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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July 03 2018

10 Tips for Sticking with Primal

By Mark Sisson
13 Comments

Primal is simple, but it’s not exactly easy. At every turn, detractors and temptations appear. We have health authorities telling us we’re killing ourselves. Worried friends and family sharing news articles decrying the consumption of fat and meat and promoting wholly plant-based diets. Food companies employ food chemists to engineer delicious processed junk that hijacks our brains’ reward systems, making food that’s addictive on a biochemical level. It’s going to take a mix of concrete, tangible tactics and psychological tricks to stick with Primal.

Plan Your Meals Each Week

The modern world excels at rewarding poor planning. Its whole appeal revolves around convenience. It’s always tugging at us, leaving hints, suggesting easy ways to go astray. When you’re just starting on this Primal journey and things aren’t quite second nature…(like finishing your first 21-Day Challenge).

No time to make dinner? Grab a happy meal!

In the grocery line with your meat and produce? Hey, check out this 40 ounce sack of fried potato slices; bet you could finish half of it on the drive home!

Every week, plan your meals. Go shopping, get what you need, and have things ready to go. Keep a clean kitchen, so you can launch into cooking without fretting over dirty pots and dishes.

Look At Your “Before” Photos

You got into this Primal stuff for a reason. If you’ve seen benefits, lost body fat, improved body composition, gotten noticeably stronger and fitter, go back and look at those old photos. Look at yourself and remember. Immerse yourself in what it felt like before you went Primal.

Realize that it will all come flooding back if you go back to your old ways.

Think Of the Worst That Could Happen

A lot of things can go wrong in life. Many things will go wrong. But we don’t have to hasten the disintegration of absolutely everything. All the recommendations I make in the Primal Blueprint and on this blog are designed to reduce your chances of being reduced to that terrible situation. Read those words, feel them, and imagine yourself in that situation. Not great, is it? So, how about you stick with the program?

Imagine everything that could go wrong health-wise. Imagine you’re 20 years older than you are now. You’re on a slew of medications. Your monthly checkup with your cardiologist is the closest thing you have to a friend. You have a weight set, but it sits unused amidst the ruins of the great spider kingdoms that have come and gone over the years. Your bones are porous, your arteries are clogged, your blood sugar runs high, your heart rate stays elevated. Your muscles are marbled, your mind is foggy. Remember that each choice—including the one before you right now—has the power to determine your future scenario.

Realize That Perfect Is Not the Goal

Many people have the idea that going Primal is a life sentence of ascetic purity. That’s a big misconception. Actually, these are just guidelines. Recommendations. Modes of eating, living, and being that, from my reading of the scientific literature and experience coaching people, help a lot of people get healthier, fitter, leaner, and happier. But it all exists on a spectrum. It isn’t “all or nothing.”

Eating some rice won’t derail the whole train.

Skipping a week of training won’t dissolve your gains.

Even eating a french fry cooked in the most rancid of seed oils won’t imbue your adipose tissue with permanently imbalanced omega-3/omega-6 ratios (not that I’d recommend it, but still).

Unless you’re celiac or truly gluten-sensitive, ingesting a bite of gluten probably won’t perforate your gut lining and open you up to a month’s worth of bacterial endotoxins and allergens.

A date won’t set you back to square one on the keto journey.

Some heeled dress shoes are perfectly fine for a wedding or the office. They won’t ruin your feet or posture.

It’s not about Primal perfection. It’s about making the guidelines work for you to push your health and happiness forward.

Don’t Forget the 80/20 Rule

This dovetails nicely with the previous tip. The 80/20 rule is a built-in “get out of jail free” card. It’s not an actual, literal card, although that’s certainly an idea if an entrepreneur wants to get in on that. It’s the formal acknowledgement that if you do the right (healthy, Primal, keto, etc.) thing 80% of the time, you’ll be doing better than 95% of the population and garnering the majority of the benefits we can expect from living healthy.

What’s 80/20 look like?

It doesn’t mean eating fast food every fifth meal. It doesn’t mean eating 1/5 of a birthday cake. It means giving yourself some slack. It means realizing that you work hard, you eat well most of the time, and it’s okay if you slip up and have a beer or a few bites of pizza at the end of a long week.

The 80/20 rule helps prevent you from heaping additional guilt and stress and despair over a single bad choice onto the first order effects of the choice. It cements the reality that you’re going to be okay.

Join a Gym

If you think you hate the gym, you probably haven’t been in awhile. No longer must you do the globo=gym thing, where staff members frown at you for deadlifting and everyone’s preening for the mirrors. You can try CrossFit. You could try parkour. You could try BJJ or Pilates or kickboxing. You could find a great personal training gym, interview the owners and trainers, and find someone who melds well with your personality and goals. You can try FitWall. There are thousands of movement options out there. The point is throwing down the money and investing in yourself.

When you put down money, you put skin in the game. Rather than lose your sunk cost, you’ll be more likely to follow through and stick with it.

Buy New Cooking Equipment

Are you trying to cook incredible meals in damaged teflon skillets? Sear steaks on lightweight aluminum pans? Julienne vegetables with a blunt chef’s knife that hasn’t been sharpened since the 80s? Get yourself some quality equipment. You don’t need to drop $500 or anything close to that.

