I Wish I Could Be Primal

photo of petroglyphs

Primal: adjective [prīməl]: Meaning – essential, fundamental, relating to an early stage in evolutionary development, primeval. Or in the paleo community – Mark Sisson’s 80/20 rule.

Am I primal? It would be nice to think I’m essential to people who love me, and that I live by certain fundamentals, and who doesn’t love to get in touch with their inner child or howl at the moon? But that last one, the 80/20 rule, is what I covet, and what I can’t have.  What is it, you ask? It simply means that you follow the rules of the paleo diet 80% of the time, and indulge as you see fit with the other 20%. Oh, I’m closing my eyes, imagining that. How wonderful that would be! Dinner with friends? No problem. Not only can they pick the restaurant, they can order for me! Office potluck? Check it out – I can graze instead of eating only the food I brought with me. Popcorn at the movies? Cheese at a wine tasting? Mom’s apple pie? Sign me up!

Sure, Mark, Melissa & Dallas will say to choose that 20% wisely. Have one of your Grandma’s brownies, but not the food-coloring-laden birthday cake at the office. When you vacation in Mexico, indulge in the local cuisine, but avoid Taco Bell when you’re back home. Really, are those tough choices? Please! I’m envious, people!

It Ain’t Easy Being Perfect

In the paleo community, people talk of paleo perfectionism as a bad thing, but when you have an autoimmune disease, 80/20 doesn’t work. If I indulge, my reward is severe pain. So, lucky me has to shoot for that perfection, and not only that, I have a  few added restrictions compliments of the autoimmune protocol. Welcome to my life.

So, what do I do? Every once in a while, a girl needs to have a “Poor Baby” party, and I guess this blog post is an online version of that. But mostly, I suck it up, and feel grateful that there’s a dietary solution to my pain and a healthy outlet for my inner perfectionist. I enjoy the food I can eat, and feel grateful that I love to cook. I savor the taste of my curried chicken salad. The fact that the mayo, curry powder and mango chutney all had to be homemade doubled the preparation time, but it also amplified the taste, so it was the best chicken salad I’ve ever eaten. I have fun flavoring my homemade kombucha, so this fermented health beverage isn’t just good for me, it’s also a treat. I make kick-ass herbed burger patties, so I don’t miss ketchup or the bun. I start my day with homemade chicken soup, and get a daily dose of nurturing that people usually only experience when they’re sick. I’m mastering the art of coconut flour baking, so I don’t need to live a puritan life altogether. Honestly, I could keep this list going for hours. What’s on the menu for this weekend? Chinese five spice pork ribs. What’s my new favorite side dish: winter veggies in spiced coconut milk. Seriously, you wish you ate at my house now, don’t you? So long as you can smuggle in your (insert favorite indulgence here).

The truth is, I eat better now than I ever have, not only in terms of health, but in terms of flavor. The cravings I used to have are gone. Can you believe I used to stop at gas stations to buy Diet Coke and Hostess Zingers? Doesn’t that food paragraph above sound much better? My palate thanks me.

That said, there is one thing I do miss, and I think anyone on a strict diet due to their health would agree with me. I miss the convenience. The ease of choosing anything on a menu, the joy of being the low-maintenance dinner guest who will eat anything, the bliss of enjoying social connections over food without needing an almost military level of planning in advance. (Thank god I have understanding family and friends.)

