I'm just beginning to experiment with paleo but I'm having a lot of trouble diving into it fully due to the environment where I live right now. I'm 18 and living with my parents - in a house full of processed foods, grains, typical things. I tried going pretty much paleo for about three days, but had to actually do it without telling them. They would pretty much think the whole thing is nuts. Plus, how do I refuse family dinners or food with friends (my friends here are pretty much the same story as my family)? I'm actually starting college this fall, but it's at a school that is heavily vegetarian/vegan. I'm really worried about, first of all, just how to make the switch to paleo while eating at a dining hall, but also just this attitude that meat is wrong, that I should be eating low-fat beans and soy and rice and such.
How do you guys deal with any non-paleo-friendly living environments?
I attended a very veg*n college for two years, and one of the nice things is that schools already attuned to "alternative" diets are receptive to student suggestions. I'm sure they've already heard a lot of people talk about gluten-free...you can use this as a stepping-stone for healthier choices, because I think most of us agree that the gluten grains are the worst of the worst.
More and more schools are making locally-grown food a part of the dining hall experience. Suggest that they support animal welfare by bringing in more locally-raised, pastured, sustainable meat. By basing my diet around these foods, I've also managed to avoid too much veg*n pestering...they'll still do it, but you just have to be strong in your convictions.
Also, supplement the dining hall fare by keeping good paleo stuff on hand...jerky, canned sardines (if you're OK with canned food), fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, etc.
School SHOULD be easier as you won't feel the pressure of parents, etc... and even if they are slanted vegan/veg generally you can find at least a couple of protein and fat sources. I think the best strategy is to keep the big picture in mind and you will probably be making a lot of "better paleo" choices instead of "orthodox paleo" choices...like pick the buffalo wings instead of the breaded chicken fingers, etc...
In terms of living at home, my nephew who is 16 is going through the same thing, he has told his parents about this, and even though they think he is nuts (not as nuts as "crazy Uncle Ian" of course) they are sort-of supportive. I have coached him to try and just eliminate the worst of the SAD foods (sugar, bread, pasta, corn chips) and his parents have stocked things like salad fixings, nuts and deli meat for him. I know this is not true paleo, but in your situation you are looking for better, not orthodox...
He was also able to convince his parents that one of the big reasons is to control his acne (which is what got him really interested). Just keep it big picture, if beans and soy are mainstays at the house, at least it is not bread and pasta which would be a lot worse...
I just point out that everybody knows that processed food is bad for you and contains very little nutrients. Mostly what you are doing is cutting out processed foods. Most of the foods you are cutting out are obviously bad like fries, cake, burger buns, soda, white bread, etc. Emphasize that compared to other kids, you are eating healthier than they are by eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and meats. Therefore, the only real points of contention are that you are eating more meat than they would like and you are eating less grains. But try to focus on the positives and areas where you are doing better than most kids your age, even if they disagree with a few things. But it's still way better than eating burgers, fries, and a coke! I other situations, if you are young and healthy, it probably won't hurt to eat a few bites of rice or a potato now and again. Paleo need not be about total elimination. It is also about balance and shifting to more healthy eating in general. Now that you know what foods are healthier, try to eat more of those is all. YOu will still be lightyears ahead of most kids your age.
As for college, I went to UCLA and no one ever REALLY bothered me about what I ate. I guess you might get some friendly ribbing from time to time. SOmetimes people would get a tad of ribbing for eating super healthy and sometimes people would get a tad of ribbing for eating super unhealthy. But nothing serious. THey may not even really notice that you are not eating grains. We had plenthy of foods to choose from including a salad bar and meats. WHole potato was often on the menu as it is super cheap. There was always fruit. If the meat is breaded, you can always pull the breading off. I actually used to do that a lot even though I wasn't paleo back thne. It would have been fairly easy to eat paleo when I was there. Even if there are a lot of vegans, it's not like they are going to make up a majority of the eaters. THe rest of the kids will want meat and the school will provide it.
In college, you are basically free to do what you want as long as it's still legal. The hard part will be going back home afterwards and having to face all the rules and nagging of your parents once again! ;-P -Eva
Healthy diet is a lifelong thing, so don't sweat it if you can't start right away. The 70 years after college are what really matter. Right now you can make the best choices you can given the opportunities you've got and focus on learning and planning for the future.
If good options aren't available in your dining hall you might be able to cook in your dorm room. I can usually get by with just a microwave. Most campuses have bad grocery options, though; you might have to shop off-campus somewhere. Even at big colleges I don't know that there are a lot of paleo-friendly options in the dining halls. Meat is an expensive, low-margin item. Institutions don't like to serve healthy quantities.
The easy solution, tell them you don't feel good when you eat wheatstuff... you don't even have to lie...
This is my fast solution when I don't want to explain how I am concerned about my health and that wheat is the worst thing I can eat. Never a quick discussion
To deal with your family: do they think fitness is important? Perhaps the book "The Primal Blueprint" could help a bit... Tell your parents, that you are going for a more healthy lifstyle - for better fitness - to be able to compet with the others on college...
Marc Sisson explains, that going for 80% is a realistic goal. So just try to make better choices - as far as possible...
Don't worry too much and just try to go your own way. Don't worry too much about your choice to eat meat in a vegetarian environment either. Take advantage of the good veggies that will be around and just say. "Since I'm not eating grains and legumes," for the reasons you will naturally elucidate "I need to get my protein via animal foods." But eat a lot of fruits and veggies and enjoy your life.
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