Conventional wisdom tells us that “grazing” is the optimal way to eat. Constant snacking; more frequent, smaller meals rather than the classic breakfast, lunch, dinner set-up; and an ever-present fear of hunger as the enemy: these are said to line the path to healthy weight loss. If we ever feel hungry, it says, we leave ourselves vulnerable to temptation and metabolic imbalances. There is certainly some validity to this idea. I can imagine Grok roaming the grasslands for nuts, bugs, roots, shoots, and small game. And at times these foods may have been plentiful. More likely though Grok’s eating pattern was much more sporadic. There would have been periods of grazing coupled with stretches of famine and punctuated by instances of all-out feasting. As is so often the case, CW has cherry picked one part of this scenario and turned it into an ironclad, dogmatic proclamation that excludes any alternatives, whatever their potential benefits.
It has become sacrilege to skip a meal. Skipping meals, they say, only slows the metabolism, promotes fat storage, and makes us more likely to gorge on unhealthy foods once we do decide to eat.
The same goes for workouts. Missing a workout – especially in conjunction with a skipped meal – can make a fitness buff feel like a lazy slob. Missing two, or even three? A crisis of monumental proportions! A cascade of guilt and regret!
What are we to do?
Armed with a fresh perspective you can reframe your actions and toss fear and guilt out the window.
Say you aren’t hungry – should you feel compelled to force something down? Or maybe you only have access to a snack machine – should you eat a bag of chips just for the sake of eating?
Or maybe you’re sore from the previous workout session and it’s cold and the gym is a long drive through traffic – should you torture yourself and force the workout?
Sometimes, you should just say no. You’re not gonna starve if you go eight hours without eating. Your body isn’t going to immediately start burning muscle for energy if you don’t get something, anything, into your system (especially junk food). Your muscles won’t deflate if you miss a workout. The gym won’t close, and your weights aren’t going to rust over into obsolescence. You have to say no and be okay with saying it – no guilt involved.
The fact of the matter is that there are real benefits to both. I’m a big proponent of intermittent fasting as a way to promote health and longevity, maintain weight, and build lean muscle. We’ve got the studies that seem to back it up, plus my own success with it, but you can also look at it from Grok’s perspective. Our ancestors didn’t always have ample food. Sure, he undoubtedly preferred to constantly graze, but there were no guarantees. You think Grok felt guilty about missing a meal? No way. Maybe a little peeved, but not guilty. It just made the next meal all the more delicious.
Similarly, Grok wasn’t constantly working. He had plenty of time to relax and rest his muscles. Even (especially) top lifters stress the importance of rest in developing lean mass; if you overwork or overtrain, you’re only doing your muscles a disservice.
So what did I mean by reframing your actions?
With a slight change in perspective and a little “presto chango”!
The “my metabolism is going to shut down” Skipped Meal becomes an experiment in Intermittent Fasting
the “I’m a lazy slob” Skipped Workout becomes a “time to give my muscles a chance to rebuild” Recovery Day
In other words:
Skipped Meal = Intermittent Fasting
Skipped Workout = Recovery Day
Luckily, this isn’t just wordplay, and isn’t simply an attempt to see the glass half full. It also isn’t permission to completely slack off. You still need to eat plenty of healthy fat and protein (with a few carbs sprinkled in, if you please), and regular exercise is an important part of staying healthy. But missing a few meals every now and then won’t kill you and it can even be a boon. Nor will taking a couple extra rest days set your fitness goals back by any considerable amount (it might even give you the rest and resolve needed to assail your workouts with renewed vigor). So next time you’re faced with a non-Primal meal you’d rather avoid, or you just can’t muster the energy to drag yourself to the gym for the fifth day in a row don’t beat yourself up for slacking off. Pat yourself on the back for making a perfectly Primal decision and get on with your life.
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.