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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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August 18, 2009

Off the Wagon

By Worker Bee
46 Comments

When you find yourself suddenly sitting in the dust, a bit dazed, a bit dirty, your confidence shaken and your pride a tad bruised, it can be disheartening. Is it your first trip off the wagon? Your umpteenth? As we enter the second half of our August Primal Challenge, this scenario might sound a little familiar to some of you out there. Anyone happen to be dusting off their britches right now?

Whether you took your tumble this weekend or the second day of the Challenge, the experience of falling off the wagon can be frustrating, humbling, and downright dispiriting. You had high hopes. You put time and sweat and maybe money into the endeavor. Perhaps you told people and felt embarrassed about admitting the setback. Particularly if you’ve found yourself in this position before (with the Primal approach or another diet or fitness program), the stumble can incite feelings of personal failure or precipitate a wave of excuses (“I gave it my best shot. It’s just not doable.”). But hold on there for a moment. We say the story hasn’t been written yet. The proverbial fat lady hasn’t sung. Before you abandon the whole endeavor, take a look at the big picture.

Like an athlete, review your performance during this first half of the month. First and most important question: what’s gone well? Don’t put it in the self-deprecating terms of what was easy. See it for what it was – your exertion, your will, your creative and meaningful action. What changes did you make – in your daily practices and overall outlook? Count them as successes. How are you and your life different today because you took up the Challenge? How did you feel in the course of a day? What did you notice in the spread of two weeks? Discouragement be damned because of this point, my friends: You are not where you started two weeks ago.

Believe it or not, you’ve moved yourself to a new place. The efforts you took – mental and physical have left their imprints. Each life experience, as we all know, changes us. Each choice we make opens up new possibilities, yes, but we’re not just talking about hypothetical potential. The change is already manifest. Along the way, you see, you’ve laid down the tracks. They’re still there. And let me tell you what else is there: the physical benefits of even a brief endeavor. Your blood vessel walls are that much less strained. Your adrenal system that much less stressed. Your pancreas, liver and other organs that much less taxed. You’ve given your body a breather, the chance to function more naturally, more efficiently, more optimally.

If you truly put yourself out there and made a sincere commitment, you should feel pride in that. The risk is itself an accomplishment. That said, genuine commitment doesn’t falter at the sign of struggle. Be honest about what went awry – and why you think it happened. What could you have done differently? But then remember why you took up the Challenge, the cause at the heart of your efforts (for yourself, your health, your well-being, your kids). Put your faith back in your own commitment, bolster your sense of mission and decide what your next step will be. Yes, there’s a next step. The path is still there. Make the choice to direct yourself toward it. No, hopping back on in the middle maybe doesn’t seem as dramatic and exciting as the starting line, but it’s generally easier and more openly promising. You’ve felt the benefits of your Primal endeavors. You know you’ll be going back to those same gains – and more as additional efforts allow for deeper physiological homeostasis, more physical strength and vitality, more emotional balance and energy.

What will your next step be? We’ll be waiting to hear from you…. Comment, throw a question out there, post an update, give a suggestion for a post if you’re so inclined. You’re as much a part of the Challenge crowd as anyone else, and don’t forget it! (We won’t.) And as you get back in the saddle again, be sure to check out these (hopefully!) helpful posts:

Baby Steps

Common Stumbling Blocks

How to Break Bad Habits

How to Develop Good Habits

How to Make the Primal Transition in 6 Easy Steps

Sensible Vices Round 1, Round 2

The 80/20 Principle, Revisited

Finally, by all means use the support of the MDA community. Onward and upward, folks!  Have a great week!

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46 Comments on "Off the Wagon"

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DiabetesCanKissMyButt
DiabetesCanKissMyButt
7 years 1 month ago

Thanks! I needed that encouragement this morning.

marci
marci
7 years 1 month ago
I was on vacation the first week of the challenge, and even though I ate things not on the PB (but not too much!) we were constantly on the move- biking, swimming, playing paddleball & frisbee, kayaking so I didn’t feel too terribly guilty. But it became clear to me how do-able the PB is especially if you have the good fortune to live close to a beach (Mark!)or in a more natural environment (ie a more rural area). It’s hard to keep up the fun PB exercise part here when tied to a desk and I can only work… Read more »
GeriMorgan
7 years 1 month ago

Heh! Thanks, Mark. I think I’m ready to hit the ole sprinting track again.

