Finish Line: The 2013 Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge

Whoever says you need months to see major transformation or create dramatic change in your life needs some Primal schooling. Folks, another year, another Challenge has officially crossed the finish line, and let me tell you – it never, ever gets old. Not that the rest of the year at MDA is chopped liver (who came up with disparaging saying anyway?), but the energy of the Challenge is something I look forward to every year. I’m blown away by the enthusiasm, the creativity and engagement I see come through on the boards, the Grok gatherings and the reader content. It’s nothing short of awesome. Thanks to everyone who took up the Challenge this year and all those who offered support along the way. In the midst of a head spinning 21 days, so much happens I love to sit back at the end and take a satisfied look-see at everything that came together in the MDA site and community.

Grok-Worthy Competitions

Clearly, I’m not the only competitive one in this bunch! Can I say the post-its still get me every time? There’s something just so gratifyingly simple and subversive about it. And how about them groceries? There’s nothing like witnessing good Primal bounty. Those pictures are how it’s done, people. Thanks to all who offered their questions and support in the power of community contest and their feedback on our supplements and the upcoming Primal Teen book. And how about a hand for the companies who offered up their Primal products for the Challenge? From delectable Primal snacks to grass-fed beef to bacon, an Ergo Desktop to a Squatty Potty, no wonder the competitions were so hard fought. Grok never had it so good.

First-Rate Reader Content

I’ve been doing the Primal thing for quite a few years now, but when I see the ingenuity readers display in their Challenge submissions, it feels like a whole new game to me. The recipes inspire my own Primal cooking, and the workouts give me a whole new reason to look forward to some free time. Then there are the Grokfeasts! Yes, it was another amazing year of the Grok-inspired gatherings.

Congratulations again to Chi-town, but a big thanks to everyone who came together to feast.

MDA Highlights

Although the Challenge is always first and foremost about the reader experience, I always like to highlight some core principles in a new way or repurpose concepts for the Challenge. Such was the case with the now-”classic” posts (as readers told me), “The Primal Blueprint Refresher – A Dramatic Reading” and the “10 Habits of the Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers” but also for the posts on abundance mentality, success strategies and Challenge Q&A. They’re all great refreshers for reinvigorating or deepening your Primal commitment at any point.

Now That It’s All Said and Done…What’s Next??

Tell me – and all of us within the MDA community – what this 21-Day Transformation Challenge has meant for you. How do you feel? What did you accomplish? What’s changed for you? Finally, what’s next?

Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran PBer, I think the Challenge opens up new dimensions of the journey. It naturally encourages us to think about what we want to change, where we can be more satisfied, why or how we might want to experiment for better results, more satisfaction and fuller healthy, happiness and contentment in our lives. What do you hope to find (or contribute)? Offer your feedback. Pose your questions. And congratulations on a Challenge well done!

Thanks for reading and joining us for the Challenge, everyone. Be sure to share your thoughts and successes on the 21-Day experience. What was your favorite part of the Challenge – and the MDA content and contests? Any recommendations for next year?

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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47 thoughts on “Finish Line: The 2013 Primal Blueprint 21-Day Challenge”

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  1. This challenge was so awesome! I lost 6 lbs, and my clothes are a bit looser. I feel amazing. Admittedly, it was more about the food, and less about the exercise for me. In fact, I neglected the exercise almost all together. But this time around, that’s what I needed to do. I came close to eating 100% primally for all 21-days, and I truly feel it’s now a habit. I am now choosing to do my own Round 2 of the 21-day challenge, this time adding in all the primal fitness components as well. I can’t wait to see my results from that!

  2. Let’s see…I moved frequently at a slow pace, totaling about 3 1/2 hours a week. I sprinted twice. I didn’t lift heavy things. I ate about 50g of carbohydrate (15% of calories) per day. I started taking cinnamon twice a day, as my fasting blood sugar had crept up from the mid-80s to the mid-90s over the past several months. (I’m not diabetic, but T2D runs in my dad’s family, so I monitor weekly.) I’m in my late 40s and menopausal, 20 to 25 lbs. overweight, with 10 lbs. of that gained during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays last year. I’ve exercised regularly for most of my adult life, and followed a relatively low-carb, mostly grain-free way of eating for several years now.

