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One of the principal tenets of the Paleo lifestyle is to eliminate toxins from your food and your environment in general.  When stated simply like this, makes a lot of sense right? Who wants to live with exposure to toxins? What many find out when they endeavor to remove toxins from their lives is that it is a lot harder than it sounds. Part of the reason is that food and environmental toxins are numerous, hidden and in many cases unknown. The obvious ones like gluten, simple sugars, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, PCBs, etc. are known and relatively easy to avoid. Others are not so easy. This is particularly true when those toxins come in the form of relationships.

The toxic relationship is often the most insidious and the hardest toxin to eliminate; especially when the relationship is one you have had for many years, perhaps for your whole life.  Sometimes these toxic relationships are easy to identify and easy to avoid while some are easy to identify but hard to avoid. Others are harder to identify and easy to avoid once realized and some others seem impossible to avoid even once identified.

Along the journey to health and happiness, if you are engaged in one of these toxic relationships, it can be nearly impossible to ever truly reach your health goals. How do you now if a relationship is truly a toxic one? The obvious things like physical and verbal abuse are a little easier to identify but emotional abuse can be a lot harder. Start by asking yourself these questions.

  • Does it seem like you can’t do anything right?
  • Is everything about them and never about you?
  • Do you find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person or is he/she unable to be happy for you?
  • Are you uncomfortable being yourself around this person or feel uncomfortable expressing your thoughts or feelings?
  • Are you’re not allowed to grow and change?
  • Do you compromise yourself in order to maintain the relationship?
  • Does this person mock your looks, occupation, activities, mannerisms, family and friends?
  • Do you constantly feel unhappy or complain about the relationship to others?
  • Does the other person take out his or her bad moods on you? AKA: If he/she isn’t happy you can’t be either?
  • Does this person consistently use guilt to get you to do what he/she wants?
  • Does this person fight dirty? I.E. name calling, insults?
  • Does this person intimidate you with words or actions?
  • Have others you trust told you they don’t like this person or that this person is not good for you?
  • Does this person do as they please even if it affects you negatively?
  • Does this person use “kindness” to mask the words or behavior that hurt you?
  • Does this person rarely or never take ownership of when they’ve hurt you?

These are all signs of a relationship that might be a toxic one. Let me begin with a caveat. Frankly, we are all human and are likely guilty of doing one or some of these things to another person at some point in our lives. . It is the very nature of being human that makes us vulnerable to insecurities, which can manifest into some of these behaviors. However, if someone in your life does one or some of these things in your relationship on a consistent basis, then it is most likely a relationship doing more harm than good.

It is also the nature of human relationships to have strengths and weaknesses. All of us have our own strengths and weaknesses and we bring those with us into our relationships.  The real question is do the strengths of the relationship outweigh the weaknesses? Or most simply stated at the end of the day does your relationship make you feel good? Or do you often feel bad, let down, disappointed or insecure?

This toxic relationship might be just as bad for your physical health as your ice cream or french fry addiction. These toxic relationships cause a tremendous amount of stress.  The physiological effects of stress are numerous including but not limited to:

  • headaches
  • muscle tension
  • chest pains
  • fatigue
  • stomach pain
  • insomnia.

They lead to bouts of emotional distress causing anxiety, restlessness, irritability and depression. All this can lead to poor impulse control and decision-making which will certainly make sticking to healthy habits seem impossible. It is very common for over or under eating, tobacco, drug or alcohol abuse, physical fighting or social withdrawal to take root.

Sometimes, when trying to fix a health issue, whether it is losing weight or overcoming digestive issues, the starting point must begin with coming to terms with who in your life might be getting in the way of your success. The big question is how do you go about doing it? Depending on who that person is and role he/she plays in your life can make avoiding him/her either easy or very difficult.  Sometimes these are ancillary relationships like co-workers or acquaintances whom, with a small amount of effort, you can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend in their presence. However these people are unlikely to be the ones causing any real damage. It is when the people in question are family members, long term friends, significant others/spouses that this becomes much more complicated.

Sometimes an open, heart felt conversation is all it takes to find a path back to a healthy relationship with this person. but sometimes the only option is to sever the relationship. I am not going to pretend that I know all the answers here, but I can say that I have been there. In my case it was my ex-husband. We have 2 children together so removing his negative impact on me was a very long, very painful process. And to be honest it will never be completely gone. What I can say is that by taking charge of the situation and refusing to remain married to someone who was just bad for me was the best thing I could have done. I am now able to say that in retrospect, because at the time I was terrified I was making the wrong decision for my children.  I have others I am close to who have had to disengage from a father, both parents, sisters, one time best friends and another who had to leave a job. But ALL of them, even though it is still hard even today, the net result is still better than having these toxic relationships wreaking havoc on a consistent basis.

I EVERY case seeking help was paramount in making the split a successful one. Please don’t feel like you have to suffer through it alone. Sometimes professional help is necessary, sometimes it is just having a good support system of friends or loved ones who are able to demonstrate what a healthy relationship really is. Sometimes all it takes is ONE person who you can talk to. Sometimes it is having an organized support group of people who have experienced what you’ve experienced that gives you the strength to let go of what is toxic and stand up for yourself. Either way, if this post rings true for you at all, please know you are not alone. Please know that just about everyone has experienced a toxic relationship at one time or another. Please know that you deserve better and that it is more than just a healthy diet that leads to good health. It is also a healthy spirit.


Until Next time,

~ Laura. MGP


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