End of the Year Review: What We Learned in 2014

2014 reviewAt the dawn of a new year, I like to go back and revisit everything from the past year on the blog. It helps me reflect on the past and plan for the future. 365 posts a year is a lot to remember, and sometimes you need to go back and jog your memory. Then it all comes flooding back. Normally, I do this at home, in my office, in quiet solitude, as a sort of personal ritual.  This year, I’ve decided to publish my remembrances.

2014 has been a big year. Let’s take a look at what we learned and explored together. Where to begin? Well, first…

I took a step back to look at the big picture of human history, addressing the “criticism” that simply won’t die and isn’t even a real criticism of ancestral health: that there was no one single grand overarching paleo diet. Critics love to point this out, as if it destroys the credibility of what we’re doing here. In reality, it strengthens our resolve and our credibility. There’s no one true paleo diet, but so what? Definite trends exist in observed hunter-gatherer and ancestral dietary patterns, we actually do know many foods they ate as staples, and we can learn a lot from studying them. Reality is messy and complicated, without simple answers, and that’s totally okay.

Nutrition was a huge focus. Rather than flail around mindlessly, you learned to watch for the signs you need more carbs, more protein, and more fat. You also learned when not to eat more protein. We revisited the omega-3/omega-6 ratio and questioned our previous stance — was it really as important as we thought? — and we explored the effects of artificial sweeteners on gut health.

As always, food was a major subject on MDA. You discovered the power of medicinal foods, the surprising nutritional content of mushrooms, how to choose a good dark chocolate, plus any potential downsides of dark chocolate. I published a comprehensive guide to buying, cooking, and storing perfect eggs, and I even broke out the old “Is It Primal?” series for a new round of foods. I also explained the potential downsides of processed meat and the advantages of gently cooking your food.

Supplements, too. I gave a comprehensive breakdown of the usefulness (or not) of antioxidant supplements. The myriad benefits of whey protein that have nothing to do with building muscle also got extensive coverage.

We can’t forget gluten. In 2014, together we looked at whether or not gluten is unhealthy in non-celiacs, explored the supposed “dangers” of going gluten-free without a doctor’s note, and researched the connection between gluten and irritable bowel syndrome. Yep, it’s still not very good for you.

You also learned a whole lot about walking this year — more than you thought you didn’t know (that sentence makes sense, I think). You learned the many benefits of walking regularly, both to physical and emotional health, and how to make it more exciting (and sustaining). You even walked with our ancestors as they traversed the globe, exploring the world, shaping the human experience, and setting an example for our greatest thinkers, writers, and artists.

2014 saw us hone in on fitness in a big way. My focus was on helping you find a sustainable plan for physical activity. You figured out how to determine the very best exercise for your body; how to distinguish between movement, exercise, and training; why exercise sometimes feels like a chore or a drag (and what to do about it); and whether or not bodyweight exercises are enough for good strength and fitness. You learned the ten most important rules for successful exercise, why everyone can benefit from a breakthrough workout every now and then, and why you should run a mile. And just in case you needed a little more motivation, I explained what to do when you only want to sit on the couch and just why squatting and sprinting are so important for health and fitness (plus, how to avoid sprinting injuries). For those of you who can’t, or don’t care to squat, we’ve flouted the experts and provided some worthy alternatives. We also explored how fitness is changing “out there,” with top athletes adopting many of the same modalities we’ve been championing for years.

We took a close look at what resistant starch is. We explored who can benefit from it and who can’t. We ran self-experiments to determine the best way to work it into our eating strategies. And, quite frankly, we analyzed the stuff to death and even investigated the paradoxical claim that it increases the risk of colon cancer.

The focus on resistant starch led us to delve more deeply into the wonderfully weird internal world of the gut biome. We explored the things most people never even knew gut bacteria could do, like manufacture steroid hormones and influence our behavior. We also learned about how the things we do and eat in turn affect our gut bacteria. Speaking of the gut, I explained what happens when it gets leaky and how that affects your health, and I provided a few good tips for establishing a healthy gut in your Primal babies. I even talked about the skin biome and learned how to support a healthy one.

