in: Health, Health & Fitness, Podcast

• Last updated: September 27, 2021

The Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #56: The Paleo Manifesto with John Durant

In today’s episode we talk to John Durant, author of The Paleo Manifesto, about how looking at our ancestral past can help us achieve optimal health both physically and mentally.

Show Highlights:

  • Why it’s important to not just look at the Paleolithic Era to inform our health
  • How religious sanitation laws were an adaptation to the Agricultural Revolution
  • How the almost cult-like following of Crossfit and Paleo Lifestyle might be a cultural adaptation to our modern, sedentary life
  • Does violence play a role in a “paleo” lifestyle?
  • John’s first deer hunt
  • Should we look to our ancient ancestors to guide our romantic lives?
  • And much more!

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. Well, if you haven’t been living under a rock these past few years, you probably have heard of the Paleo lifestyle, which is this idea that we should look to evolution, and specifically our hunter-gatherer past to inform our health decisions. So, we should look to how our caveman and ancestors aid, how they exercised and how they moved, how they slept, and by doing those things will have optimal health, very popular idea, lots of books, blogs, about how to live Paleo, and the arguments on why it’s been official.

And, our guest today is one of the figures who have – who has done a lot of to popularize, and bring this out to the mainstream, his name is John Durant, he blogs at A few years ago, The New York Times, the peace on him, and other New Yorkers who are living the Paleo lifestyle in the middle of New York City. Steven Colbert; The Colbert Report had him on his show interviewing about he’s hiving like a modern day cavemen in the 21st Century.

Anyways John has come out with the book called The Paleo Manifesto Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health, where he makes the case for the Paleo lifestyle. And, what I find interesting about John’s book, he doesn’t just focus on our hunter-gatherer past, he also makes the arguments there’s things we can learn about how to have optimal health from other stages of human development, for example when we went through the agricultural revolution – he makes the argument there are cultural adaptations that can help us have better health from that time period. And, he also makes the argument, those things from the industrial revolution, and the information age that we can take to look have life on health.

So, it’s just a fascinating read, he doesn’t just folks on howdy like a caveman, he focuses on sort of a holistic view of the Paleo lifestyle or just, you know, using evolution to inform how to make healthy decisions for ourselves. So, it’s an interesting podcast, I think if you are familiar with the Paleo lifestyle you are going to find some new insights you might have never heard of, if you are sort of new to it, never heard of it, I think it’s a great introduction to it, and we are starting point, so stay tuned. All right, John Durant, welcome to the show.

John Durant: Thanks. It’s good to be here.

Brett McKay: All right, so Paleo Manifesto is your book, you published this book in a time when like the market is just saturated with Paleo stuff, there is like Paleo blogs, there is Paleo books, there is like businesses helping you live Paleo lifestyle, you learn how to eat like a cavemen, exercise like a cavemen, I think I’ve even seen an article like how to poop like a cavemen. With all the saturation, how did you differentiate The Paleo Manifesto from all the stuff that’s out there about the Paleo lifestyle?

John Durant: Well, first it’s not a diet book, and a lot of the books out there are either diet books and cook books. And, those are great for what they are. But when I sat down with my agent, and was talking to some publishers, a few of them wanted me to write a diet book and I said, I can’t even read a diet book. So, I can’t spend a year writing one.

So, what really makes a different is I downplay the Paleolithic actually even though it’s in the title The Paleo Manifesto, I spend a lot of time talking about what we can learn from other eras of human history both before the Paleolithic and after it. And, there is a historical element there that I think is missing from a lot of other Paleo books.

Brett McKay: We are going to talk about that more about the different – how you breakdown the different stages of human development. One of the things I loved about The Paleo Manifesto, like you said it’s not a diet book, and you did a great job navigating and answering a lot of the criticisms, the Paleo lifestyle. And, you know, one of them that I’ve heard a lot is that, you know, The Paleo Manifesto, not Paleo Manifesto, but the Paleo lifestyle is like it rest on this logical fallacy of argumentum ad naturam, right, you know, whatever is natural is good, which isn’t true, you know, like cancer is natural, but like we don’t want cancer. And so, I think you addressed that in your book a little bit like that criticism?

