Primal Family Living

Two Parents. Five Kids. One Radically Different Lifestyle.

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This Blog Has Entered Paleo Cryosleep

Hi everyone!

It’s been a year since we went primal, and things are good. We continue to fight the paleo fight, but unfortunately my time is spread too thin between too many projects (and six kids besides) and I can’t keep up with things here.

For the time being, any updates on our situation will happen at my regular ol’ blog, located here.

For now, this site stays where it is. Maybe I’ll find a coalition of blog-less paleo people who want to post here. Otherwise, I’ll see ya’ when I see ya’.

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Review: Paleo Bread by Julian Bakery

When I first read about Julian Bakery’s new paleo bread, I was admittedly pretty excited. At this point, it’s been almost 10 months since I’ve had a slice of bread, and I miss it. My whole family is a bread-loving clan.

Made with either almond flour or coconut flour, this bread promises to be a paleo replacement for evil wheat bread.

After reading a positive review elsewhere on the Net, I decided to contact Julian Bakery to see if I could get a sample. Feeding a family of 7 on the paleo/primal diet is expensive enough, and adding an $8 per loaf (plus shipping) habit isn’t something I wanted to jump into before knowing the product.

Heath at Julian Bakery came through for me. He agreed to send me some samples in exchange for a write-up, which I was happy to do. Within 24 hours I had my bread (it was overnighted from California, which I imagine isn’t cheap if you’re placing the order yourself) and as soon as I got the package I eagerly opened it up to give it a try.

I had one loaf of each kind – one made from almond flour, the other made from coconut flour. The bread is thinly sliced, and comes in 24 oz. loaves. The almond flour bread was dense, a bit dry, and to be honest, tasted of almost nothing. The coconut flour bread was softer, fluffier, and while still bland, had a noticeably better taste and just a hint of natural sweetness from the coconut. (This is by no means a sweet bread. This was a very, very subtle taste.)

Neither bread has sugar or salt listed in the ingredients, which explains why they’re so bland. First impression: pretty dull. One of the advantages of the primal diet is that food usually has more flavor, not less, so I was a bit surprised by this. But I wasn’t about to give up. I had no butter in the house (the horror!) and real bread needs butter, so I decided to hold off on making a final judgment until I got some.

The next day I tried the almond bread fried in olive oil with some eggs over easy and hamburger gravy for breakfast. It was passable, buried as it was under all those other flavors and mushy textures. That night, I tried the coconut bread under some coconut curry chicken, which would usually be served over rice. It served admirably, and soaked up the sauce nicely and softening considerably.

Today, I finally got some butter (there was much rejoicing!) and tried a couple things. I made grilled cheese out of both. The kids wouldn’t eat the one made with almond flour (“It tastes kind of like eating a sponge” said my six year old) but they did much better with the coconut flour bread. The six year old also got tired of the coconut bread grilled cheese before finishing it (“I got bored of it” she said) and she isn’t a picky eater. She did seem to make a passable PB&J out of it. We don’t really eat PB&J though because of all the peanuts, bad oils, and sugar. So if you have to use something not healthy to make your healthy bread edible, that’s not really a win in my book. The boys, though, all ate their coconut bread grilled cheese with gusto.

Next I busted out the toaster oven from storage. Because it’s been that long since we used it. I toasted up a slice of each, and gave them a generous slather of butter.

The almond flour toast tasted like burning. And went down hard, clumping in my throat. I handed it to Jamie and said, “No matter what I do, it tastes like grape nuts.” She tasted it, frowned, and said, “No way. Grape nuts taste a hundred times better than this.” I tried putting some jelly on it, because I miss toast and jelly. I could taste the jelly and the bread as if they were hitting totally separate taste centers in my brain at the same time. It was a weird double-whammy of boring and slightly off mixed with cloyingly sweet.

The coconut flour bread was passable as toast. It was even pretty decent. If I had felt like having more jelly (or had some of those awesome gooseberry jam from IKEA) I would have gone for that, and I think it would have been close enough to the real thing to satisfy cravings.

After 48 hours in my house, the coconut flour bread is gone. The almond flour bread is still 3/4 of a loaf. That should tell you something. I also feel a big lump in my stomach after eating these breads. This isn’t light fare, and you can’t go at it like wonderbread. It’s dense. It’s ultra-low-carb. It’s filling.

