Grocery shopping. Source: http://frank.itlab.us/worldtrip_2002/muscat.htmlYesterday, I talked about how I recently shifted to a more primal way of living, and how both my mental and my physical health have dramatically improved, as a result.
Today, I want to share some frugal tips with you on how you can also improve your health and fitness, without breaking the bank!

So, is it possible to go primal and be frugal at the same time? I believe that it is. The ultimate frugality was practiced for millions of years, as our ancestors made use of what was available to them: fat and protein from game animals, and roots, vegetables, berries, fruit, and nuts from the environment around them. This is the environment that we evolved in. Although we’ve also been eating grains and other processed foods since the agricultural revolution, this was never a worldwide phenomenon until recently, and our bodies are not well adapted to process these nutrients, which can cause health problems.

So, I can already hear the chorus of discontent among you: “but vegetables and meat are simply too expensive!” or “but I simply love my grains! I refuse to give them up!” Well, if it comes to grains or fast food, at least you’re not eating fast food. On the other hand, in the land of $1 burgers, you just might be. Health, however, has a price too, doesn’t it? There is no absolute dollar figure attached to good health, but think of all the doctor visits you’ll avoid, think of all the future medical expenses that you’ll be able to avoid, and think of how much you’ll enjoy life with your good health! Besides, junk food can actually be a lot more expensive. I’ve seen the prices of all those frozen foods, ready to eat dinners, etc…. and they’re not all that cheap, either!

Here is my primary recommendation for frugal, primal eating: avoid the center of the grocery store! Shop around the edges, and you will find most of what you need!

Diet

Intermittent fasting (IF)

In ancient times, we did not have access to food 24/7. There could be some days where we could engorge ourselves after a successful hunt, and there could be other days where we had nothing to eat at all. Although conventional wisdom says that we must eat at least three meals a day or suffer the consequences, these occasional periods of fast actually allow our bodies to cleanse themselves and they give our digestive system a respite from the constant stream of food that we eat. Your body will thank you for giving it a break, and your wallet will thank you for spending less money on snacks and food!

A natural carbohydrate diet

Our diet today is far different than the diet we evolved in. We spent over 2 million years in an environment with plenty of fat and protein from game animals, but only a certain amount of carbs from nuts, berries, fruit, and vegetables.

Today, however, we have thrown things completely in reverse; conventional wisdom emphasizes the opposite, with a prescription of low fat and protein, and a high intake of carbs. Our bodies are blasted with a huge influx of carbohydrates from sodas, grains, and snacks every few hours, which leads to a boom and bust cycle inside our own bodies. This cycle increases inflammation, stress, and leads to us feeling like crap if we don’t satisfy the cravings.

The way out of this boom & bust cycle is simple: Go back to the natural, healthy diet that we evolved in. It might sound counterintuitive, but by going back to a diet of healthy fats, protein, and natural carbs from fruits and vegetables, we can actually teach our bodies to start burning our own natural fat stores for fuel, and we can teach it to keep our blood sugar levels stable, rather than crashing after a huge boom.

Although I have to admit that pastas are cheap, vegetables and fruit are cheap, too, and they offer a variety of nutrients and taste. You won’t break your budget by shopping in the vegetable section of the grocery store, but you will be reaping untold benefits in terms of your future health and enjoyment of life.

Healthy sources of fat and protein

Our bodies function best on a healthy balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but our modern diet is skewed far out of proportion in favor of the omega-6s. This is mainly due to the following reasons:

  • Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Our livestock is fed plenty of grains in order to fatten them up; unfortunately, that leads to an unbalanced accumulation of omega-6 fatty acids, among other problems.
  • The overuse of vegetable oils. Everyone knows about the evils of trans fats by now, but vegetable oils are still found in many products. The consumption of these oils can lead to health problems.

One way to add some omega-3s to your diet is by taking some fish oil supplements. Fitness spotlight covers some healthy cooking oils that you can use to cook with (WARNING: This might go against everything you’ve been hearing your whole life!). Mark Sisson also has his own take on healthy oils. Avocado oil is mentioned, but eating the actual thing is even better!
If you’ve ever watched Food Inc. or Fast Food Nation, then you already know the problems with conventionally raised livestock. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get around purchasing CAFO beef or chicken. Mark also has his take on CAFO here.

