Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Being Paleo During an Economic Disaster

By Benjamin Skipper

We might be experiencing an economic calm at the moment, but if politicians keep pursuing the course we're on then undoubtedly another crisis will arise, this one perhaps amounting to a full-blown collapse. Of course, we don't have to go this way, and maybe there's still a slight chance we could stop it before it happens, but the crisis is so probable we might as well consider it a certainty and start preparing. Among the possibilities could be food and electricity shortages, chains of businesses folding, violence, and more.

Yes, it's a depressing subject to think about, but we should talk about it. I hypothesize that America is in the process of questioning the ideas that led us up to this point, and there is evidence a better future could be beyond the horizon within most of our lifetimes, so let's contemplate how to most comfortably endure the bad times in the short-term, okay? Namely, why it's important to remain on the Paleo diet during the crisis and some tips on how to do so practically.

While Paleo is gaining popularity steadily, it's still controversial and not accepted in mainstream nutrition, so it will be of question whether it's practical to maintain such standards, but I think it's obvious that it ought to be adhered to regardless. People may gasp at how much beef and broccoli costs in the supermarket and tout how much cheaper noodles and chips are, but truly it's the other way around when one considers the whole context beyond what a price tag says.

For one, calorie for calorie you're getting more for your money when you buy nutritious food than when you buy junk, not to forget that you're also buying a more dense set of calories. Someone may content themselves with boiled noodles for a single meal, but how long will that keep them full? Will they be able to make it to their next meal without snacking? And how many meals will they need? Steak, eggs, and bacon may seem extravagant in one sitting, but surely it's possible to make that one's only meal of the day, unless you're physically active, and avoid being tempted to snack or think constantly about food. Of all the posts I've seen on how to do Paleo on a budget, I've almost always seen the appetite aspect neglected, that Paleo adherents can comfortably eat less while still feeling good and healthy. I myself only eat 1-2 full meals a day and find it entirely unnecessary to snack, though do so sometimes out of gluttony.

Aside from getting more calories per bite and remaining full longer, what's the ultimate effect of those calories? How will it affect your entire set of abilities to perform? A person living off a primarily carbohydrate source of nutrition is likely to be hungry often and consistently, have nutritional deficiencies that affect his mental well-being, have lower energy, be more susceptible to sicknesses, less able to direct his mental processes, and more, all of which will lower the overall quality of his life. Those on Paleo will be able to better maintain well-being on this dietary regiment, everywhere from being more resilient (no need for cold medicine), mentally focused, energetic, and so on. Not only does the calorie density practically pay for itself, so will Paleo foods also be better in increasing the value of your whole life, while people on the Standard American Diet might need to spend more time and money taking medicine and visiting the doctor, if they have access during a crisis.

Paleo foods, for most, may not be able to be bought in as great a variety per shopping trip as SAD foods, but whatever you do get will contribute so much more wealth to your life than you spent in currency. Most significantly, SAD foods can actually increase your spending through the deleterious effects they produce, so don't be tempted to abandon Paleo during the crisis with the thought that you might save more money that way. Besides, how could anyone really switch back? People may suffer from decreased energy and cravings when first transitioning to Paleo, but I imagine the side-effects are much worse when trying to go back the other way. I'd probably vomit like crazy and get the flu instantly.

Now, how can things be done practically during the worst-case scenario? For the most part, this advice is concentrated on stockpiling before the bad things happen, so it's mostly towards guiding your efforts while you're trying to prepare beforehand. Stock your pantry early.

1.) Buy lots of canned/preserved meats, dried fruit, chocolate, nuts, and anything that can keep a long time: This should be able to keep your carnivore side satisfied during the meanwhile, and to supplement it you should keep lots of foods that don't need refrigeration and keep for ideally long times, like beef jerky and dark chocolate. My stance on canned veggies is unformed, however, because while meat might be nutritious enough to withstand the canning process, I'm skeptical as to how valuable canned vegetables and fruits are, particularly after perusing Weston A. Price's book, so I'd suggest pursuing them in other preserved formed, like pickles.

Don't be afraid to check out dollar stores. I've been surprised to find conventional brand names like Bumble Bee in such places, so you're probably going to get the best deal on canned salmon and mackerel in those places.