Work life balance was a big issue this year. I asked if Grok would have worked overtime and I asked you to really question whether that long commute was worth the trouble, time, and money. In the event that it wasn’t worth it, you learned how and why to telecommute.

I also covered other generally healthy habits, like morning movement sessions. I talked about my decision to give up alcohol for the foreseeable future, even adding some healthy ways to relax and chill out at night that didn’t involve alcohol. I also explored a few alternatives to traditional coffee or tea for waking up in the morning (although if you want coffee, there’s no better thing than a Primal egg coffee frappe).

I asked whether the obesity epidemic is exaggerated and statins are worth the health risks, and wondered if the dietary guidelines are due for a change (they are). I also went over a few signs you aren’t as healthy as you think you are.

We explored our connection to nature (including water), and why severing that connection only leads to unhappiness and poor health. You learned to heed the call of the wild, to acknowledge and cherish your place in the savage world. You learned how sunlight may actually protect you from the worst kind of skin cancer.

Things got a little weird this year, too, with us seriously considering the idea that infectious parasitic worms may actually reduce the incidence of autoimmune disease and regulate our immune systems to work better and that playing video games can actually improve cognition and decision making skills. We welcomed the release of the EXO Bar, a protein bar made from cricket flour, and we learned the proper roadmap for exposing our little ones to dirt, mud, and hopefully non-toxic amounts of animal droppings (just avoid that raccoon poop). You also learned how to manipulate your own neurochemistry using foods, physical activity, and experiences to produce natural (and legal) highs.

2014 saw MDA take a more serious look at the psychological aspects of health. Every Thursday, I turned inward and learned a great deal many truths: a new way to look at affluence, the importance of being thankful for one’s health, the true cost of health, the benefits of being present, the power of a growth mindset, the pros and cons of comparing yourself to others. We explored why we eat (cravings, hunger, and other people) and how to accept our imperfections.

Things aren’t always serious around here. Cheeks have tongue grooves for a reason, getting silly is fun, and satire is oftentimes the best way to get to the heart of a problem. Whether it was learning about the incredible weight loss technology awaiting us in the near future or how to outsource your physical activity to avoid unpleasant sweat, elevated heart rates, and unseemly muscle and fitness gains, I had you covered.

We were lucky enough to have a host of talented guest posters grace us with their knowledge, too. Denise Minger told the story of how she healed the tooth decay caused by her vegan diet (she also wrote a book). Dr. Ron popped his head in to stress the importance of flexibility in health and diet (he wrote a book, too). Bodyweight training master Al Kavadlo gave us a few tips on stretching, Kevin Geary showed us how to liven up our walking, Bethany McDaniel from Primal Pastures told us about the time she killed a chicken and ate it, Michelle Fitzpatrick told us why kids need sun, and Larry Istrail showed us what to take away from crowdsourced ancestral health data.

Every week, delicious recipes were posted to the blog, whetting appetites and fueling family dinners across the community. From snacks like bacon trail mix, cabbage chips, cauliflower muffin bites, and Primal Fuel bars to full-fledged meals like Cuban mojos, lamb meatballs in fenugreek coconut sauce, slow cooker harissa stew, pressure cooker braised short ribs, and chicken vindaloo, 2014 featured some wonderful recipes. Oh, and something called bacon jam exists. It’s as wonderful as you’re imagining.

I can’t forget the Success Stories, which never cease to amaze. Jay overcame overtraining to excel with Primal Blueprint Fitness. Barbie ditched her diabetes medication. Anne-Marie beat Crohn’s. Larry lost 100 pounds, Tim lost 228, Felicia lost 110, and a skeptic was converted. A boy overcame “reverse dysmorphia,” a triathlete made Primal work, and mama successfully retrieved her misplaced sexy. Bob made his passion his business and a pro baseball pitcher improved his game. People have beat terminal illness and injuries. Entire families have made the switch. And those are just a few of them.

Yeah, 2014 was pretty, pretty good. I can’t wait to see what we’ll discover, explore, and learn together in 2015. See you there!

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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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