    Results: I lost ONE pound. My clothes fit no differently. I run and bike no faster (“fast” being relative…); if anything, I’m a bit slower. My hot flashes, which were nearly gone, have increased in frequency and intensity, though they still aren’t too bad. My blood sugar has dropped back into the mid-80s.

    1. Sister, you sound disappointed in your 21 day challenge.

      Technically, a 1 pound loss when you’re in your late 40’s and menopausal is HUGE!!! Your fasting blood sugar dropping back into the 80’s when you haveT2D in your family is also huge. I would wonder if you kept at it what other changes may come along. If your blood sugar is starting to right itself your weight loss may continue slowly but surely. Hey, at this rate, in a year you may potentially lose another 17 lbs and be back at a healthy weight.

      Your performance may have dropped because your carbs may have been a bit on the low side for you. Try a 75g range maybe?

      I know you didn’t ask for any advice but you did post your experience leaving yourself open for comments. I wish you all the best!!

      1. Thanks! Encouragement is appreciated, and I do plan to stick with it a while longer. Just have to figure out what to adjust.

    2. I had similar results, BUT.. I am not discouraged and I am going to keep trudging along! 🙂

      1. This is good to hear, actually. I’m in the same boat. I’m hoping if I stick with this for a while, my hormones will balance and the hot flashes will stop. They aren’t horrible or all that frequent, but they are still happening. Most of the success stories are by people far younger than myself, so it’s nice to hear what other women my age (53) are experiencing.

    3. Hot flashes come in waves, regardless of what else we might (or might not) be doing. If you are having them at night, your sleep might be interrupted enough that you are being impacted that way. I’m a decade older than you are and finding it takes alot longer to see results now than ten years back. Hang in there!

  3. I love this challenge! It amazes me how even the vet’s on this site get something positive from this every year. I found MDA a year ago during the 21-day challenge, but I look forward to being a part of many more!

  4. I must admit I was really struggling with the challenge and felt like I was really lacking the willpower that everyone else on the site seemed to possess. Thankfully the first two weeks were the hardest. I now understand clearly what was happening with me: chronic cardio + low blood sugar = carb addiction. So – i’m lifting heavy things, ditching the spin classes, and keeping more energy on reserve (what a concept!) I’m eating whole foods all day long, instead of set “meal times” that no longer serve me. I’m starting to see the pounds come off but not using a scale – I’m not ready for that. I have a LOT of work ahead of me but I’m feeling good. 😀

    1. Hang in there! Once your body stops asking for food every three hours, it gets much easier! A high protein breakfast (minimum 30 grams protein, up to 50 grams) really kicks the hungries in the butt as does staying away from high glycemic foods. Wish you all the best!

      1. Thank you! I’m going to eat a bigger breakfast. You’re right…I just thought about the protein intake and its too low. This is a process but I’m going to stick with it 😀

  5. Really got a lot from this challenge, having tried to go paleo in fits and bursts before this I decided to fully commit this time and the results have been worth it. As a type 1 diabetic I have been able to almost half my insulin dosage for injections and have had much more stable and reliable blood sugars over the last 3 weeks which has been great. I also managed to drop 5kg between paleo and weight lifting/ sprinting, a nice bonus :). thanks for the motivation guys and looking forward to the continued benefits!

  6. I really enjoyed the creativity and energy in this year’s challenge (my first!). I’ve lost a dress size and ten lbs over the summer since finding the PB lifestyle, and the challenge just carried to the next level the momentum I’d developed over the summer.

    I’d like to suggest to MDA that he host a “12 (or 21 or 31) days of Christmas/Holidays”, a similar event to the challenge, that would stimulate ideas and methods to weather the holiday stress and winter blues. That is my worst time of year, and it would be great to tap into the MDA community for motivation and cheer.

