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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 28, 2009

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

By Worker Bee
27 Comments

We thought this might be a good time to check in with newer folks who have taken on the 2009 Primal Challenge. (With four weeks in, how’s everyone doing?)

But the truth is, the title has bearing for all of us. Old hat or not, a healthy lifestyle always encounters challenges at some point. External pressures – heavier work load, added family responsibilities, etc. – can suddenly shift the ground we thought was solid and stable. Internal factors – stress, injury, illness– can creep up on us and make us realize we’ve taken our motivation a little for granted lately.

Whether we’re committing ourselves to a new plan or reinforcing a long-time program, we end up playing psychologist to ourselves. For some of us, we may identify with the dual voices battling for our ear – our better self on one shoulder and the trouble-making naysayer twin on the other. For others of us the struggle takes on other shapes: tempting social distractions, consuming work habits, a guilt-laden conscience as we learn to balance family and self-care.

Since the beginning of the new year, expert opinion on issues like motivation, stamina, and dedication have been front and center in health and lifestyle sections everywhere. The problem is, feature stories move onto other calendar-appropriate themes about the same time people fall off the wagon in droves. New eating habits are thrown to the wayside. Gym memberships go unused or are cancelled. Forget April: perhaps February is the cruelest month – the falling off point of many a good intention.

We thought we’d weigh in with a little perspective – and a bit from those now archived expert opinions. Barely a month into the new year, the question often revolves around short-term gains. Blame it on whatever you will, but we as a society expect a pretty quick turnaround when it comes to returns on our investment. (O.K. – so not the best metaphor these days, but the figurative connection stands, right?) However, our efforts (particularly if we ease into change with baby steps) don’t often deliver a deluge of blatant benefits. It takes an overcoming of short-term attention span and a commitment for the long haul to really make things happen. And if we’ve had problems in the past or we’re tackling a long-term health issue, our abandonment tendency can spike. As Dalia Llera, psychologist and professor at Lesley University reminds us, “You can’t accomplish in a few weeks what you haven’t accomplished in a few years.”

Perhaps some of you are still in the phase of solidifying a new habit or practice. Though experts’ opinions range on how long it takes to mentally establish a routine, one month surely falls short of their estimates, especially if you’ve had some fits and starts along the way. But the progress is there to enjoy the same. Sometimes success isn’t just measured by our sustained attention but by our continued commitment to refocus when we get off track.

Where we get into trouble the most, some say, is when we refuse to accept responsibility for our own trajectories, however straight, skewed, and circular they might appear. Can we look into the heart of our lapses and see what’s really staring back at us (that would be, well, us) or do we see a myriad of circumstances all conveniently beyond our power of self-determination? “Excuses, excuses,” our mothers might say. Potential “self-handicapping” some experts would suggest. Self-handicappers, in fact, block their own success right out of the gate by lowering expectations for themselves typically in an effort to shield their egos from failure. In their minds, experts, say, it’s easier to accept a limited life than the menacing prospect that they might truly “fail” despite their best efforts. For these folks, it’s less a dearth of actual ability than a constant crisis of confidence and even self-worth. To accept, let alone pursue, a life of health and vitality, you first have to believe that you deserve it.

So, then, what about all those lapses, the fits and starts, the slips, blunders, drifts and tumbles? We say there’s no problem accepting them as par for the course. Wear them proudly like battle scars – even if it’s a battle with the likes of breakfast cereal or a punching bag. As the old saying goes, “It’s not where you’ve been but where you’re headed.” A primal life is, just that: a life, not an image. A static, two-dimensional trophy shot in time isn’t the point. It’s not what you’ll see at first but how you feel. Maybe at first a little stronger, a little more energetic, a little less stressed throughout the day. Keep following it and see where it goes, how it unfolds. We’ll check in again next month.

Benchmarks you’d like to share? Stories you have to tell – of lapses, refocus, successes, benefits both felt and seen? Hard-earned advice for continuing the commitment over time? Thanks for your comments.

pattista Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Have You Decided to Be Healthy?

