Dogma limits possibilities – in Paleo, CrossFit, yoga, and beyond.

This post is a sort of stream of consciousness rant, if you will. It’s intended to open your mind up to a new way of thinking about things that I talk about so often here on the blog, on the podcast, and in all of my work. It’s a set of thoughts that came to me yesterday morning, that I shared in a Facebook status update, and then I realized that it would be a great thing to share on the blog.

I am not here to be a guru, or any sort of end-all-be-all expert on the topics I share with you here. I’m simply here to share my experiences and my gifts in this life, and if that means it will help you to live a better, happier life for yourself, then I’m doing what I set out to do. Do with this what you will…

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed that individuals who have decided to follow a group-think mindset about something – from nutrition (Paleo, vegan, and beyond), to exercise (CrossFit, yoga, and beyond), and, yes, to religion – inevitably become unhappy and disheartened when more people enter into the group, and ideas and beliefs within the group begin to shift or change.

Note: I believe the increase in this occurrence is due to my acuity to the situation, not because it is happening more than it has before.

Here’s the thing: when something – an idea, a practice, a way of eating, a way of moving, a way of believing – gets bigger than an initial, smaller gathering of minds who originally decided what it was about, it’s only natural that the essence, intention, direction, and impact of that thing will change and morph into new shapes, thoughts, ideas, ways, etc.

Monday Motivation: Dogma limits possibilities. | Diane SanfilippoIf we are too protective of these beliefs about how things “should” be, we never see the possibilities in what they may become.

We see this in nutrition a lot, in those who protect “Paleo” in a box and don’t let it evolve into what it can be. Pun intended.

For example, for many people, Paleo was a way to generally get healthier – a concept about eating as our ancestors did, and avoiding modern foods and agricultural products was the optimal way to do that. And, for many who suffer from health challenges and diagnosed conditions, a strict Paleo diet (no grains, no dairy, no legumes/beans, no sugar, no alcohol) is a way forward, without exceptions.

But, I’d argue that for most, this level of restriction in what we’re eating, as a lifestyle (versus a dietary intervention for a period of time – a month, three months, six, a year, or even longer), well, it’s not only unsustainable, it truly isn’t necessary. Paleo dogma isn’t necessary.

Many people take the basic experiment they’ve performed by following the strict set of rules, then use their own experience (and their own free-will and intellect) to move forward with the knowledge of the experiment, and take a path that works best for them, according to their own inner compass. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

I’ve interacted with nearly every thought leader and author in the Paleo movement, and none of them eats what anyone would consider to be a strict Paleo diet 100% of the time. So what?

You only build your own box of restrictions when you say that X way of eating is the only way to be a healthy, happy person. If your friend tried Paleo for a while, but wants to eat white rice now and then, so be it.

We also see this in fitness modalities like CrossFit, and even yoga, where people begin to make new things of something that once was a very finite set of movements, intentions, etcetera. Of course, we see this in religion as well.

Who cares if a CrossFit gym decides to add yoga to its offerings. Or what if they decided to add a movement to their WODs that isn’t typically seen in CrossFit workouts of days past? Who are we to say it isn’t a good idea? Why does anyone think that one way of moving our bodies is always superior to another simply because it’s what we do? It’s so myopic that it’s almost insane.

If we leave decisions about how we eat, move, and think in the hands of others who have dictated a way that things should be, well, then we’re giving up the inherent rights we have as free-thinking animals to make choices for ourselves, guided by our own internal compasses.

To look to others as examples, to value their advice and opinions, and to value their contributions to a way of thinking, sure, that’s valid. We have tribal tendencies, and we want to have teachers – those who we see as wise, who have set forth before us to help us to understand something new. But let’s not have herd-like tendencies, where we simply follow and don’t question, or run ideas by our own measures of what makes sense.

Is it bad when something, a set of ideas or ideals changes or evolves, as it reaches new people, to become something new or changed from the original? I don’t think it’s bad. I think it’s natural and essential.

Monday Motivation: Dogma limits possibilities. | Diane SanfilippoOtherwise, the *thing* will not reach as many people or touch as many people’s lives in a positive way, because the original form it took wasn’t appealing to those people.

I believe that dogmatic views only serve to lead to pain in the person holding them… Let. Things. Go.

Let things change and evolve.

Being fearful that the essence of a thought, idea, or mindset will be lost doesn’t prevent it from happening, it prevents you from working your way into the path in the place you want to be.

If you believe in an original element or essence of the thing, then stand for it, help others understand it and see it, and let anyone else see and understand what they want to see and understand.

Dogma limits possibilities.

6 thoughts on “Dogma limits possibilities – in Paleo, CrossFit, yoga, and beyond.

  • Oh my gosh, this is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for putting what I’ve been thinking (and what I’m sure so many of us have been thinking) into words. I’ve seen those clinging to a paleo dogma lash out against those who have a modified view of the ideal, and it can be disheartening. It’s so nice to hear a thought leader like you stand up for the way paleo is changing…AND how it works differently for everyone.

  • On point. Whether it’s nutrition or fitness or politics, it behoves all of us to keep an open mind and be open to our vast world. We must learn to embrace the dynamic area of the grey space… that’s the area where the magic happens. So, ya, go ahead and try that hummus that your friend’s Lebanese grandma made. If it has a negative impact on you, don’t eat it again. But don’t close yourself to new and exciting life experiences just because you don’t (usually) do legumes… or whatever the case may be.

  • I absolutely love this post! It’s so very true and something I have been struggling with in the CrossFit community. Nothing can evolve without some change. Maybe the change is bad but maybe it could be good. You’ll never know if you don’t let it happen!

  • I so agree with this! I love experimenting and doing what is best for me, knowing that I cross between “diets” discovering what works best for me.

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