What Are You Afraid Of?

We’re gonna start this one with a story that I completely made up – but read it anyway.

One day, Joe was at a restaurant with some friends. Since Joe is Paleo (not celiac, just paleo) he requests a gluten free menu and orders a steak, steamed broccoli and a shot of tequila for good measure. Yeah, this Paleo life was good. The waitress brought out the drinks and (cue horror movie sound effects) then she set down a basket full of warm, gluten filled BREAD – yeah, there was nothing remotely Paleo about what was going in that basket. Joe was horrified, but his friends seemed okay with it. They passed the basket around, all taking a piece and there was one slice left. All eyes were on Joe, and everyone insisted that that slice of bread had his name on it. He was being peer-pressured. On the inside he was a mess, but he took the bread out of the basket (yes, he actually touched it and he didn’t die…), he buttered it and… he took a bite. It was delicious, but everything in Joe was telling him how awful it was for him and how weak he was for caving. His mind raced with thoughts of – holy shit I haven’t eaten bread in like six months and I just took a bite and I liked it and this is wrong… (there is no punctuation in that sentence on purpose – deal with it, his thoughts were racing and so is my sentence…) Beads of sweat were forming on his temples, he couldn’t see straight and he wasn’t even cognizant of the people around him. He was trapped in his thoughts of having eaten BREAD and he was terrified -paralyzed with the fear about what had just happened. He is now 100% certain that he would leave the restaurant with one less ab in his six-pack and a terminal case of leaky gut. Needless to say, Joe did not enjoy any part of his evening post- bread. He was convinced that he had failed and that he was an awful person because of it. Joe spent the entire weekend thinking about, feeling bad about, and being angry at that piece of bread. He decided that never would he ever do that again. Bread was, is, and always will be evil and scary. The End.

Food (any and every food – not just bread) – it’s just, well, food. It doesn’t have an agenda. It’s not out to get you. It can’t make you eat it or attack you (seriously, have you ever been violated by a steak? And steaks are like the fiercest food out there – so I rest my case.). Food is not inherently evil or something to be afraid of – it’s just FOOD. For all of you out there trying to argue with me about how sugar is evil, gluten is evil, processed food is evil, etc., I want you to think about the validity of those statements. What have any of those foods or food components, by their own will, done to you? Sure, we all know that there are some foods that are better for our bodies than others and that some people’s bodies don’t tolerate certain foods – but ultimately it is not because the food is evil or something we need to be afraid of or blame. It’s not the food that’s ‘bad’ – it can’t be – it’s like saying a rock is evil because you tripped over it. Sure, the rock was in the way, but it wasn’t plotting to make you face plant and you’re likely not going to go around being afraid of every single rock you encounter because of one isolated incident. Much the same, bread is not plotting to give you leaky gut, nor is sugar on a mission to give you Diabetes; so why and how did we become so afraid of food?

The idea that food or certain foods can be, or are ‘bad’ and should be feared comes from the thoughts we create and have in our heads. Food is something that we’ve been conditioned to fear. Media headlines, ‘experts’, our friends and family – all telling us which diet to follow, which foods and/or nutrients we need to be eating and which ones we need to avoid at all costs. The ‘bad list is ever changing – fat, carbs, sugar, gluten, dairy, soy … – it’s confusing and almost impossible to keep up with. There are so many rules, so many ‘bad’ things – it’s overwhelming and it’s scary. We give food power that it doesn’t have and this is not okay.

This is not me telling you to forget everything you’ve learned about good nutrition and exist solely on soda, donuts, French fries and pizza – BUT if your quality of life is suffering because of food ‘rules’ and/or fear, then it’s time to step back and evaluate WHY you are doing what you’re doing.

Let’s take a little test. (It’s not hard – you won’t need to Google any of the answers…)

Answer the following questions honestly:

Do you avoid going to parties or events that you know will have food that doesn’t fit your rules or safe list?

Do you bring your own food everywhere, even if you don’t have a serious health condition that warrants it? (Note: Lack of 6-pack abs is not a serious health condition…)

Does the thought of food make you nervous? Are you constantly worried about if you’re going to get hungry, or if you ate too much – or not enough, or if maybe that salad you ordered had a wayward cheese shred in it?

Do you turndown invitations and/or stay home because it will interfere with your food and/or exercise routine/schedule?

Do you feel guilty or shameful if you eat something that doesn’t fit your plan or if you have carbs on a day you didn’t work out?

Does your entire world (or at least a VERY significant part of it) revolve around food, exercise, a number on the scale, a body fat percentage or thoughts about any or all of the above?

