30-Day Re-Introduction Challenge

30-day-challengeHello! It has been a while, modern-day cavefriends!

The last 4 months have taken a toll on me. I haven’t stayed primal and I can tell. My indigestion is back, I don’t have as much energy as I did when I was primal, I feel sluggish midday, I’m spending more time in front of the computer and less time getting exercise, and I’ve put some pounds back on around the midsection. Not good. Thankfully, I’ve at least maintained consistent use of my standing desk and haven’t reintroduced soda or fruit juice into my diet.

So, here is the deal. My wedding is in 6 months. I need to look good and feel good. I need to be on top of my game both at work and outside of work. My current state has to change. If I don’t change my habits, I will have no new outcomes.

Two friends from back home and I got spontaneously together on Twitter and decided to do the 30-day challenge again to start anew. Jacob Shalkhauser, Erica Gigliotti, and I have committed to the below and will post here on The Primal Challenge at least once a week during the next month.

In order to make a seamless transition back into being primal, here is our plan:

Week 1:
No bread.
No glowing screens for at least 30 minutes before bed.
Minimum 7-8 hours of sleep.
50% less refined sugar than normal.

Week 2:
No bread.
No glowing screens for at least 30 minutes before bed.
Minimum 7-8 hours of sleep.
No refined sugar.
No alcohol (with the exception of an occasional red wine.)

Week 3:
No grains of any kind.
No glowing screens for at least 30 minutes before bed.
Minimum 7-8 hours of sleep.
No refined sugar.
No alcohol (with the exception of an occasional red wine.)
Daily outdoor activity.
Cut back 50% on caffeine.
Watch at least one sunrise.

Week 4:
No grains of any kind.
No glowing screens for at least 30 minutes before bed.
Minimum 7-8 hours of sleep.
No refined sugar.
No alcohol (with the exception of an occasional red wine.)
Daily outdoor activity.
Cut back 75% on caffeine.
Watch at least one sunrise.
No dairy.

We start January 7. Once the month is over, our cravings should be gone and we should be able to maintain our primal lifestyle.

Are you going to join us? Dig through our archives for tips, recipes, and support!

Posted in 30 Day Challenge | 6 Comments

Go Camping!

First, I want to admit it’s been so long since I’ve logged in that I forgot my password. Second, I’ll cover my tail by claiming that it’s because I’ve been too busy enjoying the outdoors to keep up with this (or any) blog. But, I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few months, and I’m excited to share my primal feasts with all of you – I hope you have also been enjoying the fruits of the harvest this summer!

In the 40-hour workweek world, vacation is important – but it can be challenging to fit vacation into your schedule, budget, and primal lifestyle. So, go camping! Camping is a quick, cost effective and healthy way to spend your days off and fulfill the vacation desires of your entire family. I camped several times this summer, and each time provided unique and satisfying options for my physical and spiritual nourishment. Each camping trip also posed unique “survival” challenges from scarce kindling and extreme summer heat the weekend of July 4th, to poor air quality (from natural dust due to dryness) and chilly dampness (from late night and early morning dew) this past weekend. I don’t need to tell you that you can enjoy camping on private grounds or at State and National parks in any part of the US all year round, so I’ll just show you a few of the delicious primal meals I cooked for myself and my tribe over the fires I built this summer. If you’re in or near Ohio like I am, I encourage you to pack up and head out into the wilderness for a weekend ASAP.

(Hints for photos: LOOK AT THOSE SHRIMP – so easy: olive oil, salt & pepper. The foil packs have artichoke stuffed mushrooms and grilled mushrooms, onions & peppers with marinara (respectively). Random veggies from the farmer’s market we passed on the way. Leftovers always used with eggs and cherries for breakfast. A variety of sausages: blueberry breakfast, bratwurst, cheddar beer, italian…and can you find the “fake meat”/soy patties and dogs the vegetarian brought (not as beautiful or natural as the real food)? Smokey the Bear would be proud we put our fire out with ice before leaving our campsite during the hottest and driest summer on record.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

August Whole30 Challenge

Whole30 is putting on a challenge beginning today, August 1, to follow their program for 30 days. For those looking to get back on the straight and narrow, now is a great time. Read the rules and give it a shot! Who’s with me?

Posted in 30 Day Challenge | 1 Comment

Weekend Challenge: Unplug for a Day

This weekend, I challenge you to unplug for 24 hours. Don’t check your phone, your email, don’t turn on the TV, and don’t surf the web.

