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

Vibrant Health is About More Than Food

I’ve been thinking about human health for a long, long time – pretty much my entire life. When I was running marathons and battling injuries and illness, I was missing it, and so I sought it. I figured moving on to triathlons would help, maybe by “spreading the damage” across three disciplines, rather than just the one, but that didn’t do it. And so I started tweaking my eating plan by paying attention to anthropological evidence of the human ancestral diet. Obviously, this worked, and for a while, I felt I’d found the optimal path to human health. Things were good.

But my journey didn’t stop at diet. It wasn’t enough. My physical activity had to change, too: resistance training; sprints; hikes, walks, and other long, easy movements; and a marked de-emphasis on Chronic Cardio.

Then I started thinking about sunlight. I’d always felt better when I had a bit of a tan going, and sunny days are invariably happy days, so maybe there was something happening to our physiology. Maybe it wasn’t just “psychological.” This suspicion was confirmed by the production of vitamin D in our skin in response to sunlight. Hmm.

This really got me thinking. Sunlight, nutrition, exercise – what do they have in common? They’re all environmental factors. Bear with me. You’ve got to think about these things a little differently that usual; the classic connotation of “environment” refers to one’s physical surroundings; stuff like trees, buildings, forests, the composition of the atmosphere, or climate. But really, if you’re going to be technical about it, environment refers to an organism’s temporal, physical, spatial, cultural, nutritive, hormonal, and psychological surroundings. Anything that affects or impacts an organism’s physiological or emotional development can be said to be an environmental factor.

So I started thinking about how all the other environmental factors in Grok’s life may have shaped him (and us). As far as I was concerned, everything was fair game. It all matters, albeit to varying degrees.

You’ve cleared the pantry, Primalized it, and you’re paying attention to the way you exercise. You’re even playing again. But you’re not done. You still need to pay attention to a few more things, a few more environmental factors. Some may seem strange or unlikely, others totally doable and intuitive. Still others will require exiting your comfort zone and enduring odd looks (as if you aren’t already used to those). Give them all a chance, though. This is a challenge, after all, and challenges require at least a modicum of effort.

Challenge #6: Get Adequate Sleep

Make sleep high priority: Late nights at the office. Late nights partying. Late nights… watching TV. Whether it’s business or pleasure, we’re busier than ever and sleep is often the first thing to suffer. I challenge you to get adequate sleep every night this month. What amounts to adequate is for you to decide. I think most people know how much sleep they need. Some people get by on six hours a night no problem. Others need eight or more. The important thing is you wake up feeling energized and ready to go.

(This is just one of many challenges. Learn about all of the 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenges here.)

There’s a lot more to adequate sleep than just the time spent in slumber. Eight hours might feel like six if you sleep with bad infomercials illuminating the room with blue light following an espresso nightcap. Six hours might feel like eight if you sleep in total darkness following a day of hiking. Play around. Tinker. But be honest. You know how much sleep you really need. You know how early you should get to sleep. Do you really need to watch Leno tonight? Conan was better, anyway. Tape those shows. Set your DVR. Good, solid sleep is becoming a real rarity nowadays, but it feels so satisfying and it’s so ultimately rewarding. Do it for a month (and just try to revert when it’s done).

Challenge #8: Get Adequate Sunlight

Soak in the rays: It’s difficult to emphasize enough the importance of vitamin D. In a world where we go from our houses to our cars, from our cars to the office place, from the office place to our cars and back home again many of us are woefully deficient. My challenge to you this month is to get 15 minutes of sun exposure each day of the 30-day challenge. If sun is hard to come by in your area take a supplement instead.

(This is just one of many challenges. Learn about all of the 30-Day Primal Blueprint Challenges here.)

I hesitate to call this a real challenge. After all, basking in real, unfiltered sunlight is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Plus, you don’t have to worry about getting greasy sunblock all over your hands. Where the challenge lies is in finding the time and finding the actual sunlight. Fifteen minutes isn’t much, but it has to be fifteen minutes squeezed into a limited window. Where I live, I can get adequate UV from around late morning to early evening, so I’ve got a big window for my fifteen minutes. Finding fifteen minutes of good sunlight in, for example, the Pacific Northwest, Canada, or the UK, is a different story altogether. If that’s your situation, a vitamin D supplement will suffice just fine.

There are other factors, too, even if they weren’t mentioned in the official PB Challenge post, and I want you to think about them throughout the month.


Lose it. Our feet are finely crafted (yeah, yeah, it’s just an expression, not a literal description of how they developed over the millennia) things, forged of sinew, muscle, and numerous bones and tendons. I’m not going to say they’re perfect, but they’ve undergone a lot of environmental stress and fine-tuning to get to where they are today. And so, for this month, I ask you to let them be. Go barefoot as much as possible. Barring that, wear only minimal shoes. Wide toe beds, no arch support, no raised heels. Vibrams are a good option, or maybe a pair of soft moccasins. For extra credit, try to work out barefoot or in barefoot-esque footwear.


