Next month, Primal Kitchen® will be teaming up with the Whole30® crew to help support people doing the Whole30 program. The guidelines complement the Primal Blueprint, after all, and the Primal Blueprint is a common after-Whole30 approach to long-term vitality for many folks. The Whole30 itself offers incredibly valuable feedback on the effects of certain foods on your health, and it’s an amazing kick-start for turning your diet (and well-being) around. Today I’m offering up my top tips for a successful Whole 30 experience.
1. Eat Enough Food
A Whole30 typically results in inadvertent calorie reduction for multiple reasons. You’re eating more nutrient-dense food, so your body doesn’t feel the need to cram in empty calories in a vain attempt to obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals. You’re probably also eating more fat and protein than before, which are far more satiating than empty, refined carbohydrates. You have steady, even energy throughout the day from better fat burning, and no longer need those glucose infusions called snacks to stay awake.
There is, however, such a thing as too little food. Micronutrients are great and all, but we must also eat for sheer energetic purposes. Calories matter. Don’t shortchange yourself here.
2. Don’t Worry Too Much About Macronutrients
I’m obviously a low-carb guy. For the past dozen or so years, I’ve eaten in the 150 grams or lower range, give or take a few days. For the past three years, I’ve strayed even lower, spending a fair amount of time in ketosis. Most regular people are eating far too many carbohydrates, more than their activity levels and lifestyles warrant, and they would probably do better and be healthier on a lower carb diet. But for the Whole30, I recommend that people not get too dogmatic in either direction and simply focus on the Whole30 guidelines.
Eat what feels right. Stick to the script Melissa has laid out, avoid the foods you should be avoiding, favor the foods you should be favoring, and let the macros fall where they may. Most people will probably end up eating less carbohydrate and more fat and protein, but that isn’t a given. A Whole30 deserves your full attention. Focusing on other dietary variables just detracts from that focus.
3. Enlist a Friend
Before you actually start the Whole30, get a friend, relative, or significant other to join the party. You can support each other. Help with meals. Trade tips. Exercise together. Keep each other honest and true. Offer a needed pep talk now and then. And most importantly, you’ll have someone who’s relying on you to stick with the program. That can really help when things get hard and you start feeling lazy.
4. Treat the Recommendations As Rules
The Whole30 has official rules, and it has recommended guidelines. The rules you know—don’t eat grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, or added sugar; don’t weigh yourself; avoid certain preservatives and food additives; don’t recreate junk food with good ingredients, while the guidelines you may not.
- Don’t eat too much fruit.
- Don’t eat fruit and nut bars.
- Don’t snack.
- Choose organic and grass-fed.
- Limit/avoid smoothies.
While these might feel like overly strict guidelines for a lifetime of eating, for the 30 days that you’re doing the Whole30, following them can offer you even more insight into how your body works and what makes you tick. I strongly suggest that you take these guidelines as rules. You’ll simply get better results. And again, it’s just 30 days. You can do it.
Do you have to? No, of course not. For that matter, you don’t have to follow the Whole30 at all. But given that you have agreed to do it, it’s not much more of a leap to adhere to the guidelines as well.
5. Focus On Legit Meals, Not Snack Foods That Technically Qualify
You could eat two cups of mac nuts, a coconut cream latte, beef jerky, and carrots sticks dipped in guacamole for your entire day’s food intake and still be Whole30. Or you could eat eggs and spinach for breakfast, a Big Ass Salad for lunch, and a grilled steak with asparagus for dinner and fresh nectarines for dessert. Which is the better choice?
Make the better choice. Don’t turn Whole30-compliant snack foods into meals.
6. Keep Salad Makings On Hand At All Times
A salad is just the perfect Whole30 (or any diet, really) meal. It’s a great way to get all your vegetables, plenty of meat and protein and fat, herbs and nuts and seeds. You can even throw in some fruit or starchier veggies, like winter squash or purple sweet potatoes if you want. The salad bowl is simply the ideal canvas for a healthy, enjoyable way of eating. But it does take time to prepare.
Greens: lettuces, baby greens, kale, spinach.
Cooked Meat: sliced steak, roasted chicken, grilled salmon.