I like what Julian Bakery is trying to do here, and they’re making strides. But there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’d never drop $8 a loaf (plus expedited shipping to keep it fresh) on the almond loaf, and I think it would be a rare occasion indeed when I would buy the coconut bread. It’s just not good enough to make it worth the expense. We buy coconut flour for $6 a pound, and while we haven’t made our own paleo bread yet, this is making us want to try. It’s nice to have some toast or a sandwich here and there, but without the wow factor, there needs to be a reason to spend the big bucks for a bread substitute.

I really, really wanted to love these breads. I was so looking forward to writing a great review. I wish I could. I’m very thankful to Heath for sending me these samples, and I hope that if you’re in the market for paleo breads that you’ll give these a try. Maybe you’ll disagree with me. Maybe you’ll like these a lot.

For me, the search for paleo bread that tastes good and won’t break the budget continues.

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Why You Shouldn’t Cheat

The Cake is a Lie

Source – Domaacz/Deviantart

Last Saturday, we had a birthday party for my dad at our house. It was his 60th, so we had a big get-together, and all kinds of forbidden foods wandered through our door.

Being an occasion, of course, I excused myself (80/20 Rule!) from being strictly primal in my food selections. I had pie. I had cake. I had entirely too much scotch.

And then I had cake for breakfast the next morning, because, you know, I had coffee.

And of course I had rice on Monday. And Wednesday. And then there were the Chili Cheese Fries we ate on Tuesday. And then on Friday when we had an office party for a departing co-worker with red velvet cake from Wegmans (their bakery stuff is top-notch) I had a sliver. Oh, and a beer with that going away lunch, natch. And when Jamie gave in to a doughnut craving and brought home some Krispy Kreme bavarian cremes, yeah, I had one. Or two. And the potatoes in my eggs this morning. And of course I have not only been drinking wine every night this week (which would be fine if I weren’t still trying to lose weight) but also a few gin and tonics, because it was left over from the party and, well, I just wanted some. And yes, I had one last slice of that red velvet cake that was left in the office. It was a slightly larger one than last time, though. I had coffee, and of course you can’t have coffee by itself…

You see? Snowball. For almost 8 months I’ve been diehard about this way of eating, and have allowed for very few exceptions. An occcasional small serving of rice with Asian dishes is pretty much it, or some honey in my tea (but never more than about 2 spoonfuls a day). But once you fall off the wagon, it’s so easy to keep falling. If you have the food in your house, you’ll find an excuse to keep eating it. Sugar and wheat are addictive, and you keep wanting more. After having that cake, the 85% dark chocolate I usually eat as a small treat tastes dull. As my son said, “It tastes like all the flavor wore off.” It becomes easier to justify another indulgence as just one in a string of short-term indiscretions that you’ll stop doing any minute now.

In the mean time, while I have only gained a pound or two since this started (I’ve been stuck at about 36 to 38 pounds of weight loss and haven’t budged in over a month) I am definitely more bloated, more tired, and a couple of times after eating some of this stuff I’ve enjoyed stomach cramping, etc. My back also feels pretty lousy, and Jamie has also complained of back pain and arthritis issues coming back. Her hands haven’t bothered her since January, and now they’re really sore.

Is it worth it to cheat? Not really. Yeah, it tastes good. Yes, it feels nice to just let go and eat what friends are eating and stop being so neurotic about diet all the time when everyone constantly tries to serve you things you can’t have, and may even miss having or feel nostalgic for. (Pie! I LOVE pie!)

But is a few minutes of pleasure for the taste buds worth inflammation, bouts of exhaustion, and generally feeling like crap? I don’t think so. Which is why I’m going to climb back on the wagon now. Hopefully the bumps in the road won’t knock me back off.

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Lights Out! (Or Why We’re Too Dependent On Electricity)

Last Friday, my wife and I were talking in the living room.

I had the TV remote in my hand. I was tired, and I had already dozed off once putting our 3-year-old to bed. My good intentions to continue reading had gone out the window, and I was ready to watch something for entertainment with minimal brain-drain.

Our conversation kept me from getting to the actual watching of anything, but the TV was on, waiting for my input. The lights were on. My computer was on. A laptop was on. The air conditioner was running. Life in our merry, self-contained bubble was humming along, volts, watts, amps, and all.

