Meet Mark

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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Category: 80/20 Principle

Gateway Foods: The Slippery Slope of “Just a Bite”

The holidays are coming and with them the food. Maybe with Halloween come and gone, the season is already upon you in your social/work/family circles. Beyond the actual meals themselves, there are the umpteen parties, open houses, potlucks, lunches, brunches, happy hours, coffee hours, bake sales, soup suppers, and bazaars – as well as the continual conveyer belt of office/shop/home display of every sweet and savory (mostly sweet) treat known to humankind. As fun as it all is, the holidays can be a seasonal equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle – a festively decorated abyss where good intentions get swallowed along with the latest Martha Stewart recipe.

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The Psychology of Giving Up Junk Food

It’s probably the biggest thing that makes some people hesitate in going Primal. Sure, they appreciate the logic and sensibility of the Blueprint lifestyle. They value the chance to improve their health and effectively lose weight. They love the idea of having more energy. They salivate over the prospect of bacon. But then comes the proverbial wrench in the plan. “What about bread?” they ask. (Sometimes it’s diet soda, pasta, pancakes, pizza, Skittles, etc.; I’ve heard it all.) Against all powers of wisdom, self-interest, and rationality, how is it these isolated, deeply entrenched cravings hold such sway over our lifestyles – and diet decisions? Is a baguette really so enticing that it determines a person’s willingness to live a healthier, more vigorous existence? Is the de-grained life really not worth living?

It’s a common refrain I hear: “Oh, I’d love to go Primal, but I just couldn’t give up my breakfast cereal.” Okay. It’s got me thinking lately: what is it about the psychological power of (non-Primal) favorite foods?

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Remember the 80/20 Principle

We’ve officially rounded the corner into the second full week of the 30-day Primal Blueprint Challenge. Updates, anecdotes, anyone? How is everyone doing – and feeling? As the Challenge progresses, it’s inevitable that the surge of initial gusto moderates while something else – something ultimately more important, more influential – takes its place. With a week under your belt, you’re undoubtedly shaping the Blueprint to your life, using the principles but adapting the particulars to your own circumstances and tastes. That’s how it’s designed. In fact, it’s exactly how it works best! I thought now would be an apt time to add another layer of perspective to our efforts. It’s a bit of advice that nicely reflects this personal progression as well as the overall versatility of the Blueprint. I’m talking that bastion of PB pragmatism: the 80/20 Principle.

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The 80/20 Principle: When 20 Inches Toward 40

Among the many defining – and practical – tenets of the Primal Blueprint is the good old 80/20 Principle, the guideline that suggests we needn’t be 100% perfect 100% of the time to achieve great Primal health. It’s the sensible caveat, a functional motivator, the saving grace for many of us. It means we don’t guilt ourselves (or hand down punishing cardio sentences) when we indulge on a special occasion or get caught in circumstances that don’t allow for fully Primal conditions. It means shedding the traditional view of a “diet” and exercise program as a select list of actions we either ace or bomb. As I’ve said many a time, the PB doesn’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. Finally, the 80/20 Principle encourages us to wholly own every choice and respect the impact of our total lifestyle within our personal Primal commitments. An immensely empowering – but sometimes challenging – feature of the Primal Blueprint is its subjectivity. Although it offers plenty of solid guidelines, tips, lists and recipes (not to mention an incredible community of fellow adherents!), the day-in-day-out isn’t regimented into a set of check-off boxes. Bringing your honest intentions and Primal lens to each choice is usually enough to stay on track. While your Primal perspective each day is an earnest 100%, the practical execution trends toward 80% for most people, especially those new to the PB. But what happens when focus temporarily wanes or life circumstances become – well – more imperfectly “real”? How do you push back on the tendency of 80/20 to creep toward lesser ratios?

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The Vegetarian Myth

Wow.

It isn’t often that I write book reviews (have I ever? – serious question), but it isn’t often that a truly important book like Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth pops up on my radar just begging for one.

You may remember it from a brief mention I gave back in September, or maybe from Dr. Eades’ endorsement of it. You may have even already read the book yourself. If you haven’t, read it. And if you have? Read it again or get one for a friend.

That goes double for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone on the cusp of adopting that lifestyle. If you fit the bill, especially if you’re considering veganism/vegetarianism for moral reasons, drop what you’re doing and run to the nearest bookstore to buy this book. It’s incredibly well-written, and the author has a real knack for engaging prose, but that’s not the main reason for my endorsement. The real draw is the dual (not dueling) narratives: the transformation of a physically broken moral vegetarian into a healthier moral meat eater; and the destructive force of industrial agriculture. The “Myth” in question is the widely-held notion that vegetarianism is the best thing for our health and for our planet. On the contrary, Keith asserts that a global shift toward vegetarianism would be the absolute worst move possible. It’s vitally important. It’s definitive. It’s somewhat depressing, and it’s brutally honest. It also might be the book that changes your life.

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The Many Uses of Junk Food

A comment on my recent Coca-Cola post mentioned something I’d never previously considered: what if there were legitimate uses for un-Primal “food” items, things like bread, rice, peanut butter, or corn, that didn’t involve putting them in our mouths, chewing, and swallowing? In a previous post on pantry Primalizing, I suggested newcomers donate their off-limits food to those in need. That remains a viable option, but maybe, just maybe, it makes sense to keep a few select items on hand – not to eat, though.

The commenter suggested using cola to clean rust off weights, which I loved for its utter practicality and for being a direct refutation of what soda stands for. Here was a reader co-opting an egregious, offensive, fructosey dietary force to enable a healthy lifestyle, literally using soda to combat soda-induced health problems. Just as the fructose in cola accumulates in the liver and triggers insulin resistance, intense weight training (with shiny, rust-free weights!) improves insulin sensitivity. Pretty perfect, I’d say.

The following ideas and examples may not be so perfectly Primal, but they do represent good ways to extract non-culinary uses out of supposedly culinary items. If you’ve got any of these Neolithic foods laying around, don’t toss them out – yet! You may learn something useful.

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