See Entire Transcript Of Interview Below:
Gary Collins: Hi, this is Gary Collins, the creator of the Primal Power Method and Heath Squiers, CEO of Julian Bakery, and John Durant, urban caveman or metropolitan caveman.
John Durant: Caveman, urban caveman, professional caveman.
Gary: There you go.
John: Dashingly handsome. I mean those…
Heath Squier: Harvard educated, right?
John: Harvard mis‑educated.
Gary: Thanks for coming on the Primal Show and we’d like to talk about that a little bit, because not everyone’s going to be familiar with your background. Just kind of introduce yourself as you know how you got into it, your education background and how you kind of found this primal, Paleo ancestral health kind of life.
John: Yeah. It really originated when I was in college. I studied some evolutionary psychology, and so I got used to taking this evolutionary perspective and saying “How do we evolve?” “How did we live in our ancient past?” “How do we live today?” “What sort of mismatch might there be between how we evolved and how we live today?”
I had the opportunity to work with a guy named Steve Pinker who is an evolutionary psychologist and so I really started to appreciate the power of evolution to generate really smart hypotheses to use as a starting point to think about biology, and how it functions. I didn’t study any health or nutrition in college.
Then when I graduated I moved to New York, left all that behind, took a consulting job and like a lot of people at their first desk job my health took a dive. Came across Paleo in 2006 through Art Devany. My brother read his blog, knew I was trying to be healthier, he sent me his early essay, “Evolutionary Fitness.”
I read that and it clicked. I had looked at all of the different diet books in the bookstore and I’d never been on a diet before. I was athletic. I just ate and things seemed to work out fine, and if I was a little bit heavy I’d cut back on pizza or something like that. I was really turned off by the whole diet world and then seeing this evolutionary approach it just sort of clicked.
I read Devany’s essay. I viewed it as a starting point. I said, “OK, well, I want to go sort of check what sort of foods were eaten back then, how people lived, but this framework seems very powerful.” I gave it a shot in 2006 and then was involved in a lot of media in 2010 when Paleo really started to take off.
“New York Times” piece, the Colbert episode. Flipped that into a book deal, quit my day job and wrote “The Paleo Manifesto.”
Gary: Yeah, I actually read it. You sent it to me and I’m one of the few people…Actually, people send me books John, and they’re pretty surprised that I read them. I don’t scan them. If you send it to me, and you’re going to be on the show, I’m going to read your book from word one to the last word.
You warned me. You sent me a couple of emails saying, “Hey, you’re going to see some stuff in here that you haven’t seen in the normal Paleo books.” Like all of us I’ve read enough Paleo/Primal books, I don’t need to read anymore.
I’ll only read them, like I said, if people send them to me, and I’ve written my own as well. It was very interesting. There were some things in there that I was like, “No one has written about this.”
My first question would be, how did you end up…? Because you’re the only person I’ve seen do this, putting religion into hygiene and tying that into disease. I thought that was very interesting how you did that.
John: Yeah. That was my favorite chapter in the book. It’s chapter four. It’s called, Moses, the Microbiologist. Just to give people context of how it fits in, there are three parts to the book. It’s basically past, present and future. The past is a short history of humanity.
The present is more practical, topical advice on how to be healthy, over an exploration of how to be healthy. The future is short, it’s on ethics and the environment, and where we’re going. The past, I actually downplayed the Paleolithic a little bit.
I talked about where we came from as primates, and then hunter gatherers in the wild. Then there’s this period, the agricultural age, where we settled down in cities. We domesticate plants and animals, and infectious disease explodes.
The single greatest health threat of that era wasn’t diet, it wasn’t exercise. Because people were tilling the fields, which is a lot of work. More work typically than being a forager. It was infectious disease.
Now the tricky thing about germs is, they’re usually invisible, and they spread via so many different vectors. People are learning, this is with Ebola right now that in very small amounts can still be infectious and deadly.
It can be transmitted through all these different bodily fluids, or maybe a sneeze, or sexual intercourse, things like that. People back then, they didn’t know that germs existed or not, in sort of a formal scientific sense.
A lot of people, they would look at people dying of disease and they would attribute it to the Gods. God is striking down that person for doing something wrong. They’re unhappy with them. You start to get some cultural beliefs that bubble up. It’s hard to say exactly how it happened, we’ll probably never know.
You see it in Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Spreading from there, where hygiene codes became very important to religious practice. Hand‑washing. Hand‑washing alone is Nobel‑worthy. We take it for granted. Washing your hands is not intuitive.
It’s not an intuitive behavior, at all. To say, “This part of my body, I’m going to run under this liquid, and rub my hands together, and then dry it off. If I do this regularly, multiple times a day, I’m going to live 10 years longer.”
It’s not obvious, at all. We should really appreciate that there are three injunctions in the Torah, in the first five books of the Bible, for Jewish priests, or Jewish people, to wash their hands. In scientifically appropriate situations. After touching a corpse, after coming in contact with bodily fluids.
A lot of these rules were interpreted to mean, “OK, wash your hands before you eat, after you eat, after you wake up, after you have sex, after you go to the bathroom.” All the times when most people, today, will now wash their hands. It wasn’t just hand‑washing, it was burial and corpse‑disposal.
Corpses are huge factors for disease. Again, as we’re seeing in Africa, right now, a lot of traditional burial practices there are actually exposing people to pathogens, and it’s getting them into trouble.
This chapter was really an exploration, primarily of Judaism, of how there was a lot of wisdom in these ancient hygiene rules, in terms of personal hygiene and public health.
Gary: I found it very fascinating in the sense that, when I was reading it, I saw a different tie‑in, and I don’t know if other people did. You did talk about the agricultural revelation, so we, basically 10,000 years ago, started doing agriculture and starting to settle down in communities instead of having more of a migratory hunting, gathering, and having a different kind of lifestyle.
