Getting healthy. It’s an admirable, enviable endeavor, you think. In fact, it’s what you’ve wanted, maybe desperately, for a long time. And then you came across Primal. You’ve been convinced for a while now that it’s a good guideline for how to live—reading the blog, maybe trying a Primal-friendly meal now and then. You’ve even read a book (or cookbook)—or two. You have the knowledge. You have the interest. Maybe you even feel a fire lit under you by a recent diagnosis, an additional medication, or an added 10, 20, or 50 pounds. The next logical step would be to put a Primal plan into action, right? Take it on, make it happen. Change your life for the inconceivable better. But, for many of us, that’s where fear rushes in to gum up the whole process.
It isn’t that fear is an unnatural emotion. It’s one of the key primal instincts. What, after all, could be more steeped in clear evolutionary purpose? Fear is what’s enabled survival for eons. But no one is facing down a large-fanged predator here as they consider retooling their health. There’s no inter-band skirmishes to charge into, no earthquakes convulsing beneath one’s feet. There’s not even a precipitous cliff—at least not a literal one.
Regardless of the evidence, and all the positives to be gained, for some of us fear is still the loudest voice in the room. And it can immobilize us. It can keep us locked in a way of life and a condition of health in which we have no real interest in staying.
Sure, sometimes there are genuine logistical concerns that get in the way of pursuing our health goals. But when the legitimate considerations are covered to all reasonable extent, it’s time to look at the emotional phantoms straight on and put them in their place.
Many fears are the fears of endeavor—grounded in unsupported anxieties and false distinctions. These are the fears that we fumble to determine solutions for or simply ones that undermine our ability to be confident in our capabilities at all. Some tell us we’re somehow different than other people. Some raise specters of self-doubt, insecurity, or inadequacy. These are particularly slippery, and they’re often the fears people deal with when they envision taking on significant health and lifestyle change.
Let’s look at some of the most common fears that come into play when people of different bodies, ages and backgrounds move toward Primal-aligned health goals. And let me offer (and invite you to share your feedback on) some practical takeaways for overcoming situational fears as well as a few emotional insights for calling fear’s bluff.
“I feel like I’m too far along in life to make significant changes. What if I’m just too old or too steeped in chronic illness to make a real difference in my health?”
The body is a resilient organism, and it remains so into advanced age. And although more care is needed to shift or reverse interconnecting dysfunctions in the case of chronic illness, the body’s resiliency is nothing to be underestimated. I’ve knocked out 60 years and then some, and so have many others in this community. Even if you’re well past 60 or 70 and just starting major health change, know that the Primal Blueprint is as applicable to you as it is anyone else.
Research supports our ability to get into great shape and even be as fit as those decades younger than us. Yes, the body benefits from being in good health throughout life, but taking up an exercise program or shifting to a better diet in later years can still slow or reverse aging processes. The same can be said of mitigating or even reversing chronic illness. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Are you more inspired by personal accounts rather than research? Check out Faye’s success story. Even after a heart attack and years with diabetes, her choice to go Primal teaches what’s possible at 87-years-old.
“What if I can’t do this the way other people can? How can I live up to what other people in the Primal community do?”
You’d be surprised how often I hear this. It’s a case of comparison, which can at its best inspire us and at its worst can paralyze us.
Everyone is on their own path, and ours is intended to be entirely its own landscape.We come to the PB with unique histories, varying tastes, individual interests, and different emotional states. It pays to be patient with each of these and expect that they’ll all play a part in transitioning to a Primal way of living.
Because here’s what I’ve found. The people who take the mentality of undoing, of exchanging themselves for a “better” version, are the ones who ultimately struggle the most. On the other hand, those who move into the Primal Blueprint with a mindset of “intactness”—an assumption that who they are and what they enjoy will find a comfortable place in this lifestyle—tend to be much happier and more successful over the long term.
I promise you there are no Primal police that will be watching you. Everyone in this community does Primal their own way, and all of them I know have nothing but support and admiration for anyone looking to take up the lifestyle.
Read the stories and posts when they truly inspire, but give yourself space to grow into new practices. Focus on the beginner articles and forum threads for a while to let yourself be in the transition and feel encouraged there. This also applies if you’re a Primal veteran who’s hit some snags. It’s never a bad time to go back to the basics.
