I am on the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation and only now am I realizing that I am still an infant in my Primal Ways. This is my story.
My Primal Ways birthday is March 3, 2014. This is the day when I began a new journey down an old path.
I have rubbed shoulders with Primal Ways all of my life but it hasn’t been a coalesced lifestyle. That’s why I think of myself as an infant, learning and putting meaning into Primal Ways.
I have never met anyone else, my age, who can boast that their grandfather was born during the Civil War. It happened that my grandfather was an older man when my father was born and my father was an older man when I was born. Only two generations fell between me and the Civil War.
Why is that important? It means that I was exposed, as a child, to many old ideas. I heard many old stories from my grandfather who spent cold Oklahoma winters with my family and then spent summers with my Uncle’s family. You see, the concept of Assisted Living Centers for the aged, was a foreign concept. A Primal Way.
When I got a sore throat in the winter, my father would grab my grandfather’s bottle of iodine and swab my throat. Come morning, it was gone.
When my grandfather started getting winter sniffles, he would find his horehound candy in a bag and start sucking on the hard candy. Sniffles went away.
Come early springtime, a man with a mule and plow went from house to house in the neighborhood to turn the wintered soil of each neighbors’ garden plot. Right behind him, came another man in a pickup truck filled with composted manure to be piled next to the garden plots for use as each neighbor planted their gardens.
By summertime, the gardens were producing and being harvested. On most days our kitchen was filled with the heat and humidity of a pressure cooker as jar after jar of fresh produce was canned and put away for the coming winter when my grandfather would return. This was my life in the 1950’s.
By the 1960’s, my personal viewpoints were clarifying and my life’s plan was forming. I realized that I had been raised in a backward and uneducated lifestyle and that a different lifestyle would be better for me.
After college I settled into a corporate workstyle while living with my young family in urban apartments. As the children neared school age, we decided a suburban home would be a better lifestyle. Everything else remained the same.
There was a large backyard with a playground that the children soon outgrew. Something needed to be done with the space so it was transformed into a garden space. From my childhood I retained the lesson of organic gardening so I wanted nothing else for my garden, all the while eating conventional pesticide laced produce from the supermarket when the summer organic tomatoes, squash and okra were finished. No canning was done. There wasn’t enough to store anyway. This was Primal Play, not Primal Ways.
I found a Whole Foods Market one day while driving in Dallas and stopped in. My goodness, it smelled good. I walked the aisles as a form of entertainment. I sure couldn’t afford their prices. I ended up, however, buying a bottle of trace minerals from the Great Salt Lake that we all took until the bottle ran out. Boy, did we feel good! We didn’t replace it. Just Primal Play.
On that trip to Whole Foods Market I browsed a small stand of magazines and found my first “Mother Earth News”. That was interesting reading and brought back some memories of things I heard about and witnessed as a child, things that uneducated and old-fashioned folks did. I didn’t yet subscribe but I would find copies elsewhere occasionally. I read enough that I started to fantasize a remote cabin as a getaway from the hardships of work and urban living.
The fantasy grew and we found a small acreage in the Kiamichi Mountains of Oklahoma. We couldn’t afford to build yet so it sat, visited once in a while for short times. More Primal Play.
I smoked a pipe since college, convinced that it would not hurt me like cigarettes would have. I worried sometimes, until I heard a guy at work say he had read that for every 20 cigarettes smoked, it took 1 gram of Vitamin C to counteract the nicotine. I wanted to remain healthy and I figured my 1 ½ oz of pipe tobacco per day was the equivalent of a pack of 20 cigarettes. I became a 1 gram per day Vitamin C junkie. Vitamin C became my license to smoke.
I gradually was gaining weight from the skinny 129 lb. college graduate to a plump 30-something. One of my children called me “fatty” one day and I looked in the mirror; then I weighed. I’m a short guy and 178 lbs really did not look good. I managed to drop some of it off and my weight hovered around 167 forever, but with continual difficulty, like the proverbial yo-yo.
Over the next 20+ years, I thought I was being healthy, as evidenced by my ability to keep my weight around 167. I was now supplementing with every known thing that I thought an aging body might need. Long life hasn’t been a primary motivation, but I sure did not want to feel bad, however long I might live. So I read a lot, implemented some things, and tried to supplement my way past my bad lifestyle decisions. I still smoked a pack of pipe tobacco each day. As income increased, I returned to Whole Foods for the best supplements and occasionally splurged on some organic produce. When my work hours permitted, I still had an occasional summer organic (of course) garden. Primal Play.
It was a good time to develop the acreage we had bought in Oklahoma so one of my now grown sons and I built a storage shed and then a covered carport and started a cabin. Trips to the land began to be more enjoyable and productive as the small cabin took shape. Naturally, I followed the “Mother Earth News” way and built it off-the-grid. I was now a homesteader, just like those stories in the magazine. Primal Play.
In my late 50’s I went for my every-ten-year physical examination. My Doctor did not like what he saw before him. I almost walked out on him, convinced he was looking at someone else’s labs. I hadn’t weighed in a while but I already knew I was still around 167. Nope. His scales said 183. My blood pressure was high at 140ish over something. He ordered me to quit smoking or find another Doctor and he insisted I have my first colonoscopy.
I had the colonoscopy and was happy to learn my colon was clean and healthy. I thought I was doing a great job of staying healthy. There was proof. Why was everything else so bad?
