What I Gained From My 30 Day Primal Diet Challenge

By Bethany Sanders

Today is my last official day on my own personal primal 30 day challenge.

It’s been an interesting month.  There have been moments when I’ve been convinced that this lifestyle is for me.

There have also been moments when I wondered why I ever tried to try something so ridiculous. But honestly, it’s mostly been really good for me.

7 Good Parts of Going Primal

primal fruits vegetables

  1. While I struggled to maintain the strict guidelines of the primal lifestyle my first week in, it got easier every day.  After the first 7-10 days, the worst of my cravings for processed foods and simple carbs were gone.
  2. I drastically increased the number of fruits and especially vegetables that I eat every day.  I went from 2-3 servings a day to 6-8 servings on average.
  3. I cook every day, and I cook new recipes every week.  I’d lost interest in my kitchen over the last couple of years, but now I’m constantly scanning blogs and Pinterest for new healthy recipes to try.  My family’s diet has improved, too.  Ironically, I have spent the last two Sunday afternoons baking.  I can’t explain it since I can’t enjoy it, but my family sure has.
  4. After an initial adjustment period, I felt more energetic and more “level” than I did in months leading up to the challenge.  I was far more in control of what I ate every day.  And I slept like a rock.
  5. My IBS symptoms all but disappeared, as did my acid reflux.
  6. I completely kicked my fast food habit.
  7. I lost five pounds.

The 5 Not So Good

  1. I only lost five pounds!  At some point around the third week, I stopped losing weight.  I was using the excuse that I was eating primal to ignore portion sizes, I think.  I was just eating too much.  Because weight loss is my goal, I’ll be counting calories going forward.
  2. The primal lifestyle is still a lot of work, one month in.  I have to plan my meals ahead of time and it’s harder to pick something up in a pinch.  When I run out of my go-to foods, I stand in front of the fridge a little perplexed.
  3. Humanely-raised meat is difficult to find and outrageously priced at local grocery stores, which is one of the reasons that my family hasn’t eaten much meat in the past. I am currently searching for a local farmer to buy our meat from to solve this problem
  4. primal cholesterolI’m concerned about the cholesterol question.  My current cholesterol levels are great.  Do I want to see them go up?  Some people have seen their LDL (bad cholesterol) skyrocket on the primal diet.  Despite reading all the information I can get my hands on, I haven’t been able to resolve this in my mind.
  5. I miss Friday family pizza night.

I’ll Return to a More Balanced Diet

Going primal truly helped me kick my carbohydrate habit in a way traditional dieting never did.  I was never able to completely quit sugar, but drastically reduced my intake every day. I can see myself doing this again as a “kick start” if I let carbs take over my life again.

But I’m looking forward to a more balanced approach starting tomorrow.  No bread, no crackers, no chips, and no cake.  (Ok, maybe a little cake.) Those are my trigger foods.  But I really miss hummus, brown rice, cheese, sushi and other foods that aren’t technically primal but that have their place in a healthy diet.

Thanks for following me on this journey.  I’ve enjoyed your comments and your opinions.  I’ve got a long way to go, so stick around for more updates!


  1. Magda

    Don’t eat that cake! It’s so easy to go back to the old, bad habits… Keep fruit at hand’s reach instead.

  2. Kristen

    Sounds like this was a good way to break old habits. My husband and I did a month of eating “raw,” which turned into a year. We really enjoyed it for a lot of the reasons you discussed, AND we found that a lot of the habits we made (e.g., smoothies for breakfast) stuck around long after we finished.

    Anyway, I’m curious about your comment about “trigger foods.” This isn’t a term I’ve heard before; could you elaborate?