John Durant: Yeah. There is the naturalistic fallacy that if something is natural it’s healthy or good or moral, there is also a flipside to that called the moralistic fallacy, which is just because something is moral or desirable doesn’t make it true, doesn’t it make so. So, really what I try to do was look at it through lands of biological realism saying we are trying to understand human nature, how it came to be, what’s relatively fixed about it, and what’s relatively flexible, because there’s some parts of our lifestyle that we can change a lot and it’s not going to have a huge impact on our health or on the rest of our life, but if we are talking about sugar intake, well, yeah, human nature basically means you can’t eat tons of refine sugar and expect not to have health problems.

Brett McKay: All right. So, let’s talk, you know, a little bit more about the stages of human development, because yeah, the books called The Paleo Manifesto, but you talk about the different era of human evolution, and I guess, it would be better to call your books more about and setting your finding inspiration from our ancestors like ancestral health would be – I’ve heard that term throwing around. So, let’s go into there, let’s talk about different stages of human development, and why is it so important not just to look at the Paleolithic era when you are trying to figure out how to optimize your health and your psychology?

John Durant: Yeah. So, when you say stages of human development just for the listeners. I start chronologically even before the Paleolithic what I call the animal age, and that sort of represents our time from our Cambrian explosion, when you start to see lots of different types of animal forms under the fossil record to the beginning of the Paleolithic about 2.6 million years ago.

And, what that era represent is really our commonality with all these other species and another primates and things like that you can learn a lot about human health not even by looking at humans just by looking at other species, and so I go on a trip to Cleveland Zoo to learn how to keep gorillas healthy and captivity, and that introduces an evolutionary approach to say let’s look at the natural habitat of a species and then combine it with modern medical technology, then you get the Paleolithic age, the agricultural age, the industrial age, and the information age, and each one of those chapters has lessons that I draw from our ancestors and the health changes that they faced.

Brett McKay: So, what are some like lessons you can take from say the Paleolithic age?

John Durant: Eating frequency, any health issue you want, it could be sun exposure, temperature eating frequency, movement, anything in biology you want. The best way to understand that is to put aside humans for a moment and just understand among a variety of different animals, an animal species. So, it’s eating frequency you can see, oh, well, gorillas eat all day long, lions eat sporadically every three to four days, we are omnivores, we are in the middle, then you go to the Paleolithic, and you say how did eating frequency evolve in human beings and hominids, you know, pre-humans hominids, okay, well, we are omnivores, and we ate probably a couple few times a day, but not three square meals a day. Well, then you go into the agricultural age and things change then people became farmers they settle down, but it was more recent, it was within the last 10,000 years and this is where you sort of modify your understanding of human nature based on our cultural experience and possibly recent genetic adaptation.

So, if it’s eating frequency then you start to see fasting traditions emerge where you sort of have purposeful appetite loss. And then, in the industrial age that’s where things really go wrong for a lot of folks, we change our habitats and how we live in our lifestyle so much that we don’t have time to adapt either culturally or genetically, this could be eating all day long and having food on demand then you get tons of obesity, and then when you think about the information age where we are now we have the ability to redesign how we live. And so, the change and the information age is to say, okay, given who I am and the life I have today, how do I construct a habitat and an eating frequency based on all this certain information that works for me. So, it’s a little bit long winded, but that’s how I try to incorporate all the different evolutionary history that goes into each one of us.

Brett McKay: You know I thought that was fast, and then you mentioned fasting, sort of an agricultural age adaptation, right? So, we had during the agricultural revolution suddenly humans had food available at all times before in the Paleolithic was a more random, you know, you had that big score with hunting and then you may have gathered a few nuts and berries, right? So, the culture adapted to that new environment we found ourselves in. But you also talked about other cultural responses that happened during the agricultural revolution that pretty much like prevented infectious diseases and you use the examples of ancient Hebrews, you talk a little bit about that, I think it’s just completely it’s just utterly fascinating?

