Posts Tagged ‘barefoot’

Barefoot everything

First: a disclaimer.  I have no foot fetish.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)  My interest in feet is 100 percent platonic.  I need to get that out there before I proceed.  Because what I’m about to expound on is this: if there’s one body part I love above all others (you’re right: I went there), it’s feet.

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Feet are what take us places.  They carry us across the Earth, and they root us in the very physicality of our existence.  This is very important, perhaps even more so than we ever acknowledge.  What’s more, a foot will never let you down.  Walking is slow, is easy, is reliable, is natural, and is universal.   I have walked to countless places on a variety of journeys, and I have loved absorbing every place my feet have taken me.   Walking past a field of tulips in Holland, for example, or down a winding Chinese terrace with an old rice farmer, offer virtually unparalleled organic and sensory experiences.   I can walk anytime and anywhere, and there is great, great freedom in that fact.

Freedom

Feet are for walking and for journeys, but they’re also for other movements.  They’re for dance!  And for leaping!   They are the points us contact between us and the world.   The world’s best dancers never wear shoes, and they never have.  They know that in order to have the best control and performance, it needs to be just them and the floor.

Dance is where, in fact, my love affair with feet got off of the ground.  I was enamored by their ability to make me awesome, and I took great pride in how they were proof of my lifestyle.  A lot like hands, feet can reveal someone’s character.  A woman can very easily demonstrate her demographics by having the distorted arches of monstrously high heels, or an organic farmer can show his love of soil with his grubby toenails.  Feet (and all other body markers) are unquestionably badass in this power.

That said, I’ve scorned shoes since I was a young girl.  I just never got it.  Why tf bother?  It was easier to move, it cost less money, it felt better than being confined to unnatural shapes.  In college, I was forced to fetch my shoes every time I wanted to eat in the dining halls.  Otherwise I’d spend my lunch hour waiting for friends to bring me their scraps.  It was against health codes.  Why?  Was I going to sue the school for stepping on some misplaced spaghetti?  No.  Even if I did end up stepping on a knife or some ridiculous shit, that was clearly a risk I was willing to take.  I even offered to sign a waiver.  Liability shmiability.  I was not a happy camper.

Of course these feet norms arbitrarily exist in the rest of the world, too.  It’s a very clear issue: if you do not wear shoes, you are not safe, and you are not clean.  Both concepts are wrong.  My safety is my own concern, and I promise I never unduly endanger myself.  I wear shoes when it’s cold, I wear shoes when it’s gravelly, and I wear shoes if there’s danger of dropping pointy objects on my feet.  It is not a question of health, nor, in fact, of health codes!  One organization, barefooters.org, has written letters to each state government inquiring about the status of their health codes, and the answers are nearly unanimous: the illegality of shopping, eating, and driving barefoot is greatly exaggerated. And in terms of cleanliness, how my feet touching the floor is worse than my hand touching a doorknob is beyond me.  Let’s be real.  Even if I pick up some viruses on the bottom of my feet, how are they possibly going to get into someone’s orifice to infect them?  Yikes.

I told you I’m not interested that way.

Being barefoot is important for practical reasons.  It alleviates my knee problems, it conserves energy while running, and it gives people a more natural stride.  These are all totally awesome things.  I am thrilled to Alpha Centauri and back that barefoot exercising is becoming more popular.  I would like to advance this crusade, however.  Barefoot running is GREAT.  Holistic barefootedness is even greater.

Vive la revolution!

04

02 2011

Where are all the Paleo Nudists?

If you’ve been hanging around the paleo blogosphere for as long as I have, you’ve probably become aware of the fact that there are a few camps out there regarding the best way to optimize our well-being. On one side, many paleos prioritize diet and eschew any other evolutionarily-derived principles. That’s cool, and I understand that we live in a totally modern world where ancestral behaviors don’t really fit in. Loads of others, however, try to imagine what life was like for primeval man, and to emulate the aspects that seem beneficial as much as possible. The idea is that not just the human diet, but everyday habits, are in fact optimized when aligned with genetic programming and an evolutionary perspective. For some brilliant and fun examples, check out John Durant’s barefoot running manifesto at Hunter-Gatherer.com, Mark Sisson’s defense of dance, or the aptly named Paleo Playbook.

There are two other relevant facts I need to point out before proceeding.

The first is: everyone who’s anyone in the paleo world knows that vitamin D and sun exposure are crucial for optimizing health.

The second is this: Paleo dieters are sexy. Way sexy. Way, way, way sexy. I’ve never seen such glowing skin, bright eyes, tight abs and fresh-out-of-the-oven-mmmm-mmmm glutes. People’s testimonials all over the paleosphere blow me away, and if I wanted to link you to all the hot shots I’ve seen, I’d be stuck in the post for days. Plus, we are aware this fact. Paleo is hot. Mirrors are our friends. Jump on the train or don’t. Just know that I invited you along.

