Believe It or Not, the Human Body Is Remarkably Resilient

Life PersistsSometimes in the midst of fine-tuning our health – learning this fact, experimenting with that change – we can get caught up in the drama of nuance. Trust me, I’m all for improving my personal outcome. I’m grateful to be at the point of having all the fundamentals of good health more or less down. I’m happy to be playing with the details, but on some level I recognize it as such. I get to play on the upper rungs of health and vitality. While I wholeheartedly believe the efforts and experimentation are well worth the added benefits, I don’t take myself so seriously at this point. I’ve learned to loosen up. Not only does taking a more casual approach make the process more fun, I think it confers perspective on the whole game. The fact is, I believe in passing on information that can help people lead healthy lives without running around like chicken little if someone so much as eats a French fry. Humor, irreverence, even contrariness might be my bag, but sensationalism just isn’t. Frankly, I find the hype and anxiety of it exhausting.

The way the health headlines (or let’s face it – any headline) reads these days, you’d think we were all eating our way off a cliff. While I certainly believe conventional practices are robbing people of the full measure of their birthright – a happy, balanced, vital life, I’m not about to scream like my hair’s on fire. My sense is we absorb a continual dose of anxiety promoted by the media or commercial interests about our health always being on the sheer brink. Even those of us who eat a near “perfect” diet, move plenty and workout regularly are always at “risk” for something. After a while, we internalize the 5-alarm mentality. Our health becomes something we have to protect with a never failing, always higher reaching diligence.

What if we’re not as fragile as all that? You know, you could read health blogs all day, and you’d likely come away with the impression that the human body exists in a precipitous balancing act so delicate that the slightest deviation in diet or behavior will wreck the whole house of cards. Can we seriously just dispense with this bogey?

Let’s back up for a moment and acknowledge that the average human body under even the best, most natural of circumstances, goes through a heck of a deal in a lifetime, including the unsavory effects of run-of-the-mill illnesses, hormonal shifts that can feel cataclysmic (e.g. anyone here have a teenager?), inevitable occurrences of various and sundry injuries, the rigors of pregnancy, childbirth (often multiple) and child care, and so on. Even back in Grok’s day, we weren’t all food for evolutionary powder. People often survived some heavy stuff.

Beyond all the big physical events, however, there’s the question of lifestyle inputs. Long before the advent of electricity, gas heat or cargo transport, humans resided in every far-flung corner of the globe with all their uniquely circumscribed resources. The frigid tundra of Alaska and Scandinavia – yes. The unrelenting heat of the Sahara – yes. In keeping, humans have subsisted on food limitations most of us can scarcely imagine – little vegetation in the extreme Northern regions of the globe, little meat in other scattered areas of the world, scarce food supplies for years at a time. Even today, an expansive review of global diets whether in anthropological literature (PDF) or photo collection, illuminates just how many global diets seem “extreme” by our standards. Forget the likes of Doritos, pizzas and soda. What jumps off the page in these examples, for instance, is the blatant minimalism of food intake in many regions – the meagerness in terms of quantity as well as variety – some legumes, rice and a modest bit of native vegetation. While these groups aren’t the longest living populations in the world, they’re not all succumbing to the make-up or missing elements of their diets to the extent we might think.

On a more dramatic note, we can examine the circumstances of individuals who lived with extreme deprivation and duress for months or years. Yes, there are the sobering instances of those who have lived through tremendous human tragedies – survivors of war camps, enemy incarceration and natural disasters who lived in near-starvation and otherwise genuinely brutal conditions but go on to live surprisingly long lives from a physical standpoint (even as countless others don’t in the same tragic circumstances). On a more sensational but individual scale, there are the people who become stranded in remote areas and survive for weeks or even months on next to nothing, like the lost German hiker who evidently survived nearly a month of trekking across 2500 miles of the Australian Outback by eating insects, or another hiker who got lost in a snowstorm and survived four months of a brutal winter in the Andes Mountains by eating “rats and raisins.” The particulars, as curious as they are, aren’t as important as the central message itself: the human body can withstand much more than we often give it credit for.

Rest assured, I’m not suddenly casting off all the principles of the Primal Blueprint. I believe and practice everything in it (as well as The Primal Connection). While we’re less likely to fully thrive on some diets to the degree that we could on another (that’s what the PB advocates and explores), people can live on a wide range of foods and macro profiles. Particularly in the grand scheme of overall lifestyle, our species is surprisingly adaptable.

