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It’s Not A Diet, It’s A Lifestyle

I know, have you ever heard anything so cliche? I am guilty of having uttered this phrase more than once, but it’s true. I have been on diets, fad diets. Diets meant to help you “lose weight fast”, though none came with the “and keep it off” promise. And looking back, oh my gosh, how stupid was I? Eat nothing but eggs 6 days a week and go crazy on day 7. Counting calories, weighing food, no fruit, no carbs, no fat. They’re all just dumb. It’s literally impossible to sustain a diet for the long term which is why we fail. We are setting ourselves up for failure simply by going on a “diet”.

But you know what, “diet” and “diet” are two different things. I have been on “diets” where my food intake is limited. But now, I have changed my “diet”, meaning the way that I eat and the habits I’ve changed relating to my intake of food. Can you figure out which “diet” is sustainable? I’ll give you a hint, it’s the second one.

Ever since I was little, I was the chubbier one. My little sister was always a stick, so thin and I had all the chunk. I wasn’t fat or terribly overweight, but it was as though I never lost the baby fat. There was always an extra layer that I hated. When I was in middle school, I joined the swim team. I hated walking around in a bathing suit. I would wear shorts as often as I could to hide my thighs. I had a really round face. Looking back at some pictures from middle school, I almost didn’t recognize my face, it was completely round. In high school, I still struggled with my body image (what high school girl doesn’t?). I went to a high school on the beach, and all the girls were thin and tan. I was pasty and still had that extra layer that I hated. I didn’t even own a bikini until I was a junior and even then, I was terribly uncomfortable in it.

It wasn’t until I was 22 when I met my future husband that I started to feel better about myself. I started going to the gym with him, and although I hadn’t really changed my eating habits and wasn’t eating terribly healthy, I had thinned out. I felt great in my wedding dress. I was finally thin! Thin for me, anyway. Even then, I still thought I could still lose more weight. But let me tell you something, I recently found a picture of myself the day after I got married nearly 10 years ago and I was thin. Like, I had stick thighs. When I saw that, I couldn’t believe it. 10 years ago, I thought I needed to lose more weight, but with my current perspective, I realize how ridiculous that was.

Let me share a secret with you: I don’t want to be skinny. I don’t want to be thin. I used to want to fit into skinny jeans, but not now. Why, you ask? Why do I eat healthy and workout 5 days a week? Because I want to be strong. I want to be functional. I want to be an inspiration and a role model to my daughters.

Let me share another secret with you: Thin and skinny doesn’t mean healthy and fit. Being thin might be a side effect of being healthy and fit depending on your body type, but skinny doesn’t automatically mean you’re healthy.

I recently had this revelation, this skinny-does-not-equal-healthy thing. I was talking to some girls at the gym, and there were complaints about not being able to find jeans that fit over their big thighs. It seemed to be a common problem among the CrossFit ladies. I thought about that for a few days. Then I realized something: I love my big thighs! You know why? Because my thighs and butt, big as they are, allow me to place a bar loaded with a bunch of weight on my shoulders, and squat down to the ground. Not only can I squat all that weight, but I can stand back up. Lots of times. I can lift, and move, and function in a way that my skinny, little, decade-ago thighs never could have imagined.

I realized that I love the gym, like really love it! I love the pain, the frustration, and the anxiety because when it’s all done, I have succeeded. I am stronger. I am better. I am always progressing and getting stronger and healthier. Our kids watch me struggling and then conquering the workout. They copy us. They want to be like us. The last thing I want is for my daughters to have an unhealthy body image like I did when I was growing up. I want them to see that being strong is beautiful, not just being thin.

But wait, maybe you’re thinking “But this is a paleo blog, not a CrossFit blog”, and yes, you’re right. But for me, they go hand-in-hand. I would have never started on the paleo “diet” had it not been for CrossFit. And this goes right back to the title of this post. The paleo “diet” is not a fad diet, because it’s not that type of “diet”. It is truly a lifestyle, a change in lifestyle. We did not enter into this way of eating with the intention of dropping a few pounds. We did this for our health, for longevity. If I lost weight because of a change in the way I eat, then that’s a bonus. But we came to the realization that the foods we were eating were either going to kill us or at the very least severely limit our quality of life. We realized that the food we were eating wasn’t really “food”, but stuff disguised as food that was created in a factory. The very thought of that made me sick to my stomach.

