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Thursday, October 6, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

How I lost 70 pounds on the primal diet

Losing weight is a challenge. It has taken me most of my adult life to find a workable way to do it. Along the way I have tried many, many different approaches from heavy exercise regiments, to calorie restriction and even becoming a vegetarian. Up until about one year ago the most 'success' I had achieved was on an Atkins type low carb diet. While low carbing I lost weight for a while, but ultimately I couldn't stick with the program and I rebounded to my highest weight ever.

For disclosure, I am 6 feet 2 inches tall, at the my heaviest I weight over 290 pounds. Today I am still 20 - 30 pounds overweight at 220 pounds, but it is still coming off and I have no trouble staying with the diet that has helped me drop a quarter of my weight in just about one year.

My dietary approach is a version of the primal diet, which again is a variant of a paleo way of eating. I am not sure if there's much point in separating between the primal and a paleo names, I use primal because that is the name I first found when I discovered this lifestyle. Both approaches have the same basis as they advocate going back to eating the way our ancestors did. The idea is very simple, but the effects have been dramatic for me and many people like me. In fact, the core concepts are so simple that I will attempt to explain exactly how I lost this much weight in just one blog post.
The first principle I needed to adapt to when I started on my primal lifestyle change was that eating primal is a low carb diet that is not really low carb. By that I mean that just like on the Atkins diet, I avoid all sugar in drinks and processed foods. The difference is that on the primal diet I don't worry about carbohydrates anymore, as long as they come from a natural source, typically a vegetable or fruit. This one change alone transformed the low carb experience for me from a crazy 'mind-over-matter' dietary battle to a sensible lifestyle change. Put simply, going primal to me meant eating everything that I loved from the Atkins diet, with a lot more fresh vegetables and fruit. The fact that I no longer needed to pay attention to total carbs made the diet much more sustainable for me.

The second major difference that the primal lifestyle introduced me to was that losing weight is not about just what you eat, or how much you work out or any other single factor. To regain great health is a holistic approach where the food, the body and the mind interact to support each other. Where I would previously say that I will start a diet and then when I have lost enough weight to run I will pick that up, I now started eating differently and moving differently at the same time. Changing what I ate had a huge impact, but the simple act of walking more had a dramatic impact. The combination of eating healthier and walking more was truly synergistic for me. When combined the two boosted the effects of each other.

Finally, the primal philosophy doesn't end with eating right and moving more. It encompasses a full system of health that also includes the mind. I had never realized the connection between stress and weight gain for example, or understood how important getting enough sleep is for overall health. There are hundreds of little interconnected things that determine our overall health. It might seem complicated to control, and it is, the good news is that our bodies are great at regulating it own health if it is given the proper environment to do it. For me, the way to superior health is in choosing natural alternatives whenever it is possible.

How do you know if something is natural or not? For food I use this simple test: Could I have found this food in nature? I apply this quick rule to any ingredient I use or to the ingredients of any meal I buy. If the food is full of chemicals I can't pronounce, if it is boxed and I can't tell what is in it or if it comes from a dispenser I stay away. This rule is simple, but it also eliminates virtually all the aisles in the grocery store. Most of the food I eat I make myself from whole ingredients. I buy cuts of meat and fresh vegetables, this is the base of my diet. I sometimes get fish, but always a cut of fish, never fish fingers or other processed fish products. I get fresh fruits and sometimes I eat nuts and berries if the fancy strikes. Some primal advocated says to stay away from potatoes and tomatoes and a couple other vegetables, but I choose not to complicate my diet that way. If it is a fresh vegetable it is good enough for me.

The primal lifestyle has been a huge success for me, and this is how I have done it:

I avoid all drinks that contain sugar. This means I drink water, kefir, coffee and tea, nothing else. If you take only one thing from this post I hope this would be it. Do not drink soda or other high sugar drinks. It's one of the worst things you can do for your health

I do not eat anything that contains refined sugar. This means candy, chocolate, ice cream, desserts, cakes and the like. This is probably the most difficult part for me, but well worth it. I promise that it gets easier after a few weeks.

I stay away from processed foods. I don't eat things like TV dinners, spam, cereals, ding dongs, chips, mashed potatoes, instant noodles and a whole host of similar things.

Finally, I don't eat grains. This means that breads are out, same for pizza, hamburger buns, tortillas and so on. Some say that eating grains is inherently unhealthy, but I stay away from these products because they metabolize in the body similarly to sugar. I've noticed that eating white bread or pizza leads to the same issues as if I eat candy or ice cream. I don't react badly to grains really, so I will sometimes eat bread, but only bread I make myself which is a lot darker than commercial breads in the US.

That is the things I don't eat, the list of what I do eat is a lot easier:

All types of meat, fish and seafood
Any amount of fresh vegetables
Fruits, nuts, seeds and berries

This way of eating means I end up making almost all of my food from scratch, which has also proved to be a positive change. It gives me more control over what I eat, it's easier to control the portions, my cooking skills are improving and the meals are cheaper in the long run. The downside is that it can be easy to fall into a pattern of eating a very limited selection of foods. The diet became a lot easier for me to stick with when I started to add more variety to my foods.

That is pretty much all I do food wise and it has had enormous impact on my life. As I've said I've lost 70 pounds and reap all the benefits of that kind of weight loss. Even more important to me though is that I have 100% eliminated a severe pollen allergy and gotten rid of migraines that I have struggled with my entire life.

Living primal is more than just food though. I have started exercising more which has also had a very positive effect on my life. The primal way doesn't prescribe a lot of long cardio session, rather it focuses on strength and movement. I get my movements from doing a lot of walking and playing with my kids. The strength portion I handle with body weight exercises like pull ups and push ups.

The strength work and weight loss has transformed my body to the point where I am starting to be impressed when I see myself in the mirror. At 300 pounds I was not very impressed. I have gained muscle mass which means that I have actually lost more than 70 pounds of body fat and excess water weight.

The final part of the primal puzzle for me is to reduce stress and enjoy life. This part has been the easiest for me to embrace. I have always been good at not getting too stressed and having a positive outlook. Discovering the connection between physical and mental health has inspired me to pay even more attention to these things. For example, I started meditating some time after I started my primal lifestyle.



  1. Have marked this post to read in the morning when my brain is functioning well.....this has me interested....i need to read more

  1. I've lost 16 lbs. so far, and intend to keep going for the rest of my life (since I so happen to be allergic to the non-paleo foods). It took me about a year of eating Paleo before the weight started coming off, but once I cut back my fruit/nut consumption, things started moving. Since I have arthritis, I don't do the exercises, but I do necessary stuff around here, like mow my own lawn (I purposely bought a basic mulcher with no drive gear or bag, and if I want it to go somewhere in my uneven, lumpy yard, I have to push it!), scrub the tub, garden, stack/bring in firewood, and other household chores.

    With winter coming, I'm looking at getting some sort of exercise machine to use indoors while the snow flies and the driveway freezes over.

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