FIFTY SHADES OF PALEO

50shades_sq

Today I would like to discuss something that’s been bothering me for a while now, and that is different approaches of different paleo people and also how non-paleo people see and jugde our community without a proper knowledge of our “thing.”

Recently there has been this huge drama around the lastest Weston A. Price Foundation newsletter, where president of this foundation, Sally Fallon, basically misinterpreted everything about paleo diet and made it sound like a very extreme elimination diet that is absolutely inappropriate for children to be raised with. As a reaction to this, Diane Sanfilippo recorded a very heated podcast about it and many other paleo bloggers shared their opinions about the whole thing. Paleo Mom wrote a great post on this topic as well (this one is really worth reading, same as Diane’s podcast is worth listening to, or reading a transcript).

Before Diane mentioned a WAPF in her podcast, I had no idea what is this movement about and I didn’t know who Sally Fallon is. When I saw the Fat Head documentary and saw Sally talking there, I was thinking: “What a smart lady! People should listen to her! Her approach and her opinions are very paleo friendly! I have to look that WAPF up!” I didn’t, of course, I had much better things to do. I didn’t look it up until Diane’s podcast, which was the very first time I found out about the whole newsletter drama. Her podcast is called REBUTTAL TO SALLY FALLON’S TAKE ON PALEO, and I had no idea what “rebuttal” is and I was thinking that this is gonna be an interview with Mrs. Fallon and it’s gonna be very special, because she is actually very influencial and important person in the nutrition education area (at least that was what I was thinking). I was so wrong! After first few words that were furiously leaving Diane’s lips I knew I had to stop and read the whole thing first. I went to the website and read something that was called Our Broken Food System (if you didn’t read it yet, I really encourage you to go and do it) and I couldn’t help myself to not get angry during the reading. Not that I am being that sensitive about something attacking my way of eating without really knowing what is it about, but it reminded me of a reason why I left the certain group of Facebook that I helped to create.

I am not gonna say that Mrs. Fallon clearly has no idea what she is talking about, that she should READ some blogs first and educate herself a little more on paleo diet topic, because that is pretty obvious and many people already mentioned that in their posts. I just wanna say that she basically says that raising children on a paleo diet is a wrong thing to do and because people who blog about paleo don’t have kids, they really didn’t think this through. Hello? Robb Wolf, Danielle Walker, Paleo Parents, Nom Nom Paleo, Melissa Hartwig, Paleo Mom, they all have little kids that are most of the time born and raised on a paleo lifestyle! Chris Kresser runs a program called HEALTHY BABY CODE! Many of the above listed deal with kids and paleo every single day, some of them even wrote a kids friendly cookbook (Eat like a dinosaur, anyone?)

What shocked me the most was that Fallon seems to have a very short memory when saying that paleo people do NOT use fats like lard and tallow, while Paleo Parents wrote a whole cookbook about LARD and bacon and they actually FEATURED FALLON’S PHOTO IN THE BOOK because they often visit her farm for meat and eggs! Yes, they are paleo, they have kids and they cook and bake with animal fat! I could not understand that, she knows then, she knows who they are and how they eat, so why the hell would she publish something like that???

Anyway, enough about that, everything that should be said on this topic was already said somewhere else and nobody wants to read the same stuff over and over again. I wanna slowly move to the Facebook group drama, if anyone is still interested in reading. Basically what happened was that one guy I never met before posted a “study” about paleo diet, authored by A. Aragon (no idea who that guy was until that moment). That paper was kinda similar to what Fallon wrote – a bunch of misinformation and incomplete research materials. When I pointed out that some informations in the paper is not correct, my statement was marked as fallacy. And then it all started. The (pointless) debate about science and evidence and validity of personal experience (which I still think and will always think is the best and most valid evidence) ended with me leaving the group. I simply couldn’t argue with someone who was not able to hear my side of the story. There are people who have their own truths and will never open their minds to other possibilities and options.

