Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
22 May

My Escape from Vegan Island

Every once in a while, I am alternately stunned and amused by what I see being promoted in the name of good health. I had one of those “stunningly amusing” episodes when I took an eight-day vacation with my family to an all-vegetarian health and adventure retreat in Costa Rica several months ago. We had joined a group of 125 headed by Dr. John McDougall, an accomplished and well-respected physician who uses a strict vegetarian/vegan lifestyle to address disease states in his patients and (ostensibly) to promote better health among the general population. I wasn’t too keen on attending, strict carnivore that I am, but I’m always up for an experiment of one and, moreover, I was convinced by my mostly-vegetarian wife and her vegan parents that our extended family would enjoy a nice tropical vacation together. And the food promised to be so yummy… so I made the leap with my wife, two kids, the in-laws and some cousins.

Beautiful Costa Rica

First off, I must say, I did have a very enjoyable time in Costa Rica with my family, rafting, diving, zip lining and hiking…but after what I witnessed during my stay, I can assure you that I have never been so certain that the Primal Blueprint way of eating – which I have embraced for over 30 years now – is the best way to achieve and maintain excellent health. Frankly, I was appalled at both the information being disseminated during this event and at what I saw being served at every meal in the name of “health food.”

I am an omnivore and always have been. Carrie, my wife, was a vegetarian for fifteen years until I convinced her about five years ago to starting adding fish to her diet to get more protein. She still considers herself, in the words of the Outback Steakhouse guy, a “semi-veg.” My wife’s parents have been strict vegans for nearly thirty years and are ardent followers of Dr. McDougall. McDougall’s own story involves having had a severe stroke at age 19 from which, at 59, he still limps. He became an MD and eventually realized that diet was an important part of the health equation. He’s a very likable and charming guy. I had a few superficial discussions with him, even attended a few of his nightly lectures. His heart is certainly in the right place, but I fear he is leading people down a wholly inappropriate dietary path. At the risk of oversimplifying, the basis of his program is that almost all starch is good, all fat is bad and meat of any kind is deadly. It is, in his words, a “starch-based” diet, high in grains and legumes.

The attendees were generally divided into two groups: those who were fairly new to the program – many of them had some serious weight to lose – and those who had been on the McDougall program for several years. Many of the latter group, I gathered, had come to McDougall originally with one or more chronic diseases and on multiple medications. Each evening, after the adventure activity of the day (all of which were pretty sedate), Dr. McDougall would deliver a lecture intended to inform the group of the evils of traditional medicine and big pharma – much of which I generally agree with – and to demonize beef, pork, chicken, fish, dairy of all kinds and most forms of soy. I got the general gist after the first evening. He’s not a fan of supplements either. But he does imply that when you eat vegetarian, you can have all you want…and therein lay the source of much amusement for me.

The lecture would adjourn and everyone would line up for the buffet line which would, at virtually every meal, include copious amounts of breads and rolls, rice, potatoes, pasta, beans, some anemic-looking steamed vegetables and a romaine-only lettuce salad. No dressings allowed. The only fat I could see was in the guacamole that served as a spread. The desert table had a variety of fruits and at least two choices of so-called “healthy” cakes. The drinks were generally overly sweetened fruit drinks.

Now I’m not one to judge. Okay, I am, but I usually keep my mouth shut – except herein. I watched at every meal as overweight, unhealthy people piled their plates with at least two pounds of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, desert cake, and a glass of fruit juice. Sometimes they went back for more. By my calculations these people were consuming 200 to 300 or more grams of (mostly simple) carbohydrates at each of three meals. There was no way these folks were going to lose fat on this trip. It was, in my view, a type 2 diabetes epidemic in-the-making.

In fending for myself, I focused mainly on the salads and the black beans mixed with a little rice. As you regular readers know, I don’t “do” breads, potatoes, pasta, desserts or fruit drinks. I think they are unhealthy. Go figure. I have to say, it sure got old after a day or two.

Carbfest

This is Kina’s Flickr Photo

Of those who had already been on the McDougall program for years, I had the following general observation: they don’t look too healthy. People who subsist on grains and simple carbs at the expense of quality protein for any length of time tend to lose muscle mass, regardless of their exercise regimen. They are what we call “skinny fat“. Essentially, they have no lean tissue and yet they have surprisingly high body fat levels, despite their loose “skin and bones” appearance. Lean body mass is a major defining criterion of good health; and these folks were sorely lacking. Excess carbohydrate turns to fat pretty easily, but you can neither build nor preserve muscle with it. Herein lies the confusion for many folks: while glucose serves as short-term fuel for muscles, it does not build nor maintain them. One woman, a 62-year old triathlete who trains hours a day and competes almost every weekend authoritatively suggested that I was a fool to eat meat and that I should embrace the McDougall program as she had for 15 years. Problem was, she looked like hell. No muscle tone at all and, I suspect, a fairly high body fat for someone who fancied herself an athlete. It took all I had to keep from saying something that might have spoiled her trip!

As with any diet regimen, Dr. McDougall backs his theories up with studies. But that’s the biggest problem with the “science” of nutrition: anyone can find a study here or there that supports almost any premise. To wit: Fish is great because it’s a source of important Omega 3 fats, but fish is bad because it’s a source of toxic heavy metals, but fish is great because the heavy metals are not actually present at realistically dangerous levels, but fish is bad because the fish lobby was the one funding the study on relative safety, and on ad infinitum.

If there were a right answer, everyone would be doing it. I guess the best any of us can do is to align the “receptivity filters” in our brains with our current belief systems and create habits that reinforce those beliefs – and that, hopefully, result in healthy bodies and minds. Ultimately, I have chosen to believe that we were programmed to eat primarily small portions of meat and vegetables, with a little fruit thrown in occasionally. It works for me (53 years old, 5’10” 165 lbs and 8% body fat).

Life's a beach!