Again, this is a case where the healthy way seems a little bit more expensive at first go, but when you consider all of the unseen benefits, it actually comes out far cheaper. There are plenty of ways you can save here, too; there was recently a special on olive oil at the grocery store, and it was basically a buy 1 get 2 free sort of price. My girlfriend’s mom took advantage of the low prices and stocked up!

I would never recommend compromising on health when such specials aren’t available, but when they are, be sure to take advantage of them.

Keeping things in perspective

It’s OK to eat pasta or even to have a pastry every now and then — don’t beat yourself up over it! It’s all about moderation and enjoying life, so don’t feel too bad when grandma makes you a bowl of spaghetti when you’ve been doing a good job all week.

Exercise

Pullup. Source: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/HXgN_u_FiPiEscSKo7TlswNow here is where you can really do your wallet a favor. Instead of that expensive gym membership that just seems to suck up your time on traveling back and forth, why not do your workouts at home? Mark Sisson recently released his new fitness eBook, Primal Blueprint Fitness, and I find it quite interesting. You can download it for free from his website.

The fitness plan basically consists of frequent low-intensity movement (walking the dog, biking to the store, playing with the kids, etc…), weekly sprints, and a couple short, heavy workouts a week, using bodyweight exercises. It doesn’t sound like bodyweight exercises would have the same impact as going to the gym and using weights, but these exercises kick my ass! Mark demonstrates the 5 basic movements in the videos below:

There is no need for a gym membership to do these exercises! Even the pullups can be done by attaching a chinup bar to your doorway, as demonstrated on YouTube here.

Tabata sprints are a form of high-intensity interval training which can be used in place of regular sprints. You basically do one activity all-out for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat 8 times to form one Tabata sprint. You can do a few of these sprints in a row for an even greater kick. I personally use the stairwell of my office building to do a Tabata sprint once per week; the run up the stairs really kicks my ass and I have yet to complete 8 series for one whole Tabata sprint! I get better with each time, though, and I don’t have to pay a dime, either!

Wellness

Once you’ve worked on improving your diet and you’ve worked in exercise into your daily life, you will notice a great boost to your health. There are also a couple of additional things you can do that are related to wellness, and don’t cost you any additional money:

Meditation

Forget those expensive yoga lessons; meditation is as easy (or as difficult!) as finding a quiet room with 20 minutes or so to spare. I am no meditation guru, but I have found a simple and easy way of meditating that helps me focus my thoughts: I sit quietly with my legs crossed and my eyes closed, and I listen to the sound of my own breathing. I count to 4 in my head while breathing in, hold for 4 seconds while humming, let the air go out, count to 4 again, and then breathe back in. I just focus on counting and breathing. My breaths will naturally deepen in order to provide myself with enough air. If you notice breathing is a little difficult, then feel free to relax the count.

I don’t actively focus on keeping thoughts out, but I rather focus on preventing them from filling my head. If any thoughts come up, I acknowledge them and then I let them fall to the side.

As you meditate, you will notice plenty of thoughts screaming for your attention in the beginning, but your mind will quiet down as the minutes pass and as you focus on counting and breathing. Humming to yourself fills your mind with a singular sensation which also helps to keep other thoughts from intruding on your solace.

I only meditate every now and then whenever I’m feeling nervous or I feel that my thoughts are spraying wildly, but the benefits are great. I always feel much more focused and calm afterwards.

Natural light

Sunny Beach.Our modern lifestyle means that our bodies are simply not exposed to enough natural light. Many of us spend our working hours under stark fluorescent lighting, and then we go home to spend more time under more artificial lighting. How much time do we actually spend in the sun? Some exposure to the sun without anything in the way (glass, sunscreens, etc…) is vital to Vitamin D production.

Although we can’t avoid artificial lighting, not all artificial lights are the same. If you are using compact fluorescent lights at home, you are exposing your body to a very unnatural spectrum of light all day long! Incandescent lights are also unnatural, but the spectrum of light they give off is balanced and smooth as compared to the spikes of green and yellow light thrown off by the typical CFL. If you ever want to see what I’m talking about, hold up a CD to a CFL. Notice how the colors appear “blocky”? Then hold up the CD to sunlight or an incandescent light bulb and notice the difference. When it comes to nighttime lighting, incandescents are highly preferred over CFLs.

