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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November 04 2015

5 Things You Learn Being a Primal Lifer

By Mark Sisson
89 Comments

Being a Primal lifer is nice. You get to pat the heads and tousle the hair of precious newbies who just learned the words “lectin” and “phytate” and can’t stop talking about it. Navigating your local farmer’s market is a breeze, and you’re such a regular that you can show up half an hour past closing and still get the choicest produce. But there are other benefits, too. Bits of wisdom that you glean over time, and that can only come from years of adherence. Today, I’m going to discuss the five biggest ones.

Newbies: don’t expect to use these as a guide for your own immediate existence. These aren’t necessarily suggestions. Much of what long term Primal adherents learn about their bodies and their lifestyles requires that they put in the time to learn the things directly. You can read about it, but don’t be dismayed if you’re unable able to implement or integrate them immediately.

1. The occasional indulgence won’t kill you.

When you first start on the Primal lifestyle, you’re walking around on pastured eggshells. Every speck of food must pass the mental gluten filter before mouth admittance. You’re counting macros like crazy. You’re tracking nutrients. And you want to get it right, so right, that you maintain strict dietary purity. When out with friends wolfing down pizza and beer, you go for the salad and sparking water. This is pretty normal and, I think, useful. It allows you to establish a baseline. You learn about your body without the fog of unhealthy food obscuring your vision. You figure out what works for you.

Then you can play around. You can relax, and test your limits.

Because once you’ve established that excellent gut and metabolic health, and you’ve been topping up your nutrient stores with a diet based on healthy plants and animals for years, those occasional indulgences don’t really bother you.

It’s not just “physical” resistance. It’s also psychological. You realize that strict dietary purity is probably counterproductive, that acting like the modern food system doesn’t exist and agriculture never happened is a form of willful ignorance that ignores the reality of the situation: ice cream is real and tastes darn good sometimes. These brief cheats or indulgences just slide off your back because you’ve learned that freaking out over the quick serve meal you had to grab in a pinch because it was the only food for a hundred miles is more deleterious than the food itself.

2. But you no longer need that occasional indulgence.

It’s a funny cycle that develops over the years. You go from wanting the junk food but fearing its effect on your nascent Primal metabolism to being confident enough in your health and mental makeup to eat the junk food and enjoy it if you want it to not wanting it anymore because you truly enjoy and prefer real food.

This doesn’t mean you no longer “cheat”. You might still do it from time to time, and you generally bounce back just fine. But there’s a difference. You don’t feel deprived of pizza, or bread, or McDonald’s french fries. You sometimes want the junk. But you don’t need it.

3. Just enough exercise is plenty.

The newly Primal are real gung-ho about lifting heavy things, sprinting once in awhile, and moving frequently at a slow pace. So much that they tend to overdo it. They lift really heavy things, sprint more than once in awhile, and move frequently at a breakneck pace. It goes hand in hand with eating: if vigorous administration of the Primal eating plan improves results, so too should doing more of the suggested Primal training. After all, the notion that more exercise is always better is one aspect of conventional wisdom that persists.

But then something changes. You realize you can’t keep getting stronger, faster, fitter in perpetuity. That there is an end to limitless growth. And if you can accept this rather than trigger an existential crisis, you’re suddenly free. You can be perfectly fit, strong, and fast with a moderate amount of exercise. Maintenance isn’t so bad, it turns out.

Not everyone does this. Some people have explicit and driven fitness goals that require a high volume of training. They want to deadlift 2.5x and squat 2x their bodyweight. They want to run a marathon—and excel. They are their CrossFit box’s best hope at qualifying for the CF Games. And some people just enjoy training.

But more often than not, I see the Primal lifers take a nice and easy approach to fitness. They’re relaxed about it. Miss a day? It’s fine! There’s always tomorrow. Don’t feel like hitting the gym? That’s okay. You took your dog for a walk, your kid to the park (where you played just as much as her), and you had a walking meeting at work. You’re good.

The long term Primal enthusiasts realize that, unless you’re competing, being paid, or truly love it, training is best appreciated as a means to an end. We train for health, to look good naked, and to maximize enjoyment and corporeal engagement with the world. We generally don’t train for ego hypertrophy.

4. Leading by example is more effective.

Early Primal evangelism consumes the first year or two. Right after the benefits start accumulating and health marker after health marker improve—once it becomes clear that this Primal stuff really works—you have to tell everyone. Coworker offhandedly mentions wanting to lose weight for bikini season? You throw together an 800 word email with a dozen links detailing why and how they should go Primal. Out to dinner? You smugly refuse the bread basket and wait for the questions so you can make your case. Having a totally unrelated conversation with a complete stranger? You somehow manage to bring it back around to why grains are unhealthy and fat is unfairly maligned.

We’ve all done it. We’ve all been there. And we’ve all been rebuffed, rejected, and ignored by the people we’re trying to help. Overeagerness is a turn-off. It smacks of madness. Zealotry’s a red flag for the type of sensible people ancestral health can attract.

After awhile, our losses mounting and successful conversion rate sitting below 5%, we take a different tack. Instead of haranguing our acquaintances, we let our results speak for themselves. This way interested parties approach us. If the guy in line behind us glances into our cart and goes “what’s with all the meat?” we might give a brief one-liner. When a Facebook friend wonders how we lost so much weight, we tell them. If that friend asks for help with his weight, we’ll drop the link to MDA. When we host a dinner party, we cook incredible Primal food without advertising it. But we’re not going after people or forcing the issue.

We’re simply living it.

All that said, please do tell people about Mark’s Daily Apple!

