What is Primal?

What is Primal?

The Barefoot philosophy

We're living in strange revolutionary and wonderful times. We’re in the midst of a food consciousness-raising explosion — unprecedented in history. Michael Pollan fills football stadiums, and Gen Y farmers are heralded as rock stars. And yet we happen to be living, most of us anyway, in the modern world, where fast food restaurants are on every corner, no one has time to cook, the canonized USDA dietary wisdom says that carbs are our best friends, and where most people will give you funny looks when you try to explain what your ancient ancestors have to do with how you eat today. Isn’t red meat bad for you? Doesn’t eating fat make you fat? Isn’t coconut bad for you because it's full of saturated fat? Aren’t whole grains the healthiest thing to eat? Isn’t tofu a health food?

You’re here because you know better, or you're learning. It could be that you’re here because you came through Crossfit or Born to Run, maybe you’re a recovering or occasional vegetarian, vegan, or raw vegan. Maybe you’ve read Robb Wolf, Loren Cordain, Chris Kresser, Nora Gedgaudus, Cate Shanahan, or maybe you’ve been in the Weston Price world for a while, and Nourishing Traditions is your bible. Or maybe you just got hooked on the nom nom good recipes at nomnompaleo.com. Maybe you’ve heard of the amazing weight loss benefits of paleo, or maybe you’re interested in living more naturally, more sustainably, more in line with your body's deepest needs, maybe you’re trying to get well or weller or wellest.

Barefoot Provisions is about helping you to live better by providing you a highly curated, foodie-centric, eclectic collection of essential foodstuffs and other provisions for modern primal eating and living. Modern primal living? Some people call it ancestral or nourishing traditions, others paleo, and others, primal. And not everyone quite agrees on exactly the best approach. We think there are important things to learn from each. The ancestral nutrition field is an exciting place to be these days. Conferences and blogs are abuzz with discussions about whether dairy is healthy, whether buckwheat is evil, whether agave is as bad for you as high fructose corn syrup, whether to graze all day or eat three square meals, whether to eat 30% or 50% or 70% of your daily calories from fat, whether a ketogenic diet is good for you in the long term, and how to keep insulin and leptin at bay. And while there is still a lot to be discovered, the foundational science presents a pretty clear picture of better ways to eat and live. 


Modern primal living is about the journey. It's not about all or nothing. Everyone’s on their own path. It takes years to develop new habits, and unlearn old ones. Be honest with yourself, but don't be so hard on yourself that you make yourself miserable. How to be honest: keep a journal, and look back on yourself six months ago, a year ago. See progress? You're doing well.
Tap into your genetic heritage to maximize happiness

(This is the most important one! Tattoo it to your bicep.) Our bodies and minds are the culmination of millions of years of evolutionary history. We are not born as blank slates; we come preprogrammed with a “primal blueprint.” For a happy, rich, fulfilled life, work with it, not against it. For best results, look back more than 10,000 years, before agriculture. Here’s what a life lived today according to our ancestral blueprint includes: connecting with nature, incorporating play into everyday life, exercising regularly, limiting "mediation" (anything involving a screen, unless it's a door), balancing work and life (ideally doing work that feels like play) getting plenty of sleep, sunlight and deep social connection.  

Eat as close to the past as possible

Here's what to eat as much as possible: plants and animals that are whole, unprocessed, organic/wildcrafted/natural, free-range, pastured, grass-fed, consciously sourced. Here’s what to try and avoid: grains, legumes, refined sugar, artificial anything, processed crap. This is very top-level. For more, read How we curate: our guiding principles 

Don't diet, live it!

This is not a diet, not a lifestyle, it’s a radical profound shift in how we live, what we believe, what we hold sacred, how we spend our time, and what we value. Sure, if you “go primal” you will get to your perfect weight, but it’s about so much more than that

Take a barefoot step

Modern primal living is about the journey. It's not about all or nothing. Everyone’s on their own path. It takes years to develop new habits, and unlearn old ones. Be honest with yourself, but don't be so hard on yourself that you make yourself miserable. How to be honest: keep a journal, and look back on yourself six months ago, a year ago. See progress? You're doing well.

We're all human
Not only that, but most of us spent our formative years developing cravings and comforts around the Standard American Diet (SAD). It’s impossible to go back in time 10,000 years, so don’t sweat the occasional pizza, if it makes you happy. It’s about larger eating patterns, not the occasional “cheat.” In fact, we don't even like the word "cheat," because it frames the world from the perspective of deprivation, not abundance. When you get to a good balanced place, you will always eat exactly what you need at any given time, and it will be just right.

Orthorexia will make you and everyone around you miserable
You might not have heard the term “orthorexia,” but we bet you know someone who fits the description: a rigid, all-or-nothing, rule-based, fear-based relationship with food that results in obsessive avoidance of foods that aren’t actually going to kill you, or make you sick or fat. That friend who takes a half hour to order at any restaurant? Probably orthorexic. Fear and rigidity will kill you sooner than any food (except fugu, poorly prepared), and any food offered to you with good intent should be consumed with gratitude. 

Health food isn't healthy if it doesn't taste good
Health food has become synonymous with bland, joyless eating. To us, this is not healthy. Barefoot living is about succulent enjoyment of life, not spartan deprivation. It’s about the experience of eating wonderful foods created by people who bring consciousness and care to what they’re doing. It's about delighting in amazing ingredients — textures and flavors and spices and layers of goodness. It’s about celebrating the bounty of nature, and the sheer bliss of experiencing the amazing tastes that nature offers.  

The goal: the foods you love the most are also the best for you
Since you probably grew up on the Standard American Diet, and maybe spent years eating bland, poorly-cooked vegetarian or vegan fare, it will take you a while to get to this place. But it’ll happen, we promise you. Eventually, you will crave foods that are great for you. 

We're creating the path as we travel it
There’s no real roadmap for modern primal living. How to reconcile what we know about food, nutrition, health, exercise, sleep, play, work, etc. with the very real demands of our modern lives? Nobody knows. So much of what we take for granted in our “modern” lives is now being revealed by science (and personal experience) to be at most destructive and at least not particularly helpful to creating deep human happiness. Every day, we learn more and more about how to live well, reconciling the distant past with a happy present and a sustainable future. We don’t have all the answers, but we’re constantly searching, questioning, growing, and we encourage you to do the same. Talk with us on the Facebook, ok? We can figure out this modern primal living thing together.