There’s something very strange about what happens when people find out you’ve ‘gone paleo’. It elicits this defensive, aggressive, need to argue reaction. All of a sudden, it’s someone else’s job to make sure you know that they don’t understand why you’re eating that way, and why they don’t think it’s a good idea. You don’t even need to say anything about it yourself most of the time. All it takes is a simple, “No bread for me, thank you!” and you find yourself in the middle of a Q & A that you never wanted to go to. Why is that? Well, I have a theory. It may sound condescending. It may sound judgmental, but I believe that at the root of all of the “paleo is stupid” rhetoric from the people in your life stem from one, basic emotion:

Insecurity.

When you change your lifestyle for that of a ‘healthier’ one, especially when it seems to go against the ‘mainstream’ ideas of what ‘healthy’ is (i.e. low fat, healthy whole grain-based, low-calorie, stuff that we all now know is bullshit), you are inadvertently challenging what others are doing. I find that people can even take it as a personal attack. By changing your approach, you’re saying what they are doing is wrong – even if you never actually said it. So, in response, they must beat you to the punch and tell you why you’re the one who is wrong. Even when the evidence is right there. YOU! I’ve yet to meet someone who ditched the modern standard American diet of packaged fake foods and felt or looked worse for it. If you’re one of those people, please let me know. I would love to hear your story.

When you change your life, you force others to look at their own. Your opting to not eat the free bread that came with dinner, might make the people your with feel (even if it’s subconscious) bad about the fact that they’re choosing to eat it. So, they try to bring you down. Misery loves company. I hear it a lot from the people, especially women, that I work with nutritionally. They’ll be at work, free donuts will show up, they simply say they don’t want any…and the mocking commences. “You’re obsessed.”, “You need help.”, “It’s just a donut, what’s the problem?”, “That’s crazy that you eat like that.”. I would love for everyone’s response to these statements to be able to be…

“What the fuck do you care?”

But we have to be a little more PC in our world. So, instead, we must simply hold fast to our choices. We must have conviction. You know what makes you feel best, what food fuels you best. You know what those frankenfoods do to your insides, and that’s why you’ve chosen to give them up.

So, this list is for my whole-foods peeps, and for everyone who feels the need to comment on their friends neglect of Cheerios as a food group.

If you’re a Paleo person, take solace in that you’re not alone is being undeniably annoyed by the following statements that I know you’ve all heard.

If you’re not, next time you find yourself about to utter one of these lines, realize that the person you’re talking to has probably heard it 50 times already and maybe today make the choice to keep it to yourself.

1. “Cavemen died at 30.”

Wow. I had no idea that you had done extensive research on the topic of anthropology and the life span of the Paleolithic people. I’m going to go ahead and assume that you just heard that little buzz line somewhere along the way and continue that assumption to figure you’ve never actually looked into the topic. Let’s also assume that maybe, just maybe, before I made vast changes to the way that I live my life, that maybe I have actually done a little Googling on the topic. There’s plenty out there. Let’s refer, now, to the experts. Dr. Loren Cordain, and Chris Kresser L.aC, who…surprise surprise…have actually done a little of that…research thing. From Chris Kresser:

“While it’s true that the lifespans of our Paleolithic forebears were shorter on average than our lifespans today, those averages don’t consider significant challenges those ancestors faced that are largely absent from our modern lives. These include high rates of infant mortality, tribal warfare and violence, exposure to the elements, and lack of emergency medical care. 

