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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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January 23 2018

Primal Challenge Point: Starting From the “Bottom”

By Mark Sisson
6 Comments

Inline_Live-Awesome-645x445-03In all my years talking with clients and readers, I’ve heard people often say they’re starting from zero, from rock bottom, with no baseline at all. I understand where they were coming from. Everyone is beginning this journey with a different level of fitness and health. I get that. Yet, I let me tell you this: never in my entire career have I met anyone starting with nothing. The concept defies physiological reality.

You might be in the worst shape of your life. You might be tipping the scale at an all-time high. You might be fighting a serious health condition you never dreamed you’d be dealing with. You may have battled disordered eating. You might not remember when/if you ever had a good self-image.

You might get winded walking up half a flight of stairs. You may have lost significant muscle mass. You might struggle to simply sit with (let alone carry) around the extra 50, 75, or 100+ pounds you’ve put on. However, your body is still made to move. It still craves it. It likely feels harder to train, sure, but—make no mistake—living and breathing within you is that pure physical force you and everyone else was born with. Choosing to live Primally—with the right fuel, the expected movement, the necessary sleep and sun—simply allows you to live out the full measure of that vital potential.

And let me say something else about one’s “baseline.” When beginning a journey like this, baseline is about much more than VO2 max, mile time, bench press weight, or lipid profile. Numbers don’t tell your story, and they don’t determine your prospects for success.

Think for a minute about what else you bring to your personal resolution. What about the motivational power? What about the emotional stamina? What about the social strength of friends, family, and Primal community? What about the force of full-on personal investment or raw will? Those count for something. In fact, those often count for everything. Your physical baseline determines the particular level you start from, but it doesn’t define the trajectory of your journey or the fulfillment of your experience along the way.

Along these lines, let me offer a few suggestions and invite each and every one of our readers to give their own perspective and encouragement.

Invest in Support

As you begin the Challenge, make sure you’re taking full advantage of the support system you have. Not everyone in your life is on board with the Primal Blueprint, it’s true. Regardless, look to those in your life who bring a Primally sympathetic or just open mindset. Some friends, even if they can’t understand why you’re eating so much fat, will support you because they want to simply celebrate any investment you make in your health and happiness. Embrace that. Open yourself to the support of folks in this community. Participate in the comment boards, join the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group, and you’ll see what I mean. Finally, if you feel like past issues like disordered eating still have a grip on you, enlist the professional help you need and deserve.

Develop Big Picture Perspective

Sometimes people get caught up in a particular goal and lose sight of the full process. Embrace daily Primal living and not just your long-range goal. Going Primal will get you to the destination you have in mind, but it’s not the deprivation-focused, white-knuckle experience you might be used to. Use this year to transform your life as well as you physiology. Relish the myriad of benefits going Primal offers. It’s more than the weight loss and lean muscle mass. Notice the better quality sleep, the more even mood, the sharper focus, the more consistent energy in your day. On that note…

Prioritize Feeling Good (Primally Speaking) Every Day

You’re making a point of eating real, ancestral-worthy food, of adding an exercise regimen. Rest assured, you’re remaking your physiology in the process. You will absolutely reap the benefits long before the first couple months of the year is over. But also make a point of doing something (or several things) that make you feel good today. These healthy “indulgences” can help get you through a rough day of low carb flu or unexpected stress. Relax in the sun. Relish turning in early for a full night’s sleep. (Remember what that feels like?) Share a walk with a good friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Play. Enjoy an old hobby. Take a personal retreat. Make a masterpiece dinner and savor it in real ambiance. In other words, let yourself enjoy the process. Make your Primal lifestyle a continual experience of “good life” indulgence as well as a powerful investment in your health.

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6 thoughts on “Primal Challenge Point: Starting From the “Bottom””

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  1. This is huge. I got in the best shape of my life last year after 1.5 years of eating primal and crossfit 5 days/week. Then I got pregnant and expected to continue to eat and work out well like some of the bad ass fit moms in my box. Unfortunately I was hit HARD with illness throughout my pregnancy. I was on bedrest for the first 4+ months, completely sedentary, and could barely eat anything but the most bland foods. I watched my muscle mass waste away, cried a ton, felt like a failure. This perspective is what I needed to feel like a worthwhile human, and I realized how much of my life revolved around feeling a certain way and doing certain things. The phrase “this is just a season in your life” helped a ton. I KNOW I will not be starting from the “bottom” as I once did 2 years ago…I will have a “new normal.” I can’t wait to get started again, and see what I can do.

    1. Nothing but respect and awe for women who go through childbirth and also in a lot of cases have to put their goals on hold when complications arise. Definitely a time to pull back and recover. The baby is healthy and doing well I hope Kate?

    2. Kate, I’m glad this spoke to you this morning. Pregnancy, from what I’ve observed, can be a wild card. Congratulations on entering into it with great Primal health – a gift to yourself and your child. Don’t sweat the diversion that illness has presented. As they say, “Be here now,” and know that renewed potential waits on the other side of what you need to do for the time being. Nurture yourself in other Primal ways with good sleep and self-care. Thanks, and be well. – M

  2. I think the 3 big things that I have learned in my primal journey: 1) Buy in- for me that took learning the lesson that although I was eating right I was still embracing chronic cardio.It didn’t work till I dialed in my exercise which also helped improve my sleep quality. 2.) Have an end in mind but never lose focus of, or fail to enjoy the journey. That’s the only constant, the end you have in mind will evolve. 3.) Become a biohacker. Try intermittent fasting, keto, higher carb, lower carb. Become your own N=1 experiment. Beyond that, be patient with yourself and your progress, it will come. Cheers!

  3. I know it’s important to move throughout the day, but some days I’m so tired that it almost hurts to move and I end up sitting/laying in front of the TV/computer/book. I wonder if it’s more harmful to try to get up and do something when that exhausted or to stay stationary for so long?

    Luckily, those days are fewer than they were, but they still happen. 🙁

  4. Right on, Mark! Success comes from a series of everyday choices; I appreciate and celebrate the choices I make every day to live my best primal life. -“Notice the better quality sleep, the more even mood, the sharper focus, the more consistent energy in your day…” I remember when I first went primal how exciting it was to experience these conditions for the first time. I started the Primal Blueprint to end my 20 year obsession with diets and chronic cardio, but I couldn’t believe all the extra perks that came with choosing this lifestyle!