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

Finish Line: The 2012 Challenge

Wow. When I first decided to revamp the annual Primal Challenge into the 21-day model, I knew we’d be looking at an intense, filled-to-the-brim three weeks. I had no idea. Every year I relish the Challenge, and this year was no exception. Congratulations to everyone out there who participated – whether it was your first foray into the Primal Blueprint or whether you’re a longtime adherent who tackled a new lifestyle dimension. A big thanks also to all who offered support, perspective, and feedback to fellow readers along the way. The Challenge never fails to highlight the truly awesome Primal community that inspires this blog. For me, it’s the ultimate reflection – and maybe celebration – of what living Primally is all about. It’s a testament, I think, to the power of a few key principles for healthier living – as well as the incredible inventiveness and individuality that folks bring to the Primal model.

The Challenge officially ended yesterday. Now that it’s all said and done, I want to hear your perceptions of it. It’s a good time to take stock of your experience while it’s still fresh. What exactly are you bringing away from the Challenge? More energy? A renewed optimism about your health? A new waist measurement? A more impressive mile time or VO2 max? A heftier deadlift max? Better sleep? Better confidence? I hope you’ll share your successes – and your stumbling blocks along the way. What worked for you? What didn’t? Did you follow the Action Items? What was most instrumental in the successes you experienced? No matter how dramatic or mixed the results, there’s so much to be gained from revisiting the overall venture. Reflection is an essential part of the process.

Let’s do a quick review of the highlights…

Primal Worthy Contests and Commentary

The competitive side of me loves the energy behind a good contest, and I’m glad so many of you share the enthusiasm. A big thanks to the companies who offered their products for the competitions this year. For the MDA community, it’s a great way to support the larger Primal and paleo business community, and I know readers love the chance to snag some truly extraordinary prizes that can help them live healthier. What’s more than the prizes themselves, however, is the incredible insight readers have shared in many of these contests. Whether it’s naming the apron, designing a poster, or suggesting Primal Woman book themes, your feedback has been invaluable and amazingly impressive. Thank you to everybody for sharing your time, talent, and perspectives. And stay tuned for the fruits of your contributions.

Phenomenal Reader Content

I can’t salute this enough. I know everybody looks forward to the Friday Success Stories, and so many of you have been following the 2012 Success Stories in the Making chronicles. The Challenge always takes the readers’ presence on MDA to a whole new level. Every year I relish the chance to see what readers design when I turn the reins over to their creativity. I’m amazed, frankly. I’m inspired. I think, “I wish I would’ve thought of that!” Now that I know, I’m going to waste no time getting some of that action – whether it’s a fantastic recipe or an exciting new workout. I love the images of everything from celebratory Grokfeasts to Primal family living. Readers, you rock! What’s better is you show how flexible and relevant the PB can be for absolutely everyone’s lifestyle. You make the PB your own, and thank you all for sharing your takes on Primal living with the rest of us.

In case you missed any of the action, here are links to your submissions:

Primal Blueprint Recipe Videos

Primal Blueprint Workout Videos

2012 Grokfeasts

You can view the winners and sponsors of this year’s contests here.

Primal Blueprint Key Concepts and Action Items

Then there’s the practical, commonsensical, back to basics focus of the Challenge. This year I incorporated the new, streamlined summary of Primal living – made simple – as I outlined it in The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation book. I invite you to revisit the posts on the 8 Key Concepts and 5 Action Items whenever you want a refresher or a bit of extra motivation. The posts now represent the blog version of a Primal primer for those beginning the journey or reviewing the fundamentals for healthier living.

There’s another angle to everyone’s experience that I want to throw out there. For all the talk about what each of us is taking away from the Challenge, there’s the flip side. It’s a less expected but nonetheless revealing question of what you brought to the 2012 Challenge. For first timers, what motivated you to give it a shot? What hope and history accompanied you on the 21-day journey? Are you new to MDA, or have you been observing from the periphery for a while? What shift made you finally take the plunge?

