Meet Mark

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...

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March 28 2013

Why Health Integrity Matters, or The Power of Being Honest with Yourself

By Mark Sisson
152 Comments

Inner Peace

Once upon a hunter-gather time, people generally lived in accordance with what made them healthy. Before we put Grok and his clan on a idyllic pedestal, it’s important to note they had little choice. They otherwise weren’t likely to see the next chapter of the Paleolithic story. Even in the best of personal circumstances and choices, many succumbed to all manner of prehistorical threats. Still, in terms of lifestyle, the health imperative was there. They had to move. They had to eat real food. They lived and slept generally speaking by the cycle of their circadian rhythms. They got sun. They socialized. There just wasn’t reason to question any of it because few if any alternatives existed: next band, same options.

Today we have infinite possibilities, and we suffer as well as benefit a great deal for it. We have the option of sitting on the couch all weekend watching a Game of Thrones marathon. We have the potential to eat at McDonald’s for thirty days straight. We can buy a pack of cigarettes despite the fact we’re hooked up to an oxygen tank. We can have our doctor up our insulin dosage and buy a large Slurpee or a Krispy Kreme on the way home. We can stress ourselves to our last, pathetic nerve (and adrenal exhaustion) by living on too much work, too little sleep, too much worry, and too many stimulants. We have the choice – and that’s exactly what it is: a choice. Whatever our past, whatever our present condition, however, we are always free to make a different next choice.

We can talk physiology until we’re blue in the face. We can read and learn what’s really healthy until we could fill a book or a blog ourselves. We can have a kitchen full of healthy cookbooks. We can listen to our doctors’ most enlightened (shout out to Primal Docs!), encouraging words. In the end, however, it doesn’t come down to know-how or how-tos. It’s about how willing we are to accept personal responsibility for our health.

Responsibility. It’s a hard and, for some, harsh word. In a culture that glorifies rampant immaturity and immediate gratification, the concept can seem like a major buzz kill. When it comes to health, I think the association is especially true. It’s okay to work out, for example, but no one wants to be seen taking it too seriously. Even major athletes joke about the junk they eat and rake in the bucks starring in fast food ads. It’s okay to shell out for grass-fed beef, but the minute you turn down dessert, you’re a killjoy who’s trying to make other people feel bad.

Sure, the massive health problems in our country are in part fueled by false medical messaging that leads well-intentioned people down the wrong roads in search of health. Much of it, however, can simply be attributed to an unwillingness to buck up, take responsibility choice by choice, and live with health integrity. By health integrity, I mean an honesty to one’s self, a commitment that begins and ends with one’s self, an inner compass that has nothing to do with the outside world.

To cultivate that kind of health integrity, we have to acknowledge that everything counts. There are no games, no hiding, no pretending, no excuses. That doesn’t mean people with health integrity don’t eat a dessert sometimes, but there’s no emotional ruse or hand-wringing to it. You own it – for all the good and bad. You don’t blame outside pressures or people. You don’t deal in regret.

Part of the problem is a misplaced fascination with the transgressive. Somehow cheating ourselves is the ultimate gratification. We mistake indulgence for decadence, discipline for deprivation. Healthy behaviors are assigned the boring, white-hat, “moral” role in our culture. Being healthy is about hard work and asceticism. Choosing health is about saying “no.” At least that’s the message we get. On the other side of the spectrum is the Mountain Dew adventure and Doritos-inspired hilarity that could fill our days – if we were only so bold and rebellious.

You live with health integrity when you truly own your journey, when you realize it’s yours and yours alone. You stop living the old blame game and buying into the false dichotomies, the pedantic guilt trips, the bullsh** marketing messages, the cultural labels, the past-imposed limitations and identities. There’s a real freedom in that decision. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the beginning of your journey with a hundred pounds to lose and a collection of lifestyle conditions to beat or if you’re at your ideal weight and healthy but want to know what it is to thrive in new ways. It’s your journey, and from here on out, you get to define it. You don’t make the rules of physiology, but you do get to design the vision you will live out each day.

In that way, living with health integrity suggests a level of authenticity and self-determination. Once you accept (not the cerebral, oh-it’s-good-for-me kind of logical acknowledgement but the gut-level, psychically moving, surrendering to, kind of assimilation) your journey as your own, you take pride in your health. Cultivating a sense of well-being opens up your life rather than restricts it. It’s not about self-restraint but self-possession. The more you practice and hone it, the more you come into yourself. Discipline encourages creativity rather than resentment. It’s less about control than composure in the face of daily challenges.

