Are You Sacrificing Your Health?

StressThere’s that saying people throw out when a hypothetical situation is profoundly unappealing or flat-out unconscionable to them – “Not for a million dollars…”. Not for a million dollars. Not for ten million. Not for…what? Think for a second and identify the most important, precious, valuable principles and priorities that you wouldn’t sacrifice for anything in the world. Got ‘em? Let me ask this: does your health make the list?

If it did, think about how you got to this point. How and when did you decide your health was so comparatively critical? How have you arranged your life to live that priority each day? What’s been a fairly simple adaptation, and what’s required genuine compromise? What options have you been obliged to reject? What people have you disappointed as a direct/indirect result? And what have been the benefits that keep you committed? If health didn’t make your list, let’s put the obvious on the table. Honesty congratulated, why didn’t it register?

It’s true we pay lip service to health every day as a country and as individuals. Walk down the street, and you’ll see public health messages on the sides of buses and bus stops. You’ll see rental bikes to encourage active commuting. Regardless of these messages and resources, however, our populace isn’t buying it. According to the CDC, fewer than 20% of Americans get the baseline recommended 2.5 hours of physical activity in an entire week. (That’s 2.5 hours out of 168 total, folks.) Less than 30% of people in most areas of the country eat three or more vegetables per day. (PDF) On the flip side of that equation, the American diet is now comprised of 70% processed food. Nearly 50% of Americans surveyed admitted knowing they were sleep deprived, and half of these people reported doing nothing to change their behavior.

It’s all about where the rubber meets the road….

So what are the reasons we can’t seem to follow through? Despite health being arguably the most important and fundamental thing in our lives, for what are we willing to sacrifice it every day? Consider the excuses and defenses you have offered as justification in not showing up for your health each day.

“I can’t find time for exercise because I’m too busy with work.”

“When I get home from a long day, I can’t make my own dinners every night. I need down time. If I have to do one more thing, I’m going to burst.”

“My commute during the week and family obligations on the weekend make cooking ahead impossible.”

“My job schedule is crazy. Getting enough sleep is just not possible on a swing shift.”

“The kids overtake my day, and time for working out just slips by.”

“I don’t sleep well, and everything ends up snowballing from there. I know I have some minor health issues, but there’s no time with a family crisis going on for me to deal with them now.”

All these reasons of being too busy with work, of needing downtime, of having too long of a commute, of needing to spend time with the kids are red herrings for larger questions we don’t want to address. Why do we stay in a job that requires such a long commute or so many extra hours? Why are we afraid/unwilling/unable to ask for enough help in caring for children that we can take care of ourselves? Why is it we have such difficulty drawing reasonable boundaries around work, social obligations or close family – especially during complicated times? If we don’t have time for ourselves today, when exactly do we envision ever making ourselves a priority? When will we begin respecting our own needs?

The fact is, in most of these circumstances, most of us have a choice. It may not be the most attractive choice, the easiest choice, the most socially acceptable choice, but it’s an option when we’re designing our daily life and the larger shifts that influence it. If we truly value our health, I’d brazenly propose that our health actually be a concrete consideration for our decision making.

I suspect that there’s a certain degree of magical thinking in the back of many people’s minds – the irrational belief that some other force or turn of circumstances will intervene and save the day (and state of their health) and prevent them from really getting into the trouble they’ve been warned about all along.

With every detrimental choice, however, we feed a physiological chaos that over time becomes a defining force in our lives. The bigger it gets, the more of an excuse it becomes. Eventually, when the hammer comes down, we throw up our hands as if we had no way of knowing what was truly coming, let alone ability to prevent it. The truth is, most of us had the power – and even enough knowledge – all along. We knew on some level what we had to do. It was a matter of not choosing to do it and maybe playing a serious game of chicken along the way, seeing if we could keep ahead of eventual outcomes.

So often, however, we tell ourselves we had no other choices. Our job demanded our time. Our children needed our full attention. A spouse was out of work for months, and anything else seemed like an inappropriate focus. A parent was ill and needed care or visitation. Our volunteer commitments needed us because who else was going to do the work? We get caught up in the belief that the world hinges on our presence, and guess what we give up – our ability to live a long, vital, healthy life. How is this reasonable?

There’s something definitely sabotaging and perhaps moderately (albeit unintentionally) disingenuous about someone who professes to take care of others but not him/herself. We want to think of ourselves as doing the “right” thing in this situation – putting off our own needs indefinitely, tending to others – whether it’s our beloved children who depend on us or the office department/PTA committee who wouldn’t bother coming to our funerals. What we end up offering these people is something that isn’t really ours to give. Giving today’s energy is one thing. Giving the well-being that is supposed to create tomorrow’s energy is another story.

Call this harsh, but I think we sacrifice a certain integrity in our lives when we continually shortchange our bodies. In a certain light, it’s akin to not paying the bill for our daily physical existence, living according to these other dictates and priorities as we dodge what we owe our physical forms. Sure enough, we accumulate arrears – back payments in the form of sleep and nutrient deficits, muscle wasting, dwindling bone density, toxin accumulation.