Preserved Meat: smoked salmon, smoked oysters, canned tuna.
Chopped Veggies: onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, garlic
Roasted Veggies: all of the above and some of the below
Whole Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes
Fruits: berries, apples, dried apricots.
Nuts: mac, almond, walnut, pistachio
Seeds: hemp, sunflower, pumpkin
Dressing: Primal Kitchen varieties, oil and vinegar.
That isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start. If you have something from every category ready to go, you can whip up a healthy, filling Whole30-compliant meal in under 10 minutes.
7. Show, Don’t Tell
The Whole30 works really well, which make sense as it’s like distilling ancestral eating practices. And when things go well, we want to tell the entire world. Right around the 2-3 week mark is when the lips start flapping of their own accord. It’s hard not to, when you feel so good and (despite dutifully avoiding scales and body fat measurements) look so good.
Feel free to answer questions like “Have you lost weight?” or “Why did you just eat half a roast chicken for breakfast?” or “What’s with all the avocados, dude?” You shouldn’t ignore people. But refrain from actively converting those around you. Don’t stand on street corners with flyers and placards. Don’t take every opportunity to hold mini-lectures at business lunches and midday meetings. This stuff works, it’ll show, and they will come to you. And if they don’t, they aren’t interested, and you should accept that.
Your focus for the 30 days should be on yourself and your progress.
8. Don’t Get Cocky
Stick to the script. You might be feeling good midway through. You might be looking leaner, feeling stronger, like nothing can get you down. You might decide you have some latitude here.
Maybe you need a reward for all your hard work. Maybe you should have a slice with your friends at happy hour. I mean, it’s just pizza, and you’ve come so far in just two weeks, and I bet your gut is healed and tight junctions all secure. Right?
Don’t do it. Stay with the protocol. Follow the rules. Two weeks isn’t enough to “clear the system.” You’ll start back at square one and squander all the hard work you’ve done. Thirty days is not too much to ask, and the amount of data you can gain from doing the full Whole30 as prescribed can have positive reverberations for the rest of your life.
We’re all adults here. Exert some free will (or act as if you have free will, if you’re the deterministic type)
Don’t get cocky (yet).
9. Stock Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer For Emergencies
Disaster strikes, and we need to be ready. I’m not even talking about true disasters—hurricanes, earthquakes, zombie apocalypses. I mean traffic jams, 5 o’clock meetings, parent-teacher conferences, after-school gymnastics classes, and the simple crushing weight of banal responsibility that can impede our ability to get fresh meals on the table. It’s good to be prepared with something healthy and fast. And sure, a growing number of restaurants and grocery stores are offering convenient Primal-friendly fare, but eating out adds up quickly. Here’s what I suggest:
In your freezer, keep some frozen ground beef, a few quarts of bone broth, a medley of frozen veggies, and a few filets of frozen fish.
In the pantry, keep sardines, tuna, smoked oysters, beef jerky.
In the fridge, keep cooked (and cooled) potatoes and yams, peeled winter squash, asparagus (lasts about a week if fresh), and a hearty leafy green (kale, chard, etc). Eggs, too, and maybe a roasted chicken or roasted leg of lamb.
With those foods, you can have a solid meal on the table in 10-15 minutes.
10. Don’t Neglect All the Other Stuff
The Whole30 is all about diet. It’s a complete overhaul of how most people eat, so it pays to make that the entire focus. But the other stuff, the various lifestyle factors that we talk about all the time on Mark’s Daily Apple, don’t stop affecting your health. Heeding the other variables will make your Whole 30 experience go more smoothly anyway.
Your Whole30 will go better if you move every day and train hard a few times each week.
Your Whole30 will go better if you spend time with friends, family, and loved ones. Enjoy good Whole30 meals, but also don’t forget to enjoy life.
That’s it for today, folks. Those are my tips for making the most of a Whole30 experience. What are yours? Take care.
