I’m an avid lurker on paleo/primal forums (I’ll refer to this lifestyle as paleo from now on to save myself some typing) and have noticed so many people write about cheating, or falling off the paleo/primal wagon, or getting off track, or something similar. I’m assuming that these folks think of themselves as somewhat paleo since they are reading and posting and striving toward that goal. At the same time, they are admitting that they are not, at least at that time, because of what they are eating.
I’m one of those people (a paleo wannabe?) who mostly chooses to remain silent. I like my paleo diet. I think of it as the way I’d like to eat for the rest of my life, not as any short-term quick fix. I feel better and look better when on it, and most of the time, my relationship with food seems to be a lot healthier than it’s ever been. So why do I find it so difficult to stay paleo for more than a few weeks? After a period of time (once I’ve detoxed from sugar and flour for about 48 hours), I stop wanting or even thinking about my favorite SAD or binge foods. And then something happens and I can’t stop thinking about them and usually wind up eating sugary, fatty baked goods with lots of flour. I feel lousy when I’m done and it’s always a relief to slip back into the paleo way of eating. My lapses are slowly becoming fewer and further between, and I’m consuming less and less food during them (although they are still too frequent and too big).
I know I’m not alone. I read into others’ posts and comments that they have the same problem as I do. And I’m hoping that for them, with time and effort, paleo will become easier as well.
My question: Am I paleo? I’m not sure. When I’m not diving into my cookies, my diet is super-clean, maybe close to 95-97% compliance. I’m guessing that might be some of my problem, since I’m a perfectionist and often it’s a little slip (a bite, lick or taste) that will lead to a full-on binge. But really, heirloom cherry tomatoes and my sweet and sour cabbage (made with fruit) are things I look to for treats and desserts on my “on” days. And to make my question less specific to myself, how many days do you need to string together to consider yourself paleo? I’m so interested to hear people’s thoughts; for me, this is the elephant in my living room.
I’m not judging in the least, and even if you’ve only thought about moving toward paleo, I think it’s terrific. I hate it when people dismiss it without trying, saying, “I could never give up bread,” or “How can you work out without eating carbs?” My yoga teacher last night was talking about her tofurkey and I half wanted to cry, half wanted to smack her. I think once the seed is planted, the journey has begun, but I’m guessing that there are others who believe you need to walk your talk before you can consider yourself paleo. Thoughts?
PS: I am a recovering bulimic. I attribute a decent part of my recovery to adopting a more paleo lifestyle. And some of my cheat days are not disordered. But some are. That’s why I feel like I’m in a bit of a conundrum: although my perfectionism and “all-or-nothing” thinking leads me to disordered eating and thinking, surfing the gray areas of the paleo lifestyle (cookies made with almond flour and stevia, coconut flour bread and pancakes, etc.) can sometimes trigger a binge. So although I crave wiggle room, sometimes I can’t handle it.
Edited to express gratitude for the support received. I really don't care about earning my paleo merit badge; I was just wondering at what point in the process people considered themselves "paleo," regardless of their compliance and their deviations. It's really gratifying to see so many people taking a gentle, non-radical approach. I describe my diet as based on high quality whole foods, not "paleo" foods. But a lot of the time I feel like a poseur when I talk "healthy" most of the time and still eat crap some of the time. Thanks for reminding me that I don't have to be perfect and that walking down the road and straying sometimes is a million times better than giving up before I even started.