Problem is, if you have no understanding of biology or chemistry, you can easily fall for that old vegan argument that meat is bad (notwithstanding the fact that there has never, in the entire history of man, been a country, culture or race that subsisted entirely on vegetables without animal flesh of some kind). Many people do fall for it. They also fall for the old “protein leaches calcium” argument, completely ignoring the fact that bones require protein as well as weight bearing activity to promote bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Or that stress has a far greater impact on preventing absorption of calcium than excess protein in the diet. But here I am giving you my opinion again and it’s only based on studies that my filters have shown align with my own beliefs…

I was fascinated by what I saw to be the complete antithesis of a healthy diet being offered up as the healthiest way to eat. And by people willing to accept that they could eat all they want of this high-carb fare and regain their lost health in the process. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid losing a few pounds of hard-fought muscle myself over the week. Luckily, I was able to regain homeostasis shortly after returning home. And ultimately, I was left with a confidence that following Primal Blueprint path is exactly what humans were designed to do.

What are your thoughts on vegetarianism, carbohydrates, and protein?

Be sure to stick around for today’s Tuesday 10.

Best of MDA

(This piece was originally posted at my friend Art DeVany’s blog.)

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. @Veronica, I wonder if you’ve really investigated the Primal diet. Some of your statements are not quite true. Primal “dieters” are more aware of their meats’ origins, more conscience of their meat choices, seeking grass fed, free range alternatives and even sorking directly with providers.

    But that is not all that I can argue with your points. Yes there is a great deal of difference in each of our responses to the food we consume, but there are facts that are not unique to each of us, such as the natural pesticidal nature of these foods.

    Raw foods are no cure all, in fact my seduction by the raw foods appeal resulted directly in my present struggle with auto-immune problems from leaky gut. Arguably, I was gaining weight on the SAD diet, but it hadn’t triggered an auto immune condition (yet!). Once I went raw and began consuming the raw lectins and saponins in far greater volumes, I did lose weight but I damaged my gut and began my battle with auto-immune pain.

    The only relief for me has been a strict primal diet.

    While some people handle the pesticidal attributes of grains, legumes and nightshades better than others, they are playing with a personal timebomb. The vegans and vegetarians whether they practice raw or not are not only not immune to this eventuality, their food choices are making them more susceptible to problems at some point.

    Best of luck to you, but I hope you keep the experience of so many of us in this discussion in mind as you will likely have your mind changed by your body at some point. I apologize for my apparent arrogance, but this is painful experience speaking and the fact of a near epidemic of inflammatory ailments due to diet in America that persuade me of this.

    Brian wrote on January 20th, 2011
    • Saponins are found to be anti-inflammatory; not the inverse. besides they lower blood cholesterol which you will certainly have in excess if you eat lots of meats and saturated facts (Peterson, 1950).
      Saponins are currently preferred as human-safe immunological adjuvants to elicit higher titres of antibodies (Wu et al., 1992; Sangeetaa , 1994; Kensil et al., 1995; Kameswara Rao and Sangeetaa, 1997)
      Foods with high concentrations of lectins, such as beans, cereal grains, seeds, and nuts, may be harmful if consumed in excess in UNCOOKED or IMPROPERLY COOKED form.
      A recent in vitro study has suggested that the mechanism of lectin damage may occur by interfering with the repair of ALREADY-DAMAGED epithelial cells (Miyake K, Tanaka T, McNeil PL, 2007).

      catherine wrote on June 13th, 2011
      • Saturated facts? LOL. I guess that’s what I think of all those high protein-fat; low carbs diets. They are all the same anyway.

        catherine wrote on June 13th, 2011
  2. HELP! I’ve really enjoyed all the various expereinces posted here. I am 49 and started Dr. Calwell’s vegan diet 14 days ago. I have a family history of CAD and my recent blood work was on the high side. To date I’ve dropped 5 pounds, but I am struggling with no fat and no meat. I haven’t fallen off the wagon, but I have days where the beans, whole grain rice, and veggies are so unappealing that I feel I may “lose my cookies” if I eat one more bite. Any thoughts/ideas?

    BK wrote on January 21st, 2011
  3. Oh my lord. I just lost half an hour of my life that I’ll never get back again.

    I see it’s time to dust off my neglected blog and do another post on this subject. Sigh. If I must. (muahahahaha!)

    Dana wrote on February 14th, 2011
  4. Dana,

    I agree. Clinton looks horrible.

    i’d become too cold on < 50% fat diet, probably would get frost bites. (i have mild Raynauld syndrome)

    regards,

    PHK wrote on February 26th, 2011
  5. Becoming an ex-vegan is somewhat like becoming an ex-antiracist or an ex-antisexist — you have to wonder just how unprejudiced the person was to begin with. Humans are natually repulsed by the sight and smell of a dead animal with ripped guts and intestines sticking out, while any natural meat-eater would happily make lunch out of it. On the other hand, we love the smell and sight of fresh cut grass, fruits, and other vegetation. This says a lot. Veganism is a perfectly good diet for anyone and the only moral diet. Anyone who claims to be an ex-vegan must be made-up by the meat industry.

    TheTruth wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • “Humans are natually repulsed by the sight and smell of a dead animal with ripped guts and intestines sticking out, while any natural meat-eater would happily make lunch out of it.”

      Grok wouldn’t be repulsed by this – it would be a common sight for him. I would imagine most people who hunt aren’t repulsed by it either, nor are biologists and veterinarians who deal with that sort of thing all the time. The only reason humans these days are so repulsed by ‘blood ‘n’ guts’ is because we’re so far removed from the production of our food.

      The pure and simple truth of the matter is that a human on a vegan diet cannot take in all the nutrients he or she needs to survive without taking supplements. We did not evolve to survive on zero animal products.

      Allison wrote on February 28th, 2011
      • I’d like to also add that if one wants to minimize animal suffering, a vegan diet is not the way to do it. By refusing to purchase any animal products, you are electing to have no say whatsoever in the treatment of animals used by humans. However, if you choose to buy humanely raised and slaughtered meat, you are creating demand for that product. You are showing the food production industry that there exists a population that wants properly raised food and is willing to pay for it. If enough people demanded this, it would become standard, and factory farmed meat would no longer be the norm.

