Paralyzed by Paleo Perfectionism
Diane writes a great post about Paleo Perfectionism. I often tell people that they have to do what works for them –and slowly easing into it or finding parts of this perspective that does work is better than not doing it at all. One size does not fit all — yes eating no gluten, no dairy yadda yadda yadda is the way to go in an ideal world –but let’s be honest — we don’t live in that world. And it’s ok to indulge once in a while or eat rice if that really makes you happy! It’s about an overall approach to life but not a straight and narrow path — and we all have to make our own rules. What is right for me, isn’t necessarily right for everyone or right for anyone else but me. That doesn’t mean I dont love to talk about how great I feel and how I truly believe a Paleo approach is the way to go –but I am in no position to impose that on anyone else.
I am the one that had frozen yogurt with toppings yesterday with the kids –after a long day of painting. It was fun to take a break and spend time with the kiddos doing something indulgent. Now, I felt like crap around midnight last night –congested, stomach ache etc, but you know what? We had fun and once in –eh, life’s too short!
I was both saddened and encouraged by this exchange. I found it sad that whoever explained this way of eating to her neglected to mention (perhaps because s/he wasn’t taught):
That the foods you eliminate or avoid as part of a Paleo approach are the ones that are doing the most harm to your body. So, the first steps of simply eliminating grains, beans, refined seed oils, sugar/sweeteners, and grain-fed/pasteurized dairy products takes you at least 80% of the way towards achieving optimal health on a Paleo diet.
That Paleo is more about eating foods that are real, whole, unrefined, unprocessed, and nutrient-dense than it is about striving for some (non-existant, if you ask me) level of perfection.
That the largest benefits of Paleo are not about having access to food of optimal quality 100% of the time.
That fussing over the minutia of optimizing every aspect of your diet (some call this hacking) may actually do you more harm than good. You do realize that stress can undo everything you do nutritionally, right? No? You didn’t know that? Well, now you do. It can. Stressing over your diet may actually be making you far less healthy than those few bites of dark chocolate or that non-organic banana. Or that (gasp!) grain-fed flank steak. You likely take great pleasure in that dark chocolate (or insert other imperfectly Paleo food here). Life is about not just being healthy, but being able to enjoy being healthy!
(Yes, I’m a gluten-free purist to a degree, but I eat sub-par quality meat when stuck in an airport or on the road when I’m out of PaleoKits (again, gasp!) or my travel-sized EVOO and my usual sourcing efforts are side-swiped in an effort to Just Eat Real Food.)
And last, but not least, that if you create a list of rules for people that seem so overwhelming that they just can’t imagine turning their lives upside down to adhere to them, you ‘ve likely lost any chance you had at helping them. (Note: I talked about this in my recent Paleo Magazine article entitled “Mind the Paleo Gap.”)
I was encouraged because the conversation gave me the motivation to (finally) write this post.
Let me be perfectly clear: I’m not saying that you should humor someone and allow them to think that gluten-free oats are healthy, because they’re not.
But, in the context of their lives to this point, making a switch from a donut, Pop-Tart, croissant, or boxed/highly-processed/additive-laden cereal covered in pasteurized milk from grain-fed cows every day to that bowl ofsomething they had to take time and effort to prepare, well, it’s likely a huge first step. Even if it’s not “Paleo-Perfect.”
It is not your job to create rules for someone else to eat and live by.