Review: The Paleo Manifesto

paleomanifestoThere are a lot of Paleo how-to books out there, and many more coming down the pipeline on a regular basis. You have “paleo” cookbooks telling you what to make for dinner, “paleo” exercise books telling you how to move, and even books on how to throw the best “paleo” social event.

And I’ve already announced that my own book is coming out in December, which I am confident will be a valuable resource for not only those completely new to Paleo, but also the many people out there who haven’t thrived on (what they believe to be) a strict “paleo” diet, and need more answers about how to eat and live to best support their health. I wholeheartedly believe my book will revolutionize the way you approach your health, by putting the power in your hands to design your own unique and optimal whole-foods diet. That’s why my book isn’t “The” personal paleo code… it’s Your Personal Paleo Code.

But with the huge spike in popularity that Paleo has gained in the past couple of years, and the subsequent dozens of books, it’s getting increasingly difficult to know which books are worth reading, and which ones might not help you much in your journey towards optimal health. Understandably, there’s a prevalent feeling of information overload these days.

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That’s why I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review John Durant’s first (and hopefully not last) book, The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health. John’s website HunterGatherer.com has been one of the most well-read in the blogosphere since the paleo lifestyle began to gather steam in popular culture. He’s been featured in The New York Times, and has been a guest on The Colbert Report, in which he has been portrayed as an urban caveman. While John is a great example of what living a modern, ancestrally-inspired lifestyle can look like, his book reads less like a how-to and more like a why-to. As John explains in a recent blog post, the ultimate purpose of this book is to give meaning to the paleo lifestyle and motivate people to action.

John’s book is broken into three distinct but related parts. In Part One, he describes the historical changes that affected what and how we ate, slept, moved, and lived, from our origins as primates and Paleo man, to our current experience in the Information Age. This is important history to understand, since much of the popular conception of the Paleo diet stems primarily from misguided assumptions of how “cavemen” lived. John purposefully draws attention to the lifestyles of not only various hunter-gatherers, but also herder-farmers, who have all greatly influenced the development of our agricultural Western society.

In Part Two, he gives a concise overview of the basic principles of a Paleo lifestyle, from simple diet and exercise recommendations, to complementary behaviors such as sleep and sun exposure, all with the intent of moving our current lifestyle towards one that respects nature’s original design. John doesn’t provide any meal plans or nutrient recommendations; rather, he simply gives generalized advice about what to eat, how to eat, and how to customize daily health activities in order to give them personal meaning. This is not a diet book, but a manifesto that is “intended to clearly and forcefully present a worldview” and motivate people to action.

Part Three delves into the philosophical component of changing to an ancestrally-inspired lifestyle. John describes his first experience hunting his own food, and explains how vegetarianism, though often noble in thought, does not adequately tackle the many environmental and ethical issues in our current industrial food system. It’s the most controversial section of the book, but John does a great job respecting vegetarians’ philosophical viewpoints while still pointing out the flaws in their logic. As a former vegetarian, I think it’s important to respect others’ lifestyle choices while still shedding light on the myths promoted by organizations with an anti-meat agenda, and John does this tactfully.

The best part about John’s book is that it is written in an engaging, narrative style. John shares his own perspective and experience while still using scientifically sound arguments for why the lifestyle he promotes will help us move closer to holistic, habitat-based human health as modeled by nature. It’s a great book to inspire you or a loved one to make changes in the way you live, whether that be hunting or growing your own food, investing in a stand-up desk, or finding a style of movement that truly satisfies your need for both physical challenge and playfulness. After reading this book, you may find yourself newly invigorated in the pursuit of your optimal healthy lifestyle, whatever that may be.

The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health is available on Amazon, both in print and on Kindle. It would make a great companion book to Your Personal Paleo Code, which focuses more on the nuts and bolts of nutrition while providing the action steps necessary to find your optimal Paleo diet.

Note: I earn a small commission if you use the links in this article to purchase the products I mentioned. I only recommend products I would use myself or that I use with patients in my practice. Your purchase helps support this site and my ongoing research.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Joe Jenksen says

    Could anyone with knowledge of the paleo diet care to comment on Rob Wolfs review of the paleo diet and its benefits for weight loss – positive or negative

  2. Jacek Kowalczyk says

    I’ve just finished the book and liked it a lot. However, I highlighted two passages which I am not sure I agree with:

    1) “All successful diets are high-fat diets.”
    I’ve heard a while ago Stephan Guyenet addressing this issue by arguing that the high-fat diets are probably successful thanks to their relatively high protein content, not high-fat content (I hope I’m not misrepresenting his thoughts). I am curious what is your take on this matter.

    2) “Since the brain uses roughly 20% of the body’s energy, it shuts down too: the brain’s energy usage drops considerably during sleep.”
    Yesterday I watched Russel Foster’s TED talk entitled “Why do we sleep?” in which he mentiones that the amount of energy saved by sleeping for even eight hours is miniscule (about 100 kcal). If so, I wouldn’t call it a considerable drop in energy usage (though maybe I’m wrong). What do you think guys?

    Otherwise, it was a really informative read and I would recommend this book to anyone. Still, I’m looking forward to your book Chris, which I hope will be more “nutrition science” oriented.

  3. says

    Great Post Chris! I’m completely new to Paleo but I want to study more of it. I’m glad that your book is coming out in December. I’m looking forward to it and i’m pretty sure that I’ll learn a lot from it. Thanks!

  4. says

    Thanks for the book recommendation. This type of book has been needed for a while. I’ll definitely be checking this out and i’ll be joining your mailing list in order to find out when your paleo code book will be available.

  5. Martha says

    yes, please review Grain Brain! I listened to Robb Wolf’s interview of Perlmutter and was very impressed. They got into allot of the science of the body. But I would like to hear from another expert….you. The Amazon reviews are useless…..the blind leading the blind, way worse than reading comments on Dr. Mercola. Which are very bad. Everyone is lobbying for their own pet idea, some even dangerous. I count on you to come up with the real science-based story. Thank you, really, thank you!

  6. John Havey says

    Thanks for this pointer. I am hoping you will soon review another book: Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD. Looks like the effects of nutritional mistakes are scary, surprising, and motivating.

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