John Durant: Yeah, it’s actually my favorite chapter in the book it’s called Moses the Microbiologist. And, the greatest health challenge that early farmers, early agriculturists faced was infectious disease, they had larger numbers of people and domesticated animals living in close proximity for the first time in early cities, no knowledge of hygiene primitive hygienic technology and infectious disease explodes.

The problem is that germs are invisible and infectious disease is hard to understand how it works, because germs can spread in so many different ways. So, around this time when you start to see these early – some early religions like Judaism, Zoroastrianism where hygiene and purity become very important parts of ritual practice, the notion of cleanliness and sinfulness were pretty much one in the same in traditional Judaism. And, when you actually, you know, a lot of people talk about the bible that heaven or the Torah, but haven’t actually read it.

I went back and read the first five books of the bible the Torah genesis exodus Leviticus numbers and Deuteronomy, and it’s incredible how much discussed plays a role in these asperity quotes, I’m staying away from bodily fluids concerned with any type of sex pretty much making you unclean, staying away from corpses, staying away from insects and vermin, and all these different rules that in retrospect look like an intuitive understanding of the germ theory of disease.

And so, then I found all these papers showing that in the 19th and early 20th Century, Jewish folks tended to have a five to 10 year life expectancy advantage relative to neighboring gentiles primarily due to a lower infectious disease burden. So, there is this, the whole chapter is about how when infectious disease was our greatest emerges or greatest health threat, you had these cultural codes that emerged and responds to help people stay clean, like washing their hands.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I mean, it was completely just fascinating and I think you mentioned how Christianity in some ways took us back a little bit in terms of health, because Christianity got rid of that idea those – it’s the old law, right, it’s the dead law? You know what goes in the body, doesn’t defile?

John Durant: Defile?

Brett McKay: Yeah.

John Durant: Right. Yeah, Jesus it’s in three gospels, he said defilement doesn’t come from without, it comes from within. So, he was saying defilement was a spiritual moral state not a physical state with actual conduct. And, one of the biggest agreements he had with the Pharisees fallacies was over hand washing. Jesus and his followers did not wash their hands before eating, something by the way that pretty much every modern Christian in the developed world at least does or at least we hope we all do it. And, Jesus was saying, you are all obsessed with these rituals, but it’s getting in the way of loving your neighbor.

And so, basically all of these hygiene rule, there are hundreds of them, they are complicated, you have to memorize them all, you have to follow them getting circumcised and not using cookware and dishes that belong to a gentile, contact with other things that are unclean, it makes it very hard to go out and interact with people who don’t believe – use the same thing you do. So, basically Jesus great ambition was, he got rid of the purity code and kept some of the moral beliefs and universalizing.

But basically the sense Christianity into a direction where hygiene and hygienic practices aren’t emphasized and then eventually you get The Black Death where you have Christians dying in large numbers throughout western Europe and people all throughout the world, but then Jewish were observed to be dying in lower rates and were persecuted for this, but observing Jewish would have been washing their hands, staying away from insects and vermin and The Black Death was spread by fleas on rats, protecting their water supply, bathing, washing their clothes and avoiding corpses. So, if you went back in time and had to advice people during The Black Death on what to do, it would look a lot like Orthodox Judaism.

Brett McKay: Yeah, very, very interesting. And so, I’m going to take this to the modern day, because you talked about this little bit in your book as well. So, one of the criticism, I levy this criticism towards like the Paleo people and like CrossFitters is that like for almost – they are like a religion, right? They are very court-like, they got their uniform, the ritual clothing they put on, their compression socks, you know, they talk about their box is sort of like this temple, they are very, you know, for studies about what they eat, all right? And, like the goals to out Paleo, the other guy is sort of like how orthodox choose the – status and that communicate has been more orthodox than the next guy. That’s one of the reasons like they are easy targets, like man, you guys are short of coltish. But, you kind of argue that’s not a bad thing, and maybe this is a cultural responds, a cultural adaptation to our new environment that we live in.

