Disclaimer: I wrote this post on the airplane home, coming down off of the adrenaline rush of spending some of the best four days of my life with incredible people and after not sleeping for 24 hours straight…I’ll be back with some more objective observations and science-y thoughts soon!
There’s so much to say, and so little time in which to say it. I have a message for you–all of you, not just anorectics and bulimics, but friends and loved ones and orthorexics and EDNOS and HAES and anyone who has ever put their body image and their control in the hands of the media and the FDA.
And here’s the thing: I don’t want this to sound like a pitch. I don’t want this to sound like melodramatic hyperbole, dripping in saccharine sentimentalities or peppered with exclamation points. I want this to be the genuine, earnest, testimonial that gives you hope and encourages you to want to free yourself from the self-imposed bondage that keeps you from living your life free from Disorder. So, with that intention in mind, here goes:
Paleo saved my life.
Nine months ago, I was a depressed, calorie-counting, chronically overexercising vegan. I was tired, sick, covered in acne, amenorrheic, depressed, anxious, mostly friendless, and completely without purpose. My life was my disorder; my passion was ED.
Nine months ago, if you’d asked me to make a decision, to go out to dinner with a friend without checking and rejecting the menu (and, usually, the friend), to spend a single day not doing work and then not beating myself up with guilt…I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
Nine months ago, I started on a journey that led me to Austin, Texas this past weekend for the Paleo F(X) conference*, and I’m proud to say that the “me” who I was and the “me” who I am has been fundamentally changed by something as seemingly simple as a shift in my diet and lifestyle.
I hesitate to use the word “Paleo” to describe how I started on this new leg of my journey, because I know that branding the way I eat, exercise, and live will inevitably lead to dismissal by those of you who haven’t yet been “sold” on that “crazy Caveman diet.”** But I’ve learned in these nine months–and had it affirmed over this absolutely mind-blowingly beautiful weekend, that Paleo is not a Diet.
It is a lifestyle, a community, a path to health, and the most beautiful gift you can give to yourself–as long as you use the principles of ancestral health and fitness to heal your relationship with your mind and body.
I want to be 100% clear–I do not restrict foods and I no longer over exercise. Paleo, at its core, is not about deprivation or punishment. Yes, there are people who abuse it by abusing themselves–falling into orthorexic eating patterns or feeding their exercise addiction with an extra set of box jumps or Olympic lifts on a day when their joints hurt.
But Paleo makes coming back to Order from Disorder possible: it simply requires community, accountability, sustainability–and most important, self-love:
That means eating foods that won’t trigger you or cause you pain. That means doing exercises that encourage teamwork and play instead of competition and punishment. That means getting enough sleep and learning how to pick and choose your stressors.
It’s not easy–and it’s nearly impossible when you’re starving your brain of essential nutrients or pickling it in anti-nutrients. It’s not easy to do much of anything, actually–making friends, falling in love, developing and following your passions…When your brain is starved and your hormones and neurotransmitters are thrown so far out of their delicate balance that you’re no longer a recognizable “you” but merely a jumble of marketing messages and unaddressed addictions, there’s little capacity for work more strenuous than keeping neat little calorie ledgers and logs of all the times your body wasn’t good enough to reach some impossible, unnecessary goal.
But when your brain is nourished!
There is so much that you can accomplish. There is so much you can be and do and think and feel, and none of it has anything to do with some pre- and ill-conceived notion of how your body should look.
I am proud of the things that I have accomplished on this journey. I don’t say this to be self-aggrandizing or smug, but rather to celebrate this one beautiful moment in my journey that has arisen out of 13 years of pain.
This weekend, at the Paleo F(X) conference, I did so much more than learn about adrenal fatigue and ketogenic diets and biohacking. I did so much more than eat my first oyster (and my first antelope) or roll around in the mud with complete strangers.
This weekend I:
- Took risks
- Made decisions
- Made friends
- Learned how to play
- Put work aside
- Ate real food
- Loved my body
- Found purpose
And I want to share that with you, because I want you to know that there is hope.
There is hope.
There is hope, and there is freedom. There is a journey that is fulfilling, that is passionate, that is nourishing. There is more to life than your scale, or the calories on the back of the cereal box, or the number of miles you run each day.
Not every day will be a good day. You will not always feel beautiful. You will not always win the battle with the scale or the trigger food. You will not always be able to avoid the stress of perfectionism or the fear of social contact.
And that’s okay. That’s okay, because that’s part of what makes us human. And when we embrace that humanness with the full, conscious understanding of why and how we act or feel the way we do–whether it’s social conditioning or the result of a blood sugar crash–then and only then can we begin to heal.
I will be writing more about Paleo F(X)’s “tangible takeaways” (as Roger Dickerman of Relentless Roger and the Caveman Doctor is so fond of calling them), but I just wanted to lead with this most important takeaway of all: there is hope, and I believe that the journey–the movement–has finally, finally begun.***
*I explained Paleo F(X) in my last post, however I’ll elucidate once again for the uninitiated:
Paleo F(X) is a 3 day conference designed to complement to the Ancestral Health Symposium held in the fall of each year. AHS is a mostly academic endeavor, with speakers from laypersons to Ph. D.’s weighing in on the latest research in the world of ancestral health, nutrition, and fitness. Paleo F(X) was created as sort of the “functional” answer to the AHS–taking all of the great research discussed and debated and reviewed and released in the fall and translating it into “how it applies to me.” That means cooking demos, sports performance and movement workshops, expert panels, etc.
**”Crazy” defined by the mainstream media and traditional marketing as a dietary plan that encourages eating foods that don’t harm your body (meat, veggies, fat, and a little bit of fruit) and not eating foods that do harm your body (grains, legumes, sugars, processed foods, unstable/oxidized unsaturated fats).
***If you are interested in learning more about healing your body and mind with the principles of Paleo/Primal/Ancestral Health, please go check out the resources page at the top of my blog. Many of the books can be found for free at the library and all of the podcasts can be downloaded for free from iTunes. And if you have any questions, you can always, always contact me.