Like many people who were chubby teens and young adults (and overweight adults), I’ve tried a bunch of fad diets. South Beach. Weight Watchers (OK, it’s not exactly a fad, but still.) Veganism (also not a fad, but it kind of was for me.)The Blood Type Diet. Whatever.

So whenever I read about new diets, I just sort of role my eyes and keep plugging on my merry way of trying to eat a balanced diet. However, when I started working with a trainer, he said I needed to eat fewer carbs and more protein to build muscle and lose weight. A lot of bloggers had talked about paleo/primal diets, so I decided to look into them.

Paleo sounded like a bit much to me. I didn’t really investigate it too much, but I think that’s mostly because I really liked Mark Sisson’s work on Mark’s Daily Apple and in his primal books. The things he was saying made sense – cut out carbs, eat real food, don’t shun fat as the devil. Yeah. It works nicely for me, mostly.

Now, I’m not entirely grain-free. I still eat bagel thins (love them with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and spinach for breakfast) and I have been known to have a sandwich on occasion. I don’t always shun the bread basket at restaurants. But I do try really hard to avoid empty carbs (crackers, man) and to keep my added sugar level under 10 grams a day. My regular carb intake is something like 100 grams. The biggest bonus, though, has been tackling my sweet tooth. It’s much more manageable these days and I don’t get the desire to plow through a bag of chocolate chips nearly as often. I’ve switched to dark chocolate, which I find more satisfying anyway. I’ve added more full-fat dairy into my diet and find it more satisfying overall. I eat salad rather than sandwiches, which means I’ve also upped my vegetable intake.

There are things I could do better. I wish I could afford to eat all organic, all the time, but it’s pricey and I don’t have the space to store meat from a farm. So that’s an issue, but it’s more of an ethical one than a dietary one. I do still eat more sugar than I probably do, though usually not enough to really make me feel bad, so that’s something pretty key for me. Though I’ve cut back pretty substantially on the amount of beer and wine I drink, I should probably cut it out completely again, at least for a little while. Pizza will always be a weakness. Man, I love pizza. I probably should eschew the bread basket at restaurants, though I at least am no longer eating as many pieces out of it.

I’m not living ‘primal,’ not really. I’m trying to cut empty calories and really focus on eating real foods that keep me full for longer than the crackers and pita chips I used to eat. I still have a hard time at restaurants but I’m working on it. And of course cutting back on beer and wine is always a struggle! Overall, though, I have found the ideals of eating a primal diet is a useful tool in my healthy eating arsenal.