Putting the X in X-mas: Maintaining your Paleo Orthodoxy


X as in the unknown element.

X as in the I-will-not-partake-of-that.

X as in putting the heX on SAD-foods during the yuletide season.

Putting the heX on SAD foods

December may be a perfect time to go paleo, because you’ll feel like a rockstar when the holidays are over & you need to drill a new hole in your belt to keep your goal-jeans up.

But it can also be a challenging month.

Here are some ideas:

Start now, if you haven’t already. The first 2 weeks of detoxing from carbs is hard, but once you’ve gone through the ring of fire, your cravings will disappear.

It’s not that you will stop appreciating shortbread when the 2 weeks is up.

It’s more like being happily married: you still notice attractive people, and can apprehend their sexiness, but you don’t need to sample it.

Being paleo is like being happily married to food. If you start now, you’ll get to skip the frenzied pre-holiday sugar-fest and you’ll be craving-free before the big day.

But the holidays can be a challenge even for the paleo-proficient:

So plan to do a 30. I’m starting an auto-immune protocol on December 21st. You can join me! Yours can be a strict as you please. If you’re starting from scratch, just be paleo for 30 days. If you’ve been tinkering already, try being ultra-orthodox for 30 days. If you are dealing with an auto-immune condition, join me in a protocol.

Christmas dinner can easily be paleo-pure:

But all of this is well & good.

What it doesn’t address is Christmas Stress:

  • Feeling obliged to visit & be visited by people you might have really good reasons not to see;
  • Wondering if your credit cards are going to hold out until January;
  • Worrying that you are going to overeat and you’ll be sideswiped by depression in the New Year;
  • Wanting your kids to have a perfect Christmas. Hoping that this Christmas will somehow make up for everything you haven’t been able to give them, even things that are out of your control, like a safe & sane world to grow up in;

And sugars & starches are the cheapest, legal-est, most socially-acceptable, quickest, and most readily-available short-term fix for stress.

Sugars & starches are our #1 crutch for a reason. Short-term, they are extremely effective for quelling the uncomfortable sensations that come with stress. In the long term, of course, they exacerbate our stress-related problems and create more of their own, but when we’re stressed, our ability to think long-term is short-circuited so we dive into a platter of cookies just to smooth out the next few hours.

That’s why I think giving up Christmas altogether is a fine idea.

But failing that, you need a plan.

Being a paleo nerd, I love a good force field analysis. Start by listing all the holiday stresses you can imagine:

  • Worrying about your kids spending the day with your ex’s new plus?
  • Dreading your creepy uncle?
  • Feeling like you should be pulling off a perfect Christmas that in reality could only be achieved with the help of a cellarful of servants?
  • Having to sit through yet another interminable middle school band concert in a freezing gymnasium when you’re ravenously hungry after a long day at work?

Whatever could sideswipe you, get explicit about it.

Force Field Analysis

Make a diagram like this one, and give each stress a customized arrow on the ‘restraining forces’ side. A huge stress gets a huge arrow, a tiny irritant gets a mini arrow.

Then brainstorm your internal & external resources. Everything you can think of that will give you strength to maintain your paleo orthodoxy:

  • Spending time with people you love;
  • Being alone;
  • Going for walks;
  • Having paleo food ready in the fridge or freezer;
  • Having jerky or nuts on your person at all times;
  • Visit this post by Eileen Laird for more ideas;

Give each of your resources an appropriately sized arrow on the ‘driving forces’ side of your diagram.

Think of all the ways that you can reduce or redirect the restraining arrows. You don’t need to eradicate them, just diminish their power or point them somewhere else. Then generate a list of strategies to bolster your driving forces.

Now you have a plan for tackling the holidays.

If your goal is paleo orthodoxy. If it isn’t: do what you want to do.

Just choose, rather than being swept up in a constellation of traditions that you will come to regret.

The Christmas feast is a tradition that heralds from a time when feasts were rare celebrations surrounding by periods of nutritional uncertainty. Christmas didn’t begin as soon as the last of the Hallowe’en candy was consumed and last until New Years day.

Another way to observe paleo orthodoxy is to have your Christmas feast. One day. Enjoy it fully. Then return to paleo purity.