One week into his Primal Blueprint challenge, Ken Korg is rolling. Things are falling into place, and he’s happy with the results thus far.
As per Valentina’s guidance, he consulted the carb curve and reduced his carbohydrate intake. Currently, Ken is eating between 50-75 grams of carbohydrate each day and it seems to be working. He hasn’t weighed himself yet, having been warned away from scale obsession, but he has managed to button up a certain pair of jeans. You know what pair I mean – that pair of jeans that everyone has, the waistline barometer. Yeah, well, one week in, Ken’s wearing the waistline barometers to work… and he didn’t even have to lie down on the bed to get them on.
Ken’s once-perpetual hunger is gone. He gets hungry when it matters – before a meal, for example, or after exercising – but he doesn’t constantly think about food like he did before. And now, instead of reaching for processed snack foods (Cheez-Its were an old fave) when he does happen to get a small hunger pang he has a few nuts or a strip of (homemade) jerky and gets on with life. For once, Ken doesn’t have to tap into a steady drip of willpower to keep from stuffing his face. He can go about his day without keeping his appetite on one of those creepy child leashes.
That said, Ken’s journey has hit some snags. Nothing too big or too disheartening, mind you, but snags nonetheless. Any veteran Primal Blueprinter could have told Ken to expect some challenging moments, especially if you’re trying to take your family along for the ride.
Yes, despite Ken’s initial successes, there is discord in the house of Korg.
It all starts at breakfast. Kelly Korg has been eating four slices of whole wheat toast and peanut butter for breakfast every morning for as long as he’s known her. It’s pure habit; at this point, her circadian rhythm is probably entrained to that toast and peanut butter. Their son Kenny usually opts for cereal, something with the words golden, crunch, nutty, and/or harvest in the name. That first Tuesday morning after his revelation at work, Ken bounded out of bed a half hour early and prepared a massive Primal breakfast feast. Huge omelets cooked in butter, twelve ounces of crispy bacon, a big berry fruit salad, pot of coffee. It was great, and everyone loved it. Even vegetarian Kenny enjoyed a couple strips of bacon, the gateway meat. They all agreed they could get used to this.
Fast forward one week and Ken’s little early morning pristine Primal wonderland is marred by burnt toast scrapings and cereal-sweetened milk. Breakfast is a battleground. Kelly’s toasting bread, Kenny’s eating cereal out of the dog’s extra (big) water bowl. And Ken feels like a failure. He went big too early with that first elaborate breakfast, and now he doesn’t know what to do. He can’t spend an hour every morning making breakfast, but how else is he going to convince his family to commit?
At work, a dejected Ken voices his concerns to Valentina. “Man, industrialized food producers really have us beat when it comes to easy breakfasts. Pour a bowl of cereal, pop something in a toaster for two minutes, drink some juice. Heck, they even trick us into eating cupcakes for breakfast simply by calling them ‘muffins.’ For Primal, it seems like you have to cook your breakfasts. And cooking means cleaning. For one guy, it’s doable, but for an entire family rushing around trying to get ready all at once? How do you do it?”
A smirk plays about Valentina’s face. She’s been waiting for this. “Breakfast doesn’t have to be a huge production, Ken. There are plenty of breakfast options for on-the-go eaters. Work some of those into the rotation and always have something on hand. You can’t let up, especially this early on.”
“But what about the bacon?” asks Ken. “It’s the only way I can get Kenny to eat animals, but it takes too dang long to fry up on the stove.”
“Cook it in the oven. 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness and desired doneness. Set it and walk away. BAM.” (Valentina’s fatal flaw is her bizarre Emeril Lagasse fanboyism.)
Ken closes his eyes, sighs, and drops his head. “Of course! That’s genius. You’re a genius. Thanks again for the help.” He turns to go, takes a few steps, thinks hard about something, then wheels back. She’s still there. It’s almost as if Valentina knew he’d be returning. “Just one more thing. I really want this to work for the whole family, but I’m worried Kelly’s about to give up on the whole thing. While I’ve been jumping out of bed each morning ready to tackle another day, she’s been waking up with headaches. In fact she’s been pretty listless the entire week. No energy, always tired, constant headache, always complaining about a fog clouding her brain. I’m actually pretty worried.”