With that, became cities. More dwellings. Anyone that studies this stuff knows that when you start to bring the animals anything together in small, compact groups, that disease evolves, and it’s Mother Nature “Thinning the herd,” is how I’ve always said it.
Mother Nature doesn’t want anything to overpopulate. Once cities started to come up, it was right around the time, 5,000 years ago, Egypt, the Romans, and the religion started to rise at the same time as these cities, and disease.
It was all tied together. Agriculture, cities, religion, it all comes together. That’s how I read into it, I didn’t know most people got that out of it. That’s how I was looking at it.
John: You’re exactly right. It does all come together. Infectious disease is a network phenomenon. You’ve seen these pictures, maybe of the Internet, or a social network, as if you’re looking down on top of it. You’ve got all these nodes and vectors.
The more people, the more animals, these are just potential hosts for pathogens. The more nodes there are, the more hosts there are. The denser the network, the more you’re going to get viruses. It’s like a computer network. Not exactly like, but it’s another example. When you type DNA into a software coding.
I loved that. I’ve always said the same thing. That the human body genetics is basically computer programmed. It really is.
Gary: It’s an information technology.
John: Exactly. It’s an information technology. The state of much of the university is entropy. Things decay, things fall apart. Heat death. To resist entropy, this is sort of a high level point, but you need information. You need to encode, somehow, order. DNA, and other types of information technology, in our own biology.
It basically is a way of maintaining and imposing order on an inherently chaotic universe. Which is pretty cool!
Gary: When you think about it, humanity is chaos. What we’re trying to do, is, it’s controlled chaos.
John: I think that’s a T‑shirt.
Gary: Oh, let’s do it. We’ll print it out tomorrow.
Gary: I think I look at it in a different way and I think Heath does, too. Me and Heath are different in our philosophies, and that’s why we get along so well in a lot of things.
Gary: But I did find that fascinating in the book that you did touch on some subjects that most people never think about. It was definitely not the typical Paleo book. One thing I was a little confused about though, was your food doctrine. I’ll let you explain that because I’m a primal guy. I believe that you can incorporate some dairy ‑‑ not regularly. It’s a treat as long as it’s grasped that ‑‑ raw, if at all possible. Dairy that you talked about ‑‑ fermenting grains and fermented dairy products.
With the Paleo moniker being on the book, I got a little confused because that is the antithesis to Paleo. It’s more of an ancestral health kind of, the Sally Fallon, Weston A. Price kind of philosophy. Is that what it was or…?
John: Everybody who writes on food ‑‑ almost everybody ‑‑ faces an interesting challenge of saying, “How are these recommendations going to stand the test of time?”
Given that there’s so much information out there and so much scientific work being done, and things yet to be discovered, how do you say something meaningful that gets people going in the right direction without also pigeonholing yourself into one exact corner and one way of eating?
I was frankly trying to come up with something where I could get people going in the right direction, but leave a little bit of flexibility for personal customization, or their own genome, or their own ethnic or genetic background, and things like that.
The way I thought about it was directly based on this first part of my book where I go through these different ages of human existence. Paleolithic, Agricultural, Industrial, Information.
I used the Paleolithic as a starting point. You don’t have to end there, but it’s a good place to start and use our understanding of the Paleolithic and hunter‑gatherers for understanding edible food groups, perhaps macronutrient ratios, eating frequency, omnivory versus not…things like that.
Step two, the Agricultural Age, this is where all these cultural traditions come into play. It really does hark back to…I give the example of religious cultural traditions that allowed us to be healthier in this novel habitat. But there are other cultural traditions. There’s fermentation, there’s alcohol, there’s dairy. I think we should selectively embrace some of those things and be open to them.
Gary: Yeah, and I agree with you. I’m not going after you on that. It’s tough because me and Heath, we talk about this a lot.
Heath: Let me in here. I’m the largest Paleo food manufacturer in the world right now, and we ship product worldwide. One of my points in making Paleo foods is to, obviously, help people and transition from a mainstream way of eating into a Paleo way of eating and stay there.
Through the teachings of Dr. Cordain and also how I personally transform my body and my health, I’ve been able to take those ingredients and manufacture foods, such as coconut flake cereal, coconut wraps, Paleo protein.
Derive them from the core ingredients that Paleo has, which is dairy‑free, grain‑free, legume‑free, build, develop these products as well as still drive home the point that you can have these products and bacon and avocado, all these other wonderful things without going outside of this Paleo template.
Whereas a lot of people are calling Paleo and then they’ll try to throw potatoes and legumes and grains in, I’m trying to keep people focused on the core principles of Paleo by developing these foods using Paleo ingredients or real food ingredients.
Gary: How did you deal with that dilemma first? The way we look at it is…We’ve been called some interesting names over it. We’re dogmatic and zealous. Anyone who knows me knows I am not. I’m a very flexible…I have a very diverse background. I’m into fermenting. I ferment my own foods.
But when you put the moniker “Paleo” with it and then you…How’d you do that? Because you’re using the Paleo moniker but you’re using anti‑Paleo foods, how do you do that in your teachings? How do you cross it?
John: But at the time, in the foods that you make, processing methods are a valid area to discuss whether something is Paleo or not, and [laughs] I’m sure you’re using processing methods that…
Heath: For instance, when we make a coconut wrap, it’s just blended and dehydrated so that it’s still raw. We’re not tweaking or using processed ingredients outside of the core, like a real food ingredient.
The point of the products that we’re using is to help people keep on track, because the transition from a mainstream diet where they’re used to eating whole wheat bread and McDonald’s, it’s a difficult jump to all of sudden just going, “I’m Paleo” without falling off the wagon.