The inconvenient fact is, not every set of circumstances, not every job, not every lifestyle option is conducive to our health and well-being. The choice is ours which one of these we will sacrifice. We too often shrink from asking bigger questions, taking more substantial challenges, upending more significant patterns because we’re afraid. We want the pieces to stay in place. We can’t imagine a scenario in which they’re not.

But our bodies don’t care about those illusions. They either get what they need – or they don’t. The outcome is pretty clear either way. What’s truly sacred in our lives versus what is ultimately worth sacrificing – a particular house or location, a specific job, the existing parenting or chore division with our spouse, our current definition of downtime, a status quo schedule – or our good health? What will you envision?

Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know your thoughts, and have a great end to the week.

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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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96 thoughts on “Are You Sacrificing Your Health?”

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  1. Excellent post to spur some soul-searching. I think we all find ways to get what we really want. The challenge you’ve given us here is to decide if health and wellbeing are things we really want. Thank you Mark.

    1. My grandfather was a serious athlete his whole life. He nearly made the Canadian Olympic team in bike racing. Then he got into bodybuilding way back when only freaks built muscles.His photos from the thirties and forties look like those classic muscle man circus posters. Then professional bowling, raquet ball, hiking, more biking…. everything. When he was a late teenager, him and his brother would bike ride 75 miles each way just to go swimming. Him and his brother would split an entire box of king size shredded wheat biscuits for breakfast.

      Anyway, he would frequently tell me this anecdote. People would often ask him how he found time to stay in shape. He’d tell them “you don’t find the time, you make the time.”

      That simple life’s lesson, that he repeated often, and with a twinkle in his eye, has shaped my entire life.

  2. This is an incredible and thought provoking post. I believe we still value the “martyr” complex where we value taking care of others before ourselves. It’s hard to break away from this mentality, but I have come to realize it breeds resentment which winds up being terribly unhealthy for all involved. I can’t say I’m there yet, but I’ve made a conscious effort to start taking care of myself, and I DO see that I’m a better mom to my kids when I’m not resentful, exhausted, and sick.

  3. The ultimate compromise of your personal health and wellbeing is giving your life, say in warfare, for the sake of others. And that’s a good thing (so long as the other guy started it).

    1. I assume you mean in the course of defending your own country, rather than invading someone else’s country on the pretext of democratising them? One can respect those who sacrifice their lives for others, but how is it a “good thing”?

      1. This is why I said “so long as the other guy started it”. (Which, with history as my guide, they often do.)

        1. I read once that most wars in recorded history were started on the pretext of a lie. Vietnam, for example (did I just use the V word!).

        2. The other guy ALWAYS starts it:
          –He started it! He was ignoring me!
          –He started it! He looked cross-eyed at me!
          –He started it! He called me names!
          –He started it! He’s oppressing his people!
          –He started it! He won’t let me sell stuff in his country!

          At least the ancients didn’t pretend to be moral or ethical. If they wanted your land, gold, oil, etc., they marched in and took it. It isn’t right, but neither is it hypocritical.

          And yes, Kit, you have a point. I would, however, amend that to say modern history. The Greeks, Romans and Celts were pretty straight forward about their motives and intentions. They didn’t care about saving people from themselves.

          Anyway, I doubt the veterans I know would buy into the old lie,“dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori”. It’s the mantra of politicians, industrialists, and armchair warriors .

        1. “At least the ancients didn’t pretend to be moral or ethical. If they wanted your land, gold, oil, etc., they marched in and took it. It isn’t right, but neither is it hypocritical.”

          Therefore there are times when it is right to fight and possibly die for your country.

          Though one could still say health and wellbeing are number one, just not your (the soldier’s) health and wellbeing. : )

  4. Phenomenal post. This is the exact reason why I’m leaving my job at a top 5 consulting firm.

  5. “We get caught up in the belief that the world hinges on our presence.”

    This is an excellent point. However; there is more to it. I think many people construct their world in such a way that their world DOES hinge on their presence.

    Some people are hoarders of things; others are hoarders of commitments. One of the things I’ve slowly done over the years is get myself out of that situation–it takes time, just as it took time to get myself into.

    A few years ago, a good friend of mine who is a stay at home mom who was running herself even more ragged than I was, said,

    “You and I, we’re the glue that’s holding it all together. The problem is, nobody sees the glue.”

    I cannot tell you how much this line affected me. I realized I needed to take care of myself–someone had to “see” me, and I needed to be that someone!

    btw for my friend’s birthday, I sent her a 12-pack of multi-colored glitter glue. LOL But that’s what Mark’s post is about, really–putting some glitter in your glue!

    1. I used to be a hoarder of things–mainly cheap, unhealthy food (it’s called “being frugal”). I had a spare bedroom that i converted into a walk-in pantry: freezer, 25 lb. bags of many kinds of GF grains, dried beans, pastas, at least a year’s worth of toilet paper, soap, dental floss and toothpaste, zippy bags of every size, you name it. Then I met the Paleo diet…then I met the Atkins dioet…then I met keto eating.

      Now what to do with all that food I was no longer eating. Some of it was opened, so neighbors wouldn’t take it. Some had expired, so it became garbage. The local food bank didn’t want any in such large quantity (health law says it all has to be pre-packaged in individually usable sizes, and they cannot re-package bulk quantity). Churches didn’t want it for the same reason. So I ended up cooking it up and feeding it to birds. Expensive bird food!!

