Our Journey to Primal Eating, and Why We’re Staying

As I am writing this, I realize that we haven’t been eating according to primal standards for very long at all: not even a month! Yet already I am converted, feeling the need to share my little testimony and proclaim from the rooftops, to anyone who will listen: PALEO ROCKS! And I’m not leaving the primal-eating cave anytime soon.

cave family

Strictly speaking, we aren’t following a paleo diet so much as a primal one. What’s the difference? A couple of technicalities, but essentially our grain-free diet is more aligned with Weston A Price’s dietary guidelines; not just another low-carb scheme in a different wrapper, the focus is on good fats, good meats, and vegetables, with fruit, dairy, chocolate and alcohol moderately thrown in for diversity.

It is to me the perfect diet. And I’ve tried quiet a few.

I have never been a big dieter, mostly because I love food and eating too much to deprive myself for any length of time, and I’ve mostly always been at a healthy weight. My stint in culinary school really put the pounds on my little frame, and though some of it came off once I started working in the field instead of just eating all the time learning about it, I was still a little chubby. In hindsight, especially knowing now the truth about sugars and fats and overexercising, I don’t think I needed to “lose weight” at all. I definitely needed to change what I ate and how much of it, but I was always a big walker, going for 3 mile walks every day I could, swimming before work a couple times a week, oh, and working in a restaurant kitchen is definitely not a desk job!

end of shift

But I was incredibly insecure, and a harsh & rude comment from a “friend” upon seeing my curvy, pudgy self in a swimsuit sent me into a tail-spin of chronic cardio, excess fiber, and dietary restriction such as I had never before employed. I ran/walked and did Pilates every day. I was always hungry. I was always tired. I was very crabby & cranky most of the time. As time pressed on, I started abusing herbal laxatives. I was very skinny (so thin I stopped menstruating), yet never could get a flat tummy like I wanted, never could get the muscle tone that I wanted. And did I mention I didn’t have any energy?

Ugh, I think back to those days and I am sad. Sad that I spent my early twenties that way. Sad that I kept so much of my struggle secret and private; it wasn’t until I began dating the man who is now my husband that I received help and have actually learned to love myself and overcome my weird form of bulimia. I stopped demonizing food and fat, and saw my cycles return. We were married, and had no difficulty conceiving when we were ready to start a family. I had a healthy pregnancy, easy birth at home, and very healthy baby. (I began following the Weston A Price guidelines during that pregnancy, about 75% compliant most of the time; I know without a doubt that good nutrition played a major roll in the health & ease of pregnancy and birth.)

When my son was about ten months old, my husband and I saw the movie “Food, Inc.” Despite how much I thought I knew about our food and where it comes from (I’m a chef, for heaven’s sake!) this film was still revolutionary for us. Yet my response, and my conclusions, to that information was all wrong. We went vegetarian. Soon thereafter, I went totally vegan, as I discovered that eliminating dairy from my diet also eliminated the sudden & unprecedented acne breakouts and constant migraines and fatigue. (Well, it eliminated some of my fatigue…more about that later.) I mistakenly thought that this vegetarian diet would heal my husband of his Type 2 Diabetes – the media is out there, though, promoting this very thing, so before you call me crazy, do a Google search yourself.

But the diet didn’t stick. (Thank God!) It was nearly impossible for my husband to make the transition, as he didn’t feel great and his sugar levels were all over the place, but mostly high (shocker…) After two months, maybe even less, I gave it up, too, as I was for the first time in my life, becoming weaker. Call me crazy, but in the space of a few months, I noticed a serious loss in my upper arm and back strength. That was enough for me to leave vegetarianism behind – I love being strong! My strong arms & back have always been something I counted on working in the restaurant biz, and with a very active one-year-old on my hands, there was no way I tolerated becoming weaker or more tired.

So we brought meat back into our lives, and continued on. We watched the film “Fat Head” and felt supported in our decision. I heard and read about the Paleo diet around that time, and though it interested me, I still had the “whole grains are good for you” mantra dominating my thought process and our pantry. I had actually even subscribed to Mark’s Daily Apple emails, and was receiving them for at least ten months before the fateful day when we decided to accept his challenge.

I am so thankful that we did.

Within two days of starting the challenge I had a flat stomach. Petite and thin, I still have never had a flat stomach, irregardless of how many loathsome sit-ups I put myself through. Always bloated. Suddenly, I also had enormous amounts of energy –  I mean Crazy Energy! I can go anywhere, do anything, no one can stop me!

And then the cherry on top: my digestion straightened out. I wasn’t in pain anymore.

Without going into gross details, I have struggled with constipation since I was a child. I am fully convinced that my stint of abusing herbal laxatives and way too much dietary fiber all but destroyed my digestive system. Although I have never technically been diagnosed with IBS, I surely had all the symptoms. Literally weeks before we took on the Primal Blueprint Challenge, I was sobbing to my husband (and he remembers as well), “I just don’t want to be in pain anymore!” I was eating gluten-free and dairy-free at that point. I was in so much pain, almost every evening. Always bloated, always tired. (A side note that gluten-free diets are horrible for diabetics, as all the grain sources are still high in various forms of sugar, the very thing his body can’t process anymore. So it’s not like I was helping him become any healthier.)

All of these issues when away for me within a few days of being grain-free. I actually have begun to include cheese intermittently in my diet again, without repercussions. This is cause for much rejoicing!

the moon is made of cheese

My husband loves this diet. LOVES it. He tells me so almost every day. He still drinks beer, more beer than I think he should, but those are his only carbs, so he is following that 80/20 principle. It just works for him right now; he has a few food addictions to work through, so we’re taking it one step at a time.  I have no doubt that as he continues to see and feel improvements, he will refine this lifestyle to suit his needs.

My husband isn’t taking his medication during this challenge, a bold and gutsy move that I entirely support. The drugs he’s on have been causing every side affect mentioned in the small print; his doctor, naturally, can’t do anything about it other than try a different brand of poison. I am very interested to see how eating primally benefits my husband in the long run. I can tell already that he is feeling better overall; it’s also obvious when he’s been “cheating” – carbs and grains directly affect his moods. He has found that tracking his carbs on an iPhone app he found is a really great tool and helps him stay on target. (I personally like fitday.com) The carbs add up much more quickly than he thinks.

I’ll be sure to post updates as we go along, but for now, that’s why we went Primal, and why we aren’t going back. 

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