That’s why, instead of telling people, just do this for 30 days and you’re going to be better, I’m trying to give people a way of living, a template, a diet, and still allowing them to stay within the Paleo template without adding in legumes and grains and all these things that a lot of other people in the Paleo community are doing.
Keep in mind, I make a grass‑fed whey protein, but it’s whey so that would be considered primal. I’m putting it outside of the Paleo kind of. It’s cool. We try to distinguish it. Because if you try adding grains and these items that aren’t Paleo, it confuses people.
Then all of sudden it’s like if I’m trying to lose weight and I’m trying to use Paleo and I’m adding in grains, which are going to wreck your blood sugar, you’re probably not going to get the best results when using dairy and grains. That’s all. We like to have a lot of clarity and we like to try to keep Paleo Paleo. If you’re going to add something from the outside, to define it is this is in addition to.
Gary: Can I ask you, is that more your personal diet? Because it was kind of a recommendation and that’s all I was trying to figure out as I was reading. You go through it. You outline everything. I didn’t know if that was your diet per se, or is that what you recommend as a Paleo diet or just a diet in general? Are you just not even in the Paleo realm at that point would you say?
John: No, I think the only divergence from an orthodox approach was saying experiment with diary. Were there other…
Gary: You had fermented grains in there as well.
John: I have like three lines.
Gary: Yeah, it was real basic. That why I just wanted to clarify because, believe me, I’m a person who believes that everyone is different just like you. Certain people can handle fermented grains, no problem, as long as its heirloom based.
Some people, northern Swedes, they are less than 30 percent lactose intolerant so they can eat a ton of dairy. I never want to exclude anything, it was just more the confusion of there’s Paleo is the main part of the title, but when I read the actual nutrition information it wasn’t technically Paleo.
John: I disagree. Let’s open up the one page thing in the back. I think it’s a…let me get my copy, hold on.
Gary: I just wanted to make sure I had it right.
Heath: Geez, Gary.
Gary: No, I just wanted to make sure…I was a little confused when I read it, that’s all.
Heath: No, that’s valid.
John: Hold on, I didn’t hear you.
Gary: I was just a little confused, that’s all. I just wanted to make sure I was reading everything right.
John: Some people have made criticisms of Paleo saying hunter‑gatherers in the Paleolithic were opportunistic. They would eat foods for the first time. They were foragers, they were omnivores. We did eat roots and tubers, things like that.
I think it’s valuable to say here’s an orthodox Paleo approach. I think we should embrace things like traditional ways of fermenting foods and focus on gut micro biome and that whole area where we’ve clearly depleted our gut micro biome. A lot of these traditional foods are what’s available.
Heath: For many grains it still has gluten in it. It’s not doing your gut any sort of good. Period. It’s a major allergen. Keep in mind I used to make sprouted grain bread. I grew up with it. Not until I completely got rid of all grains from my diet did my allergies completely go away.
Some people can process it, but at the end of the day, it’s a massive allergen, it has gluten. You don’t need grains at this point. There’s so many other wonderful things that we can consume. Our question is it’s not a core principle of Paleo, why confuse people about grains? It’s something that can be experimented with, but it’s clearly outside of Paleo. At the end of the day, there was no way for Paleolithic man to consume beans. They weren’t boiling water back then.
John: There’s definitely evidence of soaking nuts. I view grains, legumes, nuts and seeds as part of the same rubric as seeds, the reproductive organ of the plant. Some people are much more pro nut and seed in Paleo. I’m a little bit more skeptical of that because some of those nuts and seeds, particularly eaten in high quantities, have some of the same potential allergen issues as…
Gary: That’s where you and me agree actually. I truly believe that too. I think in the Paleo world, especially recently, they have completely…I’ve actually written little pieces about, “Don’t go Nuts for Nuts,” on one of my blog posts. I’ve done it, I don’t know if you did it, but when I did it several years ago I totally over‑consumed nuts. I was like, “Oh, nuts are great!” not realizing then I started getting inflammation from…
Heath: But legumes are a different story, and they don’t belong…
Gary: You don’t…
Gary: …legumes though…
Gary: No, no, no, John doesn’t talk about legumes at all.
John: On page one…
Heath: He just said “legumes” in his statement there, just to clarify.
John: No, what I said was, “I view seeds, the reproductive organ of the plant, as the issue.”
Heath: But they don’t belong in a Paleo diet.
Heath: There’s no need for them to be in there. We just had a real issue with Chris Grosser on “Dr. Oz” mentioning legumes as a part of Paleo. I about fell out of my chair! Why include legumes as a part of a Paleo template on national TV, once again, causing massive confusion, when they don’t belong there?
Gary: That’s all. We’re just trying to clarify. I agree with you. Fermenting foods has been around a long time. We didn’t have refrigeration, we know that, but I was just curious if that was part of your diet? Do you implement fermented grains and fermented…
John: I don’t eat any fermented grains. Nutritional reasons aside, I find it too time consuming.
Heath: I agree.
John: I don’t have much space here in New York, so it’s sort of a pain in the butt.
Gary: …in general. I think even if you live on a farm, people don’t understand, fermenting foods and sprouting grains takes a huge amount of effort. It’s a lot of work, it really is.
John: I think what I was trying to accomplish in some of my discussions of grains and legumes, was also pointing out to people that these were, in some sense, these were fall back foods, or sub‑optimal foods, that we developed culinary traditions to side‑step, or get around some of their drawbacks. Fermentation is an imperfect method to detoxify some of these foods.
When you’re like, “Oh, OK, we use these methods to detoxify these foods,” we’re eating way more of them, these grains and legumes now, and we’re not even using traditional methods to detoxify them. It’s sort of a double bad.
