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

In the Pursuit of Health, Should You Aim for Progress or Perfection?

Two pathsA couple weeks ago I did a “Midweek Kick in the Pants” post directed at those who read Mark’s Daily Apple regularly but were still on the relative sidelines in terms of making the leap to Primal living. Most readers were grateful for the call to action. Many, in fact, shared they needed the push and took the post as the sign (or message) they were waiting for in order to take the PB full throttle. A few, however, expressed some disappointment, saying the approach felt unwelcoming toward those who were earnest readers but not full “converts.” Although I responded then, I’ve given the issue some thought since and wanted to delve into an important underlying concept I see here: is progress enough when it comes to Primal? And what about the impediments that keep us from committing to the a new way of living? Are they merely excuses, or is it more complicated than that?

Let me say first that anyone is welcome here. Whether you’re a full-on Primal convert or a vegan skeptic or anything in between, I want MDA to be a large umbrella community open to earnest discussion and respectful debate. I’m not out to exclude anyone. If a reader comes with good intentions of learning or mulling or even momentarily considering, I hope they’ll stay. The fact is, I appreciate the point reader Colleen made in response to the post: “I come here for inspiration and to continue to improve. I come here for information and inspiration and recipes and help with my health problems. … Moving towards is better than away. Every change you make is positive.” I couldn’t agree more, in fact.

I often say “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of good.” No one here does Primal perfectly (including yours truly). I think the very nature of the Primal Blueprint rejects perfectionism right out of the gate. It’s a guide rather than a dogma. It’s flexible, open, modular. The basic principles hold and make a meaningful foundation for health, but the choices and transition are entirely yours to make and own. It’s part of the idea behind the 80/20 Principle, the dimension of the Primal Blueprint that suggests living Primally isn’t about chasing perfection but exercising the basic principles (particularly the nutrition) 80% of the time and consciously enjoying a certain pliability in the remaining 20% of your day/week. It means if you’re doing the Primal thing the majority of the time, making reasonable choices that don’t fit the core of the PB in that other 20% won’t undo the good you’re doing. (Making every fifth meal an assortment of candy bars or a loaf of bread would be unreasonable, but I think that probably goes without saying.)

Still, I know for some folks the 80% can feel too hardcore. I wouldn’t get too hung up on the number. Look at what you’re eating, how it makes you feel, how well it gets you to where you want to be health and weight wise, and decide if it’s enough for you right now. Are you making progress? Do you feel good?

On the other hand (and this was my point a couple of weeks ago), do you know whether you could feel better still? Are you where you ultimately want to be? These are the reasons to make the leap – to heed the call to action, to respond to the kick in the pants, to jump in the deep end of the pool. That said, the process is a very personal one. We choose our own timing and path based on factors others can’t truly know or judge.

At issue here, I believe, is the question of impediments. Are the impediments we claim hold us back merely excuses? Are they mere attempts at self-justification? Is it just inertia at work, or do some factors really muddy the water? Are there legitimate reasons, genuine complications that hold up our progress or commitment to living a different, healthier existence?

Ultimately, the very question is for each one of us to decide for ourselves. (Yes, I will hand it back at every turn.) We’re each responsible for our personal health. We each have the power to change or not change at whatever pace in whatever way we feel works for us at any given time. The only truth we accept is the physiological consequence of that choice – slower weight loss, lingering inflammation, more gradual healing, etc. I don’t have any delusions about anyone answering to me or the Blueprint philosophy. You answer to your own body and the patterns that govern it. The PB simply makes those patterns more transparent.

We go through personal crises that make even the smallest efforts feel enormous. We navigate convoluted health problems that make going cold turkey difficult and maybe even inadvisable. We struggle with emotional issues around food or other aspects of life or self-concept that aren’t easily contained. As much as we might want to dive in, there might be more to the picture for some of us. In those cases, I hope readers get the support they need around what is holding back their health and well-being. If MDA and its adjoining resources (e.g. the books, the forum, the other services) can be of help, then by all means reach out.

Is progress enough when it comes to the PB? Any effort is a step, and today that’s enough to be in the game. It’s definitely enough to welcome you here. If you’re literally starting at zero but don’t want to stay there, you belong here. Again, a 50/50 approach won’t get you to what an 80/20 will, but you’re on the path and moving forward. Commit only to what you’re truly ready and willing to commit to, but then bring your full attention to it. Feel the benefits. Record them for the days you easily forget and find yourself tempted to slip back. Imagine what another round of change could bring. Envision what that next step would look like – and what support and ideas would be key to that. What recipes could get you there? What coaching or workout partnership would help? What choices could put your over the top – maybe even without as much effort as you think? Progress, when we let it, can become its own momentum as well as reward.

