Paleo Pool 2011: Why Failure is OK

by Dr. Christopher on February 7, 2011

Courtesy of tinou bao

Did Super Bowl Sunday get you?  Buffalo wings?  Nachos?  Chips?  Cheese?  Beer?  Wine?  COOKIES?!!

It got me.  It got me good.

But I was already out of the Paleo Pool.  I was out 5 days into the challenge.  And that is including the 2 cheat days!

All is not lost.  I created the rules that govern the behaviors of the participants.  I’ll keep my honor; I ate non-Paleo 3 days in the first week.  I”m the first challenger out.

To learn my lesson and shine light on why I failed, Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, discusses the “social exception” that allows him to break from the rules he has created to leave no negative impact on the planet for one year.

Here are a few exceptions of my own.

Lesson 1: Value-based Exception

The challenge started the day before I was to leave on a two-week vacation to Hawaii.

I start cursing myself as the first snack the flight attendant hands me on the 10 hour flight is a chicken enchilada.  They even had the courtesy to warm it up!

In my head, I’m arguing back and forth, “Do I stick to my guns and let them trash this enticing snack? … or … Is this cheat day 1?  Because there is a starving child somewhere in the world that would greatly appreciate the temporary bliss that the enchilada would give me?”

The starving child won.

I ate it.

I can remember as a young boy, not wanting to finish my plate.  Mom (Hi Mom!) would grill my brother and I:

“Do you realize that there are starving children in the world that would die to have these carrots and steak?”

It worked Mom.

Now, I am aware.

But she created a monster.  A monster with conscious intent.

If I can give food to someone who needs or wants it more than I do, I will give it to him.  But if any food is meant for the garbage, the thought of letting those calories sit without decomposing in the anaerobic environment of a landfill where it could give a boy the energy to survive another day causes me to act.

Respect food, because it keeps you alive.

Lesson 2: Experiential Exception

Two days later, my friend Kevin, who I’m staying with in Hawaii, tells me that every Thursday he volunteers at a farmer’s market.  His payment for doing so is an abundance of organic greens … AND he gets to eat the dish that the farmer prepares for consumers.

“What is the dish?”  I ask fearfully.

“Ahi tuna with a wasabi and teriyaki special sauce over fried kale and eggplant, BATTERED IN TEMPURA!  You’re going to want to use a cheat day.”

“Yes Kevin.  Yes I am, dammit!  Crap!”

Cheat Day 2.

Point to delicious Ahi dish.  Ahi Tuna will win every time.  (If you ever have the chance to try poke in Hawaii, do it.  It’s heavenly.  We are deprived of it on the mainland.)

When it comes to new foods that you’ll never forget, or new opportunities or new experiences, why say “no”?

It could be an experience that you’ll never forget.

Lesson 3: Social Exception

Cheat Day 3.  I knew I was out as soon as I ate the Ahi Tuna.

Two days after the Ahi Tuna fiasco was Kristin’s birthday (Kevin’s girlfriend), and they planned a very elaborate barbecue including Mexican food and baked goodies of all sorts.

I like Kristin.  I am grateful that she is in Kevin’s life to make him happy.  Why wouldn’t I celebrate her birthday?!

Point to celebrations where the hosts go overboard with edible treats.

Spending time with 15 people … in a park in Waikiki … with the sun beating down … and happy people around … (and alcohol) … it was worth it.

It’s OK to fall.  It’s not OK to stay on the ground.

While I am the first challenger out of the Paleo Pool, I do not see it as a failure.

It wasn’t me or the system that failed, the rules just need tweeking.

As far as I know at this time, the other 5 challengers are going strong.

Not only that, but Mom tells me that the “Carb Queen” that is my 10-year-old sister is experimenting with the diet too.

Besides my exceptions from above and the Super Bowl, I’m holding strong with my diet and feeling good about it too.  That means more money in the “Give the World What it Wants Fund”, which will go towards donating money to an organization I see fit.

As with any lifestyle or habit change, setbacks happen and should be planned for.

In pursuit of health, you may have days where you binge on half a gallon of ice cream or drink a few too many glasses of wine.


It won’t kill you.

Hopefully the experience of celebrating with your family and friends or enjoying a new meal you’ve wanted to try is worth the cost of regret, bloating, or discomfort you may be experiencing.

