Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 19 2018

Dear Mark: More Embracing Your Wildness

By Mark Sisson
15 Comments

Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoLast week’s Q&A about cultivating wildness was a lot of fun, but there were some questions I didn’t get to in the original post. Today, I’m going to answer some more. From stirring stories of a father and son pursuing and living their dream after experiencing extreme tragedy to how to go barefoot more safely to the balance between creativity, progress, and Primal values to accepting the reality (and beauty) of having work to do to the value of sun exposure in winter to circadian entrainment. In short, we’re covering a ton of ground today.

Let’s go:

First I’m going to include Jonno’s comment, even though it wasn’t a question, for reasons that become obvious once you read it:

Being thought of as a weirdo can be a mark of success. The last thing my wife said to me before she died of cancer was that our then infant son and I should live a free, fit, healthy and fun life, the opposite end of the scale to what society norms dictate and very different to our previous 10 years where we worked every hour to pay for things we didn’t need with which to impress the friends we didn’t have. Watching a loved one die young inspires you to do all in your power to learn how to live an optimum life. So my son and I moved to the other side of the world so that we could maximize our sunshine hours, surf lots in warm, clean water, walk and run barefoot on the beach every morning, sleep outside in fresh air all year and grow our own organic food. Keeping our overheads to a minimum means we don’t have to earn so much money and reduces stress – our living accommodation is very basic and pollutants are minimal. No sprays, no WIFI, no power lines. We home-school so learning is continuous, for both of us! No school means maximum surf time, freethinking, free imagination. Simple but not too simple: LCHF; Intermittent fasting; HIIT; Functional strength. Yes it’s a long and winding road with plenty of pitfalls and yes it takes courage and risks to make a stand and be different but the health and fitness results for both body and mind are fantastic. And yes, everyone thinks we are weirdos!

I mostly wanted to highlight Jonno’s incredible story. There isn’t much more to say about that. Moving on after your wife dies, being present for your child, bearing the suffering and turning it into a positive force in your lives—that’s incredible. You honor not just your late wife, but everyone else as well. Thanks.

Gertch asked:

Calls to simple cleanliness to reduce impediments to creativity and activity are always good. With a large family, I could use hearing them hourly!

There are many posts I haven’t read, but something on working into more barefoot time would be good. Is barefoot good for everyone, or how does one determine if it is not ok for them? Is sock-footed of the same benefit? Is a painful adjustment period normal? etc.

Barefoot is good for most people, but not everyone. There are no absolutes here.

The longer you’ve spent wearing shoes, the longer it’ll take to acclimate your feet. Shoe-wearing (particularly thick-soled, stiff, prominent-heeled shoes) atrophies the musculature and weakens the connective tissue of the foot. It’s like placing your feet in casts—casts that you wear almost all day, every day. Most of us who try barefooting are coming off years of wearing a cast. It just isn’t smart or feasible to immediately launch into full-blown barefootedness.

I have a post from several years ago explaining how to transition to barefoot walking, running, and training.

Socks are fine. They may slightly blunt the proprioceptive feedback you receive from the soles of your feet interacting with the micro-topology of the ground but not enough to make any real difference.

David wondered:

The suggestion to increase the create:consume ratio resonated with me, in part because I think of creativity as a core element of human nature. I am curious how to fit that idea within a primal perspective. On the one hand, there is evidence for very early creative activity among humans and pre-humans, so there are reasons to say that a primal lifestyle is a creative one. On the other hand, civilization seems to be the accumulated product of human creativity, an ongoing movement away from wildness. It’s as if the lifestyle of our ancestors contained the seed of its own undoing.

I like that: “the lifestyle of our ancestors contained the seed of its own undoing.” That’s a fairly common theme with human endeavors. We get so good at things that we go overboard and end up swinging back around to realize our error of overextension. Many religious scholars, for example, propose that Christianity’s focus on truth seeking led to the scientific revolution, the Enlightenment, and the materialist world view that ended up undermining it.

