The Snowball Effect: How Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact

SnowballI don’t think it’s any big secret that the Primal Blueprint flies in the face of conventional wisdom. After all, it’s a different way of eating, moving, and even living to some degree. Beyond the varying specifics like Primal snacks or yellow lensed glasses, however, I think there’s a more amorphous, underlying dimension to the experience. People tell me there’s something about it that changes their vision – how they see everything from marketing ads to cultural traditions, social expectations to personal values.

Adopting (and adapting) the Primal Blueprint involves participating in an alternative choice of sorts, living at least a little bit outside the mainstream routine. Some people relish this element of the experience. Perhaps they already situate themselves on a cultural fringe in some regard and just find the caveman/woman element that much more fun. For others, however, the alternative presents something of a vexation at times, even a stumbling block, particularly if those around them are seated squarely in the conventional realm. Yet, plenty of us make peace (and even find fulfillment) with living slightly on the outskirts of average, intentionally out of everyday touch with some of the central health habits and fads that direct our mainstream culture.

When people first begin toying with the Primal Blueprint, their transition revolves around elements like taste adaptation, menu planning, and exercise revamping. With time, other experiences come into play. They seek out different shopping sources, maybe ordering certain things online, becoming a co-op junkie, or growing some of their own food. They might buy half a cow at a time and start eating organ meat. They may start wearing those weird barefoot shoes (or just skip them altogether). Perhaps they join a different kind of gym or use their current one in a new way. Maybe they drop the gym entirely and work out solely outdoors or put together a CrossFit inspired home gym. They might change where they go out to eat or maybe just don’t eat at restaurants as much anymore. Perhaps over time they cut back their Internet or T.V. at night or spend less time on their phones throughout the day. Oftentimes, they start buying different books or magazines and change what they read online. They may cut some commitments to give them more weekend time outdoors or with family. They move. They switch jobs. They build new social circles. You name, I’ve heard it.

A person goes Primal, and two years later, oftentimes, his or her lifestyle is suddenly more fluid. Her view of work changes. His parenting style shifts. Her social life adjusts. A big time, stressed out suit in the city moves to the country, takes up farming, carries his one-year-old around in a sling, grows a beard and gets himself a Grok tattoo. Sure, that’s a pretty dramatic transformation, but it has happened. A million permutations, a million stories.

I think the key here is context. We accept new choices into our lives and are heartened, even blown away, by the positive changes we experience. Naturally, we want to deepen our commitments, try new aspects of the PB, expand our Primal horizons. To take on the new we inevitably have to give up some of the old. We migrate, perhaps unconsciously, in a new lifestyle direction. What we do with our time, where we spend it, and who we spend it with changes, and the end result often looks less conventional than it did in the beginning. We suddenly realize the personal distance we’ve traversed.

There’s real power in context, of course. As our inner mindsets change, our outer contexts shift and gravitate toward the people, environments, and events that in some way support the life we want to live. Our contexts help us grow into the commitments we make. We organize our schedules around our goals. Why shouldn’t we build our lives around the supports that help us get there, that help us feel good, that help us live well as we define it?

It’s a funny thing, how taking on a countercultural diet – maybe to lose a few pounds, address a chronic condition or gain more energy – can result in deeper changes than we ever anticipated. We start with Primal food or maybe fitness, and with time we end up questioning our participation in other standard practices or our feelings about other common choices. Maybe it’s nothing more than different magazine subscriptions or shoe wear. On the other hand, maybe it’s a major life metamorphosis.

Ultimately, I think it’s part of thriving – to foster congruence in our lives, to have our outer lives align with our inner intentions. It doesn’t mean every friend – or maybe any friend – is Primal. It doesn’t mean we’re raising chickens in our backyard (or would ever want to). It doesn’t mean we all do CrossFit, co-sleep with infants or relish a good liver and onions. The Primal Blueprint, after all, takes the shape of each person’s interest and aim. That said, there’s something to accepting a blueprint that dances along the edge of modern day social norm and the inherent community that this fact builds. It makes for undoubtedly great conversation, the occasional inside joke, and some much valued reflection.

Have you found you’ve shifted your external “contexts” as you’ve lived Primal? Was it a subtle or dramatic shift, an intentional or unconscious adjustment? I hope you’ll share your experiences and perspective on the board. Thanks for reading today, everyone.

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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122 thoughts on “The Snowball Effect: How Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact”

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  1. Paleo Primal lifestyle is truly a gem in a world full of garbage. I can’t think of any other diet or even fitness practices that would be as beneficial to us. It is true that with the switch to a paleo diet, other changes come in our thought processes and daily practices.

    1. Kinda harsh. Mark constantly shares info from a wide variety of sources. Take, for example, his Is It Primal series. It nearly always includes things that are not strictly primal but he never calls them garbage.

      I consume ancestral foods whether they come from my Grok ancestors or my great grandparents. I am not Hispanic but I grew up eating Mexican food. It is part of my heritage. I eat organic beans, rice and corn tortillas more than once a week. No intention of giving them up. Don’t call them “garbage” in my presence unless you want to mix it up. Yeah, I know about the primal alternatives such as cauliflower “rice” and I don’t eat them.

      1. Do you have a source for organic corn tortillas? Very hard to find…

        1. There are some good ones at Whole Foods! In the frozen section. I think they’re called ‘Food for Life,’ and they’re sprouted/nixtamalized as well as organic!