2.) Ditch shampoo, bathing soap, and toothpaste: These are mostly aesthetic tools that can be done without, especially if you're on Paleo. Richard Nikoley is famous for his no soap and shampoo experiment. I've practice it myself, so while I don't repudiate soap and shampoo for health reasons I forgo them since I've found my skin and hair to be much better without them. My scalp, for instance, used to be constantly dry when shampooing, and now without the stuff it consistently feels great, and my hair has a nice feel to it with no odor. Your results may vary depending on your genetics, however, so I can only verify that it works for myself; no one even knows I maintain this practice it's so effective. On toothpaste, my teeth remain cleaner and whiter than ever without them, which makes me think that diet is the primary in dental health, not brushing. Just how absorbent are your teeth, after all? It's not like the toothpaste penetrates the cores of your teeth every brushing session. With a good diet, you're maintaining your dental health starting from the inside of your teeth on out. I brush with water and use floss picks for comfort and aesthetic reasons, and have no breath problems. Even just a bare swig of water seems to be sufficient for cleansing my mouth of a cheese I just ate. (And I'm eating chocolate often, too.)

Don't forgo soap altogether, though, as I specifically noted bathing soap. It's still important to use it for hygienic reasons, so keep washing your hands. I buy soap specifically for that purpose, which is especially important since I work in the restaurant industry. As for deodorant, each individual will have to judge for himself his needs. Without it I have body odor very mildly, so I use Tom's of Maine, mainly because it doesn't sting or burn while I wear it like conventional brands do. A deodorant stone might suit some, but I've had limited success with it.

3.) Buy the cheapest toilet paper possible: Perhaps a slightly off putting subject, but digestive issues are still relevant to the health considerations here. My digestion has improved incredibly since going Paleo. I eliminate less often and very cleanly, so the cheapest toilet paper suffices for me.

4.) Stock up on supplements that keep, or seek out foods dense in the nutrients you're trying to get more of: Supplements are another thing that could possibly be a part of a shortage, so stock up on whatever can sit in the pantry, which excludes some things like fish oil, and for the rest search out preserved foods that are especially high in the nutrients you want. I only take magnesium regularly, so for my purposes I'll probably stock up on mineral rich foods like mackerel and nuts, or else preserve some things on my own like dried kale. It's questionable how much violence could factor into a crisis scenario given the political spectrum of the U.S. and the varying local cultures that result from state to state, so I might stock up on vitamin D as well if it gets too risky to walk outside for sunshine.

5.) Drink only water: Maybe a given, but still worth mentioning. I thought I'd miss soda and other flavored drinks when I went Paleo, but to my surprise it has gotten to the point that water is the only thing I can even desire. I'm fond of raw milk and young coconut juice too, but can live without them. Most liquids, to my understanding, don't offer anything significant that food can't, so you're better off forgoing stocking any sort of beverage during your pantry packing. Whether to buy bottled water, however, will vary from individual to individual. If you have a well that can be tapped even in electrical outages, then don't worry about it. City water users will want to buy some kind of good filter and have bottled backup for power outages. You know what I mean.

6.) Wear footwear less often: Outside of dietary considerations, but still relevant to a Paleo lifestyle. In addition to saving on food, one could stretch a clothing budget by wearing shoes less often, thus subjecting them to less wear and tear. The majority of my walks are barefoot, and having done it so often I've developed quite a skin on my soles. If you're careful to avoid pokey things and debris, the most uncomfortable thing about transitioning to barefoot walking is the mild friction burn that results, but it goes away once your skin toughens. Be careful not to scuffle, as that could stretch your skin and create blisters.

* * * * *

It's not only possible to remain Paleo during a crisis, but also very practical and important. Nobody really knows what's going to happen to the economy at this point, but it's better to be prepared than not, even if nothing happens. (Best case scenario: Things get better and you have a closest full of chocolate.) Whatever the case, your health is supremely important, so you shouldn't neglect it at a time when medical care could be limited, prohibitively expensive, or even not available at all.

In addition, it's also supremely important that in whatever scenario comes true that the causes are understood and spoken out against. The people responsible for whatever bad things happen will naturally be moved to evade their responsibility given how psychologically damaging it would be for them to recognize the suffering they've caused, so we must always speak up in order to call for a better future lest we risk living in a crisis economy for the rest of our life. I'm optimistic that things will turn out better, but not automatically or in the short-term. We've got to work in order to make any positive potential come true.

These are my thoughts on remaining healthy during economic disaster. What are yours? Do you have any suggestions to add to mine?

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