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A Diet for the New Year – Or Why I am Going Primal

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

When I posted about going grain free this week and also eschewing some other foods, I got many comments and emails asking what in the Sam Hill I WOULD be eating. I understand the confusion. As a nourished vegetarian most of my protein came from eggs, dairy, grains, legumes, beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, greens, and protein supplements. This year I have decided to go grain free and pseudo grain free. This means everything from whole wheat and oats, to rice and Quinoa, is on the chopping block. I am also giving up potatoes, legumes, beans, and lentils. I am restricting dairy to just a small bit of cheese and/or Greek yogurt each day as well.

The comments I got in regards to this were a mixture of confusion (what is left to eat?!) and frustration. It is indeed very frustrating to hear that the foods that have been paraded around in front of you as healthy for all your life, actually aren’t so healthy for you after all. Everyone thinks they have the “right” answer as well. The Weston A. Price folks cling to their lard, tallow, and liver like a security blanket, while the vegetarians and vegans sing the praises of their grains and soy. Raw foodies have wisely ditched the grains but go a bit overboard with nuts and carbs. I have followed all of these diets in the past. None of them seemed to cure everything that ailed me though and recently that has really started to bother me. I truly believe that food should be our medicine and instead of accepting certain nagging health issues as part of life I decided I wanted to get to the bottom of mine. I never imagined that I would want to go paleo or primal and in fact last year I would have said you were out of your cottin pickin mind if you told me I ever would. Those folks are fanatical about meat! And they don’t like dairy, like my beloved yogurt!

So what changed my mind? Actually it was by listening to my own body and analyzing all of my food intake in depth. Thanks to my obsession with I have tracked every bit of food that has entered my mouth for over a year. I saw exactly how many grams of carbs, fat, and protein I was consuming as well as all the major vitamins and minerals. It is conventional wisdom that guides Sparkpeople so it is naturally aimed me for a high carb, low fat, moderate protein diet as the goal. Even if I knew that fats were not bad as we have been programmed to believe it still bothered me to get a warning at the end of the day if I went over what they considered healthy. It was almost impossible to eat too many carbs though, which seemed wrong to me. I also had trouble meeting the minimum protein requirements many days.

After I got into weight training I realized my protein load was lacking and my carb load was causing me to feel hungry all day. I was frankly sick and tired of feeling ravenous only an hour or two after a big meal. It got to where I was making dinner for myself later and later because I hoped I would be in bed and asleep before the inevitable after-dinner hunger pangs struck. I knew something was off… my blood sugar and insulin levels. I need protein to keep making gains at the gym. I need less carbs so that I won’t be hungry all the time and be causing my blood sugar to spike all day long. I need more fats in the diet for the same reason… fats are what make you feel satiated and full. My analysis leads me to think I would be better served by a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet.

If I want low carb then I need to stick to fruits and veggies as my source of carbs and drop any processed carbs that cause blood sugar spikes like grains, rice, potatoes, beans, and the like. After reading books like Wheat Belly I learned of another bazillion reasons to ditch them as well, especially grains like wheat. Going raw again was my first thought but I didn’t want to go crazy with nuts just to get my protein and fat levels higher. They are really hard on the digestive system. I am not a fan of avocados the way most raw foodies are either and coconut products are good but not in massive quantities. Plus raw foodies typically eat metric tons of fruit and dehydrated fruit… ala constant blood sugar spikes yet again. Ironically I had just read a blog post by a raw foodie talking about how many raw food dessert bars they ate in one day, uncontrollably. That sealed it. Lots of dehydrated fruit is no good either because the concentrated sugars will cause you to be ravenous just a short time later as your blood sugar drops. I needed to get off that roller coaster, not find a different version of the same ride.

At the same time I also wanted to address nagging health issues. My thyroid problem was not going away and I am still forced to take meds, something I detest. The hair loss in women is a deal breaker for many, me included. I am also suffering from sleep issues, seasonal depression, some annoying aches and pains, bloating, dry skin, and I broke out like a teenager during a couple of my last menstrual cycles. Yeah, something was way off. It isn’t something I started eating, like the soy-thyroid fiasco, because my diet has been constant, it is most likely something I wasn’t eating.

