Dec 3 11
by cara
at 10:36 PM
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Going Primal

I’ve been writing this post in my head for a couple of weeks now, but I thought that if I posted it the week of Thanksgiving, many of you would click away or cover your ears (so to speak) and say, “Lalalalalala!  I can’t hear you!”

So I waited patiently until now.  And yes, Christmas is right around the corner.  Cookies.  Christmas parties.  Alcohol.  Decadent appetizers.  Christmas morning cinnamon rolls.  And general gluttony.

But there’s something I need to tell you….

I’ve been keeping a secret from you for about a month now.

About a month ago, I gave up sugar.

And gluten.

And grains.

And legumes.

I went Primal.

(Some people also call this Paleo, I’ll explain more about both of those terms in a minute).

I shared a link on Facebook a few weeks ago to a new Paleo cookbook I purchased, and several of you started asking questions, so maybe this isn’t news.  But I know I have some explaining to do….

What does it mean to be Primal?

Well, it means different things to different people, but essentially it means that I’m following the lifestyle explained in The Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson.

In a nutshell, my diet is centered around quality sources of protein and fat.  My diet consists of meat, fish, eggs, nuts, roots, fruits and vegetation. Grains, gluten, refined sugar, trans fats, and hydrogenated fats are to be avoided. This is a low-carb diet focused on the way we ate before the agricultural era….the way we ate when we were “hunters and gatherers” (Mark Sisson lovingly refers to the hunter -gatherer caveman guy as “Grok”).  I try to eat as much free range and organic food as possible, grocery budget permitting.

For exercise, you’re supposed move frequently at a slow pace (because Grok didn’t have a car…), lift heavy things, and sprint once in a while.  And make time to play.  Frisbee golf.  Kayaking.  Hiking.  Whatever things are fun to you that get you moving.

How is this different from Paleo?

“Paleo” is another term floating around out there that you may have heard more than “Primal.”  They are essentially the same thing.  Paleo is a little more strict, in my opinion.  The Primal Blueprint way of eating allows for some leeway with some types of dairy  and has fewer restrictions on saturated fat intake.  True Paleo means no dairy.  But they are essentially the same thing, and I may use “Primal” and “Paleo”  interchangeably on this blog.

Why did you decide to go Primal?

It’s something I’ve been reading about for close to a year now.  The concept of cutting out sugar and eating fewer grains isn’t new to me, but I just didn’t think I had the willpower to do it.  And did I really want to give up baked goods and pasta?  I was already limiting processed foods (somewhat). But after reading about this lifestyle in detail on Mark’s Daily Apple, I decided to give it a try for a few weeks and see whether a not it made a difference.

It absolutely did. (More on the benefits below…)

So what CAN you eat?

Here’s the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid (click to enlarge):

Wait a minute!  Aren’t you pregnant?  Is it a good idea be doing this while you’re pregnant?!

I’ve got 5 weeks to go until Baby Slingshot arrives.  And that’s part of the reason I wanted to give this a go.  I spoke with my doctors about this new way of eating, and they were totally on board.  And really, what’s so bad about cutting out processed food, sugar, white flour, and eating more fruits, veggies and good fats?

I have no plans to cut out dairy anytime soon.  Not only do I love my cheese and yogurt, but I figured I was cutting out enough as it was.  I plan to breastfeed for as long as possible (a year is my goal at the moment).  Maybe once I’m through breastfeeding I’ll experiment with cutting back my dairy intake (like a true Paleo).  Or not.  We’ll see how I feel about it in a year.

What is a typical menu like each day?

Breakfast:  1 or 2 scrambled eggs (with cheese), 2 links of Applegate Farms Natural Chicken and Maple Breakfast Sausage, with Sweet Potato Hash or an orange.

If I get tired of eggs (which happens every 4th day or so), I have plain Greek yogurt with berries, slivered almonds and unsweetened coconut flakes.

Snack: Apple and Macadamia Nuts

Lunch: A BIG salad with romaine, spinach, grilled chicken, feta or goat cheese, peppers, mushrooms, carrots, homemade Greek dressing.  I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of salads.  Turns out salads are pretty awesome.  I’ll share some of those soon.  Or leftovers from dinner are another option.

Snack: Raw cheddar cheese and grapes

Dinner: Here are 2 recent dinners….Roast Chicken, Butternut Squash, Asparagus.  OR Pork Kebabs with Acorn Squash and a Spinach and Strawberry Salad.

Dessert: a little square of 85% dark chocolate OR a cup full of berries with cream and honey.  Or both.  🙂

Favorite Primal foods?

  • Berries, especially with cream and honey
  • Unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Spinach
  • Kerrygold Butter
  • Macadamia nuts
  • 85% dark chocolate (I’ve always loved dark chocolate, but I had to work my way up to the 85%….just a tiny bite will definitely satisfy your chocolate cravings.)
  • Frozen bananas
  • Bacon!!

