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

An Open Letter to Kids and Teens (and Infant Prodigies)

In light of the recent release of Paleo Girl – a new Primal book that helps teens navigate the crazy world of flawed dietary and fitness advice, and get a jump start on healthy living – I’m republishing this article I originally wrote and published in December 2011. If you want the next generation to grow up in a healthier world, share this article with your friends and family. Let’s give the young adults in our lives the knowledge they need to be successful!

Dear youngsters,

You’re going through some difficult times, no doubt. I’ve been in your shoes before. I’ve been a kid dealing with basically all the same stuff you have to contend with. I’ve been there.

Your hormones are probably (depending on age, gender, and exposure to attractive members of opposite/same sex) either raging, simmering, fomenting, budding, and/or swelling.

Your legs and arms may be growing at disproportionate rates, leaving you feeling like a stranger in your own body.

That cute new guy whom you planned on eventually marrying has a funny last name, which just won’t work with the names of the kids you’ve chosen.

You just discovered the Beatles, and you totally want to tell everyone about it, but they’re all into top 40 stuff. You just can’t relate.

Your opinions on everything, who your best friends are, your relationship with your parents, and your post-high school plans change rapidly from day to day to day. And not superficial changes, but real, soul-rending ones.

Everything’s in flux, but (or ergo?) everything’s exciting. Everything’s the end of the world, or the start of something new and magnificent. In short, you’re young, the world is big, and you want to make the most of it all.

But I have a suggestion for you. It’s a suggestion that I wish I would have read on a computer somewhere when I was a kid (of course, that would have required me waiting an hour for Al Gore to patch me through on the ARPANET on a computer the size of a room):

Consider going Primal. Don’t wait until you’re old, hurting, and full of regrets to seize control of your health. Take it from someone who did wait until he was old(er) and hurting to conquer his health issues. You don’t want to wait. If you do, you’ll still likely make it, but you’ll miss out on valuable time.

I’m not even going to say you have to go 100% hardcore Primal – although it certainly wouldn’t hurt. I’m just saying it would be a fantastic idea for you to become aware of this stuff while you’re still young and on the cusp of the prime of your life.

The way I see it, if you don’t, you’re squandering a golden opportunity to extend the prime of your life through, well, the rest of it. Right now, I feel like I’m at my best. I honestly do. Mentally, emotionally, physically, professionally, I’m at a place where I wouldn’t trade places with myself 20 years ago. I was fit, doing triathlons, coming off of a strong career as a marathoner, but I was missing true health. Thanks to going Primal, I’m better than ever.

Now, think of what I just said. I’m 58. I’m probably older than your dad. I’ve lived over half a century, and yet I can:

Keep up with guys younger than half my age in high intensity Ultimate Frisbee.

Hike for twelve hours on an empty stomach.

Produce pretty decent content for a popular blog on a daily basis.

Write books and develop supplement lines that people actually buy and seem to really like.

Pass incredible quality time with my beautiful wife whenever I want.

Take a day off just to relax with the family if I so desire.

Spend half the day stand up paddle boarding.

Take my shirt off without feeling self conscious about my sagging gut and man-boobs.

Bound up flights of stairs because it’s easier and less time consuming than walking up them and scoff at escalators.

Feel mentally “there” and “on” at all times (okay, maybe the morning coffee helps in this regard, sometimes).

The thing is, these aren’t magical or fantastical accomplishments. I think these are extremely basic things any human should be able to expect out of themselves, albeit with minor variations. Not everyone is going to blog or play Ultimate, but everyone should be able to find creative satisfaction and engage in physical activity whenever they want without worrying out getting injured, something hurting, or fatiguing too quickly.

And I’m just some old dude who made a ton of mistakes early on and paid dearly for them… and I’m still doing pretty darn good. I’m not the only one, either. Many, if not most, of our success stories on this blog come from people who came back – better than ever – from poor health caused by making the wrong choices based on the wrong information in their younger years. Learn from their and from my mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself.

Just imagine where you’ll be at 58 if you stay abreast of this health and fitness and nutrition and stress stuff starting from an early age. Just imagine how ahead of the game you’ll be, and stay for as long as you want.

