The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
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...Tell Me More
As I wrote last week, we can’t always trust what our bodies are telling us to do. Our bodies send us a lot of other confusing and even misleading signals – but they don’t always pertain to food. Any of our base physiological processes will manifest as messages, cravings, and desires. That’s how the body gets us to perform tasks (like eating because of hunger, drinking because of thirst, and sleeping because of drowsiness), by creating physiologically-driven desires and motivations. In theory, these motivations match up with what’s best for us in that given situation and improve our chances of survival. Our bodies mean well. When they tell us to do or not to do something, they’re doing their best with the available information. If you place yourself in an evolutionary novel environment, your body is going to interpret the situation as best it can. When it perceives a high stress office environment with free coffee on hand, or a world where doing nothing is a viable mode of subsistence, or the aforementioned bright lights in the dead of night, things get complicated and the signals can get a little screwy. Read on to find out how this can all play out.
We all live it or live with it to some extent – our society’s obsession with speed. Whether it’s with omnipresent traffic, constant deadlines, or crammed schedules, too many of us spend too much time running or overrun. The pace itself can over time become a lens for life, our focus in constant erratic motion. In the cursory sweeps of our day, we miss out on the nuanced textures of life – the sensory pleasures of a good meal, the subtle changes in our growing child’s face, the quiet beauty of a weekend morning, the warm connection with a partner or friend. What do we do when we find ourselves caught in an unsustainable momentum? The answer for some is an internationally growing – and diversely focused – movement known as slow living.
Today experts tell us that runaway stress has us teetering on the verge of a public health crisis with three-quarters of Americans reporting they “experience stress at levels that exceed what they define as healthy.” Undoubtedly, our obsession with speed contributes to this trend. We’re taking on more than we can reasonably process. We’re doing more and experiencing less.
Hunger largely comes down to perceived energy and/or nutrient insufficiency. Your body thinks that it needs more calories and more energy, and hunger sets in to get you to eat the food that contains those nutrients. Now, if perception matches up well with reality – if you truly do need more nutrients – things are good. You need some food, you eat some food, and you stop when you’ve had enough. In this situation, listening to your body is a good idea. That’s what all those Primal people (including me) are talking about when they tell you to “just listen to your body, maaaaaaan,” because for those people, it truly is that simple. Eliminating the excess carbs, the refined sugar, the grains, and the processed seed oils while adhering to the other Primal laws regarding exercise, sleep, stress, sun, and all the rest was enough to right the ship.
I think we can all agree that a basic goal in life is the attainment of happiness, that mind state characterized by positive and pleasant thoughts and emotions. But how do we become happy? By definition, happiness requires some type of pleasure to be present. We need good feelings and good physical sensations. Furthermore, the pleasure must come first, before the happiness. Something, and I don’t care what it is, has to make you feel good before you can truly call yourself happy. As such, our behaviors and our motivations are shaped by that pleasure-seeking tendency. And that pleasure-seeking is mediated through the reward system, which has several different but interrelated components: liking, which describes the sensation of pleasure; wanting, which describes the desire to obtain the thing; and learning, the Pavlovian-esque conditioning. Basically, if we do something or expose ourselves to something (a fun social situation, a healthy food, the sun) that confers a survival and/or health benefit (improved social standing, some vital nutrient that our body needs, vitamin D production), our reward center “activates.” We like it, we want it, and we learn that having it is in our best interest.
There’s something about these middle weeks of summer that feel less hurried, less brimming, more casual. At a certain point of the season, everybody remembers to relax a little and soak it in. The “lazy days” mood got me thinking about daydreaming – those lost minutes (maybe hours) in which we unintentionally slip into contemplation. Sometimes we end up floating into more serious ruminations. Other times, it’s just loose and happy reverie. We all do it – whether it’s looking out the window of our morning train, laying in the backyard hammock, or sitting (standing, rather!) at our work desk. It can often happen even if we’re trying to focus. Call it a lapse in discipline, but the brain seems to have its own agenda in those moments. Is there some purpose here beyond mere escapism? What is the brain really up to, and what could daydreaming have to do with well-being?
Update: The 90-Day Journal is still available at PrimalBlueprint.com, but the special limited-time offer has come to end.
Last week, I unveiled The Primal Blueprint 90-Day Journal, complete with exclusive freebies, enticements, and coupons. Many thanks to each person that has already ordered a copy. I hope and anticipate this book will help you discover new insights into how your body responds to certain foods, workouts and other lifestyle behaviors, and that through self-experimentation you will be able to markedly improve your health. I can hardly wait to hear reports back from those that use the 90-Day Journal. I’ll be publishing them here on MDA, so check back in months to come as results begin trickling in.
If you missed last week’s announcement or have been on the fence about picking up a copy, here are the top 10 reasons to grab one in the next 24 hours before the special offer ends.