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Primal is simple, but it’s not exactly easy. At every turn, detractors and temptations appear. We have health authorities telling us we’re killing ourselves. Worried friends and family sharing news articles decrying the consumption of fat and meat and promoting wholly plant-based diets. Food companies employ food chemists to engineer delicious processed junk that hijacks our brains’ reward systems, making food that’s addictive on a biochemical level. It’s going to take a mix of concrete, tangible tactics and psychological tricks to stick with Primal.
Plan Your Meals Each Week
The modern world excels at rewarding poor planning. Its whole appeal revolves around convenience. It’s always tugging at us, leaving hints, suggesting easy ways to go astray. When you’re just starting on this Primal journey and things aren’t quite second nature…(like finishing your first 21-Day Challenge).
No time to make dinner? Grab a happy meal!
In the grocery line with your meat and produce? Hey, check out this 40 ounce sack of fried potato slices; bet you could finish half of it on the drive home!
Every week, plan your meals. Go shopping, get what you need, and have things ready to go. Keep a clean kitchen, so you can launch into cooking without fretting over dirty pots and dishes.
Look At Your “Before” Photos
You got into this Primal stuff for a reason. If you’ve seen benefits, lost body fat, improved body composition, gotten noticeably stronger and fitter, go back and look at those old photos. Look at yourself and remember. Immerse yourself in what it felt like before you went Primal.
Realize that it will all come flooding back if you go back to your old ways.
Think Of the Worst That Could Happen
A lot of things can go wrong in life. Many things will go wrong. But we don’t have to hasten the disintegration of absolutely everything. All the recommendations I make in the Primal Blueprint and on this blog are designed to reduce your chances of being reduced to that terrible situation. Read those words, feel them, and imagine yourself in that situation. Not great, is it? So, how about you stick with the program?
Imagine everything that could go wrong health-wise. Imagine you’re 20 years older than you are now. You’re on a slew of medications. Your monthly checkup with your cardiologist is the closest thing you have to a friend. You have a weight set, but it sits unused amidst the ruins of the great spider kingdoms that have come and gone over the years. Your bones are porous, your arteries are clogged, your blood sugar runs high, your heart rate stays elevated. Your muscles are marbled, your mind is foggy. Remember that each choice—including the one before you right now—has the power to determine your future scenario.
Realize That Perfect Is Not the Goal
Many people have the idea that going Primal is a life sentence of ascetic purity. That’s a big misconception. Actually, these are just guidelines. Recommendations. Modes of eating, living, and being that, from my reading of the scientific literature and experience coaching people, help a lot of people get healthier, fitter, leaner, and happier. But it all exists on a spectrum. It isn’t “all or nothing.”
Eating some rice won’t derail the whole train.
Skipping a week of training won’t dissolve your gains.
Even eating a french fry cooked in the most rancid of seed oils won’t imbue your adipose tissue with permanently imbalanced omega-3/omega-6 ratios (not that I’d recommend it, but still).
Unless you’re celiac or truly gluten-sensitive, ingesting a bite of gluten probably won’t perforate your gut lining and open you up to a month’s worth of bacterial endotoxins and allergens.
A date won’t set you back to square one on the keto journey.
Some heeled dress shoes are perfectly fine for a wedding or the office. They won’t ruin your feet or posture.
It’s not about Primal perfection. It’s about making the guidelines work for you to push your health and happiness forward.
Don’t Forget the 80/20 Rule
This dovetails nicely with the previous tip. The 80/20 rule is a built-in “get out of jail free” card. It’s not an actual, literal card, although that’s certainly an idea if an entrepreneur wants to get in on that. It’s the formal acknowledgement that if you do the right (healthy, Primal, keto, etc.) thing 80% of the time, you’ll be doing better than 95% of the population and garnering the majority of the benefits we can expect from living healthy.
What’s 80/20 look like?
It doesn’t mean eating fast food every fifth meal. It doesn’t mean eating 1/5 of a birthday cake. It means giving yourself some slack. It means realizing that you work hard, you eat well most of the time, and it’s okay if you slip up and have a beer or a few bites of pizza at the end of a long week.
The 80/20 rule helps prevent you from heaping additional guilt and stress and despair over a single bad choice onto the first order effects of the choice. It cements the reality that you’re going to be okay.
