The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
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
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering 11 questions. I answer questions about nutrient deficiencies and tremors, breastfeeding on the 21-Day Primal Blueprint Challenge, cheating without apparent consequences, sun exposure without vitamin D, maintaining insulin sensitivity, going high protein, recovering from a labral tear, going 90/10 vs. 80/20, black beans vs. potatoes, why I chose to live in Malibu, and recovering minerals lost to glycogen depletion.
People frequently wax sentimental for what they call “simpler” days—presumably times when the rules were fewer and clearer, when choices weren’t so overwhelming, when demands were less and common sense was more prevalent. Eating, of course, is no exception to this. If you listen to the dominant voices in the social-media-marketing-medical culture, it’s enough to ruin your dinner and make you feel guilty for skipping breakfast (Don’t buy the guilt trip). We’re fed contradictory studies, warned of the latest threats lurking in our food supply, told every bite squashes the life out of another ecosystem, and led through fluorescent-lit warehouses filled with more food options and label claims than one person should ever be reasonably expected to handle. It’s exhausting, frustrating and on certain days defeating. So what’s a reasonable approach in an age when anxiety too often overtakes enjoyment of eating?
We’ve heard it a million times: “Eat a well-balanced diet with everything in moderation.” After all these decades of clear failure, it’s a hazy cliché still delivered by physicians, dietitians and nutritional “experts” with earnest assurance. The same goes for exercise and stress. Moderate amounts of stress are okay, moderate cardiovascular work is good, etc. We accept the concept of moderation so readily, I think, because it sounds so rational and simple. If we follow common sense, moderation suggests, we’ll be fine. But if it were that easy, most people would be healthy—and statistics on the rising rates of obesity and chronic illness tell us otherwise. So what’s the problem?
Most of us go Primal to solve problems created by Conventional Wisdom. The importance of whole grains and daily cardio, the dangers of dietary fat and animal protein, the primacy of carbohydrates for “energy,”—these untruths are promulgated so widely and fail so conclusively that you can’t help but look to the people saying the opposite for direction. That’s where we come in. Most of us go Primal to solve problems created by conventional dietary and lifestyle recommendations. Often these solutions involve doing the opposite of what the authorities are telling us. For the most part, it works.
Sometimes eschewing conventional advice goes too far, though. Sometimes we make serious blunders in our pursuit of Primal perfection.
Are we shortchanging ourselves by complete elimination of potentially allergenic or sensitizing foods like wheat, peanuts, or dairy? Do we become even more sensitive to “bad” foods by avoiding them entirely? This question stems from two things I recently encountered. The first was a recent rewatcing of The Princess Bride. The second was the recent peanut allergy study.
If you haven’t watched The Princess Bride yet, go do it (the book is also good) because a small spoiler is coming. The hero Wesley spikes the wine he and the villain Vizzini are sharing with iocane powder, a fictitious ultra-lethal poison that kills instantly. But because Wesley has spent the last several years ingesting incrementally-larger doses of the poison, he has complete resistance to its effects. Both men drink. Only Vizzini dies. What else can this apply to? I wondered.
Being a Primal lifer is nice. You get to pat the heads and tousle the hair of precious newbies who just learned the words “lectin” and “phytate” and can’t stop talking about it. Navigating your local farmer’s market is a breeze, and you’re such a regular that you can show up half an hour past closing and still get the choicest produce. But there are other benefits, too. Bits of wisdom that you glean over time, and that can only come from years of adherence. Today, I’m going to discuss the five biggest ones.
Newbies: don’t expect to use these as a guide for your own immediate existence. These aren’t necessarily suggestions. Much of what long term Primal adherents learn about their bodies and their lifestyles requires that they put in the time to learn the things directly. You can read about it, but don’t be dismayed if you’re unable able to implement or integrate them immediately.