After cutting out all processed foods, grains, legumes, and dairy, I couldn’t believe how much better I felt. We all did. The kids were learning to love all sorts of new foods, vegetables they had never tasted before. We got more creative with our food and discovered how delicious real food can taste without all the artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners.

All that said, I want to clarify something that I get asked about a lot. When people hear “paleo”, they think “Oh, the caveman diet”. Then I hear any of the following:

  • “Cavemen didn’t grind up almonds into flour.”
  • “Cavemen didn’t make brownies.”
  • “Cavemen didn’t microwave their food.”
  • “Cavemen didn’t eat coconut milk ice cream.”
  • “Cavemen didn’t eat dark chocolate.”

First of all, I know that. But you know what? I’m not a caveman (or cavewoman if you’re one of those P.C. types). I live in a house with electricity and a super awesome blender. I cook my food in an oven or microwave (gasp!). I season my food with salt. I make food that is healthy or at least healthier than the sugar-laden, processed food of the same variety. I allow myself and my family the luxury of treats without spiking our blood sugar or rotting our teeth. I don’t eat dairy, sugar, grains, or processed foods. I love eggs, bacon, and vegetables, and can’t remember the last time I had a bagel smothered with cream cheese. I eat more fruit than I probably should, but at least I’m not eating cupcakes and ice cream. And you know what? I’m healthy and so is my family. My kids are developing healthy eating habits early in life that will serve them well into adulthood.

So next time you hear someone say they are on the “paleo diet”, just know they are most likely using that term in order to condense a really long list of things they do and don’t eat in order to maintain a healthy body while staying away from certain allergens. And try not to pass judgement too quickly when that someone eats a brownie made with honey and almond flour instead of white refined sugar and a grain flour. And just because it’s called “paleo”, that doesn’t mean we have to actually eat like a caveman. It means that we are trying to eat the foods that the human body was meant to consume, while rejecting the foods that have been produced, manufactured, and created by humans through genetic modification, agriculture, or science.

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3 Comments on “It’s Not A Diet, It’s A Lifestyle

  1. Stephanie

    When I make it a diet, I gain it all back…the weight, the joint pain, the sinus infections, the need for deadly pharmaceuticals…I’ll take the lifestyle for priceless, Alex.

    Reply
  2. Allyson

    This is an older post but I was delving today and came across it… I have to share just how scary it is that you’ve written this! I felt like the words were coming right out of my own mouth! I’m a short gal – 5′ on a good day 😉 – and when i was weighing in at 140 in February I could’ve died.

    I’ve been active my entire life, but just as you I’ve never been that picture of toned perfection. Both my mom and grandmother have led a life of obesity and I constantly battled over how I wouldn’t ever allow that for myself. I’d maintained my person at an attractive 125 at age 24 on the eat-whatever-you-want -but-justify-it-with-expensive-outlandish-workout-classes diet; and then I went to graduate school. Working full time, going to school full time, and living with my med-student boyfriend led to dropping the gym memberships and surviving on cheese-covered everything. Both of us slowly but surely ballooned and I was seriously distraught – enter the 140lb weigh in. One of his coworkers brought the paleo plan to our attention and when he told us he’d lost 75lbs in a year we made an instant decision to partake. We had one last pizza filled evening and the next day emptied the kitchen! Long story short… Even without the ability to exercise regularly I’m now 26 and still 5′ tall BUT my weight is now 109. I’m never hungry, I eat everything I love, and I’ve never felt better.

    Im one of the folks out there who could do without the side-eye response when asked what “diet” I’m on. I do go out of my way to explain the actual dos and don’ts before I just admit its “paleo.” I’ll say no dairy, no grains, no white sugars, lots of meat and vegetables and seeds; but most importantly i tell them I COOK ALL THE FOOD I EAT! The biggest lifestyle change for me wasn’t learning to compromise or replace the foods that I shouldn’t have, it was learning to take initiative and change my eating habits completely.

    When you start the paleo diet its tough, you crave carbs and sugars and just one oreo cookie!!!!!!! But, if you take the time to prepare and enjoy your meals, this is the best decision anyone could ever make. Exercise is important, don’t get me wrong, but as a competitive cheerleader and dancer for 20 years, nothing will ever change your body the way your diet can.

    #TEAMPALEO

    Reply

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