Hello from Germany!
I was thinking about what to post here and then saw the sticky thread - so I'll go along these questions.
Germany, Erlangen - that's near Nuremberg (Bavaria). Unfortunately it's neither near the ocean or any great lake, nor near mountains ... but plenty of woods and nearby hilly regions with about 600 feet differences in altitude, so I usually do a lot of cycling or hiking.
Age (If you want):
How Primal are you:
For the last 4 weeks, I've been nearly 100% primal. Before that, I was on the typical western obesity progression. Back in 1995 I weighed in at about 187 pounds, last year I peaked at 260 pounds. There were some ups and downs, but all in all it was a steady progression towards the belly fat dominated shape. I'm about 6 feet tall and I've never been all that muscular, so my BMI of 36 (at the peak) rightly defined me as clinically obese. I never had my cholesterol and the other blood values measured, but I know that for a long time in the last couple of years I had high blood pressure (about 140/95). I always did plenty of exercise, usually cycling, and I usually use heart rate monitors and from that I know that my max heart rate is at least 185 (just checked it in a sprint today) and my resting heart rate is about 60 (measured in the morning, before getting up), so I assume that I've done something right over the years. However, my diet was always strong on carbs - pasta, pizza and white rice in particular (I've never been a big friend of bread).
But I got distracted. Four weeks ago I read Protein Power, and I had read Good Calories, Bad Calories before that (and the excellent Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan). I now firmly believe in the basic principle of eating adequate protein, low carb and plenty of fat. And about two weeks into the Protein Power diet I came across the Primal Blueprint and I was absolutely thrilled by Mark's approach. He's absolutely correct in pointing out that it's not a diet - if you want to change your body not just temporary, you need to change the environment it is exposed to - once and for all. And of course it goes beyond what you eat.
Today I weigh in at 235 pounds - I had lost about 10 pounds from January to February on a whole grain/salad diet recommended by another book, but I always felt starved and undernourished. Ever since I'm on low carb - and after the transitional period which lasted about three weeks for me - I can completely confirm what Mark or other experts say: My energy levels are much more stable, I can go for hours and hours without getting hungry and sometimes forget to eat, I can do low intensity workouts without any carbs, and I don't have any carb cravings at all because a) I'm still eating some delicious carbs in the form of vegetables and fruits and b) the protein and fat satiate me.
As far as workouts are concerned I try to focus on accumulating as much low intensity activity as I can - for example I've made it a habit to walk about one mile to the bus station every day. That puts my heart rate at about 125 - since I'm still obese, even a brisk work will have that effect - for about 20 minutes. If time allows, I'll do the same in the evening ... so I already have a lot of activity under my belt when I hit the gym or do extended hikes during the weekends.
As far as the rest is concerned: Trying to avoid stress and get enough sleep. But I think - and hope - that diet is indeed 80% of the work, so if all goes according to plan I hope to not only live primally, but also look and feel that way by August.
Do you consume dairy:
I did. I still eat a lot of cheese and cream, but I cut out all milk, yoghurt or anything that still contains significant amounts of lactose.
Do you drink coffee or tea:
Yes - I *love* coffee. I'm cutting back on it though through portion control.
Motivator for switching to Primal:
Initially it was purely weight loss. But by now I think that I'm completely in line with Mark - I not only want to be lean, but I want to achieve functional fitness. My friends often go hiking and they're all lean and usually leave me in the dust - or at least they could, but I'm always dragging behind and feel like I'm holding them up. I've never been a good walker, and I definitely want to change that. I used to be pretty good on a mountain bike, but I want to be suited for any popular sport. That's also why I'm hitting the gym every weekend now - intending to focus on short, intense sessions of full body exercises like squats, push-ups or pull-ups. With my current obesity I neither manage a set of 10 push-ups or 10 pull-ups, but I'm getting there (currently training with 120lbs weight for both bench press and lat pull) - my goal is to lose weight and then be able to do like 3x30 pull-ups and push-ups with my own body weight (some other exercises, too - but I think that pull-ups and push-ups are most important, next to squats which I am already good at because of my history of biking). I hope that's a reasonable goal, and I'll try to slowly work towards it with plenty of resting time combined with the low-intensity workouts.
I've only been doing dedicated exercises since last August. First I used to be on what they call the "Power Circle" here - it's a set of twelve machine exercises that you do for 45 seconds each, separated by a 30 second resting period. The machines are hydraulic and the usual isolated stuff (lat pull, overhead press, dips, butterfly, reverse butterfly, abdomen, lower back, leg extension, leg curl, adductors, abductors, leg press). They usually advise to do 9-10 ultra-slow repetitions each - which I now know is something which Mark would not recommend at all. Unfortunately the hydraulic technology isn't really made for explosive movements, so I moved to conventional machines. From all the exercises, the one I currently enjoy most is the lat pull with close handles to the chest (with 120lbs) - I also like to vary it a little and sometimes hold the handle close to my chest for several seconds - it feels like a good abdomen workout, too.
Oh - and when it comes to low-intensity training, I loooooooooooooooooooove cycling. I realise though that hiking is probably better for various reasons, so I'll slowly try to work towards doing that more often. But as some of you will have experienced first hand, hiking is not so much fun when you're carrying 80 pounds of excess weight around - hopefully I'll be able to improve on that. I also think that hiking is much more primal, and especially on single trails you feel much more connected to nature and the world around you, than when you cycle through it at 20mph. I'll always do both though, if only in using the bike to get me to the nice trails.
Favorite Primal food:
Tough one. I think I'll go for the steak with vegetables and garlic butter. Well, maybe they didn't have butter back then, but It doesn't get much more primal than a nice, juicy rare steak.
Best part about being Primal:
It's natural, and it's easy to understand why it works. And the "how" backs up the "why" nicely. Most other diets can only give you scientific reasons (some even only esoteric ones), but this lifestyle is not only in line with the scientific evidence, it's also what humans (and probably even our hominid ancestors) have done for millions of years.
Worst part about being Primal:
Well, currently I have to be careful not to annoy my friends and relatives about my diet. Only today I had an argument with my stepfather, who is 66 years old, obese, takes blood pressure medication and educated me about the "fact" that you simply have to eat less and exercise more to lose weight. He even maintained that he knew that heavy weight boxers use a 100% pasta diet in order to lose weight before fights.
Well, sometimes you have to try to be the bigger man and keep your knowledge to yourself for the time being ... when all goes well and my body composition changes in the next couple of months, I'll not only have a working theory, but the physical evidence.
herzlich willkommen! Thanks for the nice report and share of experience.
There is one thing more primal than a steak. Just tested it this week after reading the post: bone marrow! Really delicious, could only be better if I had to open the bones myself.
Grüße aus Hessen
Originally Posted by Gary Taubes
why don't you join us at the EUROPEAN PRIMALS group over at groups?
Well, hi to both of you!
Regarding bone marrow: Yes, I quite agree ... it may be the one thing that set our ancestors apart from other animals.
About the group: I must admit that I haven't discovered these groups yet ... I'll check them out later today.