Then we got hit with the mightiest Thunderstorm I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know it was coming. I had gotten an alert earlier in the day (via email, natch) that there were storms on the way. But nothing about their severity. So when the wind suddenly kicked up in the woods outside our house, it was surprising. It was nothing one minute, and the next minute it was seriously loud. I love storms – I sometimes wonder if I missed my calling, and should have been a storm chaser. I will drive into any black, gusting, raining weather event that isn’t a funnel cloud, just for the joy of it.

This storm, though, was terrifying. My trees – many of which are easily over 100 feet tall – were bending at angles I didn’t think possible without breaking. No few of these trees are close to my house. Close enough that if they fell, they could possibly even come crashing right into the upstairs bedrooms, where all of our little ones were sleeping. Being a parent makes you afraid sometimes in ways you never were before you became one. As I watched the wind torture and twist the forest around us, I found myself praying that our home would be spared.

Right about the time I gave up on my vigil by the window and headed back to the couch, I heard a very loud noise. I don’t really know how to describe it. It was a deep groaning sound, which, if I had to try to write it down, would be something like, “WaaaaaOOOOOOMMMMMM!” Like something deep in the fabric of space/time had ruptured. And no sooner had we heard the noise than the lights flickered and died.

Then they came back on again.

Then off. And this time, they stayed off.

We started scrounging around for candles. This wasn’t the first time we’d lost power in the new house, but we weren’t exactly well-stocked. We had a few pillar candles we knew would last a while, and we fired them up. I found a flashlight, and a crank-powered emergency radio. The reception stunk, so I installed an app on my phone that would let me listen to local radio and find out what was going on. My phone was fully charged, but I knew that wouldn’t last long. I dug out my portable charging station from my laptop bag. There would be a few good charges left in it if I was lucky. I had just topped it off a month prior for a business trip, and hadn’t used it since. I gave it to Jamie, whose phone was already nearly dead, and she plugged in.

We took stock. We had no electricity, and it was still 89 degrees out, even with the storm. The next day was supposed to be over 100. We had no water, because our house is fed by a well with an electric pump. That meant no showers, toilets would be dicey, and we wanted to save whatever was in the pressure tank for drinking. We of course had no water containers pre-filled for such contingencies, though we did have a freshly-filled kiddy swimming pool out back holding a couple hundred gallons which could be used for flushing. Serendipity, I guess.

We had no air movement in the house, so it was already getting stuffy. And we had just filled our freezer with 119 pounds of grass-fed beef – our first ever order – which we now had to worry about if the power was going to be gone for long. That weird sound we had heard spoke of major electrical system damage, so I wasn’t counting on a quick fix. Faced with darkness, no TV, no energy for reading, and not much else to talk about, we went to bed.

When we woke up in the morning, there was still no juice. I checked my phone. Though it had been working the night before after the power went out, it now lacked cell phone reception or a data connection. It was useless. Every call I made, even if I could get through, dropped almost instantly. Text messages bounced back. I drove to the store in my car to see if I could get some water. The air conditioning in my car felt amazing. It was already on its way into the 90s, and the heat index was supposed to be 110. The first store I went to had power, but their registers were down so they were closed. I made my way back up the parkway near our house to another store 5 miles away. They had electricity and things were running, so I bought a few gallons of water and used the restroom. (This is the time when you start realizing how much you take functional home plumbing for granted.)

We decided to get out of dodge. We had already planned to go out of town to visit friends, so we did just that. Ironically, though the power was on in Baltimore, we went to church there on Sunday and the parish we visited had a busted HVAC system. It must have been 95 degrees inside that church. I found myself wondering how in the world people did it in the old days. The church we were visiting – St. Alphonsus Liguori – was built in 1845! They were weathering hot summers for half a century before air conditioning was even invented. So either it’s gotten hotter since then, modern people (particularly me) are complete wusses, or people back then had some trick for staying cool that I don’t know about.

When we got home on Sunday afternoon, things were back to normal. The power was on. The food in our freezers was still good, though some raw meat in the fridge had gone south quickly. Our air conditioners were running and our house felt habitable. Perhaps most importantly, I could get on the Internet. (I kid. Sort of.)

