There are very few things in life that play out in black and white. There is a hell of a lot of grey and it happens to be one of my favorite colors. Gun-metal to be exact, which leans towards my fave of all time, black. But I digress.
I talk a lot about Paleo on my blog and in life because that is my chosen ‘ideal’ diet (remember, diet as a noun not a verb) but it doesn’t mean it’s the only way. For me, the ancestral aspect of food consumption v. modern disease makes too much sense to ignore it. Does that mean I never eat sugar or grain? No. And in fact, I had some pita chips with humus just yesterday – not paleo, for the record. But I do my best and follow the standard at about 80/20, most of the time. My body has found its most comfortable stature while my energy and mood are determined by my adherence to clean eating. I know when I’ve been entirely too flexible with my diet because I’m sad and anxious. I’m not going to blame it on depression or anxiety anymore because it is directly related to the food I eat. I’ve experimented too much with it to say otherwise.
Real life dictates that we follow the ebb and flow of certain situations. Even Mark Sisson says “Don’t be weird.” And to be honest, the great American culture sets us up for failure when it comes to a focus on nutrition, REAL nutrition. A new ‘food’ is created every hour in this country. Of those foods, 100% of them are NOT nutritional, and yet super delicious. It’s difficult to avoid grain and I think it takes a certain kind of mind to really commit, full-on-dedicated to a clean diet. A diet that consists only of protein and plants. Not a better mind or a worse mind, but perhaps an insane one. It’s hard work. It’s a constant mental battle. Some folks can turn it on and off at will, while others struggle and cave throughout their life when it comes to nutrition.
Then of course, there’s the problem of really understanding ‘nutrition’. For whatever reason, people feel the need to justify their choices to me (which is UNNECESSARY and I hope I never have to justify my own in return). I promise I am not judging you or your family. I am merely living my own life the way I choose yet people tend to share ‘but we usually eat pretty healthy” with me. I have a hard time, but have learned to, bite my tongue about the real havoc grains plays on the body. Grains are really a source of malnutrition, so even though you choose whole grains because we’re taught they are the healthier alternative, you’re not on the path of health if that’s the bulk of your diet. Try cutting grains for a month, better yet, 3 months or entirely, but for the occasional indulgence, and tell me you don’t swell up like a pregnant woman in the heat of the summer and wake up with the hangover of a rock star. And please, don’t let those whole grain fishies trick your sensibilities when it comes to your children. If ‘treats’ and sugary drinks work their way into your diet every day it’s a hinderance. I LOVE a treat, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a ‘treat’ if it’s a daily occurence and don’t get me re-started on the snack situation in this country.
Back to my point: All or nothing? Absolutely not. I will say, however, there is NO EASY SOLUTION. There is no miracle diet that will shed your 10, 30 or 80 lbs of extra weight. None. It takes time and steady, constant work. 2lbs a week is a very reasonable amount of weight to lose on a steady basis. If you have a goal, make it a reasonable one. Google images of “Paleo Before and After” and you’ll see tons of examples of those taking 2 months, 6 months, 12, 18, 24 months to reach their goals! What are you waiting for? As time passes, that’s time that you could have already lost 2 or 12 or 46 lbs and gained tons of energy and enjoyment in life. Your physical appearance is 90% diet. Some say 80%, either way food is HUGE when it comes to fitness and working out only gets you so far. But it gets you no where and leaves you tired and hungry as long as your eating the same foods.
You’re smart enough to realize that it’s already summer, there is no way you’ll be bikini ready by July if you have 20lbs to lose. I don’t care if you’re doing Weight Watchers, the Lemonade Detox, Nutri System, Raw Foods or any other fancy way of shedding pounds. Not to mention that as soon as you hit goal, you go back to your historic eating habits and slowly put the weight back on. Diet is the way a person eats. CHOOSE a different pattern if your current pattern has resulted in illness or weight gain. Understand you could be a thin person but very uncomfortable due to the foods you choose. Diet dictates health.
Life is a journey. A marathon and not a sprint. Start today with every choice. Space your indulgences out more and more each time. Do you indulge everyday? Have a brownie at the picnic this afternoon, then wait till Tuesday to indulge in a chocolate sundae. Wait again till friday for pizza or a sub while maintaining a majority protein/plant diet otherwise. Schedule your cheats/treats/indulgences so your brain doesn’t freak out on you and cause your hands to shovel every piece of junk in the house into your mouth tonight when no one is looking. We’ve all been there. Huge pasta fan? Make it your sunday special. Something to look forward to. Life is an experiment, what do you have to lose? A few pounds? The taste for it? Amazing what happens when you give your body a rest from all the junk.