        2. Thankfully, they are easy to find here in Sacramento, California. Even the chain grocery stores have them, e.g. Raley’s and Safeway. Haven’t been in Whole Foods for a while. I imagine they have them. Not sure about Trader Joe’s.

          I usually get mine at the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Sacramento is a great place to be primal.

        3. I can vouch for the Food for Life sprouted organic corn torillas Alyssa speaks of. I found them at Whole Foods in the freezer section and they are amazing, nice rich corn flavor.

  2. When you realize that this way of life legitimately transcends any mere quasi-effective diet and exercise program it becomes the Holy Grail and thus take on an almost religious significance. Obviously if it floats like a duck it must be a witch!

  3. I have absolutely shifted my external contexts as I’ve embraced primal living. A few things I view completely differently:

    – Wearing heels – I used to all the time, and rarely do now.

    – Exercise – I would do chronic cardio for hours before (I loved me some Treadclimber!) but now I pick up heavy things and don’t like metcons that last more than 15 minutes. Did I mention I’m in the best shape of my life?

    – Medicine – my view of medicine has 100% changed. I really don’t get sick, but when I do, my goal is to heal my body, not just mitigate symptoms.

    – Band-Aid vs. Root Problem – the biggest shift for me has been my realization (and frustration about) the fact that our modern culture so often “Band-Aids” the problem, rather than attacking the root cause. Modern medicine, diet programs, how eating disorders and chronic diseases are treated, etc. I am constantly thinking “What is the root problem and how could THAT be solved”.

    – I’ve learned that by being a quiet example, you can influence people. You don’t have to impose your personal opinions on them.

    1. Find and hang with some engineers for root problem solving. David Getoff, VP of the Price Pottenger Nutritional Foundation is a former electrical engineer and is a root cause health problem solver. (Besides, engineers need hot chicks around too).

        1. I don’t think Bon has a mathematical chance in hell for Pi…:)

        1. +1 to that!! I’ve been in lots of ‘food communities’ before this – primarily vegetarian, raw vegan, and Specific Carbohydrate Diet – and none of them compare to the support, general open-mindedness, and vitality of this ancestral community. Sure, there are some ‘militant’ paleos out there, but there aren’t many on MDA. And there are so many great ancestral blogs that form a network you instantly feel connected to.

          Mark, you’ve really done an excellent job of creating a community through your blog, and out of all the blogs I read, I’ve never come across anything like it. Kudos to you (:

        2. I’ve been eating paleo and living somewhat on the fringe for a long time and I have found myself feeling kind of apologetic/guilty about my “difficult” ways in certain social contexts. Finding this blog and the associated community a few months ago has uplifted me – I’ve renewed my confidence and pride in my choices; I’m feeling good about feeling good. Thanks to everyone!

    2. Susie, you said it very well – my journey involved trying to maintain my husband’s health – we became “primal” before we ever heard of it trying to find ways around diet restrictions and still eat food we liked. Now that’s behind us, and we will never go back to SAD. I always question CW.

    3. Susie, good point about the heels.

      I’ve actually had women come up to me and say “I’ve heard that heels are actually better for your body, biomechanically.”

      WHAT?! Are you mad!?

      My experience echoes your own with chronic illnesses (I guess because I have a few). When you start thinking about, it our modern lifestyle is one of the worst situations to be living in with a chronic illness.

      Everything from the stress, schedules, diet, sleep, life enjoyment – they’re all waaaaaay outta whack.

  4. Awesome post, i always try and implement one small change a week. It’s amazing how much of a difference they all end up making.

  5. I’ve also experienced quite a shift, not only with eating and exercise, but in most areas of my life. I don’t feel “stuck” anymore. I now feel confident enough to remove sources of chronic stress in my life, and I spend more time doing things that make me happy.

    I find I don’t get as caught up in material objects anymore, either. I’m not working my life away for a nice car or a “perfect” home. It feels great to focus on the things that really enrich your life.

    1. I totally agree with you, Kathleen! The shift I’ve seen – and getting “unstuck”-has truly snowballed into all areas of my life. I think I’m seeing a shift in the perspectives of other people I encounter, too!

  6. I’ve always considered myself to be health-conscious and fit. My definition of both this items has significantly changed. I’m far more self-aware and knowledgeable about food and exercise and what constitutes the definition of ‘healthy’.

    I’m far more sensitive to the fact that most others around me are leading very unhealthy lives and most seem oblivous to it.

    Our obesity and diabetes rate frightens me — what does our future hold if we cannot even look after ourselves.

    I thank Mark and the paleo community, as well as other advocates who contribute to the research and knowledge of healthy living. I believe this pursuit to be life long.

    I hope to influence my children and those that I care about, but I’ve also learned to let go if others are not ready to accept a shift in their thinking/beliefs.


    1. +1 Louisa. I saw in today’s news that Olive Garden is going to redo their whole menu and interior…but they said NOT TO WORRY, we won’t do away with the unlimited breadsticks offer! Well isn’t that just dandy!!!

    2. +1

      I’ve influenced a few folks but I’ve had to give up on a couple of seriously ill people after a couple of friendly tries of steering them in a different direction. Sad but there’s only so much you can do.

  7. I’m pretty much only MORE suspicious of modern medicine than I was before primal. My exercise has changed a lot. Less cardio, more sprints and lifting. Really makes a difference, slowly but surely.

