This one goes out to all you "intermediate" Paleo peeps!! Enjoy! And then head on over to her page and see what else she's writing about!
Finding My Way: The Truth About the Paleo Learning Curve
By Sheree Strange
I first heard about Paleo in an unrelated health and nutrition podcast; I didn’t think too much about it at first, but it cropped up again and again, and eventually I thought “I’ve got to look into this some more”. I actually spent about six months reading, listening, learning, investigating, contemplating, debating and flip-flopping before I even took the first step. It is a massive paradigm shift – suddenly, bacon is good and oatmeal is the devil – and it took me a while to come around to that. But, even moreso, it took me a while to build some faith in myself; I had to really believe that I could live a life without wheat. It seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle, and I didn’t think I was capable.
When I reached that place of believing in myself, and the possibility of a Paleo lifestyle, I made the transition gradually. Very gradually. It was one meal at a time – almost by accident. A few grain-free dinners here, a couple more eggs there, playing around with coconut oil and leaving the margarine to languish on some forgotten fridge shelf… one toe at a time, I got my feet wet, and eventually immersed myself fully in a Primal style of eating. Since then, I’ve generally done pretty well; my “slips” have always been pre-meditated (so I planned for them, rather than gorging jersey caramels on impulse), I’ve inspired some others to take on these principles themselves, I’ve found ways to balance my own dietary preferences with the staunchly-SAD Dude I Live With. However, I don’t feel like I’m a “success story” – I’m very much still trying to find my balance.
See, I’m beginning to think there’s a bit of a hidden population within the Paleo/Primal community – people like me, still in desperate search of their dietary “happy place”. Stories like mine, of folks still in Paleo transit, are a little silenced. Typically, blogs and books and Facebook status updates are written by or for either the complete novices, or the seasoned pros. Podcasts either don’t teach us anything new, or go a bit over our heads. We’ve got a rough idea of what we should be doing, we know the template, we’ve covered the basics – but we’re yet to bring to life the true magic of a Paleo lifestyle.
I really hope I don’t sound as though I’m complaining here. I do still sincerely love all of the “Paleo for beginners” resources, and get as much as I can from them, as well as from the more elite Paleo guides. I am endlessly grateful for the hundreds of bloggers, writers, podcasters, animators, illustrators, chefs, artists, thinkers and do-ers, who have provided so much wonderful content and information – my transition would never, ever, ever have happened without them.
I am really just hoping to give a voice to the in-betweeners. To the imperfect. To the intermediates. I confess: I am one of you. We are not alone.
I think one factor at play here might be the popularity of the “cold turkey” approach; almost every Paleo “30 Day Challenge”, or similar undertaking, is aimed at going from 0 to 60 in nought-point-three seconds. Overnight, we should be eliminating grains, legumes, maybe dairy, vegetable oils, sugars, and anything that has an ingredient we can’t pronounce. Right? Well, that’s not how it went for me, and I’m not sure I could have done it if I’d wanted to. Not everyone is cut out for “cold turkey”, and not everyone achieves instant Paleo perfection; they might be the success stories you read on the dust covers of books, but they’re not representative of the whole. I had to be properly prepared, I had to be fully “ready” for each baby step towards Paleo. I don’t see any shame in such an approach, and would strongly encourage anyone to try it if they are seeking an alternative.
I consider myself to be quote-unquote Paleo, but I am still climbing the mountain. I am tweaking, experimenting, learning, trying… and practicing endless patience. It has taken quite some time to figure out that I sleep best when I limit fluids after dinner. I’m currently on Day 40 of a Whole45; I really struggled with my Whole30 and didn’t reach the pinnacle of what I felt I could achieve in that time frame, so I had to extend it out (yet another story you don’t hear very often in the Paleo camp). It even took me a while just to come around to the idea of a Whole30 – I was already pretty Primal, so I wasn’t starting from zero, but it still felt like a huge leap. I can’t figure out whether lower- or higher-carb approaches work best for me; I’m hoping to try a ketosis experiment sometime in the future, and maybe after a crack at a 21-Day Sugar Detox, to see where they get me. I’ve recently had to dabble in eliminating FODMAPs, due to some gastrointestinal symptoms that arose despite my super-strict adherence to the Whole30 program. I liken it to learning how to juggle; others seem to do it effortlessly, but I have to work very hard at keeping all of the balls in the air. I know I’ll get there eventually, but until then, I have to keep re-drafting, re-designing, re-visiting and re-analysing, to find what truly “works”. It’s both the beauty and the curse of the Paleo paradigm: it’s a fantastic template, but it is endlessly modifiable.
If I could reach anyone else out there, still coming along in their Paleo journey, hoping to find the promised land, I would ask of them this: never, never, never give up. We can do anything, and it is all to easy to forget how far we have already come. There is a Shangri-La, and we will find it, but we can never do so standing still. Please know that you are not alone – it may seem as though everyone else is already there, but there are many others, just like you, still searching and hoping. I have my fingers crossed for us.