Category Archives: Primal Case-Studies

Must-See Video: The Function of Insulin Explained

Because one of its role in body fat storage, insulin often gets a bad rap in the ancestral health community.

Managing insulin secretion through diet is a good strategy for losing weight, but it is also important to understand that insulin performs vital functions in your body and is essential for your body to survive at all.

This short video from Kahn’s Academy is a good beginner’s guide to the function of insulin in fuelling your cells with glucose.

For an explanation of what happens to the glucose after it has entered your cells, see this video lecture by Doug McGuff, M.D.

Primal Case-Studies: An update from Phil

Those of you who follow my blog regularly will recall I interviewed Phil back in November.

Phil switched to a low-carb life-style  September last year in an effort to manage his diabetes. His early results were spectacular. He lost 14 lbs / 7kg in 3 weeks, and he cut his use of insulin to a third of what it was previously.

Phil has agreed to update us on his progress periodically. Here is the latest instalment.

What has happened since we last spoke in November?

My weight has stabilised at 85Kg. I probably could lose a few more Kg, but everyone I meet notices the loss of weight.

My ill fitting clothes were getting embarrassing, so I have had to buy a new suit, and lots of new clothes.

And I feel fantastic. None of the drowsiness that I used to have almost every day. Generally I am full of energy.

What challenges have you come up against in maintaining your new life-style?

Every time I find myself in a different place or situation, finding something suitable to eat can be a challenge. I used to be very flexible and would eat whatever was available. But now it is the opposite. But then, when I do find something, I almost always feel really happy with what I have eaten and rarely regret not having what I would have eaten. If that makes sense.

How do people react to the changes you have made?

Everyone seems to be very respectful of it. Last week we went to dinner with friends and they went to so much effort to make the meal suitable for me. I was moved that people react so well.

What have you learned over the past two months that have caused you to make further changes to your life-style?

I have learnt that this way of eating can be really enjoyable. And the benefits are clear. I have done lots of reading, which led me to stop taking the Statins that my doctor had recommended.

What are the health questions that pre-occupy you at the moment?

The main thing that I haven’t sorted out yet is my exercise. I love doing exercise, in particular running and playing football. But I was finding it hard to manage the sugar levels. Then I got an Achilles problem that was not going away. I am seeing a specialist about it and he recommended a change in exercise routine.

What changes to your health do you hope to see in the coming months?

Once my Achilles is sorted I am looking forward to starting a new regime of exercise. I hope to get back to my old fitness levels and lose a few more Kg.

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.

Primal Case-Studies: Phil’s story about diabetes on a low-carb diet

Phil is a friend of mine who has switched to a low-carb life-style to manage his diabetes.

Phil started his new life-style a mere 7 weeks before this interview. But as you will see, his early results are nothing short of spectacular.

We will check in with Phil periodically. This is the first instalment of his story.

What was your health situation before you decided to change your diet and life-style?

I have had type 1 diabetes for the last 5 years. After the initial shock, I had settled into a reasonable routine. The Doctors were reasonably happy with me. I was doing most things right.

But I was gradually putting on weight, was finding exercise hard to do, and was finding it hard to maintain my sugars at the right levels. Almost every day I would have times where I was low (hypos) or high (hypers) and each had its own problems.

What caused you to suddenly make changes in your life?

I read the book that you recommended. Suddenly everything made sense.

What have you learned about diet and health you did not know before?

Just how linked they are. I always thought that diet had an influence with health, but I just assumed it was purely down to keeping your weight down and eating enough vitamins/minerals to be healthy. I didn’t realise just how important to the body’s health everything we put into it is.

What changes did you make in your life and what pace and order did you make them in?

I went straight in and cut out all bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. With immediate effect. And then I cut right down on fruit. That was the hardest as I am addicted to fruit. I still eat it occasionally, but in moderation.

Then I set about finding all the things I can eat that I like and eat them as much as I want. Eggs for breakfast. Meat, fish and more meat and fish.

What challenges did you have in putting your new life-style into practice?

There are some moments where I have nothing that I can eat. That is hard. And shopping for the family is hard. I can’t force things on them but I don’t really want to make lots of things that I can’t eat.

What changes have you seen so far and what difference has it made to you?

I lost over a stone (7Kg) in the first 3 weeks. Since then my weight has stabilised. But the main change is in my sugar levels. I still feel I am calibrating my body, so I am not yet perfect, but generally my sugar levels have been fantastic.

Apart from the odd mistake, I can now keep my sugars within the normal range pretty much all day. I don’t have the high sugars after a meal which made me drowsy, and I am pretty sure this is going to be help me avoid problems in the future.

What changes do you expect to see in the future if you continue following your program?

I think I should lose a bit more weight, and I am hoping to be able to build up my exercise levels. Exercise is the only area that I still can’t quite manage properly. At the moment exercise seems to put my sugars up and I can’t seem to predict it. But it will come.

What challenges do you think you will have going forward in sticking to the program?

I have already noticed my wife and family are getting bored with the meals I have been preparing so I think I will have to get more imaginative. And I think Xmas is going to be difficult.

Further Reading

The book Phil refers to in this interview is “Diabetes Solution” by Dr. Bernstein.

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