    1. Even the regenerative medicine doc I go to is suspicious and cynical about modern medicine! He’s paleo all the way…

      Years of eating wheat (that I am obviously allergic to) is most likely the source of the degenerative arthritis I have in my knees. Going paleo ended my shopping around for the ‘right’ brand of knee replacement device. A little hormonal tweaking from the regen. MD and paleo lifestyle has me feeling at least 10 years younger, and like I might be able to entirely avoid replacing a knee, ever. I’m also avoiding the Type 2 diabetes that runs in my family, so what’s not to like here? Nothing; and paleo food is seriously tasty!

      1. I can’t even imagine how much wheat I put in my body in my life. My degenerative arthritis also had my doctor suggesting knee replacement at 45. Since going primal I also feel years spryer. Last May on my 50th birthday I finished 1st of all 50+ year old competitors at the Pennsylvania Civilian Military Combine on my own knees. Now my children are following Primal and are going to compete with me at this years Combine. Can’t wait.

  8. Hmm, what a lovely post, Mark. There are SO many benefits…. where to start and where to end listing them?

    Two immediately came to mind: I got my family “back.” Oh, there were never gone, but my son started MDA, turned me on to it, i started it, my husband then liked what he saw and he started it, now our other son is trying it…and it branched out into my larger family who are also trying it. So the circle widens.

    But perhaps for me the most important thing that has come from this is to discover, after 58 years, that cortisol is my drug of choice. Serious stress all my life. And it DOESN’T have to be that way. The eating of PB has given me so much strength to resist and eliminate a majority of the non-essential stressors in my life. And Mark and all those who are on forums have made that possible. Thank you all very much.

    1. that is a great insight–seeing cortisol as a “drug of choice.” i never thought of it that way, but that’s me, too. cortisol and food. i’m working on choosing life and health instead!

      1. +1

        I never thought of it like that, but this applies to me, too.

        Great article, Mark. Thanks for all you do!

      2. Yes, the hidden addiction!

        My whole family are addicted to its various forms (is a cunning, sneaky beast …). And I was too.

        Now I try to be conscious of all the ways my ego likes to steer me toward it.

        Even this morning I noticed my automatic response to a deliberately provocative SMS message from my mother; fight/flight! And I’m more than 3 years down the line … you need to be constantly ‘here’, ‘now’ to spot the traps.

    2. I agree! I just finished going back to school to get my degree, and I start my new job in a couple of weeks. I’ve had the first bit of downtime in the past two years, and I realize I have to stop being so OCD about some things and putting pressure on myself.

      I got it into my head I wanted my $30,000+ of student loans paid off in 3 years or less. Then, the other day, I thought, “You idiot, you’re the only one who puts all this crazy pressure on yourself. Nobody else does it.” That was when I realized that my behavior was going to eventually have adverse health effects. And, really, what’s the point of living a Paleo lifestyle diet and exercise-wise if I’m nuts about everything? It’s rather hypocritical to think that I’m doing everything “right” when that is a huge area I’m definitely not excelling in, an area that could negate some, if not all, of the benefits of the things that I do excel in.

      Anyway, I’ve put myself into recovery and am planning on moving to be closer to my new job so I don’t have to spend so much time in traffic, will pay off my loans early if I can but without the stress of a time limit, etc. Work in progress! I’ve been like this 33 years, it will take some time to relax a little, LOL.

  9. I call it jumping down the rabbit hole. Once you’ve seen the truth, you can’t un-see it.

  10. One of my goals for March is to implement the small change of setting a bed time. Working two jobs (one that regularly has me there until 10:00PM with a 30-40 minute commute home) will make this a challenge, but I am looking forward to being more conscious about sleep and how it effects everything else. I’ve been using the Jawbone UP to track my sleep/movement and the results should be interesting.

  11. great post! going primal with food started lots of other changes in our family. first, we started eating healthy food, all we wanted, often too much. but being able to make that change, over time, gave us the confidence to be able to make other small changes that have brought us more life. these include simple, quick exercise, primal eating for our kids, self discipline in choosing better attitudes, and now, examining and working on my overeating tendencies. it’s all a journey, and every part of it has been rich and life-giving, with its challenges and gifts.

  12. The biggest change for me is how I perceive food. I watch my spouse (who is not primal) reach for alcohol or icecream, nightly, as a treat to a long stressful day. I realize now how much I used food (restaurants, sugar, alcohol) to relax or fulfill some emotional need.

    In the past year, I’ve completely changed how I cook, cancelled fitness and food mag subscriptions and stopped running on a treadmill in a dark gym in favor of walking in the sun. I’m also significantly stronger, in much less time.

    While I’m not perfect on stress=food, I’ve made more progress in the past year than I’ve made at any other time in my life. I’m more balanced and satisfied and it pays dividends. Restaurants don’t hold my interest the way they used to, b/c my options are limited. But I do so love paleo/primal cooking blogs!

  13. I guess I never really realized how much I have changed since becoming Primal. Everything has changed so slowly…slowly changing eating habits, workout routines, schedules, bedtime rituals… all the way up to how I feel about the medical field. I really can’t express the immense hopefulness I get when I realize how all of these new changes have affected my well being and more importantly how EASY it really is to do once you get going. I’ve become much more confident as a person and have found a totally new sense of self. I don’t care what other people think anymore, or if they think my ways of eating are weird or that I’m a hippe ;P. I just smile to myself and feel a little twinge of sadness for society today — but I have no doubt that if people want to learn about this way of life and try it out instead of scoffing, they will gladly jump on the primal bandwagon with all of us — and never look back.