With all that said, I strive towards a diet of plants and protein everyday. I’m not perfect and I will indulge in grains and sugars at times. It’s almost easier to adhere to a clean diet when folks are watching, so I talk about it a lot. As a result, I have been constantly flattered by friends going out of their way to accommodate ‘my way of life’ which in turn becomes part of theirs. Just last weekend, a friend included a crustless quiche in her quiche buffet at an after-parade brunch – SO THOUGHTFUL. The array of dishes brought to my own backyard bash was OUT of this world with variety, color and taste. I really can’t describe how awesome it was to see the food tables filled with salads, casseroles, dips, sides and platters full of plants and protein. And I swear I didn’t suggest a thing! The food went fast with plate after plate of raves and positive reviews from guests.
IT’S NOT ALL OR NOTHING. So don’t use a cookie as an excuse to throw your hard work out the window, even if it’s only been a day or a month. That’s a day or a month closer to a new life – one where you feel alive, aware, awake because of the fuel you are allowing your body to absorb and run on. It is a new way of thinking. A constant path towards better choices, subtle choices that include less grain and more protein and healthy fats.
Here are a few anecdotes shared with me recently that may inspire you. Please share your own in the comments or on our Facebook page:
- I read your blog and it makes me think more about my own choices. I will never ‘go Paleo’ but I have cut things out and am down 15 lbs. The best part is that my energy is steady. I don’t crash like I used to.
- Since starting my journey into Paleo (about 3ish months now?) I have lost 30 pounds! Got back into my pre-baby clothes, gained a ton of energy and so much more. I am in love with my new way of life. I am learning that it goes beyond food too. I now take daily walks in the sun with the little man, strive to be on the iPad less, and I have cut my workouts in half by doing more HIIT instead of hours on the treadmill.
- I have cut sodas and iced tea out of my drink selection, and now snack on veggies or leftover dinner meat instead. It didn’t happen over night, but I’m in a size pant I haven’t seen since high school.
- After a year of trying my hardest to cut grain, with the occasional pasta splurge, I have lost almost an entire person 89lbs! It’s been really tough and really exciting. People ask what my magic pill was and I tell them I just eat clean and take an occasional walk. Now it’s time to get into working out and shed another 30lbs.
- I tried the HCG diet because my doctor told me I was obese and said I would be a good candidate. I felt like I was being tortured. It set me up for failure by not allowing me proper nutrition and food. I gained 10lbs after I stopped HCG just from the backlash. Once I was able to think again, I realized it was just about the food I ate and I found a few paleo resources, including your easy to read blog, and decided to give myself a long time to lose. I’m down 20 lbs over 3 months. Not a lot compared to what I have to lose, but it’s a start and I’m learning the healthy way.
As many of you know, and evident in my Twitter feed over the past 3 days, I’ve been camped out in Austin, Texas this week attending the PaleoFX Ancestral Momentum – Theory to Practice Symposium. (I KNOW!) It’s been an exciting experience to be part of such a strong group of like-minded individuals focused on health and wellness despite the pressures of modern culture. Keeping that in mind, I will be posting several blogs over the next few weeks that pertain to the information that touched me most during this 3 day event.
First up: Food and Fitness in Children
This is a very personal topic for me, and I’m sure every other parent reading, as I have 2 young girls growing up in a very sick world. If you would do anything to protect your children, then diet (noun, not verb) should be your #1 concern. Fight for their health by feeding them well. (Feed yourself the same.)
There was a most exciting panel on Thursday that included Angelo Coppola as moderator, Chris Kresser, Marissa Pelligrino, Stacy Toth, Dave Asprey, Sarah Pope and Michelle Tam. There were a few prepared questions for the panel to answer, followed by a Q & A session with the audience. I hope to link you to the online video of this session soon, as PaleoFX is recording all events.
Now to touch on some items that stood out to me and which I feel an obligation to share and explore with my fellow warrior-parents.