Thanks for reading today. Tell me what your thoughts are on making progress toward a healthier life. What did your trajectory look like? What were your impediments along the way, and when or how did they finally lift in the process? Have a good end to the 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. What really sets Primal apart is it being a framework rather than hard and fast rules. Most of it’s practitioners are smart enough to realize that one size-fits-all or oversimplified sound bite lifestyles are worthless.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on December 5th, 2013
  2. Falling off the wagon isn’t failure, not getting back on is. Just keep truckin’

    MattyT wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Art De Vany says it for me ‘there is no failure, only feedback’

      Kelda wrote on December 5th, 2013
  3. There are honestly times where I just don’t want to be “perfect.” I strive to be near 80/20 and that’s good enough for me. But let’s face it, a little enjoyment isn’t going to kill me.

    Matt wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • If you need the 80/20 rule to get enjoyment you are doing primal all wrong. I am 100% strict for 2 years now, and have never enjoyed food and life so much.

      Thom wrote on December 9th, 2013
  4. The 80/20 rule is a necessity, because it is within that 20% where a person can explore what gets them closer to perfect (maybe excelling is better). I don’t think looking at the 20% as cheating or bad is the right idea. I feel like the the 80% is what research and primal has proved to be true (as much as research can truly prove anything), while the 20% is the unknown. Until you dip into that 20% unknown, you won’t know if there is something out there that could truly make you excel health wise, something undiscovered that has “yet” to become primal or part of the 80%.

    Sean wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • I dig this.

      Taylor Rearick wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • I like that too. Also in the 20% you are going to find the stuff that is absolutely wrong for you, but may be ok for someone else.

        Brad B. wrote on December 5th, 2013
  5. Reading this article sent me to the Kick in the Pants article I had not yet read. I LOVED and needed the Kick in the Pants! I think you were right on with that post. Some lurkers (like me) do need to stop sabotaging themselves. I do believe, for some people, they don’t jump in because they truly don’t believe they deserve it (health, happiness) or can achieve it. Thank you for both articles.

    Denise wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Yes Denise, I think this is a big one. Not loving yourself and not believing you deserve health! That’s about the only reasons I can think of that people continue to put things in their “temple” that destroys it.

      Nocona wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • That is, knowingly putting things in the body that injure it.

        Nocona wrote on December 5th, 2013
        • This is the question that I am challenged by everyday. I am a health coach, helping people to implement changes in their lifestyles to optimize their health, and reach their goals, whatever they may be. I am always searching for ways to more effectively support and guide my clients to take the best care of themselves. Any advice from my fellow PBers?

          Andie Butler wrote on December 5th, 2013
  6. This is a good article, particularly around the holidays when trying for Primal perfection becomes difficult and stressful, if not downright impossible. 80-20 is an achievable goal, maybe even briefly relaxing it to 70-30 or 60-40 this time of the year. If you give yourself permission to do this you won’t need to beat yourself up over falling off the wagon. Keep in mind that perfection is both unattainable and overrated.

    Shary wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • planning ahead is the best thing. I’ve already told myself I get to enjoy the holiday foods if I can just stay primal the rest of the month. so far it’s working.

      Erin wrote on December 5th, 2013
  7. Aim for progress and eventually you will reach the closest to perfection that you can personally achieve.

    I am a martial arts instructor and have been coasting for a few years now. Lately I have gotten the motivation to really start training in earnest again. Everyday I try to do a little more; eat a little better, do a few more exercises/stretches, study some new material. It’s invigorating!

    We have a saying in our school, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”

    Jacob wrote on December 5th, 2013
  8. If you have auto immune issues ,80% I found isn’t enough.sigh..I thought Paleo was restrictive enough!

    Peter C. wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • I’m with you. I had things under control and reintroduced a few non auto-immune but primal foods, but fell to 80/20 (or 70/30) for a couple months. Now I’m on the strict auto-immune protocol to try and get healthier again.

      Beverly wrote on December 7th, 2013
  9. Mark is way to nice in his overall approach, and rightfully so because he wants to retain as many readers and supporters as he can while gaining new ones without making anyone feel bad because we’re all not perfect, however I’m going to tell it like it is. The PB laws are straightforward and simple. As long as you follow them it’s no challenge at all to be at least 95/5 Primal, with those few instances being holiday dinners not at your house or that rare Italian restaurant visit (for those that can’t do a whole plate of mussels or a PUFA ladened salad).

    As per Mark’s post last week, I’m definitely an all in or nothing type of person and that’s how I view this Blueprint. If you want to do 80/20 to start off with that’s perfectly fine but after the first few months get your butt in gear and get PRIMAL already. I can’t understand making the conscious decision to start something and then waiver in an out for weeks, months or even years. Drop all the lame excuses and do it already.

    Dave B. wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • I guess people waiver because as you yourself said, you’re an “all in or nothing type person”. Not all folks are that type. Some people have a less hardcore approach to things. Not to mention, variety is the spice of life. Obviously if someone is having serious health issues, than locking things in is important. But for some who have been Primal for a while, the 80/20 isn’t so bad. I find it helps actually.

      basil conrus wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Wow. Just wow.

