Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Jun

8 Primal Mantras for Beginners

It's a Journey, Not a RaceBecoming healthy is as much a mental process as it is a physical experience. Most of us would admit we find ourselves overhauling much more than simply our dinner plates or daily exercise. Oftentimes, we’re upending years – or decades – of unhealthy inertia as well as eating, destructive self-talk as well as inactivity. I hear from a lot of beginners who say they look to certain posts or even paragraphs when the going gets tough. Something they read here sticks with them, and it touches off something in their motivation. On a good day, it helps them go the extra mile. On a crappy day, it offers them a kind of reset button. All of us, I think, have those phrases, sayings – mantras – that bolster us in some personal way. Whether we’re standing at the beginning of a new healthy lifestyle change or rounding mile twenty in a marathon, tapping into the power of our mantra mentality can transform the energy we bring to a given moment and our journey as a whole.

Take it one Primal choice at a time.

It might feel foreign at first. You might worry about venturing too far from the realm of conventional wisdom. You might just feel overwhelmed by the change – any change. The anticipation of all or nothing dissuades too many people who want to make a positive shift in their lives. Don’t worry about whether you will show up for it tomorrow. Just show up for it today. Do whatever mental gymnastics you need to do to make a good choice right now. Then, do the same later when it’s time to move onto the next decision. Eventually, you won’t need to play the game.

I deserve this.

Mental gymnastics aside, know in your core that you were meant for this. You were meant to have all the vitality you will have. You were meant to be strong, agile, lean, energetic, balanced, happy. And let’s just cover the obvious. Do you deserve a cupcake because you had a stressful day? No. You deserve a full and healthy life to help you put that stressful day in physical and emotional perspective.

Pay myself first.

Pay yourself first and the rest will follow. This is akin to the Primal Connection Habit of Highly Effective Cavemen/women, “Be Selfish.” As I suggested there, this isn’t an argument for shallow self-absorption. It’s not a justification for wild egotism. I’m talking here about the necessary commitment to self-care that you deserve but too many of us lose sight of. Wanting time for essential exercise – not selfish. Wanting to shift budgetary allocations to allow for a step up in food quality wherever possible – not selfish. Wanting reasonable quiet in the house to allow for a sane bedtime – not selfish. Wanting a chance to maintain and enjoy the support of a social circle – not selfish. Giving ourselves the things we need to build a healthy life serves our well-being and – by extension – others’ we love or work with in some way. Depriving ourselves out of a sense of obligation sets us up for failure and resentment. Meeting our essential Primal needs will let us operate from our full potential. Win-win for everybody, but it has to start with a commitment to yourself. When we finally “get it” and decide to live life on full rather than empty, we become amazed at what is possible.

It’s a journey not a race.

Beginning a Primal journey will undoubtedly show you big results early on. That said, it’s important to bring reasonable expectations to the rhythm of progress. Don’t shortchange your vision in terms of ultimate result, but be patient with the process itself. If you’re trying to lose 100 pounds or put on 20 pounds of muscle, it’s not going to happen overnight. Dialing back diabetes takes more than a few weeks. Overcoming hormonal issues or recovering from gastrointestinal disorders are long term propositions. With commitment, there’s almost no limit to what you can do, but do yourself a favor by settling into the journey. I suggest that people at any point in Primal living but especially during the early months develop a wider awareness. Hone the subtlety and patience to discern deeper changes in how you feel and what progress looks like each day.

Celebrate something every day.

On that note… As I mentioned a few months ago, giving small wins their due can have a major impact on one’s whole enterprise. Don’t get so caught up in the end goal that you forget that progress is made one step, one day at a time. Celebrations don’t have to be nightly news material. Most days it will be the little stuff, which is coincidentally the stuff that makes the big deals possible. Maybe you got a good night’s sleep or resisted the junk food in the break room at work. Maybe you tried a new Primal dish or didn’t experience the midafternoon crash and burn after that amazing new Primal lunch. Perhaps you ran longer or lifted more than you ever have. Maybe you made your first attempt at interval training. Maybe you got outside for lunch or away for a weekend on a much needed personal retreat. Perhaps you talked with your spouse or took the dog for a walk instead of watching T.V. Maybe you stayed up too late and finally, really realized you don’t want to do that anymore. Celebrate the successes, the choices, the lessons of each day. There is no such thing as a day with nothing to celebrate.