The key, my doctor said, was to quit smoking so I did and my blood pressure normalized. But, I didn’t quit nicotine. After all, I found some sites on the Internet that proclaimed great mental benefits for nicotine. I used nicotine lozenges for several years thereafter until I traced my stomach and intestinal distress back to them. I weaned myself off of them, while having considerable cravings to resume pipe smoking. I didn’t.
In the absence of nicotine, my weight began to climb from its renewed 167 level. It passed the 170 mark again, then 178. I couldn’t stop it. I was starving myself. I drank only Diet Coke. I was feeling my health slipping so I did another round of research and determined that I wasn’t eating enough whole grains and certainly not enough fruit. I changed that.
I learned during my research that whole grains had lectins that prevented nutrient absorption and were probably why I got gas after eating them. The Internet taught me to soak and/or ferment them. I bought a good supply of assorted grains from Whole Foods and had a batch of one or the other, soaking and fermenting continually. Every day, for breakfast, I feasted on a fermented or soaked grain, cooked minimally. I had with it, some kind of fruit. I had fruit for lunch and sometimes drank a fruit juice. I was feeling good and knew I was on the right track. Primal Play.
I loathe exercise. I really do. I’ve always known it was the right thing to do and I jogged for a few years back in my 20’s. But, despite the good feelings derived from it, I didn’t want to continue. It interfered with my smoking. Nevertheless, I have known the benefits of exercise. So with my new found devotion to eating healthy whole grains and fruit, I began to stair-climb at work. It’s a six story building and was pretty challenging in the beginning. I never felt better in my whole life. The weight was coming off and I was back down to the 167 mark. I wanted to get below 165. But, I knew starvation did not work. I continued to eat my new friends, whole grains, fruit and vegetables and some meats, chicken as often as I could. I targeted 1800 calories per day and figured that, coupled with daily exhaustive stair climbing would get the weight below 165 with ease. No, it started heading back up and topped 170 again.
Something new started happening as well. In August 2013 I had to suspend my stair climbing as my left knee became swollen and quite painful. It hurt all the time. I was Primal Playing and decided to find a natural way to address the pain, cayenne pepper ointment. It actually worked pretty well, for a short time. By November, the left knee was better but the right knee began to have the same symptoms. No more stairs. I blamed them. I continued my increased intake of grains and fruits.
On a weekend trip to the cabin in January 2014, after the first night, I awoke with both knees doubled in size and in so much pain I barely could walk. I slathered both of them with the cayenne ointment and they loosened enough that I could walk but with considerable pain still. I returned home early, wondering why they were so bad. I had done no strenuous work at the cabin or elsewhere. I hadn’t stair climbed in months.
Monday morning I was better and the knees were returning to their normal size by the end of the week. On that weekend I did no work but the knees began to swell again. This pattern of swelling, pain, relief and swelling again continued in a weekly pattern until March 3, 2014, the day my Primal Play ended and my Primal Ways began.
I did not want to see a Doctor for my knees. I was convinced I was headed for surgery. I went to the internet looking for my answers. I do not remember the search words I used. Whatever they were, Dr. Jack Kruse was the predominant response. Where I landed painted a picture of me, my grain and fructose intake from the fruit I was consuming. I read that and I read about leptin. I read how a leptin reset can be the beginning of healing. My leptin reset began that very day. The next morning, I struggled to get my 50 grams of protein down, absent any grains and no fruit. And the next day and the next.
The weekly pattern of knee suffering was broken. I wasn’t healed immediately but the pain subsided day by day. In about 3 weeks I had no more knee pain. I was never hungry and I noticed my weight was dropping. That was a side benefit at this point. I mostly wanted to be rid of the pain, but the weight loss was welcomed as well. In the first day or two, I followed Dr. Kruse’s references over to Mark Sisson’s Mark’s Daily Apple blog for my introduction to Primal eating. I diligently adopted all I could of that as part of the leptin reset. I studied the differences between Mark Sisson’s plan and Jack Kruse’s Epi-Paleo food plan and ate accordingly.
After 8 weeks of following the leptin reset plan, I implemented Jack Kruse’s post-leptin reset plan but I modified it to lighten up a little with some resistant starches that Mark Sisson and some others advocated. I certainly understood their evidence of the benefits of resistant starches but as I gradually added potato starch to my diet, in opposition to Dr. Kruse’s argument, my knee pain started to return and I had to start the leptin reset over again. I am now back to implementing the post leptin reset protocol, using nuts to feed my gut bacteria instead of resistant starch. Someday, I’ll be healed sufficiently, perhaps, to use resistant starch but it did not work for me, not yet.
Today, 6 months later, I weigh 148 pounds. I would have been happy to be at 165. My blood pressure has been pretty even for the last 6 months, around the 110/75 level. No prescription meds of any kind. I am back to climbing stairs, the last thing I do before I leave work. I don’t have to take the 3 mg of melatonin I used to take nightly to sleep. I bought some blue-blocker goggles that I put on 2-3 hours before bedtime, to simulate the primal yellow light frequencies of the old ways. I now sleep 7+ hours per night with no difficulty.
Mine is not a miracle story. It is nothing like Dr. Kruse experienced personally, nor like the awesome stories I read on Mark’s Daily Apple every Friday. But, it is my story and I know this is the real deal. Someday, I hope to thank both of you personally for the contributions you made to my healing, the ending of my Primal Play and the birth of my new journey down this old path.
What I have learned about Primal eating is; this is not Primal Play anymore. It is a small part of my newly welcomed Primal Ways.