30 Days of Thinking

I’ve said before that I love 30-day challenges. If you haven’t read this post, you Totes McGotes should read it. It’s one of my finest and most succinct.

Absent a thoughtful approach to my relationship with food, I’m just dieting. I’m doing the Atkins Diet again. Or Weight Watchers. Or the South Beach Diet. Or the Zone Diet. Or…The Paleo Diet. I’m running my food life by somebody else’s rules, and if I’m not careful, it leads to…gasp…Food Neuroses. Obsessions with points, blocks, carbs, or being “on” or “off” the wagon. (Whose wagon? How did I get on this wagon?)

Some people do extremely well counting calories, points, or blocks. For others, this approach will make them cray-zay. Some thrive eating unlimited amounts of meat sans carb, while a portion-controller would rather drop a dumbbell on his toe while wearing Vibrams. Some folks just want to be told what’s “ok” and what’s not. I would argue, however, that these approaches are not conducive to developing the life-long capacity to recognize and choose nourishing foods, and they’re especially not conducive to correcting the hormonal and systemic imbalances that are the root of poor health. If they work for you, fine; but make sure you know why you’re buying in – and if you’re truly feeding your potential. I failed every. single. time I tried to follow someone else’s brand – er, plan. (I talk all about it in Crashing: A Retrospective.)

I like the idea of giving myself a little “refresher” on lifelong food values. That’s the opportunity of the 30-day challenge. But it’s got to be done with the goal of becoming comfortable as my own task-master, so when I find myself in a diner off Route BF-Egypt staring down a bottle of Fiery Pete’s Sizzle Sauce after accidentally dropping my celly in a cow patty, I can decide whether it’s “ok” to eat without flipping biz because I can’t find my copy of The Primalo Diet and I can’t call my CaveHusband to look it up on my favorite Paleo blog.

I have come to my own conclusions about a few personal “rules.” But I want to point out that nobody owns the protocol for a 30-day effort. Nobody, that is, except you.

So my challenge to myself over the next 30 days is to shop thoughtfully, prepare gratefully, study faithfully, and re-up my understanding of why the Real Food way of life is right for me. It’s as much about my thought as it is what I eat.

To Wit…


21 Responses to “30 Days of Thinking”

  1. Thank you – I’ve had to drop out of a ‘whole#’ challenge because I AM NOT PERFECT. And I badly want to be – hence: bullimia, anorexia, etc. I’m really struggling right now with being ok with where I’m at, and who I am and how I wife/mother. The feedback on sites such as that are great (truly!) for those who can handle the strive for perfectionism without losing their sanity. For those of us who can’t, it’s simply another obsession and not at all healthy short or long-term. I wish I could be one of Those Other People, but sadly, I’m not.

    Starting my own 30-day right now. To be mindful and to show myself love (but no food rewards!) every day. love your site!!

    • You just articulated exactly what I wanted to say, Tracy! The 30-day mentality can be toxic if you’re not mindful of your thoughts and self-judgment. I have too many friends who have struggled with eating disorders whose neuroses are just re-activated with the stringent approach they take to these challenges. It’s so important to watch the mental aspect carefully! Thank you so much for your comment!

  2. What a great article. 🙂 This is a point of view I have been trying to implement in my own life. I’m a paleo 😛 and each time I try to follow this or that “dogma” without taking into consideration what works for me, I get in trouble.

    Thanks for the encouragment.

  3. Great blog. Really, that’s all I’ve got.

  4. In a previous life, I was a ballet dancer. Then I was a fairly dedicated triathlete. I mention this just because those two sports tend to have a decent amount of, um, “nutritionally focused” individuals.

    When asked about eating habits of a friend in one of those groups, I once found myself saying “Yeah. she has a fairly interesting relationship with food.” What I should have said was “she has an extremely dysfunctional, and slightly batshit crazy, relationship with food”

    I’ve been there. It’s so exhausting.

    The fun part about life recently is that I eat like a king. Every meal I feel is almost DECADENT. Eating real food is so satisfying, satisfying in a way I hadn’t used to let myself think was Ok.

    • Pathetic admission: I tried for years to HAVE an eating disorder. I actively wanted to be able to sustain those behaviors but could never do it, and then I’d not only beat myself up for not being a “skinny girl,” but for not being able to fixate long enough on one goal to sustain disordered eating. How sad is that? I just wanted to be thin – “stick skinny” I used to say. I joke about it, but I truly did have a very negative view of myself and a very fearful/obsessive relationship with food. I believe this mindset led to plenty of negative influences and decisions, because it put gaping holes in my self-worth.

      I love what you say about eating like a king. And the funny thing is, the idea of lifting heavy weights and eating plenty of fat used to put me in freak out mode. I KNEW I was going to get all “bulky” and “testosterone-y” and, of course, FAT. But none of those things happened. I became more fit, less fixated, and much more balanced.

