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Exploring a New You in the New Year

2 Jan

newyearsI have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. On the one hand, I am obviously all about challenge and change and the practice of self-improvement. On the other hand, I feel like a lot of the way we treat New Year’s resolutions in our culture sets us up to fail. Once the ball drops, we are suddenly “resolved” to do or be something completely different. I will go to the gym everyday, I will lose X amount of weight, I will quit smoking, I will be a nicer person to strangers. Human willpower is a very strong force, but it does have its limits (and also needs to be recharged periodically), so sooner or later we will slip up in our resolutions to ourselves. As I have discussed before, much of our culture doesn’t encourage us to practice self-forgiveness. When we make mistakes we often view them as major failures and an indication that the quest is doomed to failure anyway, so we give it up.

I much prefer the idea of New Year’s paths. Things that are not as much goals but a new area to explore and learn in. Rather than a resolution saying, “I will go to the gym X number of times per week,” a path might be, “I will work on incorporating gym time into my routine, maybe try out a couple classes, see what motivates me, etc.” Now, I’m not saying that structure is necessarily bad–sometimes it is very necessary to advance within a discipline–but when you’re just starting out in something new, it can sometimes be overwhelming and hard to integrate hard-limit structure into our lives organically.

Another way to look at it is like this: we learn best through play, so shouldn’t it be better to approach new areas of learning with a playful, flexible mentality, rather than a rigid one?

I have a personal story that I think illustrates this well. Continue reading

Entertaining: The Gateway Drug

11 Nov

game_dinner_iconAs I’ve mentioned before, one of the best excuses I have for trying out new paleo recipes is the dinner I serve for my weekly RPG game-group. Not everyone in the group is paleo, but no one complains when I hand them plates loaded with beef stew, chili, bacon-wrapped chicken, or other hearty fare. Currently there are five of us in the group, so I also appreciate the opportunity to practice making larger meals, in preparation for the day when I might someday have a full-on family like a real adult.

But in the last month and a half, I have encountered a slippery slope. See, I am a natural born hostess. When I throw a party, I am constantly running around making sure everyone has drinks and everything they need to have a good time. Hell, when I go to other people’s parties, the first thing I usually do after walking in the door is head straight to the kitchen to see if they need any help. What I’ve realized recently, though, is that these habits are actually just the shadowy tendrils of a deeper desire that is hidden in my heart.

A dark beast that is now finding itself unleashed.

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The Accidental Caveman

14 Oct

Kara and Jim are good friends of mine whom I’ve mentioned here before. I convinced Jim to try going paleo around June of this year after I loaned him Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat (basically a toned-down and more-accessible version of his now-classic Good Calories Bad Calories). As of this writing he has lost 20 pounds and pretty much cured the frequent headaches he apparently has had since childhood. He and I now spend a lot of time exchanging recipes for offal meats and going on outdoor play adventures.

Kara (his wife), however, has not gone explicitly paleo. Despite this, she too has had some significant successes and improvements. I think her story is even more interesting and has a lot to teach those of us who are already neck-deep in paleo rhetoric. With her permission, I am sharing it with you here.

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Paleolithic Park

6 Sep

me_tree_iconAs I’ve mentioned before, my new-paleo-convert friend Jim has whole-heartedly accepted the dietary wisdom I’ve shared with him and adjusted his habits accordingly. As of this writing, he has lost about 20 pounds over two months. Unfortunately, schedules and budget restrictions have limited his explorations into paleo-style exercising.  I’ve encouraged him to try to incorporate some simple body-weight exercises into his routine, but he has found doing such things around his apartment uninspiring. Thus, recently we decided to enjoy our brief San Franciscan summer by getting outside for some real paleo exercising.

Getting outside to move slowly, dash around, and play is more than just a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon. As Mark Sisson points out:

” ‘Try working out outdoors’ or ‘Go on a hike’ is not just tentatively recommended advice to be discarded or glossed over. Long walks don’t belong in the miscellaneous category, and playing is as important as lifting heavy things. All this stuff – the play, being outdoors, the frequent bouts of moving slowly – is crucial…Outdoor workouts [result] in greater revitalization, increased energy, and more positive engagement, along with less depression, anger, confusion, and tension.”

