Marks Daily Apple
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2 Jul

How to Guide: Making the Switch to Primal Living in 6 Easy Steps

StairsPerhaps you’ve been reading MDA for some time now, finding yourself intrigued, maybe even testing the waters a bit. The Primal Blueprint sounds good to you. It speaks to you. It makes sense. The mind is clearly motivated, but the heart is, well, a bit trepidatious. Maybe the “Act As If” challenge interested you, inspired you, but you’re not quite there yet:

“Compared to my lifestyle now, I don’t know if I could make this big of a change.”

“Do I trust that I could stick to this kind of life?”

“Maybe this is just for diehards. Do I really have it in me to be part of something like this?”

It’s not uncommon to question our motivation, our ability, even our core confidence at significant turning points. There’s nothing like a big change to make us examine what we’re really made of. But far too many of us derail ourselves before we’re even out of the starting gate. Instead of guessing what we’d do, predicting where we’d stumble, anticipating how we’d eventually fail, how about throwing “foresight” to the wind and taking a bold leap of faith? Eh? Just so you know, we’re with you on this one.

It’s important to keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your Primal lifestyle doesn’t need to be either. Especially if you’re more of a “slowly slip your way into the pool” type of person, perhaps these steps will make your transition a bit more manageable – and more inviting.

1. Accept that your process will be unique

Low carb living, for instance, initially takes a different toll on everyone. You might be starting from a standard American diet of 300-400 grams of carbs a day, or you might be cutting back from a lower carb diet of around 200. Either way, you know the direction you want to go, and that’s the key. You may be a diehard endurance athlete or accomplished weightlifter who feels the need for a new direction, a new focus in his/her health.

2. Allow yourself to ease into it

Not everyone needs or wants to take this approach, but there’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself this option. If you’re up for a “dive in,” particularly if you’re facing major health complication like diabetes or obesity, a fast and furious beginning can reap major health benefits quickly. (And for some, it’s like the band-aid conundrum: they’d rather do the brief, intense rip that gets them where they want to be.) However, there’s plenty of reason to take your time if that’s your way. You’ll allow yourself to gradually but genuinely incorporate the news aspects of diet, exercise, and stress reduction without feeling overwhelmed. And for some aspects of the Primal Blueprint, slow and steady may have definite benefits. Some people respond differently to the reduction in carbohydrates than others (particularly at the ketosis level). Initially, you might feel sluggish or foggy. Take time cutting down. Hold steady at 150 grams a day if needed, and use the time in the holding pattern to ramp up your efforts in other lifestyle changes. When you’re ready, coming down 10 grams at a time may be a better approach for you.

3. Divide and conquer

Sometimes it’s easier to tackle one aspect of a project (or a lifestyle) than to attend to all of them at once. If you’re trying to cut carbs and kick a nasty caffeine habit, it might behoove you to take on one at a time or at least take one slowly and focus on the other. Although all the elements of the Primal Blueprint work together (and actually make other efforts easier), there’s nothing wrong with honing in on a few select areas. Make a commitment to total health, put yourself in the center, but take on only what you feel is manageable for now. If you keep the rest in sight, chances are you’ll begin gravitating toward those other changes anyway. Healthy choices have a way of begetting other healthy choices.

4. Track your day-to-day practices (and progress)

It’s easy to sometimes get wrapped up in the “vastness” of a goal: the long-term nature of your plan. Allow yourself to focus on each day, but give yourself the opportunity to concretely view your ongoing commitment. Keep a kind of food/exercise/stress management journal. In addition to the actual foods and exercises themselves, make some observational notes on how you feel, what you are able to accomplish, where you feel challenged. Looking back on your notes will give you a sense of how far you’ve come. It can also serve as a reminder of how you made it through challenges in the past.

We wholeheartedly recommend using a tool like FitDay or The Daily Plate to this end.

5. Ease up if you hit rough road

Back off a bit on the intensity of exercise, for example, if you find you’re having a hard time adequately recovering from strength training or “sprinting” bouts. If you’re hitting the wall with carb reduction, hold steady or bump up your intake by 10-15 grams to see if it makes a difference over a week or two. Progress is rarely a smooth, uninterrupted trajectory for anyone. The point is to do what’s necessary to keep your general momentum and motivation going.