Let me say I don’t believe in tempting fate (i.e. let’s see how poorly I can eat/treat my body and how long I live that way). Nor do I believe in throwing up my hands and declaring “good enough” to avoid being bothered with anything beyond the most basic of changes. I want to thrive rather than just survive, and I don’t mind a little extra thought and effort to that end. Yet, it’s important, I think, to stand back now and then and appreciate how inherently strong, capable and resilient we all are. In the midst of our health endeavors, it’s a good reminder that the minutiae might not offer us as much benefit as the added stress it can induce when we let it.

Thanks for reading, everyone. What does this message mean to you today? Share your thoughts, and have a great end to the week.

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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90 thoughts on “Believe It or Not, the Human Body Is Remarkably Resilient”

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    1. I survived high school on a breakfast of poptarts, lunch of 2 chocolate chip cookies with soft-serve icecream in between, gold fish snacks, and usually pizza for dinner.

      Rice, beans, and meager vegetation would have been a nutritional improvement.

      1. Haha! That sounds a lot like my senior year in high school. During the months we were having a play, I’d spend hours working on the set and rehearsing after school. During “hell week” we’d be at the school until midnight every night and I usually had a dinner of peanut butter M&M’s. It’s amazing that I could function at all. Oh, to be young and invincible….

      2. You’d think rice, beans and meager vegetation would be a nutritional improvement over junk but coming out of college in the late 1980’s I went macrobiotic and developed nutritional deficiencies and health problems that lasted years and years ….

    2. My mom cooked nutritious food from scratch when I was a kid, but she fried a lot using margarine or Crisco (transfats) and she sprinkled MSG on everything for better flavor. I thought it all tasted pretty good back then, and I managed to survive with no noticeable health issues. I guess the body must have pretty good defense/detox mechanisms, expecially when you’re young.

  1. Competitive martial arts training involves many physical and mental rigors that constantly try the individual’s resilience. It’s amazing to see the elite athletes push themselves for hours and come back for more the next day.

    1. I agree. I don’t train in martial arts but I can see that it entails a lot of dedication, strenuous work, and inner strength.
      By the way I was skimming your blog and think you do a good job on it.

      1. Thank you for the encouragement. I haven’t received a lot of feedback on it so it’s hard to determine if I’m offering any good info or not.

    2. Hi Jacob,

      i like your blog. i’m a student of Long Fist (northern Chinese style) + Tai-ji. although i do it as an exercise.

      i agree that most of the training is mental.


      1. Hello Pam, thank you for visiting my site. Glad you enjoyed it! Be sure to check back in for new content in the future.

  2. Thanks for this, Mark.

    I’ve just had to take a step back from full Primal for my family (my baseline is gluten-free and sugar low, with as much nutrition as possible) as trying to keep everyone fully paleo (at school, kids parties, family events etc etc) was so stressful I ended up in the doctor’s office 3 months ago with severe depression and a total sense of failure. It’s good to hear this message from you and to feel that my best (with baby steps back to primal, this week biscuits!) is good enough. As always thank you for your information and even-handedness. 🙂

    1. Thing is, it’s easy to go overboard with any eating plan. Striving for perfection isn’t good. It sets a person up for becoming too obsessive. Another well-known website maintains something of an unspoken zero-tolerance policy; i.e., “Avoid this food at all costs or you will pay with your health.” Said website seems to be more extreme every time I tune in, so mostly I don’t bother. MDA, by contrast, is like a breath of fresh air. Mark recognizes that we are all human, and that it’s okay. Not only are we going screw up now and then, sometimes it’s actually mentally and emotionally good for us to screw up.

  3. Amen. I’m appalled at the Channel 5 news iterating story after story of new discoveries about food and diet. And I’m tired of the purists who shun you if you bat your eyelashes at a chocolate chip cookie.

    Get over it. Keep your eyes in your shopping cart and leave me to my own circumstances and choices. When ever in the history of humanity did it become such an acceptable thing to indulge in food and diet snobbery?

    I’m primal. That’s it. If I make a choice which is not written in the Gospel According To Grok, then I make it knowingly. I suffer the consequences. Or I don’t.

    Live long and drop ****. For those of you who don’t approve, just drop ****. 🙂

    Signed, an admirer.

    1. Theirs a reason why Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. Not that I’m traditionally religious, but being food obsessed in any way isn’t a particularly good characteristic to have in my opinion.

      That goes for gluttons in the proper sense of over indulgence, as well as those on the other end of the spectrum like you described as well.

    2. I couldn’t agree more. When my wife and I take our 3 kids out to eat,we typically order a couple of drinks…nothing to get ourselves even tipsy, but just to relax and have a good time.
      Without a doubt there’s always someone who looks at us disapprovingly because there’s a beer on the table. My wife gets more upset about it than I do, but still I feel like turning around and asking “Is there a problem here?”

