Putting the X in X-mas

X as in the unknown element.

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

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

If Christmas is your sacred or beloved holiday, this post may not be for you.

It is for the disenchanted.

X as in I-will-not-partake-of-that

While you’re renovating your life with this paleo thing, why not renovate your relationship to Christmas, too?


Here’s a seasonal hymn:

The time of year when the alcoholics congregate to inflict their dysfunctions on the succeeding generations;

And financial stress wrecks its meticulous havoc, up to and including when the credit card bills roll in January;

And the womenfolk get ground into a powder trying to feed, placate, ameliorate and gift everybody;



Giving up Christmas isn’t for wimps…

When I say ‘I gave up Christmas’ I usually get one of 3 responses:

  1. Confusion, as if I’ve said I’ve decided not to have a face anymore;
  2. Hostility, kind of a how-dare-you-not-suffer-along-with-the-rest-of-us vibe; or
  3. Jealousy, one woman told me wistfully You are so lucky!;

You could be as lucky.

The first time I tried to give up Christmas I made it all the way to December 23rd before I caved. I suddenly really got what it would mean to have nothing to offer on Christmas day, not even a well-formulated explanation for my giftlessness.

So I grabbed my toddler and we headed to Walmart. This was especially bad because it was that toddler’s 2nd birthday. Which she spent with her short-tempered mother in Walmart buying purposeless crap.

As an aside, we ended up in an epic line-up for the Walmart bathroom that day. My toddler had this cute overgeneralization back then, in which she called everything covered by underpants ‘bum’. I hadn’t yet got around to correcting her, and even in the moment I thought it totally served me right when we finally wedged ourselves into a stall and she said, in her biggest toddler voice: Mum! Why is your bum so hairy?


I kept at it, and six years ago I succeeded.

I no longer observe Christmas in any way.

I have absolutely not one speck of regret.

Since giving up Christmas, I’ve continued to think critically about what is important to me. I’ve tried to be intentional about what I include in my life.

Which in time led me to give up grains & legumes and launch this crazy paleo experiment.

But maybe you love Christmas. Or you are still weaning yourself off the good cheer. Putting the X in X-mas can also be about maintaining your Paleo Orthodoxy over the holiday season.

Stay tuned for that in part 2, tomorrow.

It’s a Poem: Paleo Takes Time

Two of my kids had the remarkable luck to get Larry as a teacher.

Sometimes Larry would take his class outside 5 times in a day.

Whenever it snowed, the class spent the entire day sledding. No parent volunteers or carpools or rigmarole, just Larry & the kids in the snow.

Larry always welcomed the most boisterous & oppositional children into his classroom (I had one of those…) and the weird thing was you couldn’t even tell they were boisterous & oppositional a few months later.

He would call kids at home on their birthday. Six years after they’d left his class. Not all kids, just the ones who needed it (I had one of those, too).

My kids told me that he sometimes raised his voice, but what I observed was Larry standing at the front of the class after recess, quietly reading aloud. From full-fledged post-recess pandemonium, the kids just got quieter, and drew closer, and settled in. All by themselves.

I always attended Larry’s class meetings.

At the first meeting he told us that he had 4 grown children, and that his partner had homeschooled them all. Which told me everything I needed to know about his educational philosophy.

At another meeting, Larry told us he was going to write us a poem. He wrote 3 letters: ‘TTT’ on the blackboard.

The poem was: Things Take Time.

Then he told us about students he’d had. Students who would have been described as boisterous & oppositional who, years later, found their passion and did amazing things.

Healing Takes Time

It took 5 months for me to lose 75lbs, but that was only the beginning.

After 6 months my depression lifted.

After 17 months I suddenly realized that every one of my health problems had disappeared (and had been gone for quite some time).

My healing process is ongoing and is occurring at increasingly refined levels.

If you are dealing with complex health issues, paleo might help. It might give you energy, resolve some issues, and give you strength to manage your condition better.

My husband has an autoimmune condition called psoriatic arthritis. We did a 30-day autoimmune protocol last July and at the end of it he was really disappointed that he wasn’t feeling better. He wasn’t cured. But that was only our first 30.  We’re doing another one starting December 21.


When embarking on the paleo experiment, it might be helpful to keep Larry’s poem in mind. If your health problems are particularly boisterous and oppositional, they might take time.

If we had all grown up in a world organized by Larry, I think we’d have less healing to do.

But that kind of change will take time, too.

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?


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.

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:


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.

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.