Earlier this year I did a post called "Shouldn't" Versus "Don't." The thrust of it was pretty simple: staying away from non-paleo foods is going to be a lot easier when you simply "don't" eat that food, rather than when you know you "shouldn't," but you still indulge.
But you know what? Unless you are a serious one-percenter in the paleosphere, there are going to be a few non-paleo foods you occasionally enjoy. And the key to managing those "shouldn't" foods is going to be a big part of how well you do with paleo.
For me, it's a matter of making sure "occasion" doesn't turn into "habit."
I'm not a binge eater/drinker. If you put me in a room with five pints of CoffeeCoffeeBuzzBuzzBuzz, I'd eat some of it, put the rest away, and eat some more the next day, and then the next day, and so on until it was done. I wouldn't scarf it all down in one sitting, but I'd eat it every fucking day that I had it nearby. Something that delicious becomes a habit pretty quickly. I'm the same way with booze. My days of getting wasted are long gone, but if I had a couple drinks tonight, and a couple more tomorrow, I'd have to turn on an extra dose of willpower not to repeat that daily routine for the next couple weeks. Eventually, whether the non-paleo item were ice cream or booze, I'd stop, because I'd feel like shit after two weeks of daily indulgence, or I'd have a few new zits staring at me from the mirror, or some renewed acid reflux. Invariably, the problem begins for me when the line between occasion and habit gets blurred with some specific food items -- booze, ice cream, nut butter, etc.
So my suggestion for managing your own personal "shouldn't" list is twofold: (1) keep that list short, and (2), just as importantly, know what your own personal line is between occasion and habit. For me, with most of my "shouldn't" foods, like ice cream and nut butter, it's a matter of not having the tempting potential habit-forming item around the house, but with others -- particularly alcohol -- I have to be a little stricter with myself. So I've transferred booze to the "don't" list for the foreseeable future.
And the frequency at which you can handle any off-road foray away from paleo is going to be dependent on a lot of very individual factors. Are you metabolically sound, feel great, and are at your goal weight and happy with body comp? Then you probably have a little more leeway and your line between occasion and habit, or between "shouldn't" and "don't," might be a little blurrier. But if you have an autoimmune condition, or are particularly sensitive to certain foods -- or maybe your ability to stop occasion from turning into habit isn't so well-developed with some food or drink -- then you probably need to dial things in pretty tight.
This paleo stuff is easy. It's mostly a lesson in figuring yourself out.
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