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

Definitive Guide: The Primal Blueprint

pb definitive guide

Build the Healthiest Possible Body with the Primal Blueprint

I get emails every day from people who are changing their lives for the better by following the guidelines I outline on this site. But many are looking for more of what the Primal Blueprint has to offer. That is to say, they want a comprehensive break down of the elements that make up the Blueprint; a Primal primer if you will. In coming weeks I will be going into detail – anthropological evidence, modern research, etc. – regarding this health philosophy, but I first want to offer up this summary of the Blueprint. I think it is a good starting point for what is to come.

In this extended article you will find the basic building blocks needed to discover the Primal side of your life. What does this mean? It means learning and understanding what it means to be human. It means using this knowledge to help you make important lifestyle choices. It means modeling your life after your ancestors in order to promote optimal health and wellness. And, most importantly, it means taking control of your body and mind.

If this article intrigues you be on the look out for a much more thorough explanation of how we can learn from our past to shape and mold our future.

My basic premise is this: The Primal Blueprint is a set of simple instructions (the blueprint) that allows you to control how your genes express themselves in order to build the strongest, leanest, healthiest body possible, taking clues from evolutionary biology (that’s the primal part).

Sometimes we get so lost in the science of human biology we just can’t see the forest for the trees. We overlook the simplicity and ease with which we could all be achieving exceptional health and fitness.

Living in modern society is extremely complex. With daily mind-boggling achievements made in science, technology and medicine, and with an ever-expanding knowledge base that increasingly grows more esoteric and niche, it is no wonder that we often look for complicated scientific solutions to problems that really only require simple answers. One of the best examples is the huge – and expensive – race to identify all the new possible genetic variances (or SNPs) within the human genome that might predispose some of us to certain health conditions. Hardly a week goes by without a new announcement of the discovery of a so-called “defective” gene that increases someone or some group’s risk of being obese, of getting cancer, of developing type 2 diabetes or arthritis. The net effect of all these announcements and the sensationalized news headlines is that many of us have become accustomed to blaming our health conditions on our unlucky inheritance of these “defective” genes. As if it weren’t enough to abdicate responsibility here, we then cross our fingers and close our eyes and hope that the scientists can create pharmaceutical “answers” to our particular condition before it’s too late. In most cases a few lifestyle adjustments are all that are needed to address all but the most serious of these genetic variations. Yes, I agree that some serious genetic diseases exist which are best treated with modern, truly life-saving drugs, but for the vast majority of the minor genetic variations that exist throughout the human genome, the real deciding factor as to whether or not a particular gene will be expressed in a particular manner, if at all, comes down to what you eat, how you move, what kind of air you breathe, what you think – in other words your environment. Big Pharma (CW) doesn’t want us to believe that most of our ills can be so easily solved, and so billions of dollars are being spent to unlock the so-called secrets of the genome. Meanwhile, the real secrets – and solutions – are contained within the DNA of every single one of our cells.

The essence of the Primal Blueprint is this: Most of life is really much simpler than modern medicine and science would like to have you believe. You can have a tremendous impact on how your genes express themselves, simply by providing your cells the right environments. All you need is a basic understanding of how your body works and a simple philosophical roadmap you can use to find answers to just about any questions of health and fitness – whether it involves personal choices or lifestyle adjustments or whether medical intervention might be appropriate. With this simple strategy, you will forever be able to examine or evaluate any food choice, any form of exercise or any other behavior in the context of how it impacts your genes! Even if you decide to opt for a “bad choice”, at least you’ll know why it’s bad…

You may already have a pretty fair understanding of how the human genome evolved to exactly where it is today (or 10,000 years ago, to be more precise) based on the environmental and behavioral factors under which our ancestors lived through natural selection. Tens of thousands of anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, paleontologists, geneticists and others have worked for over 100 years to piece together a fairly detailed picture of all the elements that helped influence our development as a species. Ironically though, when we examine all of the many environmental influences and behaviors that shaped our genome, we arrive at a very simple list of general things our early ancestors did to become what and who they were and which allowed them to pass 99.9% of those genes down to us. In essence, this list is the original “Primal Blueprint” since it provided the only set of behaviors they knew – the exact behaviors that enabled then to shape their bodies into healthy, robust, happy beings.

