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Metric of Health Monday – ‘Is Your Paleo Challenge Justifying Disordered Eating’

Welcome to Metric of Health Monday, where we aim to remind you that health is more than a number on a scale, or even just the food you eat. Health is a mindset and a lifestyle focused on living your best life. Inspired by readers’ own stories, this series of posts is a way to think of alternative metrics to measuring health than those put upon us by society’s fascination with looking our best – it’s really about feeling our best!

Metric of Health Monday - 'Is Your Paleo Challenge Justifying Disordered Eating'

For so long, the Paleo community was a safe haven for those recovering from the world of yo-yo dieting and binge habits. But somewhere along the way Paleo became another weight-loss diet to some, another vehicle for restriction and deprivation, and it wasn’t long until the Paleo template was contorted to be a short-term challenge.

It broke my heart to see how this approach to Paleo as a ‘diet’ affected those who needed the message of it really being an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, healing lifestyle the most. What I saw was that so many people had begun to use Paleo the opposite way it was intended – and begun using it to justify their disordered eating. Instead of being sad and worried, I put all those feels down in writing, unsure of how others would respond to the honesty. However, the responses received were absolutely incredible, and still to this day people share their personal stories on that post – inspiring me in new and profound ways. 

Lara was one of those individuals, with this to say: 

“Somebody ring the truth bell, cause this post resonated so strongly with me! As of 5-6 months ago, I now understand that I use compulsive and disordered eating as one coping mechanism to deal with my generalized anxiety. I’ve attempted one Whole30 and one or two paleo eating challenges/episodes of eating ‘strict paleo’. Everything you’ve described, I’ve done. Only very recently, through serious self reflection and therapy, have I come to realize that the ‘moderate’ road is where I need to drive in order to achieve health and wellness. Understanding and practice are two different things, currently, but I’m working to marry them together. About a month ago, I decided to try the ‘Skinne’ and ‘Fuel’ drinks by Nutrie as another tool to help me on my health and wellness way. They offer a 12 week Automatic Body program, which they promote as achieving health and wellness through ‘one small change per week’. I thought hey, doing the program too couldn’t hurt. Well, first things first, they want you to keep a food journal tracking everything you consume, so that you know one thing to change. I did it for a day and a half, and deep down, I knew that this practice isn’t the ‘moderate’ road I want to drive down. This post really affirms to me that it’s alright to not be doing the ‘all or nothing’ approach, and that I’m perfectly ok with developing my own personal plan to health and wellness. Thanks, Stacy, keep on rocking!”

Lara’s comment resonnated with us, having had similar personal struggles. We thought, what better way to kick-off this series than to showcase her inspiring personal story in how she progressed in reaching her health goals.  Here to join us in our first installment of Metric of Health Monday is Lara with a great update from when we last heard from her!

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This isn’t a success story about Paleo or weight loss. This is a story about a dynamic 27 year old who is doing her best to live honestly, wholly, and authentically. My name is Lara, I work in Sports Management and I live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Food and my weight have always been a large focus in my life. In fact, I believe that I’ve always had disordered, and sometimes compulsive, eating. I have memories as a child of my mother leaving the house and me bee-lining for the treat cupboard or the freezer to shove anything into my mouth that I could get my hands on. This large, unhealthy focus has led to yo-yoing with weight gains and losses, diets, eating plans, exercise plans, and other unhealthy behaviours throughout my life. I’ve gone dairy and gluten free, full Paleo, dabbled in low-carb and Weight Watchers, tired the Automatic Body program, and the Whole30 program, done strictly cardio, the Insanity program, and magazine workout plans that promise to ‘firm up’ or ‘tone’. The fact is, every dietary method I’ve tried, including Paleo and Paleo challenges, have all been methods which continue my disordered eating, and almost every method of working out I’ve tried has all been to help me to lose weight.

In the summer of 2014, I found myself in a very unhealthy place from compulsive eating to cope with depression and generalized anxiety, which I feel that I’d developed as a culmination of several factors, one large one being my unhealthy focus on food and my weight. I was tired of living this way! I was tired of being focused on how I look instead of how I feel and what I can do. I wanted to try new sports and activities, but didn’t have the strength or stamina to try, both because of my workout plan and what I did or did not put in my body.

Metric of Health Monday - 'Is Your Paleo Challenge Justifying Disordered Eating' as seen on Paleo Parents

Today, I am very interested in my whole and entire health. I have a nutritionist and we work together to find consistent and healthy eating patterns that work for my life. I count my macros – my nutritionist sets my targets for the week, and I eat the things I want and require to fit in those targets. I do eat some grains, mostly multigrain crackers and the odd piece of wholewheat toast. I’ve learned that eating these things does not detract from my health in a negative way. I limit my dairy intake to yogurt and cheese, as other forms of dairy affect my respiratory system very negatively. I don’t eat legumes or most nightshades, as they do not add to my health in a productive way.

Metric of Health Monday - 'Is Your Paleo Challenge Justifying Disordered Eating' as seen on Paleo Parents

I work with a therapist to learn healthy responses to my feelings of anxiety and I no longer have depression. With the support of my therapist, I’ve changed the language I use around myself. For example, take the phrase ‘lose’ weight’ – why do we use the word ‘lose’ in this context? When you lose something, you look for it and try to recover the thing you lost. Instead I now use words that add to my life. I’m no longer trying to ‘lose’ anything. I would like to ‘release’ excess body-fat to be a leaner and stronger woman, but that’s no longer my major priority. I also take other measures as I feel necessary to build a life of wellness. I CrossFit because I enjoy the social aspects and I really like lifting heavy things. I focus on getting enough sleep, I’ve deleted all forms of social media other than Facebook (for me, they were a major time suck and placed my focus on negative things happening in the world), and I only engage in fitness activities that make me feel positive both physically and emotionally.

Metric of Health Monday - 'Is Your Paleo Challenge Justifying Disordered Eating' as seen on Paleo Parents

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A huge thank you to Lara for sharing her feedback, thoughts, and health journey! We can’t wait to do more of this series, finding out more about all the fantastic people who read and share on the blog! Even we need reminders sometimes that health is more than a number on the scale, and connecting on sensitive subjects like this allows us, as a community, to gain strength in rallying and supporting one another in our mission to achieve long-term health and happiness!

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