You shouldn’t be concerned though. Primal isn’t about clinging to the past. It’s about going back and sifting through the past for valuable knowledge, wisdom, and hypotheses about diet, fitness, and health—then bringing them with us into the future. And yes, we often butt up against the future as it unfolds, but we also shape it. I’m convinced the ancestral health community is partially responsible for the increased awareness of the dangers of digital addictions, the perils of excessive sitting, the rise of standup desks, and all the other stuff sweeping the high-tech world. That’s not even mentioning the effect we’ve had on the way people think about food and exercise.

Creation isn’t always about bringing tangible objects into the world. There are thousands of ways to be creative, especially given the tools at our disposal.

Besides: The future is happening. We’re here, we’re in it. There’s no escaping it. We might as well try to make the best of it. We certainly shouldn’t make it worse by disengaging and throwing in the towel. That’s no way to live.

Kelli wrote:

Thank you for mentioning a messy house. My house isn’t messy but life gets busy & we spend so much energy cleaning up.

That reminds me of the story of Sisyphus, the guy eternally relegated to pushing a huge boulder up a hill only to have it reach the top and roll down back the other side. Many people reference Sisyphus as a tragic reminder of the utter pointlessness of most human endeavors. I see it differently. I see it as motivational commentary on the undeniable.

Your job is never done. Not as a parent, a citizen, a friend, a lover, an employee, an entrepreneur, a human. There’s always something to be done. That’s why we all have that kernel of discontent simmering within, no matter what we accomplish or how much money we make.

When I’m writing a blog post, I focus entirely on that post. Nothing else exists for those hours I’m writing. When I finish, I’m relieved. But the next day, there’s the blog waiting for me all over again. Back to square one.

If I try to hold on to that relief, it vanishes. I can’t help but worry about the next project hanging over my head—the one I’m trying to ignore and deny. The trick is to not do that. The trick is to accept my responsibility, to willingly embrace it.

I can either accept my fate, the lot in life I’ve built for myself, the fact that my work is never done and there’s always something else to work on, some task to complete. That’s actually a beautiful reality, isn’t it?

Or I can build up to a crescendo of false contentment—”It’s finally over; now I can rest!”—and crash every day when I realize I have to do it all over again.

I’d choose the first option every single time. You should too.

Karen asked:

About getting sunshine in the winter…it’s plenty sunny out there but it’s also cold.
(You’ve seen the new work on Vit. D and sulfonation, yes, no?) Do you uncover head and neck, or unwrap legs. Or bravely unwrap arms and legs? Is one better for exposure?

If it’s vitamin D you’re after, it’s really hard to make any appreciable amounts through sun exposure in winter time. Don’t rely on it.

But wait: There’s still a great reason to get outside in the cold sunny weather. Natural light exposure entrains your circadian rhythm—it helps tell your body that it’s daytime, so that the millions of circadian clocks we house in our cells, organs, and tissues know the time.

You know what? Expose your skin to the air anyway. It’s a good way to build cold tolerance and force your body to upregulate its own temperature regulation, which may activate brown fat and improve metabolic health.

Wendy requested:

More on resetting the circadian system, please. I’ve been trying without much luck on mine.

I’ve done a few posts on the various circadian entrainers, but perhaps I’ll do another post in the future summing up everything we’ve learned. It’s a big topic.

Thanks for the idea!

That’s it for today, everyone. Take care and be sure to add your comments or questions down below!

TAGS:  dear mark

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15 thoughts on “Dear Mark: More Embracing Your Wildness”

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  1. My husband and I had spent a couple days last week working on his circadian entrainment with more deliberate light manipulation and strict mealtimes after his sleep cycle went to hell and his stamina dropped. Turned out he had appendicitis. His sleep and energy jumped the rails a good two to three weeks before any other appendicitis symptoms showed themselves.

    TL;DR – if you suddenly go off the rails maybe look a little deeper.

  2. This is perfect: “Creation isn’t always about bringing tangible objects into the world.” Let’s hear it for the storytellers, poets, and musicians!

    1. what is really tangible ? – “do you think that’s air your breathing”

  3. Katy Bowman has a book “Whole Body Barefoot” for those looking to make the transition. The best thing I ever did for my body was go barefoot…

    1. Right on!!! I have been barefooting in summer and wearing Vibram Five Fingers for 4 Years now and my feet have never been happier!