The Original Primal Blueprint® – The Rules of Living 10,000 Years Ago:

 

1. Eat lots of animals, insects and plants.

332090619 06d5d8df50

This is the basic description of everything our ancestors ate to get the protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phenols, fiber, water and other nutrients necessary to sustain life. But it was a huge list of individual foods – some anthropologists say it may have been 200 or 300 food choices at a time depending upon the geographic area. The net result was a dietary “breakdown” of fat, protein and carbohydrate that was far different from what Conventional Wisdom considers optimum today. This diet provided all the necessary fuel and building blocks that, along with specific exercise, prompted their genes to create strong muscles, enabled them to expend lots of energy each day moving about, to maintain healthy immune systems, to evolve larger brains and to raise healthy children. They ate sporadically, too. When food was plentiful, they ate more than they needed (and stored the excess as fat). When times were scarce, they survived on fat stores. This random or “non-linear” eating pattern kept their bodies in a constant state of preparedness.

2. Move around a lot at a slow pace.

23793275 0f33045919We know that our ancestors spent an average of several hours each day moving about at what today’s exercise physiologists might describe as a “low level aerobic pace.” They hunted, gathered, foraged, wandered, scouted, migrated, climbed and crawled. This low level of activity prompted their genes to build a stronger capillary (blood vessel) network to fuel each muscle cell, to be able to store some excess food as fat, but also to be readily able to convert the stored fat back into energy. Of course, they did all this without the benefit of paved sidewalks or comfortable shoes. Because every footfall landed at a different angle, every muscle, tendon and ligament worked and became stronger together in balance. Note that they did NOT go out and “jog” at 80% of their MAX Heart Rate for long periods of time as Conventional Wisdom suggests today!

3. Lift heavy things.

92171477 1e7b88bbc2The women carried their babies much of the time (hey, no babysitters in those days), as well as bundles of firewood, or whatever they had gathered, foraged or scavenged. The men carried heavy spears or other tools, they dragged heavy carcasses of animals they had hunted, and they moved large boulders or logs to build shelters. They also lifted themselves into trees or up onto higher ground when escaping from danger or to scout a new route. The biochemical signals created by these very brief but intense muscle contractions generated a slight surge in growth hormone and a reduction in myostatin gene expression, prompting an increase in muscle size and power; particularly fast twitch fibers.

4. Run really fast every once in a while.

156548807 96fddeb86dIn a world where danger lurked around every corner, your ability to run was a strong indicator of whether you would live long enough to pass your genes down to the next generation. (Note to Nietzsche: That which didn’t kill Grok made him stronger). Avoiding a charging beast to save your life, or surging forward to catch a different beast for dinner, the net effect was still survival. A combination of the hormonal events that occurred simultaneously and the resultant gene expression within fast twitch muscle made sure that the next time this happened Grok could sprint a little faster.

5. Get lots of sleep.

314603021 1983498579Our ancestors got plenty of sleep. Even after the discovery of fire, it wasn’t as if they stayed up all night partying. From sunset to sunrise it was safer to huddle together and rest. Long days of hunting and gathering and otherwise working hard for every bite of food also required sufficient time to repair and recover. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers suggest it wasn’t necessarily always an uninterrupted nine or ten hours, either. It’s likely that they slept together as families or as small tribes, keeping a watch out for predators, breast-feeding the baby or just dozing in and out throughout the night. Growth hormone and melatonin were the major hormonal players. Of course, the occasional afternoon nap was also available when the urge hit, with no guilt about what else they really should have been doing.

6. Play.

300894037 4e4c2bae71Just like in modern times, all work and no play made Grok a dull boy. Hunter-gatherers have always generally worked fewer hours and have had more leisure time than the average 40-hour-plus American worker. Once the day’s catch was complete or the roots, shoots, nuts and berries had been gathered, our ancestors spent hours involved in various forms of social interaction that we might categorize today as “play.” Young males would chase each other around and wrestle, vying for a place higher up in the tribe social strata. The males might also practice spear- or rock-throwing for accuracy or chase small animals just for sport. Young females might spend time grooming each other. To the extent that play was considered enjoyable, the net effect was to solidify social bonds and to prompt the release of endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals) and to mitigate any lingering stress effects of life-threatening situations.

