Paleo - Primal: Why I Choose to Eat This Way

Slow-cooked pulled pork over greens with a ginger soy vinaigrette.
Slow-cooked pulled pork over greens with a ginger soy vinaigrette.

I started researching a paleo/primal lifestyle about 2 years ago. I had, unsuccessfully, tried to lose weight. I was always tired. I had digestive issues. My joints hurt. My issues are nowhere near as bad as many other people, but they were bad enough to me that I wanted to find out why and find a way to fix them without a bunch of pills and doctors' visits. What started as a search for low-carb led to eating in a way that changed my life in ways I hadn't anticipated. I don't go out and advocate for it, but I do tell people about what I do when they ask or talk to me about their own dietary issues.

And here's my disclaimer - I've always loved veggies. The more, the better.

Second disclaimer - I'm in no way paleo, but I do work really hard to stick to primal's 80/20 suggestion - eat primal 80% of the time and allow yourself those cheat days.

In The Beginning

When I started this gradual transition, I cut out all carbs except fruit. Yes, I got hit with carb flu for a couple days. Unfortunately, eating as much fruit as I ate didn't help my weight loss much. This was all before I learned about paleo or primal eating. My first foray into this whole anti-SAD world was into Raw eating, and that was just really hard. I tried the cauliflower crust pizza which wasn't too bad, but let's face it, Papa John's thin crust it wasn't. (I've since found a new recipe for the crust so I may try this one again.) I made myself really sick one night on zoodles and cashew alfredo sauce. Really sick. Like stay up all night super gassy sick. I couldn't figure it out because veggies have always been a big part of my diet so it's not like I was suddenly switching to a foreign food source. I couldn't look at zucchini or cashews for a month after that.

When the weight didn't drop off and I still felt hungry much of the day, I went back to eating carbs and food that I actually had to cook. I wasn't a big bread/pasta fan before (one reason the carb flu didn't hit me too badly), but I didn't restrict myself any more. I kept searching through my symptoms and came up with things like adenal fatigue (hated the prospect of not exercising so this just didn't work for me) and the GAPS diet (I have to be how restrictive in the first few months???), and I started reading more and more about this paleo/primal trend.

The homemade bone broth I have for breakfast almost every day.
The homemade bone broth I have for breakfast almost every day.

On The Hunt

In researching paleo/primal - that whole Raw food thing had backfired so I proceeded with caution now - I came across information about wheat that surprised me. I don't have celiac disease. Nor am I gluten intolerant. I'm not going to jump on that bandwagon because I simply don't believe it to be true.

First I read several sites that claim wheat is addictive, basically in the same category as heroin or crack. A 1979 study was cited on all these websites. I thought, "Hmmm...maybe that's why I want to eat more crackers and bread and pasta shortly after I eat them. Interesting." I cut the wheat products out but continued eating rice, corn, and potatoes.

Somewhere along the line I came across a website called The Curious Coconut and became very interested in what she had to say. Amanda Torres is a blogger who is also a scientist so she approaches all of these claims from a scientific background and that interested me. I found her articles to be unbiased and sound in research. So I kept reading. She basically debunks the whole idea that wheat is addictive for the reasons these other sites stated, but she did acknowledge that it probably is addictive for an unknown reason, based on her own personal experiences.

At this point I had been wheat-free for a couple weeks and was feeling better. I slept better. I wasn't has hungry as before. My knees didn't hurt as much. My digestive issues were nearly non-existent. And most surprisingly, an on-off low-grade depression I constantly battled was gone. Amazing!

Cubed pork and root veggies in a sweet curry sauce.
Cubed pork and root veggies in a sweet curry sauce.

With paleo/primal I've done what I did with religion and politics - read everything I could, experimented, and kept what worked for me. I don't think paleo/primal is a fix-all for everyone. I don't think low carb or low fat or vegan are the fix-all for everyone either. I think we all have to experiment, keep an open mind, stay very much in tune to our own bodies and see what works. Then stick with that. We are not one-size-fits-all people, and our diets shouldn't be either.

