1. It's not always easy, but it's worth it.
I first started my journey about a year before the Paleo/ancestral community really took off; I didn't even know what Paleo was at the time, and I just thought I was eating low-carb real food. That first semester was hard-- I felt pretty isolated from everyone because food is such a huge deal here, and I had to constantly decline going for pizza or cupcakes or fro-yo. I wrestled with control issues for such a long time, because I knew (and still know) that I'm a sugar addict, and that one slip-up would completely unravel me. I know I was way too strict with myself, but I couldn't give in to the "Oh, it's okay, you can just take a bite" thing; giving in to that was what had tripped me up so many times in my life, and I wanted this to be different. Was saying no difficult? Absolutely. Was declining desserts with my friends difficult? Absolutely, especially since I didn't even want to be around the temptation at all (whereas now, I can go along and just order a coffee or something and be fine with it). Was trying to find food that I could actually eat difficult? Absolutely. But I stuck with it, and it became much easier-- now, it's just second nature.
Despite the social and mental difficulties, it was completely worth it, and not just for the weight loss. I became passionate about health and nutrition, and I educated myself by reading countless books and papers. Instead of just knowing how many carbs are in every food on the planet, I learned about chemicals and nutrients and what gluten and sugar do to your body and mind. Knowledge is power. I also boosted my immune system, and now I rarely ever get sick, whereas most of my life up until 2010 was spent battling colds. I became a member of the ancestral community, and I am still so blessed to have met so many people through both the internet and in real life-- everyone is so supportive and wonderful, and I've learned so much from all of them. I expanded my palate and am now much more willing to try new foods; and unlike when I was a kid and teenager, I love vegetables. Finally, as I mentioned in my last entry, finding this lifestyle changed my outlook on everything.
So while the initial journey was hard, this was the best thing to ever happen to me. If you're new to this and finding it difficult, I promise that it gets easier, and you're going to feel amazing!
2. "Re-examine all you have been told." -Walt Whitman
I knew from my first attempt at Atkins back in 2004 that low-fat and whole grains weren't the key to health, but I didn't really know (or care) about the science at the time. Fast-forward six years, and my curious collegiate self yearned for real explanations, so I picked up books like Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and I learned about GMOs and factory farming and the evils of sugar. By February 2011, I discovered the Paleo movement and devoured the existing books by Loren Cordain, Art DeVany, Gary Taubes, Mark Sisson, Frank Forencich, and Robb Wolf, and these books-- and the online community that exploded shortly after on Facebook-- educated me more on how wrong the government is about food, the issues with the FDA and USDA, CAFOs, the cholesterol/fat myths, and general evolutionary biology and anthropology. I realized that so many things in conventional wisdom were completely wrong, and that I can't just listen to what the government and health textbooks tell me. I watched food documentaries (Food, Inc. and Food Matters, for example) and read academic papers, and spent countless hours furthering my knowledge of health and nutrition. I realized everything that's wrong with this country's current stance on food, and I decided I wanted to try and change things and educate people.
So please: read and question and read some more and question some more. Don't believe everything that people tell you, and go out and find your own answers. In the words of Jack LaLanne, "We don't know all the answers. If we knew all the answers we'd be bored, wouldn't we? We keep looking, searching, trying to get more knowledge."
3. You're not alone.
People who follow this lifestyle are usually seen as radical and crazy. "What do you mean you don't eat whole grains? Where do you get your fiber?" "How do you get your calcium if you don't drink milk?" "I don't know how you live without bread-- you're insane!" "Wow, you eat a lot of fat. You're going to have a heart attack." I've heard it all, as I'm sure you have as well. We get attacked for not following government recommendations, we're seen as crazy because we choose not to eat gluten and sugar and processed foods, we're radicals because we eat a lot of fat and animal protein, we're wrong because we dare question the bogus studies about fat and heart disease. For many of us, we're the only person who eats like this in a swarm of SAD-followers, and that can be really isolating and difficult, especially when many people we know challenge our way of eating or try to peer-pressure us into eating unhealthy foods. Temptation is everywhere, and it is really hard to get away from it. But you're not alone-- even if you don't know anyone else in real life who follows this lifestyle, there are countless blogs, forums, Facebook groups, meet-ups, and conferences for people like us. Paleo might not be mainstream yet, but don't ever think you're alone-- this community is so welcoming and always willing to help, so please don't give up on this lifestyle because you think no one else understands. I hope that one day we'll be more accepted by society, but until then, find one of these groups, meet other people (even if it's just through e-mail or blog comments!), and realize that there will always be a support group and community for you.
Quote of the Day:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead