Sensational remarks grab your attention like the shrill sound of nails on a chalkboard.
Talk radio, Buzzfeed, and major news organizations make massive mounds of money off sensationalism.
Pay attention the next time you watch the news and ask yourself why every news story inflates into a life-or-death situation.
Fear and sex sale.
They’re the two basic animalistic emotions that our lizard brain operates on. Diet trends use both to proselytize to the masses.
In 2013, I began to delve into fitness and nutrition.
At the same time, one of the biggest rages in dieting began to hit the mainstream, Paleo.
Eat like our ancestors: Feast on meat, veggies, nuts, berries, protein powder, but NEVER, MUST YOU NEVER, TOUCH THE EVIL THAT IS GRAINS.
No pasta, no rice, no potatoes. Sweet potatoes are fine, though. But no bread, no processed junk–only all natural meat and veggies.
Oh, did we mention you can eat the crap out of olive oil, coconut oil, butter–hell put that shit in your coffee — and bacon.
All your bacon are belong to us
Ron Swanson loves meat. Paleo people love meat. Ron Swanson loves Paleo and Paleo people love Ron Swanson.
I don’t remember where I heard about Paleo. More than likely I found out about it while reading r/fitness.
Somehow I stumbled on to r/Paleo. From there I found Mark Sissons book The Primal Blueprint.
Come to think of it most of my resources came from Reddit.
Let’s get one thing clear.
Reddit isn’t a scholarly source. Unless you’re attempting to get a PhD in memes.
I love Reddit. It satiates my demonic dark humor and my need to see cat GIFs. But using it as a scholastic resource to back up a diet? Not so much.
As I started to read about Paleo, I became enamored with all the benefits that thousands of people saw in their lives. I read all the articles about the evils of carbs and grains. I saw photos of guys who went Paleo and were ripped in no time.
I’d always been a pretty impressionable youngster. And seeing pics of dudes who ate meat and veggies with abs it was easy for me to say: “screw grains, I’m going caveman and getting abs.” I joined the congregation, and I joined it with a fervor.
Welcome to the Paleo Congregation
March to May of 2013, almost three full months of Paleo life, and I erased 16 pounds and three pants sizes. I could fit in small shirts. In my mind, small meant skinny and skinny means, I’m not fat.
The best part of all of this? I felt like a million bucks, was killing it in the gym, and had lots of energy.
With my results, I jumped even deeper into the world of Paleo.
Like Plato’s allegory of The Cave, I left my dark world, discovered new life, and came back to evangelize for Paleo.
Sadly, I judged others who I felt were either:
1. Unable to see the lies about grains delivered to them by the government/media
2. Not strong enough to kick their desire for carbs to the curb, or
3. Snidely in my mind, I made myself feel better and degraded those around me, who refused to follow the light I’d seen and exit their dark carbtastic caves.
Man. What a dick. I hate the guy I’m typing about and it sucks, even more, knowing that I was that guy.
How does becoming a self-righteous bag of dickwadery allow me to help people who want advice on getting healthier? How does that make me a better person?
I want to make it clear that I don’t hate Paleo. I think it has lots of great tenets like eating tasty dead animal flesh.
Chomping down on those fibrous veggies our ancestors ate you will improve gut health.
Fat from grass-fed butter/olive/coconut oil will help regulate hormone production. If you get hungry throw in some berries or nuts for a snack and enjoy your day.
With those guidelines, what qualms could I have against Paleo?
What bothers me most about this, is the way I acted towards others.
Looking back, I realize I’d become a cultist. Yep, I said it.
I was behaving as if I was in a cult and that my cult had the TRUE answer to fat loss and a happy, healthy life.
Jordan Syatt, in an article titled Fitness Myths That Need to Die said this:
Mellow Out, Man
This is where I think the idea of If It Fits Your Macros(IIFYM) or as some call it “flexible dieting” really helps anyone to find true freedom in their diet and still enjoy a cookie or two or some Ben and Jerry’s. Hell, maybe a donut here or there and even pizza without feeling guilt.
I can tell you straight up that Monday through Friday, I’m eating a salad with chicken and rice and shrimp at lunch and then whatever my wife has picked out for dinner.
On rest days, I get my salad and some yogurt with oats and fruit and usually have a sweet potato at dinner or some corn tortillas or a beer….maybe two. Perhaps we make pasta that night and I have some pasta. I just make sure I don’t go overboard with it. If we go out for dinner, I have two options:
1. Order the steak because when in doubt and if you are really worried about your macros just order the steak and double up on the broccoli
2. Enjoy a date with my wife and have something we both want and get up the next day and never fret about having some spinach and artichoke dip or some cheese fries.
Instead of becoming a zealot who acts as if his way is the only, correct and true way to happiness and fat loss I’ve strived over the last few months to find balance.
I find a way to enjoy an Almond Joy, or two, or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Whether it’s a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or an Almond Joy or my wife’s homemade apple pie, I can’t give food a negative connotation.
Once we give food a negative connotation, we stop enjoying food or enjoying things that otherwise taste great because we feel guilty for indulging in them.
That doesn’t mean I go out and eat every Twinkie I see or that I have a Twinkie every day. Instead of restricting myself from certain foods or treats maybe I eat a Twinkie one day.
However, that might mean when I have those things that I eat a little less of nutrient-dense foods like sweet potatoes, quinoa, or fruit that day. Maybe I don’t eat as much at lunch because I am going out with friends for dinner and I want to have a few drinks and a few hot wings. Whereas in the past I would have made up an excuse not to go because I didn’t want to feel guilty for having some wings and beer.
I don’t eat those things every day. I eat smart and plan ahead 80% of the time. If I go over and do something off my norm, I just get back to my norm the next day. I stay consistent when it matters, so that if I have one meal that throws me off track all I do is reach back to the good habits I have built. I wake up, and I continue with my life.
Those habits and keeping them consistent are the true keys to long-term success not restricting and shaming your food.
What Works For You
If you love Paleo and it makes your life better, then I totally support you staying on that path. If the restrictions help you because it gives you a hard line to tow, great.
I too sometimes need to toe the line in many aspects of life. It’s the guilt and the shaming that I want to avoid.
Our lives are far too short to let things like food — which has brought together families and cultures for centuries — cause us guilt for eating it.
Guiding people in the world of fitness and nutrition should involve giving people the right knowledge so that they can take that knowledge and live a life of freedom — not restriction.