A Few Thoughts on Identity, Community + Social Media: Who Are You?

Who are you?

You might be inclined to answer this with a list of your hobbies or day job: a weightlifter, a lawyer, a vegan, a runner, a teacher.

But what if instead, you answered this with qualities about yourself that are intrinsic? With things that cannot be taken away from you? After all, you may decide one day that you want to leave veganism. Or you get laid off from your job. Or you suffer an injury and cannot train in your sport. What happens then? What happens when the thing we sink our identity into is stripped from us? 

Who are you then?


LISTEN TO THIS POST


As marketing guru Seth Godin once spoke about in a TED talk, the internet has done incredible things when it comes to allowing people to find their people. Their community. Their tribe. 

He says, “tribes are [now] everywhere. The internet was supposed to homogenize everyone by connecting us all, but instead what it’s allowed is silos of interest… People once on the fringes can find each other, connect and go somewhere.”

As someone who has a business in the digital space, and is working every day to build and foster an online community, I know this is true, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunities the internet has afforded me. 

I think about the friendships I’ve made, the relationships I’ve built, and the way my own life has been shaped and impacted by things or people on the internet. It’s pretty remarkable stuff.

I thank my lucky stars every day that I am a part of such a supportive and welcoming community. And I’m forever grateful to the magic of the internet for allowing these niches, these little tribes, to exist, because they enhance our feeling of acceptance, belonging and purpose— which are all fundamental to not only our quality of life, but our health.

Last week I wrote about why I dropped the label of “paleo” when explaining to people how I currently personally eat. I was really surprised to see just how many of you resonated with this, and I loved chatting with so many of you about your own journey to find a label-less diet. 

I can’t help but notice an interesting dichotomy. One where we are itching to embed ourselves in a community of likeminded people, to connect and deepen an area of our identity, and one where we are liberated by tossing out anything that could pin us onto one specific idea or premise. 

So where are we supposed to land? How do we navigate the need to find our tribe but not let it define us? And in an age where the internet -- the good, the bad and the ugly-- reigns as king, how do we figure out who we are, without growing into a polarized, oversimplified, dogmatic and unbendable symbol of the things we identify with? 

If we take an honest look, is there maybe an instance where our allegiance to a community, identity or ideology overrides who we actually are in our day to day lives? And whether we realize it or not, are we sinking our identity into and defining who we are by these constructs? Or are we really honoring our true selves?

In other words, are we practicing what we're preaching?

 

While I’m still figuring this out in my own life, and am quick to tell you that I certainly do not have all the answers, I think there’s a few ways we can begin to tackle this.

One is the pursuit of self knowledge and thoughtful introspection. We can do this a few ways, but my favorite way is reading (my favorite books are here). The more we can learn about ourselves and the way we respond to people, circumstances, expectations, rules, and set backs, the better off we are, in general.

The benefits of this include a better sense of how to improve our lives; how to create habits that stick, how to get ourselves to do hard things or face difficult situations, how to better connect with those around us. It also brings a sense of confidence and even power. After all, knowledge is power. The more we know, the more we can do with it.

We can take note of how we handle conflict, we can listen closely to the space between what someone is saying, and how we hear it. We can think about the ways in which we express ourselves, the ways in which our fears and insecurities show up, and the ways in which we empower and lift those around us.

We can collect the qualities about ourselves that live beyond a title, or Facebook group, or hobby.

The things like how we (really) support and connect with our friends and family, and those closest to us. How we (really) talk to and engage with those who don’t agree with us. Objectively tuning in to the lenses through which we view the world at large, and the small decisions we make every day. 

The ways we use our voice, and the things we stand for. And the things we don't.

And in a time when social media and the internet as a whole is just a finger pointing screaming match, I think these pursuits hold even higher value. 

The comfort and closeness of the ancient pursuit of connectedness is a worthwhile cause, and finding our tribe can fulfill us as humans in real, valuable ways, and can give us a sense of purpose.

But knowing who you are, outside of your job and your hobbies and your sport and your diet and your neighborhood and your Liked pages and anything that could be taken away from you at any given moment in time, is where the really important work happens.

Learning about these intrinsic qualities, even as they ebb and flow and grow and dissolve, is paramount. These are the pockets where we should be planting our precious self worth and our identity. These are the gardens where we should be watering and weeding and tending to. These are the qualities about ourselves that even though may evolve over time, cannot be stripped from us overnight. This is who we are.

 

If you aren’t thrilled with what you find under there, or it's difficult to sit with, or you're afraid what you're going to uncover? That's ok, and is part of the process; and I would argue where your energy to strengthen and improve yourself should go-- first.

And if your answers are just a pile of contradictions or you still aren’t quite sure, thats ok, too. In fact, that’s my whole point. Because we are nuanced, and multi layered and difficult to understand sometimes— difficult to define, to pin, to label, to throw into one camp or put into one box.

This is where we figure out how to become bigger, better, stronger, fuller, and ultimately happier humans. This is also where the rubber meets the road with our purpose.

