Thursday, October 13, 2011

There are no picky cavemen.

Last weekend I was watching a great show/documentary called 'I caveman' on the Discovery channel. Two things struck me about that show. The first was "holy sh#t is that Robb Wolf?!!?" (yes, yes it is). The second thing that struck me were the two women who failed to make it through the show were picky eaters. There is an old axiom among outdoors folks: in a survival situation picky eaters die. I was thinking about that, and what a luxury it is to decide to be a vegetarian/vegan/picky eater. Only people with an excess of calories available to them can choose to disregard some of the most calorie and nutrient dense foods available to us (which doesn't make it right or wrong, it's just a privledge).
I was pondering all this while I was feeding the kiddo. He looked right at me, picked up a piece of food, made a 'yuck' face and hucked it across the room. For the rest of the meal he would not eat that type of food. This make me crazy. He knows and I know, that he ate that food yesterday, and tomorrow that food will be fine, but not today. Almost any parent will tell you this behavior causes an unreasonable emotional reaction even in the most controlled of parents (I have seen it, it's not just me). I always wondered why. Then it hit me.. could it be because picky eaters starve? Could it be my inner cave-monkey is panicked that by refusing to eat what's available today the offspring (and thus my very reason for existing) is going to starve?
So what does this have to do with fitness? Sabotage.
Every person who has lost fat, and gotten fit has at least one relative (mother, father, spouse) who fretted and sometimes actively sabotaged their efforts. Often the person doesn't really know why they are doing it. It's that damn cave-monkey in our brains. The same one that thinks we need to eat as much salt, fat, and sugar as we can get our (slightly) evolved monkey paws on for the coming winter (that probably isn't). That inner monkey is also screaming; "He/you/their loved one is off its rocker! he's going to starve to death! doesn't he know about WINTER!!!!"
It makes them uneasy, and that uneasiness manifests in all kinds of weird behaviors. This is also why people fret so much over exclusionary diets, often in spite of all manner of good information and data. Every person who has ever been a vegetarian/vegan/done atkins, or gone paleo has heard a relative say "that can't be good for you." When pressed they can't really tell you why not.
I think a lot of closed minded people (myself included) have simply pointed and said "WEAKNESS! Crab-person! you want to drag me back into the bucket!" To an extent that is true for casual acquaintances, but your true friends and loved ones (I would hope) see what you're doing as positive, but worry. They can't shake their evolutionary response. So what do you do? What are the take-aways to all of this?
First, don't "come out" with every change you make in your diet. Some people feel the need to have a big coming out party every time they're trying something new, it's ok to just say "I'm trying this out, I'll probably go back in a few weeks" even if you don't think you ever will.
Second, don't try to reason away their fears. Talk in emotional terms. Appeal to their emotions, talk about how good you do/will feel once you've done whatever. Talk about milestones you've reached already.
Third, don't become a zealot (particularly till you've tested a diet out for a while). Don't offer advice. If someone asks, answer their questions, but remember diet is a very emotional thing. People assume that if you judge their diet inferior, that you judge them similarly.
Finally, don't be so damned pedantic. Unless you're cutting weight for a sport or competition, you can have a (very small) piece of grandma's pie on Thanksgiving, don't make it a weekly thing, but once a month, once every few months is not going to kill you. If you are excluding foods for reasons other than weight loss, you don't have to explain, just say 'no thank you.'


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