7. Get some sunlight every day.

928727884 618cf2cb33Cavemen weren’t really men (or women) who lived their lives in caves all the time. Most of the day, they were in the great outdoors pursuing their various survival tasks. Regular exposure to sun provided lots of vitamin D, an all-important vitamin which they could not easily obtain from food and which their bodies could not manufacture without direct sunlight.

 

8. Avoid trauma.

376261703 144a1d67c2Our ancestors required an acute sense of self-preservation matched with a keen sense of observation. Always scanning, smelling, listening to the surroundings, on the watch for danger, aware of what immediate action needed to be taken, whether it was running from a saber-tooth tiger, dodging a falling rock, eluding a poisonous snake, or just avoiding a careless footfall. Remember that a twisted knee or a broken ankle could spell death to anyone who couldn’t run away from danger. In fact, it was probably trauma (or a brief careless lapse in judgment) that was most responsible for the low average life expectancy of our ancestors, despite their otherwise robust good health. Avoid trauma and there was a very good chance you could live to be 60 or 70 – and be extremely healthy and fit. Modern day hunter gatherers maintain strength and health often well into their 80s.

9. Avoid poisonous things.

2047547974 779e6595abMan’s ability to exploit almost every corner of this earth was partly predicated on his ability to consume vastly different types of plant and animal life. But moving into a new environment and trying new foods posed a danger that the new food might contain potent toxins. Luckily, our liver and kidneys evolved to handle most brushes with novel-but-slightly-poisonous plant matter – at least to keep us alive anyway if the stomach didn’t regurgitate it first. Our keen senses of smell and taste also helped us sort out the good from the bad. The reason we have a sweet tooth today (dammit) is probably an evolved response to an almost universal truth in the plant world that just about anything that tastes sweet is safe to eat.

 

10. Use your mind.

Lascaux2Obviously, one of the most important things that separate man from all other animals is his intellectual ability. The rapid increase in the size of our brains over just a few thousand generations is the combined result of a high-fat, high protein diet (see rule #1) and a continued reliance on complex thought – working the brain out just like a muscle. Hunter gatherers all around the world have developed language, tools and superior hunting methods independently. The fact that some haven’t entered the industrial age doesn’t mean they don’t possess the same ability to process information rapidly and effectively (try living in a jungle where you need to catalog thousands of different plant and animal species, knowing which can kill you and which can sustain you).

That’s it.

That’s the full – albeit general – list of behaviors that shaped our current genome (OK, I left out the sex part because that kind of goes without saying. On the other hand, having sex with your partner IS a natural part of the Primal Blueprint. I’ll cover it in a future post)…

If there’s any doubt on your part about whether or not we should emulate our ancestors’ behavior (but in a context of a modern world) let’s at least agree that we are looking to achieve some very similar benefits. Certainly, we all want to be:

Healthy

Ideally, we’d never want to be sick. We’d want to be in the best possible health all of the time.

Energetic

We’d want to have lots of energy to do all the fun things life has to offer and not feel like we are dragging at any point during the day.

Happy

No one wants to be depressed or miserable. It’s no way to go through life. We want a reason to get out of bed every day and take on all the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Lean

We’d want to be in a metabolically balanced state where we burn off our excess or stored fat, where we find a point at which we have enough fat to be healthy, but we rarely (or never) store any more additional fat.

Strong

Let’s face it: we’d want muscles that not only look great in a bathing suit, but that serve us well in allowing us to move, to play, and to stay balanced throughout that movement. That means well-balanced strength with proportional muscles.

Bright

We’d want full access to our mental faculties, to be bright and alert, creative, focused when appropriate, able to recall all the great memories, etc.

Productive

We’d certainly want to feel as if we are contributing to ourselves, our family and society.