1. Fitness: Get that kid moving early. In fact, their first movements could come within the first 20 minutes of life. Plopped lovingly and naturally upon their mothers belly, they will lick their own afterbirth from the hand, then crawl their way towards the nipple, fueled by natural instinct and the smell of amino acids. AMAZING. Jump ahead a several months, once your child is able to grip, they can hang, hold, and lift items from ground to overhead. Watch how they squat naturally (flat feet, chest up, butt down, you should try it sometime), allow them space to scoot, crawl or shimmy their way towards their most optimal food source: Mom.
Melissa Pelligrino is a trainer at Relentless Fitness in Philadelphia, PA and runs classes for children (and their family) as young as 18 months. She focuses on simple, natural movements and strengths like hanging, rolling, jumping and balance. She also stressed that the WHOLE family must be involved in any wellness program. Your children learn what they’re taught and the great majority comes from their parents. If mom and dad aren’t moving and eating well, why should they?
Speaking of fitness, but unrelated to this specific panel: I had the pleasure of participating in a MovNat workshop on Thursday morning. This is a natural movements fitness program created by Erwan Le Corre and/or every human being and animal on the planet who has come before us, depending on how you look at it. MovNat is based on real, practical movement done in the most efficient manner. It is a comprehensive conditioning program and now I can say that with real experience. Over the course of 2 hours we trained with one of Erwan’s understudies, Brian, and engaged in balance exercises, ground movements, rolling techniques and traversing (when it wasn’t raining, talk about nature!). My calves hurt today and it was a real test of coordination and balance throughout every move, which is not my forte. It was a load of fun!
Back to kids: The following day, I enjoyed Erwan’s lecture and Q & A session. The real, simple and logical information he presented had me thinking about my (almost) 13-year-old nephew. Erwan spoke (in his endearing accent) of mindfulness in movement, action, posture, thought, etc. How the level of mindfulness and thoughtfulness involved in essential and proper movement leads to mindfulness in all aspects of life. My nephew is brilliant, and yet…insufficiently alert. The MovNat concept would be an amazing addition to a child’s life. As Erwan said best, “If you teach a child, you will not have to rebuild an adult.” Powerful and true and primal. He also mentioned creating Physical Education Curriculum as a forthcoming project from MovNat – EXCITING.
Keep in mind, the playground is full of options. Don’t let your children shy away from the monkey bars, boost them up and see how long they can hang or hold themselves above a bar, you’d be surprised! In fact, I traversed the monkey bars for the first time in my life (yes folks, my life) on thursday right before I pulled myself up and over a pull-up bar (despite being unable to do an unassisted pull-up). Climbing all over, running, jumping and screeching up a storm is natural and positive. If you’re child is not given the opportunity to be active, their bodies are not in their natural state, already upsetting their internal system. Let’s not forget the delicious amount of natural (and free) Vitamin D they will be exposed to while playing outdoors. Encourage exploration, if you’re worried about them soiling their knickers, you’re doing it wrong.
2. Food: Okay, let’s dive in! This was very exciting for me. My husband and I, whether out of sheer laziness or personal preference, never ‘fed’ our infants solids. I felt an infant should ‘eat’ solids when they could eat solids. And by that I mean, when they were able to pick up real food and put it in their mouth. My pediatrician never pushed me towards anything, although he did suggest rice cereal as a first food around 6 months. I politely declined after which he said, “Good choice.” Speaking of rice cereal, let’s go there.
Sarah Pope turned my head so fast with the following statement, which I will paraphrase, that I immediately posted this information on my Facebook page, where I infrequently share things I feel everyone should hear at least once. As the panel discussed feeding infants, only after they could sit upright, displaying proper core muscle development which aids in proper digestion (MAKES TOO MUCH SENSE!), they touched on why rice cereal is a bad idea for your infant.
An aside: As I was typing that very paragraph, a friend commented on my Facebook post with a good point (thanks Josh!) “I’m pretty sure there are worse things to feed a baby than rice. Let’s set the hyperbole aside for a minute.” Of course! I would never feed an infant chips or soda, or a million other things. Especially as their 1st experience with food. I’m coming from the point of view that rice cereal is the most recommended first food by pediatricians. Therefore, my post stating it is the worst food to feed your infant is referring to this popular suggestion and to the average intelligent and informed way of feeding your infants in general (meaning: NOT JUNK). Make sense?
Back to what Sarah said: Rice cereal is the worst first food you could feed your infant because babies do not have the ability to properly digest carbohydrates until later in life. Therefor, the rice sits in their gut and rots. Eczema, autoimmune, and allergies all stem from their sick guts. Her full blog post on this topic is found here: The Right Way to Feed Babies. I could also argue that despite developing the proper enzymes for carb digestion, humans never really digest grain, evident in the grain fibers found in your stool.