My research kept leading me back to the paleo or primal diet which is high fat, moderate protein, and low carb (no bad carbs). So why not? Well there is that whole vegetarian thing but I never gave up meat because I thought it was unhealthy to eat. It was out of concern for body acidity and environmental impact that I gave up on meat. I will keep things alkaline by going grain free and the eco issues are solved by buying local, pastured, ethically treated meat and not supporting factory farming. I always said I would go back to eating meat the moment we could raise our own on a small family farm but I guess I can’t wait that long. Of course I will have to put my own spin on the paleo diet and keep most of the fruits and veggies raw, drink my green smoothies, and not forgo dairy entirely. Another big factor is that the rest of my family eats meat and cooking/making different meals has got to stop. It will be such a huge stress reliever to make one meal that all of us eat!

This blog is not vegetarian centric in any way but I know that early this year when I posted a picture of a fish my son caught, some readers acted as though they wanted to come through their computer screens and claw my eyes out. I know some may be disappointed or angry to read I am going back to eating meat but I think I have explained some very solid reasons for doing so. It’s worth a try in my opinion.

I started this diet just before Christmas so it is hard to say with certainty how it is going but I am encouraged thus far that I am on the right track. I am already noticing that I am not experiencing bloating anymore, and I am not hungry between meals. Not hungry AT ALL. In fact I am having trouble getting in all the calories I should be consuming because my body already seems to be using fat stores for energy rather than sending messages to my brain that glucose fuel is needed and I need to eat carbs. I have also been sleeping better already, waking up slightly less in the night. No miracles to proclaim but there is improvement. I look forward to seeing what 2012 brings my way.

Right now I am reading lots about paleo/primal diets. It is based upon meats, seafood, nuts, healthy oils, greens, veggies, and fruit. We all know that previous generations were healthier than our own but rather than eating like my grandmother or my great-grandmother did, I am going back a bit further. The science is there and it is fascinating to read about the way we ate for thousands of years, primal health, and even ways we can exercise that can help us achieve the lean but immensely strong bodies of our ancestors. After reading The Primal Blueprint I was ready to kiss Mark Sisson, whose blog I used to eyeball occasionally but never read in depth, until now. He advises against chronic cardio and shows why that is actually not good for us to run marathons and do extensive cardio as so many do these days. I felt like a lazy slug because I had no desire to run long distances. I am totally content with running a mile or two max (and not every day) and yet all the cool kids seem to be doing marathons and half marathons. Now I am completely content to stick with my mild cardio workouts and weights.

Other Books I am Loving:

The Primal Blueprint Cookbook

Everyday Paleo (pictured above)

The New Evolution Diet

Hope I have answered the “What Will You Eat” question. I wanted to find a happy balance… WAPF with less grains and dairy, raw with more protein and diverse fats, and less sugar/carbs. I think that paleo /primal is a happy middle ground. Is it the “right” way? The jury is still out.

  • ahhsomemommy

    We’ve been considering starting the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is basically eliminating all grains, yeast, starches, so you’re eating meats, fruits,  and vegetables. It sounds very interesting and healthy for a person. I will have to look at this Paleo diet you mention. :)

  • Hi,

    Last year our family embarked on a similar journey. First we went gluten-free to try and solve our son’s health problems ( ), and when that only partly helped we learned about the GAPS diet. It is similar to both Paleo and SCD in what you end up eating, though there is a bit more to it. We eat a lot of homemade fermented foods and the diet starts with an introduction where you start at broth, fully cooked meat, and veggies, and then introduce more foods one at a time.

    We started it last February and the changes we have experienced have been truly astounding. There was a big learning curve and there were adjustments to make, but a year later we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    You can read about my changes on GAPS here:

    Good luck to you in your diet in the new year. It’s amazing what this kind of diet can do for a person. I feel truly blessed to have found it!