For those of you who have done the Challenge before or have been Primal for a while but who took on the Challenge for more in depth work, how were you different coming to the Challenge this year – your life, your motivation, your interest? Believe it or not, I do the Challenge myself every year. In the midst of being engrossed in the content and contests of the Challenge, I use the focus of these weeks to tackle some new area of life. Sure, I’ve had the basics down for years, but I never fail to uncover some new wrinkle that refreshes or deepens my own Primal experience. Life is somehow different every year. I find I’m different, too, as my work, family, and general life continue to shift and unfold.

Anyone who’s re-read a long favorite book only to find themselves getting something totally new out of it knows what I mean. Yes, the Primal principles themselves are pretty constant – rooted in age-old patterns of course. Nonetheless, through the course of life and change, we ourselves are constantly changing – bringing something different to our health undertakings. Repeating the Challenge – whether during the official MDA month or on your own during the year (maybe with the help of the 21-Day Total Body Transformation to boot?) can let you see the Primal Blueprint through a new lens. The light of a year’s life experiences can shift our emotional engagement and show us new depths or angles that seemed less relevant before. That’s part of what makes the PB a rewarding lifelong journey. It’s not a regimen that gets stale over time. It’s a model that you can continually revisit and adapt as your life and interests change.

The logical extension of all this is to reflect on what vision (not just results) you’re bringing now to life post-Challenge. What’s the next Primal chapter for you? What are your priorities? What do you want to tackle, hone, or simply enjoy moving forward? What resources, activities, choices, or experiments will serve you now in this next chapter? Finally, what are you looking for from MDA that could help you chart your course these next few months? The Challenge might be over, but I’m still here ready to support you in your ongoing Primal journey.

Thank you again, everyone, for another amazing, energizing Primal Challenge! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And stay tuned. I’ve got plenty of new resources, posts, and news to come in the next several weeks, and we’ll be getting back to the regular schedule starting with a “Dear Mark” post tomorrow. Have a great week, everybody.

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. enjoyed going back to basics. sometimes the overdone needs done again. thankx for re-re-doing simple concepts.

    lockard wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • also went to bed earlier and lost 5-6lbs

      lockard wrote on October 1st, 2012
      • 5-6 = -1, so you gained a pound :)

        Craig wrote on October 1st, 2012
  2. Lost 9 pounds in three weeks with complete satisfaction of what I was eating (a first for me). Feel so much better, healthier and happier. Bought smaller, cuter clothes and boots. Received complements on my appearance from other women. Received many compliments from my husband – he is very impressed and proud. Making a commitment to keep to keep wheat out of my diet. I just feel amazing and am so very happy and proud. Thanks, Mark!

    Selene wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • Congrats! Your feedback is inspiring!

      Luciana wrote on October 1st, 2012
  3. Cut out the remaining HFCS in my diet and now and I no longer crave it. I ate a piece of cake in celebration and 2 bites in I wasn’t enjoying it. Success!

    Evan Pavan wrote on October 1st, 2012
  4. One of my action items of slowing life down was spending less time in front of my computer moniter.
    Sadly, I did not have time to sit thru every reader recipe…… and they all sounded so good! Is it possible to have the submitters sent in print recipes? Otherwise, this 21 day was a great shot in the arm. and I am not sure what I loved more…tuna tanaka or Nacho himself!

    Mimulus wrote on October 1st, 2012
  5. Fitness is still my “newest” Primal focus. I stuck to my at least twice weekly moderate strength training routines (kettlebell and bodyweight). I actually ended up surpassing those sessions every single week! I did not stick to my 2x weekly biking session due to weather. Overall, I feel like this year’s Challenge helped to reinforce some new exercise habits (new as in I have never been able to stick to exercise routines for my 24 yrs of life so far!).

    Tasha wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • Same! This challenge helped me get in a few extra hours of slow movement by standing at my desk, walking around the office, and riding to and from work. While I wasn’t able to go a full 24 hours of fasting, I did incorporate 12-16 hour daily fasts into my routine, which have helped my energy levels soar. I too was unable to ride to work everyday because of the 40+ inches of rain we got this September, but I did go all out during my workouts these past 3 weeks, pushing myself hard in order to gain strength, flexibility, and mobility. I feel great, and my clothes are fitting looser and looser!

