Stand Up, Kick Off Your Shoes and Eat Some Dirt
By now, you’re all probably thinking the same thing.
“What else is there?”
We’ve covered diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and sunlight – is there anything else we need to worry about?
Honestly? No. You don’t need to worry about the stuff I’m about to tell you. Millions of people don’t, and they apparently get along okay.
But then again, the tens of thousands of people I’ve personally reached usually have the opposite experience. Rather than feel bogged down by this information, they find their lives are incredibly enriched and improved. In short, they never knew that the shoes you wear or the bacteria you’re exposed to or the way you sit and stand could have such remarkably positive (or negative) effects on your health and happiness – until they tried this stuff out for themselves.
So, yes, you could focus on the previous six lessons, ignore this one, and get by okay.
But you don’t want “okay.” You want “fantastic.” You want “optimal.”
Let’s get to it then.
The following represent a litany of other things to consider in your journey toward ancestral, Primal health. These are little tweaks you can make, hacks you can play around with, tools for tinkering and self-experimentation.
Intermittent Fasting (IF)
IF involves skipping a meal (or two, or three) on a semi-regular basis. While conventional dietary experts claim if you skip a meal, you’ll cannibalize your own muscle, go into starvation mode, and suffer dangerously low blood sugar, the evidence is not on their side. Humans spent millions of years in an environment where they had to hunt and gather if they wanted to eat. If we were built to lose muscle and faint just because we hadn’t eaten in four hours, we wouldn’t be here today.
In fact, it seems like we are well-suited to missing meals on occasion. There is numerous evidence that fasting not only isn’t detrimental, but that it’s actually good for us. Potential benefits of IF include, but are not limited to: increased utilization of stored body fat; improved cholesterol numbers and insulin sensitivity; promotion of cellular autophagy, which is how our cells repair themselves and may provide resistance to cancer; increased lifespan (in animal studies); better athletic performance; better appetite control.
One popular method is the 8-on, 16-off schedule, which has you skipping one meal, typically breakfast, and maintaining an eight hour “eating window.” So, you skip breakfast, eat lunch around noon, eat dinner around 8 PM, and fast through the night until noon the next day. 8 hours on, 16 hours off, every day.
Another is the full-on 24 hour fast, done once or twice a week. This is exactly like it sounds – just don’t eat for a full 24 hours. Eat dinner, go to sleep, and hold off until dinner that day.
My personal favorite eating schedule? Not IF, but WHEN – When Hunger Ensues Naturally.
Just eat when you’re hungry. Once you’re eating Primal, you’ll find that your appetite is more subdued and manageable, and that you can go longer without getting hungry.
I recommend IF to folks who have their appetites under control. If you’re just getting started with Primal eating, don’t worry about skipping meals. IF can be a nice addition to your toolbox, but not if it’s a stressful thing. It should come naturally.
I dunno about you, but I was born barefoot. I’d wager a guess that we all were born barefoot. So why do we think we need to stick our feet in leather/rubber casts all day long? Isn’t that kind of absurd, when you think about it?
Bear with me. Anthropological evidence confirms that our ancestors were walking around upright, just like we do today, over two millions years ago. If you look at the footprints from that era, they are almost identical to the footprints you might leave on the beach today.
This equipment – the bare foot – has been getting humans and their ancestors around for over two millions years, without any need for Nikes or Reeboks. I’d say that’s a pretty good track record.
If you want to try barefooting, start small. Kick off your shoes at the house. Go get the morning paper without slippers. Do some yard work in bare feet. Eventually, work your way up to a ten-minute walk. All the while you’ll be strengthening the hundreds of bones, ligaments, and muscles in your feet. Eventually, you’ll have trouble going back to shoes at all.
I realize that going barefoot isn’t always socially acceptable, so I compromise. If I can’t go barefoot, I’ll wear a pair of soft moccasins, some Vibram Fivefingers, or any shoe that mimics the barefoot experience by employing a flat, even sole without a big pronounced heel that changes how you walk.
Posture and Mobility
Another huge, relatively recent change to the way we experience the world is the way we spend our time. That is, we almost invariably spend more than half our waking hours sitting in a chair, a car, a bus seat, or on a sofa. At work, we sit. To get to work, we sit. When we get home from work, we sit. It’s all sitting, all the time. Unsurprisingly, lower back pain is one of the most common ailments nowadays. Well over 50% of the population of the United States has or has had lower back pain.
Is that normal?
What about our ancestors? Chairs either didn’t exist, in the case of hunter-gatherers, or they were a luxury, in the case of every culture up until the Industrial Revolution. Work was physical, and involved a lot of moving around. In cultures where physical labor remains the norm, you see far fewer incidences of lower back pain, and the people have excellent posture. The “Primal chair” was a full squat, or what I call a Grok squat. You still see this phenomenon in less-industrialized nations – elderly folks sitting in a full squat for hours at a time without discomfort. Can you do the same?
Probably not. Your hip flexors are tight from years of sitting and your joint mobility is shot from years of never having to move if you didn’t want to.
What can we do about it?
Sit less, walk more.
Try a stand-up workstation and check out these tips for desk jockeys.
Check out my series on joint mobility and practice the drills. Learn how our posture has changed over the years (for the worse), and what to do about it.
Work on your Grok squat!
Grok didn’t have hand sanitizer where ever he went, nor did he wash his hands before eating. Life was, quite frankly, dirty. Today, life is pristine.
