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September 09 2019

I Was Determined To Learn What True Human Health Meant

By Mark Sisson
12 Comments

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!

Yup, success stories are back! And I’m looking for more. Follow-ups, mid-progress reflections—every story at every stage has the potential to inspire folks out there who are getting started or contemplating a new beginning. Contact me here to share your story. You never know who you’ll impact by doing it. Enjoy, everyone!

I was born, raised, and continue to live in the rural interior of Catalina Island. My roots run deep here as a fourth generation islander. While the island is just 22 miles off the coast of the concrete jungle known as L.A or what I call “The Mainland,” this place feels as if it were a world away. It’s the land time couldn’t command.

Being that this little island is the only place I’ve ever called home, it wasn’t until I was older that I realized just how unique my childhood was compared to most in today’s world.

I am constantly asked by visitors to the island if I ever get “island fever” or have the urge to get over to “the real world.” Honestly though, in my opinion, this place is as real as it gets. I know there are millions of beautiful places around the world, many in which I hope to one day visit, possibly even live. But wherever I go, I do know, that I will be eternally thankful for getting to grow up here on my island home and that I have this place to thank for making me who I am today.

As a kid I was able to grow up slow. I spent my days immersed in some of the best that nature has to offer. Whether I was out hiking the endless trails, running barefoot through the mountains in my backyard or playing in the surf at a beach on the backside of the island, I learned to love, respect, and honor the land and sea around me. Another question I am often asked is “Don’t you get bored living here; there is no mall or movie theater, not much to do.” To which I can honestly reply, “Nope, never!” And in fact it’s quite the opposite. Even when I was young, an all day hike was never out of the ordinary. My brother, sister, and I would spend hours outdoors, letting our imaginations run wild, and only return home to the sound of our mother calling us in as the sun sunk below the horizon. We would come running, usually a bit battered and bruised from the day’s adventures. We would greet our mother with a bouquet of wildflowers in one hand, and often an injured animal in the other, because we were determined to nurse back to health. My mother had an incredible green thumb and grew most all of our produce. Every meal was a home cooked meal and every night we would sit down to dinner around the table our father made and give thanks to the land for the food that it gave us. That also often meant some fresh yellowtail or local venison!

I was young when I came to understand that all things in the world are connected, that the great outdoors was also a great teacher, and that there was beauty and a lesson to be found in everything. The way the fullness of the moon pulls the tides in the ocean.

The way the location of the sunrise and sunset coordinated with the seasons. How the birds danced and feasted on the water before a storm. How animals fasted when they didn’t feel well. I learned to trust my instincts when crossing paths with a herd of buffalo or a coiled snake. I learned to feel the energy of the land.

These childhood adventures and exploration of the land and oceans around me evolved into the lifestyle I live today. This land is my playground, my gym, my sanctum. It has sparked, lit, and has been the fire behind many of my endeavors including my success as an adventure athlete, my love for being active outdoors, appreciation for the ocean, my pursuit of growing my own organic garden, sustainable living, giving back to the community, and learning something new every day. It has taught me that what’s simple is true and that you can live large even with very little, because it’s the little things in life that matter the most. I now teach sustainability, marine biology, and ecology for the USC Wrigley Marine Science and Ecology Center here on the island. I am a holistic health coach and personal trainer on the side. And I still have my everyday adventures as an sponsored athlete.

I found your blog about 8 years back when I was recovering from a serious bought of overtraining and adrenal fatigue due to running 80-100 mile weeks while training to paddle the channel between the island and the mainland (which I’ve done 7 times since), and working in a restaurant 10 hours a day. My body started to shut down (rightfully so), and I was determined to learn everything I could about the human body, holistic nutrition, what fitness really is, and what true human health actually meant. At the time I was also obsessed with reading books on anthropology and studying the indigenous peoples and tribes of far away places. Their ways of life, so interconnected to nature, made me feel like my own craving for being one with nature, wasn’t so abnormal. And of course, like most things about modern societal norms, I just couldn’t trust mainstream advice on nutrition and training.

