Sunday, August 18, 2013

Do I Eat Paleo?

I noticed a lot of my previous entries are "paleo" in nature. If you hadn't read my "about" section, I suggest you do, which touches upon my thoughts on "do or die" health mentalities. However, I do eat a fairly "paleo" lifestyle within the parameters that I try and eat foods closest to nature like meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, butter, coconut, avocado. I avoid highly processed foods void of nutrients, because I believe in properly fueling your system with the right vitamins, minerals, and calories. Food is medicinal in every sense of the word, we can literally HEAL ourselves through the right dietary choices. However, a fascinating phenomena that's often over-looked in devising the "perfect diet" is that most people become fixated that anything outside their said "perfect diet" will cause catastrophy. For some individuals with serious autoimmune conditions or other diseases, this can literally be the case. However, for the vast majority of people, this isn't the case. Instead, they self-inflict them with an almost equally dangerous pathology: guilt, stress, and anxiety. You should never feel guilty for, say, sharing a bowl of icecream with your spouse, or having your favorite brew with an old friend. Stressing over the fact that you are not eating "perfect", or experiencing true feelings of guilt after consuming something "bad", is feeding disordered eating habits and an unhealthy emotional state. Your optimal wellness can not be reduced to the nutrients you consume, how much weight you can lift, how fast you can run; remember that we also need to nurture our emotional well-being.

I'd never feel guilty about loving you, Talenti...

This means cutting the negative talk and enjoying that slice of cheesecake from time to time. With that said, I don't personally eat "strict paleo" (meaning absolutely no alcohol, added sugar, fake sugar, legumes, soy, dairy, grains, corn, oats). At my leanest, I did eat very strict with paleo. It was actually easier for me because I knew how to cook basic paleo meals pretty quickly, my grocery bill was always consistent, and I never expected any noticeable weight fluctuations. In my experience, eating strict paleo is actually CHEAPER than otherwise, which was beneficial to a poor college students relying on food stamps. However, after four years of eating paleo, I had honestly forgotten the taste and sensations of "non-paleo" fare. While this is great from a food craving perspective (what is this cheesecake you speak of?), there are some instances where eating outside the "paleo box" is a fun, new experience and won't cause your health to deteoriate or cause you to gain ten pounds in a week (again, stress can do that just as easily!) I've never had problems with binge eating, but this can also be a problem with people who are restricted into their paleo bubbles. When they finally give in to that piece of cheesecake, it's like a monster has been unleashed and anything goes. Then, not only do they probably have awful stomach pains, maybe even a migraine, or just exhausted, but they're probably feeling pretty damn guilty as well (so now we've got physical stress as well as emotional, yummy!)

While I think strict paleo (like the Whole 30) can be a great intervention for some individuals, especially those that are trying to find their true hunger (instead of eating out of emotion or habit,) it's typically a hard and perhaps unnecessarily rigid way to eat. Perfection, remember, is a personal thing and eating strict paleo may not be "perfect" for YOU.

So, do I eat paleo? Honestly, for the most part, I do eat fairly paleo. However, I don't eat paleo because everyone else is loving it, or because so-and-so got super lean on it, or because all the other health professionals reccomend it. I eat it because I honestly like the way it makes me feel, it makes logical sense to eat real food, and I like what I'm eating. I love eggs in the morning, I feel great eating meat again, eating some good salted butter still makes the world stop moving for a minute, and I find vegetables to be a great additive to round out a hearty meal. If I could pick the five foods I could eat forever, I think it'd have to be lightly spotted bananas, cashews, watermelon, sashimi, and butter (duh). So basically all "paleo". However much I love real "paleo" foods, I do eat a little bit of gluten-free bread (a slice of Udi's cinnamon & raisin bread fried in butter and salt with a side of eggs is AMAZING,) oats, peanut butter, cheese, corn. More decadent indulgences may be icecream, chocolate, sushi, alcohol. However, the staples of my diet are still the real, good stuff that make me feel the best. And whenever I do eat outside my paleo box, I do so with awareness and I only eat it if I really want it (and not a ridiculous amount). Even when indulging, I try to eat those items with the least amount of ingredients. When there are options available to eat simple icecream made from milk, sugar and eggs rather than hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup, why choose the latter?

To simplify things, I just eat real food most of the time. The rest of the time, I am enjoying myself and not sacrificing my emotional health by experiencing guilt, remorse or anxiety for indulging. I'll end this in the cliche "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good", but this seriously needs to be emphasized for a lot of folks striving for the elusive "perfect health".

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