8 Ways to Cultivate Health Integrity

Health IntegrityIn last week’s post “Why Health Integrity Matters,” I suggested that owning your own health journey comes down to willingness – how willing you are to accept full responsibility for each choice you make. I appreciated everyone’s comments and – as always – loved to see how people extended the idea with their own experiences, wisdom, and admissions. Quite a few declared it was a post meant for them and where they were in their personal journey. For various reasons, they needed the reboot, so to speak. I imagine we’re all there at some point – at the skeptical beginnings of major changes, the less than stellar times we lose our footing or the crises of confidence that can settle in when we’re going through a rough patch of life. How do we cultivate health integrity? Let me offer some thoughts – some wholly practical and a couple a little unorthodox. I hope you’ll add your own additions to the list.

Make an excuse board.

Put it all out there – every last whine, reason and justification you use for not living healthily. Make columns for eating crap, chronically skipping exercise (everyone legitimately needs rest days), going to bed late, drinking too much, stressing yourself sick, etc. Every time you use one of those excuses, give yourself a gold star next to it. At the end of the week/month, see how much you’ve excelled at cheating yourself. Harsh, yes, but effective.

Accept your own resistance.

Let’s not gloss over the fact: there are times when we don’t feel like showing up for ourselves. Every one of us probably would pin a different reason on that one, but we’ve all been there. For some, it comes out in our health related choices. For others, it can take a different form (e.g. money, alcohol, etc.). But here’s the rub. We don’t have to like “showing up.” Seriously. You don’t always have to relish making the healthy choice. If you’re generally living well – eating Primally, moving frequently, challenging yourself enjoyably, sleeping soundly, destressing regularly – you know the benefits. Likewise, if you’ve ever backslid – by choice or circumstance – you also know how much you can pay a price. Still, we move through however many moods and challenges each day. Accept that you’re going to be more willing some times than others, but still stick with your basic intention.

Deal with serious underlying issues.

Sometimes there are deep and difficult reasons behind our tendencies toward self-sabotage. Be honest with yourself about the internalized messages and ongoing compulsions that keep weighing you down. Get the help you need to sort it out, and grant yourself permission to believe you’re capable of a better life. Surround yourself with the support and engage in the self care you need to see yourself differently. Accept that it may be a life long commitment and not a single “fix.” While it’s not your fault you were left with the baggage, it’s a choice whether you let it hang around your neck each day.

Plan for your weaknesses.

Keep some Primal worthy snacks at work for the days you have to work late. Put a list of last-minute simple recipes on the fridge for mornings you don’t have time to make what you’d planned. Don’t let the weekend pass without cooking your stash of meat and chopping veggies if you know it means you’re setting yourself up for failure come Monday’s dinner. Keep up on your life enough that you’re not testing yourself unnecessarily. Some things won’t rattle you. Other things will. Be mindful of what will, and be preemptive however you reasonably can.

Accept that you can’t plan for everything.

As good as it is to plan and prepare, it’s important to not make the journey one massive control trip. Loosen up, lighten up, and cultivate enough self-possession that you don’t go nuclear if you forget your lunch one day.

Track your day.

It’s hard to argue with hard numbers. Seeing the concrete rundown of all you’ve done (or not done) in a day can be affirming – or sobering. Either way, you’re facing empirical fact, and that’s a level of accountability itself. There are numerous programs and gadgets you can use to do this: everything from pedometers to sleep monitors, FitDay to the CHRON-O-Meter.

Partner or team up.

It can be easy to skip an open ended group like a run club (not that they aren’t great for other reasons). Skip your team’s basketball match-up with a rival office, however, and you’re gonna hear about it. Likewise, you wouldn’t leave a friend hanging by herself ready for your a.m. run at the park while you hit the snooze for the fourth time.

Write letters to yourself.

I’ve mentioned before an old friend who used to leave notes for himself that aren’t suitable for a general audience. As severe as they were, it was his brand of motivation. I’m not suggesting leaving profanity laced post-its around your home (especially if you have children), but write two letters to yourself and keep them where you can either see them or easily find them. Keep a copy at work or in your inbox. One is to congratulate yourself on taking care of yourself (e.g. “Thank you for not feeding me those awful sugar bomb donuts Phyllis always leaves in the break room. And, by the way, there’s always dog hair on them.). Put a picture of yourself happy and healthy in the letter. For extra emotional tug, put the kids in there, too. Make the other letter a “plead your own case” letter. Make it as imploring, guilt-inspiring, or ruthless as befits your personality. Attach the label of the prescription drug you finally got yourself off of or an old picture you’d rather not remember. If you’re tempted to stay up late for the third night playing Candy Crush on Facebook (No, I do not play this.) or eat the bag of Doritos your brother-in-law left in the cabinet at his last visit, it will be your job to read this letter. You’ll know what you need to say.

So, let me turn this topic over to you. How do you cultivate self-honesty and responsibility in your Primal life? Share your thoughts, reflections, and good humor. Have a great end to the week, everybody.

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.

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89 thoughts on “8 Ways to Cultivate Health Integrity”

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  1. In my personal experience planning for weakness is a tried and true approach. If I don’t, it presents a lot more stress then the little amount of time sent planning would ever cause.

    1. Amen. Make your plans and preparations when you’re feeling strong in your convictions, so that it’s easier to make the healthier choice when you are not feeling so strong.

  2. The anti gold star chart, love it! Ranks up there with an idea I have for dis-invitation cards. Dis-invitation cards are given to people you do not want crashing your party because you did not invite them but they learned about it via word of mouth. Let them know upfront!

  3. I find spending time with people who have similar goals but slightly different implementation (paleo/primal meetup group folks or online) is really helpful for because it both motivates and challenges me regarding my decisions.

