Taking Fall Inventory

With the whirlwind of the Primal Challenge behind us, I have been enjoying getting back into the normal swing of things. Although nothing stands still here for long, it’s kind of nice to return to a familiar rhythm. With the calendars well into October now, I have my sights on fall – and seasons in general. While the topic of evolution and seasonality is intriguing, what I’d like to discuss today is what the seasonal transitions inspire: the reflection, the experimentation, the renewal. It’s a perfect time, I think, to rejuvenate stagnant routines (e.g. the week’s monotonous dinner menu, the gym circuit, etc.) and envision new practices. For some of us, the imaginative exercise might simply help us appreciate our choices from a new angle.

Even though school begins and obligations resume that were on hiatus during summer, somehow fall always takes on a slower, more introspective feel. Perhaps it’s because the return to routine encourages us to take more advantage of quiet moments. Maybe because the dramatic peak of fall is so fleeting, it inspires lingering attention and a more intentional mindset. It’s a season of uncultivated, raw beauty, of traditions without the hype of major holidays yet. Although Southern California isn’t exactly known for its spectacular autumn displays, fall still has significant meaning for me. We always make a point of traveling north this time of year to spend time with family and good friends, whose locales happen to also offer some of the best fall scenery. The season somehow always brings me back to my roots in a comforting way.

Wherever you live, the seasonal ebb and flow encourages us to check in with our own rhythms – however enlivening or stagnating they might be. Who says goal setting is just for New Year’s? Seasonal prompts can spur us toward revitalizing transitions in our routines. It’s more than a convenient parallel though. The changing light, dropping temps, and seasonal fare present very real influences to our Primal lifestyles. All the better to embrace it, I say.


Yes, the food. I think most of us associate fall with rich, warm dishes. (I’m salivating as I write this.) Maybe crock pots and gravy boats make a reappearance in your kitchen. Stew, soup, chili, oven roasted meats – fall food at least matches if not beats out summer fare for me. Maybe it’s the Maine spirit still coursing through my veins, but every year I look forward to getting out that cast iron Dutch oven.

If you’re new to the PB, think about how you’ll navigate fall eating this year. How can you Primal-ize old favorites or infuse your menu with new ideas? (MDA can help with that of course.) What worked in summer might not hold the same appeal on cooler days. Think ahead and enjoy the chance to get creative. The forethought and experimentation will help you stay on track later. Long-time adherents undoubtedly have some fall favorites, but there’s always room for one more masterpiece in a Primal kitchen. Anyone want to share?


If you’re well established in your exercise routine, fall is a great time to consider shaking it up – for progress’ sake and for general interest. Yes, the temperatures might bring many of us indoors or at least alter the schedule later in the season. However, there’s a physiological benefit to switching up your workout. Infusing your routine with some new activities helps you break beyond a fitness plateau and capitalize on new physical challenges to increase power, speed and endurance.

Others of us might choose to take on a quieter practice like yoga or Tai Chi this time of year. Sometimes the mood guides us in different ways, and there’s likely something genuine behind the intuition. Let your interests direct you. See where they lead and what the experience opens for you.

Outdoor Life

Some of us are summer people at heart who thrive in baking heat and thick humidity. Others of us impatiently wait for cooler temps to really throw ourselves into nature. Either way, take real advantage this year and decide how you’re going to play this fall. If you have young kids, their imaginations can help lead the way. If not, reclaim some favorite pastimes. Carrie and I love to bike the trails by our friends’ farm, and I always make time for a kayaking day at some point. Try something new. Take a rock climbing class or try your hand at caving.

It’s not just about day-long adventures or oodles of free time, however. Challenge yourself to weave as much outdoor time into your daily life as possible. Work outside if you can. Pay bills in one of the backyard lounge chairs. Set up the laptop on the patio table. Cook outside, eat outside, talk outside after the kids are in bed. Grab an evening walk – even if it is dusk or dark. Stand outside before bed and remind yourself what that crisp fall air feels like at midnight. Sit outside and just watch the leaves. Listen. If you wait, something interesting will happen.