      Gydle wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • I have found that my biggest excuse as a teen is the lack of availability of Primal foods. All this really means is that I just need to plan ahead more, and hunt/gather with a little more effort.

      ninjainshadows wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • This reminds me of the people who say, “I don’t feel sorry for fat people, they just need to eat less.”

      Some people have problems that you and I can’t understand, and for them, maybe, just maybe, 80/20 is a pretty good accomplishment. On the other hand, a lot of people –I include myself in this bunch– get a little lazy and relax a bit too much. So yeah, I need to drop the lame excuses!

      Julie wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • It’s not that the PB laws aren’t straightforward and simple. It’s just that, psychologically speaking, they’re not as easy to follow for some people as for others. You might be an all-or-nothing person, and as such, it might be easy for you to follow the PB. But you shouldn’t assume that everyone has the same disposition as you, is coming from the same place as you are. Something that’s easy for you to do might be really hard for someone else, and vice versa for other things. We don’t get to decide what comes easily for us. So I like the spirit of Mark’s post: do the best that you can relative to your own situation, reflect on how your decisions make you feel, and keep making progress.

      Agnes wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Dave I hear what you’re saying as I’m an All In kinda guy myself. But I work to help people transition to eating clean and properly exercising for a living, and see a TON of people who can’t make that instant switch that you and I can.

      Often times there’s emotional eating, mindset issues, and other factors that hold people back. It’s like giving someone the keys to the car and there just standing there unable to do what you find so simple.

      While that may seem odd to you (did to me at first), I realized I had other areas in my life that I suffered from similar types of paralysis.

      I think most people have there areas of paralysis whether it’s love, business, telling their spouse what they really think, or a job they feel trapped in.

      Most people have some type of shit in there life (maybe even you). For many people I’ve seen first hand it’s food.

      Luke wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • I like this

        Erin wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • Excellent reply Luke! Not everyone can make the shift *emotionally* . Food, eating and nourishment is about a lot more then the micro and macronutrient component. Eating is the most intimate act we have with our environment. Food represents much more than enjoyment or getting healthy for many people.

        I have faith that the skiddish will dive in when they are ready to. And theor timing deserves respect.(They do come around as I have seen it time after time.)

        This site offers so much to those who are ready in some ways but not in others so let’s keep them in the fold until they are ready to fly.

        Funny that some of us need a kick in the pants and for others that same push is shaming. It’s not what is said but how it is interpreted. We all do well with different structure and support.
        I have actually had clients who thought I was not hard enough on them….just not my style ;).

        Gina wrote on December 11th, 2013
    • The big difference is in your point of view. You say: “The PB laws are straightforward and simple.” I say the basic concepts of PB are probably a good idea, and so I try to apply as many of them as possible without it becoming dogmatic drudgery. I don’t like to live my life by an inflexible set of “laws,” I like to try out new ideas, experiment, have fun, and not take things too seriously.

      Mark Sisson isn’t Moses, he’s just a fit and healthy guy who’s put a lot of effort into figuring out how to get there and stay there. And he’s kind enough to share those ideas with us, even if that’s how he makes his living. I’m healthier and happier now than I was 2 years ago thanks to Mark’s advice, but I’m pretty far from living my life according to his “laws.”

      Mantonat wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • I have a friend who competed at a national level in track and I asked her once if she could spot a cheater who used PEDs. She said the cheaters were the ones who didn’t have any peaks or valleys, just top performance all the time, even after injuries. Props to Dave and those like him who possess strong discipline (and not an implied used of PEDs) but realistically the 80-20 principle is a good one to shoot for because it’s more realistic and tends to alleviate the inevitable periods of falling off the wagon and subsequent self-doubt. Human nature, for most of us, is living 80-20, and for that matter, part of the joy is the journey.

      Jeff F. wrote on December 5th, 2013
  10. It is practice. Just like yoga, budokon, or kettlebell snatches. You are never perfect; every day you practice to get better.

    Brad B. wrote on December 5th, 2013
  11. This article was so much more inclusive, welcoming and helpful than the kick in the pants article last week. After reading that one, I was thinking of taking a break from visiting MDA. I’m tired of feeling like my body is a battleground and that I’m constantly fighting failure. Now I’m glad I stopped by today. Thanks for recognizing that some of us have “issues” around food and exercise and that there is “more to the picture” for some of us than for others. Everyone is on his or her own journey. Namasté.

    Gydle wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Hi Gydle,

      I’m glad you stuck around. That’s what so great about MDA, there really is something for everyone! One post may be exactly what someone needs that day and a different post will be for another. The best thing to do is always be gentle and honest with yourself and continue the journey in your own personal way.

      Namasté! :)

      Liz wrote on December 5th, 2013
  12. The Kick up the Pants article really spoke to my daughter who has been battling with truly placing herself first (valuing herself) and getting on with sorting her dietary lifestyle out. Since it was published she’s tried to get onto the wagon again, and fallen off, but she’s kept trying and as of today she’s 5 days in and through the worst of the cravings (she has a serious sugar/chocolate addiction – she has discovered).