And all of this got me to thinking – we’re way too dependent on electricity. Not that it isn’t nice, not that I don’t love what it does for us, and not that I don’t plan to continue making the most of it for as long as it’s still around. But the second it goes out we’re completely vulnerable. We can’t eat, we can’t bathe, we can’t use the toilet, we can’t keep cool (or warm, if it happens in winter) and we’re pretty much helpless. We’re also incredibly bored.

It makes me realize that I want to be more prepared. I need more candles. I need water and non-perishable food storage. Probably some sort of camp toilet. A hand pump for my well. A reliable cooking source (unfortunately, we have an electric stove). I want to know that if there’s another major storm, or if we get hit by an EMP strike, or utility prices go up by a bazillion percent, that my family can transition quickly and effortlessly to a backup plan. Jamie and I have even talked about just turning off the master breaker once in a while and roughing it, just to condition ourselves. That last idea might be a bit drastic, but it’s only when the power is completely out that you realize how much your behavior has to change. Just turning off the TV, computers, and overhead lights and burning some candles is a poor simulation.

The second part of this realization is that we use electronics to avoid life’s natural rhythms. If I’m staring at a TV or a laptop late in the evening, it acts as a stimulant as often as not, keeping my brain going full tilt until the wee hours of the morning unless I force myself away. If I read a book, or even my Kindle, I zonk out when my body is ready. It doesn’t matter what I want to do, what matters is how much sleep I need. Biology takes over. Electricity basically enabled us to defy nature. We don’t have to get up or go to bed with the Sun anymore. We can overcome temperature or weather or the elements. We don’t have to get our hands dirty toiling in the soil. We are disconnected from real life, and from the Earth itself. I’m a big fan of modern life and the technology that drives it, but I think we’ve lost something by abandoning the primal lifestyle entirely. Being primal is about more than just what you eat or how you exercise. It’s being in sync with the world around you and having a place in all of it. I guess you could say that I’m a technophile with an agrarian streak that runs pretty deep.

What do you think? What do you do? Are you prepared for emergencies? Do you ever just shut off the power and go dark for a while just to get a feel for it? If not, have you ever considered it?

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Country Living

For years, my wife and I have wanted to live out in the country. But still have access to the city. Rural living with an urban twist. This is possibly just a part of who we are – geeks with a certain wistful longing for slow living. It could also be a product of where we came from. She grew up in the desert, in Tucson. It was a nowhere town, and she spent much of her childhood dreaming of getting out. I grew up in a small suburb of Binghamton, New York. A few thousand people lived there. I had a big yard, and endless forests beyond. I also wanted out, but wasn’t sure where to go.

After we met, we both left our respective homes and came to Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. We wanted New York, but we knew we’d feel trapped if we couldn’t stretch our legs. D.C. was the perfect compromise – upscale, fast-paced, cosmopolitan city with just a short jaunt to slow, southern living, and back again.

When we moved here in 2002, we didn’t think we’d ever be able to afford the kind of house we wanted for our family. We thought we’d be stuck with condos and townhomes. A decent single family with a yard back in the heady days before America slouched off into perma-recession was closer to a million bucks than I’d ever be able to tackle. But the years went by, the economy got kicked around, and things got a little better for us at a time when not everyone was so fortunate. And so, we were able to scrape into a mortgage on a place that looks like this:

Four bedrooms, a big basement, a huge living room, and three acres in the woods. Which means the kiddos have the room to grow up in trees and piles of leaves,catching butterflies, collecting rocks, and bringing home grass stains. The forest will be their fortress, and they will know what it means to run, fast as they can, as the seasons tumble by. They will play capture the flag after dark, and never have to worry about the neighbors or the busy street out front.

When you don’t think you can have something and then it comes, you realize what a blessing it is. And hopefully you never take it for granted.

The other night, I was taking out the trash, and as I made my way down the unlit gravel driveway, I noticed that darkness was punctuated with the flickering of fireflies. That was one of my favorite things when I was younger – I’d sit on the back porch of my parents’ house and just watch them glow. And here, at last, I was in a place of my own where I was surrounded by this tranquility. The air was thick with the smell of some aromatic resin I don’t recognize – the aroma of a tree or shrub that wafted up like incense to the heavens. 9 years of marriage, five kids, and eight moves later, this, at last, was home.

My back yard in the moonlight. You don’t get tired of this view.

