Here is the update I provided for the Mark's Daily Apple blog in May of 2017.
I first wrote to Mark in September of 2015 after transitioning to a primal lifestyle in 2014. As a quick review I was coming off six or seven years of living in a post college frat house devouring IPAs, nachos, and pizza; spending late nights at bars, and running four or five miles four or five times a week in the name of staying healthy. I look back on my twenties with fondness and nostalgia, but I have no desire to go back to those dive bars that I used to frequent with such ferocious regularity.
When I last wrote I had a 4-month-old son who was born a month early and only screamed during times when he was not sleeping (so that was awesome), was beginning graduate school, was a week into a new administrative job, and was transitioning to a suburban lifestyle. Stressful times! Now I find myself with a thriving but demanding two-year-old son, a two-month-old daughter who only screams about a quarter as much as our son did (still awesome), three months from finishing graduate school, and about to successfully finish the second year at my new job. Still stressful times!
During the hardest moments of the past couple of years, I have again and again found myself grateful for the primal lifestyle and way of eating. I have taken a great deal of comfort from knowing that I am nourishing myself and giving myself the best chance to be more patient, loving, and fun for my family and everyone in my community.
I have had some revelations in terms of food and movement since I last wrote, and I’ll get into those in a moment. However, as I examine my life I am more and more aware of the acute importance of self-care and the incredibly powerful ways that living primally allows for that. I am not proud to admit this, but being a dad was (and, at times, still is) really difficult for me. There are some moments that feel really dark, trying, and interminable. Amidst a storming sea of violent diaper explosions, tantrums about which shoe my son should put on first, and orange slices being thrown all over the dining room, the primal lifestyle has been my anchor. On the good days I feel like I don’t need a trip to a spa, a slow, romantic dinner at a restaurant, or even half an hour alone to recharge my battery. I don’t desire those things because the food I am putting into my body and the choices I’m making around sleep and wellness feel like a luxury in and of themselves.
I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture, and I almost made myself cry writing that sentence about a slow, romantic dinner. However, I am also consistently reminded that, as Mark says, my wife and I are investing in our family and ourselves with the nutritional and lifestyle choices we are making on a daily basis. During the moments when I can project past getting thrown up on or hearing the first dreaded thump in the crib at 5:45 a.m., I am at peace knowing that our priorities and choices are exactly where I want them to be. The primal life is a bit of a compass with which I can navigate the confusing map of parenting young ones while trying to maintain some contact with my wife and me as well.
In terms of nutrition and body composition, I have found a way to eat a bit less than I was before. First of all, I am using a compressed eating window by skipping breakfast every day, and I am thriving with this change. Though not starving, I am genuinely hungry by lunchtime, and I enjoy a giant salad with sauerkraut, a fried egg, a small piece of protein, and any veggies I can get my hands on bathed in some homemade dressing. Mercifully, my work has a salad bar and I can get healthful food (thanks to a chef who let’s us know what is Whole30 compliant) even in the middle of a busy workday. Dinner is some form of a few veggies and a good piece of protein.
In terms of macros, I am really enjoying experimenting with the minimum effective dose of protein. At around 180 pounds and between 13 and 14 percent body fat, I am trying to nourish around 155-160 pounds of lean mass. Over the past couple of months I’ve been getting by on around 70-80 grams of protein a day. There’s a chance I could put on a few pounds of muscle if I ate some more, but I am sleeping well, my energy is good, and my mind is sharp. That seems like more than a fair trade for slightly stronger boobs. I’ve read mixed things about the conversion of excess protein to glucose, but ingesting less feels healthy and sustainable to me.
Fat is a mainstay as I stay in ketosis almost all of the time. After winning the Grok Pose contest two years ago, the family is making its way through $1,000 of primal mayo one gallon at a time. When I’m hungry, I go grab a broccoli floret or twenty and get a heaping bowl of mayo to dip until I’m satisfied. It beats a bowl of ice cream any day. Okay, that might be a stretch, but no one ever hated himself for snacking on broccoli.
In terms of exercise, I am lifting quite heavy (for me) twice a week, sprinting once a week (possibly twice if I play basketball), doing a bunch of push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, planks, and belly flexes whenever the spirit moves me. One of my lifting sessions is pushing and pulling (failing at four or five reps once I am warm), and the next one is very heavy lifting with my legs along with some core work. I focus on my hamstrings every week to keep them healthy for sprinting and play. My performance in the weight room is slowly improving (like I said, maybe not as quickly as it might if I were to eat some more protein), and I’m not consistently sore or lethargic.
On the lifestyle side of things, I have recently reconnected with meditation, and that has been incredibly powerful. Like I said, there are some moments when I am not sure that I can keep parenting tiny people, and the meditation has allowed me to be better for my kids by highlighting that, just like everything, it is temporary. Similar to my relationship with food, I am realizing that I cannot compromise meditating and live the life that I want to live. It has been costing me forty-five minutes of sleep every morning and a little time in the evenings with my wife, but if I wasn’t meditating she wouldn’t want to hang out with me anyway…I don’t even want to hang out with me when I don’t meditate.
In terms of struggles, my biggest one has been the unadulterated joy that I get from food. My favorite thing to do is experiment with cuts of meat from Wild Harmony Farm, and roast some veggies doused in homemade melted lard. My cooking is getting better and better, and I’ve created some truly wonderful meals. On the hard parenting days, it can be the only positive stimulation I get, and it is easy to overdo it when there are three pounds of juicy pulled pork shoulder braised in coconut milk and curry with some cauliflower rice on the counter just waiting to be devoured. I’ve been working hard to increase the positive feelings I get outside of food with meditation and connecting with friends more regularly, and that has reduced the need to have fifths seconds of whatever I am eating.
Reading over my last “success story,” I still have the feeling that the more good choices I make, the more good choices I will make. It’s amazing that this journey started with the goal of LGN, and has ended up being a really steadying force in a tumultuous time in my life – though I still wouldn’t mind LGN. I feel a sense of purpose and forward momentum associated with these choices, and it allows me to improve just a little bit. The lifestyle feeds on itself, and I love how empowered I feel to make knowledgeable, healthy decisions as I commence my life as a parent of two.