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

Why Self Experimentation Matters

Self experimentation is a term the online Primal community regularly bandies about. I’ve been meaning to write a post on the subject, and I figured the first week of this year’s Primal challenge would be the perfect spot to drop it. Because, after all, those who accept and undertake the 30-day Primal Blueprint Challenge will essentially be conducting a 30-day self-experiment on themselves. It won’t be your first self experiment, nor will it be your last, but it may be your first chance at knowingly conducting one.

Yeah, we’re all lifetime self experimenters, when you get down to it. From infancy onward, we conduct experiments – most of them totally informal – to understand how the world works and how to interact with it. A toddler trying avocado is testing whether it tastes good and nourishes, the teen using a cheesy pickup line is testing whether it gets the girl’s number, and the college freshman pulling an all-nighter before a midterm is testing whether she can party all quarter and still make grades. They’re all forays into the relative unknown, and they’re all crude, imperfect modes of self experimentation, even though the experimenters probably aren’t consciously aware of any experiments being conducted. Life is full of these informal little tests.

So we have a legacy of experimentation.

But it’s hard to derive lasting value from informal, incidental, everyday self experimentation. No, if you really want to step up your game and approach discovering cause-and-effect from self experimenting, be a little more rigorous with your approach. Think of the experiment as an actual scientific experiment, with observation and hypothesis and testing and even recording of data, controlling of variables, and randomization. You’re probably familiar with Seth Roberts, who I’ve referenced before and who gave a great talk at the AHS about his self experimentation with flax, pork fat, and butter (check it out if you haven’t). Seth quantifies the results of his tests. He measures, records, tracks, and graphs. It sounds rigorous but he keeps the design of his experiments very simple and because of that, his results are fairly conclusive. As a recent Chris Masterjohn post explains, self experiments conducted in this fashion are necessary to conclusively identify cause-and-effect, but they may not be required for the average Joe who wants to figure out how he feels trying something different.

There’s another way, one that doesn’t require that you bust out charts and stats and take measurements if you don’t want to. For the average person who just wants to play around with new stuff, I like what I call “soft self experimentation” because it doesn’t require agonizing rigor to obtain useful information. You just do something different – add a food, remove a food, go for morning walks, lift using unilateral movements instead of bilateral movements, whatever it is – and “see how you feel” while trying to keep the other stuff constant (don’t change your sleep habits if you’re trying to test how you tolerate starch). My friend Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal is an expert at this (and gave his AHS talk on the subject) kind of intuitive experimentation. You won’t really hear him talk about numbers (besides maybe pounds lost and lifted), but he does account for confounding variables. Perhaps the biggest potentially confounding variable is bias. That is, your own bias. You have to be honest with yourself and be open to falsifying your hypothesis. In fact, you have to actively look for falsification. Sometimes (heck, many times) you will be wrong and it won’t work out. That’s okay, because that’s how you learn. “No failure, only feedback,” as Art Devany says.

I mean, you’re busy people with families, jobs, and hobbies, and the last you want to be doing is submitting your little self-study about cold showers and fat loss to peer review before you can draw conclusions, or run numbers and graphs. Heck, you barely have time to keep up with the blogs, let alone follow all the references to studies telling you how changing a variable affected a group of people who were not you. And that’s the rub, isn’t it? The scientific literature, however crucial for furthering our understanding of the way the world works, tells the story of other people. Other individuals. PubMed abstracts or full texts you read on your laptop cannot and never will compete with the primacy of actual self experience, because that’s how biological organisms work. The thing that happens to you carries more weight than the thing that happens to another (let alone a nameless, faceless stranger).

And so we experiment on ourselves to figure out what works.

For guidance on how to set up a self experiment and track your results, check out Seth’s advice.

A few more tips:

  • Keep it simple. Stick to changing one thing at a time, and make it easy to follow.
  • Be specific. Don’t test how “fruit” affects you post-workout. Test how “bananas” or “mangos” or “blueberries” affect you.
  • Kill multiple birds with one stone, if possible. If you’re testing how post-workout bananas affect fat loss or gain, consider observing other possible effects, like improved performance or blood sugar readings. You don’t have to, but keep an open mind.
  • Start with a sensible premise drawn from reliable sources. Like your own experience, another’s, or results from clinical studies. An example: you forget to eat breakfast and feel stronger during the afternoon lifting session. Was it the lack of breakfast? Maybe; test it.
  • Eliminate outlandish premises. I wouldn’t advise testing whether the trans-fats in Crisco are actually harmful by eating a tablespoon every morning, and breatharianism almost assuredly won’t work; the literature is quite consistent.
  • Be prepared to discard a hypothesis. Things won’t always work. And things that seemed to work for a while might suddenly stop working. Or, things that seem to work won’t actually work, or they’ll be working for entirely different reasons than you supposed. In other words, you’re probably never going to know with absolute certainty that something is working for the reason you thought it was. Just be ready to ditch failed hypotheses and change them on the fly.
  • Don’t extrapolate to others. Just as your experiences didn’t jibe with results from randomized controlled trials, the solutions you discovered from your own experiments may not always work for other people. They’ll have to test it on themselves.
  • The beauty of the self experiment is that it acknowledges the persuasive power of personal experience. Ultimately, we are all interested in leading healthy, happy, and productive lives, so we want whatever works. And while studies on other people are valuable, your own reaction to grass-fed butter always trumps what your cardiologist says the studies about other people’s reactions to butter are. The working mother of three, for example, isn’t going to truly know what works for her until she actually tries some stuff out. Conducting a self-experiment, even if it’s totally casual and would never pass the muster of peer review, gives that mother valuable insight into what works and what does not. And it’s easy, free, and gets the mind working.

The possibilities for experiments are virtually endless…

  • The effect of sleep duration on next day sprint/lifting/running performance.
  • Tolerance of Primal starch source (choose one).
  • The effect of evening laptop abstinence on various markers (sexual performance, sleep duration, next day mood).
  • The effect of a daily “forest bathing” hour-long session.

So, readers, tell me: what self experiment are you going to conduct?

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. My self-experiment this week is a standing desk! I modified my desk easily with leftover office junk. It’s not pretty, but it works and can be switched between seated and standing pretty easily. I’m keeping a document with my feelings/observations and my total times sitting vs. standing during the day.

    Triwolf wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • That sounds very interesting!! I sit at my desk a lot during the day- You have given me another idea for experimentation ( thank you)- I may need to just stand and squat a few times while reading my course modules for school then I can sit and do some arm exercises!

      Lexxy wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • I’m just getting back to the real world as far as internet connection is concerned, been living mostly without it this summer. I should probably make a point of standing while I internet surf!

      Noctiluca wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • I raised my desk with cheap concrete blocks from Home Depot. Works great. I also have a table I sit at to write, draw ideas, or read on my laptop PC, so I am constantly changing positions throughout the day, with probably <25% of the time spent sitting. It's pretty much ideal for me.

      Now if I could just punch a hole in the ceiling and get some damn sunlight in here…

      Uncephalized wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • Same with me. Plus i don’t have to Iron my uniform as much if i stand all day. Kelly Starr has a good blog on standing.

      ben wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • At work I have a setup where I can change from sitting in the stability ball to standing in 15 seconds!
      And I spend sitting in a Costco basic folding chair like 1 hour a day. Very happy with the setup!

      WildGrok wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • This has made it all the way to the Tesh radio program, he claims it’s the it perk to have in silicon valley.

      IvyBlue wrote on September 14th, 2011
  2. This is why MDA is my fav blog (2nd being gnolls.org). mark gave us a platform but it’s up to us to make it personal. I think he’s said this about 100 times just in different ways. There are no hard and fast rules. You HAVE to find what works for you. It took me a year to be able to IF, now I’ve found out(thru experiment) that I feel fantastic if I go all day without food and eat a fairly sizable dinner between 6-9pm. But I don’t always. In fact I’m eating leftover steak right now. What? I was hungry dammit! Another great post mark!

    Daniel wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • I have days like that- where dinner is my preferred meal- I have learned not to shove food down my throat if my body doesn’t want it. I tend to like two meals and maybe a snack if I am feeling hungry.

      Lexxy wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • Omg, I love you! Thanks for that link to gnolls…more to read!

      On subject, I’ve tried to experiment with cutting out Raw Milk and no-can-do!
      I cry like a baby after a day without…too tough.

      Arty wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • I had never heard of gnolls.org. Really good site, thanks.

      Book sounds good, too. Just ordered it from Amazon.

      Uncephalized wrote on September 14th, 2011
      • Gnolls.org is consistently awesome, and the book will blow your mind. I’ve just started re-reading it… it’s a feast.