        Allison wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • @TheTruth – did you bother reading the contributions to this blog? Dozens of people relating their experiences and all you can do is rehash the “only moral diet” kindergarten level view. Most respectfully disagree with veganism based upon sound science and personal experience and you come in unprepared and share only disdain. You are not worthy of this group of moral individuals.

      Brian wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • pixel wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • Funny you should say. Nothing squicks me out faster than a soft, rotten piece of fruit.

      candy wrote on October 2nd, 2012
    • TheTruth….you make no valid point nor sway opinion by being insulting and ignorant, nor by being sanctimonious in claiming your way is the only moral way. It’s the all too common posts like yours, made by vegans, that is the primary reason this subject often strays into trading insults.

      Xfingxfing wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  6. if i go to a he Vegan land, i probably would have to bring my own “survival kit” (butter, cheese, perhaps Primal Fuel, etc.).

    cause beans & salad disagree with my digestive system + i also avoid grains (except small amount of rice).
    i also don’t eat fruit alone.

    sounds like the only food i could eat is white rice. but then i probably have to add tons of butter/coconut oil to avoid glucose spike.

    cheers,

    PHK wrote on February 28th, 2011
  7. I was a fat vegan. My weight has fluctuated considerably over the years. I was 230lbs, then 160lbs after a meat-centric Atkins Diet. Then I read Gail Eisnitz’ Slaughterhouse, along with The China Study, Animal Liberation, Diet for a Small Planet, etc. I became vegan and my weight stayed the same for many years. I then slowly gained the weight back. 230lbs. I dropped all of the carb foods recently, and I am doing a low carb lacto ovo vegetarian diet. I am losing a pound a day and feel great. I now eat more green vegetables than I did on a vegan diet. I just use cage free eggs and butter to reduce hunger. Veganism will leave you hungry because the carbohydrate content is typically too high and causes ups and downs in blood sugar. It can be done low carb though, and I plan to replace eggs with tofu scramble, and butter with coconut oil. Another problem with my vegan lifestyle is that potato chips and french fries are vegan. No one should eat those like they’re a food group, and I did. Another point. I think the argument that plants are alive the same way cows are is coarse and ignorant. It is a matter of SENTIENCE and HARM REDUCTION. It is also much healthier for the environment and for starving peoples that industrialized countries find ways to reduce our impact on the Earth as stewards instead of strip miners. Anyone who isn’t a climate change denier can agree with this or a Cartesian dualist can agree with the aforementioned points. Plants cannot feel, and so ripping them violently from the ground does not make me cringe. Debeaking a broiler chicken, or “sticking” a cow does make my human brain react with intense disgust. I think humans evolved with so little meat in our diet that we don’t really need it. But I think based on archeological evidence that we ate coarse watery vegetables, fatty nuts and seeds, and lots of fiber. Along the lines of the paleo/primal argument that we were healthier before the agricultural revolution, I argue that we lived on things that we could find growing wild (which were far higher in fiber than any domesticated grains/legumes/starchy plants). Animals were largely domesticated around the same time we domesticated many plants. These foods were selected for their ability to make us fat, in times when being fat was unheard of in all but the wealthiest classes.

    Lorin wrote on March 7th, 2011
    • Lorin, your misconceptions regarding the ethics and efficacy of veganism are addressed in Leirre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth. I recommend that you pick up a copy.

      http://www.lierrekeith.com/vegmyth.htm

      mikehell wrote on March 7th, 2011
  8. I was vegetarian for a few years, but I eat meat regularly now. But I only buy sustainably raised or caught animals. I also eat other people’s leftover meat, regardless of how it was raised or caught.
    I still have a lot of respect for vegetarians and vegans, provided they are aware they’re not doing it for their health. I certainly wasn’t. I did it for the sake of the environment. And I still order vegetable plates when I eat out – I’d rather forgo a serving of protein than buy my vote for factory farming.

    Rachel wrote on March 16th, 2011
  9. I have been lacto-ovo-vegetarian and primal. while vegetarian, i ate only organic whole grains, eggs, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, veggies, and small amounts of organic dairy. i felt great, didnt get sick, and was working out 5 times a week. now i am primal so its basically the same diet for me but i dont include whole grains. i havent really been able to tell much of a difference. i really think the key is to not eat processed foods or junk. just my take.

    carlos wrote on April 5th, 2011
  10. wow, I want the last 30 minutes of my life back. This place wreaks of “Weston Price”…..the bottom line is you should live and eat in the way that makes YOU feel better. I am vegan but I won’t preach because I could give a fu$% how anyone else lives…sorry. If you like to eat meat and feel better because of it, go for it.

    …and DANA honey, you make some good points and many not so good points. You need to brush up on B12 and where it originates from dear.

    Marthk wrote on April 19th, 2011
  11. I think the truest point here is that there is always a piece of ‘evidence’ somewhere to back any argument. I have been vegan for 14 years now, I made this decision on moral grounds rather than health grounds. In the UK we try to follow the eat well plate which is 2 thirds starchy foods and veg and fruit, the remaining third is protein and dairy or dairy alternatives. I think this is the best approach as it is simple and stops people obsessing about obscure minerals they night be missing. You can’t top a sensible diet with fresh ingredients. I’ve followed this since the age of 14. I have good health and I have a slim figure. If I wasn’t to hold my beliefs about animal rights I would still follow the eat well plate model and only eat good quality meat or fish maybe twice a week.

    rosie wrote on April 25th, 2011
  12. I agree with all you have written and I love the term skinny fat. Since adopting this way of eating and training I have often noticed that some people have a “carb body” i.e. they are skinny fat. Alot of celebs have this look and it is held up as the ideal. I do have a little look around at the gym and I feel sorry for the cardio bunnies; (claws out!) the poor things have to run for ages and ages and for what? To have NO BUM!! They “won’t touch weights” for “fear” of getting muscles. Fear? Man I want muscles and I want a chunky sticking out arse! Carbs shrink the chunk from parts where you want chunk and give you flab where you don’t want it.

    Polecatz wrote on April 28th, 2011
  13. I was vegan for a little over two years–and then I stumbled upon MDA. ’nuff said.

