I'm surrounded every day by my high school peers, chowing down on fries and pizza and god knows what else. Girls complaining about "how hard it is to keep [their] figure" while sporting trays filled with brownies and chocolate croissants, because they've earned it for dutifully switching to diet soda. Chubby, borderline diabetic 'athletes' choking down spaghetti and ravioli, covered with mountains of low-fat sauces, because, you know, you gotta watch your fat intake, man, that stuff can kill you. Presumable homophobes calling me 'gay' for eating bowls of vegetables (I kid you not), which are for sissies, and evidently, in the words of a double-chinned self-styled scientist friend of mine, "nothing more than empty cellulose and water." The same psuedointellectual friend who lectures me on why this diet of mine, due to my inclusion of cooked food, isn't technically ancestral, all while shoving a slice of soggy pizza down his oesophagus.
How on earth do you, my wonderful fellow paleo men and women, deal with this crap from day to day without succumbing to full-fledged misanthropy?
You're probably not going to change the minds of most of those around you, so you clearly need to change your mind and make peace with some things while waiting for an opening to facilitate change. If you can't possibly do anything it is irrational to let it affect you. It is difficult at first to see people ruining their health and remain silent, but when considering the hopelessness of the situation it is hard to avoid eventually developing a stoicism to it. Oh sure we do what we can within our own narrow fields of influence, but most of what we do is preaching to the converted and refining our knowledge. You are especially not going to get through to most children. Their minds couldn't be further from prudence, and they feel invincible. There are plenty of adult children you won't get through to either, even when they're dying of diabetes, but at least then the more intelligent people will listen. And of course there will be some who will be persuaded, they are the outliers like yourself, and you must seek them out.
It is important to realize that this is the domain of science and reason, but mostly science and reason as opposed to pure reason. If you wish to change skeptical minds you need to be prepared to offer solid evidence for the truthfulness of your claims, and the mind that is receiving this evidence needs to be able to process it. You must also be non-insulting and display respect for the other, or they will never listen with an open mind. It shouldn't be a lecture, it should be a conversation between open, inquisitive minds.
Willingness to evaluate evidence, ability to process it, and a healthy dialogue between peers with a rapport are necessary conditions for changing skeptical minds. For the non-skeptical, just make it sound really awesome and fun and they might just join in. Some people are just looking for a new experience, but it has to be fun. There are -some- people who have given the world of health a bad image as insufferable, holier-than-thou moralizers who enjoy telling other people that they are just-so-very-healthy (and therefore superior) and that if you don't do what they say you will die a terrible death. This image is widespread and there is vehement resistance to it, understandably so. It must be overcome. This is the best thing guys like Mark Sisson have done, they have made health sexy.
There is also the intimate connection people have to food. Giving up addictive processed food is tough and it is important to realize this and empathize with people. Just because you can doesn't mean that it is just as easy for everyone else.
If people are making particular claims that are unsupported or demonstrably false, you must change the context. It is perverse to stand there face to face and make unsubstantiated claims about science, because there is no way to verify them in person. It amounts to a bunch of posturing and blustering with no way to resolve the dispute. What I do is explain that there is indeed no way for me to verify a claim in person and that if they would like to convince me they should take my e-mail address and supply me with scientific evidence which I may review at a later date and get back to them. That produces meaningful dialogue some of the time. But mostly it just ends the dialogue completely, which can also be desirable!
There are no easy solutions, but there are solutions if you are willing to work on it. Best of luck.
You got lucky. You stumbled upon the correct way to eat, you've not absorted the misinformation about calories-in-caloried-out, you were born or raised or whatever with the gift of being able to break your addiction to foods that are designed to tempt you beyond your ability to resist. All this while still in high school. Let's just say, I wish I had been so fortunate. (Not that it was all luck, not at all, but you should appreciate the advantages that you had.)
I'm guessing people were you two years ago. They don't need your scorn. They need your help, those few that are ready for it. As the rest of us have learned, only a few percent will be receptive -- they're addicts, after all.
But remember through all this that while you've figured this out, there are probably a ton of things that others have figured out that are not so easy for you to negotiate, and hopefully they are not walking around scorning you because of it, although they probably are. That's another mistake they're doing that you want to avoid.
People are human, which means they do a lot of idiotic things. They also end up doing some cool things too. So lead by example, and enjoy the best parts every individual has to offer while letting the other stuff go.
Stop looking at what other people are doing and listening to what they think about you. Stop trying to rank yourself in relation to other people, and just be well. These things get easier with practice.
I'm in high school too, and while this may not be the approach that you were looking for, my solution is simple: I don't eat lunch around them. I usually eat with my sociology teacher in her classroom. I do this because I have chronic migraines which get worse in a crowded cafeteria, but unless your high school is stricter than mine, you can probably just find a place to be alone and eat there regardless of your reasons. I've been misanthropic long before I started eating healthily, and my solution is to try to avoid those who piss me off and surround myself with those who don't. If you don't enjoy being around the people whom you eat lunch with, then stop eating lunch with them if you can manage it. When the weather's nice I eat lunch on a bench outside; I get questioning looks from people walking in and out, but it's less about what I eat and more about why I'm eating alone in such a weird place - which I prefer.
At home, though, it's a completely different matter: I have a morbidly obese mother who will eat an entire box of cookies/crackers/what-have-you in a sitting, but buys fat-free half-and-half (a product that doesn't even make sense, yet somehow exists) and sugar-free, artifical syrup for her coffee. She tells me, while downing synthetic ingredients laced with hydrogenated oils, not to eat grass-fed cow organs - she doesn't even specify liver, just everything but muscle - because "that's where all the toxins are" and refuses my offer to email her some links to prove her wrong. It's extremely frustrating.
