The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
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...Tell Me More
Anyone who’s ever followed the Primal eating plan for a significant length of time has probably made a few compromises along the way. If you live, work, or otherwise commiserate with regular folks, you’re bound to be exposed to grains, sugary desserts, and sodas, and austere abstinence can be difficult to maintain in these situations. It’s not even as if the food itself is necessarily tempting; it’s more accurate to say the social pressure to comply and dig in can be overwhelming. If your boss gets you a cake for your birthday, you’re probably going to have a piece regardless.
Since our original 80/20 post a few weeks ago, I’ve gotten a slew of questions and comments from readers. Many tell me how much they love the concept. It’s a feature that makes the PB possible for them. Others suggest that it leaves too much room for backsliding. Finally, some readers have either offered their own interpretations of the principle or asked what it should mean in their daily life. Thanks to everyone for their feedback on this one (and all other posts of course). While I loved writing The Primal Blueprint, I can’t imagine it without the experience and ever-evolving discussion of this blog. Let’s roll up the sleeves and dig in deeper with this one.
First, let’s review. (I know we’re adding new folks all the time.) The 80/20 principle suggests this: in the context of full and earnest commitment, an overall 80% conformity with the 10 Primal Blueprint rules will yield a solidly healthy result.
For anyone who’s ever adopted a new diet plan for weight loss or overall health, it’s a familiar nightmare. The backdrop varies (an all you can eat buffet, holiday party, dark and silent kitchen in the middle of the night), but the suspense is universal. The temptation, a mental struggle, the cautious scanning of the room. A subliminal background track climbs in crescendo. You give into the slightest slip, a minor indiscretion, really, and suddenly there you are, dropping through a trap door, plummeting down a dark, cavernous shoot, screaming in terror, only to fall into a sorry heap of shame at the fiery center of the earth (or other subconscious setting for doom or disgrace).
One issue I have with our modern lifestyle – of many – is the emphasis on perfection. Newer, slimmer, bigger, better, faster: the message of perfection screams out to us from glossy magazines, slick television ads and popup ad after popup ad. (Or purrs, cajoles, teases, and smothers.) While I do believe fundamentally in pursuing whatever your personal best happens to be, and I think we could generally be doing far better in terms of diet and exercise, I have a hard time with the constant barrage of images telling us that, in short, we suck.
Which brings me to vices. I’m a pretty disciplined guy – okay, very disciplined – but I stop short of attempting perfection. Sure, I suppose I could forever kiss ice cream good bye (yes, Sisson still occasionally indulges). I could angst over those missed workouts when I’m vacationing with my wife and kids. I could work on my flaws and vices. But…why?
We’re clearly no fans of sweets around these parts, but we’ve received some emails and seen some forum chatter about how to properly “cheat”. Sweets and health do not go together, but if you’re going to cheat, you’d better know what you’re getting yourself into!
How to Eat Candy: Knowing Your Enemy
Candy is great, right? Because we know it’s bad. We don’t have to worry about sugar levels, we’ve made the decision of reckless abandon when we make the purchase, and eating sweet caramel nougat covered in….more nougat is a way of rebelling against, well, mainly against yourself, but it’s still rebellion, which is always a joy.
Oh, the holidays. Before you say “bah, humbug!”, rest assured we’re going to help you stay healthy.
Everyone knows the holidays are a spare tire waiting to happen. Alcohol, rich desserts and indulgent carbs are practically throwing themselves at you, begging to be eaten and taking it personally if you don’t. You know what we’re talking about – food is emotional , and powerfully so. It’s that bizarre twinge of guilt for attempting to say no to foods which, come holiday season, seem to take on actual feelings. It’s almost like you’re insulting the food if you don’t eat it. There’s a reason for this. Rich foods, particularly sugary desserts, have long been combined with emotional events. In the Middle Ages, these items were called subtleties, and they still exist today: in the form of Easter chicks, Easter bunnies, Valentine’s hearts, advent calendars, Christmas cookies, and so on.
That’s really great, you say. But it still doesn’t help me say no to unhealthy foods or avoid gaining ten pounds before the New Year knocks at my door.
Hey, we hear ya. So, here’s a quick-and-easy realistic guide to getting through the holidays, enjoying them, and maintaining your sanity.
Part 1: It Ain’t Just the Sugar
A lot of holiday health guides point to the obvious no-no: sugar. Of course you want to stay away from sugar, but that’s probably not realistic, no matter how disciplined you are. We suggest you instead focus on limiting portions. A lot of times, we simply expect too much from ourselves. “No sugar, period. I will be healthy and eat only bean casserole, being careful to remove the crispy fried onions.” This works fine for about five minutes, until peer pressure, Aunt Louise and mulled wine conspire to destroy your best-laid plans. Before you know it, you’ve eaten three cookies, two slices of pie and eighty-three truffles. You feel guilty, bloated and sick, you give yourself a pep talk, and at the next party…you do it all over again.
Step 1: No ridiculous standards. Do not set a goal for yourself that you know you probably won’t reach (from past experience or awareness of your weak points). This just makes you feel bad, and no one is putting that pressure on you, so be nice to yourself. Who needs the added stress? Find a middle ground. If you normally end up indulging through the holidays, try giving yourself a “one freebie” rule: one treat at every party or event.
Step 2: Portion control. The amount of indulgence is more important than anything else. If you love carrot cake, eat a big bite or two, and stop. It won’t taste any better if you eat the entire thing, and you’ll have accomplished two great things: some enjoyment and some discipline. One bite of sugary cake isn’t great, but it’s not going to be cause for regret. You can try out a few of your favorite treats this way without doing any serious damage to your health