    For her, sticking strictly to the plan is what has enabled her to get through the cravings/break the cycle. I think for many who have a crack-like relationship with sugar (and I include the grain-derivatives here as well as the obvious chocolates and candy sources) there aren’t any half measures, at least to begin with. However, once through the ‘habit-breaking’ phase the 80-20 variations can help long term for some. BUT there are many of us that find that small drifts from full adherence can easily lead into the abyss.

    I love this community, and Mark’s writing, because it can speak to everyone; there is a space for all of us.

    Kelda wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • By the sound of things, your daughter’s obviously having trouble with low carb flu. I’d suggest that she starts by replacing sugar with stevia. Once her systems adjusted to that, she can start tapering the grains off.

      Paul in Australia wrote on December 6th, 2013
  13. Great post, Mark.

    The quest for better health should be a passion for anyone. It really took the loss of one of my parents to a far-to-early heart attack to truly get my attention.

    Honestly, I have found that the 80% of the 80/20 principle doesn’t seem to be enough for me. I think I need to be more around 95/5 or at least 90/10. Letting myself have the 20, seems to open up the gateway to all around frustration.

    jefferson wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • So sorry about the loss of your parent. I bet wherever he/she is, they are grateful that you are endeavoring not to make the same health choices in your own life. Keep up the good work!

      KariVery wrote on December 5th, 2013
  14. I didn’t think the original article was too strong, but then I was already five days (I think) into primal, maybe I would have viewed it differently if not for that. I have however, done it before and fallen off the wagon, but I also have the benefit of not suffering as much as I hear that some people do when they try and go all out., so getting back on again didn’t hurt.

    Maybe I have newbie enthusiasm at the moment, but I count myself as very lucky to be in the right place to be able to say no every time I get offered biscuits or cake at work, and believe me this is several times per day. But mentally I am just in the right place where I know that stuff will literally kill me – sooner rather than later! I’ve just, in the last month, become full-time step mom to two boys whose mum died at 41 – due to chronic inflammation and immobility. Its a powerful motivator to get off the fence. This is making me a bit of an evangelist ….

    But, as Mark said “the process is a very personal one. We choose our own timing and path based on factors others can’t truly know or judge” … my only wish is that everyone makes a conscious decision, in full knowledge of the facts, each time they do something less than primal, and to continue to try to improve with every single decision.

    Please look after yourselves, put yourself first, because only you can.

    Wishing you improving health from this day forward.

    Autumn wrote on December 5th, 2013
  15. I really enjoyed this article. I started eating 75-80% primal/paleo back in May and have seen significant changes to my mood (less mood swings, more positive attitude towards myself and others), weight (I am currently down over 60lbs) and physical ability (I went from barely being able to run 1/4 mile to finishing my first 5k last weekend in under 30 minutes!).
    For me, I need to know its ok if I travel off the nutritional reservation a bit without it undoing all the work I have done. I have had times where I have wandered too far and fallen on my face, but I know the framework to get me moving in the right direction again.
    Focusing on progress not perfection is working for me!

    Marykate wrote on December 5th, 2013
  16. At this time of year my strategy is to be MORE strict most days, because there is just too much temptation on a daily basis to have to think about every decision. I find it easier to have a firm rule in mind overall. It’s less stressful than case-by-case, for me.

    However on a few, pre-determined, truly special days, I allow myself more indulgence than usual. Still no gluten, because I have CD, but some real treats in the form of grains, sweets, or alcohol.

    That’s what works for me, but everybody’s different!
    Healthy holidays, everyone!

    Paleo-curious wrote on December 5th, 2013
  17. Mark, this post brought tears to my eyes. I love MDA, and come here most days for various bits of information on my quest for better health. Thanks for everything you do and your fervent commitment to all of us. You truly are an admirable person and a force for great change!

    Grok on!

    Colleen wrote on December 5th, 2013
  18. I think people define the 80/20 rule differently for themselves as well. For myself, I consider a grain fed steak to be part of a 20%, but others might not. I don’t indulge in “cheat” meals because I feel that without even attempting to stray that 20% fills up fast. For others this may be entirely too fanatical but for me it is perfect. The most important point I feel that is made in this post is that whatever you do commit to, you must pay attention to it and focus on the process.

    Everybody can and probably should approach reconstructing a lifestyle differently. Pay attention to __your body__ not what other people say about theirs. Learn to listen to yourself and trust yourself, but most importantly, learn how to stop lying to yourself.

    Primal and Proud wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Absolutely this!

      Kelda wrote on December 5th, 2013
  19. The kick in the pants article was exactly what I needed. My pattern has been I make some progress but then I revert back to my comfortable eating patterns when things get stressful or busy or I experience pushback from my family. But I know I have to do this. I suffer from an autoimmune disease that has overwhelmed me and prevented me from working. I feel so guilty that I can’t contribute financially to my family. I went from being a healthy, active person who used to race in sprint (really short) triathlons to some days having trouble getting out of bed or walking up a flight of stairs. The posts on MDA have given me hope that I can overcome, or at least improve, my condition naturally and I’m willing to try almost anything at this point.

