Have you smacked your face into the pavement recently? Got up, bleeding, maybe concussed? Or maybe you didn’t get up, but fell into a coma, to be carted away, people administering to you, applying machines to your chest, sticking needles in your arm?
But slipping out of that groove is also easy, don’t you think? Holidays, skeptics, stress, non-paleo family members and the like can knock us off. Sometimes it’s just a trip or a stumble, we right ourselves and carry on our journey.
But sometimes we go off the rails in a big way – we plough through hedges, steam across fields, and come to a stop only when we crash through the barn doors and impale ourselves on major farming machinery. (Okay, I’m taking the train metaphor too far but you get my drift. :-))
Whichever it is, a small slip or headlong sprawl, a slight deviation or a breathless detour taken at speed, it is the recovery that is most important. As long as we live to see another day, we can turn things around, start a new beginning, make the future stronger than our past. And that belief is what gets us back on the wagon after we’ve taken a tumble.
Spills and thrills
I’ve taken a few tumbles in my time. And I’ve tried a few things that haven’t worked out. Actually, a lot of things. But each time I’ve got back up, kept calm and carried on.
On the way, I’ve learned there are some universal truths about paleo. Unequivocal statements that prove themselves time after time. They often appear paradoxical and sometimes it takes a few head butts before we’ll accept them but the sooner we do, the faster we’ll make progress.
If we can avoid the paleo train wreck scenario and, instead, press on, even a few diversions won’t stop us getting to our destination.
Truth #1: The speed you transition to paleo depends on the urgency of your need.
If you have a life-threatening health condition such as a nut-allergy, you do absolutely everything in your power to avoid them, right? Dithering isn’t an issue. If you have a child with severe behavioral problems such that he is on the verge of being expelled from school within the week, you change his diet overnight. A no-brainer.
But if you’ve been living with 50 extra pounds for a while now and you believe a slow, sustainable pace of loss is right for you, then do that. Or if you’re like me and nothing terrible happens if you eat non-paleo certainly in the short-term, perhaps going slow makes more sense. Don’t listen to conventional wisdom, even paleo wisdom: individual circumstances drive individual solutions.
Truth #2: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
There are some pretty magnificent paleo specimens out there and their example, and occasionally their words, can chastise you for going off-paleo.
It becomes easy to read paleo blogs and get down on yourself over the fact that you ate a bar of 60% milk chocolate last night. It becomes easy to forget everything you did right before and after that bar of chocolate. Or overlook that compared to a year ago, your ingestion of junk is down 50%. Or that last holiday, you ate six types of pie yet this holiday you ate only one.
Beating yourself up is garbage. And it’s worse than just garbage, it’s sabotaging garbage. By focusing on your negatives, you’ll get down on yourself. You’ll start to feel hopeless and prone to eating more unhealthy food in order to comfort yourself.
Instead, celebrate how far you’ve come. Look at what you’re doing right. Reversing lifelong eating habits is often about having confidence in your ability to control your eating. Build that confidence by noticing your progress. You are much more likely to stay the paleo course by feeling proud of yourself and gaining a sense of achievement than beating on your own behind to force yourself along.
Truth #3: Being kind is preferable to being perfect but sometimes perfection is important.
I like to be kind. Perhaps too much. But that doesn’t make me any different to many of you reading this.
Our kindness can trip us up at times but if we do it consciously with a clear understanding of our own behavior, it is valid, important and really necessary to our communities. As J.M.Barry says “Always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary.”
Being respectful and kind to the very young and the very old is particularly important to me. It is one of my core values. And I will often put the satisfying of their needs ahead of my own as long as the consequences of that kindness aren’t terribly damaging to me.
So what if I eat a cookie or two when offered to me by someone who’s older than me by four decades? So what if I eat a piece of pie made for me by a young child while she is watching me wide-eyed for my reaction? Nothing terrible will happen. I won’t break out in hives or not sleep for a week. Or get a coughing fit that leaves me irritated for hours. Or go on a chocolate binge that lasts two months.
But if I did? Then my needs trump theirs.
Truth#4: If you go too fast, you trip up.
Learning new ways of eating takes effort, education and planning. And as teaching practitioners know, relearning new ways of doing things requires unlearning the old ways first.
There is a transition to be gone through as we unlearn those behaviors and learn new ones. If we rush that process, we put stress on our minds and bodies, we get confused and we can, in a panic, go back to what we know because it’s familiar and comfortable. And that way leads to bloody messes and rusting farming machinery.