  14. One of the first unexpected changes I saw since going Primal last February was a greater ability to identify how insidiously deceptive and intentionally misguiding food marketing is. Claims like “fat-free” etc. never used to jump out at me as the sleights of hand that they were until then. And slowly, this new “vision” transferred to other types of marketing. Even well-meaning marketing was exposed. In NYC, we have ads in the subway that encourage folks to “cut down the junk” (showing a drawing of an obese man emptying a bag of potato chips into his mouth). The first thing I think of now when I see that is, you’re not providing an alternative. Your target audience might not know. And also, it ignores the fact that junk food is “engineered” to be eaten quickly, greedily and without thinking – not in small, rational portions (see Mark’s link to that NY Times article in the last weekend link love). So it’s not “don’t eat/cut back on this”, it should be “eat that”. Humans can only avoid evils they like for so long – in the long-term it’s more sustainable to focus on doing something healthy, than focusing on abstaining from something unhealthy. Just one of the many surprise benefits I’ve received from a Primal lifestyle (that, and a 6-pack – sweet!).

    1. You are so dead on about needing to show people the proper alternatives to junk food. I’m trying to move toward a primal lifestyle–hard when my other half isn’t on board, but we are making little changes every week. I grew up in a household where the simple carbs were present at every meal. We always had white rice, pasta, bread, etc. It was “healthy” because it was low fat (we didn’t eat butter on it!) I college I lived with my older sister. We made easily freezable meals that used boneless-skinless chicken breast and were always served over white rice or pasta (and made with minimal fat–the low fat foolishness). Learning to plan meals without grains has been really hard for me. It’s unlearning 30+ years of cooking low fat (but high carb). Lunches are the hardest because I need something quick and appetizing for the kids and I. We are getting there, very slowly, and I greatly appreciate that Mark and the regulars who comment here don’t seem to have an all-or-nothing Puritanical attitude. It makes the whole concept very approachable (all the awesome information is very helpful too–I have hopes of eventually convincing the hubby even!).

      1. Beccolina, try a Big Ass Salad for lunches, they are awesome. Just type it in the search bar and you will see what it is all about. Keep up the great work and good luck. You will make it.

        1. Thanks! I will look (Any hot salads, it’s 20 degrees here!). I am lucky that my parents are supportive. They are starting GAPS in the hopes it will help my dad’s rheumatoid arthritis and my mom’s multiple food sensitivities.

  15. It started with Good Calories Bad Calories for me, and my obsession with learning everything I can about health and fitness has not stopped since. Through Gary Taubes’ book, I found Marks Daily Apple, and the Primal Blueprint and I will be forever grateful.
    I guess you can say that that these were the first books that really made me question what food I put into my body and that there was a difference between Twinkies and steak….(which is pretty sad that I could go that long and live in that much ignorance). I consider myself reasonably intelligent, so it knocked my world off its axis when I realized that eating fat actually did help me to lose weight…and that pasta made me feel like a blimp. It also humbled me in understanding what little I and most people know in general…and gave me further ambition to truly learn.
    The Primal Blueprint and Good Calories Bad Calories planted a deeper curiosity in my being for truth, and the positive results I have experienced have given me a greater confidence that it can be found in other areas of life too…relationships, economics, etc.
    The most powerful thing I think it has done for me is to make me more aware, and not to rely on assumptions that I had previously thought were fixed in stone. I discovered that there were many things that I had heard all my life…over and over again…that were untrue….and because the lie had been repeated so many times, I had assumed it was the truth. Being free of that is an amazing and empowering feeling.

    1. I started with GCBC too. It was another four-five months before I learned about and then really considered eliminating grains (versus reducing amount) and really trying paleo/primal. I was shocked at the huge difference it made, and almost certainly would have thought it quackery had that been my first exposure to this alternative lifestyle.

    2. That is exactly my story too, those two books changed the way I viewed everything, forever and you can’t unknow.

      3 years in though and I’ve found myself on a complete outer limb in my family and community, and sometimes that’s lonely and dispiriting.

  16. I chuckled to see how many of the basic shifts my husband and I have made in the past 10 months of eating paleo, but am also amused at how absolutely similar they were to the shifts we made 25 years ago when we got into homeschooling our kids-playing with the elements, shopping sources, changing friendships and where we hang out, job shifts, no tv…. my guess is that these shifts happen any time we make a major life change like this.

  17. WOW!!! Have you been peeking through my windows??? This story describes my new life exactly. Made the change since February 2011 and haven’t looked back. I laugh when family and friends say to me, “Oh, you are still doing that.” They just don’t get it!!

    1. My family was a bit skeptical and critical at first.. “What, how can you get rid of a whole food group?!” sorta idea.. but it seems that over the last two+ years I’ve been primal they’re slowly tweaking their diets closer to a primal ideal.. except my mom, who’s been abusive and such, and so I do not maintain any lifeline with her.

  18. Interesting timing for this article. After being Primal for a year+, I’m ordering grass fed meats, just joined a co-op, quit long distance running, amped up my strength training and I’m even considering a transition from a computer engineer to a life coach. Life has never been this fulfilling.

