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Cavewoman Part 1: What I Eat

By AndreAnna

I was reading through the comments on Holly’s post from last week. And a few people asked if someone – anyone – would just explain what the hell all this “primal” hootenanny was about. Someone threw up the link to my Primal Matriarch website where I chronicle my way of eating and post recipes about living grain- and sugar-free.

But a lot of people have a hard time wrapping their brains around the concept – what do I eat? And wait, aren’t whole grains supposed to be good for you? What about FIBER? Anyone who’s ever been on WW has learned the supposed importance of counting grams of fiber.

So I’m going to explain how/what I eat and why. And I know this makes a lot of people superweird and defensive because you think that just because I eat a certain way and do not eat certain things, I must be judging the way YOU eat and you feel the need to defend your choices. But I’m not. Truly.

So let’s not do that, mmmmmkay?

If you want a quick rundown, living “primally” is based on The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson who also writes Mark’s Daily Apple Blog. It’s a way of living that tries to embody the health benefits of our neanderthal ancestors (who he morphs into one guy he names Grok). He lays out 10 Laws to live your life by, which are broken down and easily explained here in Primal Blueprint 101.

In short, eat and live like Grok did. This means eat mostly meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Real food. Yes, this means you can stop being afraid of the so-called saturated fat, which has finally recently been debunked as a role in a heart disease.

This also means no refined sugars and no grain. And this is where you all clutch your chests and go, “But for the last 50 years, the USDA has been telling us that we need grain to be healthy and reduce heart disease and stroke- we need whole grains! THINK OF ALL THE FIBER BABIES!”

Well of course the Department of AGRICULTURE would be telling you that you need grains, just like Big Pharma would rather you take medication than cure the illness. It’s all about the bottom line. But that’s a political and ethical debate left for another time, although if you want to read more on topics like sustainability, local farming, and the dangers of Big Agriculture, check out The Vegetarian Myth or The Ominvores Dillema.

Grain does not occur naturally. It has to be heavily processed in order to be able to be consumed by humans, which can cause and exacerbate a host of issues, including auto-immune diseases such a Celiac (what/gluten intolerance), psoriasis, lupus, fibromyalgia, IBS, eczema and asthma. It also is a Big Monster on the fight against Insulin Resistance (IR) and Type 2 Diabetes, which can lead to Metabolic Disease: serious issues that are becoming more and more prevalent as increasingly more Americans are obese.

I have a very in-depth post up here with tons of links and resources further discussing carbs, grains, and lectins, and why I have chosen not to eat these anymore.

The part about not eating refined sugar is a no-brainer, yes? Good. I still use honey and sometimes agave or maple syrup in some recipes, (and Ode to Splenda: I just can’t QUIT YOU in my coffee), but candy, sugar, and anything with HFCS will not likely be found in my house or in mah belleh.

Ok, so far we’ve got: no grains, no sugar. What about dairy? Some people can’t tolerate dairy well. I’m lucky I’m not one of those people because if we’re being frank, I’d cut a bitch for a good piece of Scottish cheddar. But the dairy I do eat is full-fat, and most often local. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, heavy cream: these are all part of my diet. “Light” or “low-fat” products often have added crap like sugar and preservatives so I avoid them at all costs.

Dairy kind of falls into the same category as legumes. These are not technically primal because in their natural form, many are toxic to our systems. They have to be soaked and processed in order to be cooked and eaten, and at the end of the day are still high in carbohydrates – something I’d rather get in the form of fruits or veggies. They actually ferment in our bodies (ever wonder why beans are called the magical fruit? ha) The thing is that some legumes, like lentils and chickpeas, ARE very high in protein and I think when eaten sparingly can have their place in a healthy real-food lifestyle.

Another important aspect of primal eating is trying to eat as “clean” as possible: this means grass-fed beef, organic free-range chicken/eggs, wild-caught fish, local organic produce, raw or full-fat dairy. I understand that some people think this is not always possible for budget reasons, but my argument back at that is that the money I’m not spending on Oreos or Lean Cuisines or pasta or bread, I am putting into the quality of the food I do eat.

Nuts and seeds are an important source of good, healthy fat. I remember days I used to not eat an avocado or a handful of nuts because of how many calories they were or how many Points they were and I wish I knew then what I knew now. Because I would punch my old self in the ovary.  Today, I eat at least 5 avocados a week and Mike and I go through a giant tub of nuts and seeds each week: we put it in our salads, on our yogurt, eat it with an apple as a lunch.

