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

Are You As Healthy As You Think You Are?

healthLike it or not, we’re in this whole life thing together. Whether you admit this or deny it, the people who surround you influence you. Rugged individualists, angtsy teens shopping at Hot Topic and blasting Linkin Park out of headphones permanently affixed to their ears, and everyone else may think they’re blazing a completely unique path and forging their own destiny without external input, but everyone is a product of their environment. Our identities aren’t even created in a vacuum; they are formed based on what the people around us are doing and how they’re living. We are reactions to the actions, circumstances, and personalities of other people, particularly those to whom we’re most frequently exposed.

Why do we feel compelled to upgrade to a new car when new cars start showing up in our neighbors’ driveways?

Why do we go from feeling pretty darn content with our lives to feeling like losers just because we saw a Facebook post from an old classmate who’s backpacking through South America?

How do we suddenly become unhappy with our otherwise sufficient salaries once we hear what that guy over there makes in a year?

Why does the high school valedictorian often feel average once they get to college?

We’re constantly comparing ourselves to other people. Sizing them up. Sizing ourselves up (or down). That’s what we do. How we perceive others to be doing informs our perception of how we’re doing in life. So, if the people around us – or even the people we read about and see on TV and in movies – are good looking, rich, and charismatic, we might end up comparing our circumstances to theirs and feeling like failures if we don’t measure up.

No aspect of our lives is immune to this, not even our sense of physical health. In fact, I’d say that our ideas about our own health are profoundly informed by the health of people around us. Some of us can accurately gauge our health based on how we feel, look, and perform, but not all, or even most of us. Most of us (even the ones who say otherwise) determine our own healthfulness by comparing ourselves to others. We check out what the guy on the next bench over is lifting in the gym. We sneak a peek at what shirt size the other man or woman just returned to the rack to see how we compare. We smugly note that our officemates have all come down with the flu this season, while we’ve made it through unscathed.

And, by and large, we get it totally wrong when we try to estimate our own health. We think we’re healthier than we actually are, have less weight to lose than we actually should, and are more physically fit than the previous generations. America’s weight problem? That’s “everyone else.” “That’s not me”, you say. “I’ve got a few pounds to lose, sure, but I’m definitely better off than most everyone else.” No one is immune. Even overweight and obese kids are underestimating their weight. It’s like we have a rough idea of a weight constituting “overweight,” but because most people around us are hitting that weight, and because whatever most people do appears normal, we don’t realize it’s an issue.

That probably explains why obesity is contagious among friends and communities. If your peers are overweight or obese, you are more likely to be overweight or obese. You’re more likely to be overweight because overweight has become the norm. It may not be healthy, and you may intellectually “know” that it’s unhealthy, but if everyone around you is overweight and it’s just “how things are,” you’re more likely to fall into it.

Even seemingly objective health measurements taken by a doctor are subject to this community effect. They determine our health, as represented by objective blood markers and BMI readings and blood pressure measurements, by comparing our numbers to the numbers of rest of the population. That’s why when you get a lab result you have a reference range. The reference range purports to tell you whether you’re healthy (within range) or unhealthy (out of range, either too high or too low), but often, what it’s really doing is telling you how your numbers compare to everyone else’s numbers. They try to use only “healthy people” to determine the reference ranges, but each lab has a different range and uses a different sample population, and you can’t really be certain that the healthy people are actually healthy and thus have numbers worth pursuing. What is “healthy,” anyway, since we just established that a perception of health is subjective and susceptible to influence? The overworked stressed-out 35 year old manager, the skeletal 35 year old shuffling down the street in floppy running shorts, the fit 35 year old CrossFitter, the dumpy 35 year old dad of three – these people could be “healthy” enough to qualify for the test establishing the reference range for a given lab result.

Are You Normal or Just Common?

With all that in mind, are you normal or are you just common? Just because something is common doesn’t make it normal. For humans in the United States and other developed nations, being overweight and on pills is common. For the human animal given access to sunlight, good food, regular movement, and a healthy happy community life, leanness and effortless metabolic health are normal. That’s the normal we should be aiming for, not the common state of health we see on a daily basis.

You may not be as healthy as you think you are. I think you can do better. Don’t compare yourself to the sick and the overweight. Don’t use them as your baseline measure of health. Instead, compare yourself to the normal human, who is not and should not be riddled with degenerative diseases, carrying 23 pounds of extra unwanted weight, nor filling a dozen prescriptions per year.

Are you eating well, are you just eating better than most people around you? It’s not that hard to do better than bastardized tacos made from Dorito shells, frozen french fries that you toss in the oven, iceberg lettuce salads, and Lean Cuisine. Doing better than that doesn’t mean you’re actually eating as healthily as you could.

Are you truly active enough, or are you just more active than the couch potatoes around you? It’s pretty easy to exercise more and walk more steps than people who’ll circle the parking lot for ten minutes searching for that perfect spot right next to the disabled parking.

Are you feeling less than awesome, even though your lab numbers are “within range”?

Are you living up to your incredible heritage as a human? Are you getting fresh air and some semblance of sunlight everyday? Are you moving frequently at a slow pace? Are you lifting heavy things? Do you have a community, a tribe, even a small but loyal one?