        Timothy wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • I’ve been meaning to add that to my reading list. Thanks for the reminder, and thanks to Mark for another great post.

      Missy wrote on September 15th, 2011
  3. I am a sophomore in college and a member of ROTC. I ran cross-country, wrestled, and rock climbed in highschool and I always felt like I was in pretty good shape. Maybe I was, but I had to work my ass off to get there. For the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test) we are required to do push ups, sit ups, and a two mile run, but after reading the Primal Blueprint I cannot stand how ridiculous these events are as a measure of “fitness”. This summer I decieded that I was going to intentionally not train for the APFT. I stayed very active this summer, but I never ran, never did any ab exercises, and only occasionally did push ups in circuit workouts. My goal was to see if I could get in good enough shape to max the APFT without training for any of the specific events, but instead stayed primal. I didnt quite max, but I came close. I did 68 push ups, 74 sit ups, and ran a 12:10 two mile for a score of 293 out of 300. For anyone out there in the army, take it from me, stay primal and you can max the APFT without logging double digit run miles, and hundreds of push ups and sit ups.

    Alex McKenna wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • This is awesome. Great story. And 6:05 per mile after an entire summer of not running is incredible!

      Joe wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • I changed my diet to a primal diet and began changing my lifestyle. In particular I stopped running long runs and began doing short intervals and some bodyweight exercises. I have not kept up with the primal fitness plan, but I have not run that much, if anything. About 5 weeks after I began following the primal blueprint I ran a 10K. Since I had not run, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do. It was not bad at all. My time was a minute faster than last summer at the same race, but with less running. I felt great during the race (my legs were fine, my lungs seemed to be at their limit, that’s how I felt). More importantly, I wasn’t sore at the end or the next day. My goal these next few months is to see how I do in road races without training as a runner. I’m running a 5K this Sunday (Komen Race for the Cure), a 7 mile race on 10/1 and a 10 mile race in early December. Your post is encouraging. A 12:10 two mile? That’s quite something.

      Oscar wrote on September 14th, 2011
      • The first line should have said “I changed my diet to a primal diet and began changing my lifestyle in late June.”

        Oscar wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • You did what many of us have been doing for a long time. The Army is only recently shifting with the new PRT and upcoming changes to the APFT. The change won’t be as drastic as many would like, but you can always choose what physical activity you do when not engaged in Army PT.

      Nick wrote on September 15th, 2011
  4. I have been self experimenting a lot lately. I’ve never really finished an experiment but at least I am starting them. I have yet to find that one variable that I want to test but I will find it soon.

    Large studies MIGHT help but when it comes down to it all individuals must do what they feel is best for them. They must try something and be completely honest with themselves.

    I strongly believe that millions of people become a vegetarian because they think it improves their health. It does NOT but they aren’t honest with themselves and practice the “religion” for years causing a lot of harm to their bodies.

    Form a hypothesis and experiment. Draw conclusions. Repeat.

    You are a unique individual!

    Primal Toad wrote on September 14th, 2011
  5. My self experiment for the 30 day challenge is to see how much activity I can do each day. Before the challenge I didn’t do much in the workout arena. I am testing to see how far I can push myself on a daily basis. I am 5’2 and 208 pounds. I have to admit it is hard to move around or do certain exercises… so I improvise! I am sure a lot of this will happen until more of the weight comes off but each day is going to be figuring out how do certain exercises like push ups ( that was a big fail yesterday- wall pushups it was) I am also going to have to experiment with lifting heavy things and sprinting. I will be logging about this in my primal journal in the forum.. :)

    Lexxy wrote on September 14th, 2011
  6. Not sure what my experiment will be, but this definitely gets me thinking. Great post!

    Lauren wrote on September 14th, 2011
  7. As usual, you accurately describe an important task in our overall improvement. Without self experimentation we become stale, for the lack of a better word. Failure to self experiment may not equate to an automatic weight gain or the creation of some other tangible health concern; but it does mean we fail to take advantage of the malleability of our brain, which to me is quite unhealthy. a good post.

    chuck cotton wrote on September 14th, 2011
  8. “Don’t extrapolate to others.” So true. What works for us doesn’t not necessarily work for others for a variety of reasons.

    I am doing a 30 Day Challenge going no-dairy. It has been a revelation. It feels so freeing and relieving to have it confirmed by others what I have intuitively noticed over the years that what is going on for me is special to me and that because this or that doesn’t work doesn’t mean I am going mad.