    … But I’ll continue. I was about 270 lbs when I went vegan and went down to about 235 in less than a year. It was pretty awesome because I’d been overweight my ENTIRE life, despite being very strong and athletic; I was always heavy. So actually being able to lose weight was pretty cool.

    But then, it stalled. And I noticed myself slowly, but surely, gaining some of the weight back, putting me at 245 lbs. A bit frustrated with my vegan diet, I researched other dietary options, as well as taking in anything that CW would dish out at me, and nothing seemed to be working.

    And then, like the beacon of light that it is, I stumbled upon the Primal Blueprint last month. And in less than a month, I went down from 245 lbs to 229 lbs! Like magic!

    So yeah. Long story short, I’m not vegan anymore. lol And I don’t miss it ONE bit.

    Venne wrote on May 15th, 2011
  14. Dana your probably the most annoying blogger I’ve ever had to thumb past…. Your an idiot.

    Ryan wrote on May 20th, 2011
    • Ryan….you’re an idiot, as in you are…not your.

      Anyhow, realize that nobody read your post and thought oh wow, Dana must be an idiot ’cause this Ryan guy just said so….no, anybody reading your post automatically thinks this Ryan guy’s an a-hole.

      Xfingxfing wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  15. I’m a vegan, and I’ll say ive run across a bunch of of people who don’t do it well. As far as eating more plants goes- I feel great. I have way more energy. I still follow a ‘healthy’ lifestyle though. I balance what I eat. I eat plants high in protein and I pay attention to how my body feels. I don’t overdo the sweet or fried things- in fact, i crave them less anyway.
    I’m not gonna pretend, sometimes it’s hard to get everything you need. You really have to listen to how your body feels, and eat enough! Most plants do not have all the essential amino acids. You have to plan accordingly. It really takes thinking at first, but you get used to eating what you eat.
    All in all, veganism is a lifestyle choice and in my opinion not necessary for everyone. I do it for pretty generic reasons, not because of some obscure ‘health food’ program or religion. Keep in mind there’s a few vegans who havent lost their minds due to malnutrition :p

    Lulu wrote on July 24th, 2011
  16. These people aren’t vegetarians, they’re starchitarians. I knew someone like that once. (She gave up meat for ethical, not health, reasons.) Problem was, while she didn’t eat meat, she didn’t much like vegetables, either, other than corn and potatoes. The healthiest she ever got was to eat salsa. Over the period of a year and a half that I knew her, she ballooned out horridly.

    It is possible to eat vegetarian in a healthy manner. She did not. It is also possible for good chefs to make excellent vegetarian meals — I’m going camping in a week, and I’m doing the vegetarian plan because 1) I don’t want to eat burger from some factory and 2) this chef can COOK, and he’s willing to use reasonably real ingredients in a creative manner. He’s also not afraid of oil, or protein. (Otherwise I’d be bringing my own food, but I’m glad this is working out.)

    Of Goats and Greens wrote on July 29th, 2011
  17. Well… after reading many of these posts… my feelings are really damaged. Everyone carried on about the cattle producers being these horrible immoral people, but really we are nice normal folks! Its the feedlots that we have to sell our animals to that everyone should be upset with – but look at the reality of it, how many million people live in the US? I’m Canadian but is it like 300 some million.. most living in urban areas. So, how to feed all these people – and quickly enough to keep up with demand – feedlots. Its unfortunate but thats the way it is. As soon as all you urban people start growing your own food, we can do away with mass production. Which by the way is not only in the meat industry, all produce unless it comes from your own garden, is mass produced either in field or green house – TO FEED THE MASSES. Organic or not – it is forced to keep up with the huge population. And for those of you who think raising animals for meat is wrong – what do you think is fertilizing your “organic” vegetables? Usually animal or human manure.
    So 1. Love your local farmer/rancher buy their product directly from them and then there is no cruelty argument.Because no rancher will do harm to the animals that they make their living with, in fact the opposite.We spend thousands of dollars a year on health and wellness – not including man hours spent caring for the herd.
    2.Plant a garden instead of a lawn and buy your own chicken or two – which leads me to another strange issue I have – vegetarians who eat “free-range eggs” – umm you are eating baby chickens you know – LOL very immoral indeed!

    Tanya wrote on July 31st, 2011
  18. What do you think about that? http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357
    I’m vegan for 7 years now. My diet supplies me with all the essential nutrients according to my daily needs calculator in http://www.nutritiondata.com . My blood tests are perfect and I’m perfectly healhty.
    So am I a miracle? But the problem is almost all of my friends are vegans and they all are exactly like me. So are we all miracles? And, is ADA wrong? (look the first link above). I mean whom I’m supposed to believe? You or ADA and my blood tests?

    yan wrote on August 8th, 2011
  19. Amazing how everyone knows EVERYTHING.

    Lana wrote on August 9th, 2011
    • They more I learn, the less I truly know. I suppose that is why ignorance is bliss.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 23rd, 2012
  20. i am a mexican vegetarian, according to my doctor butter and yogurth is ok, strict vegans say those are animal products….since i dont see any legs or wings in those products i keep eating them moderately, a fresh cheese once a week…for the rest you dont really need animals in your diet, i think being a lacto vegetarian is ok, vegans are way to exagerated

    alex wrote on August 14th, 2011
  21. perhaps we can ask vegan and vegetarian athlethes if they get tired, navratilova never looked tired or brendan frazier, ask those chinese guys in cirque du soleil if they need meat, what obout my self, in a regular day i body surf for two hours, then i may mountain bike for an hour or finish day ith 100 pull ups being 110 kg at 6’0….the b12 is a scam, is all a cattle bussines agenda!!

    alex wrote on August 14th, 2011
  22. sometimes i cut all dairy products for a month, i called my cleaning phase, and there is a lot you can cook and mix to have a great diet, you dont have to be a nutriologist!! just have to know the nutrients in your food…

    alex wrote on August 14th, 2011
  23. My mum recently became a vegan, and I cringe every time I see her eat. She gets NO protein whatsoever. For lunch she has a massive plate of pineapple with an equally massive plate of dates, as well as an unholy amount of bread, pasta, and other forms of what is basically sugar. CRINGE!

