I have wanted to tackle this nutritional subject matter for quite some time. Over the years, I have gained popularity for promoting the paleo/primal eating style as a way for me to maintain my physique, keep my autoimmune condition at bay, and perform at my peak when it comes to my athletic goals. I have also been fortunate enough to have networked with some of the nation’s finest paleo professionals and thereby have made a great niche for myself. While my particular eating style had lead me to great health benefits and now some amazing friendships with a great body of colleagues, I came across a certain little issue when it came to helping my clients adopt healthier eating habits. I am not a nutritionist, but I know a thing or two about how to eat to fuel your performance while trimming up your waistline. That being said, some of my clients participate in the paleo/primal eating style like myself, but many of them do not. . .and that’s OKAY!
I am bringing this all up today because a few weeks ago I had a particularly interesting run-in with a perfectionist type when it came to eating a clean diet. Just what is this “perfectionism” I am speaking about? Allow me to provide a visual aid here that summarizes it all up quite nicely (note: this image was taken from a blog post on balancedbites.com).
“Paleo Perfectionism- a personal standard, attitude, or philosophy that demands perfection while following a Paleo diet and rejects anything less. Paleo perfectionism has kept many people from experiencing the health benefits of a Paleo Diet by creating an elite-level of standards that are unnecessarily enforced on those whose means may not be able to support said standards. See also micro-managing, fussing over the minutia.”
I was truly shocked/disturbed by the level of nutritional snobbery I encountered. All this talk on “ketosis-this!”, “perfect human diet for the win!”, and “dairy and carbs are the devil!” made me feel like I was at some bizarre religious rally geared towards gaining more and more converts to the dogma. There is a serious matter at hand here that warrants further discussion. All this perfectionism when it comes to eating a healthy diet can scare a lot of people off from getting the nutritional help they are searching for and truly deserve. It can be difficult and utterly confusing to work through all the nutritional information out there because it is so vast. Trust me, I have been there personally. It took me nearly 3 years to get my health back in order after being diagnosed with an auto-immune related problem. Nevertheless, I found nutritional principles that worked for me and yes, said principles were of the “paleo” genre. Do I expect everyone to follow my style of eating? No, because what works for me may or may not work for you. In all honesty, there may be a lot of trail and error until YOU find a particular eating plan that works for YOU!
Stop the nutritional fear-mongering! Being pompous about a particular diet won’t get you more gold stars on your nutritional report card. In fact, you may very well be gaining the reputation of a nutritional bully. Please, learn how to eat in peace with everyone out to lunch at the cafeteria! No one likes being bullied!
Glad that’s off my chest! Now, moving right along. . .
In terms of how I help out my own clients with the diet end of things, I have found a few solid principles that have helped my clients reach their fitness goals which may or may not be contingent on my particular eating style. When it comes to adopting a healthy way of eating, there are several factors you need to take into consideration. I will list those accordingly.
1. Get the good stuff in and get the bad stuff out. Eliminating certain foods for a period of time will help you understand how your particular body reacts to particular foods. You can always re-introduce foods after a period of 30 days or so should you choose to do so. If you want to avoid gluten, dairy, sugar, or anything else you are sensitive, do it! Just be mindful of how your body reacts without those food items and always feel free to re-introduce them later to reassess how you feel. You may find that you do well with certain kinds of food after an initial period of abstinence. I, for example, avoided dairy for a number of months when I was struggling with an autoimmune issue. Now, I can tolerate certain dairy items without a problem. Don’t be afraid to test the measures here, just do so in an intelligent way.
2. Transition into a whole foods diet with plenty of variety. Remember, the goal is to eat less processed and refined foods and more whole foods and unrefined foods. Once you know what foods you can tolerate well, move towards adopting a diet that includes adequate sources of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. No one nutrient should be the staple of your diet. You need a lot of all of the food groups. Protein. Fats. Carbohydrates. Eat them all!
3. Don’t stress about your diet. I can’t say it any better than Diane Sanfilippo over at Balancedbites.com so I’m just going to quote her directly to save you all some time.
“Fussing over the minutia of optimizing every aspect of your diet (some call this hacking) may actually do you more harm than good. You do realize that stress can undo everything you do nutritionally, right? No? You didn’t know that? Well, now you do. It can. Stressing over your diet may actually be making you far less healthy than those few bites of dark chocolate or that non-organic banana. Or that (gasp!) grain-fed flank steak. You likely take great pleasure in that dark chocolate (or insert other imperfectly Paleo food here). Life is about not just being healthy, but being able to enjoy being healthy!“
I rest my case!
4. Fuel your body for your workouts. . .PLEASE! I get it, I really do. I know that ketogenic diets are great for rapid fatloss and are best suited for the insulin resistant types of people. HOWEVER, if you add a ketogenic diet on top of demanding kettlebell and body weight courses, you will soon find yourself wondering why the eff your energy is tanked on a consistent basis. You may bee too sore, too lethargic, and even a bit too far on the depressed side of the mood scale. That is not to scare you away from hard training, but this is to serve as a point that you may not be eating correctly for your athletic demands. If you think low carb diets and high intensity workloads are a great fit, you may want to visit Robb Wolf and chew on his article all about the low carb issue with athletes. If you are an athlete and can’t figure out why your low carb diet is leaving you gassed, you should do yourself a favor an “get the hell out of Ketosis-Ville!”
5. Enjoy your life! Confession: I am not 100% paleo 100% of the time. Sometimes I go out for massive plates of Indian food and enjoy oodles of lamb curry on top of jasmine rice. <—–notice the word “rice”. OMG! CARBS!!!! I have been known to have the occasional, delectable, and ever so LARGE slice of cheesecake because that’s how my mother and I bond on Mothers’ day. I would be a lying Pittsburgher if I said I never once touched a pierogie, and you know something else? This Wigle Whiskey we have in the Burgh is Divine! Don’t get me wrong. The Paleo Diet changed my life and I still adhere to the principles of that eating style, but I am NOT a perfectionist when it comes to my eating habits. In fact, I’d rather not be a perfectionist at all. I’d rather be spot on with my diet a good 90% of the time while allowing that other 10% for those intermittent treats that are not-so-paleo. I ‘d rather enjoy my social life than waste my time trying to be some dietary police officer pulling over every person that is exceeding the limit on my particular nutritional roadway. Since when was not following a particular diet a crime? Enjoy your life and make your lifestyle healthy, but reasonably so. This isn’t a license for you to eat whatever you want all of the time, but you are allowed to bend the rules for the sake of your sanity every now and again. In fact, I encourage you to do so!
When it comes to my clients, I do my best to help educate my students to adopt healthier eating habits based on their goals, their needs, and their specific trouble spots. I have seen some of my people get great results with several different types of eating styles, and that is perfectly fine with me. No one single eating style works for everyone at the same time. Sometimes, you need to experiment and find what foods work the best for you depending on your specific goals and nutritional needs. If that means you’re paleo, great! But if something else works better for you, THAT’S OKAY TOO!
Eat the way YOUR body needs to eat. Educate yourself on healthy eating habits and always ask for help from a professional if you need it. Don’t sweat the small stuff and feel free to live a little. Use YOUR instincts to fuel YOUR body right!
Master your instincts!
Janelle Pica, RKC and Primal Move Fundamentals Instructor