    Alison Golden wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • +1

      Carissa wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • Oof, I know my dairy days are numbered based on the amount I eat and crave. Not quite ready to plunge into the 30-day challenge but I am inspired by yours—freedom sounds fantastic.

      and good point to emphasize and remember the extrapolating philosophy.

      elise a. miller wrote on September 15th, 2011
  9. I’ve been experimenting with different starchy foods and it’s effect on my blood sugar levels. I bought a meter and was quite surprised. Carrots and beets (considered quite starchy vegetables) didn’t really effect it much more than a protein only dinner, but adding only a small potato to the plate gave me a serious spike, which took a while to come down again.

    Too bad, ’cause I do really like potatoes and had hoped I could sneak some into my diet every now and then. Guess not…

    Anna, Fair Flavors wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • Actually, you are mistaken. Carrots and beets, while high in carbs, are not considered starchy vegetables. Potatoes, yams, yucca etc. are starchy vegetables.

      Sabrina wrote on September 14th, 2011
  10. I am going to continue my experimentation with my children. Yikes! I know! I pretty much have down what sets my blood sugar/mood off, but getting theirs in line is another story. So bananas today, maybe sweet potatoes tomorrow…and the attitude results are tell tale signs (yes I know there are other influences especially amount of sleep and outside activity). My oldest loves to experiment, so we will turn it into a science/math lesson. Such fun. Thanks Mark!

    Jennifer wrote on September 14th, 2011
  11. Since discovering PB, I’ve been self-experimenting on a daily/weekly basis. Finding that the inclusion of a piece of bread after 20+ days without makes me bloaty…that cooler showers mean that I’m not freezing when I leave the tub…that I’m not quite ready for the 2 mile walk in bare feet, yet.

    You CAN check more than one variable at a time, just make sure that they are in different arenas — Don’t try to check how 2 or 3 different foods make you feel at once. Don’t get a new pair of shoes for the first day of distance walking. Don’t try a 24 hour IF if you haven’t even done a 12 hour one.

    It’s all a matter of degrees, baby steps, and rational analysis of results —– also known as “trial and error” in most cases!
    (guess we could try to call it “trial and success”…but it’s usually NOT!) ;-)

    CattyB wrote on September 14th, 2011
  12. Breaking the rules and experimenting with two…more fat and shorter work-outs.

    Lisa wrote on September 14th, 2011
  13. LOL! In the search for better health,I think we all have “experimented” – whether with CW, Vegetarianism, Atkins, etc.
    I have been walking barefoot lately, and its been great. My friend saw me the other day, and her main concern seemed that I should’t step on something sharp…my body has had no problems with it….

    Hopeless Dreamer wrote on September 14th, 2011
  14. I’m also going to cut out dairy as one of my self-experiments. I haven’t started yet (I am currently “clearing out” my existing dairy products!), but I’m thinking next week I’ll be ready to go. 8)

    Ali wrote on September 14th, 2011
  15. I love the last bullet point: “The beauty of the self experiment is that it acknowledges the persuasive power of personal experience”. That is so true, especially in dealing with people who are dead set on being skeptical, and playing devil’s advocate.

    Cassandra wrote on September 14th, 2011
  16. While I can’t participate in the 30 day challenge this go round, I am in the middle of an experiment. I am serving as a healthy control in a nutrition experiment designed to increase HDL. But pre-experiment, my values were TC 198, Tri 33, hdl 97, vldl 7, ldl 94. The assigned diet (all food is prepared, and I must contract to eat 100% and nothing else) is an isocaloric high carb, low protein, low NA+, low fat, low chol one with lots of gluten, sweetened fruit and devoid of ruminent meat and offal.) I have so far in 3 weeks gained 8 pounds, redeveloped gnawing almost continual hunger, felt irritable and fatigued and have cravings – but thankfully they are for primal foods. 4 more days to go (the last four are being on a low leucine diet and comparing the lipid profile of their version of the healthy diet with the lipid profile of a low leucine diet). I’ll report back, but I think I know which way the hdl is going.

    What we do for science! (I’ve been on a gluten-, added sugar-, veg oil- free primal diet for about 1 1/2 years – I do eat dairy except for milk).

