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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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December 31, 2010

Taking Stock of 2010: Your Annual Health Review

By Mark Sisson
40 Comments

The time leading up to New Year’s is typically about everything but resolutions – or related reflection. With the seasonal slew of parties, shopping, and travel, resolutions too often emerge spontaneously from the hazy shadow of holiday recovery. Little wonder these last minute, little thought out pledges barely make it beyond the starting gate. Here’s a modest proposal to consider: forget the resolutions (for now). Instead of planning for 2011, take the day (or more) to mull, ponder, scrutinize, dissect, chew on, and generally pore over 2010. Think long and hard – from where you were sitting last January 1st to now. What kind of year was it for your health and overall well-being? (Do I hear applause, sighs, groans?) What were your successes? Your failures? Unfinished business? New or ongoing excuses? (Hint: Brutal honesty and unbridled inquest are key here.) Wherever you are in your Primal journey, this New Year’s Eve there’s a lot to gain from a serious and thorough self-review.

So, here’s the nitty gritty. Find some time when you can be by yourself (or at least be free from rampant interruption). Take out some paper. Yes, really. Commit to the process. Here’s a PDF you can print off for this very purpose. (Added bonus: it pairs perfectly with the document in tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned.) Start perusing this year’s story.

Recall your triumphs and failures in all their revealing detail. Ask yourself what was behind the successes and shortcomings. Look your ghosts in the eye. Submitting yourself to this examination is a crucial step of the process. (You don’t want to be a step-skipper, do you?)

The principle behind the exercise is this: understanding where you’ve been – and how things have worked (or not) in the past – will help you create a more promising agenda as you move forward. On the subject of health and wellness, what did you attempt this past year? Where were you successful in your endeavors? What strategies, relationships, and other aids facilitated that success? Where did you fall short? What about your approach or motivation just didn’t get you over the hump? What excuses did you make? Write ‘em all down – every single one. What choices and situations contributed to your stumbling? What do you think could’ve helped you gain back your traction?

I’m sure you see what I’m getting at here. Examine your experience and learn from it. It’s not about kicking yourself for not following what “should’ve” worked. If you’re genuinely committed, it’s about setting yourself up for success – however that should look for you personally. We’ve all dealt in trial and error. It’s accepting the lesson that matters.

We’re all different, and some tactics do the job for some and not for others. As I’ve mentioned before, a dorm mate of mine long ago taped colorful drill sergeant like insults as “motivation” reminders in every part of the room. His note system scared off a few dates, but it worked for him. A reader I corresponded with earlier this year kept a multimedia journal tracing her personal experience going Primal. For her, it helped her get through the rough patches. Collages of family pictures – both those who’d passed from lifestyle conditions and those she wanted to live for – gave her perspective throughout her journey.

Likewise, I’ve heard from readers who followed what they read in a magazine but never fully made the process their own. Making a major lifestyle change involves more than some standard checklist. Yes, the logistical stuff matters, and for some it’s enough: amassing Primal diet tips and recipes, setting up a workout space or joining a gym, changing schedules to allow for more sleep. For most of us, however, the journey takes on more personal dimensions. It’s about knowing yourself (which, for most of us, reveals itself in new ways throughout our transitions). It’s about drawing out your deepest energies, your most creative and flexible thinking, your brave and better self. The situations and techniques that allowed you to do this in 2010 offer a good starting point for strategizing in 2011. Those that didn’t work in 2010 can generally be closed off as dead-ends.

Doing an annual review like this is foremost about strategizing, yes. However, it also offers the chance to formally let go of emotional disappointments and regrets. The other day I ran across a New Year’s e-card that drolly proposed, “Let’s never speak of 2010 again.” (Hopefully, your year doesn’t inspire that kind of reaction.) It’s not about satirical repudiation of course (what happened in 2010 stays in 2010), but about achieving a genuine mental release. New Year’s resolutions are so popular because the new year offers a clean slate, a second chance, a start over that lets anyone feel like they can steer their story in a more promising direction. There’s real power in that – but also obligation. To let go of what’s done – the failings, the stumbles, the shame, the timidity, and insecurities that may have held you back – requires examining them from every angle, turning them inside out, and finding a healthy way to relegate – and release – them to the past.

As you sit and think about 2010, try to create meaning from it, assign the role it will play in your learning process. Then decide what you will take with you. A couple years ago, I mentioned a Scottish tradition (also practiced in other cultures) of opening the door on New Year’s Eve to sweep out the preceding year and welcome in the new one. What will you be thinking of as the years cross paths tonight? What are you releasing, and what are you retaining to fortify your efforts in the new year? I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts. Enjoy a happy and safe celebration, everyone, and check back tomorrow for part two of this exercise!

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40 Comments on "Taking Stock of 2010: Your Annual Health Review"

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Susan Alexander
5 years 9 months ago

Mark ~ Another great post. Really useful. I’ve been reading you for years and have learned a ton. (Your Damage Control Master Formula totally rocks too!) I just came across a bit of wisdom that I think is the sum and substance of a response to those who don’t really “get” primal and seem to think they need all the non-primal stuff to be happy. Here it is:

~ and remember ~
The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least.

