Happy almost weekend; I’ll have an update about my year without sugar for you soon.
I know I’ve hinted here and there about working out the Primal way on the blog, but I’ve never actually explained what it is. So! Here we go: the Primal do’s & don’ts of the workout world.
We aren’t born being able to do amazing feats of physical fitness. We have to teach our bodies, and build them up. Take each workout as it comes, do the best you can each day, and move on with it. It’s always going to be a work-in-progress. You will never be “done” with your body. It’s constantly going to be changing and needing work/maintenance. Accepting the incompleteness will set you free.
***[My disclaimer]:The above workouts are my personal, completely unprofessional, unofficially trained opinion. It is a reflection of what I have learned elsewhere. I am not speaking on Mark Sisson’s behalf. I encourage everyone to do whatever feels right. Do as much or as little as you can of each activity, for as long as you can (or want). I encourage wholeheartedly that you push yourself and give it your all, but not to the point where you could do real damage. Don’t hurt yourself, and don’t risk injury. We are only given one body; don’t abuse the privilege. The point is to become HEALTHY. I will note there’s a difference between being hurt, and hurting. Some pain is normal; strain, stiffness, and soreness are the normal results of a hard workout. But if this pain doesn’t subside after a day or two (or gets worse as the days go on), you need to seek medical attention and take a prolonged set of rest days. Always consult a professional or your physician before starting any serious workout/training plan.
No one likes the word “diet”. To a lot of us, it means “to restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight”. Who the heck wants to restrict themselves to SMALL amounts of special foods? Just reading that gets you depressed (well, me anyway). We all want to eat what we want, when we want, and not get fat in the process. (Sounds like the perfect world, right?) But this definition of “diet” is the verb. The act of dieting. Limiting what we put in our mouths in hopes of losing all the indulgences gracing our problem areas. But has anyone stopped to think about the noun part of diet?
In it’s noun form, diet is, “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”. This doesn’t sound so bad, right? It’s just what we eat regularly. If we only ate anchovies and Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese, that would be considered a diet. Why can’t our “diets” just consist of more veggies and protein, and less carbs and sugars? But when we hear the word “veggies” with “diet” we automatically start to think dieting, not diet. It becomes the part of the word everyone hates to hear. The part that makes every person who’s broken down and bought the $99.99 miracle food from the informercial they saw at 3am, that just it swore THIS would be the thing that worked, want to curl up into the fetal position and cry. Veggies and diet combined in a sentence get a really bad rap.
Primal to me is not dieting. It’s a diet; a lifestyle. It’s a choice I’m consciously making, and a way in which I want to lead my life. It is not just what I eat, or how I exercise. It’s a mental shift. It’s a effort I put forth to wholly, and completely, change my life to be healthy in all aspects: mentally, emotionally, physically, and physiologically.
Not everyone is looking for that, though. Some are just looking to diet. While I do believe dieting can work in the short term (when done properly, and not some crazy-fad thing all the celebs are doing), for long term success I feel there has to be an overall & complete change for any sort of weight-loss work to stick.
My opinions on diet versus lifestyle aside, the key to keeping any healthy change in food consumption, I’ve come to realize, is: VARIETY. Becoming bored with the healthy foods you eat (short-term or long-term) will lead you to say, “I don’t want to eat this sh** anymore! I just want a damn (fill in the blank)”. For me, when I get bored with the Primal things I’ve been making I start craving chips and Cheetos. Pizza will usually be consumed once, and there’s always a pasta dish somewhere along the way. All my cravings come screaming for attention when I’ve reached a plateau in food selection.
To combat this recurring issue I’ve taken to collecting Primal, and non-Primal, recipes on Pinterest. You’d be surprised at all of the creative ideas that are out there, especially the recipes copy-cating restaurant food. My personal favorite thing is adapting my favorite “bad” foods into everyday Primal meals (for ideas on how to do this, see my “Dinner Diaries” posts). I’ve created a “This is How I Primal” board on my Pinterest page to help me keep on track, and to organize all the things I eventually want to try. I’ve also made a motivational fitness board to help get me through the ups and downs of working my ass off during all my race training this year.
