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The Clan

Stacy Allenbach-Stunes

Are you caught up in the battle of the clans? Let’s face it, most of us are categorized, sorted, and organized by a young age.

  • Hyperactive–Calm
  • Smart–Lacking in brain power
  • Artistic–Scientific

When we are young, these labels are pinned on us and if we are lucky, we can choose to embrace them or leave them behind. It seems that during our adolescent years nothing is more important than the labels we give ourselves as we search for our place in the world.

As we mature into ourselves, the passing of time and the frenetic pace of our lives tends to lighten this load, this process of labeling; sometimes we are just too busy to bother. When we embark on a health journey, whether it be diet and exercise related or not, we tend to embrace the label of our new group-our clan.

Clans are of course, of enormous historical and social importance, offering structure, support and protection to their members. But our modern-day clans also offer a fair amount of isolation and righteous indignation if we allow ourselves to be lured in. To join and to belong is an innate human need; we are generally herd-like animals after all. When we join, we naturally label ourselves, boxing ourselves in with our new titles:

  • Jenny Craig
  • Hatha
  • Weight Watchers
  • South Beach
  • Paleo
  • Atkins
  • Crossfit

We use our new clan labels to not only express who we are, but what we lift and how we eat. In order to keep up with the ever-changing world of our bodies, we should not entirely discount the views of others. Perspectives are important.

I had a good example of this come up after the holidays, during my house-wide shakedown of all things Christmas. I undertook the winter reorganizational purge that seems to grip me every year, although this year it has been extremely vigorous. I came upon several piles of recipes I had been stock-piling for eight years…yes, eight years. Clipped, torn and stapled masses, some several inches thick needed to be dealt with if I was going to cram more decorations into that already full cabinet. After flipping through just the first few, I realized how much my eating patterns had changed over the years. Non-fat recipes mingled with cakes coated in crushed candy canes and the ever-present ode to Italian dishes loaded with pasta and covered in cheese. This was not who I was anymore. This was not how I ate.

My first instinct was to just dump the whole pile, after all , I was a Paleo Girl now, what use did I have for grains, cheese and candy canes? The pile sat for several days, and I was finally able to return to it with a new perspective. If I just tossed out the lot, I would be missing some amazing dishes, new cooking techniques and combinations of interesting spices. I would be missing the learning.

In the end, I sat for a few hours and gave the pile my full attention. Sorting through the pile was, in a way, like looking through a scrapbook, it reminded me of who I was and how I got here. I learned a lot about myself during this sorting experiment. My missing teeth and Farrah Fawcett hair do were hard to ignore. It helped me to acknowledge and honor the hard work that I have done in order to improve and nourish myself. Sometimes it was awkward and ugly, but in the end it helped me to become my true self.

The lesson for me is to not be so committed and overzealous in my new lifestyle that I forget to learn. We all have so much to offer each other. The structure, support and protection of our clan needs to move beyond its immediate members to embrace the bigger clan of humanity, for our struggles to find health and wellness are the same. The clan of humanity, that is our true tribe.