So, for the 80/20 community out there, enjoy your 20% (I know I would), but if I make a face and stick my tongue out when I see those instagram photos (like the ones from PaleoFX where you’re eating tacos one minute and ice cream the next), know that I love you anyway, and sticking my tongue out is just me expressing my primal self. And isn’t that the point? Hooooowwwwwl!!

~~~
This post is linked to the following blog carnivals:
Fresh Bites Friday, Whole Food Friday, Sunday School, Natural Living Monday, Make Your Own Monday, Fat Tuesday, Healthy Tuesday, Family Table Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Tuned In Tuesday, Well Fed Wednesday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Wheat Free Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Party Wave Wednesday, Whole Foods Wednesday, Tasty Traditions, Thank Your Body Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Allergy Friendly Lunchbox, Paleo Rodeo,

37 thoughts on “I Wish I Could Be Primal

  1. I can relate, not for myself but for my 15 year old dd. Teenage years are a tough time to be so restricted in diet but she is learning to do much of her own cooking and finding great recipes. Last night she found a wonderful no bake cookie recipe that was GAPS legal and it tasted awesome. She shared it with all of us in the family.

    • Jennifer, I’m so impressed with your daughter! I think it’s got to be even harder at that age, so the fact that she’s embracing it and making it delicious, is awesome.

  2. I applaud your courage and honesty for posting this. Your descriptions of what it’s like to eat this way–and how others frequently don’t get it–are so spot-on. I, too, am grateful every day that I love to cook. Yet, even so, some days, I just want a grab-and-go treat–that I didn’t have to make myself, or didn’t cost a Queen’s ransom!

  3. Thank you so much for your post. I was diagnosed as a teenager with allergies to so many of the foods, which effectively left me with a paleo diet, before I’d heard of it. I resisted it so much, and kept thinking I could get away with bits (the 80/20) thing… but couldn’t really. for me it results in asthma, but also ME type symptoms. Finally, 20 or so years later, I’m learning to accept my body, and feed it the food that helps it to be healthy, or as healthy as it can be. as you say, it is the lack of convenience that I find hard, and sometimes whinge about! But it’s great finding online encouragement, and blogs like yours to realise that we’re not alone! And it’s worth it to be as well as we can be!

  4. Eileen, thank you so much for writing and sharing your thoughts. It’s been very challenging to have such a strict diet with my less than stellar cooking skills and eating out is not an option. I thought I was alone in my pity parties and longing to just eat something from a concession stand. I’d love to eat whatever I wanted but one tiny piece of gluten can set me back for months. It’s not worth it but a girl can dream of better auto-immune options. Be well!

  5. Thanks for this post – made me feel I am not alone!! I keep trying to have some cream (raw) in my coffee once a week instead of every day, but I still have a reaction! It really is frustrating to have to accept that at least for a while, my favorite treat is obviously off limits!! Your post so encouraged me – thank you!

  6. Thank you all for joining this conversation. Your comments let me know that I’m not alone, too, and it warms my heart to be part of such a strong community. You all encourage me, as much as I encourage you!

  7. GREAT post! I am in the same boat as you too — having an autoimmune disease forces you to strive for 100%, because we both know the consequences when we don’t! Sometimes I miss the ease of the 80/20 rule, but we each have our own path and we must play the hand we are dealt with. I have become very creative with figuring out “cheat” foods that are w/in my limited dietary options! :)

  8. Eileen, I just found your blog and read this post. I also have RA and have found significant improvements since switching to a primal/paleo diet. I haven’t completely adopted the autoimmune protocol, but have removed all grains (incl corn), legumes (incl soy and peanuts), nightshades (excl the occasional salsa), and dairy. When I am fully committed, I feel great. Occasionally I remind myself that sugar is bad for me (by eating it!). It’s not super easy, but it’s not super hard either. I managed to plan my meals & grocery shop on Saturdays for the week & then am lucky to have a husband to make our suppers through the week. After dealing with days/months/years of unceasing pain, fatigue and depression, I feel better than I did before RA. I should say though, that I am also taking Humira and MTX (though I have managed to reduce the MTX to my “starter” dose, and am hoping to rid myself of it altogether). The Humira was a Godsend, so I’m not ready to commit to a 100% diet solution to my RA. Feeling good just feels so darned good! :)

    • “Feeling good just feels so darned good!” I couldn’t agree more! There’s no “one size fits all” way to go. I’m so glad you found a combination that works for you. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Oh how I can relate. We are grateful for our ability to manage disease through diet, yet every once in a while it would be nice to throw a big old temper tantrum. I want to go out to eat, but even if it’s gluten free, there’s dairy, and corn, and tomatoes and potatoes, etc, etc, etc… I will end up getting sick. It’s a given.

    Thank you for writing this. It’s wonderful to connect with others in similar situations – and to ultimately know we’re not alone.
    Hugs,
    Megan