  4. Barefoot? Yes. Running barefoot on cement? No. But I see a significant number of fools doing it. Great as the human foot is it is not designed to run on ledge for a dozen miles three times a week. As for sunshine, I loathe the cold and solved the problem by moving south.

  5. Ok, Jonno’s story totally made me cry…in a good way. And also loved “Primal isn’t about clinging to the past..” So true! I feel everyone in this community is trying to build a better future.

  6. Jonny, wonderful for you and your son. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am sure it was not an easy road to take, but the benefits will spill into generations to come . I also see this as a good bit about the cliche,” it is the reaction to what happens to you that makes the difference.” My brother lost his wife to cancer with 2 teen age boys in the home. My brother is 150 lbs overweight. He is missing so much in life because of his response to such a great loss. His spouse also encouragd us to focus on what was really important and be grateful for each breath you take. He is a caring father and the kids are finishing college now. Ofcourse, I cannot control his choices and he does not live close by. We will all need to work through life and in the end, hope to make the choices that are best for us .
    Peace from N.C.

  7. I totally get the “buying things we didn’t need for friends we didn’t have” – so often people we surround ourselves with as “friends” are not friends at all, and a lot of the garbage we think we need, we simply don’t need.

    “The things we own end up owning us” (fight club 1999).

    In fact the year 1999 also saw the release of another profound film “the matrix” which embodies much of the same ideas, letting go, and seeing things as they are, not as we would like to see them. The primal lifestyle/diet itself is built upon minimalisation, and only including what is necessary, not what we feel we need.

    1. Didn’t see either film, but find it interesting how many people buy things solely to impress other people. The desire to keep up with the Joneses is definitely one of the more baffling and least necessary human traits.

      On a similar note, sometimes the less you know about people the easier it is to like them. I briefly spent some time on a neighborhood social media site a while back. I found out that these things are mostly a virtual garage sale (which, as a lifelong minimalist, doesn’t interest me). Since people have a bizarre tendency to spill their guts on social media, you also find out who the whiners, the complainers, the gossips, and the nut cases are. It didn’t take long to decide that I’d really rather not know so much about the people who live nearby.

  8. There’s something special about frigid winter mornings that folks from warm weather climates don’t even know they’re missing. There’s usually a nice, calm period just as the sun rises. The air is crisp and clear, and the senses seem hyperaware of all the sights and sounds like the crunch of fresh snow under your boots or the sight of your breath condensing and rising like wood smoke. If you take the time to let your body adjust and start pumping out fat to burn for heat, it’s a pretty pleasant experience. I might actually miss it a little when the weather warms up, but early summer mornings have their own joys. Also, for perspective, when I say “frigid” I mean at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

  9. Wondering about the assumption that useful Vitamin D cannot be obtained from sun in most US locales in Winter. I live at an elevation of over 4,000 ft in rural area in the vicinity of the CA and Oregon border. Latitude is roughly 40 deg N, similar to N. Utah, N. Colorado, Central Illinois.

    I have a Solarmeter Vitamin D3 meter that reads in D3 IU per minute at 10% body exposure. I’ve checked the meter in full sun in various seasons. At peak sun in the beginning of January, the meter gave a reading of around 18 IU per minute. A week ago, mid February, it was up to 30 IU per minute. In summer it might double that.

    I have found that in full sun and still air, if the air temperature exceeds 35-40 deg F, I am very comfortable sunning on a mat in my swimsuit due to the warmth of the sun. Rough calculations suggest that I can get over 1,000 IU of Vitamin D from the sun with 20 minutes or so of exposure of 50% of my body. This is far from nothing. I wondered if my meter was accurate. Last week sunning for a bit too long on one side, for 40 minutes, I got a very light sunburn, something I’ll avoid. But it suggests to me that adequate D can be obtained from sun in Winter in some cases. I wonder if my altitude helps, thinner air allows more Vit D producing UV? The air is very unpolluted and clean also, the sky often clear, and the sun bright. I wonder what readings would be elsewhere in the US at such a latitude?