We’ve got a lot of hurdles standing in our path toward optimal health, hurdles that Grok never had to face. Though we’ve got modern medicine on our side, and the masterful mechanics of the human body known as surgeons are sure nice to have around, we’ve also got sedentary jobs, countless hours of passive entertainment at our fingertips, delicious industrialized food practically designed to disrupt our endocrine systems and override our satiety mechanisms, and an agricultural system that places profit over human, environmental, and animal health all working against us. And yet we can still be healthier than we are. We don’t have to settle for what we see around us.

Be honest when you answer these questions. You may very well be as healthy as you think you are and want to be – from what I can tell from Primal meetups and the emails I get, you all are a healthy bunch – but I think even many of us can do better.

Thanks for reading, folks. I’d love to get your thoughts. How do your surroundings affect your perception of your own health?

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. It’s tough enough striving for mediocrity!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  2. +1 to this post. My bloodwork looks very good since going primal. However, my body clearly is not healthy with the extra pounds I’m carrying around. On the one hand, it’s kind of nice that the ideal weight for my frame on the charts has risen through the years — it makes it an easier target to dream about hitting. But the truth is, that target is still not optimal. Clothing sizes have also gotten bigger so we can all fit in the same size year after year despite carrying around a significantly larger rear end. We can’t let ourselves become soothed by the lowering of all the standards around us. “I’m not as fat as I could be” cannot be a good excuse anymore! Thanks for the push in the right direction!!

    Rhonda the Red wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Women, though, have slightly better long term survivability when “overweight” than when “healthy weight.” Also, rear ends are where we store DHA and other stuff babies need. Further, being much below optimal in women can often lead to amenorrhea. So, “ideal weight” may be good goal, but skinnier is not always better.

      kate wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • It has always been my impression that the PB is am about what your genes want. If you eat a perfect diet and then you’re under a recommended “healthy weight” then that is your optima weight and statistics, studies and doctors be darned.

        Dalton K. wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • I feel like the message here was lost. Yes, there are many people fighting to be “better” than normal. At least for the vast majority of young men I know, they all have the issue of putting themselves up against the Olympian, body builder, or CrossFit Games athlete. Holding this unrealistic goal while over training, under eating, and jumping from fad to fad to stay at that magical single digit body fat. While certainly not in the majority, the growing trend of dysmorphia is currently increasing at an alarming rate and the goal of healthy/happy is lost. Probably rambling at this point a bit, but just wanted to bring it to people’s attention.

      Side note: How did this turn into a couple pages on salad dressing? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

      Max S. wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  3. I get where you’re coming from Mark. But it seems I spend more time struggling with thoughts in the opposite direction. I’ll create a huge salad for dinner with romaine, spinach, kale, cucumbers, celery, radish, avocado, and pastured cheese. And then feel bad because I top it off with a canola oil based dressing.

    I have to remind myself that the salad is a victory. Yes it could be better if I made my own dressing. But I have to fight to not allow the negative, er, less than perfect, parts of my diet, exercise, stress, and everything else overwhelm my accomplishments.

    A buddy of mine likes to say “Don’t throw out the good because it isn’t perfect.”

    MooseGeorge wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Hey Moose, just top that salad off with some EVO, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and some fresh herbs. You’ll never miss that canola oil dressing.

      I just threw all my bottled dressings in the trash.

      Gypsykimh wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • What gypsykimh said: Get a jar with a lid, put in some olive oil and vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper, and herbs if you feel like it, shake it up, and use that. It takes about 42 seconds, and is MUCH better for you. Toss the bottled/purchased dressing!

        BonzoGal wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • You don’t even have to go to that much trouble. I just pour some EVO and 25 yr old balsamic vinegar on the salad, just eyeballing the amounts, and toss it around a little.

          Alice wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • 42?

          MrCavooter wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • I just squeeze half a lemon over my salad and pour on a splash of olive oil…

          Kit wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • I usually make my own dressing too, but if you don’t want to/have time to or are just bored it, Tessemae dressings are my new indulgence! A lot of them are paleo, and you can get them at Whole Foods.

      Kira wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • If dairy isn’t a problem for you, I’ve been making some good blue cheese dressing with mayo made from grape seed oil, cottage cheese, sour cream and a little almond milk. Not perfect primal I know, but better than what you get off the shelf.

        Monte wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • You can buy some really yummy (and good quality) flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars to dress up any salad! Yum.

      Lindsey wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • YES! I think this is true from a lot of people in the primal/paleo community. They get so obsessed with tiny hacks that they lose track of the bigger picture and have trouble relaxing and enjoying their accomplishments. And their family, community and every day lives.

      jj wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • I agree, hacks are great but the big picture is where I try to keep my head. Relax and enjoy life, while being primal/paleo.

        R wrote on July 24th, 2013
    • I like the taste and flavor of basalmic vinegar and oil, I don’t like the seperation on the salad so I just blended to emulsify them before I put it out for dinner, worked well and I got the taste I wanted without having to lick the vinegar off the plate, not that there’s anything wrong with that of course.

      2Rae wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • Throw an egg yolk in the mix to emulsify everything so it doesn’t separate.

        I bought a stick blender, which makes mixing things like salad dressing much less of a hassle. You can throw in some avocado for a green goddess dressing, a little mustard (which also helps emulsify), or some anchovies or sardine.

