Monday, January 17, 2011

Like An Animal

 A couple of comments on the last post inspired me to further my explanation of the fundamental mind-shift I am pursuing personally. I responded in the comments, and want to add to those points here:

I always had a good attitude toward food. I always enjoyed fresh fruit & veg, loved meat, and treated junk food as occasional indulgences, but never really thought about it. Going low-carb, then primal, then carnivore, and eventually paleo - that's what screwed up my attitude towards food and, most of all, my body. Exercising 'mindful eating' immediately makes you over-think eating. Just eat real food, and your body will stop you when you've had enough. Counting anything will mess you up. I sure learned that the hard way.

So much of the primal/paleo movement revolves around humanity's return to earlier states of civilisation - even pre-civilisation - when it comes to how we eat and live. We're not eschewing the creature comforts of housing, electricity, transport, etc - the only area we really concentrate on is food. Yet, we seem to pursue this return to an animal, natural state in such an unnatural way.

Every pet I've ever had, growing up, was given big bowls of food, which were topped up as needed. There were usually a few animals living with us at any one time, yet there was always left-over food in the bowl. There was more than enough for everyone. The pets ate when they were hungry. They knew food was always there. They didn't overeat. They didn't eat as much as possible in case food was not going to be available later - they knew it would be.


We live in the exact same situation, and yet we spend so much energy over-thinking food. We use food as a crutch for when we are stressed, bored, stuck for something to say, etc. Whilst many health ills do come from eating the wrong kind of food - no one debates that living on refined carbs is unhealthy - most of us have enough money to ensure we can access and store a wider range of foods. We're not forced to subsist on the refined carbs that result in insulin resistance and physiological hunger. If you are eating meat, eggs, fruit & vegetables, but find yourself craving doughnuts, then the issue is more likely to be psychological. Even if you have a physiological disorder such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, etc, and you need to take care with what you eat, you should not find your life revolving around food. I know people with severe food allergies who are more relaxed around food than I have been!

The attitude of being "strict" is a signal of neuroticism. A success/fail attitude is unnatural. Dieting does not make sense if it involves actively monitoring your food intake, actively denying yourself foods that your mind obsesses over. There's nothing natural about pushing yourself to do something your body doesn't want you to do. There may need to be a mind-shift to find yourself actually craving healthy foods, but if you're forcing yourself to be strict and dieting, you usually find yourself craving junk. There's a hint that something's wrong.

I'm not really saying that the individual is in the wrong; we're just products of this weight-focused culture. So few of us eat naturally - the media and societal-pressures consistently reinforce the idea that we're WRONG - the wrong size, eating the wrong food, thinking the wrong thoughts. Existing like animals is derided.


The primal/paleo movement is all about getting back to our natural lifestyles as evolution dictated, and yet we end up going further away from nature and into dark places of restriction and self-disgust when we make "mistakes", or covering our psychological issues with food in the guise that it's fine because it's paleo! Sites like PaleoHacks have certainly enhanced that perfectionist/neurotic attitude. Gosh, even Richard Nikoley of "Free The Animal" seems to be rapidly reversing the mind-set proclaimed by his blog's title, although he is still much more relaxed (I hope) than many other paleo endorsers out there. Hopefully as the hype passes, that attitude will recede and those of us who believe in evolutionary nutrition and medicine will find the groove of natural eating behaviours along with a relaxed lifestyle.

I'm not putting food up on a pedestal, like the vegetarian who dreams about bacon just because they won't let themselves eat it. Animals don't do that. Damaged, neurotic humans do. I can eat whatever I want. I desire healthy, nourishing foods because they give me energy and make my systems run smoothly. Sometimes I crave junkier food, and I'm permitting myself to satisfy that craving. Sometimes I feel fine after it, sometimes I feel a bit sick, but I never feel guilty. I am aiming to eat like an animal - food is there, and I eat it if I need it.

