It’s Monday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Monday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Two years ago, I was walking around our farm with a cane. I have always worked out hard, mostly weightlifting, calisthenics and martial arts. But at the age of 50 I was feeling the cumulative dings of my active youth. A clicky and sore shoulder; pain in my hips. With time I found myself banging out minimum-effective-dose type workouts just to maintain my strength and physique. I had given up on yoga and martial arts because it was no fun with the pain, and they seemed to aggravate the situation.
By the time I took to using a cane to get around the farm, I was really starting to feel sorry for myself. I saw an orthopedic surgeon. He tried to find the right anti-inflammatory that wouldn’t make my stomach bleed. When I suggested a more holistic long-term solution, he replied, “Well, hip surgeries are really good these days.”
As the co-director of Gingerhill Farm Retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii, we have the luxury of constantly tweaking our daily routine. We had experimented with so much already. From gluten-free to paleo. Keto to eat for your blood type. Alternate day and intermittent fasting. I started again from the basics. I figured the pain was inflammation. But from what? We grew our own food and protein and only bought organic for the few things we didn’t grow. Why wasn’t I feeling better?
It took me years to tweak my routine to where I am finally working towards back flips and gymnastics strength progressions. The breakthrough for me came about in a series of “aha” moments. Research led me to mitochondrial health and specifically, the effect of light on our cells. I realized that even though I lived in Hawaii, I was not getting enough sunshine. Worse, I had gotten in the habit of watching YouTube videos at night, zapping myself with harmful blue light in the process. I decided it was time to overhaul my light exposure patterns.
By this time I was so desperately missing the joy of movement, that I adopted “a move it or lose it” philosophy. I started varying my routines to include a much wider range of movement. From slack line to cart wheels, lizard crawls to spinal waves. My wife and I picked up Zouk dance and at the same time started offering a weekly Ecstatic Dance at the farm. I picked up Martial Arts again and trained some of my farm staff so that we could play together.
I tweaked my diet in new ways. Not so much with what I ate, that was already impeccable, but more when. I had come across some of Dr. Satchin Pandas work with time-restricted feeding, and it resonated with me.
Today, we wake and meditate with the staff for thirty minutes. Then, I take some anti-aging supplements I have been playing with. Currently, Resveratrol and NR. I stretch out real good and work out for an hour. I climb ropes, practice muscle ups, work on my press handstands, pistols, and walking on my hands. Whenever I can, I walk barefoot. I run sprints and jump. I still lift weights—deadlifts, squats, again the basics, but I don’t worry so much about the weight.
I still get sore hips sometimes. My shoulder still clicks. But my range of movement is improving, and I am making gains on all levels. Best of all, I am having fun.
Here are my tips, in order of importance:
Try and watch the sun rise and set every day.
Get as much sun as you can without burning, daily. They are lying to us. The sun does not cause cancer. Burning your skin does. This does not change the fact that you need sun. Everything has its dose. Increase your time as your tolerance increases. Do not use sunglasses unless you have to. No sunscreen. Naked is best.
Avoid artificial light after sunset. This means your phone and computer and TV too! LED bulbs are a deal breaker. We use red bulbs when we have to. Candles are better. Use blue blocker glasses when blue light is unavoidable. People will like your red lenses.
Move it or Lose it! Variety and consistency over intensity. Remember to challenge yourself. Always be working on a new skill. It’s good for your brain.
If you ignore these basics, light and movement, I don’t think it matters too much what you eat. You won’t be able to derive nutrition from your food. You could eat organic food in a cave with no sunlight, and you would get sick. And the opposite is also true. Plenty of sun mitigates a host of potential health hazards.
Eat real food. The clock begins with your first cup of coffee, which activates liver enzymes. Try to eat all your calories (no need to count them) in no more than 9 or, better yet, 8 hours.
Don’t rule out the obvious. Drink plenty of clean water. Avoid GMOs and moderate sugar intake. But we know this stuff already. We just don’t follow it all the time.
Following these tips will go far in giving your body the best chance of maintaining its circadian rhythm. I think health is most directly affected by the quality of your rest and recovery. I will be 53 this year and I feel like I am back on track again and excited for what’s to come. Remember a cheat day every now and then is a good thing. It will not offset your progress if you are diligent. We are the sum total of our daily habits. Create your perfect daily routine and stick to it.
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.