This is not my favorite question, but I get it. What the average person knows of a paleo diet is that it’s gluten and grain free. And compared to the “standard American diet,” that’s a huge thing.
Still, it’s not the fact that people are focusing on the grain-free aspect of going paleo vs. the eating real, whole foods aspect, it’s the word “never.” I know, I know- not a big deal, right? WRONG, PEOPLE!
“Never” implies that I will no longer go near a piece of bread ever, that I will forever avoid pizza like the plague, and that holiday cookies and birthday cake have lost their place in my heart. Essentially, it implies that I am a total party pooper. And let’s get the record straight: I am not.
See, what people outside of paleo tend not to understand, is that the best thing about following a paleo lifestyle is that it is a lifestyle. It’s not a strict set of rules that one must follow perfectly in order to be successful.
Yes, there are specific rules and guidelines to follow if you want to be “squeaky clean paleo” and I’m sure there’s plenty of people who will disagree with my thoughts on “paleo perfectionism,” but there’s also a whole community of paleo peeps out there trying different foods, experimenting with their diets and learning what they can and can’t tolerate in search of their ideal health.
There is no failing in paleo.
There may be days when I don’t do what is best for my health. Heck, there were a few weeks around my wedding and honeymoon when I definitely did not do what was best for my health (read: drank about four frozen tropical drinks a day and ate bread at dinner every night).
But you know what? I didn’t wallow in my mistakes (I prefer to call them “choices”), I just went home, went back to my normal life and went back to the style of eating that I know works best for me.
Finding your best health is a process, and there are no hard and fast rules. I strongly believe a paleo lifestyle is the best path for me and that it’s likely a healthy path for a lot of people. But I also know that I love cheese and that, sometimes, I just really need a muffin (thank god for PaleOMG’s chocolate chip espresso banana bread muffins!). I also know that’s OK.
What this lifestyle has taught me is to not tear myself down every time I stray a tiny bit from the path of paleo perfectionism. It’s taught me to find healthier ways to treat myself when I need it. And most importantly, it’s taught me to be more in tune with my body and how it reacts to certain foods.
Right now, for example, I eat a pretty moderate amount of cheese (I know, I know, so not paleo) and I feel great eating it. But I also know that if one day my Kerrygold aged cheese no longer feels so great in my belly (please god, don’t let that day be soon!), I will have the self-awareness to make the choice to eat less dairy.
Because if there is one thing paleo has taught me more than anything else: it’s that feeling great and feeding my body well is SO much better than a slice of pizza (unless it’s made on cauliflower crust.)
So I guess what I’m saying everyone (paleo or not) is to JUST RELAX.
Eat what feels good. Eat what will make you the best you possible. And just focus on eating real food that comes from nature, not from a factory. I promise, you’ll be fine.