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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