Gary: That’s kind of the Weston A. Price kind of philosophy. Not Dr. Weston A. Price, but WAPF. I’ve been to their conferences and they’re big on, “Eat as many grains as you want. Doesn’t really matter as long as they’re fermented or sprouted.” Does the quality matter as long as they are fermented or sprouted and you are going to look around at the crowd and you understand why that doesn’t work.
Gary: To be honest with you I’ve never seen so many sick people at a health conference in my life.
John: It’s very interesting because I’ve been to a lot of conferences too and it’s interesting to compare the audience. For different conferences.
Gary: Yeah. I didn’t get that, I didn’t get your preaching, “Go out and eat a bunch of grains.” I was curious because let’s face it, dairy, I’m the opposite of Heath. Dairy really messes me up but interesting enough, I can eat raw organic cheese, and I’m OK. Or so I think. I don’t know what’s going in or maybe it’s mildly internally doing damage. I don’t know. I don’t eat a lot of it to find out.
But yeah, it’s different for different people. I was just curios because people get confused. It’s just really…I think right now because Paleo is growing at a rapid rate.
There are so many books out there, and there’s people who never even practice Paleo, who are writing books, mainstream authors, health authors. They’re throwing Paleo stuff out there and they have no idea what Paleo even is. They have never followed the lifestyle or the diet.
Heath: We have the weight loss people that still have about 20 pounds to lose. They haven’t lost their last let’s say 5 to 20 pounds, and they are preaching weight loss. Unless you lost those 5 to 20 pounds and gone to your ideal weight, how can you preaching weight loss?
Because the last 5 to 20 pounds, let’s face it, is the hardest to lose. Unless you have gone through that yourself, how can you talk to anybody about helping them reach their ideal weight?
Gary: Conversely, there are some people who look healthy and strong, and they may have genetic advantages, might have been lucky, other things like that. Just because Lebron James eats a certain way, Lebron James could eat a lot of different diets and still be an amazing [inaudible 27:26] athlete.
John: Yeah. Absolutely.
Heath: He chose a diet and did it in the proper way and he got great results. There is an example of, when somebody wanted to use Paleo and lose weight, what if he altered his sugar and the carbs to lose the weight. Then now he’s incorporating other things back into his diet, but he got to his optimal weight, and he’s happy. Now he’s stronger, leaner, faster.
Gary: You know what’s interesting about that actually, I’m a big sports guy, so I read into…he actually did very strict Paleo, which was very impressive. But he only did, I want to say, 67 days, and he said the main reason he did it was to show that he could discipline himself.
I thought that was very interesting. He didn’t do it more for the help and pity, he did it because he wanted to show how disciplined he can be. It was weird.
John: I actually think there is a very clear reason why he’s doing that, which is he’s often been put in the position of playing a four or a five on the court and getting banged up by the guys on the side. Now that he’s 29 or something like that, he is now thinking about extending his career and Gray Allan had such success with leaning down…
Gary: Yeah. Kobe Bryant was the first one to do it. Then they all came in and…Corby did it, I think, two, three years ago.
Heath: Yeah. He did.
Gary: He actually has a person on staff with the Lakers who teaches them Paleo.
John: The latest I’ve heard is Kobe has shifted sort of again a little bit.
Gary: You can see it in his size, actually this year.
John: He got that injury and so I think when stuff like…a lot of players get injured, up to 35 and older. A lot of players get injured at any age. A lot of the Lakers were into that stuff. Steve Nash wasn’t too far off from Paleo.
Gary: Yeah. That’s a good segue to kind of turn it into a sports thing because I’m sure you love sports too.
John: I love it.
Gary: Yeah. To see the athletes in health and working with…I work with athletes. I had a kid who was playing at Purdue alignments. I had to change macro nutrients around and how I had to tweak things to make sure he was still on an anti‑inflammatory diet.
But yet he had…weighed 270, 280 pounds. How do you do that? You can’t follow Paleo/Primo practices to a T to do that. You just can’t. There’s no way to really do it the right way. With athletes it’s interesting to see how they’re trying to use Paleo and with it the macros.
Because I go through doubts I’m going in the endurance training again trying to do more and more of it. I had a major surgery and back injury years ago that I just finally recovered from and I’m going try to do endurance again. I’m seeing my macros completely switch again.
Trying to stay more to a more strict diet with a lower carb side, I can do it, I can ingest far fewer carbs than I used to with less [inaudible 30:41] . But it’s interesting to see you can only go so far and then you’ve got to start tweaking things if you are really athletic. I think if you are living a normal American lifestyle, Paleo is a beautiful thing.
As far as…because everyone thinks of…we talked about this on one of the programs. Everyone thinks from Michael Jordan. Because everyone feels like Mike from that whole thing. They think that once they change their diet or exercise a little bit, they can eat like Michael Jordan. That doesn’t work.
John: …eat seven bowls of Wheaties a day.
Gary: Even if you are eating strict Paleo, if you are eating the amount of calories he would be eating, you would still gain weight, and probably be pretty miserable. It’s a totally different ballgame and I think that’s one of the things I struggle with working with clients, teaching them that, “You don’t have to eat that much.
“You will be full, you won’t be hungry and you have to recondition yourself. Because automatically if you’re not an athlete or doing something, endurance training, or training hard, then take a whole lot of calories to keep you going and be healthy.”
Gary: Have you experimented a lot with macros and changing calorie intake?
John: I think I’m one of the few people in sort of this health Paleo space. I have never measured the number of the calories I’ve eaten in a single day…
Gary: I don’t think I have either.
