After reading several threads lately, I am wondering what folks think. Is Paleo a way of eating, a diet, or is it a lifestyle? What is your take on this?
Although, I call it the "Paleo Diet," I tend to think of it more as a lifestyle. Diet sounds so temporary to me. The Paleo Diet doesn't just require you to eat a certain way; it requires you to revamp your life; to optimize your health by getting enough sleep, getting plenty of sun, and moving a lot. How you eat is part of how you live your life. Why only eat a Paleo diet when you can live the Paleo life?
I agree that it is more of a lifestyle. I started Paleo as a diet, but it slowly started to creep into other aspects of my life. I have found myself trying to be more "natural" in a lot of aspects of my life. For example, I now make an honest attempt to get outside and get some sunshine. Before, I would rather have stayed inside and watched tv or something. I also don't shave my armpits and legs unless I feel it's absolutely necessary (don't judge me!). I'm also considering giving up shampoo... I didn't start out with that intention, it just seemed to happen.
Good question, but without a clear-cut, universal answer. Paleo is for people what they need. Some people can make the diet changes, and then the other changes come later, making it a lifestyle. Some (like me), had lifestyle elements, like barefooting, cooking my own food, getting good sleep and lots of sun -- but diet was a missing element.
I think that is it helpful to think of it as a lifestyle though, so that people think of it as more than just "trying to lose weight" or the myriad of other reasons people "diet". Instead, it's a way of life that can affect workouts, food, sleep schedules, and so on. Some of these lifestyle elements aren't exclusively paleo, but they go well with it, so people can think of other ways to optimize their health.
"Life a good life. In the end it is not the years in a life, but the life in the years." ~Abe Lincoln.
I find it a way of thinking--the more I avoid artificial, industrialized contamination the better I feel. That applies to food, laundry, cleaning, hygiene, clothing, etc.
Lifestyle, which I have used a lot, may be excessive because I'm still living about the same life I was before. It's my thinking and behaviors that have changed--fundamentally.
Let's use laundry as an example. I used to pile 2 hampers in the back seat of my truck and drive to the RV park's laundromat (about a city block.) I added detergent and softener to each load. Now, I carry one load at a time to the laundromat and use soap nuts as my cleanser. Then I carry the dried clothes back home. My thinking and behavior are quite different, really, and I now approach all aspects of my life within the new paradigm--what's the simplest, most natural way to do this?
I think this question can only be answered by an individual about him or herself. In that framework, I agree with Nance. Perhaps, in my case, it's a factor of age, but I consider it to be a sort of "ancestrally-mindedness". To be fair, except for a brief stint right after I left my parents' home where I was semi-obsessed with fast food and the lure of 'convenience' (frankly, the lure of being able to be lazy) I've always sort of sought out traditional ways, and felt drawn to them. I've also, from a philosophical and mental perspective, felt drawn to simpler ways of thinking and acting in the walking world, as well as enjoying a rich, deep mystical perspective that sometimes felt cut off or shut away when I slipped too far into the mindless maelstrom of the "modern" "shortcut" world... so Paleo (by any moniker that makes sense) is as much a philosophical journey for me as it is a physical--something that really only finds its exposure, I think, on my blog, Primordial Aether
I have recently found that the 'lifestyle' thing getting a little out of hand. When people start questioning things like wearing clothes, I get a little bit edgy.
Just because something was done in the Palaeolithic era does not always mean it is better, as if all of modern development is a hindrance to optimum lifestyle. It's kind of what happened in the history of Christianity post-Constantine when everyone started running off into the desert to escape the modernity (well modernity then) in effort to purify themselves. They kind of missed the whole point.
It does get a little paleo-ascetic around here sometimes.
Hey I am all for a more naturally useful way of life, I would even purchase a lillipad, but when people start asking whether we should cut our hair then I leave the room. Questioning our modernity is not a bad thing, I love that I now think more about everything through a Paleo-lense, but at the end of the day it is about optimum life, for the purpose of being more useful, not for righteousness. By that I mean, I should not eat that slice of panettone for the sake of my gut, not for reasons of paleorality.
I think some Paleo folk need to visit Africa and see what life is like without the modern lifestyle. Which leads me to something which I have been thinking about recently...
Is the Paleo demographic actually middle class?
The lifestyle question is hard- being student, there is only so much of my life that is "natural". I walk everywhere, shop at markets, buy/prepare good food, hike regularly, try and keep on top of getting adequate rest, and do plyometric training a few times a week. On the other hand, I spend most of my time at or around a desk. I do calculus on my white board, I argue with my boyfriend about efficiencies of approaches in physics, I usually study 4-6 hours per day on top of several hours of class time, I feel like crying if I do poorly on a test, I get infuriated when I can't find answers, and I don't always get the right amount of rest or relaxation.
I think the concept of what a paleo lifestyle is is probably highly individual. Where I'm coming from, I grew up between backwoods and farms, so that is what I picture as a "natural" paleo lifestyle. My mom would push us up the mountain behind our house every day until we could walk up ourselves, which is something I do for every period of time that I am back at home. I have been sworn at in Vietnamese, Dutch, and Japanese, because those are the nationalities that we see most at the docks in the harbour, where I have gotten in trouble many times for climbing up pilings and swinging around between breakwater gaps. I was busted in elementary school for selling shoes made out of skunk cabbage. The highest punishable crime was to trample through the garden (or entering the chicken coop without an adult present, those roosters are crazy).
On the other hand, many people grew up in an urban setting- maybe to them, a natural paleo lifestyle would be spending more time lounging on the buildings roof, investing in a bike and rain gear, finding a farmers market, switching to natural fiber clothing, or checking out the compost service in their area. Maybe a paleo lifestyle could mean things as general as "putting aside time to play with my kids" or "treat all animals withe respect". I mean, I advocate for womens rights, am a pro-vaxxer, am a skeptic of both alternative and conventional medicine, and like to buy one good pair of boots instead of three crappy ones- none of these make me paleo, but for me they play into what a happy, fulfilling, healthy lifestyle is. So, things that make you fulfilled and healthful, even though they may not appear on the surface to be paleo at all, definitely compliment a paleo lifestyle. Not everything is black and white, especially when it comes to lifestyles.
As far as the "diet" goes, I find it to be a list of things I don't eat rather than an actual diet. This is really just an extension of old behavior (i.e. don't eat McDonald's, don't eat potato chips).
Some people seem to take the idea of it being a lifestyle a little more seriously and apply it to other things (i.e. barefoot running, no alarm clocks).
In the end "Paleo" will be what you make of it. If you want it to be a diet you can eat only the food prescribed in Paleo literature, if you want it to be a lifestyle you can apply "Paleo" principles to every aspect of your life, or you could just look at it as some guidance towards food choices.
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