Exposure to natural light is important in establishing normal and healthy circadian rhythms. Our bodies appear to especially respond to the amount of higher-spectrum light (i.e. blue), which is another reason to avoid all CFLs, especially the “cool” type.

If you are using your computer a lot at home, there is a program called F.Lux which adjusts the color temperature of your screen depending on whether it’s day or night. This program won’t cost you a dime to use. During the day, your computer screen appears as normal. At night, however, the color temperature slowly adjusts as to reduce the amount of blue light being emitted by your screen. When seen suddenly, the colors will appear quite strange. Your eyes will get used to it rather quickly, though.

If you are currently suffering from insomnia or if you have difficulty waking up in the morning, small adjustments such as ridding your home of CFLs and using programs such as F.Lux could make a difference. Try leaving your blinds open in the morning, too, so that you can be woken up by natural sunlight!

Short Yakezie Carnival

So, reader, do you also think it’s possible to eat well and live well without breaking the bank? I am no exercise or diet guru; I am simply passing on what I have read and condensing the knowledge that I have learned from others. I believe in this because it has worked for me, personally. I’ve noticed a great boost in my own health and wellness by following these simple lifestyle changes.

As always, I’m looking forward to the discussion!

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About

Kevin has left the office, and he is currently fighting the rat race by working on his own business. He enjoys exploring unvisited places around the world and gaining new experiences. He believes that by properly managing our energy and time, we can learn to invest our lives wisely.

29 Comments Kevin on Aug 24th 2010

29 Responses to “A Few Simple Frugal Tips to Healthy Living, Eating, and Exercise”

  1. [...] Weekend Reading: Last Days of Summer A Few Simple Frugal Tips to Healthy Living, Eating, and Exercise [...]

  2. No question that primal eating is easier on the pocketbook and the body. Processed and manufactured foods are the most expensive and generally the worst for you.

    • Kevin says:

      That’s the funny thing about those unhealthy foods… sometimes, you can get some of them at a discount, but it’s actually kind of expensive to rely on frozen dinners and the like as a main source of food, let alone eat out often.

  3. Kevin, I was just telling (lecturing) my daughter about the many benefits of healthy living. To recap I said, life is hard, but you feel better and are more eqipped to deal with it if you practice a healthy lifestyle. Good post!

    • Kevin says:

      Hi Barb,

      We don’t get to choose how we enter this world, but while we’re in it, we get to choose how we play the hand that we’ve been dealt. Eating healthy is all a part of being in the best shape to do so… and I am seeing for myself just how important it is as I get ever so slightly older ;)

  4. Some excellent tips Kevin. The one thing I’ve found though is that give people more than 2 or 3 things to do with there health, and they fail.

    Hence, the main thing out of your post readers should take away is eating healthy, if they do nothing else imo.

    BTW, what’s your Twitter account? When I click the Tweet this button it goes @AddToAny. I want to help promote.

    Thnx!

    Sam

    • Kevin says:

      Hey Sam,

      Good point. Sometimes it’s better to keep it simple… this could have been three posts. I was inspired, though!

      My Twitter account is InvestItWisely. I just started using Twitter recently and I wasn’t aware of that. I’m gonna have to check that out to see how I can make the connection; thanks for pointing that out!

  5. Great tips! Not only does going back to the primal way of eating benefit your health and well being, it will really prevent all the chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, cancer etc.) from occuring.

    More and more studies are coming out saying that a lot of the chronic diseases (including Alzheimers and arthritis) are related to inflammation, which is caused primarily by eating refined foods (white rice, white bread, processed foods etc etc.)

    So good on you!

    I still find it hard sometimes to not devour a bag of chips in one sitting though. Behavioural changes are hard… but worthwhile.

    • Kevin says:

      Hi youngandthrifty,

      It helps to explain why disease was so prevalent in some ancient and medieval cities, where the diet of the poor consisted of pretty much nothing but bread and maybe some other grains. The funny thing is that these products of agriculture can lead to adverse side effects, but without them, we never would have developed a complex society in the first place.

