When all was said and done, yesterday’s post turned out to be a bit of a downer – at least for me. I literally felt the crushing weight of the preponderance of Conventional Wisdom bearing down on me as I wrote, and the light-hearted banter was all I could muster to keep from total despair. Even though I tried to illuminate the conclusion with a glimmer of hope, I almost felt like retreating to some dark dank place to set up shop and live out my days like some Primal Grok-Kurtz amalgam. The locals would whisper and tell tall tales, sure, but at least I’d be free to eat fat, munch protein, and abstain from excess carbs. Maybe Eades would send in a band of hapless recruits to retrieve me. Maybe they’d bear news that the war was ending and, though we may not be necessarily winning, we were at least making it respectable. Or maybe I just watched “Apocalypse Now” again. Have I gone temporarily mad? Perhaps, but that’s what fighting against an entrenched, illogical enemy will do to a person.
But all is not lost. No, I assure you – I haven’t given up. Neither have you guys, judging from the incredible comments to yesterday’s post. In fact, that influx of immediate and overwhelming support gave me a second wind. It made me realize that we’re all in this together, and that by standing firm and maintaining that implacable hold on the facts that we currently enjoy (and will always enjoy, at least as long as we remain genetically Grok) we will eventually win out. Human progress moves incrementally and often laboriously, but it does move. That CW stone is heavy, ever-looming, and resilient, but cracks are showing – and it can be moved, or realigned (Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, and the pyramids prove that). We do our part in chipping away here on this blog and in this forum, while countless others attack the stone from other angles and with different tools. Some use thoughtful, careful analysis of past research, others use humor, while still others use fiery indignation to combat the scourge of Conventional Wisdom. It all helps, and it’s all – I think and hope – leading to a tipping point.
Even big time publications are getting in on the game. While it isn’t ideal and the author still writes from the typical calories in, calories out vantage point, Time Magazine’s recent “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” does touch on the vicious cycle of Chronic Cardio/overeating that plagues so many people who are simply trying to follow their doctors’ advice. Gary Taubes, who discussed the inefficiency and counterproductive effects of typical fitness efforts in “Good Calories, Bad Calories,” only gets a small mention toward the end, and the article’s author concludes that it’s what you eat, rather than whether you exercise that determines body composition – but there’s no mention of what constitutes a healthy diet, nor is there discussion of the positive effects heavy resistance training and intense metabolic conditioning can have on insulin sensitivity. Hey, it’s a start, and the article is still atop the “Most Emailed” list.
Last month, forum member brought to our attention an LA Times story on Vitamin D. I’ve always stressed the importance of getting enough Vitamin D through the sun (or through supplements, if it’s the only option), and it’s great to see that the “experts” are now recommending an upper daily limit of 10,000 IU (up from 2,000) – which is the amount the average person manufactures by spending an hour or so in the sun. Funny how they arrived at that number, isn’t it? Almost too perfect.
The NY Times just published a story on the growing barefoot movement (hey, it’s not just about diet, folks – remember that!). In my opinion, they give false equivalency to the “opinions” of the barefoot runners and the shoe companies (gee, I wonder which one has a financial horse in the race), but that’s journalism for you. The important thing to note is that not only is the barefoot movement growing, but that publications like the NY Times and Wired are beginning to notice. Maybe next they’ll do a piece on the Primal movement… who knows?
I like to mock the constant rotation of strangely similar “ab-blasting, bicep-rocking 10-week crash course for buff beach bods” workout plans that make the rounds in male fitness magazines, but even they may be coming around. Men’s Health, for example, published a damn good article on saturated fat. Their headline? “For decades, Americans have been told that saturated fat clogs arteries and causes heart disease. But there’s just one problem: No one’s ever proved it.” Music to my ears! The article highlights the work of Ronald Krauss, M.D., whose research has called into question the lipid hypothesis of heart disease. Peter, over at Hyperlipid, certainly finds his research useful.
Men’s Health also did a feature on Erwan le Corre, creator of MovNat. It’s a bit like parkour, except in a natural environment. The article focuses on the importance of truly functional fitness – the type of fitness that allows you to scale cliffs, climb trees, heave rocks, and swim lakes. Grok would be proud (and he’d probably be a damn good parkour artist).