John: …or the exact macro nutrient ratio. I don’t know why. I’m just not interested in exactly weighing and measuring everything I do. As Robb Wolf says, “Look, feel, and perform.” That’s sort of what I go by.
I’ll step on a scale once every nine months, year and a half, something like that. It’s sort of like an interesting guessing game to be like, “Oh, it’s been a year. How much do I weigh?” I think I get my blood work done about once a year.
Heath: If you’re eating balanced, you really don’t have to step on a scale. What we’re seeing a lot of in the Paleo community is an overabundance of sugar in the forms of honey, maple syrup, these Paleo pancakes with just tons of carbs.
I’m sure they’re using what we consider Paleo ingredients, but there are just way too many carbs. It’s not balanced. People are getting really confused, they’re gaining weight.
They’re like, “Yeah. I’m going Paleo. I’m following these Paleo recipe books. What’s going on?” It’s because these recipes are packed with carbs and sugar, and their balance is all out of whack. It’s crazy.
That’s one thing we try to do at the Julian Bakery is, “Hey, if we’re going to put out products, make sure they’re low sugar. Make sure they’re low carb. Make sure they’re made with real food ingredients. It’s balanced, sort of macro nutrients,” and then you’re right. You don’t have to step on the scale.
Gary: How hard is it in New York for you, John? I’ve spent probably six, seven months in New York working when I was with State Department to work United Nations General Assembly. I was one of the people that you probably yelled at, because I was blocking all the traffic in downtown Manhattan. You know what I mean?
John: For me trying to be healthy there, it was very, very difficult. Here’s what’s easy, here’s what hard. What’s actually pretty good is people do care about food here. Grocery stores are expensive, but they have good food. Some big Farmers Markets, like the Union Square Green Market. There are different CSA’s, and things like that.
What’s bad are a lot of the social scene here, where people are drinking alcohol all the time. The default thing to do in New York is, “Hey! Let’s to have a drink.” It’s in the evening. It destroys your sleep. Before you know it, you’ve had four drinks. That’s hard.
There’s a big part of the New York health scene that’s big on juicing. It’s all these very sweet juices, where all the fiber has been taken out. People are paying $12 a juice, and drinking one or two every day. It’s insane!
Gary: The centrifugal juicer is what you don’t want to use. You want to actually blend it up if you’re going to do it. At least keep some of the fiber in there, keep your fructose.
Heath: Right, yeah.
John: Some of that is a little off. I don’t buy many packaged foods. Even if they’re Paleo or Primal, or whatever. Partly, I’m a 31‑year old bachelor, so I’m not doing a lot of baking.
Gary: You can get away with it. It’s easier. You’re shopping for one, and cooking for one.
John: Yeah. I cook up some eggs. I make fish and some spinach in olive oil. I have a sweet potato cooked in a little bit of coconut oil. I make salads, and stuff like that.
I’m not doing a ton of the packaged foods. When you take a portfolio perspective, like your diet as a portfolio. It’s a fine, OK component of it. It’s just when it starts to swamp the whole thing.
Gary: Yeah. We always talk about that, that it’s balanced. We get in debates, and there’s been debates in the Paleo world about processed food. Technically, a processed food is not Paleo either.
John: No. I’ll push back on you on that. The word processed, it’s a misnomer.
Exactly. That’s what I wanted to get to. When most people say processed food, what they really mean is industrial food, food that has been industrially processed. Food that didn’t exist 200 years ago, or more than 200 years ago.
When we think strictly about the term processing, i.e., transforming a food in some way before we eat it ‑‑ cutting, it’s a transformation. It’s a form of processing. If you cut meat into small bites then it is easier to eat than having to deal with all the fiber. You just use your mechanical teeth…
Gary: I love that section in your book. That’s how I wanted to bring that up. You actually talk about that. We’re in total agreement that people take processing as…exactly. They go to the far‑extreme. I’ve gotten in battles with people, too, and I say, “Well, that nut you’re eating right there is processed as well.”
I’m a little confused. Because there are some that take this really super‑strict approach, and I’m all, “Well, if you don’t want it processed, don’t even go to the farmer’s market because it’s processed if it’s laying on that table. I don’t know what to tell you.” You know what I mean?
John: Again, we can go back to this principle and say, “Is this the type of transformation that we’re well adapted to?” Cutting, fire, and fermentation, these are things that we’ve been doing for a very long time. Blending something in an industrial blunder that breaks everything up into sort of microparticles, then it’s heated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for a while, and all these other things. These are completely novel forms of processing that…
Gary: That’s actually a very, very good point. We were just talking about that ‑‑ people who are juicing would think that they are far healthier than maybe me and you or someone eating a slightly processed food, not realizing that their juice that they just spent 12 bucks on is highly processed, and not necessarily in a form that we would properly be able to digest or utilize.
John: Hard to be a vegan without a blender.
Gary: [laughs] Yes.
John: Richard Wrangham, in his book on fire and cooking, “Catching Fire,” he wrote about how a lot of Raw Vegans will describe what they’re doing as raw, completely unprocessed, and yet they’ll have these big industrial blenders where they use these industrial blades that chop everything up into tiny, adjustable particles.
Gary: You talk about that in your book too. I have talked about it in my books about Veganism. The best way to put, I actually shop at a vegan market. But they have meat in there. It’s a very good store. It’s very well known.
You can see them. I can spot a vegan a mile away in that store. They’re drawn. Their eyes are baggy. They can’t react very quickly. I can see the real hardcore ones. A lot of them don’t do it for nutrition. I can see it’s more of this…
Heath: A life‑style.
Gary: This group mentality. It’s, “Us against them. We’re not going to hurt animals.” I don’t know if a lot of them do it for nutrition or even understand that basis of it. I think it’s more a life decision or a personal decision.
