Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm In! Now What?!

[Just a side note here: when I talk about fruit, honey, and other more "cheat-like" foods, it means my kids (and maybe Tom) eat it. I rarely eat fruit (I'm more of a vegetable person, and I hate berries), and since I am the only person in the family who needs to lose weight, I am very aware of what I eat and in what amounts.  Now it's true I've had some fruit (maybe two apples and a banana or two ) but not much considering we've been Primal for seven weeks now. So while Tom and the kids may have full servings of cheat-foods, I typically have 1/4 (or less) of what they have. And of course, when starting a new way of eating it is difficult to gauge if you're eating too much, or not enough of something, so I may have definitely adjusted my levels over the last few weeks. SO if you are really looking to lose weight with GP, and not just because it's a healthier way to live, then adjust your intake of fruits, honeys, syrup, etc., accordingly.]


So you've read about the Primal Blueprint, you've talked to friends, and you've researched the internet, and you have decided that you want to try the Three Week Challenge! where you Go Primal (GP) for 21 days, see how you feel, then you decide whether or not you'll continue.

If you were like I was, you are excited to try it, but still unsure of where or how to start. Not that I'm an expert by any means, but I think I can give you some "real life" points that might help your transition from your current diet to GP.

1) Just do it!  You will come up with 100 reasons not to start GP. Most of them will seem valid, and you just can't work your head around how it will work. You have budget issues. You have time concerns. You're just so busy in life you can't imagine making this drastic of a change.

I hear ya. I myself hate big changes. And I like to always be fully prepared. The fact that I didn't know what to expect, or how any of us would respond (mentally and physically) was really scary to me. We spent THREE MONTHS researching, planning, thinking about GP. In hindsight, it just made it worse since the anticipation grew, and really, you don't get any answers. I mean, we were able to defend our choice more readily because we knew so much about it, but it did not help with the process otherwise. So I decided to forget trying to be prepared and to Just Do It!

2) Don't Freak Out. A) Once you decide you want to GP, pick a date (not too far in the future), and make a general list of things you'll need. Once you realize how much stuff you will be tossing out of your fridge and pantry, you will start to get sweaty palms and want to freak out a little. I mean, we paid good money for these things we're about to dump, right?! (I still have some white flour, sugar and brown sugar in my pantry. Mainly because I sometimes cook for the sick or new moms, and I don't want to subject them to my diet.) but I dumped a looooot of food (and I thought I was pretty healthy before). Yikes. Either dump it, or use it up and eat/give it away before your start date. You might look into giving it to a food pantry, but sometimes they're fairly strict on what they will take.

B) Many of us are not able to find, or afford, all organic items. It's okay. Don't freak out. Let's say you buy four different meats, a variety of fruits, and an array of vegetables. Pick one meat, one vegetable, and one fruit to buy organically. Add on to this list once funds become available and/ or once you feel you've got your feet firmly planted in GP and know what to expect. Sometimes just the prospect of changes things, having to figure out where the organic section even is, and wondering how to tell if the things are ripe or not, is enough to have you run screaming from the supermarket. So if money is not an issue, yet the sense that it's all to overwhelming is holding you back. Just start small and build up. It will be okay.

3) If You Do Nothing Else: Eliminate Grains. If you are one of those people who likes to take baby steps and work up, then start by taking out grains. No more Triscuits, Bisquick, or Oreos. You are going to be shocked at how many items contain grains. You do not want products with rice, corn, potatoes*, wheat, and the like. If you've read Mark Sisson's book (linked to in the 21 day challenge) then you will have a good handle on why you need to eliminate grains. Your body cannot effectively process today's grains (which look, taste, and gentically have nothing to do with the grains of our ancestors), and therefore leads to inflammation and a whole host of medical issues. Even just eliminating the grains alone, you will see a major difference!

4) Read Labels! I would say most of the time if the product has a ingredients label, you shouldn't buy it. You want a lot of fresh (organic and local, if you can do it) produce. No labels on that. A lot of meat, nuts, butter, and oils. Again, really no labels. But every once in a while you will come across things you want to buy in a bottle or a package.  You NEVER want anything that has High Fructose Corn Syrup in it. Never, Ever. And despite the corn commercial; Sugar is not "just sugar" and your body CAN tell the difference between corn syrup and cane sugar. Yes, your body can, and you never want to eat another drop of HFCS. Just eliminate it for a week and you'll see why.... especially if you have kids. It's amazing the difference you see in children when you eliminate this stuff.

Back to labels.. My general rule is: if it has more than five ingredients, I can't pronounce the ingredients, and it's not foods (as opposed to nitrates and stabilizers), then I don't buy it. This means I can't buy most condiments because they are filled with weirdness. Boar's Head deli style mustard is pretty sound though, and it's amazing.  Ketchup, shrimp sauce, salad dressings, etc., are usually on the no-buy list, because they all contain things you don't want to eat.  Even if there are only five ingredients, but one of them is sugar, don't buy it.  You really want to eliminate unnecessary sugar.

5) Know Your Oils: Not all oils are the same. Stay far away from the vegetable oils; here's why. I'm sure there is a shorter, better explanation, but that's what you're stuck with. At least here on this blog. You can also use beef tallow, bacon grease (I save mine in a glass Pyrex bowl with a lid), and ghee. I tend to use bacon grease the most often (followed by coconut oil, and then butter), since it's easily available. I just save the grease I have after baking our bacon for the week. It's great for eggs and beef.

