For the last seven weeks we’ve been following the Primal Blueprint, a different way of eating and exercising for a healthy life.
Two of the main parts of the Primal Blueprint are eating and exercise. Let’s look at eating first, since that’s always at the top of my mind.
We’ve cut out grains, potatoes, and beans – that means no bread, rice, pasta, or sugary breakfast cereal. What we’re eating instead is meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and fruit.
But how can you feel full without the starch? I can tell you, when you’ve eaten enough meat and vegetables, you’re full, but without that slightly dopey feeling you get from a big plate of pasta.
How can this be a healthy diet without whole grains? Don’t we need whole grains for fibre and good nutrition? According to the Primal Blueprint, we can get all the fibre, vitamins, and minerals we need from meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and fruit. Whole grains fill us up, but meat and vegetables are nutritionally superior.
The Primal Blueprint, along with other similar diets such as the Paleo diet and Gary Taubes’ low-carb diet, says that maintaining a healthy weight, and losing weight to get to a healthy weight, is all about controlling your hormones, especially insulin. Starchy carbs lead to insulin spikes, which tells your body to store food in fat cells to keep your blood sugar levels in check.
If you don’t eat the starchy carbs, your blood sugar remains stable and insulin low, so your body burns fat. People who are naturally skinny and seem to be able to eat anything have good genes that prompt them to burn fat rather than store it, whereas the rest of us who tend to accumulate an extra pound or two, or more, don’t have such good genes and thus need to be more careful to keep our insulin levels down in order to burn fat.
It’s nothing to do with eating too much or not eating enough. Research shows that even people on a near starvation diet can be obese.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been one of those people who goes crazy when my blood sugar drops. Give me food and give it to me now – and preferably something sweet that I can process quickly. But for the last seven weeks I’ve been craving sugary food less, and not having those crazy-making episodes. I’ve felt full and satisfied, and clear-headed. I’ve lost a little weight (a steady pound a week) and toned up.
On the exercise front, the Primal Blueprint recommends doing less moderately-intense cardio. If you’re like me, you’ve probably tried to use gym classes, running, cycling, and other sports to keep your weight under control.
The new thinking is that if you exercise moderately hard all the time, you make yourself hungry, which means you’ll eat more – and if you’re not in fat burning mode, you’ll just store that extra food in your fat cells. Think about it. If someone invited you to a fancy dinner cooked by a top chef, and told you to come hungry, what would you do? Eat less and do some exercise to build up an appetite. Yet that’s what we’ve been taught to do to lose weight! Doesn’t make sense does it?
Instead what we need to do is low-intensity exercise – walking, hiking, playing with the kids – mixed with some weights (or gardening, or lifting boxes or groceries), and the odd session of high-intensity “sprints”. This gives our bodies enough work to build muscle, but avoids cranking up our appetite.
So we’ve been getting out for some walks and easy bike rides, I’ve been going to a strength and conditioning class at the gym, and Patrick’s been doing primal fitness exercises at home. It’s all so easy, I almost feel guilty. But it’s working.
How can I get started?
As with any lifestyle change, the only way to know if the Primal Blueprint will work for you is to try it. And that’s what I’m recommending. Try it for one meal – that’s easy, right? Try it for a week, or better yet, try it for 30 days. Even if you change your eating patterns but do no exercise, you’ll see results. According to the Primal Blueprint, it’s 80% diet, 20% exercise.
And remember, stick to eating these things:
If you’re desperate to substitute something for mashed potatoes or rice, try these easy cauliflower substitutions:
- Chop the cauliflower into chunks and cook it like you usually would in a pot of hot water.
- Drain it, add a splash of olive oil or a little butter, then use a hand blender to blend it into a smooth mash.
- Grate raw cauliflower (by hand with a grater, or in a food processer) until the cauliflower looks roughly like rice.
- Cook it in the microwave in a covered dish for about 6 minutes. Pull it out and stir it with a fork every 2 minutes to make sure it cooks evenly.
Mark’s Daily Apple (the website of Mark Sisson who created the Primal Blueprint)
Primal Blueprint Success Stories
Primal Blueprint 101
Primal Blueprint Fitness
Primal Blueprint Recipes
Protein options for vegetarians
Let me know if you have questions. And tell me how it goes if you try it!
Photo via Flickr user risastla