        Even before I started avoiding vegetable oil, I stopped buying pre-made salad dressing because home-made versions just taste so much better.

        Mantonat wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • Thanks, I like yolks, may just do that.
          I threw out all my salad dressing years ago before I started eating like this. Nothing tasted better than good mayo plus lemon juice. Otherwise my salads are usually naked. The dressing I made with balsamic and bacon fat (with just spot of pure maple syrup) was warmed up and a new creation for me.
          Of course I did NOT tell my guests that the “oil” in the dressing was from the freshly made bacon bits pan. No complaints.

          2Rae wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • The trick chefs use to help suspend the oil in vinegar is to use a pinch of dry mustard. It coats the oil and delays separation while also giving a nice kick in flavor. You don’t need an emulsion for a dressing unless you’re trying to keep the suspension over a long shelf life like the pretty awful bottled dressings with bean gums and stabilizers.

          Besides the oil and vinegar of your choice and a little dry mustard, I like to also use crushed garlic, fresh ground pepper, herbs, and sometimes even a splash of fruit juice depending on what it’s being used on.

          mike wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Try just EVOO and squeeze some fresh orange or lemon juice over it. Very refreshing. :)

      Sharon T wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Personally, when I need dressing I put a tablespoon of olive oil, avocado oil or macadamia nut oil with a tablespoon of balsamic and a squirt of mustard or a bit of umeboshi paste. Stir vigorously and dump over the greens. Tastes delicious. :)

      Aria wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • I get what you mean! I think it depends on the person and for some people, worrying too much about the perfect diet is just a trip to crazy town. I hope you find a way to enjoy the salad without obsessing over whether it’s perfect (and apply that to life in general because no, it’s not really about the salad, is it?).

      Shannon wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • MooseGeorge, I celebrate that glorious sounding salad.

      Joy Beer wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • even easier, I just splosh a bit of evoo over my salad, and a bit of salt and pepper. If I have lemons I’ll squeeze some lemon juice over too. Throw the pre-made stuff in the bin! :-)

      Simone wrote on July 24th, 2013
  4. “Are You Normal or Just Common?”

    This question sums up this blog post perfectly.

    Soooooooo many people believe that being like everyone else means they’re healthy.

    No, you idiots, eating Chipotle everyday like everyone else does not make you healthy.

    Mark P wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  5. its tough living in the mid-west where unhealthy is normally and healthy people are kinda crazy (not like heath meccas like boulder colorado or such) we dont have heath food stores because nobody would buy from them and sure we have gyms but they specialize in cardio (but nobody uses that either) so the comparing myself to others makes my 25 pounds over wt seem like small potato’s – its easy to fall into complacency

    lockard wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  6. I recently had a complete physical and my doctor said all my bloodwork, BP& pulse were “normal” and I was “healthy”.
    I’m 100 pounds overweight! My doctor did not mention my weight at all. When I said “what about my weight?” She asked if I wanted her to write a RX for me.
    I’m looking for a naturopath, traditional doctors are clueless…

    Lucylu wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Why do you need to ask a doctor or naturopath about your weight? You already know you’re overweight, and since you’re on this website, you already know what to do about it. You don’t need anyone else’s blessing.

      Shary wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • +1, Shary. There’s no secret to being fit — just do it.

        michael wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • I totally agree with you, I’m not looking for anyone’s blessing. I just thought it was so bizarre that my doctor would not mention the “elephant in the room”. I’ll be using a naturopath if needed in the future.
        I do know what to do and have lost 12 pounds in 10 weeks.

        Lucylu wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • +1

          Julie wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • Good for you, Lucylu! Keep up the good work. After you get used to eating this way, you’ll feel so fantastic and see such awesome results that you won’t want to go back!

          Lindsay wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • Well done! that’s a great achievement – keep it up! :)

          Dianne wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  7. I go to the gym four days a week, early. And what do I see? People almost fighting to park as close to the door as possible. They just don’t get it.

    Deane wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • I don’t get that either! And it’s not only for that – it’s for everything! The movies, the supermarket, everything! Maybe Mayor Bloomberg will put a policy in place that makes people park farther away…

      Matt wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • Yep. I love it when I go to the supermarket and there’s someone blocking the parking lot waiting for someone else to load their groceries and leave.

        I go around these people, park out away from the store (and all the other cars) and I usually walk past them as they’re still sitting in their car waiting for the other person to leave.

        Fred wrote on July 27th, 2013
    • haha! awesome. i live in a really small community where our local gym is at the high school. my neighbor used to DRIVE the two blocks to go!!

      melissa wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • I work out at a gym with three floors and shake my head when some of the patrons walk out of the locker room and wait for the elevator. Uh?!!!

      Jeff F. wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • And I bet the first thing they do is jump on the stairmaster :P

        I live one block from my local grocery store, and I walk over there when I need something and carry it back. The lady who lives behind us DRIVES one block to do her grocery shopping, and parks as close as she can to the door. Makes me crazy.

        tg wrote on July 24th, 2013
  8. I’m gonna go for a walk now.

    Primalsaber wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  9. You could look fit, feel feet, and think you eat fine but without blood work there is so much your body could be telling you and you might not have any idea. There are about nine different blood tests that people should have yearly to see if their body is still in check.

