About Humans Are Not Broken, Latest in Paleo, Angelo Coppola
Who is Angelo Coppola? What is Paleo? Is Paleo About Emulating the Past? What is Latest in Paleo? What does Humans are not Broken mean? What have you learned since going Paleo? What do you eat? My Weightloss story?
- I’m your host here at Humans Are Not Broken.
- I’m also the host of Latest in Paleo – since 2010, this has been a popular alternative health podcast. It’s the nutrient dense paleo podcast covering health news and insights informed by an ancestral perspective.
- I’m a husband to Amy and I’m a father to four beautiful daughters with a range of ages spanning 16 years. My youngest, Lucy Namasté, was a preemie born nearly 3 months early — all signs point to perfect health today.
- I walk. I hike. I play. I work. These are my “workouts.” We are what we do.
- I love being in nature, interacting with animals, and getting my hands dirty in the soil. I also love to make things.
- Professionally, I was in B2B marketing for 20 years; Vice President of Marketing for two software companies. I’ve left the field, however, and I am seeking a life that is more in alignment with my values today. Time is life, not money.
- I am becoming what some would call a minimalist, believing that life is richer through subtraction of external things rather than accumulation. But I still have too much junk.
- My philosophy can be summed up in the phrase, Human beings are not broken, by default.
- I was born in the Northeast (Massachusetts), lived most of my life in the Southwest (Arizona), and I now make my home in the Pacific Northwest (Washington State).
- I am a man who is a work in progress, and I like to share what I learn, think, and do. I am not committed to being consistent for the sake of consistency. Neither is evolution / nature.
- To me, Paleo means Humans are not Broken, by default (see below).
- To the media and many others, Paleo is Loren Cordain’s trademarked The Paleo DietTM: lean meat, no dairy, no alcohol, no starch, etc. For what it’s worth, I think his diet is orders of magnitude superior to the Standard American Diet. It is not, however, the diet that I practice, nor is it the Paleo diet practiced by most people who label their eating under a Paleo umbrella.
- Robb Wolf is a leading thinker and advocate of Paleo, and this is what he says. Mark Sisson offers a Primal spin and Chris Kresser suggests moving to a Paleo Template. The Whole 9 offers practical implementation advice, which can be a great starting point.
- Paul Jaminet says his Perfect Health Diet (PHD) is more Paleo than The Paleo DietTM and many other implementations of Paleo. By this, he means that his diet more closely emulates what most people ate during the Paleolithic period. This is the Paleo-esque diet that most closely resembles my own. However, my approach includes legumes, more vegetables, occasional grains, and less meat and starch than the PHD.
- Many people who consider themselves to be Paleo eaters eventually start to eat a diet that resembles the diet advocated by the Weston A. Price Foundation…usually everything except for the grains and legumes with some variance on partaking in dairy.
- When Paleo becomes a dogmatic system of do’s and don’ts, it is natural for people to push the limits of those rules. As such, many recipe websites and apps have come to feature calorie dense foods that are not particularly nutritious. These can include desserts, dips, snacks, and even entire meals…just about anything. While the foods themselves can be perfectly fine when eaten occasionally, and are fantastic to prepare for special events — they can also derail certain health goals like weight loss when eaten regularly. I wrote about this in an article called You Might be Getting Too Good at Paleo. I recommend Eating Dinners, Not Menus — deeply enjoying real food and not obsessing about the rules once you find yourself seated at the dinner table.
- Sometimes, I refer to Paleo as PaleoTM — this doesn’t refer to Cordain’s diet (which is The Paleo DietTM), but rather a form of Paleo that is blatantly commercial, uninformed, and that is designed to benefit the propagators rather than the readers / users / followers.
- A popular mantra in the Paleo community is: Paleo is not an historical reenactment, but rather it is a logical framework. I agree with this insofar as it rejects the dogmatism of “If Paleo man did it, I should do it.” However, epidemiological studies and research tell us that cooked legumes are healthful and promote longevity as well as a happy gut microbiome, yet most Paleo eaters avoid them. This may tell us reenactment carries at least some weight with Paleo eaters and thinkers. The phytate argument may be incomplete. Many Paleo “approved” foods contain phytates and lectins; they are not unique to legumes.
- I believe biomimicry (nature mimicry, reenactment, etc.) is a valid starting point for hypothesis formation and experimentation. See my post, On Paleo Reenanctment. Forming a hypothesis based on observations and experiences of nature is in no way a naturalistic fallacy.
- I suggest listening to Latest in Paleo Episode 76: The Yoga of Eating with Charles Eisenstein. In this episode, we discuss emulating the motivation of Paleolithic man, and not simply the content of their diets.
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.”
— Matsuo Basho
Latest in Paleo is the podcast I created, produce, and host, and is distributed by the 5by5 Broadcasting Network. Here it is on iTunes. I think of it as being at the intersection of scientific evidence and evolutionary clues left to us by our ancestors.
