The Paleo NP Podcast Episode #07: Should You Be Paleo Forever & Accidental Dieting
What's new this week
Should you be Paleo forever?
Are you accidentally dieting?
Symptoms of accidental dieting
How to stop accidental dieting
Aesthetic goals and Paleo
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What’s new this week
Hi everyone! Welcome back to another episode of the Paleo NP podcast. I’ve got a little bit of a deeper dive into some mindset stuff for you this week. But before we get into that, I want to let you know that I just started a private FB group community this week and I would love it if you would join. It’s specifically targeted at people who have chronic or autoimmune illnesses, but the information is definitely pertinent anyone who is just looking to improve their health. Like, nothing that I talk about in there is going to make you less healthy. So I’ll put a link to that in the show notes - which you can find at marthaflorence.com/episode07 if you want to join me over there.
And something that I’m into this week is bulletproof coffee. This is not new to me, but it’s not something I’ve done in a long time, and I just started again this week. On Tuesday mornings I run at 9:30 and on Wednesdays I swim at 9:30 and I have just been having such a hard time eating the right things for breakfast and feeling like I have enough energy and fuel to do my workouts that I decided to change it up. And this is strangely appropriate for what we are talking about today. So I started doing bulletproof coffee after I get up and then not eating until I get home after my workout. So far, so good. I like to do my bulletproof coffee with cacao butter and collagen peptides. I’ve just found that’s what works for me. I used to do coconut oil and ghee, but I just didn’t find that it kept me full that way, so I tried cacao butter and that seems to work better. So I drink my bulletproof coffee about an hour and a half before my workout and then I workout for an hour and I’m usually pretty hungry when I get home but I don’t have any weird cramps from eating too much and I don’t feel like I’m starving and can’t finish my workout.
Alright so getting into this week’s topic which, as I said is a little more mindset focused than some of the stuff we’ve been talking about until now.
Should you be paleo forever?
Paleo is life changing for a lot of people (almost everyone who tries it experiences some benefit from it). But does that mean that you should be Paleo forever? There’s this natural progression that happens as you heal your body - you go through a period whether it’s 3 months, 6 months, a year or whatever where you are really diligent about what you are eating because you want to feel better.
Then as your body heals and you start to better understand how food affects it, I think the natural thing to do is kind of test the limits of what does and doesn’t work for you. So whether that’s doing a Whole30 and then adding back in some of the more paleo convenience foods or even things like sweeteners and going with that for a bit but then occasionally doing things like white rice or corn chips or french fries fried in crappy seed oils, gluten-free pizza, or any kind of dairy, or whatever.
So as you test that stuff and you learn what you can or can’t tolerate, your dietary habits shift a bit. If you tolerate gluten-free grains and dairy you might eat pizza once every few weeks (or twice in one day as I admitted to doing on IG a few weeks ago). So all this is fine and good so long as you continue to feel as good as you did before you were eating those foods.
I posted an IG story the other day about a breakout I’m currently fighting and how I am 100% aware of the fact that it’s because I’ve had too much dairy and too much gluten in my diet. How do I know that’s what’s causing it? Because I’ve done an elimination diet and then played with different amounts of different foods and paid close attention to how my body reacts.
The point is that I didn’t just decide that gluten and dairy are the things that are causing me to have breakouts. I’ve done the detective work to figure out how my body reacts to certain foods and how much body reacts to different amounts of certain foods. I have found that I can tolerate a limited amount of gluten, more if I’ve been avoiding it for awhile. I’m not celiac so I avoid gluten because I feel better when I do and the same with dairy. I avoid it and then when I really want it, I eat it.
But again, I’ve done the work to get to that point. And I think what a lot of people are missing is that you’ve got to do the work and you literally can’t have it all. If you are a patient of mine and you come to me and tell me that you you feel awful or that you have x, y, or z symptoms and when we start talking about some dietary changes that you’ll need to make to feel better and you tell me that I’m going to have to pry your pizza out of your cold, dead hands...we’re going to have an issue.
