Primal Starter: Fielding Others’ Opinions

Inline_Live-Awesome-645x445-03It’s a role that’s probably more often thrust upon us—that of Primal advocate. There we are minding our own healthy business, and somebody’s question or comment fixes the spotlight on us. Why do we eat “so much” fat? What could possibly be wrong with bread? Why do we wear the shoes we do or race down the street like we stole something?

Sometimes it’s the people in our inner circle who are the inquiring minds. Other times it’s co-workers or even random strangers. Perhaps it’s even our doctors. Whatever the case, what might begin as a simple question can often devolve into a full-blown harangue about how we’re putting our health in grave peril. On the flip side, it may be we who descend into an extended diatribe on all things Primal as the other person tries to slink away, having just been intrigued by our lettuce wrapped “un-wich.” How do we respond in these conversations without losing all patience or perspective?

Not all of us are out to become Primal advocates of course. But you don’t need to be sporting a Grok “Live Long, Drop Dead” t-shirt to garner attention. The fact is, our choices can make us stick out. Just by eating what we eat (or avoiding what we don’t) or otherwise going about our Primal routines, we become accidental examples for a lifestyle conventional wisdom finds unusual or even dangerous.

A lot of people these days have heard enough about paleo/Primal (usually misunderstanding it) to have an opinion, but they may not know other flesh-and-blood adherents. Suddenly you’ve become the spokesperson, poster child, resident expert and/or prime target in their midst. This can be a good thing—or not—depending on their agenda.

Many of us by now have witnessed the positive angle of this. Someone you know (or don’t) asks a question out of genuine curiosity, and you end up having a great discussion. By the end, they’re determined to learn more or even give it a whirl. You walk away having felt like you enjoyed a fulfilling conversation and did an act of public service.

On the other hand, we’ve likely been put in the hot seat, too. Maybe we simply take a pass on dessert or appear to be an expert at menu substitutions, but our nonconformity ruffles some feathers. Two minutes into dinner we find ourselves the center of everyone’s conversation and worry about what we’re doing to our bodies.

I’ve certainly offered my share of tongue-in-cheek suggestions for meeting Primal critiques, but there’s still the practical question of how to respond. At base, all we really own is our own experience. How does living Primally make you feel? What’s it done for you lately? People can wrangle with you about statistics this, statistics that—likely erroneous numbers or skewed understanding of research anyway. It’s much harder to argue against a person’s individual experience. In fact, it’s near impossible.

If you’ve lost fifty pounds, come off of your blood pressure meds or are otherwise living with enhanced health and energy, then your story is the perfect answer to their criticism, however constructive. Some will continue at the same line of reasoning, attempting to deny the extent of your success. All you have to say in this instance is, “I’m happy with my results. That’s all I need to know.”

Unfortunately, however, some people feel that because you say you’ve reclaimed your health and vitality with the Primal Blueprint that you’re dictating to them they have to do the same. Sure, it would behoove them (twenty-five cent word of the day) to try it out, too. But I’ve never advocated dragging or nagging anyone to the Primal Blueprint. The other person will either be willing to acknowledge it or not, but their inability to do so (when that’s the case) will have nothing to do with you.

It’s not only okay but often stunningly effective to flat out tell someone they’re free to choose their own path. In fact, tell them you’re not arguing they should do what you did. Maybe it’s not a good fit for them. But even still they can always stop by the site or Facebook group if they ever change their minds about wanting to know more.

At some point we have to see that health transformation is for people who want it, not for people who need it. As the old saying goes, “You can only lead a horse to water. You can’t make him drink.” Self-advocacy has to be a part of the picture. Spare yourself unnecessary frustration by accepting you’ll never make a difference in peoples’ lives who aren’t open to change and who don’t make themselves available for help and education.

Advocating for a lifestyle model you believe in is a noble pursuit. All of us who have improved our lives through the Primal Blueprint (myself included) want to make the same knowledge and support available to others. Rest assured, the proof is always in the pudding no matter what else gets said. Live well, and let the results be your best promotional strategy as well as your personal reward.

Further Reading: 

How To Handle Constructive Criticism As a Primal Advocate

How To Overcome the Naysayers In Your Life

About the Author

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.

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8 thoughts on “Primal Starter: Fielding Others’ Opinions”

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  1. In my experience, people rarely ask. They might wonder, but I think they mostly figure I’m just one of those “lucky” few who doesn’t need to worry about weight or health issues. It’s amazing how many people are convinced good health is just the luck of the draw. It’s even more amazing that there are people out there who truly don’t see any connection between diet and health.

  2. “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”, Yea, but you can salt his oats!! Best encouragement for others is a demonstration of a changed life. I may like macadamia nuts but I don’t like somebody shoving them down my throat. I always just respond, I don’t understand all the science, I just know I feel better living like this. Thanks for all the help Mark. It has changed my life.

  3. I try to mindful of others… Must of my friends and acquaintances see the results I accomplish by my healthy lifestyle and real results don’t lie.

  4. I’ve become quite libertarian about it. Live and let live I say. I made the decision to do it for myself and my own reasons and then sought after the how to. Open queries from people are often crabs in a bucket type traps disguised as causal interest. Plenty of holiday and one notable vegan super bowl party led to curious questions from inquiring and arguing minds. Well I remember nearly trying to crush my mother’s dreams of better health years ago when she dropped 30 lbs in a few weeks on Atkins because my ego couldn’t handle someone experiencing results in any other way but mine. “You need carbs and gym time!” I said. She likes to remind me about that every so often. Going primal/keto also comes with the frequent reminder that I was close minded for a long time and no one really hassled me about it so I don’t really hassled anyone else about it. One place I get a lot of questions is in my recovery group (AA). I just say when you’re ready to take your next step into better health besides dropping the booze come and find me and I’ll show you how. To the rest of the world if there’s an arguing interest coming at me, I say nothing or “thanks for inquiring but my waistline tells my story just like yours tells your story” (if I feel like being an ass and creating an amends I need to immediately make!) I prefer the former. People are people and worth consideration of inclusion into the club of better health even when they’re ignorant.

    1. Live and let live is indeed good advice. Trying to “live” other people’s lives (sometimes known as bullying) can get to be exhausting for everyone concerned.

  5. “Most of these people eating organic don’t look good at all, man. You look good!” said the massive security guard at Rainbow Acres health food store last night.

    “They eat organic sugar, I eat organic meat.”

    We had a nice conversation about the value of raw milk and how I was now going to drive across town to get it, since Rainbow Acres had run out.

    It’s true that the patrons of health food stores in California generally resemble the patrons of commercial grocery stores, but in counterculture apparel.

    They wear their organic non-GMO gluten-free label like they wear their fair-labor scarves: like the way a Melanesian cargo cultist wears a “Kellogg’s” box on his head.

    Of course, there is far more to health than just eating meat.

    But rather than open the floodgates of years of study, it is easier on everyone if we dispense one tasty lozenge.

    Then we can return to training, because our work is only beginning.

    “Tell you one thing, wish I had your bench press,” I said as farewell.

  6. Good post. I’ve been following the site for several years and decided to “go Primal” about a year ago, essentially because I needed to shed 35 lbs and get to 250 by my 50th birthday in May.
    When people say, “Man, you look great!” I tel them about MDA and giving up grains, processed foods, and “bad oils like the kinds French fries are cooked in.”

  7. My take in koan form:

    I stopped a long time ago preaching the way of primal goodness …
    No more emails with links and success stories in fullness …
    Sometimes I make an exception for somebody I care …
    But the result is the same fare …