Tom
Tom
7 years 1 month ago
I’ve been falling off the wagon every weekend. But I stay on the plan rock solid during the week and my diet has been adjusting during the weekends. I find myself skipping bad foods and making changes as I move forward. Even at the gym I didn’t feel like pushing myself but once I was warmed up and the discouraging thoughts cleared I ended up going all out and leaving a puddle of sweat on the floor. I figure at the gym, ‘get in the door’ and see what happens, and the same process has been working for my diet.… Read more »
dml
7 years 1 month ago
I almost lost it last night. It was hot. Really hot for New England. I’d just endured a hot workout and taken a relaxing swim. It was time to cook dinner. My wife said it was too hot to eat in the house. We talked about the truly local places where we could eat. I thought about a pizza place, a sandwich shop, a Chinese restaurant, and a local pub. All of them were full of traps for me. A sandwich here or a cocktail there. I’ve been doing really well this month. I’m using a new belt notch this… Read more »
Griff
Griff
7 years 1 month ago

I would say go to the sandwich place and have them make what I call an “un-wich”: a sandwich with no bread. I do this at the sandwich place on my campus and they never give me problems – I just say “Give me all the stuff that goes in X sandwich, in one of those bowls you serve your soup in.”

Sometimes they look at me funny, but hey, that’s part of eating Primal, right?

Mike H.
Mike H.
7 years 1 month ago

I have a question about the “genetic” change from processing sugar to processing fat….

So if I(we) made it over the hump/transition period, is it now the regular process for your body? If someone following the PB for a year had a cob of corn would they have to go through three clean weeks before getting back to where they were? Thanks!

Mark Sisson
7 years 1 month ago

Great question. It’s a common one I’ll be addressing in further detail in the future. In the meantime this post might help:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-carb-binge/

Thanks, Mike H.

Elana
Elana
7 years 1 month ago
What an awesome blog post. I actually cried today because I’ve been feeling so frustrated. I’m sticking to it (~3 months), just started trying IF at the onset of the challenge, working my butt off and still…haven’t…lost…any…weight. Not just weight, haven’t lost any inches, fat, whatever. Total plateau. I’ve even tried dramatically cutting my calories (down to ~1500 from ~2400). My body is seemingly a master at adaptation and I sometimes wonder if my baby belly is going to be with me for life. I’m exceptionally fit and muscular everywhere on my body except on my belly, which still resembles… Read more »
Indiscreet
Indiscreet
7 years 1 month ago
Elana – I feel your pain. I tried IFing last year and whist I liked the convenience of not taking food to work, I ended up putting on 10lbs of fat. I wasn’t even eating bad stuff when I got home – my diet was pretty clean! I ended up going on the Velocity Diet (nothing but protein shakes for 4 weeks) to get rid of it. That wasn’t fun. I honestly don’t think all women are suited to IFing. In my case I felt cold a lot during the day (even though it was March/April) which indicates my metabolism… Read more »
Mike Gruber
Mike Gruber
7 years 1 month ago

I had a huge cheat night last night, taking my wife out to dinner for her 30-tenth birthday. However, I abstained from the dinner rolls.

I also noted that if you’re going to have an “open” meal, have it at an expensive restaurant. The portions are so small that you can’t hurt yourself too badly in one meal.

Brian
Brian
7 years 1 month ago

I fell off pretty bad yesterday.

So far I’ve managed to go the duration of the challenge with no grains.

Even showed considerable restraint with alcohol…only drank once since starting the challenge and did so very moderately.

Yesterday however…what started off as Moderate Drinking #2 turned into a one-man-party for most of the evening.

Really hurtin’ today and feeling pretty sheepish.

Keefe
Keefe
7 years 1 month ago

Fell off last night… My fiancée really wanted Whole Foods pizza and for me to eat it with her. 2 slices with feta, olives, roasted red peppers and artichoke. I felt it this morning wen attempting “Angie” (Crossfitters know what I am talking about).