      Maybe we’ll eventually develop enough to the point where medicine will let us have our cakes and enjoy them too… without any guilt. For now, I feel much better on my more primal diet, and I am glad to see that many of you also feel the same way!

  6. I think it’s really important to see the food/diet aspect as interconnective. You’ve done a great job with that Kevin. I can see Sam’s point also:

    “The one thing I’ve found though is that give people more than 2 or 3 things to do with there health, and they fail.”

    But I’d also like to counter Sam’s idea with another view:

    Food is fuel, and it helps us fight disease. And I think most people, when grasping that, really can understand how it’s tied to exercise. When exercising, you’re burning fuel, and a lot of education comes about when understanding the importance of connecting them both. For example, exercise without a proper diet builds more lactic acid which promotes cancer. Antioxidants help to clear the body of damaged cells–which exercise actually causes. So exercise and nutrition must be taught in tandem. When someone is hungry, they often crave complex carbohydrates. Exercise builds people’s appetites, and complex carbohydrates like pastas and rices are craved. But they convert to sugar, which proliferates the growth of abnormal cells.

    A metaphor for this would be calcium. Good for you? Not without magnesium to help the absorption.
    Without magnesium, it builds plaque around the heart.
    In 1976, there was a study done on Tour de France Cyclists that I read in Les Woodland’s Book, Training to Win. Average lifespan of a Tour cyclist = 56 years old.

    A recent study came to the same conclusion. Exercise, especially extreme exercise, CAN shorten lives. And what’s extreme to some won’t be extreme to others. It’s all relative. Some people will build a lot of lactic acid walking around the block. Others can run 10km with very little buildup. So if you’re going to exercise, you must eat well. Someone’s ability to perform physically doesn’t mean they’re healthy. I was able to run a 4:30 mile when I was 39, but I wasn’t “healthy”.

    This deviates only slightly from Sam’s point. But I’m glad Sam brought it up, because it lets me feel good about sharing something that I’ve recently learned a lot about.

    Incidentally, I just ate my 1/2 pound of daily brocolli, drank my fresh squeezed vegetable juice, ate my Dahl with Tumeric and my oatmeal with organic blueberries. So I’ve earned the right to do some of Kevin’s primal routine.

    Live long and prosper, my friends!

    • Kevin says:

      Hey Andrew,

      I’ve also read that those cyclists have pretty bad bone density profiles. I think you and Mark Sisson would find a lot to discuss in common, as although he was a very fit marathoner at an earlier point in his life, he was suffering from what he terms “chronic cardio”.

      I think I’m going to start calling you the wise teacher from now on, Andrew; I’m just impressed with how much wisdom you can give on a range of various topics. I have an idea for you for a future post: Is there a correlation between physical health and investor performance? It seems that there is a correlation between fitness and brain function, so why not?

  7. Forest says:

    Hey Kevin,

    Great post. I am still eating grains but generally less processed. I try and only eat wholemeal flour if I do eat bread and eat brown rice, cous cous, lentils and lots of beans. I am vegetarian so need to replace the protein I would be getting from meats, hence the beans I eat a lot of.

    As for a cleanse I just read a local review of a woman who delivers fresh veg and fruit juice for a week cleanse direct to your home (here in Cairo) and I am thinking of trying it. It’s a 5 day long liquid only plan that is supposed to do a similar thing to fasting but still allows your body to get a hit of nutrients…. If I try it I will write about it.

    Luckily I work from home where I have fairly large windows and rarely turn the lights on or I work from a cafe which is exposed to the outside world, I have to get out for a short daytime walk at least once a day or I feel like crap.

    Your heavy exercise sounds like similar principles to the Insanity that I am doing. All the squats and jumps and push ups still kill me and I have been at it for months now!

    Thanks for the meditation tips, something I have to try out a little more as I think it will help with my sleeping.

    • Kevin says:

      Hey Forest,

      I like lentils and cous cous, myself! I sound pretty much 100% anti-grain at this point, but I think if you eat them in careful moderation, they’re still fine. Definitely avoid the overly refined stuff. Legumes are not necessarily primal, but I also enjoy a lentil soup every now and then.