5. Going Primal is just a template.

Most people’s early experiences with the Primal Blueprint look very similar. They avoid grains, legumes, seed oils, and sugar. They reduce carbs, since most of us are eating too many of them in the first place—especially if there’s weight to lose. They stop worrying so much about animal fat and, quite probably, begin eating more of it along with protein (which usually accompanies animal fat in naturally occurring foods). After getting the diet in order, they’ll modify their training. More weights, more walking, more sprints, less endurance or “cardio” type training. They’ll realize the importance of sleep and, if they really get into it, start taking the various other aspects of good sleep hygiene seriously (natural light during the day, low blue lights at night, orange goggles, etc).

After a few years, however, lifestyles diverge. People begin testing boundaries, trying new foods, shifting macronutrient ratios. Playing with the formula.

Sometimes, these divergences don’t pan out. But eventually, they do. And that’s when the Primal lifer realizes that traditional Primal is just a starting point.

Many people start endurance running after shunning it in response to my general skeptical stance on chronic cardio because it works for them and they enjoy it. That’s awesome. It’s also Primal.

Some people end up eating more carbs and less fat than baseline Primal recommends, whether because they’re training hard and need the extra glucose or because their metabolism just functions better that way. Whatever the reason, if it works it works. They’re still eating Primal.

But you had to start somewhere. You had to stand on common ground and get your wits about you before finding your niche. I mean, you don’t have to— some people luck into the right path—but it’s the most reliable way to figure it out. And all the most successful long-term Primal adherents arrived at their unique brand of lifestyle design through trial, tribulation, and tinkering. There’s no shortcut for that.

Lifers: what have you learned from your years being Primal?

Thanks for reading, everyone.

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89 thoughts on “5 Things You Learn Being a Primal Lifer”

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    1. Yeah, “Bits of wisdom that you glean over time…” very much wisdom indeed if I have to read what I have learned to learn it.

  1. The most valuable and lasting lessons are in the journey, not the destination.

  2. These are all the things I like best about Primal eating. I’m now getting to the point where I don’t beat myself over the head when I eat something “non-Primal,” but I also notice that I don’t feel quite right when I go overboard (like when I had a racing heartrate after indulging in a French bistro’s cheese brioche, which frankly, tasted like sweetened cardboard anyway).
    I don’t preach anymore, which was unproductive anyway. I let results speak for themselves. I weigh far less than any of my social circle. Friends describe me as the healthiest person they know (I was recently introduced this way! Yay!) And I’ve also noticed that without being asked, friends will include primal food choices and skip the bread at social gatherings. Little bits of progress.
    And thanks, Mark. MDA is always the first resource I give people when they do ask!

  3. Haha! So true! Since my primal mindset inception I’ve discovered the studies of Weston Price, rekindled my love for weightlifting, and embraced the impressive performance potential of the human body.

    We recently ground our own Einkorn wheat berries to make dinner rolls; is it Primal? Heck no, but the cool factor (and flavor) was off the charts! Will it be a staple, nope (it actually takes a long time to grind your own grain, I suppose that is why windmills were so large).

    The process is fun and it has changed my perspective. It has inspired me to share what I have learned about optimizing performance and encouraging physical and mental development to enable children and adults to get the most out of life and avoid the ‘inevitable’ blight of premature aging.

  4. Took me years of practicing primal before I got the hang of what it looks like in MY life. And I can see it evolving each year.
    I’m into my 4th year & it’s finally starting to feel more instinctive. Maybe I’m a slow learner, or just human, but when I backslide now, at least I know the template for success. I don’t have to try every fad that pops up in a headline. I go back to my PB laws and set myself back on the path I know works for me and for my family.

  5. You really hit on a few biggies for me, Mark:

    1. Not freaking out over occasional off-roading (When it happens, it’s out at a restaurant…and fairly rare.)

    2. No longer having much desire for off-roading (Primal food is just more appealing than other stuff these days…and “cheats” usually end up being let downs–it’s like I remember them being better than they actually are.)

    3. Living by example (Perhaps because I talk so much about primal eating as part of my work, the LAST thing I want to do while enjoying a meal is explain what I eat, what I don’t eat and why. In my private life, I eat good primal food but steer clear of conversations about it–though when people are curious I happily send them to my website and to Mark’s Daily Apple!)

  6. The lead by example really hits home. I’m the first to admit guilt of the hypocrisy of consuming pizza and beer(because it is the only thing being served) over an unsolicited coversation regarding the detriment grain consumption. Personally there is no greater motivation than receiving a compliment that you lost weight or look great. Then reply with an honest claim that you feel better today than you did 10 years ago. When they ask, “how did you do it?”, tell them it’s a huge commitment and it takes time then change the subject of the conversation. If the person does not let you change the subject, then and only then is the inquiring mind ready to learn about MDA and the Primal Blueprint. The goal of the primal lifestyle is to feel your best. Success is when it shows. Actions speak louder than words. The word lectin means nothing until you no longer wear it’s harm around your waist.

  7. I like the fact that the further I get into this, the less I have to think about it. I love cooking, so eating properly is no real challenge anymore. My wife eats as I do and the kids are easily 80% on board.

    We all focus more on sleep, too, shutting off screens earlier and actually trying to maximize sleep hours.

    I have really gotten into powerlifting, so I definitely don’t qualify as perfectly primal. I don’t really care, though. I’m pushing 50 and it’s fun to have a competitive outlet (even if it is only competing against yesterday’s me). As Mark notes, I have had to adjust my carb consumption and I’m not as lean as I was, but it’s worth it.

    MDA has been a great resource for me. I enjoy my daily visits and continue to learn new things. One note, though: be careful not to drop the old stuff. I dug out the turmeric tea recipe the other night and couldn’t believe I had stopped making it. Awesome!

    1. I completely agree on the hardly even having to think about it anymore. It’s just become a way of living and there is no extra effort involved in either the exercise or the cooking/eating.

