Top 9 challenges of being Paleo and what to do about them

I’m loving my Facebook Fan page for two reasons…

  • First, it provides the best way for me to really interact with those who follow me, my blog and my ideas (it’s a different interaction than that which happens when people comment on my various blog posts).
  • Second, I learn a ton from those who expand and share what they know to be true.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I posted the question below the other day and got a total of 47 responses.  That’s a lot of comments.

Of the 47 comments that were posted, there were at least 30 unique challenges that people were experiencing.  That’s important for two reasons.

  1. It lets us know we are not the only ones who are experiencing challenges.
  2. It gives us an opportunity to reach out to others and either offer solutions we may have discovered for a similar challenge or to reach out and inquire how others have dealt with a particular challenge we may be experiencing.

Both of those elements are REALLY important components to the process and why a supportive community is HUGELY important when we are looking to make change (this idea goes for any kind of change in any part of our lives).

Top 9 challenges…

Not only were there 47 comments, but people took the time to read the comments of others and LIKE the ones that resonated with them.  I chose the top 9 challenges based on those that had the most number of likes. Each is listed below in descending order (9 through to 1). I have also included a Facebook link to the author who contributed the idea.  If you get a chance, stop by and say hi and thank them for contributing to this post.

For each challenge, I have also included some suggestions on how to handle the potential situation in the future.  Keep in mind these are suggestions and can be “stolen” and applied as is or tweaked to suit your situation and personality.  These can also be trashed completely if you think I am talking out of my ass, which is always a distinct possibility. :-)

#9-Negativity and judgement of others when they learn what you are doing.

[Contributed by: Jacqui More]

Unfortunately, this is going to happen no matter how hard you try to avoid it. It’s human nature.  People judge so don’t be surprised when they judge you in this instance.

But there are a few things you can do to protect yourself from this.

  • Go into stealth mode

I stated this in another blog post, but when you first start I strongly recommend you ZIP IT!  Seriously don’t say anything to anyone.  You will eliminate about 90% of the negativity you have to deal with if you just keep it to yourself.

  • Avoid labeling your lifestyle in the early going

The moment you label something you polarize people.  They are either strongly in agreement or strongly against it.  [There is a third group of course.  Those who don’t give a rat’s ass what you are doing. Those people are not an issue for us so I have not included them in this discussion].

The concept of Paleo is very polarizing because it is based on an evolutionary concept.  If it was up to me I would not call it Paleo and I would never make reference to anything about cavemen.  When we do so we invite stupid arguments from people who have no clue what they are taking about.

At the beginning (when you are still trying to generate results and build your confidence) avoid using labels.  Speak in general terms about watching what you eat (which you are), exercising more efficiently (which you are), and thinking more clearly (which you definitely are).

  • Create an elevator pitch

What you really need in the early going is an elevator pitch that will explain what you are doing WITHOUT inviting an inquisition.  It should be something nice and short and no longer than about 20 words.

Here is what Jacqui came up with to fend off the knuckle-draggers…

“Early on I foolishly told people [I was Paleo] and was surprised by the scoffing and negativity. Of course no one was “looking out for me” when I was stuffing myself to 300lbs. Now I just say, I just cut out processed foods and got back to working out it’s just less hassle.”

Here is what I used early on.

“I cut out all the crap and only eat real foods while mixing in high intensity exercise. BHAM!”

OK I don’t say bham.  That is gangsta Dean talking there. However, I am now at a stage were I will openly tell anyone who asks, that I AM PALEO! But I kept my mouth shut for the first 6 months until I launched Being Primal.

#8-Not judging people who are not Paleo

[contributed by Don Sproles]

I see people make this mistake all the time.

Here are a few things I have to remind myself of.  When people are young, NO ONE dreams of being…

  • homeless and yet people end up living on the street
  • jobless and yet people are unemployed
  • in a crappy relationship and yet they abound everywhere
  • working at a job they hate and yet a large % of people are not doing work they love
  • obese and yet obesity has turned into an epidemic

The truth is people do the best they can based on who they are and what they know.

Our most effective way to influence the non-Paleo herd is to work our butts off to model the behavior and lifestyle we are hoping others will adopt.

Rather than judge, model to gently nudge people towards the Paleo lifestyle.

#7-Eating out

[contributed by David Yingling]

I actually dedicated an entire chapter to this in my book Make Shift Happen (coming to a bookstore near you in early April, 2012), but let me give you the gist of this valuable little mantra that I use when I am going or eating out.  I decide in advance.

What does that mean?

  • Do your research

Anytime I am going to a restaurant I am unfamiliar with, I Google it and find their online menu (almost all places have their menu online now).  I then go through and decide in advance what I am going to order before I even get there.  If I am having difficulty finding something based on the online menu, I just simply call the restaurant and explain what I want.  I can always get something to my liking.

  • Visualize

This will sound weird, but in the early going I was a little nervous about eating out and going to parties etc because I didn’t trust myself to make the right decisions.  The workaround was to visualize how I would act in advance when things such as breads, desserts etc were presented before me.  It is amazing how effective that strategy was.  I mean athletes use this all the time.  Why shouldn’t it be in our toolbox?

  • Say the 3 magic words

No it isn’t BACK OFF JACKASS! Although those words can certainly be helpful.  Rather learn to say NO THANK YOU.  Those words will go a long way.  And if people persist, hit them with a rolled up newspaper.  Oh wait, that might be an outdated dog training trick.  Worth a shot though.