And what about books? We’ve of course got the Primal Blueprint, which I can heartily recommend (I hear the author’s a really great guy, in fact). There’s also Primal Body, Primal Mind, Evolution Rx, The Vegetarian Myth (Dr. Eades gave a great write-up on it), Fat (nice and succinct, isn’t it?), and of course the Pollan books. And those were just the ones published this year alone. I don’t know how sales are for every book mentioned, but I do know that publishers generally don’t throw money away on hopeless ventures. The movement is picking up steam.
Film, too, is coming out with some great stuff. Food Inc. made a big splash recently (enough to force Big Agra into throwing together a hasty response). You know you’re on to something when they try to discredit you. Or there’s Fathead: The Movie, which is being billed as a response to Superize Me, but is really a great deconstruction of the lipid hypothesis. If you can’t get someone to read Good Calories, Bad Calories, get them a copy of Fathead. Move quickly, though, because as forum member chocolatechip69 mentions, both films are unavailable on Netflix due to high demand. King Corn is another good one that got a lot of buzz.
A quick look at Google trends for a few keywords reveals a few interesting surges. Take “fasting,” for example: a pretty standard pattern, with Ramadan accounting for the annual uptick in interest. But when you plug in “intermittent fasting,” you see a massive surge in interest in this year alone. Or check out the steady increase for “paleo diet”. “Crossfit” is also pretty impressive, and the Primal community enjoys a lot of crossover with that crowd. I’d be interested to see what other developments emerge in the coming months.
Taken as isolated instances of clarity, these don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. The CW stone still stands tall, and a crack here and there won’t do a whole lot. But when you assemble everything and view it as a whole, the picture becomes rosier and rosier. And the more things accumulate, the more the mainstream will take notice. Once that begins, all it’ll take to really cement things is a major milestone: a landmark, highly-publicized research article, an appearance on Oprah, or the other 50% finally accepting the veracity of evolution ( this last one is, sadly, the least likely). Until that day, though, we can’t let up.
Like anything else that matters, real progress is going to be slow and gradual, and accepting that fact is a big part of succeeding. We can’t expect everything to change all at once. It reminds me of that experience so many people have when they start out on the Primal eating plan. Those first few days (or weeks) of abstaining from sugar, grains, and processed foods can be difficult, but once you start seeing actual results – getting random compliments like “Have you lost weight?”, experiencing impromptu pants-around-the-ankles moments because you’ve dropped a few sizes, buoyant morning energy that isn’t coffee-related – it all gets even easier. We’ve all had those moments, and those are often the reason we keep this lifestyle up – because it works, and it’s obvious that it works. Our battle against CW is exactly like that, only on a much wider scale (and longer timeline). I figure I’ve been at this for about five years, give or take a couple. The blog only launched three years ago, but even before I was discussing evolutionary fitness and health, albeit without such a large forum. Loren Cordain has been at it for a bit longer (“The Paleo Diet” was published in 2002, but he’s long been a student of this stuff, just like me), while Dr. Eades has been a Primal-friendly practicing physician since 1986. And, of course, there’s the huge number of Primal and paleo blogs out there, with folks like the Weston Price Foundation and Beyond Vegetarian rounding it all out. We’re all working from different vantage points – some closer than others – but the ultimate goal is similar, if not identical: to show that the Conventional Dietary Wisdom of the last hundred years has done far more harm than good.
I dunno about you, but I’m finally starting to see some real results. Ol’ CW still has about five hundred pounds of jiggling adipose tissue to lose, it still needs machine assistance just to get a single pull-up in, and I think it’s still doing push-ups on its knees, but I sense a new bounce in its step. Let’s build on that! It’s up to us – the people who live this life every day and see the difference it makes – to ensure that all this momentum doesn’t just dry up. We can’t just expect real change to occur because of a few random articles in mainstream publications, or the release of a few films that question the status quo. We have to make sure we’ll all in this together – and it all starts with our personal commitment to living in accordance with our evolutionary genetics. If we maintain our health, vigor, and strength by doing everything CW tells us not to, people (friends, family, loved ones, co-workers) will eventually take notice. They’ll listen to your rants against grains for once. They’ll start skipping the treadmill and opt for the weights. They’ll pass on the bread basket, but keep the butter. They’ll finally read the “crazy” articles that you always forward suggesting saturated fat may not actually kill you.
From that point, it’s a domino effect, and it’s only a matter of time. Truth, logic, and reason always win out in the end – it’s just that it may take awhile. In the meantime, live correctly. Be the Blueprint, so that the others can follow stead.
Have you seen cracks in the CW stone? Is the mainstream beginning to cover Primal-related health topics? Drop me a comment with your thoughts and links. Thanks, everyone!
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.