      Also, I took this challenge to work on some primal recipes, which has been a deliciously fun time! Check out my recipe page on pinterest if you need some inspiration:

      Charlayna wrote on October 1st, 2012
  6. No alcohol since 9/1/2012.. and it feels great. A few lbs lost, much more clarity and motivation gained!
    This is a big lifestyle change for me, and I learned I can still enjoy life without craving a drink to augment it.

    What’s next is to outline some long term goals around a primal life and fitness, and develop a plan to achieve them.

    Lars T. wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • Finding this to be the final piece of the primal puzzle and the first one for enlightenment.

      Vince wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • Nice work.

      I have wondered about the link between craving a drink and malnutrition. Most heavy drinkers have poor diets and their adrenals are spent. Back when I imbibed too often my diet was poor, my sleep was poor, motivation was poor, etc. It was like being stuck in a downward spiral.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on October 1st, 2012
      • I think I have overactive adrenals.
        Poor sleep has been an ongoing issue as of late, mostly due to stress. Dialed in my diet primal about two years ago, except for the excessive alcohol. Very excited to see what happens going forward .

        Lars wrote on October 1st, 2012
  7. Cut out all sugar, natural or otherwise, plus everything that comes in a package and stuck to primal 100%. Also moved a lot more and lifted heavy things while building a garden. Although my body didn’t change on the outside, I feel so much better mentally…all the crazy munchies and cravings are gone, I ate real food and felt very satiated the entire time.

    Marcela wrote on October 1st, 2012
  8. Yes. I am so excited! Just completed my first 21-day challenge as a part of my yearlong commitment to health and wellness. I feel great! I have been walking 7 days a week and doing cross fit type training twice a week – for this first month I am only eating fat, meat, and vegetables and have not been hungry at all! I have lost 25 from 9/10 to today and looking forward to continuing the shed. My energy is increased, thinking is clearer and the back pain I have been dealing with since February is gone! Loving it and excited about my transition to Primal Living!

    Week 1 – lost 14 pounds
    Week 2 – lost 7 pounds
    Week 3 – lost 4 pounds

    Thanks community for making this so much fu n and for the great recipes – it has made my journey so far so enjoyable and rewarding!


    Thomas wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • Wow that is absolutely super. Any cravings you have had to beat back Thomas?

      Cheryl Boswell wrote on October 1st, 2012
      • Cheryl –

        It was actually kind of funny – seems like when I cut out the processed stuff and the sugar my cravings went away. When i was eating carbs, it seemed like i never was fully satisfied. Cutting out the excessive cardio also keeps the cravings down.

        My 1st 30 days ends on 10/9. After which, i start adding foods in to test my sensitivity. I am starting with coconut milk and fresh coconut – I am looking forward to some homemade coconut ice cream sweetened only with yacon and stevia.

        I have been a big chocolate person. I am interested to see how my body will react when I eventually add in dark chocolate to my diet. I have not been craving it though.

        I was just telling my wife, it is amazing how my cravings have changed. I now crave grilled onions and peppers, Scotch Eggs, local farm fresh bacon, and baked zucchini chips. I am also amazed I have not been craving salt. I have always been big on seasoning. Now I put Trader Joe’s salt free 21 Seasoning Salute on everything.

        Will keep the community updated as I add foods into my diet whether any cravings reappear – thanks for the question.


        Thomas wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • How did you lose so much weight? I too have lost the cravings but weight loss has stagnated

      Barbara wrote on October 2nd, 2012
      • He is a guy. Seems like the weight falls off them easier than us females.

        Sharon wrote on October 2nd, 2012
      • I find that there are some differences based on gender. However, it also depends on the amount of weight one needs to lose.

        The biggest differentiator is your diet. It really is 80-85% of it. I have strictly been doing fat, meat, eggs, and vegetables. I have been very strict. I also have been keeping my carbs at 75 g or below – most days are 25-50 g. I believe the ketosis made the difference. That has also enabled me to do intermittent fasting since my cravings are pretty much gone.