Someone in another post a few weeks ago commented for a person not to try Primal eating because it was a high-fat, high-calorie diet and should not be used for people trying to lose weight. Besides the blatant ignorance of that statement, it is also untrue. If anything, I eat less calories now than I did when I was desperately trying to count them – something I no longer do.

The funny thing about “real” food and fat is that it satiates your hunger with a lot less food. Therefore, less calories. And the calories I am consuming are all nutritionally dense. Can you say the same for your 100-calorie pack cookies?

And…..wait for it……I’ve gone down two sizes, lost 10% body fat, was taken off BP medication (that I had been on for TEN years), my total cholesterol was 164, and the rest of my blood work was “textbook perfect.” My scalp psoriasis is gone, and my constant bloat and eczema patches disappeared. My husband, who also went primal with me because of a positive Celiac antibiody test, has dropped close to 40 pounds in three months. I work out; he does not.

There are recipes for almost everything you may miss with grains – from biscuits to pizza crust, using alternate sources for white flour, such as almond or coconut flour. But the bottom line is that once you remove those things from your body and go through the detox (which I ain’t gonna lie, sucks big moose bongbongs) you really don’t crave them, at least not as often or with such voracity.

And you learn quickly how a “cheat” affects your body so you choose wisely. Red wine and dark chocolate offer nutritional benefits such an anti-oxidants and reservatrol making them good choice to add to your diet in small amounts. Every once in a while, I’ll go crazy and have a beer or some breaded wings, but mainly I’ve learned how my body functions without grain and how it’s adversely affected when I do eat it: sluggish, moody, often-bathroom-visit-y.

So, to recap: if it was alive, grew, or is found naturally, I eat it. If it rots, I eat it. The less chemicals and processing it takes to make it, the better. For those curious about what I eat on a daily basis, a typical day can look like this. Where applicable, I’ve linked to my recipes for the meal/item.

(If we’re being honest, I almost always skip breakfast, having more of a brunch and then dinner, usually only having two meals a day. I try and only eat when hungry so when I’m not I don’t force myself to, giving my body time to rest and focus on other things like repairing cells, rather than digesting food I wasn’t even hungry enough to eat in the first place.)

Typical Breakfasts/Brunches:

  • Almond pancakes with fresh berry salsa and whipped cream
  • Omelet with spinach and feta, bacon or sausage (Hormel makes a good nitrate-free brand you can find locally).
  • Apple slices with almond butter and cheese
  • BLT in a bowl
  • Cottage cheese with fruit and almonds
  • Almond milk smoothie with berries and cocoa powder
  • Greek yogurt with berries and honey and sunflower seeds
  • Soup and biscuits
  • Chicken salad filled with grapes, walnuts, celery, onions on rosemary olive oil bread
  • Lettuce wraps with shrimp, cucumber, avocado, carrots slices

Dinners:

Snacks/Desserts:

So as you can see, I don’t eat the same thing every day. I don’t just eat giant chunks of raw meat with my hands or subsist solely on fat. I eat a very varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and am constantly on the lookout for new cookbooks and blogs and resources of clean, grain-free eating. My current favorites are The Grain-Free Gourmet, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook (the author also runs a blog Elana’s Pantry), and The Primal Blueprint Cookbook. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

I hope that answers some of the questions as what “eating primal” means, though I have to use the word “primal” in quotation marks most of the time because I really hate be labeled as anything.

There is more to the “primal lifestyle” as I mentioned before in the 10 Laws. Since this blog post is already a novella, I’ll do another few posts on those another time.

Did that help explain it better? Any questions?

38 Responses to “Cavewoman Part 1: What I Eat”

  1. Leandra Says:

    I, as you know, have been following you since you started this journey. I am fascinated by it and I’m tempted to try it. It’s just making that first leap that’s kind of scary, I’m not gonna lie.

    BUT, this post is almost a perfect response to the question I asked at the end of my post today, so thanks!!

  2. Liz Says:

    Preach it! I love this way of eating, but it can hard to explain to others. Very much appreciate the breakdown!

  3. Andrea Says:

    I am going to send this link to everyone who has questions about this lifestyle. My biggest challenge is getting people to not think I an judging them for how they eat AND explaining how it isn’t as hard as it sounds at first. I often say I have a grain intolerance and am pre-diabetic to the people I don’t feel like getting into the details with. Thanks for sharing your knowledge’

  4. Sarah Lena Says:

    I’m expecting coconut flour on my doorstep today, which will pretty much finish off our transformation here. I still bake breads and whatnot for the boys .. who are not sold .. but they’re getting more veggies and fruits to by defacto. This is a win win for everyone.

