At least once a year, Randy and I do a “strict” version of paleo-primal for a set period.
This year, we’ve been at it since January 1.
It’s not that different from how we usually eat.
And yet, it’s different enough to be an exercise in mindful, intentional deprivation.
This round, we’re sticking to the following “food rules” (NO exceptions):
1. Eat within primal parameters.
This is how we eat already and is the baseline diet of Alchemist Eating.
It means eating real, whole food, including meat, veggies, healthy fats and oils, and a moderate amount of fruit, nuts and seeds.
It means avoiding processed foods, grains, legumes, added sugar and artificial sweeteners, and chemically altered or otherwise unhealthy fats and oils.
2. Avoid sugar, except that occurring naturally in fruit. Also avoid all paleo-primal baked goods.
This means cutting primally approved “sensible indulgences” and sweeteners—even honey and high-quality dark chocolate.
We’re also keeping fruit to a minimum.
Aside from special holidays, I don’t really do paleo baked goods. But poor Randy—he’s sorely missing his paleo pancakes.
3. Avoid dairy, although this time around we’re allowing grass-fed butter and plain, full-fat Greek yoghurt.
The yoghurt is a key part of lunch for me since I usually save meat for dinner and need additional, easy-to-digest protein to go with my eggs. I’ve experimented with cutting it previously so know I do fine with one small container a day.
Incidentally, this exception is the main thing setting our rules apart from a Whole30, which allows no dairy other than ghee (clarified butter).
For anyone who’s never done an elimination diet, I strongly recommend cutting all dairy for 30 days.
That’s the only way to see how it affects you, as an individual.
4. Avoid alcohol.
One exception is the trace amount in GT’s Kombucha, which is probably no more than that found in an over-ripe banana.
5. Avoid increasing our coffee intake.
For me, this means holding steady at two cups a day.
My “bulletproof breakfast” is coffee blended with coconut oil and grass-fed butter or ghee—keeps me completely satiated until a post-yoga lunch.
How long will we keep at it?
Usually we decide on 30 days, but the framework this time was the two weeks leading up to our move to Colorado on January 15.
After that, I guess we’ll reassess.
By this point in the game, I’ve gotten over the loss of dark chocolate and am thinking a full 30 days would feel really good. (Shhh—don’t tell Randy.)
Since we already eat primal and are happy with our normal diet, what’s the point?
Well, here’s a short list of intentions:
1. Stepping out of—and bringing heightened awareness to—our usual patterns around eating and food.
With the paleo-primal eating we do normally, we honestly don’t experience a sense of deprivation or restriction. Indeed, we’re all about abundance (and not at all about “diets”).
That said, Randy and I actually appreciate a dose of deprivation every now and again. We recognize that it too holds value. Offers a gift.
One way it does so is by lifting us out of us our comfortable, familiar “okay point.” It helps us appreciate things more…and pushes us to look deeper and to ask useful questions: What’s really happening here? What do I really need? What do I really want—and why? Anything else? Yes, and?
Another gift of intentional deprivation is that it opens up space. What’s more, the discomfort, investigation and questioning that arise create movement toward filling this space with something useful, something valuable, something needed.
This is my Number 1 reason for doing this.
After years of work, I’m very happy with my low-sugar, low-carb version of paleo-primal. But the intentional deprivation creates heightened awareness about my current eating (and life) patterns…plus opens up extra space, frees up extra energy and creates extra momentum for me to tackle new projects (like our move).
This, in and of itself, is enough to make a few strict weeks totally worth it.
2. Remembering “how it feels” for our clients.
In our line of work—both with Alchemist Eating and Alchemist Recovery—this is really important.
We get a useful reminder of what it feels like to switch up famillar patterns, give up comfortable habits, sit with discomfort and cravings—and, well, take our own medicine!
3. Further reducing “dampness” in body and mind.
“Dampness” from a Chinese Medicine perspective can take many forms—some more tangible than others. In general, it denotes a particular quality of stagnation and sluggishness in the body-mind. It’s dirty, wet, heavy, slow and lingering and can manifest on physical and mental-emotional levels.
On a physical level, weight gain is one possible manifestation. Other examples include acne and excess mucus.
After too much paleo pie over the holidays, we were definitely ready to drain damp.
4. Going without added sweeteners and with minimal dietary sugar.
My sugar intake is already extremely minimal.
So for me, one aspect of this rule is to support Randy in reducing sugar. He’s made huge changes over the past two years and now eats primally approved sugars only.
And yet, he felt ready for a reboot—particularly after the extra-sweet holidays.
Yeah, I know. Sounds weird. Please don’t hate me.
But I actually find this sort of exercise and self-experiment interesting…and enjoyable (except when I’m missing dark chocolate).
I wouldn’t want to do it forever—I love my regular primal eating pattern!
But each time I complete a short stint of intentional deprivation, I learn something new. I gain greater clarity about my patterns and myself.
Curious to try a self-experiment of your own? Maybe give primal basics a go (without all the strict stuff)?
You might consider working with me one-on-one.