Brett McKay: Well, here is how I see it that we live in the sedentary and obese era in all of human history. And so, we need more fitness cults, it doesn’t just have to be CrossFit and it doesn’t just have to be Paleo, but boy, we can use a lot more fitness cults, because I don’t know if you walk around outside lately, but the country needs it, we all need it, I need it.

And, it’s a really interesting comparison and it speaks to the power of virtual, and habit making, and that ritual having a functional health benefit. I mean, if you go back to Judaism or other early Christianity and there were a set of actions that you were supposed to take that would have functional benefits in your life. In Christianity, this is often referred to as a prosperity gospel, in Judaism, the notion of everyday actions and cleanliness which we just talked about would have provided the huge health benefit. And, different times call for different measures.

And, now the challenge is motivating people on a regular basis to move and to eat relatively healthy. And, you know, so ritual community, are really important aspects of that, and cheese, that sounds a heck a lot of like privilege.

Brett McKay: Yeah. It really does – because it’s you foam your identity around it, right? Like people, you know, it’s not just CrossFit or, you know, Paleo, but like vegetarianism which you talked about that’s like a new identity, right, they treated like a religion almost like or like…

John Durant: Or almost they do.

Brett McKay: Yeah. We’ll talk about that or like, you know, the whole food like what’s it called bio, there is like a word for it, I forgot, I can’t remember or like raw food, right, and still like cook your food, yeah, it’s like food and like your fitness is like the new religion in our kind of secular age, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.

John Durant: You have to be careful that you don’t head off in a goofy direction and you don’t enter the Paleo Eco Chamber or Paleo Bubble or the Vegan Bubble and you still have sort of some feedback with people who disagree with you.

Brett McKay: Yeah.

John Durant: But, yeah, I think the similarities are right there and in terms of identity I sort of think of identity as if there are people getting the tattoo of it it’s not meaningful to a lot of people, like nobody – I dare you to show me a picture of one person who has a south beach diet tattoo on the body.

Brett McKay: Probably not.

John Durant: Right? But vegans you’ll see, vegan tattoos, there are CrossFit tattoos or even some Paleo tattoos, I’m not recommending people to go out and get any one of those tattoos or when you start to see the tattoos cropping up, you are like, oh, people identify with this, because they want to tell the world that’s so important to them that they’ll permanently put it on their skin to broadcast it to the world that it matters to them.

Brett McKay: All right. Let’s go off into a direction, because you’ve touched on this in the book, but people often are either very of talking about it or they’re just not interested in it. I have known from reading your blog hunter-gatherer, you talked about masculinity and like, you know, incorporating how our ancestral past affected gender, and how can we corporate those things into today’s world? So, the first thing I want to talk about is violence, okay? It’s a very masculine thing, right? Study show that men tend to be more violent than women, and it’s funny when you read like the Paleo blogs, the Paleo books like they always fail to mention violence, because and the thing is those are big part of human history in the Paleolithic, the agricultural, the industrial like, I mean, you are more likely to be murdered than die, you know, a peaceful death. So, what role do you think should violence play in a Paleo life or should it, even is that one of those things maybe like it’s natural, but it’s not good, are there ways to incorporate violence into a Paleo lifestyle, a modern Paleo lifestyle?

John Durant: It’s a great question. There actually was a presentation on this topic by Tecromax actually at a conference a few years ago. And, one of the points he made is that with the rise of mixed martial arts and MMA, for example found the people officers who are trained in a martial art are less likely to misfire their weapon or have something escalate to gunfire that went there now. So, basically somebody who feels confident in their own ability to defend themselves just simply through physical combat is – feels less need to resort to say using a gun or something like that.

So, I actually think there are a lot of instances where learning a martial art can be incredibly beneficial. The theme, if you look at all the – a lot of the great movies of in martial arts, there is a very simple theme to a lot of them which is you have a young male, a boy, a young man with lots of raw talent, physical strength, natural ability. But his problem is that he doesn’t know how to control his own strength and he lets his emotions, he is hardheaded, he lets his emotions, you know, take a hold of him. And, you know, the teaching of the wiser sensei is discipline and self control.