  7. After 21 days, I’ve lost a few pounds and a whole clothing size. While I wish the weight loss would have shown on the scale, I realize that’s not the whole picture, and the scale number, frankly, is more a vanity issue. The clothing size loss is pretty awesome as is the fact that I stayed totally clean for 21 days. Twenty-one days without sugar is amazing to me and right now the thought of eating something sugary doesn’t appeal at all. I lost 100 lbs. about a decade ago (not primal/paleo) and have managed to keep it off, but eating this way seems to curb the binge eating that I still experience.

    1. You are completely right. Once your body and brain become more effective at ketone use, your hormones balance out and you don’t feel the carb addiction anymore. Before, your body cried about getting carbs before it would ask for your fat. The key is to find how many good carbs you can eat without falling back into that pattern. We are each unique when it comes to metabolic flexibility. Eating this way, you will gain lean mass, so measurements are the best way to measure success. Total body weight becomes irrelevant at leaner points in your journey.

    2. I didn’t mention that I’m in my 60s, female, and, obviously, post-menopausal so I can attest that even those of us in our “senior” years can change our ways, too.

  8. Not sure how much weight I lost because my bathroom scales became schizophrenic it I did lose half an inch round my middle and I can see my muscle definition getting back. Loved the support and the feeling of doing this together with so many other people. Still need to lose a few more inches but happy with progress!

    1. This challenge led me to MDA’s forum section. I read several journals and found them to be amazing. I have a new perspective on several issues. Everyone has problems and it is nice to find support.

  9. I’ve been primally lurking for a couple years. Totally get the concept and knew it was the way to go (even bought the book) but something always seemed to get in the way. Just happend to check the site on Day 1 of the challenge and right then and there decided to go for it. It was a tough road but I stayed the course and eliminated all grains (it was a start) Avacados, almond butter, eggs and bacon were my best friends and I think helped me through. I woke up more rested than I have been in a long time. Didn’t really change my physical activity much except having a further walk into work from the parking lot and the tear in my achilles’ tendon definitely limited me from really doing much. But after 21 days I’m down 10lbs without really trying 🙂
    All I can say is THANKS SO MUCH!!!
    Now I’ll have to see where the next 21 days will get me!

    1. That is so cool, Nate! I also just happened to check the site about a day before the challenge started. I’ve been eating primally off and on for a while, and I was looking for some inspiration to fully commit again. EVERY time I eat 80-100% primally, I lose weight with no effort other than eating delicious food! Thanks for sharing. I love reading everyone’s different experiences. 🙂

  10. I Started living Primal a week before the challenge, so actually this is day 29. Lost 10 pounds in 4 weeks, already wearing slacks that didn’t fit 4 weeks ago, more energy, almost no hunger. Trying to upgrade the groceries and incorporate an excercise routine. Juts finished reading Primal Blueprint yesterday. I’m in!

  11. Good point Mark: why is chopped liver derogatory, but ‘the best thing since sliced bread’ is a compliment?

    I’m going to start saying “the best thing to happen since chopped liver.”

    1. “Best thing to happen since chopped liver.” Ha! Love it! I had beef liver just yesterday. I’m going to borrow that saying if you don’t mind.

  12. I’m similar to Dallas, in that I started eating Paleo a week or so before the challenge started. I feel great. Way more energy – and more stable energy – than before. I’m exercising less than before, just my karate classes, and long wanders around the neighborhood, and I’ve dropped 16 pounds – and losing weight has always been a major struggle for me (hypothyroid and insulin resistant). Not down a size yet, but everything is fitting much looser.

    I have my regular check-up with my endocrinologist next week. I’ll be very interested to see how my blood work looks.

  13. The challenge inspired me to buy local organic produce and dairy for 21 days, now I’m hooked! I get two big bags of produce every week, although I do buy chocolate and coffee from TJ’s still, hehehe.

    I also learned Polyface farm is in my state! I can get legendary grass-fed ground beef for just $6.45 per pound. Incredible. I am so grateful to live so close to such great pasture raised beef. Do a little homework online and you’ll find amazing food nearby.