    Matt wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  10. I think our whole vocabulary for talking about this has gone off the rails. A friend posted on FB “life’s too short to be thin” – she’s a lovely person, and a pastry chef. Well, I’m “thin” – and that word doesn’t even sound very attractive, does it? I don’t know what we’d say instead – “I have a great BMI”? A neighbor of mine dismissed something I said about cooking or eating – “but you’re a slip of a thing.” OK, when I was 9, that applied; I am a middle-aged woman and a force to be reckoned with… I just don’t carry excessive poundage. When I got sick, more than one friend ‘wished’ she could lose a pound a day, as I did. When I got better – first by eliminating gluten, and then by going pretty hard-core Paleo+wine – guess how many people who envied my new and sustained, stable, strong weight though they might give some form of paleo/primal diet a try?

    I am really grateful I’m not at that more peer-driven phase of my life. And yes – I could do better – especially, I could lift heavier things, more frequently, particularly in the winter months, when our the bars at our park’s exercise station are freezy-chilly.

    Sara in Brooklyn wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • I always like hearing from you Sara in Brooklyn. You sound like me for the most part of your comment above.
      I’m grateful that I live in a condo on the 2nd floor so I have to “lift heavy things” when I come back from the grocery store, where I pack up as much as possible in one trip (halfway up I’m thinking my arms will come out of the sockets).

      2Rae wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  11. awesome post. this problem is pervasive in all aspects of life…the shifting baseline. sometimes it is important to shift it to be realistic, but other times it simply appeases us.
    i thought the distinction between “common” and “normal” was spot on.

    melissa wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  12. Been following the primal blueprint since 2011. I do the lifting, the slow moving, the sprinting. I eat the vegetables and meat, stay in the 125g range for carbs, avoid the wine/cheese/chocolate/nuts, get daily sunshine (as long as the fog has cleared), have a few communities oriented around fun activities that I belong to and yet I still walk around with that extra 25lbs.

    Diane wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Me too (although if I’m honest I don’t adhere to the Primal way of eating quite as strictly as I should) and you know what? We’re healthy. The numbers on the scale don’t tell the whole story.

      Julie wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Diane, clearly you do not do all of those things without some form of serious cheating as you would not be 25lbs overweight. That, or you consider your ideal size to be like a skinny model. Its so frustrating when people try and make out they’re special – diets just don’t work for them etc. err no…they work…its the sneaky multi-bag of peanut mm’s your snaffling every evening during the ‘doesn’t count’ hour while your favourite show is on that doesn’t work.

      clarrykitten wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • 125g of carbs will allow you to maintain weight if your following Primal Fitness. To lose the weight you’d need to be 50-75 g of carbs per day I’ve found. Some days below 50g sure wouldn’t hurt if weight loss is the goal.

        Derek H. wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • My goodness! Are you unaware that there are more factors involved than food and exercise? Yes, there are folks who are “terminally unique” as you describe, but you just called that person a liar!

        gibson wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • I don’t necessarily agree. I think that years of metabolic derangement can do permanent damage, and our bodies change with time. So it may be that she’s perfectly healthy like that. That said, I’d be delighted to be only 25 pounds overweight. I’ve lost a hundred so far! :)

        Aria wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • Oh, please – no need to be rude. You don’t know Diane or her life or her body. Please keep your sanctimoniousness to yourself. Not everyone is built the same or carries weight the same.

        Mantonat wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • Just from reading comments and my own little n=1 experiment, I’m finding that women’s hormones are either significantly more complicated than men’s hormones, significantly less studied than men’s hormones, or both.

        Some women do well with intermittent fasting. Some don’t (I don’t). Some women do well with less than 50g carbs a day. Some don’t (I don’t). There is no one single diet that is perfect for everyone, and no single exercise routine. Goodness knows the diversity in diets of the remaining living hunter-gatherer societies should be proof enough.

        But seriously, could you have made any more blatantly unfounded assumptions?

        I went off of birth control a year ago and still don’t have a cycle at all. But maybe if I eat cows that ate greener grass, or stayed out in more sun, or sprinted harder on my sprint days and rested harder on my rest days, then clearly my hormones wouldn’t be dilly-dallying and I’d be perfect.

        Yes, that’s totally how it works.

        Deanna wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • Thank you for pointing this out. I don’t respond well to IF or extreme carb restriction either, and though I think some of it might be that I’m thin, there are noticeable differences depending on where I am in my cycle. All of the most prominent paleo gurus are men, and most likely not by coincidence.

          Amy wrote on July 23rd, 2013
        • Deanna -

          I was on birth control, went off and ended up without a cycle. Visits to an acupuncturist did the trick. (I drank these foul smelling teas for about a month.) Traditional chinese medicine excels at restoring hormonal balance because of it’s view of the human body.

          You may want to check one out.

          Amy wrote on July 24th, 2013
        • check out the supplement/herb “Vitex” otherwise known as chaste berry. It is brilliant at regulating hormones, certainly sorted out my cycle from a 22 day to a potentially fertile 28-29 day cycle. It is also good for many pms symptoms. Esp highly recommended for women coming off the pill.

