Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
2 Nov

Dear Mark: Primal Advice for High Schoolers

highschoolerhelpIt’s a question that frequently comes my way. Teenagers, who have found MDA and jump on board with the PB, have their brand of difficulties going Primal: skeptical – if not disapproving – parents, decidedly un-Primal school lunches and social outings, team fast food stops, etc. How does a high schooler go Primal when his/her family isn’t? What does the choice mean for navigating other areas of teen life?

Dear Mark,

I’m 17 and have been trying to switch over to the PB, but some areas are harder right now than others. I’m really getting into the workout ideas and love the simplicity of your Primal Blueprint Fitness ebook program. For me, the eating part is the most complicated. My parents are unsure about the diet and don’t offer much support for the choices I make with the PB. I think they believe it’s just a phase that I’ll give up if they just wait long enough. The social thing is a little bit of a challenge, and don’t get me started on the McDonald’s runs my basketball team makes every time we have an away game. Do you have any suggestions for those of us in high school? By the way, your site is great. I’ve even got some of my friends reading it now. Grok on!

Thanks to Dan for this week’s question. First off, to all the MDA high schoolers out there, kudos for taking charge of your health. You have the chance to benefit from your choice your entire life – a responsibility that truly deserves a big hats off.

That said, I recognize the kinds of hurdles my younger readers can face making a Primal transition. When you live under your parents’ roof and direction (not to mention financial umbrella), implementing some parts of the PB can be tricky. It certainly takes more work and thought. As in Dan’s case, the food issue seems to present the most problems. Although teenagers’ lives usually allow enough freedom to influence their own sleep schedule as well as outside/workout time, meals are another ball of wax.

Modern Family

Parents generally want the healthiest life for their child, and many are naturally suspicious of diet “fads” their kids appear to latch onto. (A number of us probably experimented with some novel diet or food obsession at one time during our teen years.) Nonetheless, there’s obviously a difference between the latest grapefruit cleanse and the Primal Blueprint – a cornucopia of taste and nutrition harkening back to the tradition of primeval families everywhere. (Doesn’t that sound convincing?) Speaking from the position of a parent myself – whose son goes by his own vegetarian version of a Primal diet, I can vouch for the power of good conversation and thoughtful initiative. I know I better understood my son’s perspective – and he understood my concerns.

  • Share specifics. In addition to explaining the general idea behind the PB, talk about some of the things that draw you to the PB. Print out some of the introductory articles (in addition to other favorites), and share them with your parents. If your parents are skeptical of the science behind the diet, invite them to explore the site themselves. Share some of the research we talk about on MDA. Let your parents know, too, what the PB means to you personally. Talk about your experience thus far. Tell them what you’ve changed in your lifestyle and what other goals you have. Even if they’re still doubtful, it’s at least a solid start. They’ll understand more of where you’re coming from and be more likely to take the next step.
  • Work out logistics. This is where the rubber hits the road. Show them you’ve thought it through and can make it work without adding undue pressure to the family finances or work load. Think about how much of your diet you need to change when it comes to home. What are the meals/dishes you can still enjoy with your family, and where will you need to fill in with other Primal additions? Come up with a plan for a sample week – complete with shopping list. Talk about the plan with your parents and how the list and additional food prep (your responsibility, as you can probably guess) could be incorporated into your family’s budget and schedule.
  • Go along to get along. After you’ve worked out the details as much as you can (this might take a few rounds over time), be prepared to head out on the grocery run. This may involve accompanying the shopping parent to the supermarket or using a specified amount of money your parents have given you to shop on your own. Either way, show them you’re willing to accept their rules and make it all work. If you have the freedom to shop where you want, you’ll likely find more Primal variety and possibly better deals at co-ops, farm stands and farmers’ markets if they’re available in your area. It’s doubtful that you’ll be cowpooling any time soon, but comparison shop for the best options given your circumstances and budget.
  • Share a meal. What would your parents say if you offered to make dinner for everyone? If it’s never been your thing in the past, forgive them their initial surprise. Schedule a night when it’s convenient and when everyone has the time to enjoy it together. Make it a real family event. Your parents will appreciate the quality time and obvious effort. As for winning them over to your Primal adventure: if a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what the full experience of a Primal meal can be for tentative parental figures. We parents are suckers for an opportunity to relax while someone else cooks for a change. If you do the dishes, you’re golden.

School Menus

Ah, school. Even after you win over the most cautious-minded mother, there’s the truly epic quest to revolutionize the school lunch menu. (Anyone game?) While you’re trying to persuade the administration, there’s plenty you can do to keep Primal.