PS: Your prose is wonderful.
I just have to wonder, did you go out and try to evangelize about paleo? Trying to convert folks to paleo is about as safe as converting them to a different religion or politics. Not a good idea!
My how times have changed. I was a "jock" in high school and I don't recall many of the athletes at my school -- not known for being an athletic powerhouse in our small-school leagues -- being double chinned porkers. I was also one of those girls, and none of my fellow classmates were sporting brownies and junk -- back then the standard diet lunch was a yogurt (full fat Dannon, unfortunately with sugar/fruit on the bottom to stir in - 250 cals) and maybe a salad with lemon juice (there weren't lots of low fat dressings yet available in that day).
I'm sorry you are being ridiculed for eating veggies, but your view of your classmates seems more than just a bit skewed to me. Either it's real and I'm blind when I look out at my classes of mostly freshmen this semester -- who look no fatter than pictures from my freshman year in college would demonstrate (eek, about 3 decades ago! STOP making me feel so old!!) -- or it's distorted by your own perceptions of having found "the right way" to eat.
This is not a knock on paleo, but to put it in context, I'm quite sure there are many vegetarians who look at the meat on the plates of their peers and perceive all manner of issues others have that they are saving themselves from. Ditto the sugar shunners and those who eschew wheat/grains, etc. etc.
First, I really feel for you, since I recently left high school, and though I wasn't paleo, I've always been different in many ways and have had a hard time fitting in. I think you'll have to just wait - school is a nasty environment, especially for people who are different. At school, people stare, poke and laugh; its easy to understand, since everyone has to go to school, while most college students make the conscious decision (I'm talking about emotional maturity here, not dietary habits) to go to higher education, so the level of potential abuse is lower - you simply have a wider pool of people to deal with in a school.
What you have to tell yourself is that the people who ridicule you now are of no consequence to you. It takes a long time to find good, real friends, to find company that suits you, people you would want to spend time with rather than just doing it to 'fit in'. Although this might sound cliche, you really need to ignore snide comments and remember that a lot of these people actually, deep down, envy your self-discipline.
Why do you think a lot of people take it so close to heart when you refuse cake or a similar non-food? Because deep inside, they are jealous of your ability to turn it down; you eating it would make them feel better, feel like less of a failure.
Now as far as conventional wisdom brainwashing, I agree that its infinitely annoying. I deal with pangs of misanthropy on a daily basis; it annoys me to no end when i hear people at the gym discussing 'healthy' wholemeal cookies, and it similarly drives me up the wall to see people mindlessly shoving cake in their faces and then complaining of weight gain and health issues. It also irritates me when people look me up and down if I ask for full cream in my coffee. One of the 'negatives' discovering this lifestyle has had for me is that I have noticed that I've become rather arrogant around people who allow themselves to be brainwashed, and people who have no willpower. There, I've admitted it, go ahead and hate me, but we all have negative aspects to our characters, and I'm no saint. I'm still working on the arrogance issue, because misanthropic feelings cause stress.
It really helps to focus on yourself, and those close to you. I know it sounds egoistic, but this really has more to do with self-preservation; go to great lengths to get your family to be healthy, and look after YOUR body the best you can; after all, you only have one you, and you want it to last and thrive. You can't save the world, and other people will make their own choices, and pay for them.
Best of luck!
Honestly, get your GED tomorrow, and apply to college, or see if you can take classes at your local community college for High School credit, you'll have a lot more fun arguing with people who have just discovered vegetarian and veganism.
I found high school in general brought on constant waves misanthropy. Sorry, I know it sucks, but it doesn't last forever. If you do decide to stick it out, hunker down, kill time with your nose in books that interest you if you are feeling incarcerated (I found that they could only discipline me so much if I was reading something "intellectually stimulating" during those senior requirement classes if I had already completed my worksheets). Self medicate with some valerian, catnip, and skullcap tea if needed, and know that freedom from being caged with idiots isn't far off.
It also helps to be "closet paleo" whether in high school or not so as not to have to engage with all that helpful advice. Most of your peers are just parrots for the CW baloney from what their parents have gleaned form Dr. Oz and the USDA anyway. Watch the movie Fat Head if you want some good one-liner retorts.
In my opinion diet like religion and politics shouldn't be the topic of polite conversation. Work on seeking out the shared humanity with those around you and anyone can be your pal. Once you become good friends with those who share different values (diet or otherwise) you can help rekindle the art of polite intellectual debate which seems to mostly lacking in modern society.
On a personal evolution front High School is a time of tribal allegiances drawn along lines of social strata and pop culture identity (and at an age of emulation, rather than cultural creation that is appropriate), but I really wish I had figured out then what finally occurred to me in my late 20's: You are not what you like, or in other words, your likes and dislikes don't actually define who you are way down deep. As people, we are more alike than we are different. I now regret having turned down a number of social opportunities back then because someone else didn't live up to my "high standards of taste" in regards to music, art, or lifestyle.
Misanthropy sounds like a perfectly reasonable reaction to your surroundings. Just don't let it become permanent. Your current torment is temporary, and if it helps to think about how those cute girls with the brownies and diet soda will be desperately fighting the bulge in ten years and have no idea what brought it on....well, you do what it takes to get through the day. Someday you'll escape the twisted lab experiment known as the American high school and find that life in the real world is much more sane; and real people, though they may be annoying at times, are mostly okay to deal with. It gets better, really.
Here's a quote from an article that every high school kid smart enough to use a Latin pseudonym should read in full:
"Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a disaster to have kids running around loose.
"What bothers me is not that the kids are kept in prisons, but that (a) they aren't told about it, and (b) the prisons are run mostly by the inmates. Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they're called misfits." -- Paul Graham http://paulgraham.com/nerds.html
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