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

It’s Time to “Get Real”

Dear readers, it’s time to get real.

I realize that most of you probably don’t think you need a lecture. You may not need any further motivation. You’re eating good, whole foods, getting daily exercise, and things are going well. For the most part, Grok gazes upon you with twinkling, approving eyes. But what of newcomers? What of the average doughy citizen happily bumbling along in blissful ignorance, unaware that his or her dietary habits and devotion to Conventional Wisdom might actually be counterproductive to those goals implicit in all forms of life, great or small? Survival, contentedness, and prosperity. Surely he deserves a harsh check of reality.

And even Grok stumbles. Even the most zealous adherents of the Primal Blueprint falter, or even relapse. Maybe they start taking advantage of the office snack stash on a regular basis. A few Twix can’t hurt, right? (Every day? Yeah, they can.) Or maybe they swing by the drive-thru because they put off grocery shopping that week. (Enjoy your microwaved pseudo-meat product flanked by enriched flour patties and plastic cheese.) Hell, even I’ve made that split-second decision – half-out the door, bedecked in workout gear, mind dreading the pain to come – to put off exercise for momentary comfort.

There’s nothing wrong with the occasional foray into our old ways, especially if the situation necessitates it (starving on a business trip in some far-off town with nothing but fast food joints open, or taking a day off to rest an overworked body). Just be wary of man’s unique ability to justify anything. We’ll eat vegetables chips and swear they’re healthy. We’ll order a light Frappucino and convince ourselves it’s cool (never mind that sugary sweet syrup concoction coating your mouth afterward). Call it self-delusion, cognitive dissonance, or just plain lying to yourself – we all do it, we’re great at it, it’s a coping mechanism, but it’s ultimately harmful and impedes progress in the Primal Blueprint. Because once we justify and rationalize a counterproductive behavior, we’re all the more likely to continue said behavior.

“Just one more day…”

“Just this once…”

“Last time. Promise…”

Sound familiar? When you’re promising stuff to yourself and convincing yourself that the lies you’re spewing are to be trusted (and falling for it!)… it’s time to GET REAL.

Consider this, then, a wake-up call. (If you’re diligent and secure, exempt yourself – but even then, you’d be selling yourself short. There’s always room for improvement. Thinking otherwise leads to stagnation.) A wake up call to the beginners, a wake up call to our most loyal readers. Let’s even consider it a wake up call to me, Mark, to get and stay serious about eating right and working out correctly. Following the direction of our evolutionary genetics is a beautifully simple endeavor, but it takes diligence and dedication nonetheless.

Are you prepared to re-up on the Primal Blueprint? If so, these should help you maintain composure and stay the course.

Get Real Meat

Eat real, actual meat. You want a slab of beef untouched by preservatives, by antibiotics, by hormones, and by soy feed. You want a whole roasted chicken so you can crack open the bones and suck the marrow. Eat clean, wild fish and pick out the rib bones. Most importantly, don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that greasy little Slim Jim you picked up at the gas station on the way home from work that oozes slimy nitrites with every bite is real meat. Nor are, for that matter, the treated cold cuts, the bargain bin bacon that miraculously survives for months in your fridge, and that pepperoni you pick off your spouse’s pizza. Get real meat, folks.

Get Real Vegetables

Don’t eat corn (on the cob, popped, or otherwise prepared – it’s actually a grain!), potatoes (although sweet potatoes and yams are decent in moderation), vegetable tempura (don’t let that flaky, crispy batter fool you), or veggie chips (the chubby vegetarian’s best friend). And President Reagan may have once proclaimed it a vegetable, but ketchup is definitely not a good choice – it’s loaded with so much corn syrup, sodium, and other pseudo-foods that the tomato can scarcely be detected. Instead, load up on the stuff that you know to be good. Broccoli, greens of all kinds, cauliflower (mash it up for a superior potato substitute), carrots (hold the cake), peppers, tomatoes (real ones), squash, and eggplant (among numerous others) work quite well.