  4. Why are my comments always awaiting moderation these days?

    1. If it’s any consolation yours is not the only one. Earlier today, I’ve send lengthy respond (“16 Things That Affect Your Gut Bacteria”), that I didn’t plan on turning into an essay but it did none the less. At 1st it showed awaiting moderation and upon refreshing the page it disappeared. so I resent it with the same results.

      My hope is that efforts didn’t go in vain and maybe it triggered Mark to address it separately, as I suggested. I saved a copy, so I will gladly upload it again if need to.

      1. Thanks. That makes me feel better. Marginally. I thought perhaps the auto-filter was responding to the word “dead” or the many exclamation points I had put in so I’ve put up several iterations.

        Alas. And it was so darned wise and pithy. Their loss. 😉

        1. Hi Julie, If you fail try try again. My earlier comment on the things that affect our gut, just got published, so not all is lost (-:

          Mark, not only you made me smile, I couldn’t agree more on your comment vs-a-vis “The way the health headlines reads these days, you’d think we were all eating our way off a cliff.” — that is true regardless of one’s geography; trust me on that (in the western world anyways). Which is exactly the opposite of what MDA is all about – plainly, it’s calming effect and wisdom.

          On the other hand, fine-tuning our health very much depends on the state of ones health; but yes. And while it’s important to take stock and strive to do even better – it’s in our human nature, we shouldn’t get religious about. Because that may cause us unneeded tension (something I need to work on), which may take all the fun away.

          Keep up the good work and keep on challenging us.

    2. The gist of what I had to say was that I am thrilled to have read this and that I love the idea that we shouldn’t be viewing what we’re stuffing into our collective pieholes with such alarm and purism. I follow primal but yes, sometimes I faceplant into a martini — though rarely these days. I will survive. I am woman, hear me roar.

      1. lol
        “Oh-ah-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh-oh!”
        Catchy song… one of the more recent times I was in prison the guys in control of the TV had Much Music on essentially all the time so I heard a looooooot of Katie Perry.

    3. I think it may be also due to the “traffic jams” on the internet with information flowing all over the place. Sometimes it seems to get stuck in limbo and then will appear later.

      1. So, you’re saying I shouldn’t take it personally? 😉 I notice replies to others seem to work more effectively than replies to the article.

    4. A lot of mine are too. I think there a bunch of red flag keywords. Also, for a while after I made an irresponsible comment that could totally justifiably be considered trolling or spamming the email address I used to use on this site was blocked for a while because I couldn’t post anything at all with it, so I had to make a new Gravatar account and use my alternate email. It wasn’t until recently I found out my old email apparently isn’t blocked anymore because I automatically typed it in without thinking and the comment posted.

      1. I also occasionally experience glitches and loading problems with this site so often if I’m going to hit Submit Comment I copy my comment first just in case. I do the same on other sites.

  5. This article Is perfect timing for me! I’ve just recently started learning more about gmos, organic, paleo, etc. and am feeling quite overwhelmed. Trying to be “perfect” all at once and taking in so much information has sent my anxiety level skyrocketing. I’m taking a deep breath and tackeling one issue at a time. I LOVE this website and the weekly newsletter. They’ve been a huge help to me.

    Thank you!

    1. Yep. Have a chocolate chip cookie as a reminder not to take yourself so seriously. Then tackle each issue according to degree of importance, one baby step at a time.

  6. Off-topic, but of interest to paleo types:

    This could have been an interesting article…but the writer’s bias really got in the way. Here is the actual study:

    In the Slate article the author says that Neanderthals ate less meat than everybody thought (because supposedly everybody thought that’s all they ate) and even implies that they were pretty much omnivores. The actual study says “Analysis of five sediment samples from different occupation floors suggests that Neanderthals predominantly consumed meat, as indicated by high coprostanol proportions, but also had significant plant intake, as shown by the presence of 5?-stigmastanol”. I also loved the Slate statement that “Homo bodies must have had to adapt to the effects of eating fatty, cholesterol-rich foods.” More fear of fat, as usual.

    The study is interesting to read and I wish there were more of them, especially with respect to the Cro-Magnons who are, after all, closer to us than the Neanderthals. (BTW, apparently, some scientists are now spelling it “Neandertal” like the German pronunciation.)

    You can bet that those guys producing the coprolites in the study had some different food choices than we do today, LOL.

  7. I also am glad to see this post. As of recently, the discovery of AGE’s and histamine in so much of the primal foods we are supposed to eat made me want to give up completely and go back to my old habits. I have what I was assuming are allergies to pollen and dust but the allergy threshold could be exacerbated by high histamine foods. I had given up grains, processed foods and sugar. The only thing that has kept me from jumping ship on primal is the fact that I am not hungry all the time since my diet is much higher in fats. This I will continue to do, but I will be adding beans and whole grain oat crackers back into my diet. I am tired of not having a convenient vehicle for hummus and things like that. I also can’t afford the foods I have to buy each week, and that is getting old as well. I am finished with my study of nutrition and health. It has caused extreme anxiety.