Too pristine. Too sterile.
We need some dirt exposure. It’s the environment in which our genes evolved, and it introduces novel, beneficial bacteria into our systems, which improves digestion and bolsters our immunity.
How’s that? See, our bodies contain more foreign bacteria than we do homegrown cells! We’re outnumbered – in our own bodies!
It sounds scary, but it’s not. It’s normal. In fact, the health of our gut depends almost entirely on our continual exposure to bacteria.
How do we get it?
Be outside. Have animals. Eat fermented foods, like yogurt or sauerkraut. Take a probiotic. And ditch the hand sanitizer!
We didn’t always have cities, walls, and houses. For millions of years, we were wild animals. Intelligent, thinking, creating, talking, inventing, trailblazing animals, sure – but animals nonetheless. We lived in nature. The “outdoors” as a concept didn’t even exist; it was everything we had.
Today, most of us can no longer live outdoors, but we can go forest bathing.
Our genes “expect” nature, you see. They need fresh air, the sound of birds, and the wind rushing through the trees overhead to function optimally.
Studies show that spending time in nature reduces stress hormones, improves mood, lowers blood pressure, and can even stimulate anti-cancer proteins in the body.
What’s funny is that forest bathing isn’t really adding anything new. It’s just correcting a deficit that almost everyone has.
If you don’t believe me, go try it out yourself.
Try to spend at least a few hours each week in a green space. Go for hikes in the country. Hang out at the park. Go on a camping trip, and see what it does to you.
In a perfect world, we could get all the nutrients we needed from our food. Ten thousand years ago, back when the topsoil was robust, the oceans were clean and full of food, and every animal you ate spent its life feeding on nutrient-rich plants and other animals, we didn’t have to worry about supplementation. Ten thousand years ago, industrial toxins hadn’t made their way into the food we ate, the air we breathed, and the water we drank.
We don’t live in that world. Much of our soil is depleted from over farming, meaning the food we eat has less nutrition than it did forty years ago. Our lives are more stressful. We sleep less. We move less. Things just aren’t the same, and, although scientific progress has made life easier in many ways, it’s also made things harder, too.
Supplementation helps restore that balance. It helps correct the nutrition deficit and stress excess.
That’s actually why I designed my own line of supplements – to bridge the gap, so to speak, and to ensure optimal health for me and my loved ones. I’d be remiss to not introduce you to these products because I am confident that most of you reading could benefit tremendously from them.
First, I recommend that everyone take a high quality supplement, if only for the basics – Vitamin D, Vital Omegas (the fish oil-based omega-3 fatty acids that are lacking in the modern diet), and Primal Flora (for good gut health). I call it the Primal Essentials kit.
If you want to go a bit further, there are the Gold or Platinum Packages. Gold is for folks who have almost everything covered, but want a bit more insurance. It includes a 30-serving supply of Primal Fuel (a delicious coconut milk-based, low-carb, high-fat, protein shake) my Advanced Health Formula (a multi-vitamin with 42 key nutrients and a high-antioxidant profile), and Primal Flora.
The Platinum Package is the ultimate in supplementation. It comes with Primal Fuel, my Damage Control Master Formula (the ultimate high-antioxidant vitamin-mineral-phytonutrient designed specifically for the demands of modern life), Primal Flora, Vital Omegas, and Vitamin D. It covers all your bases, completely, and is what my family and I use daily.
Last, but certainly not least is play.
Play is an animal’s personal laboratory.
When an animal plays, it learns how to move, how to interact with others (and the world at large), and it learns how to respond to social cues and stimuli. Play teaches problem solving. And most importantly, play is a ton of fun.
Humans are among the only animals that still play as adults. Pretty much every mammal on Earth plays as a youngster, but as an adult? Humans are a rare breed. We have the ability and inclination to play with each other, and yet we don’t. Or, we think we can’t.
You have to end that. You have to play.
I like Ultimate Frisbee and stand-up paddleboarding, personally. What’s your game?
To conclude, “all this other stuff” isn’t really superfluous or small-scale. It’s actually quite important, and I highly recommend that you give every single one an honest try before dismissing them.
Here’s hoping it goes well for you. I know it will, but I’ll say that just the same.
Take care, thanks for reading, and Grok on!
This may be the final lesson in this special series, but it’s just the beginning for you on your journey toward getting and staying Primal for life. So what’s the next step? I suggest digging through the Mark’s Daily Apple archives and top content to keep on learning. These seven lessons represent just the tip of the iceberg, and knowledge is power so never stop asking questions and searching for the truth. Next, I recommend you commit to a personal 21-day challenge. I’ve written a book to walk you through each step of the transition process. By the end of the The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation you’ll understand the 8 key concepts and be equipped with the tools you need to succeed. And if you’re looking for one-on-one support I’ve got you covered, too. The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Transformation Program goes above and beyond the cut-to-the-chase 21-Day Transformation. It includes numerous multi-media components, meal plans, one-on-one email support and much more to turn you into a fat burning beast.
I hope these resources help set you off down a path of lifelong health and wellness. Thanks for reading and Grok on!
This is the seventh of a 7-part course on how to achieve lifelong health with the Primal Blueprint. If you are not already a subscriber, click here to gain access to the rest of the lessons. You can unsubscribe at anytime and your email address will never be shared.