Social Life

As much as people get out and about during summer, divergent vacation schedules and a more spontaneous brand of busyness can make it hard to get together with some friends or family. So often we end up saying that we’ll get together in fall “when everybody gets back in the groove.” Before the holidays overtake your calendar, schedule in those quieter, more casual times you always mean to with the people who matter the most in your life. Maybe it’s a long promised day trip with a partner or a dinner with good friends. Resurrect the potluck or progressive dinner, plan an afternoon hike or picnic, or just share a bottle of wine and some quality time.


With the extra light in summer, it’s easy to stay up and make the most of every hour. I know I benefit from the reminder an earlier darkness brings. It’s a good time to settle in for the evening, enjoy a good book or take the extra time to make a new recipe in the kitchen. With the quieter nighttime activities, I end up going to bed earlier and sleeping better. Let yourself  appreciate – and luxuriate in – the extra quiet and rest.

Thanks, everybody, for reading today. I’m excited to hear what thoughts all of you are bringing to fall this year. Share your inspirations, and enjoy the best of it!

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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71 thoughts on “Taking Fall Inventory”

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  1. While I wasn’t perfect on the September 30 day challenge, I really enjoyed focusing on and achieving a few new goals, like consistency with exercise and completing that danged 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I also somehow lost 8 pounds:) I’m going to apply this new approach of 1-3 new focused goals to each month, including mental challenges!
    Mark, thank you for the guidence and inspiration.

  2. I’m always excited for fall! Love to see the leaves change (I live in OH) and have warm apple cider. I make chili every year in the crockpot (Primal recipe, of course!) and love walking in the door at the end of a long, cold blustery day to be greeted with that delicious aroma. Happy fall everyone!

      1. I grew up in Ohio and live in Eastern Massachusetts now. Most of my exercise is from raking leaves!

        1. Im from Ohio too, but in Raleigh now. The falls in Raleigh are unbelievable. In OH it seemed to go from 80 to 30! In Raleigh we have a ton of trees and a long fall. I love it. Fall and Winter equals CHILI TIME!

  3. What a great post! It inspired wonderful imagery! I want to hear some good fall Primal Recipes! I love making stew this time of year, but I always want to add potatoes! Any alternatives?

    1. Maybe you could sub the potatoes for sweet potatoes, or pumpkin?
      If it doesn’t cut it, regular potatoes would be one of the best “cheats” you could have imo. I would consider it similar to white rice which Mark wrote about a few posts ago. It’s high starch, it isn’t a nutritional powerhouse (better than rice though), but if you get them fresh, store properly and peel them, the antinutrients are pretty much all gone.

    2. Cubed squash (any kind, but I love butternut and acorn) are wonderful in stews, as are rutabaga and turnip. If you need to keep carbs low, might still be too carby for you?

    3. Perhaps parsnips or turnips? Parsnips are more mild in flavor and can do a pretty decent mashed potato imitation, so I would imagine them to be great in stews. Also, you can simply increase the carrots and celery, maybe throw in a yam or some winter squash. I’ve been dreaming about stew lately, can you tell?

  4. I didn’t begin my October challenge until this Monday. For new goals I’m going to: try a Zumba class with a co-worker; eat a persimmon; try at least 2 new primal chilli recipes; focus on learning African drumming or learn 2 cords on the ukulele. This in addition to eating primal and improvement on my exercise regimine, natch.

    1. Regarding ukulele: a “C” only takes 1 finger, an “F” only takes 2. Add a “G7” (that one requires 3) and strum while switching chords at random and you’ll be the life of the autumnal luau!

    2. Congrats on the ZUMBA! I am an instructor and I ask you what can be more primal! Dancing around and shaking your groove thing. That absolutley comes naturally to me! In my opinion, exercise needs to be some activity you truly enjoy (not dread) or you will never stick to it. Definitley Mark is right when he says to mix it up, try new things. I might be able to teach 6 ZUMBA high intensity ZUMBA classes a week but if i go running, i am sore the next day! Working different muscles. I am not a primal diet follower YET, but truly admire those who do it! I think Mark it right on!

