In which the author questions whether her own attachments are, in fact, as cultlike as others’
About six weeks ago the BF announced that, as an experiment, he wanted to spend the month of January eating “Paleo,” or “Primal.” As described on MarksDailyApple.com, this involves deriving something like 50% of your calories from animal fat, plus avoiding all grains (among other things).
Hence followed what my mother would term a “conniption fit,” as I, having spent the better part of two decades eating mostly vegetarian and extremely low-fat (in fact, completely vegetarian for at least half of that time, and vegan for about six months), basically lost it.
“You’re going to have a heart attack!” I yelped, practically rabid. Thankfully, the BF is of stolid and mostly placid stock, and my outburst didn’t rustle his feathers (much). He just kept insisting that I look at the websites that had inspired him to try this crazy experiment. Whereas I just kept retorting that those websites were all commercial, with a financial incentive to convince him of their ideas! Not exactly sources I’d trust my (and his) precious health with!
Oh, I was in a raging huff.
After at least 45 minutes of tantrum, I got off my high horse long enough to plunk down in front of my computer, and, brow deeply furrowed in disgust, I searched for some sources I could trust.
Lo and behold, it didn’t take long to find some sources – good, old, dry, boring, medicalese sources – that showed, quite convincingly, that all the data around dietary fat causing disease is, in fact, very sketchy.
Skreee! (Sound of screeching car brakes and hastily executed U-turn.)
Suddenly, my 17-year conviction that my diet was the best, healthiest diet possible, a conviction that informed a significant chunk of my daily life choices and behavior, was on shaky ground indeed.
I won’t go into the details of the research that ensued. Suffice it to say that I had a major paradigm shift, and realized that, after nearly two decades of (mostly) rigidly following a certain set of rules, perhaps I had (ahem) made a mistake. Not only did I give the BF my (still rather hesitant) blessing, but I decided to join him in this eating adventure.
It’s been over six weeks since we started the experiment, and the results have been surprising, and almost 100% positive. I can share details later. What interests me here is that this radical change, this paradigm shift, made me realize I had been living my life according to a belief system that I didn’t even realize was a belief system! No, I thought I had access to The Truth, and that anyone who ate a different sort of diet was just sadly misinformed. Although I wasn’t (that) much of an evangelist, I was a True Believer of the most irritating sort, and I didn’t even know it!
As it happens, the BF was also a True Believer, also for 17 years (how’s that for random coincidences?), but in his case the belief system was not diet, but the beliefs of the particular Christian cult of which he was a member. He evangelized door-to-door, and like me, thought he had access to The Truth. Eventually his faith began to crack (I like to say his mind kicked in…), and after a painful internal struggle of some years he had his own paradigm shift, which was similar in some ways to mine: he came to the conclusion that perhaps he had (ahem) just made a mistake.
It’s incredibly liberating to let go of a belief system. Embarrassing to admit to a mistake, yes, but liberating to discover the choices suddenly available to you! In the BF’s case, his paradigm shift was followed by an intense period of “rebellious” activity that he’s still not quite through with. In my case, I’ve re-discovered the joys of such things as cheese! And butter! And as many nuts as I want!
I could wax on for days about the experience of eating almost 180 degrees from what I was used to, and how it has affected me (for one thing, I’m leaner than I’ve ever been.) The most fascinating part, though, is realizing that, like the BF, I was essentially the member of a cult. That the cult was one of food, rather than religion, is significant only in the degree of change and restriction it imposed on my life. I was blinded by my belief system, just as he was by his, and letting it go was painful, but ultimately liberating.
Now the open question is, how many other belief systems are hemming in my life? How many are hemming in yours? Food for thought, indeed.
To read more fascinating essays on belief systems, see one of my favorite blogs, Belief Systems & Other BS.