Ideating about paleo

I have some friends who are ideating about paleo.

They have misgivings.

Talking to them has reminded me that I actually once went through a grief process about letting go of my favorite bakery pizza.

I also remember that during my first paleo workweek I was profoundly anxious about how I’d handle stressful meetings if I couldn’t eat starches for courage beforehand. That was actually my #1 fear.

Seems so weird, now.

I asked my friends if they would write down their fears about embarking on paleo.

Here’s what one wrote:

Fears about going in–my primary one is that I will get exhausted, and have no way of getting through my demanding days without the odd sugar hit or piece of toast to boost me up. This is partially because I’m anemic, and have been since March of this year. My iron stores are low, and I’m taking iron supplements, as well as increasing the meat in my diet. But I get so freakin’ wiped, and midday naps are mostly not an option–definitely not during the week.

I’m also afraid of wanting [my partner] and [kid]’s food–because they are not giving up their breadstuffs and ice cream, yet–no way. 

And I’m afraid of backsliding in a crisis–which is exactly why I’m here at the heaviest I’ve ever been, again, after losing 17 lbs in 2011. How can I keep eating the way I want, instead of the default way of eating, when the shit hits the fan–bad days at work, family member ill or in crisis, etc. etc. How do I keep looking after myself and not have that be one more thing on the enormous to-do list? How do I look at that as especially important, and NOT look at saying “oh, fuck it all, I’m eating this donut” as the relaxing/kind/letting-myself-off-the-hook option.

And another:

For me, when considering the idea of fully switching to the paleo diet I encounter two obvious hurtles:

1. Food prep time with a busy life (and especially when caring for [my kid])
2. The addiction

I could probably face the addiction part more easily if I was able to free my house of any temptations that seem to raise their voices when I’m feeling weak…

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Image by Jess Lucia & found on her blog Spark: http://theloushe.typepad.com/spark/2012/02/security-blankets-and-the-magic-zone.html

I’m feeling really insecure in my field of work right now because it provides very little job security. The anxiety I feel about this is toxic and is clearly undermining other aspects of my life. Although I’m not in a crisis mode by any means, I’m experiencing first hand right now how anxiety operates to diminish a person. I’m afraid that if I let go and actually embrace the reality that at the moment I have no clue how I’m going to make a living in the future, that I will spend the little reserve money I have and be in a worse position. I’ve got some abstract ideas about an ideal career but don’t have a road map for getting there. Anyways, there’s a downward spiral that happens with carbo crutches in times like this. Ironically, I can see how embracing paleo and not focusing on the rest may actually be the way out because my mental fog will dissipate and I’ll have more energy and courage to tackle this new phase.

Reading these actually made me cry a little bit. Because they describe how complicated it can be to find your way through the labyrinth to health.

That’s why I’m writing this blog. Because I wasn’t seeing anyone else addressing how complex and multi-layered the process was for me. Wound up with trauma and anxiety and destructive self-fulfilling feedback loops. For many of us, it’s not as simple as sanctifying the pantry and googling some recipes.

We are unfathomably complicated creatures engaging in a whole-self renovation.

And at the same time, we can also be pretty predictable and a lot simpler than we like to think.

As described by a 3rd friend:

Some of my fears/trepidations/concerns include:

1. I’M LAZY!!!

That’s it.

Ha!

Skinny People are Irritating

Skinny people are irritating.

I still think so, even now that I am one.

I am irritating.

I know that.

Especially when I’m at the grocery store in heels, with a cart full of vegetables and meat, feeling great about myself. I’m walking through the store feeling fantastic, and it shows. And as I go about my business I can’t help but notice how demoralized and unwell a lot of people are. And a tall skinny happy lady who is noticing how fat & sickly you look as you pull a frozen pizza off the shelf, is irritating.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not walking around thinking I’m so awesome and pitying the sad, fat people. It’s just when you disentangle yourself from dependency on crap food and get used to having prana running through your body, it is shocking to wake up and realize how desperately unhealthy and unhappy people are.