      1. My wife isn’t primal (although watching my results has certainly been eroding her skepticism 😉 ) but she LOVES ZUMBA! So much so so that she’s just doubled to TWICE a week!

    3. Oh, and make sure the persimmon is ripe. Eating a GREEN persimmon has to be one of the strangest experiences of my life…

  5. Oh yeah! And I suggest looking into making mead! The only alcoholic drink to predate agriculture! It’s wonderful this time of year. I have a couple of batches going right now. One is a ginger, mint and the other is a vanilla, cinnamon!

    1. vanilla cinnamon mead?! Oh I am so jealous! That must be so much better than the bottled stuff at the store (which doesn’t quite qualify as true mead anyway).

  6. It’s definitely starting to feel like fall out here in the Northeast- there was actually some frost on the grass when I got up this morning! Sadly, I had to cut my sprints short this morning because my feet were SO cold. The combo of dewy grass and melting frost got me. Does this mean I’m going to have to put my vibrams away for the winter. Any suggestions or tips on cooler weather barefoot/vibram exercise?

    1. I am also looking for tips in this area. My vibrams should arrive within about a week yet its going to get colder and colder!!

      1. Might I suggest barefooting in the snow? I recall reading a post on therunningbarefoot.org on how great it felt, no wet-shoe feeling.

        Of course, like barefooting in general, take it easy, listen to your body, and adapt gradually. It should be fine for sprints =]

        1. I take off my shoes on the way out of my office and walk in the snow to my car. That’s more than enough for me, though…

    2. I *love* barefoot running but would not recommend doing it in the cold. I was lucky enough to talk to Dan Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard (who also enjoys barefoot running, as far as I could tell from his attendance at the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run) and he said that it is dangerous–the reason is that your feet get cold which desensitizes your feet from feeling the ground (and its perils). He knew of a barefoot runner that wore a hole through his sole because he was running in the cold, no shoes, and couldn’t feel the damage he was doing.

      1. Check out Vibrams neoprene KSO treks, more rugged sole and the neopreme top is much warmer, order a size larger and use five toe socks, this works really well for me in the north of Scotland through wet and muddy forest trails – used them this morning in fact, wet but not cold feet 🙂

        1. Good suggestion, Kelda! I meant no bare(literally)foot running. 😉

          Just be sure you feel your feet!

        2. I’ll have to try this. I HAVE to wear socks when it gets cold. I’m always freezing!

        3. hmm- I’ll have to check out the some different styles. I have the classics, and while I think they’re neoprene, my feet ended up soaked and FROZEN when I ran in the grass the other morning. Running wasn’t so bad, but when I slowed down it felt like I was walking on needles!

      2. @Shannon, very interesting point and sound precaution!

        I wonder if sensitivity despite coldness could also be adapted though? Hm…

      3. No Joke! Be careful in the cold. I ran a Tough Mudder in KSO’s in NJ in late November. I couldn’t feel my feet for most of the race. When I finally thawed out I had incredible pain in my foot an ankle. Turns out I tore 3 ligaments in my ankle and one of the tendons along the bottom of my foot somewhere during the race but never felt it. After surgery and months of PT, I’m leery of going barefoot anymore.

  7. Very nice post Mark!

    It seems that every time the seasons change, I really appreciate what the incoming season has to offer. I love the feeling that fall brings. The cooling temperatures really invigorate me and give me a sense of life that the blistering summer cannot give. As the days get shorter, I am always reminded of my childhood, riding my bike in my neighborhood as the sun sets, trying to get the last little bit of sunlight I could. It’s hard to beat that feeling.

  8. Fall is a beautiful season. I live in Michigan and thus have the pleasure of taking in the sight of colorful leaves. Trees surround our neighborhood and it truly is incredible to look at it.

    Raking leaves is a task but its also a great workout if you make it that way!