          Simone wrote on July 24th, 2013
      • Really??! Do you have any idea what is going on in her body? Don’t think that just because YOU manage to maintain a perfect weight eating this way that everyone else can too. There really ARE overweight people who don’t overeat! (I know, shocking isn’t it??). Even in the past before people had access to junk and processed foods, people STILL got overweight. Imagine that! Kind of like… those super skinny people who manage to remain that way (or can’t put on weight no matter how hard they try) even eating all that rubbish that us primal folk avoid. (Yes, really… I’ve known some of those folks…).

        Try not to judge everyone based on your own limited experience. There really IS more to health than size.

        Fiona wrote on July 24th, 2013
    • +1.
      I’ll just believe that you’re doing everything you’re saying and say that the “ideal weight” is probably off. Don’t cling to any number on the scale. Several reasons:

      - If you’re doing the lifting, it might just be the muscle that pushes the scale.
      - The beauty ideal presented in the mainstream is pretty screwed up at times (as clarykitten wrote, skinny model type, yuck).
      - Different body types in general. Being rather tall, I look extremely (as in recently-got-over-some-serious-illness unhealthily) skinny when my BMI drops below 21, at somewhere around 180 pounds. Normal, “healthy” weight starts at BMI 18.5, and I seriously don’t want to see what I’d look like there.

      Chris wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • +1
        When I have been in a “healthy” and “normal” BMI my ribs showed. Not a look I strive for. I look and feel best beeing “slightly overwheight”.
        Go figure. ;-)

        Elena wrote on July 24th, 2013
    • Hey Diane. My daughter had the same problem losing weight. She was doing paleo and exercising but could not get the needle moving. It turned out that her insulin levels were 3x the normal level. She started taking metformin and lost 24 lbs. in 7 weeks. If you haven’t had your insulin level (NOT blood sugar level) and your thyroid level checked, you should look into it.

      Nonnie wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  13. What a dull, uncreative way of life—living by comparison.

    Braden Talbot wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Amen!

      Julie wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  14. Mark, have you mic’d up my house?! Kidding of course…. My g/f and I were talking about this over the weekend. Our journey is a journey of health, optimal health. We’ve both identified things we can be different about, not within our diet (that’s not debatable to us, 100% primal all the time) but in some of the daily choices that we make, i.e. prioritizing the lunch time walk over accepting a meeting invite, putting my VFF’s in my laptop case to bring to work daily, setting an alarm to tell us it’s time for sleep, etc.

    We’ve agreed that this IS the way to live and if there’s opportunity to make it better for us, we want to do that. Like I always say when I’m on my HD, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.

    Another perfectly time post for me….it’s almost spooky.

    Bryan wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  15. Mark – I completely agree with your post, we can all probably do at least a little bit better. But the part about comparing yourself to “normal” vs. “common” can be nearly impossible. I literally don’t have and “normal” to compare myself to. I’m 44 female 5’6″ 130lbs – no body builder mind you, but certainly physically able to do any activity I so desire. My contemporaries, friends, family, coworkers all in the 40-50 age range, both male & female are all “common”. Overweight, a couple diabetics, two female in their forties that have had heart attacks even !!! I’m not on any meds, I take vitamins. When I compare myself to everyone around me, I do feel pretty good even if I haven’t yet reached my ultimate fitness goal. I wish there were more “normal” folks around !!

    Tammy wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  16. There is definitely always better. I just think the problem with striving for better arises when it turns into the stress of not being better enough. I think baby steps need to be the focus here, and worrying about perfection is counter-productive.

    Deanna wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • It definitely goes both ways. I try my best not to compare myself to anyone but myself. I don’t compare myself to the person I see that is very overweight and not active and eats junkfood, and I do not compare myself to the very fit, 100% paleo Crossfitter. This is my journey, and mine alone. Of course I’m always striving to make myself better, but comparing myself to others will either make me complacent or discouraged. Neither is a good way to feel!

      Stacie wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • Just saw this quote the other day:

        “Don’t compare your life to others. You don’t know what their journey has been.”

        Deanna wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  17. why the bashing of the iceburg lettuce salad? You could do a lot worse than iceburg lettuce salad, its basically just water, not highly nutritious but not bad for you. I have one every day, but I also add some spinach and a pile of delicious and nutritious toppings to go with my evoo and vinegar dressing.

    Shawn wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  18. I am way more normal these days then I am common. Being normal is / can be hard, but it is a lot more fun. Common on the other hand is distressing. I get no satisfaction when my head strays into that space. One needs to be on the alert or basically aware of what they are actually doing. It has been almost 2 years since I began my primal journey and those 2 years unquestionably have been the most productive and revealing (in terms of health) then at any other time of my life.

    Rob wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  19. I honestly think I am crazy healthy and my blood tests seem to agree except for a few things. My liver… Not so good, but I have a feeling I know why. I also have very low blood count but I was born this way. At least I know my problems, and I am constantly trying to work on them!

    GiGi wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  20. I love this post. I always patted myself on the back thinking I was SO healthy… I have always been borderline underweight (BMI around 19), I ran 30 miles a week, yada yada yada. Then one day in the orthopedist’s office I had my blood pressure taken – 160/100. WTF?? I was completely shaken up. Me – the picture of health – with a BP issue. Since then I’ve cut sugar and grains out of my diet and I pay a lot more attention to sleep and stress. I take very low dose of lisinopril which totally deals with the BP but it was really a wake-up call for me.