  5. KtP Says:

    So, first, thanks for this post; I learned a lot, and added to my ever-growing book list the ones mentioned.

    As Leandra mentioned, taking the first step is daunting. Do you think there’s a benefit of being “partially primal,” or is it more an all-or-nothing approach?

  6. kakaty Says:

    You know I’ve been following this journey with facination. I do have a question about your “detox”. Did you give up fruit, too as part of that period so you were getting NO sugar? (feel free to reply with a link, as I’m lazy and haven’t read everything you’ve linked to). At the very least, I kinda want to go through that process and see how I feel. Maybe introduce some grains back one at a time to see how it effects me. I’m still not 100% sold on the grain-free thing but I can clearly see the benefits of gluten and sugar free. And eating clean, which we try to do now. But I really need to break the sugar addiction.

  7. rsg Says:

    Check out The Beautiful Truth documentary for some more on why processed food is bad for you.

  8. Courtney Says:

    Ahahah! I’d cut a bitch for a good slice of cheese, too, ESPECIALLY if it’s drizzled with a little local honey (um, hello regular midnight snack). I certainly hope no one ever throws any cheese between us. :)

  9. AndreAnna Says:

    Kakaty – no I never gave up fruit. I try and stick to the low glycemic fruits that pack the most nutritional punch like berries, peaches, apples, etc. I think part of the reason why my detox was so bad is that the period we spent moving and transitioning to our new house – before I found this way of eating – I was living on packaged and frozen foods, sandwiches, deli meats filled with crap, late-night take-out, etc.

    I think coming from a clean eating place like you are, you may not experience much at all, except a headache for a day or so and some tiredness and irritability from the no-sugar for a couple days.

  10. Holly Says:

    This is the best most simple explanation I have seen anywhere, and with super useful info. Thanks, AndreAnna!

  11. stephanie Says:

    Do you know of anyone who has followed the primal lifestyle while being a vegetarian? Some of your breakfast/brunches are vegetarian, but none of your dinners are. Without legumes or any grains (including gluten-free ones), it seems like it’d be very difficult to come up with satisfying and nutritionally-balanced meals.

  12. AndreAnna Says:

    Stephanie,

    In truth, I think without meat or eggs, this lifestyle is not really fully possible. I don’t eat much red meat, but as far as from a vegan or vegetarian standpoint, you would have a hard time getting enough nutrition. I did a quick search and found a few articles that may help a bit.

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/vegetarian-protein/
    http://www.wellsphere.com/healthy-eating-article/can-one-be-both-vegetarian-and-primal/544167

  13. Linda Says:

    KtP: I’ll horn in on your question of “partially primal”. I’d say absolutely, even the Primal Blueprint guy basically advocates an 80% commitment (read more on that here: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dear-mark-8020-revisited/). It’s not like Atkins where if you eat one carb you’re FUKD, it’s just a set of guidelines that you can adjust to fit your own needs.

    However, I will say that for some people (like me) it’s easier to go fully primal, because I can’t eat “some” sugar/processed carbs. I go nuts with those foods. So basically, I’m either almost entirely on plan, or I’m all the way off. I don’t seem to have a middle setting.

  14. Caitlin Says:

    Awesome post, AndreAnna! I love your meal ideas SO HARD.

    I do have to rain on your parade a little, though (WAMP WAMP). You may have already heard this, and eat it anyway (like the Splenda!), but I recently was hugely disappointed to find out that Agave is just as processed as HFCS. I know the glycemic index is better, etc, but it was still a huge disappointment. No more Agave for me (luckily we’re going to start an apiary – one hive – in our backyard come March, so I will have ALL the dang unprocessed sweetener I can handle.) (off to apply patchouli, caress squirrels and trees)

  15. stephanie Says:

    Thanks for answering my question. I could never see myself going fully primal anyway, but I was wondering whether there was a vegetarian adaptation of it just for some recipe inspiration. I think any diet can benefit from what seems to me to be one of the basic philosophies behind eating primal, clean eating as close to the source as possible.

  16. Barb Says:

    Very well said (written). I’m bookmarking this to send to people who ask me to explain what I’m doing.

    Oh and right now….I’d cutabitch for that dark chocolate and wine you speak of LOL.

  17. Bachelor Girl Says:

    Great post, AndreAnna!

  18. Erica Says:

    I’ve spent a few months reading up on going primal, and I’m trying to figure out whether it’s feasible to do with a nut allergy. I’d be missing a lot of healthy snacks and good fats (I love avocado for healthy fats, but it’s hardly local here in Canada), and I don’t know if coconut flour works as well as almond flour in recipes. I was able to put together a list of a week’s worth of meals, but it took a lot of futzing.