    1. If I were you I’d still do some running.. medium distance running maybe? I used to go for the occasional 10km jog, things were easier for me then with a house to live in, no budget, and good shoes.. I haven’t done much cardio since transitioning to street life except some spurts and lots of walking, and I dreadfully miss being able to plug into some running shoes and go for a half hour + jogging journey.

  19. I began walking outside the mainstream when I started homeschooling my daughters back in 1988. Then, we had a horse with metabolic issues (Cushing’s, IR) in 2000 that led us to feeding no grains (especially wheat-containing), watching the sugar content of hay, barefoot hooves, treeless saddles, and natural horsemanship–all outside the “conventional wisdom” of horse ownership. When my elder daughter introduced me to Mark’s Primal Blueprint three or four years ago, at first I was skeptical, but then took a harder look and saw it incorporated food and exercise ideas that we were already using to have healthier, happier horses. It took another year to come on board with Primal (mainly as a weight-loss program), but the transition wasn’t all that hard. I’ve become accustomed to pursuing my life choices for the past 25 years, and with facts to back it up, it doesn’t matter what people think of them–they’re right for me.

    The unexpected benefit is that Primal means cooking tasty and interesting whole foods, which when raising a family, tends to be seen as a chore rather than a delight, as it is now.

  20. It is funny the changes that come from just one shift in your life. My husband and I started eating primal then we started watching where we bought everything. Now it has lead me to be the “Hippie” of the family, we don’t watch TV anymore, we don’t eat out but every once in a while. Even our financial goals have switched, our budget has been taken over by buying good foods, finding fun and interesting way to spend our time and both of us going back to school (sadly we both still work because we cant afford our new life without our day jobs).

    1. Walking by outside, sometimes I glance at people through their windows who are watching TV, and get an idea that they’re docilely receiving mental manipulation. I watch TV on occasion but am picky about it.

  21. This is a great relaxing, chill post. NOt sure why i’m qualifying it that way but that is the feeling I got from it. I think sometimes reading too much (forums especially) abuot primal gets your further away from it. WHen I started in November I devoured information. THen I was going to vacation in Feb so wanted to see if I could lose weight for that trip (even though I am perfectly healthy weight). Now I feel like i’ve calmed down a bit.

    I just feel like I get it now. And i can let go of asking questions and tune more into myself. THis post was a really nice wrap up for me.

    1. Melissa, I got that vibe from it too, which I thoroughly enjoyed (: I think I get what you’re saying – it’s easy to get caught up in the details of every morsel of food that goes in your mouth by reading too much (although that level of attention IS necessary for some people with health issues!), and this post reminds us all to just relax into the change.

  22. Malcolm Gladwell puts it best in his book, The Tipping Point. One small change in your lifestyle can alter the course of your life from negative to positive.

    1. I agree! My journey has been a number of small changes along the way to refine my health; week by week. My food choices were pretty good until I found paleo/primal, I just needed a few more tweaks to improve my health even further. The key changes for me have been the lifestyle changes; relax more, have fun, play! This has been the primal difference in my journey!

  23. I have read this post and scanned down through the comments. One thing that I really like about all posts is see on MDA is that they come with a dose of humility. Far too many lifestyle or nutrition sites are laden with judgemental and hurtful comments about what someone else is doing. It’s nice to come here and see such a positive supportive community that congratulates people on what works for them—even if it does not fit the approach of others. Keep up the good work folks!

  24. I no longer let chronic cardio rule my life. Therefore more time and energy for family relationships and better outlook about food and consumption.

  25. Mark, that was truly a great post. I am so happy to know that someone is making a positive impact on this world. I can feel your passion and commitment to what you do and I respect you for going for it.

  26. I’m sure others have shared this sentiment, but I think the biggest aspect of primal life for me has been how I feel emotionally after cutting the shit out of my diet. And now I’m really proud to rep my liver-loving, no shit, non-toxic life.

  27. Thanks Mark. It is nourishing to read this perspective on the lifestyle’s flexibility and adaptability. I personally feel that so many areas of my new lifestyle are finally aligning with my barefoot tendencies! Maybe there was a little Grok in me all along!

  28. Great post!

    Just because the majority does something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing. Follow your gut, question everything, don’t be afraid to buck the system.

  29. The healthiest, happiest, most at peace I have ever been. I find it funny that while others project their angst on me I don’t claim it. It is theirs and theirs alone. I almost laughed out loud when when my sister said I was more “high-strung” than usual. It was the first time that I realized that she equates high energy with high-strung.

  30. love this!

    it my not be a perfectly linear movement, but month to month, year to year, i get a little more primal and a little more happy.

  31. I have definitely shifted. I see things in such a different light. Many times I felt guilt for being so “blind”, especially as I raise my 3 almost grown daughters but I am learning to accept it as part of my journey. Share what I learn – but most importantly act as an example of a healthier, happier mom and to the fabulous friends and family I am blessed to share my life with.