John: I think you’re right. I think it’s a bit of both. My last chapter “Gatherer” really goes deep into the psychology of Vegetarianism and Veganism, how disgust, and empathy, and some moral issues intersect and drive some of those view. I do have an admission to make that is exclusive to your podcast.
Gary: Uh‑oh. Uh‑oh.
Heath: Oh. OK. Oh, wow.
John: I hope you don’t immediately hang up on me. But recently, I’ve been seeing a vegan in New York.
Heath: I think I recall one of your tweets that was like, “I just kissed a vegan…”
Heath: “…and I just ate 12 pieces of bacon.” [laughs]
Gary: How’s that going, John? I’ve actually dated…
Heath: That’s crazy.
Gary: …Vegan friends in the past, and it doesn’t go well.
John: We’ve had some fun with it. We’ve just been hanging out a little bit. I wouldn’t really call it dating at this point.
John: Again, that’s a New York thing.
Gary: We won’t get too deep into that. Not that…
Gary: …for now.
John: But I met her years ago. I saw her deadlifting in the gym, wearing a pair of FiveFingers. I thought, “I have to go talk to her.”
Heath: Nice [laughs] . Does she make fun of any people in the people in the Paleo movement like a lot of other vegans do? Because a lot of people in the Paleo movement are either unhealthy or overweight. Obviously there’s people like yourself and others that are in great shape, like Robb Wolf and Gary over there, but…
Heath: [laughs] Does that kind of drive you nuts, that a lot of the vegans do pick on some of the Paleo leaders?
John: Let me give you the reverse example. I was on a panel with John Mackey of Whole Foods, who is a vegan. It was a very civil debate, and we agreed to talk about some of the things that we shared in common, and had a lot of fun with it.
Then I posted a picture with John Mackey on Instagram and on Facebook, and then there was some comment about, “Oh, he doesn’t look very healthy and he looks thin,” and part of me was like, “Dude, this guy has done so much more for real food than any of these…” do we swear on your show?
Gary: Yeah, go ahead.
John: “…any of these fucking, like, random commenters.” I don’t care how he eats. He’s an entrepreneur and he created the world that he wanted to see, and I respect that. There’s sometimes there’s some bias going into that. Who knows how he would look if he ate a little differently. I don’t know.
Heath: You’re referring to trolls, my favorite.
Gary: They get on the Internet and drive me and Heath absolutely bonkers in their basement at one in the morning, yelling at their mom to make them a sandwich or whatever between video games. But you see, I’m with you.
John: I know, it takes a troll to beat a troll and I’m actually a little bit of a troll.You got to out‑troll the troll, you know?
Heath: True, this is very true.
John: You can’t let yourself get ruffled. It’s like you’re on a team sport and the guys on the team will make fun of you for your weak spot, and if you show any defensiveness, you’ll never hear the end of it.
Gary: That’s a good point.
John: That’s right. The best situation there is agree and amplify. You’d be like, people would make fun of me for various things and I would agree and take it to an absurd extent and that is so much better than getting defensive.
Gary: They just call me a flamethrower. I just come out and I let everything loose, and I just tell them, “OK.” At the very end I just respond to them, “OK, I’m going to be at this location at this time. Please meet me here and we’ll have this discussion more on that, and not on the computer.”
They go, “You’re such an idiot, I cannot…” I’m like, “You know, if you want to elevate it to that level and you want to be a jerk, and you don’t believe in what I’m teaching, don’t come to my website, don’t read my stuff, don’t watch the interviews.”
I’ve never understood that. I don’t go I don’t have enough free time to go around and find people’s stuff that I don’t agree with. I don’t have the energy or time.
John: That’s a great example.
Gary: Yeah. It blows my mind, and it seems to be very prevalent in the Paleo, Vegan, and Primal, all of the communities. It’s like they all go out and some of these, there’s a whole group of them that go out and search.
They find it interesting, Vegans, that I go, “I’m actually not against you. If that’s the lifestyle you choose and you’re healthy and you enjoy it, I’m not going to tell you not to do it. Yeah, hey, I’m not going to go to you to try and convince you that my lifestyle is better. That’s not my role. I’m not here to tell you that what I believe in is what you should believe in. You have to make that up on your own free will.”
John: Right, and where I do push back on that is when I say, “Look, we weren’t the ones who pathologized eating meat. You were the ones who pathologized eating meat. If that’s how you wane eat, fine, but to turn around and say that a purely plant‑based diet is the optimal way for a human being, a homo sapiens to eat, that’s bullshit, OK?”
It’s wrong, it’s not taken seriously by evolution or biologists, or experts in the field. It’s not how we would think about an optimal diet for any other species. It’s ludicrous.
We can talk about there might be circumstances where a plant‑based diet has certain advantages, yadda yadda yadda. Fine, we can qualify it and have some nuance, but I really‑I mean, you can sorta hear it in my voice, that’s where I sort of lose it. It’s that ideology dressing up as science.
Gary: Yeah, for me it’s the lack of rational thought. That’s what I mean. I don’t look it as a thought movement. Like I said, it’s more of a moral movement. That they don’t want to hurt an animal. They think it’s wrong, or they don’t want to eat an animal, and I can go, “That’s fine.”
But again, like you said, that’s not scientifically based. To this day, we have never found an ancient vegan culture ever and we probably never will find one unless all the animals die, and you know what? We’re going to die too with them. There’s not going to be any of us left to eat vegetables and trees.
It’s just that thought process, and a lot of us have talks about it. When you eat that type of diet, you don’t have good, strong cognitive function and your ability to analyze and think things through and come to clear decisions. I’ve seen it. I’ve gotten in discussions with some hard‑core vegans. They can barely get one sentence out at a time in one thought.
