Contemplating Change

I’ve discovered over the last couple of days that no matter how hard you try, change will never feel right until it’s over.  Perhaps it’s just our nature.  Perhaps it’s an evolutionary holdover from the days when leaving the tribe and striking out into the night was a good way to get eaten by a sabertooth tiger.  Any way you slice it, change is scary and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Any change that you try to make in your life is going to scare the royal bejeezus out of you.  I sat here this week contemplating some changes in my life that reminded me of the time when I first started thinking about my weight and health.  I may have actually started doing something about it a year and a half ago but I’ve probably been concerned about it for 10 years.  I was 240 and a half-a-pack-a-day smoker at the height of my unwellness.  I knew it wasn’t sustainable and I knew I was probably digging my own grave but you know what?  It took me another 10 years to actually do something about it because actually doing something is a helluva lot more disconcerting than living in the nice little rut you’ve dug for yourself.  Some people have to hit an all time low, and then go lower, before they start to change things in their life.  I just decided to start taking ownership for my actions.  The change, in the end, didn’t ultimately come from a health decision but one of responsibility.  I’m 36 damnit, time to be a grown up.

And may be that’s what you need to hear this morning.  That change you’re contemplating in your life isn’t really about losing 20 pounds, or walking more, or getting a new job because the one you have now sucks dirt.  It’s about you, and you alone, taking responsibility for yourself.  So many of us are happy to live in a rut that society is happy to provide that we miss that one important element; personal responsibility.  When we look at the person we admire for their charisma, or success, or cut abs; it isn’t any of those things we’re really respecting.  It’s their ability to focus on a change and take responsibility for themselves in making it happen.  They know that no one is going to do it for them, they need to do it for themselves despite what any one else might think or do or say.  That one element has become such a rare thing in our society that it is celebrated and venerated.

Think about that for a minute.

Personal responsibility is the exception, not the rule.

How the hell did that happen?

So if you’re contemplating change this morning, there is only one simple rule.  Yes, you need to plan.  Yes, you may even need to research.  Yes, you may even need to discuss it with someone.  Once you’ve done all those things though, you just need to DO IT.  No amount of research will prepare you for every eventuality, no amount of planning ever usually survives first contact with reality.  Some amount of thinking it through should be performed but then you need to execute.

Otherwise, you’ll end up like me 10 years ago.  Fat, out of breath, personally disgusted with yourself, and completely unwilling to take responsibility for your own actions.  And yes today I still have a piece of chocolate fudge cake or some french fries with a meal some times.  Totally non-Paleo.  The difference now is that I take responsibility, say yes I am eating this right now, and move on afterwards.  It’s not a habit, it’s an indulgence.  And indulgences are okay as long as they don’t happen every day.

So go.

Make your plan if you must.

Ask your buddies at the pub their opinion if that works for you.

Then do it.

You can only contemplate change for so long before it actually needs to happen.

(Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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The Real Food Mama Recipe of the Week – Steak Salad with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts

It’s my absolute pleasure to introduce a new weekly feature on The Paleo Campfire. If you already know Joanne from The Real Food Mama then you know how much of an absolutely wonderful resource her site is for Paleo and Primal living. If this is your first encounter with The Real Food Mama, you’re in for a treat. Every week I’ll feature one of Joanne’s incredible recipes with a link back to her site where you can get all the details.

This week our Real Food Mama recipe is Steak Salad with Goat Cheese & Toasted Walnuts. This mouthwatering combination of steak, goat cheese, and walnuts hits all of the nutritional highlights we aspire to at every meal in an appealing package even your picky little cavekids will enjoy. I was looking for a new lunchtime salad combination but I think I’ve found it! I’m definitely working this into my meal rotation sooner rather than later.

I hope you enjoy this recipe suggestion. After you’ve read through the details on The Real Food Mama, check out Joanne’s Breakfast, Main Dish, Sides & Salads, and Dessert sections.  You can also find Joanne on Facebook here.

Happy Eating!