Honestly, though? There’s a little selfishness going on here, too. I’m convinced that the earlier you commit to a Primal lifestyle, the greater the rewards later on in life, and I really want to see it happen. I know we’re never going to get anything close to a big study on the Primal lifestyle funded to test this idea out, but if we can convince a host of youngsters to start young – and stick with it – I think we’d see some remarkable things happen.

No, I’m not talking about forging Olympians or NBA stars or anything like that, necessarily. I’m referring to the promotion of a generation of healthy, happy, robust, fit, attractive, and most importantly of all, self-sufficient people forging their own paths toward health and wellness. I’m imagining a world where doctors flourish as the skilled technicians they are, meeting acute challenges without having to focus so much on the chronic stuff that they’re often unprepared to handle and their patients are unwilling to handle. Where people take responsibility for their own health, and it’s not a struggle or an ordeal, but rather just second nature. Heck, maybe it’ll even be a generation for whom this Primal stuff isn’t so crazy at all.

So, teens, tots, children, whoever (heck, even parents) – give it an honest shot. You don’t have to give up hanging out with friends or even grabbing pizza after a game sometimes. Embrace the 80/20 principle and just learn to make the right choices most of the time and understand that humans don’t come broken out of the box. That even though observing the greater population at large might lead you to the opposite conclusion, people are by and large born primed for excellent health.

Now go. Get healthy while you’re still healthy, while you’re still unbroken. It’s always easier – and more effective – to keep a new knife sharp than to restore a chipped, rusty, neglected old one.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and please share your advice with the younger amongst us in the comment board below.

Learn More About the Brand New Book Paleo Girl and Grab Your Free Gifts While the Limited-Time Offer Lasts

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. Thanks Mark :)
    I am 15 and I love the primal lifestyle. I agree that every teen/young person should get involved. I have never felt better

    Alyssa Azar wrote on January 3rd, 2012
  2. It’s good to see this post! I’m an 18 year old female and i’ve been conscious of health for the majority of my teens( it’s hard to not be with a nurse for a mom!)and my older brother just introduced me to the Primal Blueprint. I hope that I’ll see results soon and my yo-yoing weight will reflect the care I’m giving my body and mind.
    Thanks for keeping the teens in mind, Grok on!

    Louisa wrote on January 4th, 2012
  3. I’m 16 (almost 17!) and I started going Primal on the first of January (with my mom) after my percussion director informed me about it. I’m only on day 4 right now but I am amazed at how much better I feel after my meals. The sugar withdrawl sucks but that will go away soon. I’m super excited about my primal future. Thanks so much for publishing you lifestyle. It’s wonderful!

    casey wrote on January 5th, 2012
  4. Dear Mark,
    My mom has tried to get me on this diet many times before, and everytime I was waiting for Monday when they served pizza at lunch. With the new year rolling along, however I decided now was as good a time as ever to give it a shot. I am having no problems. (so far)I have ignored the delicious food my friends have been eating at lunch and sticking to this diet. I have not gone though withdrawls yet, and hope I can bypass that part. Thank you for this column.

    Bree wrote on January 7th, 2012
  5. I’m 16, I managed to leave high school early and start college. I do a lot of mixed martial arts and carbs are vastly important in order to have enough energy; how would being primal transfer over to my MMA training?

    Zane wrote on February 17th, 2012
    • Opt for good carb sources, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, bananas, fruit and any starchy tubers. If you’re on a meal plan, potatoes at the baked potato bar, rice (make sure it’s not the kind that’s mixed w/ seed oil) and bananas are probably the easiest to come by.

      Elle wrote on June 12th, 2014
  6. Thanks, I’m 14 and for over a month I’ve been primal (except for some dark chocolate and maybe a slice of pizza when there’s a party). But I stopped eating sugar and grains (I used to eat it a lot) and it’s not that hard at all.:) I feel so much better now and since I discovered this site I went on a search for better stores in my neighborhood. I live in the Netherlands and I found out we have a lot of awesome food stores here. Organic butcheries/restaurants. There is even a organic chocolate store which is owned by a guy who makes his chocolate in his shop by using organic butter and raw milk. He sells 90% chocolate. I had a talk with him today and he is also eating paleo, lol. He grows all his food in his backyard and he never goes to commercial supermarkets.

