As a person who was raised in Canada and then spent almost a decade in Europe, I have seen how the rest of the world pays attention to what’s going on. The United States doesn’t. Watch the news here and you’re lucky to even hear about that 7.0 earthquake in Asia. If you’re American, it’s more likely you know all the Republican candidates by heart and where they stand in the polls.
The rest of the world isn’t like this. They pay attention to themselves, their neighboring countries and the rest of the world. They pay attention to us.
The Paleo movement is starting to gain major momentum around the world. I don’t care where it started, who invented it and who does it best. I care that the message is spreading. People are adapting the Paleo/Primal diet and lifestyle to suit themselves, their families and their nations. Butter is flying off the shelves in Scandinavian countries, the French are talking to Robb Wolf and I’m getting comments from people in the UK, Israel, Greece and New Zealand. Rock. On.
We often hear from Americans and Canadians about what it’s like to live a Paleo lifestyle but what about people from the rest of the world? Ever wondered what it’s like to eat Paleo in Japan or Singapore? Planning on taking a trip to Mexico or Africa? It might be nice to know what you’re facing before you go.
Suz is a British national who moved to Australia in search of a different life. She now runs the Paleo Network for Australia and New Zealand. Here is her story:
“Having lived in the UK for the first 28 years of my life, on a whim, I took the opportunity to see what it would be like to live in Australia when I was made redundant [Editors Note: redundant=laid off]. Four years later, I’m still here – and blogging about living a Paleo life in Australia. From my life in the UK and Australia – and my travels to the USA, I’ve been surprised at how different it is living Primally in these countries.
SAD Grocery Shopping
I left the UK as a SAD eater (replace American for Anglo and the acronym is just as valid), used to being able to fulfil any culinary whim in my local supermarket. I was used to a pizza aisle with every type of pizza you could imagine – and plenty that you couldn’t. Another aisle for fresh pasta; fusilli, penne, rigatoni – you name it, it was available – and probably on a buy one get one free offer. The ready-made meals spilled out into several aisles. Fruit and vegetables from all around the world were available on any given day of the year. Alcohol took up the last few aisles in every supermarket – making the decision of whether to have a bottle of red with tonight’s microwave dinner a very easy one.
I landed in Australia aghast at the complete lack of availability in the supermarkets – I felt like I’d travelled back in time, all that progress in the UK food industry seemed to have completely bypassed Australia. Instead of aisles of ready-meals, fresh pasta and pizza – there were just a handful. In fact, everything seemed limited to just a few choices, instead of the endless choices I was used to in the UK. It isn’t quite as much fun to be a SAD eater (replace American for Australian; it still works) in Australia as it was in the UK. I was also surprised alcohol wasn’t sold in the grocery store, but in a separate bottle shop; the unplanned alcohol purchases stopped overnight.
Everywhere I worked in the UK, lunch consisted of a pre-packed sandwich, a bag of crisps (chips), a bottle of soda and maybe a chocolate bar. The only exception to this would be on a special occasion where I’d go somewhere for lunch with colleagues. I was shocked at the difference when I started working in Sydney. I don’t know where I could find a prepacked sandwich. If you want a sandwich for lunch, someone makes it for you, in front of you. Same story with a salad, roast dinner – or whatever you choose for lunch. Everything is made freshly for you, to your requirements. This was one difference I immediately embraced.
After living in Australia for a while, I realised I had to do something about my health. I was overweight, asthmatic – and I felt generally not healthy. After considerable research, I changed my eating, initially to a Primal/ Lacto-Paleo approach. I started to feel healthier almost straight away and dropped three dress sizes effortlessly. A few months later I experimented by excluding dairy – and soon after my asthma completely disappeared without trace. No matter what I did to try to provoke it!
Finding Paleo Food
When I changed my diet, I realised that in fact, Australian food supplies aren’t so bad after all. There are so many different vegetables I just didn’t see in the UK. Thanks to the large Asian community, a great range of coconut milk is available in all of the main supermarkets. Meat has also proved to be good here. I learnt that Australia didn’t embrace intensive farming methods to the same degree as other countries, so most meat is naturally “grass-fed” (though sometimes grain-finished). Cheap, lean, un-farmed kangaroo meat is also widely available – I’ve certainly never seen kangaroo in the UK!