Do you surround yourself with people that are just as caught up in food (or exercise) as you are so that you can feel ‘normal’?

Do all of your hobbies and/or extracurricular activities in one way, shape or form involve exercise, food/diet or research about any of these topics?

I’m not sure how you answered those questions, but if yes was a common theme for you – there’s a whole lot of life that you’re missing out on. It is when we stop being afraid, when we let go and listen to our bodies, when we realize that food is nothing more than food and that missing a workout is not the end of the world – that we actually find out who we really are and start living.

Food isn’t evil or something to be afraid of – looking back on your life and realizing that you missed the good stuff – that’s scary.

Categories: Anxiety and Depression, General, Paleo Diet Basics, Paleo/Low Carb


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. says

    I think “hidden gluten” is at least a little evil. You should be able to order a steak without wondering what chemicals and random additives it’s been soaked in. That’s the evil part to me.

      • says

        But… the post says I shouldn’t feel pressured to bring my own food to restaurants or social events?

        I don’t mean to be a lurker — I feel defensive because being strict about the food I eat is the only way I can manage my health.

        Posts like this make it seem like I’m the problem and just need to “get over” my food intolerances and reactions.

        I’ll try to re-read this from the perspective of a food coach who sees a lot of perfectionism affect quality of life.

        • says

          I think it’s important to remember that there is a huge spectrum here. Folks like you and I may need to be VERY tight with our chow if we want to feel good (and be healthy). Other folks may have more latitude but are being strict more for psychological reasons. So, do exactly what you need to do to get the results YOU want.

          Make sense?

    • Kathy S says

      It is easier sometime looking at foods as evil and unhealthy, there is nothing wrong with that. It makes it easier to eat what is good for you. I just look shamefully at other people and wonder “If they only knew how good they could feel” I feel bad for them. Got cured of tortilla chips a couple of weeks ago when I ate too many cause I couldn’t stop and got the worst case of gas, I had to leave a meeting and go home it was so bad. The chips are evil now.

  2. Beatrix Willius says

    If Joe is non-celiac then a little bread won’t do him bad. However, if I eat a tomato then I can’t sleep. And if I start a bag of chips then a few minutes later its empty. Other than this, I would answer all your questions with a “no”.

  3. Lisa says

    Sarah – it’s not the food that’s evil, it’s the people that manufacture the food that are “evil”.

  4. SherriB says

    I love this article! Thank you, Robb for having the insight into most of our psyches. I too have gotten caught up in the “evils” of certain foods and realize that I’m actually doing better, feeling better and am healthier than I have been my whole life. And I’m in my 50s! I’m not going to be so hard on myself. Ooohhhmmmm

    Life is about living. Thanks for reminding us!!

    Sherri B

  5. Angela L. says

    What a wonderful reminder that we shouldn’t worship nutrition just like we shouldn’t ignore it either! I think a strict diet is totally warranted in many situations, but even when people on those diets fail (and usually physically suffer for it), the mental anguish can be just as painful as the physical symptoms. I honestly think that if you’re going to indulge, it’s better to be purposeful and as guilt-free as possible rather than suffer physical AND mental consequences. Occasionally, you really should have your cake and eat it too. :) And for dietary perfectionists without major physical symptoms, this is even more relevant! Thanks for the lovely read.

  6. Joli says

    Thank you for this article. Food guilt is something I have been struggling with. I eat gluten & soy free, I am intolerant but not Celiac, but not totally Paleo. Total Paleo is my goal but I have a hard time sticking to it when we go out or at a friends house and they are so proud that they we able to find some GF bread or crackers or (dare they!) COOKIES! I end up eating it because I feel bad that they went through so much trouble and I am so hard to cook for these days. In the end, I just end up feeling bad about myself and readdicted. Thank you. This article is really helpful!

  7. says

    Loved reading this! Society does breed fear in food so it’s definitely not just a paleo thing. I have adopted the attitude that choosing to eat certain foods or avoid others to feel your best is not the same thing as restricting foods out of fear of what will happen when you eat them. Although feeling crappy for a day or two isn’t ideal, it’s no reason to have a panic attack! Great message, one that many people fearful or not, should hear!

  8. Naomi says

    At 55, we started Paleo over one month ago, so my husband and I have pretty much embraced this lifestyle, and love it! We are on vacation in Maui now but we realized that the foods we used to love are so not Paleo, but there are so many other fresh options! But I have to say this article was timely in that I was starting to look at food in a negative way when, in fact, it’s not personal at all, therefore, not evil! Lol. How judgmental of me. Now I can relax and not worry that the glutenous potato/mac salad or luscious malasadas will force it’s way down my throat unless I let it, however, if a spoon or two happened to, I’m gonna savor every bit and know I will immediately return and stay the course on this healthy, quality of life, Paleo lifestyle! Aloha!