    Since I went paleo I also found so many cool recipes on the internet and I’ve got another hobby: cooking :).
    Sorry for my maybe uninteresting blabbering

    William wrote on March 1st, 2012
  7. I’m a 14 year old girl trying to go Primal (yeah, I’m starting early :)). My only problem is my parents don’t believe in Primal, and it’s difficult to go Primal without their support, especially when they buy the food. Any advice from others who have gone through this or articles dealing with something similar?

    Vanna wrote on April 5th, 2013
    • I often have this same problem. Im 16 and my parents don’t disagree with the primal lifestyle, but they most definitely don’t follow it. I try to eat my mom’s cooking as often as possible, eating around the non-primal foods. At my house, you will often see me eating spaghetti sauce without the noodles with salad or eating lettuce wraps while everyone else eats tortillas. Last night we went to a neighborhood barbecue and I just ate a hamburger patty without the bun with lots of salad and veggies (I got some pretty funny looks😂).My mom does support me in this and will usually have veggies, fruits, eggs, nuts, and meat available for me to use, but it gets a little difficult when my four siblings and parents are all eating grains, or treats around me. It’s hard to be strong but you can do it! People will begin to notice, and commend you for your amazing will power. Good luck!

      Erin Griffin wrote on June 11th, 2014
      • I completely relate! I started primal about a year ago (I was 18 then) and it’s difficult when the rest of your family eats unhealthy. It’s really hard to avoid the veg oils in home-cooking, and they look at you weird when you put coconut milk or something in the shopping cart. My family completely supports my way of eating, but sometimes I can’t help feel “silently” ostracized when we’re out at a restaurant and they all order french toast or something and I get eggs “without the side of toast, please”. It’s a lot easier now that I’m in college, and I can just do my own grocery shopping and cooking. :)

        Elle wrote on June 11th, 2014
  8. Don’t wait. My free ticket on the regret train wasn’t all it was cracked up to be :)

    Groktimus Primal wrote on June 11th, 2014
  9. I remember this post. It’s well done.
    I too tend to scoff at escalators and take the stairs if there are any unless I’m in a hurry but I do like to get in a little bit of escalator parkour type action once in a while. You can use the physics and momentum to get a roller coaster feeling running up them and smoothly sort of fly off the top for a step.

    Animanarchy wrote on June 11th, 2014
  10. This:

    “I’m convinced that the earlier you commit to a Primal lifestyle, the greater the rewards later on in life, and I really want to see it happen. I know we’re never going to get anything close to a big study on the Primal lifestyle funded to test this idea out, but if we can convince a host of youngsters to start young – and stick with it – I think we’d see some remarkable things happen.”

    Being a scientist I would love to see a large epidemiogical study on the effects of a primal lifestyle, but I am cynical as to how well it would be done and about the people who would end up doing the study.

    Barring that let’s get the younger generation on the primal path. My kids, thankfully, will eat mostly primal because our entire house has adapted the lifestyle. I’m hoping that my kids will become as interested in diet and nutrition as I have become just by being around me and my wife. We hope.

    C L Deards wrote on June 11th, 2014
  11. My kids are 4 and 7 and yes I’m working on keeping them as primal as possible. It is very hard with them going to daycare and school. I have started feeding my 7 year old eggs, bacon and hot chocolate with MCT oil and butter for breakfast, even though daycare feeds them, which usually consists of mostly carbs, ugh. And my 4 year old always asks for a salad like the one I have (aka BAS). It is a good start I think.

