Sunday, April 27, 2003

The Caveman Diet

I like eating meat. I don't like people who count calories constantly, monitor their cholesterol level incessantly, and lose sleep over second-hand smoke. I don't care about LDL and HDL. So you might think I'd be well disposed toward a high protein diet.

Nevertheless, the Atkins diet which advocates eating meat (though not smoking cigars) smacks of so many of the anthropological premises of the anti-red meat or vegan crowd, premises that the average meat-eating American man in 1955 would have called you weird for believing.

Anthropologist, Lionel Tiger, defends Dr. Atkins's meat-based diet revolution in the WSJ today. I wonder how much praise of what has been called the "caveman" diet is due to intellectual-political opinions formed by Rousseau suggesting that we were happier and healthier when we were primitive hunter-gatherers. Sure, sugars and simple carbohydrates ingested by more civilized beings than cavemen may lead to obesity and diabetes and, eventually heart disease, but cavemen probably didn't live long enough to develop type II diabetes or heart disease. There may very well be something to the Atkins diet, but in the absence of more conclusive proof, I'm inclined to attribute at least part of its popularity to the Rousseauian influence on us that makes us suspicious of civilization (in this case, the advent of farming and the eating of grains).

There may be argument about whether Rousseau's natural man was carnivorous or not. Nevertheless, the anthropological or philosophical thrust of the Atkins diet is that civilization has been bad for our health. What more Rousseauian idea is there than that?

Dr. Atkins managed to out-Rousseau the vegetarians, and, I suppose, there is something impressive in that. He presented himself as both a "naturalist" (if one takes the primitive to be natural) and a carnivore. But let's hear it for civilization, for a robust economy that makes food cheap, for the midwest and west which are not just "cattle country" but also "America's breadbasket" -- and for living long enough to develop diabetes and heart disease.

I like eating meat. Just don't tell me that I'm getting in touch with my inner caveman when I cut into a porterhouse.

I'm off to grill a steak now. But not because I'm on the Atkins diet.


Post a Comment

<< Home