I don’t dis fat people in my mind, or pity them, but I do feel compassion. Because I’ve been there. Quite recently. And I am feeling splendid, and I am really proud of myself, and all of that shows, when a fat person sees me noticing them with a frozen pizza the grocery store.

And when I was the fat person with the frozen pizza at the grocery store, compassion emanating toward me from a healthy person sure looked a whole lot like pity, and that was really irritating.

After I’d lost my 75lbs, a good friend of mine put a picture of fat-me up on her fridge. I was a little discomfited by that. I didn’t want to see fat-me. I wasn’t that person anymore! I didn’t even want anyone to know I had been her. What was my friend’s point, anyway? Was she trying to undermine me?

I looked closer.

In the photo I was standing looking at one of my kids when she was about two. I had quizzical eyebrows, maybe gritting my teeth, plainly exasperated, as she sassed along doing her 2-year-old thing. Not a flattering photo. What kind of mother would people think I was?

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Um, the kind of mother I was.

The kind who loved her kids to distraction and was right there with them while they sassed along doing their 2-year-old (or 13-year-old) thing… but who as often as not had quizzical eyebrows and was probably gritting her teeth. And was fat.

And in looking at that photo I realized that in criticizing my previous self I had been acting like the worst kind of irritating skinny person. The judgemental bitchy kind. And I looked at my younger, fatter self more closely and I started to feel some love. And then I started to really like that photo. And then I asked my friend for it. And now it’s on my fridge.

Twisted Shepherd’s Pie

Stalking the elusive paleolithic mutton...Original art by Heinrich Harder (1858-1935); public domain image (with bonus sheep).
Stalking the elusive paleolithic mutton…
Original art by Heinrich Harder (1858-1935); public domain image (with bonus sheep).

Untwisted, this pie would be made by shepherds on a hillside with mutton & potatoes. But we’re going with cauliflower mash & whatever ground meat is pleasing. If you want a partially twisted pie, feel free to get ye some mutton. If mutton does not appeal, consider a Braxy-ham.

Braxy hams are “the hams of those sheep which die of the braxy. When the herd finds any of his flock dead of that distemper, if they can stand three shakes -that is to say, if they be not so putrefied or rotten that they can stand to be thrice shaken by the neck without falling to pieces- then he bears them home to his master’s house on the braxy shelty. What of the carcasses can then be ham’d, are done, and the rest of the flesh made present use by the family.” This from the Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia.

Braxy hams turn regular mutton into a delicacy.

Sometimes I am actually terrified by how spoiled I am. I am literally eating smoked sockeye salmon out of the package with my hands as I type this. I’m eating salmon that has been caught, gutted, smoked, packaged & transported for me, and all I need to do is shove it in my mouth. That is how far I am from shaking a dead sheep violently by the head to see if it is:

a.) so rotten it falls apart; or

b.) edible.

But the head-shaking trick could come in handy one day. In case society crumbles or whatnot. So that’s why I’m mentioning it here.

Shepherd’s Pie with 2 Twists

  • 1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower
  • 1 onion
  • 2lbs ground meat (Grass-fed beef, lamb, bison, turkey or chicken)
  • A couple of handfuls mushrooms (whole, sliced or quartered)
  • Ground sage
  • Dried tarragon or fresh parsley
  • Himalayan salt (or similar)
  • Coconut oil

Steam Cauliflower pieces, including stem. Fry onion, meat, mushrooms & sage until just cooked and place in a baking dish. When cauliflower is soft, pop it in a food processor (or blender) with a generous pinch of tarragon, a shake of salt and a big spoon of coconut oil. Whirl until smooth and spread over of the meat mixture. Bake at 350 until the tips of the white swirls are browned, about 40 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Got Leftovers?