    The plan now is to do my best to eat primal for my meals I eat by myself and to gradually increase the number of primal family dinners over time so that I don’t overwhelm my family. It’s going to be vitally important to win buy-in from my husband, who likes meat and potatoes/pasta at every dinner. My hope is that once my family sees positive changes in my weight an overall health that they’ll get on board.

    Thank you, Mark, for the inspiration and tools you give to people to help them live better lives.

    Karen wrote on December 5th, 2013
  20. I love what Coleen said…I come here almost every day…it so uplifting.

    I do struggle to stay Primal…not because I don’t love the lifestyle, but because we are low income and just couldn’t throw out all the food we had before…so have had to work in Primal foods as we use up whats on hand.
    Have been researching grass fed beef and pork in our area and was surprised at the number of place to get healthy organic food. 61 places just in our county and 84 in the next county…this is a lifestyle that has been there for years but is expanding rapidly now.
    Thanks Mark.

    Joan wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Having had to work in Primal foods as you use up what’s on hand, may well be dare I say it, a blessing in disguise, given the number people who suffer low carb flu, during the changeover. You’re able gradually wean your systems off carbs, instead of going cold turkey and changing over in one hit.

      Paul in Australia wrote on December 6th, 2013
  21. Impediments or excuses? That really is the question, and Mark is right that only I can answer that for myself. Like everyone, I have a lot of them. Some are excuses, some are impediments, some are brick walls. Navigating digestive problems and food intolerances can be a huge impediment. TMI, but frequent diarrhea tends to disrupt even the best intentions. Sometimes going for a wog (walk/jog) is pre-empted by a sprint to the bathroom. Ensuing shakiness makes lying down for a few minutes a necessity, and makes a series of squats kind of dangerous. :) But, yeah-sometimes it is pure laziness that stops me.

    Many people are here because they are battling some health problem. Some of us will never LGN due to yo yo weight gain/loss, age, pregnancies, HS, etc. But that’s OK. There is something here for everyone, and I love that there are so many different goals-ripped bods, weight loss, better med stats, reducing or eliminating autoimmune symptoms, staving off age related disorders, etc.

    I am 15 days into a primal/paleo/elimination/autoimmune/protocol diet. It’s frustrating to not see leaps in my energy and health, but it is improving. Sometimes even when you commit 100%, the results don’t follow right away. I try, I fail. I try, I succeed. I keep setting goals and figuring things out. I’m 51, and I recently completed my very first “race”, a 4 mile Turkey Trot. My time would probably make most of you laugh, but I finished and I beat my goal by 2.5 minutes. I am incredibly lucky to have a group of supportive and amazing friends who continually challenge each other. Hi Ann-Kristin!

    I guess my point is that progress is a forward motion, not a speed. Don’t judge. Baby steps or a sprint, this is a good place to be. Thanks Mark.


    Colleen wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Congrats on the Turkey Trot 😀

      Erin wrote on December 5th, 2013
  22. For some people, the perfectionist approach leads to paralysis. All-or-nothing thinking leads to “Oh well, I screwed up, I’ll start again Monday and I’ll be PERFECT this time! (But first, let me finish this pizza.)”

    For me, trying to follow ANY sort of restrictive diet triggers disordered eating. I know this Primal way of eating makes me feel the best, but I’ve had trouble finding the balance, because when I get too obsessed with my food choices, it leads me back to my eating disorder. So I’m taking one thing at a time — first it was adding more protein and eating more vegetables. Then I got rid of dairy (except butter, which seems to sit okay with me.) Now I’m working on removing gluten. (That one might take awhile!) I’m taking supplements to help my gut health. I’m working on my emotional eating issues. That’s about all I can deal with right now.

    I envy those people who can just go 100% and never look back, but some of us just aren’t built that way, and I appreciate Mark’s encouraging demeanor and philosophy of doing what you can. The amount of information on this site can be overwhelming, and I think it’s important to reiterate that a step forward is better than just standing still.

    margaret wrote on December 5th, 2013
  23. You know I played around with Primal this year up until September. What I was doing was normal to me and primal was hard because it was so different. In September during the challenge I committed to primal and overall have been doing well ever since. Over Thanksgiving, for 5 days, I blew it. I mean 0% primal. I thought it was going to be hard for me to go back primal and I would struggle. But I found out that now, primal is normal for me. It wasn’t hard at all. That totally surprised me! I learned a valuable lesson from those 5 days. There is a silver lining. :0)

    Teri wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Don’t feel bad. Over the Thanksgiving weekend I had at least one crappy meal/day during a 4 day span, but I was planning on that happening. That’s inevitably what happens during the holidays. Just make a plan for Christmas/New Years.

      Erin wrote on December 5th, 2013
  24. Ok….. I want to try the primal blueprint, but I am terrified of failing. I am one of those obnoxious perferctionists and most of the time I find myself thinking, “If I’m not going to do [task] perfectly or 100%, then what is the point of doing it at all?” I know one thing– I am perfectly miserable.

