Last week we offered responses to three common misconceptions about what we’re all about here in the Primal community. Of course, no matter what we say, some people will always believe that we’re just a bunch of barefoot weirdos who are inexplicably willing to—gasp!—stop eating bread. It can be incredibly frustrating when people you care about can’t seem to shake conventional wisdom and give the Primal Blueprint a shot.
But what about the people who show a genuine interest in our lifestyle? Hopefully, as you’re out there walking your Primal walk and talking your Primal talk, you’re catching the eye of friends, family, and coworkers who can’t help but notice your healthy vibe. These folks might be willing to take the leap for themselves. They just need a little nudge in the right direction.
Getting the word out about healthy Primal living is more important than ever, but you want to do it in a way that is encouraging, not alienating. After all, we are a little weird here (in the best way possible). Below are my responses to seven questions someone might ask you when they’re still on the fence about launching into a Primal lifestyle. I’ll also link some relevant MDA posts that you can share once someone is ready to start.
Prepare Your 30-Second Elevator Pitch
Let’s say you have someone on the hook. They’re not rejecting your Primal lifestyle outright. The look in their eyes says, “Ok, I’m listening…” Now’s the time! You need a quick, concise way to explain the rationale behind the Primal Blueprint. Something like:
Bottom line: It’s abundantly clear that all the so-called “expert advice” about how to be healthy isn’t working for most people. The Primal Blueprint is simple, and it works better than anything else I’ve tried. This isn’t about trying to “live like a caveman.” It’s about respecting that humans are genetically programmed to thrive when we eat lots of meat and vegetables, move our bodies in particular ways, spend time outside in the sunshine, and try to get away from all the stress that modern life heaps on us.
The Primal Blueprint takes the stuff that worked for our ancestors, blends it with modern scientific advances, and effectively gives you the best of both worlds. It just makes sense.
Feel free to steal that verbatim or put it in terms that are authentic to you.
How to Respond to Common Questions and Concerns
Do I really have to give up sugar and grains? I could never live without bread!
Sure you can. And no, you don’t have to, but do you want to feel better? Have more energy? Achieve your health or fitness goals?
You have nothing to lose by trying, I promise. Give it 21 days. You can do anything for 21 days. The thousands of people who have participated in the Primal Blueprint 21-day Reset can attest that three weeks is enough time to start seeing some real changes!
I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to give up those things once you start to see the benefits for yourself: losing fat without feeling deprived, improved gut function, boundless energy, and much more. Anyway, once you’ve adjusted to the Primal way of eating and developed metabolic flexibility, you can enjoy the occasional decadent dessert or bowl of pasta without incident—if you even want to by then.
You have to hand it to the breakfast cereal industry for their wildly successful campaign to make people believe that sugary cereal made with whole grains is a “heart healthy” way to start your day. (And don’t forget that glass of orange juice for an extra 25 grams of carbs at least!) What a scam.
The short answer is no, nobody needs grains. Quite the opposite, in fact. Grains actively detract from health, especially when they are of the highly processed, acellular variety—think refined grains and flours, plus the many products made with them. Even whole grains are relatively nutrient-poor compared to vegetables and animal products, they spike insulin, and worst of all, they contain harmful anti-nutrients that can be absolute menaces.
I’ve personally heard from countless individuals whose health was radically transformed by the simple act of removing grains from their diet. Once people realize how much better off they are without grains, they are usually eager to go all-in with the Primal Blueprint.
This gets into some pretty deep physiology that you probably aren’t going to delve into while sitting around the family dinner table, so here’s the summary version:
When people say “carbs for energy,” they really mean “glucose for energy.” Yes, some of your cells require glucose (sugar), but they’re in the minority. Most cells run perfectly well—better, arguably—off fat and ketones (when the latter are available).
It doesn’t take much to meet your body’s requirement for glucose. Primal foods provide plenty of carbs. You don’t need a giant plate of spaghetti.
If your body ever needs more glucose, your liver has an elegant system called gluconeogenesis for making glucose on demand. Carbs are not required.
Anyway, this question implies that Primal folks don’t eat carbs, which is untrue. We don’t eat grains and refined sugar. Still, a typical Primal eater who includes sweet potatoes, nuts, bivalves, and some seasonal fruit in their diet will easily consume anywhere from, say, 75-150 grams of carbs on an average day. That’s not low-carb. Primal is only low-carb when compared to a Standard American Diet, which is high-carb.
Even on ketogenic diets where you eat 50 grams or less of carbs per day, your cells have plenty of fuel thanks to the aforementioned fat, ketones, and gluconeogenesis. And while it’s true that very active individuals—think ultra-endurance athletes and CrossFit competitors—might indeed perform better on a higher-carb diet (200 grams or more per day), that’s still easy to do eating Primally.