And, that’s what a lot of people don’t realize about martial arts and other forms of sort of ritualize violence or practice violence is ultimately it teaches you how to control yourself better, not to be a wild shoot from the hip type. So, I think that’s very beneficial, but even, just look at the rise of just, I mean, sports is most men’s exposure to ritualize warfare, tribal warfare one side where is red, one side where is blue faced paints and they pretend to kill each other. And so, you know, I do think the rise of CrossFit has benefited from basically creating a sport like atmosphere in the gym, in the boxes as they call it. So, I think it’s incredibly important for men to lift heavy stuff, learn martial arts, get into physical, you know, some sort of grappling or wrestling, and that actually makes you more in control of yourself rather than less.

Brett McKay: So, one thing you talked about as well that we’ve known from historical records that there was a – there’s been a division of labor, right, amongst men and women, and the Paleolithic men were the hunters and women primarily gathered?

John Durant: Right.

Brett McKay: And, you talked about your first hunt in the book, besides you know, getting a lean source of wild game or protein, was there a psychological benefit to your hunt?

John Durant: Oh sure absolutely. And, I’m not the first person to write about this. So, I don’t want to oversell my own experience. But I learned some guns, I had shot guns before, but I took a gun safety course and learned, participated and demonstration of how to feel dressed deer and then I joined, the biggest challenge is finding other hunters to go with, because it’s real hard if it’s your first time to just go out into the woods you know what to do.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I’ve been trying to like go hunting like for the past three years and it’s hard, because like no one does it anymore.

John Durant: And, it’s an informal tradition typically passed on from man to man and family, and extended family. And, if you don’t, you know, my father and either my grandfathers were hunters, and so I never learned it even though I’m from Michigan and tons of people hunted Michigan. So, I basically surrogate uncles and cousins and things like that, and family friend invited me to go off to a place called deer camp and it was about 15 guys that have been getting to the other for decades and I joined in their tradition and they just, you know, informally taught me everything I need to know, I shot a deer, it was – not a trophy, it was a male yearling, so I basically shot Bambi. All the guys teased me when I got Bambi back to the barn and we were butchering it, you know, oh that’s a nice dog you shot there. But what I thought is actual natural predators target the sickly, the young and the sickly. So, I was just being the natural predator.

Brett McKay: Yeah, you are harnessing your inner cavemen, right?

John Durant: That’s right. So, when you kill something yourself, this sounds a little more bit to say, but if people grow food themselves, if you grow herbs yourself, the food just tastes better if you cook it yourself, it just tastes better, it sounds more, but if you kill something yourself, it tastes better, it’s a more meaningful meal. And, with hunting, when you kill something that big, most people are not going to just stick it on their freezer and just eat it themselves, you share it with other people and that is a great feeling particularly if there is a woman there that you like and you are like, here are some meats and she’s like hubba-hubba.

Brett McKay: Yeah, the strong provider.

John Durant: And, it will never go out of style.

Brett McKay: Never will. So, you talked about those kind of related to hunting, so you talked about vegetarianism and why more women typically are vegetarians. Can you talk a little bit about that and generally men like to eat meat, I know that’s not the case for everybody, before people will like say, oh I’m a man and I eat meat or I’m a women and I eat, generally women tend to be more women tend to be vegetarians than men, why is that?

John Durant: So, I think it has to do with three things. First is, women do tend to have more empathy for other living things. And, this is just an overwhelming affect when you look at survey data and things like that. And so, when it comes to things like whether we should use animals for medical testing, men are pretty gung-ho on it and women tend to – tend not so much. So, they tend to be more pathetic.

The second thing that plays a big role which I think is underappreciated is that women tend to have a more sensitive discussed reflex than men do, usually this has been described as having “weak stomach” which is an inaccurate way to describe it, it’s more like a discriminating taste or discussed reflex evolved as an intuitive microbiology to keep us away from potential versus of infection, bodily fluids, rotting flesh, corpses, things that smell bad which are usually rotting. And, women in the past either would have been pregnant or nursing or carrying a small child for most of their adult life.