Living a Healthy Life is Simple, but Not Easy

10 Primal Meals in 15 Minutes or Less

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27 Comments on "Excuses, Excuses, Excuses"

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JE Gonzalez
7 years 8 months ago

Wow, Mark those sure are some inspiring words. Right at a perfect time too. Always an inspiration.

Dave
Dave
7 years 8 months ago
Yes this is a very timely post. I think I’ve been doing well with the Primal Challenge but this week was my first real “challenge” – travel. Being a former Boy Scout I should know to “be prepared” and planning is crucial for success. Unfortunately I didn’t really plan ahead and I learned that finding primal food options on the road is not an easy task. I did manage to make mostly primal choices in restaurants but yesterday’s chicken wrap for lunch followed by the indulgence of half a brownie left me with a headache and an incredible feeling of… Read more »
Jane
Jane
7 years 8 months ago

Great pointers Dave! Those definitely are helpful things to have on hand. My biggest “issue” is ensuring I get enough sleep. I constantly fall back to my old patterns of “I dont really need it”/”its a waste of time”/”i dont have time to sleep”/”i have too much to do.” But in the end, I’m always shown(kind of like Dave w/ the reminder of what eating non-primal feels like) how important at least a decent night’s sleep is. It just requires some organization and effort to make sure i get my 7 or more hours.

Yavor Marichkov
7 years 8 months ago

I just wanted to say this: if you fail to achieve your goals (sticking to diet, training regularly, no matter what) dust yourself off and try again.

Simple as that. Plus, there is a cool Aaaliyah music vid under the same name too 🙂

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[…] to embrace. Because I thought it was so relevant to the melancholy that the end of January brings (Mark’s Daily Apple did a great post on the promise of resolutions today, and what actually happens a month in), the […]

Jeff
Jeff
7 years 8 months ago
I’ve been following the 2009 primal challenge. I’m doing good so far. A bit more energy, better skin, more motivation, better sleep. No weird feelings in the stomach. I’m taking “baby steps”. I follow a strict no-grains policy. But I currently eat small amounts of cheese, about once every 3 days. I still have a morning coffee with cream and coconut oil. I’ve found that as long as you have a go-to salad and go-to fruit/greens smoothie it’s not too hard. Just today my friend brought home 2 sandwiches. It’s sorta weird turning that down, and it would be so… Read more »
onelasttime
onelasttime
7 years 8 months ago
I’m trying the challenge and so far so good. But I am taking baby steps as I feel like I still have so much to learn and am confused at times (can’t wait for the book)! Diet wise, I have eliminated grains but still consume “too much” dairy. I am trying to reconcile getting enough protein from fish and eggs alone without getting bored and letting the years of low fat training subside. As a quasi-vegetarian the vegetables are the easy part for me but I have to watch my intake of dried fruit which is my candy substitute. Exercise… Read more »
Andy
7 years 8 months ago
I’ve been going mostly Primal for a while now, with a few tweaks here and there to account for my weaknesses (craft beer mainly, also ice cream based on an extensive discussion over at the Crossfit Forums). I’ve dumped off ~15 pounds since October. Luckily, I started before the New Year, and coasted through Thanksgiving in great shape, and Christmas/Hanukah with only the barest uptick in weight. This year, my goal is to kick my strength up a serious notch, eliminate the grad-school-fueled belly that’s been hanging around for 15 years now, and move ever further away from borderline high… Read more »
P. Singh
P. Singh
7 years 8 months ago
I’ve been Primal since Jan. 1 and haven’t really had that difficult of a time. I thought that not eating bread was going to difficult, but I’ve almost already lost a taste for the stuff at this point. Give me rich, fatty, tasty veggies and meat any day. Breakfast has probably been the most difficult meal of the day. I’ve been eating either omelets (if I have time to make them) or apples and macadamia nuts (or almond butter). Sometimes I’ll have cottage cheese and berries even thought dairy is sort of one of those gray areas on the Primal… Read more »
Nomore Gogurt
Nomore Gogurt
7 years 8 months ago

Same here, been on the PB since Jan 2, last weekend I had a very unPrimal pizza. Didn’t think anything of it, just woke up the next morning and made myself a salad.

