had rooted paleo nutrition and what they were learning at Crossfit certs several years ago, but then there is that whole other element of people are very sick with autoimmune conditions, and so those people, most of them, I would say, who are finding paleo, they are highly motivated

John Durant: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: Because they’ve got this problem, right, but then you’ve got this whole other segment of people who, maybe think they are not unhealthy. Their body composition is pretty good. They probably have digestive problems, because if you’ve never considered whether or not you have them, you probably do, because if you think that popping Tums and Mylanta and Imodium AD is normal, then you haven’t been awakened to this information, and I think that is… you know, anybody can really enjoy the book that you have written and learn from it and whatever, but I almost think that you’ve got this niche too, around the people who are looking for some other reason why, and they are like, well I don’t need to lose weight, and I don’t care about, you know, this, that, and the other thing. I feel just fine, you know, and they just don’t have a motivation, and I think what you are doing is making that connection, and I just think it makes a lot of sense.

6. Fasting Traditions [23:35]

John Durant: Well, to give another example that I do in the book, I have this chapter on fasting, and fasting and intermittent fasting has been getting a lot more attention over the last sort of 3, 4, 5 years.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, even outside of paleo, I think there are like, a couple of books that are pretty high up in the nutrition rankings that are of fasting orientation.

John Durant: I know. I know.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: Every time there is a book that takes something that has basically been pioneered in paleo, and just, you know, abstracts it away, and its like, here’s the solution to your problems, I’m kind of like, come on.

Diane Sanfilippo: But keep eating Twinkies. Just don’t eat them for 16 hours.

John Durant: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: And eat them in that 4 hour window; no I’m kidding. Sorry, go ahead.

John Durant: But, one of the things I do in the chapters is I talk about eating frequency among humans in the Paleolithic and things like that, but then you get all these fasting traditions in the agricultural age that spring up in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, pretty much every major religious tradition around the world has some type of fasting tradition. So, many people might just be motivated to fast because they read some study, and they are like, oh, I’m going to be healthier and do this. But, many people aren’t motivated by that. And, if…one of the things I say to people is, follow whatever fasting tradition is in your religious background, if you have one. That is a perfectly good way to do it, and it gives you a reason and a sense of community and a sense of purpose to actually do it. So, I think we need to make these things, as Michael Pollan writes about, its not just about the micronutrients or the strict health benefits; its also getting back to being human.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yes! {laughs}

John Durant: {Laughs}. Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t know if I ever told you this, but an original working title for my book, which did not end up being, as we all know, was “Eat Like a Human”, and it just was like, it didn’t really….it wasn’t going to work, but that’s really what I wanted to call it.

John Durant: Yeah. Well, I’ve got a sidebar in my book called “Cannibalism: the human diet”.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Like, literally.

John Durant: Yes. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Okay. Um, so, you know, one thing that Liz and I end up teaching about a lot in our seminars is sort of the more recent context for this, you know, traditional type of diet and really using that Weston A. Price sort of research and, you know, we don’t really tap into the cultural or religious things that you end up talking about in your book, but I think that segue from paleo to a much more modern approach where its like, okay, we were talking about paleo as being the way to go because of our ancestors, but what about our much more recent ancestors.

John Durant: Right.

7. Vegetarianism/Vegans [26:35]

Diane Sanfilippo: So, I really like the, you know, the bridging the gap there. I wanted to get into a little bit more about vegetarianism. Because that is also kind of a much more recent, in terms of historical context, sort of slant, and I’m sure there are some, you know, older vegetarian cultures, I know of some traditional religious Indian diets are vegetarian in nature.

John Durant: Well, plus dairy.

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, and that’s the thing. See, I actually… you know how people call themselves; they say they eat paleo, but that means something different for everyone? I think, you know, I think that is kind of the same like the vegetarianism. I think it’s a little bit segmented there. But, why don’t you get into a little bit more about that, because I think the way that you are tackling this topic in the book is very intriguing.