    1. IMO, the single worst danger to our health and longevity is extreme anxiety. Stress is a killer if one can’t get it under control. Coming in a close second is the chronic use of pharmaceuticals, both OTC and prescription. This is NOT to say anyone should dump all their meds in the trash can. Just dump the ones that aren’t actually needed, and there are many that fall into that category.

      A friend of mine takes six different types of prescription drugs, and she doesn’t understand why her health is getting worse instead of better. I pointed out that at least four of those drugs could be eliminated with lifestyle changes, but she didn’t want to hear it because her doctor knows best. She doesn’t eat a healthy diet and doesn’t realize she’s upsetting the natural chemical balance of her body with all the drugs–double whammy, but I doubt that her doctor even mentioned that to her. Okay, fine. It’s not my body or my life and it isn’t my job to preach to other people.

      I’m not implying that it’s okay to eat nothing but junk. It isn’t. But as mark points out, we aren’t as delicate as various websites, blogs, and media bombardment would have us believe. Meanwhile, I’m convinced there are worse things for one’s health than an occasional biscuit or ice cream cone. For me, the 80/20 rule means eliminate the really bad stuff, minimize the marginal stuff, and don’t stress out over the occasional lapse. In other words, thrive. Thank you, Mark, for an excellent reality check.

  8. Mark, you just rock. The combination of brains, humor, and humility (the best word I have for a refreshing lack of egotism) is what keeps me coming back. And not just reading, I actually follow your directions. I kind of feel bad for leaning so heavily on the site for guidance and never spending any money here. I’m kind of broke. Maybe I can contribute some content. Once you’re done beefing up your teen demographic, if you need examples of damn-near-elderly (later middle age, anyway) females who completely transformed their bodies following your program, I’m your girl, uh, mature female.

    1. Amen, Martha. I’m turning 57 this summer and send you a virtual fist-bump in solidarity.

    2. Next up 60 for me and thanks to this site and all the reading and the changes I have made over the last two years I am now fitter and leaner. Hopefully heading away from familial problems of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
      Thanks Mark

      1. Hi, Sandra. I have a family history like that, too, though not as many heart attacks as you might expect, given the volume of bourbon and cigarettes sucked down at family reunions.

        Good to meet you guys. Wasn’t sure there were many of us here.

        1. Me too, me too! Turned 59 in April, have been following MDA for a little over four years and the Primal Blueprint has been exactly what I needed! This Nana can run and play all day with three grandkids, thanks to the loss of 70 lbs and all the allergies/health issues. Mark rocks!

        2. I have been following MDA for about five years now. I usually never comment, but I am also in that older group. I visit this site almost daily for a little inspiration. I am in better shape than my kids. I am 61 looking forward to 62 🙂

      2. How about 65 and starting to thrive…again. Thought I’d lost it all a couple of years ago…I actually did…scared the crap out of me. So I started researching…took whatever seemed to fit me personally…it was a long and winding road but I’m half way to 66…and going much stronger.

        1. Good to meet Becky and Cate. I ought to make notes, before I forget, of all the things that hurt or didn’t work right during my “before” life that have all apparently sorted themselves out now. Not to mention the weight loss and muscle gain. It’s been especially gratifying to me since the New York Times told me over and over again that significant weight loss was just not possible and that if I did lose it I had the choice of gaining it all back again or becoming an obsessive control freak. Well, I feel great and am happy.

          I feel like we ought to have a forum thread or something so our demographic can find each other on the site. Hm. What should I call it?

  9. Thanks for that! I always appreciate the balance and light touch you bring to complicated issues. It’s a voice that I have inside myself but need to be reminded of often… I think you hit the nail on the head here: “I want to thrive rather than just survive, and I don’t mind a little extra thought and effort to that end. Yet, it’s important, I think, to stand back now and then and appreciate how inherently strong, capable and resilient we all are.”

    And on a related topic, thank you for all you do. Your hard work and thoughtful meditations on health, fitness, and vitality are both a pleasure to read and a real benefit to my life and sense of wellbeing.

  10. Thanks for the reminder, Mark! This reminded me that it’s never really too late to be healthy. Our bodies bounce back with such amazing resiliency (perhaps not perfectly, but all is never lost…and what is perfect, anyway?) I feel like it validates the positive choices I make for my body today, and helps me avoid feeling like I’ve failed myself.