We know from evolutionary biology that our ancestors exemplified all the above healthy traits (as I will detail later). Those may or may not have been their stated goals, but those attributes certainly allowed them to survive the rigors of a hostile environment and be in a position to pass their traits along to the next generation, and finally, to us.

Now, understanding that everything we do, eat, think and breathe can affect our 10,000-year-old genes, how does that Original Primal Blueprint compare to what we might have to do today to achieve robust good health, a well-sculpted body, a strong immune system, boundless energy and an increase in productivity – all the goals we are after? Ironically, it’s almost the exact same thing.

The Modern Primal Blueprint® – The Rules of Living Today:

 

1. Eat lots of animals, insects and plants.

56551859 eb062d5540Focus on quality sources of protein (all forms of meat, fowl, fish), lots of colorful vegetables, some select fruits (mostly berries), and healthy fats (nuts, avocados, olive oil). Observe portion control (calorie distribution) week to week more than meal to meal. Eliminate grains, sugars, trans- and hydrogenated fats from your diet.

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to the Primal Blueprint Eating Plan

A Primal Blueprint Sample Menu

Why Grains are Unhealthy

The Primal Blueprint Diagrams

Action Item #3: Make the Healthiest Choices Across the Spectrum

2. Move around a lot at a slow pace.

1432861455 ec53c9a238Do some form of low level aerobic activity 2-5 hours a week, whether it is walking, hiking, easy bike riding or swimming. Ideally, and when possible, find time to go barefoot or wear as little foot support as possible. Low-level activity is necessary (especially if you find yourself chained to a desk every day). The combined effect will be an increase in capillary perfusion, fat-burning and overall integration of muscle strength and flexibility.

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to Low Level Aerobic Activity

The Definitive Guide to Walking

Why We Don’t Walk Anymore

3. Lift heavy things.

361679973 ac188b305dGo to the gym and lift weights for 30-45 minutes, 2-3 times a week. Focus on movements that involve the entire body and in wider ranges of motion – not just on isolating body parts. Emulate the movements of our ancestors: jumping, squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, twisting, etc. This will stimulate your genes to increase muscle strength and power, increase bone density, improve insulin sensitivity, stimulate growth hormone secretion, and consume stored body fat.

Further Reading:

Primal Blueprint Fitness

Action Item #4: Exercise Primally – Move, Lift, and Sprint!

How to Gain Weight and Build Muscle

4. Run really fast every once in a while.

142009175 281d0a1d96Do some form of intense anaerobic sprint bursts several times a week. This could be as simple as six or eight (or more) short sprints up a hill, on the grass, at the beach… or repeated intense sessions on a bicycle (stationary, road or mountain bike). These short bursts also increase HGH release (HGH is actually released in proportion to the intensity (not the duration) of the exercise).

Further Reading:

Why We Don’t Sprint Anymore

Sprint for Your Life: A Primal Workout

Mark’s Beach Sprints

5. Get lots of sleep.

294676273 d691903476Get plenty of quality sleep. Our lives are so hectic and full of things to do after the sun goes down that it’s often difficult to get enough sleep. Yet sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining good health, vibrant energy and a strong immune system.

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to Sleep

17 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

How Light Affects Our Sleep

Is “8 Uninterrupted Hours a Night” Flawed Conventional Wisdom?

7 Ways You May Be Inadvertently Sabotaging a Good Night’s Sleep

6. Play.

2206282062 8bdceb5fbdSpend some time each week involved in active play. In addition to allowing you to apply your fitness to a real-life situation, play helps dissipate some of the negative effects of the chronic stress hormones you’ve been accumulating through the week.

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to Play

The Lost Art of Play: Reclaiming a Primal Tradition

Primal Play: Dance

7. Get some sunlight every day.

1550512599 7de9cea9e3Contrary to the“Common Wisdom” dispensed by dermatologists (who suggest you shun the sun), the Primal Blueprint would insist that you get some direct sunlight every day. Certainly not so much that you come close to burning, but definitely enough to prompt your body to make the all-important vitamin D and to support the mood-lifting benefits. A slight tan is a good indicator that you have maintained adequate Vitamin D levels. Natural sunlight also has a powerful mood-elevating effect, which can enhance productivity at work and in inter-personal interactions.