I understand that you LIKE to eat pizza on Friday nights, but do you WANT to feel better? Because if you do, then you’re going to need to do a little re-evaluation of your priorities. This is just a little tough love for you here. Once you get to a place where you’ve eliminated all of the food that’s potentially making you feel terrible that’s when you get to start adding things back and figuring out what will work for you long-term.
Also, why are we so attached to certain foods? I get that they taste good, but you’ve got to get away from the stress and the guilt of feeling like you are missing out on life if you do or don’t eat certain things at certain times. What you eat is your business and no one else should be making you feel bad or guilty for eating a certain way. So go out for pizza on Friday night but eat before you go or choose a different option like a salad if you want to join in on the social aspect, but don’t let the situation take away from the health that you are trying to create.
Also I think that starting with a super clean paleo template is a great place to start because it takes time for you to figure out what works for your body. This isn’t something that’s going to happen by giving up pizza and ice cream for a week, you need to put in a little more time and do some experimenting. Starting with paleo is great because it does address that physical piece of healing your gut and nourishing your body, but there is also something that is really powerful about discovering that you can go a week or two or three without pizza or diet coke. And that doesn’t have to be forever, but I feel like you just gain so much confidence by overcoming those things that you didn’t think you could.
And your tastebuds change so much that sometimes the things that you loved so much don’t even taste good anymore. Which, right now might sound really terrible, but once you realize how good you feel by not eating some of that junk and then you go back and you eat it and it tastes terrible, you’ll be surprised how you just don’t want that stuff anymore. It’s pretty remarkable.
And while I love the idea of intuitive eating and listening to your internal cues, I think it’s really important to know that doesn’t happen overnight. In order to get to that place where that’s even possible you need practice. In order to get to a place where all of that is effortless, there has to be a time where you really put in some effort to get to that place. YOu need to practice living and eating within some sort of structure in order to get to a place where it’s more intuitive and doesn’t take so much work.
Also, your body is not a static thing, so while you may have been able to get away with certain things several years ago, the same thing isn’t going to work for you now. The same thing goes for paleo or whatever way you eat, it’s probably not going to work forever and you need to be aware of that and shift what you are doing to meet those needs. I mean, I pretty much eat whatever I want, but what I want has shifted and changed as I’ve done some work on what I know makes me feel good or bad. I mean, I like cookies, but I don’t actually want to eat cookies all the time. Some days I want to eat nothing but cookies and other days they just don’t sound good. But that didn’t happen by me just deciding that I was going to eat whatever I wanted. There was some work involved.
Are you accidentally dieting?
And this kind of rolls right into another thing I’ve come across a lot of lately and that’s what I like to call “accidental dieting.” So a lot of folks think that because they are eating real food or following a paleo way of eating that it’s a lifestyle (which it is and it should be), and that means that it’s exempt from the more conventional dieting behavior, but a lot of times what’s happening is that people are treating this lifestyle in the same way that they’d treat a fad diet. So they bring in that mindset of good food vs bad food and restriction, which is definitely not the end goal.
So you follow a 21 or 30 day challenge and you either succeed at it or fail at it and suddenly you believe that your success or failure at this challenge reflects on you as a person, which is now getting back into that old toxic diet mindset. Food is not good or bad in a moral sense, so what you eat does not make you good or bad. There are things that you eat that are better choices than others and things that are healthy choices and things that are not healthy choices, but none of that has anything to do with whether you are good or bad.
So when you shift your diet into something more restrictive with a goal of learning what your body does or doesn’t like, that can help reframe this a bit, but also remember that any food list of things you should or shouldn’t eat is completely arbitrary. It’s your body and you get to eat what you want when you want. Sure you probably have goals and some of the foods you want to eat may not get you closer to those goals, but there’s nothing good or bad about that. It’s simply a choice that you make.
This is coming up for me because I’m in a few FB groups that focus on specific diets or foods and there is just so much chatter happening in there about this kind of stuff. Not so much from person to person, but people just beating themselves up because a certain way of eating didn’t make them feel better or because they are eating whatever way and ate food that’s not on the whatever way of eating list. And it just makes me so sad because I think so many of us would be so much healthier overall if we let all this stress around food go.
