Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 2)


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:


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?


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.

Follow petra8paleo Paleo for humans in a decaying civilization; Paleo for people who hate to cook! on facebook.

Skinny Privilege

Skinny privilege is a thing.

Skinny people are treated differently than fat people.

Most of us don’t know that because we get used to how we’re treated. Most people don’t go from a size XXL to a size S (or vice versa) in 5 months. I did. And one thing I was completely unprepared for is that I would be treated so differently.

If you’ve always been skinny, you may not realize you’ve been accruing the benefits of skinny privilege all your life. In fact, if you’ve never been skinny, you probably know more about skinny privilege than skinny people do. But it turns out I was clueless.

Here’s 5 ways I have experienced skinny-privilege since being paleo:

  1. When I was fat, I was invisible. I could be walking through a crowd and no one would notice I was there. I wasn’t so fat that I stood out. I was just regular fat. Invisible. Now that I’m skinny, people see me.  As an introvert I have found this to be disconcerting.
  2. When I was fat, I was deemed a capable matron. If I was carrying 15 bags of groceries, I would never hear an offer of help or a ‘may I hold the door’. When I was skinny, suddenly I was a helpless damsel. If I was carrying one (1!) cup of coffee and my purse, some magnanimous fellow would rush to open the door for me, and wonder if I needed any help getting to my car. Bizarre. At first it made me mad. I actually wanted to flip the first couple of guys the finger, just for all the times I actually could have used some gallantry, but I just smiled a little sarcastically instead.
  3. When I’m exercising, as skinny person, I don’t have to work as hard and I look better doing it. You know that fat chick dying at the back of the yoga class? That was me. Now I’m that 40-something yogini in short shorts up front. And I know from experience that fat-me was working ten times as hard as I do now, without doing any of the asanas very aesthetically. When I was fat and jogging I would be preoccupied with weird things, like maybe people could hear my breathing. And then I’d be trying not to breathe so loud, which is actually really counterproductive when you’re jogging. Now when I’m running I just meditate and breathe deeply and love how it feels.
  4. As a skinny person, I get the benefit of the doubt. Nobody will look derisively at my grocery cart, no matter what kind of crap I have in there. If I pay for my food with $20 in change, the cashier assumes my life is just so glamorous that I simply don’t have time to spend all those pesky dimes. I actually don’t know if that’s what the cashier is thinking, but the truth is I now get great customer service all time, even when what I’m doing is annoying.
  5. As a skinny person, my clothes are almost free. All those smalls and mediums in the thrift shops and at clothing swaps were the story of my life when I was an XXL. As was the futility of achieving panache, or even funkiness, at the plus-size stores. I used to look longingly at the little clothes in boutiques, but now that they fit me I (mostly) ignore them and hit the thrift shops instead. Turns out all those surplus smalls and mediums are still the story of my life, and my closet is abundant.

In my mind, privilege=responsibility.

If I get something handed to me (a privilege) then I’m responsible for doing something great with it. Even if I worked hard for it, the benefits I receive are still a privilege because they aren’t available to everybody. I don’t yet know what I’m going to do with all the privilege I’ve been reaping since I went paleo, but I do know that the overarching characteristic of this privilege is ease.

My life is just way easier now. Not harder or more complicated because I can no longer shove frozen pizza into the oven, but easeful, despite the commitment that paleo requires. And that ease has freed up a bunch of energy for other things.

For example I woke up at 4 this morning. Full of zip & vinegar. I’ve already cleaned my house & written this blog post and it’s not yet 6.


So one thing I am doing with my privilege is writing this blog, not for the promotion of skinniness, because I am very aware that our current partiality for skinniness is an unstable social construct, but because maybe something I write will help someone else to find ease, too.

Health 9; Problems 0;

Health issues that have resolved since being paleo: 9
Health issues that remain: 0

I know some people are dealing with much more serious health stuff, but I felt like my body was disintegrating. And I was only 41. How was I going to make it to 50?

My 9 pre-paleo health issues:

  1. Chronic neck pain that no amount of chiro, massage or acupuncture could assuage;
  2. Carpal tunnel that required a wrist brace with steel supports so I could sleep;
  3. Plantar fasciitis that necessitated orthotic arch supports for my shoes, making it difficult to walk any distances. I even had to stop wearing flip flops, which was actually (I know this sounds overwrought) heart-breaking;
  4. Obesity;
  5. Depression;
  6. Anxiety. And it’s good buddy Ativan;
  7. Periods so heavy we could have made a slasher movie;
  8. One wiry black hair that grew out my chin. I joked that it was my beard (but only to Matthew, because I was actually quite self-conscious about it);
  9. Insomnia. I took increasingly large doses of ‘sleep vitamins’ every night for years;

Wow. Writing that list I’ve just been struck by how much less work my daily life is now that I’m no longer managing a dilapidated body. And how much money I’m not spending on supplements, drugs and therapies. And people critique paleo for being time consuming and expensive!