    As of Monday breakfast, I’ll be re-committing to my former diet, but am planning to take the opportunity to go dairy and nut free for awhile to see if that helps with the weight loss and energy level I need to do as a part of recovering from this.

    aek wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • I’m back and the experimental diet is over! I experienced a hypoglycemic episode near the last day of the experimental diet, and that made me count down the hours until I could return to healthy eating. The primary investigator is someone whose name you will all recognize, and we chatted about our own nutrition journeys. I was overjoyed to be able to return to my baseline diet, and already, my painful joints feel better, I’m not as irritable, I’m losing the gained weight, etc. – well, y’all know the drill. The researchers won’t reveal the subjects’ data until the completion of the study (another year or so), but I’ll let you know when I do. To clarify the leucine component of the experiment, they gave an intravenous dose of leucine and then started the low leucine dietary phase so that they could track the hdl levels acutely.

      My take aways from this were that a primal style of eating is both physically and psychologically desirable, that it has its own built in rewards, and that it feels like deprivation when those foods are not available. I think that my original health benefits came on so gradually & incrementally that I hadn’t realized how much different I felt and performed until changing my diet drastically and acutely.

      And if anyone’s interested, I would love to learn much more about the time frames of adaptation/recovery of physiological and psychological entities. I know that RBCs have a life of about 120 days, but only recently did I learn that adipocyte half life is 2 years, making me wonder how long it takes for changes/repairs/damages to become permanent. With multiple molecules involved in metabolic cycles, what is the expected time frame for permanent adaptation? How about with atherosclerotic plaque? Joint cartilage degeneration?

      aek wrote on September 21st, 2011
  17. Shoot:

    I forgot to write that I am getting many great ideas to try both from this post (thanks, Mark!) and from commenters – thanks, everyone.

    One thing to keep in mind from the psychology and marketing research is that it generally takes about 66 days to solidify and cement a new habit. Mistakes are the norm and not the exception. If you tend toward mistakes of omission (forgetting to take a vitamin or turn down your light at a certain time, for ex.), you may want to plan for built in reminders in your experiment such as placing the vitamin with a food you will eat at the planned time and setting an alarm to sound or a timer to automatically adjust the lighting at the planned time. Conversely, if you tend toward mistakes of commission (eating an undesired food, sleeping through a planned activity), it might be helpful to build in ways to reduce the likelihood of that happening (preemptively get rid of the problem food and stand during a post-prandial meeting).

    These are simply learning aids – same idea as flash cards and notes until your brain habituates and integrates the new behavior into your routine.

    Hope these help -

    aek wrote on September 14th, 2011
  18. The best self experiment I ever did was going off gluten about a year ago. Have never felt better or stronger in my life!

    My loose self experiment this week has been less dairy than I have been eating. I’m hoping my skin will clear up more, and some random digestion issues will go away. So far it’s been going well, but I haven’t been keeping any sort of journal or records.

    katie wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • Katie– I recently stopped drinking coffee and my skin cleared up immediately! I haven’t gotten a zit since. Like Mark said, it’s different for everyone, but I tried giving up dairy for the same reason and saw no effect, so maybe something new to try if you don’t get any results.

      Jess wrote on September 19th, 2011
  19. Yes! My biggest mistake when self-experimenting is to not keep good records. Self-experimenting plus a detailed nutrition/lifestyle journal have been an awesome combo for me!

    Anne wrote on September 14th, 2011
  20. LOVE THIS POST. With school going on, i feel like there is no more time for working out and eating ONLY plants & animals. Its time to experiment and see what will work for my schedule.

    Toni T wrote on September 14th, 2011
  21. I have been encouraging a lot of my friends on the internet to be the
    “TEST STEAK” about foods and exercise routines . Especially food and what it does to you and for you..I ENCOURAGE everyone here to build your own BLUEPRINT for you by experimenting and being your

    Daveman wrote on September 14th, 2011
  22. TEST STEAK!>>>>

    Daveman wrote on September 14th, 2011
  23. Panu blog is another awesome blog. I prefer the blog that combine hard science with a practical approach. It’s fine to have, say, a scientific approach first but to be able to tie it all together with a , “this is what all this crap has to do with you” kind of followup, well, that’s an art. IMO, mark, J Stanton, and Kurt Harris have it all over the rest. But thats just me. Prob more true to the point is that they all say things exactly the way I do so it resonates more. Experiment…hmm, I’ve done most all the food and exercise experiments I care to do. Don’t mess with sleep. I think I like to experiment with different philosophies now. Like how does all this primal/paleo stuff really truly effects one’s world view? Or how would it effect things if everyone went primal? Thought experiments may be daydreaming but it’s all valid. Eat like a predator!