Holly
Holly
7 years 8 months ago

I agree with P. Singh – breakfast is the hardest time to be creative so I don’t get bored with the same every morning, especially since I generally prefer to sleep in a bit longer than wake-up and make a super yummy breakfast. I have noticed though that after not having any “sweets,” things that were once not sweet to me are – apples and grapes are like dessert now! It’s awesome!

TrailGrrl
TrailGrrl
7 years 8 months ago
Whenever I have something unPrimal I am always craving a good hunk of meat the next day, or I feel bloated and just want water and nothing to eat for a few hours. Shoveled lots of snow and busted up ice today. So did the hubby. I got all Martha Stewart and decided to make real hot chocolate with milk, sugar, Valhrona cocoa, vanilla, and a little piece of Valhrona bittersweet chocolate. So, just about a half hour ago I end up with a gurgling gut and have to run to the bathroom. So, that was my non-primal lesson that… Read more »
Strong One
7 years 8 months ago

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”
– One of my favorite quotes. Success consists of a series of failures. Those who succeed know more about failure than you think!
Stay Strong!

Chris - Zen to Fitness
7 years 8 months ago

Mark, SUperb post. Sometimes I think it can be as simple as not letting your mind get in the way. Our mental chatter is exactly that and should be ignored. Half the time our energy is zapped by listening to draining negative thought patterns which de-motivate us from realizing our dreams and goals.

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[…] This is actually a link to a very uplifting article from Mark’s Daily Apple, a fitness website. How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions | Mark’s Daily Apple Enjoy __________________ Personal Deconstruction Personal development one day at a […]

Tom
7 years 8 months ago

I did manage to make mostly primal choices in restaurants but yesterday’s chicken wrap for lunch followed by the indulgence of half a brownie left me with a headache and an incredible feeling of weariness. Perhaps this was a good thing as I will be able to recall how I felt after eating those things the next time I’m tempted by non-primal foods.

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[…] Excuses, Excuses, Excuses […]

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[…] Sisson says to give up on the excuses. Mistakes happen, and it’s better to admit them, accept that we aren’t perfect, and […]

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7 years 7 months ago

[…] bench presser. —The story of Anthony Robles. —Five pillars for success. —Excuses, excuses. —Two straight years of maintaining an exercise routine. —How to get it all done. […]

Stephanie
Stephanie
7 years 7 months ago
I have just recently discovered this site and I think this is for me. I have been eating primal for one week and I can’t believe how much better i feel already. Usually by saturday I’m dead and I woke up with relative ease this morning. The one thing I have not been following is that I have old fashioned oatmeal for breakfast every morning. I guess I will have to phase that out but it has been surprisingly easy to not eat bread and sugar. It’s usually so hard to resist but the time and planning that goes into… Read more »
Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 7 months ago
My excuse is the weather. I’ve been sort of semi-primal for years now ever since I discovered the diabetes/reactive hypoglycemia/impaired glucose tolerance and used the responses of my BG meter and lipid panels to tell me what was and what was not good stuff to eat. Grok would approve of most of it. It’s not only been damp and cold but dull, and that really tends to shut me down. I’m designed for northern latitudes, stuff myself with carbs then go torpid and live off the stored fat until spring comes. As a result the energy levels have dropped off… Read more »
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[…] and enjoy it!), or my favorite, “I’ll work out tomorrow” (Even you don’t believe that.) – excuses are a dime a dozen. But making excuses becomes far more difficult if you actually get up and try the workouts and eat […]

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[…] 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 […]

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[…] here we see what’s been going on. Rationalizations, reasons, excuses of all stripes. Justifications galore. Some, to be sure, are compelling. Others […]

Cheriviolet
Cheriviolet
5 years 2 months ago

Was Grok exposed to wine and if so how often is it acceptiple to drink dry red wine

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[…] are finally cleaned up and the guests have all gone home. Even if we scoff at the concept of resolutions themselves, no amount of cynicism can keep us from at least entertaining the thought of a new year […]

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