Primal summer

I’m an older dad. My first child was born when I was forty. Being a dad is the most important role in my life. I need to live a long time and stay healthy for my daughters and my much-younger-than-me wife. I want to be at full speed for races in the yard and tag and piggyback rides. I need to be able to pick my kids up and carry them for a few more years. And I want to be around to my see girls grow into women and be fully there for them for as long as possible.

Four-and-a-half years ago, I weighed thirty pounds more than I do now. I was just under 200 pounds. For a 5’9″ guy, that’s not good. In January of 2009, probably having made yet another New Year’s resolution to get healthy, I stumbled across a web site that changed my life: Mark’s Daily Apple.

This very fit looking Californian with impressive surfer-dude hair laid out a compelling case for a whole new way (a very old way, actually) to eat and live. The human species has been around for possibly two million years, but we’ve only been eating processed foods and copious amounts of added sugar for a mere century. And agriculture is only about 10,000-12,000 years old, so even grains were not a regular part of the human diet for the vast, vast majority of our existence.

The original humans were hunter-gatherers. And if we eat more like hunter-gatherers instead of the zoo humans we have become we are more likely to have optimal health.

This immediately made sense as I read it. After years of trying to eat better with nothing to show for it, just this shift in perspective about how we are wired as humans changed everything for me. I immediately dropped pasta and bread and soft drinks and sweet tea from my diet. It was easier than I expected. Within a couple of months, and without even exercising, I had lost twenty pounds. My weight continued to drop effortlessly and leveled off in the 160’s and stayed there while I was only about 75 percent strict with this primal way of eating.

Recently, though, that 75 percent commitment has drifted down to closer to 50 percent. And my pants have gotten a little tighter. Not awesome. So, this summer I am going primal. 100 percent. (Well, I’m going to allow some deviations for Sunday lunches when my kids like to go out for fun food. If I’m 100 percent awesome six days a week, I won’t feel bad about a weekly Sunday lunch splurge.)

This means my meals will consist of real foods – meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and good fats like olive oil and coconut oil. Hunter-gatherer food. I will avoid grains and vegetable oils (they’re bad) and added sugar* and processed, packaged food in general.

I’ve scheduled my annual physical with my doctor for August 15, two months from now. There’s nothing quite like a publicly announced deadline to focus my attention.

Interestingly, I was worried after my first year of primal eating that my doctor would not approve of my new lifestyle, even with the weight loss, if my cholesterol was crazy. I was eating eggs for breakfast every morning and plenty of meat and butter each week. Conventional wisdom says that stuff will kill you. However, at the first physical after my primal transformation my good cholesterol was better than it had ever been. My doctor let me know that total cholesterol is not a helpful number. The HDL/LDL ratio is what’s important, and my new way of eating had now put me into the lowest risk category for heart disease. Saturated fat for the win!

Good health is everything if you don’t have it. Your health is easy to take for granted, especially when you’re young and bulletproof. All else in life – relationships, work, play – are diminished, though, when your health is diminished.

I have control over what I put in my mouth. I get to decide to be healthy, to act and think like a vigorous, strong, healthy human, just like our ancestors. I’m going to use my primal summer to reestablish good eating habits, get moving and get outside more often, and be a more fully authentic, better version of myself by the time the season begins to wane.

*Sugar is poison. Tasty, tasty poison.

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