Sometimes you dive head first into something new without much regard to how difficult it will be. I would call this “newbie optimism”. You are just really excited to get started and you have no idea about the things that you don’t know. Some of the things you don’t know will actually make your life easier and your chance at success greater. Other things that you don’t know will actually hold back progress and make you frustrated. Looking back over the last couple years of starting my primal diet journey there are four key things that I wish I knew before I started that would have made my transition to a healthier way of life that much easier.
I’m referring to the paleo diet as the primal diet in this post. There’s not really much of a difference. The primal reference was made popular by Mark Sisson and his book the Primal Blueprint. Essentially the paleo diet and the primal diet are one in the same but Mark does allow for a little bit of dairy in his diet suggestions to readers.
No. 1 The Primal Diet Doesn’t Mean You’re Deprived, You Always Have a Choice
Before I started following a primal diet I thought I would never eat another piece of pizza in my life. I’m the type of person that gets really geeked out about details and I tend to be really hard on myself. If I don’t follow the program exactly how it’s laid out then I get really bent out of shape.
But after following the primal diet and living a primal/paleo lifestyle I’ve realized that I actually can relax and just enjoy the food that I eat and the life that I live. Eating is a big part of our lives. I’m writing this post as we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and I’m looking forward to spending time with friends.
One of the things I love most about Thanksgiving dinner is pumpkin pie. Now, I realize that there are a lot of pumpkin dessert recipes that are paleo approved and delicious. But I get a little nostalgic when it comes to my piece of pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dessert. I plan on enjoying a nice piece of pie with a heaping pile of organic heavy whipped cream that I will prepare myself. And you know what?… I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it.
And I can enjoy it because 95% of the time I stick to my primal diet. Nothing says you can’t splurge once in a while on one of your favorite foods. Just don’t stuff yourself silly. I know that I won’t be going back to the office on Monday and pounding the bagels or doughnuts that my coworker brought in. And I know that I won’t be slamming a full sugar Mt. Dew in the afternoon when I feel all lethargic. Because I know that I’ll be eating healthy foods that make me feel great I can have one piece of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.
I would highly suggest that you take baby steps when you first start your primal diet. I like the philosophy of sticking to your paleo diet meal plan at least 90% of your meals. If you want to enjoy a favorite food of yours on a Saturday dinner out with friends I say go ahead. Once you understand the effects of insulin and all the nasty stuff that comes in processed foods you’ll most likely get used the idea of not eating those foods over time. But if just having that one release will keep you compliant the other 90% of the time then I think that’s great.
No. 2 How to Prepare My Lunch for a Hectic Work Day
I used to not bring anything for my lunch on work days. What I mistake! When you don’t come to work prepared then you better be prepared to be peer pressured to lunch out of the office at the local TGI Friday’s where you’ll be in a hard position to stick with your primal diet. I made this mistake too many times when I was starting my primal diet. I would tell myself that I would get something healthy but it was really hard to find anything on a menu that wasn’t slathered in sugary sauces or battered and deep-fried.
Then I went crazy and basically started eating the same thing everyday for lunch… which to be honest I still kind of do to this day. But I was basically eating a chicken caesar salad every day. It got a little boring. Romaine, a little parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of caesar dressing (which is not really paleo approved… live and learn).
Finally I came to my senses and started to prepare and cut a wide variety of fresh vegetables. Usually I’ll have things ready like red and green peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, celery, romaine lettuce, spinach leaves, avocado, olives and a bunch of other good stuff to throw into one big salad. I throw my salad in tupperware and then I throw some olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette in a small tupperware to drench the salad in when I’m ready to eat. I’ll also have some meat like chicken or beef that is ready to go from dinner the night before. I’ll either chop this up for the salad or have it on the side. Either way I’m fully prepared for my day and will not have to worry about giving into temptation and peer pressure.
Trust me when I say that soon your peers will be asking you for advice on how they can start doing the same thing. They’ll see you getting results and feeling energetic and they’ll wonder what you’re taking. You can just smile and tell them that you’ve cut out all processed carbs and junk food like bread, refined pastas, chips and sweets. Probably 98% of people will tell you… “Oh, I could never do that”. You can just smile and say, “Ok”, and then take another big bite out of your tasty primal lunch. It will feel good to be doing something that others aren’t willing and able to do themselves. You’ll also look damn good!
No. 3 How to Deal with Nay-Sayers
You are going to run up against friends, family and acquaintances that just don’t understand why you’re eating the way you are. You know what? They don’t have to understand and you don’t have to explain yourself to them. It’s completely ‘OK’ to be a little unreasonable with these people that want to make it their personal mission to get you to eat like them. They’ll feel embarrassed about shoving another half a loaf of bread down their throats while their belts begged to be loosened another notch. You do not want to be like that person… that person secretly wants to be like you.
Most people are out of control with their diets. No regards for their own health and well-being. It’s really kind of sad to see people that don’t take their health and nutrition serious. So when someone has their stuff together in these areas it’s different to outsiders. People don’t really know how to respond. I think a lot of it is curiosity. But that doesn’t mean it’s your job to teach them everything you know about the paleo diet. In fact you would lose most people right after you mentioned not eating cereal for breakfast.
What I do is simply choose not to discuss my diet with people unless the ask and genuinely want to know. Most of the time I simply tell people that I don’t eat processed foods and carbohydrates like pasta, bread and cereal grains because my body doesn’t respond well to me eating them. This is totally true but I’m not going to get into the science behind it. You and I both know that cereal grains and legumes have anti-nutrients that make them bad for humans to ingest. But
I’m not here to convince people to do exactly as I do. Most people that choose to follow a primal diet have done some research and decided it is probably good for them to at least try it. After a few weeks they are hooked and then there is no going back to the old way. It’s like the nutritional equivalent to the Matrix and choosing the red pill over the blue pill. Once you take the red pill you never go back to the way things were… you simply know too much and things can never be the same.
No. 4 How to Fight Off a Nasty Sweet-Tooth
This is a big one for me. Being faced with the fact that there might not be a lot of Dairy Queen Blizzard Treats in my Primal Diet future was a tough pill to swallow. I’m not a huge sweets person but occasionally I do crave some of the sweet stuff. In the past I would simply drop what I was doing and go grab some ice cream. While it tasted good going down I never like the result. Severe bloating and gas as well as the extra flab that was accumulating on my waistline and thighs.
Of course I always have No. 1 above in this post. If I choose to have a sweet dessert every once in a while I’ll be fine and I’ll meet my goals. But by every once in a while I’m talking like once or twice every three months… if that. Like I said I’m not a huge sweets person to begin with. But it’s not unusual for me to get at least one sweet craving every couple of weeks. What I do now after studying the primal diet is reach for a small chunk of dark chocolate that is organic and at least 70% cacao. That usually kicks the sweet craving and I don’t feel all bloated and nasty.
I hope you enjoyed those primal diet lessons. Go forth and prosper my friend.