Spring Cleaning

As Winter draws to a close here in the Northern Hemisphere, thoughts turn to the approaching Spring.  Warm days spent outside without the need for several additional layers of clothing.  Opening windows sealed for five months to let the fresh air in.  The simple enjoyment of those extra hours of sunlight every day.  If you live in a cold weather climate like me, you know the exquisite pleasure of all of these rituals.

One other ritual we associate with Spring is the Spring Cleaning.  The advent of warmer weather turns thoughts to opening windows and doors and cleaning up the things accumulated during those long Winter days and nights.  In a similar vein, I would like to take this opportunity to clean up the Resources section of the site over the next couple of weeks.  If you have any favourite books, blogs, or resources you’d like to suggest please leave a comment with the information and I’ll be sure to add it.  Likewise, if you’ve found anything that needs to be removed from the Resources section, let me know and I’ll clean that up.  Let’s make this the best collaborative site for Paleo and Primal resources available!

Thanks!

(Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

A Paleo Mind

I’ve tried a couple of times already to write about something that’s been on my mind.  The idea of having a new information lifestyle to suit my new dietary lifestyle has intrigued me in the last while.  I have implemented some things in my life that have dramatically changed the way I interact with the constant background noise we live with every day.

FrustratedIt all started when I read Tim FerrissFour Hour Work Week.  One of the core principles in the book is eliminating the unnecessary from your life and one of the things he views as unnecessary is much of the information we take in on a daily basis.  If the information is not directly actionable or does not have a direct effect on your life, he argues, what is the good of it?  When you sit back and think about it, the idea is both simple yet revolutionary.  We constantly expose ourselves to a ever increasing deluge of information in the name of being well informed citizens but in the end there is really nothing directly actionable for our lives in the 24/7 news cycle of CNN or ESPN.  Sure, okay, watch the morning headlines or catch a 20 minute run on SportsCenter but then move on with your day.  Do you really think things are going to change that much in an hour that you constantly need to check the headlines?

It has become increasingly clear to me that much of the media we consume in a day is like the sugary, trans-fat laden, pre-packaged snacks we have sworn to leave behind.  Instead of doing damage to our body though, it is doing damage to our mind; weighing us down with the unnecessary disguised as the direly important, the optional disguised as the necessary.  I used to check the news constantly in abject fear that I might miss something.  How completely irrational is that?  You know what though, I bet you feel the same way.  And if it isn’t about the news it’s about the market, or your favorite sports team, or about Android, or Apple, or whether the new iPad 3 is called the iPad 3 or the iPad HD.  It can drive you crazy.

What I would propose then is a radical concept.  Approach your media consumption with the same principles, practices, and determination you have applied to adopting a Paleo life.  I believe there is an undeniable link between our physical and mental well being. Having a well body leads to having a well mind and having a well mind leads to having a well body. True, full wellness springs from the combination of the two.  Identify what is truly necessary in your life and eliminate what isn’t.  Does your life really require that you consult with CNN on an hourly basis?  Does AppleInsider really hold the keys to your happiness?  Does that article, one in a million, that breaks down the differences between Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread really have to distract you from the work at hand?

You see, I have come to believe in two very certain things in my life during the last year of my Paleo journey:

  1. Multitasking is a fools errand.  You do one thing to completion (or as completed as it can be at the time) and then move on to another.  Trying to do several things at once will just slowly drive you crazy.
  2. The majority of the information we have come to believe, or are lead to believe, is necessary in are lives is more directed at selling us something than informing us.  That something might be a product but it could be any number of other things that you probably don’t need, want, or can afford at the time.

If you’re willing to agree with these two statements, it’s time to change.  Turn off the TV, close those permanently open browser tabs, don’t watch that keynote address that’s actually just a 45 minute commercial.  Go do something productive, go do something for yourself, go play with your kids.  We often complain about not having any time any more in our modern society but it’s often because we fill it up and take it away from ourselves.  I think if we were more willing to approach how we fill our minds the way we approach filling our bodies, a lot of that time would magically reappear.

So take the time today to really assess how you use your mind and how you fill it up.  A healthy mind contributes to a healthy body.  Perhaps it’s time for us to invent a Paleo diet for our mind to go with the Paleo diet for our body.