6. Give it time

The Primal Blueprint isn’t about temporary fixes or fad gimmicks. It’s an overarching design with suggestions to help you live your healthiest, most productive life. This kind of change takes time, care and ever evolving commitment to create a new and genuine lifestyle.

What are your thoughts on making the transition? What was/has been the most challenging aspect that had you perhaps accepting a “two steps forward, one step back” approach? What finally got you over the hump, so to speak? Do you have advice for new “apples” just beginning the transition?

extranoise Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

30 Day Primal Health Challenge

Health Challenge Update

Have You Decided to Be Healthy?

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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. I’ve given up grains completely and have decided to use dairy only occasionally. I just got a couple of cookbooks and am looking for some helpful tips for weight loss.

    I want to lose about a hundred pounds. I know I can do it and am very inspired by the before and after pics and testimonials. I am looking forward to tell my story someday and also include some pictures. So please wish me luck on my Primal Journey.


    Hannah wrote on May 5th, 2011
    • Good luck, Hannah–I think you will be surprised by just how much better you look and feel living Primally. I will likely exceed your expectations–it did for me!

      fritzy wrote on May 5th, 2011
  2. When using the tracker tools like Daily Plate, it’s tough for me to watch my calories climb above my “calorie goal” becaue I’m eating higher calorie, higher fat paleo foods. I’m keeping my carbs around 60 grams (approximately 40 grams net). It’s okay for the calorie goal to be surpassed if my carbs are in check? I am leaner since starting my paleo diet about a month ago, but I feel thicker. I’m a 5’5″ female weighing about 122 pounds. I’m just wondering if I’m going to end up with a net weight gain if I stick with lower carbs and higher calories. I’m not trying to lose weight, just maintain and feel strong and healthy. Thanks! I love Mark’s Daily Apple and it has helped me get started. I’m gluten intolerant and this diet is wonderful for me!

    Lauren wrote on June 15th, 2011
  3. I dig this site. Helps to have others with same issues. I do primal with a slight caveat, I juice carrots in the morning, and put off eating(when I’m good) till dinner. Suprisingly, it’s not that hard. I even work out early in the morning, before work. When (and when is the operative word)I do follow this pattern, weight starts to come off and energy goes up. Like everything, it takes willpower, or better stated, discipline. Also, there is something so cool about waiting till dinner. It feels right to eat more in the evening, as long as it’s meats and veggies. Seems to have a natural rhythm for me anyway. I do miss bacon and eggs, but I can eat them for dinner. Thanks again.

    Dave wrote on July 18th, 2011
  4. You guys are the best! Plenty of support and motivation in this community. Thank you!

    Sean wrote on August 2nd, 2011
  5. isn’t is really unhealthy to cut out carbs?

    taylor wrote on September 27th, 2011
  6. I’ve gone Primal and it really works! I got married 30 years ago at 120 lbs (I’m 5’6″). I admit that might have been a little too thin. Over the years while raising two kids I have gained 40 lbs. And, my husband stayed the exact same size while eating a big bowl of ice cream every night! (totally not fair–but he apparently isn’t insulin resistant). After three weeks of counting carbs and keeping them under 20, I can see a measurable difference in the mirror and my clothes and shoes are loosening daily. (I am also walking 3 miles 3 days a week). I am happy to report that I am eating to live–not living to eat; I used to be hungry all the time and now I have to remind myself eat. Pre-Primal, one of my favorite things was a glass of good Cabernet and a big bowl of popcorn. But, after three weeks I miss neither of these. The scale has only dropped 11 pounds, but I was told I would lose inches before the pounds came off and that seems to be the case. I am DONE with all things white. This is not a diet but a lifestyle–one that I plan to maintain forever. For the last 12 years I have been too embarrassed to wear a bathing suit, but feel certain THOSE days are gone for good! Thanks to all of you who have shared your stories and insights–they have been inspiring and motivating for me.

    Liz wrote on October 31st, 2011
  7. Hi, this is my second week of cutting out sugar,potatoes and all the snacky stuff i was eating.

