Monday, September 14, 2009

My Primal Evolution ...

It all started with an apple.

I don't remember how I first happened upon the Fuming Fuji, but I was instantly enchanted by the adorable artwork of an angry apple, even if he looks more like a Granny Smith.

I came for the Fuji but I stayed for the philosophy.

Where was I?

Mark's Daily Apple, the home of Mark Sisson's guide to primal living in the modern world.

Primal? As in early evolution?


For nearly as many years as I've been alive, I've been on and off of diets. You name it, I've probably tried it. From the seemingly sane to the absolutely ridiculous, I've bought the books and the products and weighed and measured, and every time, I've failed.

My closet contains a continuum of sizes. Or rather, it did. I finally went through it about a year ago and purged most of what I owned, vowing to never fit into the larger sizes again.

Which, of course, means that these days, I don't have much to wear.

I've been vegetarian (for a few months of my life). I've been vegan (for a few weeks). Low-fat, low-carb, high fiber, raw, you name it, I've tried it.

But it wasn't until I found Mark that food made sense.

Mind you, his philosophy of food is difficult for many to follow, because Conventional Wisdom, as he likes to capitalize it, pushes – hard – exactly what we should avoid.

In a word: grains.

That's right, the base of the food pyramid, that thing we're told of to eat every day, and plenty of 'em, is exactly what we should avoid.

Why, you ask?

Because, from an evolutionary perspective, we're not meant to eat grains. Our bodies aren't designed to properly digest them. Early man lived off whatever he could find. He didn't cultivate his food. Our ancestors ate whatever animals we could kill, whatever vegetation and fruits didn't kill us, nuts, seeds, and, however unpalatable they may seem today, insects.

Our caveman ancestors weren't tending crops. Agriculture, evolutionarily speaking, is a toddler at best.

Yet most of us, looking for answers, have done what we've been told: eat lots of grains, whole grains!

In terms of feeding a lot of people, grains make sense.

But in terms of optimally fueling our bodies, grains make no sense at all.

Take a mental stroll through the grocery store. Or wander into the kitchen and take note of the contents of your pantry.

Bread, buns, cookies, crackers, pasta, flour, rice, tortilla chips, tortillas, taco shells, pretzels, oatmeal, Pop-Tarts, granola bars, Ramen noodles, mac 'n' cheese ... . Getting the drift?

Pretty much anything that can be found in the aisles of the grocery stores. Almost nothing that is found on the rim.

There's more to Mark's philosophy than "avoid grains," of course. Among his precepts: Eat plenty of fat!

See what I mean?

For years and years and years, we've been told to shun fat, to fear fat.

But fat does not make us fat.

Our bodies need fat. And protein. And some carbohydrates, true, but not like we've been told.

Happily, Mark has consolidated all he's learned (to date, anyway) into The Primal Blueprint, a book I mention of my own free will.

It's a fun read. It's well-organized, the chapters chunked up into sections ripe for skimming. Read it from cover to cover or glean the high points now and fill in the rest of the it later.

Or get started on the site with Mark's definitive guide to grains.

And the next time you go shopping, buy one fewer box or bag or otherwise packaged grain-based something.

Wean yourself slowly – or quit cold turkey if you have a superhuman stash of willpower; I sure don't.

Begin to live a more primal life. You'll feel better. I know I do.


Blogger J. Marquis said...

Interesting stuff.

Speaking of losing weight, have you ever heard of these shots you can take that basically rev up your metabolism like it was when you were younger? It's some kind of hormone that pregnant women have in their bodies...

8:19 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I hadn't before, but I have now. HCG injections? YIKES.

Meanwhile, this dude ( ) isn't doing anyone any favors with saying, "Weight loss is very hard, unless you are very sick."

Sigh. No, weight loss isn't "very hard," if you're giving your body what it needs.

In fact, it borders on "easy."

But that doesn't sell billions of diet aids every year.

8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like repackaged Atkins to me.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

It's Atkins-esque, but here's Mark's take on how The Primal Blueprint differs:

Dr. Robert Atkins is the pioneer of low-carb diets, having first published his material in 1972 with great popularity, and controversy. Flying in the face of the government-promoted Conventional Wisdom of low fat, high carb diets, Atkins weathered the criticism and developed a brand that thrived for decades. The Atkins diet has serious flaws but his central premise of low carb eating deserves credit as being revolutionary. It has only been since his death in 2003 that the Atkins diet has enjoyed increasing medical acceptance and as an effective weight-loss technique.

While Atkins laudably restricts processed carbs like sugar, breads, pasta, cereal and starchy vegetables, the plan stumbles with its sometimes draconian restriction on total carbohydrate intake. The Atkins recommendation to consume only twenty net grams (i.e. digestible grams, so you exclude fiber and sugar alcohol) of carbohydrates per day (this is for the first two weeks of the diet, with allowances to gradually increase daily intake for long-term maintenance – but still advocating well under one hundred grams per day) greatly compromises the participant’s intake of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet: fruits and vegetables.

Weight loss success on the Atkins diet is well chronicled, but experts believe that the diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies, likely from inadequate fruit and vegetable intake and perhaps also from the indiscriminate intake and lack of quality distinction among protein and fat foods (including the license to enjoy fried foods and other offensive dietary choices). For example, consider the anecdote in Chapter 4 that the potential carcinogens in cooked meat can be effectively countered by sufficient consumption of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables (that are unwisely limited in the Atkins plan).

9:27 PM  

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