It’s a Journey, Not a Race

By now, I’m sure you’ve been privy to the teeming hordes descending on cardio machines and health food stores across the country. Tofu is completely sold out; there’s a line out the door for the elliptical. The scent of desperate, hopeful sweat is in the air, and everywhere you look, folks sporting brand spanking new exercise gear and a list full of resolutions lie to themselves. They keep up the charade for a couple weeks, perhaps even a month, after which point the gym crowds taper off, the farmers’ markets stop looking like a mosh pit set to NPR, and people begin thinking about next year’s changes. Yep – it’s the New Year, and this is the entirely-predictable-and-requisite post on New Year’s resolutions.

Did you make any?

Jokes aside, not all resolutions are created equally – or with identical purpose of mind. Your average PBer, for example, actually intends to make good on his or her resolution. I dunno, but I just have a feeling that’s the case. You tend to get things done. I’ve seen the amount of progress you guys have made using nothing but your own impetus (and maybe a book or blog or two) (no holiday required), and it’s impressive. With a little motivation, though, MDA reader progress seemed to increase exponentially. Still, people are weird about New Year’s resolutions. Since the New Year is paradoxically famous for both motivating resolve and inspiring cynicism about the whole “making positive changes” thing, I figured a small post by yours truly to buttress your resolve and undercut the cynicism might help. I’m a big proponent of making positive changes in one’s life, and I can’t help but get misty-eyed when people decide to enrich their lives.

A big part of making positive changes, especially regarding health and fitness, is being realistic about your goals. I think unreasonable expectations actually explain why so many New Year’s resolutions crash and burn, and why the whole idea of a resolution has essentially become a joke. I’d say the vast majority of them expect too much in too little time – they want to go from belly fat to washboard abs in time for summer, or they pledge to lose a hundred pounds by year’s end. I mean, these are technically doable for a subset of the population, but for the vast majority of folks – especially the people who need to make these resolutions in the first place – such drastic results require slow, steady going. People don’t like that, though. They want instant results. More importantly, they seem to expect them, and unreasonable expectations almost unerringly result in disappointment.

The best way to avoid making unreasonable resolutions is to identify the root, underlying issues. I’d even suggest foregoing the specific, goal-oriented resolution. Instead of vowing to “lose 20 lbs in 30 days,” vow to eat no grains or legumes, no sugar, no vegetable oils, and nothing in a box. Instead of resolving to obtain 16-inch biceps, resolve to add pull-ups to the end of every weight lifting session. The key, in my opinion, is to focus on the journey, rather than the destination. The destination then becomes the journey. All those specific fixations on specific body parts are missing the point. When you set arbitrary numerical or objective goals, you’re merely attacking the symptoms, rather than addressing the real issue. If you need to lose weight, you need to dial in your nutrition. Eat Primal foods and avoid Neolithic foods. If you’re unhappy with your level of physical fitness, don’t focus on the arms, or the calves, or the abs. That’s nonsense, and those things will come around when the whole body is healthy and strong. Understand that your body is a confederation of genes, organs, hormones, muscles, bones, and all manner of other parts. They’re all united to support a common purpose – your interaction with the environment. To promote proper interaction, lift heavy things a couple times per week, throw in three to five hours of low-level cardio, and maybe a sprint session, and then call it a day. It’s incredibly simple, but it identifies and addresses the root cause. Attacking symptoms and then declaring success is for Big Pharma, not you. Don’t fall into that trap.

When you focus on the lifelong journey, following the Primal path gets simpler. Instead of a motley crew of contradicting and scattered goals, paths, and benchmarks, you’re now dealing with a single resolution. You haven’t left anything out, and all your worries and symptoms are still being addressed, but it’s now cohesive, efficient, and intuitive. You don’t need a ridiculously long list; you just Grok the Primal Blueprint Laws, get plenty of sleep, avoid stress, eat real food, move around a lot, lift heavy things on occasion, and sprint now and again. Top things off with a few supplements if your diet is lacking in certain areas and you’ve got yourself a damn good New Year’s resolution that’s easy to follow and incredibly effective – for life.

What is your approach to New Year’s resolutions and the Primal lifestyle at large? Let me know in the comment board. And don’t forget to send in your New Year’s Resolution videos. There is only a week and a half left to get them in. Competition is still low and the prize is grand, so act fast!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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