Paleo is a unique approach to nutrition and fitness — and I think it’s fair to say Latest in Paleo is a unique approach to podcasting.
It’s here to help keep you:
- entertained and mentally stimulated;
- excited about the value of your own health;
- aware of the nutritional misinformation, lies, and manipulative advertising that are spread in the media;
- informed about the latest health news, along with my commentary.
I’m humbled by all of the kind things people have said about the show, like this:
About the same time I started doing Paleo, Angelo Coppola began producing his Latest in Paleo podcast. This well-made show examines current news stories regarding health, diet, and fitness. It’s one of my favorite podcasts, and I listen to it as soon as it shows up on my player.
The show has two formats. One, I call “news and views” and the other is an interview format. When people ask me where they should start, I usually say Episode 1. The shownotes include a TON of reference links, and can help you decide which episodes you’d like to listen to. However, the shownotes never tell the whole story.
- Human beings are a natural part of the world, and like all animals, we can be nourished and lead fulfilling lives in our natural setting. We are not separate from nature.
- We benefit greatly from providing ourselves with our basic human needs. These include (but are not limited to): nourishing food, sleep, sunshine and time in nature, physical activity, meaningful work, creative expression, time with our loved ones, freedom, etc.
- Marketing and advertising are often designed to make us feel inadequate, incomplete, incapable and unhappy until we buy PRODUCT X! Doing what’s right for profitability is not always the same as doing what is right for human beings. Make no mistake, this includes much of the marketing in the now-mainstream Paleo community, too.
- We are the heirs of millions of years of evolutionary wisdom, which includes intuition that can guide us to make the right choices about food and lifestyle. Doing this effectively may require quite a lot of unlearning.
- Our bodies and our minds are not enemies to be conquered.
- Any system that starts with a premise of “fixing people” is dangerous.
- It DOES NOT mean: People never get sick, are never handicapped, never have disease, nor that we can never benefit from using technology or modern medicine, etc. Quite the contrary. But, it is at these times, arguably, that it is most important to remember that human beings are not broken — to make sure we have the basics covered before more extreme interventions are applied.
- The cure is not necessarily the cause. I.e. if aspirin makes your headache go away, it doesn’t mean your headache was caused by lack of aspirin. The same thing applies to carbohydrates, fish oil, sugar, fat, and any number of other foods and nutrients. Once health is regained, the cure may no longer be needed.
- There is rarely one cause. Today, most of us lead extremely busy, domesticated, artificially stressful, artificially sanitized lives. We outsource nearly all aspects of our survival needs from food production to raising our children. We sit a lot — and perhaps worse still, we find ourselves doing meaningless tasks while we sit. We are conditioned to believe that the things we are passionate about are merely distractions. We are also conditioned to feel a constant sense of urgency and deadlines — ambient anxiety. Our health is further affected by abuse of all kinds: drugs, lack of real food, overeating, disease, distressed microbiomes, breathing polluted or stagnant air, chronic exposure to novel chemicals, and so much more. Cutting carbs or eating more kale cannot address all of these things — cure-all’s are direct sales pitches or parroted sales pitches.
- Optimal diets change with phases of health and aging. Just as children start with breast milk and eventually move on to solid foods, I have come to believe that our food needs continue to change over time. Does a wise, old grandparent need the same food as a hunter, protector, and reproducing member of the group? Probably not. Does a sedentary, male office worker require the same diet as a female athlete? You decide.
- We can be healthy without obsessing about health. Arguably, it is unhealthy to constantly think about health in everything that we do. The goal should be to integrate what we learn into our lives in such a way that we are nourished, stimulated, active, and happy without constantly thinking about or worrying about health choices.
- The solution should not be part of a person’s ‘brand.‘ When Low-carb, low-fat, HIIT, no cardio, Zone, or even Paleo becomes part of a person’s very identity, he becomes closed to learning. When all you have is a hammer, all problems start to look like nails. Dangerously, the one-size-fits-all approach denies the near infinite variables associated with any given person at any given time. I have also found that people who are married to a given solution are fantastic at tearing apart information or studies that are in disagreement, and yet give a free pass to sloppy thinking and research with which they happen to agree. We must all be careful of this tendency.
- The dose makes the poison, or learn your U-curve. When I exercise regularly, I feel much better in all areas of my life. When I exercise too little, I feel fatigued and less happy. When I’ve exercised too much in the past, I’ve felt fatigued and I have injured myself. Find your sweet-spot in everything.
- The misses are as important as the hits…perhaps more important. Published drug studies, personal testimonials, even our own memories can be heavily biased toward the successes. In the case of drug trials, the misses can be deliberately hidden (i.e. unpublished). So even when available research points to a certain conclusion, we have to ask: What are the potential unknowns?
