Guest Post by Angie Alt: Paleo Destroyed My Social Life

January 22, 2014 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.

Last May I wrote a post for my own blog about my Plan B.  It was all about how I tricked autoimmunity, by making it my passion and consequently finding a way to adjust from my Plan A.  I shared it again recently on my Facebook page and asked folks to tell me what they had given up due to their autoimmune diseases.  One answer popped up immediately and it was repeated a few times.  The answer surprised me.

Several people told me that their social lives were the thing they gave up, but not due to the AI disease itself, rather it was their chosen method for managing the disease that lead to the breakdown on the social front.  Lots of the drugs currently on the market meant to treat autoimmune conditions are undesirable, to say the least.  If you only consider the side effects just from the class of immunosuppressant drugs alone you’ll be freaked out.  I thought for sure these people were going to say that the side effects of their drug regimens were what had ruined socializing for them.

That wasn’t it though.  It was their diet and lifestyle changes.  It was Paleo!  Following Paleo approaches in order to manage or even heal autoimmunity was reducing their community interaction.  Or at least reducing the quality of those interactions.  I do understand these issues.  It can be so hard to adopt a new, healthy diet and lifestyle in a society that often misunderstands the Paleo concept and is, by and large, quite sick themselves.  I get it.  I’ve experienced it too, the negative backlash that comes with being on the forefront of progress.  I get it so much that I’ve tried to practically address the issue lots of different times on my own blog.  I’ve also written about it for The Paleo Mom, most specifically with the blog, “Unsupportive Friends & Family:  A How-To Guide.” 

So, if I get it so much, why am I so surprised by the answers that showed up?  I’m surprised, because as far as I can tell, the tide is turning.  I think it is high time for us Paleo types to “do this thing.”  We have a full-fledged movement happening here, people.  Why are we avoiding family gatherings, work outings, and neighborhood picnics over snarky comments and contemptuous eye rolling?  The method we are choosing to improve our health is definitely working!  The weight loss stories are incredible.  The cholesterol lowering, Type-2 Diabetes reversing, infertility-busting testimonials are everywhere.  The breakthroughs being reported by the autoimmune community are stunning.  I personally know women that have reversed MS.  What.  The.  Heck?!  Are we seriously letting the dismissive doubters bring our social lives to a halt?

Two professors and researchers, Hamilton Stapell & David Schwartz, conducted a study in 2013 to learn more about the Paleo movement.  The study, titled “Modern Cavemen?  Stereotypes and Reality of the Ancestral Health Movement,” estimates that there are currently about one to three million people following this lifestyle.  That is about one percent of the U.S. population, which seems small, but think about those numbers.  There are literally, millions, of others; millions of people to connect with and begin the building of an extensive, robust support system.  We can create a system that encourages us to do something deeply healthful for our families and ourselves, instead of being pressured into staying in a paradigm that is harming us.

My teenage daughter has some wisdom to offer here, “Mom, haters gonna’ hate.”  There is no way I am going to let the, “I would die if I couldn’t eat that” crowd prevent me from enjoying my new, healthy life.  They are not going to slow my roll!  In fact, I’m planning on sharing my new life.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll meet a new Paleo friend that way?

If you’d like to connect with other like-minded people, join the new The Paleo Approach Community group on Facebook. The group now has over 3,000 members!

And…The Paleo Approach will be available in less than one week!

TPABookCover Resized January 2014

Comments

Judging from my own experience, anyway, the social life issue isn’t one of push-back, it’s one of practicality. My friends and family have been uniformly supportive of the changes I’ve made, for which I am very, very grateful! And I have very kind friends that have been willing to, for example, meet me at tea houses instead of bars, and who have even insisted I give them my ridiculously detailed “can” and “can’t” food lists so that they can occasionally cook for me.

I don’t feel like my social life has suffered greatly, but it’s only because I’ve worked very hard at it. Socializing isn’t easy the way it used to be, because a) so much of socializing revolves around food and drink (which I think is wonderful and lovely by the way) and b) I can’t eat out at all, which means that I always need to plan around when I can get home and eat before I do any given thing. Everything takes so much time. Where I used to just meet my friends for happy hour without thinking about it, now I need to have time to get home first, cook/eat, and then get myself to a happy hour where I will drink tea or water. Or when I go to someone’s house for dinner–in the past I would just grab a bottle of wine. Now I need to cook/eat for myself before I go, and also bring a dish to share so that I can have something on my plate–which makes everyone involved feel much more comfortable.

It’s all doable, but it’s a huge drain on time and energy, things that aren’t always in ready supply when struggling with an autoimmune disease. When I’m in remission, dealing with all of this is just the new normal. But when I’m in any kind of flare, it makes socializing very logistically difficult and demanding. And this is in what I consider and ideal situation, in terms of my friends’ supportiveness, plus my own willingness to advocate for my needs where needed. Throw in less supportive or unsupportive friends and family, or stronger guilt/pleasing tendencies than I have, and I can see how a social life would truly by diminished.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. Thanks so much for the guest spots you write, they have all been very interesting!

Just having busy lives reduced our social circles. That’s when we introduced a “Friend of the Week” program at home. It meant each week, we spend time with a friend (of various levels) often over a meal. There are ways to be paleo and still engage. Most people want to eat better and actually appreciate the innovative ways we’ve used almond flour :). We also have options for others so they don’t feel like they have to eat like we do (since we do this for our kids too). It’s kind of like religion. As long as you’re not actively recruiting or militant, but make it clear where you’re coming from, I don’t know if people are that closed minded that they wouldn’t want to see you. We’re on our third year of the FoTW program and it’s yielded almost 1,000 visits!

