Back On the Primal Path

If you follow me on Twitter, you might be aware that I managed to eat pretty much everything in sight over the holidays. On the one hand, ‘twas the season to indulge, but on the other hand, the increased intake of my culinary vices made me feel lethargic, guilty, and more than a little gross.

I’m pleased — and my body is relieved — to report that I’ve been back on track and eating Primally for five days in a row now.

It feels fantastic.

Still, I’m not here to admonish the act of holiday feasting. On the contrary, my relatively brief foray into the realm of Christmas treats has taught me a few things about keeping a diet in perspective.

First, pigging out for over a week reminded me how much I love my normal Primal Blueprint eating regimen. Don’t get me wrong, holiday food is delicious, but so is eating Primal, and it doesn’t come with the associated bloating and guilt trips. The good news is that stepping off the path for a little while didn’t become a permanent change. In fact, I couldn’t wait to get back to my old healthy habits. That’s how a vacation should feel, and it speaks to the effectiveness of the Primal Blueprint as a sustainable lifestyle.

Second, while I did eat a lot, exercise little, and lose sight of my abdominal muscles over the holidays, the overall results of my week-long binge were… not that bad. Sure, I was a bit squishier than I was before, and my mood was a little low, but it’s not like I suddenly had fifty pounds to lose or had developed some chronic illness. I’m not saying this to condone unhealthy eating or tell you to take a week off whenever you want. Rather, it helps put the average cheat meal in perspective. I survived an entire week of holiday gluttony with pretty minor side effects. That means I should treat a single cheat meal as no big deal, rather than feel guilty about indulging with friends.

The key here, though, is not rationalizing or condoning the unhealthy meal and allowing it to become what’s normal. I would still rather eat Primal, and I will as much as I can. But, if I happen to be in a situation where it’s difficult to do so (if I’m a guest in someone’s home, for instance), I’m not going to sweat it. If I can survive an entire week of holiday eating, one cheat meal for the sake of manners won’t hurt. In the grand scheme of things, it’ll be a tiny misstep. Remember, that doesn’t mean an unhealthy meal every day won’t hurt! It’s just a way of altering your perspective so you feel less bummed out about deviating from your healthy habits. Step off, then step right back on.

Again, my holiday binge reminded me how much I love the Primal Blueprint. My sister is a recent convert, and she agrees that even after just two days back on the path, she feels so much better. I’m not trying to pimp the Primal lifestyle, as I have nothing to gain from doing so. (The gain would be all yours, actually.) These lessons can be applied to whatever diet you’re invested in. Still, if you’re interested in going Primal for the new year, Mark Sisson just put out a new updated and expanded paperback version of The Primal Blueprint. It’s inexpensive and a great way to get started.

One final note about my transition back on the path: I’ve started logging my workouts and meals using the Day One app, which allows you to journal from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. They all stay in sync via Dropbox, and the app itself is well-designed. Keeping a record of what I do to be healthy each day helps me stay mindful as the new year progresses and the “resolution enthusiasm” wears off. I’m trying to see how many days in a row I can go without a cheat day. Of course, you don’t need an app to make this a habit. Pen and paper works too.