Mound leftover Twisted Herd Pie into portobello mushroom caps and bake at 350 for half an hour; eat them hot or put them in containers for weekday lunches.

Paleo happens in the stream of life

When it’s Friday at 6pm and your bathroom is overflowing with teenaged drama-geeks who are dying their hair black. Asking for rubber gloves & more towels & a ride downtown to a Doctor Who revival meeting.

And your dad arrives & fills your entryway with his ski equipment & wants to talk about the zen realization he had while fixing his plumbing that morning.

And you are waiting for a call from your 19-year-old who’s been in Vancouver all week and needs to be picked up from the ferry sometime soon.

And your partner is sick.

And you are wondering if your credit card will let you book a plane ticket so you can get your oldest kid home for a visit.

And your #4 bonus step-kid is growing approximately a millimeter a minute & is unceasingly rifling through the kitchen looking for edible substances.

And everyone needs to be fed.

And part of you wishes they would all go somewhere else so your house could be quiet & tidy & you could get back on your computer to write, but this is your life.

And luckily for everyone you have a chicken with beets & carrots roasting in the oven, a cauli-pilaf at the ready, a cucumber to slice, & can manifest a pot of rice pasta with pesto sauce for the vegetarian drama-geeks before driving them downtown.

And just know ahead of time that no one will suitably appreciate the effort that went in to having that food ready for them at 6:30pm on a Friday night.

But that’s okay.

And Friday night doesn’t end once everyone’s fed, of course. Life keeps streaming. There’s still the post-curfew argument via text-message with your #3 kid who is still inexplicably at the theatre watching Doctor Who when she should be home already:

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So when People say, I could never be paleo, my life is too busy, I say yes. My life is busy too. And I could never do my life if I didn’t have the energy that paleo brings.

It enables me to have grace enough, & food enough, to meet what comes.

Yog-Sothoth: the small dependent mammal

I’m not big on small dependent mammals.

Nevertheless, three years ago we adopted two rescue kitties from the SPCA. My #3 kid and I went to the kitty shelter every weekend for a month waiting to meet our perfect cats. We saw lots of pretty young cats come & go, and lots of old cats that will probably stay in the shelter for the rest of their lives. We seriously considered adopting one of these oldsters. And we really thought about the fellow who had been so severely abused that he’d had a front and a back leg amputated when he arrived. But he got adopted by a rich old lady who promptly went out to buy him $500 in kitty toys, so we figured he was going to do better with her than with us.

My stepson joined us (my #4 bonus kid!) on the big day and as soon as he walked into the kitty room, a black cat climbed out from under the bank of cages and looked lovingly into his face. They gazed at each other like two very old friends.

So that was obvious.

And then I saw Allie peering out at me from behind the piece of paper that was taped to the front of her cage. She’d been there every time we had, and for a couple of months before that. She had a paper barrier between her and the world because she got so distressed whenever people came near. Allie was another cat who had been severely abused. Pure white, with crik in her short tail where it had been broken. And she was looking at me.

I opened her cage door and she sniffed my hand.

Of course, I’d told the kids they could each pick a cat, but I wanted to recant. I had to have her. Luckily, my #3 kid was just as impressed, and Allie came home with us.

I did try very hard to get Matthew and the kids to agree to change her name to Yog-Sothoth, but we couldn’t get consensus on that. Allie was the name they’d given her at the SPCA, and Allie it stayed, though I do sometimes call her Alligator for short. We all agreed that Sebastian was a perfect name for a handsome black gentleman with such frightfully tattered ears.

Allie spent most of the first six months crammed in the tiniest crevices she could find. But over time her crevices became less tiny. Then sometimes she’d let a paw stray out while she slept. If you pulled on it, she’d suck it back in, like a snail recoiling to its shell. Then she started hanging out when just the family was home. And then she started skulking in corners when visitors were over. Sniffing them, even. Giving their pant legs a little lean, but disappearing before she could be touched.

