Going Primal Day 26: The Truth About Fruit

If you haven’t figured it out already, I really like sweets. Out of everything in that we have given up on this Primal journey, sweets have definitely been the hardest for me not to go running back to. Instead of diving into a thick, rich brownie or a springy, icing-topped cupcake, I have been trying to eat fruit after meals when I crave a dessert.

Mmmmm…… fruit.

But, here’s the truth about fruit: while fruits provide a whole array of essential vitamins and minerals, and are certainly a better choice to curb a sweet craving than a cookie or ice cream, fruits also have a lot of carbohydrates and sugars that can sabotage weight loss and attempts to stay away from the “sugar crash.”

Because my ultimate goal in going Primal is to feel better, I want to get to the bottom of the fruit issue. So, for the next few days, I am going to be sharing my findings: which fruits are good, which are less good, how to know the difference, and maybe some yummy recipes thrown in for good measure.

Today, we are going to go back to the basics: Going Primal 101. [And for her next trick, Lesley is going to explain the entire nutritional basis of the Primal Blueprint Diet in a single paragraph.] The backbone of the Primal eating plan is to balance out insulin production. Unfortunately insulin is not something we were taught much about in high school health class, and because I don’t usually understand biology terms well, we will boil the insulin discussion down to a single (albeit gramatically incorrect) sentence: carbs drive insulin drives fat. When we intake carbohydrates, our bodies produce insulin as a response. Insulin is a hormone that acts as a key to your body’s cells, allowing nutrients into the cells or putting them away to be used as energy later. Intaking too many carbs will produce a high insulin response; insulin unlocks the cells until they are as full as they can get, and then it takes the carbs to be stored as fat. Whats worse, when your insulin is high, your body will not only store carbohydrates as fat, but also the fat that you eat as part of your diet.

So, what does that have to do with fruit? Bread and potatoes are not the only things that can be high in carbohydrates. Fruits can be very high in carbs, so eating too much fruit in one day can lead to the same feelings of fatigue as other high carb foods, while eating too much fruit in the long term can prevent weight loss.

Also, I should add here that this science backs up an eating plan based in evolutionary biology. Not only do carbs cause fatigue and weight gain, but Grok and his hunter/gatherer family would not have had unlimited access to the same high carb foods that we do today, and that includes fruits. Fruit would have been minimal in Grok’s diet, especially in comparison to vegetables and protein/fat found in meat.

Does anyone else’s brain hurt yet? Mine does.

Tomorrow: Good fruits and bad fruits, with pictures ūüôā

(References: marksdailyapple.com; The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson)


Going Primal Day 23: Three Week Wrap-Up

We made it three weeks (and a day)! Only one week more of our 30-day challenge. Personally, I think we’ve taken this month by storm. After three weeks, here are some observations:

1. I lost 4 pounds. Did I mention that I don’t work out? John Mark, the moose-dog, and I¬†took a few more extended walks, but in three weeks, I don’t think I’ve even gazed upon an eliptical or treadmill, let alone¬†worked out on¬†one until I sweat off four pounds. It all came from eating differently. Hoo-ra.

2. I have muscles. I was and continue to be what Primalers would call¬†“skinny-fat”, people who are naturally thin but have excess fat on their bodies. The best way I’ve heard it put is that skinny-fat girls “look great in a V-neck but wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini.” Well, I am leaving that skinny-fat¬†self in the dust; not to be a complete cheesball, but I really feel like there is a whole new me coming out. Or maybe, more accurately, what is coming out is¬†the me that has been there all along, just covered by illness and lumps. Even without working out, I can see new muscles in my thighs, shoulders, arms, and stomach- even my knees look better! Apparently there’s a bikini body under there somewhere, its just been covered by fluff.

3. I have energy. I hardly ever feel tired, at least not when I’m not supposed to. Getting through the day is no longer a struggle, and staying up past 9pm is no longer an incredible feat.

4. No nausea, no headaches. I haven’t felt nauseous for three weeks. Do you understand the magnitude of that?! I have spent the last 10 years feeling nauseous after I ate nearly anything, and I think I just got used to it. And headaches? The few baby headaches that I have gotten are usually a quick, natural fix- cool down, calm down,¬†drink some water, or rest. These three weeks have been a blissful reprieve from the ailments that I thought were just who I am. Well, guess what? I’m not a¬†sickly little¬†wimp anymore!

Watch out world, I’m coming for you!


Going Primal Day 19: You’re going to eat, THAT?!

Today, we are going to have story time. So pull up your carpet square and put on your listening ears! (I work at a school, and sometimes things just stick.)

But first, a clarification.

