Former Grosse Pointer John Durant says: 'I am very sick of caveman jokes. I've been laughing at caveman jokes for seven years.' (Neal Rubin / The Detroit News)
John Durant has the sniffles, which is probably not good for his caveman image.
Also, he splashed some cream into his coffee, and cavemen didn’t do cream. Or coffee, for that matter, but cream is a bigger deal, because prehistoric goats and cows didn’t stand around waiting to be milked.
Fortunately, the author of “The Paleo Manifesto: Ancient Wisdom for Lifelong Health” does not consider himself an actual ancient. And for the record, he says, “I am very sick of caveman jokes. I’ve been laughing at caveman jokes for seven years.”
Or at least pretending to. After the 2,000th GEICO reference, the smiles are as labored as a mammoth in a tar pit. But the former Grosse Pointer had become one of the more public faces of the paleo movement even before “The Paleo Manifesto” (Harmony Books, $25) hit the shelves three weeks ago.
He’s been in the New York Times and The New Yorker. He’s been on “The Colbert Report.” His mother would like it very much if he cut his hair and shaved his beard. There are caveman elements at play, yes — but he went to University Liggett School and Harvard, he walks effortlessly upright, and he can neatly knot a bow tie.
Less Pringles, more sun
“If you’re looking for a carefully researched and sensible book on human health,” says Durant, 30, “you’ll enjoy this book.”
If you’re looking for someone gnawing wild boar meat off the bone, try another aisle.
The paleo movement holds that because we were hunter-gatherers for millions of years, our newfangled forays into agriculture (10,000 years or so) and industry (200 years) are giving us products our bodies don’t need.
That means Pringles, and depending on how seriously you want to take things, it can also mean shoes.
Paleo, as it’s known for short, encompasses diet (more meat, less wheat), exercise (more natural movements, less Nautilus), sleep (eight hours) and even exposure to the sun.
Durant began exploring it a few years out of college when he was a management consultant in Manhattan. “I had short hair and I was clean-shaven,” says the son of Clark Durant, a two-time candidate for the Republican Senatorial nomination. “My mother loved it.”
He also had 22 extra pounds of junk food and anxiety on his 5-foot, 10-inch frame, up from his current 165, and his outlook and energy level would spike and crash in the course of one meatball sub. An evolutionary psychology major, he somewhat naturally gravitated toward paleo and helped found Paleo NYC and Barefoot Runners NYC, the largest groups of their kind.
Not a diet book
On a breezy morning in the D, he’s basically in uniform, with jeans, a green T-shirt, and a leather jacket with rampant zippers. His long brown hair falls over his shoulders and his beard is full, but neat.
Everything is clean. That’s one of the precepts of his book, which has its local coming-out party from 7:30-9:30 p.m. today at New Species CrossFit in Royal Oak. (To RSVP, call (248) 425-8706.)
Durant also touches on gorillas, sunscreen, standing desks, the near-perfect teeth of an 80,000-year-old skull, Judaism, veganism, and any number of other topics, all bundled into a message that when it comes to health and fitness, we’re missing a lot of boats.
“The Paleo Manifesto” is not, by intent, a diet book. Shopping his proposal to publishers, he insisted that the word “diet” not be on the cover.
That probably cost him some offers, but it left him pleased with the final product, a highly readable blend of scholarship and occasional snark. (“If I’m not going to eat like a vegan, I sure as hell don’t want to act like one.”)
He doesn’t expect everyone to dine like he does, which requires parking a 3½-foot-wide freezer in the bedroom of the Chelsea apartment he shares with four roommates. Or to run like he does, barefoot through Central Park, dodging dog droppings and shards of glass.
But take a few nibbles at the book, and chances you’ll wind up devouring it — sort of like a caveman.