    I particularly look forward to Thanksgiving which is a time that one feasts with family members. Enjoying Thanksgiving and being grateful for all that we have is very special.

  9. I missed the September primal challenge all together. I am new to the primal way and am adjusting. I love these daily topics and find them helpful. I have lost 25 lbs so far w/o exercising. This was very exicting then, I hit a plateau so I started walking and really watching my carb intake. Any suggestions on how to continue the weight loss of fat are welcome.

  10. Fall is by far my favorite season. I love to hike (though now that I live in the city I don’t get to do as much of that). There’s something about that crsp cool air and crunchy leaves underfoot that makes me feel more alive. Of course it’s that same cool air and crunchy leaves that remind me I haven’t bought my firewood yet…:P

  11. Primal Tree, welcome, and congratulations on your weight loss. I shook up my plateau by increasing exercise/play & drastically reducing my fruit intake. I IF’d (just comfortably skipping a meal) a few times during the month, too.

    1. Thanks Debra,

      It sure is nice to get some feed back.As the weather changes and less in season fruits are avalible I am sure I will naturally cut down. I usually eat 2-3 small peices of fruit a day but, have been craving it less. It is hot out here in North.Cali. and I like Lars am looking forward to the cool down.

  12. Sarah D. It’s actually pretty easy to make your own mead! Look it up online! I got the vanilla, cinnamon idea from a local meadery here in Asheville, NC actually. They are called Fox Hill Meadery. On another note, I’m worried about not being able to workout in my Vibrams in the winter as well! They need to create a winter vibram!

    1. Vibrams – they have, see my post above, it should read neoprene of course!

      Also the kangaroo skin KSO treks, I have them too, cosy for generally walking around although I’ve used dubbin and waterproofing spray to try and inmprove keeping my feet dry!

      A gap in the market for a truly winter-proof barefoot feel me thinks!

  13. 2010 has been an up and down year, with the difficult and down part in the latter half.

    Fall, being my favorite season, is a perfect time to reassess, try new things, burst through plateaus, and embrace what is around the corner.

    Presumably based on my Swedish genetics, I wilt in the heat, and thrive in the cooler climes. Can’t wait for this current Norcal heat wave to end, and with the first rainy downpour I’m going on a long and muddy hike in my Vibrams!

  14. That was a beautyful, thoughtful post. I’ll reread it tomorrow morning. How much internet content can you say that about?
    I’m really happy your ‘challenge’ month (read promotional month) is over. I’ve been embarrased to link to you from my blog.

  15. I love fall food too! I just posted a grain-free banana nut muffin recipe and a grain-free pumpkin bread recipe on my blog. Looking forward to doing a pumpkin soup or squash soup maybe next week…

    roasting a chicken tonight, and making stew later this week.

    1. Where can I find that recipe for the grain free pumpkin pie? I would really like to try that. Can you send me a link to where it’s posted?

  16. We’re living in Northern Virginia and since I haven’t ever lived further north than Oklahoma City in my entire life, I am LOVING this season that I’ve never really experienced before. =)

    In the spring, I made my family sick of eggplants because I grilled or broiled them every other night and now I’m sure they’re going to be sick of butternut squash (but it smells so GOOD when you cut it up!!!)…it’s so fun.

  17. I’m a very warm climate person and live in Albuquerque. Even so, I greatly enjoyed Mark’s article. I found it inspiring and hope to use that inspiration to keep active during the cold months…instead of hibernating for several months like I did last year. NM has cold winters due to the altitude – believe it or not.

    1. Hiking in the winter in Albuquerque is one of my favorite things to do, the sunshine on the snow is so beautiful and it feels good to get out every now and then.

  18. A very timely post Mark for me.
    Definitely have a feeling of the year drawing in … as you say a good time to reassess, I certainly need to do that me thinks.

    Have been pondering more play and running around chasing falling leaves might be just the ticket.

    This is my first Primal autumn and, having cracked the whole sleeping thing back in June I’m beginning to find I’m more sleepy early in the evening and sleeping in later in the mornings, is this my Primal hibernation instinct kicking in? Has anyone else noticed a shift, I live around 57 north.