    How can I give up my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? and what the heck is a starchy tuber??

    Carolina wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Go and watch Brene Brown’s two TED talks ‘vulnerability’ and ‘shame’, find them at and youtube, especially the second one ‘shame’ that’s a lot about not doing until perfect. Very powerful viewing that really speaks.

      Kelda wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • Thanks for the suggestion! Doing it now.

        Kelli wrote on December 5th, 2013
  25. Boy, did this post ever ring true for me. Just yesterday I was thinking that here I’ve been eating Primal-ish since the late 1990s, but in the past 8 years have seen no progress. In fact, all I’ve seen is back-sliding (not in terms of adherence to the low-carb WOE, but rather the lack of any meaningful results or weight loss). Part of it is health-related (in terms of menopause), but lately I’ve been thinking that’s an excuse, not a reason.

    A friend of mine at work became Primal this past year. Starting at 350, he’s now down to 280 and can dead-lift nearly 300 pounds! I asked him yesterday how he finds time to work out. He said, “It’s important to me, so I do it. Simple as that.”

    Well, duh! If it’s important to you, you make time for it in your life.

    I’m not working on regularly (other than therapeutic yoga twice a week) because I don’t have time.


    OK, so I do have time, I’m just not doing it. Even though we all know the basic tenets of low-carb/Primal/Paleo/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, we sometimes need help. Around 8 years ago (notice a pattern here?), I did a full 12-week Body for Life challenge. I felt great! In fact, it’s the last time I felt really great. Why did I stop? Who knows.

    So yesterday I’m thinking I have to do something, have to have some outside help. A plan. Something to look at each and every day and say, “Yes, I did that!”

    Yesterday I ordered your Primal Blueprint book, just to remind myself of why I’m doing this (as if the Eades, Taubes, Volek/Phinney, Atkins, etc. books weren’t enough), and I also ordered the 21-Day Total Body Transformation book.

    So thanks for this post. Even us veterans can use a kick in the pants from time to time! :-)

    Kathy from Maine wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • A trick from blogger Steve at every time you want to say, “I don’t have time for X, Y, or Z,” change it to say “X, Y, or Z is not a priority for me right now.”

      So, instead of “I don’t have time to work out,” it turns into “Working out is not a priority.” I use this a lot to change my mindset over certain things. Sometimes I can live with something not being a priority for the meantime; other times saying its not a priority doesn’t sit well with me and I MAKE it a priority. It’s made a huge difference for me in the past.

      Stacie wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • Thanks for sharing that Stacy. It’s something I can also use from time to time. :)

        Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 5th, 2013
        • Sorry for the misspelling, Stacie!

          Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • What a great idea! Thanks for sharing, Stacie!!!

        Kathy from Maine wrote on December 6th, 2013
  26. I find the weekends set me back. I’m great during the week, but on the weekends I just really feel like enjoying myself. The problem is that my forward progress is slow or, even, I slip backward. I’ve come to a realization that while I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, I am addicted to food. It took me a long time to understand this. Being aware helps, but I’m not sure what to do to completely overcome my cravings. I have a picture in my head of what I want to look like and feel like; it’s just how to get there. I do know that this lifestyle has helped me, but I want to go further and achieve something I have never been able to reach.

    Brian wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • If I were you, I would start small. Pick one meal over the weekend that will be primal, and keep doing that until it becomes a habit. Then pick another, and do the same thing. After sometime, you’ll have an entire Saturday (or Sunday) that is primal and that, my friend, is progress.

      Keep on keepin’ on! You will get there, and it won’t always be perfect or easy. But progress is progress. Best of luck!

      Stacie wrote on December 5th, 2013
  27. I’m about the long haul. I stay on the straight and narrow for the majority of the time but life happens on occasion. I want to be the best person I can be but you only get one life. Make it worth it!

    Tamara Warren wrote on December 5th, 2013
  28. I wish I could go 80/20, but as someone above said, some of us can’t! I experience such pain when I go off Primal even with the most trivial “cheat”, and that need to be perfect regarding my diet freaks me out. I tend to self sabotage when I start trying to be perfect. It’s a total mind game for me… How do I not get freaked out when I really do have to be “perfect” with my diet?

    Kelli wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • It’s a bummer for sure needing to be perfect with your diet. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to get your imperfection in. You could stay up all night posting on facebook. Blow off the gym, and resolve to take elevators and escalators at every opportunity. No stairs for you!

      Take heart. There’s so many things to be lousy at. I’m sure you can find something that works for you.

      Jesse wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • Can’t figure out if this is supposed to be rude and hurtful or funny, so I’m going with funny and enjoying a nice little chuckle at my expense 😉

        Kelli wrote on December 5th, 2013
        • Oh gosh. No, I didn’t mean it to be rude at all. Sorry if it sounds that way. Mostly I think I wanted to be funny, but it’s also sort of what I really think.

