Food Lifestyle Personal

My Intentionally Imperfect Paleo Diet & WIAW

February 17, 2016
my intentionally imperfect paleo diet image

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.

Here’s how:

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.

This mung bean noodle bowl is part of my impefect paleo diet

Snack: Vegan navy bean “cheesy” dip (not paleo) with cucumber. SO good. This photo is old, but has the recipe:


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?

Anna Walker signature image






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  • Reply Joanne February 17, 2016 at 8:16 am

    When I talk with an extreme person on the ‘one and only’ healthy diet, I always think of that old 1970’s Woody Allen movie, Sleeper. The character awakens in the future to find that red meat, wine and chocolate are actually good for us ! Hmmmmmmmm…..

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 8:31 am

      Love it! ?

  • Reply Crystal Escobar February 17, 2016 at 10:33 am

    Thank you so much for this post! Definitely great recipe.

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 10:57 am

      Thanks, Crystal! :)

  • Reply Cailee February 17, 2016 at 11:26 am

    I couldn’t agree more! Sadly, I’m gluten, dairy and soy intolerant… so I have to avoid those and don’t have the option to eat them without getting sick :( but aside from that, I always prefer the balanced approach! I treat myself to dark chocolate every day and don’t try to adhere to any specific diets outside my allergies. Sometimes I eat vegan, other times it’s paleo, other times I’m grain free, other times I’m eating rice toast! It’s all about balance and finding what works for you!! Wonderful post as usual! <3

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Thanks, Cailee! I can totally relate. No soy, gluten or dairy for me either. But for the foods I’m not intolerant to, I give myself room to play :)

  • Reply Ashley February 17, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Absolutely love this sage and practical advice! I think it is sooooo important to have balance (both in our nutrition and in our mindsets) and to not set ourselves up for overly restrictive/obsessive behavior. I love your attitude about all of this and your message of the importance of listening to our bodies. Such an important message! Thank you!

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 11:57 am

      Thank you, Ashley! I’m so happy to have your support :)

  • Reply Morgan @ Morgan Manages Mommyhood February 17, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    I love this post! I think there is so much STRESS placed on eating and food these days. Even words like “healthy” or “clean” are so controversial – if I ever tag something with that, I feel the stress creeping up because MY definition of healthy is for sure not the same as the guy’s down the street. I think we all need to chill out and just eat what makes us feel good. Because the stress that is associated with is it is a hell of a lot less healthy than mung beans or “cheese” or a cheeseburger or a cupcake.

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      Amen, sister! Couldn’t agree with you more ❤️

  • Reply Dani @ Dani California Cooks February 17, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    I definitely eat “paleo-ish” as well. Even though I’m doing the Whole30 right now, I’ve found that my body responds well to limiting sugar, grains, and dairy. But I will eat my fair share of peanut butter!!
    Dani @ Dani California Cooks recently posted…WIAW – Whole30 Week#3My Profile

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Love your approach, Dani! I feel better limiting those things, too :)

  • Reply Emily February 17, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Yes, there is so much TRUTH to that. It seems like we often get off in our guidelines for food, and we tend to make things way too rigid. I’m so glad that God’s 10 Commandments were basic. And I’m glad that He created all food good. :)
    Emily recently posted…WIAW: Social Media ConfessionsMy Profile

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      Me too, Emily! Happy Wednesday :)

  • Reply Marissa February 17, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Great eats! And good for you for being dedicated to Paleo! It’s hard. Ha 😉

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      So true-It can be hard sometimes.Thanks for reading, Marissa!

  • Reply Samantha February 17, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    I love this article. The strict diet rules irritate me. I made it 2 weeks on Whole 30 and would have committed murder for a glass of wine. Then I realized that it’s about me and not what some diet nazi thinks. So I eat paleo because it makes me feel good. But I still love fresh cream in my coffee every day and my faborite treats on the weekend – wine, scotch and popcorn! Life is to short to not enjoy the foods you love. Just don’t go overboard! Glad I’m not alone!

    • Reply Anna February 17, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      I’m so happy you liked it, Samantha! Sounds like we have a very similar approach to a paleo inspired diet

  • Reply alexandra @ my urban family February 19, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Love this post! A healthy diet definitely has to be what is right for your body and not just blindly following rules.

    • Reply Anna February 19, 2016 at 11:55 am

      Thanks, Alexandra! So happy this resonated with you

  • Reply Sheena @ Paws and Pavement February 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    I totally agree with you. It’s better to use it as a guide and not rules because then it does make things very hard.
    Sheena @ Paws and Pavement recently posted…Run 4 Luv Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

    • Reply Anna February 21, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks for reading, Sheena! Hope you’re having a good weekend

  • Reply jm February 22, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Remember the good in moderation. Love the guidelines and not the rules. Keep bringing these terrific posts. jm

    • Reply Anna February 22, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Thanks for reading, JM!

  • Reply MrsMcGoo2011 September 26, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Great post! I need to learn to be a little more imperfect myself.

    • Reply Anna September 26, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks for reading! It can be really fun to reintroduce foods you like within a paleo framework. Let me know what you try :)

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