  9. Michael says

    Excellent content. And well written too. A good reminder to us all. It’s almost as important to mention that no food is “good” either!

  10. Anne B says

    Awesome article! Nothing that you start to improve your health is worth making yourself sick :-) Relax and enjoy life… Thanks for writing about it.

  11. Ian says

    Holy shit this made me cry because I can relate with a lot of this! Despite the fact this is painful to read… I thank you Amy for the great post.

  12. says

    Thank you so much for this post!! Sometimes there is just too much “noise” telling us what we should be doing. Enjoying Life! That’s what you should be doing!

  13. t says

    Your post is SPOT ON! Thanks for sharing about what food rules can do & have done to our Society. I’ve seen myself in these examples & I appreciate you taking the time to help the light bulb go off, once again. Bless you.

  14. tess says

    I watch what I eat MOST of the time, so I can eat whatever I want SOME of the time.

    With an aging and intolerant body, I would feel absolutely horrible if I always ate what I eat on vacation. How would that enrich my life? No, if want to feel as good as I can as much as I can.

    …gotta run off now and write a blog post of my own on this interesting subject. 😉

  15. Lisa says

    Yes, excellent post. For me, at least, it’s all about choices. I make the choice whether or not to eat something that will give me issues. The food doesn’t make the choice for me. :) Wait, does that make ME the evil one then… hmmmmmm

  16. Kasia says

    This is such a fantastic post Amy.
    I think we all need to take a little something away from this.

    It’s so easy to get caught up in this kind of thinking because it’s something we have ultimate control over… I think sometimes we need to just let go a little and trust our bodies.

    Do what scares us!

  17. Cathy Dee says

    Excellent story. And it resembled me until I took a bite of the bread and went….meh! All’s good in my world, I will continue my eating habits the way I have been, the gluten will move out of my system and my body will readjust. If you don’t have a gluten intolerance, it’s not going to kill you! My philosophy (I know you didn’t ask ;} ): No food is evil in and of itself (again, if you DON’T have a legitimate health concern like celiac; I happen to be more concerned about carbs as I want to lose weight). It boils down only to the importance you place on it. Grab that piece of bread with gusto, butter it up, take a smidgen of a bite and leave it if you don’t want to eat the rest. If asked, just say you’re saving yourself for your steak! Get over it! Enjoy life! Otherwise…why get healthy?

  18. Sandra says

    Being Paleo is the best thing I have ever done for myself. Struggling with weight my whole life feeling food was evil among so many other crazy thoughts you put into your mind. I have lost 40lbs since March Paleo is a lifestyle change for me. I have not felt this good in years. I’m an Italian Cook so the thought of giving up bread and pasta was terrifying. I have become an excellent Paleo cook.

    • Joanne says

      Sandra great post :) I too have struggled with my weight, sensitivities to food, mood swings, depression and I realise its all about what we put in our body that effects our daily life…I too changed to paleo, gluten & dairy free last three weeks and already I feel the benefits, its taken 50 odd years but I now know why foods affect me and why. I have dabbled in this for years but never taken it seriously..I think my husband will be pleased with the new me already when I fly to see him next week :)

  19. Kathy S says

    Only one yes, I do bring my own food when I know there will be no good food I want to eat wherever I am going, like pizza or sandwiches. Like a Girl Scout event we had the other night. Everyone was bringing tea sandwiches, so I made a giant salad with an Against All Grain dressing and it was all gone by the end, other salads were still left….And I brought some chicken to put in my salad. My daughter ate the sandwiches…..I did have some chocolate fondue though….with fruit.

  20. says

    Thank you for such an enlightening and enjoyable article to read! I had great pleasure in sharing this on the Paleo Café page to increase the awareness that food is NOT bad – it’s in understanding how food AFFECTS us individually that is key. Knowledge is power and through listening to your own bodies needs will come freedom. Great post Amy!

  21. Shirley N says

    This is a wonderful reminder we eat to live – not the other way around!! Yes- I stick to Paleo as much as possible- but am very careful when I go out – eat before I go if I am worried- reduces my chances of slipping!!! Good luck to all of us staying strong, & forgiving ourselves when we are human!!!

