I’ve mentioned in a few posts recently that I’ve been reminiscing about living in our first apartment in Jupiter, how it has me homesick for Florida and the life we had there. Without getting all philosophical and emotional about the past and present and blah blah, I will say that I’ve been doing a little soul-searching to figure out why things feel so different now and guess what came up for me repeatedly? A major – and I mean MAYY-JORR – contributing factor to living the vibrant, healthy, happy life we enjoyed there was – SHOCKER!! - our diet and workouts. You’d think as a yoga teacher and nutritional therapist, this would be old news to me, right? I mean, duh, Erin. Duhhh.
SO, long story short, I thought back to when I first started getting into fitness and healthy eating, and decided to revisit the first book I ever read on the Paleo diet/lifestyle – that changed the way I looked at food and working out, might I add: The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation.
I first found the book by poking around the internet googling something along the lines of “eat like a female bodybuilder”… I KNOW, I know, make fun of me now, I’m fine with it. I had started working out more (Tim was traveling a lot and I was only working part-time so it became something to fill gaps in my day) but I wasn’t noticing much change in my body. I didn’t actually want to be a body-builder, but I knew my body type was muscular (aka, I was not designed to look like a super-skinny VS model) and I wanted to see what I could do with it. But I was still weak and knew it probably had something to do with my diet because, at that point all I knew of nutrition was the mainstream low-fat, whole grain nonsense… I was clueless (like the majority of the population) about feeding myself for optimal wellness and in this case, athletic performance.
ANYWAY. In my google search, I came across this article, which I could totally relate to… and which led me to this article, which broke down the Paleo diet so I could understand it… which then led me to Mark’s Daily Apple, Mark Sisson’s website. After poking around a bit on his site, I downloaded the 21-Day Total Body Transformation and, as I said above, my life was changed.
Tim and I implemented the lifestyle immediately. I was already getting an organic produce share every week, so my grocery trips to Whole Foods and sometimes Costco meant stocking up on quality meat and fish, healthy fats like organic coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, and a variety of spices and primal-friendly pantry staples like coconut aminos and almond meal.
I continued my workouts and noticed changes in my strength and endurance in the first week. I was adding weight to my sets consistently and feeling strong and energized at the end of my workouts instead of depleted and dizzy.
We followed the advice of the book and started enjoying exercise more by finding things we liked to do outside the gym, participating in group beach workouts and going for bike rides together.
Six days a week, we ate every meal according to the primal blueprint guidelines, enjoying a glass of red wine here and there, a square of 90% dark chocolate almost every night, and one night a week, usually on the weekend, we’d enjoy a meal at one of many local favorite restaurants. While we tried to stick close to primal blueprint guidelines when we ate dinner out, we knew we couldn’t control what was going into the dish and we didn’t obsess about it. And sometimes, we didn’t stick to the blueprint at all. We were crazy fit, healthy, energized, and happy! Life was seriously our oyster and we were eating it right up… because those are allowed, heyyyy.
SIDE NOTE TIME! Now, I will admit that being pregnant has me a little more body-conscious than normal right now, (and that my current total weight gain of 6lbs feels like 20 on my 5’3″ frame) but this isn’t about that. It’s about getting back the energy, the clarity of mind and body, the zest for life, and preparing myself not only for the delivery of a healthy baby, but also for my rebound into a successful run with breast-feeding and optimal post-preg wellness for both me and the babe.
So that is what inspired me, a couple weekends ago, on the way home from our road-trip to Raleigh, to take the 4.5 hours in the car as the perfect opportunity to revisit and refresh my memory of the Primal Blueprint. So that A) I could get re-motivated to clear my kitchen of any lingering first-trimester junk food and replace it with healthy primal-friendly stock, and B) so that I could share with YOU the basic gist of the Primal Blueprint and perhaps persuade you to look into trying it for yourself. (I promise, you won’t regret it!)
SO, without further rambling (geez, I know, sorryyyy, that was a long intro), here it is.