Remember, it’s not whether you fall.  You will fall.  It’s how quickly you get back up.

Challengers, official and unofficial, would you please comment as to if you’re still in and how you’re feeling.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Julie February 8, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Hello readers – it’s Day 16 of the challenge…I think…and so far so good! Although I do miss the occasional addition of cheese to my meals, overall, I think my sister and I are doing very well. It’s nice to be living with someone else that is participating and helping with the food prepping/cooking as well as to have for support in what otherwise might turn into weak moments. (Although one time, I could have sworn I heard her snacking on potatoe chips in bed and had to run in there convinced that she was cheating behind my back). If you’re doing this alone – I highly recommend recruiting a friend! Also, if you’re a facebooker…you can search for Santiago Chiropractic Associates if you like, and we are posting most of our meals online if anyone wants to take a peek for some ideas. Would love to hear good meals from other people as well.

As for this weekend. I definitely cheated. Had a class out of town and enjoyed a chicken quesedilla for dinner on Saturday, a burger for lunch on Sunday and then well…it was game time…I was amazed how quickly I felt horrible after pounding some chips and chili/cream cheese dip…haha…and then how quickly I felt better in time for the ice-cream cake for my friend’s birthday…

However, back on the band wagon on Monday and feeling pretty good again…gonna try to not go so crazy on my cheats this week!…

Keep you posted,


Jenny February 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Hey – I’m still in too, despite Julie being convinced I was sneaking potato chips…I was actually reading and turning pages. I too went overboard on my cheat days…met my friend for a weekend long junk food and beer get-a-way. We’ve been making some REALLY good paleo meals though and like Julie says, they are up on the Santiago chiropractic FB page and they’re also on my FB page. If you want more details for any of the recipes just let us know and we’ll get them to you. Happy paleo!

Christopher February 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Thanks for posting Julie. I’m assuming the other 4 aren’t out, but just forgot. As always, can count on you to be on time.

I’ve been abusing my cheat days a bit too much as well. I’m going to tone it down from now on so I don’t feel SOO horrible after them. The right idea seems to be to know exactly what you want to cheat on the most, then make sure you have that. Seems to work pretty well.

T February 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I’m still in however I will admitt that I had to cut my cheat days down to one because my cheat days where often on the weekends and it felt like I was taking two steps backwards for every step forward. The only complaint I have so far with the diet is that people look at me like I’m crazy. First things first there’s probaly a lot of truth behind it to begin with but still ordering food at restaurnts with co-workers is not easy. Not to mention eating whole tomatoes, stalks of celery, hard boiled eggs, whole cucumbers in the employee kitchen and the fact that I haven’t cut my hair since 2es me look like a wild man. Needless to say I’m slimming down and by this rate I should see those abs coming out right in time for da Beach Boy!!

T February 12, 2011 at 9:24 pm

since 2010 makes

Christopher February 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Haha, she would try to catch you in the act. I saw the picture you took Jenny. That was a serious get-a-way. It sounds like we’re all going a bit overboard.

Thank you for posting the recipes as well. I will have to check some of them out, especially if I ever stray from salad and sauteed veggies.

Christopher February 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm

You used to look at me like I was crazy too T. It’s ok, if “crazy” doing what is true and right, then “crazy” is what we’ll be.

I may ask you at some point to show those pictures. They’re already pretty drastic.

Mike K February 13, 2011 at 10:14 pm

OK Chris. It’s ON. 🙂

Matt February 13, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Sadly, the failure in the competition applies to me as well. Week before last, I had a dinner meeting on Wed and I had planned a cheat day, which was accelerated when pulled pork was offered to me at work. The surprise was the lunch meeting with a business association in which I expected buffet and was thinking I could make it work with vegetables, salad and wishfully a carving station, but instead it was stuffed chicken with rice and vegetables. The elimination day was Superbowl Sunday which I consider a holiday, I did bring raw almonds, but did not withstand the buffalo dip and football shaped ginger cookies. I did speak with Chris about whether the week (and cheat days) started on Sunday or Monday before the game, but my conscience determined that 2 is what we agreed upon and we started on a Monday, so I am out of the competition but continuing the dietary ways otherwise.
I feel good and I’ve gotten over my fears that it won’t taste good and it is practical with planning. I actually enjoy coming up with things to create, even if it does take a little more time, and storage containers. I plan on continuing and will be donating to my daily fund.

