Act “As If” – A 30-Day Primal Health Challenge

30 Day ChallengeLast week we looked at what goes into our decisions to be healthy: the hows, the wheres, the whos and whys of consideration, of envisioning and finally of commitment. It’s a decision that puts ourselves at the core, we said.

Sometimes our path to that decision is smooth. Sometimes it’s a collection of fits and starts. Usually, it’s a little of both. Progress can come with slow, steady dedication and effort. But, oftentimes, there’s at least a few experiences when we put the pedal to the metal. Whether it’s an overwhelming, positive rush of internal motivation or the insistence of an external, swift kick in the pants, these instances of hyperdrive move us forward. And, yes, even if we lose some ground afterward, we’re changed for the experience nonetheless. We’ve felt that higher level of health, whether it be fitness, nutrition, life balance, etc. Even if we give up some of the result, we know how good it was, and mark our words, you’ll eventually crave it again and be back for more.

And, so, that’s why we embrace the fits and starts, the push that is too intense to be wholly sustainable. Our motivation muscle isn’t much different than our physical muscle. Ultimately, you have to max it out to build it.

In that spirit, we have a challenge.

We’re talking something more than a new diet, something bigger than a 5K, something broader than a new work project, something, well, other than streaking through the neighborhood. We’re talking taking on a new identity (alias not required but fun). We’re talking an experiment that lets you slip into a different life than your own. It’s a sneaky, tricky, scheming little trial that will leave you with some good stories and probably a serious sense of accomplishment. What if…you went fully “Primal” for a month? Took on the part of diehard, hardass primal man or woman?

No, we’re not talking about donning skins, killing prey and giving up indoor bathroom facilities. But it does involve the spirit of acting. In all seriousness, what if you chose to play the part of Primal Blueprint extraordinaire, certified/certifiable health nut for one full month. You’d be the person who makes no compromises, no excuses in your diet or exercise routine. You’d take on the life of others who have the energy, the commitment, the bodies, etc. No cheating – ever. We’re talking Soup Nazi inflexibility. Could you do it? Could you do it and have fun while you’re at it?

It’s summer, after all, when the weather and long days are more conducive to better exercise variety, when vegetables and fruits are cheaper and in season, when we all seem to have a happier disposition and more optimistic attitude. (Isn’t July a little more inspiring than January?) Can you think of a better time than now?

Take up your drumsticks and join your fellow Apples in this experiment. All it requires is that you act as if you are a diehard for a single month. It’s a 30-day tale (minus Morgan Spurlock) seeing how the other half (well, far few than half) lives.

The upside, the veritable beauty of the experiment (other than the alias possibilities) is that you are bound to gain new insight and perspective into the life that you’ve wondered about, even pined after. Up until now, it’s been unattainable. (Perfection generally is. But people berate themselves nonetheless.) But to pretend that perfection for one month? That might get interesting. It’s a version of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. But for a limited time only!

The key phrase here is “as if.”

All you have to do is act as if you were the person at the gym with unlimited resolve.

Act as if you can sustain Primal living 100% of the time.

Act as if you have no desire for sweets, bread, pasta and rice.

Act as if you can let the big and small stresses of everyday life slide off your back.

And don’t worry that you may not be that person. All you have to do is act as if you were. Before you know it as if may turn into I am.

At the end of the month’s challenge, you will see how you feel physically and mentally. Perhaps you’ll love every minute of it and think it wasn’t as hard as you anticipated. Maybe you’ll feel that every day was an all out struggle and you’ll applaud the return to your own version of measured balance. You may also find that your previous life contained some “vices” you don’t really need anymore. You might find that the sensible (and some not-so sensible vices) contribute to the life you prefer to live… despite the health consequences. Hmmm. Maybe you’ll need another month’s worth of experimentation to decide how you feel.

We challenge you to give it a try. At the very least, you’ll learn something about yourself.

If you’re a regular reader, consider yourself “armed” with all the knowledge and tools you need to play Primal for a month: exercise routines, menus, recipes, stress relief tips, etc. You’re ready for the experiment. The primal role is yours for the taking. Are you game?

Report back with your findings!

(Check back later for recipes to get you started on the right foot.)

Further Reading:

The Primal Blueprint: Your Guide to Acting As If

Have you Decide to Be Healthy?

