Friday, August 23, 2013

Keeping Perspective

Mark Sisson, in his Weekend Link Love, posted a link to a very interesting blog post that asks the question What's the point? 

The author starts the essay by quoting Lewis Thomas, and the quote really spoke to me.

As a people, we have become obsessed with Health. There is something fundamentally, radically unhealthy about all this. We do not seem to be seeking more exuberance in living as much as staving off failure, putting off dying. We have lost all confidence in the human body. 
 The emphasis is mine, because I think that sentiment is so important.  It's very true, at least from what I've seen.  The majority of people who are obsessed with health seem to be trying to put off death, and especially to forgo aging.  You can't pick up a health magazine without seeing an article about how exercise and healthy eating can make you look years younger. 

I think it's great that we in the paleo/primal/low carb communities are reaching for better health and a stronger body, but I think a lot of people are becoming obsessive with it.  There's almost a desperate need to lose weight, gain muscle, eat and exercise perfectly, and keep complete control over their body.  And when they see someone who isn't behaving perfectly like they themselves are, they think less of that person. 

That obsessive behavior has always seemed somewhat disturbing to me.  In some people, it's almost to the point where I'd want to call it an eating disorder.  But can you call a hyper-focus on eating well an eating disorder? 

Most disturbing to me, I think, is that food and exercise seem to be some people's entire lives.  They think about food all day long, and if they're not thinking about food, they're thinking about exercise.  And I don't mean to say people like Mark Sisson, Jimmy Moore, or Tom Naughton are obsessed about food and exercise; there's a big difference between being passionate about nutrition and wanting to spread that passion to other people, and being so obsessed about your body that you can't think about anything other than food and exercise. 

I know first hand what this kind of obsession is like, which I think makes it easier for me to see it in others.  For 5 or 6 months, back when I was on a low-calorie vegetarian diet, I was hardcore obsessed about my body.  I spent every waking hour thinking about food, weighing everything I ate, obsessively dividing out meals, trying to figure out how many calories I had left in the day, trying to get enough protein (a hard thing to do for a vegetarian; I got 50-60g on a good day, but usually more like 20-30g), and tracking all the exercise I did so I could make sure I was in a calorie deficit. 

It was exhilarating.  I felt totally in control of my body for the first time ever.  I was dropping pounds and getting active, and I felt like if I just kept controlling my body and giving it only what I thought it needed, I could finally get skinny and beautiful.  But the body is a hard thing to control when you don't have the right information.  Eventually, after ramping up my exercise to a point where my knees were starting to hurt, and cutting back my calories to 1300 a day (which is a level that left me truly starving), my body said "enough!".  I got appendicitis, which totally left me without any resolved after the operation, and I went back to eating a lot more and exercising hardly ever. 

The whole point of this long winded ramble, though, has to do with what my obsession with my diet did to the rest of my life.  I didn't have one.  I had a very hard time going out.  I couldn't eat unless I was the one that cooked the food, because then I could weigh, measure, and divide the meal to my exacting standards.  My conversations with others always seemed to be about food and nutrition, which I'm sure made me the life of the party.  I always seemed to be miserable.  I just thought that came with the territory. 

That's why I refuse to seriously cut my carbs or try to get into ketosis, or any method that would bring back that desire to take control of my body again.  I don't like being obsessed, and I really don't think it's healthy for my life.  The reason I love the way I eat now, which is low carb and whole foods based,  is because it's so lax.  I just need to avoid grains, sugar, starchy veggies, and most processed foods.  It's that simple.  I don't have to count anything, and I don't have to track how many calories I've burned during exercise.

I certainly don't think all paleo/primal/low carb people are obsessed with their diets.  This way of eating actually lends itself to a more relaxed relationship with food.  But I do know that there are those out there taking it to the extreme and doing more harm than they are good.  Just remember that your diet should never get in the way of your happiness (unless your happiness is dependent on sugar, in which case you'll just have to be unhappy until you adjust).  We shouldn't be so obsessed with staving off death that we forget to live. 


  1. I can totally see what you are saying Julie. However, I do see the other side, as well. I am OCD. I own that. And I am also very much into taking control of my body, because, that has always been the one area that escaped me...OR the method in which I chose to 'control' my body was to abuse it with food (and sometimes alcohol at various times later in life) control it in ways that were meant to punish others. I can see that now. And it wasn't healthy. Wasn't healthy for my body, my mind, or my relationship with those couple of people in my life I could control no other way than to say to them 'screw you and your ideal for how my body should look. I'm in control of it, not you. Even if I have to gain a lot of weight to show you that.' Very twisted thinking, and certainly not conscious, but looking back on it, I see it now.

    So yes, I've been obsessing about Primal (and Wheat Belly) in the past 8 months. Most of it is passion. Most of it is the zeal of learning new keys to better health for me. And yes, a couple of weeks away from turning 62, part of it is my new obsession to try to prolong the quality AND quantity of my life.

    Is it my whole life? Nope? I work full time, I've only been married 10 years to a great younger guy, I have two daughters and 3 grandsons, and six months a year I run not one but two NFL football pools. LOL I have a very full life. But it's a refreshing change for me to not only put my health a priority for myself, but more towards my center stage.

    Do I have to make a conscious effort to keep myself from shouting why I'm healthier now from the rooftops? Yep. But it's because I want everyone else to dodge poor health and feel better, too. It's out of love and concern.

    Sooo, while I totally get where you are coming from, I totally get the other side of the story, too. :)

    1. I certainly wasn't directing this post to you, Gwen :) From what I can see in your blog, you are indeed passionate but not obsessed. And that's great. I know what you mean about wanting to shout from the rooftops about this "new" idea of eating primal/low carb. I've told just about everyone I know, lol!

      Mostly I was trying to convey how some people literally make it their entire lives. Dawn to dusk, hours in the gym, hours counting calories, crazy obsessions over food and their body. That's not healthy, but unfortunately it seems like that mentality is becoming more prevalent.

    2. I wasn't taking it personally, sweet Julie. Just relating how I saw the situation. :)

      Although balance is always nice in all facets at life, at least they are obsessing about improving their health, instead of being lazy butts seeing how much they can shove in their faces of pure crap. So it is an improvement. :)