A Carb-Lover Goes Primal: The Beginning of My Journey

By Bethany Sanders

1023030_82690661Hello, my name is Beth and I’m a carbohydrate addict.  I’ve been grain and sugar free for exactly 30 hours.

My head hurts, I’m exhausted, and I pretty much hate everyone on the planet.  But I know from experience this feeling will pass … hopefully in another 24-48 hours.

I’ve battled my weight since my mid-20s, but things really got serious about two years ago.  What changed?

I went back to work full-time after seven years working from home while raising my kids.  My new job requires about eight hours a day of riding in my car or sitting at my desk.

Stress and inactivity added up, and suddenly I find myself breathless at the top of a tall flight of stairs and hitting the couch more often than the treadmill.  It’s long past time for a change.

First, I Got Rid of Bread and Sugar

Last summer, I dropped bread and sugar from my diet.  I also dropped 30 pounds in three months.  It was the only time in my life I’ve achieved significant weight loss, and I felt like a new woman.

I did some research and realized that what I was already doing was very close to the Paleo diet.  And so, in an effort to get a handle on my carb addiction- (which is once again getting the best of me) once and for all, I started my own personal 30-day Paleo challenge.

So, What Will My Primal Diet Look Like?

  • primal dietNo added sugar.  Why did I put this first?  Because I believe it’s the most important for me, and that it’s also the most difficult.  The one exception to this rule will be a very small serving of dark chocolate chips now and then.  See below.
  • No grains of any kind
  • Limited legumes.  This is not strictly Paleo, but I am going to allow the occasionally spoon of peanut butter or dish of peas.
  • No processed foods and likewise no food additives.
  • No dairy
  • No vegetable oils

Fortunately for me, I kicked the soda habit several years ago and only drink water.  I only drink alcohol occasionally, so this won’t be hard to give up either.

What will I eat?

My goal is to stay 80% on the Paleo track.  When I do go off plan (the 20%), my goal is for it to be something like a cup of brown rice or a sushi dinner with my husband.  No cupcakes.


  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • lean cuts of meat
  • the occasional not-so lean cuts of meat (bacon, anyone?)
  • eggs
  • nuts and seeds
  • oils as needed for cooking

In limited portions:

  • starchy root vegetables

And for the occasional treat:

For 30 days, this is it.  Thirty days to retrain my mind and my body to crave wholesome, nutritious foods and natural sweetness.  Thirty days without violent blood sugar spikes and drops that leave me fatigued and in a fog.  After thirty days, my hope is to again allow more whole grains back into my diet and to continue to work toward weight loss — my goal is 50 pounds — in a balanced way.

If you are a Paleo expert, this series is not for you, though I welcome you to read along and chime in.  I can use all the help I can get.  But if you, like me, suffer from carb-addiction and think that the Paleo lifestyle is too far out of your comfort zone, then let me be your guide.

If I can do this, anyone can.


  1. Dr. Bjorklund

    This such a great goal! I’m a dentist in Wayzata, MN, and I always encourage my patients to eat healthy for both their overall and oral health. The nutrients, vitamins, and proteins from the foods you are incorporating into your diet will benefit your smile as well as your body, and I am always finding new healthy recipe blogs to share with my patients!

    I have to thank you for the inspiration. If you are looking for new ideas to whip up a quick meal, I featured a healthy recipe in my blog called the spinach salad with chicken, avocado, and goat cheese (since you’re avoiding dairy, you might want to get rid of the goat cheese).

    Good luck!

  2. mac

    how much fruit is allowed?

  3. Sister Lou

    Love love love this!!! You are gonna rock it out sister!!

  4. Jeff

    Excellent post.

    I’m also a carb lover and dieter, who just very recently decided to make the switch to low carb primal diet, and I am eager to see what results await! But there some issues I still have. I can’t seem to shake my “need” to fill up on soft drinks like diet soda (which I’ve stopped drinking regularly about 2 months ago) and diet iced teas.

    I pretty much dread drinking water except after a good workout, and I’ve made the decision that if I’m to be hydrated it’s better to hydrate on soft drinks than to be dehydrated by not drinking water, but I’m just not sure if this is a reasonable decision.

