New Years, New Routines, New Beginnings…

Here I am at 8:30 on the morning of New Year’s Eve.  I’ve been up since 7:00am, which is late for me.  I’ve been getting up at 5:30 for the last few months.  It’s part of a new routine I started a while back in an effort to find more time in the day to get things done, more specifically, work on this here blog for you folks.  Ironically, the getting up early has proved to be simpler than the actually working on the blog (opening my laptop is a dangerous proposition for me, who is so easily distracted by time-wasters like Facebook or my latest interest, G+…).

This is the time of year to contemplate new beginnings and to reflect on the past. As I think back over the past year, or even the past 3 since I began my Paleo journey and obsession with learning more about health, I’m amazed at how many things I’ve changed in my life.  I’m more amazed by those who have yet to discover that self-discovery, self-experimentation, and intentional change can open up entirely new paths in life.

A little over 5 years ago I left a company I had fallen in love in with in order to start a new job closer to home and filled with promise and adventures in learning new things.  Sadly, that company fell apart and 6 months later I found myself unemployed for the summer.  That summer was possibly the best one I’ve had since being a kid.  3 glorious months with nothing to do but spend time with my family, sleeping late, and having fun.  September came, and with it the kids went back to school and I found a new job.  It was a little further away than I liked, and paid a lot less than I had been making previously, but it was a job and this was the worst economy since the Depression.  So I was thankful.  I had just begun learning about food and nutrition that past summer while reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  And in January, just 4 years ago, my wife convinced me to join the local health club. It was affordable, we had an income again, it was close to home, and I needed something since I was no longer biking 120 miles/week.  It was here I discovered Crossfit, and with it, Robb Wolf, The Zone Diet, and eventually Paleo.

A year later I joined a new Crossfit gym, one that has become a second home, its members a second family,  and it’s owner, a brother.  I continued down the Paleo rabbit hole, eventually losing over 40 pounds and getting down to the same weight I graduated from college at 20-mumble years ago.  And thus began yet another re-invention of myself and another adventure.  The quest to become strong.  Something I had never really been.  This required the exact opposite approach I took to losing weight.  It meant eating far more than was comfortable, far more than my body wanted.  But I was convinced, despite a few naysayers, that I could do this using a Paleo template.  Now, 3 years later I’m back up to the same weight as before I started addressing my diet, and most of it is muscle.

As I look around me though, I see far too many people who have been coasting through life with the same sickly routines.  Changes in their lives are foisted upon them by illnesses and ailments requiring extra visits to doctors and by these doctors in the form of new medications to counter-act the side effects of old medications. Occasionally these changes are in the form of visits to hospitals, sometimes short, sometimes long, occasionally over major holidays like Christmas.  Almost never are these changes arrived at by choice, intention, or the desire for improvement.

Recently I let a good friend of mine talk me into entering a weightlifting competition, something I was (and am) not really interested in doing.  I’m a behind-the-scenes person, one who shuns the limelight.  Donning a singlet and walking to center-stage with the light (literally) shining on me and me alone as I attempted to snatch a measly 55 or so kilos. As the date of this meet sped towards me I realized I was more nervous about this one even than I had been about pretty much anything else in my life to this point.  Even in my first year of Crossfit when I committed to undertaking Murph, something so incomprehensibly beyond my abilities, I was not as nervous as I was about this meet.  The difference I think, is this.  Murph was a solitary event for which I could train over the course of a couple of months and completed with a few like-minded (possibly crazy) friends in the comfort of my own gym.  It was an event which could be scaled and adapted in so many ways failure was removed as an option.  The weightlifting meet wasn’t something I could train for.  I could and did practice the lifts, and certainly improved over time.  But there was no spotlight or crowd with which to get comfortable.  Though, ultimately, it is neither the spotlight nor the crowd I feared.  At the root, it wasn’t fear, it was self-identity that was the problem.  I didn’t (and to some degree still don’t) see myself as a weightlifter, or as a strong person.  I’m an athlete, or at least a person with athletic tendencies.  But I’m not a weightlifter. Looking at the other weightlifters, and possibly clouded by this image of Donny Shankle hanging in my gym:

Donny Shankle

I felt completely inadequate and not at all like a weightlifter, standing there on the platform, in my singlet; more like Scooter from the Muppets.

Definitely NOT Donny Shankle...

