Earlier this month, Matt and I attended a nutrition conference put on by the Whole 9. While I had read some of what they had written, I was having a hard time imagining how there was still more to be said on the topic of paleo nutrition. I was intrigued when I read the ‘elevator pitch’ that Melissa, one of Whole9’s founders, had written as an explanation:
“I eat “real” food – fresh, natural food like meat, vegetables and fruit. I choose foods that are nutrient dense, with lots of naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals, over foods that have more calories but less nutrition. And food quality is important – I’m careful about where my meat comes from, and buy produce locally and organically as often as possible.
It’s not a low calorie “diet” – I eat as much as I need to maintain strength, energy and a healthy weight. In fact, my diet is probably much higher in fat than you’d imagine. Fat isn’t the enemy – it’s a great energy source when it comes from high quality foods like avocado, coconut and nuts. And I’m not trying to do a “low carb” thing, but since I’m eating vegetables and fruits instead of bread, cereal and pasta, it just happens to work out that way.
Eating like this is good for maintaining a healthy metabolism, and reducing inflammation within the body. It’s been doing great things for my energy levels, body composition and performance in the gym. It also helps to minimize my risk for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions, like diabetes, heart attack and stroke.”
The reason I was intrigued is that for some time, but more acutely in the past few months, I have been fielding objections to this way of eating from clients and friends. One friend has been doing weight watchers on and off for years, eating food substitutes (food that’s so processed that most nutrition has been processed out) and in the past year plus has been training for ultra-distance running races, training at unbelievable volumes. She’s been plagued by injury and has struggled in all the races she has entered. She asked for my input because in addition to those challenges, she is lighter than she’s been in the memorable past, yet does not like how she looks naked. I reviewed a food journal she kept for me for 3 days and found that she was primarily consuming carbs with little to no protein nor fat on any given day. I suggested she read Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. After doing so, she resolved to give it a shot. Her husband’s response, “You are going to get hurt and you are going to regret doing this.” My response, “How does one argue that eating unprocessed, high quality proteins and fats with large amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits is bad for you?”
Another friend’s husband was doing a 30 day challenge and my friend seemed completely annoyed by it. I can understand opting out personally but why be resentful of a partner embarking on this challenge. I could make the argument that it’s because she does the cooking and the shopping. Upon review, it wasn’t that much of a burden.
The reservations of loved ones and hesitation from clients caused me to consider what was at the source. In thinking about my friend’s husband, it seemed that while he might be concerned for her, the irrationality of his objections suggested something else. My conclusion was that he was actually speaking from a place of fear, worried that he too will be ‘forced’ to buy in and felt his lifestyle might be threatened. Simultaneously, in speaking to the other friend it became clear that she was responding to the same threat, or at very least felt his choice regarding his diet was a judgment as to what was ‘wrong’ with her own diet.
I attended the Whole 9 seminar in hopes of adding to my resources to better enable me to engage these skeptics and others in a thoughtful dialogue. What came out of it for me was something altogether different.
I’m a nearly 8 year cancer survivor, which I’m sure I don’t need to say I’m thrilled about. However, I also carry a genetic mutation predisposing me to cancer again in my lifetime. While the knowledge about my genetics hasn’t caused me to live in fear, it did cast a light of inevitability on my long-term perspective. I felt like the dye had been cast and although I would continue to train and would continue to be relatively mindful about what I ate, it wouldn’t make a darn bit of difference. Thom’s been nudging me toward a different conclusion for years but as with most things, I had to come to it myself.
In the weeks since that lecture, I realized that my hesitancy to commit to a ‘paleo’ lifestyle was not at all dissimilar from the hundreds of weight loss clients we’ve worked with over the years. Ultimately, my thoughts were along the lines of, “why bother if I’m just going to fail”. While this is difficult to admit, and I’m sure can be stated in a number of ways, those that have battled, be it weight or disease, more often than not have some degree of self-defeating rationale that justifies their resistance to commit to change. While one can rationalize however they choose, the fact remains that the primary fear in this case is likely a fear of failure.
I’ve tried to pinpoint the ah-ha moment when the light went on and the revelation occurred so that I could relate it to my friend’s husband, to the wife friend, to our medical advisory board, to whomever. Alas, there was no moment. I’ve been well informed for years and still unwilling to eliminate the last of my indulgences. The justification there was that I eat better than 99% of the American population, how bad could my lattes, wine, and sugar be? If I’m being honest, I’m not 99% of the American population. I’m just me and I’m genetically predisposed to a deadly disease. While some things are out of my control, other things are not.
No doubt, by now you have noticed the FIT Food Pyramid up front. The reason for its creation was, first and foremost we are here to help you achieve results, but equally important we hope to aid you in the quest for lifelong vitality. Secondly, we hoped it would inspire you to consider what and how you are eating and to ask questions of yourself and us as to why. The effects of what you eat every day include, but are not limited to: energy, mood, immunity, performance, recovery, skin and hair health, and gut health. And while modern medicine has any number of remedies, what if the solution was as simple as changing what you eat.
If you are intrigued or simply want to learn more, Matt and I are offering a lecture for our members on April 21st in the evening. Following that, on April 25th we will be kicking of a 30 day nutrition challenge for those wanting to face their ‘fears’ and give this diet a try in good company. The challenge will include a participant forum, menu recommendations, recipes, and support. We hope you will join us on the journey toward better health and lifelong vitality.