Tuesday, February 14, 2012

30-day paleo challenges are stupid.... sometimes

I swear that I am not looking right at you when I say this. You may feel guilty about it, but I definitely don't have any specific person in mind. I just hear it a lot -- at the gym, on the FB, even on tweets. It goes something like this:

"Thinking about starting a 30-day paleo challenge. Been eating soooooo badly lately and need to get it together. Who's in?"

And then a few months later, the same people say the same thing, and then again and again.

And every time, I think: dude, really?

Paleo challenges are really genuinely good things ....once. They properly show a person who is skeptical about paleo, who is often metabolically deranged and generally off the rails of eating well, how it's done right. The idea is that you finish the challenge and keep going with it -- not necessarily as strictly as during the 30 days, but the plan is pretty clearly to allow you to develop a way to eat for life, not to act like it's the effing cookie diet, for godsakes, and do it for as short a time as possible and then return to the old ways.

Sustainability is the key. Once you go through that 30 days, you learn what food "works" for you and what doesn't. After the challenge is done, you put together a plan of how you're going to eat from there on out. Dairy? Maybe... Depends on how you handle it when you add it back in. A non-gluten grain like white rice? Maybe... Depends on whether you tolerate it well and whether your body comp is where you want it to be. Some booze? Same deal.

But gluten-containing crap? Vegetable/seed oils? Pringles? Hot Pockets? 24 individually wrapped slices of Kraft American singles "processed cheese food?"

No. Those are gone. Out of here. History. If you are eating them regularly, you fell off the paleo boat and are drowning again. And you also apparently forgot just how amazing you felt when your food intake was cleaned up. Those one-rep-max PRs that just kept coming during the challenge? Gone.

And yeah, duh.... You are going to have those moments -- the ones where the tiramisu leaps into your mouth straight from the plate without even asking permission (or at least that's your story and you're sticking to it). But I am not talking about those once-every-now-and-then occurrences. Those are easy. Fess up to those cheats and get back on the horse. I'm focused on every day.... How are you eating Sunday through Saturday? If someone averaged out your food intake, are you eating like a paleo/primal person, or are you instead eating cheesesteaks, pizza, donuts and bagels on a regular basis and swearing that you'll get it together in time for the next 30-day paleo challenge?

See, it's just not a diet. The worst word on the cover of Robb Wolf's otherwise genius tome is "diet." That's because "diet" connotes "temporary." A "diet" is not something you do as a lifestyle change, but as some sort of passing austerity measure that could never ever last. Just envision eating those "cookies" for life. Gack.

And I know... This all sounds so harsh and judgmental. We all have our slip-ups. You may even have a more-than-occasional one and "need" a challenge to get back in line, and I get that. But remember: it's what you do *after* the challenge that matters. Anyone with barely more than a shred of fortitude can eat paleo/primal for 30 days. The ones who actually achieve something long-lasting are the ones who take what was learned during the challenge and craft a plan from there on out, not just lapse back into old ways and wait for the next challenge.

Get off the rollercoaster. Make the next paleo/primal challenge your last one.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Except it is just a diet. You paleo guys are the most judgmental food nazis in the world. Doing paleo as a temporary challenge allows for people to quite literally have their cake and eat it too so fuck you and your little rant here.

  2. If your goal is to eat cake, just eat it, my brave anonymous friend. Don't get all angrypants about it like a six-year-old who has to leave the birthday party early. I really don't care if you are fat, skinny, paleo or SAD. How's that for non-nazi? But if you are trying to actually feel better over the long haul, instead of being the yo-yo diet drama queen who feels better while eating properly and then like crap a short time later, and makes a scene about it (obviously a skill you have down pretty well), finding a sustainable way to eat that doesn't make you feel that way is your only way.