    NaturallySmith wrote on June 11th, 2014
  12. I am a fourteen year old girl who discovered primal about eight months ago. The initial transition was hard, but now I will never go back! Going primal was one of the best choices I have ever made for my health, and this blog has been an incredible resource. Thanks to Mark, I have learned that there is a severe lack of good dietary/lifestyle advice, and that conventional wisdom isn’t always right. I mean, I see doctors prescribing birth control to girls my age for acne! People everywhere tell me that it’s okay for me to eat junk, because I’m young and skinny and I can just burn the calories later. I get weird looks for taking the initiative when it comes to my health and going to the local farmer’s market every week. Anyways, I realize that I am so blessed to have access to the internet and MDA, because this information is priceless. Grok on! :)

    Raina wrote on June 11th, 2014
  13. This post makes me so happy! I am currently 16 and have been strict primal for about 6 months. When I was 12, I was on the verge of being overweight, and hated my body. I decided to do something about it and my amazing dad told me about the primal diet. I decided to try it with him and see how it actually worked. I lost about 15 pounds as a 12 year old, but more importantly, gained the knowledge of how to take care of my body. Back then, it was a diet, mainly just to lose weight and look better. Since then, I have been on and off primal to keep my weight down, until 6 months ago when I started what I plan to be the rest of my life. It is no longer a diet, but truly a lifestyle. My friends and family all think I’m crazy, but I know that this way of life is amazing! I love the way it makes me feel and I honestly think I will stick with it until the day I die. I am the only primal teen I know, but we do exist! Thanks for all the support!

    Erin Griffin wrote on June 11th, 2014
  14. Since I’m here, it’s obvious I would prescribe to primal. But I think just as important, is that if you’re a youngster considering Primal, your family (who likely buys the groceries) needs to be supportive as well. Growing up, I don’t believe my family would be behind this, but I sure wish they were and that this blog was around in my teens (the late 90s).

    Blue Buddha wrote on June 11th, 2014
  15. Most importantly – and this is especially important for kids in American schools – PRIORITIZE YOUR SLEEP. Teenagers’ body clocks shift to wake up later and go to bed later. American schools force kids to wake up at times that would be unhealthy even for a normal adult, let alone for a teenager. CW on sleep is much more entrenched, and much worse for your health, than CW on food or exercise. The whole “early to bed early to rise” nonsense, the whole “you don’t need to sleep more than 5 hours”, the whole “pull all-nighters to get your classwork done” – that is damaging your health (including your metabolism and your weight) far more than any number of donuts.

    I was fairly Primal, food-wise, as a teenager, but I am a night owl – and when I was a teenager it was worse. Forcing myself to be a morning person (because I thought I had to) has led to near-suicidal depression, addictive behaviors, poor grades in school and college, and probably some damage to my physical health as well. Don’t do that to yourself. Fight for your right to a basic biological function – namely, sleep. Fight your school on this, fight your parents on this, point them to all the research and all the science being done on this issue. Your school starts way too early and they know it’s hurting you (there have been studies that show when school start times are moved just a half an hour later, the kids’ grades improve). Your coaches should not be scheduling practices at 7am if they truly care about your health. Your parents should be on your side in this, and fighting the school as hard as they would if the school were giving you cigarettes and booze.

    Sleep deprivation causes huge health problems down the road. Protect your health now.

    meepster wrote on June 11th, 2014
    • YES!! I wish somewhere someone would realize that mornings do not work for night owls! I tried to adjust to my morning schedule as well this year, but it just left me more tired and inflamed. It’s unhealthy to go against your natural sleeping habits.

      Elle wrote on June 11th, 2014
      • And it’s especially bad for teenagers – teenagers’ body clocks shift to make them later risers. It’s well-documented, everyone knows this, everyone knows that sleep deprivation causes a myriad of health problems, and we still make teenagers get up at 5am.

        I used to have a tutoring business and had a lot of teenage clients. They were all chronically exhausted. Every single one. They all got up at 5 or 6 am every day for school. That is as damaging to their health as smoking cigarettes, and no parent in their right mind would force a kid to smoke – why are we allowing this to happen?

        Seriously, Mark, can you use your influence to start some sort of campaign against early rising for teenagers? It will improve their health far more than any dietary change ever will.

        meepster wrote on June 11th, 2014
        • Not just teenagers, but college kids too. I’m in college right now, and it’s an “accepted” norm that students are sleep deprived and exhausted in order to keep up with classes and extracurriculars. We are still growing too-until we’re 22 or 23!