I was talking to my mother today, and she mentioned that there could be some confusion about my “cheats.” You should know that the Primal Blueprint advocates the 80/20 rule: if you eat Primally 80% of the time and not-so-Primally 20% of the time, you will still be in good shape. There is also the 30-Day Challenge, which John Mark and I are currently pursuing. I am choosing not to eat 80/20 to break bad eating habits and have a better base to recognize which foods are effecting me (like yesterday, when I had a sugar crash after drinking a pumpkin spice latte). So, when I say “cheat” I mean that I haven’t stayed as Primal as I had hoped for this 30-day trial period. If you choose to try the Primal Blueprint, you do not have to be as stringent if I have been for the past two weeks (though I will say going cold-turkey on certain foods really has helped change my tastes and cravings, and I’m much more in tune with how I feel). Shoot for 80/20, or whatever (higher, hopefully)¬†ratio you think you can reasonably hit without crashing and burning.

Now, to the story.

We went to¬†a Mariner’s game last night, the cuisine at which is basically on the same anti-Primal level as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell combined. Now, I do admit, if we weren’t in mid-30-day Challenge, we probably would let it be part of our 20% or less of non-Primal eating. However, not this time. Knowing the temptation to snack at¬†a ball game,¬†I stuffed yellow pepper slices, strawberries, and grapes in my purse before we left.

If you haven’t been to a Major League game recently, you now have to open your purse/bag and have a member of the security staff poke around in it with a plastic stick. I assume they are looking for guns and bombs and cans of Coke or other fan contraband. Apparently they aren’t generally looking for yellow pepper slices, because when it was my turn to have my personal belongings prodded by a security guard that John Mark described as having a “generous gut”, he looked at me in confused horror when his plastic poker found my stash of snacks.

“What is that?”

“Those are yellow pepper slices.”

“Like, vegetables?”

“Yes, exactly like vegetables.”

“You’re going to eat, THAT?” (note the tone of disgusted fear, as if he had just discovered a rifle¬†in my Mary-Poppins purse instead of food.)

“Yes, I’m going to eat that!”

“You’re going to eat that raw? Ewwwww! Gross!

Yeah, that’s me. Ew Gross. I imagine that “clinically insane”¬†and “unamerican” might have been other adjectives he used after we left. Honestly, I thought the whole things was funny, especially considering his “generous gut” no doubt created by daily¬†eating the baseball park food that we were trying to avoid.

Moral of the story:¬†Sometimes,¬†adult men¬†are going to think¬†that you are “ew gross.” Own your “ew gross”-ness, and stand proud.

Going Primal Day 18: The Cheat… again.

I cheated… again.

I’m so ashamed.

(In my defense, it probably seems like I have been cheating a lot lately. But really, I only have been blogging about the days that I cheated. I had a taco salad on Friday and cheated today, so hopefully you won’t judge me too much.)

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Actually, I didn’t wake up much at all, which was the problem. I had a bizarre dream last night, in which my entire school decided to go Primal and I had to inventory how many avocados and pepperoncinis each class had. Images of vegetables and databases danced in my head all night, and to say the least,¬† it was not a restful night’s sleep.

I was so very tired when I finally dragged my sorry self to work, and by 10 am, my one cup of coffee had done nothing to wake up my brain. I try not to use coffee as a morning crutch, but I do enjoy taking coffee to work as part of my morning routine. Today, however, I wanted, nay, needed caffeine (or so I thought).

So I decided to run to Starbucks and get an americano- espresso and water, totally Primal (my desire to use caffeine as a stimulant, not so much). However, when I got there, this was waiting for me:

The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is back. Do you know what that means? IT’S OFFICIALLY FALL! Despite what you were told in school, fall does not start on a certain September day or at the changing of the leaves on the trees. It’s the Pumpkin Spice Latte that signals fall. And in my pre-Primal life, the Pumpkin Spice Latte was my favorite drink of all time.

It might be important to mention at this point that today was the first day that it was cool enough to wear boots. Which is the second sign that it is officially fall. I was sabotaged from the start.

You guessed it, I caved. I got a double tall pumpkin spice latte, no whip. In other words, I consumed 36 grams of sugar and a total of 38 grams of carbohydrates. In terms of sugar, and honestly, overall nutritional content, I might as well have drank a Snickers bar. Yikes.

Unlike our little trip to Taco Del Mar last week, in less than an hour, I felt the effect of pumping my body full of caffeine and sugary syrup. Yes, the drink was as delicious as I had remembered, but the sugar crash I experienced afterward left my brain even more sluggish than before, which was the exact opposite effect I was shooting for. (Not to mention the espresso roughed up my stomach pretty bad. Pretty bad.)

I don’t feel guilty about the cheat, because guilt has no place in healthy living, but I have no desire to have a heavy, syrupy coffee drink in the near future.

So, I cheated, but tomorrow is another day.

Going Primal Day 16: The Cheat

Last week was a long week. I needed a break from blogging, and you needed a break from reading, I sensed it. After a weekend sabbatical, I’m back with a confession.