That guy kept demanding an evidence that would prove that paleo diet is not just another fad and it actually really helps people in reversing their health issues. He was not willing to accept personal experience of THOUSANDS of people as a “valid scientific evidence,” but also wasn’t able to tell me after several times of me asking, WHAT kind of evidence would he accept as valid. Don’t get me wrong, I am all into science and all the nerdy stuff (yeah, Robb Wolf and Stefani Ruper!), but for something like DIET, there is no better proof of a success than REAL PEOPLE WITH REAL RESULTS! You can write millions of papers, studies, researches and blogposts full of theory, but you can only get some real results with practical application of a diet. Everybody is different, everybody’s body reacts differently to different food groups, some tolerate gluten, some don’t, some are okay with a little bit of dairy in their diet, some can’t even smell it without feeling sick. You can’t put paleo as an RX for everyone, as Diane says “there is not one cookie cutter paleo diet that works for everyone,” it is a template, a list of recommendations you CAN choose to follow! You can science it all you wan’t but this is such an individual thing that you have to take into consideration thousands and thousands of personal stories not just take a sample of several hundred people and runs some tolerance tests on them for a short period of time. If you call that science, than sorry, but you are a BAD scientist.

After hours of this pointless waste of time “debate,” I decided to quit. Quit the topic and the group. Some members called it a “running away” or maybe even “coward behavior,” I don’t know. For me it was more about realizing that I really don’t wanna waste my time with people who have a completely different mindset then I have and who obviously are not even considering that there may be other options and other RIGHT opinions out there. This all happened after I started reading the Primal Connection book and me leaving the group was a result of realizing a lot of things. I have to deal with negativity in my real life, I have to deal with people that don’t agree with me, make fun of me because of my lifestyle or simply think I am crazy, and it is pretty hard to fight it every single day, so why would I want to deal with more negativity even ONLINE? No, thanks. Social media, internet, blogs you like to read, it should all be a source of useful information, relaxation and should allow you to disconnect from your everyday stress for a little while. It was my personal choice to keep my social media space positive and only filled with useful information and people that brings something positive to my life. Mark Sisson describes that as a Fire Circle – a circle of friends who you wanna keep close to you in good or bad times. I only have a few of these people, very very few, and I don’t really need to interact with other people to make my life better. Number of friends on Facebook means NOTHING except that you probably have way too much free time to spend on the internet and most likely not many true friends you can rely on.

I also lost a connection to a person I thought I was close to thank to this Facebook incident. I felt sorry about that, because we became pretty close over short period of time and probably because I don’t really have any CLOSE personal friends (except my boyfriend who is MY BEST FRIEND and my mom, who means the world to me), I wanted to stick to that “friendship” even though it was not really giving me much of a good. Relationship should not just “be,” it should give you something, on both sides. But once you feel like you only GIVE and not receive anything back, it is probably not a relationship worth holding on to. You may think “That is pretty selfish! True friends give and don’t expect anything in return!” But what is a relationship for if you don’t get ANYTHING out of it? Not even a positive feeling? I was neglecting my own life and I was giving a lot of my free time to that person and to the group itself and it was not until I left that I realized that I was missing a lot of moments together with my boyfriend. I was sitting by a computer until late night, missing my sleep and missing our falling asleep together, because by the time I was finally ready to turn off the PC, my boy was already sleeping most of the times.

