The 21-Day Challenge is simple in theory, but not always easy, especially if you are brand new to the Primal Blueprint and trying to change decades of bad habits and unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. With the first week of the Challenge behind us, a couple days ago I asked you to share any questions you may have, and I promised I’d give you my thoughts. In today’s , I’ve tried to answer most of the submissions in a rapid fire format. If your question isn’t answered below, stay tuned. I’ll try to get to it in a future Dear Mark article. Also, be sure to check the comment section of Saturday’s post. There are tons of great answers from readers that are worth a look.
Let’s get to it!
I’ve got a few favorites:
Those should cover your bases. For more ideas, check our Appetizers section!
Don’t worry about the workouts or the sprints . At two months, your kid needs you, maybe more than he/she ever will. You need to conserve your energy (which in your words is definitely finite). Overdoing things on the exercise front might also send troubling messages to your body – that things on the outside world have gotten dire and stressful and dangerous, and that perhaps breastfeeding isn’t top priority at the moment. Instead, send the message that everything is good, food is plentiful, and free time is abundant by chilling out. Then, the milk should continue to flow.
To pregnant and nursing mothers interested in taking the Challenge I suggest making it about sleep and stress and slow moving , rather than losing weight and lifting heavier things.
In the experience of thousands of readers, the caloric deficit (which, yes, is technically required for weight loss) naturally happens when you reduce your carbs and increase fat and protein while avoiding grains , sugar , and vegetable oils . The carb reduction is a big part of that, but it’s not everything. Everything matters. You mentioned “trying to eat Primal,” and I suggest doing it for real. Remember what Yoda says: “Do, or do not, there is no try.”
Also, note the distinction between fat loss and weight loss. You can lose fat and still maintain (or even in rare instances gain) your body weight, and that’s a good thing because it signifies lean mass addition – and that doesn’t require caloric deficit.
Avoiding concentrated, refined sources of sugar, like white sugar as well as juice, soda, candy, baked goods, and all the rest seems to be extremely important in the early going. But almost as important is not fearing whole food sources of sugar, like berries or a bowl of cherries. Those aren’t the same as refined sugar, even though they contain sugar, and while they shouldn’t be eaten with reckless abandon, they should not be regarded as mere “bags of sugar.” Eating them can be a source of sanity. Concentrated sources of “real food sugar,” like honey , syrup, or molasses, are a grey area. Though they’re “better,” I’d definitely watch out for them and perhaps even avoid them altogether.
Here’s what you need:
Go wild. Let people mix and match their favorites. Plus, if they want to make them adult beverages, they can always add their own without disrupting the flavor too much.
Get the kids involved. Let them help prepare food, take them shopping (and let them have a say!), show them how to handle knives, boil water, add spices, that sort of thing. Here, I wrote a post detailing how to get the whole family involved with healthy eating and food preparation that you might find useful.
For the most part, eat WHEN – When Hunger Ensues Naturally. I mean, that’s what hunger is intended for: telling you when you should eat. If you can effectively tap into your own body fat, that may be mid-morning or mid-afternoon. However, it is possible to eat too little food and removing an entire block of potential eating time – breakfast – would exacerbate that. Watch out for symptoms like:
If those appear, you probably need more food, and eating breakfast is a good way to ensure you’re getting enough.
Food grade essential oils can be used in cooking . Just use caution, because they’re extremely powerful.
They also smell quite nicely, may have therapeutic potential, and some can drive off annoying/dangerous insects. There are also other beneficial effects attributed to certain oils:
Not bad, eh?
Risk/reward. Barbell training elicits the greatest training effect, and it can even strengthen connective tissue, but you need to do it right to be safe. The “danger” is what makes it so useful. Balancing a heavy load on your shoulders makes you strong and athletic because it can go wrong.
It’s a tough one. I’ve mostly given up heavy barbell work, particularly bench press and squat, for dumbbell presses and pushups (sometimes with a weighted vest) and leg presses and hack squats. I enjoyed working out with barbells, but I just don’t need them to reach my goals anymore: maintaining enough strength, connective tissue health, and bone density to support my play and health.
I’ve got better than that: a whole post devoted to the subject.
I wrote a post that sort of deals with this, but I also have more suggestions:
Hope it helps!
I’m a full supporter of sampling the local non-Primal cuisine, provided it’s high quality and you really want to try it. What that means: eating the pizza margherita from the little hole in the wall in Rome recommended by your cab driver. What that doesn’t mean: going to McDonald’s for the Royale with Cheese when in Paris just because Pulp Fiction is your favorite movie. Just don’t spend your entire trip venturing off plan and expect to feel normal.
