Over the last year having dabbled on and off with Primal eating and a few rounds of the Whole30 I’m finally starting to change my mindset around food and feel that a Primal template (perhaps on a 85%/15% split) works well for me and occasionally I will have a little bit of something non-Primal – perhaps on holiday, a birthday celebration, etc.
This has lead to many of my friends and family asking my what I eat, particularly when they learn that Primal means I don’t eat wheat, gluten, sugar, and legumes. Primal (as opposed to Paleo) does allow for moderate amounts of full fat dairy so long as there is no adverse reaction. I’m fine with dairy but I know that other people aren’t so fortunate.
Below is a selection of what I would typically eat and drink in a day (and yes, that’s gin – but with soda rather than tonic). The one thing I swear by (and that I don’t have a picture of) is my morning drink of hot water with lemon, apple cider vinegar (ACV) and turmeric – warming, nourishing and a lovely way to gently wake up your digestive system for the day ahead.
My friend Lucia has completely given up sugar, including root vegetables and fruit, as she feels this helps her manage her diabetes and stops her from getting caught on the sugar rollercoaster (you can read more about her decision and her journey here. ) She too has faced a lot of questions along the lines of:
What on earth do you eat?
Can’t you just have one little bit of cake?
What about treats, everyone needs treats?
Life is too short, why don’t you just eat what you want?
From my pictures above you can see what I eat and I hope you agree that it isn’t exactly a diet of deprivation. As for the cake and treats that’s a different story. I truly believe that I am addicted to sugar – one sugary treat leads to crazy cravings for more and there are scientific studies available which show that, in some people, sugar can activate the same part as the brain as cocaine, leading to similar cravings and withdrawal symptoms. For me, I feel the easiest way to deal with this is to remove all refined sugar from my diet. If I really feel the need for something chocolately I will allow myself a square or two of dark chocolate (minimum 85% cocoa) or a small teaspoon of 100% raw cacao in my coffee at the weekend. Together with full fat coconut milk it’s a delicious treat. Thankfully these cravings are very infrequent now. Weirdly, the one thing I sometimes have a craving for is donuts but thankfully I don’t even like donuts so there’s no chance I’d be tempted to buy them!
For me, sugary foods aren’t a ‘treat’ anymore as there is no fun in having to battle my way beyond the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that inevitably happen. I still eat fruit occasionally, usually berries, but sometimes I will have pineapple or mango and eat this alongside some delicious macadamia nuts which are high in healthy fats.
The one food I haven’t yet been able to kick my craving for is pizza – I have a couple of ways to keep it Primal: slice an aubergine (eggplant) lenghways, grill and top with favourite pizza topping, use kale leaves in a similar way, or make a crust using cauliflower or almond flour. Sometimes though it just has to come from a takeaway and I have found that 2 slices of pizza with a large salad doesn’t cause me any internal distress. What does still cause me distress (pizza is without a doubt my favourite takeaway food) is the fact that any more than this leaves me with a very bloated, unhappy stomach the following morning which totally negates any ‘treat’ benefit.
I’ve promised myself I will keep it honest on the blog – I’m not setting out to be perfect, if I eat something non-primal as the result of a craving, or emotional eating, or any other reason I will share this and try to work out what caused it to happen and how it made me feel. However I’m hoping that my Mindfulness practice will help me reduce instances of emotional eating.
As for life being too short, well I totally understand this way of thinking and if you have a well balanced relationship with food and suffer no detrimental effects of eating a little bit of everything then that’s fantastic, you are truly lucky and I’m genuinely delighted for you. But everyone is different and we all have to find what works for us. Whilst I know Primal works for me, I also know it doesn’t work for everyone and I’m not here to preach but if you are curious to know more then I’m more than happy to answer questions to the best of my ability.
If you are looking for advice from people with a lot more experience than I have then I would recommend Mark’s Daily Apple – my go-to for all things Primal. If you are a runner and interested in making the switch to a Primal lifestyle please check out my friend Danielle’s blog Eat Primal Run Hard – she has lots of great advice for runners and lots of delicious recipes too. There are also many excellent blogs (another one worth a look, particularly for HIIT workouts) is my friend Sam’s new blog Simply Fit and Happy )and instagram accounts related to Primal/Paleo/LCHF eating that are full of advice and recipe ideas.
As always if you have any questions or want to share your experiences with Primal eating please do so in the comments.