  4. Good stuff. I read in the paper today that dementia is expected to double by 2030. Add the skyrocketing of diabetes and other largely preventable diseases. Seriously, the Primal Blueprint is a strategic line of defense against disaster.

    1. Funny you mention disaster. As an emergency responder, the thought flashed through my mind about all the primal folks, and what their abilities after a disaster compared to the abilities of others to survive. Having a higher grade of health I think lends itself to the ability to survive longer without a good supply source, and I also think it lends itself to a higher degree of innovative thinking to meet the needs. I’m glad I made the decision to move into this lifestyle.

      1. Oh, I agree. I think we will survive even in the midst of widespread poverty, ever more frequent natural disasters, senility, chaos, etc. etc. but it would be wonderful if enough millions of people when Primal to avoid those disasters.

  5. After the last post i wish you would have added to this great post :

    Dont worry about validating your own experiences TO OTHERS that work great for YOU.

    Thanks to amrks daily apple and many others, all the qualityinfo you need is outthere to live a much much bettter existance than most.

    Would you rather be right……or happy?

  6. MyFitnessPal! While being Primal has changed my life for the better, I will never be one of those people who does not have to watch their calories.

    I’m a 5’3”, 126lbs teacher. My husband is 6 feet tall, 170 lbs, and active all day. I can out-eat him with ease. And it’s fun. The overly-stuffed feeling that I know is coming afterward is not enough to stop me (I think I starved to death in a past life).

    I need something to answer to, and MyFitnessPal (app) acts as my checks and balances. Watching the scale creep up is tough, but watching the weight graph on the app creep up (or shoot up) REALLY gets to me. So does seeing the huge red bars on the weekly bar graph. Or the big red numbers when I eat over my calorie-total for the day. Plus, it helps me keep track of carbs and protein, which is an added bonus (pie chart).

  7. I find that the more people I tell about my resolutions the more strict I am with myself. I spent the last weekend with my family in the mountains, and they are practically the antithesis to paleo. I told them all that I was going to maintain my diet, but that I would allow myself indulgence X, X and X, so if I went overboard everyone would put on their judgmental faces.

    This really helped me maintain my integrity in the face of Easter chocolate and mom’s home made cookies.

  8. Mindfulness has been my saving, cultivating an attitude of being present and of really noticing and welcoming aboard (my bus) all aspects of myself, good and bad, but still driving in the direction I want; not being diverted by the greedy me, the needy me, the really can’t be bothered me. I’ve noticed that by acknowledging and welcoming them aboard they no longer have the hold over me like trying hard to out run them, deny them, or throw them off the bus; because those activities simply distract you from going where you want to go and use up valuable energy to boot!

    The more you practice this the more likely you are to notice what you are eating (for example), when you are eating it. And if you think you already know just try sitting quietly with no distractions at all at the next meal (no books, TV, music etc, etc) and see what a difference it makes to the experience!

    1. Most Excellent. Thanks for the re-minder. When I am self-possessed enough to practice morning breathing meditation, even if only for 5 minutes, everything in my day flows better. One of my “I deserve this” excuses is I WANT TO BE MINDLESS! (Picture 2 year old having tantrum.)

  9. In my experience, the most important step to take in any personal growth/improvement program is to increase your self-love first, or at least concurrently. Without sufficient self-esteem, we approach improvement from a place of judgement and lack, and it’s hard to take pleasure in it, much less succeed, whereas with a healthy sense of self worth, we can assess our weaknesses honestly, have fun with the challenges inherent in the growth process, and ultimately succeed. Approaching personal improvement from a place of self-love is win-win: you enjoy the process and the result; doing it from a place of low self-esteem is lose-lose: you punish yourself in the process and ultimately fail, or at best, succeed at a high cost (i.e., you might achieve the goal, but have abused yourself to do it).

    Thus, I think the tools Mark outlines are all wonderful, but they are a set of tactics, not a strategy; the best strategy, in my opinion, strarts with addressing the fundamental sense of self-worth. One easy way to do this is to be kind to yourself.

    1. Self-worth is a HUGE factor. I remember in my teens wanting to lose weight for every reason under the sun EXCEPT for me and because I deserved it. It was always to fit into a smaller size or so the boys would like me or so I could fit in with the right crowd.

      After high school and even after college, I finally made myself worth it. And bam, my mentality toward health completely changed and I dropped 40 pounds in 6 months. I still have weight to lose, but I’m less stressed over it and I’m doing it for the right reasons.

    2. Totally agree. Understanding why you don’t value and love yourself is the crux to successful, permanent behaviour change and an area over-looked by just about every self-improvement ‘system’ out there. Willpower and strategies are not enough for many.

      Finding out why you don’t value/love yourself, consider yourself worthy of health takes courage and often the support of talking therapies.

      I’ve just read Geneen Roth’s Women Food and God – she gets it!

  10. Plan for your weaknesses is a good one. When I go to the office, I KNOW I’ll be tempted by doughnuts and cake, so I usually make some gluten free treats for me and whoever wants them. They’re still not good, but they take away my cravings for the really ucky stuff.

  11. This literally made me burst into tears, right at my desk at work. I can’t even begin to describe all the awful, frustrating things I’ve been through in the last 12 months, but needless to say, they have not changed. Living Primally used to be my reason for living; these days it feels more like a burden: all the shopping, the cooking, the planning, the guilt when I don’t work out, or fall asleep watching TV- again… it just doesn’t end. I’m ALMOST ready to call it quits and go back to the SAD. I was overweight, but I was HAPPY. I haven’t been happy living Primally (or trying to, at least) in over a year. I know it won’t solve my problems, but it will at the very least relieve a heavy financial burden (we all know grass-fed ain’t cheap).
    I’m completely lost and confused, and very, very afraid. I thought going Primal would change everything, but it hasn’t. Things are worse, including my health. I don’t know what to do. Please help me…

    1. You were overweight but you were happy??? Hmm…me thinks if you went back and time and talked that person you might discover that you really weren’t that happy then either.