        I really have not changed my workouts. I walk 30 minutes a day and 2 cross fit workouts a week.

        We all have different food sensitivities. I think it is an important factor in health and weight loss. That”‘s something you may want to consider. Is dairy are issue for you? Are you eating too many nuts? I find those are 2 foods that when I limit/avoid, it helps the weight loss.

        Hope this helps


        Thomas wrote on October 2nd, 2012
  9. I was sick for the past 7 days and am finally just about 100% better. So my focus is now shifting to living more slowly and getting lots of sleep and rest!

    Primal Toad wrote on October 1st, 2012
  10. I did read Primal Blueprint and I did talk to my husband about making the switch. He is still not interested, but he understands what I’m doing and why. I also turned off my alarm clock and wake up naturally every day–usually around the time I need to anyway. I got in five weight training type workouts and several walks. I did NOT get the cold that my daughter brought home from school. I know I have lost some weight too, because my pants are loose!

    These are all great accomplishments for me. I may never have the six-pack abs but I’ve made a great start on my journey to better health.

    Thanks for all the inspiration here.

    DFrazzled wrote on October 1st, 2012
  11. This is such an amazing community! Thank you for sharing your experiences!The most important results of the primal diet for me are a much clearer brain, more energy, and almost no mood swings. I cannot emphasize enough the joy of a clearer brain. The fog has lifted. I run my own business and having energy and a clear mind makes a huge difference in my life. I do not crave any grains or legumes. I fell in love with my fruits and veggies. And have been enjoying eggs and meat like never before. Don’t have to eat as soon as I wake up. Don’t have to eat every two hours anymore. Feel so much more comfortable in my body. The primal diet is pure joy :)

    Luciana wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • Couldn’t agree more with you! Hah, I just wish i’d started this earlier so i could’ve had better results in my finals! 😀

      Arcticnomster wrote on October 1st, 2012
  12. Three weeks of no dairy. My body is much better off without it.

    Mike G wrote on October 1st, 2012
  13. I’m working out, and enjoying it. I think there’s a pullup in my near future. A year and a half ago, I got so gluten-sick… since going grain/legume/dairy-free, I’ve had more energy, less joint pain, better sleep, headaches are virtually unheard of. I’ve really appreciated the 21 days, and wish I’d had more time to follow others’ adventures – and to post some of our best meat cupcake recipes!

    My weight is unchanged – for a year now! – but my clothes continue to get bigger 😉 I never, ever think about portions or calories – sometimes I feel like the only woman my age who isn’t at least worrying about this, if not actually counting and measuring.

    Best of all, I really feel as though I’m doing my own thing, my own way. But as we’re all on some version of this same path together, I want to stress my thanks – I value the info, support, and structure (not to mention the warmth and humor) here at MDA. Thanks to all.

    Sara in Brooklyn wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • +1 for the future pull ups. I started just by hanging for 10 seconds. Now I can do double digit pullups. Just keep at it.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on October 1st, 2012
      • How long do you wait between doing pullups? Is 1 day recovery enough?

        Craig wrote on October 1st, 2012
        • You should also try using an assisted pull up machine. Most gyms should have them. It definitely helped me a lot. Oh and I am on a 3 day split so i usually wait 3 days between my back workouts. Not sure if others agree with that, but it works for me!

          Darren wrote on October 1st, 2012
        • I do them daily. When I am too weak I hang and do leg lifts.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on October 1st, 2012
        • I lift heavy things 4x per week, but only do back exercises 1x per week… Not sure if that helps a ton though, since I can’t do pullups yet.

          I would probably just try doing them, and see how sore you are the next day?

          Charlayna wrote on October 1st, 2012
  14. Great post and useful information. I have started my own challenge of getting on best shape ever this year.