    Don’t assume anything. Get the numbers.

    Gydle wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • The ‘numbers’ are bullsh*!. You cannot cultivate an instinct for what is and is not healthy based on arbitrary digits your doctor has invented for the sake of selling toxic medicine. Especially when the goal posts for those numbers expand on a very regular basis in order to catch yet more gullible fish. Just LOOK at people, really look at them – aside from their weight, muscle mass etc. (assuming they look fit and lean) look at the shine in the eyes, the glow of the skin and hair, the bounce in the step. THAT is health. Get your eye in because its not written on paper and most doctors wouldn’t know a healthy person if they met one.

      clarrykitten wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  21. Reminds me so much of the movie Wall-e. All those huge soft people with their fists full of sugar drinks. Enter the boneless human!

    Trevork wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  22. As someone with lingering health issues that aren’t solvable by dietary means alone, I have a slightly different perspective on the issue of comparing my health to that of others. I often compare myself to other people my age or others in the Paleo/Primal community and am envious of their good health, but then I realize that I could be so much worse off. Remembering the millions of people in hospitals or nursing homes who are unable to even function on a day-to-day basis makes me grateful that I can still take care of myself, go to classes, and do many of the things I want to do. I know this wasn’t quite the angle this post was coming from, but for people who don’t necessarily have full control over their health, comparing ourselves to others can be detrimental for reasons other than complacency.

    Alyssa wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • +1

      Amy wrote on July 24th, 2013
  23. All that being said, there is a lot of social pressure to be unhealthy. I eat a diet that is similar to Paleo and it means no grain, no dairy, no legumes. I went from 198 pounds to 112 in 9 months and I currently have 12.4 % body fat. I went off four out of five meds. I come to this site to find recipes and pep talks – I love Mark’s articles here. At school, we have treat days twice a month and sometimes in our team meetings. I get a lot of flack for not eating most treat day items. In addition, one of my relatives who is extremely obese, keeps sending me posts about how she loves herself just as she is even though I’ve said nothing about her weight. It’s hard to make a decision for yourself and then keep it in the face of other people around us. I’ve had to fight through that more than once and still do.

    vmpenny wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • vmpenny, I hear you. It really is amazing to me how offended people get by my eating habits–even when I say NOTHING about theirs. Obviously, it’s some kind of assumption on their part, that I’m judging or evaluating their choices, and I guess their insecurity leads to preemptive defense tactics (like your aunt sending you unsolicited articles about her self-esteem). I never get used to that.

      Jordan wrote on July 24th, 2013
      • It’s about projection, unfortunately.

        I come from a family that seems to constantly be judging others about something. If you do something different then them, the implication is that you’ve judged them to be wrong or bad rather than simply trying to live your life the best way you know how.

        The real issue, of course, is they are busy judging you. They project onto you their own bad habits rather than minding their business.

        Amy wrote on July 24th, 2013
  24. In the movie Wall-E, the whole population ends up on motorized chairs and can barely walk or move. That was because they were in space but I can see the whole population becoming like this in the future. For some it’s happening now. Another thing that scares me is the fanfare surrounding the return of the Twinkie with a new 45 day shelf life. This is a great article and something to think about for everyone.

    Tessie wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • I think about that movie a lot. For someone who is interested in garbage, exercise, and gardening, it really resonates!

      Martha wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  25. Wonderful article. Really makes me want remove myself from Facebook and other social media so I have more time to spend outdoors and in nature. Sad that we have to really be reminded of this, but so true.

    Abby C wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  26. This post was begging for a quiz.

    Lea wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  27. Go Seminoles!!! Gators are obese losers that eat processed carbs.

    Robert Irvine wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  28. “We’re constantly comparing ourselves to other people.”

    Nope, not me. I’m the guy everyone else is comparing themselves to.

    No pride involved, just honesty.

    MadmAV wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Well. Probably not *everybody*. But good for you. (Rolls eyes.)

      Martha wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  29. Mark, I really enjoy your writing. I am about 2/3 of the way through a weight loss project and studying hard on how to be healthy and stable and mentally balanced(!) at the end of it. I come online for information and a little camaraderie. Without your sensible, intelligent blog I would not be doing near as well. Thanks. This was a really thoughtful and interesting post.

    Martha wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  30. Mark,

    This post could not have come at a more opportune time. I literally just got back from a cardiologist appointment. I’m a 34 year old stay-at-home dad of 2 girls. I started my paleo/primal lifestyle change 2 years ago this month. I lost 55lbs and corrected most of my blood markers.

    I started to see a cardiologist this year as a precaution. My father passed away of a heart attack in January. His brother passed away of the same thing 10 years ago. I felt, with family history, I might as well have a relationship with a specialist. So far, my visits with the specialist have proven I know more about nutrition and health than he does. My LDL levels, while sporting a Pattern A LDL, have been less than spectacular as of late. My numbers have gone from a 130 to 178. The latter has shown up in 2 recent blood tests. The first time I chocked it up to a lax diet and very little exercise. This most recent test had me baffled. Why, when I have been eating virtually a clean diet, I exercise once or twice a week plus I play ice hockey every week, would my LDL numbers be so poor. From February to July, I lost some weight, but more over, I lost 2 more inches from my waist.