      Here’s the real lesson of Primal: you need to let go of food as a means to happiness. Food is nutrition, not reward, not punishment. You’re not there yet because you’re thinking that SAD will solve your problems. It won’t. It will just make you more tired and sick.

      In other words, Primal doesn’t create happiness. It directly feeds the the happiness you are creating for yourself. You are worth the good food so you can solve your other problems.

      As for the financial burden, I will throw out some hearsay here and say if grass fed is pushing you to the edge go conventional and fill in the edges where you can. Organic animal fat, offal, and eggs, etc are more affordable than the flesh. Vitamins go along way to filling in deficiencies. We’ve been mostly conventional for years and receive most of the benefits of primal.

      Good luck. You can find what you’re looking for. 🙂

      1. Thank you, Amy. What I meant by saying I was happy was that I didn’t have the digestive issues I have now. I’ve been in & out of the gastroenterologist’s office since last March, been through numerous tests and procedures, and nothing has come up. My doc thinks it’s SIBO, which it may well be, but I don’t have the ability to solve it right now. When I was on the SAD, I had some problems but not many, and they were only occasional. I have pain, cramping, bloating, and distention daily, after every meal, no matter what I eat. I’ve given up gluten, soy, and corn for eternity, but I’ve invited potatoes, rice, and the occasional serving of beans back into my diet (this is recent; I know it isn’t what’s causing my issues). I also want to mention that my slew of blood tests revealed ANA (autoimmune antibodies), where they never did before. So I have some kind of autoimmune condition that may be causing or linked to my issues, but I don’t yet know what it is. I have an appointment with a rheumatologist next month.
        Long story short, “happy” meant chubby but otherwise feeling fine. I started PB for the weight loss and continued for the amazing changes I was feeling. But now… now I’m back to a lower point than where I started. Being sick caused me to lose 20 pounds in a year, dropping me to a low of 95 (I’m at about 102 since bringing back rice & potatoes). This is why I wonder if it’s worth it anymore: stick to my Primal principles and keep feeling miserable, or bring back a bit of CW’s “bad” advice and feel better? It’s a constant struggle these days…

        1. Hi, it’s possible you have Candidiasis. Which means two things. You’re diet needs to be even more strict than it is now -and- it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I know mark doesn’t like advertising here but I think this website could potentionally help as it has helped me over the past two and a half years. I actually had no idea about “the primal diet” for the majority of the past couple years dealing with candidiasis. I just happen to find out later that what I was eating to heal myself was pretty similar to the primal or paleo way of eating. http://www.healingnaturallybybee.com <—- check it out.

        2. Siren –

          Ah, that does make more sense. 🙂 Consider this: your autoimmune problems might be much, much worse on SAD then a Paleo diet. It’s hard to tell if the diet change alone is causing the problems without other evidence. In my 30th year, I found I couldn’t “play around” with what I ate, as I had done in the past. Even time alone is enough to create changes in your body.

          Paleo can improve your situation, but it’s not a cure-all. If you have caught some sort of virus since going Paleo that caused this condition then no diet alone maybe able to cure it. (Or your body simply changing to be more sensitive to bad foods as you age could be a part of it, too)

          You can prove how you feel to yourself by participating in very active elimination diets and logging the results. Maybe give yourself permission to go back to SAD, but be honest with how you feel and the results. Log everything that you eat.

          And for some people, there are issues with foods that are Primal.
          Maybe you’re reacting to dairy? (Very common) Maybe you’re reacting to eggs (not common but known). Are you eating a lot of ground nuts? If so, take those babies out. I cannot handle large volumes of ground nuts and I’m about 100% better without nuts entirely.

          Don’t be afraid to do the work and accept there’s a class (or classes) of Paleo foods that maybe off limits for you. Again, good luck. You can figure this out. 🙂

    2. Oh, Siren, my heart goes out for you. It sounds like you are just overwhelmed. Trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle is just part of the overall picture, and everything feeds back into health and happiness.
      You need to start generating some positive feedback. Maybe promise yourself that you will do 1 thing you know is good/healthy, an easy thing, like take a walk after dinner, no matter the weather, 5 days a week. If you have to let other things slide (buying conventional meat, for example- we can’t afford grass-fed/organic all the time, either) for a while, do it.
      And consider finding a counselor or therapist if your insurance will cover it. Would you walk around with a knife stuck in your leg? No. You would go to the ER, and the EMTs would say, “Hey, let’s get that knife out.” Feeling hopeless, out of control, or depressed can be the same. You don’t always have to “walk it off” by yourself.

      1. Thank you, Anabelle. I am overwhelmed: personally, financially, mentally, emotionally… There are other issues going on that I’d rather not discuss here, but in a nutshell, I understand the value of positive feedback, but it’s tough to make any when everything feels so negative. I’ve made several dietary changes as far as food quality goes. I live with my mom and she pays for our food, but when the Bush-era tax cuts disappeared, she lost a lot of her monthly paycheck. I’m paying my fair share of the groceries now, but it’s had a major impact on my savings. That’s had a trickle-down affect on everything else in my life. I’m sure visiting a therapist would be helpful, if I could afford one (my insurance doesn’t cover it, sadly). I want to find a way out of this slump, but I don’t know how or where to start. It’s all so frustrating…

        1. Wish I had all the answers, I guess I do, just not willing to be honest with myself. I am always starting over cause my commitment never holds. As is said by many “find the BIG WHY”. Like so many of us still searching.

