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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

11 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    Excellent, Dr. Fleming. My only point of disagreement is that eating too much meat is the cause of the rampant obesity we see in this country. Sugar, grains, and other empty carbohydrates are the real culprit. A diet of nothing but meat and vegetables would leave most fit, trim and strong.

  2. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    My point was the American diet is unhealthy. I don’t see any evidence that it is the vegans, as opposed to junk-hamburger eaters who are getting obese. Huge amounts of pizza and bread are obviously not good, but neither is any food-fad concentration on one or two food groups. Man from the beginning has been an opportunistic hunter-gatherer, and early on grains were a major part of our diet.

    Americans eat too much food, too much junk food, and too much meat. The so-called paleo diets are based on ignorance. Cavemen did not eat this way, but who would want to emulate cavemen in the first place? Grains are NOT empty carbohydrates: They are the food staple that fueled and continue to fuel all decent societies. Many grains–oats, barley, corn–are high in vegetable proteins and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Processed high gluten wheats are probably the worst, but even they are good in moderate quantities. Primitive Germans with short life-expectancies and little to live for lived off meat, and it is only when they learned to cultivate grains and maintain surpluses that their population began to grow. Mankind is born to eat meat, but not meat exclusively. In fundamental matters of diet, it is best not to have bright ideas but to follow the traditions of healthy people. A little pasta first, a little meat, a salad, a bottle or two of wine…

  3. James D. says:

    The majority of Americans you see are not obese because they are consuming too much meat. They might be fat because they eat at McDonald’s, but it is the fries, hamburger buns, Coke, apple pies, McFlurries, etc. they are consuming, not the beef. I don’t know exactly what the paleo diet consists of, but I don’t think that there is any fad in a diet that consists primarily of meat and vegetables. That is how my grandparents ate and most of the traditional dishes of my Celtic ancestors were some combination of meat and vegetables. I don’t think that there is much wrong with a piece of bread here and there, in moderation, I just don’t think there is much dietary benefit. Certainly, stuffing our children with cereal grains at every meal, like they were a goose readying for the dinner table, hasn’t been of a great benefit. I have small children, and every food item that is geared toward them, whether it be breakfast cereal, yogurt, snacks, etc. is some monstrosity that has been pumped full of corn, rice, sugar, wheat and had all of the natural fats removed.

  4. Khater M says:

    Speaking of animal heaven, it looks as if the Church of England will soon be baptizing animals.

    This is very bad sacramental theology. My poor, poor Anglicans.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    James, good luck on your diet. I hope it never gives a reason for repentance. I am not a physician and cannot speak with authority. I eat a rather higher-meat version of the ancient Mediterranean diet, not because I have a theory but because, first, it makes me feel much better than when I eat more than 4-5 ounces of meat at a sitting, and, second, because it is how the people who founded our civilization ate–the Sumerians and Babylonians and Jews, Greeks and Romans. I never eat so well–by which I mean I never enjoy food more or feel better at the end of a meal–than in Greece and Italy. Of course, I drink better wine, which is also conducive to good health and happiness. Thanks for all the comments.

    The so-called paleo diet is one of the more recent bright ideas of the postmodern age. Having rejected most of the bright new ideas of the past five centuries, I am not much attracted either to no meat or high meat diets. In fact, the less I think about these things, the happier I am. On one point, though, I know you are mistaken. I have spent a bit of time in diners and c country restaurants, and when I watch the 300+ pounders at table or in supermarkets, they are always loading up on a lot of meat–much of which is pumped up with female hormones that are illegal in some countries. You are, however, absolutely right about the poisonous prepared foods which Americans feed their children. If you ever come to Rockford, I’ll be sure to buy an extra kilo of steak to put on the grill–and some of the home-made bratwurst from our local butcher shop. Tonight is our anniversary–I’ve lost count of the number–and we’re going lamb chops on the grill. For lunch, we had cold cucumber soup, and for breakfast, scrambled eggs and sausage. Oddly, as I have grown wiser–that is, older–I find myself eating much less bread and pasta but also less meat.

  6. Curtis says:

    The paleo diet is good insofar as it teaches people to avoid the unnatural amounts of overprocessed, simple carbohydrates and sugar in the modern diet. It also teaches people to avoid the Puritan myth that we can achieve a healthy weight by powering through severe hunger through sheer willpower.

    Dr. Fleming correctly points out the failure of the paleo diet – our ancestors did consume significant amounts of *complex* carbohydrates, and these should form a core part of our diet. The idea of gluten as some sort of nutritional devil is a silly superstition, if we are not one of the few unfortunate people allergic to it.

    We can regulate our weight by eating the foods our bodies have evolved to recognize. These foods take a long time for our bodies to process, and thus leave us satiated for long periods of time. Thus, we are less hungry throughout the day and do not consume an excess of calories.

    The correct diet includes a moderate amount of lean protein, a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates, a small amount of fats, a moderate amount of fruits, and as many vegetables as we want. Simple carbs, sugar, and (alas!) more than a glass or two of wine a night are to be avoided. If we stick to this diet, the mixture of protein, carbs, fiber, and a bit of fat will keep us satiated throughout the day, and we will lose weight without becoming miserable.

    Long walks/hikes, short runs, and weightlifting also regulate our hormones, boosting our mood, lowering our stress, and paradoxically suppressing our appetite. Dr. Johnson would go for incredibly long walks when the Black Dog was after him, and it made him feel much better.

  7. James D. says:

    Dr. Fleming,

    Happy anniversary. I hope you have a nice dinner. I apologize if my comments came off as argumentative.

  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Only dogged, not argumentative.

    Curtis is right about the wine, but I’d rather be fat than abstemious.

  9. John Hanna says:

    thought in early 20’s no meat little if any dairy or eggs would help clear up acne and allergies wrong! learned to live with both and over the counter meds.

  10. Irv Phillips says:

    Dr. Fleming, is there any evidence that before the birth of agriculture man received less than, let us say, 95% (90%?) of his caloric intake from animal sources? On another note, very few people are following the “true” paleo or hunter-gatherer diet: you don’t see a lot of lungs, hearts and pancreas at the grocery store. Nearly all paleo’s are eating just animal flesh, which is cheating, basically.

  11. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    I think it would be very hard to gather such evidence. What we do know is how the other great apes live. They eat as much meat as they can get, but mI don’t think it is the major part of their diet. I’ll have to check my collection of studies of chimps and gorillas, but I know they eat a great deal of fruits, seeds, greens. An article in Scientific American describes them as lapsed vegetarians, eating about 3% meat. Even supposing Austarolpithecus, Homo Habilis, and early Homo sapiens had vastly increased this, they would still be far from carnivores. Some recent studies indicate that neanderthals’ diet was 80% meat–and they died out. Some recent studies conclude that less than 50% of market agriculturalists’ diet–say at dawn of agricultural revolution c. 10,000 BC–was meat protein. One would also have to factor in the largely sedentary habits of modern man, which would make meat protein and fat less helpful and more dangerous.