Dear Mark: Go Primal in 2009

We’ve had a lot of fun the last week or so putting together 2008 “retrospects” and looking forward to MDA’s strides in the year ahead. In that spirit, I thought I’d start out this first (real) post-holiday week with something new, something different, something I hope will be a grand movement within the MDA collective and our mission. In lieu of a Dear Mark question for this week, I want to put forth a big, broad, bold, communal call for a 2009 “Primal Challenge.” Let’s unroll this puppy. The deal is this…. Whether you’re a veteran “apple” looking for creative ways to up your game this year or a MDA newbie intrigued but unsure of where to start, I want this challenge to be all about you. It’s a challenge to personally take on the Primal method – own it, mold it, and make it a meaningful structure for your lifestyle and individual health goals – whatever and wherever they are this year.

We hear it so often that it gets trite, but I still believe that the idea of a resolution, a full-out, take-it-on, I’m-all-in new year’s commitment can still mean something – and hopefully something big, something life-changing for your year. The difference is this: that the objective is a truly personal one and the means are truly effective. As for the means part, the Primal Blueprint, we’ve got your covered. The studies are there. The stories are posted. The workout ideas, the recipes, the pep talks, and community exchanges are all there. We’ll keep ?em coming (and then some – videos, Twitter, Facebook, etc., etc.) this year. But the resolution itself and the “personal” nature bit? Well, that’s your piece of course. Everybody’s in a different spot with different concerns.

My question to you is this: On the scale of true wellness (real vitality), where would you rate your life today? Mull it over some if you need to. Second question: What is the change that you’re ready and willing to bring to your life right now? The 2009 challenge can be bold, even ground-breaking in fact. It can open up a new dimension of vitality for the already healthy and fit. It can better merge wellness with your everyday life. It can reboot said life if you’ve been caught in an unhealthy streak. (No need to apologize. Just join us – no questions asked!) But let’s first make it real, rooted in where you find yourself now. How can your particular resolution, the challenge you choose to take on this year, feel like the next logical but momentous step in moving your life forward?

And this is the thing. Living “primally” isn’t all hard work. At its best, it cultivates the overall “self-care” concept from last week’s New Year’s Reflect, Regroup, Resolve post. How about putting some fun back in your workouts? How about making your workouts fit more with a happy and active social/family life than with a tired gym routine? What about sleeping better? How about some de-stress practices and truly self-indulgent routines? (We’ve got a “personal spa” post this week if that one grabs your attention….) Do I have you on board yet?

For the readers who have been with me for some time now, I want to say thanks. I hope you find all the upcoming changes this year useful, relevant, and enjoyable. Many of you have seen the blog truly grow from the ground up, and I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on the evolution ahead. Your feedback and perspectives along the way have been absolutely instrumental! For the many of you who have joined us this last year, let me say welcome! Though you may still be in “exploratory” mode, filling in the blanks here and there (hopefully Saturday’s “Best of 2008” helped!) and finding a personal toehold in the Primal paradigm, I hope you’ll join us (and feel free to jump in with all the questions and insights that the experience offers)!

Again, best wishes to everyone out there. I think 2009 will shape up to be a momentous year for MDA and I hope for you, each of our readers, as well. Here’s to a powerful, Primal 2009: let the games begin!

Your turn now: What’s your self-designed Primal Plan for the year? Share your new year’s intentions and Primal priorities for the 2009 challenge!


What to expect here? Check-ins, updates, support, tips, motivation – along the entire way! More to come, we promise! (And for some refreshers, be sure to check out posts from the previous 30-day challenge, the Definitive Guide to the Primal Blueprint, and all of 2008’s best.)

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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31 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Go Primal in 2009”

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  1. I will def be participating, in my own way! I am aiming to cut the baked goods/carbs (I love baking) and add in 3-4 primal workouts per week. Thats about all I can commit to right now(finishing my paper for my masters this qtr). I have upped my vitamin intake and made the switch from fish oil capsules to cod liver oil.

    Looking foward to it!

  2. I’m IN.

    On the scale of true wellness (real vitality), where would you rate your life today?

    I’d say I’m closer than I ever have been- I’m learning more and more about health everyday and am proud to say I’m getting more and more primal since I found your website. I’ve been slowly decreasing the grains from my diet and am feeling great! This is day #3 of no grains (I’m blogging my results of going primal at I’ve always been big into fitness too, but for the past month I’ve been doing crossfit, and it is amazing! So on a scale of 1-10 on the health/vitality… I’d go with a 6-7, but inching more and more toward an 8-9 daily!