Get Real Fruit

And get realistic amounts of it. Fruit was a luxury for Grok, a seasonal delicacy. He wasn’t slurping sherbet-based smoothies every morning, nor was he munching on apples engineered for maximum sugar content. When you eat fruit try to stick to organic. Rather than drink juice or smoothies (albeit, a better choice), try to eat whole fruits. They’ll fill you up faster. Also go easy on the dried fruit; it’s great in a pinch and on hikes (mixed with nuts), but you’ll fill up on sugar before you notice it because it’s so concentrated. As always, berries are best.

Get Real Nuts

Lose the peanuts, the candy-coated almonds, the caramel-fudge-encrusted macadamia nuts, those clusters of candy and nuts masquerading as healthy snacks (they may have exotic spices like anise and cayenne, but they’re still covered in a fine sheen of syrup). Eat real nuts and seeds instead: almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin, sunflower, hemp. And please – do not eat those dried crispy soybeans.

Get Real Fat

Though that header could be easily misconstrued, what I mean is that you need to get real sources of good fat in your diet. Avoid the processed, hydrogenated (partially or totally), trans garbage. You should be eating real animal fat (lard, tallow), olive oil and fats from avocados, eggs, nuts, seeds, and good cuts of meat (eat that crispy chicken skin!). If you’ve bought into the widespread ridiculous fear of fat in favor of artificial vegetable oils, margarines, and other disgusting lab creations, you need to get real.

Get Real About Grains

CW likes to tout grains as “the staff of life” – the foundation for the human diet. Deep down, you know better. You know that the best alternative to grains is eating real food our bodies were designed to eat. Meat, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and fats are highly superior to grains, and they don’t require loads of processing, heating, pressing, fermenting, soaking, or any other tampering just to be digestible. Get real about the Primal Blueprint, stay off the grains for a few months, and you’ll forget all about your former masters.

Get Real Workouts

The success and effectiveness of your workout depends on the enthusiasm with which it’s assailed. Don’t half ass your sprint day at 60% intensity when you know you need to be going 100%. Don’t show up at the gym when you’re supposed to max your squat if you’re not serious about it. Use these days for rest, play or some low level aerobic activity (think long walks/hikes or an easy bike ride) instead and you’ll still be perfectly Primal. Then, when you’re ready, regroup and give it your all. Otherwise, malaise or even injury can easily set in. Get real about what you’re up for, then do it! Oh, and if you’re counting your walk out to your mailbox and back as your workout of the day you seriously need to get real.

Get Real About Your Goals

First of all, get some real goals. Get out a piece of paper (or blog, or Word doc, whatever) and figure out what you’re working toward. Be honest with yourself, and don’t expect the impossible. I am a strong believer in one’s ability to control their gene expression, reprogram their body, and become a healthier individual, but you aren’t going to sprout a few more inches no matter how many reps you do or vegetables you eat.

That said, never sell yourself short. Push yourself to the limit, and don’t use common excuses – “most of my family is slightly overweight” or “my dad never was really that muscular” or “I’m too old to start over” – to avoid making changes in your life. Your ability to seize control of your life, your body, and your health is real. You just have to do it. Ewald (Otto’s identical twin) did.

I hope all of this wasn’t too harsh. Chalk it up to a little tough love follow-up to yesterday’s “Excuses” post. I think it’s important to have a call to action every now and then. And it’s not like I told you something you didn’t know. You know these are the keys to living a long, healthy life. You know eating the right food and getting daily exercise will pay dividends – today, tomorrow, and in thirty years. Don’t relegate yourself to a future of walkers, brittle bones, sagging guts (and spirits), and doctor visits, all because it was easier to delude yourself and take the easy route. Instead, get real about your abilities, about your goals, about your lifestyle, and about your body.

Good luck!

Further Reading:

Egg Purchasing Guide

Salmon: Factory Farm vs. Wild

Dear Mark: Is Flax Bad?

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. Incredibly, here in the UK they are complaining about the huge increase in the deer population and how they will need to be culled.