On post-Paleo trips back to the UK I’ve been surprised at how hard it’s been to find Paleo food supplies. The supermarkets I used to think were so well stocked, just aren’t when I shop Paleo. I also found eating out harder, and had to resort to ordering “the club sandwich without the bread, or mayonnaise” for lunch a couple of times (which incidentally is far better value for money, as without the bread to hide under, they’re forced to provide a more respectable serving of meat!)
The Home of Paleo?
Last year I travelled to the US for PrimalCon and the Ancestral Health Symposium. These were my first trips to America since I’d changed my diet to a Paleo one. After doing most of my Paleo research through American blogs and books I had high expectations about these trips! I was expecting eating Paleo in America to be so much easier than in Australia. I was quite surprised by what I found and realised my view of American nutrition is completely through Paleo-tinted glasses.
I was really looking forward to eating-out in the States – I found it frustratingly hard! It felt like everywhere I tried served food that had been “tampered with”. I couldn’t find pure, real, untouched food! Where I did find simple meat and vegetables, they seemed to take every opportunity to marinate the food, or coat in it sauce from an ominous looking plastic bottle. Where I asked for the sauce on the side, it generally seemed to be not possible as it came that way. I’ve been used to eating in Australian restaurants where food is generally freshly prepared and modifications are no problem. I ended up eating a lot of omelettes in America!
Another big shock in America was the portion sizes. It’s no exaggeration to say that American portion sizes are double that of both the UK and Australia. Not only the portion sizes but the “added extras” that seemed to come with every meal. Bread, tortillas, corn, more and more food! One waitress just couldn’t understand why I didn’t want Nachos on my dinner plate, “they’re complementary” – my English reserve found it easier to graciously accept and leave them uneaten!
When I met up with some American Paleo friends however, I saw a completely different side. The first time I walked into Wholefoods I wondered around in amazement! Not only at the vast range of everything the Paleo chef could ever want – but at the prices! If I could do my weekly shop in Wholefoods I would save about a third off my grocery bill, compared to average grocery prices in Australia. I later found out (whilst telling everyone at PrimalCon how lucky there were to have such a cheap grocery store!) that relative to other grocery stores in the US, Wholefoods is expensive and known as “WholePayCheck”! One of the downsides to living in a Country as remote as Australia is definitely the higher prices that result from the complex shipping and transporting arrangements that the geography requires.
The Outdoors Lifestyle
I think another big aspect to this lifestyle is about being active. In the UK, it is a lot colder and winter is often long and dark. This makes it hard to get a sufficient Vitamin D level through sunshine alone. On dark, cold rainy days it is very hard to leave the couch and warmth and venture outside. When I arrived in Australia, I was immediately struck by how much happened outdoors. Better weather makes being outside a joy – the physical activity is almost a second thought. Winter is over quickly and often comparable to a spring day in the UK with blue skies but cool air – even in the Winter here I enjoy walking to work. I’ve not spent time in America in the winter yet, but I’d imagine it’s a similar story to the UK, particularly in Northern states.
So, I think the best possible Paleo life could be achieved by moving the beautiful British countryside and the American Paleo-friendly food suppliers, into warm and sunny Australia. Can that be arranged?
Have you noticed living Primally differs enormously, depending on which country you are in? Which country do you think lends itself to Paleo more than others?”
Suz will be attending PrimalCon again this year and I am very excited to meet her in person. In the meantime, she is organizing a Paleo weekend in Australia on May 12 & 13, 2012. That’s right people, it’s not just here in the States that Paleo people are gathering together to form tribes. Jamie Scott (www.thatpaleoguy.com) will be there, as will other leading members of the Australian and New Zealand Paleo network. Early bird pricing ends on March 31st, so if you’re in that part of the world, I encourage you to get yourself tickets and join the movement. It’s easy for us to feel isolated and alone with our bone broth and bare feet, but there are thousands of people out there who feel just like you. Get out and meet them. Form tribes. Get connected.
And Suz poses a great question we’d love to hear an answer to: what is it like living a Primal/Paleo life in your country? How is it different from what you hear about in the States? How is it the same?