    Milla wrote on August 26th, 2011
    • Wow! Does she have diabetes yet? I’d buy a sugar monitor and check her sugar every day. That’s just too much sugar consumed on her part and will definitely catch up to her. My aunt got on board the juicing trend (from cans w/o added sugar but essentially pure sugar nonetheless) and ended up a full-blown type-2 diabetic, whereas before, she was not. So challenge your mom to check her sugar, if there is still time.

      Paia wrote on August 22nd, 2013
  24. Hi. I just watched a portion of McDougall’s video on how good starches are. I do not take issue with his statement that starches are good. Some people do very well on starches. I do object to his claim that we can live all our lives on a high-starch, low-fat, low-protein diet such as he promotes. It is crazy.

    However, you said you met a 62 year old triathlete who didn’t look good. Anyone who can exercise like she does – well, I wouldn’t criticize. Maybe she doesn’t value the sort of look you promote as being indicative of great health. I don’t argue with results: if she is happy with her body and her diet and her highly active life, hey, what’s it to me…

    Serbian Bellflower wrote on August 31st, 2011
  25. What about vegan athletes and bodybuilders? They don’t look like the “skinny fat” you mentioned in the article.

    Saab wrote on September 12th, 2011
  26. Although I’ve been following a carb restricted, primal sort of diet for awhile, I did buy a copy of one of McDougall’s earlier books, “The McDougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss”, just to satisfy my curiosity.

    In the early part of the book he talks a lot about the importance of keeping insulin levels low. Among the factors that he associates with obesity are the consumption of sugar and refined foods. His prohibited food list includes anything made from flour (i.e., bread and pasta). He specifically recommends limiting sugar because it spikes blood sugar, which raises insulin. He advocates complex carbohydrates (starch) because they digest slowly (according to him) and thus minimize blood sugar elevation, and thus insulin elevation.

    So I am surprised to read that a McDougall retreat would include lots of bread, pasta, and sweetened beverages on the menu. That seems at odds with his theories about blood sugar and insulin. It would be interesting to know why the disconnect between what he preaches and what he serves in the dining room.

    The other suspect point is his belief that complex carbohydrates in the form of starch don’t spike blood sugar, and thus don’t elevate insulin. There seems to be a lot of contrary evidence to that claim, including a lot of type II diabetics who see every day on their blood sugar meters that starches are quite capable of spiking blood sugar level, much more so than eggs or cheese or meat.

    McDougall is a a big fan of potatoes, both white and sweet. I know that there are cultures who have survived on mostly those and allegedly do not have trouble with obesity or diabetes. But my own limited experience is that they push my blood sugar to uncomfortably high levels. Perhaps if you have barely gotten enough calories for most of your existence, and never gotten heavy, then you can tolerate that kind of diet with minimal metabolic risk. But that doesn’t describe the America I see. In this country we have a high percentage that are already overweight and showing signs of impaired glucose/carbohydrate metabolism. Maybe McDougall’s diet can help some of them, if they haven’t already damaged things beyond repair. Perhaps if your blood sugar control issue stems strictly from insulin resistance, and your pancreas and liver are still capable of functioning optimally, then you can go back to an early agrarian diet and survive, or even thrive. But if you already have evidence of impaired blood sugar control, I’d proceed with caution when loading up on rice, beans, and potatoes, because your liver and pancreas may be sufficiently impaired that you can never again carb up.

    Craig wrote on September 12th, 2011
  27. If we are, in fact, designed to eat meat and veggies, which you claim DOES require cooking, then WHY does no other species on the planet cook its food!!? Are humans the exception to the rule? Are the other species too stupid to realize they need to cook their food to obtain the correct nutrients they need to survive with optimal health? Face it, any “natural” diet that requires you to cook the food is not truly natural, and if you follow the rule that all species are designed to eat food in nature “as is,” then that points us humans toward a fruit-based diet, with certain vegetables as well, and maybe some nuts and seeds, all foods which can be eaten in their raw state. The argument, heating vegetables releases certain nutrients, may be true, but it is BS – if nature intended for humans to consume those “extra nutrients,” it would not require we cook them!

    Ryan wrote on September 15th, 2011
    • Meat does not “require” cooking. It just tastes better that way. No other species on the planet has learned to do math, build enormous complex buidlings, combine random materials and turn them into ‘stuff’, read, write, make tools etc, etc, so……… should we not be doing that either?

      Tanya wrote on September 16th, 2011
      • Still, if we were truly omnivores (or carnivores), then the thought of eating raw, freshly killed, bloody animal organs wouldn’t disgust us, because it doesn’t disgust the true natural animal killers. If you can eat meat that way, then good for you, but I know I could never eat a bloody animal organ.

        Ryan wrote on September 16th, 2011
      • I agree. I think a virtuous cycle of nutrition and brain development allowed humans to then use their brains to cook meat, enjoy it more and benefit from even greater brain development. I think so, anyhow.

        Milla wrote on September 19th, 2011
      • Relative to size, various insects build massive structures.

        I agree with the premise that cooking foods made more nutrients available, which in turn made humans more intelligent. Now we are so smart that we have made crappy processed foods and are devolving. Enjoy the ride.

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 23rd, 2012
      • Meat may not REQUIRE cooking but, I’m sure glad we do. Parasitic worms in meat can kill and is probably why man was not long-lived (on the whole) until we utilized fire and roasted the parasitic devils dead before we consumed them.

        Paia wrote on August 22nd, 2013
    • An Anth 101 course should adequately answer while we cook meat while other animals don’t. Short form – it puts a wider range of things edible if we cook them. Applies to plants as well as meat.

      Kevin wrote on September 19th, 2011
  28. In virtually every magazine article and internet article I see on “vibrant good health” the top banner shows someone running or partaking of some stupid sports.

    For God’s sake, stop already! Since when is running up a storm the only indicator of stamina, good health, strength, and so on? My parents NEVER ran (except when chasing wayward cattle)and you would tire out simply reading the list of what they did every day. And then they went to bed at 10 PM or so, got up at 6:30 and did it all over again. For decades.

