Paleo and Stuff

Strawberries from a corner store in Rome (2011)

Spring time doesn’t lend itself to many serious pursuits. Especially if you have just completed the hardest 8 years of your life and getting ready to start the next undoubtedly harder chapter in a couple of months time. Forgive me if I feel a little too contented, not to say lazy.

Notwithstanding my reluctance to google, pubmed and otherwise research the fascinating topics of health and nutrition, I have been quite active in different endevours, namely spring cleaning. If you are anything like me you normally completely ignore housework, bar essential chores like washing the dishes and killing spiders (I live in Australia, remember?). And once in a blue moon something crazy takes over your mind and you turn into a lean mean cleaning machine. Nothing will stand in my way. I must have missed out on the sentimental gene since I’m totally ruthless in getting rid of stuff and clutter, no matter how many heartstrings it may pull.

Spring cleaning is very Paleo. Truly. Stuff can weigh you down. Consumerism is not Paleo. Not to say that I turn my nose at nice bits of luxury which civilization has kindly provided. As far as I’m concerned, if our brains were intelligent enough to invent spa baths and hair dryers it would be an insult to evolution not to use them.

At the same time i find myself buying and using less and less Stuff. Forget low fat yoghurt, muesli and pasta. This is way beyond food, just like Paleo is way beyond diet. I’ve compiled a little list of the things I don’t use, don’t buy and don’t need.

1. Face cream:  because high saturated fat intake from natural sources keeps my skin supple and smooth.

2. Body lotion: no more puzzling in the aisle if I need moisturising, replenishing, firming or revitalising (what does it even mean???). Because coconut oil does all the above.

3. Hand cream/foot cream/eye cream/pimple cream/lip cream and any other body part cream: because unlike what cosmeceutical companies would like us to believe, our skin is pretty much the same everywhere, and coconut oil really does the job and smells absolutely divine to boot.

Many women would appreciate the above points: it is truly liberating not to get caught up in the world of the latest REVOLUTIONARY anti-wrinkle collagenX-retino-oxy-revivo-intensiv serum with elastoZ pigments which cost $30 for a 30mL jar. And for the guys out there: imagine the amount of money your wife or girlfriend is NOT spending. I know it’s hard to comprehend since most of you were never actually aware how much we used to buy but you get the picture…

4. High heels: controversy here! Glamour is seriously underrated and I’m far from a Birkenstock®-clad hippy chick.  I still do wear heels occasionally but my feet are so used to flats or barefoot now that it almost seems a shame to encase them in uncomfortable shoes. These days I’m more likely to compromise on platforms.

5. Toaster: this home staple is gathering dust in my top cupboard. Obviously we don’t eat bread. And we don’t keep it for visitors either because we care about friends and their health. Ditto bread bin. I still remember thinking about buying a bread making machine once. *shudder*

6. Sunscreen : that’s a big one. Living in the country with the highest skin cancer prevalence in the world understandably makes one a little nervous about sun exposure. My reading on vitamin D (which I started long before any dietary change) convinced me that our sun-fearing hysteria has done us more harm than good. Even IF (a big IF) sunscreens are harmless and IF (another big IF) the sun indeed causes skin cancer, the consequences of vitamin D deficiency outweigh the risk of having a mole cut out.

7. Antibacterial soap/carry on sanitiser: my background is in microbiology and I respect bugs and do not underestimate them. I’m meticulous about washing my hands in the hospital. At home we use normal soap and my daughter is expected to wash her hands if visibly dirty or before meals. Otherwise I am happy for her to receive adequate exposure to ubiquitous organisms and develop healthy resistance.

8. Surface spray/shower cleaner/oven cleaner: you already know what I think about cleaning. “Bam! And the dirt is gone!” tends to leave me cold. Just use soap and water.

9. Antihistamines/paracetamol/cough drops/diclofenac (Voltaren) cream Disclaimer: if you need it, if it was prescribed to you for a reason, if you use it properly medications are good, no, great. But the combination of clever advertising, fix-it-now attitude and the lack of education on side effects have contributed to our pop-a-pill culture. No medications are benign. Don’t avoid them because they are a product of evil pharmaceutical companies and the government is watching you through the television. Just use wisely.

