As I alluded to in my post about chauvinism in paleo, I'm not terribly hot on transformation stories from people who lost a ton of weight and now look like supermodels as incentive to clean up one's diet. There are other, more enduringly compelling reasons to do that, but they're not nearly so sexy - literally or conceptually - so they don't get told as much. Three blog posts in the last three days are different.
First, Mark's Daily Apple posts a transformation story every Friday, which I read in the same spirit as I might watch much of TLC's daytime programming on a lazy, rainy day: pure voyeurism. A few have been outstanding (Unconquerable Dave, aka Papa Grok), a few have contained new information I could use or pass on to others (beer in a paleo diet, or pre- and post-paleo pregnancies), but while they all mention health, until this week the bottom line was always weight. The June 15 2012 story does point out that it's easier to dress well and feel good about yourself "when you're not shaped like a potato", but that not all transformations occur at the waistline. It's engaging and encouraging and far, far more important than accounts of getting ripped in 6 months.
Second, although I was concerned for her based on the recent experience of Matt and Stacey at Paleo Parents, Paleo Mom has elected to go public with her before and after photos, breaking her heretofore firm reliance on stick drawings as profile pictures and blog illustrations. Her writing is smart and informative, and I never felt that photos were missing but she feels that they will contribute to her credibility (considering her other credentials, I find this an indictment of an appearance-obsessed culture). At every stage of her story she lists medical conditions with which she was struggling. I find this very important because so many conditions are taken as part and parcel of life, an aspect of each person's uniqueness, which are in fact pathologies not to be tolerated.
A little further back, PaleoNonPaleo posted about the health struggles she still has even well after strict paleo kicked most of her symptoms to the curb, which are often unnoticed by others because she's always been slim. I recognise that my bones weren't ever quite as big as I thought they were, but I am in that majority for whom weight loss can be roughly correlated with health gains. These reminders that the simple metric is not always parsimonious are essential to enriching the population-wide understanding of real health.
(J. Stanton will be talking at a sold-out AHS12 about what hunger is and why people eat, because basic is not simple. His synopsis is here, from 23:50 - 26:15. EDIT: Video of his presentation is here.)
Whole Family Strong once posted pictures of the instantaneous result when she falls off the wagon, asking "is your normal your REAL normal?", or, are you living with symptoms you shouldn't? As much as we hippie food freaks (or renegades, if you prefer) insist that everyone should eat cleaner than we generally do in the developed world, the truth is that most people only rewrite their cookbooks in the face of serious health incentives, generally negative - illness, discomfort, doctor threats - rather than any overwhelming and spontaneous desire to look stupendous. Perhaps, like breastfeeding, we've come to believe that what is evolutionarily appropriate is exceptional. (Breast is not best; formula is suboptimal!) We need to remember, as Stefani Rupert of Paleo for Women says in our third Post of Note, that
When we use evolutionary science rather than norms to guide our lifestyles and our choices, it ... helps us see what true health looks like, and it helps us embrace our natural bodies... Paying attention to a body's evolutionary needs--and then meeting them--gives it the tools necessary to provide a smooth-running platform off of which the individual can spring, off of which she can live.
Dare I hope that these realistic depictions of health are drawing the common and the optimal together into something that could become the new (old) normal?