      I rarely want to eat anything non-primal anymore. Recently though we were at a pizza party for my sons hockey team. The pizza was home made (with special pizza flour for the crust), and baked in a brick oven outside. OMG – it was SO good and I enjoyed several pieces immensely. But I still have 0 desire to eat take out pizza, or even the pizzas I used to make (nothing compared to the fire baked pizza). I also always have one serving of Christmas Pudding on Christmas Day and they occasional ice cream while out camping.

      I find that as long as I am keeping my gut healthy (lots of fermented foods and resistant starch), then I can have the occasional gluten, soy and dairy with no side effects. Excessive sugar still dose me in though.

  8. As a newbie (going on 6 months Primal) it has actually been a lot of fun to learn new things in my 40’s and see the benefits manifesting themselves as I go. And I do relate to all points above – although relaxing on a missed workout is one I am still wrestling with my old school mind set of “no pain – no gain.” I really enjoy Primal living because it calls you to be creative – from planning to cooking to playing – its like this great game to play everyday.

  9. Yep, I’m a happy ‘lifer’ too!

    Thanks for letting us hang out together, Mark!!

  10. If four years and a bit means I’m a lifer I’m there! At the age of 55 but feeling 35 biologically, life is pretty darn good. I’ve learned who I really am. The anti-aging bonus is gravy…mmm gravy

  11. Never stop learning and adapting. Over the past 4+ years my body has changed, and so have my diet and exercise routines.

  12. I must be a lifer !!! It’s been almost 6 years and I:

    Could care less about the occasional indulgence. For instance, I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten ice cream twice this calendar year – both times out with my husband on a whim over the summer. Do I care – no. And ice cream was something I used to have in the freezer at home every week.

    Don’t really care or go out looking for an indulgence like ice cream, in fact I eat what ever I want. Two things that I have given up – gluten containing grains and sugar (just junkie crap in general) I don’t even want now so it’s a no brainer.

    Exercise is pretty sporadic for me now, but I’m definitely a walker. I love being outdoors and I like lifting weights too, just not in a hard core routine.

    I quit preaching a while back – If someone asks I have no problem giving out information, but I’ve found out if they really want to know, they will come to you.

    Primal is truly a template for me and that’s why I love it !! I can be happy and not dogmatic about food choices. I don’t really ever cheat because for me there is no cheat – I either want it or I don’t. And if I don’t want it, I don’t eat it. I can still experiment on myself with different macro combos and workouts – but I’m never “dieting”. I never count calories or restrict myself to some absurdly small amount of food. I’m all about the ingredients now. I really just looks for good, whole food.

    1. Hear, hear! A lifer with only 4 years behind me. I don’t preach, and like you, I only explain when asked.

      My big “cheat”? An onion ring on Friday nights. Just one, because I really only want just a taste, and then I’m satisfied.

      Exercise? Well, my MS slows me down, but I do Yoga almost daily, and I can still get in a bike ride or hike once a week. It takes four days to recover from them, but I keep up the Yoga.

      I feel so much better without glutinous grains, and I don’t even miss bread/pastries, etc. I do eat occasional rice and quinoa, and I don’t have any guilt over that. What it gets down to – my body, my ideal diet.

      1. Going on 5 years and being a lifer now. Just got back from a 5 week road trip through 9 states and 5,000 miles of driving. Soooo easy! Didn’t worry about food or exercise at all and naturally gravitated to better meals out and did sporadic sprints and playground workouts, pull-ups on tree branches, etc. Came home exactly the same weight and body composition. At 59 years old, the Primal life rocks. No worries, no more preaching (lots of sharing when asked) and energy off the charts.

  13. I learned that less is more when exercising. that food taste best in its natural state. I don’t like so much spicy food anymore. Sugar is really sweet when you don’t eat it that much.
    I love this life style

    1. Yep. I prefer fresh foods, lots of veggies, no processed stuff. I find that 80/20 works best for me. Going all out can mean becoming too rigid, and thereby being “owned” by the lifestyle instead of having it work effortlessly.

      Thanksgiving is coming, and we will be dinner guests at the home of a family member. I plan to eat what everyone else does, which will likely include a few non-Paleo items in small amounts. For me, being healthy physically and mentally also means not being a pain in the rear for the hostess. 80/20 is great for such occasions.

  14. Wow this is the past me:

    “Coworker offhandedly mentions wanting to lose weight for bikini season? You throw together an 800 word email with a dozen links detailing why and how they should go Primal.”

    I realized I was spending too much time, (even with re-sending the same email with the “to” changed) and with no effect: my conversion rate after 5 years stays at zero

    So this part is the new me:

    “If the guy in line behind us glances into our cart and goes “what’s with all the meat?” we might give a brief one-liner.”

  15. Would that it were so. After the better part of a year being mostly primal, I started “experimenting” with what I could handle. I could handle anything! But, and it’s a big one, I was also slowly readdicting myself to carbs — I flipped my switch back from being a fat-burner to being a sugar-burner, is how I think Mark puts it. The more carby things I allowed myself, the more I wanted, and the results have been…well, just what you’d expect. The worst effect of all, for me, is the plummeting of my level of general resilience. Oh, how I miss that! Well, I haven’t actually gone all the way back to where I started, but it feels like starting over. Can’t say I recommend it…but glad to be doing it. I’m now approaching this with the idea that I may or may not ever be able to lower my guard again. And I’ll be less eager to try after this.

    1. I hear you. I had to stop buying even 90% chocolate when life got tough a while back because I was soothing my anxiety with it. That’s the “thin edge of the wedge” and I knew what would follow. I don’t ever want to go there again. (sigh) Green tea is more soothing, actually! 🙂

  16. Must be a lifer, I guess. I go full-bore (minus rolls – purely filler with no real reason to eat them) for thanksgiving and Christmas, enjoying all the traditional things without trying to primal-ize them. Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed no ill effects from this that lasted longer than a few days, and I always start the new year out with a 72-hour fast anyway.