    They did eat meat, but also plenty of grains every day, usually at supper (rice, millet, buckwheat, boiled cornmeal, home made noodles, home made white bread) in various forms, and every day, too – which is what they fed me and my brothers and sisters. Neither had diabetes or anything else, for that matter. So don’t knock grain consumption.

    For those of you on the meat and vegetable diet, I’d like to see you after 40 years of this, with no secret lapses into heavy or refined carbs, of course.

    We were meant to eat the mixed diet of our civilized, not paleolithic, ancestors. The 10,000 year old mixed carb, vegetable, dairy and meat diet is what our body has adapted to. Our bodies are not those of cavemen any more. If anyone does well on a pure meat and vegetable diet, it’s only temporary. Your body will someday rebel (unless, maybe you are of aboriginal ancestry). This is what happens all the time to big pushers of raw or cooked veganism. They go on secret binges of meat and grease and then continue to brag about their “good health”.

    And while I’m here, I better tell you that all that endless run-run-running is not a healthful pursuit. It is neurotic and bad for your body. Unless you load up on mineral supplements, a lot of you will suffer cramps and other byproducts of this unnatural form of exercise.

    Balanced, natural exercise is the way to go. I’d recommend the performance of useful, necessary, productive labor every day, and lots of it. Like my parents and me.

    Wyandotte wrote on September 18th, 2011
  29. I spent the last 5 years living as a vegetarian. I did it for the animals, and for the fact that the meat and poultry industries are inherently cruel and I did not want to support such organizations. I also gained weight when I first stopped eating meat, instead relying heavily on breads, pastas, and all sorts of carbs to fill me up. After tayloring back the carbs and consuming more vegetables and legumes, I lost the additional weight and thought I was on my path to a healthier and cruelty-free lifestyle. Fast forward to 2011… I have completed my first triathlon, and I’m feeling better than ever! Not long after though, my body broke down. All the chronic cardio, empty calories, and lack of proper supplementation had caught up with me and I felt miserable. My back, neck and shoulders were rock hard (not in the good way!), full of knots, and I was suffering from painful muscle spasms. My asthma was worse than ever, migraines nearly every day, and I was the depression and anxiety I had battle since my early twenties was flaring up more frequently and intensely. After trying to tough it out for a few weeks I finally caved in and visited a chiropractor who introduced me to Mark’s blog and the Primal lifestyle. I have been hooked ever since! It has been a little over two months now, and while I am still in recovery, I feel so, SO much better! Reintroducing meat into my diet was an emotional obstacle I had to cross, but by focusing on clean meats I am able to reassure myself that these animals were well fed and hopefully raised and slaughtered humanely. By eating organic fruits and vegetables I also know I am helping the environment by not contributing to companies that use pesticides which will eventually land as run-off in our rivers and oceans. I am officially a convert and am looking forward to truly feeling 100% again through living as Grok would!

    Carmen wrote on September 26th, 2011
  30. After my carnivore hubby had a stroke and a heart attack before the age of 40, we went on the McDougall diet. My husband played soccer and basketball, climbed mountains and never had any heart symptoms at all. He was a dairy lover and we just loved the diet books that said meat was great.
    Our motto now? Life is better than food. Not only is he off very dangerous BP meds, has great BP, looks fabulous, lots of energy and his hairline stopped receding, I love that we don’t eat animals. Now cheese smells like what it is, fermented liquid designed to make a calf grow really fast. And the meat department at Whole Foods? It smells like dead animals, it makes me glad we are vegan.
    I can’t believe I once swallowed the garbage that meat is good, potatoes are bad. Chicken is good, carrots are bad. Pork is good, whole grain bread is bad. Just look at the maps of heart disease and breast cancer. They are lit up in the meat eating countries.
    Read the China Study. If you don’t get it, read it again. We are not baby cows, we are not lions with carnivore eating teeth. Veggies and fruit and whole grains are foods to thrive on. Life is better than food. But now I know there is no better food than vegan food!

    Jessica wrote on October 6th, 2011
    • You seriously need to research what you’re arguing against before you start off on your rants. We eat, in Mark’s words, “reckless amounts of vegetables”. We don’t eat a lot of fruit because we avoid excessive sugar. We don’t eat grains because of anti-nutrients, high GIs, and low nutritional value for the amount of sugar in them.

      Tyler wrote on October 10th, 2011
      • Grains are okay for most of us in moderation when properly prepared and cooked according to the Weston Price information.

        I suspect that people began to crave grains and dairy products simultaneously as they provide a sort of crude balance to each other. Improperly prepared grains will indeed suck minerals out but dairy products will re-provide them.

        Or, conversely, people eating too much (or any?) dairy products may be excessively mineralized so grains will do the job of removing them.

        Wyandotte wrote on October 10th, 2011
  31. I am convinced we are going to kill animals weather we want to or not: 1992, after leaving the Army in Arizona I drove back to Washington, probably killing several hundred thousand bugs, it took lots of water to get them all out of the radiator of the car they had jammed themselves into, not to mention the windshield.
    I’ve loved food in general all my life, going from 15% post army fat in 1992 to 30% today in 2011. Clearly SOMETHING went wrong!
    As I look at all the possible new eating lifestyle to attach myself to, it feels like being at an amusement park…hey there’s the vegan ride “let me show you some videos of fat inside your arteries!”…when you done there come over to the low carb high meat diet: “you’ll loose that HI GI spike and weight while at the same time eating the best meat if your life!”
    …wait, there’s more! “Don’t forget to first detox for 10 days on lemons and Maple Syrup!”
    In the end I come to the conclusion that the Primal Living “way” seems to be the right mix. I believe that eating some protein every day from animal sources will be a good thing, but rather than my past style of 300 grams per day, maybe 100 is a good level with lots of raw foods. also I believe the bread problem is real. Everyone I know eats bread at least twice per day. I’m cutting it completely. Well see how I’ve done in a few months.

