So, you've read my success story and now you're curious how I did it. You can call it primal, or paleo, or one of my favorites, eating like a predator (not prey). I'll give you a list of what I eat and what I avoid. But first, I want to give a bit of a disclaimer.
We are all individuals. No two people will see identical results following identical diets. We all react differently to different foods. There is no one universal human diet (although there are some universal things to avoid). Certain foods listed below may not sit well with you. It might be avocados, or broccoli, or papayas, or beef heart. It's difficult to predict. Listen to your body. And know that what doesn't digest well today will likely be no problem after a period of abstinence and clean eating. What do I mean by clean eating? This:
What I eat: plants, animals, natural fats
- Beef, bison, lamb, goat, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish and other more exotic meats such as antelope, wild boar, rabbit, ostrich, deer, etc., including wild game. The farmed stuff should be pasture-raised, humanely treated, wild-caught whenever possible. If the animals receive a supplemental feed, it should be organic or at the very least non-GMO. Fresh meat makes up the bulk of my intake, with cured meats like bacon, pepperoni, salami, etc. only a few times a week. But I have no qualms eating 7 slices of bacon and half an avocado for lunch on ultra busy surgery days at work.
- Organ meats (liver, kidney, sweetbreads, heart, tongue, etc.) from pasture-raised animals. Ask a local farmer. You might get these parts for free!
- Bone broth made from the bones of pasture-raised animals. Again--ask your farmer.
- Leafy green vegetables (kale, chard, cabbage, collards, turnip greens, beet greens, bok choi, arugula, lettuces, etc.) . I was living off of greens sauteed with onions in coconut oil or bacon grease with a big side of meat for the first few months when the weight was just falling off of me.
- Other vegetables, roots, and tubers (all kinds---turnips, carrots, squash, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes etc. and don't forget your sea vegetables). I did limit my starch intake to no more than a handful of times a month while I was still losing weight. And I do include white rice as one of my "safe" starches, but not that often.
- Fruit (I rarely ate fruit until AFTER I had lost a considerable amount of weight) - all kinds, sticking to local, seasonal, and organic when possible. Berries are a great choice.
- Eggs (organic, pasture-raised-----"free range" is not the same thing at all).
- Fats & oils: coconut oil, avocado oil, tallow, lard, schmaltz, butter, ghee, olive oil (but not for cooking). Choose organic, cold-pressed, unrefined. I render my own animal fats. Find a local farmer with pasture-raised animals to buy your fat from, and it will be pretty cheap.
- Coconut! coconut butter, coconut milk, coconut water, shredded coconut, coconut flour, and now I even eat fresh coconut right off the tree!
- Nuts and edible seeds- sparingly, such as almonds, macadamias, cashews, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. I've found that too many nuts or seeds give me a tummy ache, so I don't eat them very often anymore.
- Dairy - only if you tolerate it! You may be able to tolerate raw milk but not pasteurized homogenized milk (like me). The gold standard for any dairy product is raw grass-fed, followed by grass-fed low-temp pasteurized and non-homogenized. Avoid homogenized and ultra-high temp pasteurized dairy, and especially dairy from rBGH-treated cows. Aged grass-fed cheeses are a great way to get vitamin K2 into your diet, and you can get your probiotics in with ferments like real sour cream, kefir, etc. Learn more about raw milk and find a source at RealMilk.com.
- Dark chocolate - occasionally as a treat, the darker, the better (I love 85-90% cacao)
What I avoid: grains, legumes, industrial oils
- cereal grains: wheat, rye, barley, spelt, millet, teff, rice, corn, triticale, oats, sorghum
- legumes: lentils, beans, peas, and especially soybeans
- industrial "vegetable" (seed) oils: canola, corn, soy, peanut, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, and cottonseed. If you want to be seriously grossed out, watch the How It's Made video for canola oil. Blech! Do you really want to eat that stuff?? (Note: disregard the commentary that canola oil is one of the healthiest oils....it's one of the worst!) But even cold-pressed, these oils are to be avoided at all costs due to their instability (propensity to oxidize and subsequently clog up your arteries) and high pro-inflammatory omega-6 content. Remember I said there is no universal human diet? Well, these oils are a universal no-no in any human's diet. They are garbage.