  22. says

    Great post Amy, thanks. I’d say my daily thoughts revolve around food/Paleo/nutrition/community/GMO’s (my professional life is as a fitness professional so I have health on the brain). But it’s what I love. Unlike “Joe” of the story, many of us are non-celiac gluten intolerant (and other food intolerant), so that one piece of bread, not matter how heavenly will definitely have consequences tomorrow. Not worth it. The cleaner I get, the less i can “go back”. This is OK with me. I plan. Thanks again for all the great work you do.

  23. says

    This is a great article Robb. I think it’s so easy to become overwhelmed with perfecting the lifestyle that reminders like this are essential. Great reality check for your community. Stressing over something that is meant to be healthy is not worth it.

  24. jacques says

    I’m not celiac, just intolerant to gluten according to 3 different IgG lab tests. I read that eating only one time a food containing gluten could increase the blood antibodies to gluten for months.
    I think not eating food containing gluten on purpose but my IgG to gluten are still high on each test.
    Of course I could eat gluten from time to time but for what benefit?


    • Amy Kubal says

      I’m not telling you to eat gluten – just don’t be afraid of food – any food. Do what makes you feel good and don’t stress about it. That’s the message here. :)

  25. David Verrall says

    I am really motivated by this Paleo idea. I’m also aware of an, ” everything in moderation” practice, and because we are living in this planet and have to deal with the endless changes and choices going on, being fanatical about anything is an obsessive and not nesesarily healthy choice. So, if I’m disciplined about choosing this diet and exercise, and if I sometimes eat a slice of bread and butter, or a beer, a peice of sugar, or milk in a coffee, it’s not the end of the the diet plan, because the majority of the time I am disciplined with the diet choices, and that’s as good as I can be. Also I have an immune system which is there for the challenges we bring to it. I was inspired by the Paleo method because my family have a tendency to live for 105 + years now, and a lot of them where dairy and sugar farmers. So I see 1000yrs for myself as a realistic punt. Gotta say the supermarket isles offer comparatively little now the shopping choices have improved.

  26. says

    Amy — thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. This might be one of the most important posts that’s gone up in a long time on *any* of the Paleo/Primal/real food sites.

    So very crucial to step back and look at the big picture. Good nutrition is important, but when obsessions and fears start negatively impacting quality of life, it’s time to step back and ask ourselves *why* we’re doing what we’re doing. If it’s to feel better, and we end up making ourselves feel *worse,* where’s the logic there?

    Thanks again. Not too many people have the courage to come out and call people on the obsessive behavior, but it’s very needed.

    • Amy Kubal says

      Amy, thank you! Not many people like to be ‘called out’ either. I want people to understand that I am writing these ‘think about it’ posts based on my experiences – no blame, no shame. I just know that living a trapped life, isn’t living at all – IT SUCKS!! I want to help others LIVE FOR REAL!! :)

  27. Tom says

    “What have any of those foods or food components, by their own will, done to you?”

    o A slice of bread or pizza will result in a toilet full of blood the next day.
    o Carrageenan in ice cream, cream, or evaporated milk will cause my colon to bleed after consuming it for a few days.
    o Corn tortillas or popcorn will cause gas, discomfort from gas, anxiety, depressed feelings, and insomnia after consuming them for a couple of days.

    But then again I have an inflammatory bowel disease that appears to make my colon hypersensitive to the above items although 20 years ago I was consuming them without issue.

  28. Linda Sand says

    I tried so hard to quickly become strictly Paleo that I made myself sick from the stress. Wrong!

    Thanks for the message that easing up was the right thing to do.

  29. Ed says

    Thanks Richard N at “Free The Animal” for planting the seed that has lead to the decline of the “Paleo Police”. This article is proof of that.

  30. Kathy says

    Amy, thank you for this post!!! For the past few days I have been shaming myself for ‘deciding’ to have ice cream (not just one cone but I bought 3 half gallons of it) and 3 huge bars of chocolate! Well, 2 half gallons are gone and I have devoured the chocolate. I have decided not to eat the third half gallon of ice cream (got rid of it). I had decided to forgive myself and go back to the lifestyle that has helped me lose 133+ pounds over the last 7 months!!! I have 100 pounds to go to get below 250 and that is as low as I want to go for now (who knows I may change my mind by the time I get there!). I weighed 503 when I found the Paleo lifestyle and decided to try it to get healthy; lower my cholesterol >230, my doctor had given me a statin drug to lower it (but I know that they have very serious side effects in some people) but on my last lab was 98!!! Also I was having trouble with my glucose levels, the highest A1C was 6.6 (4.5-5.6 is normal) and the last lab was 5.8!!! Almost Normal!! That is why I was shaming myself but thank you again for reminding me that the sky isn’t falling because I ate too much of really high calorie foods; it just means it will take me longer to get to my goal weight. That is the positive thing I am going to think of the next time I am wanting something I don’t need to eat!