Embrace the pleasure principle.

A lot of people come to the Primal Blueprint having felt lousy for many years. It might be because of excess weight, medical issues, or general lack of energy. The point is, many of these folks have forgotten how to feel – let alone hone – basic physical pleasure in their lives. When you live with constant pain or fatigue, it can be hard to see clear across to the other side of the spectrum. Take the time and effort to feel good again. Living Primally will do its work in easing the physiological issues, but inject pleasure into your lifestyle (e.g. get a massage, take a good bath, make really good food, enjoy the sensory elements of everyday life). The idea here is to reorient your experience of your body. Find ways to feel good, and you’ll be motivated to live a life that supports pleasure as a dimension of full well-being.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I say this all the time, and people tell me it’s one of the concepts that gives them perspective along the way. It’s why I believe in the 80/20 Principle. Living Primally is a life – not a formula. Reject the all-or-nothing mentality. Check your perfectionism at the door and relax. Follow the basics to the best of your ability. Bring your good intentions, a little forethought, and some Grok-style resourcefulness to each day. The journey will evolve over time – as will your Primal cooking repertoire, fitness enthusiasm, and Primal vision for life as a whole.

It’s a lifestyle, not a diet.

In keeping with the above, the Primal Blueprint isn’t simply about what to eat or even how to exercise. It can certainly be applied in these circumscribed bounds, but it’s much more than a short-term fix or a long-term meal plan. The real power of it unfolds more expansively, more personally than that. At its best, the PB becomes a way of viewing the potential and scope of health itself.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What are/have been your go-to mantras? Do you identify with any of the above? How and when do you use them in your Primal life? Have a great end to the week.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. “Progress, not perfection” is what helps me when I start to beat myself up for slipping back into old habits. It helps remind me of how overall I have done better than six months ago, even if I did eat something unhelpful this week.

    When I want to steel myself to avoid a temptation I use ” You are AWESOME. So start f**ing acting like it”.

    Lyn wrote on June 20th, 2013
    • Lyn, I love it! We are AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!

      Rae wrote on June 22nd, 2013
  2. My mantra: “I deserve to feel this good and my family deserves to have me feel this good.”

    Robyn wrote on June 20th, 2013
  3. I like…

    “If you hate starting over, stop quitting.”

    “Nothing ever tastes as good as being healthy feels.”

    “Strive to be the person your dog thinks you are!”

    Andrea D. wrote on June 20th, 2013
    • “Strive to be the person your dog thinks you are”

      Ha! Will pass this on to my Mum tonight! Nice one.

      (in my case I will substitute ‘dog’ for ‘chickens’)

      Prima-V wrote on June 21st, 2013
  4. My switch to primal was very simple, though perhaps that’s because I have no weight issues. The single biggest (and continuing) issue has been eating out because I always feel like an ass specifying NO vegetable oils, no grains etc. and asking about gluten content in everything. That and those busy weeks when you’ve not done enough batch cooking to tide you through and you get home from work starving and just needing something, anything at all.

    Jana wrote on June 20th, 2013
  5. Great post! Thanks Mark.

    Ara wrote on June 20th, 2013
  6. “Don’t let the perfect be enemy of the good” is my favourite. However, I think that some people might get too hung up on the “80/20 rule” and forget that although it does look like a formula and it *is* a rule, it’s not meant to be stiff, otherwise it would defeat the purpose of liberating people from their neurotic behaviours. I personally prefer shooting for 100% and not getting frustrated when it doesn’t happen.

    Gaby wrote on June 21st, 2013
  7. Thank you for this post Mark! I really needed it today. I have coped with a severe autoimmune disorder along with psoriasis for many years on toxic meds. Finding Paleo and your site had helped me adjust my lifestyle and get rid of the meds!! I have loved the Paleo lifestyle and felt like I was eating like a king. However the last few months my symptoms have been resurfacing, even though I am strict. After diligent research from your site, Robb Wolfs and Paleomom, I am now having to let go of coffee, my protein powder, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, most fruit and my treats like wine and dark chocolate. Basically a diet of just animal meat protein and vegetables, minus the nightshades. I really thought I was done with the elimination process. I mean I’m 6’2′ and weigh 145!! I am trying to put on mass by eating more not cutting out. Your post was spot on to help me with seeing the big picture. Whatever doesn’t kill me will just make me stronger right…right?