Anyway, back to the original point! Recently I started listening to Paleo View podcast, which is run by Sarah Ballantyne (thepaleomom.com) and Stacy Toth (paleoparents.com) and today, while making a marathon of three episode series Paleo Philosophy, all I did was nod and say “EXACTLY MY POINT” in my head to most of the things they were talking about. Their paleo approach is a bit different than say Whole9Life people, because these two awesome ladies have kids and have to deal with things those of us who are childless don’t have to. It can be difficult with children, who usually have their own opinion about EVERYTHING, to try to feed them the right way. When you are fed paleo since a very young age, you basically don’t know what you are “missing” with non-paleo food choices, but if you have a kid that is, let’s say 7-8 years old and already have some eating habits, favorite foods (candy, cookies, icecream, potato chips, bread with nutella), it is kinda hard to explain to that kid that “we are paleo now because it is healthier and we won’t be buying Oreos anymore.” I don’t have children and I never had to deal with this problem, but I highly doubt that kid’s reaction would be “Okay mom, that is great thing to do because, you know, Oreos are full or refined sugar and I really don’t feel good after eating that ice-cream, I might have some casein intolerance and I would very appreciate if you start focusing on my well being rather than feeding me with stuff that I am used to and love to eat.” It was hard to transition even for me! Especially because I never had ANY real problems with any of the foodgroups I eliminated, I simply wanted to try it, because all I read about paleo/primal/whole food diet made so much sense to me. (Who am I kidding, I wanted to loose fat, I learned about the health benefits much later, but shortly became completely into the whole idea). And because I am not overly sensitive to anything in particular, I am okay with eating a little dairy here and there, or a slice of bread or a regular wheat flour cupcake.

I just decided NOT TO eat those, because I do much better without them. “Squeaky clean paleo” approach works the best for me, even though I still struggle with sticking to it 100%. But I wan’t to. It is not my fault (right, Whole9? These food are DESIGNED to make us crave them more and be unable to stop eating them), but I am doing all I can to stick to my plan. My boyfriend has issues with both dairy and gluten. I healed his horrible back acne in a few months after putting him on strict paleo diet (and a couple Whole30s). Till this day I regret that I didn’t take a picture of his back on day one. The difference is amazing. To me, that is an Evidence with capital E.

We do make a paleo treat once in a while, maybe once a month. A cookie, a cupcake or a mug muffin (I love the one by Civilized Caveman), all with paleo friendly ingredients. Now again, this is what ladies on Paleo View were talking about – when someone makes a “paleo cupcake,” he is NOT SAYING that cupcakes are paleo. I get that all the time (“Caveman didn’t eat cookies, how would they make cookies? You can’t eat that, that is not paleo!”) and let me just repeat what Sarah and Stacy talk about: IT IS LABELED PALEO BECAUSE OF GOOGLE SEARCHING!!! If you will be online searching for a paleo-friendly brownies, you are not going to type “gluten free dairy free soy free vegetable oil free refined sugar free brownie,” to a Google search form, are you? If you look for “paleo brownie,” THEN you will get what you want.

I understand that Whole30 people are more hardcore than let’s say, 21 Day Sugar Detox people in a sense that Whole30 does not allow any paleolized treats like paleo pancakes, paleo icecreams and stuff like that. They are not doing it because “caveman didn’t eat pancakes,” but because most likely if you are baking a paleo bread, you wanna replace the actual processed wheaty grainy bread. If you are making paleo granola for breakfast, you probably were used to have your oatmeal or müsli in the morning with a glass of skim milk. You are trying to replace something unhealthy with a healthy variation, which does not have the right psychological effect that it should have. You should learn that cookies, pizza and icecream are not the optimal food choices for someone who wants to stay healthy physically AND mentally, not that you always have a “paleo” version to go with instead. Forget the word “treat” (my favorite saying DON’T REWARD YOURSELF WITH A FOOD, YOU ARE NOT A DOG), and also a word “cheat.” It is not a cheat, it is a wrong choice. And if you choose to eat it after all, enjoy it, savor it, eat is slowly and move on. Sit down with your piece of cheesecake (after hours of thinking about if it is really worth it, lol), play some nice music and enjoy every single bite of that darn thing. Do not dare just mindlessly inhale the whole thing in front of the computer (like I was doing in the past with BAGS AND BAGS of potato chips and how I can still do with grapes for example…).

