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”?

We 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/  /grohk/  [from the nutrition blog “,” 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”]


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


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. Hi Mark,
    I just read thru your ‘P90X vs CrossFit vs PB’ post. Excellent article! I currently CrossFit and have been hooked for a solid year now. I’m coming from the old LSD world of Iron-Tri’s, marathons, Ultras, Century rides etc. Also, when asked from others about good programs, I do throw in P90X as one of the only fitness programs that would be worth the money, compared to all those other fitness apparatus info-mercials out there. That being said and as much as I love the CrossFit regimen, In answering your question of “Are you ready to give Primal Blueprint Fitness a try?” my answer is a resounding, YES! Can’t wait for it!

    Corey wrote on March 5th, 2010
  2. .perhaps a caveat being that one also reads David Myers superbly brill “Intuition its powers and perils”

    Simon Fellows wrote on May 10th, 2010
  3. 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
  4. This is hilarious!
    I laugh so hard! Good Job!

    Brendale wrote on October 8th, 2010
  5. 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
  6. Grok on!

    Jeff wrote on November 11th, 2010

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