    Most people really don’t care what you eat or why, so quit blathering about it unless they ask. Don’t make the way you eat a religion. That guy who can’t shut up about paleo or veganism? Yeah, don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy (unless he’s, you know, Mark). Results speak, you don’t have to.

    For exercise, I actually found a part time job with a lot of lifting, carrying, and moving around involved. Instead of paying a gym to lift iron, they pay me to move heavy stuff of varying sizes, shapes and weights, outdoors in the wilds of an upper-Midwestern airport tarmac for a few hours five days a week. Life hack.

    Still trying to sneak more offal into the diet though. It’s not easy when only one person wants liver and they sell it frozen by the pound.

    1. Cook the pound, take off the portion that you want, then put the liver [and onions] plus coconut oil in the food processor and make pate that you can smear on veggie sticks throughout the week.

  17. Number 4! THIS IS ME AN IT’S BEEN 5 YEARS! It’s so hard to not want to help those around you but I’ve FINALLY learned to just take a breath and be supportive of whatever they choose to feel good!

  18. I love this website and the thoughtful articles like this one. Thank you! It’s been three years now and I’m healthier, happier with more focus and energy than ever. I have allowed myself more “cheat” foods and like others, just don’t feel satisfied by them. It’s my idea of them, the rosy emotional memories they hold that I trust will return when I ingest them, but they never live up to the expectation. So, numbers 1 & 2 ring true. I think the most important change for me was to learn how addictive food is. Before, I had to eat every 2-3 hours, and now I can fast for 16 hours every day without any kind of regret. It’s liberating, it’s healthy, it’s normal. I have more energy for exercise, I bring primal foods for bake sales and pot lucks. As for #4, it differs, but when people rave about how great I look for my age, with no meds, no energy slumps. great skin, etc. I usually say something simple like “I don’t eat much sugar” or “I eat real food.” Life is much simpler and I like that!

  19. Its nice to have people like yourself in a position of knowledge not force feeding us the primal lifestyle because eventually it does start come naturally.

  20. 15 years of doing what I called ‘The Caveman Diet’ I still get flashbacks of how things used to be. I used to not be able to walk through a grassy field without my eyes itching and puffing up. I used to have to crash and nap after a meal. A weekly asthma attack. A seasonal cold/flu. Sinuses like a leaky faucet all day every day. Inexplicable moodiness. All gone. Does it fix everything? Of course not- but it seems to have fixed a lot of things – and oh ya canker sores. No more of those. The little fixes aren’t as apparent in the short term, but after a while they can pile up.

  21. It’s been 4 years for me. I don’t preach anymore, I ended up with one convert plus hubby.
    I feel great and I’ve tested lots of individual tweaks, dairy, grains, etc.
    During my 4 years I’ve been pregnant and breastfeeding so I needed more carbs.
    I have stuck religiously to gluten free but eat Oats occasionally.
    I’ve never been lighter or felt better. And I never feel guilty, no matter what I eat,this is a big change for me.
    Thanks Mark!

  22. Wow I’m already doing this, I must be a lifer!!
    After over 5 years of being Primal, I have finally given myself more space to live in the “real world”. As I don’t have any allergies, I don’t have any other reason to totally avoid the grains, legumes and dairy. I consume full fat dairy and cheese every day. Day to day I avoid legumes, grains and sugar, BUT if I want to indulge I make it count. Fancy some bread, I will eat the artisan sough dough version. Ice-cream? Gourmet full fat with real cream and natural flavour. In a restaurant I choose the healthiest option but I don’t angst about whether the dressing has soy in it of if there’s a bit of potato on the plate. At Christmas I enjoy all the festive trimmings but do a whole 30 in January to reset. I still avoid junk food and other processed food like the plague – no pizza, burgers or for me! I don’t preach to the office any more ( some-one offered me some birthday cheese cake and 2 people in the office sang out ” Oh don’t give her that, she doesn’t eat crap!” ) When I’ve had a bite of something because it looked so nice its been incredibly disappointing and SO sweet!
    So if any one asks I say I just eat real food, and really that’s the only rule you have to follow – everything else will fall into place

  23. I’m not totally Primal–can’t afford the only non-CAFO beef I have access to. But, I have given up grains almost completely and am so surprised to find I don’t miss them at all. When I have a small cup of soup on occasion that has pasta in it, I usually leave the pasta in the bottom of the cup. Pasta no longer has any attraction for me. Pasta, breads, and most especially, potato chips. I used to literally be addicted to potato chips. I would eat an entire full-size bag of them at least once a week. I was truly a potato chip junkie. Now, I have no craving for potato chips at all.

    All in all, I find that if given a choice between a pasta salad, for example, and a big pile of rich dark greens smothered in vinegar and olive oil, I’ll choose the salad every time. And, significant to me, I never, ever eat cereal any longer. I grew up eating it for breakfast almost every day. For years I tried to find a healthy cereal. Never did find one. Now I eat tons of various veggies with diced chicken and an egg or two for breakfast. Far more satisfying than cereal ever was. Eat breakfast around 9:30 am and I’m not hungry again until 2 or even 3 in the afternoon.

    I could go on and on, but I’m sure I’ve become a bit boring, so suffice it to say that I love this site and am so happy I discovered it. It’s been about 3 years now since I stumbled on it and I’m so grateful that I did. OH. One other thing. At 5’2, I was weighing 128 for well over ten years and couldn’t lose the extra weight. I now weigh 105 to 107 [changes daily] and I’ve never felt better. No more pain in the hips when I wake up, no more pain in the knees when I walk downhill. Clothes actually fit well. I couldn’t be happier.