Allie’s a comparatively well-adjusted cat now, but she still bolts if you move quickly. If you close the door to the room she is in, she leaps up from a dead sleep and wants out now. I’m pretty sure she will always be like that, even though she knows that she is safe with us. Her early trauma is stuck in her body. Her flight response is on a hair trigger.

Turns out Sebastian is quite a vocal cat. He’s a meowler. He’s hungry? Meowl! Wants’ out? Meowl! Wants love? Meowl! Not sure what he wants but he thinks maybe you should do something about it? Meowl!

I have talked to kitty experts who have said that this can happen to abandoned cats. Seb was discarded and as a result he meowls, irritatingly.

Sebastien meowls and Alligator startles.

And the only solution is love, patience & compassion.

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Love, patience & compassion~

What does this have to do with being paleo?

I think that a lot of us are stuck in meowling and startling; fighting & flighting; and are in the habit of trying to regulate our disordered nervous systems with simple carbohydrates.

Unresolved trauma results in a disregulated nervous system, for mammals of all kinds. In humans it can lead to addiction in an attempt to numb the discomfort and get the nervous system back in balance. Not everyone becomes a meth-head or an alcoholic. A lot of us become starch & sugar addicts, because it’s legal & cheap & socially acceptable & our fix is available at every corner store. In fact, I think we might be a whole society of SAD starch & sugar addicts.

And it is really, profoundly, and utterly hard to quell this addiction.

That’s the reason I’m writing this blog. To address the complexity of making the change to paleo. It’s not as simple as sanctifying your pantry and downloading some recipes. It’s healing work. But unlike Alligator and Seb, we can make choices.

If you still need your tiny crevice, or your sugars and starches, to be safe: choose them.

Know that healing is a process. Work on creating a safer environment so you can put first a paw, and then your whole self, into the change you want to be.

Paleo Paradox: the vegetarian teenager

You can be a paleo-autocrat with young children. Or with employable young adult offspring who are still lurking around sticking their big noses in your refrigerator. But between those two stages is a phase when totalitarianism is only going to create entrenchment.

My #3 teenager became a vegetarian approximately the minute I went paleo.

I can’t force her to eat like me. If I try, it’ll just encourage her. I know. I was a vegan evangelist in my youth.

I worked at Orange Julius in an underground mall, and it seems strange to me now, but it didn’t at the time, that I never met anyone who was in charge. The franchise was run by a series of teenaged girls who would find & train each other. As long as we deposited cash each Friday and kept ordering supplies as they were needed, the business sort-of ran itself. This gave us quite a bit of opportunity for creativity. We invented our own smoothies and specialized in customized drinks for customers. We gave all the meat hot dogs away to homeless people’s dogs (and patronizingly insisted that the dog-owners not eat the hot dogs themselves.) We gave the dog-owners tofu dogs. In fact, we only served tofu dogs, which we purchased ourselves at the grocery store with the cash that didn’t go into the bank.

So I can totally relate to the strident vegetarian phase of adolescent development.

My kid’s 13, so she’s too young to be left to her own devices. Her devices would be a combination of nothing and breakfast cereal three times a day. I have to feed her but there is very little that she will eat that I consider to be wholesome besides vegetables.

I was a youth worker for many years and I figure that whether you are working with a junkie or a vegetarian the strategy is the same. It’s all about harm reduction.

So, to source non-paleo food for my vegetarian kid, I have a triple bottom line:

  1. I have to think it’s at the top of the heap of healthy vegetarian foods. And I reserve the right to change my opinion about what is healthy as I learn more;
  2. My kid has to like it enough to eat it. If it’s healthy but stale-dates in the cupboard, not only is she still hungry but I’ve just thrown money away;
  3. I have to dislike it enough not to eat it. I am not immune to the charms of a bag of gluten-free pretzels after a long day at work when only an uncooked halibut is grinning at me from the fridge;

So, once we have identified foods that meet these criteria, they come into the house. It’s a smallish list.