Instead, get outside to play, think, read a physical book that has been sitting on your shelf for a while, spend some time with the people you love, spend some alone time with your significant other, write someone a letter, or go out and explore.

Take note of how much more you notice when your head isn’t buried in a phone or behind a computer screen. (You don’t want to look like these people, do you?)

When you come back on the grid, drop by and leave a comment about your experience. Did your stress levels drop? Were you more focused on the things that matter? What did you do?

Posted in Challenge, stress, Weekend Challenge | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Battling Stress and Sharpening Focus: Unplugging

Part of the primal lifestyle is managing stress in order to live a healthier, more fulfilling life. Here is one way I’ve been combating stress recently. I hope it helps! -Chuck

The last week of June and the first week of July, I was struggling with major burnout, both at work and with my personal projects. Nothing I did seemed to shake it. I was getting adequate sleep, I buckled down and finished some of the projects that were giving me anxiety, I worked from a coffee shop in the afternoons (a change of scenery usually helps), but I was still burned out and irritated about it.

Come the evening of July 3, still no change. Since I had the next day off of work, I decided to do something I haven’t done in a long time. Relax. I mean really, truly relax. With no distractions. I put an auto-responder on my work email, texted those closest to me and told them I was going to be unplugged for the next 24 hours, then shut off my phone and my email and put them out of sight.

Unplugging might be fairly easy for you, but it surely isn’t for me. My livelihood is directly related to me being online and working on my computer. Even outside of business hours, I constantly monitor multiple websites, social media channels, and my email. If anything happens, I am on it. Unfortunately, this adds more stress to my life than I realized.

After I shut everything off, I read for an hour and then went to bed. At that point, I was a little unsure whether or not unplugging would help, but I didn’t think it could hurt at all. After all, I was so stressed out that it couldn’t have made things worse. It was nice to read without distractions for an hour, though.

The next morning, I awoke well-rested (without an alarm clock) and didn’t immediately reach for my phone, which was still turned off and sitting in my bag in the other room. I got out of bed, grabbed a glass of water, and sat on the couch for an hour as I gazed out of my window at Midtown Atlanta. For the first time in a while I sat and thought without mindlessly surfing Twitter, checking my email, or refreshing my Instagram feed. It felt good.

The rest of the day went pretty well, too. I didn’t go to any July 4 parties or fireworks shows–I just stayed around the apartment with my fiancee and read, relaxed, and cooked. When I am not tired or stressed, I absolutely love cooking. By lunch time, I was in good enough spirits again to cook and enjoy it.

The biggest advantage I had from turning my technology off was regaining my focus. I didn’t realize how much I mindlessly check my email, Instagram, and Twitter on my phone. When I pause to think, my phone comes out and I do little to no actual thinking. Without distractions though, I was able to plow through The Brothers Karamazov at a really good rate.

For more on reducing stress by turning off technology, read (or watch) these:
Taking Email Vacations Can Reduce Stress, Study Says

Paid Vacation? That’s Not Cool. You Know What’s Cool? Paid, PAID Vacation.

Brad Feld’s Quarterly Week Off the Grid (TEDx)

My goal is to do one night during the work week off the grid, as well as either Saturday or Sunday each week, depending on what my plans for the weekend are. I know it won’t be easy, but I can’t afford burnout.

Unplugging really does help in managing stress and improving focus. Do you routinely unplug? Do you have tips for the rest of us? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Ailment Relief, Play, stress | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Review of Whole9’s Foundations’s of Nutrition workshop

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a Whole9 workshop led by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, “Foundations of Nutrition.”  It was only halfway through the day when I thought, “wow, this was time and money well spent.”  The workshop was superb.

The first time I heard of Dallas and Melissa and the Whole9 was when they were featured on one of the first Robb Wolf Paleo Solution podcasts a couple years back (though I just heard it a few months ago).  They fill a much needed niche in the whole paleo world – winsomely urging strict adherance to healthy nutrition.  Why is this important?  Others won’t be convinced to give paleo a shot without winsome persuasiveness. Dallas and Melissa focus on the positives and not the negatives (“eat nutrient dense food” vs. (don’t eat grains”).  And ultimately if one keeps “cheating”, eating paleo won’t do much for them as the body will still be suffering chronic inflammation (among other ills) due to the continued cheats.