    Don’t have time to shop at your local farmers market? Sign up for a CSA or have it delivered! This great food really has helped my mood and kettlebell workouts into high gear this month. LLAP Thanks Mark and Bees!

  14. I used the challenge to really go primal. My husband adhered to it about 75% of the time, but did stay away from grains and most sugars. During the challenge, he had his blood work done. He’s a Type 2 diabetic and since going primal he’s had trouble with crashing–really low blood-sugar readings. Blood tests revealed that not only was it wise for him to cut back from 2 pills to 1 (he’d done that on his own) but the doctor wanted him to cut that one pill in half. At the current rate of improvement, he’ll be off his meds in 6 months. YAY!!
    I can tell I have lost some flab, but have avoided my scale. My mom came for a visit and we got her eating primally too. In fact, she and I had a bake-a-thon here trying out all the yummy sounding paleo “bread” recipes we could find. I used the opportunity to practice not binging. After all, goodies are goodies, whether paleo or not.
    We also attended a family party, in which Mexican foods were served. I was able to stay paleo–avoiding tortillas, cheese, beans, and rice–and filling my plate with meat, lettuce, guacamole, and fruit salad. I know these dishes were not 100% paleo (especially in their preparation) but I was fitting into the situation. And it gave me a chance to talk paleo with my vegan niece and my SIL, who has gone gluten-free, but hadn’t heard of paleo before.
    I would love to see a holiday-time challenge, as suggested by Alyssa. I think that would be great. That is also a bad time of the year for me, and I usually get into some really bad food habits from that time of year.

  15. Already HFLC Primal. Ditched Dairy and the skin on my face looks so much smoother. Also, the occasional itchy ear is gone I am going to keep this up.

  16. The biggest benefit of this challenge was writing my “success story.” I didn’t submit it for some personal reasons, but simply writing it was very cathartic and humbling, and helped me see how far I have come over the last couple of years. I’m at what you could call the half way point of my weight loss goal (although I’ve gradually become more concerned with health and strength), so it also served as a good motivator to keep going, and I signed up for an online “class” and am starting a bi-weekly barbell routine this week.

    Who knows…maybe I’ll submit that story in 5 months or so! 🙂 Thanks Mark, great 21 day challenge!

  17. I have figured out that dairy is not my friend. I have proved it and now I have to make a change or two going forward. But I’m glad that I finally know.

    1. I am in the same boat. Which pretty much sucks. Because… cheese.

  18. Hello Primal Friends!
    I’m a 50 year old, 5’2″ woman. I started Primal in mid-August and have been pretty strict as far as diet – am down 14 pounds and see no reason that I won’t continue to my goal. I walk several times a week and do the other exercises also. I usually end up doing unplanned fasting just because I’m not hungry. Besides weight loss, a nice result is smoother skin and thicker hair. The changes have been amazing.
    To those not satisfied with their results – don’t give up! This really does work.

  19. My husband and I decided to take the challenge on a whim when I looked at the website on the day it started. So glad I did- I lost 8 lbs, and now feel very little urge to overeat, and my husband, (who has no weight to lose) noticed a change in his body composition, and more mental clarity.

  20. Previous to the 21 day challenge I can attribute some great achievements to adopting the primal lifestyle. I have been primal for about 9 months now. Here are my accomplishments so far:
    – Lost 30 lbs (net)…less fat more muscle.
    – Chronic Rhinitis/Asthma non-existant
    – Anxiety reduced, including quitting smoking and stopped chewing my fingernails.
    – More energy, less couch poatoing.
    – Improved my relationship

    Here are my long term goals:
    1. Reduce my triglycerides and get off the medication, Lopid.
    2. Reduce my high blood pressure and get off the medication, Lisinopril.
    3. Get my body healthy so my weight and waist circumference are less, (I am still 330lbs and 46inch waist)

    For the challenge I decided to to focus on 2 things. Clean up my diet and reduce drinking alcohol. Hopefully both will affect my triglycerides in a positive way.