    THANKS, MARK, SO MUCH.

  24. It’s taken me years to internalize the primal lessons, even though I read all the books and read the blog religiously – it was like my mind wasn’t capable of ‘getting it.’ I first started with the food and carbs, and although I read the rest about making time for play, time with friends, time away from the computer, my mind just skipped over that and just concentrated on the food. It’s only been this year that I’ve finally started to realize the benefits, and frankly the absolute necessity, of play, fun, non-screen time, and moving more at a slow pace (thanks to Katy Bowman as well for that one). In my initial foray into Primal I’d eat primally, go to crossfit for an hour, then park my butt in front of the computer and then the TV for literally the rest of the day, all while drinking a bottle of wine because it didn’t have a ton of carbs. I also fell into the trap of making a bunch of new recipes because they were new and ‘primal’ and end up eating A LOT because it was all just sitting there. I’d love to be a success story on your blog someday, but not sure how to adequately describe this issue – i.e. my story would read “I discovered primal but didn’t do much about it for years and stayed overweight until just recently.”
    p.s. your ‘don’t just sit there’ book and videos are awesome! I resisted moving to a stand up desk because I hate standing and it would be ‘too hard.’ But I can definitely do what you and Katy are suggesting – switching positions, chairs, exercise snacks throughout the day – it makes it fun and interesting and totally doable.

  25. I have been primal for about 5 weeks. Then a couple of days ago Mark put alcohol on the list of poisonous things to avoid. So I quit drinking for a couple of days, then I decided that I am not going to abstain for life.

    So I guess I will be 90/10 or whatever the ratio is of Primal to non Primal.

  26. I went Primal back in 2009 and lost weight but more important my labs were incredible! Then the stress of life took hold with a divorce, studying for a new career, yadda, yadda, yadda. Gained weight back, slipped too much, tried the low-fat crap again, lost weight and guess what? labs look awful. I’m back to Primal, feeling better than ever and will never go back.

  27. I’ve learned so much! Eating and sleeping and moving and otherwise living more closely aligned to our genotype makes everything work better, physically, mentally, and emotionally. What a concept! I’ve learned a new appreciation and wonder for the self-healing power of my body, now that I’ve “gotten out of its way.” At 61, on no meds, with great numbers (HDL 118, triglycerides 30, etc.), zero complaints, and more vitality than I’ve had in decades, I am definitely a lifer. I may have stopped babbling about it to all and sundry, but in my heart I am just as certain as ever that this is the best and only way to truly live. Thank you, Mark.

  28. People ask me what do I do to be so fit and healthy and I give then very condensed answer, they still say ‘oh I could never do that’. My reply is usually ‘probably not – it takes a few weeks to get used to’. They get offended, I have to tell them that they said that they could not do it,I just agreed with them haha. That kind of attitude just sets you up for failure or complacency.

    1. Try encouragement! Works wonders. I tell my friends and family, “I did it and so can you – let me help you”. Now my wife, mother-in-law, Children and friends are enjoying better health and lifestyle – same as me. so we can cook primal meals together now. No more healthy-for-me, unhealthy-for-them! Its wonderful. We are establishing a Primal community!

      1. Encouragement works for me but my son and sister are the “oh, I’m sure you’d never be able to do this” people. My mom got her to clean the house and make dinner all the time doing that……”no, you just relax, I will make dinner, clean up those dishes, etc. when I get home” and snap it was all done and more. There are a lot of people who like to be challenged to self motivate, my sister knew that she was like that and it was ok with her that my mom did that. It did help that my mom was very grateful for all we did, she loved the way I “made the bathroom sparkle”, did all the dishes when she made bread or some other messy food. I just liked doing dishes so I could keep warm, worked for both of us. (we had to do dishes anyway so may as well like it right?)

  29. Mark’s Daily Apple has great content, but additionally one of the great things about it is its “print” feature, which, unlike many other health websites, allows us to simply hit the print icon button and the entire article formulates itself perfectly, without printing all the extraneous material on the page which is the result with many other websites.

    great job!!!!

  30. Yep – that’s me for sure too, always open to sharing the health restoring, life-giving truth that I have learned through the Primal Blueprint. It’s true, I come across a little crazy sometimes.

    But at the same time, it’s also true that whoever we ‘Primals’ first talk to about ‘Primal’ we must be aware that if its new to them, its going to sound crazy because even their Doctors are telling them the opposite. It flies in the face of all they have been told by the mainstream (most at least) and that especially for people in the health danger zone, actually STOP!

    Isn’t that the point? Those poor sick people we all see every day, taking their toxic medicines for illness caused by the fake foods the other ‘experts’ advise them to eat. Maybe I am crazy, or maybe not so much. Maybe it’s its our moral duty to share with passion and Joy, the benefits to be gained (as we have gained) from changing how we have been existing and starting to live and enjoy health in the same way – or better – than our ancestors did. The way we were always supposed to… Ok so now I am getting ‘preachy’ to the ‘Primals’! Maybe at 21/2 years on this I am to young to be considered a lifer but I am new enough to remember the life giving awesomeness of Primal. It changed my life. I’m I know it wasn’t only me.

    I am trying to imagine Marks passion, that which led him to push against the mainstream and develop all these wonderful resources for us to learn from. Mark, you’ve researched and produced something wonderful. Its a genuine and tangible evidence based, results focused gift of life giving knowledge. What you have done is provide the TRUTH. Now, those who will hear it can make informed choice. Before we were subject to the marketing machine that was deciding for us and tricking us into ill health and poor quality of life. Now we have our defence. We have the truth about; fake food, High stress living, inadequate sleep, insufficient sunlight, lack of fun…

    Hehe… so did I miss the point. Maybe. But then again – maybe some of the Lifer’s are forgetting how big of a deal Primal really is. Its not a diet. Its how we are meant to live. Its a key to increasing the wealth of our life experience – or at least a big part of it. Its a life-changer.