  11. Mark,
    As always, this was so well written and thoughtful. As someone fairly new to the lifestyle, my mind has been quite preoccupied with all things Primal lately. I have always loved reading and thinking about nutrition, so have been ingesting this information with a vengeance. It is nice though, to be reminded to keep things in perspective, especially since my husband and child aren’t totally on board (yet), and I don’t have to have an anxiety attach every time I pack a cream cheese and jelly sandwich on wheat bread (albeit, lovingly home baked by my hubby) in my daughter’s lunch.

  12. Thanks for the balancing perspective, Mark. So easy to get caught up in perfectionism, and it really isn’t helpful. Especially when I find myself silently judging others for their “imperfect” choices. Thriving is what it’s all about, and that means accepting imperfections in ourselves and in the environment while striving for the best. Grokking onward!

  13. The primal path is a journey. I used to be stressed out by my family’s food choice because I knew they were not eating what I wanted them to eat, but I eventually had to let it go and just eat by example. Slowly, surely, bit by bit the entire family is becoming more primal. The kids still have pasta from time to time, but when they do it’s einkorn, so I don’t feel as bad about that.

    The point is to do your best under the circumstances life deals. By being aware of the primal path and doing your best to stay on it you are already doing better than most of the American population.

    1. Thanks for that C L . I’m probably newer than you at this paleo stuff and am just starting to realize the examples I set are much more persuasive than any lecture I could give my family.

    2. You are right, CL. Do your best under the circumstances. I try too hard and get myself all upset. Thank you for saying that, it made me tear up realizing it.

      1. When I made the switch there were a few contentious moments, and from time to time there still are, but those moments only occur when I lose sight of the idea of eating and exercising by example. If friends and family see that I am healthy and happy, and they see what I eat and do they tend to become interested in what I am doing, and that’s the turning point.

  14. I’ve said it before on here, but it just amazes me how a human can live to 60 years old with all the crap they send down their throats. Don’t know how many more generations can take it. We are definately devolving. I think we are running on fumes from our healthy ancestors.

    For all the reproducers out there, I think Primal can get us back on track.

  15. Mmm, that happened to me too, and I hadn’t included any links which is usually the reason for moderation. I think the filter must have been ‘adjusted’!!

  16. I do love this balanced, reasonable voice. The one in my head that drones “not good enough” can be pretty relentless.

    Also, it’d be fun to hear more from Martha the Mature Female up there in the comments–maybe a Friday success story?

  17. The gist of what I said was that I very much appreciate the notion that what I choose and choose not to eat should not be a crisis for anyone but me and that, being a reasonably intelligent human being, though I follow primal sometimes I will stray from the path of primal and faceplant into a martini. I will survive.

    And thanks to Mark Sisson and the Daily Apple for the Primal Blueprint and how much it has provided to me.

    1. Actually, what you choose to eat, which I know is completely your business, could become a crisis for the whole human race. We have a huge amount of ‘first world country obesity’ that continue to reproduce. I believe eating has a huge impact on our futures for the human race. Look what has happened since the 70’s.

  18. Besides a whole host of benefits I’ve experienced on my primal journey, I’ve become much more aware of how food can affect me, both mentally and physically. It is this awareness I am most thankful for and my ability to rectify the ship pretty quickly if things start to go wrong. It’s unfortunate the pit of opportunism and egotism that paleo has fallen into but like everyone else is saying, very refreshing to hear this from Mark.

  19. This article is the balance I shoot for in our house. Both my husband and son know that primal is the way to eat so that things work properly in their body, however, they both LOVE carbs, like pancakes, cake, pie, candy, etc. So while I’m away (or sitting at the same table while we are out) they do eat the foods that make their lives worth living at that moment, mom may sneak a bite herself.
    My current issue is that I gained 6 pounds recently (stress induced I believe) and can’t seem to get it off. Ugh! Which seems to stress me out MORE. Yeah, all this with summer in Oregon is NOT how I want to go to the pool, etc. Oh well, I just keep trying different things to stay in ketosis or get back to it. (she sighs and shakes her head.)

    1. Some serious intermittent fasting is the only way I can shift those last few pounds. I am currently doing this and I quite enjoy it. Much easier to do in the summer and brings lots of other health benefits.

      1. I do IF everyday but maybe I will do a day here and there instead???. However, as a woman and under stress that doesn’t seem to want to leave me alone at present I’m wondering if doing IF is the right thing. I GAINED weight while IF which is not typical. I rather like not eating until dinner (well, not eating at all but that’s not conducive to the “live long” goal) but maybe I need to switch it around and eat early and not after lunch. Problem with that is I’m the “mom” so have to make food for the rest of the family and I don’t make food that doesn’t taste good so it’s really hard to just NOT eat when it smells/tastes sooooo gooooood.

        1. Eating food that smells and tastes good is one of the great joys of life and is one I have NO intention of ever giving up. Gaining weight whilst doing IF is a tricky one and I don’t have any answers on that. Switching around with the IF and listening to your body is always a good idea. Some days I can go straight through to dinner but whenever I train hard I always eat within an hour afterwards. It seems as if the stress is a major issue and this could be what is holding you back. Maybe some meditation or yoga might help? Good luck and don’t give in on this great lifestyle!!

        2. Perhaps IF is part of the problem. If you are stressed out, restricting your diet may not be the way to go. 6 lbs is a really small amount, too. Maybe if you handle feeling stressed the lbs will take care of themselves. Maybe focus less on food, more on getting sun, adequate rest, and enough walking? Maybe these 6 lbs are muscle and you are just getting stronger? Hope you find something that works for you. 🙂

        3. Do what’s right for you. Maybe you need the 6 pounds for now. I had lost so much weight without trying I had to add 10 pounds. I noticed the addition of cocoanut oil made me personally gain weight. I know it’s supposedly good for you…but one man’s nectar is another man’s poison.

  20. After reading and participating in so many of the conventional wisdom diets out there (including pills, powders, deprivation & starvation) and failing to keep the weight off anyway, simply following the basic PB (meat, vegetables and a little fruit) has worked magic for me (now 48% of my previous body weight). I tell people all the time it doesn’t have to be any harder than that.
    While I enjoy reading about the science behind it, both on MDA and elsewhere, I don’t sweat those kinds of details.
    For those of you just getting started, if you just can’t stand the idea of only eating meat & vegi’s for the rest of your life, I have two important words for you; elimination & provocation (n=1 for you science geeks).

    Thanks as always to Mark and the dedicated MDA commenters,
    Grok On!

    1. In the end, this is a very simple way of eating. It’s the simplicity that throws people. (What, no sandwiches, dairy, packaged food?) It seems too simple, or maybe it would be boring. Except., there are ranches that sell game birds and game animal meat of every description. On and off season. There are gourmet stores that sell every kind of unusual food, and once you know that there is such a thing as poi, you can try to figure out how to get the raw materials and make it fresh. As long as you don’t allow yourself to fall into ruts, you won’t be bored. When was the last time you cooked a turnip in 4 different ways?

  21. We’ll stated! I just had lunch with an out of town friend. She wanted Mexican, so I obliged. Ate a few too many chips and definitely too much cheese. Even though I’m not relishing the tired, bloated feeling I have right now, I have no regrets about letting my friend choose the place. I wouldn’t trade the time we just spent together for anything! And because I am resilient, I know I’ll be feeling my normal energetic self in no time.

  22. There rarely are articles that are not timely on this site. Mainly because I eat most of them up (with a side of bacon, of course).

    I have seen many comments that say the same thing I had in mind and what I tell everyone when I refer them to this site: MDA is awesome because it is a voice of moderation, supporting what appears to be best for the human body. It isn’t all gloom and doom, do-this-or-you’ll-die-young-type writing. The messages are frequently about what appears to be good, that results *can be* interpreted to suggest either this OR that, but USE YOUR JUDGEMENT!! Experiment.

    I keep coming back for more. This website is a gold-mine resource. And I’m glad we all have claim on a way to improve our health. As always, thank you for all you do!! Grok on!

  23. Hi Mark,

    Nice post. I see why Tom over at recommends your work. You realize everyone is different and we are all continuing to learn about nutrition. I recently had the privilege of reading “Death By Food Pyramid” by Denise Minger and she to realizes nutrition is not “set in concrete” and we adjust as we learn what is best for us.

    My journey to eating “real food” started with the Sally Fallon/Weston A. Price which lead to Fathead the movie, then here.

    I appreciate all the information you have here for free, says a lot about your character and from reading articles and the comments here it looks like you have some of the most helpful people I have ever seen on any blog.


  24. Brilliant post. I was reflecting on my own experiences in the primal/paleo-sphere just the other day, and concluded that yes, this HAS become a lifestyle for me. Finally. I used to obsess over multiple paleo blogs, searching their archives and reading everything I could. Which was great when I started out…I needed the info! But now, this is about the only health blog I read, mostly because of posts like the one above.

    I am primal, but with that has come an acceptance that yes, sometimes I will go have FroYo with my boyfriend just because, and I will have the occasional night out where I indulge in one too many libations. And that is just fine. The important thing is that day in, day out I’m making the better choices most of the time. I haven’t been trying to lose weight (even though I could) and my body has settled around 200 pounds (I’m a 5’7″ female). I still lift heavy twice a week, play softball and volleyball, and ride my bike a lot. I have a big ass salad for lunch nearly every day, and everything I cook is primal. Without even trying, I see changes in my body comp so I know I’m going the right direction. I’m overweight, sure, but I’m strong and probably the most active in my circle of friends. So that’s good enough for me.