Further Reading:

Vitamin D: Sun Exposure, Supplementation and Doses

8 Natural Ways to Prevent a Sunburn

7 Home Remedies to Relieve a Suburn

8. Avoid trauma.

484383618 70c80e2b51Eliminate self-destructive behaviors. These concepts are self evident to most people (wear seat belts, don’t smoke or do drugs, don’t dive into shallow water) yet so many of us live our lives oblivious to impending danger. Develop a keen sense of awareness of your surroundings.

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to Stress, Cortisol and the Adrenals

Bodyweight Exercises and Injury Prevention

Exercising Through Injury

9. Avoid poisonous things.

1302876317 8deda727beAvoid exposure to chemical toxins in your food (pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, etc) and on your skin. But also try to avoid the hidden poisons in foods like sugars, grains, processed foods, trans and hydrogenated fats, and mercury in certain fish.

Further Reading:

The Definitive Guide to Sugar

The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve

Action Item #1: Eliminate SAD Foods

10. Use your mind.

533118282 dcd53c68cbExercise your brain daily as our ancestors did. Be inventive, creative, and aware. If your work is not stimulating (or even if it is), find time to read, write, play an instrument and interact socially.

Further Reading:

Music Therapy: Striking a Primal Chord

Handicraft: The Ancient Tradition of Creating Things with Your Hands

Writing Therapy, or What You Get for the Cost of a Number Two Pencil and a Sheet of Paper

As with the Original Primal Blueprint, this list is very general, designed simply to allow you to understand that everything our ancestors did can benefit us as well. Except that we can do it having fun, enjoying every aspect of the lifestyle and without worrying about our survival! In future blog posts (and to a much greater extent in my book) I will be going into much more detail as to how and why these behaviors work and exactly what foods to eat, what exercises to do and how to otherwise find ways to allow your genes to recreate you in the healthiest, fittest way possible.

chotda, tricky TM, Mark Sadowski, driki, TerenceKearns.com, Paul Watson, *Giorgio*, dennis collette, sirwiseowl, jahdakine, ecreyes, Ned Trifle, amy’s pocket-camera, Arno & Louise, Christing-O-, Gio JL, est miltis no ausim, una cierta mierda, glazaro Flickr Photos (CC)

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

Order Your Copy of The Primal Blueprint Today!

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. WOW….that is a fantastic post!!

    Mike OD wrote on June 4th, 2008
  2. *Claps* That was awesome Mark! It may be “general,” but it covers that basics that anyone can put into place for leading a healthy life.

    Cheers
    Scott Kustes
    Modern Forager

    Scott Kustes wrote on June 4th, 2008
  3. Mark,

    This is outstanding advice! I’ll be sure to do a summary on my blog and point readers to this amazing article.

    Now I live in Seattle, so point number 7 (get sunlight everyday) is going to be a challenge.

    I certainly think that “running really fast” every once in a while is solid advice. I’m willing to bet that 80% of adults over the age of 40 haven’t ran really fast even once this year!

    Point number 6…I enjoy playing. Especially if it is with 3-4 attractive female volleyball players like pictured above (I should probably behave).

    Great post!

    Rusty wrote on June 4th, 2008
  4. Quite a post, full of interesting ideas. Good job.

    Jul wrote on June 4th, 2008
  5. Wow!! what an exciting well thought out detailed post.
    “Emulate the movements of our ancestors”. This theory is an excellent guide for those of us that want to maximize our bodies potential. Does anyone know of any other “Primal” exercises?

    Eric wrote on June 4th, 2008
  6. Fantastic post!
    I’ve been living this way for two years now with terrific results. (Thanks to you and Art De Vany.)
    I turned 55 last week and have never felt and looked better. It’s so simple, but yet I’ve made very few converts from people that ask what my secret is. Maybe this post will help.

    SuperMike wrote on June 4th, 2008
  7. Holy cow! This may be the best post ever…anywhere.