Katie
7 years 1 month ago

At least it wasn’t Fran… 😉

Ninja Mom
Ninja Mom
7 years 1 month ago

I came crashing off the wagon today at lunch. Went to Pei Wei with my kids and my mom (she was buying). I couldn’t have had the teriyaki bowl WITHOUT the rice, now could I. Could’ve and should’ve but didn’t. I’m climbing back on the wagon before dinner. Eating out with other adults seems to be my downfall. There ARE primal choices on the menus (at least adaptable-to-primal) but the lengthy explanations to an unreceptive audience sometimes isn’t my idea of a fun evening. Methinks that eating at home is the solution.

sakecat22
sakecat22
7 years 1 month ago

This was the perfect post since today was a “fall off” day. Working out of a different office, really busy, unfamiliar surroundings, free food….

Big lesson – my triggers are social.

Availability also makes a HUGE difference. Easier to make better stuff available in my own space than when I “travel.”

Camille in Slovenia
Camille in Slovenia
7 years 1 month ago

I fell off the wagon months ago when I spent a month in Berlin. I needed this post today to help me get back on track.

Our garden is in full bloom so I have been eating a lot of good fresh stuff but there has also been such luscious gelato everywhere that it’s been hard to stay on the rails.

OK.

***Dusting off***

Nycaise
7 years 1 month ago

Me and some friends went out to a restaurant last night and had the quesadilla with the tortilla and rice. But while I fell off the wagon with that, I still congratulated myself for not getting a bread starter or a dessert, which are huge weaknesses of mine.

Christine Witt
Christine Witt
7 years 1 month ago

Its been tough -recently went to a trainign class where the food they served was all the kind granma used t o make-the first couple days were good but then it happened -homemade apple crumble cake -i weakened -i stumbled -i fell – i ate the cake. Enjoyed it while it was hot, passed out from the sugar rush and vowed never to stumble again

Piper
7 years 1 month ago
I’ve fallen off a few evenings for some dark chocolate made with sugar. It’s always dark with a 75%+ cacao content, but I still feel guilty about that sometimes. I’ve had a few pancakes made with oat flour twice this month. I almost fell off the wagon and was thinking about giving up, when I went to the doctor and got my weight and blood pressure taken. I’ve lost 6lbs so far this month and my blood pressure has dropped from 130/84 to 110/70. A small change, but even seeing those simple numbers helped me to realise “This is working,… Read more »
Diana Renata
7 years 1 month ago

Thank you SO much for the encouragement. I really needed it today. I haven’t exactly fallen off the wagon, but I’ve felt frustrated and thought of giving in to temptation. I really buckled down the last couple days and I’m feeling better already. I still need more intensity in my workouts, and you’ve given me that extra shove I need. Thank you.

Beta Berto
7 years 1 month ago
I somehow find a way to cheat on weekends, usually by drinking too much. Here’s my “how to get back on the wagon” checklist: 1. Understand what your body is going through. If you cheated with too many carbs on Sunday, know that your brain is going to be begging for that quick fix on Monday but you don’t REALLY need it. 2. You screwed up, now this is your punishment. Enjoy it. 3. NO fruits for breakfast the day after the cheat. Go low-carb (omelet with some meat and veggies) from the start. No weening off carbs, get right… Read more »
judy
judy
7 years 1 month ago

Some days I’m just plain ol’ tired. I’m too tired to exercise or do anything when I get home from work. Luckily, my husband is a wonderful cook and usually has a great Primal meal waiting for me. We eat, have a glass of wine, relax a bit, skip the workout, then go to bed early. I need the sleep, and I’ll work out tomorrow when I’m feeling rested. It’s ok to just do nothing once in a while!

steve
steve
7 years 1 month ago

Good article.

Question though, why are the Worker Bee’s anonymous?