Protein is tricky. She loves the fake meat products that are made with soy & wheat gluten but I feel like I’m poisoning her if I buy those.

Of course, she doesn’t really like eggs. She’ll eat an egg if it’s invisible, but not by itself. Fussy? I know! At first she tried to tell me she also didn’t like beans. I told her she could not be a vegetarian under my roof without eating beans, and that she had to pick the bean she hated the least. So now I buy black beans by the case. I also buy organic full-fat dairy for her, which is primal though not paleo.

I devised 7 meals that rotate, served with lots of raw veg & fruit:

  • Black bean & cheese enchiladas made with rice wraps;
  • Black bean & cheese quesadillas made with rice wraps (my kid has not yet figured out that an enchilada & a quesadilla are the same thing in different formats);
  • Hummus with corn chips;
  • Nachos with black beans & salsa;
  • Rice pasta with pesto or tomato sauce & cheese;
  • Pizza made with 2 rice wraps stuck together with olive oil for crust;
  • Tapas plate with nuts, pepitas, nori, veg, & fruit;

And when she tells me she’s So tired! All the time! I try to stay quiet. I know that when I comment on the correlation between her fatigue and her food, she gets even more entrenched. I also know that it took me 41 years to figure this out.

And I’m pretty certain she’s smarter than that.

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Paleo Myth Buster: Carbs & Muscle Mass

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I had a friend tell me the other day that he got inspired and decided to go paleo, but then he read something about paleo causing muscle loss so he had some french toast.

Because french toast is going to help him build muscle mass?

I thought about inviting my friend to squeeze my glutes so he could judge for himself, but I thought that might get weird.

Paleo contradicts the nutritional programming we’ve had all our lives, so it’s understandable if there’s questions and fear. In one quick google search of the paleo gurus you can find enough contradictory information to get you really perplexed. Such as:

  • Carbohydrates are unnecessary;
  • Eat carbohydrates before exercise, during exercise, and immediately after exercise or your face with fall off;
  • Don’t eat carbohydrates until 30 or more minutes after exercise;
  • Fast before & after you exercise;

It’s enough to make you wonder if maybe you are safer with the french toast.

What I think about all that is: experiment.

Experiment

Experiment with:

  • Just eating paleo & not worrying about carbs;
  • Eating one higher carb meal a day & eating lower carb the rest of the time;
  • Eating low carb for a spell (less than 100 grams a day);
  • Eating super low carb for a short while (less than 50 grams a day);
  • Eating carbohydrates before exercise &/or during exercise &/or immediately after you exercise;
  • Fasting before you exercise;
  • Fasting after you exercise;
  • Exercising on an empty stomach and having a higher carb meal soon after (that’s what I do, currently);

If you’re not exercising yet, I have a blog post about that!

Then observe yourself as you tinker. How do you feel, during & after?

Keep experimenting until you find what works for you. If you hit a plateau (of energy, enthusiasm, weight loss, or what have you) experiment some more. You are the science project. Observe yourself & keep tweaking until you find your sweet spot. Expect that sweet spot to evolve as you do.

Usually what the paleo gurus are saying is simply: Hey this is what has been working for me lately. I guarantee they keep observing & tweaking, and their tweaks might even get them to a different perspective over time.

Learn from those who’ve gone before, for sure, but be your own guru.

If your body thinks you are starving, it will use your reserves, including muscle, for fuel. But I eat robustly. My body is much less confused than it was pre-paleo. It doesn’t think I’m starving. It’s delighted by how nourished I am and just wants me to put on my shoes so we can go for a run together.

Want to see what that looks like?

This was me on french toast:

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Me at age 41

And here I am now:

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Me at age 42
(Photo by: http://www.franceslitman.com)

So what do higher-carb meals look like when you’re paleo?

