Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Paul Jaminet, in his recent post My Theory of Obesity I: “The Fat Trap”, inches ever closer to uncovering the scientific whys behind what Physical Culturalists have long known as truth — that lean tissue acquisition/optimization via smartly programmed resistance training is absolutely essential for optimum and sustained fat loss, and (ergo) all-’round health and wellbeing.

The Paleo community, in my ever-so-humble opinion, has historically discounted the immense and positive contribution of smartly-programmed resistance training strategies to the total ancestral wellness/wellbeing equation.  In fact — and as much as I respect Gary Taubes’s contribution to the Paleo movement — I have to lay much of the blame for this oversight squarely at Gary’s feet, as his continued (implied, I suppose) assertion is that of exercise’s minor (if at all) contribution to sustained fat loss.  Now there are those in academia who brilliantly defend the role of exercise as being a major player in the ancestral wellness equation — Drs. Frank Booth and John Ivy, most prominently — however (and most unfortunately), their voices have not been made public to the extent that others  in the “diet cures all” camp have.  Even within a highly intelligent sub-group of people — the Paleo community, writ large — there yet remains a bias against the fact that maintaining great health (and a solid body composition) requires a good bit of tough physical labor.  If nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution,  then the fact that our species first-and-formost evolved under physically demanding circumstances ought to ring true.  We need to recognize that, just as we as a species are genetically driven toward the consumption of high-concentration carbohydrate sources, so too are we driven toward laziness/recuperation.  These, of course, were optimum strategies for coping in a harsh, stone-age environment; strategies that we now realize need to be mitigated vis-a-vis our modern society.  The opportunity to recuperate, along with highly-concentrated carbohydrate sources, were scarce things  in the environments in which we, as a species, “came of age”.

The punch line is this: true ancestral wellbeing results from the union of smart dietary and smart exercise decisions.  One without the other just will not produce anywhere near optimal results.

Changing lives for the better

Introducing my latest transformation project — Chris Scheppler, of Naturally Fit  Chris has one hell of a background story — and a goal/future vision — that he will reveal through his series of video blog updates.  Make sure to check back frequently to follow Chris’s progress and to watch his story unfold.  Chris’s 3 month transformation unveiling will take place at none other than PFX12.  Hey, no pressure whatsoever — right, Chris!? 🙂

In health, fitness, and ancestral wellbeing –



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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.


  1. Hi Michelle, do I understand correctly that you suggest exercise is the cause, and leanness is the effect? Rather, exercise is essential to maintaining both lean and fat body mass, and without exercise, body composition will degrade? You propose that we are genetically driven to eat carbs, which implies that natural selection should have something to do with this. I disagree, but not completely. I too think that natural selection is the driving factor, but that’s the extent of my agreement.

    Take the cheetah for example. It is both lean and fast. We could ask if it’s lean because it’s fast, or if it’s fast because it’s lean. Between two cheetahs of different body fat mass, the leanest will be faster. It’s a question of physics. The same is true for everything else. Light cars are faster than heavy cars, all other things being equal of course (engine power for example, or muscle mass). So the lean cheetah will tend to catch more prey, therefore will tend to eat more than the fat cheetah.

    If we take the cheetah example and apply it to humans, we should reach the same conclusions. Between two sprinters of equal lean mass but of different fat mass, the leaner will be faster. We ask, is he leaner because he’s more active? No, he’s more active (faster) because he’s leaner. If we advocate being more active, then we advocate being faster. But the problem is that swiftness is not the cause, it’s the effect. Leanness is the cause.

    If the carbohydrate hypothesis is true (carbs-insulin-fat), and if we do have a genetic disposition to eat lots of carbs, then this is a contradiction. Natural selection wouldn’t select in favor of fat humans, but against them. But if the carbohydrate hypothesis is false, then the Positive Caloric Balance hypothesis must be true, therefore the lean cheetah, which is faster therefore eats more than the fat cheetah, should grow fatter. That’s another contradiction because natural selection doesn’t select in favor of fat cheetahs, but against them.

    For the cheetah, natural selection is still in effect. But for humans, it’s not. We escaped the pressures of natural selection, and replaced them with artificial selection in the last 10,000 years or so. Agriculture, medicine, superior weaponry, technology, etc. But before all this, natural selection was in full force for us too. Therefore we can assume that we were leaner, taller, faster, stronger, smarter, etc.

    It’s probably true that we are genetically driven to eat carbs. The carbohydrate hypothesis is probably true as well. If both of these are true, and if natural selection was in full force, then we can probably assume that there was very little carbs back then. And if there was very little carbs for most of our evolution (~2.4m yrs), then we should assume that eating lots of carbs today is not such a good idea.

    I used leanness and swiftness above but I could make the same argument with brain size and smarts. Does our brain grow bigger because we use it more, or are we smarter because our brain is bigger? I think we’re smarter because our brains are bigger. Imagine two humans with different brain sizes. The bigger brain is smarter, therefore will be able to acquire more food. In comes natural selection, repeat for 100,000 generations, and here we are, discussing natural selection over the internet.

    But here comes agriculture, and for 400 generations, natural selection is not allowed to do its job of culling the fattest, the slowest, the weakest, the stupidest.

    • I think we’re on the same page for the most part. I agree with Paul Jaminet’s theory of the body protecting (favoring the acquisition of?) lean mass, and that lean mass signalling overrides the hormonal (leptin) signal which is elevated when fat stores ebb too high. The body then signals hunger in an attempt to replenish lean tissue. The problem then is one of macronutrient supply (poor quality food) which, coupled with no outward signal to build lean tissue (no resistance training), leads to those poor quality cals being stored, via the high insulin level pathway, as fat. The cheetah retains its cheetahness (in the wild, at least), because his epigenetic signal remains pure and his diet does not change from standard cheetah fare. That humans naturally crave dense carb sources is a result of our species’s being opportunistic eaters having evolved during a period were such carb density was rare.

  2. The punch line is this: true ancestral wellbeing results from the union of smart dietary and smart exercise decisions. One without the other just will not produce anywhere near optimal results.

    Love this quote. For a while i was working out and eating more than ever (but healthy food i must say). I thought ‘well, i’m working out more and its steamed veggies and grilled salmon-good stuff!’ How wrong I was! Nothing was happening! Sure, I was stronger and fitter but my clothes were fitting all the same…so learn your lesson now and realize that weight loss is 70% kitchen, 30% gym!

  3. Good insights!

    From the point of view of a trainer, I find that my clients often confuse my meaning when I explain the importance of diet (I prefer 80/20 ratio of diet to exercise). What I mean is that many of my clients use this as an invitation to slack off on the physical component of the programming.

    Comments I have received can be distilled into the following statement: “If exercise is only 20% of the equation, then why even bother?”

    While I understand the logic behind this statement, the lower percentage tends to be related to the amount of time spent eating vice working out. Indeed, an effective high-intensity program doesn’t need much more than 4 hours per week (if that), whereas one must pay fairly close attention to what they are eating for the better part of the week.

    I agree completely with the statement that we, as a species are “driven toward laziness/recuperation”, the problem is that the modern lifestyle lacks the stressors of the more primitive one.


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