      All that time, energy, and money wasted! Never again. What WAS a bargain, price-wise, turned out to be the biggest white elephant in my “pantry”. Now the “pantry” has disappeared and is being rented out, while the REAL pantry cupboard in the kitchen is being better utilized to hold food (as minimal as it’s gotten) as well as occasional-use appliances, the toilet paper, zippy bags, and now, parchment paper. I made room for the freezer in the dining room, and even managed to trade UP to a bigger size due to a neighbor moving and needing to get rid of hers.

      Yay–more meat for me, right? Then I discover Hubby is a walking case of gluconeogensis, so the meat needs to be cut down. Luckily, a newlywed couple down the street was in the market for a freezer, so my old one got a new home. I bought another smaller one, and off we went.

      Lesson: no matter how alluring buying “tomorrow’s food with today’s dollars” can be (even when faced with a recession), it can always come back to bite you in the butt. This is when I swapped money for health as the emphasis of our food quality and food spending.

    2. “btw for my friend’s birthday, I sent her a 12-pack of multi-colored glitter glue.”

      Haha, very clever!

    3. And sadly, there are those of us who think *nothing* hinges on *anything* we do. We hold nothing together. If I disappeared, nothing would fall apart and very few people would miss me. Kind of funny that I do put effort into my health at all. :-/

      1. Amy! Don’t despair! This is just the flip side of the same coin. My issue was I had constructed the prison where too much was depending on me, so I was putting myself last. Yours sounds like you’ve constructed one where there is not enough connection. Both situations are about finding a balance; we all need to be needed but also need to take care of ourselves.

        There are many people in hospitals and animals in shelter who need someone to notice and care for them. Studies on volunteering (Mark may have some in his past blogs) show that it’s tremendously rewarding. Now that I’ve managed to divest myself from a pile of bloodsucking situations, I thought I might do something healthy and help out at an animal shelter–only certain hours, though, to keep it healthy. I invite you to think about this option for yourself.

        1. @Amy, i was thinking the same thing. If i were gone i would not be missed. Despite the best efforts to acquire motivation it is really hard to “matter” to myself when myself doesn’t “matter” to anyone else.

  6. I remember recently it hitting me how important our health is. I was watching Dallas Buyers Club and it struck me how the main character turned his entire life upside-down for his health. It hit me that without our health, we really have nothing.

    I’ve pretty much always taken my health for granted. I do things to protect it (primal diet, exercise, supplements, sun, etc.), but honestly I did most of those things to lose weight and didn’t give a second thought to plain old health. I’ve always known health was important, but somehow that movie really struck me.

    1. ” It hit me that without our health, we really have nothing.”
      I don’t know. Stepen Hawking has little health, yet still has a lot.

      1. Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to trade places with him. I would completely miserable in his body.

        1. His mind allows him to be more free than those of us who can run and jump

  7. What a timely post !!! Just this week I have been thinking to myself how my job is literally killing me. And I’m one that feels I have no choice in the matter. So I’m in a race with time. If I can stick it out for nine (9) more years I’ll have the benefit of being paid practically the same amount for NOT going to work everyday for life.

    That’s my problem – leave now and have wasted 25 1/2 years? Or hold out for 9 more? I feel I can’t ask my husband to make sacrifices when it really has nothing to do with him. I’m currently shackled by what they call the “golden-handcuffs”. I do make every effort to stay healthy, eat well, get sleep and sun but I’m constantly stressed and I do sit behind a desk or in a commuting car for 10-12 hours daily. Right now I’m just holding on. Waiting for the day when I can truly be free and do what I want.

    1. Tammy! Snap out of it! You could be hit by a bus tomorrow and so much for all that holding out!

      I’m saying all this in jest and in kindness, but I’m serious. The body doesn’t wait for artificial deadlines. It’s important to plan for the future, but that should be in balance that with the present.

      We construct our own prisons, so then we can’t see our own way out. That you come to this website implies that you have started down the path to breaking out. I encourage you to talk with your husband and others who have a different vantage point; they will help you to achieve more balance in your life.

    2. They who think they are free, are the most captive of all. Your ‘prison’ is perpetuated by your mindset, your mindset is created by your lifestyle.

    3. Tammy – I wanted to say that I understand your dilemma completely. Mine is similar, though not quite the same. I would say that you shouldn’t think of 25.5 years as wasted, and I also agree with the ‘sadly hit by a bus’ comment – we don’t know what will happen. And yet, it seems very hard to give up a good job that I like, and the income that goes with it (which helps in many ways), even though the commute and stress are problems. I haven’t done it yet, and may not even though I’m tempted. Good luck in finding a course that works for you. Violet

    4. Tammy, I was in the same boat until earlier this year. I, too, have the “golden-handcuffs” but didn’t want to continue being stressed. I found a new position in my same company. I moved from a management position to a “individual contributor” position. I kept all my benefits (insurance, etc.) but lost all of the stress. This new position wasn’t supposed to be staffed in my location, but another office across the country. I took a chance and convinced them to base out of my office and it worked.

      Think about what you CAN do in your current current to make things better. No sense being miserable for 9 more years!

    1. Second that. Sisson’s stated goal is to change the lives of 10 million people. MDA is a free, daily, high quality product and is made available to the public for free. In some ways, Mark is casting pearls before [non-pastured] swine.

