Hipster Paleo and watered down principles make me itch.

So every time I see the words “Paleo Diet” or “Primal Diet”, in my mind’s eye I picture a bunch of people around a campfire cooking slabs of meat, eating fresh picked fruit, and grinding veggies and herbs between rocks to make soup.  So every time I look at a Paleo website and see recipes for flourless chocolate cake and coconut milk ice cream I get the weirdest mental image, of a man in a loincloth hacking hunks of meat off of a downed buffalo while in the background his mate is eating a bowl of ice cream with her gal pals while they fan their freshly painted toenails with their hair in curlers.  It just doesn’t fit.

It’s not that I don’t love the concept behind the Paleo movement.  Over the past few months I’ve had to face my own declining health, and through trail and error I’ve figured out that eating too much carbs is pretty much directly proportionate to my insomnia, headaches, and sinus problems.  I think it’s very true that our bodies were made to eat a certain kind of diet, and that diet consists of the things we find growing naturally in our environments.  It makes sense that we should be eating mostly vegetables, fruits, and nuts with a hunk of meat thrown in here and there.  When I eat that way I feel energetic, when I eat refined flours and sugars I feel weighed down to my couch.  (If I then drink sugary drinks for energy I get caught in a vortex of ickiness that usually ends with me feeling nauseous and ready to kill someone.)  If we are what we eat, I don’t want to be a loaf of bread.

It makes sense.

I guess that’s why the hipster coconut-ice-cream chocolate-cake Paleo so deeply confuses me, because it’s trying to skirt the issue and let people eat the way they want to eat without really changing.  It’s a lie.  We weren’t made to eat desserts all the time, so we shouldn’t.  When we do eat foods like that we should be honest with our bodies about the fact it’s not healthy, because that is what prevents us from eating an entire pan of brownies in a sitting.  If we lie and say “no, this is totally part of my diet”, we end up in the same place regardless of what diet we eat.

The same thing is true with any set of principles, even religion.  If you believe that something is true, you should modify your behavior to fit the principles you want to live by.  You shouldn’t modify your principles to match your behavior.  If eating ice cream and cake makes you sick, don’t change the ice cream and cake.  Change the patterns that lead you to live that way.

After all, isn’t that the point of the Paleo diet?  A radical change in the relationship we have with our food, our bodies, and our environment?  When I see the Hipster Paleo blogs that look just like the food on any other foodie blog, I feel like instead they are changing the food they are having the relationship with.  It reminds me of a friend who often complained about her boyfriend being addicted to his XBox, so then she broke up with him to date a guy that was obsessed with his gym membership.  It may have been different ingredients but it ended up being the same relationship.

I haven’t completely changed my diet- I avoid carbs more often, but still eat spaghetti and other things from time to time because that’s how the rest of my family eats.  I figure if 60% of the day I do better, I’m 60% healthier.  And I’m honest with myself for the 40% of the day that I’m eating foods that aren’t as natural.

I’m certainly not eating coconut milk ice cream every night and saying “it’s cool!  It’s PALEO!”

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9 thoughts on “Hipster Paleo and watered down principles make me itch.

  1. Steve Betz once pointed out that bread is sacred in most cultures and religions. To get rid of it completely takes an element of Godliness out of our diets! Not that eating Wonder Bread all day and all night is okay, I just think it’s a little crazy to take an entire food group out and call it “healthy.”

    • I could never completely give up breads- and some, like the dark rye my grandma makes, are very healthy. I really do think it’s not about labeling things as good or bad, but about understanding our bodies and how we relate to food. I hate it when people get militaristic about diets just about as much as I hate it when people try to squeeze their way out of adhering to the principle of them.

      I like what you say about the religious aspect of bread. Honestly, I think that making bread is a more spiritual experience for me now that I don’t base my diet off of it. There is something very special, very sacred about bread and the tenderness it takes to make it. (Wonder bread, on the other hand, I could happily live without.)

  2. I wanna say a zebra can’t change it’s spots… or something. But what I mean is that an asshole can still be an asshole after he’s “found Jesus” and a person who has an unhealthy relationship with food will continue to be unhealthy with food even after they went on the _______-diet. The only difference is that after they adopt the new stance they can deny they have a problem.

    • SO. TRUE.

      And every time I see, “I made ____ cake without any flour and only half the sugar of normal recipes, so you don’t need to feel guilty cause it’s PALEO!” I think, “the lady doth protest too much.” I think the Zebra knows it’s still a zebra, on some level. It’s just found a way to self medicate.

      I don’t feel the least bit guilty that I’m only a part-time dieter. You know what? I’m proud that I manage part time, and I’m proud that I’m starting to feel healthy again. It’s like magic, discovering that the secret is with me and not with the food.

  3. I think you would really like Mark Sisson’s blog, Mark’s Daily Apple. His approach is more 80/20 to primal eating (less strict than paleo) and his recipes – in general – are not about substituting paleo waffles for the real ones.

    I strive to eat more ‘primal’ but don’t beat myself up about it if I happen to swing through a Hardees. I just happen to love having an informed, scientific basis for eating nitrate free bacon, broccoli florets with butter/sea salt, and bits of dark chocolate with peanuts – YUM!

    The main point, I feel, is to stay away from processed foods. I do the best I can with that but do enjoy the occasional piece of cake or cookie. I also never really understood how important meat was in my diet and was at many points at accidental vegetarian. (I had no idea how deficient I was in B vitamins!)

    As for eating processed foods like bread, I know now that I absolutely have to eat some meat with it so it doesn’t bomb my system.

    • Thanks for the tip! I have been reading back through Mark’s Daily Apple and really enjoying it. 🙂

      I’ve been doing a semi-paleo which is surprisingly close to what Mark advocates, and even in the few short weeks I’ve been at it I’ve noticed a HUGE change in my body and energy level. Like you I’ve at times become an “accidental vegetarian” because I really didn’t understand my relationship with food, and there would be days where I’d be eating constantly to try to get energy and just feeling completely whipped. I guess what I’m trying to say is that for me what changed wasn’t ascribing to a label, but really understanding what I was doing to myself. If I eat a big plate of pasta or a hunk of bread it does mess with me, too. I *need* protein. Now I get that.

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