The Primal Diet.
For most of my life I was a staunch opposer of fad diets, of extreme deprivations, and of "experts" who told people what they should and should not eat. But at the age of 24, I found myself in the worst physical condition of my life having exploded to 250 lbs and plagued with problems ranging from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hair falling out, just to name a few of my physical ailments. Needless to say, my body was telling me SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT! And this was operating on the "everything in moderation" philosophy. Never mind that I had been tested for everything under the sun (almost everything was negative) and that Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) was beginning to ruin my life. I didn't have celiac disease, crohns disease, or any other "disease." Just a syndrome that needed weight management in order to manage the symptoms. Too bad the syndrome itself causes insulin resistance which translates to difficulty in losing weight. So spending two years battling my weight and losing, rea
lity began to look really ugly. Facing heart disease, cancer, and diabetes (all long-term possibilities from PCOS) I began to get scared. Scared that I would never be able to backpedal on the road my body was on -- that I was doomed to inevitable failing health, I resolved myself to do something about it.
So I began to do my research and I discovered something called The Primal Diet. See, there's that word "diet" that I hate so much. And even though the opening page looked like a gimmicky nightmare, I was desperate
and so I read on. What unfolded was a concept that was broken down and explained so simply th
at I could almost
-- almost -- see what outcome it might have. The basics? This according to Mark Sisson at marksdailyapple.com.
- 80% of your body composition will be determined by your diet. Yes, exercise is also important to health and to speed up fat-burning and muscle-building, but most of your results will come from how you eat. I’ll write more on this later, so just trust me on this one for now. Suffice to say, people who weigh a ton and exercise a ton, but eat a ton, still tend to weigh a ton. I think I’ll have that made into a t-shirt…
- Lean Body Mass (LBM) is the key to life. I’ve said it many times on this site: lean mass (muscle and all the rest of you that is not fat) is directly correlated with longevity and excellent health. Rather than strive to “lose weight”, most people would be better off striving to lose only fat and to build or maintain muscle. Since other organs tend to function at a level that correlates to muscle mass, the more muscle you maintain throughout life, the more “organ reserve” you’ll have (i.e. the better the rest of you will work). Refer back to rule #1 and eat to build or maintain muscle.
- Excess body fat is bad. Most human studies show that being significantly overweight increases your risk of nearly every disease (except osteoporosis – because ironically it responds to weight-bearing activities). Fat just doesn’t look that great either. See rule #1 and eat to keep body fat relatively low.
- Excess insulin is bad. We’ve written about it here a lot. Chronic excess insulin may be even worse than excess sugar (and we know how bad that is). All animals produce insulin, but within any species, those that produce less insulin live longer than those who produce a lot. Eat to keep insulin low.
Simple enough yeah? But how to accomplish the above?
- Eat lots of animals, insects, and plants.
- Move around a lot at a slow pace.
- Lift heavy things.
- Run really fast every once and a while.
- Get lots of sleep.
- Get some sunlight every day.
- Avoid trauma.
- Avoid poisonous things.
- Use your mind.
Really? That's it???? Sounds like brain food for morons. This is all common sense stuff right? So there's a little more to it perhaps. These are things that actually have to change in your day to day life.
- No grains. Seriously, none. No bread, pasta, or rice. No quinoa. No whole wheat. Nada.
- No beans (there's an in-depth explanation of why on the website.)
- No refined sugars and really, avoid sweets in general.
- Double and triple the amount of vegetables eaten in the SAD (Standard American Diet)
- Eat fermented foods -- REAL ones that aren't processed.
- Speaking of processed foods, DON'T EAT THEM!
- Eat nuts! Eat avocados! Eat eggs! Eat coconut oil and coconut milk!
- Eat meat products -- grass fed and organic if you can swing it.
These are just to name a few. But how could I give up carbs?!?!? I loved my pasta, loved my bread -- it just didn't seem feasible. But I'm desperate remember? So I told myself, "I'll try it for 8 days, if it sucks, I won't do it." I'm an evidence-based person after all. I operate under the assumption that the body will signal you if you're doing something wrong. You just have to make sure you're paying attention.
So the first 5 days I experienced carb withdrawals which I can only liken to coming down off an amphetamine binge followed by something similar to a hangover headache. I really didn't feel so hot -- which, Mark's website had warned me, might happen. The carb "flu" they called it.
After the 5th day I started to feel better. A LOT better. I assured myself through this that I would not limit my calories, I would not count carbs, I would not do anything except eliminate the refined carb food group and increase amounts of the other good stuff they recommended. And yes, at the beginning, I ate A LOT. After the first two weeks of binge eating though, I began to experience a sudden retreat in appetite. My hypoglycemia had all but vanished and I found that I was eating mostly out of habit so I started to pay more attention to how my stomach and body felt. I ate what I wanted and didn't eat if I wasn't hungry.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE I WAS ACTUALLY ABLE TO DO THIS.
This may not sound like a revelation for some people. But for those of us out there who have struggled with food addiction or other dependence on our food, not having my life revolve around what I ate was an 'effing miracle. Never before had I felt free from having to snack continuously. My energy improved, I was eating much less, and the side effects that had plagued me for the majority of my young adult life literally vanished. I wish I could convey the profound impact this has had on my life. And I will -- through evidence-based results.
I will be following this post up with my progress and the changes my body is experiencing as a result of this Primal Living. Don't read into the hype, it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle. One that I thought I would never be able to do until now.