Below is a recent Q&A with Dr. Cordain:
1. What originally inspired you to start researching and implementing the Paleo Diet?
In 1987 I read Dr. Boyd Eaton’s seminal paper in the New England Journal of Medicine (Eaton SB, Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med. 1985 Jan 31;312(5):283-9) and thought this was the best idea I have ever heard of regarding human nutrition. I eventually obtained the 80 or so references that Dr. Eaton had included in this article. I subsequently obtained the references of these references and continued collecting and filing references. I began to see patterns forming (hunter gatherers didnt drink milk), so I made a milk folder. Hunter gatherers didnt eat cereal grains, so I made a cereal folder. As my collection of articles grew, I found myself with thousands of scientific papers and hundred of file folders. This collection eventually grew into tens of thousands of articles and hundreds of file folders. In the early 1990s I mustered the courage to call Dr. Eaton (nobody used email then), and spoke with him for about an hour. At the end of the telephone conversation, he paid me one of the greatest compliments of my life by saying, “It sounds to me like you know more about this than I do”. I eventually invited Boyd to CSU to give a lecture, and we became acquainted and began to write scientific papers together. In 1999 my wife convinced me to write a popular book, and my first book The Paleo Diet was published in 2002.
2. What part of the diet is the most difficult for people?
It probably varies from person to person. For some it may be giving up bagels or sandwiches, for others cheese and ice cream, for others chocolate candy. However, built into The Paleo Diet is the 85:15 rule which allows people to consume 3 open meals per week, so that they dont have to forgo favorite foods foreever. A little bit of cheating is a good thing if in the long run it behaviorally helps people to stick to the diet in the long run. If you want to go out with friends on a Friday night and have pizza and beer, then do so and enjoy, however dont make this a regular habit.
3. What other diets have you tried?
I grew up and came of age in the late 60′s and early 70′s when everyone thought the healthiest diet was plant based (beans, rice, nuts etc) and devoid of meat. I gave this vegan/vegetarian diet a try a number of times, but could never stick with it because it caused me gastrointestinal discomfort and problems. I also was a runner then and constantly became injured and suffered through what seemed to be every upper respiratory illness/flu of the year. Mainly, I just didnt feel good with this abnormal eating fad. I have also tried Atkins, just once, and the ketosis made me feel uncomfortable, irritable and low energy. That experiment lasted less than a week. My wife Lorrie and I were married in June of 1990 and that summer we both began Paleo. Short of the few hunter gatherers left on the planet at that time, I believe we were some of the first westernized people to eat in this manner. We have been eating Paleo ever since, and this lifetime program of eating has now become known to the world.