    Yep Crazy Ronnie signing off! (Go tell them – who told you anyway?)

    Thanks Mark – for telling me! Keep up the awesome work!

  31. yeah…80/20 worx for me! lets face it, we are going to cheat sometimes. just make sure its not more than 20% of the time.
    I have noticed that sometimes I go overboard with the carbs like 2 slices of pizza and I actually look and feel thinner the next day …. Mind Body Connection maybe ¿

  32. Leading by example is so effective. You really don’t have to say much at all. When people ask, I’ll give a quick summary of what Primal is, but never, ever follow with ‘You should try it.’ If someone has health issues which are similar to my own, I’ll say, ‘I found that changing my diet from vegetarian to Paleo helped.’But no pushing. I always have a couple of extra books on hand which I’ll lend to people for a week or two. For a lot of people, it’s a big, big shift in their way of thinking, especially if they’re doing the low-fat, low-animal-protein thing. They come round when they’re ready. Funnily enough, they take me seriously when I talk about Primal because I teach yoga, and they expect me to be vegetarian. Which I was, but my health deteriorated and auto-immune issues flourished. Much, much better now. Makes for a convincing testimony.

    1. My experiences have been a little different. I never preach, but I’m occasionally asked about what I eat. More often than not, the asker will say, “I don’t think I could ever give up bread and pasta.” Or, “I never eat vegetables.” So I just smile and change the subject.

      The word is out there, but people have a right to eat the way they want to eat, even if it isn’t very good for them. Sometimes the light bulb goes on, usually after their health has begun to deteriorate–or if they’re lucky enough to have a Paleo-oriented doctor.

      1. That’s it – people have the right to eat how they want. What I find… not really frustrating… it’s more just a little unspoken ‘I wish… I wish you’d try this’, is when I see friends who in fact have serious health issues – MS, or endometiosis, or the onset of major inflammation issues – and, so far, the light bulb is not going off. And you can’t push, or suggest, or do anything, other than serve up amazing Paleo food when they come over for dinner!

  33. I don’t completely agree on #1; two years ago I could eat all the grains I wanted without my body responding badly to it. Now, a plate of pasta the other week (out of politeness to the dinner party hostess) had me in cramps the next day.

    Fortunately #2 is completely true so that problem rarely occurs.

    #4 is also exactly right

    1. #1 does not apply to me either. Sugar and carbs are like an addictive drug to me. One bite sends me for a tailspin. I did this several months ago and I am still off the wagon and my weight and health are spiraling downhill. Hopefully I can get it back together soon. When I do I will have to treat all non primal food as drugs to an addict.

      1. You’re not a lifer yet then.

        Once you hit that point, it’s really, truly just mindless. Even a year ago I still loved to go out to eat. Now, I have completely lost that desire. I never have to think about grocery shopping or cooking – it’s just automatically all primal. There is still a ton of Halloween candy in the house and it doesn’t tempt me in the least.

      2. Becky, I have to do that also. I’ve disappointed friends (and strangers) by not having “just a bite”. I tell them simply it doesn’t agree with me. At the office parties they began adding a meat and cheese plate to the trays of sweets! So nice!

  34. When one starts something new, it is comforting to know that those around you agree. Therefore the wish to tell everyone about it. Having “converted” someone strenghens your belief that this stuff actually does work.

    Once you experience the results for yourself, it becomes less important to “convert” others, just to strenghten your own convictions. Now it is easy to be an example and if others want to know about it, we’ll tell them – caring less if they agree with it or not.

  35. paleo since 2009
    1. pay attention to your family history. if you have diabetes in your family, don’t depend on A1c or fasting numbers. get a cheap glucose meter and strips from walmart and check your blood sugar after say eating a bowl of oatmeal. 200 is diabetic. always shoot for under 140 one hour after you start eating.

    2. since your genetic background is different, you can’t just copy other paleo people (see above).

    3. dairy is hard to give up. i lost more weight cutting out dairy in addition to legumes, grains, processed food, etc. but i cannot give up dairy. i am now accepting the expanded tummy of dairy for the moment.

    4. as you get older, be careful exercising. don’t hurt yourself. get an exercise bike, especially for bad weather. you can do bike sprints on it.

    5. beware of buying supplements on amazon- could be phony copies.

    6. nobody has written a good paleo menopause book- good money making opportunity here

    7. if your hormones are going nuts at perimenopause/menopause, all the standard primal/paleo advice to sleep better is NOT going to cut it.

    8. In your search for a good sleep, don’t take drugs that have anticholinergic effects because that cause cognitive decline after a while. no benadryl, unisome, nyquilzz or whatever.

    9. a sleep mask and decaffeinated coffee are SUPER.

    10. Orange (googles) are the new black.

    11. Time goes fast, try to enjoy no matter what your current state of health is.

  36. I’ve been at this since spring 2012, and I would add #6: Community matters. I have never found another place online that remotely comes close to MDA in terms of really decent people adding value with their comments or forum posts and often sharing a nice sense of humor. I just read all the comments above and really enjoyed them. No trolls. MDA has provided so much positive reinforcement for me over the years. The “daily” part is really critical. This is a really important of my routine and my grounding. My thanks and appreciation to all of you.