    Now I don’t know about you but when I see Bambi gambolling about in the fields I think “venison!” Likewise for pheasants and cutesy bunnies. IMNSHO game is some of the all time BEST meat, it even blows away the local organic grass-raised beef and sheep and outdoor pigs for all round quality

    It’s spent its life free, running around using its muscles and not being stuffed with lipid-raising grains. Who does that remind you of?

    Trinkwasser wrote on February 1st, 2009
  2. Mark,
    I did NOT see this post in no way harsh. I saw it as encouraging/motivational/inspiring/”CARING!” You just never know who actually needed to read this, but maybe nobody knew they needed encouragement. Or maybe someone is really very good @ encouraging others, but can’t encourage theirself at all.

    You are absolutely right about cutting corners. I say this because right now i have a friend who did just that. She told me that diabetes runs in her family and she knew she should of watched foods she ate. Well, she’d tell her husband oh, just pick up this/that @ fast food places. Oh, she just snacks on junk @ work. Oh, just eat fast food also for lunch( she’s @ work and in a hurry) Well, NOW she regrets it and very upset with herself because eating this way and being diabetic has caused her to be going blind, she has lost alot of vision. IF I’d of known her years ago, i’d of talked her out of cutting corners.

    Beth, you’re sooo right, in the long run, the price to pay is “Huge!” So, IF i’d of only known her years ago, i’d of talked to her in such a way as of this very post, now wouldn’t of that been NOT Harsh, but encouraging all the way to CARING! So, Mark, NO, YOU WERE NOT HARSH! You never know, you just may have saved someone from what my friend is going thru by making someone really think before it’s too late how IMPORTANT it is WHAT WE EAT, WHAT WE PUT IN OUR MOUTHS, THINK TWICE BEFORE YOU CHOOSE WHAT YOU EAT!

    Donna wrote on February 2nd, 2009
  3. OK – it’s been over a week and I’m still thinking about this post. I really liked it – really needed it, especially living here in the Midwest where it’s SO SO cold all one really ever wants to do is sit around the fire, eat carb-loaded hot dishes (casseroles for the rest of you) and only go outside if necessary. Maybe a monthly “Get Real” post could make it on your agenda? At least through the winter? It helps, it really does.

    Beth wrote on February 3rd, 2009
  4. Thanks for the comment, Beth. I’m so glad it was encouraging. Keep coming back to it and tell your friends about it for those tough times. I’ll keep in mind that this sort of pep talk works for future posts. Thanks for being a reader!

    Now get down and give me 20! Kidding.


    Mark Sisson wrote on February 3rd, 2009
  5. Thanks Mark! Needed that kick-start to go 100% primal starting RIGHT NOW!!!

    Vanessa wrote on February 6th, 2009
  6. I enjoyed reading your advice on the food portion. I also agree that when you do a workout you should be able to put 100% into it, and it is very important to set realistic goals inot your workout.

    Jennifer wrote on July 14th, 2009
  7. This is a great post, full of information.

    I have been eating right for a long time, but I do fail from time to time, and it is amazing how much weight you can gain in just a couple of days of “misbeheaving”…it is maybe not eal gain, but I feel much worse

    Dieta Efectiva wrote on August 17th, 2009
  8. Keep up the encouragement!

    Ann wrote on September 26th, 2009
  9. Dear Mark,
    I loved this post and I already follow most of the recommendations. I just love your advice and the attitude.
    I face many challenges everyday that have to do with the stage of life I am in right now. I am a senior in college and every social activity revolves around food. For example, the other day my best friend came over, proclaimed she was dying of hunger and took me with her to buy a muffin. I am proud to say I did not eat anything and even watched her eat her muffin (there was a time when I would have bought five muffins with her) while I provided conversation. My friends constantly snack (even the skinniest) while I refuse to do this because it was what made me gain weight in the first place. Did the neolithic beast of a man ever have friends? What sort of things can we do to act like we partake in pleasure without gorging? What do we do about those friends who always appear on the doorstep with a tub of beer and Ben & Jerry’s?