          I really do think there’s value in not being perfect, in finding an area of life to celebrate our imperfectedness. Anyway….I might be wrong but that’s what I really do think.

          Not meant to make you feel bad at all. Sorry if it did.

          Jesse wrote on December 5th, 2013
  29. When I first found MDA, thanks to a friend, I lurked a bit and honestly felt like an imposter! I had given up wheat, corn and soy a year before, no easy feat, but they made me sick and I’d been on acid suppressing meds for 40 years before I learned I was very gluten intolerant. Off all the meds now for some time, but can’t afford the health consequences of poor food choices.

    So I found MDA and because I thought I was so far from being primal, I felt as though I didn’t belong. But I figured I could keep lurking and learning, and I’m glad I did! The more I read, the more I learned and my diet wasn’t that far from primal so it wasn’t too bad making all the changes I needed to. Now I can’t imagine eating any other way. Not even tempted. It took probably a year for the sugar cravings to really disappear but it’s rare now.

    My area to work on now is portion control. I saw Mark in his video last week eat one little spoonful of coconut oil for dessert and that was eye opening for me! I’ve been eating waaay too much! I get into trouble not from eating non-primal foods, but from eating primal ones, just too much of them.

    Mark, would love to see articles on portion control, maybe with pictures or actual serving sizes, or a list of what you and Carrie eat in one day. My weight is in normal range but I still have too much belly fat and eating 3 or 4 spoons of coconut oil or nut butter is probably not helping (and maybe dark chocolate several times a week is too often!)

    We’ve all got some tweaking to do in one area or another – food choices, exercise or lack of it, rest, etc. I love the positive community I’ve found here and I don’t feel like a lurking imposter anymore!

    Thanks, Mark!

    Laurie wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Portion control is also an issue for me. Laurie, I felt the exact same way when I watched Mark’s video and saw him not finish his whole bowl of salad and have that tiny spoon of coconut butter. I love to eat, and just as you said “I get into trouble not from eating non-primal foods, but from eating primal ones, just too much of them”. I never leave any food on my plate, definitely a member of the clean-plate-club here, lol.

      I love your idea of some articles on portion control with pictures and exact measurements and stuff. How about it Mark?

      Jennifer wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • ++++++++1 :)

        LTS wrote on December 7th, 2013
  30. I’ve always been a fan of slow, easy-does-it change, but find that doesn’t work so well for me with this diet stuff. Lots of times I’ve said OK today I won’t have any chips and call that progress. Tomorrow I won’t have chips OR soda. And so on. Trouble is I never really get results that way, and results, ultimately, are what motivates me.

    Primal works wonders on my blood pressure. And no I don’t have to be 100%. I do have to ditch grains and sugar though. Otherwise it doesn’t work, and if it doesn’t work why do it?

    Jesse wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Following the 80/20, or even 90/10, guideline, you could have grains one day a week–as long as you can tolerate them.

      Kris wrote on December 5th, 2013
  31. Trying to keep emotion out of my post but I thank the stars in the sky for allowing me to find a lifestyle that is so easy to follow. Mark, your posts are informative and inspiring to me and keep me moving forward. I weighed 193 in August, had GERD, and felt awful until someone said something about “Paleo”. After Googling brought me to MDA I started my journey and am now 177 lbs. and feel great! The MDA community is truly one of the kindest groups I have ever gotten to know via posts. Even the skeptics, who keep me on my toes, but ultimately your vision and MDA are my saving grace in living a vibrant and healthy life. Grok on!

    Hispanicgamer wrote on December 5th, 2013
  32. I just picked up a few of Mark’s books. After giving WAPF a try and some suggestions in the Fourfold Path to Healing, my digestion got worse–no more bloating (yay), but not much motion in the bathroom (boo). I’ve been a bit chicken to start another way of eating, but I like the Primal idea of movement and Mark’s earlier posts talk a lot about stress as well and that’s what began all of my digestive troubles two years ago.
    Perhaps the 21 day challenge is on the horizon . . . right after some soaked oats, barley, and spelt tomorrow morning 😉

    Kris wrote on December 5th, 2013
  33. I liked the Kick-in-the-Pants article; it was motivating without being shaming. Really, it asked the old question: How’s that working for you? I think most of us in lurk mode can easily answer that it’s not working for us all that well, or we wouldn’t be here, looking for some answers that could change our health.

    I liked this article, too. It’s a great reminder that MDA offers something different from most diet-and-exercise sites: it offers a POSITIVE life change, not more self-loathing and no-pain-no-gain nonsense.

    I’m trying for that first 80%, myself. But being able to come here everyday helps me remember what I’m trying to do for myself and ultimately, for my family. I’m very grateful to the team here for that.

    WrenX wrote on December 5th, 2013
  34. This approach is going to be the theme of my success story when I lose a little more fat – very soon. I started out 3 years ago skeptical and stubborn (in the forum as ‘hedonist’) – “I’m not giving up white rice. Why should I fast when there is lots of delicious food to eat. Etc. Anyway, the Primal I AM doing has helped a lot.”

