The Korgs are in a major rut. Their health and their happiness are suffering.
Ken Korg’s doctor has been on his back since the last physical, pushing Crestor and blood pressure meds on him. He doesn’t want to end up like his father did, wedded to the pill organizer for the last fifteen years of his life, but he also doesn’t want an early heart attack. Things feel hopeless. His wife, Kelly, is frustrated because although she had her last kid fourteen years ago, she’s never been able to ditch the baby weight (can she really call it baby weight anymore?). Things between husband and wife are friendly enough, but the fire’s gone out of the relationship, and those ED drug commercials are starting to look more and more attractive to them both.
And then there’s young Kenny.
Kenny Korg is newly fourteen and feeling every bit of it. He used to be an athletic phenom, but tag and basketball in the park have been replaced by Call of Duty and NBA 2k11 on the Xbox. Daytime excursions to the woods with friends now take place on World of Warcraft. Kenny didn’t even go out for JV tryouts this year, he’s getting pudgy, and his parents are worried (even if he doesn’t realize anything is wrong).
(That’s a pretty exhaustive list of grievances, right? Bad sex life, myriad poor health markers, enduring baby weight, premature teenage languor, video game addiction… but they’re not rare. In fact, I bet a bunch of you guys can rattle of a decently-sized list of your own or name someone who can, right this very instant. Which is why I do these 30-day Primal challenges and give away all these prizes each year. See, people like the Korgs often need tangible incentives, because we humans have the tendency to grow complacent when things are comfortable and easy, and ethereal gifts like the promise of future weight loss, muscle gain, or better sex don’t satisfy that Primal desire for instant gratification enough to make us act. We respond to real, physical, tangible prizes or even just the opportunity to win them. And hey, 30 days isn’t all that long.)
Luckily, a co-worker of Ken’s named Valentina – a gal that recently lost seventy pounds over half a year while seemingly eating heaping piles of meat, fat, and veggies at lunch – sends him a link to something called Mark’s Daily Apple. Some health blog pushing something called The Primal Blueprint. The “secret of my success,” she says. “They’re starting a 30-day Primal challenge and giving away tons of prizes, so it’s a good time to get into the lifestyle.”
Ken is puzzled. “A lifestyle? I thought you were just on a fancy version of the Atkins’ Diet.”
“There are similarities, but it’s not the same. Oh, I know! Have you heard of the Paleo diet, or the caveman diet? The Primal Blueprint is like that but better. Plus, it’s a holistic approach to all aspects of health, rather than just a diet.”
(Yes, Ken Korg and Valentina live in a universe where speech can be hyperlinked. It’s pretty sweet.)
Ken’s woo-dar perks up at “holistic,” but he figures whatever she did worked for her and keeps an open mind. “So, how should I get started with this challenge? What’s the first step?”
Valentina knows this one. “First, you’ve gotta toss all your poisonous things masquerading as food to make room for the healthy stuff. Out with the old and in with the new. If you don’t know how to do it and you need specific instructions, learn how to Primalize your pantry.”
Ken nods his assent, having assimilated the information. (In Ken Korg’s universe, conversational hyperlinks can be accessed and their contents instantly digested and incorporated.) “Okay, that’s doable. But my first concern is my weight,” he says, grabbing and jiggling his gut. “What should I do to lose this?”
“Dial in your carb count, and watch out for the creep of hidden carbs. That’s the biggest first step,” Valentina says matter of factly.
“That I can do. Not sure about my wife, though.” He strokes his chin. “Valentina, you’ve met Kelly. I love her, but she loves her bread and she’s, um, strong-willed. If she’s unsupportive, how will I make it work without ruining the marriage? And what do you recommend I do about Kenny? The kid’s great but he’s on a vegetarian kick. I’m not sure I could get him to go for animal flesh, to be honest.”
“Not a problem,” says Valentina. “There are ways to cope with an unsupportive partner, and you can always make Primal versions of classically non-Primal foods. As for Kenny, making the switch to meat-eating from vegetarianism, while intimidating, is doable.”
At this point, Ken Korg is intellectually on board with the basic concepts behind the Primal Blueprint, but he also looks overwhelmed. Changing your lifestyle in a major way, however beneficial you know it to be, is scary. All the info in the world isn’t going to help if Ken is hamstrung by indecision and self-doubt. Luckily, Valentina sees the doubt on his face and hits back.
“Ken, if you’re worried about making this lifestyle change a long-lasting, lifelong one, don’t heap pressure on your shoulders by thinking of it like that. Instead, just take baby steps (10 of ’em, to be exact) toward your goal and take them slowly. Make your shift to Primal living a gradual transition and it will be more permanent, and easier. Remember, it’s a journey, not a race. And by all means, don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. The 80/20 rule says that as long as you’re doing most things right, you’ve got room to mess up without ruining the whole operation.”
Valentina handles Ken’s remaining concerns with similar efficiency. He’s still a little leery of dropping grains cold-turkey so she tells him exactly why and how to quit the pernicious little cereal babies. Ken isn’t sure what to shop for; Valentina slides him a Primal shopping list. Ken wonders what a day of Primal meals looks like; Valentina provides a sample menu and numerous recipes. All in all, Ken’s feeling pretty good about his prospects at going Primal.
As his doubts melt away, Ken’s physical appearance morphs to reveal a shining ball of shifting light and gas. Initially, the gas gives off odors of sunblock, crusty bread, and sweaty feet confined to shoes, but these give way to scents of grass-fed pot roasts braising in red wine, fish oil burps, and farmers’ markets. The Korg-ball’s appearance changes further. Its outline blurs, the delineated sphere becoming an amorphous swirling thing, like a planet’s creation reversing itself. But this confusion is short-lived, for a human form emerges from the madness. He looks a bit like Ken Korg, only taller, prouder, leaner, and clutching a spear and woven basket that contains a book. The wide world remains the same, but Korg, the man who would assay it, has changed. He steps forward into the rest of his life, armed with the knowledge necessary to start over.