    In all seriousness, take this post down now! If everyone reads and starts doing these simple things, may career as a health psycologist may come to an end as there will be no one left to treat.

    primalman wrote on June 4th, 2008
  8. When can we expect the book, Mark? If this post is just the beginning as you allude to then I can’t wait to get into it all deeper. Thanks for the awesome article!

    32Simon wrote on June 4th, 2008
  9. Great Stuff! The point-for-point comparison makes so much sense. We’re not built for Starbucks, office spaces, and repetitive-motion treadmill exercise. You get right to the point of what we ARE built for.

    McFly wrote on June 4th, 2008
    • That’s exactly right. “Experts” try to make us think that we should do this or that to stay healthy. But we really don’t have to do much of what they say. Just follow our ancestors’ example!

      Christine Mattice wrote on April 15th, 2012
  10. Now you have me thinking. How about adding:

    1) “Eat lots of animals, insects and plants” – “while in the presence of others for whom you care and who care for you” See the classic post “what is food and what does it represent?” per Modern Forager.

    2) “Spend time sitting around and exchanging stories and laughs with others.”

    3) “Have regular sex with someone you love.” I hate to be the guy that keeps bringing-up sex. However, it is very healthy and does not get much more primal than this.

    just some of my additional thoughts.

    primalman wrote on June 4th, 2008
  11. Fantastic post Mark!

    I often think about what our diets must have been like back in the day so thoroughly enjoyed this one.
    Keep up the great work!

    Sally

    Sally wrote on June 4th, 2008
  12. Great summary guys! Thanks for putting it all together for me.

    charlotte wrote on June 4th, 2008
  13. Fantastic. :) I feel good, just reading this post.

    J wrote on June 4th, 2008
  14. Super post, Mark!

    Anna wrote on June 4th, 2008
  15. Hi greetings from Australia,
    Look forward to the book. The diet\nutrition stuff has been covered a bt by others, as have some other bits and pieces, but a book that brings it all together would be great.
    OB

    ob wrote on June 4th, 2008
  16. Great stuff Mark. I’ve been using a similar set of rules now for the last 8 years and haven’t had a days illness in that time. Coincidence or magic? you decide :-)

    Empian wrote on June 5th, 2008
  17. Excellent post! Succinct, helpful, and well written.

    Merry wrote on June 5th, 2008
  18. Great post! It’s a great reference that I’m going to keep handy as I strive to improve my fitness.

    Skinny Guy wrote on June 5th, 2008
  19. Mark-
    Good ideas, as always.

    Crystal wrote on June 5th, 2008
  20. I would love to see some research/evidence to support claims regarding how our ancestors lived and also that shows a life lived the guidelines listed actually creates healthy people.

    32Simon wrote on June 5th, 2008
    • I agree, how do we know that they ate more to store up fat? If they ate the right kinds of food and were constantly moving out of necessity then they would remain lean. They didn’t have the wrong fats and denatured foods we have today. Their homegrown and wild foods would help them burn fat all the time.

      Deanna wrote on July 20th, 2010
      • Great point! We tend to believe what “experts” say about how our ancestors ate and what that means for us. But how do they really know?

        Christine Mattice wrote on April 15th, 2012
  21. Thanks for the comment, 32. If you look back through our Worker Bees’ Weekly Bites category you will find a number of articles on the latest research that all seem to point to a life lived by the Primal Blueprint is a healthy life indeed (high fat, low carb, no grains, high intensity, weight bearing etc etc.). As for posts on how our ancestors lived I’ll add that to our long list of things to cover. In coming months we’ll dive further into the Primal Blueprint and continue to offer up the latest research for your consideration.

    Aaron wrote on June 5th, 2008
  22. Thanks Mark!

    Sometimes we all need reminded of what we should be doing, even if we should realize these things are more or less common sense.

    David wrote on June 5th, 2008
  23. Got a chuckle from the McDonald’s photo under “Don’t eat poisonous things.”

    Sonagi wrote on June 5th, 2008
    • I thought that was funny too! But it sure makes sense…. all those chemicals and processed junk to make it last longer, cook faster….