“I don’t know how I’ll be able to afford this way of eating.”
As significant and legitimate as this fear is, it’s thankfully one of the simpler anxieties to quash.
Let’s start with diet. There are the basics of primal eating, and then there are the ideals. The basics (e.g. low to moderate carb intake, ample protein and healthy fat intake) are what set the stage (supported by the non-dietary aspects) for a healthy metabolic profile and fat-burning default. The additional, “ideal” features of organic, pastured, grass-fed, etc. are preferred when possible. Few people can conform every day and definitely every meal to this standard. It’s never about perfection.
Over the decade this blog has been around, we’ve had many a post highlighting cost saving strategies for everything from low budget veggie ideas to cheap meat cuts. Likewise, we’ve talked sourcing with tips for hunting and gardening, purchasing direct for meat and produce shares, and most recently, benefiting from the bulk power of wholesale pricing and online retailers.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you in the direction of the MDA Forum as well. Let me tell you, I learn something there every day. This community will take up any question you have about shopping and living well.
“How will I explain my lifestyle to people outside the Primal community? What will people think of me?”
I don’t profess to have sway over all the people you’ll come across. Probably a fair number of people will at some point have a question or be thrown by your aberrant shoes, food, sleep schedule, or other Primal quirks. Some will participate in an annoying chorus akin to “You’ll shoot your eye out.” Others will be intractably and personally offended at your rejection of conventional practice. (These are generally people who have a hard time separating choice from righteousness.) The good thing in life (and one of the upsides of living in large communities these days) is you can ignore what the vast majority of people think of you because you won’t see them that often.
For the people you have to and want to see on a regular basis, understand that you’re under no obligation to explain yourself. Even if you feel following that will be hard, accept this truth and then decide if you want to respond to their questions or concerns. Viewing it through the lens of choice automatically lets you off the hook and opens up possibilities. Know, too, that you aren’t responsible for how others feel.
If you wish to say something about your decision to live and eat Primally, keep your explanation simple and personal. It’s an individual choice that makes you feel good and that has offered you benefits. Give yourself the freedom to not proselytize. Some people will be genuinely interested in hearing more and may want to try it themselves. In those situations, you can feel free to share your stories, but keep it simple and encouraging for those who are fearful or concerned. Finally, for the truly antagonistic, walk away when you can and set a clear “to each his/her own” boundary when you can’t. You answer to no one but yourself.
“Conventional wisdom seems so diametrically opposed to what the Primal Blueprint is all about. What if I make my health or weight issues worse?”
I understand this fear. I truly do. It feels risky to go out on that limb when you’ve heard contrary messages your whole life. If the health condition you’re in is already serious, it can feel scary to think about the prospect of making things worse.
I can give you every scrap of science here supporting the Primal method of taking charge of one’s metabolic health and greater well-being, but I have several books that would do a better job than a paragraph here. And in these cases, I think it’s more personal than taking my word for it or even science’s word for it. It’s a fear of losing control, of surrendering power over one’s health. Because in these circumstances, we already feel so disempowered.
More than anything else, I’d suggest you hold onto that self-authority. I’m not saying run back to CW. I’m saying try the Primal Blueprint for yourself on your own terms with full skepticism in play. Don’t come at the PB as truth. Come at it as a completely self-directed trial—a rational, strategic exercise in self-experimentation. That’s all. If you can even consider 21 days, that’s generally enough to give you a good view into what the PB can change for you when you approach it earnestly.
But chances are (because I’ve seen it thousands of times again and again) you’ll see changes, feel changes, and suddenly start believing in change again. Having tasted the initial benefits, you’ll want more, and more time with the lifestyle. Experimenting your way to how it works best for you long-term will bring you more of those shifts, more of the vitality you’d given up on, more of the life you thought wouldn’t be yours to live.
In this as in all cases, let fear inspire an attentiveness and deliberateness for the path in which you seek out the answers, the support and the experimentation that will let you truly claim this plan as your own. Because there’s inconceivable potential to come if you just keep going.
Thanks for reading, everyone. What fears have you faced when going Primal, and what advice do you have for others in dealing with those fears along their Primal path?
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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.