  10. This is so well said. When I was healing myself from IBS I was on a militant version of the Paleo diet (I couldn’t have nuts) and there were no option of cheating. It wasn’t fun but I was also thankful to finally find something that worked so well. This was 8 years ago before Paleo was popular so I was quite alone in my strange diet. But I owe my health to it today.

    • Angela, it’s awesome that you knew what to do back then! I think if I was diagnosed 8 years ago, I would have traversed regular medical channels for a while before finding my way here. I’m so grateful for the knowledge that’s now available (if we look for it). You were a trailblazer!

  11. Well said! I really miss the convenience of “quick” foods also. Although I don’t have any severe conditions that I am treating with food, I have found that I just feel better, and so does my 4 year old, when we aren’t eating processed foods (even if those foods are “healthy”).

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  13. I so feel your pain! I am on a modified AIP too. I can’t eat nuts, coconut flower, eggs, grains, legumes, etc. without getting terribly sick. I miss being able to eat on a small budget! No matter what I try my family of 4 can not eat for less than $700 a month, and that is when everyone else is eating properly prepared oatmeal, muffins, or other things I can’t eat. I also miss being able to eat out with friends. Thankfully I have found some local places that embrace “gluten free” as a lifestyle and don’t just replace regular food with “gluten free” junk, but instead offer truly good whole foods made in a clean environment. That being said they aren’t that inexpensive.

    Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday! You are not alone!

    • Amanda, I’m jealous of your local restaurants! The ones here try, but don’t often succeed at really understanding what gluten-free means (never mind nightshade-free which is its own challenge.) I’m traveling next month, bringing most of my food with me, but will be eating at a restaurant once/day while on the road. My plan is to simply order unseasoned meat and veggies, and bring in my own spice blends to make them tasty. I made the mistake of researching cool local restaurants on the road ahead of time. There are some great ones (excellent chefs, organic ingredients) and the menus looked so creative and fabulous they made my mouth water, but all the dishes contained foods I couldn’t eat. Again, I’m so thankful I can create delicious food at home. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  15. It’s hard not to have a pity party when you look at the list of things we must avoid on the AIP, but now that I’m feeling better (six months on), I look back at that list and it looks like poison to me! Negative reinforcement really works – I would rather skip the ice cream than spend the night in the bathroom :) Thanks for this post – it’s so great to know I’m not alone.

    • Have you been on the AIP for 6 months? We must have started around the same time. I hear you on the poison reference. We have a family reunion in the summer, which usually involves a lot of junk food. This year, I’m bringing my own food with me, and my family was worried I’d feel bad watching them eat. But the processed stuff they eat doesn’t appeal to me at all anymore; I don’t even see it as food. It’s hard to believe I used to eat that way. Now, fresh summer tomatoes? That, I miss! Thankfully, I can enjoy the watermelon instead.

  16. I can TOTALLY identify with this post. I am new to blogging and it is amazing to read all of the stories like this. It truly makes me feel like I am not alone in this journey! A year ago I did a cleanse. When I started to introduce dairy and gluten back into my diet, I had SEVERE inflammatory reactions. I didn’t understand what was going on for a long time. I finally went to go see a nutritionist and now I am eating paleo. It has changed my life! I feel better than ever but it is hard when you want a “cheat day” but you know that you can’t eat like you used to. Thank you for sharing!
    -Erin

    • Erin, I just checked out your blog and saw your post on eating out. I love that you bring your own grain-free tortillas to Mexican restaurants. How creative!

      • Thanks for visiting my blog! I get asked all the time “what do you do when you go out to eat?!” We live near Houston, so Mexican food/coconut flour tortillas are a staple at our house! Yum!

          • Hi Heather!
            I think I am already a part of those meet up groups!! We were signed up to go to the Snap Kitchen meeting but ended up not being able to go. I’ll have to go to another event soon! Hopefully I’ll see you there!
            Erin :)

  17. I feel your pain. I’m more like 90 – 95% paleo. I cannot do dairy at all, or soy, or legumes or seeds. They all make me ill. I can’t do sugar either, but 3 times a year I make a birthday cake (gluten-dairy-soy-free) for each member of my family and end up eating a slice or two (its so hard not to!). I end up not feeling good afterwards. (Maybe that’s like 1%?). Sometimes I have some blue corn chips only because they are a great way to soak up guacamole, or some rice crackers because they’re great with liver pate (Maybe that’s 2%?). As for the other 5-7% (alcohol), I actually don’t have any bad reactions to it, and it actually makes me feel good. But it isn’t in the paleo/primal description. Is it? Anyway, its hard to strike a balance, but if a food makes me feel ill, I don’t want to have anything to do with it! I’d love to find a way to great birthday cakes and crackers that I can eat, because, as you say, convenience does still play some part of a role.

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