- Never confuse the certainty of the messenger with the validity of the message. Bertrand Russell once said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
- Trusting and listening to ourselves is crucial. Are human beings equipped with the ability to sense (physically and mentally) what it is that we truly need? I believe the answer to this is yes. I also believe that this takes quite a bit of experimentation, open-mindedness, and unlearning of conventional wisdom (and some of it runs extremely deeply into the fabric of our consciousness). Some may call this woo, but life and the Universe is full of mystery.
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead — his eyes are closed.”
— Albert Einstein
I believe people pass through phases of health and aging that demand different diets. Right now, as a healthy man of 41 years old, I eat:
- Lots of colorful cooked vegetables, but mostly green. I’ve started focusing dinners on vegetable dishes, and incorporating small portions of meat and/or starch as side dishes to help ensure that I’m eating as much plant food as I want to be eating. The nutrients and phytochemicals in plant foods are possibly under-valued a bit in the Paleo community. Even their so-called “anti-nutrients” may be quite beneficial to us.
- A large salad almost every day. In addition to leafy greens, I’ll throw in just about any vegetables we have on hand, plus fruit, nuts, seeds, etc. And I now make dressings with no oil. This typically involves blending together fruit, vinegar, seeds, nuts, and spices.
- Soups made from bone or vegetable broth.
- I eat mushrooms almost daily, and a wide variety of them.
- A handful of nuts almost daily. My favorites are pecans, walnuts, and almonds. Instead of snacking on them, I try to eat them with vegetables to ensure I’m getting enough fat to benefit from the nutrients in the plants.
- Legumes, several times a week. The phytate argument for avoiding legumes is shaky, especially when considering the epidemiological research and this study. In fact, if there is one thing that I currently believe Paleo, PaleoTM, and The Paleo DietTM all have wrong, it’s their positions on legumes. While a bio-chemical, logical case can be made for avoiding them, it requires completely ignoring epidemiological research and population-level data that consistently associates legume consumption with good health outcomes and longevity.
- Parboiled Rice and/or cooled and reheated potatoes almost daily, maybe 1 or 2 cups total — First of all, parboiled rice has a low glycemic index (just 38). I also nearly always accompany starches with acetic acid (various vinegars), which further reduces glycemic impact. But most importantly, parboiled rice and cooled/reheated potatoes are loaded with Resistant Starch that feeds the gut bacteria deep in the digestive system. Studies show many health benefits from adding foods with resistant starch / resistant fiber to the diet.
- A few eggs per week, usually cooked whole. Everyone on earth should know how to make these scrambled eggs. Also, simply placing an over-easy egg atop other foods is almost always a winning flavor combination.
- Small portions of meat (beef, chicken, pork, game) a couple of times a week.
- A small portion of liver or other organ meats a couple of times a week.
- Sardines or salmon (and sometimes other other fish) a couple of times a week. Sometimes, I use the sardines to make quick sushi roll (Nori sheet, sardines, parboiled rice, a splash of apple cider vinegar, spicy mustard, and/or hot sauce).
- Lots of herbs and spices to make everything delicious and even more nourishing.
- Beverages: I drink one to two cups of coffee most mornings. At other times of the day, I enjoy black, green, and herbal teas. Sometimes I make homemade tea from boiled ginger & lemon. Carbonated and flat water daily. Like anything, all of these can be good and bad; the poison is in the dose. While coffee is especially loved in the Paleo community, I don’t think it’s a good idea to drink it excessively. I think “Bulletproof Coffee” is way over-hyped, lacks any real ancestral equivalent, is currently under-studied, and could even be harmful if consumed excessively. My personal preference is to get those calories from nutrient dense meals and foods. Previously, I was big into home-brewing kombucha, but I find that I don’t need or want as much anymore. I now consume it once or twice a week.
- Occasionally or on special occasions: dairy, alcohol, sugar, ice cream (salty caramel, dark chocolate, and lemon gelatos are my favorites!), honey, dark chocolate, Paleo desserts. I don’t consider these foods ‘cheats’ — they each have good qualities and are an occasional part of my overall nutrient-rich diet.
It’s impossible to list everything I eat, but the above list provides a pretty good picture. I love to prepare these foods with Asian and Mediterranean methods. Here is our Paleo Pho recipe, for example.
- I don’t like eating out much, but when I do:
- Fast food: salads or salad bars are commonly available.
- Restaurants: I love all ethnic foods…Indian, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Mediterranean, Ethiopian, Thai, and Vietnamese are among my favorites. I can usually find something to eat on any menu, as long as I accept that I probably won’t find a dish prepared with what I consider to be proper cooking oils. Since I eat out rarely, I don’t stress out about it when I do.
- I avoid: big-chain restaurants when I can.