        2. Siren, I went through a very bad time when I was in my early 30s that I got myself out of just by making up my mind to call a truce with myself. I would not say anything negative to myself anymore, no matter what. It really helped a lot. You also need to accept your weakness, and not criticise yourself for it. If you are ill with SIBO (been there), all you really need is to get yourself some cabbage and make your own sauerkraut, that with kefir (you can buy the grains and cultivate it yourself) will sort our your disbiosis problems. Also, stop relying on your doctor for your health and take it into your own hands, it will make you feel more in charge. The internet is a powerful tool for taking care of yourself, you just need to do lots and lots of research into the things people suggest to you. Don’t think of yourself as weak and desperate. Just sit down, take a break from the stress, and when you feel a little better you can work out where you are and how to get where you want to be. My journey towards health has been very much one step forward and two steps back, but as long as I’m moving in the right direction, who care. I have the rest of my life to get where I’m going.

    3. There’s a reason why we shoot for 80/20 – and this is it. Don’t go for perfection if its making things worse to try and be perfect. I don’t buy grassfed meats because I can’t afford it, I just don’t worry about it (I do buy grassfed butter tho, yum! And I just found brown eggs at my farmers market for cheaper than conventional eggs! w00t!). If I don’t feel like working out today I don’t, and I don’t worry about it. I do the best I can and so far that has been enough to get amazing results. That stress you’re under alone is going to counteract all the good that primal can do for you. Let go of the burden and just be primal to your best ability and see where that gets you – I’m sure it will get you pretty far! I have certainly been in your shoes, googling things like “is it even worth it to be healthy?” lol! That’s nuts when you really think about it. You just gotta hang in there. You’ll get through the rough patch… And yes, it totally is worth it… And no, you were not happier before eating a SAD diet! Best of luck to you 🙂

      1. Thank you, Bryan. I don’t necessarily strive for perfection; skipping one day’s workout, sure, but 10? 30? 90? Not so much. If you read my replies to Amy, you’ll see that I’ve been sick with digestive problems for over a year. It’s affected my sleep and my energy levels, so most days I don’t even have the energy to workout. I can barely walk to & from the ladies’ room at work without feeling exhausted. Also, I believe because of my possible SIBO, I’ve developed a mild case of germ phobia. Granted, the fear is self-induced, but it’s no less real to my mind. Worry is not something I let go of easily, and change is extremely difficult for me (though I’ve been through a lot of it in the past 13 months…) I’m trying, but I’m afraid. I wish there was a guide book for this…

    4. Siren, I want to find a way to hug through the internet just for you!

      Cut yourself some slack – there’s no such thing as paleo-perfect. Just do the best you can. If grass-fed is too expensive to buy all the time, buy it when you can and buy what you can afford the rest of the time. So long as you are staying out of the aisles with the processed “food” products, you are still eating healthier than you were before.

      If the planning and shopping are a burden, find a paleo cookbook with pre-planned meals (there are dozens of these around these days). Set yourself up with a week’s worth of recipes and get your shopping done in one go, if you can.

      Don’t beat yourself up for the things you can’t or don’t do – just recognize that you skipped an opportunity and look for the next one. And don’t forget to applaud yourself for the things you do right! That’s a step I think a lot of us skip and you need the good to balance the not-as-good in your head.

      I don’t think you can return to the SAD but happy days. You were only thinking you were happy because you were ignorant of what you were really doing. Now you know better. You can’t unlearn – nor do I think you really want to.

      I’m rambling here, but your message really spoke to me and I wanted to reach out and say “I’m here and I want to help you get through this.” Stay strong and don’t forget to be nice to yourself even if you skip a workout or fall asleep on the couch. :0)

      1. Thank you, Kai. It’s not so much the planning or the shopping- that’s the fun part. =) It’s the actual cooking, and the clean-up afterwards. I’m the only one in my house that does both, and, if you read my previous replies, being sick for as long as I have has really taken the energy and drive out of me. And you’re right; I can’t un-know what I know, which is why I’ve sworn off gluten, soy, and corn for life. But you know what they say: ignorance is bliss. Not that I want to be unaware of the lifelong damage I was doing to my body and well-being; I just wish I didn’t have so MUCH information, or such a fear of germs. It’s a major roadblock in my success, and is starting to have ramifications in my personal life as well. I usually do the best I can to let things go, but it’s extremely difficult with so many things weighing on my heart and mind…

    5. Well, you have begun step one I see, making the Excuse Board. Simplify things by thinking of your health as nutrition, exercise, sleep and de-stressing. Is it really that much harder eating veggies, leafy greens, eggs, meat, nuts etc. than high carb crap? Can you do some walking, stretching, light band work, yoga? Can you take a hot bath at night, listen to some relaxing music, some kind of routine before you get to bed at a decent hour rather than staring at the TV all night? Take three to five minutes each morning to write out your goals for each of these four areas. Make incremental improvement over time. By all means seek medical attention if you suffer from depression, been there done that, I now have natural ways to keep that in check but it was a long journey that required me to keep the faith. Hopefully you are a person who truly wants to make changes and not just complain. All the best to you, you can transform yourself, I know you can.

