The Most Difficult Thing About Eating Paleo or Low Carb

I know what you’re thinking after reading the title of this post, but I assure you – it’s not not eating bread, or potato chips, etc. At least, not for me.

The biggest struggle I’ve had is that I’m doing this almost entirely alone. And that makes it one hundred times more difficult. I probably should go out to Google Images and grab a photo of a violin right now, to cue the whining. Writing this post has been on my mind for months, and every time I start I quickly delete it as it’s way too personal and, quite frankly, a bit painful. But it’s too important as I know others out there are dealing with similar situations.

On With the Whining…

Just stating a simple truth: it is damn hard to eat and live right when all around you are McDonald’s bags, Pop Tarts, pasta, and candy. And I’m not talking about society as a whole. I could give a shit about that right now. I’m talking about my immediate family. And that’s what’s most important to me. There are two facets to this topic that I’d like to write about further: spousal support, and kids.

Spousal Support

Anyone who has gone through a major transition in life and successfully maintained it knows that support from your spouse (or fiance, girlfiend/boyfriend, whatever) is critical. I’ve gotten some level of support, especially a couple of years ago when I started, but it quickly faded away. The first year I figured I needed to just focus on fixing myself and, if successful, my family would see the results and jump on board. Unfortunately, that never happened. In fact, it seems the reverse: my wife has basically gone the other way in this regard and eats more junk food and moves less than she ever has before. I worry about her health, but I don’t want to be a nag. I don’t want to be that guy. And how can I be, when she’s been getting the same “Eat Your Heart-Healthy Whole Grains!” and other bullshit messages her whole life? I hoped my transformation would prove it through example, but unfortunately it hasn’t. I recently heard Robb Wolf discuss a similar situation with regard to his parents. It hurts, but in the end, in typical Robb Wolf style, he said you can’t change others for them. So I’ve avoided trying to do that.

Kids

In the Paleo community there are lots of discussions regarding kids and food. There are even entire books now designed to encourage true healthy eating in kids. I think this is due to the large number of younger folks (i.e., under 35 with young kids) who eat Paleo and are venturing into Paleo-focused businesses. I have two kids, aged 7 and 9. Wonderful children. For most of their lives, I modeled a daily eating routine of sugar cereal for breakfast (if I even got out of bed early enough to eat anything), McDonalds for lunch, and Baja Fresh or some other shit for dinner. My daughter, up until I changed my diet, was about the only one in the family who ate vegetables. She craved quality foods. It was amazing to see a little kid eschew junk in favor of quality food, even when her parents were sitting there with a McRib or some shit. She was also vibrant and full of energy, and, somehow, has an immense amount of athletic talent.  She runs like the wind. Her mother and I run like we have 40lb kettlebells tied to our asses. So where my daughter got this from we don’t know.

I did my first 5k with her via the awesome Girls On the Run program she was in this past Spring, and I have to admit – she kept me going more than I did her. We finished in just over 31 minutes, which I didn’t know at the time but now know that that is a pretty dang great time for a 9 year old. It’s a respectable time for a non-runner like me, too. Very proud of our accomplishment and we plan on doing it again soon.

Problem is, over the past year I’ve watched my daughter’s eating habits quickly change to an almost 100% garbage diet of sugar, carbohydrate, and complete lack of micronutrients. And the result is she just isn’t as vibrant or energetic as she used to be. I’m not sure if that is due to her growing closer to the dreaded pre-teen years, the constant watching of TV or other factors, but regardless, I correlate it to what she eats. And, truthfully, I think my daughter harbors the same resentment towards my way of eating as my wife. They’re annoyed that they can’t go to just any restaurant, or have more convenient foods for dinner. Instead of embracing it as positive change, there is more of a rebellion against it, like it is this fad diet that will pass. And I get that. And that really hurts.

Contrast this to my son, who is now 7, who held the title of the absolute worst eater there ever was as a child. Until about a year ago. He’s still not a good eater, as he has a sugar tooth that would rival anyone’s, but I have noticed one major change over the last year or so: ever since I started giving him some bacon or sausage or eggs every morning for breakfast, to supplement his usual junk food breakfast of pop tarts or cereal, and encouraged him to eat at least some healthy foods more, I’ve noticed him become more vibrant and has literally transformed from a self-proclaimed ‘computer geek’ who did nothing but watch TV and play video games, to a kid who will perform soccer drills on his own in 100 degree weather out in the yard. Who will push himself to run 2 miles (during the same heat wave) during the bi-weekly kids’ running club that my wife brings them to on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Not to mention, his attitude has improved tremendously and he’s just a joy to be around. Likely a lot of this growth on his part is due to the example I’ve set. He sees me caring about my own health day in and day out, and for a long period of time now. Perhaps I was just in time for him. Perhaps it’s not just the food, it’s the change in my behavior.

I’m That Guy

Not by design but…I admit it – I’ve become obsessed with achieving health and well being through diet and exercise. Well, the exercise part is still very much a work in progress. But I have to admit: When my family says, “Let’s order a pizza!”, which happens pretty much daily (substitute pizza for other junk), or “Let’s go to the movies!” (which is really just translated to, “Let’s go to the movies and pretend to watch while we eat tons of popcorn and candy!”), I am tempted to jump in and say “Yeah!” but not for the reason one would expect – that I want to eat that shit. No, it’s because it would bring me into the family more, to not be that guy that tries my hardest not to but does in fact put a damper on their excitement simply by saying, “No thanks.”

