I don’t consider myself much of a rebel, but lately I have been breaking a lot of rules. And it feels GOOD.
When you compete, I think you disconnect from your body’s signals. You ignore hunger for the sake of maintaining a caloric deficit. You lift weights even when your muscles are sore and tight. You force yourself to complete grueling cardio sessions despite feeling lethargic and exhausted. You limit yourself to a very narrow range of foods that are “competition-friendly.” And you do this for weeks or months at a time.
The Primal lifestyle takes the opposite approach. Primal rejects the idea that you need to eat every 2-3 hours or even immediately upon waking. Our primitive ancestors did not have the convenience of a refrigerator to preserve their food or a grocery store down the street to stock up any time we run low. Our bodies have evolved to easily handle going for longer than a few hours without food. Primal eating means paying attention to your body’s signals and eating only when you are hungry. It also means that you stop eating once you are no longer hungry. This is a lot harder than it sounds, especially when you have been conditioned for so long to eat every 2-3 hours, regardless of whether you feel hungry or not! Most days, I don’t eat breakfast until 10 or 11 AM now. Recognizing when I’m hungry for my first meal of the day is the easiest part. I’m still practicing listening to my hunger signals for the rest of my meals each day and trying not to eat simply because a predetermined amount of time has passed since I ate last.
The Primal lifestyle discourages people from calorie-counting and weighing/measuring your food in favor of following some flexible food rules and using intuitive eating. This is a HUGE adjustment for me! I’m still skeptical. And I must confess, I’m still logging my intake into MyFitnessPal. After a little more time, I hope to be able to let go of the calorie micromanagement and tracking that is so deeply entrenched in my habits.
Primal nutrition is considered a low carb, moderate protein, high fat diet. Grains, legumes, sugar, and processed foods are on the no-no list. Optimal carbohydrate intake is between 50 and 150 g per day contingent on your goals. Fat makes up the majority of your calories and is the primary source of energy for your body. I have to say that I am loving it. I’ve done low carb diets before, but without nearly as much fat to compensate. The high fat intake makes all of the difference. My energy levels are higher and much more stable compared to when I was eating moderate/high carb and low-fat. My satiety is much greater between meals. I don’t get the insane sugar cravings I used to. Perhaps most importantly, I enjoy my food a lot more! I’ve also noticed that a lot of the GI distress (bloating, stomach pain, etc.) that I used to experience chronically has disappeared once I eliminated grains/legumes/gluten.
Here is a typical day for me now that I’m eating Primally:
Meal #1: 2 free range organic omega-3 eggs with 3 egg whites, 1 c spinach, onions, and cholula with 1/2 c of some kind of berries
Meal #2: 3 oz extra lean ground turkey breast with 2 c brussels sprouts cooked in 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
Meal #3: 2 cups romaine lettuce with 3 oz extra lean ground turkey breast, 4 tbsp artichoke garlic salsa, and 100 cal pack of Wholly Guacamole
Meal #4: Salmon fillet with 4 oz asparagus
Meal #5: Lean turkey burger with 4 oz butternut squash cooked in 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
Meal #6: Grass-fed beef jerky and 1 oz macadamia nuts
I’m averaging about 1500 calories per day, 80 g of carbs, 140 g of protein, and 70 g of fat. I’m also keeping a daily journal to monitor my food, sleep, energy, and workouts to see what kind of changes occur within the first 30 days of following a Primal approach.
And, of course, trying to new eating approach wouldn’t be complete without “before” pictures! Plus, I figured some of you might be curious about what I look like 1 month post-show…so, here you go!
(Sorry, I didn’t realize how dirty my bathroom mirror is!)