Monday, 16 April 2012

Dear Matt, an Open Letter...

Matt, why are people so mean?

Where is this hate coming from?

I was reading your blog over at The Paleo Parents, and you have written a very heartfelt letter about the hate mail you receive, about hurtful comments aimed at Stacy's weight and how she could possibly be the face of the paleo movement at her size and in her poor state of health?  Your blog almost made me cry.  I wanted to hug you both.

Now, I LOVE the Paleo Parents.

Matt, I love how heartfelt your words are, I love how articulate you are in choosing those words. I love that Stacy and you are both so human, that you are honest, that you are trying, and occasionally, that you stumble because it reminds me that we are all human and we are just trying to do our best.

I LOVE that the Paleo Parents bake paleo "treats" for their kids even if the sweet content is high, because kids love sweet and if anyone tried to tell me their kids didn't love all things sweet, I'd call them a liar. It is TRUTH. We live in a messed up food universe these days, and it is impossible to be the "weird" parents who don't let their kids have any treats at all. We are competing against this kind of messed-up food image every single day, and we have to bake neolithic immitations for the kids, or risk having them rebel and eat the real deal and suffer the consequences. So I for one devour every single blog the Paleo Parents write. I love that they tell the truth. I love that they aren't perfect "poster" images of this diet because I am not perfect, either, and deep down, until all this talk started after PaleoFX, I was wondering where I screwed up because I have not lost weight, I do not have a perfect body, and my health, while it has improved immensely, is not textbook perfect. 

It’s a herculean feat to keep kids on this path.  People should applaud anyone who tries.  The Paleo Parents sure are trying with their little ones.  And they are honest about the trials of that, too.  You try telling a 6-year-old he can’t have cake at his friends’ party!  (And for that matter, try telling my teen why she shouldn’t have cake, either).  It isn't honest to say there is not one grain or sweet or flake of oats in your house without also mentioning how it got to be that way, and how much work it is keeping it that way. It isn't honest to only talk about how much weight has been lost, without also mentioning the plateaus and weight gains and Easter dinners where we fall off our high horses and eat crap.   My teens are not paleo.  Some of them flirt with it, but none of them have jumped in with both feet. 

Matt, can you tell me why we are all being so mean to each other? Does anyone know?  Are there rogue vegans out there, posing as paleo advocates, just looking for the chinks in our armour? What is it that draws such vitriole? Is it because the very sciency nature of this lifestyle attracts type-A persons? I know one of those. Everytime she slips up she calls herself a faileo. Every time she calls herself a faileo she recedes into her kitchen for a while, eating her whole grains in privacy as if she should be ashamed of herself.  No one is criticizing her.  No one should.  She criticises herself plenty and she’s harder on herself than anyone else ever would be.  She is hyper-critical—of herself, and of everyone around her.  She means well when she corrects me for not buying organic, for not buying grass-fed beef, and the criticism doesn’t hurt--much.  I’m not looking for elitism.   I’m pretty laid-back about how I choose to interpret paleo and my primal lifestyle.  I do what works for me and what I can afford to do.  What I’m saying is that this type of food-control-nutritionism does attract a certain type of person.  Those dang type-A’s.  (BTW, I am a type-A) 

You know, today I was eating my lunch in the lunchroom at work.  My co-worker ran out of bread so she just brought lunch meat to eat on its own.  I made a joke likening her meal to the paleo diet and the discussion turned to food since another co-worker had never heard of paleo.  So my breadless co-worker gave him the Coles Notes version, and she did a pretty justifiable job of it without making me seem crazy.  He listened, nodded, and stated that he tried to “avoid crap ingredients” in his own food--suggesting he ate a relatively clean diet and that was what HE believed to be healthy.  He was pretty content with that.  He’s pretty thin and young.  We nodded to each other, understanding our differences were ok.  Now, that first co-worker, she’s been thin all of her life.  She eats more prepared food and junk food than anyone else that I eat my lunch with.  But she’s still thin, and content with herself and her diet, too.  The final co-worker sitting at the lunch table is an Indian woman.  Most Indians I’ve known eat a mostly-vegetarian diet, high in legumes and starches, and hers is no different.  She works a physical job all day long, then goes home to cook everything from scratch for her family, often only getting 5 hours of sleep because she has so much work to do for everyone around her.  Maybe she’s not so thin, but she’s strong, and she’s content.  So we all believe in eating differently, but no one is attempting to criticize or convert anyone else.  In fact, we have some pretty interesting round-table discussions on food and nutrition.   

I haven’t encountered the paleo haters yet.  Maybe I will one day.  I love my paleo community and all of the people who have “liked” my FB page, who read some of my posts.  And I love to read other paleo/primal posts.  I like to hear people struggle, not so I can jump up and down and yell failure.  I like to hear that they struggle just like me.  All of my favorite paleo advocates and bloggers are the truthful ones.  The unrepentant, the struggling, the unconventional.   Perfect is boring.  Let’s hear a dose of human reality. 

Matt, I wish I could hug you both.  Your recipes pull my non-paleo teens over to the dark side, at least for a little while.  Your wedding story was beautiful.  Your honesty rings true in everything you write, and your voice speaks louder than many in this community.  Instead of calling anyone fat, or ugly, or a failure, lets all cheer Stacy on for what she HAS done, what she’s TRYING to do, and what she WILL do.  Because that woman is a firecracker.  She WILL do what she sets out to do.  Whatever it is.  Everyone's just gotta give her a bit more time.

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