I get that you might have goals around what you want to look like or athletic performance, but eating a piece of toast for breakfast one day when you are following a keto diet isn’t actually going to ruin any of that for you. Yeah, eating the toast every day is going to make you not keto anymore, which might make your weight loss stall or your athletic performance suffer a bit, but neither of those things have anything to do with you as a person. And I think people forget that.
So we say things like, oh this isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle, but that’s not at all how we are treating it. We’ve got more and more programs to get people started, which is great (and I have one that I created too) but these programs, all of them, are meant to be temporary, like 30 days maximum temporary. They are meant to help you make a transition from one way of eating to another or work through some of your potential issues with food, but they are temporary.
And when these programs are not used as directed, they are absolutely no better than any other restrictive fad diet that’s out there. One of the groups I’m in is a Whole30 group and out of the, I don’t know 9,000 people who are in there there was a thread talking about “being in it for the long haul” and there were over 1000 comments from people who were talking about doing a Whole30 for 90 days or more.
Now, I’m not saying that eating Whole30 forever is a bad thing, but following a majority of those rule is actually pretty restrictive (no preservatives or added sugars of any kind are the big kickers - not that you should be eating those things, but intentionally eliminating them forever is unreasonable in this day and age). So what’s the point of extending a Whole30 out for as many as 180 days? The point of a Whole30 is to get control of your sugar cravings, decrease your inflammation, and then go through the reintroduction processes to see what foods you can actually tolerate so you can, as the create Melissa Hartwig says, “find your food freedom.”
And going back to what I was talking about at the beginning, you can have food freedom, but you do have to put in the work up front first. But that work isn’t restricting yourself or following a challenge for 6 times as long as it was meant to be followed. It’s called the Whole30 for a reason, not the Whole365.
There is also a huge difference between the people who do the program a few times per year because they like the way they feel while they are doing it and the people who continue to restrict well beyond the guidelines of the program and have the mindset of “I can’t have whatever food and I feel like I’m dying because of it.”
So looking at a challenge or a period of restrictive eating as more of a data gathering experience is a way better to go about something like this. You always need to go into it with a goal and I’m going to say that I don’t think that weight loss should always be your goal, because a lot of the time when we let go of the aesthetic goals, they actually come easier. And also going into something like this with a goal of weight loss isn’t really addressing why you are overweight in the first place. It probably has something to do with food, but restricting your food isn’t going to solve the problem because that’s not feasible over the long term.
Are you eating inflammatory foods? Then cutting those out for 30 days will help you lose weight and then you can go back and add some back in and see what the culprit was, but the weight loss in itself is not really an appropriate goal.
So if we are being super militant or strict with our food choices rather than taking it as a learning experience, then we are becoming dogmatic about it and that’s not something that I want people to be doing around food.
Accidental diet symptoms
So how do you know if you are an accidental dieter? Now, there is going to have to be some self reflection here - this is kind of like when I’ve talked about not convincing yourself that a food makes you feel ok just because you REALLY want to eat it. You’ve got to be brutally honest with yourself. So, the symptoms of accidental dieting are: you feel tortured or torn about your food choices, your ability to make decisions, or how your body looks. You think of food in terms of “good” or “bad” or “approved” or “not approved” even 21 or 30 days later (after your challenge is over). You look at someone else’s body or life and hope that the program you chose will bring you closer to looking or living like them. Or, you have a guru that you look to rather than being your own guru.
Now I’m not talking about this stuff to make you feel bad about doing it “right” or wrong or whatever. I just want to bring some attention to the idea. Because I think the problem is truly trust in ourselves and the idea that we need outside help if we want to do or become more or better. Deep down we don’t believe that we are capable of being successful, so we fail.
So I encourage you to ask yourself what message you are telling yourself with what you are doing. If you body isn’t doing what you want it to do, it’s not responding how you want it to respond, so you start communicating with it from a place of frustration rather than positivity. Rather than communicating that you are bad, try to communicate a message that you might make better choices and why, but not that you are bad.
Also, when you change it up from one program or diet to another, you might be changing the food or the theory, but how you think about yourself and your body doesn’t really shift. So changing your mental approach means getting rid of everything for a minute and try to fully recognize what really needs to change before the food and the goals is the mindset. So rather than thinking of food as good or bad, it’s just food and either you are making the choice to eat something or not.