The workshop was an all day event from 9 – 5, with an hour lunch break.  For lunch they hosted a paleo caterer. Way to go!  Boy, was it delicious.  They opened by explaining that nutrition is the foundation and most important component of health. And while there are certainly other important aspects of life to get under control they are secondary.

They tagged team well together explaining the four criteria for good food, then moved on to which foods pass and fail those criteria. This was all very fascinating.  Frankly, they make it all easy understand and take in when they start with the reasoning, then move on to the conclusions, instead of giving the conclusions first.

Why would I recommend attending if they are ever in your area?
1. You get to hear from them in person, which is quite different and can be more personalized and beneficial than simply a book or website.
2. You will learn a lot about health and nutrition, especially if you are an auditory learner.
3. You will be challenged to start the Whole30 program (30 days of eating nutrient dense food).
4. You will be given a shopping guide, and other very useful materials to make nutrition a reality in your life.
5. You will meet others from your area who are also interested in starting or continuing these healthy habits.

I couldn’t give this workshop a higher recommendation. Given the time they work with Dallas and Melissa do a slam dunk at explaining the fundamentals winsomely.

My only suggestions for change in the future would be that they try to leave some time at the end to talk about some common problems people run into with paleo, like the food gets boring after awhile or what to do while traveling or eating out.

Posted in Review | Tagged | 10 Comments

More fish love

Following up on Chuck’s fish post, I just want to say I’m glad he brought up the importance of fish on this blog.

Like Chuck, I have been eating it infrequently, maybe once per month at best, mostly because I am a cheap bastard. In lieu of fish, I have been supplementing with high-quality Omega-3 fish oil (try Carlson or the Vitamin Shoppe brand), but there really is no substitute for wild-caught salmon and other cold water fish.

Most paleo circles recommend an Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio anywhere from 1:1 to 3:1. On the Standard American Diet, the ratio can typically reach 20:1. Some of the benefits of Omega-3 intake include:

  • Improved brain health
  • Improved heart health
  • Protection against Alzheimer’s
  • Protection against cancer
  • Protection against depression
  • Improved skin health
  • Protection against bowel disorders
  • Protection against arthritis

Other ways to ensure your ratio is in balance include:

  • Avoiding processed vegetable oils like canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean oils
  • Eating grass-fed and pasture-raised meats
  • Eating eggs from pasture-raised hens
  • Avoiding farm-raised fish

For a wealth of information on Omega-3’s, see Whole9’s Fish Oil FAQ.

Posted in Food | 6 Comments

Eating Cold Water Fish

Last week, while we were eating lunch at the FEE Summer Seminars, John Durant of Hunter-Gatherer.com pulled a can of sardines out of his backpack and began chowing away. When I looked a little surprised, he said, “We all need to eat more cold water fish.”

Fish has been a weakness in my primal diet. I know I do not get enough Omega-3s, and what little I do get, I most certainly don’t get from fish. The only fish I eat is salmon, and only once a month at that. So, after lunch with John, I decided I need to make an effort to eat more cold water fish. The next day, I picked up some wild-caught sardines at Trader Joe’s.

Admittedly, as someone who can barely take the smell of fish, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to stomach the sardines. I got up the courage today to fry a tin of them for lunch. I pulled them out of the cabinet, sprinkled on some black pepper and a bit of garlic powder, and browned them in the skillet.

The verdict? I ate them and they weren’t bad. I needed to put sriracha on top to get them down, but I ate them and didn’t gag. In fact, they were better than I expected. (I am slowly overcoming my weak stomach!)

I am making an effort to eat them once a week. I’ll see if I can get to where I actually enjoy them.

Next up for me: Bar Harbor Smoked Wild Kipper.

Do you eat cold water fish? If like me, this is a missing part of your diet, try some this week.

Is this already part of your diet? If so, what is your favorite way to prepare them?

Posted in Challenge, Food, Progress!, Recipes | 33 Comments

Weekend Link Roundup

It’s not just how many calories, but what kind, study finds – Kudos to the LA Times for printing this article that challenges the “calories in, calories out” idea. From the article: “the subjects burned more than 300 additional calories on average when on the very low-carbohydrate diet compared with the low-fat diet.” The doctor of the study still does not recommend a very low-carb diet because he thinks it is bad for the heart. When will the medical community give up this boogeyman?

Why supermarket tomatoes tend to taste bland – It turns out that genetically modifying tomatoes for uniform color also changes their taste… it makes them bland. Your best bet? Grow them at home or get them from a local small farm.