And so, it would have been a paramount importance to avoid infection, because pregnant women and small children are particularly prone to infection. So, women from an evolutionary standpoint it made a lot of sense for them to get – essentially get roast out easily. So, you are more likely to have a woman the empathic towards a Bambi. And then, somebody sees a video of what actually goes on in a factor farm or read the book like Skinny Bitch, which is filled with triggers of discussed things like thesis or infection or bacteria or blood or corpses and triggers the discussed reflex.

And, this can make meat rocks faster than plans, and so our discussed reflex can get triggered by meat. And so, that makes can be harness to make all meat viscerally revolting. And, this is why for example a lot of vegans and vegetarians. For example don’t eat oysters, even though oysters don’t have much of a nervous system to speak off and are environmentally friendly, you know, they are very nutritious, they are slimy and gross, they resemble meat too much. And so, even though it makes sense and sort of like a logical level the discussed it can’t get pass the discussed reflux very easily.

Brett McKay: Very interesting.

John Durant: And then, really briefly the sort of the third step and the process is our discussed reflux is very closely tied to ideology and morality, probably through a lot of the religious staff I described around the agricultural age in that, it was avoiding infection outsiders, people with now pathogens, certain types of sexual behaviors, things like that were closely tied to religious and ideologically believes. So, you start to see eating meat as this black and white sort of yes or no type thing, where there are not a lot of shades of grey. So, empathy discussed ideology and you end up with lot of vegetarians and high proportion of them who are women.

Brett McKay: Fascinating stuff. Let’s talk about, I think it’s an interesting point you made. So, in hunter-gatherer society, men did the hunting, women did the gathering, right?

John Durant: Right.

Brett McKay: And then, the agricultural, and for the most part, yeah, there was a hierarchy men were sort of the leaders, but you know, some people would argue that it was – there really wasn’t a patriarchy so to speak of that as we know that, you know, people would argue we have today. But then the agricultural revolution happened. And, you had this surplus of food, you know, we didn’t had to worry about hunting anymore, how did that affect gender?

John Durant: It’s complicated.

Brett McKay: It is complicated.

John Durant: We don’t know particularly for the earliest parts of the Paleolithic it’s not exactly clear word, the sexual dynamics were since we, you know, we can only compare to other primates and they don’t tell us too much. So, what we basically know is that agricultural societies became very hierarchical, the people at the top are men almost exclusively and there were lot of restrictions on female sexuality, a lot of restrictions on sexuality overall, both men and women, but definitely more on female sexuality. And, women having, you know, fewer rights than men.

What I would point out here though is that even in agricultural society, there were a lot of men on the bottom, there were a lot of men without women who were, you know, drafted into – conscripted into militaries, forced to fight, you know, and if they fled they would be killed by their superior officers, dying of disease in military camps going, you know, marching, fighting land wars in Asia that’s not fun or…

Brett McKay: Yeah, men are disposable?

John Durant: That’s right.

Brett McKay: You only need one man to impregnate, you know, a whole bunch of women?

John Durant: Thank you, Genghis Khan.

Brett McKay: Yeah.

John Durant: So, do you know I heard this question the other day, we know that one man impregnate far more women than any woman can bear children, but do you know which woman and Genghis Khan is the top of that, but which woman has just as many descendants as Genghis Khan?

Brett McKay: I have no idea.

John Durant: His mother.

Brett McKay: That’s good right there, it’s a good like bar question.

John Durant: I’m sure she was very proud of those.

Brett McKay: Oh yeah, I’m sure she was. Yeah, that’s a great point that men for most of human history have been at the bottom. And, there is a select few men who actually enjoyed the fruits of whatever hierarchy they had?