Join a Gym
If you think you hate the gym, you probably haven’t been in awhile. No longer must you do the globo=gym thing, where staff members frown at you for deadlifting and everyone’s preening for the mirrors. You can try CrossFit. You could try parkour. You could try BJJ or Pilates or kickboxing. You could find a great personal training gym, interview the owners and trainers, and find someone who melds well with your personality and goals. You can try FitWall. There are thousands of movement options out there. The point is throwing down the money and investing in yourself.
When you put down money, you put skin in the game. Rather than lose your sunk cost, you’ll be more likely to follow through and stick with it.
Buy New Cooking Equipment
Are you trying to cook incredible meals in damaged teflon skillets? Sear steaks on lightweight aluminum pans? Julienne vegetables with a blunt chef’s knife that hasn’t been sharpened since the 80s? Get yourself some quality equipment. You don’t need to drop $500 or anything close to that.
Grab a cast iron pan for searing steaks. Some heavy stainless steel pots and pans. A dutch oven for braising, if you do that sort of thing. Consider an Instant Pot. A decent chef’s knife. Maybe a small, simple food processor if chopping vegetables is keeping you from enjoying Big-Ass salads. It doesn’t take much, and it will make cooking that much more pleasurable (and effective).
Pick One Thing and Start There
Getting your entire lifestyle back on track is daunting. What, you expect a person to overhaul how they eat, move, consume electronics at night, interact with the sun, supplement, and sleep right away? Some people can do that no problem, but many people find it an intimidating prospect.
Just pick one thing, do it well, and see the dominos start to fall in other areas. Purge your pantry. Ditch grains and seed oils. Start walking every day. Get back into barbell training. Go to sleep at the same time every night. Doing all those things would be great—and not as hard as you think—but even just one will make a big difference.
Get a Friend Involved
Getting a friend to join you in sticking with the Primal way of life is a simple and effective way to keep you engaged. The hardest part is breaking through the resistance and mustering the willpower to enlist the friend. Then, once you’ve both agreed to do the thing, you have to do it. Neither of you wants to let the other person down. As social animals, we value the input and opinions of others. Especially when those others are close to us.
You could do family, like you mom, your brother, or your spouse, but in my experience those relationships can get testy real fast. Friendships are more durable, in a way. It’s usually easier to get strict and abrasive when required with your friend than it is with your husband or wife.
Some people can’t go all-in at once. They sputter and fail, and would be better served just picking one thing at a time (as I mentioned above). But some people thrive when they overhaul their entire lives. That’s how I am—I didn’t just change how I ate when I developed the Primal Blueprint. I changed how I ate, slept, exercised, and lived in general.
Maybe you’re going too cautiously. Maybe you need to go all in.
Work With a Primal Health Coach
Primal Health Coaches are well trained to help you hit your goals, work through tough sticking points, solve problems, and motivate you. This is quite literally their job. They combine motivational power with a strong knowledge base, so whether you have a motivation problem or a knowledge problem, they can help.
Hiring a Primal Health Coach also gives you that skin in the game effect—with a literal voice on the other end. For some people, that level of accountability is the linchpin.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to get yourself back on track. This is the list of ways I find most effective at getting others, and even myself, back on track after an extended hiatus, or sticking with it when doubt begins creeping in.
What are your favorite ways to stick with Primal?
Thanks for reading, all. Take care.
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Even after I fixed my diet, ditched the chronic cardio, and cleaned up my overall lifestyle to be more in line with our evolutionary upbringing, one big problem remained: my response to stress.
This had always been an issue for me. Part of it was that I kept a full plate at all times. Whether it was my training load, my businesses, my overall type A personality, stress was simply unavoidable, I thought.
How did I approach the situation and manage my stress differently over time?
First, I agonized over the existence of stress. My entire modus operandi throughout life had been to handle problems when they arose. I didn’t let things fester, I didn’t accept bad situations and learn to deal. I took care of things. If a problem didn’t resolve quickly , I assumed I was doing something wrong. Applied to stress, though? Man, what a disaster. I quickly realized that it was impossible to avoid stress, or eliminate it altogether. I needed a new approach.