  19. What a wonderful article. I do so love Autumn/Fall (although in CA right now it is rather warm yet).
    This time of year (when it actually shows up)inspires me to crank up the crock pot and get soups on the stove. Everything smells so good around this time. Now I am sort of transformed to this place in my head and it’s a very nice place indeed. I do enjoy the time change that makes it darker in the eve and more of a ‘cozy hibernation’ vibe. I feel the family and I do get more zzzz’s and rest in general. This will be my first primal holiday season and I feel it will be the best yet.

  20. fantastic post! just drove two days north to get to vermont to see the fall colors and feel the crispness of the fall weather….SO worth it!

  21. Thanks for the encouraging words Mark. Really enjoyed reading the post and it definitely took me back to the beautiful falls I experienced growing up in the Midwest…and I’m definitely excited for the various Primal Fall foods I can experience.

  22. Great post. I have always ALWAYS loved fall and it has always been my “New Year.” Of course, now I live in the southern hemisphere–but even though it is spring here–these months, looking forward to halloween and Thanksgiving, are still the best time of the year!

  23. I love Fall! It has been so hot here this summer. I can’t wait for my Chili from Mark’s cookbook tonight. It’s simply the best!

  24. Sigh…I used to love fall. But now…I live on a sailboat and fall means the end of the sailing season. No more fresh caught blue crabs. I do like apple cider though. 🙂

  25. Fall has always been my favorite time of year. And now that I have an anniversary (I got married on the 10th of October) I feel like fall will only improve. Ps, comepletely primal wedding btw!

  26. It’s Spring in South Africa! As an MMA athlete I have always taken pride in eating liberal portions of organ meats…spring inspires me to broaden my variety and include the organs of my enemies at the tournaments. Grok on and eat them livers 😉

  27. I agree, it’s a great post to bring us into the seasonal present. I’m gearing up to re-start our fall/winter rotating potlucks again. I started it last fall when it seemed like it was hard to meet up with friends due to shorter daylight hours, and a tendency for us all to hibernate. First up will be a seasonal potluck, encouraging folks to learn what veggies are in season, and add some local meat to the plate.

    I’m in charge of Thanksgiving this year, and intend to make it as primal as possible. No bread rolls, please!

    I love how much fall tends to bring our community of friends together, even more so than the summer. Our Thanksgivings are always with friends, as we all celebrate X-mas with the family.

    As far as changing up the exercise routine, I’m adding the once a week sprint and once a week yoga to my CF workouts. I’d also like to get in some good fall hikes and a camping trip in before it gets too chilly here in AZ.

    And then I see all the cyclists taking advantage of the great weather, and suddenly there is just too much fun exercise to do before winter! It’s also good adventure racing weather, and we’re doing our first one in November, down in Phoenix. Muddy Buddy!!

  28. Food, fitness, outdoor life, social life, sleep…and plenty of LOVE 🙂

  29. Not sure what post it would be best to leave this comment on, but I wanted to share with MDA. At a restaurant recommended me by a friend, there is a wonderful phrase on the menu: “The above dinners are served with a choice of salad, starch, or vegetable.” I know what my choice would NOT be!

  30. I love autumn and one of my favorite recipes is oxtail soup. I get two pounds of oxtails, 4 cloves of garlic, slivered, and four medium onions, sliced in half. Add four carrots and four sticks of celery cut into four pieces each; two tablespoons of butter, 2 teaspoons of turmeric; and sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
    Melt the butter in a large pot. When butter is melted, brown the oxtails on all sides. When all tails are browned, put them on a platter. Brown the garlic and onions, add the carrots and celery and cook until softened. Add the turmeric, stirring until fragrant. Add the oxtails back into the pot, add water to cover; cover the pot and simmer until the water is reduced by one-half. Put the oxtail soup into the refrigerator and let stay overnight. For dinner the next evening, reheat the soup, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

    This is wonderful on a chilly fall night!