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

What Does it Mean to “Grok On”?

grok onWe like to throw “Grok” around pretty liberally. It’s the name of our prototypical human ancestor, sure, but it’s also become a rallying cry of sorts: Grok on! What does it mean when we say “Grok on”? Do you know? Do I know? I have something in mind, but I’ve never really expounded on it in any detail. In fact, I’ve purposely left it ambiguous; to Grok is partly, I think, something very personal and subjective for each person.

What does the dictionary say (and what would it say if MDA was a household name?)

grok

/grok/  /grohk/  [from the nutrition blog “MarksDailyApple.com,” where it denotes the archetypal Paleolithic man; also from Robert Heinlein’s novel “Stranger in a Strange Land,” where it is a Martian word meaning literally “to drink” and metaphorically “to be one with”]

noun

Mark Sisson’s (proprietor of MarksDailyApple.com) name for the collective and individual ideal of nutrition, fitness, behavior, and health.

verb

To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy.

We’re all familiar with the noun. We’ve already defined who Grok is (or was). But what about that other meaning – Heinlein’s verb? When I – or anyone else – implore you to “Grok on,” what am I really saying? Does it matter? Is it better left unsaid and unsubstantiated? Is “to Grok” merely an ambiguous, indefinable abstraction, the careful parsing of which would only serve to destroy its strange effectiveness? For a while now, I’ve pondered these questions and wondered if this post would amount to explaining the proverbial joke in excruciating detail (and thus ruining it – think John Kerry’s sense of humor).

But MDA isn’t about cryptic hunches. Sure, we value anecdotal and self-experiential data, but we also love a good controlled study. Fact and intuition rule the roost simultaneously in some kind of two-pronged oligarchy – and that’s what makes the phrase “to Grok” so completely perfect for our goals. Heinlein’s “grok” carries two meanings, but we’re only interested in the second, figurative one. To Grok is to know something to be innately, incontrovertibly true; it is to feel that something is so using intuition, as opposed to mere sensory observation. Grokking a concept means you understand it so well that it is absorbed into your very being. You dig it. It’s become second nature, an integrated part of you.

Doesn’t that sound a bit familiar? I get daily emails from readers expressing that exact sentiment regarding the Primal Blueprint. I’ll often maintain running discussions with these people, fathers and mothers and neighbors and students and professionals who may have had some measure of success with another diet or life plan – but never enough that it sticks for good. Atkins and CrossFit stragglers are incredibly common. These are people who did the Atkins induction and probably saw some weight loss, but could never maintain the rigorous monotony of the permanent eating plan. These are people who happened across CrossFit, got motivated, did a few weeks of strict WODs, but couldn’t keep up with the advanced levels of conditioning that it requires. Any diet or exercise plan will work to a certain extent, but not every plan is sustainable for everyone. The PB, though, is sustainable. Heck, it’s built in to us from birth! Our very genes – Grok’s genes – were forged using it as a, well, blueprint. Is it any surprise, then, that slipping into the lifestyle feels like going home again?

You know that feeling. Once you’ve completely ditched the grains, the legumes, and the sugar, and lots of delicious fat and protein are all you need to finally sustain you and it all just feels right, you’re Grokkin’ it. When you stop the obsessive calorie counting and find yourself eating the right amount of food while still effortlessly dropping or maintaining extra weight, you’re Grokkin’ it. Once following the Primal precepts becomes second nature, and avoiding temptation becomes impossible because temptation no longer even exists like it once did, you have officially ascended. You have dug in. You’re living it. You have Grokked on.

“Grok on.”

It’s like a secret handshake. An inside joke. Except it isn’t, not really. It’s not an exclusive, exclusionary thing, the PB. Each of us is already encoded with it; we just have to realize it. When we do – when we finally understand those basic laws of fitness, diet, sleep, stress, sun, solace, and sport that govern our genes and make the motivations behind certain behaviors and instincts clear as day – we are able to successfully Grok on.

As one character from Heinlein’s novel says:

Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed – to merge, blend, intermarry… It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science – and it means as little to us (because of our Earthly assumptions) as color means to a blind man.

When we first hear about the Primal concept, it sounds alien. It sounds wrong. Our initial reaction upon hearing that saturated fat is actually benign, that healthy whole grains are anything but, and virtually everything we’ve ever been told about diet, fitness, and health is founded upon bad science is to deny, gasp, guffaw, gape, and disbelieve. But that’s just the blind man’s reaction to an artist’s description of color. We aren’t blind anymore, though, once we get past those “assumptions.” To Grok is no longer a uniquely Martian construct. It’s pretty much our only choice, and it’s about as Earthly as you can possibly get.