      Stephanie wrote on November 13th, 2010
  24. This is a great article. I do have to take issue, though, with the idea that dermatologists’ advice to avoid the sun can be dismissed as “common wisdom.” Would you say, “Well, ‘common wisdom’ says not to smoke, but…” As a person with skin cancer in my family, I’ll get my Vitamin D in shoddy pill form rather than risk, y’know, dying. I love the healthy life you advocate – please don’t tell people to hurt themselves. Folks without a family history of skin cancer, folks without a personal history of burns or a tendency to freckles and beauty marks – they’re probably okay with some daily exposure, but please highlight that this isn’t three hours without SPF, just 20 minutes or so. Even without burning, if you get tan, your skin is being damaged. Melanoma is a real danger. Moderation.

    Jaime wrote on June 6th, 2008
    • Well, the dermatologists’ advice is more like a common misconception or intentional falsehood than wisdom. Misconception because everyone needs Vitamin D, whether in a pill or from the sun. Lie because there’s a big damn sunscreen industry that needs the general public to believe that you will immediately get skin cancer and die if you are in contact with the skin for five seconds.

      Either way – yes, your skin is only supposed to get pinkish in the sun, not to burn or tan. I personally don’t get pink even sitting in direct sunlight for 40+ minutes (I’m so very healthy), so I supplement with D3.

      D wrote on December 29th, 2009
      • And the Ozone layer is much thinner than it was 10k years ago. So something we must consider.

        Bob wrote on September 1st, 2012
  25. Wonderful Introduction! Cannot wait for the book!

    Oxybeles wrote on June 6th, 2008
  26. I’ve had skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma, MOHS surgery, repaired with plastic surgery & skin graft repair – on my nose, front and center). The wound healing of the surgical site took several months and the skin graft regeneration took a full year. I shunned the sun for nearly a decade afterward and it wasn’t good. Looking back on it, it was like living in a cave.

    I do take Vitamin D3 now (big doses), but I also try to get a bit (15 minutes) of strong sun several days a week when I can (even in coastal So Cal it isn’t always sunny or warm enough the the winter sun has too little of the right light angle). I feel much better in numerous ways now that I am “back in the sun” and out of my “cave”. I do take great pains not to burn by covering up, limiting unprotected time, and using strong sunscreen when covering up or limiting time are not practical. I barely have any tan (my Irish-German skin has never kept a tan well or long anyway). I’m finding my resistance to sunburn is much better now that I consume only a tiny amount of unstable PUFA oils and a lot more stable sat and monosat fats.

    My risk for skin cancers is probably high due to the severe sunburns I had as a teenager and young adult in the NE US, not the careful exposure I get now in the SW. Staying deficient in Vit D to avoid cosmetic skin damage like wrinkles and the admittedly annoying but rarely basal cell and squamous cell cancers seems riskier to me, especially when sunshine & Vit D is increasingly shown to be a key player in avoidance of many more deadly forms of cancer, including melanoma.

    In fact, the role of sun exposure in melanoma is turning out to be far more interesting and less straightforward than anyone ever thought. It may well be that prudent sun exposure (& the resultant Vit D production) protects against melanoma, rather than causing it. I’ll risk a bit of wrinkling and basal cell scars to avoid melanoma, breast cancer, etc.

    Anna wrote on June 6th, 2008
  27. Jaime,

    I understand your concerns, but as Anna says, it’s far more complicated than just staying out of the sun because you have a family history. It may be that regular controlled daily exposure reduces your risk for melanoma and BCC. I think I did suggest here and in past posts that I’m not necessarily talking about lengthy exposure. Certainly not espousing a burn, but even my dermatologist syas she keeps a bit of a tan because it’s healthier than not.

    Also, diet may have a lot more to do with skin-cancer risk. A high carb (high glucose) diet may increase susceptibility of skin (AGE’s, inflammation, etc) and a diet too high in PUFA’s (or too low in saturated fats), or even too low in carotenoids may also increase risk. That’s why I say so often, when you take on the Primal Blueprint lifestyle, you’d benefit most from embracing all of it – as opposed to just bits and pieces.