    John wrote on October 1st, 2012
  15. I had lost sleep for years and now I spend whole nights under the sheets.
    I have no more joint pain, no more migraines, I have more energy and I’m always happy.
    My beloved says I’m not the same woman I was before going Primal. I didn’t eat dairy except butter.
    I began eating Primal 1 week earlier than the Challenge so in 1 month I lost 4 inches of waist, 1.6 inches for the hips, about 0.4-0.8 everywhere else and 13lbs of weight.
    My weight didn’t change since last week but my pants keep getting looser.
    Thank you all for the support and inspiration !

    Theodora wrote on October 1st, 2012
  16. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to watch all the videos, and after checking in several times and only finding video content I just skipped the whole thing. I’m looking forward to regular blog posts again.

    Nancy wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • Since I don’t have unlimited bandwidth, I can’t watch all of the videos. I pray that all of the recipes submitted will eventually be put in print version. Please, please!!!!

      NMCynthia wrote on October 1st, 2012
  17. I didn’t stick to this as well as I had hoped. (Fires and bad air quality made exercise very hard.) But, I have noticed some changes in the last couple of weeks.

    I am getting up regularly on my own, and not quiet so tired at night.

    The hip pain I have had most of the time since my now 7 year old was born is gone.

    The ganglion (or Bible Bump) on my wrist is gone.

    I did do a bunch of modified push ups, and can do one pull up now.

    A couple of picnics means that I didn’t loose weight, but I am hoping they get those fires out so I can exercise soon!

    CrazyCatLady wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • Wish it woulda got rid of my ganglion cyst!!! Lucky you!

      Lexie : ) wrote on October 3rd, 2012
    • Wenatchee?

      DarcieG wrote on October 3rd, 2012
  18. Is it possible to get the recipes in a print version? Cheers!

    Kat wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • +1!!

      NMCynthia wrote on October 1st, 2012
  19. I didn’t start my Primal journey as a part of the 21-day challenge, my start just happened to coincide with it. I read and followed the posts about it, though, along with the other articles on the site.

    I started college a month ago and I’m living away from home for the first time, which has given me the freedom to prepare my own meals and to be in control of what I eat. After reading a ton of articles on the site I went out to the store and bought Primal-approved foods and put away almost everything my parents left me with (pasta, rice, hotdogs, etc.). I’ve had a few slips (the noddles in my soup on Free Soup Wednesdays, maple butter…), but otherwise it’s been pretty easy and enjoyable – I think that since it’s the only thing I know that helps a lot! I can’t imagine having leftover pizza…my meals are always freshly cooked and prepared, so double delicious! The added bonus of a low appetite is great because I don’t have to walk home between classes for some food or spend money on non-Primal snacks.

    As for what I’ve gotten out of it so far, like I mentioned I’m not hungry very often (reminding myself to eat? Never thought that would happen!), and I’m trying a lot of new foods – tonight some steak and mashed cauliflower is on the menu, and I bought some nuts to try as well. I don’t have access to a scale and I never thought to measure myself so I don’t know how much I’ve lost, but I’m sure I’ve lost some!

    I can’t wait to see how far I come between now and Christmas – we’ll see how much I can surprise my family when I go home for the break!

    Maxine wrote on October 1st, 2012
  20. At the beginning I vowed to cut out cheese, to get outside and move more and to lose 2kg.

    I cut both cheese and milk from my diet, bought a frisbee and dragged the nephews to the park a few times, tried tabata sprints (OMG, now I know what dying feels like but the high afterward is incredible!), and lost exactly 2kg. I also found a good source of free-range eggs and made friends with my local butcher (no mean feat for a social phobic such as myself).

    I enjoyed the reader submitted videos, they were funny, informative and immensely inspiring, and the ‘naming the apron’ contest had some wonderfully witty suggestions!

    I went primal in May this year and the 2012 challenge rolled around at just the right time to help me refocus on my goals and inspire me to try new things.

    Kitty =^..^= wrote on October 1st, 2012
  21. I started swimming and am having so much fun doing it that I don’t want to get out of the pool. Thanks for giving me the motivation boost to actually put on my suit and jump in. It is something I have been meaning to do for ages but the Challenge got me off my keister and into the water. Also lifting weights twice a week!