For me, they include squash and roots:

  • Yam fries with portobello bison burgers;
  • Rutabaga hash with bacon & eggs;
  • Spaghetti squash with paleo pad thai sauce & chicken;
  • Salmon beet fritters with greens;
  • Oven roasted parsnips & carrots with steak & salad;
  • Chai squash pie with halibut;
  • Mashed turnip with sausages & sauerkraut;

Um… yum!

So if you want to eat french toast, go to it. Just don’t say you’re doing it to preserve your physique. Cause that’s silly.

Chai Squash Pie (& how to have a thrilling! sexy! life by planning ahead)

Planning ahead: it’s my #1 paleo success strategy.

I know planning doesn’t sound thrilling or sexy, but it’s the secret to paleo triumph & to having the life you want.

Simple:

  • I plan my meals 1-2 weeks in advance;
  • I don’t always religiously follow my plans, but they are always there;
  • A plan is only useful if it helps you meet your goals;

My paleo goals are also simple:

  1. To eat really well;
  2. To make food prep as effortless as possible so I can do other stuff;

Here I’ll use my favorite Chai Squash Pie to illustrate how I make planning work for me. So I don’t have to brood about my food and can have my thrilling life.

Now this is a deconstructed paleo pie. We’re not aiming to reconstruct SAD foods here. We’re moving on & getting happier every day. And this recipe really is easy as pie because it’s crust-free. And unsweetened.  If that makes you shudder, you haven’t been paleo long enough. It’s divine. It is everything there is to love about pumpkin pie, and you can make it with almost any squash. You can also make it with tinned pumpkin, so it’s a perfect pantry dish.

I plan a higher carb meal after I exercise. Chai Squash pie is perfect for that, so it gets into my menu plan at least once a week, more during squash season.

Squash season!
Squash season!

My pie is always ready before I go for run or to a hot power yoga class, either in the fridge or cooling in the oven. You can make it several days before you need it. Or make a big one and eat it over several days. To be frank, I love this pie and I will eat nothing else until it is gone, so I don’t bake up huge slabs of it. If I have a lot of squash and want a lot of pie, I’ll bake all the squash at once and then make the pie as I go.

Chai Squash Pie

  • 2 small or 1 medium baked squash (any dense squash like butternut, pie pumpkin, kuri or kabocha); or 2 tins of unsweetened pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • A capful of vanilla extract
  • A shake of salt
  • Your own house-chai blend (a combination of ground spices made of what you have & what you like): ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, allspice, a pinch of cloves, a modicum of black pepper

Remove squash skin with a sharp paring knife. Whirl all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Grease a baking dish with coconut oil & bake your pie for 40-45 minutes at 350.

Cool before eating for pie-like results. It’ll be more of a hot pudding, otherwise.

Serve as a side wherever you might have once had SAD pumpkin pie or cornbread. Or eat it gloriously all by itself.

Get fancy

Serve your Chai Squash Pie with Coconut Cream. Find the recipe for coconut cream here (scroll through my chanterelle picking expedition to find it). If you want to add a little more sweetness to this pie, for company maybe, toss a handful of dried apricots into the food processor when you are whirling.

The Plan Ahead Method:

  • Up to a few days in advance, bake the squash. Or skip this step and use tinned pumpkin. To bake a squash, cut it in halves or quarters with a large sharp knife, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and place cut side down on a baking dish. Bake at 350 until soft (30-40 minutes). Poke the flesh with a fork to determine doneness.
  • Up to a couple of days in advance, bake the pie. Like any pumpkin pie, this one wants to be chilled, so it’s happy sitting in the fridge waiting for you.
  • Don’t wait until you are hungry to make this pie! Plan the advance prep stages into your week so your pie is magically ready for you when you need it. Just as if you had a benevolent grandma who anticipates your every whim.

For example:

I want Chai Squash Pie waiting for me when I get back from yoga on Thursday evening and after my long run on Saturday morning. I also want bacon on Saturday morning, and I can have that, too.