    • Subscribed to your blog Joy. Hope to get some good recipes ideas!

      • Thanks, Tiffany! We’ll keep the recipes coming :) All the recipes that are on our blog already are GAPS legal and so that makes them pretty close to being Paleo, too.

        I have another thought for you – if you are not already gluten-free, please get screened for celiac disease before cutting it out. You can get a simple blood draw to screen for celiac, but it needs to be done when you are eating lots of gluten regularly. Even a week or two off it can invalidate results!

        Last year when we changed our diet I didn’t know this or know why I should get tested, so now, a year later, I’m doing a gluten challenge and it is pure misery. I have a series on Celiac Testing Myths that might interest you, starting here:


        • It is not just celiac disease people that need to avoid grains.  Check out Robb Wolf’s book for the science.  I actually would NOT suggest a celiac screen for most people. For many people when a negative result comes back they keep eating grains and continue to damage their intestines and create inflammation and risk of auto-immune reactions.  There is a difference between celiac disease (true gluten allergy) and gluten sensitivity – which the majority of the population has because of the things discussed in Wheat Belly.  It is not just grains that have damaged our bodies – it is fast food, processed foods, toxins, chemicals etc.  BUT not that they are damaged, grains are taking their toll… 

  • Beccamalcs

    This is amazing! I’ve been reading your blog this year and feel as if I’ve gotten to know you a tiny bit. We have just started eating Primal as well, after trying everything from raw to, well, you name it. I hope you plan to blog and share your journey with us – so happy to know there are more of us!

  • Sara

    I truly believe there is no ONE diet that is perfect for everyone. You have to find what’s best for your own body. I think its awesome that you are finding that for yourself and going for it!

  • YogaAndBirth

    I’m SO GLAD you’re going paleo!! I love this blog and since I have been reading it I have also been vegetarian and raw.  But a little over the year ago I was converted to Paleo and I am a true believer! I also recommend The Paleo Solution book as well as the Paleo Solution podcast.  It really keeps me motivated on a weekly basis and provides applicable info that may not be addressed in the books. Now I have new reason to look forward to this blog as you become not just a Nature Mom but a Paleo/Primal Parent!  Welcome to our community!

  • Karen


    Please keep us posted on your progress!  I am very interested in hearing how this diet works for you.  Ever since watching the Fathead documentary a few months ago I have been wondering about the vegetarian route.  I also agree that it would be much easier to make meals that please everyone.  Unfortunately I have somewhat lost my taste for meat over the past two years. 

    Also, I am curious as to your current thoughts on links between meat and cancer.  I apologize if this hits too close to home for you.  However, we have a long history of various types of cancer in my family and it is a neverending concern for me.  Although I have read/watched many things that point toward a Paleo type diet for purposes of reducing risk of diabetes and/or heart disease, I have not encountered much if anything that discusses cancer risks.  Any thoughts or research you have discovered on the topic would be much appreciated.

    In the meantime, I have reserved Everyday Paleo from the library

    Happy New Year to you and your family!!


  • I posted this on the Wheat Belly blog and realized I meant to post it here… so here it is again (sorry)…

