Vlad Averbukh says he’ll need a napkin at lunch. “It could be bloody.” What he doesn’t require is a fork.
A follower of America’s “paleo diet,” or simply “the caveman lifestyle,” New Yorker Averbukh does things the old-fashioned way.
“A lot of folks might find this unpalatable. But to me it tastes good,” he says, lifting an uncooked cut of beef the size of a book. Chomping on the raw meat in a small park by the Hudson River, Averbukh, a 29-year-old website manager, explains how paleo dieters are trying to turn mankind’s clock back to the Paleolithic Era.
“The theory is that you only eat what our ancestors ate 10,000 years ago. It’s what you could get with a stick in the forest,” Averbukh says.
Professor Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet, bemoans the world’s dependence on cereal grains, saying the departure from prehistoric menus has led to “diseases of civilisation” like cancer, obesity and high cholesterol.
The Stone Age diet prioritizes seasonal fruit, lean meat, fish and very little intake of processed food, sugar, — including bread — or dairy products.
Many modern cavemen also like to fast and to eat at irregular times, much like those early hunter-gatherers.
The program is “not designed by diet doctors, faddists, or nutritionists, but rather by Mother Nature’s wisdom acting through evolution and natural selection,” Cordain writes on his website.
Along with pure, mostly raw food, the modern caveman adapts his exercise to mimic the exertions of hunting — or being hunted — instead of today’s emphasis on endurance running or building muscles in the gym.
A guru from the paleo world’s European wing, Frenchman Erwan Le Corre, conducts training sessions in the wild, throwing rocks, jumping, and running barefoot.
Men’s Health magazine calls Le Corre “a perfect twin for Tarzan” and possibly “one of the most all-around physically fit men on the planet.”
Averbukh, who builds websites, looks about as unlike a savage as you can get.
Slight, with trimmed hair and beard, he is indistinguishable in his grey pleated trousers and black shoes from the crowds of office workers filing through lower Manhattan on a weekday.
The first clue that something might be different is when Averbukh starts doing pull-ups from a section of scaffolding. Deceptively strong for his frame, Averbukh pulls himself up with ease, then goes to a wall to stand on his hands.
“I like to do my exercise before I eat,” he says. “The diet and exercises go together. It was part of our ancestors’ lives. They had to exercise because they were hunting for food. We still need it.”