  • Bag it. Yes, it’s the obvious choice. With some ingenuity, an extra 10-15 minutes in the morning, and maybe a couple pieces of equipment (high quality thermos and insulated lunch cooler), you can sit down to a feast that will put those soggy pizza slices to shame. Pack up some soup, stew, hard boiled eggs, fresh veggies, my signature salad, or whatever counts as your favorite Primal fare that week.
  • Forage – and supplement – wisely. If you find yourself needing to make school fare at least part of your meal, implement your best foraging tactics. Charm the kitchen staff into giving you extra meat and veggies. Hit the salad bar if you have one. Keep some Primal snacks (sealed) in your locker or bag, or bring supplementary Primal foods to fill in the gaps if you’ll be doing regular school lunches on a daily basis.
  • Bring travel supplies. A similar principle holds for those dreaded fast food stops every high school team seems to make (e.g. football to debate). Forage as you can (e.g. order a salad or at least ditch the bun), and come prepared with Primal provisions so you aren’t totally dependent on the PB revised value meals.

Social Scene

The social scene will likely offer more temptation than pushback. Although you might get verbal support from your friends, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to give up late night pizza runs. You might find yourself sitting back while others dig in, but there’s no reason to skip the outings all together.

  • The key is preparation. Whether you’re going out to eat or just over to someone’s house, make sure you’ve eaten beforehand, and keep a stash of your own edibles if you think you’ll want them. (Primal bars are a great choice here.) There’s always the option of hosting your friends of course. Even if they choose to order in, you’ll have your own supplies ready and waiting.
  • Expand into new territories. Finally, you can always explore some other potential hangouts that offer at least some semblance of Primal fare. Many a greasy spoon diner offers both late hours and decent omelets. (The people-watching is much better to boot.)

Have ideas for the teenage PBers among us? Other questions or concerns to raise? Be sure to share your comments and tips. Thanks again to all the high schooler readers out there. Keep in touch and Grok on!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Hi Mark!

    I was wondering if you knew anything about the primal diet being able to increase the height of the human body?

    Also, I am an 18 year old primal female and am in my first year of college. I am taking a human nutrition course and I must admit it is so hard not to get mad at all the incorrect information the FDA and grain industry are feeding (no pun intended) to western civilization – and pretty much everyone in the world. It is especially hard for me to pretend that I believe in the food pyramid because I fear that, if I try to dispute what my professor thinks makes up a healthy diet, she might not give me a good grade in her class.

    Nora wrote on November 5th, 2010
  2. This kind of reminds me of a similar problem I have (might have to write Mark eventually). I’m in the Army, currently deployed to Iraq, and that means I have virtually no control over what food is offered at the dining facility (and the non-DFAC options are Subway, Burger King, and Cinnabon). I do the best I can – luckily there is a salad bar, so I get meat and salad – but I end up eating the same thing day after day. I’ve been dreaming about getting home and being able to cook for 10 months now. The people around me think this no-bread, no starch thing is completely nuts, and it sure makes you work on the willpower. I have to walk past all sorts of bread and doughnuts and muffins at breakfast, and cookies and cake and ice cream and french fries at lunch and dinner. Then add in the fact that the Army doesn’t care about primal health; they want you to run run run and work out hard every day. None of this ‘tailor your workout to how you feel’ stuff. And certainly lots of sleep shouldn’t be needed – am I crazy? Soldiers don’t need eight hours of sleep. So, while I’m not in high school, I do totally feel for this question-writer. My disbelieving parents just happen to be the Army!