    YAY!  I have been reading your blog for some time now.  I am 15 weeks pregnant with my first child, at the age of 39 years old!!!  The ONE bit of wisdom I have not been able to gleam much has been on nutrition from you, I have eaten a Paleo type diet for years now.  In fact, I am finding my beliefs really challenged as I deal with food cravings and pregnancy.  I just WANT pasta for the first time in years.  So far I have held my ground :)There are some great Paleo Mom/Parent blogs our there, let me know if you want me to send them to ya!!!! Congrats on the journey, let us know how it is going!!!  Hang in there.  God has given us SO much to eat that does not come in a box or a bag!!! Check out Robb Wolf’s Food Matrix (free download from his website) it’s a great resource for all the “what the heck am I gonna eat” people out there.  It is a valid question, but just go back in time a bit people.  There are pasta or cracker trees out there.  This stuff is not natural – it is made in factories and shoved in a plastic bag.  People have eaten from God’s creation for centuries and in many parts of the world people still live on what that can hunt and grow!  It is a lifestyle shift for sure.  Old habits and comfort foods must die and be replaced by new loves!  BUT – examine your choices and see if much (not all) of the time it is not way more about convenience or satisfaction.  When you are tired an depressed an apple is just not the same as a big bowl of pasta perhaps.  Just a thought.  As for the Quinoa is healthy and Nourishing Traditions people (a book which has some great info by the way)… please remember that everyone’s bodies are different.  A majority of the population has damaged intestines, leaky gut etc and WILL have an inflammatory reaction to ANY grain, even “gluten-free” grain and some people even to nuts and seeds as well.  IF you do well on Quinoa or traditionally prepared grains that’s great – maybe your are one of the lucky ones (or maybe not, consider though that the longer you eat it the more likely you are to develop the same sensitivity over time)  however, people like Tiffany have studied their own bodies and are learning what works for them personally and what does not.  I also suggest that you do some homework before calling her “too extreme”.  Read Robb Wolf’s book if you love science!  Be educated about the “other side” and why they teach what they teach before you go just writing it off based on you opinions and personal experiences. Tiffany, like I said I have eaten this way for years, it is a great journey (often way more about our emotional and spiritual lives and what’s underneath our choices than simply what we are eating, or not eating).  You will continue to fine tune it for your own body and your family.  Hang in there and thanks for sharing!  Let me know if I can help (there are a lot of resource links and recipes on my blog by the way)Kelly

    • Lots of great info Kelly. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jenn M.

    I started reading The Perfect 10 Diet.  I am only half way through, but I like that it concerns 10 major hormones and not just insulin.  I went on a low GI Diet when I was diagnoised as hypoglycemic and insulin resistant.  I lost 20 lbs quickly and I felt great, but then I got pregnant and I have been battling to get rid of the carbs ever since.  Now is as good a time as any, but now after reading Perfect 10, I am more aware of other considerations.  Joining a CSA last year has really helped me put organic and raw foods on the table.

  • Frugal Babe

    TIffany, I’ve been reading your blog off and on for years.  So many of the things you do are the same things we do around here in terms of green living and parenting.  I’ve been vegetarian or vegan for several years, but last summer I read The Primal Blueprint and that got me started on researching Paleo/Primal living.  I ran for 15 years, but I had switched to walking a few years ago and I loved what I read in The Primal Blueprint about that :)  I do high-intensity bodyweight exercise nearly every day, but only for 15 or 20 minutes (I’m a big fan of Bodyrock).  No long runs for me anymore, and at 33 (and with two kids) I think I’m in the best shape of my life.  There’s definitely something to the chronic cardio thing.
    I eliminated wheat from our diet last summer, and I’ve been amazed at the result.  Although I’ve always been healthy, I used to have a nagging sniffle/throat clearing issue, and that has disappeared completely.  We still eat some grains (oats and quinoa for breakfast) and pseudo-grains like millet and buckwheat.  But eliminating wheat has been a huge positive.  We love kelp noodles in place of wheat-based noodles, and for the most part we don’t miss our wheat-based food at all.
    I’ve struggled with the meat issue.  I was vegan until my parents got backyard chickens – now we eat lots of eggs (and they’re amazing!)  I also started eating wild-caught salmon.  I’ve been debating other meat, but so far I can’t make myself take that plunge.  My reason for going veg was mainly ethical – it’s hard for me to get my head around the idea of animals dying so that I can eat them.  I’m still struggling with this one.  Not sure where I’ll end up on the food spectrum, but for now we’re eating lots of veggies, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, and fruit, with some oats and pseudo-grains thrown into the mix.
    I had missed your posts about going grain-free, but I think it’s interesting that we both started gravitating from a vegetarian diet towards a more paleo diet in the last year.  I hope it’s working out great for you!

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  • Thank you for this post Tiffany, I want to learn more about Primal/Paleo

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