    Daniel wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • Daniel-from personal experience,I can say that getting into something for health leads you to realize the health of Planet Earth is also at stake….so the philosophy changes to: I started for myself, but I can do my part to Save the World (for my children and so forth).

      Hopeless Dreamer wrote on September 14th, 2011
  24. If you want to read more, visit primal toad’s blog and look at his blog roll. The guy went all out. If you read one a day it would still take over a year to read thru them all.

    Daniel wrote on September 14th, 2011
  25. hopeless dreamer–for sure for sure. i’ve really already taken those ideas as far as i can internally, action being so much more important. Frank over at Exuberant Animal has based his entire life on these things. his perspective is spot on, awesome and totally inspiring. i have his exuberant animal “essentials” list posted on my fridge(appropriately) to kinda remind me of whats really important. we all get caught up in work, relationships and so forth, but the most important work and relationship is the one we have with ourselves. i know i sound all corny and newagey, but i really believe this: if we can work on ourselves while simultaneously keeping an eye out that “my life effects other’s lives”, we will make huge differences for the better. as a leader at my job and in my community, i feel this intensity daily. but i use it as energy for more work and less talk. i hate to lecture; it’s better to lead by example and let the ones that WERE going to follow and ARE actually willing to change come along. anyone can be looked after as children(lao tzu) okay, i’m done. i think i commented more today than i have in my entire life! lol

    Daniel wrote on September 14th, 2011
  26. I’m experimenting with long walks, instead of shorter interval runs. It’s always fun to experiment — following the primal blueprint was my experiment for the month of June. Ha! The results were so overwhelmingly positive that I can’t imagine deviating ever from this approach. Going primal was the best “self-experiment” ever!!

    Jane wrote on September 14th, 2011
  27. I agree completely with this post. After reading Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution, the “take away” was that you can get your blood sugar under control my making yourself your own science experiment.

    By reducing carbs, and sticking with meat and fresh veggies, I have lost weight and and reduced my A1C to 6.5.

    The next experiment is to start exercising and to see its effects on my sugar levels and weight.

    Paul Bourret wrote on September 14th, 2011
  28. If you’re starting the Challenge for whatever reason, keep a food and symptom log! It’s confusing enough at first just to figure out what to eat. Keeping track of aches, pains, and other complaints in a meticulous fashion feels obsessive at times, but it pays off.

    In January I was suffering from hypercholesterolemia, high LDL, hypothyroidism, and ulcerative colitis on a downhill course. Metamucil was bringing my LDL down, but killing my colon. The Primal Blueprint made sense to me, and having been gluten-free for 5 years it was no problem to give up grains entirely. The sat fat intake scared me a little, but I figured with 6 months to my next lipid profile, it wouldn’t kill me.

    Keeping a log was a revelation. I could check my compliance AND begin to correlate improvements/setbacks with my diet. I found that whey is NOT my friend, but cheese is. Eggs, alas, gave me migraines, diarrhea and small bowel pains. Fresh veggies on a regular basis were irritating, but cooked were OK. Strawberries and raspberries agreed, blueberries decidedly did not. I could exercise without all the carbs and feel fine.

    As it stands now, my colitis is mostly resolved. I’m decreasing my thyroid medication cautiously, as I gradually got more and more jittery, had palpitations, trouble sleeping, and progressive weight loss despite a monster caloric intake. And, by May and to the bewildered delight of my unsuspecting MD, my LDL dropped into the normal range for the first time in 30 years.

    The log made it all possible. It helped in meal planning. I could keep track of recipes that worked (and didn’t), and adjustments were easier. If I got away with a cheat without physical repercussions, it nudged my conscience. It helped me notice unexpected irritants, the egg intolerance in particular, that I never dreamed could be part of the problem.

    And that was the most significant thing about the log…it enabled me not only to confirm my suspicions and validate my choices, but to discover and eliminate those things that added to my misery without my knowing.

    It really does pay to put it in the book. I’ll be charting my exercise this month.

    Nannsi wrote on September 14th, 2011
    • My experience and my husband’s has been similar Nannsi. When we started the primal lifestyle, we started charting our weight. It became easier over time to see which meals were affecting our weight and which weren’t. Granted, as Mark pointed out recently, that weight is a very crude measurement, but it worked well for us for general purposes. We both have a really good sense of which foods makes us gain weight and which foods don’t. We also noted how we felt after certain foods. I can’t handle milk while my husband can. Takes a bit of planning and commitment but it certainly is worth it.

