The first, and in my humble opinion the best, website I discovered was Marks Daily Apple - primal living in the modern world by former marathon runner and all-round legend Mark Sisson. As I read through his 10 Primal Blueprint Laws, I became concerned, then enlightened, then excited! Concerned because a lot of the information in his sight contradicts the conventional wisdom about diet and exercise we have been raised to believe (and, as I have previously mentioned, I have religiously followed for years). Enlightened because he explained, with detailed references to scientific studies and personal experiences, why the food that I have been eating has been making me fat, depressed and sick. Excited because if this primal way of living was going to improve my overall health, assist in weight loss and contribute to a fun and happy life, I was ready to sign up (and encourage my family and friends to do the same)!
Although my husband was somewhat reluctant to attempt what could easily be seen as another one of my crazy "fad diets" he was supportive of me adopting this approach as he could see how depressed I had been getting with our current health and fitness regime. And since I do the majority of the cooking in our house, he was coming along for the ride whether he liked it or not!
Now since I am writing this blog for myself and to hopefully enlighten my family and friends, I'm going to really break down how I've made changes in my life to adopt this primal lifestyle. A lot of the blogs I've discovered online are from people who have already been primal for some time, however I am at the very early stages of my journey. I've got a long way to go to get to my ideal weight so you can share the ups and downs with me!
The most crucial aspect of eating primally comes down to the level that all food you put into your mouth is processed. Let me spell it out for you - it should be unprocessed! We should be eating food just the way nature intended it. If it comes in a box or from a drive-through window, chances are it's not good for your body! If it has an ingredients list longer than your Christmas wish-list, it is not real food.The guys over at Fitness Spotlight cover this one perfectly.
The first challenge I encountered was the notion that grains are unhealthy. Yes that's not a typo. Conventional wisdom has us dominating our diet in healthy grains with a food pyramid urging us to eat 6-11 serves a day. I'd never thought about this before, but should we really be eating 11 serves a day of anything (except maybe vegetables!)? Everything in moderation, or so the old mantra goes! The issue is that we have been duped. Grains are not our friend. Ever wonder why celiacs disease is now being diagnosed at a higher rate than ever before? It's because our bodies, evolutionally speaking, were not designed to eat grains. Cavemen didn't feast on bread, cereals, pasta and the like! They ate real food like meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds. But in a relatively short time (yes 10,000 years is short in the span of human evolution), grains have become the staple of our diets. The issue? ALL grains need to be processed in some form before we can eat them. Ever seen a bread tree? What about a spaghetti plant? Ever seen wheat in its natural state? You can't just go out to a field and eat it! If you do a google search, you will come up with many websites supporting this fact. Mark does it best though here and here.
So, our first stop was to cut out the grains. It was easier than I thought! We really didn't eat much bread beforehand, so certainly didn't miss that. And instead of our dinner plates being loaded up with pasta, rice, or the like, we just piled them high with vegies! We swapped our cereal breakfasts for omelettes or smoothies and our sandwiches at lunch for salads.
Our next challenge was sugar. This was a big one, especially for my husband, who has a very sweet tooth! Sugar is likened to heroin in its addictive nature and I would hazard a guess that most of the world's population is addicted to some degree. The idea that sugar is what is making us fat is not new, although is certainly not supported by conventional wisdom, which blames fat as the cause of our issues. Once you realise how many foods have added sugar, you start to see how we have been misled for all these years!
Eliminating most added sugar in our diet was made easier by the fact that we were able to substitute sugar for fat. Yes, this one isn't a typo either! Fat is good for us (except for trans-fats and polyunsaturated fats) and contrary to popular belief, eating healthy fats, even saturated ones, doesn't make us fat. It's easy to see how we've been fooled. The idea that fat makes you fat is logical. But ask yourself this. With the proliferation of low-fat, fat-reduced, and fat-free food that is now flooding the market, why are we getting fatter?!?! Obesity is a growing problem and obviously the low-fat diets are not working - I am a prime example! The reason? In laymans terms, all that food, when the fat is removed, tastes like shite, and therefore needs additives to make it taste okay to eat! So rather than eating the natually occurring fat in food, we're stripping all the nutrients out of it and adding sweeteners to make it palatable. Or even worse, we're creating "fake" food as a substitute for "real" food.
So that's basically it. We've cut out grains, reduced sugar intake, and upped our healthy fat intake. I am now cooking meals every night rather than relying on Lean Cuisines (which although are low fat are high in everything else!). We are taking a healthy salad to work for lunch every day rather than relying on the cafe across the road. I only drink water or tea (Coke is a dirty word in our house!). I am conscious of everything that I put into my body. I read labels on foods. We get all our fresh produce (meat and vegies) from the local farmers markets. I ensure that all the meat we eat is grass-fed, that our eggs are free range, and our vegies are free of pesticides. Despite all this, our food bills have gone down, due to the fact that we are not eating nearly as much food (as an added bonus, fat makes you a lot fuller than grains and sugar), we hardly ever get take-aways, and have scrapped the Lean Cuisines (that are actually ridiculously expensive!).
Even if you take nothing else away from this post than to consider switching to just eating real foods, then I think that's a positive!