I always feel a little uncomfortable when I have to explain my paleo lifestyle to people for the first time. That may sound ridiculous considering the fact that I blog about it, but the paleo diet tends to carry misleading and sometimes negative connotations.
From those who aren’t totally familiar with it, I often get looks of disbelief and/or amazement at how on earth I could deprive myself of so many culinary pleasures. Common remarks include:
- So, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU EAT?!
- You have so much willpower. I could never give up .
- You can’t eat ?! Not even one bite?
The theme here is the belief that going paleo is miserably restrictive and that it must be a daily battle of willpower to stick with it. But I don’t see it that way at all.
In fact, as I mentioned in Monday’s post, for me, the paleo/primal lifestyle is a tool for making my body (and spirit!) as happy, fulfilled and satisfied as possible. It’s a framework that’s helped me learn how to give my body what it craves and needs in order to work better.
I hesitate to call it a “diet” because it’s not about manipulating my body for a short time to reach a goal. It’s not a matter of punishment or deprivation or suppressing cravings or falling off and getting on some wagon. It’s about harnessing the power of my food to support me in all areas of my life, well beyond my taste buds and my body weight.
More than anything, going paleo has encouraged me to think harder about how I relate to my food, physically, environmentally, emotionally, mentally, culturally, etc. It’s about recognizing whether or not the things I put into my body are truly serving me.
And here’s the most important point: I choose to eat this way because I feel better when I do!
Sure, I COULD have a slice of pizza or a bread roll. But my experimentation with the paleo framework has taught me what the physical consequences of those choices would be (bloating, gas, constipation, muddy skin, fatigue, sour mood). In most cases, that trade off isn’t worth it for me.
It’s also important to note that what’s healthy for one person isn’t always healthy for another.
Sure, there are tons of people who benefit from the fiber and minerals in brown rice, but for my compromised digestive system, brown rice is a huge irritant.
Think of it this way: My decision not to eat brown rice is just like my mom’s decision not to do yoga. Yes, yoga is awesome. And yes, tons of people do it. And yes, for some people, doing yoga is nourishing, energizing and very healthy. But for my mom who has had multiple foot surgeries, yoga is incredibly painful and could cause long term injury.
So, to return to that big question of whether or not I feel restricted on the paleo diet, yes, I suppose I do. I feel restricted in the sense that I avoid eating things that many people consider healthy and delicious.
But I don’t feel deprived. In fact, I feel empowered – empowered by the opportunity to get to know my body more intimately and to understand exactly how I can support it so it can support me.
After years of treating my body as something to be controlled and manipulated, I’m grateful to have found a tool that is helping me listen to it, understand it and nurture it. The structure may seem unnecessarily restrictive to some, but for me, it has a purpose and a payoff.
Now if only I could explain it this way in person…
What about you?
How do you react when asked to explain your food choices? What are your biggest challenges? Let me know so I can address them in future posts!