The Primal Blueprint is about getting the greatest health and fitness benefits you can with the least amount of pain, suffering, and sacrifice [...] Today, my goal is to look super fit without having to follow an exhaustive, time-consuming exercise regimen, [and] enjoy the heck out of my meals without the slightest hint of deprivation. – Mark Sisson
I’m going to outline the key concepts for you here. You can find more information about the lifestyle by visiting Mark’s Daily Apple, or of course, by getting one of the many books he’s written on the Primal Blueprint. (Nope, I’m not being paid to say that.)
Out with the OLD
The Primal Blueprint involves changing your lifestyle, but let me just say this once: IT IS NOT HARD. So get it out of your head that it is. For starters, here’s what you can leave in your past:
- Grains, sugars, sweetened beverages. All of it. Processed carbs drive insulin production which can lead to inflammation and fatigue among other issues.
- Hydrogenated oils. There’s the obvious heavily processed snack foods and packaged baked goods along with deep-fried foods, but this also means no more margarine or “spreads”, canola, corn, or vegetable oils either. All this stuff sets the stage for cancer and heart disease, no matter what it says on the label about being heart-healthy, so pitch it! You’ll have plenty of other primal-friendly options in terms of healthy fats that will leave you way more satisfied.
- Beans and legumes. These babies are just hard to digest, period. They can mess with your gut big time and therefore your immune system and health in general.
- Dairy. You don’t haaave to get rid of it, but here’s the thing: most commercial dairy isn’t good for anyone. It’s loaded with hormones and other impurities. If you’re lactose tolerant, opt for organic, pastured butter and heavy cream. YES, that’s right. BUTTER. And HEAVY CREAM.
- Chronic exercise. I’m talking to you, chick on the elliptical. Time to reject your hours spent in the gym and the idea that reaching a certain number of miles, hours, or weekly workouts is the key to fitness. It’s not.
- Sedentary patterns. Now I’m talking to you, chick in front of the computer. Google “sitting disease” and tell me what you find. How about a lot of fat storage, elevated risk of heart disease, joint pain, muscle weakness, and lack of energy? Get up and move.
- Poor sleep habits. Just go to bed already. Leave the phone plugged in downstairs, use a real alarm clock, and “shut down” at least an hour (preferably more) before climbing into bed.
- Somber, spartan approach to lifestyle transformation. Get it out of your head that you have to count calories, have rigid portion control and specifically timed meals, limited menu choices, guilt, or binging cycles. Does this sound familiar? Well, it’s over. There’s no strict workout regimen, no struggling, and no suffering. Like I mentioned before: IT IS NOT HARD. You’re welcome.
In with the NEW
Is this starting to sound like something you might be interested in trying? Sound too good to be true? It’s not. It is that good. Here’s what you can look forward to with your new primal lifestyle:
- Primal foods. Meat! Fish! Poultry! Eggs! Veggies! Fruits! Nuts! Seeds! High-quality fats! Eat it up and love your life! Guess what else? You can even enjoy your red wine and dark chocolate, too!
- Primal eating philosophy. Eat as much of your primal foods as you want, when you want, however often you want. You’ll begin to notice you’re satisfied with less, after meals you don’t feel stuffed or bloated (you feel amazing), and you can indulge sensibly without having the urge to binge because you’re able to enjoy life guilt-free. If you’re anything like me, this will be HUGE for you.
- Increase daily movement. Notice this doesn’t say, “do this exercise five times a week”. Nope. Did you not read that part above? NO MORE of that. Do what makes you happy. Do what you enjoy. Walk more. Use stairs. Take frequent breaks when you have to sit for a long time (i.e., at work, etc). Basically, get off your behind and move around.
- Brief, intense workouts. This may be a curve ball or something new to some of you but give it a shot – it’s essential for maintaining high energy levels and a healthy heart and lungs at any age. Go harder but less often and for less time. So, like a 30-minute (or less) strength workout. Sprint intervals for 15 minutes (or less). That’s all… it’s easy, and you don’t have to do this every day.
- Calming evening rituals. Like I mentioned above, wind down at night to prepare yourself for a healthy night’s sleep. Turn off the tv, put away the technology, dim the lights, use candles, read, chat with your loved one, take a slow neighborhood stroll. You get the idea.