When Sarah, in a very adamant tone, made the correlation between an infant’s inability to properly digest non-green carbohydrates (rice, cereal, bagels, crackers, etc) properly and gut rot, my head almost exploded. This resonates with me so heavily because of the information I’ve read on gut health and how it is directly related to most modern disease, including autoimmune diseases, mental illness, gluten sensitivity, and much more. How many of you have a child, or who has themselves, battled with skin issues, or have been diagnosed with celiac, or possibly deal with one or more of a slew of autoimmune malfunctions? In my mind, I immediately thought: We’re starting their lives out with a sick gut. It only gets sicker from there if you’re feeding/eating a standard diet, high in processed foods and grain, beginning their path towards disease. HUGE.
As Dr. Lane Sebring, of the Sebring Clinic, stated during a solo session on Friday entitled Disease Reversal with the Paleo Diet, “What can Paleo treat? EVERYTHING.” Dr. Jack Kruse also made a good point when I spoke with him privately about my family’s Rheumatoid Arthritis, “Fix the gut and then you can begin to fix everything else. You can’t replace the floor in a burning building and expect it to be safe from the fire. You got to put the fire out first.” Dr. Jack is a wild guy, full of passion, a neurosurgeon and trailblazer in the medical community by focusing on nutrition instead of the scalpel. More to come on both of these men in the very near future.
3. The good news: You can heal the gut. It takes time and is a longterm process, expect real healing after two years (or more) but it will begin to get better as soon as you stop putting processed foods and grain into your children’s (or your own) belly which includes elimination of all the fancy new gluten-free products that look just like the old poor choices. Pro and Prebiotics are a huge asset in the healing process and should be staples in your diet. Prebiotics are consumed through lots of vegetable and fruit options like onions, bananas, honey, garlic, artichokes, among others. Probiotics are found in foods like sauerkraut, yogurt (not all are created equal) and other fermented and cultured products. Choosing full fat options will provide you with a great amount of nutrients the body doesn’t otherwise obtain, as well as keep you full and satiated. It’s also not as processed, I mean, how do they get the fat out of stuff anyway?
4. Sacred Foods: I’ll make this brief as I know this is a lot for most people to take in at one time. The introduction of ancient, sacred foods to an infant or expectant mother has a dramatic effect on their health, proper growth and essential brain development. Fish eggs, liver, bone marrow broth are all rich in minerals and fat-soluble activators which allow all the good stuff to be absorbed by the body. This is different than most common foods which the body does not absorb efficiently. The sacred foods of indigenous people are viewed as the strongest possible foundation for development. A baby’s first foods would ideally include pastured egg yolks and liver.
As the Weston A Price Foundation puts it: “Generations ago, sacred foods were revered, non-optional and non-negotiable additions to the diet. Today, the burden rests on all of us to reestablish these truths in our nutritionally confused culture. Only with our effort will inclusion of sacred foods in the diet become a common practice, passed down to future generations for the health of their own families, communities, and nations.”
Other sacred foods to add to everyone’s diet (because it does provide a greater source of nutrition for grown children and adults as well) include: anchovies, sardines and whitebait, other small fish, cod liver oil, organ meats, raw pastured dairy, pastured animal fat, insects.
Do what you can, get creative in the kitchen and you’ll forget you added it to your tacos, dip, soup, etc.
5. Win/Lose: This is not a black and white issue. If you weren’t able or chose not to breastfeed, like myself (yes, I know, I’m going to hell), had a c-section, fed your infant rice, started before they could sit upright or never ate a sacred food, you haven’t lost the battle. The ship can turn but it’s important that you realize you can’t turn a ship without a captain. Practice what you preach, look at these new ideas as experiments and have fun! Your children will grow tall and strong and happy. Influence is powerful and they look at you, their parent, like a god. Go with it. Give them the most positive influence you possibly can (whether from birth, age 3, 8, 17…) and they will learn to live well. They will be fueled with experience to make good choices. You can then thank yourself.
In Short: Do I think everyone has to eat Paleo or exactly like me? Absolutely NOT. Do I feel GRAIN and processed foods need to be eliminated from the diet for an optimal chance at health? Yes. The beautiful thing about life: we have the ability to CHOOSE. I am but a vehicle of information.
More to come from PaleoFX!