If we force others to go through this transition with us, we compound our stress exponentially. So slow down…relax…breathe.
Truth#5: You manage what you measure.
It doesn’t matter what you measure, just that you measure. Something. Something that pertains to your goal, preferably.
It could be inches, it could be pounds, it could be an item of clothing. It could be pull-ups, press-ups or chin-ups. Miles walked (more), time between mouthfuls (longer), or number of pies eaten at parties (fewer).
If we measure, we’re noticing. We’re analyzing, we’re thinking. We’re slowing down and acting less on impulse. We become conscious of our actions and their consequences. We’re mindful. These things matter. You matter. Measure, manage, matter.
Truth #6: If in doubt, keep quiet.
Pay attention to that little voice that says ‘No, don’t say it.’ Once you’ve opened your mouth, it’s too late. You’ve stated your position, revealed your hand, exposed your position. Maybe you’re in enemy territory, maybe there’s danger at hand, maybe you need to pause and survey the lay of the land.
Millions of years of evolution have gone into embedding those warning signs of danger your brain is now signaling. Honor that evolutionary process by paying attention to what it is telling you. If someone is questioning your eating behavior and your senses are triggering, beware. Play safe, talk less, observe.
Truth #7: Selfish is selfless.
The old, rather worn but well-understood analogy of the oxygen mask works here. Put yours on first, then, and only then, turn your attention to others. You can’t help anyone unless you are in good condition yourself and here it pays to be ‘selfish’ – a word that is far too widely used and inappropriately applied.
Concentrate on your own health before you attempt to help anyone else with theirs. Doing anything different leads to burnout and is a guarantee of failure in what you are trying to achieve. Lead by example. Get your own skills down. Isolate yourself from negativity. Focus on you.
Truth #8: Many baby steps take you just as far as a few long strides.
If you’re a goal-setter, you can be hard on yourself. I bet you’ve set yourself some big goals in your time. Do you fail occasionally but succeed more often than not because you put everything into achieving your goals? Over time, however, that all-or-nothing attitude exacts a cost on our health and then our ability to achieve new goals and thrive.
Injuries, energy issues and a reliance on medicine to live our lives have to lead to a change in philosophy that is more sustainable in the long term. We need to be careful with our bodies. The all-out approach must be replaced with a more moderate one of taking a series of small steps, one after the other, towards a goal. On and on. As I said earlier, slow down…relax…breathe. There is enough time.
Truth #9: Less is more.
The idea that we should do less exercise for greater results is like being slapped upside the head for most of us. Disbelief, relief, and excitement all follow when we try it and find it to be true!
I first came across this idea when I encountered T-Tapp back in 2005. I dismissed it as I’d absorbed for decades the conventional wisdom that more was, well…more – more exercise, harder exercise, ‘feel the burn’. Heck, I’d worked out to Jane Fonda videos at midnight in my twenties. (I believe I may even have worn some stripey leg-warmers. :-))
Typically, I’d start programs full of enthusiasm, give 110%, crash and burn. Then I heard I only needed to do a small amount and be consistent instead. Homeschooling my son forced me to try this different approach and it worked!
So easy to do just fifteen minutes of targeted exercise 6 days a week plus a little walking. And I couldn’t deny the results were better. I have followed this guidance ever since but was particularly gratified to see Mark Sisson also advocating for a ‘less is more’ approach.
Truth #10: Lock down the keys to the secrets of life.
When you’ve struggled for so long under the weight of weight, pain, fatigue, and other aspects of ill-health, being relieved of those burdens is truly inspiring. Suddenly, dreams you didn’t even realize you had appear possible.
It feels like your personality changes – you see those perky people around you and, shocker, you know how they feel! And often, just like the being given the right key, it is so easy to access a wonderful life when you finally find out how. You might have tried a lot of wrong keys before finding the one that works but when you do, voila, open sesame!
Keeping on, trying new solutions to your problems is essential. You might have to go down many rabbit holes, even spend a lot of money on occasion, in order to find the answers to your problems. But none of your effort is wasted because each is a step taking you towards your ultimate goal – great health and a vibrant life.
Persistence and determination led you to this point and will take you further to wonderful places in life if you keep going. As Winston Churchill said, ‘Never give in, never give in, never give in.’ Keep course-correcting, testing, experimenting and when you find the combination that unlocks your safe, keep it secure so you never lose it again.
Have you uncovered any paleo principles that hold true no matter what? What guiding paleo principles do you live by? Tell us in the comments!
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