In society today, there are so many different diets being pushed on us. No matter which one you choose to follow, they all present challenges.
These challenges are what cause people to quit and go back to their old habits.
A shift in your mindset to making it a lifestyle will make a world of difference.I have found a few key steps to help make a successful transition into a new dietary lifestyle.
6 Keys to Success
Pantry Sweep- The very first thing you need to do is clean your pantry, refrigerator, and shelves of SAD (Standard American Diet)foods. By eliminating these from your house, you remove the temptation to 'cheat'.
For the Primal Lifestyle this can appear very challenging, especially if you have a lot of non-primal foods. One of the things I like to do is to donate those foods to the food shelf. There are so many people in need of food and it changes my mindset from the negative thoughts of getting rid of food and throwing it away to the positive of giving and sharing.
To help with this exercise, make sure that you have purchased ahead of time primal approved foods so that you have healthy options available right away. Again this will help you avoid the temptation to go back to your SAD foods. Stress has a way of sending us back to old habits and having the healthy food you need available will help.
Learn to Read Labels
This is crucial, in particular to those who have autoimmunity. Learning what you need to avoid can take time. Be patient with yourself and take your time learning . It's OK to have to look things up on your phone while in the grocery store. Your health is worth the time investment.
Questions to ask yourself when checking labels:
Are there any grains in this product? The primal lifestyle eliminates all grains because of their inflammatory effect on the digestive tract of everyone. Ideally you would eliminate them all at once. Some may need to take smaller steps to achieve complete elimination of grains. Starting with wheat, barley , and rye is a good first step and after adjusting to that, begin removing rice, corn, sorghum, millet, oats,and the rest of the grains.
Legumes also elicit a similar response, so avoiding those in the early stages of transition is beneficial. After you are primally adapted you can have them as indulgences every now and then.
How many total carbohydrates are there? You want to keep it low. Daily total should be between 50-150g.
Are there any PUFA's (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids), hydrogenated fats/oils or trans fats? PUFA's include oils such as shortening, soybean oil, corn oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, and margarine. These are incorporated in to many of the packaged and processed foods that line the shelves of grocery stores and many homes. You will find that your shopping will begin to concentrate on the outer walls of the stores where the produce and meat departments are and less and less in the aisles where the packaged foods are shelved.
Is there refined/processed sugar? The primal lifestyle is a low carbohydrate lifestyle and minimal amounts of natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup are acceptable. Stevia is also primal approved.
Get Rid of Sugar
The SAD diet is overloaded with various sugars. This is what makes most of us carb dependent. Eliminating processed and refined sugars is a key element to the Primal Lifestyle. Manufactures make it hard to tell how much sugar is in their products, sometimes hiding it under obscure names. Some of those names are dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, invert sugar and maltose, corn sweetener,high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, sucrose, cane crystals, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup solids, malt syrup.Checking the total carbohydrates can help give you insight. If the carbohydrates are high, you can be sure there are lots of sugars in the product.
Some of the challenges with removing processed sugars are your current dependency to frequently replenish glucose. This leads to hunger/cravings. You will have to push past these as you become fat adapted. They should only last a few days to a week. Oce you have made the transition to burning fat, your cravings will disappear.
Find go to fast, grab and go foods to smack on when those cravings and hunger pangs hit. Make sure you have them with you at work, in your car, and in your pantry.
Another challenge is the feeling that you have lost your comfort foods. If you focus on this kind of thinking, you will continue to feel this way. Cravings are emotionally and physically based, so to help push through this phase, try to find positive thoughts to replace the negative ones. Thoughts about how great it is to be eating healthy and that you are going to have great body. "It feels good to make smart eating choices." "I get to try new foods, this exciting!" Also find new sources of comfort and join a support group of others going through the same lifestyle change as you.
Determine Your Macronutrients
The macronutirents that we focus on in primal living are carbohydrates, proteins,and fats. If you are looking to lose weight and work toward your ideal body composition you will want to keep your carbs between 50-100 g/day. For even faster weight loss you could lower it to even less and try to get into ketosis. If you are looking just to maintain weight , then you can have a bit more carbohydrates, between 100-150 g/day. If you are extremely active you may tolerate a few more carbs, but everyone is different, so you will have to experiment.
You will want to keep your proteins in the moderate range, 50% of your lean muscle mass. Typically that is somewhere between 50-75 g of protein/day. Eating too many proteins, causes our body to convert them to glucose through gluconeogenesis and then it gets stored as fat.
Ideally, your fat intake should comprise 70-85% of your total calories. These MUST be from high quality fats, not PUFA's!Examples of high quality fats are coconut oil, avocado, virgin olive oil. They can also be found in olives, cheeses, dark chocolate, chia, nuts and pastured eggs.
Determine Your Starting Point
There are 3 ways to start.
Ease into it. Start slow eliminating one or two food groups that are not primally approved for 2 weeks. As you get used to it continue eliminating every 2 weeks until you have succeeded at eating only primal foods.
Dive right in. Just dive in and eliminate all the non-primal foods and never look back.
Jump into. Start with a detox (there are various ways to do this, perhaps a future post). and then dive right in, eliminating all non-primal foods.
Have a Plan for Hunger and Cravings
Craving and hunger will happen, specially at the beginning. If you are well prepared, this won't trip you up at all. Have high fat snacks on hand like nuts, olives, avocados, or fat bombs.
As you begin this journey start with a few simple primal meals and repeat them until you get used to what is acceptable and what is not. The as you are adapting to the lifestyle you can add in more and more variety.
Get plenty of water. Many times when we feel hungry we are actually thirsty. Try to drink half your weight in water everyday. Make sure it doesn't have any sugar or unwanted additives. If you like a little flavoring, try adding in fruit like lemons, blueberries, raspberries,etc. You can also add in fresh herbs like spearmint, peppermint, sage, basil to add variety. Adequate water will help eliminate cravings and flushing out any toxins you detox as you eat cleaner foods.
Record what you eat and how it makes you feel. This will help you be more intentional with your eating and also more aware of foods affects to your body. Everyone is different and what I may find works well, may make you feel tired and sluggish .