All of these points considered, I ask you this:

Where are all the paleo nudists?

If primal ladies and gentlemen truly enjoy experimenting with the natural state of humanity, if we really love soaking up vitamin D, and if we have bodies to rival Matthew McConaugheeeey, why are we still so heavily clothed? Why have I never read about a nudist paleo family? Or maybe just people who enjoy being naked more often than is typical? People who wish they could move more freely out in the woods? Perhaps move to Vermont and spend their days bathing in shaded glens?

I know that nudists are a bit of a fringe group, and also that there are a million good reasons to wear clothing. I also know that ancestral man used tools and clothing to protect himself from the elements. But I’m willing to bet that he was way less nervous about freckles and nipples and shrinkage. Plus he didn’t have to worry about Prada’s new line, or suffer through a Joan Rivers diabtribe, or even concern himself with Patagonia’s four hundred dollar, must-have, lightweight, moisture-wicking high-performance fleece that “travels incognito as a dignified, richly textured, cross-dyed, heathered sweater.”*

I am not advocating a nudist lifestyle, and I am in fact currently clothed in long johns and a heavy old robe. But I do think it odd that I don’t hear nudism bandied around more often. Paleos are a funny, safe-effacing bunch, and I can see us mocked on nude beaches as easily as I can see us mocked wearing loin cloths and wielding clubs.

Yet most importantly, I advocate taking a page out of the nudist book from time to time. Embrace your body, and embrace the bodies of others, and let shame roll off of your shoulders! It might feel really amazing to spend more time naked, especially if it’s just you and your significant other lounging around the house. You are beautiful, and I want you to feel it! And I want you to share it with others! And maybe you should put on some pants when you leave the house because I don’t necessarily want to see your public hair, but, regardless, my challenge stands: think about your clothes, and love what’s in them!

*They actually advertise this.

02

02 2011

My Paleo Journey

Perhaps a good way to start out with my blog is to share my past. This should demonstrate why Paleo eating and living is so important to me. And perhaps, if you’re new to all of this, it will convince you to give it a shot, too. That would be wonderful. I’d be happy to help you get started.

And finally, please, as always, take everything I have to say with a NorCal ™ margarita full of salt. I try my best to be fair and to make sense of life. But that’s a giant challenge we all struggle with, so use your judgment as best you can.

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My story began in adolescence. I was…not quite fit. Perhaps 30 pounds overweight. Cute enough. Clean enough. Happy enough. And certainly productive enough. But I loathed myself. I loathed my body, and I loathed it even more because I should have been able to control it, but I couldn’t. What  I lacked, I thought, was willpower. I ate as healthfully as absolutely possible (with the occasional binge thrown in) but it didn’t make a difference. Special K cereal in the morning with skim milk, grapes and yogurt and a bagel for lunch, and salad or pasta for dinner. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But I was always grazing, never satisfied, and perpetually deprived. I hated myself for eating that much. Clearly, I lacked the control necessary to be truly beautiful.

So passed the years of 2002-2006.

I got to college in 2006 and my friends told me to love my body. Okay. I was a bit too busy running all over the world and getting pissed in fraternity basements to really be disgusted anyway, but still I lumbered on with my loathing. Moreover, for environmental, ethical, and health reasons, I became a vegetarian. (More wrath re: vegetarianism later). I needed to be stricter to be healthier. And I was. I ate virtually zero fat, with an avocado perhaps once per week and an egg white omelet perhaps once per week. I ate tofu. And I ate oatmeal, and I ate salad, and I ate approximately my weight in dried fruit. Also, continuing my habit from adolescence, I killed myself on cardio machines at least once per day (I was a college student and went to the gym at six AM: wtf?). Today I am appalled at the kind of damage I was doing to my adrenal system, to my liver, and to my brain.

Three years later, I wasn’t any smaller. I’m 5’2, and at the time I wore sizes seven and nine. And in September, miracle of miracles, I got a stomach flu. In my opinion at that time, this was the greatest thing that could have happened to me. It gave me momentum to keep losing weight. And now I’m really strict, but it’s working. I was eating perhaps 1300 calories of carbohydrates and cycling at least an hour each day. I dropped weight FAST. 30 pounds in three months. And I loved it. Of course it was hard as hell, and of course I craved food every second of every day, and of course I felt monstrously deprived, but at least I didn’t hate myself anymore.  I had control. My friends were terrified. Everyone was voicing disordered eating concerns. They convinced me I Had A Problem, and I panicked even more. How do I be healthy? How do I maintain weight? How fucked up am I really? Will I ever stop being hungry?