    Brent wrote on June 21st, 2013
  8. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    I want that on a wall plaque!

    Jo wrote on June 21st, 2013
  9. This article came at the perfect time for me. I have been trying so hard to eat healthy (by myself, my husband still likes his starchy carbs and bread), and majorly fell off the wagon last night with a ice cream/Reese’s concrete! Had to stop eating it halfway through because it was disgusting after a while. Why did I order that in the first place??? Woke up hating myself and feeling like a failure. This article and the comments that followed really help to put things in perspective – maybe I am trying to rush things a little bit. Thanks again.

    Kim wrote on June 21st, 2013
    • Ahahahahah, Kim don’t beat yourself up. Enjoy that ice cream hangover, it is what helps me say NO the next time my little boy lovingly brings in a tiny bowl of it in to me with that Reese’s hard shell (just like I like it) ….. Not that it’s happened more than a few times to me, yeah right. Plus, you’ll hate that your mouth tastes bad for a few days after as well, blechk!!
      Remember, it’s a journey up some steps, just because you stumble on one of the stairs doesn’t mean you have to go back to the bottom of the staircase, just pick youself up and go on, maybe with a little pain killer for the carb hangover of course. I think my husband and son are a little more willing to cross over to this lifestyle. I don’t feed them grains but I don’t forbid them to bring ice cream into the house, my bad I guess. Someday the whole family will be on this journey together.
      Just wanted you to know there is a sister out here that has been in the same situation as you.

      2Rae wrote on June 21st, 2013
  10. Yup, it’s a journey all right! I started Primal about 3 months ago – I felt like complete crap for just about the first 4 weeks while I detoxed. Then it got easier and I felt better. I initially lost 12 pounds but now am stalled and I am OK with that. My body will decide what it wants to do even if my mind is looking for 10 more pounds to come off! I do a bunch of kettle bells and like to heavy lift so I may weight a bit more because I want that muscle on me! It is a journey and it may take my 45 year old body some time to determine what it wants – after 45 years of carb feasting this is definitely a change. I have gone from carb junkie to carnivore in such a short amount of time that I mentally need to adjust too. I need to get used to the “whole” of it not just the eating part. Thanks for all the posts Mark!!

    Meredith wrote on June 21st, 2013
  11. My new mantra born out of recent times is, “I hate hospitals and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to stay out of them.” Kind of like saying I’d rather make the effort to be well than eat/do whatever I want and be sick.

    Casey wrote on June 21st, 2013
  12. Thanks for the great post.

    My iPhone lock screen says, “Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” :)

    Lisa wrote on June 21st, 2013
  13. Loved this post. Reaffirming with such good supportive comments too! Paleo now much more in eveidence in the UK now whereas, four years ago when I started and discovered MDA, it was invisible. Everyone who asks now shows an interest! It certainly is a journey, not a race. I’m 62 going on 40!

    Paul wrote on June 24th, 2013
  14. This advice couldn’t have been more timely Mark !
    After watching me lose 60+ lbs in the past year, my wife decided to follow the PB just days ago. She delivered our second child in mid-April so she’s finally had enough of the mental fog lift to try something new.

    She came to me this morning and said “I dunno, I weight 1lb more than I did a few days ago !” OMGZ stop the presses, one pound ! Minutes later she remembered that she’s slept pretty poorly the past few nights (heck the past 2 months really). Her discouragement wore off – seems she’s willing to try it for a good bit longer.

    The PB is indeed a lifestyle. I’m a certified massage therapist and I have at least 7 discussions a week with my clients about it. Some have heard of “paleo”; others haven’t. I’m always excited to find out how many are willing to check it out – “can you write down the name of that book/website again ?”
    I tell my clients – if you think massage alone helps you X much, then you really must try the PB as well.


    Invisible Hand wrote on July 1st, 2013
  15. It’s a lifestyle not a diet and a journey not a race are the two phrases that resonate with me.

    After 3 decades of yo-yo dieting the low fat, high carb way – counting everything that went into my mouth, going primal was and is like being let out of prison!

    My work colleagues are getting used to me not eating lunch room treats – they say I am so strong not to be tempted. However, there is nothing in it, no strength of character, just the fact that eating primally is so much more tastier while their “normal” food holds no appeal anymore.

    Thank you Mark for your continual words of wisdom and inspiration!

    Wendy Hay wrote on June 19th, 2014

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