Primal Case-Studies: Richard’s story about regaining vitality and health
Richard is a friend and colleague of mine who switched to the Primal life-style a couple of months ago. The difference this has made to his life has made him almost as obsessed with nutrition and health as I am!
What was your health situation before you decided to change your diet and life-style?
Not too bad, other than an operation in December to remove a benign tumour. I am an active sportsman (cricket, football, squash), and regularly cycled, ran and swam to keep up my level of aerobic fitness for my triathlon hobby. I wasn’t too happy with my diet, and indeed, other aspects of my life in terms of energy levels and weight. I felt that if I didn’t do the exercise I was doing, I would suffer even further from a predilection to put on weight.
What caused you to suddenly make changes in your life?
I think that the seed of change was blowing around my person for a while given the above answer, waiting for a way in. I didn’t know what that change would be, but I knew I had an opening to investigate and explore a change. I guess, ultimately, that age and weight were key factors and feeling that both were catching up with me. It was dawning on me that I needed to do something if I was to continue with the active sports that I am involved in – but the catalyst for change was without doubt the initial discussion I had with you, Peter, and hearing how you had made these changes and how you had made them.
What changes did you make in your life and what pace and order did you make them in?
Well, due to my personality, which is somewhat addictive, I listened and chatted more to you, did an evening’s worth of scouring the net, explained and shared what I could with my wife. I asked if she would be comfortable with such a sudden change and helping me cater for it (which I think is a very important factor if you are married and/or with children). So with that, some initial (and probably clumsy) planning around meals and what I should and shouldn’t be eating, I pretty much jumped straight in. I think that the first change was ruling out all cereals/grains/pastas/milk immediately and vastly reducing my sugar intake, which did lead to me thinking “OK, it’s dead easy knowing what not to eat…..but what does that mean in terms of meal planning?”. So, the second change was around starting to plan better, which was helped as I began to understand more about my body and the dramatic change that I was putting it through. I’m into my third month now, and now the primal lifestyle basics are things that are normal part of my everyday life, so I’m starting to plan my next steps, which will include an alteration to my exercise regime mainly, but also gaining more specific knowledge in terms of what I’m eating and what it’s doing in more depth.
What changes have you seen to your quality of life so far and what difference has it made to you?
Lots!! The most noticeable change has been to my weight. When I started living this way 10 weeks ago, I weighed 101.5KG, as I type this, I’m now 91.5KG – and I’ve not starved myself (far from it), I haven’t counted a single calorie, I haven’t sweated buckets in a gym or endured 3 hour runs, in fact, all I’ve done is made the changes I mention above. The difference this has made (apart from being delighted to find those clothes fitting that I kept in the slim hope I’d be able to wear them again) is that being lighter has increased my self-esteem and improved my own body image, which I think are not to be underestimated psychologically. This is to add to the obvious physical benefits that being thinner makes to you. Another change has been a real improvement in my sleep routine. For years I struggled to get to sleep at night, often lying awake for ages fighting a losing battle. Now, however, my average sleep duration has increased to what for me is an amazing 7.25hrs, and the quality of my sleep seems to have improved as well. I think that other changes are knock-on effects from a severe reduction in my nocturnal restlessness as well as benefits from how I’m now treating my body, such as having more energy, less of a tendency to be so stressed (this hasn’t gone completely, although I’m hopeful that it will continue to improve), and generally being a happier and more content person.
What have you learned about diet and health you did not know before?
More than I can reasonably write here I think! Given that I was starting with my bar pretty low in this area, I could argue that every piece of information in this area counted as something I’d learned. If I can distil this into a more succinct answer, I will. Learning that it’s all about controlling insulin secretion at its heart was eye-opening, as well as understanding how the ‘staple’ foods that I’d been relying on all my life do, in fact, encourage the secretion of insulin and how we should rely on the reserves that our bodies will build up naturally to do the buying and selling in our bodies if we follow the lessons of our forefathers (Grok and his mates) and eat primally. Understanding our DNA set-up (well, at a basic level) and how we can, in fact, programme our genes by understanding what happens when we eat what we eat, drink what we drink and exercise how we exercise. Becoming educated, again at a basic level, on exactly what the things on the side of packets mean, and I’m just starting to learn much more about why conventional wisdom around diet and lifestyle doesn’t, in fact, do ‘what it says on the tin’……
What challenges did you have in putting your new life-style into practice?
Aside from the challenge of learning to put together a completely different eating strategy, I did find it a challenge to not ‘snack’ – having been a great snacker before, although not always a snacker of what modern advisors may consider unhealthy (oat bars, cereal bars and suchlike, as well as chocolate, crisps, biscuits). Other challenges were around introducing, or in some cases a re-introduction, to foods that I hadn’t eaten, although as often happens, challenges (or fears) turn into unexpected pleasures. So an awful many foods that I refused to eat for years, I now enjoy hugely and in abundance and I find myself wondering why I was so stubborn before! (Liver, most root vegetables, biltong, greek yoghurt & venison are some of the main ones I refer to here). Another challenge was having to start cooking more than I/we did before, but we quickly realised that this isn’t actually a chore at all, and exploring more ways of preparing and cooking primal foods is one of the pleasures of the diet. Lastly, and this shouldn’t be underestimated I think in an honest assessment of changes, I think if this is approached properly, then not only eating according to the primal way but also obtaining organic, free range, freshly grown and preservative-free foods is important, and it tool us a while to get into a routine of how we do this, because it did mean a big change to the way we procured foods before.
What changes do you expect to see in the future if you continue following your program?
Hmmm…..good question. I think that changes that I will experience moving forwards will be less obvious and much more around the changes in the medium/longer term in how my body will benefit from how I’m now treating it. I think that I will see some further weight loss, although nowhere near at the rate I have been experiencing. I think once I change my exercise regime, I may see a slight change in body shape, perhaps. I wonder also whether I may feel less ‘old’ and more youthful as well…..
What challenges do you think you will have going forward in sticking to the program?
Honestly, I don’t think I will experience any challenges in sticking to it. I’m very contented and extremely happy having this way of living and eating and certainly don’t feel I’m missing out on anything (and when you’ve brewed that wheat-free ale Peter, that will be that sorted too :-)) I believe I will continue to learn more and indeed how to become an advocate of the programme. I believe in it, I ask questions when I don’t understand something, and I challenge things that I don’t think I follow, but it’s improved how I think and how I feel so much, that any thought of abandoning it are far away right now.