Practical Advice for Raising Healthy Seedlings

This Year: Evolve Your Resolve

The Whole Series of Eat This Today, Feel Better Tomorrow: 1, 2, 3, Intermittent Fasting, Special Occasions and Dessert Editions

More Recipes

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

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52 thoughts on “Act “As If” – A 30-Day Primal Health Challenge”

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  1. I’m on board! Count me in! Having this community, the structure of this mini experiment, and the “acting as if” idea to help me through I think I can do it. I’m less interested in seeing what sort of physical changes I see in one month’s time than I am in seeing how I mentally handle this sort of life. As you guys preach, sensible vices can be worth their weight in gold. This experiment may just reaffirm this. I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

  2. Yo, Mark! One question? Is coffee allowed?

    Other than that, YOU’RE ON!

  3. I will take the challenge,should i eat more veggies than meat and fat, or more meat and fat than veggies to keep the carbs low? i need to lose weight so i need better instructions(sorry)

  4. Hello Bill,

    We are happy to hear you are on board with the challenge!

    Here are a few posts to get you started:

    The Primal Blueprint

    Mark’s Daily Diet

    Mark Sisson’s Not Afraid of Fat

    I Can’t Eat Anything!

    How Much Protein Should I Be Eating?

    This should get you started. If you have any further questions feel free to drop us another line and we’ll try to answer it (if our helpful, regular readers don’t answer it first). Also, do some searching on MDA or take a look through our archives. You should find everything you need with a little digging. Good luck with the challenge and keep in touch. We’d love to hear how it goes for you.

  5. Mark, I’m already “Primal” about 95% of the time. You’ve inspired me to dedicate this next month to 100% compliance to primal living. It should be a fun ride.

  6. Sounds like a great challenge, one that I’ll probably sign up for the next time around. I’ve got a 10 day vacation going on in July, and this primal wannabe considers all the beer I’ll be consuming as more of a reward for the things I’ve already accomplished than an excuse for those I have yet to.

    With that said, good luck and good food to all those who will be participating!

  7. Oh you guys just said the magic words to me: challenge! You KNOW I love a good experiment and I’ve been toying around with various aspects of the primal diet for about a year now but I’ve never given the whole plan a fair shot.

    I’m in:)

    And yeah, that means I’m eating meat. At least for the next 30 days. I’ll post this on my site, The Great Fitness Experiment and then put up my results in 30 days. You guys are on!

  8. Challenge accepted! I’m going 100% primal. Alright, maybe 99.6% primal, I’ve got to wear deodorant. Otherwise it’s the pits!

  9. Watch out everybody! Don’t do it. It’s a trick! I did the 30 day thing two years ago and couldn’t stop. You’re going to end up lean and muscular, feeling better than you’ve ever felt before. Besides that, all your overweight friends are going to tell you you’re too skinny. Are you really ready for that?

    (It’s funny you mentioned Soup Nazi, because they call me the Food Nazi at work.)

    Good luck everyone.

  10. I’m in. It won’t be easy. I just had pizza and pop for my companies monthly free lunch. I am weak when it comes to that kind of social gathering with free food. Okay, one month, here we go.

  11. I’m in too! I’ve been reading your site for awhile now and feel armed and ready. Now it’s time to put all this great info to use. I’ll keep you updated.

  12. I am in starting July 1st! One question: is dairy okay if it is raw? I just finished Nina Planck’s book “Read Food” and she extolls the benefits of raw milk and dairy made from raw milk. It’s a very convincing argument and she cites a lot of studies. Mark, have you read her book?

  13. Bandit,

    Glad you are joining us! The Primal Blueprint isn’t so hot on dairy. Cheese and yogurt, for example, are considered Sensible Vices. But this experiment has a little more to do with you attempting to live up to your own highest standards of health than it does you following our recommendations to a T. We’d suggest going without dairy for a month as part of the experiment. On the other hand, if you do include dairy as part of your diet we’d be just as interested to hear about your results come August 1st. Keep us updated!

  14. I’m in! Will have to make some adjustments to what I currently eat and make sure to get more sleep too but it can and will be done! Its on, July 1st and the entire month….possibly longer! I am doing this for health reasons first and foremost and hoping for a little weight (fat) loss as well!