6) Don't Get Preachy: It's totally awesome that you've decided to GP, and you will find a natural enthusiasm comes with this, but try to reign it in. Many people find food to be a very personal and emotional issue. Having others, as well-meaning as they might be, come up to them and say "hey, don't eat that! It will make you feel tired! Eat just the insides of it. Really! I'm telling you!" Then you proceed to stare at them until they drop the bread in an uncomfortable manner, while they quickly plan an exit strategy. 
You haven't really succeeded in convincing them of anything (other than you are obnoxious) except to reject any more party invitations from you. Take it slow. You just do what you need to do, and eventually people will ask you about it. At that point, give general information, and if they press harder, then answer in greater detail. The point is to get you to Go Primal, not become a healthy hermit. 

7) Tell People It's Okay: When we first went Primal, we had quite a few people feel very uncomfortable eating around us. "Well, if you can't have this, I don't want to eat it in front of you."  I'm sure some of that was "Please don't judge me for how much processed food I'm about to eat."  I had to be sure to tell our friends and family that we don't care about what they eat.  They don't have to hide it around us either. I want my kids to learn that all sorts of foods exist and it's up to them to decide what/where/and when they will eat--make good choices, I hope. So don't get all self-righteous about Going Primal; 1) it's not an attractive quality, and 2) you will be friend-less. DO tell your friends and family ahead of time of your planned food changes (in a non-obnoxious way, of course) and that you do not expect them to cater to you.

8) Just Sayin':  When I started researching GP, I wanted REAL people's opinions on how difficult/easy it would be. What should I really expect to experience.... I didn't want the reviews from vegetarians, or the ones from those who desperately needed it to work. I just wanted a normal person to tell me what too look out for, so here ya go:

a) it's not easy in the beginning. 
b) you will miss your processed food (at first)
c) you will feel like you have the flu (but not for long)
d) people will not understand your choice to switch to GP
e) SLEEP! Make sure you get enough of it.
f) if you have kids, you will get complaints daily, for weeks. (then they'll stop)
g) Your house will not look perfect during this transition phase. Groceries and dishes will be everywhere.
h) you will question your decision several times over the next three weeks. (Stick with it!)
i) you will feel amazing even 3-5 days into the "diet". Sleep, mood, energy will be improved.
j) you will be eternally grateful that Mark Sisson came into your life.
k) you will continually be amazed at how many benefits (some expected and some unexpected) come from eating Primally. 
l) it is more than worth all the aggravation in the beginning. 
m) your grocery bill will be a bit higher in the beginning because you will have to buy a lot of new items (like new spices, salts, oils, etc.) to stock up on in the beginning. Don't despair, once you know what things you need and in what quantity, your bill should come down.

9) Be Open: to new foods, spices, and combinations of foods you would otherwise never touch. As a kid I hated vegetables, I hated coconut, and and I hated spices, so as I grew into an adult, I just stayed away from those things since I knew I hated them. Well, turns out I hate canned vegetables, I hate fake coconut, and I hate spices because... actually, not sure, but maybe because my palate was so used to canned and processed foods (which is usually the stuff you have to eat when your poor--this is not a reflection on my parents) that I could not tolerate the strong flavors. Anyway, I've found that organic vegetables taste infinitely better than the "hydroponically grown" type. The smells, taste, and textures are completely different. The real coconut is so mild, I could barely believe it was coconut. So much better!  We were in a rut of the same vegetables every week and always eaten in the same manner. Now we have one vegetable six different ways. The kids are not afraid to try new things (although, they've always been good about that), but I'm much more open to it myself. 

I try to pick a new vegetable I've never had, don't care for, or wouldn't know how to prepare every couple of weeks... just buy one and see how it goes. Of course, you don't have to do this during your initial three weeks. 

10) Don't Make it Difficult: For the first three weeks of GP I strongly recommend (as in, you-are-insane-if-you-don't) keeping your meals simple. Don't immediately go for the coconut flour waffles. You really want to get a handle on how radically your diet just changed. Don't even think about baking until you get the proper amount of vegetables, oils, meats, eggs, nuts, etc., into your diet. After you feel comfortable with GP, and you begin to get bored with your regular menu, then start looking into new recipes/baking. Don't feel like you have to go all out crazy. You'll be eating this way for the rest of your life (most likely) so take your time. Seriously. 

11) Find a Buddy: Whether this means you have another family GP with you, you find an email buddy, or you have blog/newsletter/what have you, it's a good idea to have some backup on your new journey. We had a family who began GP about ten days before we did, and it was immensely helpful to have her reactions/thoughts/and tips about how she and her kids were reacting to it. "How do you handle this? What about that? Ack, I have ten minutes, what do I make?!"  Yeah, you'll have those moments. Stick with it. In a matter of weeks, you will be the one people are coming to for advice. 

So: Just do it. Make a list. Go shopping. Start cooking. Eat. Clean. Repeat. 

Is there anything else holding you back? If so, let me know, and I'll help you out if I can :)


  1. Thank you for this! We are actually in the midst of number 3 now. Our family is giving up all grains and starchy foods for Lent, because it helps us not to cheat if we have a religious motivation pushing us. I started reading the book (The Primal Blueprint) last night, so we'll see if I get convinced/motivated to jump in all the way.

  2. Hi Heather,
    We've been eating primal for 3+ years with teenagers and small kids (7 and 4). It's been our experience that kids are naturally very active and have good metabolisms (no excess weight) so they thrive on starches. We serve them white rice, white or sweet potatoes, or butternut or acorn squashes at every meal. They also like fruit, and I do too, which I don't really think of as a cheat any more.
    Best of luck!

  3. Love this post! I think that I will print it out and post it on my fridge as a reminder for those times when I worry if I'm doing it right. Thank you. :)