  8. Great message Mark. It reminds me of some things learned about recovery. We don’t change until we hit rock bottom. Until then, we’re mired in denial about our behavior and its consequences. Finding a higher power is the place to start, and if that’s Grok, so be it! Thanks for all that you do for all of us.

    1. My higher power is Crom. Crom = grok^(grok^n), where n = grok

  9. I think one of the most damaging thing anyone can tell a child is, “You aren’t living up to your potential.” This is a heavy load for a kid to deal with. Besides, who ever knows what someone else’s potential is? Potential isn’t the same thing as desire or happiness. “Living up to one’s potential” is really living according to someone else’s expectations.

    Some of the healthiest, happiest people I’ve ever known were loners who did exactly as they pleased. They were intelligent and some of them were well-educated, but they weren’t interested in climbing the corporate ladder. Instead they climbed Mt Everest and trekked through Canada and Alaska, briefly holding down menial jobs whenever money ran short.

    The one thing they all had in common was a complete lack of stress. I won’t say they always ate well, but they didn’t worry about food, money, the weather, or anything else. They had faith that something would turn up, and somehow it always did. They had found their niche in life and were completely satisfied with it. IMO, that’s a priceless commodity.

    Granted, this kind of lifestyle wouldn’t work for everyone. Being a loner with only fleeting relationships would be too much of a sacrifice for many of us. But the point is, we all have to find what works for us as individuals. If the life we have makes us terribly unhappy, then maybe it’s time to rethink the situation.

    1. Shary, very good points. I am quite tempted to live more like that, myself, but what I always wonder about those people is how they fare when they’re older — no retirement plan, likely very little put away for those years when their youth and perhaps energy/strength are gone, and they *can’t* fall into odd jobs here and there to make ends meet. If I could figure out a way to navigate the fear of that long-term security, it might be easier to muster the courage to walk a different path in the shorter term.

      But I agree with you — those who manage to march to their own drummer are usually smiling more than most. 😉

      1. I’d imagine similar circumstances to any other animal on earth, once your body can no longer keep you alive, you stop living. A big cat or any predator that can no longer hunt does not survive long.

        The concept of “saving” money to feed yourself later is an extreme luxury.

  10. Could it be as simple as health *not* being a priority for a lot of people? The excuses are just responses to inquiries by others (“I don’t have time to exercise.”) I doubt that many of the people who use these excuses actually care about their health and don’t know how to address it.

    1. Health isn’t a priority for some people, probably because they never stop to think about it. They’ve always done okay mentally and physically, and they aren’t unhappy. Sometimes a lack of consideration for one’s health comes back to haunt us as we get older, but that’s not a fact of life. The oft-repeated (and annoying) meme about paying the farmer now or the doctor later isn’t carved in stone. Some people don’t pay either one and still live long, relatively healthy lives. Health is more likely to be prioritized by those of us who have gotten an early wake-up call of some sort.

      1. +1 Some people are disproportionately affected by their daily health choices, and others just have these huge margins for error. It’s not fair, obviously, but it’d be nice if we could find a (cheap) way to predict who needs to be more careful with their health choices, so that those people can start early (preemies are one such group, frex). I cannot wait for the time when we finally start treating people heterogeneously (by subgroup) or individually (a bit expensive for this to become widespread in the near future).

  11. “If we don’t have time for ourselves today, when exactly do we envision ever making ourselves a priority? When will we begin respecting our own needs?”

    Mark’s statement screams for “sadhana”. Sadhana is a daily practice to give to yourself. A personal tithe is another way to view the concept of sadhana.

    In yogic terms one starts their day with a cold shower (primal approved), performs a morning exercise set (called a kriya), and then meditates all before sunrise. After sadhana a person is primed to face dailty challenges with more grace and vitality.

    Getting up for sadhana is difficult at first because a person must go to sleep earlier to get enough restful sleep for sadhana and then their day. Naps are most beneficial if one can take them (I cannot due to work commitments).

    Sadhana being a personal tithe also means the time duration is 10% of the day. I am soo not a strict yogi and mine usually are about an hour long. My “kriyas” are a mix of kundalini yoga and body calisthenics from sources like convict conditioning and That way whether home, abroad, or on the road I have no excuse because I carry my body everywhere with.

    Meditations are different for everyone. I follow more kundalini yoga based meditation sets and occasionally listen to Japji Sahib. The idea behind Japji Sahib is that the sound vibrations are in a specific order to stimulate the human glandular system. I can’t chant Japji Sahib yet. In fact, I struggle with chanting. The concept sorta makes sense to me. If anyone on here chants please chime (chant) in!

    1. You need to read Energy Medicine by Oschmann, then you’d totally get why chanting works, why acupuncture works, why visualization in meditation works, how yoga and qigong work and a whole slew of other things too.

      1. Thank you for the recommendation Kelda, I will look into the book. My basic, current knowledge is the different vibrations created in chanting stimulate meridian lines in the mouth palate which then affect other stuff.

        1. My thanks to you both. Very timely for me. I will pursue both thoughts.

          PRB, I have chanted in groups and observe it’s multi-dimensional, as it requires breathing and concentration which are beneficial in and of themselves and yes there is not doubt the group is creating vibrations. I am practicing youga now that emphasis relaxing the soft palate, so it is most interesting to hear you say the vibrations affect the palate. Thanks again.

