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!”