Heath: Now there’s that research done on lower sperm count. Fun stuff.
John: I tweeted that out and I sent that article to my vegan friend.
Gary: She’s obviously very opened minded then, if you guys can poke fun at each other. That’s what I like. I don’t mind poking fun at each other, but I don’t like it when it turns nasty and vicious. Telling me I’m a horrible person because I own a 30‑06 and I will shoot a deer on occasion or kill a dove and eat it, which is what I would have to do to survive.
John: What I was trying to do with the last two chapters of my book, “Hunter and Gatherer,” was show this complimentary, rather than showing Paleo and vegan as polar opposites, show how they bring different things to the table.
Deer hunting, there’s absolutely no question that hunting deer in the United States is good for the environment, it’s good environmental stewardship. It’s healthy meat. It is, in many cases, the least painful way for the deer to die.
The alternatives are getting torn apart by a coyote, getting hit by a car and bleeding to death slowly by the side of the road, wasting away of disease, starving to death slowly in the winter. All you have to do is talk, interview, a few hunters or maybe one ecologist who understands deer and you arrive at that conclusion.
It is troubling when their entire treatises on animal cruelty and veganism, like Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” though he won’t use the term “vegan,” that doesn’t even mention hunting. One of the reasons is a lot of the people who write these books grew up in cities, they lived in cities their whole life, and they’ve stayed in cities. They don’t hunt, so they don’t know.
Gary: Heath and I grew up rural, very rural. I grew up hunting and fishing. I trying to get more into it now. I’ve had to live in cities and do all this stuff. That’s why I love that part where you talked about you went out and actually went hunting. Went out and had…it was on a private piece of property if I remember right.
Gary: Talking about how it brought up all these instincts and how your senses went off and how you had to re‑think everything. People do, they think hunting is this evil…you’re just out there to butcher and kill animals.
I understand this is a big problem right now in Montana, Colorado, New Mexico and actually Washington, where I’m now a resident of, is wolf over‑population. It’s because all the conservationists went out there and said, “Oh, the wolf population, we have got to protect the wolves.”
What they did is they made it illegal for people to hunt wolves, so they protected them. Now the wolf population is completely out of control. They are killing all the deer, all the elk, they are taking down moose and everyone’s like, “This is what you get.” That’s the thing when you start messing with ecology and Mother Nature. Start playing God’s role, you screw everything up.
John: It requires that balance, a practical mentality of just saying, “OK, we need to put ideology aside and see what’s working here.”
Gary: Exactly. Not only that, it’s a proven fact…I can’t remember if you talked about it in that last chapter, that hunting has gone down dramatically.
John: Oh yeah.
Gary: With that, that’s where these over‑populations of predators, these apex predators, are coming out. They are over‑populating in feral pigs, because we are not hunting them. We have to take them out. We want to eat them. How amazing is it that there’s all these pigs out there, feral pigs and hogs, that we can eat!
John: It’s a shame we’re not using all this meat for our school lunch programs. How awesome would that be instead of feeding them a bunch of junk food?
Gary: Let’s not go there. You would put some congressman’s son, nephew, out of business. He couldn’t be a millionaire for doing absolutely nothing, if we actually did something right like that.
Actually the school program, it’s been proven…I was in the military, I was in law enforcement, and I’ve been to schools, it’s all the same food. And prisons, I’ve been to prisons, too. Not as an inmate. I kid you not, it is literally the same…
John: Just a conjugal visit?
Gary: With a vegan!
Gary: It’s crazy! When people look at that, and I go…it’s an animal. It’s a big machine. From my background, I was on the inside watching this machine. That’s why I’m also a self‑sufficiency advocate. Some people call me a survivalist or whatever. I don’t like putting labels on that. I’m just a practical rational human being who makes my own decisions.
John: It’s prudent to prepare for worse case scenarios and black swans. I’m sure you realize that a lot of the things you are preparing for are low probability events. If they do happen, they’re going to be extremely important events. It’s foolish to ignore them.
Gary: Here’s a great example, the power went out here in San Diego a couple of years ago. As when that guy in Arizona, he actually clipped the line, did something wrong. It was one of the power line workers or something.
He did something and shut down an entire grid, for several states. We were predicted to have power out for two days, I think originally. You should have seen the chaos in my neighborhood.
Five hours. I live in a normal neighborhood. There’s a low roll, there’s horses and stuff, but people, you could hear guns going off. People were shooting rounds in the air, the party started, the bonfires. People lost their frigging minds.
Heath: I was in the big outage, I don’t know, 10 to 15 years ago, that East Coast outage that stretched all the way to Detroit.
I was around for that and day one, day two, people had a little fun. They were like, “It’s like camping. I’m going to meet my neighbors again.” Day three, day four, day five, people start to worry and panic. Once panic happens…
Heath: …start running out of food.
Gary: That’s the thing. I’m not extremist. What I’m preparing for is for me to live the life I want to live. I want to have a remote place where I can go, where I can hunt, where I can fish, where I can do the things I want on my property. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I can’t…They’re not going to tell me what to do but at least to the point where it’s the least amount possible.
You still can’t go there. People go, “So you go up and shoot the moose on your land?” No, I can’t do that. You only get one moose in a lifetime in Washington. You don’t get just to shoot everything on your property. You still have to go get a deer tag. You still have to have a hunting license.
But it’s more of a lifestyle choice as more as I’m not preparing for some solar flare to knock down the power grid. That happens, we’re all screwed if it knocks down everything. Would I survive it? Eh, maybe. Who knows? No one knows.
John: To go back to a little bit of the vegan discussion around hunting, one of the areas where I gave vegans or vegetarians credit in the book is bringing to light some of the abuses in the factory farm system. Because, I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m not a very emotional person, I could go look at that, I can be aware, and I don’t lose a lot of sleep over it.