  25. My favorite cheat: Egg white smoothie breakfast. Simple and fast. Comes in a carton, mixes well with milk and strong coffee. Fastest breakfast in the west. Satisfies me until lunch or longer. Playing the “Rocky” theme in your head is optional.

  26. This is one of the best things you’ve ever written (and you’re posts are always very good!). While not lessening the importance of staying with a primal plan, I think you’ve reminded us of our strength and adaptability — and that we don’t have to be perfect to thrive.

    A lot of people are going through flux in work and finances, and sometimes it’s just not possible to buy all the best primal stuff. I recently went through a transitional period and for the first time in a while had a very limited budget for food. Finally I cracked, went to the supermarket, and bought whatever I could afford on sale that was still in the zone of decent/grain-free/low-carb food. Some of the produce was terrible and there were some additives in a few things that I’d rather avoid. But I was just so grateful to have enough food to keep me going. And yet I was still stressing out and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t do the optimal thing. I’m grateful to be able to afford more of the foods I prefer now but I’m still scaling back on budget and finding some surprising local brands that are good.

    There’s such an avalanche of misinformation out now plus some truly frightening revelations about what’s in our foods and how it can affect us that I think our nervous systems and mental balance are overwhelmed. It’s great to have this reminder of how strong we are and equipped to overcome many things and still get better!

  27. The fact that Mark is not dogmatic regarding health issues shows me he’s way ahead of these self professed gurus. Where I see others drawing their lines in the sand Mark on the other hand seems open to suggestion without a big ego getting in the way. This way(his way) is self-correcting and can only point towards optimal health. I do realise that Paleo is “his thing” and he’s not straying to far from there but just the same he’s not going to recommend us smoking peyote just because our Paleo ancestors did.

  28. Whenever I read a post that mentions our inherent resilency, it always reminds me of this article on a russian family that in the 1930s fled one of the various purges to a remote part of the Siberian wilderness for decades before being discovered in teh late 1970’s

    We live in such relative comfort and wealth it is hard to believe that we could if pushed survive such extreme hardships, but this surviving these types of hardships was probably pretty common circumstance for our ancestors and this innate resilency lies dormant and largely untapped.

  29. I just ate “paleo” beef chili and a salad for dinner and now I’m going to have a scoop of ice cream.

  30. This is the first MDA post in my years of a reader which has made don a cynical face. 3 years of paleo / PHD and my body still hasn’t recovered from SAD, and I’m nineteen. So there’s that to add to the “human body such resilient much strong” picture. This is with prescript assist, s boulardi, bone broth, and primal flora, as well as plantain flour and healthy D and K2 levels plus thyroid supporting nutrients. Antibiotics will f(*& you up, destroy your gut flora, and despite years of attempting to reverse fate, laugh in your face. The body is a little resilient, but it’s a whimpering child in the face of modern antibiotics.

  31. Thank you thank you thank you. I’ve recently spent a bit too much time on the Forum section and I think a lot of those folks can benefit from reading this post, printing it out, and hanging it on their wall in a prominent location.

    One thing that I have been thinking about, after reading the Forum for too long, is how health becomes an all-consuming hobby for some folks. It’s pretty much all they think about and all they care about. That can’t be healthy, and I don’t think that Grok spent all that much time worrying about his health. He probably just lived his life and let his health sort itself out.