Want more science? Here you go:
You want to burn fat as a primary energy source. Here’s why.
Aren’t you worried that about eating so much fat? Isn’t all that fat (especially saturated fat) unhealthy?
When it comes to fat, I’m far more concerned with quality than quantity. Fats found in nature—animal fats, avocado, coconut, nuts—have always been an integral part of the human diet. Highly refined seeds and vegetable oils (canola, corn, soybean, the ubiquitous “vegetable oil,” and so on) have not. I don’t touch those with a 10-foot pole.
More to the point, Primal diets aren’t even especially high in fat. We simply don’t kowtow to the conventional wisdom that says we should fear fat. We embrace fat that naturally occurs in Primal foods, and we happily use fats for cooking and dressing our meat and vegetables to make them taste good.
If your conversation partner wants to get into the supposed dangers of saturated fats, encourage them to check out these posts:
Ok, but isn’t too much protein bad for you? And what about the impact of meat-eating on the planet?
Yes, I’ve heard the news that we’re all supposed to be eating “plant-based” diets now. Where’s the eye-roll emoji when you need it? Actually, that’s not entirely fair. I spent years moderating my protein intake in the name of health. I was never anywhere close to being a vegetarian, but I did wonder if there was such a thing as “too much protein.” More recently, however, I updated my stance based on the available evidence. Long story short, I don’t think there’s any compelling evidence that meat-eating poses a health concern.
As for the environmental concerns, the evidence is clear: regenerative agriculture that includes well-managed livestock practices is the way forward. I’m certainly no fan of concentrated animal feeding operations where animals are raised in unhealthy, inhumane conditions, and I have been speaking out against them since the early days of the blog. However, monocropping corn, soy, and wheat to produce energy-intensive fake meat products is not the answer.
Clearly, this is a hugely controversial issue fraught with emotions on both sides. One of the great things about the Primal Blueprint mandate to “eat lots of plants and animals” (Primal Blueprint Law #1) is that it allows individuals to interpret what that means for themselves. Our Primal community runs the gamut from vegan to carnivore and everything in between. I’d venture that many of my followers’ diets qualify as “plant-based” insofar as they include generous portions of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and fresh herbs. Bring on the Big-ass Salads!
I’ll also refer you to my friends Diana Rodgers and Robb Wolf, who are doing incredible work fighting the uphill battle against the current anti-meat movement.
It feels like everyone is telling me something different. How do I know who to trust?
Listen, I get it. I’m a questioner at heart, not to mention a bit of a rebel, and I’ve been challenging conventional wisdom for a long time. That’s uncomfortable for some people. They’d rather listen to the “experts” and be done with it.
Except look around. How well has that expert advice served humanity? Are we humans healthy? Is the planet thriving?
It’s easy for me to say, “Trust me,” but at the end of the day, I’m not asking anyone to trust me. I’m saying, “Trust nature.” Trust the hundreds of thousands of years of human history that shaped us. All I did was look to that ancestral wisdom and distill it into 10 Primal Blueprint Laws.
If you’re not ready to buy into the Primal Blueprint whole-hog, that’s fine. Start with the pieces that make the most sense to you. Take your time reading through the archives of Mark’s Daily Apple, and follow the links to the research provided. Most of all, let your results speak for themselves. I have every confidence that once you start, you’ll understand.
It seems like so much. Where should I start?
This is the question I have the hardest time answering. Just when I think I’ve talked myself into diet being the most important aspect of health, sleep enters the ring. We also can’t ignore the health hazards of being sedentary, nor of exercising too much and in the wrong ways. And if the last couple years have taught us anything, it’s that sunlight and the vitamin D it provides are precious. Who can pick a winner when it’s all so important?
But you have to start somewhere. Some people can completely overhaul their lives in one go, but many folks need to take it one step at a time. Either way is fine. Just do something. My advice would be to start with diet and, specifically, eliminate the “big 3” health offenders: grains, refined sugar, and industrial seed and vegetable oils. Otherwise, start with the Primal Law that speaks most to you. What’s your biggest pain point? If you’re a burned-out endurance athlete, perhaps you need to start by dropping chronic cardio and exercising Primally, for example.
Even if you decide to tackle it all at once, understand that this will be an ongoing process of gradual improvement, self-experimentation, and iteration. You’ll get to know your body better, your health will improve, and your needs will change. Scientific understanding will continue to evolve, and you’ll adjust your approach accordingly. That’s as it should be.
The point is, you don’t have to have it all figured out right now. Take the leap anyway.
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.