I haven’t done any extensive surveys on the matter, but I have noticed that a lot of Paleo-oriented websites and blogs mention the amazing potential for weight loss as one of the many benefits of following a Paleo diet. So, okay, that’s something, but I’m here to let you all know that that is not why I transformed my way of eating. You will not see any “Before and After” photos on this site, because goddammit, I look amazing already, and as long as I am healthy and happy, I will continue to look amazing. To me, eating Paleo is not about my weight, it’s about bringing my body towards optimal health, wellness, and balance.
As I mentioned in my post “Changes,” one of the main reasons that I decided to change my diet was because I had become aware of the way my relationship to sugar was addictive in nature, and this awareness had begun to bother me. My energy was up and down through the day, and then I had trouble sleeping well at night. All too many of my thoughts were basically fantasies about sugary, wheat-laden foods that I wanted to eat. I would tell myself in the morning that “Today, I will eat simply, I will eat in a way that nourishes my body,” I would even make plans to cook something at home for dinner, and instead later that same day take the walk-of-shame to the pizza shop on the corner yet another time. Or, if not pizza, I would eat yet another of the cupcakes that I make every day at work, or just one cookie (okay, maybe one more), or just a few bites from a bag of candy… Okay, maybe just a few more… Just one more…
And the effects of this that I was most aware of were not on my weight, but on a certain heaviness of my energy and heart.
No, this would not happen at every meal: on average, I had a pretty darn good diet. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I work at a place where I am surrounded by organic produce, ethically-raised meat and fish, farm fresh eggs, etc., nor does it hurt that these are the foods I was raised on and taught from an early age to value (thanks, mom and dad!), nor does it hurt that I love cooking my own food. But still: I was aware of a way that I could bring my body towards even greater thriving, and I decided to dive in.
I have this crazy idea that when we honor our bodies, hearts, minds, and spirits, a natural equilibrium is reached that brings us towards flourishing health, and that what it means to flourish often looks differently on different people… and that uniqueness shining through is part of what makes this world such a beautiful place.
A little over two years ago, I consciously began a journey of bringing myself towards greater health. This journey has been gradual and gentle, and I believe that that is precisely why it has resulted in lasting changes. I would make one change at a time, and simply focus on that one change until it began to feel natural, until it was integrated as nothing more than another aspect of my life. At that point, I would carefully consider what in my life was next in need of healing attention, and focus on changing that one thing, again waiting until that next change felt natural. In this way, I have transformed my life without losing a sense of continuity, comfort, and willingness.
Here’s just a sample of some of the shifts towards greater health and wholeness that I have embraced in the last several years: I quit smoking; I quit drinking alcohol; I simplified my life by moving into a smaller place; I changed jobs to get out of a cubicle and into a profession where I could be creative and active; I have worked at developing a functioning budget (still an ever-shifting process, but I’m so much more mindful of this than I used to be!); I became more vigilant about setting aside time for me to spend writing, meditating, praying, and doing yoga; I put energy towards maintaining connection and communication with the people who I love and respect; and now, my current shift towards Paleo eating.
None of these changes were motivated by some quantifiable desire to get to a certain point (“Make this much money, publish this many poems, weigh this much, meditate this many minutes or hours, go to this many sweat lodges, talk to this many people each day, hold the downward-facing dog asana for this long, go this long without a drink or cigarette, be happy enough that you laugh and smile x number of times per day…”) at which point I would be A Success, because I had reached The Finish Line.
In fact, I think the very idea of a set, quantifiable goal can stand in the way of life-long growth, because it all too often allows us to think that there is such a thing as Arriving. “Ah-ha! I’m healthy now! Let me just put me feet up and settle in… nothing more to accomplish here!” Not that goals aren’t valuable, because they are… as long as I don’t allow the attainment of one to get in the way of my willingness to move towards what comes next!
Life is precious, life is short, and what we do with our moments and our energy matters. And when I spend my moments and energy moving gently towards greater balance and equanimity; when I consider the effects of my words, actions and choices; when I consciously move towards letting go of unhealthy attachments and towards the mystery of freedom… then not only does my body automatically move towards optimal health, but so do my mind, heart, and spirit.
Having this faith in my body’s ability to seek out its own point of balance has come out of a lifetime of experience. Since my teenage years, my weight has spanned from just under 100 pounds up to 210 pounds. Although either of those numbers could easily represent optimal health for other people, neither extreme reflected health for me. The simple truth was, I was not honoring the sacredness of my body when I was at either point of the scale, and so my body was unable to thrive.
Now, well, I’m not sure exactly what I weigh. I don’t even own a scale. Let’s just say I’m somewhere between the two weights, probably a bit closer to 210 than 97, but pretty close to the mean value of the numbers. Though that’s entirely conjecture. All I know is that I love feeling healthy, and I’m willing and able to take steps that move me towards greater health and balance. I figure that the numbers will just take care of themselves.