      These bodyweight workouts are also really stressing my muscles. I didn’t know my forearms were so weak, but now I do. Not being able to do 10+ pullups is also a little embarrassing, but I can now at least do 3-4 when before I couldn’t even do 1. Although I only started last week, I already find that these exercises are really improving my general fitness in a way that the weighted exercises weren’t.

      P.S. Careful if you do the week-long cleanse. I find a day fast of water and vegetables really helped me out, but the body needs nutrients, and the influx of simple sugars from fruit juice may be detrimental.

      • Forest says:

        I couldn’t do even 1 pull up before I started doing this kind of exercise. I can only do 4 now as have not been focusing on them…. Once I am done this round of Insanity I think I will be finding a decent home yoga course for a month or two and will probably work on the pull up situation!

        All I know is I am pretty fit right now. Before I was heart fit but upper body strength was weak, that’s all being leveled out now.

        The cleanse involves soups and vege juices too but I am a little worried about the hunger it could bring on!

  8. Another great post! You have me eating better, so thank you! (Of course, it has only been a few days, but it is a start.)

    It is not too difficult to save money while following the lifestyle you described. Taking a nice walk in the evening is free. Eating vegetables from the garden is free. You just have to plan. I buy nuts when they are on sale. I buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Also, it is a lot cheaper than eating out and paying for cholesterol pills!

    • Kevin says:

      One thing I wish I had access to was a garden. Living in an apartment means that that isn’t very practical… ;) I’m glad that I inspired you… all of you also inspire me. I think it’s ridiculous to eat a bunch of crap and then rely on statin drugs to keep the cholesterol levels down. Even before I went primal, my cholesterol levels were amazing, in spite of the fact that I used butter and coconut oil. Maybe the truth is that it all depends on the level of refined crap that we eat, and that’s where the problem always was?

  9. I have downloaded the fitness book will give it a try. I think we already eat fairly healthy, but recently been adding a lot of fresh veggies and fruits and pay attention to “how much” I eat too :) Starting yoga today as well! I will see how it goes…

    Excellent post!

    • Kevin says:

      Seems you are on the right path! I’ve noticed that the fitness book is making muscles sore that I barely knew existed. My forearms have become pretty sore… maybe from the jackknife presses or pushups, I’m not even sure… but I’ve never felt them like this before!

  10. [...] Invest it Wisely: A Few Simple Frugal Tips to Healthy Living, Eating, and Exercise [...]

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  12. [...] to eat well, live well, and get into real shape? Mark’s 30 day Primal challenge starts today! Primal living helped me improve my own health and get rid of foggy head symptoms. Mark and his affiliates (and [...]

  13. Frugality tips says:

    Frozen foods, microwaveable stuff, junk food, anything that’s packaged and prepared for our convenience is not only more expensive than something you cook yourself, but also most likely less healthy. I’m not saying to eliminate these completely, but reduce consumption.

  14. [...] I’ve graduated and especially over the past year, I have been shifting toward a healthier way of eating. A couple of weeks ago, this shift accelerated. I had been enduring some increasing symptoms, and [...]

  15. [...] discredited theories of the next. I have personally seen health benefits from switching to a more primal or paleolithic type of diet, and while I don’t go hardcore and reject all modern foods (sure, [...]

  16. [...] Our brains become depleted over a whole workday, especially one involving a lot of mental focus and energy. Schedule the more difficult tasks for earlier in the day, and ensure you have enough downtime in the evenings to connect with loved ones, reflect on the day, and get enough sleep to be fully prepared for the next day. Apps like F.lux help to make it easier to sleep at night. [...]

  17. [...] Use every extra calorie you have in your body – Exercising is the best way to burn extra calories. Make commitment to exercise for 15-30 minutes daily. [...]

  18. I honestly would not have thought that coconut oil had so many benefits. I really can’t imagine that it tastes that good, but I guess I’ll have to give it a try. I drank coconut water once when I lived in Mexico and ever since then I haven’t wanted to touch the stuff. haha I’m sure it’s good though.