    Second question: What is the change that you’re ready and willing to bring to your life right now?

    I’m finally ready to take control and do all the things I always thought I could. Go to CrossFit daily, lose that weight that I always said I could, get outside more, drink less, sleep more and be happier overall. Start appreciating myself, my partner and my friends. Are those too many, and too broad? My overall resolution is to be more primal for the majority of 2009 and be happy with myself and my body.

    I love these challenges and was bummed I missed the one back in July. But I’m ready now- thanks for your help, inspiration and wisdom!


  3. To answer the questions direclty:
    On a scale of true wellness: If 1=worst and 10=best.
    8 – I feel great, my health indicators are all great and mentally my health is pretty sound. 8 because there is always room for continued improvement. I have been under a fair amount of work, school, family related stress that I definitiely need to work towards some improvement in. Still questing after that 6 pack too (I can at least see em now!lol)

    What is the change ready to bring into life right now?
    Enjoy life more. It seems that I am always driving hard towards some goal. If I achieve one I move instantly to another without truly enjoying the results of the first. This leads me to stressing over always working on some project. I exhaust myself this way. I need to step back and set aside more time to truly enjoy some aspects of life.

    My self-designed primal plan for this year:
    Continue what I am doing and loving with the PB. It has become almost second nature already. I will continue incorporating aspects of the PB everywhere that I can in my life and continue to improve physically, emotionally and healthily. My other PB goal this year is to help share healthy experiences with others.

    The SoG

  4. 2008 has been a phenomenal year for me. It has been the year of self realisation.

    2009 will be even better. I have conquered gluttony and sloth. This year I will conquer wrath and pride.

  5. I was going all-out Primal for a while. Though I’ll admit, December brought with it quite a few fruit cakes, gingerbread cookies, and glasses of egg nog. I’ve decided my ’09 isn’t just going to be Primal, it’s going to be CHEAP Primal. I’ve got to keep eating those lean meats without eating my bank account!

  6. I just started going Primal about 3 months ago, but am already hooked. While I must admit, like Broseph, Christmas and New Year brought on a set back, I am ready and willing to start full force again. I have my salad all ready to go for lunch today!
    My personally designed PB plan includes making sure i check out your site every day!

  7. Yeah unfortunately, like Broseph and Jane, I gave in to convention and ate/drank my face off during the last two weeks.

    I’d still give myself a 6 though on overall well-being. 2008 brought the realization that diet is intricately connected with health. Now 2009 will hopefully bring better execution of what I have learned:

    1. Get back into the pre-holiday routine of 3 intense weight workouts a week. Add in sprint training workouts from in preparation for Cherry Blossom 10 miler in April.

    2. Sleep more, drink less, continue to phase grains out of my life (and somehow find a way to afford the delicious $9 salad i ate for lunch today).

    3. Find a way to smile more and stress less at work and school (this might be most challenging of all).

    Happy New Year everyone. Best wishes on making it a happy and healthy one.

  8. Well, I’m going to give it a whirl for 30 days and see what happens. I am a former gymrat/powerlifter for the past couple of decades. A couple of years ago I started running with my dog in the woods which led to me becoming an ultrarunner, running 30 and 50 mile races on the trails. I truly love being in the woods for long periods of time, pushing myself. I ate the commensurate fairly high carb diet and drank a lot of alcohol too and was kinda soft around the middle. As a weightlifter, the best shape I was ever in was eating on a cyclical ketogenic diet, which is low carb for 2-3 days and then filling glycogen reserves with one very high carb meal, then back to low carb for 2-3 days. I got pretty big, strong, and ripped. I loved the way I looked and felt. I’m going to follow the primal eating blueprint as well as exercising. I still love being in the woods. In fact, about an hour ago I took my sprint workout to the trails. I jogged a mile to warm up, then sprinted all out for a couple hundred yards, then walked to let heart rate drop, and repeated 7 times. I then jogged and walked a mile back to the trailhead. I can combine the short/intense workout with my love of the woods. I also plan on walking and hiking alot in the woods. Crossfit has been a fun workout routine too. Overall, I’m going to follow the Primal Blueprint for a month and let you know what happens.
    As an aside, I’m a Christian who believes in creation, not evolution (gasp!!). However, whatever your worldview, the DNA and anthropological studies on bones, teeth, and campsites show that hunter gathers were healthier than their agriculturally based cousins. One could argue whether man was created that way or evolved to be that way, but in the end it doesn’t matter and can’t be proved either way. Just thought you might want to hear from someone with a little different view of origins but still follows the data.
    Keep up the hard work. I dig your site.