Our ability to enact change on a bigger level, to make a mark and impact lives, to leave the world better than we found it,  to see our life's purpose through -- it all begins with us

Yes, our tribes and our communities are certainly a facet of who we are, and it’s a beautiful thing to see and experience these connections be made. And yes, our external habits and hobbies and preferences are an important part of us, too. They make us interesting and diversified and smarter.

But when we shut out all the noise and lines and forums and labels and the social media, and you are alone with yourself in the dark...

Who are you?


 

 

 

Comment

How Going Paleo Changed My Life, and Why I'm Not "Paleo" Anymore

I don’t really remember when it started, but I remember everything I did to try to fix it; the dozens of doctor appointments, the daily pills, and even the time I was put under anesthesia and had a camera stuck down my throat and into my stomach. I remember the gastrointestinal specialist who looked me square in my 22 year old face and told me that the only place he’d seen acid reflux as bad as mine was on overweight, middle aged men. He then told me I was a perfect candidate for esophageal surgery, and that that was likely my only hope to fix the constant pain of my severe GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).


WOULD YOU RATHER LISTEN TO THIS BLOG POST? Just click play.


Heartburn and GERD were things I had been dealing with for years. Almost 10 years, to be exact. I saw all the doctors, avoided acids and citrus and tomatoes, and was on a solid regiment of 2 Prilosec per day, for almost a decade. 

Fast forward to 2012, a few months after I had started CrossFit. I found a Groupon on a whim and decided to give CrossFit a try, as I was decidedly in “get my shit together” mode and it seemed like my style of workout. After totally drinking the Kool-Aid, seeing myself lose a bunch of weight, gain new muscle, make huge improvements and strides and PR’s for several months, and even quit smoking in an effort to be better and healthier, after about a year, progress sort of plateaued— as it does. The time had come to take a look at my nutrition.

I gave it a shot, even though I didn't know what could possibly change, because I was already doing everything “right”. I was eating a low fat, near vegetarian diet with lots of whole grains, after all. I decided to hire a professional to help me dig to the bottom of why I had stopped losing weight and getting better in the gym.

My health coach (as some of you OG She Thrives readers will know as Morgan), introduced me to the Paleo lifestyle, and I could not believe what I was seeing. You mean I get to eat butter, bacon (and bacon fat!), and all the things I’ve been trying so hard to limit my entire life?! Not only do I get to eat it, but it’s actually GOOD for me?! 

 

EVERYTHING CHANGED

It was a revelation. A fucking delicious revelation. I was obviously really into it.

I stepped up my sourcing game and started eating meat again; meats had to be pasture raised or grass fed; I started taking a probiotic and ate things like sauerkraut; I started eating nutrient dense carbs like sweet potatoes and squash instead of rice and pasta.

But what I thought was most interesting of all, was not quite the deliciousness that I was adding IN to my diet, but the things that I was taking OUT. 

I cleaned out my pantry and threw out every bag of baking sugar and flour, all the oatmeal, the granola bars and Kashi cereals. I tossed the Diet Coke, the boxes of pasta, the cans of beans, the tortilla chips. I threw out the bags of edamame and bottles of soy sauce.

I stopped eating all grains and legumes and soy; I stopped eating dairy; I developed a very discerning eye on the very few remaining processed foods left in my kitchen and only the “clean” ones stayed; I cut way back on alcohol to almost none; added sugars only appeared in my diet in a few places, and only if they were natural or naturally occurring. I completely stopped consuming any form of industrial oils, and tossed every bottle of canola oil or vegetable oil based products in my home.

Actual photo of a fraction of my pantry clean out: the baking cabinet.

Actual photo of a fraction of my pantry clean out: the baking cabinet.

 

And things changed. BIG things changed. I was feeling more full and satisfied after every meal. My energy skyrocketed and I started to see and feel it in the gym. I was leaning out again. And most shocking of all, my heartburn completely ceased to exist. It was just— gone. Done. Over. Not a thing. I had finally cured the core issue: a leaky gut and low stomach acid (yeah, that's right). I threw my remaining Prilosec in the trash and haven’t looked back in over 4 years.

Note: If you're interested in how mainstream science has it backwards when it comes to heartburn/GERD, and how to TRULY fix the issue instead of applying a band-aid, read this ebook from Chris Kresser.

I also realized that I was highly sensitive to gluten, and developed atrocious bloating, digestive issues and abdominal discomfort after even a bite, and I couldn’t believe I had been eating gluten almost every day of my entire life.

A sampling of some of the dozens of books i pored through- still some of my FAVORITE recommendations!

A sampling of some of the dozens of books i pored through- still some of my FAVORITE recommendations!

In fact, I shuddered to think what I had been putting my body through all those years without ever realizing it.  Without so much as even questioning it! It was startling, scary, and truly life changing.

Seeing and feeling the benefits of this way of eating threw me into total fascination, and I embarked on a journey to learn every last thing I could about the Standard American Diet, the flaws in mainstream nutrition science, and how this alternative approach could change millions of lives-- and especially the entire autoimmune illness industry. I pored over articles and studies and books, and soaked it all up. 