I have been confronted with this mentality as well, and it’s hard to stick to Paleo at times because of it….it’s peer pressure really. LOL My standard answer now for those who say, I’d die if I couldn’t eat….., to them I say, you may die sooner if you continue eating that. My choices are about life quality….sure I could continue to eat the SAD like my friends, but I’d also have to live with the painful joints, and crazy blood sugar and thyroid issues not to mention what might develop from continued poison to my body. I’m with your daughter, haters gonna hate. I choose to be healthy and feel good…..to each his own!

Them: “I would die if I couldn’t eat that”
Me: “I’d probably miss you.”

When someone wants to have a conversation about my food choices, I ask them “Just so I know how to respond to your questions (or concerns), would you say you have a solid understanding of exactly what Paleo is?” Including the word ‘exactly’ is deliberate here – I’ve never had anyone answer the question ‘yes’ because they know they don’t know ‘exactly’ what it is. This allows me to adjust my expectations of how the conversation will go and no one is ever offended, upset or defensive. But then, I respect everyone’s right to choose what is best for themselves, and never impose my own ideas on others.

Living Paleo hasn’t cramped my social life, but having celiac sure has. There are very few restaurants I trust to serve me truly gluten-free meals. The ones that can aren’t Paleo; they serve CAFO meat, conventional produce, and added who-knows-what chemicals/sugars to their dressings and marinades. Therefore, Paleo has to take a backseat to being gluten free when it comes to restaurants. That’s why I don’t eat out much.

I have had some people say, “Oh, I could never do without X.” And I say, “Yes, that’s what I thought, too, at the beginning. I thought that all the best foods had X! But it wasn’t as hard as I thought, plus I have lost weight, have better sleep, clearer skin, and a more positive attitude.” Then I whip out before and after pics, and they’re blown away. All I do is offer my testimonial, what they decide is best for them is up to them at that point.

This is a pretty powerful post, Angie! I was wondering what was the current estimate of people doing Paleo. One percent of the population is NOT small – not when it involves such a major change in lifestyle that goes against much of what our government and society teaches.

I’ve been Paleo for 1 1/2 years. I’ve seen significant changes in interest and knowledge about Paleo in the public over just the last year. I finally met some local women doing it, and last fall we had dinner together – a Paleo dinner! (Yea – it was wonderful!) There’s serious competition for organ meats at our farmers market, too! :)

Even my own family doctor is now Paleo! No, I don’t think I converted her – but she was quite impressed at the improvement of my own health conditions after adopting this lifestyle. All of my doctors have been impressed, because they don’t often see someone with a serious disabling autoimmune disease go off all medications (with supervision) and make a significant improvement that lasts!

If they start seeing one patient after another turning their health around, eventually it might sink in that this lifestyle needs to be taken seriously!

That said, I do have problems socializing at times. If I was just regular Paleo, it wouldn’t be too difficult – especially if I didn’t have to be very strict. But being mostly AIP, and knowing I’ll experience severe pain for days if I’m accidentally exposed to the wrong foods makes it pretty tough. Add an outright allergy to coconut, and a lot of standard Paleo meals and snacks are out of the picture, too! I have to take my own food with me nearly everywhere.

Hopefully, as this movement continues to grow, the difficulties with food socializing will become easier. Meanwhile, most people that know me don’t make any cracks against Paleo, simply because they’ve seen the huge difference it’s made in my life.

Being AIP makes it so much harder to go out. I’m so thankful to live in San Francisco, where I can typically find at least one option that’s safe at most restaurants. And it gets easier to eat out (especially if you’re just standard Paleo) every year. The movement is growing, hopefully the momentum keeps up and spreads!

My reply to people has become, “I just eat real, whole food which makes my body feel better. I don’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable about what my eating decisions are but I have to stick to what won’t make me bloated and miserable in pain. You eat what you want.”

I guess I’m lucky because my family and friends are all mostly supportive. I haven’t read all the comments, so maybe someone already said this, but the only way to stop the haters is by continuing to be healthy. Your health is all the evidence you need. A friend recently commented to me that they can’t deny that this lifestyle is working for my husband and I because they’ve seen the changes in our appearance and zeal for life. So keep at it and don’t let the haters get you down.

Yes the sad thing about most diets.You will loose some goodies of your social life such as consuming alcohol with your friends and going to your favorite gourmet resturant.

You said that you know women who have reversed MS. Can you give information on this, any supporting evidence, etc? This would be so helpful.

It seems like at every social event I go to that involved food, I end up talking about how eating Paleo has changed my life. People are amazed at not only my 50lb weight loss but more importantly to me they are amazed that all my symptoms of fibromyalgia have vanished. Debilitating pain that I’ve lived with every day of my life for the past twelve years is gone unless I stray from the paleo protocol. I tell people who say things like I could never give up X, Y, or Z that they would if it had such an immediate negative impact

I have been struggling with Graves’ disease for many years, but this is great advice and yet another reach to try the paleo diet. I’m about to switch over my diet completely this coming week, and I’m checking out some of the resources mentioned here in order to do so.

It’s amazing you had such excellent results with your symptoms just after switching up your diet, I’m really hopeful I can do so as well!

I’m going to keep have BBQ’s and invite my friends so I choose the food and go out for gigs in the evening and eat before hand :-) or sometimes I take stuff with me :-)

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