My Love/Hate Relationship With Paleo
Eating paleo basically helped save my life, so the title of this post may come off as slightly ridiculous and I get that. So let me preface this by saying… I love real food. I love food that is made from ingredients and not boxes. I love creating new recipes that combine a variety of flavors that are, well, REAL. I love salads. I love meats. I love treats within reason. I love what being predominantly paleo has done for my health, by generally avoiding grain, dairy and refined sugar. I love that I can work, be a full time mom, do DIY projects, and travel again instead of being confined to my bed and home.
So what’s to hate?
Somewhere in the midst of well-meaning people creating a beautiful real food movement sprung a cohort who has made some people believe that they aren’t “paleo enough.” This upsets me to no end, not for myself personally, but for the people who are trying and feel like they are failing because they aren’t doing it “RIGHT” or “GOOD ENOUGH.” I run a support group on Facebook and while it is small, I set it up to help people feel like they can make positive change, eat whole foods, and get their lives back (or at least improve what they’ve already got going for them). And at least once a week someone posts something like this:
“How can I afford paleo if I can’t eat organic all the time? Is it still worth trying? What if I can’t buy grassfed meats or pasture raised eggs?”
I also see things like:
“I was made to feel terrible on another page when I said I ate ‘xyz’ or admitted to still indulging in a treat now and then”
Since when is healthy eating a platform to shame others? Since when did whole foodists become godly? Since when is it anyone’s position to judge another based on what they can afford or if they chose to eat almond flour based “paleo cake” on their birthday?
It actually disgusts me that people who are trying really hard to make better choices are made to feel like what they are doing is not good enough. Everyone takes a different path when learning to eat better. For some, the 80/20 rule is enough. For others strict eating is necessary to manage health conditions. And for some, budget is such a concern that organic produce and pastured meats are absolutely out of the question. Ultimately, I find it incredibly important to do one very simple task:
SUPPORT OTHERS EVEN IF THEIR CHOICES ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOUR OWN
It is impossible to change others. And it is not our job to do so. We can gently educate if the timing is right, we can offer support, and we can reach out when we see people struggling, but in the end the decision to implement change has to happen on their own accord. When I set up Predominantly Paleo, my hope was that if real food helped me, maybe it could help others. But ultimately I knew that all I could do was to put it out there and the people who were ready to receive it, would. Others would find me in their own time. And still others would never find me, and if they did, they would not want to incorporate the changes I have into their own lives. Changing your lifestyle is incredibly intimidating in the beginning and it takes time to adapt. People will fall off the wagon and get back on. And more importantly, they will find their “wiggle room”. This means that some people can tolerate a bit of grain or a bit of dairy, or who can periodically throw caution to the wind and fall face first into a plate of loaded nachos and never suffer the consequences.
LET THEM BE
And for those who can only afford to eat cheaper cuts of meat on sale, canned veggies, and who need to eat fillers like beans and rice in the interim, they need support too. Rice is not the work of the devil people. It’s a gluten free grain that’s been around for ages and is typically well-tolerated. Let us encourage people on a budget and praise them for avoiding the processed food trap and instead making real food.
EATING “PALEO” IS NOT A GROUNDS FOR SHAMING OTHERS
If you have been made to feel lesser than in the paleo community, I’m sorry. I personally want you to know that I care about your health. I also care that you feel like you’ve got support, especially if those closest to you think your transition to a real food lifestyle is a fad or unnecessary. I also want you to know that we’re all human and in my personal opinion, eating a treat here and there or eating an organic tortilla on cinco de mayo will likely not kill you. Unless corn makes you need an epipen in which case, no, don’t go there.
I welcome you to join me on my PREDOMINANTLY PALEO SUPPORT page. My goal is to provide a place to exchange ideas, receive support, and find a place to call “home” especially if you are new to this lifestyle or otherwise unsupported in your personal lives.
I do love whole foods and I think that food can be one of the simplest implementations you can make to create an exponentially more rewardingly and healthy life. And when I say paleo saved my life, I quite literally mean it. I’m so happy to be here standing alongside you all and I hope your real food experience is a positive and healing one! Mwah!
This, 100%. So thankful for you as a voice of REASON and love. Keep being awesome please! xo
I love this post! ;0)
Well said. Perfectionism is a disorder of it’s own and IMO can be as detrimental to our sense of well being as drugs, dieting, chronic cardio and a myriad of other ways to set ourselves up for failure. I believe sustainability of our own lifestyles is key and also highly individualistic. We can always strive for better, but better for our own selves. Criticizing another’s choice because it doesn’t live up to our own ideals just isn’t productive.
I agree. I have a love/hate relationship with labeling my dietary preferences. On one hand, I appreciate being able to look up “paleo” recipes using the term. On the other hand, why does my dietary preference need a name? I hesitate to tell people that I eat “paleo”, because I eat what I feel works for me. Sometimes I eat white rice. I know that if I eat more than 1/2c at a time, I’ll feel yucky. Sometimes I drink a glass of wine. Sometimes I’ll have a chocolate almond butter cup. But I get to make those choices and I don’t need to be held accountable to anyone but myself and my own well-being for the way I eat. And I don’t raise hell with people who drink those “shakes” and tout ultimate health. That’s their prerogative and not my place to comment on. Don’t mean to rant, what I mean is, “I get you. Thank you for posting this!” 🙂
I am overcome with emotion after reading your article. It’s hard to type this through the tears that are falling. I thought you expressed such love and understanding toward those of us who are truly trying to change and improve, not only our own lives, but the lives of the people we cook for and yet get no support from others. I can’t thank you enough for taking this stand. You have made me feel acceptable and valued. I will persevere!
Aw Ann! Thanks for the returned support. I hope you continue on your path to wellness and sweat less the hurtful words of others, should you experience them.
Good for you! I’ve had people tell me I should start a recipe blog but I can’t handle the comments and negativity I see on the pages of others. It’s too easy to type something mean and never have to see the real consequences of our virtual opinions.
I am very protective of those who are beginning their journey or who are trying really hard and find themselves under fire. It’s awful!
I agree – I’m what I refer to as ‘practically Paleo’ so know exactly where you are coming from. My 20% lapse is some rice, occasional slice of cheese and a spoon of hummus- mostly to make life easier but also to ‘take part’ in social eating occasions. So ‘practically’ or ‘predominantly’ think we stand together.
Yes! Standing together is the best way!
Mandy @ OrganicallyMandy says
This is a such a great post and needed to be said!!! For the 7+ years I’ve been using food as my healer the only thing that I am certain of is that our bodies are different and what works for one may not work for another. The beauty of this diversity is that we deepen our relationships with the body that we call home, we learn to TUNE-IN. 🙂
Yes! Tuning in is hard and an ability we lose in the hustle.