      1. Excuse Board: check. But if you’ve truly suffered from depression, you know it’s not just about “thinking positive.” The mind & heart are more than willing; it’s the body that won’t follow suit. I’m sick, and I don’t know why or how to fix it. Even my doctor doesn’t know. As for the food, no, it’s not “harder,” it’s more time-consuming, and there’s a lot more work involved. And no, I don’t actually have time to do any of those things before bed or in the morning because I work 10 hour days. Believe me, I want change. I NEED it. I CRAVE it. But where and how to start? Get un-sick? How, when even doctors don’t know what’s wrong? I know I sound very ungrateful and obstinate, but if you can understand my frustration, it makes much more sense…

        1. Hmmm…. so are you suffering from depression then? I would definitely dial back the work hours if at all possible, 10 hours a day is too much to be working.
          Also if you have depression then you might want to look into something like Acupunture or St. John’s Wart or even a conventional medication if the first don’t work for you?
          I would start with an Acupuncturist, they are also trained in herbal remedies.

        2. Hi Sunny,

          I know I’ve got some kind of depression going on, but I can’t afford to work less. I’m already paycheck to paycheck. My insurance will cover acupuncture, but only 40% if it’s not prescribed by a doctor. I can’t afford to pick up the gap- again, money is a big part of my problems. I’ve tried a few alternatives, but either there’s no effect or they wear off and the blues come back. It’s a vicious cycle…

        3. My lifestyle is killing me but I can’t change it. You counter every bit of advice and encouragement with an excuse as to why you MUST and WILL continue to suffer. Tell your boss starting next week you are going to work 8 hours daily, not 10. Go to a well known, competent internist and have a complete examination done. Go to this site, I hold Dr. Teitelbaum in high regard for his over thirty years of work finding ways to combat chronic fatigue: https://www.endfatigue.com/ I don’t think “positive thinking” is the answer to everything, but as a software engineer it’s clear to me you are programming yourself for failure, you need to rewrite your software as well as having your “hardware” checked out. You can find a solution, at the very least tremendously mitigate the problems you are facing.

        4. George is right, You need to do whatever you need to do to take care of you. When I realized I needed to dial back the work hours, I planted an organic garden so that I could save money on food. This is your mental health and it’s very important. Life is not about money and sometimes we need to let go of things that we think we “need”
          There’s a blog… I think it’s called “the simple dollar” He has some ideas on little things you can do to save money here and there.. Every little penny adds up.
          If you like gardening I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s therapeautic, it’s a great workout and it saves me about $200 a month in groceries. Plus you can experiment with veggies you don’t usually see in your area.
          Just remember that quality of life is important too.
          Also talk to your Dr and see if you can get referred to an acupuncturist so you don’t have to pay the other 60%
          Whatever your decision, remember that this is your top priority at the moment, nothing is more important than your health right now.
          I really hope everything works out for you!

        5. One more thing about Acupuncture, lol I know I’m going on about it but it’s really helped me out with stress and anxiety in my life. If you cannot get referred then find out if their are any colleges in your area that teach acupuncture. You can get treatment REALLY CHEAP their. Make sure you read reviews and all because these are students that were talking about. But as a last resort it’s at least something. I go to one that’s a bit of a drive from my house but they only charge five measly dollars and i’ve never had a problem.. just a thought

        6. Seek out a Community Acupuncture Center in your area. They usually have sliding scale fees that make it very affordable. I go to one twice a month and pay $20 a session. Patients w/ IBS like problems can get a lot of relief and support w/ accupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.

          I myself work A LOT. I work two jobs because circumstances demand it (my husband and I went through a natural disaster 3 years ago and we’re still climbing out of the financial burden of it), but I’m still able to maintain my primal lifestyle much of the time. I do occasionally backslide, but I don’t beat myself up about it. I recognize it for what it is and get right back on the primal path. Much of the time, I keep my meal planning and cooking very simple: eggs, veggies, and fruit in the morning, salad and soup for lunch or dinner. If I have to, sometimes I’ll just skip lunch when I don’t have the time to prepare something appropriate, and my body seems fine with it. In fact, ever since I stopped eating sugar and increased my healthy fat intake, I’m much more able to skip a meal quite comfortably than before (and my leptin and gherlin levels are finally under control!).

          As for the costs of eating a primal diet: do what you can. I can’t afford much grass-fed meat either, about once a month at most, but I won’t compromise on buying hormone free and antibiotic free meat. I also control how much meat we are eating to keep the cost down. You don’t need to meat at every meal, and you can keep the portions small and really stretch what you are buying. Also, staples for me are eggs, canned sardines, and canned wild salmon. They offer the most bang for your protein buck! I also buy and eat a lot of fish when it’s on sale (from sustainable sources!). The primal diet doesn’t have to be focused around grass-fed, pastured meat. It’s nice, but only hipster-urbanites can afford to eat that everyday. 🙂

          As for your health issues…you may have to undergo the GAPS diet for a period of time to fully heal your gut, along with acupuncture treatments and intensive probiotic therapy. It may be helpful to have a hormonal-blood panel done. Your symptoms can also be the cause of hormonal imbalances or adrenal issues.

    6. Siren,

      I am sorry you are experiencing discouragement. I understand what you’re describing. It’s hard to cook all day when you have work and other responsibilities. I hvae work school and kids and somedays I find myself running through the drive thru to order a low carb burger and then theirs the guilt. It can be tough. I have a few suggestions that I hope will work for you:

      -Going primal is not the answer to all your life’s problems so if you are experiencing depression that has persisted you might want to talk to a doctor. I have had a severe case of ADD since I can remember and I’m not ashamed to say I take medication for it. Going primal helped my symptoms to a degree but I still need medication to hold down a job (otherwise i’d probably be fired in about 3.5 days)

      -Make friends with your crock pot.. letting your food cook itself with minimal attention frees you up to do other things.

      -Make Paleo friends this will help keep you encouraged and maybe when you’re going to sit on the couch you can instead call up your friend and take a leisurely walk to a coffee shop instead.