Y’all may think it’s corny, but this is what works for me. Find what works for you–magazines, cookbooks, tv shows, farmers markets. Whatever it takes to keep your food options interesting. Don’t fall down the routine trap. Put some spice into your life!
P.S. – If you do decide to take a hop, skip and jump over to my Pinterest page, and like what you see, check back to the boards I mentioned regularly because I add recipes and motivation almost daily (I’m kind of a Pinterest addict).
P.P.S. – Have any great recipe ideas? Let me know! I’m always on the look out for new things to try.
I’ve talked about “how” I live my Primal lifestyle before, what I eat and what I avoid, but I want to take a quick second for a refresher post. I’ve had a couple of friends ask me what I eat and how I started Primal, so here’s my “Primal History” and “how-to” guide.
Bexy’s Primal History
The first thing I did when starting out on Primal was cutting out caffeine completely. It was hard. Oh, so hard. I had a terrible caffeine addiction. So terrible that if I didn’t have at least 2 cups a day I was walloped with a doosey of a headache by bedtime. I was working third shift as a substance abuse clinician at the time, so caffeine was my lifeline during those long stretches of quiet. But despite all the odds against me, I did it. I stopped drinking the 64 ounces (or more) of coffee daily, and instead just slept all the time when I wasn’t working. [I should point out here that quitting caffeine isn’t necessarily required. For me, I was badly dependent on the caffeine and the sugar I put into it. It was necessary for me to break this realllllly bad habit first. For others who only have a cup or two now, go for it. It’s all about what works for you.] After the headaches stopped, I felt so much better, even with that one simple change. More energy (weird, right?) and I felt refreshed after sleep as opposed to the caffeine-withdrawal-stupor I was in most mornings.
Next, I moved on to carbs. Removing processed carbs, grains, and pastas from your diet is the cornerstone of the Primal lifestyle. I was dreading this part the most. Like a lot of Americans, I was highly addicted to processed carbs, anything that came with cheese on it, and all things fried. It took me a loooooong time to really get my head wrapped around the idea of not eating carbs, let alone actually stopping them.
I started slow, backing off the number of carbs I ate in a day, gradually decreasing them to the “weight-loss” level. It was a HUGE adjustment, one that I couldn’t have done without support and guidance. Mark’s Daily Apple was a gigantic help, as was the Boy, who was the person that pushed me to give this a try.
I kept up the strict Primal diet for a solid month, dropping 20lbs in 30 days, before I started “cheating” more. I maintained for about 3 months before I started being strict again. I’ve been volleying back and forth between being strict and maintaining for the last year and half. Doing it this way has a)helped me keep the weigh off b)let me not feel deprived, and c)gave me room to breath. Following any diet or lifestyle plan 100% is really, really hard. It takes a LOT of practice and dedication. I know someday I’ll be 100% completely Primal, but I’m not there yet. It took me 23 years to learn the bad habits I have; it’s going to take me a long time to unlearn them.
The first thing I have to stress is: you’re going to have to get outside your comfort zone to do Primal. You won’t be able to stick to the 3 types of veggies you know, or you literally won’t last a week. If you’re super picky or just hate anything new, this isn’t the lifestyle of you.
Second, you are going to have to COOK. Primal food doesn’t come out of a box with heating instructions on the label. This is real cooking with REAL food. If you don’t know how to cook, don’t worry, you can learn (I did!). If you hate cooking, or can’t fathom stepping foot inside your own kitchen, this isn’t the lifestyle for you.
With that said, when I first started Primal I ate a lot of salads. I put different veggies on them, and tried different meats and dressings. It was interesting for a while, but after a few weeks I was really craving a “warm” meal. So what the heck do you make that’s Primal, actually cooked, but doesn’t include carbs? I’m glad you asked!
A typical Primal meal in my house consists of 2/3 veggies and 1/3 protein. The protein can be whatever you like: chicken, steak, fish, tofu, etc. Buy organic & grass fed if you can, since it’s the best for you, but no worries if you can’t (I don’t). The veggies can also be whatever you personally like, but you’re gonna need a lot of it to have a full meal. Having 2 veggies can ease up on the volume of one type you’d need to feel full. Tonight, for example, we had collard greens and carrots. Another staple for us is pan-fried cabbage.