  3. Jaclyn

    It seems like you have done a great job with this diet. For some people dieting is not all they need to do to lose weight and also to keep it off. A lot of people find it easy to lose weight from dieting, but they find the struggle to keep the weight off. Another good thing to do aside from dieting is exercising. If you do both of those things then it will be easier to lose the weight and keep the weight off. It will also be a struggle to keep the weight off but it is doable. It is said that “the dieting approach reliably induces short term weight loss, but the majority of individuals are unable to maintain weight loss over the long term and do not achieve the putative benefits of improved morbidity and mortality” (Bacon). Making healthier meals for the entire family might also help you from wanting other foods because they are not an option in your household anymore. For the fact that you miss having your Friday night pizza with your family, you could always make a new tradition with a different kind of food, or doing something active with your family that counteracts the food that you are eating. There is also the option of not dieting and just eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full and that could help you lose weight because it would get rid of the over eating and eating when you are bored or when you have feelings that make you want to eat.

  4. Ray

    I have been on the primal diet for 8 months. My Doctor is thinking of suggesting it to some of her other patients who suffer from joint problems and can’t really do much exercising. I have lost a total of 80 pounds and left morbid obesity behind me. I have also dropped my cholesterol almost 100 points, which is lowering my medication costs. No more meds(at least for now). I know this isn’t for everybody because you can’t think of it as a diet for it to do any good. You have to make it your lifestyle, then you become a much happier person but it takes time and it has to be a real change.

  5. Jim

    Great post. It’s always interesting reading a REAL story. A diet can be great to follow, but the reality of other factors in life always have a part to play.

    One of the issues you’ve hit on here is that of sourcing meat – and I cannot help thinking that a high red meat diet is simply unsustainable for the planet, and that grains can feed more people using fewer resources than something like beef.

    • Bethany

      Good point, Jim. Beans were one of the foods I missed most on the diet, but I should point out that nuts and seeds are a non-animal source of protein that is allowed.

  6. Sister Lou

    Great Job! Here’s to a healthy diet paleo or traditional!!!! Best of luck to you 😉

  7. Noel

    You can still have pizza! There are recipes that use almond flour instead of the standard pizza crusts. Awesome job on an entire month.

    • Bethany

      Yes, I realize that. But the idea behind pizza night is that no one has to cook, and no one delivers almond flour pizzas around here. 🙂

      There are some amazing recipes out there, though, you’re right. You can eat pretty much anything you want on the primal diet if you’re willing to get creative.

  8. Elosie

    Bethany, Thank you for sharing your personal experience with paleo! Did you follow a specific book?
    Me and my husband also started an 8 week paleo challenge, which got a daily meal plan included so we don’t need to worry about the recipes – I admire your discipline and effort you put into your challenge!
    Now on week 3 both of us truly realized what we did to our bodies before and how we limited our daily performance with the wrong food.
    All the best to you,

    • Bethany

      I did not. I pieced it together using different websites. Though I ate a lot of paleo-friendly foods, I didn’t apply any of the other recommended lifestyle changes such as changing the type of exercise I did, etc.

      I don’t know if I can thank the primal diet or just cutting out all the junk food, but I definitely feel better.

  9. amanda

    I think you did great! Have you noticed any other changes in your body composition? Clothes fitting better? Do you feel better about having a meal plan in place so you DON’T order a pizza. I know it has helped me a lot.

    We are on the 16 and today was a rough day, I am having cravings bad. Went for a walk, and now I feel fine. Prices are CRAZY here in Phoenix for grass-fed meat. We are doing the best we can w/what we can afford. I am not worried about cholesterol, if you have cut out all the other things that cause infammation in your body, then things will even out.

    Great job!

    • Bethany

      I haven’t really noticed a big difference in body composition, no. The biggest difference is more energy from not chowing down on junk food all day.

  10. Spectra

    I really want to commend you for trying it, Bethany–it most definitely is a way of eating that requires a little planning. I am fortunate to live in a small city in an area with a lot of farms. There is a butcher about 1/2 mile from my house that sells locally raised, hormone-free, humanely-raised beef and pork and chicken. That happens to be where I get my meat and surprisingly, it is very cheap because it is not being shipped in or packaged in expensive shrink wrap. I sometimes buy larger cuts and do my own ground meats and butcher them into smaller cuts. If that’s a possibility for you, I’d highly recommend that you check it out.

    • Bethany

      Spectra — I live in an area with lots of farms, but not so much livestock. I know there are a couple farmers that sell beef and pork in bulk at our local farmers market, which opens early May.