Guest Post by Angie Alt: On Being Paleo

November 20, 2013 in Categories: , , by

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Angie Alt Guest Post PhotosAngie 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.

You know what is challenging?  Walking the line.  I’m talking about the line between the Paleo and the Non-Paleo worlds.  I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately, because I’ve notice myself needing a little breathing room in both spheres.

First, you have the Non-Paleo world.  Believe it or not, I still live here.  Most of the time I have to function within the “Standard American” model.  I have to shop at stores filled to capacity with foods I basically see as poison.  Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis have, at most, only heard the word Paleo and know nothing beyond that.  Even TV shows and ads . . . all fit the Non-Paleo mold.  The sitcom family sits down to a dinner of pasta and French bread.  The couple on the Match.com ad meets for their first date and shares bites of dessert . . . a slice of gluten and processed-sugar filled cake.  GASP!  The Non-Paleo world can’t be ignored.

What happens when I try to explain who I am, my lifestyle, in that setting?  Some people are curious and politely interested, but most people fall into three categories:  A) silently confused or B) plainly wondering if I’m part of a cult . . . maybe even one of the cult leaders, or C) aggressively defensive.  I think my passionate exuberance for this way of living, even though it has miraculously changed my health for the better, probably comes off a bit bonkers.  I end up constantly trying to tweak my delivery, so as not to scare innocent bystanders away.  Or worse yet, make them think I am judging their choices.  I’ve discovered the answer for me and unquestionably I think it can work for many, but my every thought is not about what others are eating or if they have perfected their circadian rhythms.  Basically, the Paleo movement is still seen as a little counter-culture and I am trying to walk the line of confidence in my choices, without pushing away everyone.

Then there is the Paleo world.  I blog in it, I read it, I listen to podcasts on it, I run a Facebook page in support of it, I live it, my family lives it, and many of my close friends live it.  It is a bit of a bubble.  It can be very, very easy, almost disturbingly so, to forget that there is anything else.  Doesn’t everyone know they should be eating grass-fed liver for breakfast?  Doesn’t everyone talk about how to render lard at a dinner party?  It’s not normal to pay $40.00 for four-dozen soy-free, grain-free eggs?  Huh.

Here’s the rub.  Although I have tons of awesome friends and supporters in the Paleo movement, being real can sometimes be a very vulnerable moment.  Especially in my case, where I run a public page and blog and collaborate with lots of others in the movement, not maintaining 100% perfection can get you in trouble.  None of us like it, but there are “Paleo police” everywhere.  Just to up the ante even more, I’m an AIPer.  The “Autoimmune Protocol police” can be more like vigilantes.  Yikes!  For example, I once posted a picture of my new food processor with lots of farm fresh produce around it, including tomatoes and peppers (I was getting ready to make fresh salsa for my hubby and daughter).  The AIP vigilantes came down on me hard about the “illegal” nightshades.  I have not been able to reintroduce them and had to quickly explain myself.  God forbid you do not “look” like the Paleo ideal!  Too heavy, too thin, no ripped six-pack abs?  You’re out!  Being a human being and being Paleo can sometimes feel incompatible.

I doubt I am the only one that finds the line in these two worlds tough to walk at times.  So what can we do?  What do you think Paleo community?  How can we make it easier to function in both worlds?  How do we make our way more comfortably in the Non-Paleo world and find a way to relax in the Paleo one?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Comments

You hit the nail on the head. I too, am dealing with 3 autoimmune diseases. My mother in law is now living with us, her basement apartment is almost finished, and every morning I watch load her instant coffee with sugar and powdered coffeemate. Yesterday she showed me the tub of coffeemate where it said Gluten Free/Lactose Free saying I said she shouldn’t eat that because it has gluten in it. I reminded her that I never said that, I said that it was loaded with HFCS and hydrogenated oils, all of which are GMO. . You know how the rest of the conversation goes…

Absolutely right. I have celiac’s too, and walking the line between living a Paleo lifestyle, and having a fiancé, family, and friends that don’t eat Paleo at all can be hard. Paleo police are the worst. It’s all about finding what works for you. No one is perfect. Even the Paleo police.

I have some of the same issues. I have developed numerous food allergies, and started on the AIP 2/13. My friends and family see how healthy I am, how much weight I’ve lost, but when I tell them “I no longer eat, nuts, seeds, dairy, gluten or nighthshades” I usually get “Oh my God, what DO you eat?” Or “That’s too hard for me to do.” I am a mother, and wife, and my son is GFCF, and my husband eats what I put down for him. :) I think if people can see how delicious REAL food can be, then hopefully they wont want to reach for that packaged, preprocessed junk.

When you’re in Europe there in only the Non-Paleo world and the Virtual Paleo world. Almost no one knows about Paleo here, all my information and support comes from online forums, blogs and books that I have to order online too. So it’s like I’m living this Paleo AIP thing in my head. For myself that is not a problem. I simply state what I don’t eat whenever necessary and only engage in conversation about my diet with people who are truly interested, usually because they are also struggling with disease. If needed, I add: this is a medical diet, or “doctor’s orders”. And I can testify that going on this diet has improved my health so much that I just wouldn’t want to change it.