It is here, when you are craving a warm meal, that being adventurous with your food is going to come in handy. Broccoli, carrots and cauliflower will only get you so far. Asparagus, spaghetti squash (ahhmazing substitute for pasta), eggplant, cabbage, bak choy, rutabaga, and turnips are all things your should try if you’re considering going Primal. Green beans, corn, lima beans, potatoes, and the like are all “allowed” on the diet, but should be limited. Some people can’t lose weight and eat these things; I happen to be one of those people (you can find the science behind it on Mark’s here).
Cooking with real butter and olive-oil helps to make you feel fuller longer as opposed to cooking with canola oil or Pam, both of which are highly processed and full of chemicals.
A fantastic shopping list of things to eat and not eat, is here. I used this like my own personal bible when I first started out. Mark also publishes posts regularly responding to people’s questions, so feel free to ask him anything!
Cookbooks are fantastic; Primal Blueprint has several.
The other thing I do, which also really helps with deprivation, is creating Primal versions of the meals I love. Spaghetti, for example, can easily be made Primal buying using spaghetti squash instead of pasta. I’ve made Primal lasagna, Primal tacos, and Primal steak and cheeses. Next on my “to-try” list is potatoes au gratin but made with spaghetti squash! (I’ll let you know how it goes!)
A few other cornerstones of Primal are playing (it’s not just for 6-year-olds anymore), SLEEPING (our college all-nighter days are over), being active, and working out the Primal way. Mark has plenty of tips and tricks for all of these things on his website. For me personally, the biggest and most important thing to change first was my diet. Working out and being active came second. Everything else has just fallen into place.
If weight has been an issue for you your entire life, you’ve never found anything that worked, and/or want a REAL change, Primal is for you. Nothing worked for me long-term til I tried Primal. I think it’s save my life.
To end this long post, here’s a little inspiration: the picture below is me during college, on my graduation, and today. I started Primal 3 months after my graduation. Look at me today. This could be YOU!
Salads are a pretty important part of the Primal Blueprint lifestyle. But when I hear the word “salad”, I think: Iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, shaved carrots, and ranch dressing. Now that kind of salad is good every once in a while, and is usually pretty good at a restaurant as an appetizer before the actual meal. But when you’re trying to incorporate salads into your every day life, a boring Iceberg salad just ain’t gonna cut it. So what do you do about it, you may ask. Well, this is when you get creative! The concept of what is a salad, and what can be on a salad, has changed a lot from our stereotypical salad idea.
First and foremost, FRUITS! You wouldn’t think that mixing certain types of fruits and lettuce would taste very good. But trust me! It really really does, and it keeps things interesting. Several fruits that are good on salads include: apples, strawberries, grapes, raspberries, blackberries, mango, papaya, etc. The list could continue on. It all depends on what dressing you pair it with (and yes, there are other types of dressing besides ranch).
Dressings can really play up a salad, and you definitely aren’t restricted to just what comes on the shelves in the grocery store. It is very simple to make your own dressing at home. All you need to do is mix some olive oil with a type of vinegar (red wine, white wine, apple cider, whatever you choose), and fresh spices from your garden (or dried from your grocery store). If you want to get even more creative you can add in the zest (or juices) of lemons, oranges, or limes, or you could grind up some other type of fruit or interesting vegetable and put it in there too. Just put all of these ingredients in blender to grind, chop, and mix things up, and then into a container to store it. (Side note: Since there are no preservatives in it, it won’t keep as long as normal salad dressings. Check the freshness before you use it!)
The next thing you could add are nuts. Peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, you name it. They all add great flavor to your salad, and add some crunch too (a great substitute for croutons!).
And don’t be afraid to add in different veggies too. Snap peas, radishes, zucinni, squash, bell peppers, hot peppers, cabbage, green onions, ginger, water chesnuts. Anything is possible!
Now if this isn’t enough to set your salad off, I don’t know what will. Just remember, stay away from the Iceberg lettuce. It’s pretty much just water, so go with something more nutritional like: baby spinach! (Or some other dark leafy green will due too). And always add protein (meats or tofu) so it’s more filling, and actually a meal and not just a snack.