Dear Mark: Primal Advice for High Schoolers

It’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!

TAGS:  dear mark

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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