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
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
Albert Ellis, psychologist
This week a friend of mine lost her mother. A year and a half ago she’d been diagnosed with bone cancer. Despite numerous surgeries and treatments, the cancer continued to spread widely and was found in her brain two months ago. After accepting hospice a week ago, she died at home with her family. She was 57. By all accounts my friend’s mother was an active, youthful, gentle woman. “She lived quietly, with meaning and purpose, and loved deeply,” a close relative shared at the funeral. Her death got me thinking, as these events will, about the relative shortness of life – even for those who live to a ripe old age far beyond this woman’s years. How will any of us feel about how we’ve lived our lives when our own time comes? Have we taken ownership of every moment and accepted our choices – compromises, triumphs, screw-ups, and all? Will we feel like we’ve lived life on our own terms? Or, more tragically, will we realize we’ve wasted precious time always blaming others, blaming circumstances while we put off creating the healthy and fulfilling life we’d always wanted?
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?
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?
Effective, healthy weight loss isn’t only due to the simplistic calories in, calories out paradigm. Nor is it solely reliant on diet and exercise. It’s everything – it’s all the various signals our body receives from the environment that affect how our genes express themselves and thrive. How we approach the subject matters, too. Our mood, our methods, our temperament. Our conscious decisions and our willpower. It’s setting good habits and expunging bad ones. Most of all, it comes down to keeping our genes happy by providing an environment that approximates evolutionary precedent.
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.
It’s a common question I get: how to graciously decline the proudly presented delicacy, the traditional or long-labored sweet, the celebratory dessert. Like it or not, desserts are woven into our cultural doings and gatherings. As one reader put it recently, “I’ve been trying to go quasi-primal for about 6 months and have had very good results. A challenging situation that I’ve experienced is declining dessert offers from friends who LOVE to bake. How do I politely decline a chef’s generosity without offending them?”