      -Don’t beat yourself up! EVER! Stress is unhealthy and wont solve anything. If you don’t have time to get er done then just do your best! Afterall quality of life is important too! Don’t forget 80/20!

      -I think somebody already said it but if you can’t buy grassfed all the time then don’t. I don’t always buy it either. My family and I live off a very small paycheck so a lot of times I just opt for the stuff that has no antibiotics and hormones and then just take an omega 3 supplement to balance out the ratio.

      -Change it up! Find some new primal friendly activities to do. Nobody likes being stuck in a rut. Rediscover your love for primal living.

      I hope you feel better soon!

      1. Wow I hope Siren comes back and reads all these loving responses, well done crew, you are all such hopeful and thoughtful people, you light up my day!

        1. MDA has an awesome community and your answers to Siren have helped me as well. Siren, I hope you read and take the advice to heart. I used to constantly worry about buying the best of the best in terms of meat/produce, even knowing I could not always afford it. As soon as I realized that I couldn’t always do that, some of the burden lifted. I don’t exercise every day but I do try to move around as much as possible. Walking the dogs, walking to the front of the complex to pick up mail instead of driving, etc etc.. small things.

          You’ve noted that you no longer eat gluten, soy or corn? What about dairy?

          I hope you pull out of your funk and keep reading the positive messages on MDA.

      2. Sunny, thank you for your comment about taking medicine for your ADD. I was diagnosed last summer, after years of wondering what the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t ever accomplish anything, and my life changed completely when I started taking Adderall. I don’t even think I have a very severe case, but the difference has been amazing. Even my husband, who thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to go to the doctor (“You don’t have ADD – you just need to organize better and learn to follow through with what you start”), now says “Why would you think about going off your med? Look at how great you’re doing now!”

        But I’ve felt guilty about taking the med. I read the Primal Blueprint about a year before I started Adderall and I guess I thought if I were doing PB “right,” I shouldn’t need to medicate, or something. I’ve increased my fish oil, I take coconut oil every day, cut out sugar and grains, but still seem to need the medicine. I went off of it while I was off work during spring break, and when I came back, my friends were asking me what was “wrong” with me, as I was wandering around doing nothing and just “out there,” as one friend said.

        I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, other than to say thanks for being ok with needing to take medication and not being afraid to say so. It made me feel better about taking it myself. I guess, also, I’m still coming to terms with this diagnosis, and talking about it helps. I am 45 years old and have barely started to sift through all the years of feeling stupid, lazy, incompetent and like a misfit in every situation I was ever in. But I’m getting there!

        Well, I didn’t mean to make you my therapist. But thanks for listening.

    7. There is hope in staying on the path. A year seems like a long time but it’s a great investment in the rest of your life. I developed a serious constant chronic pain problem in 2005 and at the time my life was a complete mess on every front. Every single piece of advice I got made things worse: do this, do that, be a different person yesterday — that’s what it felt like.

      After some time, I did have the benefit of working with a health psychologist, and I understand that’s not an option for you (although a little secret is that you might look for one, they are often categorized differently than “therapists” by insurance and can be covered).

      So here’s my free lesson from that experience: There is a difference between pain and suffering. I did not understand this either because I was suffering and in pain.

      Today, I still have constant daily pain and some other fun chronic illnesses. I have slowly (2013-2005=8 years) made every change recommended to me because when I searched my heart I realized a lot of the advice I got was extremely consistent and tailored to ME. Clearly many different people were seeing the same things.

      And trust me, I thought these things were impossible. “I am stuck” I would say over and over. My diet was the least of my worries (and never that bad/SAD) but let’s say I now have a different husband, the same job but a very different work life, many healthier habits — and as I said above challenging health problems that have not magically been solved by ANY of these things.

      But I’m about a million times happier. I have learned to live with pain without so much suffering. This path has not been easy but I methodically confronted what really wasn’t working for me (or actively harming me). This was very difficult because I too was exhausted and didn’t think I could do one more thing. But I did. And things got better. Not perfect, but better.

      It’s not a path with an end but you can look up and enjoy the view at some point.

      I’ve often considered the alternative. Ok, all my problems aren’t solved. But if I chose self-neglect and avoidance, I’m pretty sure things would be a lot worse.

      You are already making some good choices for yourself. Please see that as positive reinforcement that you CAN do it. That’s awesome. I hope the long view offers a little encouragement.

      Finally, when I lived alone, I was primal without knowing what it was because I was too overwhelmed to be anything but. My ability to eat raw vegetables with a chicken breast I cooked for a few minutes caused me to invest about 10 minutes a day in preparing and eating food. I boiled things down to habitually buying the same things and eating with minimal prep. I kind of lived like a monk and it was easy on me.

      And I agree with the poster below about going to your internist: Primary care can diagnose and medically manage mild to moderate depression. You can find effective cognitive behavioral approaches online you can try yourself. It can be done.

      Ok, now I need to go do something to take care of myself before going to work ;). Take care.

  12. Haha! Candy Crush….what a time suck. I’m ashamed to say I played it quite about for about a week, and proud to say I deleted the damn thing when I realized how much time I was spending playing it. I’ve been reading a lot more lately.

    Great post, as always. Thanks!

  13. The most meaningful line in today’s blogpost is:
    “grant yourself permission to believe you’re capable of a better life”
    Wow..that really sums it up for me. It goes back ot the self worth comment by a previous poster as well, to know that I am worthy enough of being awesome. I am capable of a better life, a healthier life, and I don’t need others to dictate my life for me. It’s hard to live your own life, as many of us, as parents, as caregivers, as sons, daughters, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, live our lives for other people. It’s a huge mind shift to really grasp the idea of truly taking care of oneself and living your best life.