  • Tuesday evening I’m home, so I bake 2 medium squash. Two different kinds, cause that’s more fun & flavorful. When baked, I put the squash into a container in the fridge.
  • Wednesday evening or before work Thursday morning, I put ½ the squash in the food processor with the eggs, salt, vanilla & spices. I whirl & bake. When baked, I pop the pie in the fridge until it’s needed. I repeat this step again on Saturday morning. If you are differently constructed than me and can keep a squash pie at the ready without lovingly eating it for every meal, bake up one big pie & save yourself a step.
  • Don’t let your food bully you. Sometimes I only have half an hour before I have to go, because maybe I got absorbed writing a blog post or something. I can whirl up this pie & put it in the oven at 375 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off & let the pie keep setting while the oven slowly cools & I go to yoga. When I get back: benevolent grandma strikes again!
  • While you are baking the squash, you might bake some roots for a hash, and likewise, while you have the food processor going you could whip up a batch of paleo pad thai sauce for Friday night’s supper & a salad dressing to have on hand, but I’ll cover that kind of paleo-skillfulness in another post.

Planning ahead: not always thrilling or sexy, but master it and the rest of your life can be!

Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 2)

PaleoNerd

I was at my yoga studio getting something sorted with my membership last week when one of the owners came up to welcome me and to ask how I was liking the studio so far.

To which I responded, I have been coming here for 3 years.

She was mortified. I know she prides herself on knowing the yogis who flock to her studio, but she didn’t even recognize me.

I’m a full-blown introvert who can pass for socially normal, but I prefer to remain unseen. Being more visible since I’ve been paleo has been tricky for me.

But in all honesty, it wasn’t just my stealth maneuvers that were at work with the studio owner. Though I’ve observed her hundreds of times as I’ve slipped through the studio, I don’t haunt her classes. Not because she’s not a great teacher, but because she once played Bob Marley for an entire 75 minutes, and I’ve been wary ever since. But that’s an aside.

For introverts who have not perfected the art of furtiveness, venturing into any social setting, including most fitness situations, is so stressful that they just don’t.

I started thinking about nerdiness and fitness when I read that introverts are less likely to exercise in Susan Cain’s book Quiet. Think about nerds. Renowned for their physical prowess? Not so much. Why is that?

My guess is it starts early.

Flashback to 1978

I didn’t hate gym class until grade 3 when we started to play team sports. I found baseball and soccer so traumatic that I would do almost anything to get out of gym. They were stressful not only because I’m an introvert whose brain partially shuts down if I’m forced onto a team, but also because I didn’t know the rules, and couldn’t seem to learn them what with my brain:

a)    mostly shut down;

b)    otherwise absorbed with devising strategies to avoid gym.

I had concluded, at age seven, that I wasn’t good at sports, and as everyone else concurred I started directing all my nerdy powers into avoiding physical activity.

But when I think back, I loved moving my body.

I went to a two-room school. It had been a one-room school only a year or two before, but the population increased when a bunch of hippies bought up all the cheap land thereabouts. With them came packs of feral hippie children, of which I was one. A portable was added beside the original schoolhouse to house us, and as the years went on and more hippie kids were generated, more portables arrived.

But in the seventies it was still a two-room school, and in the absence of adventure playgrounds, all the kids still played rip-roaring games together at recess. I loved these games, especially Horses.

The rules of Horses were simple: the girls were horses and the boys were horse catchers. When a horse got caught she was put in the corral until recess was over or she managed to escape. I only got caught once (& it was terrifying) but that was not because I was a fast runner. It was because I was a nerd. I would run around being a horse deep in the woods all by myself where the boys would almost never find me. That’s the kind of game an introvert likes. Solitary while still vaguely connected.

I still love moving my body. And I still abhor team sports. Running & yoga work for me. Even though yoga classes are full of people, I can ignore them. It is perfectly acceptable to practice mat-by-mat without any social interaction at all.