    While I sort out the logistics, I’ll certainly keep incorporating primal meals into my weekly food plan. (I can definitely vouch for the deliciousness of AndreAnna’s twice-cooked chicken and cabbage stir-fry!)

  19. Erin Says:

    I continue to think about this but I am most certainly a “carb addict” and I have a feeling that it is going to be really tough at first (with memories back to the first two weeks of South Beach in which I would KILL someone to have some cereal or something other than an egg). I know that you’ve talked about your “detox” weekend but I’m wondering if you can go into more detail about what you did eat during that time and how you prepared?

    I KNOW my husband will not go along with this sort of diet so I need to figure out a way that it can be a seamless part of our lives. And when I say I know, I really do – he is Asian and eats at LEAST one starch with a meal (as in we’ve had a meal in which he’s eaten both white rice and potato) so eliminating starch from his diet will not really be an option.

    Also, when Kristin and Corey did the 30 day challenge I know they said a major benefit was that they worked at home and had the time to prep meals, etc. Do you think that’s a HUGE advantage?

  20. Abby Says:

    I’m a lurker here and on your personal blogs, and I just had to mention I saw a car yesterday with the license plate, “GROK ON” and I thought of you. :)

  21. Serror Says:

    Awesome post AndreAnna! Way to break it down!

    In regards to Agave being just as processed as HFCS: From the little research I have done online, my understanding is that Organic Agave is not as processed and/or not chemically processed as non-organic Agave options. Also, anything labled Organic cannot be genetically modified, unlike all HFCS. For me that is a big difference. It is still a sugar, high in fructose, but in my opinion somewhat better than white cane sugar.

    Some helpful links:

    http://www.madhavahoney.com/AgaveNectar.aspx

    http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/agave-nectar/

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-definitive-guide-to-sugar/

  22. AndreAnna Says:

    Erin,

    I basically answered your question about in the comments section in Kelly’s last post. Check them here: http://www.bodiesinmotivation.com/2010/08/whats-for-dinner/, and let me know if you need anything else.

    Also, I didn’t do anything different during detox than I do now. It just took my body a few days to get rid of all the sugar and such. I went cold turkey though because I just wanted it to be over. LOL

  23. Caitlin Says:

    Serror, that’s good to know. I agree that anything organic and/or non GMO is better. Thanks for sharing that info. As has been said, the goal isn’t perfection…baby steps!

  24. KtP Says:

    Thanks, Linda! I’ll admit, I was hoping you’d say that. Lots of good info here.

  25. Stacy Says:

    AndreAnna – You are so badass it kills me. You look super hot and super fit and I’m really happy that you have found a way of eating that makes you feel good. Ultimately, that is what matters.

    You have really inspired me to go Primal and I did, for a very short period of time and I gotta say, it felt good and natural. I did rid myself of gas, I was NOT bloated, I did feel energized and full and satiated without the heavy, gross, i-ate-so-much-i-wanna-puke feeling. But, I just had trouble maintaining when “life” got in the way. I think I need a better plan going forward. However, unlike you and Linda, I do like being partly-primal.

    Dinner tonight was homemade cucumber salad (Israeli Salad – I will post recipe soon) and stuffed bell peppers, all with organic beef and vegetables from our CSA. There was no grain or added sugar, so that’s basically primal, right?

    My breakfast might be steel cut oatmeal or an egg with turkey and cheese on a piece of whole grain bread.

    Your recipes sound awesome, but don’t forget, a meal with some grilled meat (free range, organic) and a big hearty salad is Primal eating … I get caught up in the “recipes” and “meal planning” and forget that it can be as simple as that.

  26. Caitlin Says:

    I was mulling the question about vegetarianism this morning, and a potential solution popped into my head. Have you looked into the raw vegan lifestyle? You of course wouldn’t have to be totally raw, but it might help satisfy most of the requirements for Grokism. A few good places to start: http://www.choosingraw.com, http://KristensRaw.com/

  27. Caitlin Says:

    Oops, that second one is more for her products. For recipes, try http://KristensRaw.blogspot.com/

    There are generally some grains involved in a raw diet, but not too many, usually, and it might just help give you some ideas for protein sources, etc.

  28. Tara Says:

    I will add on a bit based on my experiences going mostly Primal. I was eating fairly clean before making the switch, and I really didn’t suffer from cutting out the grains (the sugar was already mostly cut out of my diet). So, the difficulty of the transition probably depends on where you’re starting from.

