Thinking About Going Primal/Paleo for the New Year: What Does That Entail?

Going primal/paleo is about adopting a new lifestyle that emphasizes building new habits to clean up our diet, exercise more optimally, have better sleep hygiene, and learn how to manage the stress in our lives. It focuses on adopting an ancestral health approach. 

Embracing a primal/paleo lifestyle means we apply ourselves to mimic the way our ancestors lived, as reasonably as possible, within our modern world boundaries. 

We want to eat whole foods rather than processed foods, get enough exercise and low-intensity movement throughout the day, get adequate sleep, and minimize stress triggers on top of learning how to better handle overall stress. 

It is important to carve an optimal lifestyle for ourselves that works along with our ancestral roots, not against them. 

So What About the Food?

When it comes to the primal/paleo-approved foods that are okay to eat for most people, here’s an overview of the main staples you will want to have on hand (as highlighted in The New Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson):

  • Baking ingredients: coconut, almond, or other nut flours, tapioca starch, and arrowroot powder.
  • Beverages: water, unsweetened teas, full-fat coconut milk, or unsweetened almond milk (great for smoothies).
  • Coconut products: butter, flakes, flour, milk, and oil offer medium-chain fats; good substitutes for dairy, refined vegetable/seed oils, and wheat flour.
  • Dairy: raw, fermented, high-fat, and organic products are best (cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, kefir, whole milk, yogurt) –  to eat in moderation.
  • Dark Chocolate: my favorite snack/treat! It has to have a cacao content of at least 75 percent, ideally 85 percent or higher.
  • Eggs: local, pasture-raised, or certified organic for high omega-3 content. If you buy eggs from pasture-raised chickens, the yolk is going to have a deep-yellow/slight orange color. This color is a sign of a nutrient-rich egg.
  • Fats and oils: I like to use avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and animal fats (bacon grease, chicken fat, lard, tallow) are best for cooking.
  • Fish: wild-caught from remote, pollution-free waters. Small, oily, cold-water fish are preferred: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring (SMASH). Certain farmed fish are okay (domestic Coho salmon, trout, and some shellfish – not shrimp). Check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (seafoodwatch.org) for up-to-date recommendations.
  • Fruit: locally grown (or wild), organic, in-season preferred. Berries are best as they are low-glycemic. Go strictly organic with soft, edible skin fruits. Moderate intake of higher glycemic fruits.
  • Meat and Fowl: local, pasture-raised, or USDA-certified organic. If you must eat conventional meat, choose the leanest possible cuts and avoid consuming the fat as it is where some of the meat toxins are stored, not in the liver. 
  • Nutritious carbs: go for abundant vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, sweet potatoes, yams and other starchy tubers, quinoa, and wild rice.
  • Prebiotics: cooked and cooled white rice and white potatoes, green bananas, raw potato starch.
  • Probiotics: fermented foods like kefir, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, and yogurt, and even dark chocolate!
  • Snacks: berries, avocados, canned sardines, dark chocolate, hard-boiled eggs, jerky, nuts, olives, seeds, and other high-fat and/or high-protein, low-carb primal food.
  • Vegetables: locally grown, organic, in-season is best. Opt for strictly organic for large surface area (leafy greens) and soft edible skins. Eat the rainbow!

To get a nice sum-up of the above list of primal/paleo-approved foods, you can check out my post about The Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid.

Happy New Year!

Reference

Sisson, Mark. The New Primal Blueprint : Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2017, pp. 480–1.

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A Good Stretch Can Go a Long Way!

No matter what our daily activities are, standing or sitting, we can easily tax our backs. So it is essential to incorporate movement throughout the day along with regular stretching to loosen tight muscles and enhance circulation to help nourish the spine. When we do this every day (making sure the form is correct for each movement/exercise of course), this can help strengthen the back, making it more resilient with a spine that is strong and flexible.

What follows are five stretches that can help strengthen the back.

Child’s Pose

This helps with mobility of the spine and relaxation of the lower back muscles.

  • Begin on all fours. Sit your hips back on your heels if possible (if not, you can put a pillow on your heels and sit back on the pillow instead). Your knees are wide open and your big toes are touching. 
  • Reach out your arms forward while your forehead is resting on the floor. 
  • Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds at a time. Repeat 3 times while breathing in and out deeply for maximum relaxation. 

Cat Back

This exercise helps with spine flexion and extension. It promotes proper movement and function of the spine as a unit. The directions are from an Egoscue Method zoom session I attended this year.

  • Start on your hands and knees, where your wrists are placed directly under your shoulders and your knees directly underneath your hips. 
  • Starting with your hips, tuck your pelvis to round your lower back and spine up towards the ceiling while dropping your head and pulling your shoulder blades away from each other. [Breathe out as you are doing this].
  • Starting with your hips, roll your pelvis forward to put the arch in your back while collapsing your shoulder blades together and look up toward the ceiling. Be sure not to shrug your shoulders towards your ears. [Breathe in as you are doing this].

Hip Crossover Stretch

This exercise helps with hip and spinal rotation. The directions are from an Egoscue Method zoom session I attended this year.

  • Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor pointed straight ahead. 
  • Place your arms out to the side at shoulder level, with your palms flat on the floor. 
  • Cross your left ankle over your right knee and rotate the ankle/knee junction down toward the floor. Your left foot should now be flat on the floor, along with the outside of your right leg. 
  • Look in the opposite direction and relax your shoulders. 
  • Press the left knee away from your body using the left hip muscles. 
  • Hold [for up to 1 minute], then switch sides and repeat. 

Hamstring Stretch

When we have to bend and lift things (making sure we practice the hip hinge), having flexible hamstrings lessens the stress put on the back. 

  • Lie flat on your back. Place a yoga strap over and around the toes of the left foot and grab both ends of the strap firmly with your hands. Slightly activate the core muscles.
  • Slowly raise the left leg (pulling on the strap) until you feel a stretch in the back of the left thigh.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Psoas (Hip Flexor) Stretch 

If we sit a lot, the front of the hips (where the psoas muscle is) gets really tight and this puts stress in the lower back when we do things upright by pulling the lower back forward. Stretching that muscle can help with that issue. 

  • Step forward with the right leg and bend the knee at about a 90-degree angle. Keep the right knee positioned above the right ankle. (If you have any knee issues you can instead put the right foot on a stable chair or couch, for instance, and bend the right knee. In that case, the left leg will not lie on the floor, of course). Hold on to something if needed.
  • Extend the left leg behind the torso and touch the floor with the left knee. The lower leg lies on the floor. 
  • Move the hips forward (doing a slight pelvic tilt and activating the glutes), pushing the right knee in front of the right ankle. Make sure to keep the right knee pointing forward. You should feel the stretch in the hip area on the left side.
  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds or 3 deep breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Hope this helps whatever you have to do this holiday season! (And always consult your personal physician before starting anything new). 

Happy Holidays!!

References

“5 Best Back Pain Stretches for Immediate Back Pain Relief.” Dave Asprey, 20 Aug. 2018, daveasprey.com/best-back-pain-stretches-pain-relief/. Accessed 29 Nov. 2020.

Nelson, Arnold G, and Jouko Kokkonen. Stretching Anatomy. Champaign, Il, Human Kinetics, 2007, pp. 98–9, 104–7.

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