    I’ve lost weight both drinking soft drinks, and not drinking soft drinks, but in your experience do you think one can still drink soft drinks and still healthily lose weight or should I try my best to stop drinking the stuff? Thanks for any feedback and advice!

    • Bethany

      Hi Jeff! Congratulations! Come back this week and let me know how it’s going. I’m curious if it’s been as hard for you as it was for me. I don’t feel qualified to speak on the soft drink issue, but I think that the more water you can drink the better. What about trying Gatorade instead of soft drinks and seeing if you can transition to water? I used to have a raging soda habit, too, so I feel for you.

  5. littlewildflowers

    Many blessings as you clean up your “soul carriage”! I’ve done the same, and nine months later, I’ve lost 73 lbs!!! You DESERVE MORE. Heck, we all do. It’s good to hear commitment as opposed to all the excuses I’ve heard!

    • Bethany

      Wow! 73 pounds! Good for you and what great motivation for me. Are you now eating 100% primal?

  6. Muffy Watson

    The Primal Diet is a carnivorous, low carbohydrate raw foods diet, pioneered by Aajonus Vonderplanitz. It can also be considered as a Paleolithic diet with the addition of raw milk products. The diet makes high claims on its health benefits; claims that were mostly never scientifically studied, and go against the current scientific understanding. In particular it claims to be successful in reverting serious degenerative conditions, like cancer and osteoporosis. For this reason most of the adherents to this diet are primarily moved by health motives as opposed to the many adherents in the raw food community, who are more often moved by ethical reasons.

    • Bethany

      I appreciate your input. I will admit that the amount of meat in the primal lifestyle intimidates me. I am not much of a meat eater to begin with, and I’m concerned about the amount of fat in the diet. But this is a work in progress so I will just have to watch and see how it develops.

    • Bethany

      You’ve made good points here, Muffy. I am eating more meat now than I ever have, and I have conflicting emotions about that.

  7. Spectra

    Good luck to you–I eat this way myself. About 80% Paleo and 20% other stuff–probably most of my diet is vegetables, some fruits, nuts, fish/meat, eggs, and oils. My 20% “junk” allotment is a handful of Skittles and a shot of vodka each day…I know most Paleo advocates say no alcohol, but I’m not actively trying to lose any more, so that is my treat. It’s amazing what cutting out most sugar can do for your body–I exercise, so I believe that I can probably tolerate a little more of the white stuff than a sedentary person–but I eat very little sugar, no bread/pastas/rice/etc. and I have energy and my skin has never been clearer. I also avoid dairy (I do occasionally eat Greek yogurt that I make at home, but that is a special treat) and I don’t miss it too much. I wish you the best on your journey–you really can’t go wrong by cutting out the sugar and eating mostly whole foods.

    • Bethany

      Thanks, Spectra. I’ll be looking forward to your advice as I get deeper into this diet!

  8. Jim F

    First question: What would a typical lunch look like for you? For me, lunch always seems to be based on some kind of bread. I’m too lazy to prepare lunch in the morning.

    • Bethany

      Hi Jim. I’m not sure that I have a typical meal down yet. The last two days I ate roasted chicken, cubed up and mixed with green onions and apples and a little Dijon. I had this with strawberries and cucumbers. I realized too late I had some spinach in my fridge I could have eaten it on. For tomorrow I baked some meatballs to eat over shredded zucchini. But honestly I think there are going to be a lot of grilled chicken salads in my future! I also might try wrapping deli sliced meat around long cut veggies for a more portable meal. I eat in my car a lot, so lunch needs to be simple. Also, lots and lots of fresh fruits and veggies. And I’ve been keeping a nut and seed mix in my car for afternoon snack.

      • Jim F

        I’m impressed. So essentially you will always base a meal on some kind of protein (instead of bread). It sounds like chicken is going to be the mainstay.

      • mac

        fruit? thought that was too high in carbs? what fruit?

  9. Wenchypoo

    You go, girl!! Join the thousands of us who were once exactly where you stood.

    • Bethany Sanders

      Thank you so much! Your support means a lot. I actually feel human today. That sugar is toxic stuff.