John Durant: So, the last chapter in my book is called Gatherer. Well, actually, the last two; the second to last one is called Hunter, and the last one is called Gatherer. And these two chapters sort of have a yin-yang feel to them. One is a little bit about the traditional masculine domain of hunting, and one is about the traditional feminine domain of gathering, and the thrust of these two is that we kind of need both in the food movement, but the yin and the yang bring slightly different elements to it. In the Gatherer chapter, it’s more focused on plants and vegetarianism, and that side of things. I really start with what I have learned from vegans and vegetarians, because as much as the media likes to portray paleo and vegan as polar opposites, you know, any conscious eaters have a lot in common. And so underneath some of that, its not a…I do think its less of a sort of polar opposite than a yin-yang sort of thing. And, one of the things I have learned from vegans and vegetarians over the years is, we do need to do better than the factory farm system, both for health and ethical reasons. And, I wasn’t really, growing up and then as sort of a young adult, I really wasn’t open to those ideas at all very much, so I give them a lot of credit for bringing attention to some of these ethical abuses, and problematic aspects of the factory farm system. But, on the other hand, traditional agriculture or organic agriculture, permaculture farming, all that sort of stuff, that is not a vegetarian utopia, at all. I mean, traditional agriculture, permaculture farming, animals are a very important part of the food chain, and the wild animals are a very important part of a healthy ecosystem and part of the food chain, and we can’t extract ourselves from nature. We can’t just sort of step outside of it, and say, you guys go on like usual, and we’ll just be invisible here. We are part of nature whether we want to be or not, and so I really favor approach where we engage with the food system more and sort of look our animal consumption square in the eye and make it something that is, you know, that we can look at and not have to run away from. And then, I start to go through in looking at the strengths and weaknesses of vegetarianism, I try to describe in my research in my experience what is the most common path to vegetarianism. And I think it has three steps, and I would be interested to hear what your listeners think of this, because I know you have a lot of former vegetarians as listeners. I’m not saying everybody comes to vegetarianism or veganism like this, but I think, if not a majority than at least a plurality do. So, step one is humanizing animals, and starting to extend basically human morality to animals. This could be done in a variety of ways, whether it is sort of a Disneyfication of nature and you see a cute Bambi or you have a pet or you are just not exposed to where food comes from, and then suddenly you learn at some age and it’s sort of shocking to find out. And so, animals get elevated in your moral status. So that’s sort of step 1. Step 2, then, is disgust features very prominently. A lot of, in my experience and from the papers I’ve looked at and things like that, a lot of vegans and vegetarians use disgust to create or strengthen an aversion to eating meat or animal products. You know, blood, and ugh, like, I just can’t stomach it, it makes my stomach feel queasy, things like that. And then part 3, it becomes very moralized. It’s not just sort of a cost-benefit ratio about whether we should eat animals or not; it is black and white morality, this is wrong, this is right, and that is how it is. And, when you look at published papers of vegetarian groups in the western world; I’m not talking about India, here; there’s a female skew. In the published papers, it’s anywhere from 2-to-1 female-to-male to 3-to-1. And, I think that is probably in accord with most people’s experiences. And, if you look at those 3 steps, it kind of makes sense. So, first off, women are more empathetic than men. You know, men are, you know, traditionally we’re the hunter role, we’re more violent, we’re less empathetic to other living things. I think that is pretty uncontroversial, and there are a bunch of studies showing that, too. So, you start with folks who have more empathy. And then, in terms of disgust, there are also a lot of studies out there showing that women have a more sensitive disgust reflex than men do. And, in the past, it might have been described as, “oh, men have strong stomachs and women have weak stomachs,” which is an inaccurate way to describe it. In my book, I basically say women have discerning tastes. It’s not so much that they have weak stomachs, they have discerning tastes. When you look at the evolutionary biology of disgust, it functions as an “intuitive microbiology”, as the cognitive psychologist, Steven Pinker, put it. It helps people keep away from potential sources of infection. The things that are universally around the world found to trigger disgust are things like bodily fluids, feces, gore, deformity, anything that is rotting, meat, all these things, corpses, all these things are potential carriers of pathogens, and can transmit disease. So, if you think about it, back in the day, women were often either pregnant or carrying a child, and both pregnant women and children are extremely susceptible to infection, and it would have been a matter of life and death to avoid infection. So, it would have made all the sense in the world for women to, quite sensibly, stay away from pathogens that could kill them or their child. So, step 1 is women generally have more empathy than men. And none of these things are really necessarily clear-cut good or bad things. Everything has pros and cons to it. So, more empathetic than men, in general, on average, stronger disgust reflex, and if you look at a lot of vegan diet books, from Skinny Bitch or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, they frequently try to invoke disgusting things.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, they do.

John Durant: Right?

Diane Sanfilippo: A lot of the gross-you-out kind of stuff.

John Durant: Gross-you-out stuff.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

John Durant: You’ve got rotting flesh in your colon.

Diane Sanfilippo: {Laughs}

John Durant: Ugh, you’ve got, you know, all this contaminated feces in your body and you have to get your colon cleansed. I think they’ll describe factory farms in gory details with, you know, bodily fluids and contamination, and all this stuff. And, you know, when they are describing factory farms, I often do think they are correct. Many types of factory farming are, I would say, legitimately are disgusting, in that there are pathogens, and people, if they actually looked at it, most people would be grossed out. So, I don’t think it is necessarily completely inaccurate, but they definitely, and PETA, too, definitely uses gross-out tactics to just be, like, yuck! Right? And then, the third part, this where it becomes moralized is, I’m not sure there’s sort of a male-female thing there, but a lot of interesting research has been done over the last 5 years or so by scholars by Jonathan Haidt, who had a book called The Righteous Mind, Clark McCauley, Paul Rozin, they are the preeminent scholars of disgust, and they look at how when you get disgusted by something, it often becomes a moral issue. And it often relates to people. There have been all these different groups of people throughout history that have been persecuted, and they will just be like, people will have like, Ugh, gross! Get those people away from me. And, it could have been, you know, there are all sorts of groups that have been persecuted for that reason. So, our disgust reflex seems to be very closely tied to our sense of right and wrong. It’s weird; they still haven’t really quite figured it all out, but it is weird. So, you get this path where you humanize animals, you get disgusted by animal products more easily, and then it becomes an issue of black and white morality. I would be interested, again, in people’s reactions to that, but I think it is a path that a lot of people follow. It has strengths and weaknesses. So, I do think empathy is good, and we should be more empathetic to a lot of these animals in the factory farm system. At the same time, life is not a Disney movie, right? And we can watch Bambi, but even if we watch Bambi, a skilled human hunter is the least painful way for a deer to die. The alternatives for deer in the wild, if they aren’t shot by a human hunter is to, if there is overpopulation, then Bambi slowly starves to death over a period of weeks, dying of disease slowly over a period of weeks, being torn apart alive by a predator like a wolf or a coyote, which is, I assume, not pleasant.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: Being hit by a car and bleeding to death by the side of the road. Life for a deer; in choose your own adventure for deer

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: There are not many good endings.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

John Durant: And when you think about it, so, even though we might, you know, want to have a lot of empathy for deer, hunting is actually a very ethical way for deer to go. So, you know, there are strengths and weaknesses to each of these things. Disgust, I do think, is appropriate for our factory farm system, but, it can become pathological. And you…

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

John Durant: Could probably tell some stories about, like, if people get so grossed out by everything and can’t eat anything, or are a vegan to the point where they start having all sorts of health problems but still can’t bring themselves to eat meat.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, we’ve had a lot of questions about people who…I’ve gotten them on Facebook a lot, I’ve gotten them to the podcast a lot, just about that whole…it is, it is that disgust. And, psychological, kind of challenge that it becomes because the person has basically convinced themselves that this thing is bad and gross, and so, you know, I end up being the person that says the thing that nobody else wants to say to them; that this is a psychological thing that needs to get worked on if they want to eat meat again. I’m not telling the person, you know, you have a problem. I’m just saying, if this is what you want to overcome, but this is the way you are having this physical reaction that is spurred by your mental emotional state, that is really what is happening there. I think you’ve sort of classified it really well with that sort of three-step, {laughs} you know, neatly packaged way of really organizing that process. It reminds me a lot, too, a couple of years ago; or, no it was just last year, I guess. I just did a quick search online to find the article, it was a New York Times magazine article, and it was called “Put Your Ethics Where Your Mouth Is” and it was a bunch of, I think either vegetarians or not just kind of talking about the ethics of eating meat, and one of them that actually made it into this, it was probably 6 or 7 responses that people were supposed to vote on, you know, what they thought was kind of the best response, and a friend of mine, her then-boyfriend actually wrote a response, and he’s been vegetarian for probably over 25 years, and he recently started a farm and learned very, very closely what animals provide in this whole, sort of, circle. Right? This whole process of nature that we can’t just not have animals dying, because plants can’t grow if animals don’t die. And I think one of the other things that, you know, I don’t know, maybe this is like really simplifying things, but when you are explaining all these different reasons why people end up feeling emotional about the animals is, I feel like people are forgetting {laughs} I don’t know, this could sound totally crazy. But you’re talking about deer in the wild, right?

John Durant: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: And the fact that they are getting hunted. I feel like people who become vegetarian they see the CAFO, the feed-lot meat as one way, right?

John Durant: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: Forgetting about the pastured animals that we grow, we literally decide to breed these animals because we are going to eat them. Its not like, we’re just killing off animals who are all out there. Of course, we are trying to eat some of the wild animals, wild boar, and if we’re doing venison and that kind of thing, and like you said, part of that is a little bit of a population control if we can be, but I kind of shake my head, because I’m like, you realize those farmers are actually, like, having those cattle breed so they can grow more cows so that we can eat them. It’s not like this random, we’re just killing animals all over the place. We’re actually only growing them so we can kill them and eat them..

John Durant: Well…

Diane Sanfilippo: The same way we grow a garden. Like, you know, there are wild plants that are growing. I mean, I’m talking about modern times, you know what I mean.

John Durant: Right, right.

Diane Sanfilippo: This is not, like… because that’s when we live. We live now. I just think it’s an interesting argument, when I’m like, that animal would not be here.

John Durant: But, the question is, did it have a decent life,

Diane Sanfilippo: For sure, yeah.

John Durant: Did it have a swift death. And, when you apply that standard to humans, a decent life and a swift death.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Live long, die fast.

John Durant: Boy that’s what I …

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

John Durant: That’s what I want.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yep.

John Durant: That’s good for a human. But, the ways that a lot of animals are raised are not that.

Diane Sanfilippo: For sure.

John Durant: And, we have to acknowledge that. So..

Diane Sanfilippo: So, do you… I don’t remember, I know I kind of went over that section a bit. Do you talk at all about the nutritional effects of deciding not to eat animals? Because I love that you are mostly talking about the reasons why people land there, because I do, again, in helping people reconnect with the roots of their decisions around food, because I think for the most part, if people have never considered it, they are eating a certain way by default. Right? Just because its what’s out there.

John Durant: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: And they’ve not made a thoughtful, conscious decision, which, as you said, is the reason we have more in common with, you know, perhaps vegetarians or vegans than not, because we are making this conscious, thoughtful decision.

John Durant: Well, in terms of health, I touch on some of the health reasons. Well, I describe them in my food chapter. It’s sort of sprinkled throughout the book, the food chapter, and a little bit in this chapter. But this one is more about the path to vegetarianism.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

John Durant: And then trying to show its strengths and weaknesses.

Diane Sanfilippo: Okay. I think its just really important for people to understand and reconnect with that. Like, it’s not a Disney movie.

John Durant: Well, and the other thing is that, you know, in the media, again, they love to portray paleo…. even though paleo is split, pretty much 50/50 between men and women…

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

John Durant: And both men and women have an equal claim to the Paleolithic, and you know, food for humans and all sorts of stuff like that, the media often does portray it as sort of a macho thing.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah.