      Happycyclegirl wrote on September 15th, 2011
  29. I do everything on that list except avoiding extrapolation. It’s led me to the knowledge that dairy is fine for me as long as it is high quality (Balderson cheddar, organic milk) and sex gives me huge stomach aches. Perhaps I tense up too much?

    Alex Good wrote on September 14th, 2011
  30. Self experimenting with more walking and sprinting rather than long distance running!

    Kristin wrote on September 14th, 2011
  31. I use this self experimentation method a lot in my life. I had high cholesterol in my early twenties due to heredity and bad diet. I tried niacin to pull it down and it worked well. Then I learned how to eat better and trained smarter now it’s under control with no medication or specific supplement. Another great article Mark!

    Chris P wrote on September 14th, 2011
  32. I Will test how carb re-feeds affects My fat loss.

    Bjorn wrote on September 14th, 2011
  33. All my life I’ve been plagued by terrible pre-menstrual symptoms – so much pain that I wake up every two hours, severe bloating, crabiness, headaches and unbelievable faitgue. I was so sick of it that I was seriously considering an IUD to control it.

    I’ve been doing the Primal Blueprint “experiment” for two weeks and have lost a few pounds but notice a dramatic improvement in my PMS – 20 minutes of cramps, two slight headaches, slight crabiness and no bloating at all. In two weeks!!!

    Charlotte wrote on September 15th, 2011
  34. My actual experiment is to try to say “yes” to whatever occurs in the present moment, and then take right action.

    Non-Resistance + Right Action

    Steven wrote on September 15th, 2011
  35. It’s absolutely amazing that this post came in today. Well, yesterday. Yesterday I had lunch with my friend KJ. KJ was a vegetarian for 20 years, got REALLY sick, and realized that her body could not absorb B12 or Iron from pills. So she started eating meat again.

    She was still plagued with constant hunger, tiredness, and weight gain. Her doctor said “if it doesn’t grow, don’t eat it”. So she started eating primal/paleo. No grains or beans. I watched her eat on a business trip. She told me that she felt much better. So then I borrowed The PRimal Blueprint and Good Calories, BAd Calories from the library. Read PB already and am in the middle of GCBC.

    So at lunch yesterday, I let her pick the place and I ate what she ate. Which was a 1/2 lb grass fed burger with onions, cheese, bacon, and a side salad (no bun of course). Man, I wasn’t hungry for hours. In fact, here I am 19 hours later, just now hungry for breakfast.

    I have been on weight watchers to lose weight. And I’m always hungry. Every 3 hours. Like clockwork. So I carefully measure out my food and snack every 3 hours.

    I decided to try low-grain (I’m not at no grain yet) with this challenge. I am still counting my points, but am finding that I actually eat fewer when I eat good amounts of fat. Because I don’t need to snack at all. I am recording these feelings of hunger and mood on my WW online comments section so I can go back later.

    Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple wrote on September 15th, 2011
  36. Since I’ve just started (8 weeks in) I’m self-experimenting with what Primal foods and when I eat affects my GERD. So far I’ve been able to eliminate one medication altogether and have cut the other one’s dosage in half. I continue to cut the pill smaller each day to see how it affects me. Hope to be completely off them by the end of the 30 day period.

    Susan M. wrote on September 15th, 2011
  37. How weird. I did a post on the same topic on the same day.

    Peggy The Primal Parent wrote on September 15th, 2011
  38. Another validating post. I love how many experiments have been victorious—adding fat, eliminating grains, working out less. And it dovetails nicely with my cellulite experiment inspired by Dr. Cate’s Deep Nutrition. Now to close the laptop earlier. Eek!

    elise a. miller wrote on September 15th, 2011
  39. I completely love the idea of running self experiments and in truth I started with getting primal… and I’m getting better and better through experiments like this.
    I’m grateful to you Mark for this.
    Of course, some work and others don’t but hey some do work! and these can be life changing

    Nossar wrote on September 15th, 2011
  40. my self experimentation is going to be determining if eating more animal flesh protein (the PB recommended 0.7-1.0 g/pounds weighed) leads to greater weight loss or not.

    sara kate wrote on September 16th, 2011

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