So, down the unconventional rabbit hole I went and along the way I became a total primal/paleo/real food/lifestyle nerd. I tossed conventional wisdom out the door (I was always a skeptic) and realized that the life I had been living on the island was actually pretty darn “primal” and that I just needed to modify a few things. I always ate what I thought was healthy as I was an natural athlete from a young age and new the foods I ate made me feel great or not so great. That meant lots of homegrown veggies, wild fruits, local fish, venison, and meats. But I did grow up also eating pasta and a few processed foods like Kashi cereal, which I soon ditched. And the fats I was told were bad for me back in middle school health class, I became a big fan of because I discovered that I could perform better on the trail and in the water with them on board. The more I read your blog, the more the stars aligned…it all made so much sense!!!

I no longer run 80 mile weeks, but I still love a good trail run every now and then. If I’m going for long distance, I usually hike in my minimalist shoes instead. I average about 6-8 miles a day just in walking around the island doing daily tasks. I lift heavy things, climb trees, free dive, spearfish, SUP, prone paddle, mountain bike, play pick-up softball in the dirt lot with friends, gather with my people around campfires, follow circadian rhythm (it’s easy out here on the island), and absolutely am loving life! I recently circumnavigated the island on my paddle board with two friends and it was such a fun adventure! We even made it to SurfLine! We used the paddle as a vehicle to talk about plastic in our oceans.

I am all about living life to the fullest and really exploring our human potential, asking constantly “What does it mean to thrive?” and “What does it mean to be human?”. Thanks to the inspiration I receive from the MDA, paleo community, and our ancestors, I feel as though I am able to do just that, and now I share it with others. I coach and put on retreats and events all based around this lifestyle in addition to my work for USC.

I studied nutrition for a long time and I soon realized, it all came down to nature. I studied movement and fitness, and it again, it all came back to nature. Now I teach and study about the environment/ecology/sustainability, and what we can do to make the world a better place, and again it comes back to nature. It’s really very simple. It’s all interconnected and so are we. A part of nature, not separate from it. And we and our planet all have the ability to be healthy, happy, and thriving. So thank you Mark for all that you do! You have always been a bright light guiding the way and I have really looked up to you for years. I lived off the island for a few months in 2016 and worked at Sunlife at Point Dume. It was pretty funny how none of the celebrities caused me to feel star stuck but whenever you or Ben Greenfield would come in, my heart would skip a beat ; ) You are a legend and the legacy you are leaving is a much needed one. Thank you, thank you, thank you! If you ever want to host a PB retreat on Catalina, I’m your girl ; )

All the best from Catalina,

Natalie
Adventure Athlete and Health Coach
Optimized Health, Wellness, and Fitness
www.themanymilesofnat.com

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12 thoughts on “I Was Determined To Learn What True Human Health Meant”

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  1. Wow, truly a child of nature insulated when growing up from much of “modern world” conveniences and distractions … fascinating. I would think an anthropologist or sociologist could write an interesting thesis based on interviewing you Natalie.

  2. Really enjoyed your well outlined journey Natalie. Getting back to nature, variety and less endurance in exercise, living a more simple, less tech and more minimalist lifestyle near water and sun sounds pretty great to me. Nothing like a good SUP to put a smile on, hey. Makes one want to move to the mountains or islands to escape the city life.

    Thanks for sharing and continued success!

  3. Great report and so nice you have such wisdom and adapted to the Primal Lifestyle so early in life!

  4. Great read Natalie! You’ve got it MADE. Congratulations on your revelations and your success! I look forward to diving in to your website!

  5. Sounds like a nice life. I was raised in a rural area, played outside in the dirt. Had no idea that we were poor, didn’t have anyone to compare ourselves with, that was nice. We ate all sorts of things we grew in our yard, dug in the sand (clams, geoducks) picked up oysters on the beach, asked for bones from the butcher – for soup, and bought milk from the guy with the cow down the road (for butter and milk). It was as primal as it comes. However, hard times were thrown in here and those things built character and I’m glad about that. I currently have a love hate relationship with technology, but that’s probably a lot of us my age.
    Thanks for sharing and now I wanna move to your island!

    1. Wow, sounds like you had a pretty amazing childhood too! Always good to learn to be thankful for the hard times…they are character building indeed! I also have a love hate relationship with technology, so I know just what you mean!

      If you ever adventure over to Catalina, come say hi!