All the best in 2011, Mark.

Susan Alexander
@SusanRPM4

Rainbow
Rainbow
5 years 9 months ago

that’s a great quote, thanks Susan!

Erin Chamerlik
5 years 8 months ago

Enjoyed the post and Susan’s quote above too. Thanks so much.

Stef
5 years 9 months ago

Mark,

Love the approach. By examining what really works for us and what we really need, rather than what we want is a big step to making changes going forward. Here’s a great YouTube video by the Royal Society that touches on this. I think you’ll dig the message!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AC7ANGMy0yo

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Alison Golden
5 years 9 months ago

This is a very, very smart post.

I have been evolving my eating over 4 years to get to this point and while I still have a way to go, by taking it a year at a time, I can see that I have great, sustainable changes this year.

Minxxa
Minxxa
5 years 9 months ago

I’ve been doing the same thing. Evolving my eating slowly and it has stuck better for me that way. Even when I do “go crazy”, it’s at such a lower level and in a different way then back in the old days. And when I take a look at my overall patterns over the year, they’re pretty darn good! Yes, i still have more changes to make, and things to add in, but the stuff that I’ve done has stuck and become natural and easy…

Alison Golden
5 years 9 months ago

Exactly 🙂

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Kelda
5 years 8 months ago

I’ve spent the last year pretty much navel-gazing! And especially so the last week. Without understanding our history we cannot be successful in our futures.

Great post (yet again!), look forward to tomorrow’s follow up.

Happy New Year to all the Grokkers out there 🙂

Mergz
Mergz
5 years 8 months ago
Mark, I read your post about being barefoot on HuffPost, and put in a reply which the moderators saw fit to screen out. My reply was – “I’m a distance runner, and over the past couple of years I’ve transitioned from “traditional” running shoes (heavily padded heels) to lighter, less padded shoes. The shoes I currently wear, even for longer distance runs (over 10 miles) are almost without padding. While I was transitioning I also changed my stride to a more natural stride – landing on the balls of my and rolling rather than heel striking. In other words, how… Read more »
PoisonApple
PoisonApple
5 years 8 months ago

Because they are hippieeeeeeesss. They screen everything I try to post, I swear.

PWG
PWG
5 years 8 months ago
I’m still a PrimalWannabeGirl. When I do the kind of examining you are suggesting here, I come up with one singular notion: I DO NOT PUT MYSELF AND MY HEALTH NUMBER ONE ON THE LIST WITH SUFFICIENT CONSISTENCY. Yes, I am the sole caretaker for a disabled adult child. Yes, I have another child with serious health problems. Yes, I have a job that requires sleep disruption (on call health care worker). The two main things I have not done consistently enough: rest and exercise. I used to LOVE to move my body. But my body hurts too much to… Read more »
Kelda
5 years 8 months ago
Go for it PWG, I LOVE to swim. I used to be a mad triathlete and reached a point with training where I ended up hating to swim. I ditched all that in February after finding PB. So, go swim, just for the sheer pleasure of it – I’m now doing IMs (individual medleys – all strokes one after another) just for the fun and there’s no better way to workout your body safely. Much respect to you for doing all you do and are coping with, my lesson for me for 2011 is ‘don’t be so hard on yourself’… Read more »
DThalman
DThalman
5 years 9 months ago

swimming saved my life. maybe, just try one day at a time. remind yourself how good you will feel afterwards. before you know it you will be able to get across the pool without struggling for air. go for it.

Doodie
3 years 6 months ago
My husband cured his plantar fasciitis by going barefoot (not the normal advice), Gently stretching the achilles tendon (not the normal advice), massage and exercising his foot by repeatedly picking up soft foam balls with his toes. He was advised by an enlightened physio friend and within a month his problem had gone and has not returned. Friends are still suffering the problem after years of wearing heel lifts in their shoes(!), never going barefoot and all the normal advice. Maybe this does not work for everyone but at least it’s worth a try. Hope this helps as you need… Read more »
San
San
5 years 8 months ago

Great post. I always write down what I want to leave behind and then burn it. The biggest problem I have with that is finding the paper that burns best. 😉

Have a great new year and thanks for your amazing work.

Vance Gatlin II
5 years 8 months ago

I look at before pictures, and now. The fall from 23% bodyfat to 10%. From 175 to a fluctuating 139-142. I’m at the fat levels, now me and my kettlebells are working on adding lean body mass to go with the strength. Thanks Mark.