Studies show that when these challenges are taken into account, our ancestors (as well as contemporary hunter-gatherers) lived lifespans roughly equivalent to our own. But more important, they reached these ages without developing any of the chronic, inflammatory diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease or autoimmune disease that plague us today.”

picture via survival punk.com

picture via survival punk.com

What does all that science talk mean? It means that yes, the average lifespan of the Paleolithic people was shorter. The key word being AVERAGE. Without the progression of medicine, things like infant mortality, emergency medical situations, living outside, and tribal warfare cut the lives of some of those people quite short. If you have 5 people who live to 85, but one baby die during childbirth or shortly after, the average lifespan of those people is 71. Let’s add in a 20-year-old who suffers a fatal injury. Now we’re at 63. See how quickly that drops the ‘average’ age? The biggest takeaway from this information, is that when you factor all of those outlier elements out, our ancestors lived lives much similar to ours in terms of years. The major difference, and the thing that the paleo movement focuses on, is that the quality of their years were better, according to the above linked ‘Longevity Among Hunter Gatherers’  study. They did not suffer from the debilitating chronic diseases we have today: dementia, diabetes, auto immune conditions, heart disease, inflammatory diseases. If they were as harmful to people 2 million years ago without modern medicine – using your common sense – what is the likelihood that we would’ve survived this long? This is not opinion. This is fact. This is research compiled from experts over years. I suggest you look at it before blurting out a sound bite.

The whole ‘caveman’ thing has gotten a little out of hand. We’re not talking about a literal reenactment. I don’t think everyone should go live in a cave, wear animal hides they skinned themselves, and only cook on an open fire that they started with sticks. The idea is that chronic, debilitating disease is new to the modern world. While caveman may have died at 30, it wasn’t because of cancer, or Alzheimers, or MS, or Diabetes, or one of the dozens of other degenerative diseases we see so often today. Old food is not to blame for new illnesses. It’s about getting back to the roots of what humans have always eaten. About returning to real food, whole food, in its natural form. What’s so weird about that?

2. No grains or sugar? What do you even eat, then? You need carbs!

Um….literally everything else.  I’m going to say something here that the grain-lovers aren’t going to like. If you think eliminating grains and sugar from your diet means that there is nothing more to eat…that’s a problem. What do I even eat? Let’s see…

Eggs, bacon, steak, fish, pork, burgers, shrimp, chicken, ribs, wings, chili, guacamole, even white rice, sweet potatoes, and regular potatoes. Oh and everything else with a face, all of the vegetables and all of the fruits, nuts, seeds, butter, olive oil, coconut, coffee…I make waffles out of coconut flour and noodles out of squash. I eat everything. I eat all of the things. Except for the things that are made in a factory and put into a box. Everything that I eat has been around way longer that you or I have (ok…maybe not the coconut waffles).  Am I more picky about where that stuff comes from? Yes. I want my beef grass-fed, my pork pastured, my fish wild caught and my produce organic. I want it raised or grown the way it was done before billion dollar businesses got involved.

I eat tons of carbs. Sweet potatoes, plantains, carrots, parsnips, apples, bananas….fruits and vegetables are carb. The carbohydrate family extends far past the cereal and bread isle.

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I am not limited in my choices. I eat food. Real food. That’s always been food. It’s that simple.

Did I mention bacon?

3. “I could never live like that.”

First of all, fuck off. As much as I love your implication that I am miserable and living in constant deprivation, I not only live like this quite happily, but I can’t imagine going back to my old ways. Live like what, exactly? What is it that you think I’m doing that is so challenging and impossible? Not eating pasta? Not having a sandwich everyday? I’m confused. How is eating junk food a direct line to happiness? When did wether or not we consume edible boxed products become the determining factor in how content we are in our lives? It’s not a struggle. I’m not constantly wringing my hands over the fact that I can’t eat that Twinkie you have there. Why? Because I don’t see it that way. I don’t see it in the light that I CAN’T have that. I can have whatever the hell I want. What I WANT is simply different now. I WANT a grass-fed steak. I WANT coconut milk ice cream. I WANT a big pile of swiss chard and garlic. I WANT to go to the gym and lift weights. I WANT to drink lots of water. I WANT to do what I need to do to feel good. It’s not that I am crying inside because I can’t have a Philly cheese steak. I’m not even thinking about it because I don’t even see it as an option. It’s fine if you don’t think you could ever live like this. No one is asking you to. I kindly do request, though, that you mind your own business.