The other interesting thing I found was that as I became more in tune with my eating habits, I started to find ways to treat my entire body and mind more kindly. I started yoga. I went back to meditating. Even when I found a way of eating that worked for me, I continued to research, read, and learn and keep what felt good and worked for me.

11 Reasons I Love a Primal Lifestyle

  1. Paleo is too restrictive and expensive for my budget. I simply can't afford organic and grass-fed everything. I do the best I can and am okay with that. So, I do primal, not paleo.
  2. Cutting wheat mostly out of my diet I found that I felt better physically and mentally. Just to be sure it was the wheat, I didn't change my exercise habits or anything else like that.
  3. Though there are people with celiac or gluten intolerances, many of us don't fall in that category. Paleo/primal works because you eat healthier then adopt a healthier lifestyle. If you eat junk, pretty much any diet change to the healthier will make a huge difference.
  4. Many of today's diets didn't work because I simply can't eat 6 times a day! I know the popular thinking is this raises metabolism, but for me, I felt like I was constantly in digestion mode - lethargic, sleepy, full, brain-dead. On top of that, my body became accustomed to eating at 7, 9:30, noon, 2:30, 6, and 9, and it demanded food at those times whether I was hungry or not.
  5. Eating paleo/primal, I stopped counting calories, fat, carbs, and protein, and I stopped trying to find the perfect balance of those ratios. Helloooo, stress-free eating!
  6. My 11 year old son lost his chub...and his 24/7 appetite. I don't usually tell him that the noodles are actually spaghetti squash or anything like that. I just put the food in front of him, and he eats it.
  7. Around Christmas 2014 I read something about eating that changed the way I do. The advise was (okay, this kinda weird, but it works for me): eat only until that first burp comes up. That's your stomach's way of saying, "Hey, I'm done." The second burp is your stomach saying, "You idiot, stop eating!" The result: I only eat when I'm hungry. I mean like stomach growling hungry. And I stop when I'm not hungry. I don't feel the need to eat everything on my plate. In fact, I use the little dessert plates for my meals. Can you say smaller portions? And...I eat only 2-3 times a day. That's how often I'm hungry. That's how often I eat.
  8. Yoga. Need I say more? When I started doing yoga at the beginning of 2015, I didn't so much lose weight as my body changed and that made me look thinner. Plus, it's so much more relaxing that cursing through an arm, ab, or leg circuit. I still jog though, and love it.
  9. With a more relaxed mind, I began to meditate again which brought a greater self-awareness and self-love, and that has led to some other life changes. Out with the negative, in with the positive.
  10. My outlook on food changed. It's no longer breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner. It's fuel. Nothing more, nothing less. I'll eat last night's leftovers for breakfast. I'll eat salad for breakfast. I'm no longer restricted by what I'm supposed to eat at each meal.
  11. And here's the big one. Eating paleo/primal does not have to be difficult or expensive. No, I don't buy the most expensive stuff. I shop at a regular grocery store. But there are so many recipes out there to try, so many different ways to prepare everything. It's really difficult to get bored.

Spicy roasted drumsticks with sauteed tomatoes and onions over rice noodles.
Spicy roasted drumsticks with sauteed tomatoes and onions over rice noodles.

To Recap

I don't know how much weight I've lost. All told on my weight loss journey so far, I've lost 70-75 pounds. I don't step on a scale often so I really don't know how much. I've lost 8 dress sizes. That's what counts to me. I feel great. That matters even more.

Paleo/primal isn't something that's going to work for everyone. It works for me. I recommend people at least research the basics and the recipes to see if it'll work for them. In making changes in one area of our lives, we tend to carry that into other aspects of our lives and become healthier. It's a lifestyle change, not just a change in eating habits or food habits. It can be as restrictive or non-restrictive as you let it. It's liberating. It's delicious. And it's stress-free.

Chicken-salad-stuffed avocado.
Chicken-salad-stuffed avocado.

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