  12. One of the biggest culprits in the no-time-for-myself demographic, is that peculiar American phenomenon, the soccer mom (and sometimes soccer dad). She lives in her car – sorry, van or SUV. She spends all week driving this kid around and that kid around to this practice and that practice, and then on weekends, she drives them to games and meets. No wonder she doesn’t have time to cook and eat real food, or to exercise. And she has no other real interests or hobbies; her life revolves around her kids’ activities. The problem is that her kids then think this is normal behaviour and do the same when they have kids.

    1. +1. (We do agree on some things.) Most people will do for their kids what they wouldn’t bother to do for themselves. That doesn’t necessarily mean the kids either want or appreciate it; it’s more that the parents want it for them.

      1. I do think there’s an unconscious sense of martyrdom at work: “Look at the sacrifices I’ve made so you can play football/basketball/hockey/lacrosse and get a full-ride scholarship and play professional sports and make lots of money — and THEN you’ll thank me! 😛

    2. Ooo, Sumofit, yes this is a great comment and I’d like to add something here since I’ve dealt with this mindset a bit.

      One key to get out of that particular self-made trap is to not bother with fixing the unbalanced mindset of doing everything for the kids, but just working with it. The trick is realizing that all this effort for kids (or family) could be for naught if one dies early, and the SAD lifestyle puts one at greater risk of that.

      So, keeping one’s self healthy (primal) becomes one of the tools to increase the chances that one is around in the future to help the kids (and to be an actively involved grandparent one day).

      I’ve never been quite as bad as the picture you painted above, but I will say that one of my baseline goals, sort of a grounding goal, is “to live until my youngest kid is 18.” Of course I have other, happier, “thrive-ier” goals, but that baseline goal can motivate me like no other. The thought of who my kids might turn into if I died now–imagining a worst-case-scenario of twisted values and SAD lifestyle–can get me to the running trail when nothing else will.

      1. Monikat, I think you’ve found as good a motivator as any. Some people say they want to be able to play with their grandchildren, enjoy their retirement, travel the world, etc. It’s all the same thing – being able to function physically and mentally at a high level for as long as you possibly can.

        When I taught martial arts, one of the things I realised was that very few of the kids had a good foundation in natural movement. They could kick a ball up and down a field like there was no tomorrow, but ask them to squat or kneel or roll or bend their knees to lower their centre of gravity, and for many of them it was an alien — and I suppose uncomfortable — movement. So all those organized sports aren’t necessarily the best thing for kids. They need time for unstructured activities where they can just run, jump, and climb, and be as quiet – or as loud and goofy – as they want.

  13. And this is why I will own my own business and work from home before I turn 30 (I’m currently 26). Thanks Mark, for always being an inspiration and a source of well-researched information.

  14. Great post! Staying healthy takes work and is more difficult for those with less-than-healthy lifestyle choices. The problem with deteriorating health is it is a slow process and it creeps up on us. The warning signs often show up late and we may not feel strong or disciplined enough to reverse the trend. I thank Mark and all of the readers posting their Friday success stories for providing the example and inspiration to make better lifestyle choices. I agree, a stressful job is an unhealthful job so why choose to keep it.

  15. I guess I don’t even really think of health that much since I am healthy, I do healthy things out of habit and can’t even fathom not taking decent care of myself. I guess I don’t floss enough, though.

  16. Your health is your wealth. But take a moment to think of people who are scared where the next meal is going to come from or who can’t afford the medical treatment for their dying baby. Don’t get me wrong, I have an urge to mow down chavs in my people-carrier, but preaching to people who are disenfranchised is folly. Don’t align yourself with the super-rich; they are no cleverer than you necessarily. Don’t become elitist, we are all crapping in the same world (now off to mow down some chavs).

    1. Yes, Kit, it’s all too easy to become smug because one has made positive changes in one’s life. But not everyone has the luxury of living in a clean environment, eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep, and engaging in satisfying work.

      A friend’s daughter ran a pediatric clinic in Haiti for several years, and blogged about her experiences and the people she met. It was truly heartbreaking. We in the First World have no concept of the hardships faced by people in the Third World. It reminds me of the saying: “I complained that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

      1. I agree with you guys that there are people facing great suffering in this world. But Mark isn’t speaking to those people. I believe he’s speaking to readers of this blog who are middle class Americans that have all of their basic needs met and are simply not making the best choices for their health and well-being. If we are honest we know who we are…