That winter I suffered a number of anxiety attacks. Have you ever gone an entire seven days without sleeping? I can’t explain to you how horrific it was. I wasn’t in control of my emotions at all, and I was barely functional. My hands never stopped shaking. There were some other hard things going on in my life, aside from the food issue, but clearly something wasn’t working. I remember one night when I couldn’t sleep, going downstairs and eating an entire carrot cake. It was blissful, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

My mom finally got concerned, catching wind of the whole disordered eating deal even though she was seven hundred miles away. She had been eating Paleo for about six months, and she voiced her opinion to me. “Stef,” she said, “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I want you to read this book.” It was Nora Gedgaudas’s Primal Body, Primal Mind. I was a scientist, and it was a principle of mine to be as open minded as possible. Fine. I’d do it. But I was not happy. “Mom,” I choked out on the phone, trying to get some privacy in a packed student commons “even if it turns out that it’s healthier for me to eat animals, I won’t do it. It’s not right, and I’m not willing to make that sacrifice.”

Well, I did. I read Nora’s book and marked with sticky notes where I thought she was wrong. But by page 60 I stopped that hyper-sensitive, unfair nitpicking. I had studied evolutionary biology. I had read popular science books. And I had common sense. My life became a series of Duhs. I lived in a house full of vegetarians, and I began trying to get them to read Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, which I had also read, and loved fiercely. One of my roommates suffered anxiety issues the same way I did, and I thought that fat imbalances and nutrient deficiencies might be messing with her brain like mine. I didn’t really know, but it was possible. All the sudden, I had all these changes I needed to make. Fast.

Immediately I jumped into eating “Paleo.” Admittedly, I didn’t quite make it. I was still afraid of fat. If I, someone who was feeling hugely deprived, wanted to enjoy food, and to eat a lot of food, conventional wisdom told me to eschew the foods with the greatest caloric density. And of course I knew that one grape has two calories and one teaspoon of oil had one hundred and five. But my efforts were better than nothing. I cut the dried fruit I loved so dearly; I cut the cereals that had been a pillar in my life since I was five years old; I added in the animals. Thus, I stopped obsessing over food. The sugar cloud floated away. I breathed freely. I thought clearly. My shoulders drooped. I fell asleep each night with a degree of peace I hadn’t known before.

Since that day in March, I have eaten a huge variety patterns within the parameters of paleolithic diets, including a few weeks in Europe when all of my calories came from canned tuna and cheese. Today, I eat a lot of eggs, seafood, organ meats, seaweed, cruciferous veggies, and whatever interesting tidbits Taiwanese night markets have to throw my way. I have maintained weight without hating myself. (Well, for the most part. More on that later). I still struggle with sugar. I still struggle with binge eating. Sure, these days it might be a whole head of cabbage instead of a whole box of cereal, but that still isn’t ideally healthy. And I do still struggle from time to time with body image. Someone once told me that you can never condemn a disordered eater for their habits, because the actions they are taking are the best ways they know how to deal with the demons inside them. Wise. I like being (need to be?) thin because it’s the best way to keep out the loathing. But MOST importantly: the degree of my neuroticism is perhaps 10 percent of what it used to be. Cool!

Eating paleo is a weapon against demons. Mine are practically vanquished. I feel like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Be gone, soul-suckers! Paleo works, And it works brilliantly. I am satiated when I eat, now, and I have better memory. I sleep seven hours a night for the first time since I was a young child. My hair has stopped falling out in frightening chunks. It grows faster. My skin is brighter. I work out less often, and when I do I enjoy it more. I forgive myself for my lapses because I know that all of the foods I am putting in my body are healthful. I no longer have excruciating pain in my knees and hips. I never feel the need to take naps. I have energy, and it fucking rocks. I can work for hours at a time without stopping. Did I say this rocks? It rocks.

There are other aspects of the Paleolithic perspective that have also altered my life. I have a different understanding of technology and of relationships, and as a result of reading the fantastic book Sex at Dawn, I think more benevolently of mankind. I think community is important, now, and I think more openly about sexual relationships and fidelity. I have read books such as Meat: A Benign Extravagance and realized that vegetarianism is not a catchall solution. I have identified the ways in which our modern world is at particularly strong odds with some of my natural inclinations, and I have done my best to manage those desires (eg: I will watch one EPISODE of House on my laptop, not one MARATHON of America’s Next Top Model on a TV.) I recognize the importance of play. And, while a lifelong workaholic, I try my best to live slowly and deliberately.

I like stopping. And I like smelling flowers.

I have never worn shoes. And I never will.

Paleo is for me, therefore, all about liberation. It is about the healthfulness of my body, the freedom of my mind, and, because of those two things, the peace in my soul. I love this life like it’s my job, and while there are elements of my life and the paleo world that I still struggle with, it’s a beautiful, evolving journey. I have nothing but whole heaps of adventure and vitality to look forward to.