I’m fairly new to your blog and have been reading your commentary on motivation/failure (the Oprah post, Excuses and Get Real) with interest. I’ve been moving toward primal eating in the last few months more for general health reasons than any need for weight loss. I’m curious though because it seems like a lot of readers use it as a weight loss plan. I have friends who are interested in what I’m doing but tell me they’re looking for more of a diet. What should I tell them?
Thanks to Carly for this week’s question. Of course, I’d tell them to check out the site and especially our readers’ comments on their weight loss successes.
Like you mention, however, people come to the PB with very different goals. Some are, indeed, looking for a way to take off weight to improve their health and lifestyle. Others are looking to – well – simply improve their health and lifestyle without much if any concern for the scale. (Of course, the PB has a great way of redistributing body composition for the better….)
Let me say this. The Primal Blueprint isn’t a “diet.” First, let me take apart the idea of PB as something that belongs in the weight loss section of your bookstore. The fact is, there’s no fat flushing, calorie restricting or food weighing going on here. The nutritional principles of the PB are based on how human biochemistry works and has worked across cultures and millennia, plain and simple. It’s a set of nutritional principles that provide your body with energy and nutrients while keeping hormonal systems functionally stable. The result? Less oxidative damage, less inflammation, less distraction of the immune system, less exhaustion of metabolic and sex hormone systems, less roller coaster action that signals your body to store more fat. When your hormones live in healthy homeostasis, your body ends up primed for progress toward other means of equilibrium (such as gradual weight loss that brings you to your body’s own natural and healthy weight).
It’s true that many of our readers choose to amp up weight loss potential by going lower carb than the moderate range generally targeted in the PB. However, because veggies are so central to the Blueprint, they’re still getting a good balance of fiber, antioxidants, fats and protein. (Not so with most low-carb “diets.”) Some readers stay in that range because they honestly feel better eating that way. (And isn’t that what it’s about?)
And because the PB is about eating as “clean” as possible, it doesn’t offer an excuse to gorge on chemical- and sodium- laden meats and hormone-laced dairy. The PB is about more than the macronutrient breakdown. It considers the balance of essential fatty acids and their optimum ratio for health. And, though it’s obviously informed by traditional and evolutionary eating patterns, it also takes into account the nutritional toll and chemical load in modern food production and processing. It examines the role of wise supplementation for combating the stresses and strains of our contemporary existence (e.g. indoor living, long work hours, high population density, longer life expectancy, pollution, etc.).
In short, the PB isn’t what I would consider a diet. It’s a way to eat for life. (For both the duration and quality of life…) It’s a means to experiencing real vitality (what so many people go without in their lives!), not just beating back cravings and making endless compromises between what/how much you used to eat and what/how much you’re supposed to eat on your diet du jour.
There’s the old statistic that 95% of diets fail. Although the number itself harkens way back to a single small study in 1959, it nonetheless rings true to many people. I recently read a very unscientific but nonetheless telling survey of dieters that showed the number one reason people fell off the wagon as this: they were “generally tired of dieting.” (Truthfully, if I had to eat some of the empty, unsatisfying menus a lot of them undoubtedly did, I might feel the same.) Related to that point, 21% reported that they felt their diet plans were “too restrictive” for the long term. There are a 1000+ fad, fly-by-night diets out there, but in my observation close to none have real staying power (e.g. Bob Greene, et. al.). Whenever someone asks me about the best way to lose weight quickly, I tell them I don’t believe in shortcuts. Diets are shortcuts. More comprehensive reviews of diet studies (PDF) and corresponding follow-ups showed that people who dieted more often than not ended up gaining back the weight. The “rate of weight regain” and amount of weight were the realistic questions.
But what does it take to genuinely sign on with a new eating plan, not to mention a new lifestyle and mindset like the Primal Blueprint? We’ve talked a lot about that since Jan. 1 and the start of the 2009 Primal Challenge. As much as I find fault with particular diets out there, it’s impossible to talk about weight loss success without looking at an individual’s commitment to the cause. And maybe that phrase hits the nail on the head. A diet doesn’t feel much like a cause. It’s at times a test, a diversion, or a desperate move, but somehow it always feels like an extraneous endeavor – easy come, easy go. As I’ve said before, the Blueprint is a guide for life – physiological principles and practical plans to gain the most vitality to live the life you want. The Blueprint entails nothing less than how you envision real wellness and how you act each and every day to advance your own health. In my estimation, that’s a cause worth supporting.
Your thoughts? As always, thanks for your questions and comments, and keep ‘em coming!