Are there any plans to introduce the Worker Bee’s, so we can learn a bit about their backgrounds and get to know them?

gwen
gwen
7 years 1 month ago

OMG..did you just see my day..wasnt even a satisfactory cheat day..i screwed up slightly during the day but just cause i got all pissed off with myself i showed myself and ate a freakin bowl of ice cream..oh well i feel like i got it out of my system..like it just had to happen..onwards and upwards

trackback

[…] “FOOD FOR THOUGHT” ARTICLES Jack LaLanne Is The Man Off The Wagon Reduce Calories and Reduce Unnecessary Time Working […]

Griff
Griff
7 years 1 month ago
It’s interesting, and maybe it’s because it’s the first week or two for me of Eating Primally, but I find that just thinking about carb-heavy (especially grain-based!) foods makes my stomach turn over. I have to eat a small amount of carbs at night because I’m diabetic and my morning sugar reading goes through the roof, but the other night I had a half peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread and the combination of plain (no sweetener) peanut butter and whole-wheat bread tasted like old, dried-out coffee cake. ICK! I now use cream cheese instead, because it doesn’t make me… Read more »
Indiscreet
Indiscreet
7 years 1 month ago

Celery!

Christine
Christine
7 years 1 month ago

Pork rind (Fried pork skin)! Find it in Asian or Hispanic stores. Probably too much salt, yes, but a good substitute for me.

MamaSofi
MamaSofi
7 years 1 month ago
I couldn’t agree more with the “how to get back on the wagon” checklist from the post above! I never felt the effects of sugar until I stopped eating sugar – and now when I commit “carbicide”, I FEEL IT! My heart races, my stomach bloats and I feel awful. Once in a while, it’s worth it though. The thought of NEVER eating cake EVER AGAIN is insane. I just can’t be that inflexible. But the thought of not eating cake everyday or even every week is fine. When the time comes to eat that cake, I make sure it… Read more »
Jen
Jen
7 years 1 month ago
@ Sofiawahaj I don’t think having a piece of dark chocolate (be it with our without sugar) counts as falling off the wagon, at least not for me. Some people aim for the 100% primal, others 90% right now, for me I am happy just to stroll along at 80% on a good day. What I mean to say is, different people have different goals and thuoghts on what primal means to them and how strict they want to be. If dark chocolate is ok with you it’s ok with you and that’s all you have to worry about. If… Read more »
Deanna
Deanna
7 years 1 month ago

I am a champion at falling off the wagon. But each time is less severe, so I consider that good progress! The next step for me is trying to work out the 80-20 balance without the 20 suddenly turning into an all-out binge. Making it a normal healthy portion of something not-entirely-primal is the next step for me.

Geoff
Geoff
7 years 1 month ago
Wrote this on another thread, but since you’re soliciting questions…. I am not primal yet, and have been using this challenge period to learn about PB and its benefits while adhering to the PB “lifestyle” laws (play, sleep better, get more sun, use your brain, avoid stupid mistakes). Even tried a CrossFit workout last night at the local gym. Loved everything I’ve read and think Mark and all of you are really on to something very good. My only hesitation to adopting full-bore PB right now is that I have committed to a friend that I would run the Marine… Read more »
Mark Sisson
7 years 1 month ago

Don’t bail on your friend. Keep your carb levels as low as possible while still being able to fuel your activity levels. Still get your carbs from veggies and fruits (sweet potato, banana etc). Once the marathon is over scale back on carbs and go full Primal!

Geoff
Geoff
7 years 1 month ago

Mark – Thanks much for the reply and encouragement. Refueling with veggies and fruit has been a big part of my nutritional strategy. Once I’m past October I’m going “all in.” I think the extended break in over the next 2 months will make it easier to go full Primal once I get there. In the meantime I know there are a lot of simple things I can do to improve my health even while I help my friend reach his marathon goals. Thanks again.

Meagan
Meagan
7 years 1 month ago
I was doing so well with your idea of acting as if I were the type of person who would not fall off the wagon, which was how I thought all last month. As soon as I stopped thinking in those terms (this month), I started eating refined sugars by the boatloads (or so it feels). I do have to say that to my credit, I have been keeping it primal the rest of the day, so even if I have sugar, I do go back to eating primal the next meal. Not that it excuses the sugary stuff. My… Read more »
Wiwo
Wiwo
7 years 1 month ago

Fell off the wagon a couple of weeks ago when my father treated me to a tremendous homecooked pasta dinner with garlic bread on the side. My IBS symptoms (which have otherwise been totally vanquished on the primal diet) came back with a vengeance and my fiancee didn’t even want to sleep in the same bed (or room) as me. Now that’s incentive.

In addition, I found myself remarkably sluggish the next day. I reminded my body of what real food looks like by cooking steak and eggs with a green salad on the side for breakfast.

Kali
Kali
7 years 1 month ago
Thank you! This was uplifting! Been on the primal diet ever since mid-March, when I got a diabetes diagnosis (insulin resistant) at the hospital (glycemia was very high!) I decided then and there that I’d do everything within my power to get rid of this condition, even if it meant eating lettuce for the rest of my life. So I started researching about sugar, carbohydrates, insulin and glycemic index. Whitout knowing it, I was soon following the PB diet! I found that out when I stumbled on this blog two months ago. Finally, got my blood test results last month… Read more »
Marg
Marg
7 years 1 month ago
Mark — This is an observation of “off-the-wagoning.” I’m 63 years old. I’ve eaten low-carb since 2002 — lost it, kept it off. (Gained it, by the way, by being menopausal and quitting smoking.) I have many friends who have asked me to help them get on and stay on low-carb eating. The single most common derailment and reason for their falling off the wagon in my experience can be summed up as follows: When overweight persons go on a low-fat (high-grain) diet, they can get support from their families, their friends, their trainers, their [overweight] doctors, television, radio, newspapers,… Read more »
judy
judy
7 years 1 month ago
Marg, so true! I get so many family members that make fun of me, and they think this is just a phase I’m going through. It’s been 8 months now and this is my way of life, whether they like it or not! One family member tells me that it’s ok to not eat flour, but I must eat whole grains, they’re part of a “balanced” diet. Another family member (vegan) has a closet full of soy products and processed things, and says too much protein is harmful to the kidneys. The sugary desserts are fine, since they’re vegan! Another… Read more »
Jack
Jack
7 years 1 month ago
I’ve been on the PB style diet for about 10 months now and it has changed my life magnificantly. I first started when I had a rather bad break of my arm, and wanted to do everything I could to regain feeling, repair bone and get back on the saddle as soon as possible. It worked wonderfully, and I have to thank you Mark for putting the information out there. The physio and doctor was quite impressed at my recovery considering it looked like I’d need a bone graph and lose function of my thumb. I now have full feeling… Read more »
Martin P
Martin P
7 years 1 month ago

Very inspiring words, Mark.

Jordan
Jordan
6 years 2 months ago
Mark. I love you man. You’re a great man. I can’t wait until I’m half the man you are. I just turned 29 and I fell off the wagon. I hadn’t drank alcohol for 18 days and have been working out and eating great but today I jumped off the wagon. I drank all day, I ate bad food and I just felt like shit about myself. But reading your post made me feel great. Almost brought tears to my eyes. I came home and ran a barefoot mile for punishment of my failure. But I’m back on to the… Read more »
Bernie Goodman
Bernie Goodman
5 years 2 months ago

Hi
I am 72 years old,i have had a weight problem most of my life.I started the pb program six months ago,i am a lot fitter
now,how ever the weight hardly ever changes,i have cut down carbs. to very little,and have been 95% loyal to the protein diet since i started,still the weight is lingering.
I need some ideas please. Total loss in six months 14 lbs.
I need to loose 60 more pounds. Help.

saber-toothed duck
saber-toothed duck
2 years 10 months ago

After being more like 98/2 than 80/10 for a couple months, I lost it with home-made rolls. I had a miserable night mentally and physically. “Fell off the wagon” is exactly what I did and how great to have found this article addressing the issue. Thank you not only for writing it, but also for keeping it on your site for people like me.

Ned
Ned
2 years 12 days ago
I have been back on primal for 2 weeks had some dark chocolate and wine and got a horrible head and neck ache also my heart has been pounding at night. stopping coffee dairy sugar and grains has left me tired unable to sleep. I felt ok till the chocolate and wine guess I should have given my body more time before adding the chocolate and wine. my gallbladder is sluggish and causes pain when I have sugar or alcohol guess they are triggers the headache neckache started a few hours after the wine and chocolate and could not sleep… Read more »
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