  32. Once two winters ago I passed out in an alley when I was sitting with my back to the wall. I woke up a few hours or so later in a hospital bed.
    I was pretty ticked off they didn’t just leave me there. That would have been like a decent cold water plunge.
    And my newish headlamp was no longer on my head, or left with my backpack when I got it back. It was gone. I suppose one of the paramedics or other hospital staff stole it. If so, that would be one of two times that someone working at a hospital stole a headlamp from me. Lots of hospital staff, even regular nurses, are corrupt pieces of crap. I know from much experience.
    If I caught them I’d put them through something that they aren’t resilient enough for.
    Another example of corrupt medical practice is when I was staying at a “crisis shelter” and had a sprained ankle that severely hampered and slowed me. The staff at the shelter wouldn’t trust my judgment when I told them I’d be alright in a few days and took me to the hospital as a condition of my staying at the shelter. I saw a nurse first, who took my word and agreed that I had a sprained ankle. Then the doctor appeared and asked what was wrong. I said my ankle was just sprained and there was nothing to be done for it except give it some time and the only reason I was there is because the shelter staff were concerned. He took a very quick look at it, touched it briefly (I hate when doctors do that – like they can x-ray you by poking and prodding you.. it’s asinine and annoying – they try to make you think they’re actually doing something for you), and then told me that I had an infection and needed antibiotics. I kept disagreeing and he kept repeating himself, and finally I said that I knew he was lying because he wanted to write a prescription to make more money. I went back to where the shelter staff were waiting and told them what was up. Not being particularly smart apparently, they thought I was out of my mind and that the doctor’s word was infallible.They said I couldn’t go back to the shelter if I didn’t get antibiotics and take them in front of them when I was staying there. Then the original nurse came over with a changed story, saying that I really needed the antibiotics for my infection. I mentioned how she had just moments ago agreed that I only had a sprained ankle and she denied it. Finally I just took the stupid prescription, and luckily all the close pharmacies were closed because it was getting late, so the staff drove me back to the shelter without getting me any poison pills. Once at the shelter I had to continue trying to show reason to other staff until finally, after they had some group discussion, they compromised with me and said that if I got worse I’d have to get the antibiotics and take them to stay there but if I kept getting better I wouldn’t have to, and whaddya know, I was sufficiently mobile in a couple days, pretty much back to normal in a few. That was one heck of a frustrating night though… being the only person thinking logically surrounded by a bunch of lying medical “professionals” and young clueless worrying social worker girls (there are lots that fit that category, take my word for it).

      1. Nope, that’s a true story and some facts. I started with the idea of just talking about a time I was going to sleep outside (though accidentally) in the winter without anything to keep me warm other than the clothes and coat I had on and how I would have needed to be resilient upon waking up outside if I’d been left there – it’s happened before a bunch of times when I woke up feeling really cold and just had to deal with it – and one thought led to another until I had a whole bunch typed, and then it was either delete all that and rewrite a shorter comment or just hit post…

  33. Thank you so much for this post! The danger for me is becoming obsessed with, always and in all ways, making the perfect food/lifestyle/whatever choice. Reading this post really shook me out of my neurotic worry spot. You’re right–we’re not that delicate! Thanks again.

  34. That’s a good philosophy. Everyone should be wary of orthorexia. Personally, I’m happy I found out that food affects my health because it gave me a goal. Before that I was lost trying to jungle between stuff I shouldn’t buy because it’s not sustainably farmed, stuff that comes from too far from where I live, stuff that comes in non-recyclable plastics containers, etc, etc. I wish I had access to the stuff I read about here though, like grass fed beef and pastured chicken and eggs or even raw milk but I have to make do with what I can find.

    I’m also a little worried about next winter. Right now it’s easy to eat primal, but I fear that it will be too hard for me when winter comes. I’m trying to stuck my freezer but I’m pretty sure that won’t last me through all winter. I’m also wondering if it can explain why I always feel better in the summer. Food for thought.

  35. resilience.. i have had this question in mind for some time.
    can we relate smog pollution we have nowadays with the smoke , which grok had in the caves of his days?
    do we have the genes to survive this or is our pollution much worse than the fumes that our ancestors breathed those long winter days all around the warmth of that fire in the hole?

  36. Yeah…and it’s documented, Jesus survived in the Wilderness, fasting, ending distractions and temptations for 40days… He probably didn’t even drink water

  37. It’s amazing that life expectancy is still 70+ish given the junk most modern people eat.

    It will be interesting to see what happens for those who choose an more optimal diet.

    And there may be a choice of optimals, and the diet is almost certainly not going to be the same for everyone even within the outcome choices.

  38. “…like the lost German hiker who evidently survived nearly a month of trekking across 2500 miles of the Australian Outback by eating insects, or another hiker…”


    “…like the lost German hiker who evidently survived nearly a month of trekking across 2500 miles of the Australian Outback by eating insects or another hiker….”

    Another example of the importance of punctuation!

  39. thank you for this reminder! I sometimes get so concerned about every little thing going into my body and forget its surprising resilience (though I’m happy not to be living off of mixed drinks and french fries like a few summers ago).

  40. I’m not resilient at all.

    Eating a couple slices of bread or pie over a short period (like 2-3 days in a row) creates a tsunami of health problems for me.
    I grew up fragile and sick and remained fragile looking until I went primal.
    My bone structure is now more broad, health problems went away although I sport a bit of chub on my belly which I think is meant to be there at my age.

    I can’t even enjoy half a bag of chips in one sitting because I feel nauseous and tired and just want to go lay down.

    No resilience here….at all. 100% primal or pain.

  41. Well being is the dominate vibration of the universe. In the absence of resistance, it flows freely to all things.