We still love the city, and go whenever we can. We take the kids to museums. We eat interesting and exotic cuisines. We feed off the energy of a metropolis alive with action. But then, at night, we get to go home to a place of refuge. Instead of the sound of traffic, police cars, and passers by, we hear the night birds, the crickets, the frogs, and the rustling of the trees in the wind.

I need to learn to do a better job of pulling back from my keyboard and monitor and going outside to breathe. I should probably stop trying to be productive into late into the night and follow the natural rhythm of the day. Changing the way you eat is one thing. Changing the way you live is another. But it’s there, at last, right at my fingertips. It’s within my reach to live simpler and live slower. And that life, I must tell you, sings a very seductive song.

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Cheap Wine Review: Lucky Duck Tempranillo

One advantage of being primal is that you’re allowed to drink alcohol. Some of my stricter paleo brothers and sisters deprive themselves of this pleasure, but although I see the advantages of tea-totalling, to me it isn’t worth the cost.

Wine – specifically red wine – is at the very top of the “alcohol can be beneficial” list. And as much as I’d like to be a $10-$20 bottle of wine guy with an occasional $50-$100 bottle for special occasions, I have kids. So I’ve become a $2-$6 bottle of wine guy with an occasional $10-$20 bottle for special occasions. C’est la vie.

The stunner here is that as the years have gone on, I’ve found some absolutely impressive values for $6 or less. It used to be that wines in this price range were astringent and bitter, but now there are some truly fantastic buys out there for that price that won’t make you feel like you have to choke them down. I intend to review these here as I come across them. Tonight, I’m starting with a wine from that bastion of Oenophilia, Wal-Mart. I’ll start with a selection from their signature exclusive vintner’s collection, known as Lucky Duck.

Lucky Duck Tempranillo

The bottle isn’t really that blurry. That’s just my crappy Droid X camera.

I was confronted with an impressive array of choices from the Lucky Duck brand. I’d had very good luck with their Riesling in the past, which tastes a great deal like the Barton & Guestier Vouvray for less than half the price, and pairs remarkably well with spicy thai food or curries. The entire Lucky Duck lineup comes in at $3.97 a bottle, so it’s well within the acceptable price range. There’s a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, an Argentinian Malbec, Southeast Australian Shiraz, and a Spanish Tempranillo. Lately, I’ve developed a weak spot for Tempranillos, so I reached for that one.

I have a glass in front of me as I type, and the bottle has been open for a little less than an hour. I’m no sommelier, but I know what I like, so here are my tasting notes. I may be using the words all wrong, but you probably don’t know what I’m talking about either! ;)

When I stick my nose in the glass, I smell wine. Shocker, right? But I do pick up the red fruit notes and a bit of a grassy scent. This wine has nice tannins, and some decent structure. It tastes a little young (I didn’t see a vintage on the bottle) but not too young. It has some of that young wine tartness about it that can be either a good or a bad thing depending on where it falls.

The flavors are of bright, red fruit. Most of all, I taste ripe cherries. There’s some spice on the finish that I like – I’m a fan of big, bold wines that grab you by the tongue and whip your head around. This isn’t big like a Sonoma Cabernet (and I’ve had some Tempranillos that I think are there) but it’s got some kick.

I’m not sure what this would pair with since I’m just drinking it by itself it for the sheer taste of it, but I’m guessing it would be amazing with some sheep’s milk cheese. The Spanish might pair this with a Manchego, but personally I’d go for a Pecorino Toscano and some Italian Salami – probably a Sopressata.

Since I’m already talking about food and not what’s wrong with it, you may have already guessed that I like this wine. I think it’s a fantastic bargain for under $4. I’ve tried several Tempranillos lately in this price range (from Trader Joe’s and Aldi, my go-to cheap wine sttores) and I think I’d put this at the top of my list. If you like Tempranillo, definitely give it a try.

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Top 10 Reasons Your “Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Paleo” Are Silly

Brillat Savarin

I may not be a Cheese Slave, but this triple-cream brie is proof that goodness exists in the universe. And that you can taste its pure essence.

A friend sent me a link to a blog called “Cheese Slave,” where the blogger posted her “Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Paleo.” The friend who sent this to me is considering a paleo lifestyle, and wanted to know what I thought. I don’t have room to quote every thing the Cheese Slave writes, so this is how we’ll roll: I’ll post her line items in bold, with numbers. Beneath that, I’ll post the first couple sentences of her comments in italics, with my commentary in blue beneath that. Clear as mud? Good.

