Based on increasingly numerous testimonials, best selling books, and internet blogs (high five!) over the past few years, the paleo movement could safely be called, I think, a Paleo Movement. We are advocates and we are examples. Spurred on by our own logic and personal successes, we reach out to others the best way we know how. Some of us write blogs and reach millions of people (what up Richard!). Others work it at the gym and convert cardio addicts. More still change friends’ and family members’ lives forever, and if that’s not the most fulfilling and badass component of living this way, the devil can up and take my soul, I don’t want it anymore.
I don’t mean to say that the paleo community is intentionally adopting an ideology in any way, or that any sort of group-think brainwashing ever goes on. Quite the contrary. The way in which paleo practitioners encourage each other to experiment and to perform their own research is rather inspiring. Paleohacks rocks my world. The spirited debates that often spring up between prominent voices, too, on, say, the benefits of starches or the evils of fructose, are also worthy of fierce admiration.
That said, having such a big, open community means that paleo dieters know a lot about each other. We also know a fair bit about what transformations typically occur on a paleo diet. Energy increases. Weight slides off. Skin clears. Pains go away. Digestion becomes regular. Sleep normalizes. Circulation improves. Cholesterol plummets. And, as one of the highest voted posts on paleohacks asserts, aim improves when throwing crumpled up paper into garbage cans. These are all totally awesome things.
But they are also expectations. Paleo is a balm for many ailments, but it is not a panacea. I can hope to mitigate as many issues as possible with a paleo diet, but I cannot expect all of my problems to go away. Eating paleo has increased my energy, sharpened my mind, and uniquely sated my appetite. These benefits have saved my life in many ways, and I am enormously grateful for their place in my life. However, going paleo has not fixed my Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, has not made me fertile again, and has not cured my intermittent acne problems. I hope you are not reading this post and thinking: “yes, but has she really tried eating 100 percent paleo for at least 30 days?” You bet your sweet ass I have. I’ve experimented with lots of ideas and methods. Perhaps I’ll find the solution in time. But, as it stands, my paleo diet has not cured me of everything, and it would be a bit ridiculous of me to expect otherwise.
Something many people condemn about vegetarianism is that failure to achieve perfect health on the diet is often associated with incompetence or immorality. Are you an unhealthy vegetarian? You’re not doing it right. Are you unhappy? Maybe you’re going to hell. I kid you not, these sentiments exist. (In some misguided circles.) And they’re hurtful and wrong and confusing and they suck for anyone who is trying to find his way.
The Paleo community is NOT the same. No way. But when people don’t experience stellar results with the diet, it’s easy to assume that their methods, rather than our expectations, are to blame. My mother experiences impaired blood circulation. Eating a paleo diet should clear up her vascular system, right? Maybe she eats too many.. I don’t know. Maybe she eats too little.. I don’t know. But there’s got to be something within the paleo arsenal that will cure her capillaries.
I think that when we get people on the paleo wagon, it’s best to say: “Here are the few awesome things that I’ve experienced, and here are some cool things I’ve heard happen to other people, too. But I want you to try it and see for yourself.” One person may cure his insomnia, but another may be dealing with larger issues that cannot be fixed so easily. Another may experience cleared acne because he cut dairy, but still another may maintain his cysts because of an adrenal problem. We never really can tell. And if we promise a panacea to our friends, we might be setting them up for the same type of perfectionism and disappointment we scorn in the vegetarian movement.
As the Paleo Movement continues to grow, I hope that our raging successes do not compel us to standardize. We will, undoubtedly, continue to expect the diet to ROCK. This is a given. But we should be wary of casting the paleo diet as a cure all. Disappointment blows, and it often leads to internally-directed frustration. If you are having problems with your health, do what you can to experiment and to fix it, but don’t blame yourself for your inability to achieve the paleo ideal. Approach the paleo diet, instead, with an open heart and an open mind, and acknowledge, too, it’s limitations. Rational optimism is all the rage, and mental and communal health is even cooler.
Am I crazy? Presumptuous? Let me know what you think. Make me thoughtful, make me smart!Tweet