    1. You’re so right, Juli; reading the comments on MDA is a huge part of my progress. The articles themselves are always great and then the comments add even more, or at least support what is said in the post. There are very few places online that don’t have hateful trolls or incessant negativity, that this site is almost a haven for me.
      Thank you so much for all you do, Mark, and to all who genuinely want to help by adding thoughtful responses or great questions for clarification 🙂 I’m still working on losing the excess weight and this site gives me the hope and encouragement I need to carry on 🙂

  37. My responses:

    1: Not true. I’ve been paleo for over five years and will be so for the rest of my life. If I go off the reservation, I’m screwed up for days (nausea, ridiculous weight gain that takes weeks to recover from, etc.). So, well, I guess yeah, it won’t actually “kill” me, but the repercussions are ridiculous.

    2: True, but then my willpower with almost everything has never been an issue.

    3: Not true. If I lift weights less than twice a week (which is twice more than I want to), I get noticably weaker. I can’t lose the last 20lbs or so of excess fat (I have at least 16% bodyfat) no matter how much or how little walking I do. So, perhaps my “just enough” is an insane amount of low-level activity and at least twice-weekly lifting but that is way more than I have the ambition for at this point, especially since I was once much more active with not-much-better result than now.

    4: Not true again. I lost 140+lbs effortlessly and nobody gives a fuck how. Sure, they ask sometimes but quickly dismiss my answer no matter how long- or short-winded it is. My “conversion rate” is completely unblemished by success.

    5: I have no input on this one.

    I’ve had a lot of success with Primal/Paleo, but it is not working for the last bit of excess fat. I know I am still not happy with my body composition. I’ll probably give up on the idea of losing it at some point, but I still hold out hope for now.

    1. I found fasting worked like a charm for those last few stubborn pounds. By giving me a rest from even thinking about food when it was a day off from eating and also helping reduce my overall intake just by skipping one meal on a consistent basis. Worked great all summer, now it’s winter and my system is stressed enough with S.A.D. so I’ve gained a couple of pounds. I’m not worried, I know once spring arrives I’ll go back to fasting and drop them easily.

    2. I appreciate the suggestions, Suzanne and v. However, I have tried both fasting (in every conceivable variation) and no dairy. As I said, I’ve been Paleo for over five years. I have scoured the internet for every possible solution and tried them all, except for absurd amounts amounts of physical activity. I do accept that what I consider to be “absurd” is likely far less than what most others would consider it. But, since I am completely unwilling to do that much work, if that is the cause of my troubles, then my troubles will remain indefinitely.

  38. So, so spot on. I eat rice and oatmeal pretty regularly now and go a little easier on the fat. I also learned to stop reading PaleoHacks and got less obsessed with trying every single diet tweak: low histamine / FODMAPs, etc. Cut out dairy and my cholesterol dropped 35 points (I know, I know, cholesterol numbers don’t mean much, the methods are flawed). Now breastfeeding, I am struggling to keep weight on and added in more unholy foods just out of desperation!

    I think it is safe to say we’ll never eat the same way ever again. And I just love that.

    1. Paleo is way too dogmatic in some claims. Many good ingredients had been removed just because they didn’t exist on December 31st 9999 b.C.

      Enjoy your oatmeal for breakfast, just make sure you prepare it the evening before. Properly prepared cereals (soaked, sprouted, fermented) are perfectly healthy, just like properly prepared pulses and raw milk (preferably fermented) or aged cheeses. The problem is that people don’t have the time to properly prepare anything today (or just don’t want to find the time for it).

      What is not healthy, although considered paleo, is almond flour used as a replacement for baking.

      1. I have a bag of almond flour in the freezer. It’s been there for quite some time now–unused–and I will likely throw it away unopened, although it was fairly expensive. The reason is two-fold: 1) I don’t care for substitute foods with a lot of weird replacement ingredients, and 2) for me, the idea of baking so-called “Paleo” desserts and goodies really isn’t Paleo. They just feed the cravings instead of eliminating them.

        1. I agree that making substitutes can just feed the cravings for desserts and other treats on a daily basis. For me, as well, it’s better to think of dessert as a very rare treat and I’ll just get the real thing once in a blue moon. Rather than throw out your almond flour unopened, however, if you have someplace you can throw it on the ground, the birds and squirrels will enjoy it 🙂

      2. I am curious as to why you believe Almond flour is not healthy.

  39. I have learned that my lifestyle is so seamless and effortless that I have time to spend and give to others. I let them ask me, “How do you stay so thin in your 40’s?” or “How do you get your butt to look like that?” an then I explain. I tell them I’m using my body the way God made it work and treating it like he intended. Hopefully this leads to more powerful, spiritual discussions. Sometimes it just stays physical. That’s OK too. Remember, whatever your beliefs, you can’t take care of others when you’re sick or frazzled. Thanks Mark. We have your book out for our patients to see and recommend it for healing, for health.

  40. I’ve been leading a primal lifestyle for 3+ years now and couldn’t agree more with the part about finding the right primal lifestyle for you. Initially I went in with the belief that fat was great carbs evil. However this lead to weight gain and I had to adjust to what was right for me. It’s been winter down here and I have fallen off the wagon somewhat. This morning I started on a 21 day Primal eating re boot diet and this post couldn’t have come at a better time!

    Cheers Mark!