        1. I am not a middle class American. Off now to consider whether I should be here.

  17. Imagine my surprise after spending 30 years jogging, keeping active, biking, etc., being strong as an ox, eating a lowfat diet, I woke up at the age of 62 thinking I was dying. My joints were seizing up and I had pain enough to use bengay, and Motrin. I lost all my strength…I couldn’t even open a door without throwing my whole body into it. Combing my hair was a challenge as was putting on my panty hose???? When I went to see the doctor she told me to be careful exercising. When I asked if diet may have something to do with it, she said NO and sent me to a rheumatologist. My inflammation markers were off the wall. I got x-rays but nothing showed. My doc wanted me on steroids. I refused. Against judgment, I never went back.
    I was never sick in my life. Imagine the feeling of weakness after doing anything I wanted.
    Some said it’s your age That’s what happens. I wouldn’t buy it. Yes some things change but not this drastically.
    Rigor mortis is for dead people.
    Long story short, I started studying everything I could about nutrition. I realized that I had been running on empty most of my life. My jobs were total stress. My diet was horrendous. I was slowly burning out.
    I’m not going to say it was paleo that saved me. It was a combination of ideas that worked for me. It was trial and error. It didn’t happen over night either…it took a good two years to get to half speed but now I feel great and at age 65 I can go longer than co-workers half my age.
    Not sure what I’m actually saying here other than…believe it…you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. The thing is I spent my life trying to avoid what happened. I refused to accept it and fought back. You just can’t cheat on your health. It’s your most valuable possession.

  18. It’s the cult of being busy. In today’s world, people look at you strangely if you say you aren’t busy. As though busy = productive.

  19. I was chronically obese the past two decades plus. After awhile it becomes your new normal. Things get skewed. I had sleep apnea and had to wear a mask. And, honestly, had some other very scary stuff going on and right on the cusp. I was in pain time to time but not constant pain. Also, of course, conventional wisdom doesn’t work. As Brad found out in the interview with Vinnie, people’s good intentions have been stolen. So I was in kind of a netherworld.

    Family health emergencies, fear, got me highly motivated. I was fortunate to use an evolutionary perspective and I just got on track with Primal approaches from the get go. Then my health transformed. Life transformed. I honestly tell people there is no way, not for 300 million tax free, that I would go back to the way I used to eat.

    The big problem? I can’t convey to people how awesome I feel moment to moment. I can try with words, but words have limits. If there were some way for people to feel how great they could feel then I think so many more would do it. But feeling bad is their new normal. That and haven failed so many times because CW is wrong when they really gave it a good try is why I think many have just kind of sorta given up.

    That is why I think the Friday success stories are so important. Not as an ego thing. But to show others that a) it can be done and b) how worth it is.

    1. Larry, I think you hit it on the head for why many, *many* people don’t take their health more seriously: “If there were some way for people to feel how great they could feel then I think so many more would do it. But feeling bad is their new normal. That and haven failed so many times because CW is wrong when they really gave it a good try is why I think many have just kind of sorta given up.”

      Learned helplessness, right? There’s only so many times you can try, and do “all the right things,” and have it *not work,* before you stop trying.

  20. I’m really grappling with this question as I finish up grad school and look forward to what I want to do next. This post really sums up why I have no intention of staying academia, but where I do want to go continues to be a mystery. And one I should probably work on solving pretty quickly!

  21. Great post Mark! I’m in a funny spot having had a very stressful job for the last 10 years. So sick of the stress etc. So on Sept 17 I fell at work on a very non-slip floor. I got a severely sprained ankle on one side and a damaged knee and torn rotator cuff on the other side.BAM!! I was hurt and off work getting workers comp. So,it took me a good month to relax enough to feel the lack of work stress. Now I’m worried I may run out of FMLA time and actually lose my job! I’m most likely going to have shoulder surgery. I think that alot of us get stuck in a very deep rut and can’t see the way out. Doing new things are often times hard to start. But to end on a positive note- I am so glad to be Primal -Paleo now. My husband is too and
    my daughter and 5 kids are ramping up to Primal as well so at least we are all on the same page in regards to health/eating. All of you encourage me! Thanks!

  22. The public schools frustrate me when it comes to our kids health. Teens are not getting the sleep they need. They sit for hours listening to lectures that probably will not matter to most of them when it comes to career. Then they expect them to sit for several hours each evening to do homework that probably will not matter either. I have a daughter who is in her junior year of high school. We are re-evaluating her course schedule for next semester and and next year. We are ignoring the conventional wisdom to prep for college and scholarships to relieve the homework load and stress. I know she will be successful in whatever she chooses to do, but we want her to understand her health and happiness is more important than trying to live up to the “educational standards of the United States.”

    1. K-12 education should provide a solid foundation in the liberal arts, with the ultimate goal being to teach students how to think for themselves. One can argue that any of the liberal arts – history, literature, philosophy, maths, physical sciences – won’t matter when it comes to career, but the more well-rounded a person is, and the more information he/she has with which to make intelligent decisions, the better off he/she will be, regardless of career choice. In fact, I would argue that the emphasis away from liberal arts is what has brought us to the SAD state we find ourselves in today.

      I do agree that today’s students get far too much homework, and far too little sleep. Every school should have 15 minutes of swing dancing between each class!

      1. The issue we have at our school is trying to stuff as much information in the kids’ heads so that they can dump it out on standardized tests. They are not really learning. I am not against the basics, especially the liberal arts, just do not like the way they teach it. We have some teachers that hand out packets and tell the kids to look up the information. Kids are expected to know (that is to be able to recognize the correct answer on a state test) complex issues in math and science even though they will never use it. For the most part, my kids had positive experiences in school and some of the teachers are really good. This year has been the most frustrating because of the homework load and poor teaching in a couple of classes.