Living in the middle of San Francisco, it can be a little hard for us to get to the “real” great outdoors. Luckily, we are blessed to have a little slice of the great outdoors right in the middle of our own city, Golden Gate Park. But even a more “civilized” park can offer great opportunities for outdoor exercise and play. I share our adventures here today in the hopes that other people might be similarly inspired to find unconventional playgrounds in their own communities. Continue reading

Tantalus at Dawn

26 Aug

berries2This weekend I went camping for the second time this summer. Unlike my previous trip—which involved a full prep-week making jerky and pemmican and planning paleo meals with the least amount of perishability—this trip simply involved throwing a bunch of crap in the car, driving an hour and a half up to the Sacramento River delta, and plopping down on a picnic table with some board games and boxed wine (protip: not paleo).

Our trip did take an unexpected paleo turn when we discovered that the campground was surrounded by wild blackberry bushes. Not surprisingly, most of these bushes were already picked clean, but a bit of intrepid scrambling along the breakwater lead us to a stand that seemed to be untouched by human hands. There were so many berries that we visited it twice, once each morning, and came away with a big haul both times.

With so much to gather, I had ample time to ruminate on the nature of foraging, a topic often overshadowed in paleo conversations by the much sexier themes of hunting and heavy work. One might even say that it’s the Rodney Dangerfield of the paleo-sphere. But my adventures this weekend definitely proved that it deserves a lot more respect. Continue reading

But What If I Want A Light Snack?

22 Aug

Some good friends of mine are recent converts to paleo, and it’s been adorable watching them make all the first steps and growing pains that we all go through when we start this new path in life. The joy at realizing that bacon is now a health food, the frustration at the “wealth” of foods in the grocery store that are no longer edible, the dawning realization that they need to just stick to the edges of the grocery store, and so on.

The male of the couple, Jim, has gotten especially passionate about nutrient-dense food and hasn’t let his minimal cooking experience hold him back from trying liver recipes (something that I am still working up to). We had an amusing conversation about it the other day:

Jim: This…. http://www.food.com/recipe/mirjs-heart-attack-on-a-plate-chopped-chicken-liver-22420 … is what’s for dinner, bitches.
Jim: This is like, delicious meat paste
Jim: I like how she claims it’s “definitely not healthy”…
Jim: I’m like sheeeeeiiiiiit, bitch, please.
Jim: This is the healthiest thing you’ve eaten in the last month.

I think their conversion has been easy because they were already aware of the importance of “real” food over processed foods. Jim’s wife, Kara, commented that she lost almost 15 pounds after they moved to California last fall, which was way before they went paleo. She chalks it up to eating more fresh food with quality ingredients, which apparently had been lacking in their diet when they were back in the Midwest.

Anyway, Kara just sent me this awesome graphic that she found buried on her G+ feed (yes people use it) from over a year ago, when she first started thinking about the quality of foods. She unfortunately doesn’t remember the source she got it from, but it’s still great for a laugh anyway.

Edit: The most-likely original source has been tracked down. Thanks, wilburfan!

We Can Register It For You Wholesale

16 Aug

Back in May, I posted an entry on the tumblr feed about signing up for the National Weight Control Registry. I had heard about this research program right after I started paleo, but since they only want people to register after they have lost 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year. At the time, I had already lost almost 20 pounds in a handful of months so I had no doubt that I would eventually qualify, but in the name of Good Science I decided to wait for the criteria to be met before I registered.

I was only reminded of the program again a few months ago after attending a talk by Dr. Robert Lustig’s at the San Francisco Public Library (the video of which will be posted online eventually. I’m keeping my eye out for it!). At this point, it has been over two years and I am down over 40 pounds, so I figured it was finally time.

Continue reading