John Durant: Right. And, yeah, everybody always looks up that the guys who had the best and there is no question that the men at the top had the best and their relatives and they landed interest in the nobles and things like that. But, you know, when you have a pyramid structure you have a huge, huge base of people at the bottom both men and women, but men would, you know, be conscripted into militaries and treated as disposable and, you know, being out farming is backbreaking labor and it’s not fun at all.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting too, you know, I felt about book I was reading this and it was about a modern day hunter-gatherer society, right, those still exists. And, it’s interesting to see the difference between a hunter-gatherer society and an agricultural society and like the hunter-gatherer is like farming is like women’s work like they would just hunt, you know, when you told them that, oh yeah, in our country, in our culture men do the farming and they think like that is the most ridiculous, that is the most unmanly thing in the world and it’s funny that like basically – if you went back to hunter-gatherers like the best life and I think you mentioned in the book would be like just kind of hanging out all day hunting every now and then and like letting the women do most of the work?

John Durant: Yeah, it’s sort of funny, I mean, if you can say there is a typical hunter-gatherer Paleolithic lifestyle, the man spends his day making weapons, eating, napping, barbecuing ribs, hunting big game, having sex, and raiding other villages, which sounds pretty fun to me, I don’t know about you. But ribs and hunting and sex and violence, no, but, I mean, I’m joking a little bit. But some of these hunter-gatherer tribes from what we can tell from anthropologist they are not, they are not these idyllic places where the sexes are perfectly equal, you still tend to see the top men dominate women and dominate everybody else in these tribes, but they do tend to be more egalitarian and where more possessions are shared and there isn’t as much hierarchy.

Brett McKay: Yeah, it’s fascinating stuff. Here is a question I have, and I know this is kind of going into dark water and it’s a place where people, you know, it’s a lot of handwringing. So, just, okay, you know, looking from ancestral health point of view, how does that affect relations between the sexes? Because I know there are a lot of guys and they’re like the pickup artist community who, you know, they love to use evolutionary psychology as, you know, to support their techniques on seducing and picking up women. Should we use our ancestral past to guide our romantic relationships?

John Durant: Well, if evolution can inform any aspect of our lives. So, forget the pickup artist community, we can learn a lot about digestion and sexuality from looking at human evolution, you just have to do a good job of it. When you think about women in dating, they do take advantage of a lot of tips essentially from our revolutionary past, it could be using different types of makeup or eye shadow to indicate use or pushup bra to indicate use or high heels to accentuate the, you know, butt and the breast, and the shape of the body.

So, I think both sexes have been sort of intuitively doing this for a long time. The thing with men is that – male sexuality is fairly particularly for short term hookups is fairly straightforward, men can get turned on, not even just by nudity, but by inexpensive ankle, right, I’m ready to go, like you show me the right women’s ankle and I am, you know, the steam I had right? And, some women sometimes are like that in the right circumstances, but a lot require sort of more displays of status or intelligence or humor or resources or physical strength or kindness, you know, this broader sweet of traits, they are little bit more complicated and a little bit more difficult to just sort of figure out if you are the average guy.

So, what I do think can be beneficial about some of the pickups stuff is you basically have a bunch of guys out there who are experimenting on themselves, trying to figure out what attracts women, where I think you can get off the rails a little bit is when it only focuses on short term stuff and clubs, you know, like I don’t, I rarely go to clubs, I occasionally end up there, but I’m not like gun in to like get some lines for the girls of the clubs, but I’ve learned some things like, here is something that’s so simple, but it took me until my 20s to realize it.

Prior to this, I was not unsuccessful with women, I was successful with women, but even in New York something is simple as, okay, if you’ve gotten someone’s number and you’re going to go out to drinks or have dinner or something, it’s okay for the guy to just pick a place and say here is – place, here is the time does this work. And, just assert it and then confirm that it’s okay. I used to spend back and forth on the phone and over email, what type of cuisine and what neighborhood and what price range, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, basically looking to her affirmation about what the choice should be and it never ended it just kept going back and forth and back and forth.

And, once I basically said, oh, wait a second; a lot of women prefer assertiveness in men. And so, I would assert something, but women are adults, right, and adults if I choose a place that is inconvenient or incorrect time or she is allergic to everything in the restaurant, she’s an adult she can say actually that doesn’t work, how about this? So, I think there are things like that where it can be totally helpful and healthy.

