9 Ways to Restart Your Primal Lifestyle

It happens to the best of us. You start sneaking a few more bites of bread when out to dinner and trying your buddy’s delicious-looking pizza. Your workouts trickle to once a week, sometimes none. You walk less, couch more. And then one day, you realize you’ve gone off the wagon. You’ve gained belly fat. You’re getting winded going up the stairs. Your once-pleasurable hikes have become grueling affairs that you dread and end up avoiding. Your fridge is full of takeout boxes and you realize you haven’t cooked in two weeks. You need to restart your Primal lifestyle, and fast.

How do you do it?

Turns out there are more than a few ways that you probably haven’t considered. Let’s explore them:

Fast for 16-24 hours.

Many religious and traditional cultural practices view the extended fast as a “cleansing” ritual. Not in the “drink this lemon juice and cayenne pepper mix, shoot single-origin coffee up your butt, and poop out a black tarry mass of toxins” sense. Rather, in the sense of starting over, renewing one’s vows, and clearing one’s head. That’s how a fast works for me, and I’ll usually do an extended one when I’m traveling and can’t find anything good to eat.

It doesn’t hurt that fasting switches you over to fat-burning beast mode. There’s nothing like the euphoria we get from consuming our own endogenous animal fats to make us realize that going Primal is a good idea.

All that aside, it just feels good to not eat when you’ve been eating terrible food. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to cook. You just don’t eat. Men, go longer. Women, go a bit shorter.

Go on a big long walk out in nature.

This works for several reasons:

  • You’re going back to the source, to the homeland—nature. You’re literally starting over. Spending time in nature is known to reduce stress (which can lead to the bad decisions disrupting your Primal lifestyle) and improve sleep (which we need to make sound decisions, especially regarding food).
  • You’re engaging in the most natural human pastime of all—walking. Walking is a low-stress, simple way to get back into physical activity. Almost everyone can walk, so no excuses.
  • It’s a truncated version of the walkabout or the vision quest. These are time- and tradition-tested methods for enabling huge life transitions. You might not be living out in the Australian bush for six or more months, nor are you climbing a mountain, fighting a coyote, and taking peyote, but you can still arrive at some powerful realizations and make real changes.

Just watch out for the wild potato seeds, will ya?


Popularized by Joe Rogan, flotation tanks are exploding in popularity. Outlets like the Atlantic, Slate, and Nautilus have published pieces on the experience. What’s the deal with them?

In a float tank, sensory stimuli are minimized, if not eliminated. The water is the same temperature as your body, so you don’t really notice it. There’s nearly a half ton of epsom salts dissolved into it, making the water syrupy and dense enough to completely support your weight and eliminate the sensation of gravity. Once the top closes, you hear and see nothing. What happens when that occurs and how can it help you restart a healthy lifestyle?

You turn inward, because that’s the only place to go. The mental chatter ceases. You find yourself working through the internal issues interrupting your lifestyle, drilling down to the core impediments to healthy living. If nothing else, floating can be a shortcut for stubborn meditators whose mental chatter impedes their progress. A session in the tank forces you to quiet the chatter by eliminating everything else. There’s no escaping it in the tank, so you must deal with it.

Do a really tough workout.

We all have the workout we love-hate because, while it sucks more than anything, it also pays huge dividends for our fitness, our fat loss, and our overall performance. A big breakthrough workout also hits the reset button. For some, it might be heavy deadlifts. Hoisting an overwhelmingly dead weight off the ground from a standstill is tough. Other possibilities include 20 rep squats, weighted sled pushes (or car pushes), your favorite CrossFit WOD, and other Herculean efforts of that nature.

For me, it’s the Versaclimber. I wrote an entire post devoted to it. Rest assured, this thing will destroy you. If it wasn’t the Versaclimber, which admittedly isn’t all that accessible for most people reading this, I’d choose the hill sprint. These days, I mostly run shorter hills for quicker recovery and less overall stress, but if you go up against a lengthy (50-100 meter) hill, you’re in for a world of hurt. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. It’s also not exactly a good thing.

Imagine you’re a total Primal newbie.

Role-play yourself five (or whenever it was) years ago. Act as if you’re just learning about this Primal stuff, as if you just found out that fat might not make you fat and cutting excess carbs could be a simple way to lose fat fast. Devour the old blog posts laying out the basics. Pull out your copy of The Primal Blueprint and read it cover to cover. Or commit to a 21-day transformation. Just try to think of yourself as a newbie all over again.

If you do it right, you should rekindle those early feelings of excitement at discovering a lifestyle that just works. You’ll also learn new tidbits you missed the first time. You’ll gain new insights. You might even feel like shouting about it to everyone you meet. Most importantly, you’ll be raring to get things back on track.

Purge your pantry (again).

The pantry purge is a how most people kick off their Primal lifestyle at the beginning, and it feels good. You’re tossing tortellini, punting pasta, getting rid of garbanzo beans, expelling elbow macaroni, capsizing cartons of couscous into the garbage. You’re really doing it. There’s no going back now.

This time is a little different. You won’t be tossing pasta and flour and corn oil because, chances are, you don’t have that stuff anymore. The first purge typically takes care of flagrantly non-Primal foods. The Primal restart purge focuses instead on the quasi-Primal foods that slip through and, when relied upon as staples, throw you off your game.

Been making one too many gluten-free pancakes with GF flour (that don’t even really taste great, let’s be honest)? Toss the flour.

The Costco size bag of organic raw sugar that’s moderately brown and thus super good for you? You don’t really need it.

Get rid of the junk that’s been throwing you off.

Go outside, first thing in the morning, and step barefoot onto the cold, damp grass.

This is a weird one, I know. When I’m overcome by stress, if deadlines are creeping up and I haven’t been to the gym in awhile and dinner last night consisted of a handful of almonds, a spoon of coconut butter, some random frozen berries buried in the bottom of my freezer and a glass of Primal Fuel in other words, when I’m half-assing my way through life—I wake up at first light, creep outside to the wet grass, and stand on it with bare feet. I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, but wet grass first thing in the morning is always a little cold and shocking. Even in Malibu.

Do I know why this works? No. Could be earthing. Could be cold exposure. Could be placebo. I don’t have any PubMed references for you. But it really does help for those quick restarts after those small slip-ups.

Put your money on the line.

Leverage the power of negative reinforcement to force you back into the fold. A number of online tools, apps, and websites exist that allow you to put up money, make a commitment, and forfeit that money if you fail to fulfill the commitment. I covered 12 of them several years back. Most of the tools focus on concrete commitments like “lose twenty pounds,”  but they’re malleable. You can commit to anything. What matters is that you commit and put up money.

Fail to get back on the Primal wagon, forfeit hard-earned money. It’s amazing the urgency we display when money’s on the line.

Join a gym.

New CF box open up near you? Go check it out and, if the coaching staff impresses you and you enjoy the free intro class, plunk down the first month’s dues. Once you’ve dropped $100 on a month’s membership, you’re going to go. And you’re going to train hard and feel the need to eat clean and you’ll be around all these other people committed to living healthy lives. It’s pretty much the perfect place to restart a Primal lifestyle.

CrossFit was just a suggestion. This is also a great opportunity to try something totally new. Always wanted to try krav maga or jiu jitsu, or even yoga? Now’s your chance.

How about you folks? How have you bounced back from a lag in your Primal lifestyle?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

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 more than three decades 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 flavorful and delicious kitchen staples crafted with premium ingredients like avocado oil. With over 70 condiments, sauces, oils, and dressings in their lineup, Primal Kitchen makes it easy to prep mouthwatering meals that fit into your lifestyle.

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