It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Like many other Mark’s Daily Apple readers, I spent most of my life with my eye on the destination or goal and, for the most part, ignored the journey. I can’t say that this approach was a bad one as I had been chugging along for fifty years having moderate success achieving my education, career and personal goals. I applied the same goal orientation to weight management/exercise and would consistently hit the goals (ex. target weights, miles run, etc.) I set but seemed to never get healthier as things would fall apart when I achieved the goal I set. After multiple successful diet and exercise campaigns over the years followed by returning to my old unhealthy ways, I ballooned up to 240 pounds in 2012 and began to see the onset of my health deteriorating as a result of this yo-yo approach to health management.
Then, five years ago, I began the most important impactful journey of my life…the path to living a healthy, long life. Except, I didn’t know I was even on this journey. I started out, as I described in my first Mark’s Daily Apple contribution, with a decision to go to a gluten free diet to address a gall bladder condition. After doing research and reading The Primal Blueprint, I then extended my diet and made a few lifestyle changes to primal. I felt the best I ever felt and this awesome feeling sent me on this journey to better health.
While I wasn’t conscious of it, this journey was very different as I didn’t have a specific set target, such as losing a set number of pounds or training for a marathon, in mind. I was simply focused on better health. It was similar to the approach one would use during their education journey. We don’t focus on one subject or one experience. The most effective educational journeys are the ones where we integrate studies in many areas with social and cultural experiences to achieve personal enrichment. Getting educated is about the series of experiences (journey) and not about simply getting the degree (destination). In fact, the very best educations are the ones that result in lifelong learning and extend beyond the degree.
I applied this same multi-discipline educational approach to getting “better health.” Unlike every other journey in my life, I was not focused on the end game but became totally focused on the journey. I didn’t plan it this way. It just happened. The journey, itself, became so fulfilling that I never wanted to reach “the goal.” This was counterintuitive for me as every other journey in my life I was riveted on reaching “the goal.” Like many educational journeys, my health journey was about learning about multiple disciplines and then, selectively, incorporating them into my way of life one layer at a time. The layering effect has had a snowballing effect. Each new health layer I added in made me feel better and made me even more motivated to find the “next layer.” After the decision to layer in a primal diet on top of my gluten free diet, I then consciously looked at my cardio-obsessed approach to exercise to incorporate exercise modifications as part of my lifelong journey to better health.
Each of these disciplines (ex. diet, exercise) of my lifelong health journey have developed into sub journeys. For example, my approach to diet started out as a gluten-free modification to my diet back in 2012. Shortly later, I then layered in the Primal Diet. Several years later, after many hours of research, I layered in the Ketogenic diet along with intermittent fasting (16 -18 hour daily fasts) on top of the primal diet. The important point is that each of these modifications build upon what I have established and are refinements. I am not starting one diet fad, throwing it away, and then adopting another diet fad. I also continue to look to find ways to continue to improve my way of eating as part of my lifelong health journey I am on and expect that I will be able to share new modifications if we speak in a year.
My exercise journey has evolved from my previous lifelong focus on just distance running back to an incorporation of some weight and core training when I started “the journey.” During the last couple of years, I have layered in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and yoga on top of my cardio/weight/core exercise platform. Given the value of exercise, I have made it a larger priority and have increased my exercise time from a few hours a week to about ten hours a week. At times this can be demanding with family and job responsibilities, but there are plenty of ways to find a few extra hours in a 168 hour week. There are so many new and exciting programs that I can’t wait to learn about to see if it will become the next layer.
One of the most powerful disciplines in this journey is what I learned about the potential of the mind. The mind is incredibly powerful and can be unleashed to heal just about anything. There is a famous saying that, “where your mind goes, your body follows.” By applying positive thinking and visualizing the results I wanted, I have been able to achieve more. It’s mind over body. Your mind is very much interconnected to your body. I have learned the importance of controlling stress and being happy. When you are stressed, your body creates hormones like cortisol. Too much cortisol increases risk of disease like cancer. The world is stressful. I realized the need to find ways to de-stress. Many do meditation. I have practiced thoughtful breathing and focusing on “staying present” as powerful relaxation techniques. Thoughtful breathing entails closing my mouth and taking deep breaths in and concentrating on the cleaning air going in and through your body and exhaling cleansing breaths. This really helps when I am trying to fall asleep. Staying present is thoughtfully working to focus on thinking and enjoying the present moment. When I take a walk now, have a conversation or exercise, I try not to my mind wander off to think ahead what is coming up. Staying present and enjoy the moment lowers stress. One of the best ways for me to de-stress is to exercise regularly. I have layered in massage and recently went to my first reflexology session to aide in stress relief and relaxation.
As part of my journey, I have developed a new level of respect for a couple of other basic life disciplines such as sleeping well and getting enough sun. I became aware of how important it is to get enough sleep and the need to sleep during the right hours at night. This level of consciousness about sleep has resulted in feeling much more rested. I also became aware that too little sun (and the Vitamin D you get) is a far bigger health risk than too much sun. I try to get 20 minutes of direct sun light a day without sun block.
Another major discipline in my journey is awareness around toxin intake and the importance of detoxifying. Toxic buildup increases risks of disease like cancer. The air, food supply and water have become increasingly more contaminated and can have a massive effect on your health and longevity. I realized the need to work hard to minimize the amount of toxins I was consuming and, also, how to get rid of the toxins (detox) that I knew I was retaining. I shifted from drinking bottled water (stored in plastic containers) to drinking filtered water.
After learning about its value, we prioritized buying clean (organic), whole food and realized that the costs to deal with medical issues were way more than the cost of buying clean food. Despite working hard to limit harmful intake, I realized the importance of getting rid of the toxins that I was soaking up. For this reason, we purchased an infrared sauna and use it daily. The sweat that is produced contains a relatively high amount of toxic build up. It is one of the best ways to release toxins and is a wonderful way to relax. Exercise is a great way to release toxins as well. I realized that toxicity and detox apply to people, relationships and your job as well. They can have an equally destructive impact on your health as well. I saw the importance of minimizing or ending relationships that were toxic and the need to avoid spending time with negative, toxic people. I continue to look to spend more time with positive people.
My decision, five years ago, to move to a gluten free diet was the start of a health journey that I didn’t know I was starting. This was a much different approach to dealing with health issues as I was focused on the lifelong journey for better health and not to getting to an arbitrary weight goal and ignoring the other health disciplines and then return to my old habits. I know that I am only at the start of this journey and am more motivated than ever to find new layers to incorporate into this wonderful journey. I would love to learn about what others have done in their journeys.