  32. Mark I love your blog, it has been very helpful. My family and I recently made the transition to a more primal life style (baby dino steps for sure) We have 5 young children and we have found not only do we some how save money on food, but in the last 8 weeks we have seen some awesome changes – So much so my parents and Sister are both taking their families on the same adventure. (and it is an adventure to new parks, and farms and markets) Our Family is adapting well including our kids who are loving the extra family time (who ever thought you could get your three year old twins to peel carrots but they love to)

  33. Fantastic post today Mark! Thank you for this! My husband and I have always lived on the fringe in many respects, but going Primal over a year ago really elevated our perspective to a whole new level. I can’t thank you enough for that Mark. Beyond the radical diet shift. Beyond wearing minimalist shoes, creating stand-up desks and doing more slow consistent movement (all things we both do) it’s the mindset: it’s about truly caring about where our food comes from and how it came to us. Caring about the animals and land we depend on. This to me is how I know we have truly embraced this lifestyle.

  34. Interesting timing on this post. I am sitting here finishing lunch (big salad) at my last day of work after being laid off from my job. Top of mind since I found out is whether this is my opportunity to make a significant change in my life.

    I moved to my present city by myself(Vancouver BC)for this job nearly three years ago, away from extended family in Ontario but have not been loving it. I had been thinking lately that in a couple years I could start to consider semi-retirement if I moved back to Ontario where cost of living is lower. Maybe a small house in the country with a big vegie garden.

    I only just discovered MDA towards the end of 2012 and have been trying Primal out since the start of this year so I consider myself to still be in the experimental phase but so far so good.

    I am turning 50 in just over a month and now have a couple of months to decide if I stay at the grind for a few more years or take a bit of a risk and try something different. Lots to think about.

  35. This rings so true for me. No stranger to the outskirts of society (artist, underground music, underground dance, etc)…and still I find this to be very revolutionary at times when I see how others around me live and eat day to day. I try to find a voice in sharing it with others that is somewhat like Mark’s (encouraging, excited, factual and non-exclusive) so that I don’t get the eye-roll effect and hopefully get some people interested. This has absolutely changed my life in almost all of the ways mentioned above.

  36. I’ve been an outlier in differeent ways for a long time. Had a near-death experience at an early age that changed me completely. Basically woke me up and put me in the driver’s seat of my own life. Got a divorce, quit my job, moved, never looked back!

    The near-death part was due to pharmaceutical drugs and bad doctors. So I shed any notion I ever had that doctors and modern medicine were good, righteous and did no harm. Boy do they do harm – all the time.

    Fed my dog raw bones and meat and quickly saw how that one thing made people around me freaked out and horrified.

    It was a natural progression in my life to find the Primal Blueprint, MDA and all that comes with it. I was primed and ready to go further to peel off any remaining layers of BS in my life.

    PB essentially gave me an outline to put to my outlier-ness.

    Thanks for everything Mark and MDA community! I am blessed and feel happier and healthier than ever in my 53 years.

  37. I’ve never really commented here but I love this post.
    I’ve been primal and loving it for five months now. I’m doing almost 30lbs the steady and healthy way.
    After losing my daughter last July (she was stillborn) I knew I needed a change, as I was over 200lbs.
    The changes I see now are not just in what I eat, but my entire being, my life and trying to get my family and friends to come enjoy the benefits of it…it’s going to take a while to convince them, but I hope I can!

    1. liz, i am so sorry about your daughter. i just wanted to acknowledge your post.

      1. I am sorry for your loss, Liz. Please don’t think that you are in any way to blame.

  38. Modern medicine?
    I’am with’s a joke..powered by BIG PHARMA.
    Last summer I experienced some problems, and my primary sent to all kinds of specialists for all kinds of tests(I felt like a science experiment.)The cardiologist I went to got his diploma from Smith Glaxo. Never asked me what I ate, just gave me a list of all the “bad” stuff, avocados coconut oil….
    then put me on a statin. My triglycerides were a little high, 151.
    A little research showed anything below 150 is normal. Statins? I don’t think so.
    Needless to say, I am very suspicious of CW/medical industry. Don’t get me wrong, sometime you need medication, in my case, at 75 enlarged prostate, I need something for that.
    On the bright side, since going primal, I’ve lost 40 lb, and never felt better.
    Light exercise: I walk 1.38km, sprint the last 60 meters.

    1. My attitude toward modern medicine has also changed. Now I think that it’s great mainly for emergent problems – the ER is a fantastic place to be if you are in the worst pain of your life, or have broken your leg. It doesn’t seem to have good solutions for most chronic problems, which are often based in lifestyle or environment.

      1. Agreed. Modern medicine is the medicine of public health (vaccines) and war (surgery.) It excels in those two areas. Everything else is fair to middling (cancer) to awful/just plain crazy (“mysterious” diabetes/obesity/heart disease epidemic anyone?)

  39. This really clicked with me:

    “We suddenly realize the personal distance we’ve traversed.”

    I look at myself three years ago and I am so incredibly happy with the way I am now

  40. I can’t even list all the good things that have happened to me since going primal in August 2012. Maybe I should start a list for my future “Success Story.” 🙂 I started at zero and had nothing to lose – except excess weight, stress, prescription drugs, and depression. Now I’m down 80 lbs, quit my stressful job, cut back on pain meds, and found true happiness in life. Thank you for MDA for helping me get my life back!!!

  41. I had an article I posted a few months back about applying the snowball effect to health and fitness. Funny that it’s here now!!