If you want to read the rest of her analysis, go check out her post. Which is a good idea, because then this will all make a lot more sense.

Here goes:

 

1.) I Really Like Cheese

Which is why I named this blog CHEESESLAVE. But cheese is verboten on the paleo diet.

It really depends on who you talk to, but many people (including me) eat dairy, including cheese. Some paleo people promote it, others forbid it. But since Jesus didn’t come down from heaven and teach us what to eat, there’s flexibility on this (and every other rule.)

The biggest thing to watch out for with dairy is the hidden sugar. Also, for people who are lactose intolerant (which is most of the world) it can be a problem. But if it’s not a problem for you, who cares?

 

2.) I Really Like Bread

Crusty sourdough with lots of butter. Hearty brown German sunflower bread. Croissants. (Yes, croissants. They may be made with white flour, which is very low on the nutrient-density scale. But did you know they are almost 40% butter?)

And is bread really that bad for you? How can it be, when humans around the world have been thriving on it as a staple in their diet for over 10,000 years (and possibly up to 50,000 years)?

I really like bread, too. But I also really believe that wheat does some nasty things to us. The paleo argument against grains is that we were never evolved to eat them (just like a dog never evolved to eat broccoli) and so we don’t process them particularly well. I’ve not only lost 36 pounds this year eating this way, but I’m not all bloaty anymore. My wife no longer suffers from arthritis and neither of us have to go to the chiropractor now. (We used to go frequently.) Grains not only have an effect on your blood sugar, but they also attack your digestive tract and have inflammatory chemicals that make you suffer from aches and pains and have a food baby.

That said, people are remarkably adaptive. Agriculture built civilization. It’s better to eat bread than to starve, that’s for damn sure. For more, read my post on “Is Wheat Bad for You?

 

3.)  I Really Like Cookies. And Cake. And Pies.

Hey, I understand, you’re on the GAPS diet, you can’t eat grains. That’s cool. I totally respect that. I gave up gluten for 2 years when I was healing my gut in my 20s. (And yes, I did overcome gluten intolerance.)

But would I go without grains for life? No way. I don’t eat sweets every day, but I do enjoy them often. And of course, I do try to use unrefined sweeteners.

Ditto #2. I love this stuff, but it’s not worth it. And now that I’ve given up almost all sugar, pretty much every dessert now tastes extremely sweet to me. Too sweet. Will I cheat sometimes? Probably. If I go to France, I’m eating a chocolate croissant and don’t even try to stop me. But I see this sort of thing as an indulgence and not a staple anymore.

 

4.) Paleo is Low Carb

By default. And low carb messed me up. See my post: Why I Ditched Low Carb.

Be sure to read the bit about Chris Masterjohn, Dr. Weston Price, the people living near the Arctic Circle and fertility. That was key for me, and really opened my eyes. If you have to eat thyroid gland in order to reproduce, your low carb diet may not be working so well

Most people don’t get messed up by low carb. Most doctors now recognize that low carb is the one thing most people can do to control their weight. Also, those inflammatory chemicals in grains are starting to be tied to the arterial inflammation that causes heart disease. I think we’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the coming decade.

As for the need for carbs – you get plenty of complex carbs from fruits and vegetables. Find me some science that says anyone NEEDS simple carbs in addition to complex carbs. I don’t think it’s out there.

 

5.) The Paleo Diet is Too Restrictive

We live in a world dominated by pizza, nachos and chocolate chip cookies. Are you really going to tell your kids they can’t have these things — ever — because (ahem) “they’re not paleo”?

Why not, instead, learn how to make healthy versions of nachos and chocolate chip cookies and pizza (recipe coming soon)?

The paleo diet is restrictive. Which is awesome, because it’s the non-restrictiveness of the American diet that makes most of us walk around looking like those bubble people from Wall-E. I will trade dietary restriction for the ability to bend over and touch my toes. And not look like I should be rolled into the room with a stick.

And yes, my kids are coping. When we’re at a party, we let them stray a little bit. But we have awesome substitutes for things. Caveman cookies (almond-flour based) instead of wheat-based. Pizza frittata instead of real pizza. The food we eat is really delicious and satisfying, which is why we’ve been able to do this for 6 months as a family with no real complaints or problems.