    Okay, true confession, I was watching a silly TV show last night, the New Normal, and the daughter was angry with her mother for considering re-marrying a man and heading back to where she came from. The daughter said she didn’t want her mom to do that as she was currently witnessing the best possible version of her mom. That line really struck me as it is exactly what we are talking about in this post. The best possible version of yourself…is it within your reach or do you constantly self sabotage it? I know I was (still am, but working on it) a classic self sabotager. My excuses? I was caring for dying parents, working full time, parenting a teenager and trying to maintain a happy marriage. I never really thought about taking care of myself as I had so many other people to think about. Now? My parents have both passed on in the last year, and my family is still there, so I really need to allow myself to have the freedom to take care of myself. My teenage son and husband don’t need me to do everything for them, and yet I have to try to break away from such a cycle of “doing everything for everyone but me” Yes, I am working on it, but do really appreciate these kind of posts as they remind me of what I need to do. Sorry for the long post, but this one just really, really spoke to me on so many levels…

    1. Janine, have you read Mark’s latest book? There was a section in there about being selfish. The gist is that you need to treat yourself as well as you treat others. I think a lot of us with heavy responsibilities have more than a little martyr in us – willing to put ourselves after everything else. I find – and I’m sure a lot of us do – that the better I treat myself (food, sleep , exercise), the more effective I am in the rest of my life. Always good to remember.

    2. Hi Janine,

      I TOTALLY understand what you mean. I do all the shopping, cooking, & cleaning, in addition to my full-time job and paying my own bills, even though I live with my mother (who can’t be bothered to bring in the mail, much less sweep the kitchen floor). I’ve been battling a still-unknown illness for over a year, which has turned my whole life upside down. I’m also a parent, though not full-time, and am in a committed relationship. I’ve spent the last 2 years preparing for a “future life” (paying off debt, saving, planning for the ‘what’s next’, etc.), and haven’t given myself over to the MOMENT in so long that I’ve forgotten what it feels like. Caring for myself under these circumstances is the very last thing on my list, and by the time I get to it, I don’t have the energy to do so. I’m hoping that my upcoming ‘stay-cation’ will help resolve some of this, though I admit that I’m not very hopeful…

      1. My gut problems subsided considerably when the stress in my life subsided considerably. I’ll guess your gut issues are mostly caused by chronic stress. As in, there’s no diet change, medication, therapy, pep talk, etc that will address it – only stress management will reduce stress-induced issues. Stress management could include getting a different job or moving.

  14. I think one of the biggest things I use to keep me on track is a before and after picture, or sorts, that I have from when I was my heaviest (235 pounds in 2006) and a picture I have from when I finished my first 21-day primal blueprint challenge (195 pounds in 2012). Although I only lost 5 pounds during the challenge, my body transformed in ways I never thought was possible for me. The picture is a good reminder of where I was at my worst and where I was after starting Paleo.

        1. Loving it! It’s a totally luxurious way to eat, not to mention feeling tip-top.

    1. You Betcha — only I call it The Great NorthWET. I’m now in Goldendale, Washington, but still run down to The Big City (Portland/Metro & Vancouver) every 6 weeks or so for haircut, dry cleaning, shopping, brunch with friends . . .

      We are blessed up here, aren’t we?

  15. I am forever making excuses not to work out! I really like the idea of an excuse board. I’m thinking about trying the 21 day challenge soon. Thanks for the info.

    1. Oh, yeah. Food for me is the easy part. Exercise — sigh. DISMAL. Working on the Excuse Board now. Wonder if I’ll have to order gold stars in bulk from Amazon or something.

  16. Once again you nailed it, Mark! Thanks for this inspiring and spot-on post.

  17. I need some paleo friends… even my husband makes fun of my “bizarre” lifestyle. It can wear on ya. Great post though. I love being primal, it reiterates beliefs i’ve had all my life but now I feel validated.

    1. I went to http://www.meetup.com and searched “paleo chicago” and instantly got a great group of people. This has been a life saver for me as my family is officially sick of hearing about paleo but I just can’t seem to shut up about it!

  18. I have had to accept that I will not be one of the cool people who do primal “right.” I eat primal, lift heavy things, bicycle commute, … but then there’s the wine. Gotta have it. And I’m not talking a glass a day. I could wallpaper my house in gold stars. But otherwise I am healthy as a horse. My health has improved by leaps and bounds since I stopped eating grains. You do what you can.

    1. +1. I just love how you put this. Perspective is a huge part of being healthy, not to mention having a sense of humor!

  19. I feel like I battle all of these everyday. It makes it even harder when those around you are so relaxed to their health.

    The one item that helps overcome all of these is a strong partner in your journey. Things were easy when I was living near people who believed in all we preach. When I was transferred to a new city, I developed a new social group that had interests outside the primal lifestyle. Immediately, I felt myself fall off the wagon.

  20. I like the idea of excuse board. If you look up at the board each time you don’t feel like working out or staying with your diet you will see that these are not real justifications but mere excuses to get your lazy butt off the couch.

  21. I run every morning. To deal with excuses of being tired, and needing to rest occasionally I go put on my shorts and shoes every morning and at least go for a 20 minute walk. If I’m not truly in need of a rest day I always end up running within the first few minutes.

  22. Become a lifestyle Ninja.

    Understand your lifestyle and put yourself in situations to succeed.

    For example, I know that it’s nearly impossible for me to workout if I come home after work and sit on the couch. It takes more energy to get me up then completing the workout. So, I go straight to the gym after work and it’s been working great.

    Know you tendencies and use them to your advantage.