I cheated. [gasp!] On tacos. [double gasp!]

So, here’s the story. Friday was a particularly frustrating day. I got off work late, didn’t¬†eat lunch,¬†and it was blazing hot everywhere. No rest for the weary, here.¬†I didn’t have money for the bus so I had to walk five blocks to the bank, feeling grumpy and hot. When I got on the bus, it was packed with boisterous, vulger high school students, and I was on sensory overload (which is not a difficult place for me to get to). When I finally got home, John Mark had pity on me and made me a primal lunch/snack which helped to ease the grumpiness.

But when it was time for dinner, all I wanted was nachos. I’d been craving nachos for two or three days. Warm, fried corn chips. White queso sauce. Cool sour cream. Good grief, I was¬†completely fixated. Above that, though, was the fact that I didn’t want to cook. I didn’t want John Mark to cook. I didn’t want our house to get hot again from the stove or oven, I didn’t want my somewhat tidy kitchen to become an explosion of dirty bowls and skillets.¬†I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it:¬†eating Primally isn’t conducive to convenience. Or cleanliness. You just have to deal with it.

On Friday, I had long since abandoned my Primal diet coping mechanisms. So we went and got tacos from Taco Del Mar, which I would rank somewhere between Taco Bell and Chipotle in terms of taste, quality of ingredients, and price. I got a taco salad and John Mark got a burrito. Mine was sans beans and rice, but I did splurge on sour cream and queso and a taco shell. Yeah, it happened.

I wish I could report that I felt awful and it was so not worth it. I can’t.¬†I didn’t feel awful post-taco consumption, fuller and heavier than normal, but not awful. I can say that when my morning coffee hit those carbs the next day, the product was not pretty. But other than a prolonged bathroom break, I really felt okay. I enjoyed my cheat and REALLY enjoyed saving my sanity by not cooking.

I can report that cheating that once didn’t throw me off the bandwagon and I don’t¬†feel¬†guilty. Guilt has no place in healthy living.¬†We ate Primally for the rest of the weekend without a hiccup.¬†So, yeah, I didn’t make the 30 cheatless¬†days I was hoping for, but so what? I’m still going to finish out the 30 days and hopefully more after that.

Moral of the story: Don’t get dragged down by “failures”, big or small. Its never too late to try again and keep going.


The Primal Menu:

Breakfast: Coffee, and some almonds at work

Lunch: Leftover stuffed zucchini, apple and almond butter

Going Primal Day 12: The Other Half of the Story

I’ve been a little selfish. I’ve been sharing all this information about what I have been eating, how I’ve been feeling, how my life is changing. But there is another participant in this crazy scheme who has (purposefully, I would reckon) assumed a position away from the bearing of heart and soul to all of cyberspace.

Meet John Mark, husband extraordinaire and gracious participant in my little experiment.¬†I¬†told him¬†from the beginning that he did not have to take this journey with me, but because he is just that fantastic, he is sacrificing convenience and convention (not to mention some favorite comfort foods) so that I don’t have to go it alone.

While of course John Mark wants to be as healthy as possible, he has not taken such as extreme approach as I have. I would like to reiterate again that I am choosing to go as dairy-, grain-, sugar-, processed¬†and preservative-free as possible to break bad eating habits (like rewarding myself with food or having dessert after every meal) and create a baseline to see how food effects my stomach, head, and moods. John Mark almost never gets moody, nauseous or headachey, so he doesn’t need to give up the same things for the same reasons.

Many of you may be in the same place as John Mark: you want to try the diet but don’t want to go cold turkey on certain snacks, don’t have obvious health or emotional issues that may be caused by food, or you would like to support a significant other in their choice to change their diet. John Mark has given me permission to share some of the ways his diet differs from mine and some things that have helped make the transition easier:


Snacks:¬† John Mark still eats some dairy, which is perfectly acceptable with Primal Blueprint. Surprisingly, the guy who grew up on a dairy farm didn’t have too much trouble giving up milk, and has instead opted for cheese or cottage cheese as his dairy fix. If you are going to eat dairy products, look for higher quality aged cheese over pre-sliced cheese, or worse, processed cheese product. We like Tillamook dairy products, but do some researching and package-checking before you buy anything. Greek yogurt also fits under the “sensible snacks” section.

