Yes, they’re inextricably woven into nearly every aspect of our society. Dietary staple, cultural icon, sentimental fodder, patriotic symbol: it’s impossible to get away from them. However, just because they’re ubiquitous in our social environment doesn’t mean they deserve a place on your dinner plate. You know the multitude of reasonsto quit grains. How about some strategies for kicking them to the curb?
As much as I condone, cajole and attempt to convince people to give up grains for the sake of their health, I’m not oblivious to the fact that dumping grains can be a tough and sometimes lonely slog. It’s not just the cultural thing either. For most people, physiological and habitual forces are the most demanding aspects. You’ve likely heard the term “carboholic” (used mostly in magazines and Oprah confessions for humorous, normalizing purposes), but there’s genuine truth there. Although I’m not equating the ravages of alcoholism and drug addiction with carb cravings, hard science has something to say about the physiological compulsion associated with dietary sugar and carbs (PDF).
Understanding the physical and mental impulse shouldn’t set the stage for making excuses (i.e. the carboholic joke). Though it can take some forethought and commitment, giving up grains is wholly, entirely possible and crucial to both your short-term vitality and long-term health. Ready to jump? Let’s go.
1. Study up and load up (on non-grain delicacies).
Cookbooks (I can suggest a fantastic one, actually), MDA recipes, and countless other sources can prove to you once and for all that there is life after bread. Get thee to the grocery store and stock up on the best, most appetizing Primal goodies you can find. Plan those first weeks out of the Primal starting gate to be as luxuriously delectable and indulgent as your imagination allows.
2. Know what to expect.
As immense as the rewards are, there are issues to contend with. Initially, there may be the carb cravings (usually less dramatic if you’ve already been cutting down for some weeks) and the infamous “low carb flu.” Read up on these and check out other Grokkers’ experiences. It will help you put these passing symptoms in perspective. Beyond the first few weeks, there are more “big picture” issues to address. Because we live in the culinary culture we do, cutting out grains can mean more than changing your lunch. Family barbeques and holiday menus will need tweaking. Maybe you’ll need a script for annoying family members’ digs. Once you’ve made the transition and are enjoying the advantages, I’ll bet you won’t be complaining, however….
3. Get the rest of your physiological house in order.
Think twice about undertaking this if you’re constantly burning the midnight oil, getting no exercise, and your stress level is spiraling out of control. These aren’t the best circumstances to bring to carb withdrawal. Now, this isn’t to say your life has to be perfectly ordered and stable in order for you to be successful giving up grains. Adopting a healthier diet that allows for more stable energy throughout the day can actually help you tame the other pressures in your life. Nonetheless, you’ll likely have an easier time giving up grains if you can go at the endeavor with a little more sleep and a little more emotional focus. If life is too crazy to be contained at the moment, just take it slowly.
4. Plan the logistics.
When you’re rushing out the door in the morning, kids arguing, papers flying and blood pressure rising, you’re not exactly primed to make the most rational choices. Lay out your full day’s menu. Keep Primal foods at the forefront of your cabinets. Make shopping lists and Primal backup alternatives in case you forget to take the meat out of the freezer. Anticipate the stumbling blocks (e.g. party cake at the office or the kids’ playdate) and have something Primal on hand (not a Special K shake).
If you live with grain eaters, divide cabinet spaces and come up with a plan ahead of time. Will you be making meals for them? Work out the details and come to agreements. Keeping the peace will help you stay on track.
5. Make your motivation manifest.
Have a motivation board or journal you turn to. When you’re pining after that coffee cake you’re your mother-in-law brought over, it can both remind you why you’re doing this and how far you’ve already come. (Then throw it away after she leaves.) Use whatever language or imagery speaks to you. A former Marine friend had some interesting phrasing to keep himself on the path – some of the most colorful profanity I’ve ever seen on Post-Its all over his house. No judging here. Whatever works!
6. Do it your way. Take it slowly or go cold turkey.
Although going gradually might help some people, others prefer to pull the band-aid quickly and definitely. Don’t apologize or second guess your intuition. You know how you operate. Eliminate one grain at a time or banish all grains at the outset: the end result is the same.
7. Positive Self Talk
Sit down in front of a mirror periodically and tell yourself you’re “good enough, smart enough and doggone….” Humor goes a long way, folks.
8. Join a support group.
No foolin’ here. In fact, I’d most highly recommend our charming group here. Have you visited the forum? I never cease to be impressed by the good will and good sense offered amongst fellow Grokkers. Make use of their experience. Learn from them. Turn to them. By all means, read the posts, but be a part of the community as well. A kind or encouraging response can make all the difference on a bad day. Besides, they know where to get the grain patch.
9. Pamper yourself.
If there was ever a time to indulge yourself a little, make it these early weeks. Beyond eating well, plan a light and enjoyable week for yourself. Spa visit? Hike in the park? Great Primal dinner to celebrate your new endeavor with friends? Whatever you’ve been waiting to do, do it.
10. Have patience with yourself (and the process).
If you fall off the horse, just dust your butt off and get back on. No sulking, no self-deprecating. Accept it as a temporary divergence and just do the next right thing for yourself. Then go kick an ear of sweet corn around the yard.
Now it’s your turn! What challenges did you face and what strategies, creativity and humor made a difference to your success? I can’t wait to read your ideas. Thanks for reading today.
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.