    In fact, I HAD made lots of progress in every area of my health. But the fat stopped coming off and I wasn’t as healthy as I wanted to be, so I tried IF. The fat came pouring off.

    A couple months ago, I started having lots of senioritis. Then I had something like a stroke (although the neurologist says it was not a stroke and didn’t seem like a mini-stroke either.) The good news is that I came out of it better than ever, which I attribute to Primal. But it scared me into becoming stricter, e.g. really having a Big Assed salad daily.

    If someone had told me I HAD to do strict Paleo three years ago, I never would have started at all. And telling me “Start and pretty soon you will think white rice is tasteless, disgusting slop” would have had the same result except that my reply couldn’t be printed here. By the way, I still love white rice and eat it once in a while.

    P.S. I am looking for a forum name to replace “Hedonist.”

    Harry Mossman wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Hi Harry

      What about “Reformed Hedonist”?

      Keen wrote on December 6th, 2013
  35. I prefer perfection for myself, however, I know I’m not getting that so this is a nice gift for those of us that fight the urge to get mad at ourselves when we are not 100%. Those occasional dishes of ice cream (and I mean tiny dishes) are not going to kill me overnight. Ahahahahaha.
    I’m a “kind and gentle” method person, those “no pain – no gain” people have me walking in the other direction….. Pain? Yeah, no thanks, there’s enough pain in my world without causing it myself.
    I know that my 20% needs to be with things that are not going to give me more grief than joy, so I don’t eat the grains except the occasional sushi rice. That way there’s no pain there either.
    Balance is nice when you understand and know how to get it.

    2Rae wrote on December 5th, 2013
  36. I loved this post. I think it’s so important to reiterate that everyone’s health journey is personal, and that while the primal blueprint is a great blueprint, it’s important to make our own adjustments. In a post Mark once said to never follow someone’s advice blindly or trust that everything that works for them will work for you (I think it something about not getting too caught up on gurus). I love this approach, that we should seek guidance and others’ opinions but at the end of the day our own personal progress won’t be the same as others’ progress. That being said, complacency is no one’s friend so I also appreciate the part about asking ourselves if we could truly feel better, be better, do better. Great post!

    Effie wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • I love “complacency is no one’s friend,” Effie. That’s one of the reasons I love this forum. I love reading the success stories and all the comments posted afterward. I pick up bits and pieces of good information and have learned so much.

      Thank you Mark for all you do on our behalf as well. :)

      Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 5th, 2013
  37. “Requiring perfection invites paralysis.” I have to remind myself of that when I view going 80%/20% as not quite Primal. I’m a daily reader (love the success stories) and have been following the PB guidelines for a couple of months now. I do like “Progress instead of perfection.”

    After the first couple of weeks the 20% started getting out of hand so I made it a point to just not eat out (except for special occasions), cook at home, and stick to 100% as much as I can. I found that much of my eating while out and about was just a habit – most of the time I wasn’t even hungry. Going to the mall does not require also going to the food court!

    For the Perfectionists among us – there’s always Yoda’s “Do or Do Not; There is No try!”

    Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 5th, 2013
    • Perfectionism is the enemy. I cannot get coworkers to try anything.

      If you order a deluxe quarter-pounder with cheese from McDonalds with no bun, no mayo and mustard, that is GREAT, not merely good. You have kept basically all the flavor of the sandwich, but trashed 50% of the carbs and nearly 100% of the bad carbs from it, not to mention 1/3 of the calories. This modified sandwich is not strictly inline with PB (actually, it’s not even close), but it’s one hell of a lot closer. I order this all the time. You don’t need to 100% adhere to PB to see results.

      Jack wrote on December 5th, 2013
      • Thank you, Jack, That sounds so good! I’ve been ordering bacon-cheeseburgers like that from restaurants since going PB but didn’t think they’d do that for me at MacD’s. Good to know. :)

        Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • Yay, Yoda! There’s perfectionist-paralysis but there is also a lot of analysis-paralysis – folks wanting to gather data, gather data, and looking for “enough” data before giving it a try. I’m that way to an extent but then I jump in head first.

      Pure Hapa wrote on December 8th, 2013
  38. Everything in nature goes in cycles. It would be best to go one month paleo then one month original diet, then back to paleo in for two months, and keep cycling up to longer and longer periods of paleo diet. Or do periods of whatever length like one day paleo, one day off, two days next time, ect. It’s like training for an athletic event: you can’t run a marathon in one go at first try.
    Each time you come back to the paleo diet, you are that much more prepared, and you know what to expect, and where your pitfalls are. You use the time in between paleo attempts to review your latest effort: did you like this? is it working for you? what went wrong? how can you improve? what didn’t you like? and what could make you happy the next time?, ect. Then just relax into a “normal” and comfortable diet for a while until you feel ready for the next round. No worries.
    This is about self awareness and it’s better to be self aware than self punishing.
    In nature, everything is a cycle, and you always get a second chance.

    Lisa Being wrote on December 5th, 2013

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