You’re paleo. Hooray! We’re like-minded people, you and I. But not everyone thinks the way we do. No doubt you’ve been subject to a host of frustrating questions and reactions when your non-paleo friends and acquaintances find out how you eat. I’ve been there. I’ve definitely been there.
So, in a half-lighthearted, half-ranty way, I decided to compile the 6 most frustrating reactions when people find out I’m paleo.
It’s worth noting, I guess, that I never introduce myself to someone as “Hi, I’m Chelsea and I eat paleo.” Usually, people find out down the road when we go out to eat or when the subject of food naturally comes up in conversation. You see, I’m not a big fan of labels. Most of these responses are due to misconceptions that people have attached to a label. Obviously not everyone reacts this way, but these have happened often enough that I’ve gotten frustrated. And I don’t even talk to that many people.
1. “You seriously don’t eat bread? I couldn’t live like that. Too restrictive.”
Thanks for implying that my lifestyle is restrictive and thus must suck serious balls. Let me refer to to my Instagram account, where I like to show off my food just to counteract your misconception. I eat meals like steak and veggies, salmon and asparagus, all-from-scratch tacos, short ribs, waffles…you know, the kinds of meals people pay more money than they’re worth for at restaurants. Except I eat it at home, every single day. Sure, I have to get a little creative with ingredients sometimes, but what other people consider “fancy” meals are my norm. So, please…just because my meals don’t include a bread roll doesn’t make them less awesome or more restrictive. (Seriously, I could make a goddamn paleo bread roll if I wanted to.)
2. “Please explain to me in intricate scientific detail why gluten/grains/dairy/soy/preservatives aren’t healthy.”
I realize that this could honestly be an inquisitive question. But more often than not, people ask me this to try and “trip me up” and show that I changed my way of eating just to jump on the diet fad bandwagon, so depending on your tone, that’s what I’m going to assume you’re doing. Well, guess what? I don’t know all the science. I don’t claim to. I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian. I’ve read multiple books and articles about the paleo movement and the science behind it, but I didn’t memorize them (sorry). What I do claim is that since I started eating this way, I feel a helluva lot better. And when it comes down to it, that’s what I really care about. I haven’t tried to “convert” you or claim I’m a paleo expert, so why do I have to defend how I eat?
3. “I heard that cavemen ate grains. Doesn’t that debunk the entire premise of paleo?”
This question takes many forms, all having to do with the idea that paleo supposedly means I eat exactly how a caveman would. “Oh, are you going to move into a cave and hunt your food?” “Cavemen died a lot earlier than us.”
Well, paleo started out as the Paleolithic Diet…a template based on how our ancestors ate. It’s still based on that. However, it’s morphed since then…although many people still consider it junk, you are able to recreate things like muffins, cakes, and basically anything using paleo ingredients. And it was never “let’s all quit everything modern and start living how cavemen did because we all really miss that anyway”. Paleo (to me) is a move away from unnecessary, overly-processed, chemical-laden junk foods and toward real, nutrient-dense food that helps us function optimally. People assume paleo is a fad diet based on some silly assumptions about cavemen, but to many it is a lifestyle. It’s a template for life. Trying to tell me that paleo is stupid because we aren’t cavemen anymore just tells me that you’re stupid. Case closed.
4. “Oh, I thought you couldn’t eat that.”
Oh, I didn’t know that you’re suddenly part of the paleo police. Yes, I choose to eat a certain way most of the time, but if I make a conscious, adult decision to have a beer because I just like beer, that’s my problem, not yours. Or maybe you’re quick to point out that white potatoes aren’t paleo based on an infograph you saw on Pinterest. As mentioned above, paleo is a template to many, not a diet – we use it to structure our lifestyle, but not necessarily as a rigid “yes” and “no” list. Still, for some reason, even though it’s none of your business, you seem to want to call me out on any “mistakes” I make. (Obviously, it’s not obvious that I’m aware that slice of pizza has gluten. And cheese.) I’ll be sure to return the favor by calling you out whenever you eat something that you don’t normally eat (“PUT DOWN THAT SALAD, STACY!”). Oh, wait. I won’t do that, because that would make me a dick.
5. “Oh, so you’re vegan?”
Just…no. “Vegan” is not synonymous with “paleo”. I’ve heard it one too many times…”This is vegan/vegetarian, so you can eat it, right?” “Oh, you’re paleo? I have a vegan friend!”
For whatever reason, two of the biggest misconceptions of paleo seem to be “vegan = paleo” and “paleo = all meat, all the time”. Wrap your head around that one.
6. “Wow, I didn’t realize you cared so much about your health. That makes me uncomfortable.”
This might take the cake for the most frustrating – and saddening – response to my lifestyle choices. People don’t ever come out and say they’re uncomfortable once they find out I care about my health, but many who otherwise seem to like me shut down and draw away when they find out I’m paleo. Look, I don’t want to live in a world where I can only surround myself with people who feel the exact same way I do about food. There aren’t many of those in Fargo, ND anyway. Fortunately, my closest friends accept me for who I am, even though they eat Taco Bell on the regular.
A lot of people seem to think that because I’m “healthy”, they can’t possibly be friends with me without having to constantly listen to me talk about food and health. I’m not a paleo evangelist who’s going to point out what I believe to be unhealthy habits you have. I’m not going to try and “convert” you by buying you It Starts With Food or demanding my friends join me for a Whole30. Heck, if I invite someone over for dinner, I don’t even inform them that what they’re eating is paleo (unless prompted)…they can just enjoy the exquisitely-grilled steak, veggies and fruit without even noticing there’s a lack of bread. I know that there are people out there that will make remarks about your food choices or draw attention to their special diet (I’ve known a vegetarian who went on a loud spiel about the lack of vegetarian options at a steakhouse…this wasn’t the first of her woe-is-me-I’m-a-vegetarian rants, either), but please don’t assume I’m like that. I may not agree with all your choices, but I certainly won’t berate you for them. I’m not trying to be a poster child for health just to make you look bad.
Writing this, I realized that many of the reactions that frustrate me are due to people getting up-in-arms and defensive about they way they eat because they casually find out how I eat. That’s weird. I’m a normal person. I just happen to eat differently than you. Please don’t judge me or make assumptions just because I say I’m paleo!
Those of you who are paleo out there: anything I missed?