Fun Fact: This is the start of how this blog was born!

 

BUT THEN

After about a year of living decidedly “paleo”, I was sold on its benefits and was profoundly grateful for finding it and allowing it to change my life in only the best ways. Eventually, though, I found myself reaching for a handful of tortilla chips here, or a sprinkling of cheese there, or a bowl of popcorn, or even a rogue processed food, like frozen meatballs or a protein bar. 

I realized that I could eat these things without a negative reaction, and my body and mind handled them just fine. (Not gluten though— that one was out for good). I also realized that a different macro ratio, namely, going a lower fat and higher carb than the "paleo purists" recommend, worked best for my body.

But what I also realized was that I was eating under a label. I was in a category, following a protocol, where there were rules, and where you could do it wrong (“that’s not paleo”). I realized that I could take the valuable lessons I learned and the knowledge I gained (not only about nutrition science at large but about my own body), and using that to forge my own, more inclusive diet.

I will also say that it's widely understood in the paleo community that "paleo" is merely a template, for you to be able to build on to create your own specific plan, but:

 

LET ME EXPLAIN

 

I still steer clear of industrial oils, but don’t panic when I see canola oil on an ingredient list— I just don’t eat that thing so often, and I buy mayos made from avocado oils instead. I don’t believe sugar (refined or otherwise) is the devil incarnate, but I personally don’t eat a lot of it (some days are better than others), and I think the SAD does include much too much for most people. I find that adding grains like corn and rice to my day make me feel great, but I still steer clear of gluten and quinoa, because those make me feel terrible. I still don’t eat soy in my own home, but will definitely hit up the edamame plate when we go out for sushi (though I dip the sushi in GF tamari). I still am watchful of ingredient lists but have removed the word “clean” from my food vocabulary.

I also learned that well sourced meat is always important, that saturated fat is nothing to fear, and that I can absolutely live without some of the things I thought I couldn't live without.

I still eat with my gut health in mind, but don’t fret if I don’t do it perfectly. 

And that there is the key word: Perfect. When you are eating a way that involves rules, right and wrong, and in or out, you're hoping to follow some idea of perfectionism, and you are ultimately setting yourself up for failure. 

I cannot stress how valuable this template was for me and my life, and how it is the FIRST thing I recommend (or doing a whole30, same same), to anyone beginning (or is lost on) their health journey, and is also a super smart “reset”, if needed. I think eliminating the junk and the noise, allowing your body to heal itself from the inside out, and creating the ability to actually HEAR your body when it says it doesn't like something, is something everyone should do at least once. (How would I have ever known about my reaction to gluten if I didn't stop it entirely?) And I think questioning mainstream nutrition science is a good thing— a really good thing.

But I also think that unless you have a specific health condition that requires you to follow the protocol to a T, it’s not a way you’ll eat for the rest of your life. 

And that’s ok. 

Your happy place with your diet should fall in territory that doesn’t make you feel restricted or deprived; that doesn’t make you feel like you can do it right or wrong; like you are or aren't following the rules; it shouldn’t put you in a box or give you a label.

After a while of explaining my diet as “a loose interpretation of the paleo template”, I decided to distance myself from the word altogether. The way I eat is mine and mine alone (and the same can be said for you), and I don’t need anyone telling me I’m doing it right or wrong.

And yes, between the Standard American Diet and the Paleo Diet, my diet definitely falls much closer to paleo— that’s for sure. But maybe it’s my rebel tendencies, but I just don’t like a label on there, and I think you’d be much more likely to find your own happy balance with food if you did the same: ditch the label, the right and wrong, the good and bad.

Yes, paleo changed my life, and yes I would absolutely recommended it without a shadow of a doubt to anyone who needs a place to start in their health journey, or who is suffering from ailments that are likely caused or worsened by certain foods (like heartburn, or migraines, or joint pain or digestive issues, or acne or eczema, to name a few). If you’re on the fence about trying it, my recommendation would still be YES. It yields such valuable information about your body that you might not ever learn otherwise. How are you supposed to find your ideal diet if you don’t have that knowledge?

And that's precisely the goal: finding your own body's ideal diet. The one that makes it feel the most vibrant, the one that allows your mind to settle in to a good place, the one that keeps you feeling strong, and well fed and happy.

But I would be remiss to recommend it (or anything!) as a permanent fixture, as the only way, or as the right way. The diet that’s right for you is one that is unique to you and you only, and it probably won’t be able to fit into a neat little box.


If you are looking for help finding YOUR body's ideal diet, that doesn't involve rules or right and wrong, I am currently developing a program that will be released in the next month or two that you might be interested in!

I will teach you how to find the foods that make you feel best, the amounts of those foods that allow you to perform optimally, and also teach you to reframe your mindset so that you can CHOOSE those foods on a consistent basis.

SIGN UP FOR OUR MAILING LIST TO BE THE FIRST TO KNOW WHEN ENROLLMENT IS OPEN!


If you ARE looking to try out an anti-inflammatory, gut healing diet or other elimination diet, these resources are my first recommendations.


 

 

 

2 Comments