It sucks, and the last few months I’ve been thinking whether I would be better off just going back to the terminal fog I was in for so many years of my life, that was a result of being addicted to sugar. The constant fatigue, lethargy, joint pains, etc. are something I don’t miss at all. But I certainly am getting tired of being that guy who has tried to do it, I think, the right way by not pressuring my family to eat right. I assure you I’d like to, but I avoid it. I do mention things to my kids to encourage them and it’s certainly worked with my son, but I never talk about this stuff with my wife. I know it’s a sore spot for her. So I’ve tried doing it by example, but it’s been a failure for my wife and daughter, who have seemingly gone the opposite way with more junk food and less exercise than ever. If I joined her and my kids in their exuberance of this stuff, things would be so much easier. But, as much as I’ve recently thought about just giving up eating right and going back to eating the old way, sitting around all day, etc., I can’t bring myself to do it.

I apologize for the whining. But, heck, that’s basically the whole purpose of this blog! : ) (and contrary to popular belief, it’s not due to the amazing AdSense revenue I’m not getting from it. It seems low carb and paleo folks don’t click on the ads.) : )

Final Whine

I guess, in closing, I’ll leave you with this:

I urge you to find someone to achieve health *with*, not *for*. It’s a lifetime journey and it makes things much harder if you are going it alone. Thank goodness for the Internet, the podcasters, the bloggers, the Gary Taubes, Dr. Davis’s, Jimmy Moore’s, etc. They are my ‘virtual friends’ in that they are a sort of support system. Without them there’s no way I would have achieved what I have thus far. It’s just that, now that I’m at a point where my body craves healthy food and scorns junk foods, and craves exercise, I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth it. I can’t say for certain anymore.

Gotta go. My son wants to go play tennis. Tennis! Where the hell did that come from?!? : )

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5 thoughts on “The Most Difficult Thing About Eating Paleo or Low Carb

  1. This made my heart sink. My husband may not eat Paleo foods but he is happy I do. I was wondering if I might offer something. A little background- Im a therapist and have worked with some TOUGH kids (unlike your tennis playing babies Im sure). You might try a little psychological trick on them. Tell them that your food is off limits to them and then make sure to make a big deal about how good it is. It sounds a little mean but sometimes things only have value when we know we cant have them. It may take some time but eventually they might want to try your forbidden food just because youve said they cant. Then work it in. I understand if it sounds devious to you but i thought about this as I was reading your blog. Hope you dont think im some horrible manipulating therapist. Jessica

  2. Jessica,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll give it a try. I’ve been able to get my son to, sometimes, pick some 85% dark chocolate over the usual treats he prefers. Little successes are better than none : )

    Thanks again.
    mark

  3. Mark,

    I am 20 years old (turning 21 in a few weeks), and I have been overweight most of my young life. For the last 5-6 years or so I have blindly followed my parents/brother’s/friends’ advice in terms of fitness/nutrition and my health hasn’t improved one bit. I am writing this because I can totally relate to your post. I find it hard to go 100% Paleo in my household just because of the food culture everyone has grown up in. My parents both work as physicians and really do not take me seriously whenever I bring up Paleo related topics. Similarly, my two brothers have always looked up to my parents as their health gurus so I have always been alone in my personal journey to better health. I am glad you took the time to write this post, and I am glad of the things you have accomplished thus far in terms of fitness 🙂

    Nathan

  4. Nathan,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    Some advice – ditch the label of “Paleo” and just tell them “I only eat whole foods that aren’t fattening.” One problem with the label of Paleo is that it just gets the same response from people as all the other diet labels, like Atkins, KimKins, The Zone, etc. I think Paleo will survive and not fall by the fad diet wayside because:

    a. It works
    b. It’s just really a movement back to whole foods

    Regardless, I urge you to take it one day at a time. I remember that that approach helped me in the beginning (and for the first 4 or 5 months, until all cravings were gone). And keep at it.

    I’m 40 years old, approaching 41. Last year and this year have been the best years of my life, even though I have had some pretty tough work and personal issues to deal with during this time. Stick with it. Make the change. Had I gone through this transformation when I was in my 20’s my life would have been drastically different and better, I have no doubt.

    mark

  5. My husband eats a regular diet which means I cook his meals and then cook mine. His diet is getting better because we usually share the protein and the vegetables. I do make him pasta, rice or potatoes. I also make him desserts and I have almonds or a SF jello. I don’t feel angry about this now–it was difficult at first.

    If you prepared foods for yourself and then shared with the family it could change the way they eat. I think your wife just likes to eat out and not cook. She may not enjoy cooking.

    I don’t like the Paleo websites or the recipes. There is just something overly “righteous” about the followers. Could you be giving off that same vibe? The few recipes I have tried have been just awful. I use regular cookbook recipes and use low carb ingredients, full fat dairy, cheese and yogurt. I have no food cravings, have not gained any weight in over a year. I feel good.

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