The title of this post is about as cliché as it gets for people doing what I’m doing. Google “going primal” and I can only imagine how many blog hits you’ll get. But I can’t think of a better word for it.
After reading about it from Tom Woods (oh look, he uses the same post title!) I decided to look into the book. It didn’t take many reviews before I realized this may really be something worth checking out. I won’t spell out the whole thing (if you want to, check out some of the articles here) but the basic premise, as I understand it, is that our bodies aren’t designed for the diet we eat in modern American life. Known pejoratively as the “Standard American Diet” (or SAD, natch!), our bodies are being cram packed with complex carbohydrates derived from grains, processed or not, and even legumes, which cause insulin spikes, increase appetite, exacerbate inflammation, and even cause conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Going primal means going back to a diet our ancestors would have recognized. And when I say ancestors, I mean way, way back. Meat, fish, fowl, veggies, seeds, nuts, berries – hunter/gatherer stuff. And since, as the theory goes, our bodies are designed to burn fat, not carbs, all this carb eating is making us get fatter because we can’t deal with all the rapid energy sources we’re putting into our faces. It’s too much pure fuel, and we don’t need it. It’s also bad for us.
Also novel is the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol are really not bad for you, provided they’re not eaten in conjunction with massive amounts of grains. So not only should you have that steak and eggs (with yolks) that you’ve been craving, but go ahead and cook them in butter or coconut oil. Go ahead, it’s good for you.
Considering that fats play a vital role in brain function and in appetite suppression, I can tell you from experience that you don’t need to eat nearly as much as often. And when you need a boost, veggies are what you should reach for. They have the carbs you need in a way you’re meant to process them.
I’m 14 days into the program as of tomorrow. I’ve lost about 9 lbs., though the first 3 came off the week before I started when I went all crazy almost vegetarian for a week just because I was craving natural, non-jalapeno popper foods. I’ve experienced days with huge energy boosts and massive mood enhancement, and I’ve had days when I’ve been headachy and irritable as all hell. I’m walking every day for 30 minutes to an hour, and I’m also throwing in minor amounts of strength exercises, which I rarely seem to find the time or energy for. I have not yet adopted the entire fitness regimen that is part and parcel to the program, but I’m working toward it. What I like about it is that it’s attainable for someone like me.
When I say “someone like me,” I mean it. I’m a big guy, and I’ve never been very active. I have a desk job, and a sedentary life. The government says that at 6’4″, I should weigh in at about 190lbs. I can tell you from experience that 190 is way too skinny on me. My ideal weight is about 220-230lbs. That’s where I was when I started college. When I left college, I was at 245. A year after college (my first year sitting behind a desk) I was up to 275. A year after that, I hit 295. 295 is where I still am today, 8 years later. I’ve gone up (as high as 312 lbs.) and down (as low as 260 lbs.) but I’ve never consistently been able to manage weight and fitness, and much of this owes to the fact that I’m non-athletic, don’t care much for sports, and have always had very low energy levels. I used to always joke that I don’t even have a metabolism.
It’s my hope that this will finally improve, because this isn’t a diet, it’s a life change. Though much of what this way of living recommends contradicts conventional wisdom, the more I read, the more convinced I become that much of what we take for dietary and health science is actually junk science – lots of correlative relationships spun into causal assertions. By and large, this country is full of people eating “healthier” and exercising more than they ever have, and obesity keeps going up. Something isn’t working with the way we’re being told to take care of ourselves.
Time will tell how big of an impact this will have on our lives. I’m not the only one doing this – Jamie and the kids are on board too. I’m seeing changes in everyone – Jamie has seen the most drastic uptick in mood and energy – and I think it’s worth giving this process more than the initial 21 days to assess the final impact.
For my part, I do miss some of the pasta, rice, bread, and sugars, but I’m slugging along. I’m also not drinking much alcohol at all, and seem to be doing fine without it. It’s tempting sometimes, but I’ve noticed the ways in which it sets me back, so I’ll forego it and drink plain ol’ tea.
Or like this morning, I’ll have a decaf coconut milk latte. Not bad. Not bad at all.