  5. Great post! I’m a paleo n00b with a complicated dieting history and am trying to fix my relationship with food, rather than concentrate on how I look or how thin I can be. This week I am making time every day to do yoga and my mantra is “no hating, just loving”. I will think of your challenge while I’m shopping and cooking, too. Thanks for this.

  6. Love this…love, love, love this…

    Thank you for articulating what I feel so well.


    Formerly Worried About “Right” and “Wrong”,( now I just ask myself if this is “food” or “food-like”)

  7. Love this. I very much struggle with on and off “the wagon.” I want to allow myself to just eat and have a natural normal relationship with food which is why I don’t berate myself for having an “off plan meal” which is a great improvement for me — but the actual act of creating that duality with the food you eat is just enough of that inherent judgment that I’m trying to avoid. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. Man, this post sure hits home for me!!! Excellent reminder to stop judging myself and allowing others judgments to derail what I feel is the best way of living for me and for my family.

    Thanks so much!!

  9. Great post! Very true for me, as well.

  10. I’m on a similar path this month myself. You can read about it here http://jenduncan.typepad.com/whats_new/2011/03/march-15.html
    (you asked me last month to let you know when I do my ‘big reveal’. This is a midway check in)

  11. Last night I nearly freaked out when my friends wanted to go out for dinner because I had a preplanned dinner to stick with my new diet. But I went and found only a couple things on the menu I could eat. But when it came I ate only the side salad with no dressing and didn’t eat the bun on the burger. And then I laughed at myself for freaking out. I didn’t even want that stupid bun or all the fries on the table on everyone one elses plate. I ate my food and smiled. Because of that little test, I feel like I can go on to make the right choices this week. 🙂
    Thank you for your blog. I love that you said, no judgment, no finger wagging, no neuroses. 🙂

    • I’ve SO been there, Sara! I know that exact feeling – like it’s this HUGE deal that you’re going to deviate from “Plan.” But really, no big deal! Thanks for reminding me I’m not the only one who experiences this 🙂

  12. I’m pretty new to your site and to Crossfit and Paleo. I was wondering if you could direct me to an entry to getting thin. I’m overweight. And the one thing I haven’t seen is calorie counting on Paleo. I know I’m eating better, cleaner and healthier foods. But should I be counting calories too? I’m giving myself 2 months (only because I need a goal time not because I think I’ll quit it then) to see results with all these changes. I don’t know what my rules should be for my 2 months. And my biggest fear is felling the self imposed judgment when 60 days is up and I’m still fat. (there goes my neuroses again).

    • Hi Sara! I can see there’s a bit of a struggle between 2 modes of thinking here, and I can totally relate. Your instinct for patience, an extended effort (2 months sounds great) and trying to step away from self-judgment is 100% CORRECT. Keep combatting those neuroses. One phrase I use sometimes when I feel a little neurotic or unstable is “be loving.” Just reminding myself to be loving – whether that’s expressed for someone else’s benefit or my own – can be pretty powerful. Just love yourself, and love yourself constructively. Which is exactly what you’re doing!

      The diet mentality in this country is nuts. See my post Crashing: A Retrospective. http://cavegirleats.com/2010/06/10/crashing-a-retrospective/

      Faltering, failing, regression and the like don’t HAVE to be bad things. They will happen – they happened to me. They still do! But the most helpful thing you can do is refuse to judge yourself for those moments, because that’s part & parcel to a “wagon” mentality, and I think that’s toxic. Here’s a post I did on that for Steve’s Original: http://www.stevesoriginal.com/blog/wheres_my_wagon/

      Make positive self-nourishment the undercurrent of your life, and try to make good choices whenever possible. If you’re going crazy for a donut, remove the stigma from that donut by realizing that you can have one if you want. Have 10. Have a whole truck of Krispy Kreme if you want. Often that “reverse psychology” takes away the drive to do something “bad” or “not allowed.” It’s just food, and you’re the boss of it.

      You don’t HAVE to get everything right immediately. Just focus on getting to know your body, trusting your innate intelligence, and nourishing yourself with both good food and good information. Don’t calorie count. Don’t weigh yourself. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly judgmental, I allow myself ONLY to look at my face in the mirror. No prolonged, judgmental gazing into the mirror at all the things that are “wrong.” Just a cursory check to be sure all the appropriate clothing is fastened and I’m out the door. The commitment to combat any judgmental behavior is what will really make the difference, long-term. Also, the traditional diet mentality makes us feel like multiple pounds of weight loss per week is normal or desirable. The normal way to shed (and you WILL, I promise, if you put the principles of eating real, nourishing foods into practice 90% of the time, over time) is to feed yourself right, get outside a bit, maybe add some strength training if you’re ready for it, and love the crap out of yourself. Check out http://www.LifeAsAPlate.com. AndreAnna has an awesome story http://www.lifeasaplate.com/about/

      You can email me if you want to talk more specifics! Feel free. CaveGirlEats@gmail.com.



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