I aim to live like an animal as well - Mark Sisson advises us to play, to avoid poisonous things, to get enough sun, to avoid stress... My pets do all of this. I can too. I had been trying to off-set work stresses with relaxation activities like massages and sunbathing. I'm starting to think that this is the wrong mind-set as well - but there will be more about that as time goes on. In the meantime, I am spending time making and selling jewellery, and am also starting a new vocal group. These activities are my pleasures, and - if I wanted to - they could also be my primary sources of income. I do not find them stressful, or the minor stresses are far outweighed by the pleasure and relaxation associated with the activities. With two weeks left before teaching resumes, I will be living like an animal as much as possible. After teaching resumes, I will see whether the stressors outweigh the pleasures. If so, I might have some decisions to make...

I am still the Girl Gone Primal, and going primal now means a lot more to me than just following a diet. Maybe I should add a "now with more primality" sticker across my banner :)

25 comments:

Lindsay and James Cotter said...

well said! Such a great post, thank you for sharing this.
LC

meghan said...

This is such an awesome post. I love it.

Marinka said...

You've got it totally right! I was shocked to recognize everything you said, and you truly inspired my to make a change. Not in my diet, but in my attitude towards food, because that's where the problem really is. Thank you so much!

TexasPrimalSurfWahine said...

I so love this post, it reflects where I am and where I am going. Funny, I have primal in my blog name/title and I had been wondering whether it was still applicable. I think it is because of the same things you were pointing out. Thanks for the post, now I don't even have to think about what I need to say since you did it quite well already!

Janet said...

We're intelligent creatures who are constantly thinking. Sometimes we think too much and as you noted, we just need to channel our inner animal.

My comment was not a criticism of any sorts. More so a reflection on my own attitude towards food/diet based on your last post.

Kelleigh Orthmann said...

Thank you! What a thoughtful post and so right on! In my quest for better health, I often find myself obsessing over food. I totally resonate with your thoughts on how animals naturally live primally by eating just what they need and just doing what needs to be done. And...us smart humans have gotten away from these instinctual, healthy behaviors.

Anne H said...

My little kittens would eat so much, then no more;
It would still be there for them when they got back.
And it was the same dry junk every day!
Love your spot-on post!

Melissa said...

I absolutely understand where you are coming from and wish it was that easy for me. I broke my "satiety meter" with my eating disorder, so for now counting is what keeps me honest. I hope someday it will be fixed and I can rely on my myself to make better decisions without the crutch.

Xan said...

I found an article you might find interesting http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/13/101213fa_fact_lehrer?currentPage=all

Rachel said...

Just so you know, you're not the only one out there making this transition-I feel like I have totally mirrored you in a lot of ways. When I first went Paleo I got super neurotic about making sure I had certain macro nutrient percentages. I would get stressed if I didn't eat perfect Paleo meals. Lately I've decided to just stop. I choose real food, but I eat what want to eat, and if that's cheese and an apple for dinner (with nary a real protein serving in sight) that's ok, because I know I'll eat the protein when I want it. I feel so much more relaxed now, it's really nice :)

darc said...

Yay, Jezwyn, another hit. And I love that so many people are on this same page at the same time!

My goals for 2011 include, no goals—as far as eating is concerned.

By that I mean, no counting, no weighing, no obsessing about food in general. I will purcahse nearly all whole, primal type foods but if an occassional processed goody creeps in I will welcome it, and then move on.

I have bannished the phrase, "strict Paleo" from my vocabulary and my home. I will simply eat, and get on with life.

primalfood said...

Great Post!

Somehow, eating has gone from "eat what you need, when you need it" to "eat what you think you should eat or what someone else thinks you should eat."

Our body "knows" what it needs, and if only we listened to it I think we would all be fine.

My eating has run the gamut from low-fat, to vegan, to the present primal (with occasional non-primal foods).

It's all a learning process, and part of life

BTW, I loved the pic of the rat-like creatures eating from their bowl of food. They look happy!

Keep up the insightful posts, I really like your pix of food!

Robert J. Stone

Anonymous said...

i'm glad my intro into pale was art de vany. he has always said that stressing over food will sabotage you. i tried to count and measure years ago on the zone diet, and it didn't work. i am a disorganized ( but creative!) person who just needs some guidelines. that's what professor de vany gave me and since 2009 it has worked.