    Edgar Edgar wrote on October 10th, 2011
  32. I found this blog as I’m researching fats, due to concern about adding a lot of meat back to my diet. It’s looking like the general consensus will, like smoking, turn out to be omega 6 pufas and refined carbs, and most def NOT sat fats as the culprits. Just dig a bit thru wikipedia&google prostaglandins series 12&3, cholesterol tc:hdl, coconut oil has all the good sat fats. If you’re vegan, have algae – spirulina and chlorella for your omega 3s; that’s where fish get them, and coconut oil. If lo-veg also have o-3 eggs. Use the oils mark recommends but rice bran oil for high heat instead of lard etc. Youre doing better than those eating factory & preserved meats that’s for sure!

    emily wrote on October 13th, 2011
  33. You have vegan in laws? omigosh! This is the best article. I just escaped from my own vegan island…was vegan for 2 years to bring a total of 25 years of vegetarianism. I am so “skinny fat” still, and this article finally clarified it all for me! I wonder how long does it take to reverse this and gain some muscle composition? I assume it’s a slow process after so much time. Maybe it’s already happening though, so gradually that I don’t notice. I also got progressively more and more fatigued as a vegan, and that has been a gradual healing process, too. It is so nice to not only have energy again, but to be free of those strangely limiting beliefs about health.

    Tiff wrote on October 15th, 2011
  34. After being a vegan for 4 years. ( proper Plant nutrition , no soy , no wheat) I’ve switched over to a more personalized diet. First off, vegan diets have not stood the test of time. Two or three generations of healthy fertile humans need to be bred on vegan diets to conclude that they are indeed healthy. With that said, vegan diet has caused me personal harm and damage. My diet now consists of raw organic dairy, raw grass fed meat, organic fruit and vegetables much of which comes from my own garden.

    Marcus Bradley wrote on October 19th, 2011
  35. suggest your folks actually go read about the mcdougall menu’s:

    here’s the next retreat, let them make the call:

    WEDNESDAY 6:30PM DINNER BUFFET
    MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH OIL FREE DRESSINGS
    BOWLS OF ASSORTED VEGETABLES & BEANS
    TWO STEAMED VEGETABLES
    DIJON SPINACH SALAD (Quick & Easy Pg. 16)
    VEGETABLE BARLEY SALAD (New Cookbook Pg. 196)
    PEA SOUP ( NL Nov. 2004)
    BAKED YAMS, PEANUT DRESSING (NL FEB 2006)
    Serve dressing on side
    POLENTA WITH BLACK BEANS AND MANGO SALSA (NL Sept. 2004)
    CONFETTI RICE (Quick & Easy Pg. 93) SERVE WARM
    SHEPHERD’S VEGETABLE PIE (NL April 2002) DO NOT COVER WHEN BAKING
    FRUIT COBBLER (NL MAY 2004)
    HERB TEA, DECAF ICED TEA
    RICE MILK, ALMOND MILK

