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: Cravings

What Is the Vagus Nerve? (and How Does It Impact Health, Mood and Performance?)

In recent years, I’ve regularly vouched for the gut as our long-abused secondary brain. Given what most of us grew up learning in school, it can feel like a mammoth shift. Science and philosophy have long revered the brain as seat of consciousness, even the seat of humanity itself. But when it comes down to it, everything is interconnected. Our consciousness extends well beyond the brain. How we feel and who we are encompasses a much more expansive and intricate system than any of us learned in high school biology. At the center of this paradigm revision is something called the vagus nerve.

Vagus…as a word it sounds a little off-putting. If someone called me a vagus, I’d probably be mildly offended. But the literary origins of this word are actually kind of mystical: “vagus” in Latin translates to “wandering.” And I’d struggle to find a more apt definition.

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Can You Retrain Your Taste?

Following the switch to Primal eating, people often share curious observations about their shift in taste. After a lifetime of eating sugar, grains, artificial flavors and hydrogenated oils, they’re often taken by surprise at the way their tastebuds react to a low-sugar, whole foods-based diet.

Granted, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens. Many say the effect sneaks up on them over the course of several weeks until one day they realize their sense of taste has gone into hyperdrive.

Then they look across the cubicle aisle and watch their coworkers inhaling bags of chips or uninterestingly sucking away on sugary beverages. And it occurs to them: all those wasted years as their tastebuds languished in processed monotony.

It’s one of the unexpected upsides of the Primal Blueprint diet: learning/relearning the nuance of real food flavor. The experience doesn’t just reflect a psychological shift either. Taste acclimatization is a real, measurable thing.

What do we know about the process? Quite a bit actually. Some of it rather surprising….

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Stop Saying No, Start Saying Yes!

I know parents who have “yes” days with their kids—days when the kids can ask for just about anything (barring the hazardous, illegal, harmful or physically impossible) and the parents have agreed to go with it. While the idea assuredly raises some eyebrows and probably isn’t for every family or age/personality of child, I’ve observed that it’s rarely the Pandora’s Box most people would assume.

On the first round, kids might try to push the limits out of sheer curiosity to see how far they can ride that train—how far they can push the parental units. With time and steadiness on the parents’ parts, however, the kids generally settle into a happy but reasoned approach in which their requests end up reflecting their parents’ values to a startling degree. They plan a healthy picnic or cook a healthy, albeit strangely assembled meal together. They ask for an extended family activity or day trip that includes some hiking or biking or family sport. It becomes more about their self-determination and maybe some creative embellishments than flying in the face of the normal family guidelines, oddly even if they’re subject for regular complaint. Nonetheless, the fun factor just went through the roof. We adults can learn something from this….

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5 Things You Learn Being a Primal Lifer

Being a Primal lifer is nice. You get to pat the heads and tousle the hair of precious newbies who just learned the words “lectin” and “phytate” and can’t stop talking about it. Navigating your local farmer’s market is a breeze, and you’re such a regular that you can show up half an hour past closing and still get the choicest produce. But there are other benefits, too. Bits of wisdom that you glean over time, and that can only come from years of adherence. Today, I’m going to discuss the five biggest ones.

Newbies: don’t expect to use these as a guide for your own immediate existence. These aren’t necessarily suggestions. Much of what long term Primal adherents learn about their bodies and their lifestyles requires that they put in the time to learn the things directly. You can read about it, but don’t be dismayed if you’re unable able to implement or integrate them immediately.

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Dear Mark: Sugar in Blackstrap Molasses, Eating Cheat Foods All at Once or in Installments, and Healthy Pooping with a Fused Knee

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions. The first one concerns blackstrap molasses, a type of sugar I’ve suggested people eat for its rich mineral content. Does the value of the minerals outweigh the impact of its sugar content? Next, say you’ve got a slice of birthday cake you’re committed to eating. Is it better to eat it all at once or piece it out across multiple days? And third, how can someone who’s unable to squat obtain the benefits of squatting while pooping? In the absence of actual squatting, is there anything a person can do to smooth out the process?

Let’s go:

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Why Is Regaining Weight So Common?

It’s an age-old story. A person has a huge amount of weight to lose and gets rid of most of it through a combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle modification. And they feel fantastic. They’ve got energy for days, their skin glows, they exude newfound confidence, and they experience other small miracles. Many of you have lived this. But then something happens: the weight loss stops, or, worse, it reverses. They can keep the weight at bay as long as their diet is ironclad and they don’t skip any workouts, but as soon as they slip up even a little bit, they gain weight. And when they gain, they seem to gain it faster and more easily than should be normal. It just doesn’t seem fair.

What’s going on here?

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What’s Messing with Your Appetite? Three Possibilities.

Although a few weeks ago I explained how “stop eating so much” is bad weight loss advice and how “calories in, calories out” tells us very little about the cause of obesity, the fact remains: for whatever reason (and there are many), people who gain weight have eaten more energy than they’ve expended. Something is causing them to eat more food than they need. Something is making the hungrier than they need to be, desirous of more food than they require for sustenance and weight maintenance. What could it be? There are the basic remedies. Eat more protein to promote satiety. Reduce carbs, increase fat. Get enough sleep and limit stress as best you can. These are proven ways to normalize your appetite, but you already know about them. I also have a few speculatory ideas that you may not have considered, and today I’m going to discuss them.

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This One Simple Trick Will Make All Your Meals Taste Better

I have several close friends in the restaurant industry, and whether they’re helming hip eateries or Michelin-rated restos requiring reservations booked months in advance, these chefs and owners are all very good at what they do: giving people food that tastes really, really good and gets them coming back for more on a regular basis. Yes, they pick the choicest ingredients and use the freshest produce. Yes, they employ cutting edge kitchen skills and cooking techniques. But a lot of restaurants do all those things and never get over the hump to become truly great. So, how do they do it?

They have one simple trick. It’s universally accepted among people in the know that hewing to this trick is the key to making it or breaking it in the restaurant industry. That’s how crucial this weird trick actually is. Today, I’m going to introduce it you and explain how you can use it to excel in the Challenge.

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Should You Eat Periodic “Cheat” Meals?

I get a lot of questions about cheat meals. Are they allowed on the Primal Blueprint? Is there a reason someone should actively seek to eat unhealthy food from time to time? The allure of the cheat meal is obvious: you get to eat stuff that’s otherwise off-limits and extremely delicious. You get to throw caution to the wind for a night. It’s like vacation and you’re a food tourist. But are there actual benefits? Today, we’ll take a look.

As I see it, there are three arguments to be made for including periodic — that is, scheduled or preordained — cheat meals in your otherwise solid Primal eating plan.

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Dear Mark: Sleep Deprivation as Hormesis, Sweet Cravings, CrossFit, and More

For today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a three-parter that’s really closer to a five-parter. First are a couple of questions from Joe, who first wonders about the hormetic benefits of acute sleep deprivation (are there any?) and then asks how he can beat a sweet tooth he suspects is brought on by lack of exercise. The second pair of questions concern CrossFit (is it an example of Chronic Cardio and should I be recommending it?) and breadfruit (does it have a place on the Primal eating plan?). And finally, Andy asks for the origin of the popular “gut is 80% of our immune system” statement.

Let’s go:

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