John Durant: And, you’ve seen the big surveys that have been done where, its 50/50, but 50/50 still has much more men relative to a lot of other diets or dietary approaches, which are 70-80% women.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

John Durant: So, I named these Hunter and Gatherer because, you know, we need both. We need hunters and we need gatherers, and both have a place and a roll to play.

8. Meet your Meat [45:34]

Diane Sanfilippo: I was laughing when you were talking about the disgust factor, because I’m totally guilty of using that when I show a video on how Canola oil is made. And I actually give a disclaimer before the video, so I think its really funny, because I say, you know, if you were to go to a talk led by someone who is teaching you vegetarianism or veganism, they would show you a video on how cows are slaughtered. And, they would make you feel like it is disgusting. So, I’m like, just keep that in mind while you watch this, but understand that, you know, the reason you may think it is disgusting to see a cow get slaughtered is because you are so disconnected with the fact that your food…

John Durant: That’s right.

Diane Sanfilippo: Was alive, and somebody had to kill it, and it just wasn’t you. But, years ago, it would have been you, or somebody close to you {laughs}. You know. So, its like, yeah. It just makes me laugh, because I’m like, people are watching this video and they’re like, aww! That’s disgusting! As this sludge is pouring out of the tanks.

John Durant: Well I was sort of, {laughs} I need to watch that video because I haven’t; I actually haven’t seen it.

Diane Sanfilippo: Its a good one. It’s very funny, too, because it’s very matter of fact. “Meanwhile, back at the factory…” It’s funny.

John Durant: But, I hadn’t realized, when I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, I didn’t realize how much strong disagreement there was between, say, Michael Pollan, and a vegan-vegetarian like Foer. Because I sort of group them together on the plant-based diet side of things, but, what a lot of the disagreement was, is that Foer basically acknowledges that if people get back in touch with the food system, and they participate in ethical slaughter, and they go to the farm, it changes their disgust reflex, and they don’t get disgusted as much, because they’ve participated and they’ve seen where it comes from, or at least the food that they buy from that farm or from a farmer’s market, and they don’t get grossed out as much. So it sort of takes away, it deactivates this sort of weapon, or this tactical approach, and so I don’t think it should be a surprise that folks resist that.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think its another good case for why you should meet your meat. {laughs} Why, you know, we think its important to visit a farm where you are going to buy your meat from, and its not just to see what they are doing and what is going on, but I think you gain an entirely new perspective and a new level of respect for the people growing the food. Growing those animals and raising them, and basically what most of them do is grow grass and just try and make sure that they have the right kind of breed to eat the right kind of grass that they are growing so that everything goes how they want it to. But I think you do walk away with this, you know, just a different level of respect for the whole process.

John Durant: As I like to say; goats make great pets and stews.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: I don’t think that was the point you were making, though. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: No, but I do think, you know, a couple of weeks ago I was up at a farm where I got half a hog. And, so the end of this tour, the wife of the couple who owns the farm, the wife I guess, they knew I was coming and it took me forever to get there because I was writing a book, and you and I shall commiserate for a moment after this response.