 

6.) Paleo is Not Scalable

There’s a reason the hunters and gathers died out. Nothing against hunter-gatherers, but they were all almost completely wiped out by people who ate cheese and bread.

Paleo isn’t entirely scalable, it’s true. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s not a religion, it’s a healthier way of eating. That said, we could be doing a lot better. Mark Sisson has a series called, “Could Paleo Feed the World?” which I haven’t read because I don’t lose sleep over this. The first post is here.

 

7.) Paleo is Based on Fantasy

The paleo diet is fundamentally flawed. It’s a diet based on misinformation about the past and the present. Paleo adherents believe that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is somehow superior to that of the sedentary agriculturalist. It is a romantic ideal based on fantasy, not reality.

The reality is that living as a hunter-gatherer is not an easy life, and it was not a lifestyle people chose because they thought it was cool or better.

No serious person in the paleo community argues that we should go back to a complete hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The argument is that the food we ate and the sort of exercise we got during that period of human history formed our genetics, and consequently the way our bodies work. We have the advantages of a modern lifestyle, but we can still eat and move the way people did way back when. The food is good, the exercise is less onerous than what most doctors recommend, and you feel good about all of it.

It’s the best of both worlds, so why shouldn’t we enjoy it?

 

8.) Paleo is Impractical

Is anyone really expecting people to get out and hunt for their breakfast? How about foraging? Are we expected to forage for our all of our meals? On top of working 9 hours per day plus taking care of the kids and getting them to soccer practice?

This is really a repeat of number 7, so see my answer for that one.

 

9.) Paleo is Expensive

I can make a one-pound loaf of whole wheat sourdough bread for about 50 cents to $1. Compare that to anywhere from $4-12 for a pound of ground beef.

Dried beans cost around 25 to 50 cents after they are soaked and cooked.

If you’re in your twenties and you have a lot of disposable income, then sure, paleo is no problem.

But for a single mom who is struggling to put food on the table to feed her three kids, it’s another story. If she’s on the paleo diet, she’s not allowed to stretch meals with beans and rice and bread. Because it’s “not paleo”.

Paleo can be expensive, but there’s something else to consider: when you go Paleo, you eat less. A high protein, high fat diet fills you up and keeps you happy longer.

Did you know that the average wheat-eater consumes 400 more calories a day than a person who doesn’t? This is because wheat spikes blood sugar, which brings on insulin, which makes you hungry. Multiply 400 calories times seven people (my family size) and you get a whopping 2800 calories of extra food a day. That’s the recommended daily intake for an active adult male!

We spend roughly the same for groceries now as we did before. And the food seems to last us longer. If we were completely broke, we couldn’t afford to eat this way, but people with a normal grocery budget can.

 

10.) The Paleo Diet is a Waste of Time and Energy

I often see Paleo people on Facebook or Paleo Hacks arguing over whether or not honey is paleo. They proudly pronounce their disdain for milk and other dairy products, as “neolithic foods”.

I ask you, why do people sit around arguing about whether or not honey is paleo? Why not just go buy some honey at the grocery store? Or, better yet, a farmer’s market?

Why not just feed yourself with what is available, and then get on to more important things, such as inventing alternative energy sources or curing cancer?

I think arguing over Paleo is about as fruitful as arguing over religion and politics. Probably less. We all do it sometimes, but at the end of the day we wonder why we bothered.

But the religion angle has significance here. I think for some people, their Paleo/Primal way of life is a sort of religion. The entire thinking is predicated upon an evolutionary perspective, so it wouldn’t surprise me if many Paleo/Primal people don’t subscribe to any higher, overarching belief system. (This is a guess on my part. I’m happy to be wrong.) If your nutrition and fitness program is a sort of religious system, though, and if the question of what falls under the “approved foods” list is like asking which books should be in the New Testament, you’re going to have the sort of debate that led to St. Nicholas punching Arius right in the face.

This is a way of living and eating, and people care about getting it right because it has such good effects. That said, I think people get too wrapped up in all the details. Read about it, understand it, practice it, but don’t sweat the details too much. Chances are you ate differently before, and if you go off the path a bit you’re probably going to survive just fine.

So if you want to eat honey, eat some damn honey! If you want some killer cheese, have it! I do. It hasn’t thrown off my progress yet, and I feel great.

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Primal vs. Paleo – What’s the Difference?