    Michelle wrote on November 29th, 2009
  10. Mark, I buy the whole program and have done so for many years. I was surprised to see within your supplement adv. in triathalon mag. you seem to advocate whole grains as part of proper eating. Is that because the audience you are trying to reach there will not tolerate life without grains or do you believe the triathlete needs whole grains.

    Alan wrote on December 30th, 2009
  11. Thanks for this, it’s a great resource.

    Seems like this article is promoting the Paleo diet. I’d like to pose this question to all interested parties:

    How do you reconcile the relative health of the mediterrenean peoples? Their diet allows for wines and cheese. Or the Japanese and other oriental asian peoples who eat basically rice as 75% of their diets. Japanese & mediterrenean peoples have nice skin complexion, lack of obesity, and lower occurences of degenerative disease.

    What I’m getting at, is isn’t the real problem ADDITIVES, PRESERVATIVES AND SURPLUS OF SUGARS (grms fo sugar and also high-fructose corn syrup) rather than grains?

    William wrote on December 30th, 2009
  12. Thank you, thank you…I have been a personal trainer for 7 years or so and have always eaten close to paleo, even before the diet and the books came out about it. It just makes sense.

    My clients and people around me daily comment on my physique and say something to the extent of , “sigh…I wish I could look like that” as if I look the way I do magically, with no effort or will. Wake up people!!! I have the physique that I do because I bust my butt daily in the gym and i do not put garbage in my mouth. Not once in awhile, not for two weeks, but EVERY DAY consistently. It is HARD WORK but to me, the benefits are worth it.

    Thank you Mark for giving some tough love to people. Nothing worth doing is easy!

    LFC wrote on January 3rd, 2010
  13. Thanks for this Mark. It is always a good idea to “get real” once in a while. We all slip into decades reinforced bad habits and I am no different. This post prodded me to re-focus on my goals, my primal ways and most of all to let myself know that it is important to keep things in check!

    mikecheliak wrote on January 23rd, 2010
  14. I believe that his concept has already been discovered, because it is identical to the zone diet, i don’t know which was discovered first but since you can’t really copy right ways to eat i assume nothing is infringed upon, I’ll stick with the good ol’ zone diet…thanks Barry Sears

    chad wrote on January 26th, 2010
  15. Thanks to the last poster, this article popped into my inbox at just the right time. I remember reading it a year ago when Mark first wrote it and at that time I wasn’t having any major problems. I was a primal convert and loving it! Then I got injured (herniated disc with ankle paralysis) and I’ve gone down hill for the last year.

    I’ve been seeing a personal trainer to be sure I get back on track within my physical restrictions. With her assurance that grains are ‘natural’ and vegetable oils are ‘safe’, I’ve strayed from Mark’s advice and gone down the broad road of convenience and conventional wisdom.

    Now, 15 pounds heavier, unmotivated and tired, I have become depressed, defeated, and delusional.

    BUT, TODAY it is time to change! Thanks a million, Mark, for the call to come back to the life that I once embraced and loved. I’ve ordered two Grok On shirts and the Primal Blueprint book. I think I’ll wear one shirt and hang the other one on my kitchen wall!

    With much respect,

    new_me wrote on January 27th, 2010
  16. Yep, a slap in the face to get up and get going. Liked the part that’s too often missed from the food table: fats. Olive oil and fats from avocados, eggs, nuts, seeds. Digg it, Digg in.
    Mark Martinez,
    Testing out hypergain like the energizer bunny

    Mark Martinez wrote on January 30th, 2010
  17. I believe in eating sensibly and workout regularly. Anything excessive is bad for health.

    Charmaine wrote on January 31st, 2010
    • That’s called using weasel words. The audience has no idea what you mean by “sensible” or “health”. They sound good, but convey no useful information.

      John S wrote on January 31st, 2010
    • It’s just SPAM

      C2H5OH wrote on April 21st, 2010
  18. Can one be RAW VEGAN and Primal?

    Chris wrote on March 30th, 2010
  19. Probably not. Granted, I’m a newbie, but there are very few sources of protein outside soy (very, very bad!) for a vegan.