    “Accept that you can’t plan for everything.” This is by far the most valuable lesson for me. You have to be adaptable and embrace change on the fly. Think two moves ahead and make changes on the fly if necessary.

  23. I’ve found that the days I least want to go to the barn and take care of the horses turn out to be the times I have the best rides, training break-throughs, or an interesting chat with a friend. If I hadn’t gone as part of my regular routine, I would have missed out on something good–so that’s what I tell myself when I am looking for excuses to stay home. My horses and my yard have been the best motivators for getting regular primal-style exercise that manifests itself in my stronger and healthier body, better trained and conditioned horses, and visible improvement of my living space.

  24. The thing to note is that a lot of the unhealthy practices are like opium or smoking addiction. I know many smokers who are well aware of the health implications (more easily demonstratable to smokers compared to what you can do with effect of grains and sugar to people who follow SAD) and yet, they find it very difficult to kick the habit out.
    Other drug addicts go to clinics, therapies and whole lot more and yet struggle to quit compared to pinning gold stars on a chart.

    Make no mistake, tactics such as outlined by Mark definitely help. I want to point out that the underlying problem is a lot bigger and more physiological than simple behaviour modification.

    1. Yes, but at some point we have to accept that we are grown-ups who need to stop whining and stop making excuses and “just do it, already.” The primal eating is actually the easy part for me. Since going primal I don’t have any cravings whatsoever. It’s not a struggle to resist non-primal foods because my body has been “detoxed” and simply doesn’t crave that stuff. My struggle is with exercise. For some reason I just can’t get motivated to lift, walk, and sprint. But, at some point I need to just decide to be a mature, disciplined, human being that does what is in her best interest. Period. It is a choice, it is a practice, and I know that if I make the choice to exercise for 21 days straight then it will become a habit. I just need to decide to do it and then follow-through. Simple. Right? 🙂

  25. I just had an idea while writing my last post. Diane Rehm of NPR recently shared that she had an awful potato chip habit that she couldn’t seem to kick despite her deep desire and attempts to do so. She decided that it takes 21 days to start a new habit so she picked up a calendar and focused each day on resisting the temptation. Each day she crossed the day off her calendar. It was a visual cue that allowed her to reach the 21 days and once she did she found that the cravings subsided and she could easily resist the temptation, it was no longer a struggle. I’m going to try this with the exercise. I think it might work. Yeah, finally, a game plan! That’s what I had been missing.

  26. Mark, I love the excuse board idea. It’s so obvious when you think about it. The reason most excuses work is that they remain hidden. It’s when you bring them into the light that you can see those stinkers for what they really are.

  27. Thanks all for your thoughts. This posting is all about removing the idealism / extremism from pursuing physical health which was my secret weapon for success. Thought I’d share a few extras that worked for me.

    1. When moving toward my version of healthy diet/workout routines, I made ONE change at a time but stuck to that one change ferociously. That made the shift gently progressive while inducing serious life change.

    2. I found that MyFitnessPal was seriously helpful for monitoring my good vs bad food intake.

    3. I assign myself WEEKLY, not daily, dietary mandates. For example: 3 desserts a week. This means if I’m feeling the need for sweets all in a cluster (say Sat and Sun) then it’s OK to indulge. But it costs me a ‘future dessert’ to do so: I get less desserts later in the week.

    4. I pay up for a nice downtown Chicago gym. I work out very hard and also enjoy the experience of having a nice changing room, clean showers and great equipment. Also, separating exercise from my home/family life makes it ritualistic and cathartic ‘me time’. That further incents me to workout which I do 6 days on 1 off every week.

    5. Once you are in moderate shape, START PUSHING THOSE WORKOUTS. Don’t waste your time unless you plan on doing something that you are gonna FEEL the next day! Know what I mean? Dig in and thrive on the burn folks.

    6. Slowly start replacing ridiculously indulgent foods with milder versions. This ensures you still receive pleasure from eating without the extremism. For example, replace blue cheese and brie cheese with an aged grated parmigian cheese. Replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate and actually eat only ONE serving. Find some delicious locally made flavored mustards for your sandwich and do away with mayonnaise.

    Peace and good luck.

    PS: my nickname in my office is Sherpa ever since a coworker spotted me doing pull ups and Stairmaster with a 25′ weight in my backpack. PUSH IT

  28. One of the things that has helped me most was to learn to measure my progress from where I started and not against some kind of ideal goal. Learn to celebrate your successes along the way and motivation is easy to come by.

  29. I love the excuse list! I already track my food and my workouts. I should track what excuses I use to avoid them!

  30. Great nickname Sherpa!! I’m not quite there yet but I totally agree to “START PUSHING THOSE WORKOUTS” as no pain no gain right? Though I am at the beginning of my fitness journey i’ve decided to use myfitness pla to monitor my intake while focusing on weekly objectives.

    Thanks for the great blog Mark!! I look forward to all the inspirational articles to come.

  31. It’s really hard to change the habit when you started at young age. These days people are used instant ways. In olden days they cook their own food. today they depend on fast food or restaurant. That’s the big difference. so many people are obese and they blame the food chain. Let us wake up before it’s too late

  32. Great post. But what about artchokes? Also, It would not hurt to mention smoke and alchol, too, as factors that make the liver overworked and overloaded.

  33. This was a great read full of great tips towards working on one’s health and adapting our mindset to focusing on our own personal health and mental fortitude. I loved when you said, “As good as it is to plan and prepare, it’s important to not make the journey one massive control trip”. Sometimes we try to plan every single detail of our daily lives, that we are unable to adjust on the fly if things happen. With enough mental strength and willpower, we can tackle anything in life. –Ryan