#6-Finding something to eat when you are in a rush

I need to be honest on this one.  Most of the time, this is simply a case of bad planning.  If you think through your day, more often then not you are not going to get caught unprepared. But sadly, life doesn’t always cooperate. Here are a few things that can help.
  • make bulk meals in advance

Bulk meals are key for two reasons.  They give you a healthy option when you are too tired to cook something and when you are in a hurry.

  • nuts

I like to have nuts on hand simply because it is easy to pack a few servings for emergencies.

  • hard boiled eggs

You can boil up a dozen and have them in the fridge ready to go at a moments notice.

Sadly, I can’t get these in Canada, but they were kind enough to send me some samples to try and WOWZERS those things were delicious.  I ate two of them so fast I think I might have eaten the wrapper.  Check out more about them here and here.

#5-Getting results and yet family members still continue to follow conventional advice

[Contributed by Rhonda Chamberlain]

I have a slightly different take on this.  We can either think “THEY” are the problem or “WE” are the problem.  I believe it is the latter.

The truth is most people SUCK at influencing the behavior of other people.  It is much more complex than most are lead to believe.  What we really need to do is learn to think like the Tobacco companies.  I am being serious here when I say this.  They are THE VERY BEST at influencing behavior.

Think about it.  They are able to get millions and millions of people to do something that they KNOW will eventually kill them. And they accomplish this very strategically.

If you are having problems getting people to buy into what you are selling, then you are doing a bad job selling it.

Human behavior is VERY COMPLEX.  Simply showing people what you have accomplished or telling them why they should do what you are doing are not going to be very effective.

I’m going to suggest two books to start your journey to become a better at the art of influence.

#4-Not sounding preachy when people inquire about your success

[Contributed by Annie N Jacob LeBeouf and Annie Foote Gebel]

I think there are times to be preachy (I do it here on my blog and when I am invited to speak at events), but I do think the real challenge is to act with dignity and grace when others are curious to know the secret to our success.

I will steal a line from Steven Covey and his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Seek first to understand and then to be understood.

So before I launch into what I am doing, I like to do the following…

  • have them tell me what they are currently doing (and why)
  • tell me what they are struggling with
  • ask what they are looking to hear/learn from me

The key here is to put them front and center.  I also preface my talks (those of you who have talked to me on Skype can attest to this) by telling people to take everything I say with a grain of salt and filter it through their own philosophy.

This tends to put people at ease because they realize I am not out to “sell” them anything (or am I???) :-)

#3-Not having support

[Contributed by Nichole Lynch Wherry]

This can be really frustrating.  We assume that our family and friends will rally around us when we launch into something this important, but the reality is more often than not this is not the case. Be prepared for this.

Laurie talked about this here.

The truth is, almost all the significant things we have done or will do in our life will encounter tremendous resistance. And Paleo is no different for many of us. Truthfully though, most people are just not up to the challenge; not at this point anyhow. Most will back down when push comes to shove.

But those who don’t all exhibit similar characteristics…

  • they have drawn their line in the sand; and are ready to do battle for those who cross over it (have you drawn your line?)
  • they work only to accept their own decision realizing they have no control over what others choose to accept
  • they seek out and build their own support network (I have a few announcements about this next week so stay tuned)

#2-Listening to the constant jokes and jabs about cavemen…

[Contributed by Angela Neale]

Angela does a great job summing up the frustration of many…

“Listening to the constant jokes and jabs about caveman…cavemen didn’t have olive oil, cavemen didn’t have this or do that…so annoying!Seriously, I’m not trying to be a caveman, it’s about eating real foods so drop the cave-talk people. LOL!

I think we give our non-caveman comedians too much power in this area.  We must consider the source.

The first thing I do before I even consider whether someone is deserving of a response or not is take a quick look at their physique. Honestly, in about 90% of the cases you are dealing with someone who…

  • has what I affectionately term “a marshmallow body”
  • has a double chin
  • has zero muscle tone
  • doesn’t workout at all (or does but you can’t tell)

Seriously, should we care what they think? They can’t manage their own bodies. Tell me why we are now going to buy into their “expertise” on the paleolithic era?

And if it is someone who is in great shape, then I want to know what they are doing to see if there are any ideas I can steal for myself (you can  learn a lot from non-paleo fit people).

#1-Explaining yourself…to everyone

[Contributed by Jamie Davis Welch]

There is a great scene in the movie MoneyBall.  For those who haven’t seen it, let me give you a quick summary.

The movie is based on the true story of Billy Beane (unfortunate last name that is) who is the general manager of the Oakland Athletics (a major league baseball team).  Because they were a small market team, they had little money to compete with the big money ball clubs so Beane hired some kid who has a completely different (and cheaper) way of evaluating baseball players and their value to a team.  It is completely counter-intuitive to what baseball has been doing for the past 150 years (just as Paleo is counter-intuitive to conventional government approved eating.)

Beane completely buys into the idea and goes about assembling a team based on the new metrics of evaluating player talent. And he meets resistance everywhere he turns. His manager resists. His scouts resist. The sport of baseball resists.

At one point in the movie, Beane (played by Brad Pitt, who does an outstanding job) is sitting in the office with his new hire and the following conversation takes place when things aren’t going exactly as planned.

So my advice to you is exactly the same.


If so, then it is a problem that you think you need to explain yourself to others. Don’t….to anyone!

To making shift happen,


ps…got a comment? Did we miss one? Got a story to share? Perhaps a strategy? Let us know.