"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Thursday, September 22, 2011

College, a.k.a. Candyland, a.k.a. Gluten and Sugar Fest

College should be renamed "gluten and sugar fest" or, perhaps, Candyland. Almost every event I go to has pizza, cookies, soda, cupcakes, chips, sandwiches, pretzels, ice cream... the list goes on. It's no surprise, then, that there's the "freshman fifteen" or just general weight-gain when some people go off to college due to the copious amount of craptastic food. Why eat healthy when you can just live on the free pizza at club meetings or the free pastries and soda at major campus events?

This is Candyland. It probably has the same sugar content as the food at some campus events:


It doesn't bother me that it's everywhere-- after more than a year and a half of Paleo/Primal, I got over the sugar cravings a long time ago. It does bother me, however, when there are no Paleo options at a huge food event on campus (or elsewhere, for that matter). Yesterday, my school's president hosted a Junior Welcome Back Picnic-- I went to the one for sophomores last year, and I had a ton of Paleo options (vegetable kabobs, berries, high-qualities cheeses [nom, brie!], chicken, burgers...), so I went this year. I had one option: the mini burgers (sans bun). And since the place was completely packed, there wasn't really the option of getting more than two of the tiny patties. Pssh-- those wouldn't keep anyone full!

So I was a little frustrated and ended up at the dining hall afterward anyway. Fine. But you know what bothers me more than lack of options? People that question the way I eat. When I ordered those mini burgers without the bun, the guy in front of me gave me this look and was like, "No bun? Seriously?" to which I responded, "Yeah. Gluten is evil." Then I walked away.

Since becoming Paleo, I've gotten a lot of comments from people about my decision not to eat like crap. I went to an event last year and didn't have a piece of cake, and a bunch of people were absolutely horrified, saying things like, "What do you mean, you don't eat cake!? How could you not eat cake!? That's crazy!" Or every time my friends and I go out for Indian (my favorite cuisine), people always comment on the fact that I don't eat rice, naan, or any of the desserts. Why!? I don't say things like, "Oh my god, you're eating cake/rice/cookies/pizza! How could you possibly eat cake/rice/cookies/pizza? That's crazy!" (However, I do think to myself that they are crazy for eating that crap-- I just keep my thoughts to myself, because food is definitely an individual choice and no one should tell you how to eat. That being said, if someone asks my opinion on said crappy foods, I will most certainly speak up!) So why is healthy eating questioned? Why do people feel the need to comment?

That's why it was so nice attending a Paleo seminar with Diane from Balanced Bites last weekend at CrossFit Center City (Philly). Not only did I learn an absolute ton of information about nutrition, but it my first time meeting Paleo people-- and it was even cooler meeting some big-name bloggers like Stacy from Paleo Parents and Kristin from Fast Paleo. (Paleo enthusiasts actually exist outside of the internet!!!! Ahhhh!!!! So exciting!!!!!) Having lunch there without any sugar or gluten in sight was amazing-- everyone was eating real food, and no one was questioning my food choices.

One of the things I love the most about the Paleo community is that we share a lot of the same experiences-- we all know how it feels when people question our decisions to avoid grains ("But how can you possibly be healthy without whole grains!? They're so good for you!!"), to eat fat ("You're going to get heart disease and become obese!"), to pass on sugary crap ("Oh, just one bite won't kill you!"), to not believe in anything the USDA says ("But you have to follow the food pyramid!"), to not eat grain-fed cows and chickens ("But vegetarian-fed animals are so healthy!")... We've all heard it before, and we know just how annoying it is when we get bombarded with questions about our lifestyle from people who only know what Dr. Oz and their doctors tell them. So to spend the day last weekend with members of the Paleo community who all understand my frustrations with people who feel the need to question how I eat? Priceless.

I'm an anomaly on campus. I don't support the Candyland-style approach to college eating, but I will never make a comment to those who do. It's not my place, and it shouldn't be their place to question my approach to eating either.

Quote of the Day:
"I call wheat one of Satan's excrements, throwing off fructose and linoleic acid in there too..." -Robb Wolf, Episode 95


  1. Very well said, thank you. I teach, and I go through much of the same day in and day out. It's pizza or cake or nachos or doughnuts, about which I do not complain. Still, I am the odd-ball, who gets the rolled eyes and silly comments, since I don't eat any of it.

  2. Hi Leigh!
    I live/work in Philly and just started on my Paleo journey! I've been doing pretty well when I can cook for myself at home but always struggle with going out to eat and finding paleo-friendly options. Do you have any recommendations? Or any other Philly/local Paleo blogs that you follow?
    And by the way, I love your blog - your writing style and honest take on everything is so refreshing and really fun to read.

  3. Try working in healthcare. I was a phlebotomist (blood drawer)in a hospital and doctors' office for eight years before I had my daughter and every WEEK they had "luncheons" and you wouldn't believe the crap that nurses and doctors bring to work. One of the doctors I worked with used to bring donuts or bagels once a week. These are people who really should know better too! Many of them admittedly had type II diabetes and still loaded up on junk. I'm kind of new to paleo but I did a grain-free, whole-foods Atkins approach for years. I always brought one thing I could have and tried not to make a big deal about it. If they asked about it I would talk about it. It took about 5 years but eventually half the office ended up at Monarch weight loss centers (not ideal, but lower carbohydrates and hopefully a step in the right direction). I like to think that I did inspire some people. I'm sure you do too. Just keep it simple and try not to let people bother you. Consider it a "teaching moment" if someone comments on your lifestyle.

  4. Will one bite of sugar kill you? Probably not. But you/I shouldn't take one bite because someone else says we should. It is alarming how many people think it's okay to question my eating choices when I'm not standing in McDonald's questioning their diners' choices.

  5. Since when are high quality cheeses a paleo option?

  6. Haha, I know what you're talking about. I eat LCHF/Paleo at Penn as well and can really relate to all of your blog posts. So glad I found your blog and know that I'm not "alone".
    PS; checked out the junior luncheon too, but also left disappointed..Last year was SO much better.

  7. @Anonymous: It's more Primal, I suppose.... but even some Paleo people do high-quality dairy. So I guess I should've written Paleo/Primal.

    @Lena: Fantastic! Thanks for leaving a comment-- it's so great to hear from other Penn students!