        1. I hear you! “Teaching to the test” seems to be the rule rather than the exception in the US, which is a crying shame. Fortunately, some charter schools are refusing to go along with this trend, and still ranking among the nation’s best schools. Our school prefers to hire teachers who haven’t studied education, and aren’t certified. There’s no tenure, so it’s easy to get rid of teachers who can’t teach.

          As long as a student doesn’t lose her love of learning as a result of school (ironic, no?), she will do fine in the real world!

  23. Health is #1 and gaining importance each day: At 64 now, I still run the hills, I eat more primal than the year before– I am the only one in an office of over 100 that uses a stand up desk– and I walk / sprint at lunchtime instead of hitting a restaurant.

    I do IF a couple days a week– hike with my wife every weekend–and try to get a good 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

    The changes in the last couple years thanks to MDA articles and research have been dramatic. I started the journey at 184 and should hit my goal of 165 by November 13–the day our company sets aside for our physicals.

    It was OK last year– this year I’m gonna crush it.

    Thanks to Mark, to all who love this site and post comments, and to all the Friday success stories. Thanks to God above all for keeping me focused as I do workouts and do His work!

  24. This is actually somewhat ironic, because today I had just told some friends exactly how important health has become to me, and viola! It showed up on Mark’s Daily Apple.

    I am a sophomore in college, and freshman year I lived like a normal college kid: bad food, lots of alcohol, and not nearly enough sleep, and my grades suffered as a result. However, before the school year began, I made the decision to really follow paleo (as opposed to sort of following it in the past) and to really put a priority on health. It’s transformed my life! I love the food I eat and I have tons of energy. As well, if I get tired, I sleep, and I have found that my grades have improved a lot.

    So thank you, Mark’s Daily Apple, for all of the sound nutritional information and for this post, which so wonderfully portrays exactly what I am feeling right now 🙂

  25. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s the whole concept of work as an end in itself rather than a means to an end. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got as strong a work ethic as the next man, but I despise the idea of work for the sake of work.

  26. Hi Mark! Thanks! That was another thoughtful two by four across the head! You got my attention, Sir! Again, Thanks!

  27. This is the general impression I have of people with real health issues, working in today’s jobs and corporations. Related to this, I am an “eagle” because after a lifetime of doing it, I have sought your help to say no and to put work into its proper perspective in my life. But, work still rules the lives of all the people I work with or have in the past. I have never worked with someone who said he or she loved his job, loved life, and had balance. What a magical thing if a blueprint for that could be created? I don’t know how. Do you?

  28. My job is in physical therapy at a skilled nursing facility, and I can’t believe the hypocrisy I see with the nurses, CNAs, and doctors preaching to the patients about how to take care of themselves. Maybe it’s just me, but if I were a patient, I wouldn’t take health, diet, and/or fitness advice from someone who is seriously overweight with diabetes and high blood pressure.

    I talked to a friend a few days ago who also works in physical therapy. I asked him if he was working out and he told me that was the last thing he wanted to do after making patients exercise all day. This, coming from a man who literally died from Valley Fever once and had skin cancer in the past. I don’t understand how he can take health for granted after all that. My patients inspire me to keep living a healthy lifestyle every day. I don’t want to get up at 5 AM for dialysis, lose a couple of legs and a few fingers to diabetes, be so weak I can’t sit up in bed by myself, or go to the bathroom in an adult diaper because I can’t make it to the toilet.

  29. The Protestant work ethic is to blame, largely.

    I recently lost sleep vacillating about whether to take on more work because I felt an invisible pressure condemning my current choice to only work a 50% load so that I have more time for my kids, wife and myself.

    In the end I declined the work because I could sense that it was drawing me because of the money and the ‘shame’ of foregoing productive work for leisure. But the pull was strong…

  30. That list of excuses sounds very familiar, then I found MDA and the Primal Blueprint. Our health and our life is our responsibility, it’s just easier blaming something or someone else when things go wrong. We even blame an ‘invisible’ force we can’t even see, sometimes referred to as ‘God’. Awesome post Mark, you are a true leader!

  31. I wish I had a career to bemoan. I wish I was busy making money like all of you. Instead I chose to listen to my body, which rejected the busy stressful life, in favor of being a struggling musician. Ha.

    So I’m single, a loner, but very healthy and mostly happy. I’ve never had health problems, and next year I will get Medicare, having not had health insurance since 1978. I’ve been very conscious of diet and exercise, and to this day I walk barefoot in the grass, hours a day. I love researching health, it’s my hobby. And now that I’ve been able to bring RS2 and RS3 into my diet, and understand what it all means, is very interesting and keeps me inspired.

  32. It’s about changing the momentum – like a ships wheel, you have to keep it in the desired direction until you get on track, it may take a long time, and not even appear to be changing, but it eventually does:

    I remember a few years ago I was stuck in a rut of wanting to get fit, but never getting the “time”. It seemed like I was never going to break the cycle.

    Then one day I just started doing something simple – 10 push ups a day, and made myself do it, whenever I could get the time. Then I incorporated this out to a walk around the block, doing it whenever I got the time – but doing it daily. I then discovered the primal diet, which made a huge difference, and gave me more energy to add to the momentum. Pushup sessions evolved to whole bodyweight sessions with multiple exercises, and the walking turned into short runs (I was doing 10km a day, and aiming for times under 50min – scraped these when I found the primal blueprint – incorporated more weights/sprints instead)

    Over time this gained momentum, and now I work out full training sessions as per the primal blueprint, and I can’t imagine a life now where I could “stop” exercising.