          Elle wrote on June 11th, 2014
  16. I’ve suffered from disordered eating most of life and was the unhealthiest as a teenager. I wish someone would have pointed me in the primal direction back then, but now at 30 I’m finally in a place in my life where I’m no longer trying to get the perfect body and am in search of good health, true happiness, and motherhood. I’m on day 3 of the 21 day transformation program and I don’t ever intend to go back.

    Jen wrote on June 11th, 2014
  17. Great article Mark, I was going to write in anyway to let you know that one of my teenage sons, Nick, has just recently “got” the whole primal thing!! Amazing to watch, he’s 15 and is making some brilliant choices, thanks mainly due to your website. I hope this is lifelong understanding for him. I heard a Science teacher at his school talking to a revision class about cholesterol and how butter is bad for you and margarine is better for you – made me realise how indoctrinated they are from a young age. I spoke to Nick about it later and he confirmed that he has to go along with it at school and for exams, but he knows it’s not true. Just need to get my two other boys on board (aged 17 and 13) as they’re still eating a lot of rubbish! Thanks for writing this article!

    Hannah wrote on June 11th, 2014
  18. Nice to hear from all these younger people and especially young primal teens. I wonder how many are out there. I encourage you all to stay with the blueprint. I wish I got started with it and began educating myself about health earlier.

    Animanarchy wrote on June 11th, 2014
  19. Every time I tell people my age they are like “wow dude I wish I knew … at your age”. I think you said the same thing Mark. And when I asked if you’d go back in time, you wouldn’t… Which reminds me not to dwell on the past, keep moving forward and take every lesson and chance for gaining wisdom with you!

    Thank you!

    Evan Brand wrote on June 11th, 2014
  20. My daughter, 9 years old, just went primal (without the dairy). I’ve been primal for over 2 years, have tried to make sure my kids get fantastic nutrition, but cereal was a daily thing because it was already a habit and something they could make themselves. This year, my daughter developed a bad case of eczema and occasional but very mild asthma and now we’re working together on diet, probiotics, etc. I’ve found that if I tell her that I will support her by eating whatever she eats (which is different than other kids, family, etc.), it’s so much easier for her because we’re partners. Now if only I can get my 11-year-old son on board! Maybe I can get him to read this.

    Kim wrote on June 11th, 2014
  21. Its never too late to go paleo. I’m 70 and went paleo about 18 months ago. I try and stick to paleo 80% of the time. I still get good comments from people who haven’t seen me for a while – you do look well, and gosh you’ve lost a lot of weight. I was never very heavy, I’ve just almost trimmed down to my teenage weight. My skirts and trousers went from size 14 to size 10. I would like to be a bit slimmer on my tum, guess that is partly my age. I did loose about 5″ from my waist. My blood pressure is normal without drugs and my blood sugar is excellant. My doctor doesn’t think its necessary to check my cholesterol as I’m so well. Some of my friends are following the paleo diet because of how I look.
    Most of the time I don’t need to take the drugs for my hiatus hernia. I’ve just had a bone scan to check my bone density as I have borderline osteoporosis. It will be interesting to see if the paleo diet has improved things. My last bone scan was 2 years ago as I had come off the drugs 21/2 years ago.

    Diana wrote on June 11th, 2014
  22. I wish my kids and their mom would read this. The whole family is addicted to junk food even the cavy. My daughter’s guinea pig was getting fat. The poor thing waddled and had a double chin that bragged on the ground. It turns out that guinea pigs can get scurvy and need vitamin supplements. The vitamin C supplements from the pet store are 98% sugar and canola oil. Guinea pig junk food in pretty packaging marketed as a health supplement. It was obvious why it was obese this was the only food other than alfalfa pellets. Now we feed it mild peppers (low in calcium which also bad for cavies) as supplements to its standard alfalfa pellet diet. It turns out they should not have too much fruit or starchy veggies like carrots because cavies also get diabetes? It turns out the cage smells more like a farm and less like a sewer too

    The point of this post is that young kids may be more conscious about caring for their pets than themselves. Guinea pigs are primal vegetarians. Junk food will give them disease and shorten their lifespan. Same for humans but It may be easier for little ones to understand while caring for little creatures.

