What happens if you put me and some tiramisu in the same room?
I would eat with all the pleasure in the world of course!
Maybe you’re judging me… “Aren’t you supposed to be a health coach? You of all people should know that sugar is bad!”
Well let me tell you a story: a while ago I would indeed have judged and criticized myself… In fact, I fiercely judged anyone else who didn’t eat Paleo too. (But thankfully things have changed)
(image cred: crazyhappyhealthy.com)
I read a book on the Paleo diet, I hardcore listened to online summits, read stuff on autoimmune diseases, skin problems, digestive issues and how it can all relate to food. I learned a few fancy medical terms and the names of a few cells in the body, and I reckoned I knew everything about everything. It’s simple! Cut out grains, dairy, legumes, sugar and all your health challenges will be cleared!
I really thought that was the cure for all of humanity’s problems. (Nowadays I concede that life really isn’t one dimensional like that… Don’t get me wrong, food is important, but there is definitely more to health than food alone…)
The ironic thing is, although I was so convinced on how great a Paleo diet is for everyone, I couldn’t really follow it strictly myself. I ate butter, yoghurt and cheese. Once in a while I ate rice too. Oh the blasphemy! And did I mention I was baking like never before? Previously I didn’t even own a whisk or cake tin, but now I was making cakes and muffins out of almond flour like crazy… Hey at least it was Paleo! (I told myself)
Now the point of this is not to bash the Paleo diet (or any diet for that matter).
But there was a little secret I never admitted to anyone and hardly admitted to myself at the time:
Behind all the medical lingo and health talk was really just a girl unhappy with her body. And it seemed the Paleo diet was going to help her lose some weight.
It was very comforting to hide behind the explanations of gut permeability, undigested protein molecules in the body, and the dangers of WGA and gliadin in the bloodstream. From the outside it looked like I was just geeking out and really concerned about gluten, but that was only on the surface. At a deep level this new focus took the pressure off having to explain to other people the ulterior motive why I wasn’t eating certain foods. But because I’m not overweight it would seem annoying that I wasn’t happy with my body and I didn’t want other people to judge me.
Now in saying that I must be clear that the Paleo diet was a huge step in my personal journey – I gained a whole new level of awareness about food and learned a great deal about my own health. And who can really fault the spirit of Paleo? You can’t really argue that a diet mostly of vegetables, fruits, good quality meat, fish… (aka Real Food) isn’t good for you!
But… This is what the Paleo diet or any other diet won’t address:
Your relationship with your body – especially if you don’t have a particularly loving one.
I thought following a “healthy” diet would help me feel better about myself and my body. But what happened was it added another layer of guilt when I caved in and had a pastry – because now I notice the discomfort, so I feel extra disappointment because I knew better but still did it. A-a-a-n-d. I thought it was going to make me fat. What I thought would help me just made me attached to a different set of rules – not the freedom and sense of peace with myself that I was seeking!
Don’t get me wrong, eating real food is healthy for the body, but in my case it wasn’t healthy for the mind. And as I now preach with all of my being:
The mind and body are on the same continuum. If something is unhealthy for the mind, it’s also unhealthy for the body. Don’t wait for science to prove this to you. You know it’s the truth.
So I want to ask you a question:
If you’re following a diet – be it vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, Low Carb, raw foods, Zone… whatever. Are you really do it for “health” reasons?
If yes, good for you! But… if “health” is just a façade, what’s the deep reason?
Can you be honest with yourself and be willing to acknowledge the truth?
I know, gettin’ personal here. But this is the point of my post – to see if you can get real with yourself.
– Gloria Steinem
We have all sorts of reasons to not face ourselves and admit what we really want because we fear it might be shameful, embarrassing, or we’re just plain scared that other people will judge us. B-u-u-u-t… You must acknowledge the truth. Otherwise you will never get to where you want to go.
I had to stop kidding myself. If I didn’t acknowledge the truth that the Paleo Diet was yet another external set of rules to take the focus off what I really needed to address – my relationship with my body – I would still be in the same rat race of never being OK with myself no matter what.
It was hard to admit that to myself, but I knew if I wanted different results, I needed to stop doing the same things.
Let me make it easy and give you what I learned in bullet points:
By all means try different diets and lifestyle approaches. BUT - be honest with yourself as to why you are doing it.
If it’s to be more in tune with your body and to increase your awareness, and you’re doing it out of love for your body not out of fear or hate, then keep going.
But if it’s really a disguise for wanting to change your body because you think changing it will make everything “OK”, you won’t find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
At the end of the day, balance is far more important than anything else. Being perfectly compliant to a set of rules to the extent that you would punish yourself if you break the rules… is incredibly disempowering. It also disconnects you from your body – a sure way to keep yourself miserable for the long run.
And now… this is TRES IMPORTANT: balance extends to all aspects of our existence. Not just in our physical body, but in mind, heart and soul too. Food might play a major role in balancing the physical body, but I tell ya, that balance in your internal world?… That takes more than food. That takes love, patience, being true to yourself, being kind to yourself and most definitely forgiving yourself. No diet or lifestyle hack is going to get you that. That’s all up to you.
We gotta take the pressure off food to deliver on all aspects of our health and happiness. We can nourish ourselves with food. But we also gotta nourish ourselves with kindness, self-acceptance and oodles of love. Nothing from the outside can give you that, only you can give yourself that.