  9. It is really hard to evaluate yourself. You are too close to be objective. Either you ignore some “minor” things that are critical, or you overrate some “major” things that don’t matter that much. Often both at the same time. Bad health can take years before it catches up to you making it even harder.

  10. I’m on board. Expecting my second child next month. For me, this year will be about going back to the pre-baby fitness routine and diet. (Darned food–meat–aversions….) I’d like to try the interval workout routine in addition to the weights and low/medium-level cardio I’d been doing. Time and activity that fits with real life will be key.

    And the de-stress stuff sounds great!

  11. I’ve been hooked on this website for a few months, and am determined to get my health in order despite all the challenges (working, mothering teens, food intolerances, etc.).
    I’m really interested in how my changes can impact upon my family’s health, and have been profoundly affected by “Good Calories, Bad Calories”–
    will be blogging primal/low-carb living from a mom’s perspective at

    Mark’s my hero!!

  12. 1 – happy new year to you Mark, and to all readers, and here’s hoping for peace and health
    2 – I’ve been (predominantly) primal for a couple of years, and kind of aware and practising sth similar for probably 8-9 years, but ON and OFF – my problem is falling off the wagon, due often to getting involved in endurance training (I’m a L3 triathlon coach, and trying to ease out of the endurance world, but the roots are deep). So my plan is to stop falling off the wagon! When it all comes together it’s sweet. I am not very confident, though, that I can make it last, cos I rarely do – any tips much appreciated.
    3 – wellness rating is 6-7, due to being in act of clambering back onto fast-moving wagon. Pain from longstanding back and neck injuries is recurring, so that is stimulus to rid body of inflammation.
    Love to you all out there, even creationists!

  13. Happy 2009 everyone!

    I am ready to be Primal in 2009. I feel good, possibly a 7. I have given up all carbs except potato chips. My downfall! Its the crunchy thing. Going to replace them with lots of raw crunchy veggies. And clean out the fridge….

    Walking is my thing. And working on the yard/garden gives me plenty of heavy lifting. Going to get rid of 30 lbs. and enjoy every minute of it!

    Best wishes to all of you~

  14. I’ve been Primal, at least in dietary terms, for 6 months now, and it’s revolutionised my life. I suspect I was more grain intolerant than I realised, so once I eliminated grains I noticed a rapid improvement in my energy levels, sleeping and mental clarity.

    I am now experimenting with IF with positive results, and one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to pursue the whole fasting concept further. I’m aiming to lose a further 3 kilos in the next 3 months ( currently 75 kilos, I metre 78, so decent BMI already ).

    The only area I have problems with is weights, because of a long-term history of back problems, combined with a nagging ankle injury which is taking a while to shake off. Once I’m fully healed my first step is to get back on the squash court, after that I’ll consider some form of weight training along the lines of your recommendations.

    Coincidentally, a tip for your readers – I discovered the “5 Tibetan Rites” a few weeks ago, a simple combination of Yoga-type exercises to be done first thing in the morning. I get a wonderful energy shot and suggest them as a warm-up before working out. has an excellent description.

  15. I was a Primal Challenge participant in July. That challenge marked a sea change in my life – not only because I started my Primal journey in earnest (I had been following the site and Art De Vany for a while and doing CrossFit) but also because I was “let go” from my job – something I had never experienced before. I can’t lie, I was depressed, but I kept my head up through my job search (sometimes a hard way to keep the head up) and continuing to figure out how my body best responds to diet and exercise.

    I’d say I’m a 6 right now. My physical health is good (see my goals and progress on my website), but I still have mental barriers to hurdle. Through the last few months, I discovered things about myself I was never willing to admit before, but now that I have I can confront them, head-on.

    For 2009, I will continue to explore my “new” lifestyle and commit myself to doing the very best I can at my new job (yes, it ended well 🙂 I need to give in to myself a little while at the same time pushing myself into that “uncomfortable” zone in order to make some progress.

    And I’d love to add on to my house – a better kitchen has got to be part of my the Primal diet, right? 😉

    MDA is a big part of these changes – thank you!!

  16. Hi all. I just discovered this way of eating at the beginning of the holiday season. I ate all of my non-celebration meals according to PB and lost weight (not sure how much cause I don’t have a scale, but my clothes are MUCH looser). I am hereby committing to PB. Thanks for the info and the challenge and good luck to everyone!