Caveman

I’m sometimes asked what the difference is between Primal and Paleo, and what books I recommend on the topic. I can only recommend what I’ve read, which is the Primal Blueprint books/website by Mark Sisson. For the curious, I’d start here. I have other books I would like to read, but haven’t gotten there yet. Top of that list is Wheat Belly, which isn’t a Primal/Paleo book but definitely seems to be an appropriate part of the canon.

As I understand it, Primal is Paleo, for all intents and purposes, but it’s somewhat less strict. It makes provisions for consuming dairy, alcohol, and some other foods that are not considered “Paleo.”

The bottom line with both of these approaches to nutrition is that for the better part of a million years (going back to the paleolithic, natch) people ate and exercised a certain way. Then agriculture came along, the development of cultivated cereal grains (and cities, and civilization, and eventually desk jobs) and we weren’t well-adapted for the change. Sort of like how you don’t feed a dog broccoli, even if they can technically eat it, you don’t feed a person grains. We were never well-adapted for that type of food.

Which was bad enough when we were all farmers, but at least we were out working all day in the fields and burning off a lot of the simple carbs (even though the grains do nasty things to your digestive system, blood sugar, and inflammatory response). But now we sit around getting fat eating what the government tells us is healthy. Exercise is up, fat consumption is down, and heart disease is still on the rise.

Primal/Paleo look at nutrition from an evolutionary perspective, and analyze what we as humans are good at digesting, the types of physical activity we need to stay fit (which is not 30-60 minutes of high heart-rate cardio every day) and the lifestyle that accommodates both.

It actually fits well with families that want to spend more time together, eat fresh and local food, and get off the electronics 24/7, which many of use were looking to do long before we ever found the Primal lifestyle. If there are other resources you’ve found particularly helpful, please list them in the comments.

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Welcome to Primal Family Living!

Introductory posts are obligatory, so here goes:

My name is Steve. In January, 2012, my wife Jamie and I decided it was time for a change. We both needed to lose weight (me by a significantly bigger margin) and we were tired of eating the way we were eating, tired of feeling crappy, tired of being tired.

When I read something about Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint, it intrigued me. It sounded like it made sense. So we talked it over and Jamie bought the books. It took us a week or two to kick ourselves into gear, but once we started, it was all or nothing.

Now, six months later, I’ve lost 36 pounds and about 4 inches off my waist, and I feel years younger. Jamie has lost 30 pounds, and has seen much of her chronic pain from old injuries, a bad back, and arthritis disappear.

The Difference Four Months Makes:
Left: February, 2012. Right: May, 2012.

We’ve both experienced energy levels and boosts to our moods and outlook on life that neither of us can believe. We still have our good days and bad days, but everything we’ve experienced has told us this is worth doing for the long term. The food is delicious, we’re eating all the things you’re always told not to eat (Steak, bacon, egg yolks, coconut oil, etc.) and watching our cholesterol drop, and we’re generally realizing that this has given us a new lease on life.

We also have five kids, ranging in age from a 1 year-old to a 15 year-old. We decided that we would change our diet and lifestyle as a family, and they’ve been troopers. It’s not always easy, but they’re happy and healthy, and a good deal less hyper than they used to be. We’re still exploring the benefits of eating primally for kids, and we do modify their diet somewhat to make provisions for the fact that they’re little fusion reactors and can burn more carbs than we can.

Being primal is about more than just how you eat, though. It’s how you move. It’s how you relax and play. It’s how much sleep you get. It’s how often you get away from all the electronic stimulation in your life and actually allow your natural biological rhythms to take over and let your body tell you what you need.

Considering that I’m writing this post on my laptop at 1AM on a Thursday night, I’ll just come right out and say that we aren’t living this lifestyle perfectly. But we see it as a long-term change, so it’s not so much a destination as a journey, if you’ll allow me the cliché.

It’s challenging to live a primal/paleo lifestyle in a world hell-bent on feeding you grains and sugars, but it’s more doable than you might think. I decided to start Primal Family Living so we could discuss what we do, how we handle things, and the foods we eat with other families looking to do the same.

If you’re interested in living paleo/primal, going grain or sugar-free, or just want to know what this whole thing is all about, I’m glad to have you aboard. I don’t know all the answers, but by starting the discussion, I think we are in a better position to figure them out together.

Thanks for stopping by!