Are your husband and son eating Primal too?

Heck no, but it hasn’t made things too much more difficult than normal.  For instance, when I cook Spaghetti and Meatballs,  The Picky Apple has his meatballs with spaghetti noodles, I have mine with spaghetti squash, and The Littlest Apple has plain noodles with butter.  Since The Picky Apple is trying to be a bit more health conscious, it hasn’t been a big deal when I don’t serve garlic bread too.  We’ll have a salad instead.

I’m not sure if they’ve noticed or not, but I’ve been buying less junky snacks for them too.

How did you handle Thanksgiving?  How are you going to handle Christmas?

I’m adhering to the 80/20 Rule.  I eat Primally 80% of the time, and save the other 20% for times when I want to indulge or when I attend events where there just aren’t many Primal choices available.

For Thanksgiving, I enjoyed my favorites in moderation (which include my mom’s cornbread dressing).  I ate tiny slices of pie and cheesecake for dessert.  We attended 2 Thanksgiving dinners.  I felt a little bit sick after the first dinner (probably because I went back for more dressing and ate a particularly rich slice of Pumpkin Cheesecake).

As for Christmas….well, The Littlest Apple and I will still be baking some cookies together for the holidays, and I will enjoy an occasional treat.  For instance, I usually make Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas morning.  I can’t imagine Christmas without them, so instead of skipping them or trying to “Primalize” the recipe, I”m just going to eat a little and savor every bite.

I don’t ever want anyone to feel like they need to change what they are serving just because I’m coming over to visit.  That’s what the 20% is for.

What benefits have you seen from your new Primal lifestyle?

Overall, I feel fantastic (or as fantastic as I can feel for being 32 weeks pregnant)

  • More energy-I have more energy than I’ve had my entire pregnancy.  Maybe even more energy that I had before I was pregnant.  I’ve been going to the gym 3 or 4 times a week (also something I didn’t do before I was pregnant).
  • I’m sleeping better at night (something that’s notoriously difficult during pregnancy), and I’m taking fewer naps.
  • Less illness-I haven’t had sinus pain, allergies, or any kind of cold in over a month.  For someone who is ALWAYS sick or suffering from sinus pain, this has been a welcome relief.
  • I’ve managed to keep my pregnancy weight gain in check.  With 5 weeks to go, I would still need to gain another 15 pounds to be at the weight I was when I delivered The Littlest Apple.  I lost a couple of pounds when I first went Primal, and I didn’t gain any weight over Thanksgiving.  I’m measuring right on track for my pregnancy.

What foods were hardest to give up?  What foods do you miss the most?

I thought I would miss bread and pasta, but it has been surprisingly easy to pass them up.

Potatoes are technically a no-no on the Primal diet.  I LOVE potatoes and would eat them every day if I could.  Now I enjoy them once every 7 to 10 days OR substitute sweet potatoes instead.  I love sweet potatoes, so that’s an easy substitute.

As for sweets, when I crave ice cream, I eat a frozen banana (whipped up to a custardy texture in my food processor) topped with walnuts and unsweetened coconut flakes.

And when I crave chocolate, I eat…chocolate.  The really dark stuff.  85% or 90% cacao.  It definitely satisfies my chocolate craving.

I’m a coffee drinker, so I’m still enjoying a cup of decaf every day.  I used to be quite addicted to flavored creamers.  I still have creamer in my coffee, but I either make my own flavored creamer or use La Creme Creamer which is made with real cream and milk instead of hydrogenated oil and other yucky stuff.  It has a little bit of sugar, but I’m not using that much.

How will this affect your blog, especially all of those yummy recipes you post?

I’m certainly aware that most readers of this blog have no interest in the Primal lifestyle, and that many of you come here for the recipes! Don’t worry! There will still be plenty of delicious recipes. For starters, I’ve got a backlog of recipes from the past few years that I’ve yet to share. (Did you know I’ve been blogging for almost 4 years now?!) I was off my game earlier this year, when I was having awful morning sickness, so I’ve got lots of catching up to do. You’d also be surprised at how many delicious recipes are actually Primal/Paleo friendly already (example: chicken kebabs, salads, side dishes, frittatas). I may share new recipes and include notes for Primal modifications. Lastly, if I’m going to indulge in something non-Primal, it’s gonna be something good….and you’d better believe I’ll share the recipe! (I’m still pinning all kinds of baked goodies on Pinterest!) So there will certainly be some recipes for Christmas treats coming your way soon.

How does exercise factor in?  What kinds of exercise is part of the Primal lifestyle?

I mentioned toward the top of this post that exercise should include moving frequently at a slow pace, lifting heavy things, and sprinting occasionally.

The idea is to avoid chronic cardio-where you just do the same thing at the gym over and over 5-7 days a week.

