Meet Mark

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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Category: Personal Improvement

The Power of Food Rituals

From the intricacy of Japanese tea ceremonies to the ornateness of holiday dinners, food related customs hold big sway in every culture. They all reflect in some way an element of that culture’s values and common story—whether long inherited or deliberately chosen. While some of our rituals can be traced to particular religious traditions, others are more secularly instituted, family oriented or even individually constructed. Those grander social customs might evoke more conscious nostalgia, but science suggests even the small practices we enact around our eating can have surprising results.

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Psychedelics: A New Medical Frontier?

Long before humans interacted with the numinous through intermediaries and holy books, we experienced it in other ways. All night drumming and dancing sessions, extended fasts, exposure to extreme temperatures, steam lodges, and week-long wilderness forays, and other rituals have all been used to produce visions and transcend normal waking consciousness. There’s even a theory that early Christian baptisms were actually simulated drownings that produced near-death experiences and the direct sensation of being in the presence of a higher power.

But perhaps the oldest, most reliable way to directly experience the divine is through the use of psychedelics.

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Winter Blues: How Cold, Dark Days Can Take a Mental Toll

After last week’s look at what winter does in terms of physical symptoms, I’d be lax to not address the obvious elephant in the living room: mental health in the colder, darker season. I’ll admit I don’t know too many people who look forward to this time of year past the holidays. The adventure of winter sports aside (for those who love them) and the chance for a little social hibernation (for those who prefer that), winter can take an exponential toll on people past the New Year. That said, just how much is relative inconvenience versus clinical reality? Do our moods collectively change? Why do some people experience more significant effects? What are the real hormonal influences this time of year, and what (if anything) can or should we do about them?

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Dear Mark: Too Late for Health? Never.

For today’s Dear Mark, I’m answering just a single reader question, but it’s a big one. Janice and her husband have endured their family’s light-hearted ribbing about their “caveman lifestyle” for years. Now that the paterfamilias of the clan is severely obese, almost 80 years old, and recovering from a relatively mild stroke, the family has turned to Janice’s expertise for help changing his ways. How can she convince her father that it’s never too late to get healthy? That changing your diet, exercise, and lifestyle can improve even the most unhealthy person’s trajectory and enjoyment of life? She’s confident that if she can just get through to her dad, the rest of the family—who also needs an intervention—will inevitably follow suit.

Let’s give it a shot:

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5 Responses When Relatives Ask Why You’re Not Eating Stuffing This Thanksgiving

Here we are—another day of turkey, gathering, gratitude and (maybe) questions. For some of us, our relatives stopped asking long ago. Or maybe we celebrate alone or with a smaller, more sympathetic crowd these days. Many of us, however, will find ourselves mixing with non-Primal eaters. We’ll likely even be the typical lone figure strategizing our choices among the high-carb spread. Bring on the turkey legs, the Brussels sprouts, the salad. The stuffing and sweets on the other hand—maybe not so much… And so the inquiry often begins. As I wish you all, kind readers, a Happy Thanksgiving from the U.S., I thought I’d offer some of my favorite responses (some serious, some not) to the common questions we field at the holiday dinner table. To all of our MDA community, I’m grateful for your valued following and your incredible contributions over the years. I hope you’ll add your own favorite personal retorts, strategic redirects and discussion starters for the dinner table today!

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What’s Behind Your Poor Health: Life vs. Lifestyle Issues

One of the things I love about our success stories is the far-reaching impact of people’s health transformations. They lose weight (or in some instances gain it in muscle mass). They get fit. They get their basic health in order, and the physical vitality takes on a life of its own with a unforeseen “carry-over” effect, leaving them happier, more confident and newly inspired to pursue other personal goals or productive changes in their lives. This got me thinking about how much the opposite holds true. What about the studies that tell us negative circumstances in our lives become risk factors for a variety of serious health issues, including mortality risk itself?

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Blindspots Even Informed Paleo Enthusiasts Often Have

You read Mark’s Daily Apple every day. Paleo health, nutrition, and fitness folks populate your Twitter feed almost exclusively. You’ve got several PubMed alerts set up, helping you stay on top of the emerging evidence. Everyone in your immediate circle knows to come to you with questions about diet and exercise. You’ve been living like this for the better part of a decade, and things are going well. But what if there were a few blindspots you didn’t know about, or assumed you didn’t have to consider?

I’ve been doing this for a long time. Over the course of 10-odd years, I’ve realized that many Primal and paleo enthusiasts have a few glaring blindspots. They may not be cataclysmic, but addressing them—or at least acknowledging their existence—can certainly improve your health and happiness.

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15 Alternatives to Sitting Meditation

No longer the sole province of the hemp-swathed sprouting enthusiast, meditation’s popularity has exploded across our collective faces. Tech companies have embraced mindfulness meditation as the ultimate productivity. Google has “mindful lunches,” complete with prayer bells and hour-long vows of silence. And as legitimate meditation researchers uncover more benefits to our brains, our bodies, and our psyches, diehard rationalists have been forced to accept the scientific merits of mindfulness.

My explanation for why interest in meditation has grown is that it’s a replacement for the nature in which we no longer reside. For hundreds of thousands of years, we spent our days in natural settings where much of the mind chatter stops and we exist in the present moment. The falling leaves sparkling overhead with sunlight. The herky-jerk scamper of a startled lizard just off the trail. The erratic brilliant butterfly fluttering through the scene that you can’t help but stop to watch. That was life for most of human history. It wasn’t special. It was home. It’s what we knew.

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Dear Mark: Hunter-Gatherer Fitness and Volunteerism

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering an email that reminded me of an idea I once had that I’m convinced could really work: organizing group workout sessions like fitness bootcamps only instead of a guy barking orders as you perform a completely arbitrary set of exercises with little regard for technique, the group performs “workouts” that are actually acts of volunteerism. This makes your workouts truly count, not just as stimulants of fitness improvements but to the other people your efforts touch. It addresses an important aspect missing from most fitness programs. Humans used to perform physically demanding tasks on a regular basis in order to live, eat, and thrive. It wasn’t “exercise” or a “workout,” but it made us fit, strong, and fast just the same. And it was essential to living. It helped our immediate family and communities.

We’ve lost that, but training as volunteerism can bring some of it back.

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Stop Saying No, Start Saying Yes!

I know parents who have “yes” days with their kids—days when the kids can ask for just about anything (barring the hazardous, illegal, harmful or physically impossible) and the parents have agreed to go with it. While the idea assuredly raises some eyebrows and probably isn’t for every family or age/personality of child, I’ve observed that it’s rarely the Pandora’s Box most people would assume.

On the first round, kids might try to push the limits out of sheer curiosity to see how far they can ride that train—how far they can push the parental units. With time and steadiness on the parents’ parts, however, the kids generally settle into a happy but reasoned approach in which their requests end up reflecting their parents’ values to a startling degree. They plan a healthy picnic or cook a healthy, albeit strangely assembled meal together. They ask for an extended family activity or day trip that includes some hiking or biking or family sport. It becomes more about their self-determination and maybe some creative embellishments than flying in the face of the normal family guidelines, oddly even if they’re subject for regular complaint. Nonetheless, the fun factor just went through the roof. We adults can learn something from this….

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