Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Paleo Label and Non-Negotiables

Recently, frustrations revolving around the proverbial Paleo Police have been making waves on the Interwebz. Everyone who espouses the Paleo lifestyle has experienced them to some degree or another, and it can be overwhelmingly frustrating. Of course, the folks who are in the Paleo limelight receive the brunt of these aggressions, and they handle it well and with a lot of grace, in my opinion. Steph over at Stupid Easy Paleo recently wrote an excellent post addressing this issue that I highly suggest you read.

I'm not going to discuss the Paleo Police here, but the recent posts and some of my own conversations about diets and lifestyle have brought some things to the front of my mind that I want to let all of my readers and followers know about me personally. 

It seems a lot of people are getting frustrated with the "label" of Paleo. They don't want to label their lifestyle because there's pressure that it means a certain thing or a certain expectation. And some people wish to ostracize lifestyles simply because they have a label, which is unfair. I have chosen to label myself Paleo and I'm proud of that label, but not because I think Paleo is the only way people should eat. You may be surprised to know that I actually believe there are a lot of healthy ways to eat. GASP! I am obviously a huge supporter of the diet, and follow it fairly strictly myself. But if I don't believe it is the only lifestyle to live, why do I call myself Paleo? There are three reasons.

First of all, it's the lifestyle that works for me and my body. Most of the foods Paleo suggests we stay away from are foods that I can't eat. They make me feel lousy, they make me gain weight, so I don't eat them. Therefore, I am Paleo. Secondly, it's easier when people ask me what I have done to get healthier to just say, "I eat Paleo," rather than run them through the gamut of what I do and don't eat. If they need or want further explanation, I'm happy to give it, but labeling it keeps it simple. Finally, I find it somewhat analogous to my faith. I am a Christian. There are a lot of churches I could attend and visit that I would agree with and enjoy. I could attend a different church every week and learn something new that lines up with my belief system. However, the lack of commitment to one church could hurt me in the long run. I wouldn't grow in my faith. I would find it hard to stay committed to my faith because I would be lacking the support of community. I believe it's good to find something you agree with to the fullest extent possible. To join together with people who believe and live the way you do so you can bring others along side of you who can find positive life changes through the same thing.

Am I out to convince everyone they should change to the Paleo lifestyle? No! It's someone's personal choice if they want to switch to Paleo. I've heard it said that we should, "let people know what we're for, not what we're against." I would be doing myself, and others, a disservice if I didn't know what I do stand for. You can be open, yet still have your list of non-negotiables-- the things you won't ever compromise. I wanted to let you all know what those are for me, so I'm discussing them here.

1. We should be aware of how foods work in our bodies, and how our bodies react to certain foods.

For so long we have relied the government to tell us what is and isn't healthy, and we have always trusted that information. But, I will always advocate studying and researching foods for yourself. There is so much information out there about how certain foods act in our bodies once we put them into our mouths. So many food related health problems could be eliminated if people knew about what foods do inside their bodies before they toss it down the hatch willy-nilly.

Also, we shouldn't dismiss a lifestyle before we understand the science behind why the diet is followed by so many, whether it's Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, Atkins, etc. When I first officially labeled myself Paleo, the common response was, "Are you sure that's safe for the long run? It's so restrictive and imbalanced." However, none of these people had done any of the research I had before officially making the decision to call myself Paleo and to choose to follow the lifestyle permanently. They were making negative assumptions based in ignorance. I know the feeling of being on the receiving end of such assumptions, and I will NEVER extend those same negative assumptions towards others and their lifestyle choices. 

We also need to pay attention to how our own bodies respond to certain foods. Are you constantly tired and having headaches? Do you feel tired after a meal or energized? I always say that I never knew how much my body was talking to me until I started to listen. Eliminate certain known culprits for a period of time and see if you notice an improvement. If you do, those foods shouldn't re-enter your regular diet. It takes being aware, and having a desire to truly find health, but I will ALWAYS be a huge supporter of being self-aware and informed when it comes to our health.

2. We should not eat refined sugar.

I think this is a non-negotiable. I mean, when the mainstream media comes out with an infamous article discussing how refined sugar is as addictive as cocaine, we have to wake up and pay attention. Sugar not only causes major health issues, but it alters our ability to recognize our natural hunger cues. 

This is a pretty basic image showing how sugar affects our hunger. There is a lot of science out there backing this up, and if you wish to learn more about it, I highly suggest Dianne Sanflippo's book, The 21 Day Sugar Detox. I have read the ebook version of this that came out a while ago, and it clearly explains why sugar is so harmful to us. She has since written a full book version that is available for purchase on the 21 Day Sugar Detox website

We are the only creatures on earth who are unable to properly self-feed. In other words, all wild animals are able, when provided with the foods their bodies were created to eat, to feed themselves properly without gaining weight or giving themselves health problems. When they are hungry, they eat, and eat only the foods their body instinctually knows to eat. Humans have basically destroyed our instinct by eating refined sugar. I know for me personally, for my children, and for my husband, we do not feel or act the same when we have been eating refined sugar. I don't believe all sugar is harmful, although all can trigger the cycle when we are already addicted, so I do recommend the 21 Day Sugar Detox to reset your body. In my mind, this is a no brainer. Do we have to stay away from refined sugar forever? The occasional treat is not going to hurt us, but we need to use natural sugar replacements as often as possible if we are making something sweet (honey, pure maple, coconut sugar, and maple sugar), and we should make every effort to stay away from it. Check those ingredients lists! Sugar is a sneaky devil that weasels its way into almost everything!

3. We should all be eating as close to nature as possible.

This is a simple solution to the question, "Is this diet right, or this one?" First, know what your body should eat like I discussed in my first point, and then make sure you eat as close to the earth as possible. Processed foods are harmful. I will never back down on that! They are loaded with chemicals, and 99% of the time sugar as well. Nothing that can sit on the shelf for a year can possibly be nourishing our bodies, and after all, that is the point of food-- to nourish and to sustain us. It is no wonder our children can't function in school, or that we are too exhausted to focus at work and complete our daily tasks. We are loading our bodies up with chemicals and sugar instead of feeding ourselves the macro & micro nutrients on which our bodies were created to thrive. "Eat clean!" It's the new buzz phrase, but it's the most basic universally true description of how we should eat. If you find it in the outskirts of the grocery store, if it has fewer than 5 ingredients, if you can adequately pronounce those ingredients, and if they don't rely on a laboratory for their existence, I'd say you're doing pretty good!

Like I said, I am not out to convince everyone that Paleo is the only way to eat. I think there are a lot of ways people can live a happier healthier life. However, I cannot deny the fact that the Paleo lifestyle has changed my life. I am not going to refute that or ignore it for the sake of "avoiding labels." I fully believe this diet can help a lot of people-- possibly everyone, but I never want anyone to think that I'm out to push Paleo onto people or that it is the only way to be healthy. I wanted to start this blog and my social media sites to offer support those who have already chosen to follow this lifestyle, and to provide information to those who may be curious about it. Ultimately, our goal should be to live healthier, cleaner lives. That's going to look different to different people, but we are all on this journey to better health together! Let's not lose sight of that.


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