“Is Kelly eating low-carb?” she asks.
“Yep. Between 50-100 grams per day. Other than the morning toast, she’s good.”
“Is this a big change for her?”
Ken answers immediately. “Oh, yeah, most definitely. She used to put down 3, 400 grams a day, easy.”
“Ken, this is totally normal when someone drastically reduces their carbohydrate intake. Kelly is simply going through the low-carb flu. Check out that post; it’s got some great advice and there are tons of comments from readers with similar experiences sharing how they made it through. She’ll be fine.” Valentina is very reassuring.
“Great, so this is just something she has to get used to, right? She just has to push through the initial hardship and maintain?” Ken asks.
“Pretty much. Some people adapt immediately, others take longer. Some take a month or more. You just have to be there to support her.” Valentina winks.
“Awesome! I’ll just tell her to keep at it, to keep up with the running, to-”
“Wait, wait, what was that? The ‘running’?” asks Valentina.
“Oh, yeah. Kelly’s always been a cardio fiend. She absolutely loves to run. I know what Mark thinks about running too much when you’re miserable, but she genuinely enjoys it.”
Valentina frowns. “That’s cool and all, but if she’s going super low-carb and trying to maintain her running habit, she may have to make some concessions. If she’s burning through her glycogen every day, she probably could use a few more carbs than she’s getting. This could be exacerbating her low-carb flu symptoms.”
Ken’s face lights up. “Really? Valentina, you are a life saver. You’ve just made a certain wife of mine extremely happy. I’ll let her know she can eat a few more carbs to support the running, and I’ll be sure to push the yams and sweet potatoes. I don’t want her using this as an excuse to fill up on junk.”
“Happy to help, Ken. Anything else?” Valentina’s got work to do, but she’s pretty obsessed with all this Primal stuff and loves talking about it to anyone who’ll listen (I’m sure you can relate).
Ken wavers. “Actually, yeah, there is. I have a few more questions if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all. Let’s hear it.”
Ken dives right in. “So, Kelly’s work is always throwing parties for something or other. It’s always someone’s birthday, and that means cake or cookies. And if it’s not a birthday, it’s a catered meeting. There’s just a lot of ambient snacking. Treats are everywhere. It’s a funny word – ‘treat.’ It’s supposedly a ‘source of special delight and pleasure,’ but is it really ‘special’ if it’s everywhere you look? Donuts in the break room, candies in jars on desks, leftover cupcakes scattered all over. Those aren’t treats; those are staples.
“Anyway, I’m wondering how Kelly should handle living, working in such an environment. How does she handle the mob mentality without hurting her relationships with the members of the mob, who are perfectly lovely people otherwise?”
Valentina’s ready. “I could give you a long spiel, but I’ll just verbally hyperlink you to this post on dealing with the “treats” mob. It’s very timely and should prove useful to your situation.”
Ken’s eyes roll back into his head as his brain processes the material and scans the comments. “This is great stuff, thanks. One quick question, kinda similar, only regarding Kenny. The kid’s just started high school, which can be a tough time. He’s trying to establish his place on the social totem pole, and he’d rather it not be one of the lower positions. I don’t think being known as the kid who eats “healthy” and turns his nose up at pizza and soda will do him any favors there. Any suggestions on how to make this Primal stuff work as a high-schooler?”
“Absolutely. Show him this post on making Primal work as a high-schooler. I’d go ahead and read it yourself, because there’s some good insight on making things easier at home, too. It’s not just about high school. It’s more about that age of uncertainty, adolescence.” Valentina’s got work to do, so she bids Ken farewell.
“Thanks again, Val. Don’t know what I’d do without you.” They part ways.
On his drive home, there’s roadwork. The street he usually takes is full of burly guys with jackhammers and neon vests. His normal way home is barred, but there’s ample warning before he gets there – detour arrows, orange “Roadwork Ahead” signs – so Ken knows where to go. He has help. He’s not fumbling through the dark, turning small initial mistakes into big blundering ones. The roadwork is a minor inconvenience, a tiny snag, because he knows it’s coming, and he knows what to do and where to go to avoid it.
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.