Yesterday, 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!
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.
Now 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:
- Pushup Progression
- Pullup Progression
- Squat Progression
- Overhead Press Progression
- Plank Progression
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!
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:
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.
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
- Out of Debt Again: How’s Your Energy Level?
- Early Retirement Extreme: How we eat
- Frugal Zeitgeist: Grow your own
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!