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...Tell Me More
It’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.