  31. Tom says

    Food and exercise are pretty much the only things in my life that I feel like I have any control over, these are also only things that produce any positive or fulfilling results.

  32. Stephanie says

    I understand that the point of the article is to have folks quite obsessing and loosen up. Obsession does NOT help with diet, health and the good life. However, as a celiac, I often wonder how much better my health would be if that was understood as a child instead of through a series of health crises in my 40’s. I occasionally “cave” to sugar or brown rice, but I feel SO MUCH BETTER if I strictly adhere to a keto/paleo regimen. It tends to be a positive feedback loop (for me at least) in that the more strictly I adhere to it, the easier it is to do so. Bringing more starches/carbs into my diet makes me crave them and it is much harder to remove them from my diet again.

  33. Christa says

    Unfortunately, what this well written and completely accurate article describes is someone with an eating disorder.

  34. shawn says

    I enjoyed the article, it makes you think about what your own mentality towards food is. I have been living paleo as best I can. Scored Robb Wolf’s book in a 2nd hand store (treasure can be found in unlikely places). Anyways, I read somewhere that our own mentality/attitude towards the foods we eat play a part in how our body will react to it. The article, to me, encourages critical thinking and insight, which is never a bad thing. Good job!

  35. Amy says

    Ok…reading some of these comments was starting to make my eyeballs hurt. No one is saying that you should start eating things that you know make you sick. I do have celiac disease and no I can never eat gluten and have to be careful. Ive been Paleo for about 2 years now and I feel better than I did just being gluten free. However, I have quite a few paleo recipes that I make and look at and think “You know, this would actually be better over rice.” And I eat it. I know that if I try to stay 100% paleo all the time, I will lose my mind, become neurotic and my fiance would leave me at the alter. If I started feeling guilty over eating a half cup of rice with my otherwise totally paleo meals for the week what kind of existance is that. I refuse to be ruled by food. If I have rice once in a while. so what? If you can stick to it AT LEAST 80-90% of the time, when you decided “screw it im going to have a little rice, or (insert food here)” you wont feel like a failure, or kick yourself so badly that it ruins whatever you were doing. Also when you need to give a little more for whatever health issue arises as the sometimes do, you have the ability to give more without running yourself into the ground. No one said, even though it will make you sick eat it anyway. No. That would be completely stupid. But dammit if I want my rice one day I’m gonna have it.

  36. says

    Love the photo. Great article. I think it is a tricky process nowadays. There are so many choices and that is what gets me in trouble. I am not good at choices and want to try everything that comes along. I have benefited by changing my diet – and gluten free allowed me to take 5 inches off my waist in just 5 months.
    I like the paleo diet, but have to say I have not mastered it yet.

  37. Janice says

    I’ve been reading up on Paleo. My daughter does Paleo and is looking beautiful. I have a tricky problem, however, which is chronic kidney failure. Can’t eat high fiber, high protein, etc. I decided to look into my daughter’s diet and got very excited. I can’t follow it exactly, obviously. However, there are many things that I can modify from Paleo which are so healthy. It’s a common sense way to eat. I need to lose a lot of weight but cannot because of the kidneys, however, my doctor advised me that I could diet but lose slowly (I left his office with no diet to go by). So, I began to investigate diets (many of which I have been unsuccessful doing over the years) but when I saw the Paleo Diet, I realized that with a little tweaking, I could do this. I’m just beginning but I’m so excited. I sure welcome any advice but know you aren’t a doc.

  38. Arlene says

    Hi Robb,

    I have been reading a great deal about the science behind the Paleo diet/protocol and have been attempting it for myself to improve health. I do have a question regarding tubers though – specifically potatoes. I have read that Loren Cordain shared from his research that potatoes have compounds that can also lead to leaky gut and given they are fundamentally a seed they are more challenging for us to break that down due to nature’s protection of seeds. Are you including starchy tubers for those who need more carbs as recovery for exercise vs those who are dealing with autoimmune/leaky gut issues? Of particular interest to me are: leaky gut, autoimmune switches and the research regarding immune research and autism.

    • says

      Regular potatoes of the nightshade family seem to be potentially more problematic for those with autoimmune issues, but other starchy tubers like sweet potatoes are different and seem to be okay. They are still starchy veggies of course, so that needs to be taken into consideration if someone is on a targeted ketogenic diet for therapeutic reasons for their condition.

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