    At the start I was 70 percent compliant with clean and healthy eating. I realized a few days before the challenge that I had to stop lying to myself each time I said, “oh just this once” when I would have a piece of candy or something “non primal”. “Oh just this once”, seemed to happen all the time. So I cleaned up my diet even started to bring in my lunch everyday to work. I lowered my carbs and increased my fat (coconut oil in everything!!) content. I haven’t lost weight but my pants fit better (i.e. I can get my hands into my pockets freely)

    I also took the 21 day challenge to see if i could be alcohol free. I did it! I don’t drink every night, but on a Friday night I would have maybe 8-10 glasses of wine (having previously given up rum and beer as part of my primal diet). Even that amount was a great reduction from my early 20’s. I have to admit that it wasn’t as hard as i thought it would be. As for the social aspect, I had to do some explanation to my friends they were on board with me. Physically it seems like if i don’t start with one drink I don’t feel the need to drink. I wonder what that is all about? Just take a big glass of ice water, add some lemon and drink it with a straw. It worked so well that I am going to extend it another week.

    Its been a good three weeks.

    1. Wow! I don’t even know you but I feel PROUD of you! Congratulations on meeting your goal of not drinking during the challenge! That is huge. I drink off and on, sometimes not for months at a time, and sometimes a few times a week. But I know, like a lot of things, if you get in the habit of having alcohol, it’s so easy to just keep on keepin’ on, especially in social situations. The progress you’ve made so far is inspiring! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      1. This is what I love about this community! So much positivity and encouragement, and of course, I love the focus on health rather than image (although, of course, image often improves with health). Always glad to see people on MDA giving each other pep talks and support.

  21. This 21 Day Challenge was a lot fun; I dragged 9 people into it with me, entered two of the contests, had a Grokfeast (but didn’t video it) and invited many more people to join in. This challenge helped me get into better exercise habits, which were zilch going into it. I have been doing the Lift Heavy Things plan in MDA Primal Fitness ebook, as well as other things. This is just a start for me; I am going to continue with the whole primal plan because it is a healthy, satisfying way to live.

    I didn’t lose any weight, but lost an inch in the waist and an inch in the hips. I didn’t have much to lose because I have been eating like this for a while and already lost 43 pounds. As for the other people that did this with me, most stuck with it and had very encouraging results. I hope they each share.

  22. Some possible encouragement for the hormonal women with little to no weightloss. I started primal over a year ago I was hard core primal with a small bit of dairy and sugar for months with only a 1-2 pound loss. I did however notice inches coming down and my body definitely looked different. But i still was very discouraged and still had brutal migraines and terrible periods. In january of this year I decided to totally drop dairy at that point all I was having was full fat cream in my coffee in the morning. A few tablespoons a day that’s it! In a month I lost 4 pounds and kept it off. The weiht has stopped dropping but i am happy with my body and realized it’s happy where it is. Since going paleo noticed my energy more stable, my stomach flatter, my skin looks incredible I look at least five years younger, my body is tighter, my inflammation is gone, and just overall feel better. My hormones are still terrible and i am not super skinny but it is still worth paleo! Hope this helps!

  23. I’ve dropped a couple more pounds through IF and snack abstinence. Started lifting a little heavier and noted more definition in my arms. Got yelled at by an MD on another forum for daring to suggest to someone with metabolic syndrome that they might try more fat and less sugar. Carried my 58 lb daughter on my shoulders for a 3 mile overland pre-hunt scouting expedition. Used a climbing tree stand for the first time, harder than it looks! Oh yeah, I must have eaten half a pig in the last 21 days!

  24. I apologize. I was a total fail. My one thing was to sprint. I just noticed on the calendar that I missed my sprint days.

    My excuse ( I know, there are no excuses) My veg garden was keeping me fermenting and freezing the harvest and then my neighbor’s apple tree decided this year to have a bumper crop so have been dealing with loads of apples as well. Seems like all summer I have been dealing with food. Growing it, preserving it, cooking it, eating it and then cleaning up after. My vegetable garden has been a total success and that has made me very happy but sprinting….fail.