    Kasi wrote on November 6th, 2010
  3. Warning, this is more of a rant than a contribution to the discussion, so feel free to skip, unless you are a parent who eats processed food and sugar and/or feeds it to your children, read on OR ELSE.
    I’m 20 and living with my parents and have been eating primal for a week. They’re skeptical of the primal eating plan but are willing to support me, though they say that I need to get a job soon to start paying for some of my food (I’m trying to get a job, not easy around here, especially since my made me lose two jobs causing me to be unemployed for about two years (long story) and if they spent less money on sugary cereal, ice cream, crackers, pop, loaves of vitamin-devoid bread filling up almost the whole chest freezer, bacon containing more different kinds of preservatives than you can count on a hand (seriously) and all the other “normal” crap they buy they could probably afford to feed us all with really good food). I don’t think I’m costing my parents any more money than I used to but they do the shopping so it’s hard to say for sure. I generally just eat lots of vegetables and frozen berries (fresh is like $5 a handfull, though in the summer at least there are plenty of wild rasberries and apples to eat close to the house), trail mix, eggs, a bit of fruit, a bit of milk, and a can of tuna here and there (just found out a few days ago the cans have BPA coating them, though the tuna’s practically the only meat in the house that isn’t loaded with preservatives.. then again I’m not sure which is worse, which is why I get most of my protein from nuts and eggs). On a lighter note my dad made some delicious chili today with beef, pork, beans, crushed tomatoes, and salsa, none of which contained any artifical ingredients. As far as I’m aware it should be easy enough to find reasonably priced preservative-free meat freshly packaged in grocery stores near the deli counter, like the meat that was in the chili, which I imagine would also be less expensive than the boxed chicken legs and whatnot my parents normally buy, so I’m going to try to convince them to go for the fresher, less processed meat. I’ve been trying to influence them to stop eating junk food and artificial ingredients for a few months but that doesn’t seem to be working. They blame it all on finances. My mom has been sick for a week and continues to lie in bed drinking gingerale and eating crackers, while not going to work. She usually has to take a week or two off every winter from work. I also used to get quite sick every winter but since avoiding sugar and processed food this winter and eating mostly primal just out of preference and then eating fully primal just this last week (besides a few pieces of crystallized ginger totalling a few spoonfulls of sugar) I haven’t been sick at all. Maybe it would be better financially for her to start eating healthy? I told her that her methods of coping with sickness are not going to help her get better but that was pointless. She runs and runs until she gets leg injuries that make her unable to run for weeks at a time and does yoga, so why take health advice from me, the one with a history of heavy drug use, who has recently made many, many life changes.. especially in regards to going sober and changing my diet? When I speak out against sugar and processed food she criticizes my eating habits as a child, when she says if candy was available I would eat it until it was gone, I drank a lot of pop, and that I practically lived off sugary granola bars and canned soup with MSG in it. My reply is, “I can’t believe you let me do that” along with her acceptance, and indeed encouragement, of me to swallow fluoridated toothpaste every time I brushed my teeth for a couple years when I was just a naive little kid.. I don’t even want to know how all that affected my development. With that and my excessive past drug use, I fear that I’m totally screwed! Which at least it makes it very easy to remain motivated to live primal and healthy.

    Tim wrote on February 5th, 2011
    • Seventh line down
      *my mom made me lose two jobs

      Tim wrote on February 5th, 2011
  4. This is a great help. I’m 15 and trying out the Primal Lifestyle and have found it a bit tricky in school for meals.

    William wrote on April 7th, 2011
  5. I am seventeen and have been slowly incorporating the Primal ways into my lifestyle for a while now. it is really hard, i am one of 5 kids and my parents cant afford much except pasta and rice. i work, however, and have come to the compormise of primalizing my breakfasts and lunches, and just having smaller portions of my family’s dinners. On nights where we cook for ourselves i eat primally as well. i know it is not fully primal, but even cutting carbs out of two of my three meals a day has made huge changes to my life, and when i leave home, i intented to eat primal dinners as well. Grok On!!!!

    Jacinta wrote on June 18th, 2011
  6. I precisely necessary to thank you so significantly but once again. I do not know the items I would’ve taken care of without these secrets contributed by you regarding this difficulty. It seemed to be a quite frightful crisis for me, but encountering a new well-written tactic you processed it forced me to jump with contentment. Now i am happier for the function and hope you might be aware of an amazing job you happen to be finding into educating men and women via your internet weblog. Probably you haven’t come across any of us.

    Pin Up Dresses wrote on September 10th, 2011
  7. I would definitely recommend picking up Gary Taubes’ books, if your parents are willing to read(sorry, if not… I know some people who’s parents can’t read anything more complicated than a menu). That one is usually a pretty good explanation of why it works in a way that they can’t really contradict(its very hard to argue with a piece of paper).

    james wrote on September 19th, 2011
  8. I can imagine a kid being shunned in middle school for his or her weird eating habits. It would be great if they had primal parents and could just show a picture of their dad with his shirt off and just say, “My dad is strong and healthy. I want to look like my dad, so I eat like him!”

    Randy Knapp wrote on September 20th, 2011
  9. Everyone here must be northerners because I live in Florida and keeping anything from becoming a soggie mess seems impossible. We have to wake up at 4:55 in the morning to be able to get to school. But the heat and humidity catches on to about anything. By lunch time(which is either 12:00 or later) everything is gross. Dry food is the way to go. But this year I am definitely bagging lunch. I never ate the school meals or quick lunches like the chicken strips or pizza. They were all low quality. But it’s nice to hear that other kids are actually concerned with their eating habits. And not looking to eating healthy as always weight loss or confidence issues(;

    Angelica wrote on August 8th, 2012
  10. I feel that I got super lucky.

    I am 19 and living with my parents and have only recently decided to go primal but when I told my mom she went for it right away (my dad is a WHOOLLLLEEEE other matter.) I am glad I have someone who is so supportive of the choices I make and someone who believes what I say. (instead of going and finding out about how good it is from a co-worker or something.)

    Yuli wrote on April 25th, 2013

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