Brett McKay: Yeah. Get inspiration, not inspiration, I guess learn from our ancestral past, learn evolution, but like don’t go bonkers with it.

John Durant: And, same with food, just I’m not trying to go live in the wild, I’m not trying to go mimic everything about how they used to be and I don’t even know how everything used to be. What I do know is that I can borrow, you know, certain key tips and tricks and integrated into my life today with my modern goal and I do that with the female stuff too, it’s like, okay, you know, for a lot of guys it boils down to first and foremost the confidence or live a life where you have reason to be confident and/or confident, be physically fit, be productive and excel in whatever you do, and you know, live a life where you have interesting stories and tell them in humorous ways and have good friendships with other people who are doing the same thing, you know, sometimes I think people are overcomplicated.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I think you are right, I mean, I think they overcomplicate, you know, not only like the relationship thing, but like Paleo, you know, overcomplicated, I think, yeah, just take it easy, right?

John Durant: Right.

Brett McKay: I think it’s the best philosophy for you to go. Let’s talk about this, how long have you been doing these whole Paleo things? I remember watching you on The Colbert Report while back, so how long has it been since you’ve been doing this?

John Durant: So, I actually started going Paleo in September of 2006, so it’s been a little over seven years. And, I mean, that’s a wild and I’ve done it with variant degrees of quote strictness and different regiments and, you know, things, 80%, 100%, 75%. So, there is been some variation, but yeah, about seven years.

Brett McKay: And, how has it made you a better man overall?

John Durant: Well, the first thing is that a lot of it was mood and confidence level, I would spike and crash a lot at my first desk job, and even before that I went through a breakup in college where my mood was all over the place, and I got too little sleep and had been drinking heavily the night before, it was like the world was coming to an end, and if I got enough sleep and exercise it wasn’t such a big deal and it just blew my mind that my outlook and relationship could be so influenced by what I had for lunch or whether I was physically healthy or not. So, a large part of it was basically by making my body healthy, I became a – my mind became my confidence became more even and higher and basically a sort of even doubt and became more solid I think.

Brett McKay: That’s awesome. Our time is coming to an end. I mean, we could talk, I mean, there is so much to talk about. But last question, I always like to leave off with some sort of like practical stuff that guys can do right now. So, in your opinion what are like two or three things that a guy can do today who is listening to this podcast that they can do today starting cooperating a Paleo lifestyle that will have most pay off?

John Durant: Well, with in terms of diet, the big thing is trying to avoid grains for a period of time. So, take a month, diary, a lot of people remove diary, some people had a backend, there is more disagreement. But, if you want to try it, try it for a month, see how you do. Intermittent fasting is another great thing to try, it also raises your testosterone levels and so going periods of 18 to 24 hours every week or two and just have some water, some tea or something like that is really beneficial, lifting heavy, you know, no surprise there, but lifting heavy is good for testosterone and makes you feel strong and confident afterwards. I love cold exposure, initially I hated and the idea of cold shower or jumping, you know, into the ocean in the winter or a cold pool or something like that was completely off-putting, but I love alternating between a sauna or steam room and doing some cold exposure that also raises yours testosterone.

So, really starting to get in touch with the wild animal inside of you, right? Just men in particular – I mean, we have evolved to move, we have evolved to fight and we have evolved to roughhouse, you know, as boys and we have to respect that, we don’t have to let it become violence in the way that it did before, but sitting on the couch is not a solution with their hands tied behind their back, growing fat and obese. So, get in touch with your inner animal.

Brett McKay: I love it. Well, John Durant, thank you so much for your time. It’s a fascinating discussion.

John Durant: Thanks, Brett. I had fun.

Brett McKay: Our guess today was John Durant. John is the author of The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health. And, you can find that on And, you can also follow John at where he blogs about the Paleo lifestyle, interesting, interesting stuff. I recommend you to check it out. Well, that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at And, until next time stay manly.

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