–Momentary Soapbox: I am NOT saying that any yogurt is okay to eat; it really is important the kind of yogurt you buy. Individual fruit and¬†yogurt cups can have as much added sugar as a candy bar (seriously, go check!), which certainly does not promote balance and weight loss like the advertisements would have you believe. Go for larger containers of fruit-less Greek yogurt and add in your own fruit to reduce the amount of sugar you are eating. Moral of the story- if you are eating pre-packaged foods, always check the labels! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…—

Lunches:¬†It’s all about the meat. John Mark does the majority (by majority I mean all of) the grilling in our house, and since it has been warm outside and we don’t have air conditioning, we have been grilling A LOT. John Mark will grill an entire pack of chicken breasts at one time, even though we will only eat two for dinner, so that we have quick lunch entrees. This past Sunday, we cooked an entire roast and separated it into Ball Jars (which work both as drinking glasses and dishwasher-safe food containers, by the way). If you can work a little extra in your free time, especially when it comes to meat or foods that take a while to cook, it will make your life much easier when you are in a rush.

Cheats”- John Mark really doesn’t truly cheat often, but the two things he has decided not to give up are beer and brats. How very manly of him. Here’s what I have to say about cheats, and I think John Mark has it down- if you are going to cheat, choose a favorite item or two and set limits. For John Mark its beer and brats, for my mom its diet soda and potato chips (sorry, Mom, I told your secret). Don’t have them very often, but when you do, enjoy them! If you are going to feel bad through the entire drink or meal, its not worth having, I promise.

I asked John Mark how he feels on the new diet, and he replied “Awe–some!” in a very Schrute-esque manner. But really, he reported feeling less hungry during the day and not so stuffed and lathargic after meals. He still wants french fries, though.

But then again, so do I.


The Primal Menu:

Breakfast: Two hard-boiled eggs

Lunch: Leftover chicken breast, veggie sticks, sliced strawberries and bananas

Dinner: Maybe trying to eat out again? Really, all I want is air conditioning.

Going Primal Day 11: Simple Swaps

If I have learned anything about being Primally successful in the last eleven days, its that good food is completely within my reach.

Second to that I have learned that there are some fairly easy swaps that can be made to create a Primal version of your favorite food, and they still come out scrumptious. While some of these swaps may not have the exact texture of your favorite dish, they are good choice to stem those cravings for carbs, starch, and sugar that will inevitably come. I’ve already written about a few, but the following are some more of my favorites:

Mashed Cauliflower for Mashed Potatoes

Those look just like mashed potatoes, don’t they? Cut as much of the stem off of the cauliflower and steam the head until soft. Throw the steamed chunks in a food processor with some butter (I’m so very glad the Primal Blueprint allows butter!) and salt and blend until mostly smooth. They probably won’t get as smooth as mashed potatoes, but they are a close second. If you are eating dairy, try adding a dollop or two of Greek yogurt.

Sweet Potato Fries for French Fries

I like potatoes, okay? I’ve yet to make sweet potato fries that come out quite as crunchy as regular white potato french fries. However,¬† shaking the uncooked sweet potato fries in a tablespoon or two of cornstarch, and then shaking in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the fries are completely covered keeps them from getting soggy. Corn nor starch are allowed, but Mark Sisson (the founder of Primal Blueprint) has recipes with corn starch, so I say go for it (in moderation… but who really goes overboard with cornstarch? Gross.) Bake the sweet potato fries at 450 for about 20-25 minutes. I would highly recommend serving them with homemade garlic mayo.

Grated Cauliflower for Rice

More Cauliflower? Yes, more cauliflower. While cauliflower is significantly more expensive then its starchy counterparts, it is also significantly more nutritious. If you have a dish that can’t be made without rice, try grating the cauliflower and then sauteeing it in olive oil. I used cauliflower to make stuffed peppers, which traditionally are made with rice.

Almond Butter for Peanut Butter

Peanuts have a very misleading name. Peanuts are not actually nuts, they are legumes, and thus in the same family as beans, peas, lentils, and soy  products which are not a Primal food. The simple explanation for this is that they are highly allergenic and not as nutritious as other foods that provide the same amount of fiber. For the scientific reasoning, go read this article. An easy switch is almond butter, which is actually a nut and not a legume. It has a very similar taste and texture, and goes great with bananas or apples.

Spaghetti Squash for Spaghetti Pasta

We’ve already talked about this, but I thought I’d add it in for good measure. Hollowed spaghetti squash looks like it came from another planet.

Dark Chocolate for Milk Chocolate

Wait… what?!?! You can have chocolate with Primal Blueprint? Yes, as long as its a bittersweet or dark chocolate with 70% or more cacao. Basically, anything less than 70% will have too many added milk solids and sugars to outweigh the good things about the chocolate; dark chocolate actually has more antioxidants, lovely little compounds that help the heart, than green tea or red wine. Dark chocolate still falls under the “Sensible Vice” column, but its better than a Hershey’s or a Snickers when you have a sweet tooth.

Happy swapping!


The Primal Menu:

Breakfast: Two hard-boiled eggs

Lunch: leftover grilled chicken, veggie sticks, pluot (plum + apricot)

Dinner: Stuffed Peppers with ground beef, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and cauliflower

Dessert: (Finally!) Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Truffles…. exactly what I needed!