  42. I embraced the primal blueprint, or at least thought I did in Oct/11. Emptied the fridge and cupboards. Got on board with the dietary plan, or at least thought I did right from the get go. Immediately began exercising based on all these new (old!) principles. My gosh it is hard to believe how two changes were like a launching pad for me. The past 17 months has delivered a continual cascade of positive benefits. I am 52 and feel absolutely amazing, physically, mentally, emotionally. I am so satisfied with this lifestyle. I never would have ever thought about herbs and spices the way I do now! I was a salt & pepper guy. Coconut oil, nuts, avocados, grass fed meat. Those sorts of things certainly were not on my radar screen prior to making a commitment to my health. Eating has never been so good. Vitamin D, vibrams, sprinting, a pull-up bar, interval training, long walks. Same thing with exercise, it has become a lot of fun especially knowing you’re in charge of your own health. Happiness, positivity, mental well being, emotional stability. It’s a sweet deal to be enjoying life. It’s pretty special considering it’s been diet and exercise that has fostered this. But also, all the changes that have and are constantly taking place between my ears is simply incredible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Mark.

    1. Rob, I could of wrote exactly what you just did right down to the nosehairs. Even started Oct./11. It’s amazing really. Only difference is that I have you by 4 years. Thank you Mark, indeed!

  43. When someone heaps scorn upon my primal lifestyle, I simply stalk them and kill them. Usually by lodging a donut in their airway.

  44. That’s it Mark! You hit the nail on the head. I have found the little changes are so much easier and has certainly led to big changes fo me in the last couple of years.
    Thanks for the encouragement!!

  45. As is the general story of my life I seem to have done it all back to front. I’ve always got a lot of flack since I was a teenager (I’m 37) for going against conventional wisdom and doing things my own way, generally the natural way that just felt right to me.
    It’s been an interesting journey in the last few years to see it become more accepted. Finding Primal Blueprint 18 months ago was one of the final links and a wonderful affirmation to discover others who also thought the same way.
    Finding a community where there are others that see through the messages of government and big corporations and have also thought about barefoot, good sleep, sun exposure, real food and natural movement etc as the keys to health and happiness is awesome. When people ask why I do what I do I send them here.

    Thank you Mark and all your team for spreading such an important message.

    1. In high school philosophy class, after I showed up with dirty scrapes on my legs from longboarding, one of the cutest girls in the class said, “You’re TOO hard!” One of the best compliments I ever got.

  46. Reading this post and the comments has been so uplifting! It’s made me take a look at my own journey too.

    This time last year I was so unhappy – it seems so long ago and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been now.

    Primal life hasn’t been the sole reason for this life change (I got married in December – yay!) – BUT after finally accepting that I would be obese for life, I came accross MDA after giving up sugar (my drug of choice) and it changed my life.

    Since then my world has been well and truly rocked by the paragign-shifting information on this site.

    I love that Mark questions everything, I love that it doesn’t add a subversive moral element to your food choices.

    I ate paella with my husband last night, OK that’s not ‘Primal’ but it contributes to my emotional well-being to share a dish that my husband adores. One meal isn’t going to de-rail my Primal commitment or my health and it actually helps prevent me from getting too up-tight (read stressed) about my food choices.

    I’ve always found moderation to be a difficult thing, but being mindfully flexible helps me to make better choices every day instead of sticking to a rigid plan and going completely off the rails when it gets too hard.

    My idea of ‘treats’ has changed beyond my wildest dreams too. How often to have them and what they should be, I watch my colleague eat 2-3 sugar laden ‘snacks’ every day at work (they’re low in fat through so that’s OK) – did I really used to wolf down the economy biscuits 3 or 4 at a time?

    I’ve lost 20% of my body weight (all fat) and feel great, but most of all I feel that my eyes are opened – I see the world for what it is, my values have been changed for the better.

    Thank you for everything Mark and here’s to seeing true value in the world around us.

  47. Awesome post – true story! Every little step that I have made in the last year has taken me further than I could ever imagine. January 2012 weighing in at 230 and so proud of myself for walking everyday. March 2012, weight: 165 and CrossFit 5 days a week. Primal Blueprint was the ember that started the fire…my life is so much better because of it!

  48. My idea of a “sweet treat” is a banana or a handful of grapes.
    Once a year, when we got to the shore (NJ)
    and the board walk , I’ll have a Kohr’s ice cream.

  49. Yes: I got more energetic and in the end more assertive. I left a bad relationship in an awful city and moved back to my beloved farm (I had been spending the academic year in said awful city). I got a better job–my dream job–and got more serious about growing more food at home. I started studying martial arts, a long-time aspiration. I started out just wanting to lose a little weight, and ended up turning into a much stronger, more autonomous, and assertive woman.

  50. i am 52 now and celiacs forced me to take a hard look at my diet. i discovered paleo and that, in turn, introduced me to mark sisson and his complete lifestyle approach. my whole life i have, at times questioned the counterintuitiveness of many of our life choices- the things we eat, the stuff we rub into our skin, the way we care for our babies, etc… thanks mark for doing all the work and putting into print for me. i’ve learned a lot of new things and neat tricks from mark too. i now have bug lights in the lamps i use for nighttime reading and yellow sunglasses for nighttime tv watching. i tun the shower over to “cold” for a few seconds before i shut it off. i sent my best friends daughter a moby wrap for her new baby (sure wish i knew about these as a young mother). i also make more effort to spend time with the family and friends who live nearby- my tribe.