    ——————————————————————————–

    THURSDAY 7:30AM BREAKFAST BUFFET
    STEEL CUT IRISH OATMEAL (NL Dec 2004)
    RICE MILK, SOY MILK, ALMOND MILK
    SLICED BANANAS, CHOPPED APPLE
    ASSORTED SLICED FRUIT
    CINNAMON, MACE, NUTMEG (in shaker jars)
    STEVIA, BROWN SUGAR
    COLD CEREALS: PUFFED CORN, PUFFED RICE, PUFFED MILLET
    SHREDDED WHEAT, GRAPENUTS, UNCLE SAM CEREAL
    BAKED POTATO PATTIES (New Cookbook Pg. 313)
    SALSA, KETCHUP, BARBECUE SAUCE
    HERB TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    THURSDAY 1:00PM LUNCH BUFFET
    MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH OIL FREE DRESSINGS
    BOWLS OF ASSORTED VEGETABLES & BEANS
    STEAMED VEGETABLES (squash, spinach, carrots) sautéed with ORIENTAL DIJON DRESSING (Quick and Easy Pg. 48)
    CHUNKY VEGETABLE SALAD (Weight Loss Pg. 204)
    SOUTHWESTERN BLACK BEAN SOUP (New Cookbook Pg. 163)
    ASIAN RICE SALAD (Quick & Easy Pg. 28)
    MAPLE MASHED SWEET POTATOES (NL Oct 2004)
    WICKED MUSHROOMS (NL March 2005)
    BAKED POTATOES, BROWN RICE
    GLOBAL BEAN STEW (NL May 2005)
    KETCHUP, BARBECUE SAUCE, SALSA
    HERB TEA, DECAF ICED TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    THURSDAY 6:30PM DINNER BUFFET
    MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH OIL FREE DRESSINGS
    BOWLS OF ASSORTED VEGETABLES & BEANS
    SHREDDED SALAD (Weight Loss Pg. 209)
    STEAMED VEGETABLES
    MEXI SOUP (Quick & Easy Pg. 75)
    TEX-MEX POTATOES (NL Feb 2005)
    WITH ENCHILADA SAUCE (Quick & Easy Pg. 221)
    INSTANT MEXICAN BROWN RICE (Quick and Easy Pg. 100)
    MASHED PINTO BEANS (New Cookbook Pg. 284)
    ONIONS, DICED TOMATO, SHREDDED LETTUCE, SALSA
    WHOLE WHEAT AND CORN TORTILLAS
    TABASCO SAUCE
    RICE PUDDING (NL Feb. 2003)
    RICE MILK, ALMOND MILK
    BASKET OF ASSORTED FRESH FRUIT
    HERB TEA, DECAF ICED TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    FRIDAY 7:30AM BREAKFAST BUFFET
    MULTI GRAIN HOT CEREAL (NL Dec 2004)
    RICE MILK, SOY MILK, ALMOND MILK
    SLICED BANANAS, CHOPPED APPLE
    ASSORTED SLICED FRUIT
    CINNAMON, MACE, NUTMEG (in shaker jars)
    STEVIA, BROWN SUGAR
    COLD CEREALS: PUFFED CORN, PUFFED RICE, PUFFED MILLET
    SHREDDED WHEAT, GRAPENUTS, UNCLE SAM CEREAL
    GALLO PINTO (NL Aug 2003)
    SALSA, TABASCO
    HERB TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    FRIDAY 1:00PM LUNCH BUFFET
    MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH OIL FREE DRESSINGS
    BOWLS OF ASSORTED VEGETABLES & BEANS
    STEAMED VEGETABLES
    CRUDITÉS / RED PEPPER DIP (Quick & Easy Pg. 255)
    POTATO CHOWDER (Quick and Easy Pg. 65)
    RAINBOW SALAD (NL May 2004)
    BBQ BEAN SALAD (NL Sept 2002)
    MOCK TUNA SPREAD (Quick and Easy Pg. 250) Double Recipe
    DEVILED SPREAD (Quick & Easy Pg. 246) Serve Cold
    CORN TORTILLAS, WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
    LARGE LETTUCE LEAVES (for making sandwich wraps), SLICED TOMATOES, SLICED ONIONS, PICKLES
    HERB TEA, DECAF ICED TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    FRIDAY 6:30PM DINNER BUFFET
    MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH OIL FREE DRESSINGS
    BOWLS OF ASSORTED VEGETABLES & BEANS
    TOMATO VEGETABLE SALAD (NL Jan 2005)
    TWO STEAMED VEGETABLES
    THREE BEAN SALAD (NL Nov 2004)
    HEARTY DAL SOUP ( NL April 2007)
    QUINOA GARDEN SALAD (NL Jan 2005)
    ROASTED POTATOES (NL July 2002) USE LESS CAYENNE
    MARINARA SAUCE (New McDougall Cookbook Pg. 353)
    SPAGEHTTI SQUASH (NL Nov 2004)
    POLENTA (thick), WHOLE WHEAT PASTA
    BASKET OF ASSORTED FRESH FRUIT
    HERB TEA, DECAF ICED TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    SATURDAY 7:30AM BREAKFAST BUFFET
    STEEL CUT IRISH OATMEAL (NL Dec 2004)
    RICE MILK, SOY MILK, ALMOND MILK
    SLICED BANANAS, CHOPPED APPLE
    ASSORTED SLICED FRUIT
    CINNAMON, MACE, NUTMEG (in shaker jars)
    BROWN SUGAR, STEVIA
    COLD CEREALS: PUFFED CORN, PUFFED RICE, PUFFED MILLET
    SHREDDED WHEAT, GRAPENUTS, UNCLE SAM CEREAL
    EAST WEST BREAKFAST (NL May 2004)
    SALSA, KETCHUP, TABASCO
    HERB TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    SATURDAY 1:00PM LUNCH BUFFET
    MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH OIL FREE DRESSINGS
    BOWLS OF ASSORTED VEGETABLES & BEANS
    CHUNKY VEGETABLE SALAD (Weight Loss Pg. 204)
    TOMATO BASIL SOUP (NL June 2002)
    THAI NOODLES (NL May 2004)
    PICNIC LENTIL SALAD (NL July 2002) Serve Cold
    SAN ANTONIA QUINOA (Quick and Easy Pg. 29)
    SQUASHY BLACK BEANS (NL Feb 2005) SERVE HOT
    BROWN RICE
    SOUTHWEST RED POTATOES (NL Jan 2005)
    KETCHUP, BARBECUE SAUCE, TABASCO SAUCE
    HERB TEA, DECAF ICED TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    SATURDAY 6:30PM DINNER BUFFET
    MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH OIL FREE DRESSINGS
    BOWLS OF ASSORTED VEGETABLES & BEANS
    SPINACH VEGETABLE SALAD (Weight Loss Pg. 207)
    BEAN AND RICE SALAD (Weight Loss Pg. 245)
    TWO STEAMED VEGETABLES
    MINESTRONE SOUP (NL January 2004)
    STUFFED MUSHROOMS (NL Feb. 2005)
    LASAGNA (NL Aug. 2005)
    MUSHROOMS MCDOUGALL (NL July 2004)
    BAKED POTATOES
    BARBECUE SAUCE, KETCHUP
    CHOCOLATE DECADENCE PUDDING (NL FEB. 2002)
    HERB TEA, DECAF ICED TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    SUNDAY 7:30AM BREAKFAST BUFFET
    MULTI GRAIN HOT CEREAL (NL Dec 2004)
    RICE MILK, SOY MILK, ALMOND MILK
    SLICED BANANAS, CHOPPED APPLE
    ASSORTED SLICED FRUIT
    CINNAMON, MACE, NUTMEG (in shaker jars)
    STEVIA, BROWN SUGAR
    COLD CEREALS: PUFFED CORN, PUFFED RICE, PUFFED MILLET
    SHREDDED WHEAT, GRAPENUTS, UNCLE SAM CEREAL
    COSTA RICAN POTATOES & BEANS (NL Aug 2003)
    SALSA, KETCHUP, TABASCO
    BREAKFAST APPLE RICE (Weight Loss Pg. 224)
    HERB TEA

    ——————————————————————————–

    SUNDAY 1:00PM LUNCH BUFFET
    MIXED GREEN SALAD WITH OIL FREE DRESSINGS
    BOWLS OF ASSORTED VEGETABLES & BEANS
    CRUDITÉS WITH HUMMUS (Quick and Easy Pg. 248)
    ITALIAN POTATO SALAD (Weight Loss Pg. 247)
    QUICK BLACK BEAN SOUP (NL April 2004)
    STEAMED VEGETABLES
    MCVEGGIE BURGERS (NL March 2006)
    WHOLE WHEAT BUNS
    SLICED ONIONS, SLICED TOMATOES, PICKLES, RELISH, LETTUCE
    KETCHUP, MUSTARD, TOFU MAYO (Quick & Easy pg. 255)
    BARBEQUED BEANS (NL August 2003)
    BROWN RICE
    HERB TEA, DECAF ICED TEA

    Your pants seem to be on fire wrote on October 24th, 2011
  36. Mark, you cannot compare healthy (primal) meat-eaters like Grok, to unhealthy grain-eating vegans like the 62-year-old you mentioned. If you want a good comparison, you have to compare Grok to vegans like Mac Danzig or Avi R. Lehyani.

    Saab wrote on November 1st, 2011
  37. Here’s what really happened at Mark’s retreat.

    http://www.drmcdougall.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=25530

    Alba wrote on November 4th, 2011

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