A sound mind in a sound body is a short but full description of a happy state in this world.
– John Locke

(Image: David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Mental Muscle

If you watch sports, you know you hear a lot about an athlete’s mental toughness.  If you’ve gone that extra distance and played competitive sports you probably understand it.  After your body fails you and you don’t think you can move on, it’s that little voice in your brain that keeps you going.  Past the pain, past the anguish, past the exhaustion.

Most of us though are not elite athletes and have never had the training and exposure to develop that part of our game.  For some, the mental aspect of our journey can be the hardest.  It’s not our body we’re fighting against, it’s that mental muscle that causes us to trip and fall.  I know that’s the case for me.  I wish there was some exercise regime or machine I could buy that works that muscle like all the others.  Unfortunately, there is no secret formula or WoD for that aspect of life.

Peace

What can you do if you find the biggest fight every day is between your ears?  The good news is hope is not lost.  If you’re like me, the biggest battle is finding peace.  Peace with reconciling your new life with your old.  Peace with the anger and resistance you’re facing from others.  Peace with moving forward into a healthy future.  It can be a hard journey and everyone’s remedy is different.  You may find peace in a religious or spiritual experience.  You may find peace through meditation.  You may find peace by just sitting in a quiet room free from distraction and thinking through your problems.  The important thing is that you find a mental place in your life where that endless war in your head subsides to the point it is no longer a distraction.  That fight can be the most draining one you face.

So remember, if you’re going to take the time to cultivate the physical well being of your body, you should also take the time to cultivate the well being of your mind as well.  I would even suggestion, especially if you’re like me, that cultivating your mental well being is even more important in some ways.  Take some time today to think about how you could do that for yourself.  It may be the most important decision you’ve yet  made on your journey.

(Image: ponsuwan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Just Love Them

I came across an article the other day that purported to list numerous ways to deal with the spouse who has chosen not to live a Paleo or Primal lifestyle.  It gave me pause for a moment on several levels, even the title made me think.  Do I really need all of these coping mechanisms to deal with a supposedly troublesome spouse?  And the more I read the article and thought about it, the more I realized there really was only one coping mechanism that mattered.

Just love them.

And that didn’t even make the list.

Broken HeartI realize that a lot of you are dealing with resistance.  Resistance from loved ones who don’t understand why you’ve chosen to change your life.  Resistance from loved ones whose lifelong conception of you is being changed just as abruptly as your body.  Resistance from the spouse who has held your weight or body shape over you like a weapon.  I get that.  I understand, I really do.  What I would suggest though is that if you need 36 ways to deal with your husband who’s constantly browbeating you because you’ve dropped 20 pounds in the last six months and you’re newly regained confidence is an obstacle to you both; they really may not be loved ones after all.

I understand that any relationship is a complex, intertwined, irrational milieu of emotions and history.  I also understand that disagreement is part and parcel to any relationship.  I also understand that if your life changes have set off a barrage of negativity and difficulty then perhaps there’s something deeper here than what can be fixed by 36 points in a 1000 word article.  We love our lists.  We love our tips and tricks.  The unfortunate thing is that life is generally more complex than that 99.99% of the time.

I’m also not suggesting that you instantly jettison a troublesome relationship at the first sign of  it taking on water.  What I am saying is that for a lot of people change is shocking and the way we often deal with shock is aggression.  It’s an evolutionary product.  If you were living in a cave somewhere in prehistory and you came home to the shocking find of a bear in it, you reacted with aggression.  And for a lot of you out there, the bear in the cave for your spouse or loved one is you suddenly dropping 20 lbs and looking great.  I think that one simple thing can give you a lot of clarity on the topic.  As a whole, Humans hate change.  We can pretend that we would be loving and accepting if the shoe was on the other foot but I know, at least for me, it would be a total lie.  I can be honest with myself enough to understand that I can be a complete jerk about change.  Can’t you?

So remember, for now, just love them.  There are no 36 magic steps to tolerance or acceptance.  If, somewhere down the road, a reasonable amount of time has expired (and you’ll know when that is), it might be time for a change.  In the mean time, remember that change is hard.

For everyone.

And isn’t remembering one step a lot easier than 36?

(Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)