Grab a cast iron pan for searing steaks. Some heavy stainless steel pots and pans. A dutch oven for braising, if you do that sort of thing. Consider an Instant Pot. A decent chef’s knife. Maybe a small, simple food processor if chopping vegetables is keeping you from enjoying Big-Ass salads. It doesn’t take much, and it will make cooking that much more pleasurable (and effective).

Pick One Thing and Start There

Getting your entire lifestyle back on track is daunting. What, you expect a person to overhaul how they eat, move, consume electronics at night, interact with the sun, supplement, and sleep right away? Some people can do that no problem, but many people find it an intimidating prospect.

Just pick one thing, do it well, and see the dominos start to fall in other areas. Purge your pantry. Ditch grains and seed oils. Start walking every day. Get back into barbell training. Go to sleep at the same time every night. Doing all those things would be great—and not as hard as you think—but even just one will make a big difference.

Get a Friend Involved

Getting a friend to join you in sticking with the Primal way of life is a simple and effective way to keep you engaged. The hardest part is breaking through the resistance and mustering the willpower to enlist the friend. Then, once you’ve both agreed to do the thing, you have to do it. Neither of you wants to let the other person down. As social animals, we value the input and opinions of others. Especially when those others are close to us.

You could do family, like you mom, your brother, or your spouse, but in my experience those relationships can get testy real fast. Friendships are more durable, in a way. It’s usually easier to get strict and abrasive when required with your friend than it is with your husband or wife.

Go Hardcore

Some people can’t go all-in at once. They sputter and fail, and would be better served just picking one thing at a time (as I mentioned above). But some people thrive when they overhaul their entire lives. That’s how I am—I didn’t just change how I ate when I developed the Primal Blueprint. I changed how I ate, slept, exercised, and lived in general.

Maybe you’re going too cautiously. Maybe you need to go all in.

Work With a Primal Health Coach

Primal Health Coaches are well trained to help you hit your goals, work through tough sticking points, solve problems, and motivate you. This is quite literally their job. They combine motivational power with a strong knowledge base, so whether you have a motivation problem or a knowledge problem, they can help.

Hiring a Primal Health Coach also gives you that skin in the game effect—with a literal voice on the other end. For some people, that level of accountability is the linchpin.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to get yourself back on track. This is the list of ways I find most effective at getting others, and even myself, back on track after an extended hiatus, or sticking with it when doubt begins creeping in.

What are your favorite ways to stick with Primal?

Thanks for reading, all. Take care.

TAGS:  prevention

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13 thoughts on “10 Tips for Sticking with Primal”

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  1. As an add-on to the meal planning tip, if you have online grocery ordering in your area (like Kroger ClickList), use it! It’s a lot easier to not buy junk food when you aren’t enticed by every single end cap in the grocery store.

    1. Great tip! Going to the grocery store hungry is a recipe for DISASTER. Lol. Ordering ahead is genius.

  2. I had to laugh at myself. At first, I read “see the dominos ” as “see the doritos”. I live a happily dorito-free life, not sure where that came from. 🙂

  3. Mark is right about 80/20. Maybe most importantly, it keeps people from becoming overly rigid about what they eat, which can get to be a problem in itself. Religiously sticking to a diet plan–any diet plan–solely for the sake of perfection isn’t a great idea. The hidden beauty of 80/20 is that it keeps us from taking ourselves too seriously.

  4. “The modern world excels at rewarding poor planning.” GENIUS line. I’m going to post it somewhere I can see it every day. Since planning my meals, I’ve found total food freedom. Such an irony.

  5. Great suggestions as always. re: the 80/20 rule: “It means realizing that you work hard, you eat well most of the time, and it’s okay if you slip up and have a beer or a few bites of pizza at the end of a long week.” In other words, the 95/5 rule. 80/20 will not cut it relative to your diet or sleeping habits. I don’t take myself seriously, I’m very self-effacing (which is easy to do in my case LOL, so much material to work with) but I do take my lifestyle decisions seriously, and with gratitude and playfulness, but seriously all the same.

  6. Get a vacuum sealer and cook larger quantities, less frequently. My #1 best purchase ever. O.k., maybe my 4 or 5 best purchases ever… seeing as I went through a few department-store quality machines before I plunked down the cash on a chamber-type. Meats taste fresher and food lasts forever. Eating week old guac will blow your mind. The chanmber type can even seal liquids.

  7. My favorite way to stay Primal is to get creative in the kitchen. In the past 3+ years (since transforming my life with the Primal Blueprint) I have enjoyed so many new and delicious foods: organs, fermented foods, bone marrow, vegetables of all colors. I love creating new recipes, especially because I appreciate taking care of my body by eating beautiful, nutrient dense foods.

  8. Ditto on the quote “the modern world excels at rewarding poor planning.” Classic…I immediately texted it to my rising college freshman. Prob won’t get through his frontal lobe, but I tried.

  9. Love these! As a Primal Health Coach, I’ll pass this post along to my clients!

    In my own eating and when working with clients, I’m an advocate for keeping meals (and change efforts) uncomplicated, doable, sustainable.

    It really doesn’t have to be complicated to eat healthy and feel better!

    I also help people explore underlying patterns around food and lifestyle. Ultimately, food is never just about food. Even “just” bringing honest but compassionate awareness to deeper patterns causes things to shift. Each shift adds to the momentum…and changes the whole course of things – the whole course of our continuous becoming.

  10. Thank you very much, I am mostly a vegetarian. But this article has inspired me to try out the primal diet. Hopefully these tips will keep me on the right track!