Vitamin D3 is great, but don’t neglect going outside. While you may not make much vitamin D from English autumn sun (or lack thereof), it is important to get outside and get some natural light exposure, especially in the earlier half of the day. Our circadian rhythms in particular are hewed to when and how we exposure ourselves to light. Even muted, cloud-filtered sunlight can align your clock and improve sleep.
Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend fasting (with or without coffee) if you’re feeling cold and cranky. Try having food with your coffee, maybe a plate of eggs with some berries or other fruit, and see if that makes a difference.
Sure, I got a few quick suggestions :
First, check out this post on going Primal without a gallbladder . The gallbladder is extremely important for optimal fat digestion, and not having one (or having a poorly-functioning gallbladder) can impair your ability to eat a high-fat diet. Consider using more short-chain fatty acids (from coconut oil and pastured dairy), which require less work to digest. Ox bile and digestive bitters taken before meals can also improve your digestion.
If your symptoms are above your neck – stuffy nose, headache, sore throat – you can usually keep working out. Just keep it lighter than usual.
If your symptoms are below your neck – exhaustion, sensitive skin, fever, aches and pains – you should not work out. There’s always a next time.
I echo the reader comments that you should make cider. Make it hard, even. Since moving away from beer (although I sneak one here and there), I’m really enjoying ciders more and more. It doesn’t hurt that cider quality is experiencing a renaissance due to the popularity of gluten-free. I say join that renaissance!
And yeah, think of this as a treat. Whenever strawberry season rolls around (and I mean true strawberry season, not the watery flavorless show berries people try to pass off throughout the year) I really go to town and buy flats of the things every week from the farmer’s markets. It’s okay to gorge every now and then, especially on a seasonal item that also happens to be real food.
Sounds like you’ve got a nice brood on your hands. If they’re perfectly content with the healthy Primal food in your house, don’t sweat the rare instances they have to eat out in the wild. You’re growing a pair of healthy, well-adjusted eaters that should do very well in life!
That sounds like an instance where the carb cravings are justified and physiologically warranted. Sprints longer than a few seconds by their nature deplete glycogen stores. Your body is simply informing you of this. The bulk of the carbs eaten post-sprint will be stored as muscle glycogen – nothing to worry about.
Stick to the parameters of the challenge. If 100% Primal is easy, maybe you need to continue that. 80/20 isn’t a requirement; it’s just a helpful tool for people who can utilize it without going overboard and actually need it to function and stay sane. Also, I’ve written a post about what to do when 20 inches toward 40 .
Eat larger, more solid meals. Get a good chunk of protein and fat at each to promote satiety.
As you indicated in the full version of your comment, since your wife likes sweet yogurt, get a big tub of pastured full-fat yogurt and keep a selection of frozen fruit, berries, and nuts on hand. I really dig two combos in particular with yogurt: strawberries with walnuts and blueberries with macadamia nuts. Heck, even a drizzle of honey or maple syrup wouldn’t be the end of the world, especially since she’s nursing and needs the calories.
Keep hard boiled eggs on hand so she can pop a couple in her mouth to round out the yogurt for extra fat, protein, and micronutrients (like choline, very important for growing baby brains!).
I’ve got a few ideas:
I’ve covered hemp before . Yes, it’s a good occasional alternative but shouldn’t replace animal protein.
Not necessarily. Other sources of the two minerals abound. For copper, you could eat oysters, dark chocolate, cashews, pumpkin seeds, kale, beef heart, and potatoes. For zinc, you could eat oysters (and most shellfish), beef, lamb, and other red meats. Pretty much any red meat – not just the liver – will be rich in zinc.
Also, have you tried sneaking liver into other foods ? Liver’s good for more than just the copper.
Remember that meats and eggs both inherently come packed with plenty of fat – and it’s the good, animalistic kind of fat ! Throw in some fatty fish a few times per week, veggies sautéed in fat, a handful of nuts scattered here and there, an avocado on your salad, cream in your coffee (if you do dairy), a coconut based dish one day, some olive oil in your salad? You’ll get plenty.
It sounds like you’re doing well, to be honest.
I hesitate to recommend outright avoidance of any individual fruit, but I can definitely recommend you focus on certain ones :
I highly recommend Esther Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back , which she wrote after spending decades extensively studying the postural habits of pain-free non-industrial populations. She also gives classes .
For a quick rundown of my thoughts on Esther’s methods, check out a post I did on posture .
Why yes, there are a few time-tested methods for increasing vegetable consumption .
As for skills, it’s not so much a technique as it as a willingness to try to new things. Branch out; pick a cuisine and then make a Primal dish from that cuisine.
Reductions work great! Start with a bit of real bone broth, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, orange juice, or some combination of them and reduce it over low-medium heat until it starts to thicken and syrupify (that’s a word, yep). Add salt, spices, and/or herbs. Once it gets real syrupy, turn off the heat and add a little cold butter. Swirl that around to thicken the sauce you’ve just created.