    Im so happy, i lost half a stone in one week, and the thing it it was just so easy, im not hungry like i was before, my sugar levels are back to normal and i have so much energy. My skin is looking great, i just feel brilliant. although i have had a side effect from i think its called ketosis!!!

    But i have to admit i still enjoy a glass of wine!

    Love from the UK

    Tina xx

    tina wrote on April 3rd, 2012
  8. I don’t understand why people go on these foolish diets…personally I eat whatever I want (fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, desserts) and I have always been slender and healthy. No need to go crazy and try to live like cavemen whose diets we know little about (btw, the fruits and veg they ate were very different hundreds of thousands of years ago).

    maureen wrote on May 15th, 2012
    • I don’t understand why people feel the need to come onto so called “fad” diet websites and say something negative… And just because someone is slender, doesn’t mean they are healthy.This way of life is not a diet, it’s going back to the lifestyle our bodies are programmed to live. Knowledge is power so learning about the “crazy cavemen” might enlighten you? Just saying..

      Rachel wrote on July 10th, 2012
  9. I was already eating healthy, but was eating pasta, rice, and bread. I have refused junk food for many years, with in the last year decided no more fast food, especially when the Pink Slime report came out.

    I stumbled upon the Paleo Diet last Friday and have read and watched as much as I possibly could. 6 days ago I weighed in at 200lbs, today my morning weight was 190lbs. I now minimize my coffee and whole milk consumption, drink plenty of spring water, and no more beer. I love milk and even though it’s not true Paleo, it’s the one thing I can not give up, maybe in time.

    Dinner a 3 cup salad and 12oz petite sirloin steak. Breakfast is 2 eggs. I like omelets but haven’t been adding cheese. I religiously use habanero hot sauce.

    I haven’t drank a soda in years and refuse to for many ingredient reasons.

    Payday I will be at the co-op to see what they offer. This diet so far has blown my mind. I will stick with it!

    Chuck wrote on July 20th, 2012
  10. I’m gone to convey my little brother, that he should also go to see this website on regular basis to get updated from most up-to-date gossip.

    lingual braces wrote on September 14th, 2012
  11. When it comes to going Paleo, many people agree with it in theory, but they have no idea how to actually make it part of their lives. It seems just too difficult.

    Lawyer San Antonio wrote on September 27th, 2013
  12. Hi. This all started for me because of an itchy ass! Varying degrees of annoyance for about 20 years. But a few years ago I was in Vietnam for 6 weeks, no itch, no acid reflux despite eating a huge variety of food. Recently it occurred to me if there was no itch was it to do with not eating something over there? That came down to three things: potatoes, dairy and bread. There was the occasional morning roll, so I thought maybe it was the preservative in supermarket bread or a fungal thing? Well having stopped eating bread and then wheat altogether the itch went away…after 20 years! That’s how I found the way to the idea of cutting out grains altogether. Nobody could like bread more than me but I think if it did that to the outside of my skin what about the inside? Not eating grains isn’t easy but this is the first week. I’ve done 4 Ironman races and this year there’s something worse so I’m hoping my body will adapt to burning the fat I’m eating soon enough. Yesterday I went on a 70 mile bike ride with 6000ft of ascent. I dis start with porridge in the morning. but when that ran out I resorted to cheese, but that didn’t help much! Then I bought a tin of corned beef out of the shop in Glenfarg… that was easy to eat but there was still a distinct lack of energy.. I had to resort to the old standby of Mars bars, all that glucose. Anyway I’m accepting that to change from someone who relied on huge amounts of bread to a lower carb diet isn’t going to happen overnight! I feel different though. and a weird thing is that a nagging pain in my right heel has all but disappeared which points to the inflammatory quality of grains. So it’s an adventure!

    Cadmanwells wrote on March 23rd, 2014
  13. I started paleo in March of this year, Once you get the concept down is easy and fun!! I have lost about 30lbs since. It was a little frustrating at first because I didn’t see the weight loss at the scale but my clothes were getting looser so I pressed on. When I got my new job that I have to walk about 2 miles a day it really accelerated the weight loss!! One of my daughters saw the results and she started too!! she is having similar results!! Thanks Mark!!

    Freddy wrote on December 16th, 2015

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