- I usually eat my first meal at around 11 a.m. and practice intermittent fasting. This comes naturally to me and is not a struggle. If I’m hungry in the early morning, I’ll eat. I like to make the most of leftovers added to several handfuls of lightly sauteed mixed vegetables.
- I almost never snack. I eat meals that are big enough to hold me over until the next meal or the next day. When I grab “seconds” it’s almost always vegetables — which are relatively low-calorie and bulky. I think this is a huge part of staying lean for me. I don’t do this to stay lean, though. I truly feel better when I don’t snack, and so I rarely get snacking urges anymore, like I used to. Just as sleep is important, “down time” between meals is important, too. If I do snack, I typically prefer fruit.
- We most often cook with and use olive oil. Additionally, we use homemade tallow from grass-fed beef, lard / bacon grease, coconut oill, butter, and ghee. I hesitate to add much fat to foods.
- I do not count calories, carbs, protein, fat, or anything else.
- For new recipe ideas, my wife and I are big fans of America’s Test Kitchen. Our subscription to their service gives us access to a tremendous number of top-notch recipes along with excellent and entertaining videos. More often than not we make minor substitutions to make the recipes fit with our eating style.
In August of 2009, I found myself in one of those moments that non-trivially changes the course of the rest of one’s life. I was at an all-time high: my 6-foot body weighed 245 lbs.. And, I was also at an all-time low. Sure, I was able to navigate through everyday life, I had a wonderful family, and it was pretty easy to see my cup as half-full — but I was not treating my body well.
This phrase, “my body,” is a little strange, isn’t it? It implies that our bodies are something separate from ourselves. In some ways, perhaps this is true. But in matters of practicality, there is nothing that separates our bodies from who and what we are. Not taking care of our bodies is the same thing as not taking care of ourselves as human beings.
I was letting myself down, because I was unable to enjoy life properly.
“…what a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” — Socrates
Some of these photos are embarrassing, and I never imagined that I would post them in a public place, but I’m doing so, because it’s the only way to convey where I started. This was my body composition. Whatever it was that I was doing — however it was that I was taking care of myself — this was the manifestation.
I realize I was not morbidly obese, but having been overweight and plain-old obese for nearly my entire life, it definitely took a toll on my physical and mental health.
What did I do about it?
When my body looked like the pictures above, you can bet a lot of things were out of whack. What I was eating, how much, how much sun I was getting, my sleep quality, what I was doing for fitness (rather, what I wasn’t doing) and so on. Based on my current knowledge, I can tell you that I was way off base. But, based on the conventional wisdom, I was just eating a bit too much and not moving enough. That was part of the story.
I attacked this problem with calorie restriction. I used an app on my phone to track calories, and I started walking a couple of miles every night. It worked really well! At first…
The weight did start to come off, but at the point where I was eating 1500 calories a day and not really paying attention to nutrient density…I was starving myself. I constantly thought about food. Even though I was healthier and I looked better, I found myself in a new kind of hell.
I was doing things by the book and still motivated by the end of the journey — a distant goal.
I was hungry all of the time, and I had just messed up my knee, too. The walking had turned into running, and I was trying to do too much, too fast. It was all catching up with me.
Then, I heard a podcast featuring Mark Sisson (here, and I eventually interviewed Mark Sisson on Latest in Paleo). He talked about primal, evolutionary health. It sounded like he was leaning low-carb, which was actually a turn-off, because I had already given low-carb a whirl in the 90’s. I was also somewhat familiar with the Paleolithic Diet, because I had read Neanderthin by Ray Audette, Protein Power by the Drs. Eades, and The Paleolithic Prescription by Dr. S. Boyd Eaton — also in the 90’s — and that’s the part really intrigued me.
The rest of the story…
First, the ‘After’ pictures:
At a time when I was very close to trying vegetarianism again (in order to start eating more bulk while maintaining calorie restriction and to kickstart my weight loss), Sisson’s message resonated with me and reignited my interest in an evolutionary approach to health. I was fired up.
I am happy to say that I switched to a Paleo & Weston A. Price approach to diet and I started to feel healthier, stronger, and even happier. My eating style has evolved over time (see above).
A Word to Potential Advertisers & Sponsors
In the past, I have turned down nearly all advertisers who have approached me, because I simply do not believe in their products and services. My work has been mostly listener- and reader-support (via my Amazon Affiliate Link).
You won’t see Google Adwords selling donuts on these pages.
My integrity and my reputation with my audience means everything to me; I simply will not peddle junk. If you are selling an e-book for some ridiculously high price with a 75% commission, a toilet stool for 80 bucks, or miracle supplements…I’m not interested.
However, if you create a high-quality product or service that you actually care about, and you’re also interested in sponsoring my work on Latest in Paleo and HumansAreNotBroken.com, I will happily take a look. Contact me.