10. Metamucil: I’ll leave that one for you to figure out.

Funny thing happens when you start using critical thinking on a daily basis: you become impervious to bullshit. Advertising doesn’t work on me: give me your best sell and I still just don’t NEED that Stuff. Although I’m not planning to give up my creature comforts and go to live in a tent just yet.

What am I not giving up? Shampoo, mascara, lip gloss, perfume, anything from Apple™, my car and restaurants.

How much Stuff is in your life? Does it weigh you down? Have you found your minimalistic approach? What have you chucked out and what are you happy to keep?

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24 thoughts on “Paleo and Stuff

  1. The Internet. Spending hours and hours each day surfing was probably not mother nature’s plan for us. You might even say it’s the most anti-paleo thing in the world. But hey, without the internet I wouldn’t even think about this. Following blogs like yours and exchangning information with all those folks out there is definetly worth it.

    Oh, and coffee……hell of a drug :-))

  2. After 2 international moves and 6 months of purging I think I’m down to just about the minimum for me. As a guy, I already use less in the bathroom…but now I’m down to shave soap (after more than a decade being bearded, that one’s still strange) and Dr Bronner’s. Don’t own a car, just a bike. Have just enough clothes to get through the work week without repeats (but just barely). About the only thing that gets restocked around here is the fridge, just picked up the weekly CSA box o’goodness yesterday and restocked meat from the same farmers market.

    Stuff’s not so much of an issue these days, and it does indeed feel great!

    • Jesse, I suggest you don’t advertise these free-thinking on a first date;) Most girls need to be slowly convinced to downsize their oife in such drastic fashion 😉 I am slightly envious though.

  3. I’ve been doing my spring cleaning, too. I have a huge pile of clothing to donate, and I finally had to stuff it in a garbage bag because I would see an item and start to think, “Maybe I should keep that, it’s so nice, even though I haven’t worn it in 10 years…”

    Temporarily downsizing into a smaller apartment has been very useful, too. Deciding what to put in a storage unit was very enlightening.

    I used to be a complete heliophobe. Until last spring, I hadn’t left the house without wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen in more than 10 years. I feel liberated.

    • “Heliophobe” – what a fantastic word. I will be using it, Adria, with your permission. For clothes I have a simple rule: if I haven’t worn it for 12 months it goes to charity. Avoid trying it on again, it will tempt you to keep it! Just chuck it.

      • Ah, I can’t take credit for that, unfortunately. I saw it on some Paleo-related blog: might have been Dr. Eades’, might have been Mark’s Daily Apple.

  4. When I am asked about how I treat my skin, I am usually ashamed to admit it is a lot of coconut oil (more inside that inside) and no soap on my skin (but I use shampoo for my hair), and reveal only the coconut part.
    Since I started LC, I don’t need regular or occasional facials at all, and I am 50 without wrinkles.The only facial lines I have are the ones that appear during smiling. . No pre-menopausal suffering at all. How convenient! With possibly spared expenses you forgot to mention doctor’s bills. I even stooped having flues.

    • 50 and no wrinkles? Very lucky! For those who doubt the the diet can make a difference I say that I can tell a low-fat calorie-counting red meat-avoiding female a mile away: they tend to have dull sallow skin, dry and oily in patches. We’ll just stick to our coconut oil, both in and out:)

  5. I have a question about skin care and especially lip care. I eat Paleo but I still get chapped lips. What is best to do for them? Apply coconut oil directly? And do people apply coconut oil directly to the face as a skin cream? For how long? I am confused about this.

    • Hi Jack, most people apply coconut oil in small amount directly to the skin. Best to do it at night, although it absorbs really well at any time. Re chapped lips: you can try coconut oil. My partner uses zinc cream to protect lips when he is out riding in the sun and wind. If somebody has any other suggestions please pitch in.

  6. I agree, coconut oil is great for the skin! I’ve been using it as my night cream for a while now with great success. You can scent it with your favorite essential oil if you want – lavender is a favorite for me. I think using a combination of coconut oil and tea tree oil rid me of a stubborn plantar wart on my right foot. It had been around for over a year and within 2-3 weeks of starting the coconut oil regimen (every morning after my shower) it was completely gone.

  7. I feel like I could have written the same list. I’ve drastically downsized the medicine and makeup cupboard and I just love coconut oil. I’ve been eating it for ages but only recently started using it on the outside. Since then I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me how young/fit/ healthy I look. It’s great for the feet too, so you can add all those specialist foot creams to the list of stuff we no longer need.