Many of those following the Primal/Paleo lifestyle do CrossFit.  (Or maybe it’s the other way around…lots of Crossfitters are Paleo/Primal).  Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program that combines weightlifting, sprinting, gymnastics, powerlifting, kettlebell training, plyometrics, rowing, and more.  There are modifications available for every fitness level.   My husband heard about Crossfit online somewhere, joined our local Crossfit affiliate over a month ago, and he’s loving it.  I was reading about it at the same time through all of my Primal and Paleo resources, and if I wasn’t third trimester, I would have joined too.  As soon as I’m cleared by my doctor for exercise post C-section, I’m going to try it.

For now I do 35-45 minutes on the elliptical 3 times a week.  Sometimes I lift weights at the gym too.  On the 4th day I do squats, jackknife presses, pushups and planks (all modified for my growing baby bump) as outlined in the Primal Blueprint Fitness Plan.

I’m intrigued!  Where can I find out more info?

Here are some great resources about the Primal/Paleo lifestyle:

  • Mark’s Daily Apple-This was my number one source for info on going Primal.  I spent hours/days/weeks looking through this site, and I still check out the forums almost daily.  Check out the Primal Blueprint 101 for lots of links with everything you need to know to get started.
  • The Primal Blueprint and The Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Body Transformation by Mark Sisson.  Read the 21 Day Transformation if you want to get started quickly (and need some step by step instructions).  The Primal Blueprint contains lots more detail about the science behind why this way of eating and exercising is so effective.
  • Robb Wolf– great Paleo info.  I’ve learned tons from listening to his podcasts each week.
  • EverydayPaleo-Sarah Fragoso’s blog: a busy mom of 3 with family friendly paleo recipes and tips.  I’ve got her cookbook on my wishlist.

Alrighty, who has questions?  If so, I’ll try to answer them in the comments!  🙂

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  1. Meredith permalink

    This is similar to the type of ideas put forth in Michael Pollan’s books about the ways agriculture have coincided with many ill health effects in our society.  I’m not sure how I’d feel giving up my glutens, but I think I could live with minimal refined sugar and I don’t care for legumes anyway.  An 80/20 approach seems reasonable.  I may have to give this lifestyle (I don’t believe in “diets”) a try, but it will have to wait until after Christmas!

  2. Anonymous permalink

    You’re exactly right!  I’ve read Michael Pollan and Nina Planck’s stuff, and there are definitely some similar “real food” concepts here as well.  I don’t particularly care for the term “diet” either…it drives me crazy when people say, “oh, you’re DIETing so you can’t have that, can you?”  Pet peeve!  And as for the 80/20 philosophy, that’s what keeps it from feeling restrictive.  You can have your cheats/indulgences, just keep them to a minimum!  🙂  

  3. Nobody can know about the exact diet factors while pregnant. But I  think this post will definitely teach them how to follow diet while pregnant.

  4. Lisapetrinec permalink

    Hi, Mark Sisson is part of the show “Know the”.  The host Doug Kauffman talks about the germ that causes cancer and many other disease is “fungus”.  He recommends staying away from fungus foods like mushrooms, yeast  whole grains and sugar products.  So your on the right tract but check out the website.  My daughter is suffering from gastroparesis since July and had it 3 yrs ago but it came back.  We live in Toronto where the meds for it is domperodone and acid blockers.  Not much helps as she feels full all the time.  She had a endoscopy and they found gastritis and 2 small ulcers.  Not H Pylori.  So where the heck did a 12 yr old get ulcers.  She hardly makes it to school.  She must force herself to eat or she will have to go in to the hospital which would be terrible.  She is small to begin with so putting on weight is challenging.  Her doctor said that her stomach emptying is mildly slow but she is never hungry.  I hope it will just go away as it did the last time.  She is stubborn and wants to eat what she wants.  I would love her to be on the fungus diet but she can’t affored low carbs, she needs as much high calories as possible.

  5. . People on a diet, whether it is a
    low crab, low fat or low calorie diet, can enjoy desserts. Thanks to various
    low fat dessert recipes that are published in magazines and on the internet,
    you can eat desserts without worrying the effects on your body. As long as you
    eat moderately and take responsibility in preparing your diet dessert, you can
    always have a scrumptious, guilt free dessert.

  6. Love Paleo and Mark Sisson’s books

  7. I love Mark’s blog. I found a great recipe for crackers made with ground almonds, sesame seeds, any other nuts, parmesan cheese, herbs, flax seed meal, olive oil or butter, eggs and salt and pepper. Make a dough. Roll it as thin as you can, score it into little squares and bake till crisp. Delicious!

  8. Francis permalink

    Hi. Just found Your Blog! I am starting the PB 21 Day Transformation. My question is simply this? Can You eat a daily apple or banana? Thanks


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