I’m still happy to be vaguely connected, but unseen.

Which is why I wasn’t offended that the studio owner didn’t recognize me. I was more like Yes! My invisibility spell has been working! But that is difficult to explain to an extrovert, who assumes that we all aspire to be noticed.

So I’m calling all Paleo Nerds! Let’s not unite, but stay separate and vaguely connected! We don’t have to reflexively avoid exercise because we avoid people!

It’s a rallying cry!

See Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 1) for a geeky fitness graph.

 

Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 1)

It’s not that introverts don’t like people, we just want them properly dispersed. And usually out of visual range. And some of us do not leave the house voluntarily. Which presents unique challenges for exercise.

I’m a Paleo Nerd: an INFJ.

INFJ is my Meyer’s Briggs type, and the ‘I’ is what makes me a nerd. ‘I’ stands for introvert, of course. Humans range on a spectrum of introversion & extroversion, which is the closest thing we have to a geek-o-meter.

But most nerds don’t need to do a personality test to know they are introverted.

And if you are introverted you need a customized approach to fitness.

Introverts generally exercise less than extroverts, and us ‘I’s know why: most fitness arrangements are cripplingly social. Guaranteed, the byline for your local gym is something like: Once you’ve decided you want to get into the best shape of your life (yes!) and be a part of a community of like-minded people… (Um, a community? Of like-minded people? You mean people who go grocery shopping at 2am to avoid contact with others? People who don’t answer their phone because that might provoke a social obligation that would ruin the rest of their week? And don’t have voicemail either? But do peer cautiously at their call log and are only slightly irritated that you tried to get in touch? Those kind of like-minded people?) Or these kind:

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To address the fitness needs of introverts, I have developed a nerdy reference chart. Because when nerds think about exercise, logically they wonder hmmm, how would that look in graph form?

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When starting to workout I recommend doing the form of exercise you hate the least. If you commit to paleo living, expect this hatred to abate or even disappear, but you need to start where you are right now. If you don’t yet know which type of exercise you loathe least, try plotting yourself on the paleo nerd fitness graph above, keeping in mind that your degree of introversion may not change, but your motivation probably will when you embrace paleo living.

If you are:

  1. Extremely introverted with low motivation: Your inspiration will increase once you are off the SAD-loop that is the Standard American Diet. Consider focusing on strict paleo eating rather than exercise until your motivation abounds. Or rock your nerd quotient (you may as well) and get a mini trampoline. Stick it in a high traffic area in your nerdery so you have to step on it to get the kitchen or back to the computer. Whenever you find yourself there, bounce.
  2. Extremely introverted with high motivation: Hide in your room & do the prison workout as described on Mark’s Daily Apple.
  3. Mildly to moderately introverted with low motivation: Find a class that is instructor-directed but where it is socially acceptable to ignore the people around you, like yoga (or Pilates). Sign up & make yourself go. Once there, all you have to do is follow directions, but you don’t feel obliged to chant or say Namaste.
  4. Moderately introverted with moderate motivation: Stream some fitness videos. Chart how much you hate each type until you determine the type you hate the least. Do that one.
  5. Moderately introverted with high motivation: Walk/run until you can run/run. Music creates an ambient shield of protection from evil sorcerers and other passers-by.
  6. Mildly introverted with high motivation: Get a gym membership. Find someone who knows their stuff to give you a tutorial on the machines. Ascertain the least busy times of day, and go then.

If you’re an extrovert, I can only imagine what kind of exercise you might prefer, but since all of American society and the entire southern rind of Canadian society is predicated on an extroverted ideal, you probably don’t need any advice from a Paleo Nerd like me.

But if I had to guess, it would be a team sport with lots of tackling (or hugging), in which everyone goes out for drinks afterwards. Or maybe cross fit.

If you’re an extrovert and are perplexed about how to relate to introverts, check out this classic infographic.

Stay tuned for Paleo Nerd Fitness part 2.

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