  17. I’ve been reading your blog for over 6 months now [and it’s really great, thank you!] and have been on-and-off with the PB diet [and when off, it’s white bread and sugar! for a night, and then back on for a day or two]. As far as working out, I’ve always felt like to get a “good” workout I had to push it to exhaustion [whether with weights or aerobics]–I think your advice on toning down the workouts–quality, not quantity– is really good. I’ve been experimenting with the intervals/sprints, which I really like, and now I have to make myself workout reasonable lengths of time, not overdo it. Now I am ready to take the next step and completely embrace the PB lifestyle, and I want to put my resolution in writing. I’ve always been fairly “fit” but never completely healthy, and I am going to use your ideas to help get into the best shape of my life–and stay there. Thanks for providing this forum for motivation!

  18. Good Day to you!

    My name is Gillian, a 23 year old 5 foot 7 female, and I have been reading your blog for months and months now. Probably 4 or 5.

    To give some background, I was a fat girl all my life. I was living on a picky processed diet and all junk food. I hated vegetables, you couldn’t even get me to eat a strawberry!! So, I decided that I needed to learn to like them. I needed a change for health and for vanity! I Went Veg. Full throttle, and was a vegetarian for the last two years, dabbling in 3 or 4 month long stints of veganism. I learned to eat the foods I hated, and learned to like them. Salad was suddenly ok!

    My diet was probably 70-80% carbs.. Super low fat. I went to the gym and exercised all the time, steady state cardio, 3 sets of 12 reps kind of training.. I managed to lose my excess weight, dropping from a flabby 180lbs to around 126lbs.

    Now, the problem was that I was always hungry, cold, irritable, i had intense sugar and carb cravings, and would frequently binge to ease this anxiety/discomfort.

    I daresay I was at the cusp of developing a full blown disorder. Weeping over lost exercise and unable to stop bingeing on cake and bread.

    I lapsed into a 8 month long binge. Overeating every single night. Filling cups with white flour, butter and sugar and eating the “dough”.. I stole food. My boyfriend had to lock it up, and I still found a way to get at his chocolates and his cereal.. My roomates were agitated and I hated myself for being so unable to stop and control myself. Where was my willpower? Other people overcame these issues! Other people can eat cake and be thin! It wasn’t fair, I felt something was wrong with me.. I slowly gained back 20 pounds. I developed insomnia and was starting to purge after large binges because I would feel so sick from all the junk!! Something HAD to change. I was ruining my health and regaining all the weight!!

    In all my life I had never attempted a “low carb” diet of any kind. But after reading your blog and studying some other plans (Atkins, Zone, South Beach) and talking to people I thought… maybe my problem wasn’t a matter of willpower or emotional issues.. I began to question my diet and lifestyle choices.. What if I have some kind of addiction.. a sensitivity.. Maybe I’m not eating right for my body.. Maybe I need to approach this thing from an entirely new angle.

    So I put away my vegetarian ideals, which had served me well to start with by teaching me how to enjoy fruits and vegetables, and went on Atkins induction.

    Now I didn’t last 6 days on it.. HOWEVER, I realised something. Low carb felt better. I didn’t crave, I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t BINGE. I started SLEEPING again! I only craved and felt like binging went I went OFF the plan and ate a high carb thing, like bread or cookies. I also noticed that fake sugar did a similaR thing to me, I would crave sweets and feel sick and bloated.. I was having a dietary breakthrough!! I could see that in order to move forward, I needed a healthy low carb, low sugar diet. Now I think I’m ready. I think I want to do the primal challenge. I’m starting today! In 30 days, I’ll update my status and let you know how I’m fairing.

    Thank you so much for being there, Mark, and helping me learn all these things!

  19. Well I’m working on it; tomorrow will finish week one. It hasn’t been hard but not easy either and not perfect yet. FitDay is a big help but I’m still wondering if I worry about calories or just protein, fat and carbs. It is sometimes difficult for me to get all the protein and I find myself eating odd things…for me.

    I think I also have to work on the variety of things as the only meat I eat is fish, shrimp, crab or lobster (well I would if it was around). I find myself eating eggs everyday too.

    Not all of my primal cooking has worked out but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

    Thanks for the interesting reads!

  20. I decided that instead of toying with primal eating I would commit to it. So far I’ve learned a few things:

    1. Due to the combination of a high-fat diet and ADHD meds that blunt my appetite, I’ve been having a hard time eating enough calories to equal my base metabolic rate (my excuse for not giving up peanut butter).

    2. High carb intake can mask premenstrual irritability (should have seen that one coming).

    3. Low carb intake = no lightheadedness, fatigue, and crakniness 2.5 hours post-meal (so nice!).

    4. I CAN participate in religious fasts. Just go whole hog and don’t eat the one allowed meal.