    Raw, yes. Raw eggs, milk, red meat, two thumbs up to all of it (yep. I said meat. Steak tartar a la Grok is yummy.)

    A good starting place is unfertilized eggs from pastured hens. They serve no purpose other than as a food source. Pitch the FWIW, my two cents.

    Laurel wrote on April 21st, 2010
  20. Wow, not sure what happened there, but the last settlement is wonky.


    Pitch the WHITES and scramble the yolks in coconut oil if you can’t bring yourself to use butter yet. You need the saturated fat and CO is a great choice. Throw the yolks into a smoothie, mix in coconut milk with some vanilla and cinnamon for mock eggnog.

    Hopefully someone more knowledgeable than I will weigh in, but

    FWIW, my two cents.

    Laurel wrote on April 21st, 2010
  21. I went produce shopping today…. in the middle of an intermittent fast day! …knowing I won’t be able to eat the primal deliciousness until tomorrow. How’s that for “Real”? 😉

    fixie wrote on May 10th, 2010
  22. Wow, awesome article….feeling very inspired right now and im going to head right out and smash out todays workout.

    Rob wrote on May 15th, 2010
  23. I started going primal almost 4-weeks ago & have never looked back! Family & friends have attempted to offer me ice cream, brownies, cake(birthday party), home-made chocolate-chip cookies, the whole nine yards! I have never been so empowered in all of my life! I’m not even tempted to cave in & partake of any of it. I only wish I would have figured this out 10, 20, 30 years ago! Love, love, love being primal! Thanks Mark, my life will never be the same. By the way, I’ve lost almost 30-pounds! Grok-on brother!

    DavidB wrote on June 2nd, 2010
    • i have tried too and have not been losing any weight. I am limited in my exercise program due to a really bad knee so indoor biking is my exercise. What should I do?

      grower wrote on June 2nd, 2010
  24. grower…for now, just focus on doing it at 100% and really focus on how if makes you feel. your body will readjust.

    jennifer wrote on June 2nd, 2010
  25. I am a 18 year old female and I’d like to think that I eat pretty healthy–I love all vegetables (I even crave broccoli and spinach!), appreciate a good piece of fish, and don’t even get me started on nuts. I’m still recovering from an eating disorder that unfortunately left my body in complete starvation mode. So now, for the past six months actually, I’ve developed the terrible habit of binging at night. Recently I came across this website and it has intrigued me for sure. It is definitely time for me to ‘get real.’ I’m taking the plunge to go primal–but maybe with a weekly indulgence of ice cream or something until I can wane myself off (everyone cheats a little right? haha). Hoping that writing my plan here will make me more committed! I am a pescatarian on a college budget with an injured knee, which makes things a little more tricky, but I think I can make it work. Mark-thank you for your interesting and enlightening articles and good luck to everyone out there.

    molly wrote on June 17th, 2010
  26. Molly,

    Make sure that you are writing your goals down on paper. This will greatly help you get back on track. Don’t feel bad because everyone cheats every now and then, but just make sure that you keep it in check.

    Maybe when your knee gets well you will be able to exercise more.

    Patrick Kallie wrote on July 6th, 2010
    • Hey there! Sorry for the absurd 2 year delay in responding..yikes. But thanks for the advice! I do find that writing my goals down and telling someone about them makes me more accountable. I just saw your site–congrats on your wonderful path to health!

      Molly wrote on July 12th, 2012
  27. Good Post. “Real Food” is a rough concept to convey. People often do not have an idea that the things they are eating are not food at all.

    Eve Dietrich wrote on July 25th, 2010
  28. I enjoy eating real food. Sticking with real food will evenutally make it very hard to do it any other way. It’s even getting to the point where I cook more now because my husband would make quick processed meals ( salisbury steaks, pork and beans,frozen turkey and dressing… high carb junk ). I can’t eat that especially since it will be several hours before I have my next meal. It takes time but low carb/IF grows on you and thank gawd it does. There is always something else, something better than the world of processed riches…Where’s the beef.

    mary titus wrote on August 28th, 2010

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