As Paleo converts we’ve all experienced the initial thriving that comes early on in our Paleo journeys. We have boundless energy, mental clarity, and a feeling of invincibility, as if our body clocks have turned back time. For some however, this can pass. Despite following the Paleo diet some people still deal with health and well-being issues that plagued their pre-Paleo days. This might be due to the formulation of their diet, or perhaps being more part-time Paleo than strict Paleo. It could also be an exploitation of this thriving – the Paleo diet allows us to absolutely flourish, but is it possible to overdo it?
A day in adult life today is flooded with stressors; the morning alarm, the daily commute, work, technology, conflict, traffic, exercise. Everywhere we look life is saturated with noise, lights, and people. And when we actually have quiet moments we spend it glued to our fancy electronic devices.
Yes it is.
When I transitioned to Paleo, I experienced the extra energy throughout the day and my mind was clear. My life changed: I was thriving after years of surviving. I had much more energy so I took advantage of it; elaborate meal prepping on weekends, and Paleo-perfect meals all the time (a Paleo rookie error). I became more physically active, and trained for my first triathlon – swim-bike-running five days a week. I spent much time reading and researching my new way of life, as well as waxing Paleo to the world, all while glued to my phone or laptop. I felt fantastic every day because of Paleo! I successfully ditched the Standard American Diet (SAD) but I was still following a twenty-first century, conventional, optimise-my-time-to-the max lifestyle.1 Two years in, I went beyond thriving and pushed life too hard, and life bit me back, big time. I got ill too many times to count, my eczema flared, and my bowels weren’t happy. I was following 80/20 Paleo and then strict Paleo, but was still experiencing these issues because I was hugely stressed and just overdoing it.
A day in adult life today is flooded with stressors; the morning alarm, the daily commute, work, technology, conflict, traffic, exercise. Everywhere we look life is saturated with noise, lights, and people. And when we actually have quiet moments we spend it glued to our fancy electronic devices. On top of all this artificial stimulation we deal with the internal pressures we create for ourselves. Social media is flooded with users that are ‘striving to be a better me’ or wanting to learn something new every day. This is on top of having a healthy, homemade food to eat, a clean house, maintaining a social life, and keeping physically active. As humans, we’re excellent in making ourselves so incredibly busy and it seems we’ve forgotten how to slow down. No wonder we’re stressed.
Loren Cordain, an early pioneer of the Paleo diet, wrote about over-reaching in athletes – an early point to greater fitness marked by days where you’re tired from training and some when you probably shouldn’t work out.2 It’s the fine line between improved fitness and over-training. While Cordain viewed this in the context of endurance sports, over-reaching can easily be applied to the everyday – to over-reach is to fill every minute of the day, and to get sub-optimal sleep. It is too much screen time and not enough downtime, quiet time, outdoor time, face time (and not the iPhone one). To over-reach is to overdo it, and to load your schedules to the point of often declaring “I’m so busy, I don’t have time.”.
Busy-ness is now being viewed as a disease by some – we are human doings rather than human beings.3 It is a dis-ease with being at ease, being still, and being bored, and is destructive to our health and well-being. Paleo allows us to thrive, but too many of us (myself included) actively abuse this thriving to the point of over-reaching and overdoing it. This produces many negative effects; stress leading to sleep deprivation, vulnerability to illness and health flares, and even adrenal fatigue. Stress also makes us prone to falling off the bandwagon, causing the reward-seeking mechanism in our brains to seek refined carbs.4 An increase in SAD food choices can also affect health. At a time when you need a solid diet the most, stress will rear its ugly head in an effort to destroy all the Paleo progress you’ve made.
Humans today spend too much time looking at screens, which has a detrimental effect on our sleep. Sleep aside, the constant exposure to blue light also affects our perception of time.5 How we view time is entirely a construction of the brain,1 and this is based on life experiences, once-in-lifetime ones and the everyday boring ones. As we age we engage in the more mundane activities of daily life – cooking, watching TV, driving to work – and they begin to not even register on our individual time scales. Despite time passing during these activities, we feel as though no time has passed at all. We’ve become immune to feeling time duration because our first world lives are full of boring, repetitive activities, combined with staring at screens for far too long. No wonder we feel we have no time.
How do we go back to thriving instead of surviving? To start, we need to make time for time. We need to make time to just be: still, at ease, to listen, to watch real life, and most of all – to relax. Stop over-reaching, learn to say no, make time for yourself, and only do the things you really want to do. Try the stress elimination diet. Get outside! Read actual books (which will help you get better sleep). Call your friend on the phone. Be gentle to yourself, know your limits and abide by them. It’s one thing to eat like our primal ancestors, but we should also live like them – and above all, we should become human beings again.
So what do you think? Are you thriving or just surviving? Why not share your experiences by leaving a comment below.
- Sisson, M. (2015). 7 Ways to Slow Down your Perception of Time. In Marks Daily Apple. Retrieved 31 January, 2016 from http://www.marksdailyapple.com/7-ways-to-slow-down-your-perception-of-time/#axzz3yiT2dUd9
- Cordain, L., Friel, J. (2012). The Paleo Diet for Athletes. Pennysylvania, USA: Rodale Books Inc.
- Safi, O. (2014). The Disease of Being Busy. In On Being. Retrieved 31 January, 2016 from http://www.onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/7023
- 4. Maffetone, P. (2015) Why We Get Sugar-Addicted – And How To Break The Brutal Cycle. In MAF. Retrieved 31 January, 2016 from http://philmaffetone.com/why-we-get-sugar-addicted/
- 5. Wells, J. (2015). Technology is ‘speeding up our sense of time. In The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 January, 2016 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/technology-is-speeding-up-our-sense-of-time/