Living Paleo in a Not-So-Paleo Time

When it comes to eating there are many barriers to making healthy choices. First we much acknowledge how fortunate we are to be able to choose what we feed ourselves; have access to, and can afford to eat clean, whole foods. There are many people who are not as privileged. Recognizing that you have power over the choices you make and the foods you eat is liberating. 

Our Food Environment

When we think about how our far-away ancestors lived, it’s vastly different than how we live in this modern day and age. We are fortunate to have running water, electricity, refrigerators, cars, and iPhones. Many of these conveniences make our lives easier, but can also make us less healthy. Advances in science and innovation have allowed for the engineering of thousands upon thousands of food-like products which are displayed in grocery stores, purchased and consumed by millions. For most of us, in any direction, not too far away, there is a food source. We can drive to Hannaford if we forget ingredients. No need to forage the earth for hours for a few nuts and berries; or hunt for days for one animal that might feed our family. We’re expending much less energy, but consuming much more. In the USA this issue is compounded by the major discrepancies in socioeconomic status and can be much different in rural versus urban versus suburban areas.

People around you
When I started eating paleo, the people I was closest to were not doing the same. I was surrounded by pizza, beer, bread, and other gluten-filled things. I did my best to stick to my plan, but it was hard with peer pressure. When the three other people at your table order a pitcher of beer you say, “f*ck it, I’m having beer.” This is completely normal. It’s hard to fight the tide, so don’t beat yourself up if you feel influenced by your buddies. If you feel like the slip-ups are truly getting in the way of your progress, then it’s time to find new friends. I’m totally kidding, of course. There are a few things you can do. #1 – Explain to your friends that you have some goals that you really want to achieve, so your food choices are going to reflect that. #2 – If you’re going out, eat something before you go out so you’re not hungry and tempted to eat things you don’t want to eat. #3 – Check out menus before your decide on a destination/restaurant. Make sure there are paleo-approved items and options so that you’re not in a tough spot when it’s time to order. If your friends are truly giving you a hard time and they are not willing to support you, then it might be time to hang out with some different, more supportive people for a while. There are instances when others are not supportive of your goals and choices simply because of their own insecurities. 

The willpower myth
I have heard this so many times…”I just wish I had more willpower”. While focus and effort are necessary for staying on track, you can’t fight your body. When first transitioning to a whole-foods diet and eliminating sugar it’s tough to resist cravings. We are naturally drawn to sweet and fatty foods because they are energy-dense. A helpful strategy is to replace processed foods with a whole-food alternative. If you have ice cream after dinner, have some frozen berries with almond or coconut milk over top. If you like chips and dips, try bite sized veggies and guacamole or salsa instead. Another helpful tactic is to plan when you are going to “let loose”. If you know you’re getting together with friends on Saturday night, that’s when you have those cheats. You know that when Saturday night is over, it’s time to get back in the clean-food wagon. 

Sometimes you just need to play dominoes, wear a fedora, and drink whiskey out of a wine glass.
It becomes your new normal, but it takes time
It’s easy to talk about these strategies because these are the things that I have done along the way. I always tell people though, “This is a journey and a process.” Changing behavior is hard. “Normal” is what you are used to, day in and day out. To change those patterns takes time and conscious effort. If you are willing to give it time and forgive yourself for slip-ups along the way, eventually your normal will shift. It will no longer feel right to eat pizza, it might not even taste good anymore. You’ll recognize the foods that you can get away with and the ones that make you feel like crap. You’ll stay away from the ones that give you negative feedback once it happens enough times.

This is what happens when I eat gluten. It’s happened too many time. I no longer eat gluten.

Be Realistic
Since going Paleo back in 2010, I have gone through periods of time when I am super-strict about my eating and then more lenient with the choices I make. I try to eat based on what my body is telling me. I used to stress a lot over “eating this and not eating that” which set me up for a very black/white-good/bad view of food. Those of you who read my blog know that I am NOT a proponent of “Everything in Moderation” and I don’t operate that way, but I have realized that if I am hyper-focused on something, it adds unnecessary stress. We should not be stressed over food, we already have enough going on! Always keep your goals in mind and try to connect the dots between food, emotional feelings, and how you’re physically feeling. 

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