I think we can agree that modern folks’ postures are pretty poor. We sit at jobs for eight hours a day, we slump on the couch, we “take a load off” and flop down upon getting home. But, for most of history, people were on their feet. Heck, even chairs were limited to nobility until a couple centuries ago, and I don’t think I need to go into toilets. I’m not going to command you to squat to poop or burn your chairs, but I will ask you to be mindful of how you stand, sit, and, yes, use the facilities. For this month, limit your sitting to inextricable situations: driving (unless you’re a Segwayer), dentist visits, roller coasters. Note that I didn’t say “the office” or “the bathroom.” That’s right – now’s the month to talk to your boss about getting a standup workstation and to consider putting some footprints on the toilet rim. Good luck.

Stress Management

As a people, we are drastically overstressed. Grok experienced acute stress and trauma, not chronic stress in the form of hour-long traffic jams or all night study sessions before the final because you forgot to take notes during the semester. Grok worried about food and shelter, but so do we – in addition to everything that modern life exclusively heaps upon us. It’s all stress and our body interprets it all the same. So, removing excess stress from your life is the next challenge. Avoid stressful situations – the superfluous ones, at least. We all need some stress in our lives, and we can’t avoid everything (nor should we), but losing your mind over political arguments in blog post comment sections, trying to change a vegan’s mind, or entertaining the destructive presence of a nagging, selfish, parasitic significant other in your life are all examples of superfluous stress-inducing influences. Avoid those and welcome the good type of stressors (exercise, IF, mentally challenging yourself).


Nature is our default position, our starting point, yet we live apart from it. It isn’t necessary to go starting up a commune in the woods, but it is important – and healthy – to visit the great outdoors. There are established benefits to immersing oneself in nature, and I, for one, find it recharges my batteries. This month, make it a point to go for a hike, visit a park, or just get away from it all as best you can at least once a week.

And one final challenge: what other environmental factors play a role in human health? This article isn’t comprehensive. Tell me what I’ve missed. Do some thinking and report back in the comment section. Identify the factor(s), explain how they have the potential to affect human health, and talk about how you’ve positively impacted your health by paying attention. Thanks!

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. I already stand up and squat all day at work (cleaning houses), I take my kids to the playground most evenings. We eat 80-90% primally.
    My bad habit is staying up way too late. I just love to have some time to myself after the kids are in bed. Being self employed with no real time frame to show up for work doesnt help me get up early either. But I’ve decided to make an effort to go to bed earlier a little bit each day, and Oct 1st I plan on being in bed at Sundown to take advantage of the natural hormone release.
    Its still in the 90s here. As soon as it cools down I will try the No-Poo thing again (no shampoo/commercial soaps) I remember the ACV rinses did keep my hair soft (I have a lot of hair!)
    I’m considering hand crafting my own feet covers (“shoes”). I should go look for ideas…

    ILovePrimal wrote on September 23rd, 2010
  2. Sleep is my current project. So many things to do that I never get enough.

    And as for stress management, I’m currently in my fifth day of lying on the beach in Maui :)

    Gal @ 60 in 3 wrote on September 23rd, 2010
  3. How about our exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs)?

    Alex wrote on September 23rd, 2010
  4. ..have you ever mentioned lightboxes for folks that don’t live where the sun shines regularly ?

    East to make for 50 bucks using Solux bulbs i know of 3 people who’s lives have been changed by them

    Simon Fellows wrote on September 24th, 2010
  5. Getting enough sleep is so beneficial for a healthy body but so hard to do with all of the daily activities we have.

    Thoughtful Accessories wrote on September 24th, 2010
  6. I have been working hard on walking barefooted since late March. The other night, in preparation for a trip to Gettysburg, I had to have shoes – and my dog had eaten my Keen’s. So I tried on my tennis shoes for the first time in about 4 months…didn’t even last for 5 minutes with the special inserts I used to need (when walking barefooted for 10 minutes was a record). So I purchased 2 pairs of moccasins during the trip (20% off sale) and wore my VFF most of the time – and my feet were happy (and you know the saying – if your feet aren’t happy, you’re not happy…).

    My friends find it interesting that my feet have changed so much – but aren’t willing to give it a try. Ah well…

    Kerstin wrote on September 24th, 2010
  7. Has anyone been talking about our dependence on air conditioning, and central heating for that matter? I’m amazed at the lack of tolerance to heat that many have. Of course, as very adaptable animals we should be comfortable in a wide range of temperatures.

    John Marschke wrote on September 24th, 2010
    • I agree… I love the heat and so many people in our area can only run from climate controlled environment to climate controlled environment! On the other hand, I’m a big baby when it comes to the cold. I’ve often thought that Grok burned hundreds of calories a day more than I do just to maintain his temperature in the varied temperature/humidity/windchill of the great outdoors, while I whine about the slightest change to the thermostat!

      September wrote on September 24th, 2010
  8. I have figured out some essential things through your blog post. One other point I would like to say is that there are many games out there designed in particular for preschool age small children. They contain pattern identification, colors, wildlife, and designs. These often focus on familiarization as an alternative to memorization. This helps to keep little kids occupied without experiencing like they are studying. Thanks

    sex shop wrote on September 12th, 2011

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