    Jack Lea Mason wrote on June 11th, 2014
  23. Mark! really love Your more philosophical and thought provoking write-ups!!! Maybe You could/ should writer a book on self actualization? i really like this message to our youths on the ways of living Primally. However, it seems that in our current society, many of these pore and portly kids are all ready “blunted knives” before they have even gotten out of the drawer? Many of us assume (as i did while reading your fine article) that all kids are in good heath, and that they will lose it at some point in their adult lives. But today this is not the case. All too often many of these kids are already sick and falling apart before they reach puberty. Yet, The good news is that the PB can also help them discover for the first time true health and vitality. Keep up the great Blog!

    Your friend Francis from Elk Grove CA

    R. Francis Stevenson wrote on June 11th, 2014
  24. hoping for all the success for paleo girl, any message that gets out to young people about making a change is so crucial. I was writing a blog today on benefits of exercise and it still blows my mind that the term ‘adult onset diabetes’ doesn’t really exist anymore as it has had to be changed to ‘type 2 diabetes’ because it’s affecting so many people (kids) before they even become adults


    jamie wrote on June 11th, 2014
  25. Does my heart good to read posts from kids taking control of their health sometimes in spite of their elders.
    You kids are brilliant.
    I love love love the comments even more than your article.
    Ps mark I’m 40 and my dads older than you xx

    Jane wrote on June 11th, 2014
    • Oops. YOUNGER than you.

      Jane wrote on June 11th, 2014
  26. I was 15 when I started going paleo/primal about a year ago but didn’t have much success. I would eat primal at home but whenever I went other places my resolve totally broke. after I got better at it I went to a party and my resolve broke again I had a large cup of soda. later that night I was out playing games that involve running, my gut hurt and I totally failed at running. The next day I decided I would do better. Later I did the “Whole 30” diet and finished about 2 weeks ago. Now I am mostly being primal. 80/20 right!

    80/20'er wrote on June 11th, 2014
  27. If I’d known about this in high school, I might have dated, gotten married, had a normal life. Rather than having PCOS and being insanely overweight until recently. I’m still overweight but after about 2 decades of damage that might not be surprising…

    Wildrose wrote on June 11th, 2014
  28. My best advice is to keep walking. All through your school years you walk every day. Keep right on doing that. When I stopped walking I started gaining about 3 pounds a year. Which doesn’t sound like a lot but do that for 33 years and “suddenly” you are 100 pounds overweight. Don’t let that sneak up on you like it did me, please.

    Linda Sand wrote on June 11th, 2014
  29. such a great article. I want to give this to my kids but before I do I want to give them a kid friendly explanation of why grains are not good for your health. You have great info but a little too much for kids. Any kids type version you know of.

    Thanks again

    lara wrote on June 11th, 2014
  30. Mark, I love these type of posts from you.
    Real life.

    Parents can easily replace “primal” with “live the life you imagined for yourself” or ” be the best you can be” and thanks to your post give their kids something wonderful to read and hopefully inspire.

    Thank you.


    Marc wrote on June 11th, 2014
  31. I’m now 17 and went primal about 9 months ago. I was formerly a vegan and switched to paleo-ish eating and began noticing improvements right off the bat. I dabbled with low-carb and ketosis but found it too hard to maintain and not palatable whatsoever. My diet is now free of grains, gluten, legumes (besides my peanut-butter-with-a-spoon addiction), and sugar, although I have recently started including some potato starch, occasional fermented beans and white rice cooked in bone broth for resistant starch. While I have not met any other primal teens, it is encouraging to know the message of primal eating is becoming more widely available!

    Samantha wrote on June 11th, 2014
  32. Awesome article; words to live by! I wish I would have read this when I was a kid. Thank you, Mark.

    Dr. Adam Kipp wrote on June 11th, 2014
  33. That cute new guy whom you planned on eventually marrying has a funny last name, which just won’t work with the names of the kids you’ve chosen.

    Made me laugh. I’ve been there. And now I’m married to a guy who’s last name is relevant to my job! He didn’t like it when I suggested that mine be Shipwoman, adding a few extra letters to make it more applicable…

    Shireen wrote on June 12th, 2014

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