  33. One of my parents and one of my husband’s parents had absolutely no concern for their health and suffered with the weight carried and bad nutrition they consumed. Yes, nutrition information has been unclear until recent years but there was also a feeling that they just didn’t care, as if their bodies were completely separate from them. In some ways this feels true, my brain isn’t exactly my body but my body sure carries my brain around. My “me” still needs a strong pair of legs.

  34. The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:

    Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
    Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
    And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
    the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
    he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

    1. How very true! And on a related note, here’s a story I heard many years ago, shortened and paraphrased:

      Back in the day, an Indian was sitting under a tree with his eyes closed, listening to the birds singing and the breeze rustling the leaves of the branches over his head, and the stream bubbling and murmuring next to him. A White Man happened by, and, seeing the Indian, jumped off his horse and strode purposefully up to him.
      “Why are you just sitting there?” he asked. “Why aren’t you out working like everyone else?”
      “Why should I work?” asked the Indian.
      “To get money,” said the White Man.
      “Why should I get money?” asked the Indian.
      “So you can hire other people to work for you,” said the White Man.
      “Why should I hire other people to work for me?” asked the Indian.
      “So you can make even more money, and when you’ve made enough money, you can retire,” said the White Man.
      “Why should I retire?” asked the Indian.
      “Because when you retire you can spend all day relaxing and doing whatever you please,” said the White Man.
      The Indian threw his head back and laughed: “That’s what I’m doing now!”

  35. I’m on the other end of the scale. I’m very selfish with my time. I realized long ago that I need a lot of down time to just “be”. I used to feel guilty about it but not anymore. There is only 1 me and possibly only this 1 life. Need to take care of yourself and enjoy it as much as possible. And in response to those that mentioned the 3rd world problems… Whenever I run into some trouble in this life and in this wonderful country I’m fortunate to live in, I chant the mantra,”First world problems, first world problems.” I know my problems are minuscule compared to most people on this planet.

  36. Sobering reminder about the reality of this all, just this week. A few days ago my wife found out a friend her age had just passed from lupus. I researched and found out it might be related to gluten consumption. My wife is in her mid 40s.

    Just last night after this article came out someone posted that a person in my high school class passed away from cancer. I didn’t know them but they must have been roughly my age.

    I am 49 and after a year and half Primal feel better than ever. And have a 4 year old daughter. I feel my life is just beginning. Health really is the most important thing. The rest of what you want and want to accomplish can flow afterward.

  37. Wow. This is a hard hitting article that gets to the core of so many problems. One thing that this makes me think of is the announcements flight attendants give before takeoff, “In an emergency, secure your own oxygen mask and then help those around you.” To often, I neglect my health trying to help others. I guess that’s trading short term gains for long term losses. Health is a habit.

    1. Not to be glib, but I use that analogy all the time to explain a Buddhist tenet, that you need to look after your own enlightenment (salvation) before you can help others achieve theirs.
      Not that I live by it generally… But I keep planning to… some day…

      Anyway, funny we had the exact same thought!

  38. This post is calling out to me in my annual, “get it together period.”
    After starting a business 5-1/2 years ago, I’ve been so completely consumed that I gained 40 pounds, lots of grey hair, been generally stressed out, crabby and miserable, and it’s always because “running my business takes all my energy.” So once a year when things slow down in October, I decide it’s me time. I go on a diet, join a gym, read MDA every day, cook lots of dinners, start mountain biking again, yadda yadda yadda.

    Last year at this time I worked on “training” myself to keep my new positive habits when business got crazy again in spring. Alas, I was giving in and just grabbing a pizza by March
    15 because “I’m so fatigued, I can’t think about cooking” or whatever.

    Thing is … I love to cook! And I love to be outdoors. And I love to have a nice bod. And it wouldn’t be all that terribly difficult to not eat cookies, or not stay up reading all night, or to join my husband for a morning bike ride before opening the store (he goes every day). And yet, somehow I convince myself that it takes too much energy and I just can’t do it.

    Ridiculous. I can do a LOT! I got some big time achievements under this belt… And a bit more flab for every one.

    What robs energy is feeling down and blue when I can’t climb a hill on my bike, or I see a pic of me and go red with shame, or wonder if everyone thinks I’m fat.

    What a load off my mind it would be not to feel that way anymore. And yet…

    So… What’s the deal with me?
    What does it take to “own it” as Mark says?
    I’ve tried saying to myself, I’m not the type of person who pops French fries in her mouth just because they’re there. I’m the kind of person who respects her body.
    Or, I’m going to win a mountain bike race next year. I’ve done it before!

    But then I wonder if I should just settle with what I’ve got. Give up.

    It’s senseless, irrational, destructive behavior played out by an extremely rational sensible creative and constructive being (me).

    Sorry for the rant.

  39. Thank you for such an excellent and frank post. I liked Clay’s (grandfather’s) response as well, “You don’t find time, you make time.” I’ve been working at making the time for a while, and find it challenging (i.e., ultimately doable) to rein in all of the excuses you mentioned!