    Mark Sisson wrote on June 6th, 2008
  28. Mark,

    Thanks for the great post! It’s an incredible reminder that, when all else fails — or when the conflicting information on health, fitness and nutrition becomes overwhelming — use your intuition and get back to the basics.

    Christopher Warden wrote on June 11th, 2008
  29. Thank you! Great help and inspiration!
    I was led here by my son, who always investigate thngs properly. I asked him for advice as health problems started to come a bit closer that horizon. Here I am – a future primal Norwegian? :-)

    Leif Ekle wrote on July 10th, 2008
  30. this is great advice, thanks, i’ve been doing this for years, mainly on my camping trips. :)

    Johnson wrote on November 27th, 2008
  31. Hello,
    You advise above to eliminate sugars….in one post had you breakfast including coffee with sugar…another had muffins with maple flakes (sugar). ?? I don’t have the Primal Diet book, perhaps you have a 90/10 rule or something (like precision nutrition)? I look forward to your book being released.
    Kate.

    Kate wrote on January 23rd, 2009
  32. Kate, book will be out around end of March. Meanwhile, the PB is about understanding the effects of certain foods and being able to make informed choices. A teaspoon of sugar in my coffee lets me enjoy it a bit more…and is nothing at all like the amount of sugar in a piece of pie or a soft drink. If that’s all the sugar I consume in a day, I’m 95% “perfect” ;-)

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 23rd, 2009
  33. I feel like this would make a great little flash video for beginners. The images are great.

    I am slowly trying to make the transition, Caveman cookies are really helping to ease the transition (banana is my hands down favorite). I’ve tried to make such changes in the past but it never stuck. I am trying to take it one day at a time (and one bite at a time!), and remind myself that I was given this body as a gift from a higher power and that I should honor and respect it to the best of my capacity.

    camille wrote on March 13th, 2009
  34. is the book available yet???

    Rob wrote on May 6th, 2009
    • March…look to replies up…

      Adam wrote on April 10th, 2011
  35. Now that sums it up perfectly. I read a lot of health and fitness material but this was simple and intelligent. As he said, this is truly a blueprint for life!

    Dean wrote on May 26th, 2009
  36. very interesting post. thanks!

    Ethan wrote on July 5th, 2009
  37. sounds hideously similar to the Atkins diet. very low amounts carbs, even natural ones, eat lots of meat, avoid dairy, sounds like deficiencies will build up, and there will be an unnescessary accumulation of other things, such as large amounts of iron from meat. I’d rather stick with a diet of moderate saturated fat, little or no trans fats, lots of EFA’s, lots of protein, and legumes and unrefined carbs as my source of carbs, with lower fat dairy here and there, which seems to have worked for many people, why try to fix something if it is not broken? obese people do not eat this way, the exercise regime in this prgram seems sound though

    hmm.... wrote on July 5th, 2009
    • how does it sound like deficiencies will build up? Primal foods can supply all the vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and water that you need. by the way the primal blueprint is the diet you described, minus legumes and with high-fat dairy instead of low-fat.

      avi wrote on October 3rd, 2010
  38. hmmmm- there is a lot you need to learn about primal and diet in general. There is something broken- the American diet and the food it eats. Primal is CLEAN. Some diary is fine but I’d steer clear of most carbs like corn and soy and most if not all grains. Beans are fine.
    If you knew Atkins, you would know it is heavy into Vegetables, that is if you read past the introduction.

    pjnoir wrote on July 5th, 2009
  39. Nice, I like the comparison, but Macdonalds isn’t poisonous!!

    The Fit News wrote on July 6th, 2009
    • McDonalds isnt poison????ARE you kidding me????

      daisy wrote on December 3rd, 2013
  40. hmm…the atkins diet is very healthy and very pro-veggie. to suggest otherwise is proof that you have never done it or read the book. and, sans your focus on legumes, it is exactly the diet you described.
    the primal diet IS basically atkins, just focused on clean real food and less prepackaged, nutritionally substandard food.

    jenni wrote on July 6th, 2009

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