I actually have a hard time articulating this at this point because it has just become second nature to me. Several years ago I posted an Instagram photo of an ice cream sandwich with a caption about how I was eating my feelings but I had made the choice so it didn’t matter. And that’s so true.
This comes down to trusting yourself and not comparing yourself. I get that it’s not easy. But if you are paleo and you want some nachos. Make yourself some nachos, enjoy the nachos, and move on. It really truly is that simple once you get into the right mindset.
You might also be wondering why I’m telling you to do whatever you want when I’m someone who tells people what to eat and how to fix their health. This comes back to what I said about having a guru earlier in the symptoms of accidental dieting. It’s fine to have someone whose opinion you trust and respect when it comes to food, health, or whatever. But you should absolutely never do what they are doing or what they tell you to do just because they told you to do it. Incorporate their opinions and advice into your own framework, even try it out for a bit, but if it’s not you or doesn’t work for you, don’t keep doing it just because someone told you to. And this is applicable beyond just food.
It’s like, we aren’t in school for our whole lives. We learn what we need to learn and eventually we need to go out and apply it, it’s the same with food.
How to stop accidental dieting
Ok...moving on. I bet you didn’t think you were going to get so much heavy mindset stuff here today. It’s just been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately so I wanted to share my thoughts on this stuff!
So, one of the big shifts that needs to happen is that we need to stop comparing ourselves to other people. And what we really need to use one of these challenges for is to gather information about ourselves free of any judgement. It’s like when you try a new food, either you like the way it tastes or you don’t - you don’t judge yourself because you don’t like the way like the way something tastes. You just like it or you don’t. So either something works or it doesn’t.
If your learning process starts with a challenge, great! The goal isn’t just completing the program though, it’s coming off the program with enough knowledge to set your own rules.
Don’t just follow instructions, work on learning why something does or doesn’t work for you. Be sure to be patient with yourself, you don’t have to know all the things right now.
If something doesn’t seem to be working. Don’t blame yourself and don’t give up. This is where a lot of people feel like they fail and fall off the wagon (another term I don’t love, there is no wagon and you definitely don’t need to be on or off of it). Just observe what’s happening, take note, and try something different.
Experiment with yourself. If you think something might work better for you - just do it. But proceed with a balanced mindset. The last thing that you need is guilt.
And remember what I said earlier about having a guru. Yes having people whose opinions you value and respect is important, but do not blindly follow what they tell you. Incorporate the information they give you into what you know to work with your body and do that.
Aesthetic goals and paleo
One other thing I want to touch on really quickly before I wrap this sucker up is the idea of aesthetic goals vs. health because I think that this is part of the mindset shift that needs to happen with all of the things I’ve talked about today.
In Robb Wolf’s book Wired to Eat he talks about a study where people were on a Paleo diet at home with a certain amount of calories and they were told to eat all of it. And the goal was not weight loss, so some of them lost weight (unintentionally) but all of them had improvements in their blood markers (I can’t remember which specifically but I’m going to assume that it was cholesterol and blood sugar at the very least).
But I think this is really important because I think a lot of people are super focused on losing 5 or 10 or even 15 or 20 pounds because we see abs all over the place online and think that’s how we should look. So remember that part of the mindset shift I just talked about was not comparing yourself to others and that definitely applies here. So some people will have a six pack and some people won’t. So that’s just how it is. And are you really willing to sacrifice your overall health for a six pack? Do you think that’s actually going to change anything for you?
I listened to an interview with Robb where he equated this search for a six pack with trying to calculate the final digit of the number pi. It just goes on and on, so you get your six pack and then it’s something else and on and on and on. And at a certain point, your health suffers.
So I just want you to keep in mind that while you are making shifts in your diet or lifestyle that doing it for aesthetic reasons is almost always the wrong reason. And as you heal your body and get into a place where you are healthy, eventually your body will settle into a place weight wise where it wants to be, and trying to fight whatever that is, is not going to do you any favors.
So that was pretty deep. But that’s all I’ve got for you this week. As always if you have any questions, you can submit them at marthaflorence.com and I’d love it if you’d leave a review for this show over in iTunes. See you next week!