End Times and the Paleo Diet

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It’s December 31, 2012, and time that I performed a dreaded chore which I have been putting off for 18 months now. “What the hell FFG?” my impassioned readers are shouting, at least in my mind. “We thought that you were an overachiever, a non-procrastinator. We don’t even know you anymore!” Wait, I can explain. After finishing Chapter Four of my book earlier today, then responding to e-mails, and starting to pack for my upcoming trip to New Orleans, I had finally expended enough energy to sit down and watch the DVD disks of the Northern Alberta Bodybuilding and Figure Championships in which I competed on June 4, 2011. One word sums up this viewing experience: Boring. I couldn’t bear to watch the entire show (which I had never actually seen in the first place, having been backstage), so I pressed the fast forward button one, two, three times, until it was finally done. I occasionally slowed down to glance at my formerly lean but still awkward self shuffle about on stage, looking simultaneously more tired and better than I had remembered. How to explain my response? Well, for me when things are over, they are over, and I don’t look back. I live in the present and the future. That’s just how I roll. Snap. And might I add “woot”? [Aside: suggestions for other outdated colloquialisms are most welcome]. 

Here is my New Year’s Resolution: I vow to experience new things, meet new people, acquire new knowledge, and rush headlong into uncertainty every day. I will shun the safe, the repetitive, and the limiting. I will flee from taking the predictable, comfortable, or easy way out. Are you with me? Or against me? Or do you simply find me to be acting like an especially pompous jackass today?  

I prepared this goat stew as part of an Xmas eve holiday feast. It was pretty good, but could hardly be called orgasmic. Of course there is banana.

I prepared this goat stew as part of an Xmas eve Somalian feast. It was pretty good, but could hardly be called orgasmic. Of course there is banana.

I will also drink more water, start doing yoga again, and buy high quality kitchen ware to replace my worn out crap. Now that’s some novel excitement! Dare I shout “shazam”? As I explained to RenMan when we were doing an end-of-2012 back work out—thanks big boy!—I find that outmoded terms represent my trying-to-be-hip-but-failing-miserably persona very well. Kind of like that guy at the gym who is a slightly less attrractive version of Vanilla Ice. When I searched the definition of shazam online, this definition appeared: “An acceptable phrase to utter during orgasm whilst having sexual relations.” Hmmm. I prefer goat-like bleating myself, but to each his/her/its own.

121221-bugarach-jsw-520a_photoblog600_grid-5x2I think my refusal to dwell on the past is unusual, especially during our ominous “End Times.” Depending on which religion sends you its newsletter, the impending end of the world could include someone fabulous coming back from the dead, potentially riding on four frothy horses—in my religion they are unicorns—alongside seven glowing suns. Perhaps there will simply be another Big Bang? As mayan apocalypse Bugarachlong as this inevitable event is thrilling and not too painful, I say bring it! How disappointing that December 21 was a Mayan mistake, forcing French mountain worshippers to put their spaceship-attracting tinfoil suits and hats back into storage. Tant pis! 

So my question is the usual one: Why this obession with the end now? Not that preparing for an apocalypse is particularly recent. Just consider the hysteria caused when 1000 AD rolled around. Then, like now, there was a sense of economic crisis and decline. Then, like now, the fear of an unknown future motivated people to return to the past, a past that they imagined was somehow simpler, purer, more authentic, and morally superior. For you see, my exhausted and probably hung over readers, predictions about the future are always based on fantasies about the past. 

Perhaps this effort to return to origins is motivated by what Sigmund Freud called the “repetition compulsion.” In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), Freud observed his grandson restage the traumatic disappearance of his mother by hiding and then rediscovering a toy, playing a fort/da game to re-experience and potentially control that trauma. When taken up in popular psychology, the repetition compulsion is used to explain why people deliberately cultivate bad situations or relationships. Men will select mentally ill or vulnerable women to rescue, for example, if as powerless children they were unable to save their mothers from abuse. Or women might continually become attached to an uncaring partner in an effort to repair an unhappy first love affair. The main goal of this unconscious behaviour is to go back in time, to an original trauma, and finally get it right, thus resolving it. This contradictory reliving of pain to achieve pleasure will almost always fail, causing the subject to try again and again. Not a pretty picture is it? Luckily none of us think that we are actually doing it. Repression is a wonderful thing, my friends.  

So what has all this got to do with the paleo diet, so enticingly mentioned in the title of this post? Isn’t that simply a way of eating that includes lots of meat, berries, and nuts, while shunning toxic grains? I think not. The paleo diet, embraced by CrossFitters preparing to face the apocalypse [see the post “Cultures of CrossFit: The Good, the Bad, and the Zombies”], involves living like cavemen, namely those ancestors who hunted and gathered long before the agricultural revolution. Mimicking their diet is said to be biologically authentic, in recognition of the primitive needs and capacities of our bodies. Refined sugar, starch, dairy products, and artificial additives are therefore shunned. Now on a superficial level these exclusions seem reasonable; I agree that eating more protein and avoiding preservatives could indeed bring health benefits. But there is more to it, for the paleo diet is a form of repetition compulsion, based on a desire to return to the past in order to repair the present.

Sorry, paleo-whores but my slab of meat dinner was sullied by the civilizing effects of George Foreman.

Sorry, paleo-whores but my slab of meat dinner was sullied by the civilizing effects of patented George Foreman technology.

When did humanity go so wrong, causing everything to turn to shit? Oh that’s right, about 10,000 years ago, when people settled down to form societies, living in communities while cultivating crops. Big mistake! An unspoken but powerful aspect of current paleo discourse involves a fantasy of escape from the deleterious effects of civilization, which clearly cause physical weakness, decay, and decline, not to mention mutual dependence. This notion of the “fall of man” is furthermore informed by assumptions about gender. After all, the paleo literature—which is everywhere, even in Coffee News—refers to cavemen as meat eating brutes, not cavewomen, for femininity is historically linked with sugary sweetness and a weakness of the flesh. As usual, an embrace of supposedly primitive values is based on a reassertion of conservative conceptions of nature, gender, race, and sexuality. [Aside: I tremble to think what a paleo sex toy would look like]. That is what makes me slightly nervous, especially when it is denied or repressed by those who religiously adhere to the paleo myth in their efforts to find truth and salvation. 

So this discussion does not provide a particularly cheerful ending-of-2012/beginning-of-2013 post, does it? Some people like to ponder the year behind them, choosing their best moments or accomplishments, but I am reluctant to offer such a recap. First of all, I don’t want to waste time thinking about 2012 (though I have a hazy suspicion that it was pretty great), when 2013 has so much promise. For instance, I will soon be leaving for a conference/holiday in the Big Easy, blogging from there. In the meantime, I wish every one a Happy and Non-Repetitive New Year.

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 49-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

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