With elective diets like the whole 30 or paleo, I see people become so obsessed with doing it “right,” instead of doing it right for their body and lifestyle. Megan, of Freckled Italian, wrote an excellent article last week on why the whole 30 didn’t work for her. Her message resonated with me.
People turn to the paleo diet for a variety of reasons ranging from troublesome digestive symptoms to just “wanting to be healthier.” The guidelines of what “is” or “isn’t” paleo initially can provide a helpful framework of foods to eat. Labeling your diet (“paleo”) is also a way to identify with other like-minded people over social media.
The guidelines, however, are NOT the ten commandments. You will not get a gold star for following the diet perfectly nor will you be reprimanded for any deviations.
The drive to be a “paleo perfectionist” is real. If this sounds like you, you’re missing the big picture regarding overall health.
Being a paleo perfectionist causes stress:
Food allergies & intolerances aside, if you find yourself avoiding social situations because you don’t want to “cheat” on your diet or get nervous sweats at the thought of eating somewhere other than your house, it’s time for a paleo intervention.
Following an elective diet that causes you more anxiety or stress is not helpful. Activating your fight or flight response every time something enters your mouth is a recipe for digestive distress.
Being a paleo perfectionist means skipping celebratory birthday cake:
Look, some food replacements are great! But let’s not pretend cake made from applesauce (instead of flour) tastes like anything other than baby food.
Find a middle ground. For example, use a gluten-free rice flour if you notice you feel better eating gluten-free. If you don’t see a difference in how you feel, eat that piece of gluten-rich cake and enjoy every frickin’ bite. Occasional celebratory treats do not need to be paleo.
Being a paleo perfectionist means potentially aggravating health symptoms:
In some cases, not eating a food group can be detrimental to your health despite it not being part of a “healthy” paleo diet. For example, I recently learned in my unit on mental health that if you suffer from anxiety, avoiding gluten-free grains like quinoa and brown rice can exacerbate symptoms.* Crazy, right?!
* unless you have celiac, in which case these grains can be gluten cross-reactors.
Being a paleo perfectionist means not listening to your body:
Being a “paleo perfectionist” is totally lame because it encourages you to follow a set of guidelines made by someone else instead of listening to your body.
Using the paleo diet as a reference point, experiment with different paleo & non-paleo foods and figure out how your body reacts. Ask yourself: Which foods make me feel energized, nourished and promote optimal digestion?
If the answer is only and all the foods on a typical “paleo” diet, how lucky for you!
If you’re like the rest of us, substitutions are normal. Your body’s cues are the best data you can find (sorry, Google). For example, I feel way better eating a lot of fish and legumes rather than a lot of meat, despite the fact that beans “aren’t paleo.”
The point of food is to nourish our bodies. If eating beans/ grains/occasional sugary treats makes you feel healthy and happy, don’t give it another thought.
Ok, so what does it look like to be a paleo imperfectionist? Let’s get our WIAW on!
Here’s a day in the life of my intentionally imperfect “paleo” inspired diet from this past Monday:
Breakfast: Green smoothie with kale, pineapple, mango, lemon, ginger, and avocado (← keeps me full longer and helps my blood sugar stay stable from all the SUGAR!)
Lunch: mung bean noodles (not paleo) with bone broth, steamed broccoli, sunflower seed butter, coconut aminos, crushed pumpkin seeds and basil. Not pictured: grapefruit.
Snack: Vegan navy bean “cheesy” dip (not paleo) with cucumber. SO good. This photo is old, but has the recipe:
Snack time! Easy #vegan “cheesy” dip with #plantain chips and a #tangerine ? ?? Just take 1 can of rinsed white beans and simmer on the stove with #vegetable broth until soft. Add in some nutritional yeast (? flavor), salt & pepper and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Top with chopped green onion (or not!). It’s super #healthy but tastes totally #decadent ?? ? #glutenfree #vegetarian #notpaleoperfect #celiac #healthylifestyle #vegetarian #dairyfree
A photo posted by Anna Walker (@theposhbody) on
Dinner: Jacques pépin’s shrimp burgers on zucchini. Trust me when I say these guys are fabulous and super easy to make.
Dessert: Dark chocolate! (not paleo)
Join the conversation!
How do you label the way you eat? Do you think you can you still be “paleo” and make some of your own rules?