I only switched over to this lifestyle a little over a month ago, but I feel like I’ve researched and processed a lot of information in that time. Primal eating attracted me for its ease, its simplicity. I feel like I can maintain the flow of it even when eating out or at friends’ houses, hopefully without driving anyone crazy.
If you’ve seen my introduction, then you know I’ve never been attracted to any kind of Diet. With Primal, there’s no keeping track of anything, no points or food combinations. It feels sustainable.
That said, as with anything, you can get into the nitty-gritty of Primal eating if you want to. Many arrive at the diet from the perspective of an illness or intolerance, and I think that immediately sends people more toward micromanaging the particulars. There are discussions about macronutrients, inflammation, Vitamin D supplementation, curing acne, intermittent fasting, carb refeeding…it goes on and on. So if you’re looking for a rabbit hole, Primal can be that for you.
But the purpose of this post is for the newbie, or the uninitiated, or perhaps the seasoned veteran who just needs a refresher in the basics. Here is a list of the most practical information about Paleo/Primal eating I can think of:
- It’s all about insulin regulation. In Gary Taubes’s Why We Get Fat, he explains how insulin begins its work at the moment you even think about eating. Then, if you give your body easy carbs, it goes into overdrive, flooding your system. Over time, this results in insulin resistance for many individuals who have a genetic predisposition. Researchers are beginning to worry that insulin resistance is far more widespread than previously thought. Before you know it, you’re on the road to metabolic syndrome, and possibly heart disease and/or diabetes. On a more practical level, by eating Primal, you avoid this overdose of insulin, and you’ll notice that you just aren’t hungry the way you used to be.
You hear a subtle voice, British in origin and oh-so-polite, saying, “Dear sir/madam, there is no immediate emergency, but perhaps you might consider procuring some Primal food items in the foreseeable future.” And if you don’t, no big deal. Gone are the days of the knife in the stomach at 10:15am after a big bowl of oatmeal and a banana.
- Fat. F – A – T. Fat! This is perhaps one of the hardest rules to incorporate at first. You look down at your big plate of eggs and bacon, your fifth of the week, and good ol’ CW creeps back in and you think, “I’m going to get fat and gross eating like this.” Or maybe you find yourself still thinking chicken breast is somehow “better” than chicken thighs. The simple fact is that you’ll feel more satisfied and will eat less overall when you eat plenty of fat. This is the key, and this is precisely why low-fat diets fail. You can’t restrict calories if you’re starving. With fat, you don’t starve. I’ve also found that, for me, it is impossible to overeat. You know that stuffed, over-full post-Thanksgiving feeling? Individual results may vary, but it never happens to me anymore. My hunger is more even, more regulated, more manageable.
- Be prepared. Don’t depend on the world to feed you. Plan ahead and you won’t need to use up your 20% non-Primal buffer zone. 1) If you’re going to an event that you know won’t be Primal/Paleo friendly, eat a good meal beforehand. I did this recently before a child’s birthday party and was able to resist all the cake and ice cream, while I snacked on the veggie tray. 2) Have snacks handy when you’re out and about. Nuts, dry salami, cheese if you eat it. I often carry around a container of macadamia nuts mixed with some coconut chips to get me through any snack emergency. 3) Bring your lunch to work. It can be as simple as leftovers from the night before or a handful of nuts and some hardboiled eggs to get you by.
- Unless someone is genuinely interested, the less said, the better. Try to remember the last time someone tried to sell you something. Or convert you to a new or different religion. Pretty annoying, eh? Don’t be that person. It’s hard when we’re all excited about something so positive, but really, trying to convince someone that everything the media and government have to say about nutrition and exercise is wrong can make you seem like a raving lunatic. And when you’re preparing meals for folks, you don’t need to disclose the fact that it’s Primal/Paleo. Chances are they may not even notice. Maybe you’ll share your secrets with them when they ask how you lost all that weight and gained all that new energy.
What else? Share your practical tips in the comments.