Definitely NOT Donny Shankle…

I’ve never considered myself as being afraid of much.  I’m willing to endure being uncomfortable, putting up with annoyance, doing what has to be done to succeed at my goals, etc.  I have a REALLY high “pain-threshold” when it comes to dealing or putting up with things most people won’t bother with. But putting myself out there in full view of the world, COMPETING, not just practicing, in an event where I don’t see myself as an equal to those around me, THAT was scary.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past few months,  and I now wonder if this is what keeps many people from a life of re-invention, or even just making the small changes necessary to get them on the road to a new life.  Are people trapped in careers, marriages, being unhealthy, addicted to various substances simply because they can’t imagine themselves as any different?  Are they paralyzed by the thought of change?  Not failing to change, but by the idea that they aren’t who that new person needs to be?  I’m not talking about those who are just comfortable about where they are and have no desire to change anything.  I’m talking about those people who are so obviously miserable with their own existence, so uncomfortable in their own skin, always complaining about this, that, or another thing, and yet never do anything about it. That person, who, when you greet them and ask, “So, how are you?”, they reply with a litany of complaints longer than Santa’s list of naughtiness.  The ones who, the first hundred times, you offer some help, advice, comfort, etc. none of which is ever heeded.  Oh sure, they’re more than happy to listen and smile.  But also just as quick to explain why none of that will ever work for them. Worse, are the ones who agree with everything you say, give you a false sense that you’ve helped them, and yet completely ignore anything you’ve said…

Change can be scary.  Especially big change.  And it’s always scarier when you’re alone.  Being up there on that platform by myself was more than uncomfortable.  Yet, committing to and completing Murph, a feat much more physically demanding in both time and effort wasn’t one bit scary.  Why?  I had a team with me.  It wasn’t me up there by myself in front of a huge group of people all staring at ME.  It was me, and a bunch of friends up there determined to accomplish something great, for ourselves in honor of a hero.  The key being we were a team.  And with a team anything is possible.

Paul and I have formed quite a team over the past few months.  He’s made this here blog a reality by being my teammate.  And now we want to expand that team.  We want you on that team.  We want to help you change your life, in big ways and in small.  Whether it’s changing your diet, getting more sleep, or undertaking some new challenge, we want to help.  To do that, we’ve created a Facebook group called “30 Days in The Cave”.  It’s open to anyone and everyone. And we want you to join us.  Some of us will be committing to a 30 Day Paleo Challenge, others might want to scale things down a bit and start with something like my friend Diane Sanfilippo’s 21 Day Sugar Detox.  Whatever your challenge, Paul and I are here to help.  More importantly, we want YOU there to help!  Paul and I are just two guys.  We don’t know all the tricks, tips, or secrets.  But the more of you who join, the more of you there are to help each other.  And one thing I’ve found is that you never know when that one thing you say, because of your unique perspective, might end up being exactly the one thing another person needs to hear to lift them up and help them on their way.

So, please, join us in The Cave.  We’re kicking off our 30 Days on Monday, January 6th and we hope to see you there!

Updated: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to It Starts with Food as Michael Pollan’s book.  In fact, that book is by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig of Whole9.com and The Whole30 Program. Michael Pollan’s book is In Defense of Food.

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4 comments to New Years, New Routines, New Beginnings…

  • Great post. I’m excited for your new journey in The Cave!

    • Thanks so much, Scratch Mommy! Glad you can join us! By the way, I love your site, it’s a great resource for those of us with allergies and skin issues! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Lisa Havens

    I came across your blog as I was looking for Paleo slow cooker recipes. I have been following a Paleo diet for about 3 years and now I am studying nutritional therapy, so I’m always looking for new resources to share. I noticed that you had credited “It Starts with Food” to Michael Pollan. Michael’s books are outstanding but the credit for “It Starts with Food” and the Whole 30 program goes to Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. Just trying to give credit where credit is due. Thanks for for work, (and recipes) and good luck with the blog

    • Hi Lisa,

      I too have been following a Paleo lifestyle for 3 years. Apparently your way must work better where memory is concerned! You’re absolutely right, It Starts With Food and the Whole 30 program are indeed Melissa and Dallas’ creations. I meant to say In Defense of Food, which is Michael Pollan’s book and pre-dates Melissa and Dallas’ work by some time. Thank you so much for the correction, I will update the post immediately!

      Slow-cooker recipes are something Paul and I are big fans of. I hope you found what you needed and enjoy any of the recipes you might try. We aim for quick and easy without skimping on the deliciousness 🙂

      –TCD (aka, Paul L.)