The problem that they have is they go and use the language of emotion and the language that comes off as hating humanity a little bit to people. That resonates with some people. It doesn’t resonate with a lot of people.
The way that I talk about those issues is I’m a lifelong meat eater and I always will be. I believe in hunting. But hunters have a certain respect for their prey. It’s not about love. It’s about respect. I think it’s a classic female versus male difference.
I don’t know any hunters that go out there and act like violent idiots. They’re responsible, they’re thoughtful, they’re precise, and it’s considered high status to make a clean kill. Nobody’s out there torturing…
The vast, vast, vast, vast, vast majority of hunters are responsible like that. That is giving your prey respect. I think we could give respect to the cows that we’re eating and stuff like that as well.
Gary: I talk about that actually in my book. I actually wrote book on more of GMOs and agriculture and kind of my experience in the FDA. I talk about that. The animal cruelty laws as they are today, if they went to any CAFO‑type of farm, those farms, you’d literally be prosecuted, the owners. The cruelty that goes on that and the stewardship of animals, to me, it’s unbelievable.
But you’re right. In hunters, we do not believe in that type of system and when I’m hunting, the last thing I want is that animal to suffer. I do not want to have to shoot it twice if I don’t have to. I want it to be painless and I want it to serve a purpose. Everything I kill, I eat. I guess it’s the Ted Nugent in me. I’ve been called the…
Gary: …Ted Nugent of health by a couple people as I got I guess a little bit of a bad attitude.
John: I think you mean you’re a badass. Is that what you mean?
Gary: With that, I love that chapter. Do you plan to go back out and actually get more into hunting? It’s hard you live in Manhattan.
John: Yeah. That’s one of the worst parts of New York. It’s not only hard to go out and hunt, it’s expensive and a pain in the butt to buy a gun and have a gun. I started to go through the process actually a few years ago. There was a restriction where you have to get the approval of other people that you’re living with in order to purchase a long gun.
That struck me as off, that somebody else that I was living with would be able to basically veto my second amendment rights. I called up the police station or the group responsible, that they put on the forms and stuff like that and they didn’t even know the exact answer. I wanted to do everything by the book.
I go, “Just tell me what the book says.” Like, if there’s somebody living in my four‑person apartment for a month, and they sublet, do they have to sign it?
Is it only people that are there for a period of time? Do they have to be on the lease? Do they…? They couldn’t give me a straight answer.
Gary: You know that’s done by design, right John?
Gary: Working in the government as long as I…I’ve worked almost 20 years, that laws that are like that are written for a reason. It’s because they can entrap whoever they want with ambiguity. They make it very ambiguous, and they’re smart.
They’re lawyers that write this. It was like the guy, I can’t remember if he was traveling from New Jersey or somewhere, and he cut through New York. He had all this guns in his trunk. He’s transferring, he’s moving, he got pulled over.
Oh, you wouldn’t believe. He ended up going to jail.
John: The woman in New Jersey or something like that, recently, is facing like a two‑year jail sentence for driving into the state with her firearms that were licensed back in Kentucky, or whatever.
Gary: Yeah, and that’s the thing. Can you imagine trying to want to get into hunting? “OK, if I drive from here to there, am I going to have to have any special permits? Am I breaking laws?”
I think that’s why hunting is…they’re doing it on purpose is. They’re not trying to get rid of hunters per se. They’re trying to out‑regulate us, to the point where no one can hunt anymore.
Or if you can it’s on a little square foot that you can stand on, and shoot an arrow from where there’s no wild animals.
John: See, the real issue, if you actually look at the homicide statistics, suicide statistics, gun deaths. Long guns…most of the violent crime is with handguns. That’s what they really want to go after, is handguns.
The unspoken thing, let me try to say this is, lots of people have written about this, is that you have very different patterns of gun violence in urban communities versus suburban or rural. In suburban or rural communities most of the gun deaths are suicides, and it’s by whites.
Whereas in urban communities it’s blacks, and it’s more related to drug war type stuff, and other types of violent crime. You have Blue Liberals in cities who actually really want to go after handguns.
Because that’s sort of the violence that’s in their area, and they don’t care really about the second amendment that much. They also don’t understand that, in large swaths of the rest of the country, they don’t have that issue at all.
Heath: Yeah. That’s crazy. John, can you tell us a little bit about what you have coming up? We want to definitely promote anything that you have coming. Books, or any place you’re going to be talking.
John: Yeah, awesome. Thank you. Main thing is my book, “The Paleo Manifesto.” You can get it wherever books are sold. It’s not a diet book, I’ll tell people that. You have to get way far into it before you even approach anything that resembles a recommendation.
That’s the main thing. I advice a few companies in the space. One is Hu Kitchen, they’re a restaurant in New York. They’re near Union Square. If you come to New York, definitely check them out.
They cook with coconut oil or olive oil at low temperature. No canola oil, seed oils, which is actually a huge thing for restaurants. Because it’s a huge cost to them, to use higher quality oils, and most people don’t even know to ask about it.
Heath: Very cool, and your website? If you want to give that out to everybody?
John: Yeah. My website is HunterGatherer.com.
Heath: OK, perfect. We want to thank you so much for being on the show. I think we’ve covered a ton of topics. We’re going to blast this all over the place, and we definitely talk to you very soon.
John: Cool. Awesome. Thanks guys.
John Durant Website:
John Durant’s Book The Paleo Manifesto:
John Duran’t Favorite Paleo Restaurant Hu Kitchen:
Check out Heath Squier’s Exercise & Diet Plan:
Gary and Heath’s Links:
Online “Real Paleo Store”
Check out Heath Squier’s complete diet here: