Monday, January 30, 2012

So... what's the verdict?

Alright people, here we go!

 After three weeks of Going Primal (cutting out processed foods, sugar, grains, and non-vegetable/fruit carbs. And adding a lot of fresh foods!) here are some good points:

  • Every single person in this family is sleeping better. We fall asleep faster. And we sleep sounder. The kids say they wake up feeling rested. I still feel groggy and like I could sleep another three hours, but I'm sure this will get better over time. And Tom who has forever had sleeping issues, is now sleeping much better. So this alone warrants the diet change more than worth it. 
  • Food taste so much better now. I really think Carbs/grains dull your sense of taste, and therefore you need more things added to it to make the taste more pronounced. However, after just about ten days, I noticed none of us really needed to add a lot of salt, lemon, toppings, to anything we ate. We could really start tasting the cinnamon that a month ago you wouldn't have even known was in the recipe. Things like apples are almost too sweet and really can be considered a dessert. At least, the sweetness is a satisfying sweet, not like when you eat cake, and immediately want the whole sheet. 
  • We have more energy overall. Tom used to say (a lot) "If I could just take a nap during the day, I'd feel so much better."  And I would think all day long "I cannot wait to go to bed!". Not much of a way to live. Tom remarked a few days ago that while he hasn't been sleeping as much (a lot of late-night work), he doesn't really drag throughout the day (but still wants to sleep a bit more). And though I still have a hard time waking up, I am not constantly yawning and asking "is it bedtime yet?"
  • Moods are much improved.  I feel as if I have 1000% more patience, and that my moods don't swing back and forth as often. At least, that's my feeling, I'll have to ask Tom if that's true. hehe!  Tom seems a bit more relaxed overall. Each one of the girls has much improved in areas that typically have problems with. Regina is concentrating a bit better. Veronica is not so gloomy (but still sad about no grains). Amy has always struggled with containing her temper, and after three weeks of the diet (before the three week mark) she almost never has an outburst. Elizabeth ... well, I haven't seen a change in her. Darn it. 
  • No more candida (yeast)!  I have battled this dreaded monster for years. All of the girls have been prone to candida since they were born, and I've always done my best to control it. This is the first time they are completely over it. Joy!
  • Acne seems to clear up while GP. I never did have a lot crazy breakouts, but I did have a lot of redness, and those weird colorless bumps that always seemed to be just under the skin. The redness has been toned down quiet a bit. And the bumps have gone completely away. 
  • Life no longer revolves around food. Well, it does, and it doesn't. It used to be that Tom and I would plan our days around what we were having for lunch or dinner. You know, "well, I can't start this project now, because I wanted to go to ______ for lunch and I won't have enough time." Now it's "whatever is in the fridge." Save a lot of time. And money. And hassle. 
  • We almost never throw out food anymore. We are all guilty of forgetting to use the last of those vegetables, or not getting to the chicken before it soured... well, with Primal, I think I threw out maybe a couple small baggies of items we didn't use much. Not bad! Before GP, I would always feel guilty on Tuesdays, when I'd clean out the fridge, when I would be dumping half the food I bought the week before. Either I forgot we had it, didn't have time to prepare it, or just didn't feel like eating it when the time came. Now, we eat about 95% (if not more) of all items we bought, and we make good use out of it. 
  • You don't have to stick to meal times (though you certainly can if you wish). We just kind of eat when hungry, that can be every two hours, or twice a day. No big deal. I am a little more on top of things with the kids, since kids can lose weight quickly and without much notice. Though it hasn't been a problem since they're always hungry and reminding me of it. 
  • My memory seems to be a bit better. Still a long ways to go, but I feel like it is improving instead of getting worse. 
  • We've discovered more foods and food combonations that we would have never thought of, or tried, before. 
  • We are shifting the focus from food as rewards (Wow, you got an A on that test you really worked for, you can pick what's for dinner tonight!  and switched it with "that is so awesome! You can pick a family game, or a new book!") 
  • You get a reality check. You may think you're eating healthy now (while NOT on GP) but you become so much more aware of what you are eating and why, when on GP.
  • Most of the family would spend so much time in the bathroom everyday with some sort of intestinal issue. I am happy to say this is no longer the case!
  • No more furry teeth! You know how sometimes you're driving home and you think you have a caterpillar stuck on your teeth, and you just can't wait to get home and brush?  Yeah, on GP, you almost never have that feeling. 
  • My parents (and several of my siblings) have battled high blood pressure from a really early age (20's). My own blood pressure has been in the 160/98 range for a few years now. Well, I am elated to say that it is now 125/80, which is a miracle! No drugs. No crazy exercise. Just no grains!
  • My eye sight has improved. I noticed (around the third week) my depth perception had changed. I thought "well, there is always a negative to something as great as this eating "plan". So I went into the Optometrist, and for the First time EVER, I was able to read four lines of that annoying "E" paper. This was without glasses. I am still in shock over this. Who knew grains/sugar had this much of an effect on eyesight?
  • This ties in with sleep... the kids were always complaining of having "bad dreams." I couldn't figure out the source, and finally we just accepted that we'd all have crazy dreams. Since going into week two of GP, I have not heard anyone say anything about dreams. Period. I have noticed that the one time I cheated, I had really crazy, graphic dreams.
I really think one needs to GP for at least six weeks before really reaping all the benefits, but this is what we have expeireinced within the last 21 days. Not bad at all!

Now for some of the Cons:

  • It is time-consuming. There is just no way around this. Sure, they are time-saving tips, but really, that just means "somebody else did some of the work for me, so that I wouldn't have to do it all the time."  For example "Cut up all vegetables, and precook meats so that they are ready to go!"  yes, this is well-worth the effort, but it basically means somebody spends hours per week just chopping and cooking. Doesn't really save time. 
  • It takes a lot of pots, pans, and dishes. Oh and forks! I may even have to buy more utensils. When you cook more, you use more dishes. Fact. It helps if you have grown a few kids to help with this area, but if not, you'll definitely be spending more time cleaning up. 
  • Carb Flu is NOT fun. Seriously was at the level of having panic attacks and not wanting to leave the couch. It did pass quickly though, so don't let this scare you off.... Just an FYI.
  • If you have kids, this will be more difficult. Kids have such funny tastes anyway. And kids love to rebel. So be ready for a lot of whining and bargaining and pleading. 
  • It's a bit difficult to travel and stay Primal, but it can be done. It takes some advanced planning and some resolve, but it can be done. 
  • If you're not big on cooking, reading labels, and knowing how to grocery shop, this can be a little overwhelming. Thankfully, we had a leg up in this area, so we did okay, but I can see how beginners would struggle. Start small, research, and expand!
  • Things like school treats, birthdays, and social gatherings can be awkward. You don't want to be the only one who has a thing about eating cake, not having a beer, nope; the peanuts are off limits too.... We had to tell everyone we're on a 3 week plan, so just expect us to be weird. This actually helped. My kids had some rough days when parties were going on at school and they couldn't have one single thing at the party. (which reminds me, does nobody believe in giving kids fresh fruit these days?!)
  • It is a little difficult to entertain people, because GP is costly. And the clean up would be crazy.
  • It is *not* true that your grocery bill will come out about the same as when you were not primal. Mine has doubled every week. This could be because we didn't buy a lot of junk before and therefore "your junk food is swapped out for the good food, so you break even" might not apply to us, but yikes, double the grocery bill is a lot.
  • To make things easier, you will need to buy a few extra kitchen gadgets (such as a dehydrator, a salad spinner, extra cutting boards, super awesome knives, and a good quality blender) which can be pricey, but very worth it! (I love knives, btw. My friend calls me a "knife snob"... I'm not. I just think you should have the right tools for the right job, and a steak knife is NOT for cutting cucumbers and potatoes). 
  • the kids are still constantly hungry. I've fiddled with the fats, the protein, the (natural) sugars, and the vegetables. I can't seem to get it right. I am hoping in another few weeks we will all level out and the kids will be satisfied with fewer meals. Also, kids tend to confuse hunger with thirst, so maybe that's one thing. 
  • Kids hate to drink water all the time. I have found it almost effortless, but Tom and the kids have really struggled to just drink water. Even Regina, who is not big on sweet drinks, said the other day "Argh! Couldn't I just have one Sprite?!"  
That's all I can think of for now.  

Overall, I'm so happy we did this. I think in a few more weeks we will look back and say that Going Primal is the best thing we could have done for our family. We plan on sticking with it for at least three more weeks. I personally do not think I'll ever go back to eating the way I had been eating before GP. We *may* allow oatmeals and brown rice back in the kids' diet every once in a while. And I'm not sure where Tom stands on everything, hopefully he can get me an update fairly soon. 

So for the big weigh-in!

Tom has remained steady at 7 pounds of weight lost! His stomach is much smaller too. I will have to take his "after" photo on Wednesday since he is out of town. 

The kids have not really lost weight, but have lost their round tummies. Regina always looked about six months pregnant, and that is slowly, but surely going away. 

Given that I am a woman and subject to annoying hormone changes, I couldn't weigh myself today since I wouldn't get a true reading. I'm afraid I'll have to wait until next Monday. Sorry : \

The girls asked if they could have an Oreo for dessert (somebody sent them home from school. UGH) and I asked "do you want to go back to feel the way you did before we started eating the new way?" I fully expected a "we don't care, give me the cookie!" response, but they all said "noooooo!" So for kids to say this, with Oreos staring them in the face, tells me that this "diet" is working, that it makes us all feel pretty darn good, and it's worth the sweat and tears. 

So, go forth and take the Three Week Challange!


  1. Good for you! My husband and I have been primal for about 4 weeks now, with great results. We didn't involve the kids at first (it was a trial, according to my husband) but now that we are doing it more long-term I really want to switch them over. We are having debates about cold turkey or just educate and let them choose. I have definitely been offering them alternatives to cheerios for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch and it's kind of taking off. My 4 year old, in a way, understands what we're doing, i.e., wheat is bad for you, and constantly asks if things are healthy. But the 2 year old.. is well.. a 2 year old. Doesn't get it, but might be easier to change in the end.
    Anyway, the point of my comment was to point you to Mark Sisson's post about rice. He basically points out that, as opposed to what CW tells us, white rice is actually better than brown rice. Find the post here:

  2. Great summary!

    If you want to introduce back gluten free grains do it gradually and watch the effects of it. My kids are happily eating white rice and they couldn't live without it (its only empty carbs and they need them). Oatmeal can also be really nutritious if you presoak it (look up Weston A. Price Foundation and their nutrition guidelines).
    Give your kids tea with honey if they're bored with water.

  3. thanks for posting your experiences

  4. WOW! You have really succeeded! Great work. I am still struggling with kids and being on the run too much. Husband isn't "into it" at all, but I love this way of cooking and he is trying to not hate it.

    Kids are fine with it, but want sugar and a couple of the younger kids still look sad when they realize that Mom still hasn't bought any bread. Moods HAVE IMPROVED though. That is such a blessing! So, while we may not have to go "full-hog" right now, the goal is to switch over completely. I really prefer it, BY FAR...except I am still addicted to coffee....all in due time.

    As long as I keep a TON of meat in the kids, they aren't overly hungry, and they are big eaters. It's normally easier for me to do all that chopping, etc, but we've got the baby and are in track season... I am going to be looking for tips on how to pack food for the track meets, for sure.

    Tonight, the first and the third are going to be making dinner, so we'll see if they've learned anything about how meals should be prepared. The eldest can be pretty handy in the kitchen, but everyone should know how to feed himself to stay healthy by the time they are a teenager, IMHO.

    I am really motivated by this post. Really appreciate you guys opening up your lives here. Very helpful.

  5. Congratulations! thanks for sharing your experiences with the primal. It's been a good read.
    xo jana

  6. Congratulations. I am glad to hear the benefits outweigh the annoyances. I think your food prep time will improve once you get the food processor. Also, cooking meat ahead does save time. It doesn’t take any extra time to cook two meals worth of meat than one. Granted, chopping double vegetables takes double the time (Perhaps not so with a food processor). I am exploring receipes from Mark Sisson’s free online cookbooks which can be downloaded from, plus I have his Quick Meals cookbook and have started marking receipes to try.

    Really, though, so many quick meals can be made that aren’t exotic but are fast and good. Pan fried or broiled fish can be made in about 20 minutes, including the time it takes to thaw the frozen fish in some cool water. Grass-fed beef or bison burgers take a few minutes and can be changed with various seasonings like Italian spices, taco seasonings, etc.

    We like making the “cauliflower rice” which takes no time at all, especially with a food processor, but even with a hand grater. Last night, we made brussel sprouts in a similar manner: grated and then sautéed in a combo of olive oil and bacon grease. Threw in a handful of finely chopped walnuts and grated a little cheddar on top. You would never guess what you were eating!
    There are dishes that work equally well as breakfast or lunch, so you can make them first for breakfast, then take leftovers another day for lunch, such as crustless quiches, frittatas, “omlete muffins,” etc.

    We like herbal teas for after dinner drinks, but seriously, you can make up flavored teas ahead and chill them for a cold drink. They don’t all need sugar to taste good. Now that you have deadened your sweet tooth, you’ll probably like them as is. If you must have a little sweetening, you can add Stevia or raw honey.

  7. Continued:

    We’ve been Primal for around the same time span as you. I’m not certain what day we started. In addition to losing weight my lower back pain is pretty much gone unless I do something to aggravate it, and my arthritis is MUCH better. We never had carb flu, but have never been ones to drink much soda, and we have always eaten a lot of fresh salads and vegetables, and some fresh fruits. I haven’t had any cravings for forbidden foods, which amazes me. I think I am pleased enough with the healthy treats that I CAN eat, that I don’t miss the others.

    If you think you have it bad, we go to parties for a living, LOL! so that had previously been our downfall. The hostesses always have crackers and cheese, chicken wing dip, pizza, hummus, brownies and cookies, chips etc. and we grazed after we were finished with our duties at the party. Now, I can look at those foods and not feel compelled to indulge. It’s funny how people point out things that they think you should have when they know “you’re on a diet” like all their LOW FAT items and things full of bad oils, grains, chemicals and preservatives.

    Don’t be afraid to tell people you’re on a new eating plan. We find they respect that and are interested, especially when you are enthusiastic and say that you have easily lost weight and/or feel SO much better. In a few cases, people have asked for more information so they can look into it themselves. Come up with a quick description of what you do and don’t eat and why it works. Share this with other people; you might save a life by helping someone find the answer to illnesses they have battled for years.

    We basically say we have eliminated all grains, beans, vegetable oils and processed foods, and instead eat healthy meats, vegetables and fruits. The plan works because in the conventional diet people eat too many high calorie, hard to digest grains and starchy carbs. Those carbs are converted into sugars and then stored as fat. The body learns to run on carb/sugars as fuel and to store the daily surplus as fat. Our change in diet removes the dominance of carbs and replaces those calories with healthy proteins and fats, with minimal carbs from veggies and fruit. The upshot is your body burns off the minimal carbs quickly and then runs off proteins/fats, including your STORED BODY FAT. (Usually the light comes on when people understand the logic. )

    Good luck with your continued Primal Journey!

  8. I'm thrilled for you guys! Glad you got some tangible results. That really, really helps you stick to it.

    No advice on keeping kids full. I try to distract mine. If I walk through the kitchen they suddenly get suspiciously "hungry."
    Totally agree, it's stinkin' expensive. One thing that could help cut costs is to buy meat in bulk (like, buy a half cow or something). Then you'd need more expensive equipment, i.e. a deep freeze, but :) I guess if you're in it for the long term that might be worth it. BTW, I, too, am a knife snob. I'm also big on how you hold the knife and it drives me crazy to see people using steak knives as paring knives, etc...

    Another thing that cuts costs (but in my house, ups complaining from the kids big-time) is soup. Making bone broth is basically water (practically free) and bones (practically free) and adds nutrition, fat and healing properties to the food. Also as you know from the "thirsty" thing - the water content helps fill up tummies faster with less meat.

    You might be spending tons on groceries but weren't you also doing more takeout/ restaurant stuff before? It might even out a little bit. I know when Dave was buying lunch every day and I finally counted it all up it came to over $300 for one month! Anyway, the less waste thing is amazing. I always love it when I get to grocery shopping day and the fridge is practically empty. It's such a weirdly gratifying feeling (and fun to figure out what we're going to eat made from the ingredients that are left!).

    Anyway, thanks for keeping us informed on your journey to better health. You guys are troopers!!

  9. Great post, Heather! And great job!

    Remember, it's not the end of your primal lifestyle to cheat here and there on the weekends. :)

  10. Congratulations! I want to second every single point mentioned by Sarah Faith.

    Kids are not only always hungry but they want to eat when they're bored as well. When they are participating in sports, they can easily eat the whole contents of the fridge just as you have returned from shopping.

    As I mentioned on a previous post, you may want to start a small garden, put in some fruit trees, bushes, vines and perhaps a hen house. You can start composting all your kitchen scraps right now to build up the soil with the money you are already spending on groceries!

    After going Primal with my large family, my experience really convinced me to radically expand my seasonal garden and put in some perennials, vine fruits, a small deciduous orchard and some evergreen fruit trees. It is a lot of research and I want to think of it as an investment instead of an expense. I also badly need a henhouse because the cage free eggs are so expensive and we can easily go through a dozen and a half per day here. I want my sons to build it by springtime so I can get some chicks. My long range goals include some nut trees and a small greenhouse for winter veggies and seed starting.
    The kids are a big help both in the yard and in the kitchen. Start training them now to help with everything. Everyone loves to pick stuff out in the yard and just wash and cut up for a salad or a snack!

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your adventures and best of luck to your family.

  11. We're about a week behind you, and I agree with most of what you've written here. It's nice to see the same experiences we're having validated by someone else. Sometimes the changes are subtle enough that you almost feel like you're imagining them, or that it's just positive thinking.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. i follow your husband's blog and giving this primal thing some consideration. one thing i'd like to mention since you brought up the acne topic. there's a product that i've been using for the last 10 years that started as a homegrown ebay business and is still going strong. they're called Carley's Smooth and Clear and they have a money-back guarantee (including shipping costs) and even sent out a replacement order one-time when the order was lost in-transit. as a guy, i use their exfoiliant and bar soap and for $21 it lasts me a year. Go to and give them a try.