  51. For me it was kind of like a linear progression, well I should say is a linear progression since I’m still adapting and evolving certain parts of my life. My journey first started off over a year ago when I decided to quit sugar, after that Paleo/Primal kind of just fell into my lap, I stumbled across the Whole9 website and from there onto others and of course here onto MDA, then I started reading and reading and listening to podcasts (still do this of course) and then I started buying different Paleo/Primal books and reading those and then I just jumped right in and quit the SAD foods etc.

    I started walking more, lifting heavier and reducing my chronic cardio. I started my own blog based on Paleo recipes and started to look at everything differently.

    Some things came naturally to me because I had been doing them long before this, like barefoot walking but most of it was a BIG transition… one that I haven’t for a second regretted taking.

    And now reading the Primal Connection… other parts of this lifestyle are coming together, not just the nutrition and fitness.

  52. Linkin Park, specifically, Mike Shinoda: “A blueprint is a gift and a curse, ’cause once you got a theory of how the thing works, everybody wants the next thing to be just like the first.”
    That lyric makes me think of posts by Mark that touch on “fringe” topics like negative ions and grounding, and spiritual experiences in nature, which can only be acknowledged by those who’ve had them.

  53. THe biggest shift was the end of diet, exercise and body image obsession in pursuit of good health and wellbeing.

    I now see my sexy body as a byproduct of a healthful lifestyle with the goal being energy and mental wellbeing.

  54. Great post and tropical salutes from Venezuela..been lurking in the shadows enjoying the site articles for over a year via Guy Kawasaki’s AlltopLifehack site…this post coincides with the launch of our back-to-basics classic style ecoadventures aimed at men stressed out by the modern ratrace lifestyle…thanks for inspiring us to make that final daring leap to do this.

  55. It’s true. I look at everything from the evolutionary perspective. When I was pregnant I was highly active knowing that cave women would never have the luxury of putting their feet up all the time. I can never dream of feeding my baby anything form a box. He is 5 months old and has never had anything but breast milk. These are just a couple of examples. But it changes everything for the good!

  56. Really great post.. the changes sneak up on you. LIfe is more relaxed now. It did start with food. Once I steered toward a primal diet, I didn’t need the chronic cardio to burn off all the carbs, and the guiit. I think I used my cardio habit as justificaton to eat whatever I craved. My “training plan” was like a second job. I’ver replaced a meticuloulsy programmed plan with daily, random, activities. No more alarm clocks to get to the gym by 6am. Better sleep, less caffeine. Less caffeine, more relaxed at work. More relaxed at work, less alcohol at night. Less alcohol, higher quality thinking, reading, exploring. Yes, one small change can have a massive impact. Thank you Mark.

  57. It just came natural to me to become more grok-like after the drastic diet change. After a month I began to do my workouts outside to enjoy the sun and the fresh air, going for a cold morning-swim, walk longer and more often than before…. Some people find my new life style weird and strange, especially the fact that I don’t eat carbs. But I look at them, ask them: don’t I look healthy and fit ( I lost 36 kilos in 4 months), and all do say YES. This lifestyle is right path for me – no doubt about that.

  58. This lifestyle has given me so much more than what I thought possible. I started in order to alleviate back pain and ended up being much healthier and happier. I truly feel as if the small changes I made in the beginning have created the momentum for the much larger changes I’ve incorporated. My kis are never sick nor are my wife and I and we have become closer as a result of less tv, internet and more play time. You get out of the plan what you put into the plan and we have gone all in.

  59. Hi everyone, I am actually going to go primal from tomorrow..I have decided and fingers crossed I hope to be fully committed to it.
    I live in London, UK. Does anyone know which would be a good grocery store to shop from cauliflower rice.. or things like that?

    1. I dont think anybody actually sells cauliflower rice. Make your own, it’s very easy 🙂

  60. Hi Mark! Love all the articles you have written, they’re really informative and applicable!

    I have been eating (about 90%) dice a month ago, and I jumped straight in because I was already eating a ‘clean diet’ and controlling carbs. The first 2 or so weeks were great, I incorporated IF with a split of about 14/8, had constant high energy levels and was slowing losing fat. I have been sprinting 1-2 times a week and lifting (currently using Stronglifts 5×5 method) 1-2 times a week. Last week, somehow my energy levels dropped and fat loss stalled/slowed down quite a lot.

    My diet consists mainly of veg, meat, nuts, fruit and occasionally some natural Greek yogurt. I also take whey protein (sweetened with stevia) about once every two days, but don’t rely on it for my protein. So far I have cut carbs to about 40g a day after my fat loss stalled. My stamina had been great, but I realize that it’s slowly dropping.

    I’m really at a loss now, could anyone give any advice? Thanks!! 🙂

  61. I retired 12 years ago after 25 stressful years of teaching middle school. In that time I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, suffered a heart attack, and had a double heart bypass. My doctor assured me that the carb rich diet he put me on over 15 years ago had nothing to do with any of this. I believed him until I started researching Primal/Paleo living. I informed him of my desires to try it. He told me, in very pointed language, he would refuse to treat me if I did. I told him he was fired. I have a new doctor now. I’ve been Primal for almost 5 months now. I’ve lost 33 pounds, my average blood sugar reading is 103 on HALF the diabetes medicine that I used to take, no statins, no blood pressure meds, and covering 10000 steps a day instead of 1500. This lifestyle works! It has proven itself to me, a retired 65 year old guy. I highly recommend it and Mark Sisson’s books to anyone feeling defeated and needing a change.