Actually, being unhealthy is time-consuming and expensive.

My health changes didn’t happen immediately, but they’re old news now and I’m not yet 43, so in retrospect it was pretty rapid.

After a while I realized that I’d been peering at my chin for weeks, tweezers in hand, ready to pluck my lone black chin hair, but it just wasn’t growing back.

Over time I noticed my neck, wrist and foot pain was gone. So I got rid of my wrist brace and orthotic shoe inserts. I wore flip flops all summer this year and I’m still wearing them (sometimes) in November, here on Vancouver Island. I’m euphoric about that.

Some issues healed gradually and others transformed overnight. After 7 months of paleo life I was at work one morning when I noticed an odd feeling. And it wasn’t the familiar pre-paleo mid-morning feeling: I need coffee and a muffin stat! so I don’t perish right here on my keyboard. It was an absence of fuzziness or a lack of greyness, sort of like I’d misplaced an itchy sweater I had become accustomed to wearing. It was an unsettling sensation until I realized that what I was experiencing was well-being. For the first time since I was ten (31 long years) I didn’t feel depressed.

That’s when I understood that pre-paleo my depression had become so much a part of me that it didn’t even register unless it got severe enough that I had to hide in my bed. If I could force myself out of bed and keeping rolling the gigantic boulder that was my life uphill, no matter how slowly or ineffectively, then my awareness of my depression faded. That was my normal. Over the next few weeks I rummaged around in the cupboards of my psyche looking for my misplaced depression but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I think it’s just gone.

And I haven’t taken anything to help me sleep since July.

And my Ativan has fallen into disuse at the back of my underwear drawer.

But it does take time. 30 days isn’t enough. The more complex and severe your health problems, the more time they might take to heal or abate.

I’m not suggesting paleo is a cure-all. Many of my health issues resolved because I lost weight. But I lost that weight, and have maintained my new weight, by being paleo. It’s a stormy Saturday morning in November and I’m about to go out for a 10k run in the rain and there is nothing I would rather do. That’s an indicator of wellness I just never experienced before.

So I’m feeling pretty fantastic. Better all the time, actually. 17 months into this paleo experiment I’m feeling finer than I ever have before.


A paleo week


Here’s my real-life paleo week in summary, from Thanksgiving Monday until Sunday evening.

Caveat: A week in my life pre-paleo was nothing like this.

Paleo week kilometers: 63. That breaks down to:

  • 11.5km walking;
  • 8.5km mushroom foraging; &
  • 43km trail running, which coincidentally is about the length of a marathon…  and that is amusing because marathoners usually finish in under 5 hours and I rocked one in just 7 days!;

I log my physical activities on, but had to guess for the mushroom hunting expedition as we were off-trail most of the time.

Though a week in my pre-paleo life wasn’t anything like this with regard to activity and food, some things remain the same. I still have a career, I’m still married to the sexiest man on the planet, and I still have a couple of fascinating, miscreant teenagers. But eighteen months ago, my weekly km log was more in the 0.00 range and I didn’t own a pair of running shoes. I went to yoga because it was the form exercise I hated the least, but the time I spent dreading yoga compared to the time I spent in class ran about 12:1.

Here’s my paleo week foodstuffs:

  Breakfast I rarely plan a lunch-type meal. Sometimes I want one and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I eat leftovers or veg or nuts or salad. Sometimes I eat nothing. Supper
Monday Coho salmon, yam oven fries, avocado Turkey, roast parsnips & onions, green salad, blackberries & coconut cream
Tuesday Scrambled eggs, kabocha squash, avocado Turkey soup with leeks, cauli-rice pilaf
Wednesday Bacon, yam oven fries, cooked kale Leftover turkey soup with leeks, chanterelles with garlic
Thursday Ham, spaghetti squash with paleo pad thai sauce & cashews Steak, tabbouleh salad (made with leftover cauli-rice pilaf)
Friday Chanterelle & kale omelettes, yam & carrot oven fries ‘Zucchini yacht’ stuffed with ground bison, green salad
Saturday Ahi tuna steaks, sautéed apples with walnuts & bacon Beef & mushroom slow cooker stew, sliced cucumber & green olives
Sunday Coconut pancakes with blackberries & maple syrup Fry-up of ground chicken, savoy cabbage & chard

Food notes:

  • I stowed turkey soup, chanterelles in turkey stock, and beef stew in the freezer for a rainy day.
  • I put my higher carb foods into breakfast this week as I was running most mornings before I ate.
  • Yams were 45 cents a pound for thanksgiving and they looked dandy! Even though I normally lurk the organic section in the supermarket, when conventional yams are looking that pretty & are that cheap… we eat yam-fries!
  • In some ways this is a typical week but in other ways it’s just a randomized snapshot. For example, last week I ate a lot of sauerkraut at breakfast, but this week not once.