Grokking goes way beyond academic knowledge. If you claim to grok a piece of knowledge or a concept, it’s become an essential part of your very being. When you Grok on, you are signifying that you’ve become wedded to your Primal heritage. It’s no longer just a detached way of considering nutrition and fitness; it’s your identity. And really, it always has been our identity, ever since we began walking upright and using tools to shape our surroundings and make life easier. A little too easy, perhaps, because we eventually forgot all about that part of us – or at least learned to ignore it.

No more. That innocent ignorance stops here. From this point forward, you can choose willful ignorance, or you can choose to continue the lifestyle path set in motion over 250,000 years ago.

I dunno about you, but I’m definitely going to Grok on!

Let me know what you think. Do you Grok the Primal Blueprint? Thanks, everyone! Check back tomorrow for a brand new fitness routine.

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 can see giving up sugars and grains, but why not eat legumes? Often, legumes satisfy my food cravings like little else, andI don’t needto eat a lot of them.

    Sarah Abts wrote on May 28th, 2010
  2. This is hilarious!
    I laugh so hard! Good Job!

    Brendale wrote on October 8th, 2010
  3. As an avid science fiction reader (for more than 40 years) and a big fan of Heinlein I was entranced when I found the grokking concept applied to the primal way of life. And there was still more: the references to Korg (very good music keyboards, another passion of mine). Grok on!

    AtkinsFan wrote on October 28th, 2010
  4. Grok on!

    Jeff wrote on November 11th, 2010
  5. Stranger in a strange land??

    John wrote on December 15th, 2011
  6. I’m just curious…Isn’t life about evolution? Why would we want to devolve and eat like humans did millions of years ago? Aren’t we supposed to be growing smarter, being more evolved and spiritual, and moving away from cro-magnon man? Just saying? I’m new here so help me out?

    Larry88 wrote on February 23rd, 2012
    • That’s a great point Larry, but the problem is that we HAVEN’T evolved as much as people would have you believe.

      Keep reading MDA, or grab the book. It’ll make a lot more sense than I will, but basically: Once agricultural society became the norm, and wheat and grains became common, Man didn’t have to fight as hard for survival. Thus survival of the fittest hasn’t taken place for at least 10,000 years. We have been at a virtual standstill from the evolutionary standpoint. Our bodies weren’t created for Wheat and high sugar/carb diets back then, and they aren’t now. If we can get our bodies back to what they should be fueled with, reasonable complex carbs, protein, and fat, we can keep them better balances and avoid the diseases and weight problems that plague us(and me!) currently.

      I hope this cleared up a few things. Keep reading. It will make sense.

      Dennis wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  7. And if “grok on” is about spreading the word, as I believe, I need tools! Train me, certify me, equip me, and send me forth! I want to teach this to others; but why invent the wheel when you, Mark, have it so perfected!? I am compelled to teach and help others to return to what makes sense and to what comes naturally.

    Deidre Edwards wrote on May 14th, 2012
  8. For the contest (I’d love to try Primal Fuel!):
    I’d love to see you develop a year-round camp–one for adults and one for kids–that highlights the “how to” of primal nutrition and exercise. For adults, it would be great to sign up for even a long weekend, or a week, and take classes on cooking, living primal, and exercising with others, every day. For kids, the curriculum would be different–lessons on how ancestors lived (there’s a lot of potential for sustainability and green conversations!), what diets looked like, and classes on how things grow and can be harvested and prepared. And then tons of fun exercise.

    Thanks Mark.

    Laura wrote on May 14th, 2012
  9. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely confused .. Any suggestions? Many thanks!| walmart garcinia camb

    walmartgarciniacambogi wrote on March 23rd, 2013
  10. I would like to loose about 1 to 2″ of belly fat. I am 5′ 11′, 178# and age 74. Eating Paleo and still having a very hard time loosing that fat. Do quite a bit of resistance work and limited cardio due to ankle issues. Will just eating protein and fat for a short time, to satisfy my appetite, with virtually no carbs do it? I think veggies are good for you and some berries also. I would love to hear your comments.

    Milt Martyny wrote on January 8th, 2014
  11. Correction: my weight is 148#, not 178!!

    Milt Martyny wrote on January 8th, 2014
  12. To me, as a primal Buddhist/Hindu/Shaman, Grok On means to be confident and strong enough in your self to let go of your ego, open your heart and feel love and gratitude for whoever or whatever you are with.

    Nate wrote on January 23rd, 2014

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