- FUN approach to lifestyle transformation. This is your chance to explore exciting new foods, recipes, and establish new eating practices. (Side note: I will never forget the first time we tried sun-chokes or kale… and how my cookbook collection expanded to include what are now some of my favorite recipes of all time!) You’re going to start exercising for fun and energy, and best of all – NO MORE OVERTRAINING! You’re going to PLAY more! And probably best of all, you’ll start to enjoy life more with your loved ones, because you’ll be inclined to be less “connected” and more appreciative of spending time with your family and friends. This really does happen, people! (This is the part where I could go on a tangent about diet and digestion and protein and fat and related neurotransmitter production and mental wellness… but I’ll spare you.) ;)
What to expect…
So aside from the energy levels and new zest for life you can expect to experience by going primal, what are some other benefits from adopting this new way of life? So glad you asked.
- Anti-aging. I can’t explain this as well as Mark does here.
- Appetite. You won’t overeat anymore. You just won’t. Adopting the Primal Blueprint literally cured me of my binging tendencies.
- Blood markers. Expect to see some improvement in your cholesterol. But how can that be, eating red meat and butter?! I’m rolling my eyes at you right now. Get your head out of the low-fat-high-carbohydrate-garbage diet myth you’ve been fed for years and start doing your own research.
- Body fat. You will lose body fat. Can I say that any more simply?
- Diminished cravings. People don’t believe me when I tell them I just didn’t want grains, junk food, or sweets any more. Sure, I indulged on occasion, but I didn’t miss them in my daily life. Don’t believe me? Guess you’re going to have to experience it yourself.
- Digestion. If you didn’t already know, your digestion is probably impaired… yours and nearly 90% of Americans’. The Primal Blueprint follows the guidelines of the diet I recommend as a nutritional therapist for optimal digestion, and optimal wellness. Period.
- Drug-free. This can mean so many things… you’ll soon be ready to ditch your OTC antacids and pain relievers, then, with your doctor’s support, you’ll be able to work toward eliminating many if not all of your prescription meds, too.
- Immunity. This goes hand in hand with digestion: healing your digestion leads to optimal immune system function. You’ll probably notice getting sick less often and recovering more quickly if you do happen to get run down.
- Measurements. If you happen to be keeping track, you’ll see these change, too. Your clothes will fit (and look!) better and looser as you decrease body fat, reduce systemic inflammation, and get rid of the bloating and water retention! Where will you see this first? Tush, hips, thighs, waist – the primary storage areas for fat. (YAY!)
- Muscle mass. Increase or maintain and sculpt muscle mass while dropping body fat. Um, isn’t that basically ideal and what everyone wants? Awesome.
- Sleep. You’ll fall asleep faster, sleep better and more soundly, and begin to awaken naturally (without an alarm), refreshed and energized. No joke.
- Stress. Diet alone affects the way our body and mind respond to stress. The Primal Blueprint will help regulate this and reduce fatigue, burnout, and dysfunction that seems to go hand in hand with a hectic modern life.
- Total fitness. The Primal Blueprint involves functional exercise and a diet that develops and supports a balanced physique and broad physical competency. See that picture above, the one of me doing my best meathead impression and taking selfies in the gym? Ha. Okay take a close look at the picture of me standing. For most of my life, carrying most of my weight around my hips (like many people), I never used to look like that… even and muscular and balanced from head to toe. And I’ll never forget my mom’s reaction when I carried a huge la-z-boy recliner up a flight of stairs by myself. Simply put, you’ll look good, and you can do more – physically – without risk of overtraining or injury.
- Optimal wellness. Everything listed above and more. Improved bone density. Glucose tolerance. Insulin sensitivity. Improved blood pressure. Hormone balance. How will you know about all of this if you’re not being tested for it? Simple. You’ll feel the best you’ve ever felt.
So… wow. There you have it. Man, I don’t know about you but revisiting this book has me totally reenergized to get back to that lifestyle.
And you? What are you waiting for?! Get the book and join me!
P.S. Nope, I wasn’t paid for writing this. (Sadly!) My opinion is legit. I really do love it and recommend it with all my heart. Go for it.