John Durant: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: But, they knew I was coming, and then they weren’t there when I got there, and so then when she heard that we went for this walk out to see where the cows were grazing on the pasture, she like came out and found us, and I didn’t know who she was, I thought she was just, like, another visitor to the farm, and she had a camera around her neck, and just came out and said, oh I wanted to meet you and talk with you and help give you part of this tour, so she eventually took us over to where the pigs were because the cows were just grazing on pasture. They eat all grass, and she was showing us also how they have this whole other new way of baling the hay where its in plastic, and it helps keep it more moist, which helps keep the nutrients richer in it for longer, and it’s a more expensive process but it yields a better product, and I was like, you know, just all these different things that you would not learn if you were not part of the process or you don’t go and ask the questions. But then she took us to see where the pigs were. And, you know, pork products are really controversial, as a lot of people know, and we got to the end of the tour, and these pigs were happy. They were running; I mean, I don’t think I knew pigs could move that fast, watching them sort of run from where they did have a trough with food, and they had water, and they were not next to each other, so they were kind of moving around. And they kind of all moved in a little herd, you know. It was really fun to watch them. I think I posted an Instagram video. And so, this whole tour wrapped up, and she had told us the story of the farm and all that. At the end I said, you know, it wouldn’t really be responsible of me if I didn’t at least ask you the question about what is going on with their feed, because you know, my listeners and my readers will ask me, you know, is it organic, are they eating, you know, GMO soy, like, what are they eating. And she did say to me, she said, its not organic feed. Its just a standard feed. They are eating grains, and there is soy in it. You know, when we got to that point of the tour, I was really careful to make sure that I didn’t make her feel badly for saying that; because while I do believe there are ideal ways of doing things, when you go to that place where you meet the person who is raising the animals and you watch the care that they are taking, and you understand the continuum of good, better, best,

John Durant: Right.

Diane Sanfilippo: Or like, not good at all, better, best, and you know, ideally, your pigs would be eating table scraps, and maybe they are eating some grain, which is fine. Pigs can eat grain.

John Durant: Acorns.

Diane Sanfilippo: Acorns, whatever. You know, I actually brought them milk solids.

John Durant: Snakes.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} Milk solids from, you know, making ghee. But, you know, ideally I don’t want the pigs to be eating GMO soy. I mean, that’s just something that I feel is probably not the best idea. But, at the end of the day, the way that they are raised and the way they are slaughtered, and the whole process is like, so close to ideal, in my mind, that if I’m going to eat pork, this is the kind of place I’m going to buy it from, or I’m going to have to do it myself, or I keep looking. And I think its just, we need to learn all of that information to make those really educated decisions before we just discount something as disgusting, you know. Or not perfect, or, you know what I mean?

9. Perfection is not always the goal. [52:30]

John Durant: Yeah. Well first you can’t let perfect be the enemy of your diet.

Diane Sanfilippo: Exactly, exactly. And I will press, you know, someone like that eventually down the road to continue asking the question and continue to hopefully motivate them to continue to find those better ways, you know? Sorry go ahead.

John Durant: I think one of the weaknesses, and I write about this in my vegetarianism chapter, of the vegetarian movement is it is basically a boycott on meat. And, by boycotting all meat, they are not supporting

Diane Sanfilippo: Right.

John Durant: Entrepreneurs and farmers who are trying to start up an alternative food system. And, withholding a million dollars of revenue from Cargill makes no difference to Cargill’s behavior. Its a rounding error.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs}

John Durant: But, you contribute a million dollars to food entrepreneurs that are doing something right, or in the right direction, and that’s a big deal.

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

John Durant: That’s a very big deal. So even if only part of your diet is coming from these farmers, its helping start up an alternative food system, to start getting infrastructure in place so that it can scale more easily, allowing them to innovate with different slaughtering or rearing techniques.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yep.

John Durant: And, by allowing them to make some profit, it puts pressure on the big guys to start changing their practices so that they can get in on the game.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I’m nodding along, because I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head, and I think now I’m identifying why I hold the belief that, you know, the perfection is not always the goal or it doesn’t have to be there right now, because if people opt out of this whole other way of doing it because that farmer isn’t doing it 100% perfectly they are not going to help make progress with that farmer, you know, whereas that farmer, as you just said, if we continue to buy their product, and have the conversation with them and support what they are doing so that they can develop these things in that positive direction, closer and closer to what we believe to be ideal, then that is how we affect the most change, versus just saying, we’re not going to eat it at all because its not perfect or because we are opting out of buying animal products at all.

John Durant: Yup.