Anonymous said...

ps i try not to depend on other people's praise for my happiness. writing a blog where you get a lot of encouragement is great, but a person can get addicted to that too. on paleohacks they have the before and after paleo picks. a real show of solidarity with others regaining weight would be to show before-after-after pictures, with the weight regain there for all to see. what we look like is not the measure of who we are as people- showing those kind of pics would underline that.

Brahnamin said...

Brilliant. I read a lot of paleo/primal blogs and I get a lot of good info (and a few question mark moments) but this was simply and perfectly brilliant. Well said.

Nastia said...

"They knew food was always there. They didn't overeat. They didn't eat as much as possible in case food was not going to be available later - they knew it would be."

There are two good books that really helped me with this issue, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat and Intuitive Eating. Worth reading.

Keep up the good work, I love your blog!

Bemused Badger said...

You might want to check out Skwigg's blog if you haven't already. She's made a similar loop through the pitfalls of orthorexia and back again to a place where one can just feel good and make peace with their food.
http://www.skwigg.com/
skwigg.tripod.com/blog
http://happyeaters.net/

Bill Pairaktaridis said...

Oh my God! I think I love you! This post pretty much sums up my conclusions on all this mind-f*ckery that has become simply eating. If your diet is making you miserable and you spend all week thinking of the weekend when you can have whatever you want because someone told you so, then it's not the right diet for you. It's great to see people finally opening their eyes to all this marketing. Eat what you want, not too much and move around. Intuitive eating is something so simple that most people think that it won't work. Everyone wants something extremely complex that's impossible to follow just so they can blame the system for their failure. You, miss, earn a gold star in my book!

Grok said...

Us old schoolers kind of fueled each other there for a while ;) You learned a lot on your journey. Congrats.

Jezwyn said...

Thanks for all the comments! This blog exists to help others, to serve as a bit of camaraderie and empathy, rather than for my own 'use'. I certainly don't rely on praise - most of the time I receive negative comments, so I'd be screwed if I had to feed my ego with comments!

I love paleo food and know that it's the smart health choice to make since it cuts out refined carbs and vegetable oils. But beyond that, all the tweaks and ratios are only really necessary for people with specific health problems. I'm amazed when I think back to how happy and relaxed I was eating just meat, and how my fixation on food developed when the weight started coming back. Weight-loss stalls are enough to horrify the average person shedding pounds, but re-accumulation is a very different kettle of battered fish.

I should point out that eating like an animal had kept me overweight since I was about 9 or 10. Starving myself in late high school was the first time I had actively sought weight loss, and it worked - until I moved out of home and ended up living a pretty isolated life on my Uni campus. Communal kitchens are no foodie's friend!

I'm not unhealthy, and I think I'm pretty sound of mind now that I've let go of the pain of last year. The question going forward is - how do I lose weight without hurting my physical or psychological health?

GI Jane said...

This post was great. I'm going to link it over on my blog!

Rikke Rørbæk Olsen said...

Hear, hear! What a great post!
I was going to get into writing a whole lot, but changed my mind... I'll just keep it at: What a great, great post! I agree with you 100%!

wildhumananimal said...

Awesome blog! I eat whatever I want too (which happened to be a wild rabbit I got yesterday). I think you might find my site interesting: www.animalism.info

mommasmonster said...

this makes perfect sense.i am thinking about it..it will be much like going on adkins with the "carb detox" but ive done it before i can do it again.luckily i live in the south were hunting is common .also.. i have friends who skin fresh caught game in my back yard in exchange for a leg or two.as well a fresh caught bass that i fried last nite.amazing.if you live in an area that allows for it.. learn to hunt you cant get more primal than that.find someone experienced to go with of course.we dont want to kill ourselves now do we??

Deanna said...

Okay, this was posted over a year ago, but this completely reflects where I am now.

When I first discovered Paleo, it was for all the wrong reasons, but it worked, it made me feel good, and it gave me something to "control." So yeah, someone who doesn't need to lose weight found herself counting calories, trying this diet, that diet, the other diet...

The only thing I did recently was try a Whole30 and noticed how much the little bits of added sugars and preservatives make me feel nasty. Otherwise, I'm working on eating naturally, working out naturally, and watching my own cats for inspiration!