I stay away from gluten and dairy as much as possible. Of course I will never say NO to my grandmother’s cake that I have twice a year when I visit her! Does that make be a bad paleo eather? NO! That makes me a person who enjoys life and makes her grandma happy! Last time I didn’t eat a cake (it didn’t feel special enough to me to eat it, no all cakes are “special,” it was commented by a certain person in a really scornful way: “Are you on a diet or what???” I tried to explain very calmly that I don’t eat gluten and dairy, which was in the cake, but for some reason that person was not okay with my response and had to dig deeper into my sensitive spot and started saying things like “eggs are the worst thing you can eat in the morning, they are so heavy on the stomach” or “you have to give a guy a dumpling with that meat in order to feed him properly” or “you don’t work that hard so you have no idea how to feed a man.” I rather went away than deal with that. Again, some may see it as a running away from a problem instead of proving my claims, but this conversation has been here so many times and it seriously is a waste of time to try to educate someone who doesn’t wanna be educated in a first place and is just looking for a conflict. Of course that he/she feels like a winner when you leave the conversation with no arguments, but I don’t really feel like I have to explain myself to anyone. I do what I know is best for my body and for my boyfriend’s health and that is all that matters to me.

Whenever you do squeaky clean paleo, or you consider youself a paleo baker or follow 80/20 rule, or 90% paleo, or weekend cheater, YOU ARE DOING IT YOUR WAY, which means YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT. As long as it works for you, keep doing what you are doing. Don’t let anyone discourage you with their “you have chocolate on it, that is not paleo” comments, just do your thing. Bake almond flour cookies if you feel like it, dip your strawberries in greek yogurt if you tolerate it, use honey in your tea and eat granola for breakfast. There are so many variations of paleo, every single person can have their own different approach. Again, it is not a prescription, it is a template. You can’t do it wrong. As long as you do what is best for YOU.

Live, let live and LET EAT! :) And do your research before you start criticizing anything!

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4 Comments

  1. Hm, Aragon and his crew acted as a group of a-holes and I think, Sally would be a lovely addition to that group :)
    I agree with you and everyone’s way of paleo… or just everyone’s right to have their own diet, their own definition of paleo. I loved a post by Paleo in Melbourne blogger about paleo police and how some people go around pointing out that “no, you are not paleo, you should stop eating this or that”. It’s nobody’s business how I eat, so please stop lecturing me.
    As for the word “cheat”, I agree, it’s useless, we don’t cheat, we choose to eat so. But I do like the word “treat” as it notes that I give myself something special, something I should enjoy and appreciate. It’s not a reward, as it would be for a dog for its great behaviour, but it’s a treat :) I treat myself to an occasional piece of cake though it’s not my reward for something good I did.

  2. Nina,
    quite nice post, some parts are for me kinda .. too emotional, but I totally understand the vibe, and I don’t mean it in a bad way. We all have some way how to express ourselves and I like yours although it is really different from mine. It is not for everyone to struggle with heretics and talk out of their way of eating or maybe sometimes seneses.
    I am not forcing paleo/primal/lowcarb to anyone as this always needs to be their own choice and their decision, otherwise it will be very hard for them to stick with it. On the other hand I like to speak with people who are vegetarians, vegans, GAPS or other kind of diet based eaters and discuss with them their objections, insights and opinions. It always makes me to look on it from other side, to get more knowledge, to build better argument that I would wholly believe in. But sometimes it happens, that you run in someone who is not willing to listen, like you described and turning your back on that person is not running away from discussion on your belief but just simply trying to avoid painful argument – so don’t beat yourself for doing such, it is natural way how to protect ourselves, but hear this – there are others who will take your stand after you and will be able to continue till sween ending.
    Coming back to the proofs, frankly, there is no proof that will simply say – paleo in all of the combinations and variations is that good to people except one. The evolutionary approach – if eating veggies, meat and what they were able to eat before would not be good, we will not be writing and reading these pages. Paleo might be proven in future that it was good approach but till then, us and them we don’t have any proof that will be simple and clear just on one side. Every thesis can be disproved and just someones pure experience, even though only positive ones, cannot be taken as only and final proof. This requires quite more and it will never be possible to persuade everyone, so don’t give up, just don’t force it :-)
    Good luck and stay paleo !
    Metla

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