Hi folks, in this week’s edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin dives into your Primal Blueprint questions, helping you wrangle your dark chocolate addictions, navigate self-sabotage, and find workouts that don’t feel like a chore. Keep your questions coming in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group or in the comments section below.
“I’ve done really well with the Primal Blueprint so far. I don’t mind changing my eating, but I can’t stand exercise. I know I need to do it, but what can I do to make working out less of a chore?”
I hear you Cam. Most of my clients do great ditching grains, sugar, and industrial oils, but when it comes to working out, they have a harder time getting on board. What I’m hearing you say is that exercising feels like work. Let me ask you this though. Is it possible that there are certain types of exercises you could do that wouldn’t feel that way?
No one says you have to do push-ups, pull-ups, planks, and squats — even though they’re considered essential movements of the Primal Blueprint. If you don’t like doing them, there are about a million other forms of exercise you can do.
As I’m sure you know, one of the main PB pillars is play. By applying your fitness to real-life (and really fun) situations, you can help dissipate some of the negative effects of being chronically stressed out. Side note here, if traditional exercises make you feel stressed out, they kind of defeat the purpose.
So, what would be some activities you’d consider play? Maybe you like to go bike riding with your kids. Or playing ultimate frisbee. Or tennis. Or making obstacle courses in the backyard? These are all forms of exercise — and you could actually be getting a solid dose of sprinting and lifting heavy without even realizing it.
I’d also ask you to think about why exercising is important to you. Is it because it’s something you’re “supposed to do” per the PB playbook? Or is that you want to lower your risk of heart disease, drop weight, slow down muscle loss, or climb a flight of stairs without breathing hard?
Having a reason why can help you reframe your situation. Sure, exercise might not be your favorite activity, but achieving your goal might end up being the best feeling in the world.
“I like that the Primal Blueprint’s 80/20 rule accommodates my cravings for dark chocolate, but I can’t seem to stop at a square or two. What gives?”
There are lots of reasons your chocolate cravings feel out of control. I have a hunch about what it might be though. But let’s back up and have a quick talk about dark chocolate. While it certainly isn’t considered a health food, dark chocolate does have quite a few health benefits, including the ability to lower blood pressure, lower stress, and improve circulation.
Remember, with the Primal Blueprint, we’re aiming for a higher percentage of cacao. The sweet spot is 85% — that’s when the benefits really start to add up.
So, here are a few things to look at. Chocolate is a great source of magnesium, and if your cravings are really strong, your body could be asking for more of that mineral, which by the way, can also be found in leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and avocados. Chocolate is loaded with tryptophan as well, the precursor for serotonin, which is the feel-good neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety.
There’s also the possibility that you’re using chocolate as a reward. “I made it through the day without quitting my job/yelling at the kids/eating a box of donuts. I deserve this dark chocolate!” Sound familiar? It might sound really familiar if you habitually aren’t eating enough during the day.
The combo of being overly hungry, overly stressed out, and eating a trigger food like dark chocolate can become a customized recipe for relief that you don’t want to end after 2 squares.
I always tell my clients, if you can’t control yourself around a certain food (even a food with health benefits), it’s not the right food for you.
“I’m on the road a lot. Even when I plan to follow the Primal Blueprint, I ended up eating things I shouldn’t or just overeating in general. I’m a good planner, but if I have a choice, I usually opt for the less healthy stuff.”
Josh, you’re not alone. I probably hear this once a week in my own health coaching practice. My clients tell me they’ve stocked up their kitchens, prepped healthy foods, and they’re 100% committed. But then, in the moment, something different happens. The opportunity to do something perceived as taboo, becomes more exciting than sticking to the plan.
When your logical, conscious mind has a goal (like eating the raw almonds you brought on the road with you) is at odds with your subconscious mind (the side of you that believes life won’t be the same if you don’t stop for a double cheeseburger), your subconscious or “inner critic” tries to protect you and keep you safe from potential failure by sabotaging your efforts.
In the moment, you have two choices. You can give in to your inner critic or decide that your goals are worth sticking to. Think about previous times when you’ve decided to stick to your plan. How does that feel? Pretty good, right? And in comparison, how does it feel when you let your self-sabotaging inner critic win? When you think about it, probably not that great.
Of course, it’s not always that simple. Usually, self-sabotage is an in-the-moment thing— meaning it’s not premeditated. It’s fueled by instant gratification. And if you’ve suddenly become dead-set on veering off into the drive-through, just thinking about making a different choice might not be enough to deter you. If that’s the case for you, what are other ways you can stop your inner critic from taking the wheel (no pun intended)?
Simple things like listening to an audio book or podcast can help change your thought pattern. Sure, these distractions help you focus on something other than food, but they’re also engaging you, providing a much-needed shift in your mind and your mood.
In an instant, you can go from obsessing over curly fries to feeling peaceful, calm, and content. Some of my other favorite ways to shift mindset include meditation and deep breathing exercises, but you have to find the method that works best for you.
About the Author
Erin Power is an NBHWC board-certified health coach and the Coaching and Curriculum Director for Primal Health Coach Institute. She’s also the co-host of Health Coach Radio, the podcast by health coaches, for health coaches. Erin lives outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.