Earthspirit
Earthspirit
5 years 8 months ago
This year was great, I lost 17lbs with my PB style eating and exercising plan(155-138) almost down to my goal of 130. I had so much energy I was running circles everywhere, hiking, swimming at the lake almost every day, climbing trees and generally being outdoors a LOT. I didnt even get sunburnt this year and I didnt wear sunscreen! Up until July when I found out I was pregnant, and then I just sorta fell off the wagon a bit up until a few days ago. I was eating basically anything I felt like. I havent ballooned but I… Read more »
Cara
5 years 8 months ago

I’ve been eating primally for all of 2010! The health benefits have been amazing. I feel better, my skin is clearing up, and I can actively control my health. No more wondering why I’m sick all the time. Thanks Mark for helping me in the transition. Reading the inspiring stories of others keeps me going. Here’s to more people celebrating primal eating!
Happy New Year’s!

rob
rob
5 years 8 months ago

For 2011 what I am keeping is a balls-to-the-wall approach which lately has been producing good results.

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Bill
5 years 8 months ago

At 44, I’ve put on about 10 lbs of muscle and my joints never hurt anymore. Being a golf pro, that helps me with every shot. Allowing myself to eat bacon and fat has helped my sleep and overall nervous system.
2011: somehow convince those I love that this is the right path.

Clint White
Clint White
5 years 8 months ago
Do you get tired of me saying, Great Post Mark?” I say it a lot and must say it again today. I’ve been following this blog for quite some time. I bought The Primal Blueprint at it’s first offering, The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, and am a fan of Vital Omega’s. This lifestyle has been excellent for me. A way to stay healthy, eat food that tastes good, and look fit with way less effort than I had put forth in the past with conventional methods. I still cheat too much with weekend beer and will dial that back in 2011… Read more »
Joanne(mamahoodmyway)
5 years 8 months ago

Thanks cannot wait to use this idea while flogging!

Jordan Figueiredo
5 years 8 months ago

I had a great year with the help of the primal lifestyle. I have to admit; I might have stretched the 80/20 principle a bit, but still managed to lose 50 lbs. Considering I was only 215 at my peak, it has been a substantial transformation. When I get time, I will send in pictures with my story. Hopefully I will make it to your success stories post!

My goal for 2011 is to stay closer to the 80/20 principle then I did in 2010.

Thanks for everything and have Happy New Year Mark!

Jordan

maba
maba
5 years 9 months ago

Awesome post Markt! Happy new year to you and your family, have a (g)rocking year.

Melissa Fritcher
5 years 9 months ago

Great idea. Looking forward to a quiet moment to complete this exercise. It’s been an amazing year and it’s all due to going Primal. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.
Thanks for everything, Mark. Many blessings to you and yours in the coming year and beyond!

Karen
Karen
5 years 9 months ago
My husband and I started Crossfit in April after years of inactivity. We participated in a six week challenge this fall that included a primal/ zone style diet, but we call it a live-it (get it?). We gave away the clothes that were falling off of us because we never want to go back to our typical American die- it! We’ve added noticeable muscle but he still dropped 20 lbs and I dropped another 8 lbs to reach my goal weight. I’m 50 and I’m back in the sizes I wore before 3 kids! And it hasn’t really been that… Read more »
Linda Marcy
Linda Marcy
5 years 9 months ago

Just start PB on my birthday 23rd Dec. So between holidays & short period of time.. no GREAT weight loss..BUT I do not have nay joint pain at all!!! In just 1 week. I’m so excited to see what the New Year will bring.

Sterling
Sterling
5 years 9 months ago
Wishing everybody the very best for the upcoming year. I’m definitely looking forward to it because I have a lot of exciting things going on. I went seriously Paleo about 3 months about. I played around with it for a month or two some time before but slipped. Since then I’ve had results that are nothing short of mindblowing. I’m having trouble coming up with ‘what didn’t work this year’ because the successes I’ve had are pretty overwhelming. I’ve eliminated several chronic health issues that I’d been trying to resolve for 2-3 years and never had been able to track… Read more »
Ulla Lauridsen
Ulla Lauridsen
5 years 9 months ago

I started my review of 2010 and planning of 2011 a fortnight ago, and the answer to my questionaires ‘a great development in 2010’ I answered ‘discovering Marks daily apple and the paleo lifestyle’. I’ve only been primal for a few months, but I feel fantastic. I tell everyone to come here, so keep up the good work, Mark!

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Richard Harrison
Richard Harrison
5 years 9 months ago

Just a word or thanks for what you do, Mark. I have been going “primal” for about 8 months now. I have seen amazing changes. I look forward to following this lifestyle for the rest of my life. This review of ’10 and looking forward to ’11 will be very helpful. I could catalogue the changes that have occurred, but it would be long. Just, keep up the great things you do, and Happy, Healthy, successful New Year! Thanks again, Rich

Andy
5 years 8 months ago

Hi Mark,

Great post. I had some reflections, which I think fit into this strategy that you mentioned above.

http://ponderstop.blogspot.com/2010/12/new-year-resolutions.html

All the best in 2011,

Andy

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[…] Taking Stock of 2010: Your Annual Health Review […]

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[…] Mark’s Daily Apple – The time leading up to New Year’s is typically about everything but resolutions – or related reflection. With the seasonal slew of parties, shopping, and travel, resolutions too often emerge spontaneously from the hazy shadow of holiday recovery. Littl… […]

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