    I have been mostly Primal for maybe 7 weeks now, and like AndreAnna, I’m seeing that I’m getting fully satisfied on FEWER calories because the calories I’m eating are more filling and nutritionally dense. I entered my food intake for a day onto myfitnesspal.com one day, and was astonished to see the total coming in under 1200 calories–AND I WAS NOT HUNGRY. I rarely ever snack anymore, and I can easily delay or skip meals, whereas before I would break into a cold sweat and the shakes from low blood sugar if I didn’t eat something every few hours.

    I’ve lost at least 2 inches off my waist, so I’m fitting into pants that I haven’t been able to button for a year. And I feel great–I don’t crash between meals or head to bed soon after dinner like I used to.

    But here’s the best part. . . I’ve had regular migraines since high school (for over 20 years), and for the last ten years or so, I have always kept prescription migraine medication near at hand and worried about how much I was using just to be able to get through a day at work if a migraine came on. Since cutting out grains, I have not had a single migraine. NOT ONE. I cannot begin to explain how huge that is to anyone who’s never had a migraine, but if you have, you know that this is nothing short of a miracle. So even if I didn’t have the other benefits, going Primal would be more than worth it to me just for losing the migraines.

    AndreAnna, I have you & Linda to thank for turning me onto this Primal thing, so–THANK YOU!!!

  29. Jennie Says:

    This is my favorite post ever. So much good information!

  30. Erin Says:

    Thanks so much for the link! And for all of the information in general. I have to admit… I have a girl crush on you!

  31. AndreAnna Says:

    Tara – ME TOO!! Not only have had I migraines since I was FIVE but I would just generally get headaches at least every other day. Now? Nothing. Not a ONE. (Well, if you don’t count the margarita headaches. lol)

    Erin – no problem! Any change in the right direction is good change. So many people think that if you don’t make a life-changing sweeping decision that the little changes don’t count. And they do. They really DO!

    Caitlin – Whereas I can see the benefits in eating some raw foods, I find meat to be an integral part of my diet, both for protein and fat. Plus, it is YUMMY. Thanks for the link though; I will definitely check it out as I am always interested in healthy choices.

  32. Kt Says:

    Do you have any primal crock pot recipes?

  33. AndreAnna Says:

    Kt, The Autumn Curry Bisque was made in a crockpot.

    Also, my famous chili can be made primal without the beans or with the beans if you’re okay with the legumes and the carbohydrates. Also: skip the giant bread bowl at the end. LOL. http://www.diaryofamodernmatriarch.com/2008/02/andreannas-its-all-fun-and-games-till.html

    I also make stock and chicken soup in the crockpot: http://www.primalmatriarch.com/2010/07/primal-chicken-stock-recipe.html

    I also put a whole chicken in there with a bottle of Guinness and some citrus for my Guinness Chicken: http://www.diaryofamodernmatriarch.com/2010/02/guinness-chicken-and-stock-and-soup.html

    I’ve also recently bought a crockpot that came with a little rack in it so I’ve made really awesome meatloaf and pot roasts.

  34. Caroline Says:

    Hi AndreAnna,

    Thanks for this. I am just starting to eat primally. It’s hardly a shift at all in the way I cook meals for my family (usually meat and fresh veggie dishes anyway), but, I eat way too many sweets and carbs between and after meals. When I was younger, I could handle this, but now that I have young kids, I can’t afford the energy crashes anymore and something has to change.

    Anyway, I remember you mentioning that you have PCOS. Have you noticed the lifestyle helping your PCOS symptoms (other than weight) at all? I’ve always been thin, but I have PCOS and other annoying symptoms, and I’m hoping that primal living with help with them. We will see…

    Thanks for all of your writing on this. It’s great.

    Sincerely,

    Caroline

  35. Try « Hoot! Says:

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  36. Paleo/Primal Tips,Tricks, and Links | Life As A Plate Says:

    [...] Cavewoman: What I Eat – A post I wrote for Bodies In Motivation that gives a pretty comprehensive rundown of my diet. Answering some Questions: Carbs, Grains, Gluten – A detailed post explaining what they are specifically and why the Primal/Paleo lifestyle does not include them The Plunge – How you can expect to feel the first time you “go Paleo” Feeling Peckish – Primal/Paleo snack ideas Coconut Oil – Where I explain the health benefits and my love for coconut oil My Kitchen – The appliances I use and love What’s In My Pantry – Pretty self explanatory All About Sweeteners: Natural – A very detailed, researched post I did on the pros and cons of the natural sweeteners (agave, honey, etc.) Staying on Track at Social Events – Some good tips especially for the upcoming holiday parties [...]

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