Laura Mattia February 14, 2011 at 12:16 am

Hi Chris, Sorry for the delay in my report. I’ve been busy and actually was doing well until this weekend. It was a disaster and I feel horrible going into the new week. I’m still planning to continue but I know that my diet is not pure so I think I am not official. Still, I am doing the best I can under the circmstances of my crazy life and plan to continue regardless of the contest. Thank you all for the extra inspiration.

Christopher February 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm

1 for 1 Mike! I’m serious this time.

Christopher February 14, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Hahaaaaaaaaaa, nice Matt. That’s why I like you, friends with a conscience. The daily fund works, doesn’t it? Also, it’s fairly easy to find new challengers, as you just need to probe who wants results, just needs the motivation to do it. I wouldn’t be able to withstand some buffalo dip either!

Happy to hear that you’re realizing how practical it is with planning. That’s a big hurdle that most people don’t realize, they just have to food shop and think about what they’re eating the next day.

It’s not if we fall, but when we fall, and if we get back up.

Christopher February 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Thanks for commenting Mom. Appreciate your honesty as well. And then there were 3.

Mike K February 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Ok Chris, it’s day four, haven’t stumbled, nor taken a cheat day yet. I am in it to win it. What I DO need to do is take a picture, although I already feel and see that I’m leaner. Have eaten more veggies this week than any week in my entire life. How YOU doin?
Mike K recently posted..DJ Krump

Christopher February 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Haha. I’m happy that you’ve eaten more veggies than ever before. They’ll keep you alive longer. Haha. Please do take a picture ASAP. If you do, it will serve as motivation when you falter or question the diet.

I’m still on track. Have been perfect since Monday. Made cabbage soup yesterday to last me another week. Finishing some beef, which reminds me. We’re doing an order from MiniMac Farm soon if you’re interested. Remember to ask me when I see you.

Mike K February 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Cheat day today–and i honestly don’t like how I feel. Didn’t like how I felt eating oatmeal this AM, don’t like how I feel after eating rice and beans for lunch. Can’t believe that only 5 days in, my body has already adapted to Paleo diet so much that it’s rejecting what I thought was healthy food. Hm, I may just be hooked…
Mike K recently posted..DJ Krump

Christopher February 18, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Hahaha, I love it. Very much. Interesting, isn’t it? I’m supposed to go out to eat tonight and binge on sweets. I don’t think I’m looking forward to it? May not even eat any?

If it stays like this, we’ll have a winner in a couple years? Maybe never?

Mike K February 26, 2011 at 2:53 am

OK, made it through another 6 days in a row of Paleo, no prob. 2 cheat days saved for Charleston, WV, and a visit to CrossfitWV this weekend. Ate homemade(no filler) meatloaf on the road, and some chicken breasts at a roadside bbq place, skipped the sides, didn’t even eat the sweet potato fries that came with. Dude, this is easy.

Have a great weekend and see you next week. The CFMotown WOD looks like a good one tomorrow, think I’d kill on it….

Dr. Christopher February 27, 2011 at 4:33 pm

You win. Was going to plead ignorance when I went out to eat for my brother’s birthday and ate buffalo wings (that were breaded). But my conscience won’t let me. You got me for 3 sessions.

Mike K February 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I read this, gave myself a mental high five, right before i went out to eat at a diner where I proceeded to have another Paleo meal. Thank you for putting me on this path. As you know, I was skeptical about being able to switch to this diet, but I’ve made the change relatively easily, and see myself continuing on. Will probably take a comparison shot a month in to see if its made a difference, feels like it has. As for sessions, this past weekend a coach at CFWV was working w/me on butterfly pullups, suggesting that my supertight shoulders would be more apt to allow me to do those, Butterflies always looked tough; but so did Paleo, and I’m doing that, so…

Thank you again. Very lucky to be working with you.

Dr. Christopher February 28, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Butterfly pull-ups is something that I do NOT have much experience with. You’ll have to let me know how it goes.

I’m happy to hear that you’re doing well Mike. I enjoy working with people who value their health. It’s a pleasure working with me and it inspires me to see you work so hard at what you do.

See you tomorrow!

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