    My doctor, while not prescribing lipitor yet, wants me on the South Beach diet and taking Red Yeast Rice and Cholesteroff, plus a baby aspirin a day for further preventative measures. I scoffed at all of this. I had to think, why was my LDL still high, despite my eating and exercise? Look back at my introductory paragraph. Recall that I mentioned that I am a stay-at-home dad of 2 young girls…stress. Stress has been a factor as of late. But I thought about it further, stress couldn’t have my markers that out of whack…my sleeping patterns have been horrible. Going to bed at 1am or 2am almost every night and sleeping for 4, maybe 5 hours, has not been good. And I’ve noticed this. I am sluggish all day. My body Is physically exhausted. I believe both reasons are key to my very high LDL levels. Never, did the doctor ask or offer up suggestions as to how to fix these issues except that I should take these supplements. I will be tackling this issue my own way sans his suggestions.

    Oh, and the preventative baby aspirin he mentioned I begin taking…I am scoffing at that as well. My father and uncle had heart attacks because they didn’t take care of themselves. They were overweight, drank a lot, had diabetes, hypertension….you name it….I have none of that…as far as I’m concerned and all my tests are concerned, I am not in a risk category.

    Reading your post came at a perfect time. Besides stress and sleep, I do also realize that other than my 1 or 2 HIT body weight sessions a week and an ice hockey sessin, I’m not as active on my off days. I need to be out more. Walking with my kids somewhere. I need to step it up to get to an optimal level. I need to stop comparing myself to others, to disregard other’s situation, concentrate on my life and , as I’ve seen others in this paleo/primal community post before – sleep, wake, eat, play, laugh, love, repeat.

    Thanks

    Rob DeSaro wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • Nice comment! You should write this up with a bit more detail and send it to Mark for the Friday post. I’m sure a lot of people are in the same situation as you, struggling to get sleep and destress their way to health.

      BonzoGal wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  31. What good points you make here, Mark.

    Working toward being our best and continuing to evolve throughout this life seems to be it – the real mission, in a nutshell. Comparing ourselves to those who aren’t even on that radar screen isn’t instructive, is it?

    Comparing ourselves to others has its place. Yep, we all do it. It can become a source of stress, though – if we let it. It’s something to keep an eye on and evaluate. Example: I signed up for PrimalCon a year or so ago thinking I’d be a lot less Primal than many of the folks there, but it turned out I was one of the most Primal attendees. I found that interesting, but looking back, I’m not so sure even thinking about it was terribly useful. Wouldn’t it have been the better course to just go there and be and connect and not be comparative? It’s not that I went overboard about it, but I thought about it, as did a lot of people (so it seemed).

    I’m seeing lately how beneficial it is to surround ourselves with people who value the same things we do (and who do what we want to be doing and don’t do what we don’t want to be doing). As you point out, human behavior can rub off. Here’s an Interesting example: One of the Geniuses at my local Apple Store told me he’s way better at fixing and trouble shooting when he’s physically at work among his peers. The know-how just seems to be in the air, he said. But when he’s at home, he feels different, less confident, and less able to solve computer problems.

    A very well done post. :-)

    Susan Alexander wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • “I’m seeing lately how beneficial it is to surround ourselves with people who value the same things we do (and who do what we want to be doing and don’t do what we don’t want to be doing).”

      +1 to being part of that kind of (welcoming :) ) community

      Elizabeth wrote on July 23rd, 2013
      • I agree. My wife and I can’t afford all the wonderful meats at our local Whole Foods but just shopping for fruits and vegetables and feeling the whole vibe of the store helps us keep wanting to eat better. I don’t like the whole “beautiful only” mantra of say, a Abercrombie & Fitch, but I do feel the employees at Whole Foods do appear to be healthier than those that work at fast food restaurants. Comparing oneself to the “Jones” can be damaging if one takes it in the wrong direction but flying with eagles tends to offer a better view.

        Jeff F. wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  32. You nailed it Mark!People will always compare where they are with their peers and bet this is just human nature-is it inevitable really?One of your classmates is now a billionaire,you surely gotta ask yourself what you have or haven’t done with your average life.

    Jonas Larsson wrote on July 23rd, 2013
    • I completely relate to the ‘what have I been doing with myself’ comparison. That’s when I normally ask myself these questions: ‘What have they (said millionaire friend) given up to get where they are? What has my life had that there’s has not? What do they have that I need and do not have?’ I normally realize that my life is just fabulous the way it is. I guess this is kind of combatting one comparison with more comparisons, but it works for me when these inevitable thoughts creep in.
      Facebook can be a huge setback to setting our own standards for our lives. It could be a friend backpacking through South America, as Mark mentioned, or a family member going through an ugly divorce that can somehow make us feel better or worse about our current position. I remember when I was a hippy beach dweller that surfed all day, I was inwardly jealous of a friend who was making awesome career choices and advancements. We met back up recently after about 5 years and come to find out, that entire time she was longingly looking at my pictures, feeling envy of my care-free lifestyle. Now our roles are switching as I am becoming more career focused and she is becoming more carefree. Life is a journey and we are all at different points along the way.
      When it comes to the realm of diet, this post is very beneficial. I am a 25 y/o female, 5’7 and 168 pounds. I am one of those lucky people that weight distributes itself nicely, and even at my max weight, 185 lbs, no one would look at me and consider me overweight. So now, at 168, when I don’t eat the fresh kolaches that were brought to the office, or someone sees me eating a salad, I face a lot of scoffing, people telling me I am skinny and I do not need to be on a ‘diet’. I know I am not even close to my peak physical fitness, but because I am healthier than those around me they think I shouldn’t be worried about it. Also, when everyone is eating Chicken Fried Steak (Yes, I’m a Texan) w/ corn and mashed potatoes, it makes me feel good and justified eating an omelet and sweet potato fries. Did the omelet have a ton of cheese and probably cooked on who knows what oil? Are the sweet potato fries heavy on the carbs and probably fried in vegetable oil? But because I am not eating as bad as my peers, I justify my less than par eating decisions. I am ready to change this… my body doesn’t care what Jane Doe beside me is eating, it only cares what I am eating.
      This turned into a huge comment, sorry!