    Siobhan wrote on October 1st, 2012
  22. another request for print recipes. I skipped the videos. I prefer print content, but understand some enjoy the action. looking forward to the routine posts. appreciate all the info and inspiration I get from subscribing.

    Carol wrote on October 1st, 2012
    • +1

      DarcieG wrote on October 3rd, 2012
  23. I enjoyed reading the comments from the newbies undergoing their primal journeys.
    Congrats to you all, and keep up the good work!

    Lars wrote on October 1st, 2012
  24. Yay! I didn’t touch chocolate the entire time (my number one out-of-control indulgence). I got back into some nice lifting of heavy things and my muscles are now used to it. Lost a little of the weight I gained over winter.

    Audrey wrote on October 2nd, 2012
  25. My goal was to incorporate more exercise. Started out pretty good walking across town twice a day to feed my out of town son’s cat. Did some body weight exercises at the local playground.

    Son came home and I fell off the exercise wagon again and got into food. Fermenting food in particular. A new adventure for me. I highly recommend it based on the ferments we have had so far.

    We are about to install a veg garden so it will be ready to go next spring. I see heavy lifting in my near future.

    Sharon wrote on October 2nd, 2012
  26. This was the first time that I actually stuck to the challenge, and I ended up losing 7 pounds-all without counting calories or going hungry. Going for three weeks revealed to me how easy it was to go without processed food and sugar, and inspired me to keep going even though the challenge is over.

    Katie wrote on October 2nd, 2012
  27. Broke my plateau and lost 3 pounds with no effort;-)

    alexandra wrote on October 2nd, 2012
  28. I lost 10 pounds, cut the juggle around the middle, and stopped drinking Diet Coke.

    I’m movitated to lose the remaining 30 (give or take).

    Overall – a success!

    Gretchen wrote on October 2nd, 2012
  29. I’m so excited to read how this 21 day challenge effected everyone! For me the first thing I noticed was a clearer thought process. I did notice the low-carb flu wich lasted 1.5-2 weeks, but afterwards have noticed more energy. I work a graveyard shift and have a hard time sleeping (usually 4-6 hrs tops). I now sleep 8-9 hours, no problem! And… I lost 5.5 lbs, an inch off my waist and 1.5 inches off my hips! I went completely off sugar and just had some ice cream after the challenge. I was pretty excited, but felt sick after only a few bites. Guess I really don’t want sugar…

    Lexie : ) wrote on October 3rd, 2012
  30. Absolutely no wheat for the 3 weeks. Lost weight for 2 weeks then actually gained some back. I honestly cannot say I feel better after the 3 weeks. Do not have the carb cravings, but obviously I still ate a lot of something.

    Jeff L wrote on October 3rd, 2012
  31. I’m so happy I finally decided to do this. My friend told me about PB 2 years ago but I kept telling him I wasn’t ready. I totally eliminated sugar, dairy, grains and processed foods. I HAD to do something drastic. I was feeling so horrible I would cry every morning just because I had to get out of bed and go to work. My entire body just hurt all the time, my mind was foggy, I couldn’t concentrate on my job and made a lot of mistakes every day. My co-workers were sick of hearing me complain about how tired and awful I felt.

    I’m happy to say that I lost 8 lbs. I haven’t measured but my too tight clothes are now getting loose. More importantly, I feel good! I can’t say great yet but I know that will come in time. My mind is clear, I’m not in a constant fog like i was before. I have enough energy to get through an entire day of working on my feet and feel good when I go home..something that never happened before.

    One of the things that amazed me is how the cravings and constant hunger went away. I made sure I always had good food available and if want something a little sweeter or get hungry between meals at work, I eat an apple or celery with sunflower butter.

    I’m definitely sticking with this diet!! Now I just need to add exercise. Since I work 9 hrs on my feet, I never had enough energy to even think about exercise. Now I’m thinking about and WANTING to!! Thanks for all the support recipes and information!

    Barbara wrote on October 12th, 2012

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