So the first major step was admitting that stress is a fact of life, that stressors would arise, and what mattered was how I responded to them. My response could make the stress worse, or it could make it more manageable.
The first way I figured out how to improve my stress response was with smart supplementation. When I was still competing and doing the chronic cardio training required to succeed, I developed a supplement you might recognize by its old Primal Calm label and now called Adaptogenic Calm—designed to mitigate the negative effects of all that training stress. Both Brad Kearns and I used it, and it actually became an underground hit in the endurance scene. Athletes of all kinds were taking it and seeing great results. Of course, most of us just used it to allow our bodies to train even more and accumulate even more stress, which was one of the problems that got me into this mess in the first place.
The next step was realizing that even if I couldn’t eliminate stress entirely, I could eliminate unnecessary stress. First on the list was my training. You’ve heard the story before, so I won’t get too deeply into it. Suffice it to say, I was engaged in way too much endurance training—what I call chronic cardio—and spending way too much time out of the aerobic zone in the no-man’s land of moderately high-intensity that leads to sugar-burning and depresses fat-burning. This training was killing me, taking up all my time, necessitating an inflammatory high-carb, high-sugar diet that led to chronic GI distress and joint pain, and getting in the way of living. If any of you can identify a big stressor upstream of a bunch of things going wrong in your life, take action and eliminate it. Changing how I trained led to the development of the Primal Blueprint and the resolution of most of my health problems.
Meditation always intrigued me. Even before it became an Internet sensation and every podcaster/blogger/CEO/coach out there credited their success to their morning meditation routine, I was surrounded by meditators. My wife, Carrie, has done it for decades. Lots of my athlete friends used it to—you guessed it—fight stress. And Malibu, CA, where I lived until a few months ago, is no stranger to yoga studios, health food stores, and other similar hives of mindfulness. I tried it. But it didn’t work for me. My mind was too active to become aware of its (lack of) self. Still, the science was convincing and I didn’t want to give up on what looked to be a potent anti-stress tool:
- Lengthening of telomeres.
- Upregulation of genes responsible for energy metabolism, longevity, mitochondrial function, inflammation, and insulin secretion.
- Blood pressure normalization.
- Stress reduction.
- Greater resistance to stress.
- Improved cognitive function by reshaping the actual brain.
- Promoting neuroplasticity.
- Anxiety reduction.
- Immune system improvements.
If sitting meditation didn’t work, maybe there was another way to get to a similar mindstate.
In a post I wrote about meditation alternatives, I gave 15 options and readers followed up with dozens of awesome suggestions in the comments. Standup paddling, hikes (or just hanging out) in nature, and guided meditations were my alternatives. They help me achieve the hyper-present flow state I’d only had glimpses of during “real” meditation. And sure enough, stress melts away as I’m doing the activity, I’m far less reactive to stressors (I have an extra split second or two to decide how I want to respond) throughout the week, and I appear to have greater resistance to stress. It’s almost an adaptogenic effect: rather than blunt or eliminate the stress response across the board, I’m able to call forth cortisol when the situation is serious. A car honking at me doesn’t trigger it, in other words.
Where am I today?
Stress is still there. It won’t ever go away, and I’m okay with that. I’ve got a growing food and supplement business, I’m as busy as ever with the writing, I just moved to Miami.
Meditation has gotten easier, but I’m still not a “meditation guy.” I don’t expect to be doing a 10-day silent retreat anytime soon.
Adaptogenic Calm remains a staple for me. The nutrients it contains are supraphysiological responses to the supraphysiological doses and durations of stress we receive in the modern world.
I welcome stress. If I align myself with the things I truly find meaningful and maintain active participation in life and avoid becoming a passive character in someone else’s storyline, the stressors become obstacles that make the narrative of my life more interesting. They propel me forward. Without stressors, I’m not living. I’m not doing anything. Stressors indicate action. They mean you’re bouncing up against reality and testing its mettle (and it, yours).
What’s your stress response journey? I’d love to hear how you’ve handled stress in the past, what you’ve learned along the way, and how you handle it now. Thanks, everybody.
I’ve got a contest coming up later this morning, so be sure to check back.
The post How My Response to Stress Has Changed Through the Years appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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