4. “I guess I just like food too much. Life is too short.”

I’m sorry, I missed the part where I said I hated food. I love food. Eating it, cooking it, talking about it. I have a blog about it for goodness sake. This is another statement that goes right in line with this idea that anyone avoiding anything in their dietary lives is living in the hollow, dark, shell of deprivation. Please, tell me what a food-lover would be missing from my plate of grass-fed steak, herb butter, garlic bok choy and cinnamon sweet potatoes. The loaf of bread on the side? That’s what turns this delicious meal into one that someone who ‘loves food’ cannot enjoy?  Maybe you don’t realize how condescending this statement is. It’s like saying, “I just value being happy more than you do, I guess.”.

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You’re right. Life IS too short. That’s WHY I eat this way. I’m not trying to make it any shorter by putting things into my body that I know contribute to things that won’t help me gain extra, quality, years. Life is short, and can end at any moment. I’ve experienced it more in my own life than many.  That doesn’t make me want to just say ‘fuck it’ and throw caution to the wind since we’re all gonna die anyway. It makes me want to do everything I can not only to enjoy my life, but to live it in full health for as long as possible. My being happy, my living a full life, is not determined by whether or not I eat a pizza. Did I used to think that way? YES! I remember saying “I could feel/look/be the way I want, but I’ll never give up pizza and beer. I don’t want to live like that.” I said those words. ME! I look back now and, this may be harsh former self, but I think what a loser I sounded like. I really put that much importance on needing to eat pizza? Pizza is what I was hinging my happiness on? That seems ridiculous now. I never feel like I’m missing out. Like I’m missing something. Like I’m depriving myself. I don’t see those foods as options anymore. I only want to eat the things that make me feel good and keep me healthy. Because I like food, I make sure it tastes amazing. And because life is short, I don’t make concessions with its quality. You may have a different opinion. And you’re entitled to it.

5. “You look fine, why are you on a Diet?”

I must’ve missed the meeting. I didn’t realize that we had collectively decided that the only reason to eat well is to lose weight and we only do it for a short period of time while on a ‘Diet’. You’re right. I am on a diet. I’m on my diet. The food I eat every day, day in and day out is my diet.  Somewhere a long the way, someone decided that the only explanation for eating ‘healthy’ food is because you’re on a Diet to try and loose weight. That is the only, logical, reason not to eat pizza.

A lot of people look fine on the outside but when you go under the surface, they are not the picture of health. We made the mistake, thanks to our culture, in automatically associating thinness or leanness with health. Low body fat does not unequivocally mean that one is healthy. Mental clarity, the ability to move well and for long periods of time, balanced blood sugar, happy hormones, vibrant skin, strong bones, high energy, good sleep, smooth digestion. These are things that demonstrate health. Not wether or not you have a six-pack.

Are there healthy thin people? Yes. Are there healthy people with some meat on their bones? Yes. There are healthy people of all shapes and sizes. JUST as there are unhealthy people of all shapes and sizes. I do not eat nourishing foods because I am striving to look a certain way, though the aesthetic side effect of eating well tends to be pleasing to look at, I eat this way because I want what’s on the inside to thrive. I want a strong heart. I want strong bones. I want my hormones and blood sugar to be balanced. I want to feel rested in the morning and have energy all day. I want to be in a good mood. I want to think clearly. I want to perform well at the gym and get stronger. These things cannot be done simply by running away calories. They must be done through food. T

his is why I’m “on a diet”. This is why I eat this way. This is why I will continue to eat this way. Not for two weeks, just until my friend’s wedding, but until they put me into the ground….which, if I have anything to say about it, will not be from any kind of modern, bullshit, inflammatory, could’ve-been-prevented disease. If you’re waiting for me to get osteoporosis and break a hip so you can say ‘I told you so’…don’t hold your breath.