      Christin wrote on July 24th, 2013
  33. Spot on post Mark,
    Coincidently, I am comparing my recent lipid profile results to what is “normal” and despite a total cholesterol of 423 (HDL 150! Triglycerides 50!) I feel great, have the energy I did 20 years ago and have absolutely no intention of going on statins. I credit eating Primal/Paleo for my improved health and well being as well as for the 423 cholesterol. So yes, I’m outside of the “normal” ranges but couldn’t be happier!

    Kara wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  34. It shocks me that the nurses at the blood bank expect my peers, 50-60 year olds, to answer Yes to prescription drugs. Yet they are likely considered healthy enough to have someone receive their blood.

    Rose wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  35. I have to admit that I overestimated my health and fitness when I was at my worst. Now that I’ve been eating better for two years and have been fairly active for a little over one, I realize how foolish I was.

    Right now, I’d say that I’m OK (better than average – great for someone who once needed treatment for T2 diabetes and doesn’t anymore) but I still have a ways to go.

    Funny thing is that now, with just a small spare tire and a goal to lose 9 lbs of fat and gain 3 of muscle, I see myself as fat. Yay for body dysmorphia – it works both ways.

    I think this is pretty common – my wife is having a similar experience and has learned a bit from me. I just got a DEXA scan (just in an OK body composition range, but somehow in the 81st percentile – man are people out of shape), and wish I had had one two years ago. She has further to go than I do, thankfully without any sign of metabolic syndrome, and just had a scan last week. This will help her have a better sense of progress.

    LarryB wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  36. “fitness isn’t about being better than someone else, it’s about being better than you used to be.”
    not sure where I heard this but it is what drives me to workout and eat as clean as possible.
    it’s tough not to compare yourself to others, but if you can find intrinsic motivation, like setting goals and taking the right steps to reach them, you will find that the best competition and the one that never goes away is yourself.
    thanks for helping me reach some of my fitness goals MDA! can’t wait to accomplish more

    PrimalLifter wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  37. I definitely agree with the point of this post. However, my one disagreement is the use of the term “normal.” From a research standpoint, ‘normal’ is defined as being within a set range of the mean/average. If ‘normal,’ is close to common, neither are great comparisons!

    Caitlin wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  38. I’m listening. I’m understanding. I get it. I’ve gotten it for quite some time, but I get the evil eye. The kids NEED their sugar! For their BRAINS…..

    But I Love Her,

    PLEASE CHANGE THE BOTTOM LINE!!!! (Like you’re not trying…)

    So that we can move forward in a meaningful way.

    How can something so obviously harmful for adults be “essential” for our kids?

    I let a loud whisper, but ….nil. Hey listen, I know stuff…Nada.

    I get mad. Proclaim! Science! Papers!…Nothing.

    Common Wisdom Prevails.

    And do NOT f:k with the polish version thereof.

    But I Love Her.

    Peter Asp wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  39. With the middle name “Norman” I missed being “Normal” by only one letter….

    skeedaddy wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  40. This is an awesome post. Part of what brought me to going (mostly) primal was a case of orthorexia, brought on by skin troubles, food allergies and what ended up being leaky gut. I became afraid of so many foods and pretty much ate only meat, vegetables, fruit and some rice for months upon months while I was healing. No cheats. Nothing I didn’t prepare myself. No treats, no restaurants, no junk, no exaggeration – my diet was literally the cleanest I have ever seen.

    And of course, my gut healing period was the year I slacked off on exercise. Sure, I was earning a degree, but since my diet was so flawless and I was really thin – thinner now on this diet – I felt I could skip the workouts here and there. Which turned into kinda a lot. And I STILL worked out more than most people I knew, so that was good, right?

    No…because this article is spot-on. It’s not hard to out-fitness your peers when most of them binge drink every weekend, watch endless sedentary movie marathons, and joke about not having gone to the gym since high school. With that as a point of comparison, combined with their endless fast food, I would pride myself on my pastured chicken/tossed salad/green smoothie/cup of bone broth and the fact that I broke out the yoga mat once or twice a week. Wahoo. I’m a wildwoman.

    Am I healthy now? I think the honest answer is yes. That diet did wonders for me, and it’s expanded a lot since. But I could do WAY better with the exercise, so thanks for the kick in the spandex workout pants.

    Kit wrote on July 23rd, 2013

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