  8. Funnily enough, my move into “less stuff” started before I went Paleo, and came after years of frustration with my severe dermatitis (face and scalp) and lack of help from doctors or dermatologists. The internet helped me realise how a lot of THAT Conventional Wisdom was also a load of crap. (It also helped me discover that I’m extremely allergic/sensitive to SLS, which is in 95% of all soaps, shampoos and toothpastes… nobody else ever bothered to suggest that to me!) I learnt that instead of shampoos, conditioners and a whole bunch of complicated hair care products that I could rely on naturally made shampoo bars, vinegar rinses, and coconut oil, as well as that I could throw out all those complicated skin care products and rely on a combination of coconut oil and 99% aloe vera gel. (Aloe vera doesn’t work for everyone, but it seems that for a lot of eczema/dermatitis sufferers, it’s pretty awesome. I use it the way most women might use moisturiser.) I do indulge in some nice body scrubs sometimes, but I get them online from small companies that use primarily natural ingredients, without chemical stuff.
    It’s kind of ironic though that when I went grain-free/sugar-free, all those dermatitis problems went away! But by then I’d learnt how to take better care of my skin so now it looks better than it did for 90% of my life. With just coconut oil and aloe vera. So much for cabinets full of bottles! 😉
    Anyway, that was when I first finally started to realise that so much hype in CW was bullshit, and I began to question more and more of what I’ve been taught. The end result is that I’m constantly moving towards less stuff and greater satisfaction. 🙂

    I’ve also always been frustrated by the antibacterial hysteria, so we never fussed with twenty billion different cleaners… but I do like to keep the grime down (and we’re messy cooks!) and Primal taught me to research alternate ideas. My favourite cleaning products these days are vinegar and bicarb soda. Works for just about everything!

    That said, for all I love my Vibrams and my jeans, I also love my quirky fashion clothes, and I will cling to my clothes and my shoes tenaciously. But I don’t do high heels — I’m all about platforms. I lived in Japan for so many years and bought all my fashions and shoes there, and they make GOOD platform shoes. Comfy to walk in and all.

    My flatmate and I have actually gotten so interested in the idea of living more “primal” that we’re now actively planning to move to a large property in rural NSW and build an EarthShip (it’s a type of self-sustaining eco house) and grow our own produce and live off the land as much as possible. It’ll probably take us at least a year to get the place built and get settled, but we’re both totally enthused… and I don’t think we would’ve reached this point if not for Paleo! That’s certainly something I’m grateful for! And I’m certain we’ll be getting rid of a lot more stuff when we move there! 😀

    • Hi Cassiel. I love reading about different paths people take to arrive to this lifestyle. When you reject the CW on the outside of your body why would you trust to put it inside? Interestingly, for many people the logic goes the other way around. And I love hearing new idea: vinegar and bicarbonate soda? Nice. Platforms are a great in-between, I’m with you there. Good luck with your new endevour: sounds fascinating. Let us know how you go!

  9. I was on board until you said ‘high heels’ 😉 Seriously though, I’m not that sentimental about stuff, it’s just stuff. I have always been quite low maintenance when it comes to clothes, shoes, beauty products etc. I’m constantly telling my husband how lucky he is 🙂 I do love my heels and platforms/wedges but in all honesty I spend most of my time in trainers or thongs (flip flops for the non-aussies, thought I should clarify)!

    • Hahaha I have so many American readers I gotta be careful about what I say too: thongs=flip flops. Hope your husband appreciates how lucky he is.

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  11. Natural Sunscreen Options – Healthy Fellow a useful blog from a reliable evidence based souce summarizing ways to improve UV tolerance.
    In addition UV hardening therapy through the winter may be worth thinking about.
    UK sunlight is a rare and weak phenomena so the fact I’ve improved my skin tolerance to the point I never burn in UK sunlight is hardly comparable with Australian scenario but any natural improvement is better than none.
    Curcumin is another useful antioxidant that has the potential to help prevent skin cancer.

    • Sorry, Edward, you accidentally ended up in my Spam folder, I just fished this out. I find that my UV tolerance has improved dramatically since introducing more fat into my diet. I hardly ever burn, tan brown and the skin stays supple and soft. I attribute it to the antioxidant properties of the diet, better fatty acid profile in skin cells and higher cholesterol level for vitamin D production. Thanks for the links, will definitely check them out.

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