  15. Ok, so no more coffee for me. I can handle that. But I will still consume dairy products from time to time and spike my insulin after workouts. I’m a wrestler and my workouts have lately been more about weightlifting and anaerobic endurance and i don’t think i’ll be able to survive 1.5 hours, 5-6 times per week.


  16. I’m in as well. The wife and I have had fits and starts of eating better and exercising more (and smarter) but the occasional compromise ends up dashing most gains and taking us off track. Will 30 days of zero compromise change that? Well that’s what we aim to find out!

    Good luck everybody!

  17. I’m in! I just read this post today, but started yesterday anyway. So, whoo, I’m motivated!

    And today I actually finished reading every article on this whole site. All 212 pages. Took me a few weeks, but it was so very worthwhile. Thanks for so much good information Mark & Co.!

  18. I’m in on this challenge! I started the paleo diet on July 2nd. Seems easy enough to me. Good luck everyone.

  19. Hi,

    I’m currently researching various weight loss programs and courses.

    So, if you don’t mind please answer in this topic: What’s your single most important question about weight loss?

    Cheers, JD

  20. I’m on board,
    I started last Friday so its 7 full days.
    My diet has been EXACTLY prescribed by Mark, ie
    Omelette if hungry ( omitte so far )
    Canned Salmon 8 oz can Salad as per rescipie
    Meat dinner and veg
    Berries 15 blueberries
    12 nuts

    Exercized alternate days cardio intervals of 20 sec all out sprints followed by 10 sec rest x 8
    Alternate days heavy weights assisted by a personal trainer shoulders – arms – back – legs
    My fat % had dropped from 21% to 18%
    Mt Weight from 173 to 169lbs
    I suffered from last Thursday to Monday this week
    from Terrible migrane level headaches required panadol every 3-4 hrs never experienced anything like that then on the night of Monday- gone !
    I feel very focussed, inspired and obsessed.
    My wife and kids are still brown rice veg and lean meat – dairy lovers as I was.
    Will keep this going for a month and see the results.
    Goal body like Fight Club Brad Pitt ‘s character
    Tyler Durden
    Observation – constipated (need more water) currently 2 ltrs – pdy
    Richard- Hong Kong

    1. Richard, are you still in hong kong? Have
      not met anybody here who is into primal living, and since I live on lamma island that us saddening 🙂 would love to meet up for some meat and share hk tips. Find my email at my website!

  21. starting on june 1st! getting my grocery list together right after i finish reading the book today/tomorrow. going to cook and prep for the week tomorrow so i’m good to go!

  22. this was perfect. to act “as if..”

    i’ve been eating primal about 1 week. so far so good. i felt pretty lousy last week. i guess it was coming off the carb addiction. 🙂 now, i have a cold. i RARELY get sick. the congestion is unbelievable! but, i have maintained primal eating.

    one spoonful of whipcream is the only “cheat” i’ve had.

    today, still a little under the weather, i’m feeling very tempted and craving….anything. i want a cookie or chocolate or something. part of the problem is the little candy dish and snacks at work. i know, i know….. avoid the kitchen at all costs.

    then, i read this post. so, perfect. i’ll act “as if” i’m already fully primal and wouldn’t even want or care the crap food is there. easy, right?


  23. I’m 11 Days in and I feel like a million bucks. I’ve lost 12 lbs., I’m sleeping better, and I just feel better. A friend of mine turned me on to the book and I had my doubts, but I promised him I’d give it a shot. Not only am I finding it great for my health, but it’s very easy to follow the rules.

    Grok On, I know I will!

  24. I’m totally three years late, but I’m gonna challenge myself to do this.

    After all, I was an acting major 😛

  25. I just stumbled across this old challenge, and after a month of Paleo/little-bit-of-crossfit (and a 16 pound loss!) I’m going to take this challenge starting tomorrow for the month of Feb! I’m ready!

  26. I went Primal 3 weeks ago and have lost 12 pounds (183 – 172) and dropped one pant size. Woohoo!! Absolutely no grains. Still eating some dairy. I think it’s time to kick it up a notch and cut out the dairy as well. Thoughts?

    So, why not? Begin today.

  27. I just found this challenge! I’ve been toying with Primal for two weeks. I am a carb and dairy addict….I need to do this challenge.I have been doing well. I had a few days of headache, and one day of intense chocolate cravings( I really could have eaten any and all chocolate in sight if I found it!),but I am good now.

    Tomorrow will be Day 1 of 100% Primal