Sleep Deprivation Affects Immune System Like Physical Stress – Short story: Lack of sleep is as bad on your body as stress is. Get good sleep.

Standing desk for $22 – An affordable standing desk made with $22 of Ikea parts. If you are still sitting down because all other options of standing desks you have seen are too expensive, now is your chance to stand up.

Posted in education, Interesting article, Standing desk | 1 Comment

Simple Snacks

Snacking can be difficult any time of the year for those of us trying to live the primal lifestyle. Summer is especially tricky, though, with ice cream, popsicles, and frappucinos on every corner. Fortunately for us, fresh local fruit is in full swing. Here are two primal options for your afternoon snack.

Cherries (or strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries) dipped in marscapone cheese mixed with a little bit of vanilla extract:

A primal kit (minus the beef jerky) and goat cheese:

Posted in Food | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paleo minimalism

There is something to be said about the minimalist movement: live with less clutter (both physical and mental), and focus on the important things. In the hustle of modern life, we often get bogged down by stress and resort to mindless consumerism and vices that detract from our ability as humans to contribute our talents to the world.

What does this have to do with the Paleo movement and the Primal Challenge, you ask? Much like Bridget’s Simple living post, minimalism in the Paleo lifestyle allows us to focus on what’s important, much like our ancestors. Did they have aisles upon aisles of grocery store food from which to choose? No, they had wild plants and animals. Did they have shopping malls loaded with modern conveniences and pointless accessories? No, they had Mother Nature and its beauty. Did they have electronic gadgets to distract them? No, they had real relationships and community.

Minimalism is an all-encompassing lifestyle that fits logically with Paleo living: eat less frequently with fewer ingredients, embrace Nature, and strengthen relationships with others.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

When was the last time you watched the sun rise?

Only when I get up early do I realize how much time I actually have in a day.


Posted in Play, Time in the sun | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Quick Breakfast: Ham and Egg Cups

I keep going back and forth about eating breakfast. For the past 6 months, I would skip breakfast at least 6 out of 7 days and keep my meals in a 7-8 hour window, fasting for 16-17 hours until lunch the next day. For the past two weeks, though, I have been going in to work an hour and a half earlier than usual. By the time lunch rolls around, I am running on empty and I feel like I could use quite a bit more energy. So, I started eating a small breakfast again, and I still feel pretty good when it is time for lunch.

This is a great recipe if you do not have much time in the morning. Bake a batch the night before (it only takes a half hour from start to finish), store them in the fridge, and heat up one or two in the morning.

I used to make mini omelets in paper muffin cups, but the paper sticks to the eggs so much that I stopped making them. Peeling the paper off of the mini omelet muffins was not worth the effort.

In my opinion, this is a much superior version of the mini omelets. It takes less prep time, there is no mess, there is more meat, and best of all, there no annoying paper to peel off of the outside.

Ham and Egg Cups
Thinly sliced ham
Any desired spices

Preheat your oven to 375F.
Get a muffin tin, take your favorite thinly sliced ham and line as many cups as you want to make with 2 slices each. Crack an egg into each of these cups. Sprinkle your desired spices on top. Bake for 20 minutes at 375F.

Your ham and egg cups should look something like this before you put them into the oven:


Finished product:


Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Morning Links

Standard American Diet in One Chart

  • A medical ethicist writes at CNN: “People should be free to make their own choices, from the clinical trials they join to the food and drink they consume, without duress and unmolested by the state.”  Whole thing here, worth a read.
  • Scientists say that the most deadly day of the year is . . . your birthday.  (While we’re at it, here’s a fascinating reddit thread on post-death statistics.)
  • Bill O’Reilly’s wheat belly: “My cholesterol has dropped, my allergies have left, my waist size is down two inches, just for giving up wheat.”
  • Here’s a snapshot of your life before Paleo, courtesy of The Oatmeal:

    The Oatmeal, “Starboobs”

Posted in Interesting article, the science behind it | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Reading Material

Number 4 on the list of 7 principles that we challenge people to do for a month is “Learn a little bit about health every day.”

In the spirit of education, I just picked up “It Starts With Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig of Whole9 fame. There are a number of excellent reviews up on the web by people who got advance copies, so I won’t duplicate their efforts. You can expect, however, for me to post about what I am learning as I work my way through this book.

Stay tuned.


Posted in education | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments