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
It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. In fact, I have a contest going right now. So if you have a story to share, no matter how big or how small, you’ll be in the running to win a big prize. Read more here.
Today’s story is an update (and compilation of lessons learned) from long time Primal veteran, Timothy. As you may know from past “Where Are They Now?” articles, I like to periodically check in with friends that have shared their success stories on Mark’s Daily Apple to see how they’re doing. Timothy’s transformation is an awesome one, and he’s maintained his improvements for years. So his words of wisdom come with a lot of clout.
“If youth but knew; if age but could.” – Henri Estienne
We don’t know what we don’t know. At 20 years old, I decided to live like a 100-year-old man given a second chance at youth. It changed nothing, of course, because we can’t simply decide to possess a lifetime of experience. I was at the mercy of Estienne’s paradox. But there is a way out.
Wisdom may be inaccessible to youth, but vitality is not inaccessible to age. That is the priceless gift of our primal lifestyle: the option both to retain our youthful capacities and to multiply them by the insight of our years; to live long in the true sense.
Now I am 40, and perhaps these comments addressed to my 33-year-old self might help you, too.
Well, yes, you could stand to lose a few pounds of fat, although much of what you think of as “fat” is actually chronic inflammation. But you could also stand to gain quite a few pounds of muscle, bone density, and organ tissue. The problem is that you’ve lived most of your life on a diet of empty calories and toxins and little else. You’re deficient in a staggering variety of vitamins, minerals, symbiotic bacteria and other growth factors. That’s why you’re still hungry even when your belly is about to burst. That’s why your moods turn black. That’s why you pack on more pounds every year even as you slowly starve to death. You won’t know satiety, health, or happiness until you repair your nutrient deficiencies, and that is going to take a long time and a lot of real human food. But it will take far less time to heal yourself than it took to drift into your present condition.
Life without bread and sugar seems like a depressing, monochromatic wasteland of endless misery and want. You grant that these cravings may end, and that seems even worse: a door closed forever on the pleasures of the table. Your witty colleague says “I could never go on a diet—I love food too much!” You envy his gormless hedonism, but he has it exactly backwards. There will come a time when you will drink a raw liver shake with sour milk and shiver with pleasure. You will devour bone broth soup with beef heart from a giant cake mixing bowl and drink it to the last oleaginous drop. You will eat two pounds of bison with raw onion and garlic until your mouth burns and your body pours sweat and you will keep on going because it’s delicious and it makes you happier than all the fried ice creams you ever ate put together. The human palate working as designed is more amazing than you can currently imagine.
You’ve messed around on the gym machines: the lat pulldown; the leg curl; the good-girl-bad-girl knee-separation apparatus. But these are instruments of profit, not health, and bear as much relationship to fitness as statins do to CoQ10-mediated mitochondrial metabolism (okay, maybe you’re not ready for that yet). Strength-building exercises are ancient and uncomplicated: heavy weight controlled by your entire body through space. Learn the barbell back squat and turn the tables on overpowering force. Learn the barbell deadlift and triumph from a position of strength. When you reliably dominate a certain weight, and no sooner, then you may add a few more pounds. There are a couple other lifts worth your time and I’m sure you’ll figure them out, but you will always come back to these basics, for which even a whole lifetime is insufficient to master.
Everyone around you is running on treadmills, running down streets, hither and thither, panting and flailing—if it worked we’d be a society of supermen. Slow down and pick something up. Carry water without spilling. Carry a heavy bag of stuff on your shoulders and learn to shift it so that as one set of muscles fatigue, another set takes over. Always keep your eyes up, your breath through your nose, and a quiet expression on your face. Discover the true meaning of posture and cadence the same way your ancestors did. Now you’re feeling the real endorphin response. This is what your body was made for: useful excursions provisioning the tribe, not running from fears real and imagined.
Now you are going to discover this by accident on the Internet in just a few days, and it seems a shame to spoil that for you, but I guess that’s what I’m here for. Your ancestors spent countless hours digging, chopping, paddling, hammering, club fighting, sword fighting, throwing spears—and you can simulate all that and much more with a simple sledgehammer! Start heavy, perhaps 12 pounds, because such ungainly weight will teach you principles of leverage, angular and linear momentum. You will learn to work efficiently, as your ancestors learned by necessity. Soon enough you’ll drill the gross motions into muscle memory, and then you can move to lighter weights and discover amazing finesse and precision. Eventually you’ll pick up a broadsword, just like your more recent ancestors, and you’ll learn the real meaning of finesse—but not yet, grasshopper. You haven’t earned it. Talk to me in seven years!
You’ve been deficient in it your entire life. Your inability to grow a beard is not genetic. I’m sorry to say your serum levels are within the upper limit of normalcy for women. Your crippling social anxiety is not because you are a nerd per se, but because you lack the necessary hormones for confident social behavior. Now, you are going to have to be very careful with this. As with any hormone, prolonged deficiency leads to increased sensitivity. When you start eating like an alpha hunter, and training like an alpha hunter, the androgens will blow you away. Painting your face with your own blood during a deadlift workout may seem like a great idea, and it is pretty inspired, but perhaps not advisable in the company gym. Recognize your hormones and don’t let them master you. Indeed, by controlling your hormones, you control your reaction to events, which is as good as controlling reality itself, and true sorcery.
This will all happen so quickly that it will seem like a dream or a fantasy. And perhaps that is all life is anyway. But despite your nightmares to the contrary, you won’t wake up one day fat and sick and weak again. There is no going back. You have taken up the legacy of your ancestors, and forces far greater than yourself now carry you and your descendants into the future. You are a vessel in a mighty current. Just try it: make yourself fat again. Then lean again. Then fat again, then lean again. How many times have we done that now? A half dozen? Each time you only end up stronger, healthier and wiser. You can’t break yourself, you can only adapt and overcome. Now you are a human being.