Have you ever scratched your head and wondered what it actually means to live a "Paleo Lifestyle"? I know I have.
Chances are you've heard the saying, "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle" from one of your CrossFit friends between sets of power cleans or maybe your significant other said these words as she put another piece of bacon on her breakfast plate.
You may think that all this paleo lifestyle talk is... well... just a bunch of talk. An excuse to eat more bacon, lift heavy things and refuse to use traditional deodorant. I think it goes a bit deeper. I think saying that you live a "Paleo Lifestyle" is quite a bit different than saying you're on a paleo diet.
Saying one of these points more towards a strategy for living while the other suggests a focus on tactics and quick fixes.
The Paleo Lifestyle Strategy vs Paleo Diet Tactics
To say that you live a paleo lifestyle is to accept and share with others a strategy you have for living your life in a certain way. Strategy being the key word. It's good to understand the difference between strategy and tactics especially in the realm of health and fitness.
A strategy is a plan of action that is dedicated to the achievement of a defined goal. A strategy may have many moving parts but all of these parts work together towards achieving a long-term goal.
When I say that I live a paleo lifestyle what I'm really saying is that I've chosen paleo as a strategy to live a healthy, energetic and fit life.
The paleo framework lines up nicely with my personal values. One of my core values in life is to maintain good health. I believe that if you're blessed enough to have good health then it's your responsibility to maintain it. Good health is not a right. It's a gift that should be appreciated and nurtured.
Living a paleo lifestyle requires me to take certain actions as I go about living my life. That's what a strategy is. A planned set of long-term actions that get you a long-term result.
Here are some actions that are part of my paleo lifestyle strategy:
1. I don't eat bread, pasta or processed junk food.
2. I feed my body nutritious foods like grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs, green leafy veggies and fruit such as berries. I eat this way a very high majority of the time. I'm no paleo martyr but I wouldn't hesitate to say I eat paleo/primal foods 97% of the time.
3. I lift heavy things quite often and I focus on compound exercises to get the most bang for my buck when I lift weights.
4. I move at a moderate pace everyday by taking walks.
5. I will occasionally do sprint workouts or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
6. I try to reduce stress as much as possible.
7. I try to get 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep every night.
8. I spend time with friends and have fun.
9. I spend time outside. I'd like to get more time in the sun but I live in Minnesota where it seems to be 4 degrees all of the time.
10. I supplement intelligently to help my body recover from intense workouts and stress.
Have I perfected all of these actions? No, not even close. I'm always learning, evolving and trying to improve. Having a strategy allows you to learn as you go and make tweaks. You can test assumptions and see what works for you all within the walls of your strategy.
I also know that if I stick with my paleo lifestyle strategy I'm giving myself the best chance to live a long, healthy and disease-free life.
That's what this game is all about for me. It's not about fitting into the same size jeans I wore in high school or losing just 10 pounds before it's beach season. It's about vitality and longevity. It’s about living a good life.
Tactics are everywhere. Tactics are usually trying to disguise themselves as a strategy when they're really just quick fixes that don't provide lasting results.
Tactics are easy to market because we all like to do things in the quickest and most painless way possible. This is especially true when it comes to weight loss and health. That's why so many people would rather take a fat burning pill or sprinkle strange dust on their food just to lose a few pounds. The marketing tells them that this product has all the solutions to their weight loss problems. Just send $19.95 plus shipping and handling.
The reality is that while a single tactic may get you some results in the short-term, those results will quickly fade and you'll be back at square one.
If you really wanted to lose weight you could just eat 500 calories a day for 14 days straight. You would lose weight. You'd probably look like hell but you would reach your goal of losing weight. But what happens when you start eating a normal diet? That's right... you gain all the weight back and maybe more.
I could also tell you to cut out all carbohydrates. Don't eat any foods that contain carbohydrates. Eat absolutely zero carbs. Do this for a couple of weeks and you'll lose weight. I guarantee it. You would feel like complete crap but you would lose weight.
This is tactical thinking at it's best. It's these one-off fad diets, fat loss pills, weight loss pixy dusts and even, in extreme cases, surgery that are the tactics people use to chase a short term result.
It's not how many carbs can you cut out and how many hours you can spend on the treadmill that will lead to you being a winner at the game of healthy living. It's about the style of your life. How do you live each day? Establishing good long-term habits that are part of a long-term lifestyle strategy is how you win.
You should also spend some time determining what "winning" means to you. A strategic thinker will define winning as living a long, healthy and disease-free life. Strategy is focused on the long-term, winning the war type of stuff. A tactical thinker will define winning as losing 5 pounds by Sunday. The strategic thinker will establish healthy habits that last a lifetime. The tactical thinker will fall victim to false advertising and marketing gimmicks.
Make Your Choices Count
Living a paleo lifestyle is a bigger choice then just following a paleo diet. I'm not here to tell you that you can never eat a piece of non-paleo pizza ever again. I just want to remind you that it's the choices you make everyday that add up to equal your life. So make your choices count.
I invite you to make a choice today. Decide that you’re going to design a lifestyle and not live your life hopping from one fad diet to another fad diet chasing short-term results. Start constructing your paleo lifestyle plan today. You will be happy you made this choice... I guarantee it.
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