What is more difficult is raising a child in a Non-Paleo world…. These days kids are given “treats” whenever, wherever. School being the most difficult. My little girl is clearly sensitive to food, probably because I already had adrenal and thyroid issues when pregnant, and she needs a healthy life style with lots of sleep. People seem to think that you mistreat your child by denying it sugar, colourants, gluten, cow dairy, etc. And of course I am labelled an “overprotecting mom”. Even though she hardly ever asks for Non-Paleo foods (just doesn’t like them much) and is very happy with the yummy Paleo alternatives I serve her. Also, they seem to take it as a negative comment on their own eating habits, which pushes them into attacking mine. I’m still trying to figure out ways to deal with this. Mostly, I give a bit of friendly information like “She’s been struggling with chronic nose-ear-throat problems and the specialist suggested this diet. We’ve noticed a big improvement when she does not eat dairy/ gluten/ sugar so we like to give her as little as possible of those things. Here are some alternatives to this treat, that she can have: fruit, nuts, meat, …”. Any tips from parents are welcome!

I usually let my son take extra snacks to school to share with his friends at lunch. Most times, they ask for more. It makes me feel great to know that not only does my son LIKE the Paleo treats I make for him, his friends have no clue they do not contain gluten, dairy, or sugar.

Some of my daughter’s classmates like her treats too, but they are usually the kids from homes that have some alternative food awareness. It’s a nice idea to give them treats to hand out, might lower the threshold and “weird” factor a bit.

I’m not really 100% Paleo, I’d say about 70%, but I am all gluten-free. I don’t have any auto-immune issues, just mild symptoms. I work for a caterer where I’m surrounded by wheat flour (I bake the desserts, can you imagine!!), and there are breadcrumbs, canola oil, gross fake chicken and beef base in everything for “flavor”, etc. etc. When I talk just a little bit about this thing called Paleo, or even just the gluten-free thing, and that it’s actually a really healthy way of eating and not a sect (I get that one too, all the time. GF is a cult. who knew…), they just don’t get it and think I’m crazy. Sometimes I choose to shut my mouth and not bother because I don’t wanna be THAT girl, or feel like I’m lecturing them, but it’s really hard to not say “hey, that canola/soybean oil is really not the best choice to cook ALL your food…” I don’t think it’s my place, and then I get the looks…And when this little lady the other day bought a “healthy whole wheat” muffin and wanted butter or margarine…she goes “no, make it margarine, it’s better”…I couldn’t help it I had to let her know it really is NOT. So I gave her butter and told her a bit about the evilness or margarine. But what else can I do…This unhealthy way of eating is so engraved in our minds and habits it’s hard to break that mold. Especially for people with no health issues. This guy the other day, goes “why would I stop eating gluten? I don’t have a problem with it…” and it takes every bit of restraint for me not to reply “maybe not now…”
Anyway, all I can do in the end is try to talk to the people I love and care about on this matter little by little, to not seem to pushy and preachy…Slowly but surely…But it’s reeeeeaaaaaly hard…
Wishing you all a Happy and HEALTHY Thanksgiving!
Laurie :)

It’s kind of lonely sometimes. If I mention I read some of the latest research in, say, how multitasking actually reduces productivity, everyone is like, Oh yeah, that’s pretty interesting. But if I mention that I read a study where butter is actually better than margarine, people argue back. Whose honor are they defending? THEY weren’t the ones who decided whether butter is good or not . . .

I finally had a few friends join me in Paleo – not all the time, or 100%, but at least they understand why I’m doing this and don’t think I’m weird or, worse, feel sorry for me for doing it.

Wow this is a wonderful piece that hits the nail on the head. As a college student, walking the line between Paleo and non-Paleo is a huge challenge, in addition to dealing with autoimmune diseases. I’m part of a coed sports team at my college where our dryland program was led by a student who was a self-proclaimed ‘paleo’ junkie who forced us to do immense amounts of crossfit and then ate hordes of eggs, butter, milk and whey protein poweder all of the time, in addition to a lot of other things that can be pretty detrimental to some people’s health. It was so hard not to sit him down and explain to him that being ‘paleo’ is not just some fad that involves eating tons of fat, protein and doing crossfit in order to do better at competitions; instead it’s actually a lifeline for a lot of people and the twisted version that he was promoting and getting a lot of the other kids on our team to follow makes it so much harder for people that actually need to be paleo all of the time, instead of just being paleo for the month before a big competition. Selling such an adulterated version of paleo spreads misinformation, not only to those that choose to follow, but to those who see what’s happening. He’s graduated now, but I really wish I’d been brave enough to say something.

We should be much more confident in our approaches to health than people that never checked if what they were told was true about health by searching for a reference or by reading the referenced study to find how true it may be…
If we act confidently enough and give the information where appropriate, they will start questioning their own ways, not us.

It is SO hard! Thank you for sharing your experience here. Most of my life is spent in the “non-paleo” world among family, friends, coworkers, etc., which makes it difficult to make the choices I see as right, to not preach even though I disagree, to smile and nod so as to not offend people… Ah, it’s so difficult to walk the line!

Give yourself grace and don’t worry about the paleo police. My motto is that paleo is a journey, not a destination. I have to remind myself of this every day. I am putting one foot in front of the other in order to prepare meals for my kids. It’s hard. And when I decide to let my kids eat oatmeal for breakfast, it’s ok.

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