- alcohol - I've gone through periods of teetotalism (4-6 weeks at a time) off and on since Sept 2010. I never felt like it made any huge difference on my progress, except at the very beginning, I do think that total abstinence helped me transition into a fat-burning metabolism, and helped with cravings and contributed to me sticking with the new way of eating. I consume alcohol still, and usually keep my intake moderate, but to be totally honest I do like to bug out on the weekends with a bottle of wine, or some mojitos, or a couple of ciders.
If you only make ONE change to your diet....eliminate gluten!
- At first glance, this way of eating probably seems really restrictive and strange. I know: it's a huge switch from the SAD (Standard American Diet). If this is all too much to implement all at once, I challenge you to only do one thing: eliminate gluten, and try to stick with it for a minimum of 2 weeks, but preferably 4-6 weeks. Then, do a re-introduction experiment. Eat something made with gluten, a bagel, slice of pizza, biscuit, or whatever you like. Pay attention to your body, see how you react. You could vomit and/or have diarrhea, get "brain fog", heartburn, gas/bloating, insomnia, headache, acne outbreak.....there's a wide range of reactions. If you have a reaction, that means you need to stay off gluten a while longer (and if your reaction is as severe as mine was, you probably won't object to abstaining!)
- Why eliminate gluten? Gluten is the protein found in the cereal grains wheat (all varieties, spelt, durum, emmer, einkorn, etc.), rye, and barley. In modern dwarf wheat, gluten is only one of many problematic compounds. I'll write more about these in the near future, but there's also the gut-damaging lectin wheat germ agglutinin, the blood-sugar-spiking amylopectin a, which is responsible for whole wheat bread's amazing ability to spike your blood sugar more than eating table sugar by itself or a whole candy bar, and the opioid-agonist gliadin, which makes wheat addictive in the same way that heroin is addictive. EDIT: This last part is WRONG! Please see my post: Is wheat really addictive in the same way as heroin?
It doesn't have to be forever, and it doesn't have to be 100%
- Mark Sisson advocates an 80/20 adherence rule. That is, aim to stick to your new way of eating 100% of the time, but realize that life happens and allow yourself 20% "cheating", as long as you aren't making yourself totally sick or miserable with what you decide to cheat with. Me, for example, I can't cheat with wheat, but I can cheat with gluten free cookies (at least for right now---I fully expect to reverse my gluten intolerance with time and qigong. EDIT: Now, I have reversed my gluten intolerance! Read more in my post here). It really helped me in the beginning, as I was adapting, to know that I didn't have to stay with it 100% for the rest of my life. However, if you're battling an auto-immune disease, you'll want to stick with it 100% while you're healing.
OK, how do I get started?
- Clean out your pantry. Donate to a food bank or throw away all the junk. Especially anything made with wheat. If it isn't in your house, you can't eat it. In the first couple of days, you'll probably experience some serious cravings for things made with wheat. Or sugar. Make sure you have something on hand that you can eat instead. I had bacon and gluten-free beef jerky. Coconut oil by the spoonful. Fruit. Extra-dark chocolate. Nuts.
- You'll also probably need to buy some new cooking fats. Go ahead and get all those cheap "vegetable" oils that are no doubt rancid out of your kitchen. You may already have butter in your fridge. That's a great start. Strive for non-rBGH butter, or organic, or even better, grass-fed butter like Kerrygold or Organic Valley. The best is raw butter (you can make your own). You can also get a pretty decent amount of grease from a pack of bacon and duck fat from a roasted duck. Organic extra-virgin cold-pressed coconut oil is my standard cooking oil, and it is considerably cheaper online than in any store.
- Buy meat. You'll be eating it every day. If you can't afford or don't have access to pasture-raised meats, buy from the grocery store, but aim for leaner cuts and supplement with your own good fats. It's certainly more affordable to get the fat from a pastured animal than the meat. A good slow cooker will make your life much easier. Load up on vegetables cooked any way you like, and with enough high-quality fat to keep you satiated. As mentioned above, a personal favorite of mine is any leafy green sauteed with a chopped onion in coconut oil or bacon grease.
- You can find my recipes here. I've also been logging my meals in these posts. In the meantime, head over to my links page for some of my favorite recipe websites and also please check out the Nourished Living Network homepage for TONS of amazing recipes. Also, our Pinterest boards have the recipes broken down by category. While not every recipe is paleo/primal, they are all Real Food and nutrient-dense.