Priceless Paleo Lessons From Twenty-Five Year Weight-Loss Battle

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I read Make Shi(f)t Happen by paleo blogger Dean Dwyer two weeks ago. Once I finished I immediately turned it over and read it again. It’s that kind of book.

I’d been waiting for Dean’s book for months. Ever since he explained his practice of reading business books like Against the Odds, the autobiography of James Dyson and inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, and applying the principles outlined in those books to his quest for building a lean, mean, efficient body.

As an avid reader of these types of books, I’d never thought of doing that. And I thought that was genius.

Easy to read.

I am a slow reader and this book took me a day and a half. There is no fluff and he gets down to it in a simple, easy to understand way. Some chapters (shifts) have action items for the reader to undertake, others don’t. All have plenty of material to make you think.

Dean’s book is about his transformation from veggie-eating, overweight, unemployed guy to a meat-eating, ripped, fat-burning dude who’s creating a lifestyle business on his terms. He explains how he did it in terms of twenty attitude shifts he made in order to turn around twenty-five years of failure.

Not a paleo book per se.

You won’t find details describing the paleo diet or lifestyle. Or arguments about paleo versus primal or whether dairy is part of the diet or not. You definitely won’t find any recipes.

What you will find are twenty thought-provoking statements to meditate on and apply to any area of your life as you seek a different outcome to a situation you find yourself in.

As I read this book I was coming to terms with some test results. I’d had a recent medical, my first since going paleo and the cholesterol results were not good at all. My doctor wanted to put me on statins, the idea of which appalled me.  I was frustrated, depressed, angry and concerned. A third of the way through reading this book, a thought dawned on me.

How could I apply the principles presented in this book to help me through this?

Victim to victor

This immediately shifted me from a negative mindset to a positive one.  The shift on resistance particularly resonated with me.

Dean and I think along very similar lines. There’s not much I disagree with in the book. ‘Think in beta’ is similar to my ‘progress not perfection’ mantra. While I don’t log my foods, I do track other markers as they relate to my health so ‘Log like Captain Kirk’ makes total sense. Preparation is absolutely essential for being successful with this paleo thing and his shift to ‘Decide in advance’ totally corresponds with my view of the necessity to plan food, prepare strategies and organize the environment to be successful. And I’ve come to realize that my sugar-craving is a biochemical issue not one of willpower so I’ve ‘squashed the character flaw theory.’

Shedding light on transformation

Several of the shifts were illuminating and made me think differently. As someone whose been reading self-help materials for nearly thirty years, been paleo for twenty months and considers herself advanced in applying techniques to keep herself that way, this was surprising!

‘Be 911’ talks about Dean’s goal to be able to be strong enough, fast enough, clear-thinking enough to save lives if necessary. This principle guides his workouts, his eating, his mindset thinking. Being physically strong is one area I could do better on and it made me rethink how I workout. But also it gave more impetus to my eating strategies. Why would I ‘treat’ myself to a day of non-paleo food that left me fuzzy-headed and fatigued? What would happen if I had an emergency when I felt like that? How would that have been a ‘treat day’ if I failed to respond appropriately and not be able to save my children, for example?

Changing the chatter

The other point that made me sit back and think was the one on resistance. Dean’s statement is ‘Declare war on resistance.’ The reason I am not strong is because it is hard for me to build muscle, I don’t like sweating and it requires me to summon enormous energy often from nowhere for me to get to do it. Blah, blah, blah. Whine, whine, whine. See? Resistance.

So I shifted my self-talk: Stop justifying your lack of progress, giving yourself soft choices; just do what you have to do.

I got up at 5:30am to write this review because of that shift. I’d much rather have stayed in bed, in the warm and the dark but I knew I had to do it, knew resistance was like a cloud of the most overbearing depression weighing me down and that I’d skip through the day like a lark if I’d just get up and write it. So I did.

On a much bigger scale, my war on cholesterol came out of dropping my resistance to taking statins. Sounds counter-intuitive, huh? But while I was so vehemently opposed to them, I was simply thrashing around, panicking, in denial, refusing to contemplate some very dark thoughts. Once I dropped my resistance, I was able to be calm, accept all possible consequences and devise a coherent, sensible plan.

My next big challenge with my paleo progress will come shortly with a month-long visit to Britain. It will be my first family vacation there since I went paleo. In fact, it was after my last long visit that I went paleo, after a hedonistic month gorging on cake, puddings, pies and tea. I am quite anxious how I’m going to get through it without indulging excessively in non-paleo food. But now I have a strategy.

One way to use this book

Read it once, then read it a second time, highlighting or writing on the page as you go (I use those little post-it page marker thingies because I simply can’t write in books ;-)) but then open it at random every so often, daily maybe. See where the page falls. Review the shift you find yourself open at, then use your favorite review technique to see how you can apply it to your life – journal, blog, meditate, think about it on your way to work. I’m taking this book on my vacation to help me do just that.

A couple of improvements

Two things would have made this book better. Firstly, better quality printing of photos. The ones in the book are too dark and/or fuzzy. Secondly, the summary at the end of each chapter didn’t work for me. There are too many elements competing for attention – bold type, headings, numbers, etc., and it could have been laid out for better effect. The resources section at the end is extremely useful though, especially for paleo newbies, well-organized and thoughtfully compiled.

Learn from the master(s)

I have wanted to read many of the books Dean refers to in this book but like most people I don’t have time (am I resisting again? ;-)). But perhaps I don’t need to. Dean has distilled some of the best business book advice into life advice. He has done the work for you. Take that work and make it your own. You will have the insight of some of the best minds out there at your fingertips. Make that work for your own success.

Have you read the book? What shifts most resonated with you? How can you be more paleo right now? Tell me in the comments.



amazon, modern no nonsense guide to paleoAre you struggling to sustain a paleo lifestyle change? Or not sure how to start? Or perhaps those around you are resistant and you're feeling undermined and unsure. The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo provides practical tools to ease the transition to a full-on paleo life. Each chapter includes strategies, tips and checklists to identify the actions to power you on your paleo journey and create sustainable change. Buy it at Amazon.com.

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Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

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