Guest Post by Angie Alt: Accepting My Paleo Imperfection

January 5, 2013 in Categories: by

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Angie Alt is wife, mother, world traveler & blogger.  She’s also a warrior in the autoimmunity war.  Angie confronts three autoimmune disorders each day, including Celiac Disease, with powerful management techniques like AIPaleo & the Paleolithic lifestyle.  She blogs regularly about the emotional side of tackling autoimmunity, adopting Paleo, and how it impacts her, her family, & their way of life.  You can read more by Angela Alt at her blog and connect with her on Facebook.

I’m a perfectionist.  Sigh . . . I wish it weren’t so, but it is.  I have always, always wanted all the details of everything I do to be flawless.  It doesn’t stop with just the things I do though, it is also who I am . . . I want that to be perfect too.

 In part, I happily ran down the Paleo path, because Paleo is aiming for ideals.  Ideal digestion, ideal blood sugar regulation, ideal vitamins and minerals from ideal foods, ideal body weight, ideal strength, ideal rest . . . and for people like me taking it that extra-step with Autoimmune Protocol, ideal disease management.  To begin with, it was a very complicated internal process for me to even wrap my mind around my autoimmunity.  “You mean my body is not functioning perfectly?”  I felt like I had done something wrong.  I’d made a mistake and naturally I had to make a major correction.  I knew immediately that the less than ideal standards of typical western medicine were not going to cut it for my perfectionist personality.

 Although I still have four months to go before I reach my first “paleoversary,” we are rapidly nearing the end of the calendar year.  Just like millions of other people I have been thinking recently about what I achieved in the past year and what I want to achieve in the new year.  The more I thought, the more I dwelled on all I have not yet accomplished on my Paleo journey.  I don’t eat organic, grass-fed meat or wild-caught fish 100% of the time yet.  I am coming from a starting point of extreme illness, including Celiac Disease, so I know I need supplementation, but I still haven’t worked out exactly what supplements to take and the best sources.  I don’t have a good routine put together yet for getting outside and using my body.  I haven’t mastered my sleep patterns.  I don’t have a good stress management process down.

 I have the terrible perfectionist habit of focusing on the areas that I think might be substandard.  As I contemplated the past year and tried to begin mentally planning the new one, I didn’t take any time to focus on the remarkable successes.  I had finally gotten a name for what was wrong for over a decade, Celiac Disease.  I had discovered a path to healing through Paleo and jumped head first into the Autoimmune Protocol.  Through careful AIP discipline I brought my gluten antibodies from 161 to only 1 point outside the normal range.  I learned literally volumes about real nutrition and almost without trying put together an awesome support network.  Most importantly, I started using my blog to write about the emotional side of tackling autoimmunity and adopting Paleo as a way to connect with and offer support to others in similar situations.

 Learning about Paleolithic nutrition and spreading the word from the basics all the way to the emotional triumphs and challenges culminated for me this week.  My co-workers asked me to give a presentation on Paleo.  I prepared everything meticulously (ugh, perfectionism) and then passionately gave them my pitch.  At the end of it, every single one of them decided to start the new year with Paleo.  I was so excited and will totally be cheering for them in their personal health resolutions.  And then it occurred to me . . . over and over during the course of my talk, I had emphasized to them that this was a process, that they should not get bogged down in rules, that they should take their time adapting to this new template for living . . . that it was not important to be perfect.  I was encouraging them to go easy on themselves, while I was silently running myself down about all the ways I have not yet achieved the Paleo ideal.  (I think those of us using Paleo to manage disease are particularly at risk for being too hard on ourselves about achieving perfection, since it can mean profound differences in our physical health and emotional well-being to get it all down just right.)

 The truth is, given the time and budget I have to work within, I am doing the absolute best I can in terms of food quality.  Long-term undiagnosed Celiac Disease means sorting out proper supplementation and finding high-quality, affordable sources is a larger work in progress, but I continue to work at it diligently.  I’m working hard to find the time between working full-time, being a wife and mother, and taking time for my passion, writing, to get outside and move my body.  I’ve had the sleep rhythms down a few times over the course of my Paleo adaptation and I am sure I will find my way back again.

 But then there is still that lacking stress management plan?  Maybe it should start with acceptance of my Paleo imperfection?  I, as a human being, am by nature one long work in progress.  How did we get here from our primal ancestors anyway, if it isn’t all about building one piece at a time to reach an ideal?  I am moving in the right direction.  I can feel it in my cells.  I am getting closer to the ideal and that is what counts.

I owe Angie an apology for not posting this post before New Years.  I hope this post will resonate with all of you the way it does for me and still seem timely as we contemplate and tackle our own New Years resolutions.

Comments

Thank you for sharing Angie. I can totally relate being a recovering perfectionist myself. I’ve learned to let some things go, although not happily or easily, but had no choice with the state of health I’ve been through. Sometimes letting go of things I want to be perfect, feels like I’m letting go part of who I am. It’s helped me to reframe the thought to think of what I still can be now or what other opportunity can replace those lost things. I admit to the same personal disappointment when I had a moment of being less than perfect Paleo AIP FODMAP. Then comes the blame for any symptoms that pop up after a moment of less than perfect. I will always be one who prefers perfect!! It’s comforting somehow to read your story and know I’m not alone in this quest for doing my best. We are all a work in progress! I wish you didn’t have to go through so much, but I appreciate that you are sharing it with us. Thank you!!

Thanks. We need to hear this so we don’t continue to beat ourselves up for not doing it perfectly. I know how hard it is for people to make the change and they think it’s all or nothing. I tell them that I don’t do it perfectly but I still feel so much better when I eat this way.

I am right there with you on the emotional side of autoimmune diseases. I had a honest and loving talk with my husband on New Year’s Eve and it cleared up a boatload of physical symptoms. I realize now holding all the stuff in that I was afraid to talk about created many of my physical symptoms. Here’s to a New Year of emotional and mental healing!

Thanks for your humble post Angie.
Think a major mile stone on such a quest of regaining health is self awareness and self reflection. On the one hand I believe only oneself can relate to the symptoms one experiences… only you will know whether your belly is currently working or just causing trouble. Only you will know the downside of an excess binge in “glutenanddairyfreeorganicicecreamsorbet” after not having had ice cream for more than a year ;) On the other hand its good to just let go sometimes.. not to worry about consequences and the revenge of your Immuneself for the time of eating a bar of delectable 99% chocolate… maybe even risk some dairy!
Anyway, it really helps to still go out there, be part of an almost normal social life where you will always bring the most awesome salads and mouthwatering cuts of meat for the barbecue… getting pissed on gin and soda with a slice of cucumber or two and a bunch of friends who will hopefully just crack a joke and not try to talk about healthy eating for once ;)
Love the story about the colleagues going Paleo after a pep talk! It’s pretty cool to sit back and think of how many peoples life we might have changed for the better already without even knowing it.
Cheers
Chris
(AI, FODMAP, low sulphur… mercury toxicity)

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