I’m tired of rules dominating my life. I got into CrossFit and Paleo to set myself free from convention and tradition but it seems like I spend most of my day trying to order everything I do into categories of what conforms to CrossFit and Paleo and what does not. This thing that was supposed to make my life better has taken over my life. The thing that was supposed to liberate me has bound me up in chains and it pisses me off. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that, this is CrossFit this is not, after awhile you just feel like telling everyone to shut up and you contemplate smashing your computer. This stuff has gotten out of hand.
If you understand what I’m talking about then you should probably keep reading. If not it’s possible that you’re a zombie and puppet of merchandisers and marketing execs and it’s already too late for you. I am sorry I really am but there’s nothing we can do for you zombie but toast your memory and use your life as a warning tale to others. For the rest of us though it’s not too late; we might be able to take back control of our lives but it won’t be easy. We’ll have to learn to think for ourselves and pay attention to details. We’ll have to be brave and willing to go against the crowd. I think we can do it.
Because this is the kind of article that could easily lead to a book I figure for today we’ll limit our rule shredding to what we eat. Now to be clear I’m not actually saying Paleo is a bad thing. I really do like it and since making the switch to a Paleo-centered diet I feel better, have more energy, and trimmed a lot of fat off my midsection. But I’m starting to run into a brick wall. These damn rules are suffocating me at times and making me question the rationale behind it. My biggest issue with those rules is that they don’t leave much room for individual variation. People are different and on a broad scale the founders of Paleo will tell you that over the last 10,000 years human beings simply haven’t had enough time to adapt to newer foods. I disagree.
Recent studies have shown that a growing percentage of the population is not lactose intolerant. In descendants of Western Europeans Lactose Intolerance is slowly ebbing away. I’m one of those people. Not only do I enjoy milk and cheese but my body reacts positively to what is simply one of the best sources for healthy fats and protein in the world. Now I do limit my dairy sources to organic and grass-fed as much as possible. The point here is need, need drives evolution and mutation and most important of all adaptation. Populations that are heavily reliant on dairy for nutrition have physically adapted to consuming it.
Let’s talk about Gluten and Celiac Disease. We all hear it’s on the rise and in personal experiences I meet more and more people with this disease. I usually avoid grains, not because I’m intolerant but because I avoid simple carbs as much as possible, but God I do enjoy some good bread now and then. Now Many people will tell you that the rise of Celiacs is due to an over reliance on grains in our diet, specifically Genetically Modified grains with harmful enzymes and proteins. Having reviewed the science myself I mostly agree. However knowing that most gluten intolerance issues are auto-immune related I can’t help but wonder if the rising occurrences in children and adults with sub-optimal immune systems brought about by living in an over sterilized world might not be a contributing factor. In short stuff that wouldn’t have bothered us a generation ago is now wrecking havoc on our fragile immune deficient bodies.
Paleo says to avoid grains because of their insulin response in the body and its impact on hormones and fat retention. Again I mostly agree except some people won’t see this effect. In fact many people won’t. There are those whose bodies run best on Carbohydrates for fuel. Their bodies have adapted to this system. Telling them to eliminate carbs from their diet could be monumentally damaging to their health. Then what? I think there comes a moment when we as adults have to stop taking “expert advice” at face value and experiment ourselves. Obviously if you’ve been diagnosed with food allergies or intolerances you should avoid certain foods, but if not try them out and pay attention to how your body responds. Bare in mind though that many standard tests to determine gluten intolerance and food sensitivities are not only hugely expensive but notorious for delivering false positives. Cutting out entire food groups because a guy in a book, or a test said so is not always the smartest thing to do. Because what works for him and his friends may not work for you, that’s just fact.
My point in all this science talk is that there are always exceptions to any rule. For instance many people in CrossFit assume that Paleo is the standard diet of all serious athletes. They don’t know for instance that Rich Froning eschews Paleo. His training diet consists of a gallon of milk a day and eating from a tub of mixed Peanut Butter and Jelly for fuel. He also enlists a stack of supplements the envy of any serious body builder. All of which are Paleo no-go’s.
I think Rich understands the basic fundamental truth of any rule or program; it’s easier to talk about the path then it is to walk it. If he were to stick to Paleo and avoid milk, PB and J, and supplements the amount of food he would have to consume to supply the energy needs for his workout schedule would be enormous and costly. He would literally have to eat all day. Don’t believe me ask an old-school body builder what they did to get enough protein back in the day.
The biggest problem I run into in eating Paleo is that it’s labor intensive. Fortunately I own my own business and finding the time to cook is a non-issue. I’m also an experienced professional cook and sous-chef. That being said there are times I feel like I spend most of the day in the kitchen preparing for one meal. This just isn’t practical for most people. If you’re not good at cooking then you’re doubly screwed. In this case if you can’t abide by the rules of Paleo are you cheating? No you’re living in the real world. So breath relax and keep moving on in life. These trends we’re all trying and enjoying have a bad habit of taking over our lives when they’re supposed to compliment them and make them better. These rules that are meant to guide us to a better experience become chains that make us slaves to other people’s notions of how we should live. Don’t be a slave.