Diane Sanfilippo: And, you know, I think the upside of this is really that this whole movement, what I love about what it is doing is that it is bringing some of these, you know, grass-fed pasture based farms to the forefront, where, you know, a lot of vegetarians are coming out of it, and saying, oh, you mean there’s a different alternative? You know, I didn’t even know that I could buy this, and, you know, {laughs} people want to crap on Whole Foods a lot, and that’s fine, but I still have to shop there most of the time, I don’t have the glorious farmer’s markets that I used to have in San Francisco, and you know what, they are bringing a local grass-fed beef purveyor into the market. I know, you know, who it is, and its like, find a way to make contact with that type of food and support it in any way you can and continue to have those conversations with the farmers, because they will talk to you about what they are doing. Its not a closed door operation. They are more than happy to have those conversations. And they are excited to kind of tell you every little detail, because its like somebody cares. {laughs} Somebody wants to hear how I’m doing this and how much work it is, and they appreciate it, and so. I was nothing but appreciative when I left that farm, and I’ll tell you, I’ve had some really good pork chops, so. {laughs}

John Durant: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Anyway, I know. I don’t even remember, so, for people who don’t know, because I didn’t mention it. You and I had actually; we recorded this, and I’m blaming Apple for this snafu of the fact that I accidentally erased our original recording, but I enjoyed this conversation. I think we’ve gotten into a lot of really good topics. We were going to somehow commiserate about the book-writing process, but I don’t know what else there is to say about it. {laughs}

John Durant: I can’t be as explicit as I’d like.

Diane Sanfilippo: Okay, yeah. We try not to have the explicit label on this show. But, we’ve gone through it now, and we’re part of a certain other tribe.

John Durant: I feel like in addition to the, sort of 2 years that I spent writing, that I put 2 years of my own life force into it that I’ll never get back.

Diane Sanfilippo: Never. It’s like, we did say that. It’s the worst thing you can do for your health, right.

John Durant: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.

Diane Sanfilippo: {Phew}. Its rough. So, you know. If for no other reason than the fact that John sacrificed about 2 good years of his, well, 2 of the good years.

John Durant: 2 of the good years; yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: {laughs} I mean, you’re a young one there. {laughs}

John Durant: Yeah, 28 through 30.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. He sacrificed 2…

John Durant: Prime years.

Diane Sanfilippo: Prime years for your reading pleasure.

John Durant: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: So, grab a copy of his book. I think we’ve come close to an hour here, so maybe I’ll just do one, kind of, just give you a last chance to throw out anything that you wanted to say to our listeners here, and then we’ll just wrap it up.

John Durant: Well, what I hope folks will realize from this book is, first, I really wrote it to be a credible…have new material for people who are already into this, and tons of existing paleo folks, go search around on the internet, and they’re like, I thought I read every paleo book, and there is new stuff in here, really enjoyed it. But, I also wanted to write something that was a credible introduction to the notion of evolutionary health or ancestral health for people who aren’t into paleo and who might never describe themselves as paleo, and that’s fine. So, it can be a good gift to folks even who are skeptics and things like that.

Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for spending another hour {laughs} chatting with me.

John Durant: It was a pleasure. But make sure; let’s not do this a third time! {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: We won’t do this a third time. I’ll make sure I don’t wrongly convert and then delete a gigantic file. {laughs} My transcriber was like, well, that episode only had you talking. I’m like, that’s not really how it went, I swear. Despite the fact that many of our shows are a lot of me rambling. Alright, well, I guess that’s it. I think we’ve closed out around an hour here or close to it. So, that’s it folks for this time.

John Durant: Thank you for having me on.

Diane Sanfilippo: Thank you for coming back. We’ll be back next week with more paleo talk, and I’m going to guess next week we’ll be talking a bit more about The 21-Day Sugar Detox, since my book releases on October 29th officially, officially, officially! Until then, you can find me at You can find John Durant at You can order his book from every online retailer, I’m sure. Amazon, Barnes and Noble; all over the interwebz and in stores everywhere. Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back next week.

Click here to submit questions.

Diane & Liz

Comments 2

  1. I started reading his book after listening to the podcast. It’s a great read! Keeps me motivated and connected to my purpose for going against the grain.

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