I’ve also got a good book for that .
I don’t see this very often, no. How much potassium are you getting? Most of the latest evidence shows that potassium intake is vital for blood pressure regulation. You getting your veggies?
You’re gonna have to get really strict with calorie intake. You’ll also have to sprint and lift more than occasionally. And even then, it might not work.
I don’t recommend it, personally, as it can have disastrous effects on your endocrine system and quality of life (including tanking your testosterone), but that’s what it’s probably going to take.
The food is of generally higher quality in Europe than the US. Here, to find quality, you have to seek it out. Most European nations, having been around for longer, have richer food traditions than Americans.
Grass-fed is more important than raw. Grass-feeding leads to an improved nutrient profile (more vitamins, better fatty acids).
Don’t eat tons of meat if it doesn’t make you feel right. Stick with eggs, dairy (if tolerated), and lighter fare like fish and shellfish for your protein needs. Primal needn’t be “all meat, all the time.” Later on, you can try meat again and find it may affect you differently. As for the carbs, if you’re underweight and they make you feel better, eat them! Just stick to Primal carb sources like sweet potatoes, potatoes, wild rice, squash, and fruit.
It might on a physical level, but doing something you truly love improves your quality of life on a deeper, more meaningful level. That’s completely Primal, in my opinion. Keep an eye on overtraining symptoms , of course, and be ready to change things up if they go south .
Just don’t even think about graduating to full marathons!
As long as you’re at your goal weight and aren’t gaining any unwanted fat, your level of starchy vegetable intake is likely fine.
When you should probably replace your Vibrams:
Otherwise, ride it out.
Those are fine choices. I suggest you “hide” other vegetables in your spaghetti sauce, particularly leafy greens. Kale, chard, spinach, beet greens can all disappear quite easily into a vat of spaghetti sauce. For added fiber, eat a few pieces of fruit a day, like underripe bananas, apples, and berries.
Offer to cook a big feast for one or more meals. Have everyone pitch in for groceries, enlist a few kitchen assistants, then blow their pants off with an amazing Primal meal. That’s far better than people sitting around eating prepackaged junk food, and it’s a fun way to socialize and introduce people to good Primal eating. A few bottles of wine should assist here, too.
Well, I don’t know where in the Netherlands you live, and I hate to come across like the guy who thinks Amsterdam and the Netherlands are synonyms, but this meat shop in Amsterdam seems to have good charcuterie.
As for the other question, never. They will never catch on.
Do your best to maintain a healthy Primal lifestyle with good nutrient-dense food, regular activity, quality sleep, and – this is the most important of all if it’s a big stressor – a strong circle of social support. Support with adaptogenic or anti-stress herbs can also really help here.
That said, if someone close to you passes away, the last thing I’d do is stress over my eating habits. If it comes easy, awesome. If it’s a struggle that’s impeding your ability to cope, don’t worry about it.
Conventionally-raised ruminants (beef, lamb, bison) are better choices than conventionally-raised poultry and pork due to the minimal impact grain-feeding has on the fatty acid content; poultry and pork reflect their diet in their fat.
You can also consider ordering online. Check the Primal Resource section for trusted vendors.
You know, if neosporin works, I’d just go ahead and use that. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using them . “Natural” more often coincides with “better,” but that doesn’t always make “unnatural” necessarily “bad.”
The oil blends you describe are good, too. I’d also make sure to eat plenty of gelatin to give your body the skin-building supplies it needs to heal wounds. Eat oxtails and shanks and feet, make rich bone stocks , use powdered gelatin to make Primal treats or melt into warm liquid, or buy collagen that you can simply add to cold liquid. Collagen compresses have also shown promise in healing wounds; ask your surgeon or wound care specialist about that.
Squatting is the “third world chair.” It’s how we are meant to rest, relax, socialize, work, and wait. And, if you grew up in a culture where squatting was the norm, you’ll likely retain an effortless full squat for the rest of your mobile years. That will maintain your overall joint mobility, because a full squat is a passive stretch. In a proper full squat, your glutes are active, your calves are stretched (not tight), and your torso is relatively upright (which keeps your hip flexors from tightening up). You do that every day of your life for minutes or hours at a time and you’re going to be in good shape.
Of course, most of us reading didn’t grow up squatting on a regular basis. We may have started out doing it as toddlers, but eventually chairs and classrooms and televisions got their hands on us. Thus, if we can get comfortable in the full resting squat with good technique, I think it will be therapeutic for a number of ailments, posture and low back pain included. On occasions where I’ve tweaked my back, sitting in a full squat is often the only thing that alleviates the pain.
Whew, that’s it for today. Thanks for reading (and asking)! Be sure to leave your comments below and Grok on!