Becoming healthy is as much a mental process as it is a physical experience. Most of us would admit we find ourselves overhauling much more than simply our dinner plates or daily exercise. Oftentimes, we’re upending years – or decades – of unhealthy inertia as well as eating, destructive self-talk as well as inactivity. I hear from a lot of beginners who say they look to certain posts or even paragraphs when the going gets tough. Something they read here sticks with them, and it touches off something in their motivation. On a good day, it helps them go the extra mile. On a crappy day, it offers them a kind of reset button. All of us, I think, have those phrases, sayings – mantras – that bolster us in some personal way. Whether we’re standing at the beginning of a new healthy lifestyle change or rounding mile twenty in a marathon, tapping into the power of our mantra mentality can transform the energy we bring to a given moment and our journey as a whole.
Take it one Primal choice at a time.
It might feel foreign at first. You might worry about venturing too far from the realm of conventional wisdom. You might just feel overwhelmed by the change – any change. The anticipation of all or nothing dissuades too many people who want to make a positive shift in their lives. Don’t worry about whether you will show up for it tomorrow. Just show up for it today. Do whatever mental gymnastics you need to do to make a good choice right now. Then, do the same later when it’s time to move onto the next decision. Eventually, you won’t need to play the game.
I deserve this.
Mental gymnastics aside, know in your core that you were meant for this. You were meant to have all the vitality you will have. You were meant to be strong, agile, lean, energetic, balanced, happy. And let’s just cover the obvious. Do you deserve a cupcake because you had a stressful day? No. You deserve a full and healthy life to help you put that stressful day in physical and emotional perspective.
Pay myself first.
Pay yourself first and the rest will follow. This is akin to the Primal Connection Habit of Highly Effective Cavemen/women, “Be Selfish.” As I suggested there, this isn’t an argument for shallow self-absorption. It’s not a justification for wild egotism. I’m talking here about the necessary commitment to self-care that you deserve but too many of us lose sight of. Wanting time for essential exercise – not selfish. Wanting to shift budgetary allocations to allow for a step up in food quality wherever possible – not selfish. Wanting reasonable quiet in the house to allow for a sane bedtime – not selfish. Wanting a chance to maintain and enjoy the support of a social circle – not selfish. Giving ourselves the things we need to build a healthy life serves our well-being and – by extension – others’ we love or work with in some way. Depriving ourselves out of a sense of obligation sets us up for failure and resentment. Meeting our essential Primal needs will let us operate from our full potential. Win-win for everybody, but it has to start with a commitment to yourself. When we finally “get it” and decide to live life on full rather than empty, we become amazed at what is possible.
It’s a journey not a race.
Beginning a Primal journey will undoubtedly show you big results early on. That said, it’s important to bring reasonable expectations to the rhythm of progress. Don’t shortchange your vision in terms of ultimate result, but be patient with the process itself. If you’re trying to lose 100 pounds or put on 20 pounds of muscle, it’s not going to happen overnight. Dialing back diabetes takes more than a few weeks. Overcoming hormonal issues or recovering from gastrointestinal disorders are long term propositions. With commitment, there’s almost no limit to what you can do, but do yourself a favor by settling into the journey. I suggest that people at any point in Primal living but especially during the early months develop a wider awareness. Hone the subtlety and patience to discern deeper changes in how you feel and what progress looks like each day.
Celebrate something every day.
On that note… As I mentioned a few months ago, giving small wins their due can have a major impact on one’s whole enterprise. Don’t get so caught up in the end goal that you forget that progress is made one step, one day at a time. Celebrations don’t have to be nightly news material. Most days it will be the little stuff, which is coincidentally the stuff that makes the big deals possible. Maybe you got a good night’s sleep or resisted the junk food in the break room at work. Maybe you tried a new Primal dish or didn’t experience the midafternoon crash and burn after that amazing new Primal lunch. Perhaps you ran longer or lifted more than you ever have. Maybe you made your first attempt at interval training. Maybe you got outside for lunch or away for a weekend on a much needed personal retreat. Perhaps you talked with your spouse or took the dog for a walk instead of watching T.V. Maybe you stayed up too late and finally, really realized you don’t want to do that anymore. Celebrate the successes, the choices, the lessons of each day. There is no such thing as a day with nothing to celebrate.
Embrace the pleasure principle.
A lot of people come to the Primal Blueprint having felt lousy for many years. It might be because of excess weight, medical issues, or general lack of energy. The point is, many of these folks have forgotten how to feel – let alone hone – basic physical pleasure in their lives. When you live with constant pain or fatigue, it can be hard to see clear across to the other side of the spectrum. Take the time and effort to feel good again. Living Primally will do its work in easing the physiological issues, but inject pleasure into your lifestyle (e.g. get a massage, take a good bath, make really good food, enjoy the sensory elements of everyday life). The idea here is to reorient your experience of your body. Find ways to feel good, and you’ll be motivated to live a life that supports pleasure as a dimension of full well-being.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
I say this all the time, and people tell me it’s one of the concepts that gives them perspective along the way. It’s why I believe in the 80/20 Principle. Living Primally is a life – not a formula. Reject the all-or-nothing mentality. Check your perfectionism at the door and relax. Follow the basics to the best of your ability. Bring your good intentions, a little forethought, and some Grok-style resourcefulness to each day. The journey will evolve over time – as will your Primal cooking repertoire, fitness enthusiasm, and Primal vision for life as a whole.
It’s a lifestyle, not a diet.
In keeping with the above, the Primal Blueprint isn’t simply about what to eat or even how to exercise. It can certainly be applied in these circumscribed bounds, but it’s much more than a short-term fix or a long-term meal plan. The real power of it unfolds more expansively, more personally than that. At its best, the PB becomes a way of viewing the potential and scope of health itself.
Thanks for reading, everyone. What are/have been your go-to mantras? Do you identify with any of the above? How and when do you use them in your Primal life? Have a great end to the week.
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.