  41. Primal since 2009. After that many years mostly cooking fresh food at home, and being careful about choices when I eat out, the old favorite fast foods and packaged foods just do not taste good anymore. It makes it easy to avoid them 🙂

  42. WOW! What a community! Mark, going Primal for 4 years now in my own way (which is why I totally agree with point 5) has been an absolute revelation. Was never into the fast food bandwagon (never liked pizzas, doughnuts etc, etc) , but the other stuff about grains, sodas, wheat, hidden sugars, and the entire concept about ‘eat what your ancestors ate’ is spot on. I was lucky to see my grandma live to 95 (and she was active in the kitchen until around 85) and watch everything she did to prepare a normal meal for us at home when we were kids. It all came flooding back to me after I came across MDA. We cook nearly everyday and luckily, our kids (now 8) just love primal food. They refuse to eat at their friends’ b’day parties ( KFC’s, Mcdonalds’s) because they just can’t appreciate the taste of junk. It is a punishment for them…the days they don’t behave we tell them ‘no homecooked food for you, we will take you to McDonalds’!! I hope I have given them a head start in life.
    1. It don’t kill you…the body understands that. I have my beers once in awhile with my friends, but that’s my only indulgence.
    2. Totally agree, there is no reason to cheat because I am not longer feeling deprived. It’s like when I quit smoking 25 years ago….because I wanted to. One gets to appreciate the lifestyle better when one sees and feels the results. Honestly then you won’t need to cheat. For some it might take 3 or 5 or 7 years, just like the urge to smoke keeps coming back for a period of time.
    3. Again , spot on for me. I transitioned from a near chronic cardio regime to a 2×12-minute workout regime at home with a pull up bar and kettlebell. Need to incorporate the ‘lift heavy things’ bit somewhere down the line.
    4. Earlier I would comment and try to talk about Primal living very passionately when friends or family would indulge in the ‘healthy breakfast cereals’ and keep away from the ‘Fats’ and ‘eggs’, but then I realized that it wasn’t always being appreciated. I am on the passive mode now, and let them ask me what I do to keep myself in shape. I guess, it’s human psychology…. if you attack something which the world says is the best thing I can do for our health, even our doctors say so…… then it is not easily appreciated. In most cases, the realization comes only when something goes seriously wrong. Even my parents (now 82) are not convinced, they have their bowl of cereals and bread rolls every day. I try to tell them that they grew up eating very close to primal their entire life and that is the reason they are fit and healthy today inspite of getting sucked into the modern food propaganda for the last 15 years or so, but who is listenening?!
    5. It is a broad template. Every culture and cuisine can adapt to their own primal ways.
    Thanks again Mark…

  43. I have been primal 20 years. I went primal when I was 43; at the same time that I was diagnosed with celiac disease.
    Going primal was truly the gift of life to me, and I have never looked back. It is a way of life that has never let me down.

    As an ND and caring person I have mentored many people, families and health care professionals to this way of thinking, and living, and find great joy witnessing their return to health and their formation of a new perception of who they are and where good health is based.

    Ironically, there are people who know me, who continually classify me as a vegetarian because I look so healthy and young for my age, even though I repeatedly tell them I am Paleo and eat meat.

    Eating Paleo saves lives. Changing diet is simple, changing minds and policies takes time, and it doesn’t always happen; then people suffer needlessly and many die before their time.
    Witnessing un-necessary human suffering is the aspect of being Paleo I find the most difficult to accept.

  44. I’ve been primal for 3 years now. About a year ago I just fancied a lot of gluten free pastry items. I’m a Coeliac. After the most awful heartburn on eating a meat pasty I vowed never to eat one again. I also no longer crave pastry things. Also I discovered that breakfast cereal tastes like cardboard so never eat that. When staying with family just told them I didn’t eat breakfast cereal but would like fruit and eggs for breakfast. I still have a piece of gluten free cake occasionally, but sugar really piles on the inches on the waist. My winter trousers were a bit tight so am being really sensible and am slowly losing some extra flab. As for exercise, I’m 72 and mainly do walking, country dancing and gardening. Lifting heavy things happens once a week when I take some boxes to the country market for sale and when I make preserves to sell. A full preserving pan of chutney is heavy. I do try to get sufficient sleep.

  45. I started reading MDA before I “went Primal”. It didn’t make much sense to me then, and I didn’t think Primal was attractive, until I dove in about 2 1/2 years ago…..and I’m a Lifer!

  46. Great article!
    I still remember being intimidated (!) and somewhat baffled, the first few times I visited MDA. I bookmarked the site though, so I did recognize there might be something to this whole ‘primal’ thing. It must have been after reading Gary Taubes’ GCBC that I just flipped my whole view of food, health and lifestyle, and, being severely ill, I had plenty reason to change things. I started a track of learning and practicing what I learned, experimenting. MDA and Mark’s books became a valuable source of information and have not let me down in all those years.
    The one thing that struck me most in this blog post is the trouble with showing loved ones the way to better health without putting them off. Happened quite often and it made me feel so bad, seeing them get worse over time and doing exactly the opposite of what they should have been doing. It hurt. Not being able to help them because they wouldn’t believe me, not being a doctor or dietitian. Leading by example has in fact brought me a lot more peace of mind, accepting that people are simply living in a whole different paradigm, similar to myself so many years ago, when I didn’t recognize the real value of the information on MDA. It was just too weird. And still… I see them taking their own small steps. Butter instead of margerine. Less bread. Better quality meats. Actually, come to think of it…those aren’t small steps! Thanks Mark, for being here.

  47. This article is all so true it’s not even funny. Guess I’m a lifer. All 5 have come to pass.

    Regarding number 4, admittedly I only accomplished this because I got sick of the irrational conversations and the stressful emotionally charged illogical arguments/strawmans that come with “talking about it”.

    It’s just much less stressful to shut up and stay low.

  48. My short term goals are daily morning exercise and healthy breakfast with oats.

    This is a good read, thanks for your effort!

    1. I have been leading a primal lifestyle for almost 7 years now and couldn’t agree more with the part about finding the right primal lifestyle for you. I have no desire for non-primal foods. Will maintain this momentum.

      1. I’m just getting started and am already seeing results. Have been monitoring my sleep very closely and think that makes the biggest difference, at least for now. Great blog!

  49. Moderate exercise and light weightlifting do help too, with proper nutrition plays an important role in our lives.

  50. I can’t believe I’m just seeing this post. All of this is SO spot on. You really know us.