Likewise, as much as health integrity calls us to live from a personal center, it doesn’t make us self-centered. When we’re good with ourselves, when we have genuine self-respect, we can live in relationships more authentically and productively with others. No longer an enabler to ourselves, we can offer honest and meaningful help to others. Again and again, I hear readers say how much they appreciate the sense of genuine community they feel here, and it’s one of the main reasons I’ve made this my primary vocation. I love to see how people, when empowered themselves, contribute to the empowerment of others. It brings our intention and success full circle, and we can appreciate them all the more in doing so.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. Let me know what you think, and have a great weekend ahead.

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152 thoughts on “Why Health Integrity Matters, or The Power of Being Honest with Yourself”

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  1. ” It’s not about self-restraint but self-possession. ”

    Yes!

    Good blog post and thought for the day! Thanks. 🙂

    1. That jumped out for me, too! A huge corner to turn in enjoying life.

      1. Agree. Agree. Agree. Brilliant post.
        “Don’t blame outside influences and people” also resonated loudly with me. When people ask me for advice about getting healthy, other people and external stuff is often their biggest hurdle to turning their health around.

        Food for thought.
        Happy Primal Easter to the MDA community. I’ve made a batch of chocolate macadamia bark to keep me away from the Easter eggs. Yum!

    2. One of the best MDA posts I’ve ever read. I’m always trying to communicate to people that if you’re fighting against your desires via “willpower” well, YOU”RE DOING IT WRONG!

      Fighting against anything is to harness negativity in an effort to achieve a positive goal, and is thus an incoherent strategy. What I do instead is to reprogram my desires toward the long-term outcome I desire, not toward the short-term ones that serve to distract.

      As always, it comes down to education, and as well noted here, self-responsibility (NOT self “control”).

    3. This is easily my favorite MDA post. I am certain that I am not the only reader who “went through the motions” for many years, labeling food as forbidden, always having a devil and an angel on my shoulders. Last month a switch inside me changed where I really internalized the lifestyle. Although I have felt the difference, I haven’t been able to put the change into words until today: “it’s not about self-restraint but self-possession.”

      I believe I am borrowing part of these words from Dr. William Davis, but until the day you are unresponsive in a hospital bed connected to a feeding tube, you, and only you, are responsible for the food that enters your body.

    4. I agree, one of the best MDA posts I have ever read and I’ve been following the PB for many years.
      Loved the Game Of Thrones mention, I’m currently obsessed with those books. Love Tyrion!
      “It’s not about self-restraint but self- possession” sums up exactly how I feel about my food choices. I’ve been eating this way for 20 years, I’m currently 45, and have had my share of negative comments. I remember my mother in law saying “what is there left to eat?” when I said I don’t eat bread. Haha, if only they knew how delicious primal food is.
      Thanks Mark, LOVE this site and the community.
      Kiwi grokette

  2. Mark, You always seem to have the exact message my mind needs, exactly when it needs it. Thank you!

    1. Same here. Thanks, Mark, for putting this into words. I’ve had these same half-formed thoughts spinning around between my head and gut for a looong time.

    2. I am always floored by this same feeling. I just started my 2nd Whole30 yesterday because I felt that I needed to get back into control after slacking on some behaviors that were/are very important to me.

  3. I find personal responsibility lacking in all facets of life today and it certainly is taking it’s toll and degenerating us as individuals and as a society. That is something that should be instilled in all of us at a very early age. Maybe then we would also know enough to value personal rights.

    1. Yes, I think we live in a time where we hear a lot about victimization. “It’s there fault I’m miserable” “It’s there fault I hate my job”…ad infinitum. As soon as we stop blaming others, we can finally get on with it.

      1. Nocona —

        My thoughts exactly. I dunno if this is actually more common today compared to other eras in human history – but I think that the victim mindset “life is happening to me and I can’t control it” is one of the worst, most damaging beliefs to have. And it is a belief, after all. I have far too many family members that have been “stuck” for their entire earthly existence, just because of that single pesky belief that “life is out of my control.”

        Poor folks. Image if they were raised instead to believe that they could change anything they wanted in their life?

        1. I mostly agree with avoiding the “victimization” mentality. I have close family members who can’t get off it. Of course we are sometimes victims and negative events can happen in our life that we cannot do anything about, sometimes whole situations which we are stuck. What i find is that being a victim can become addictive.

          My mother per example immediately in any situation tries to portray what is happening as she being the victim and will never first look at her self and what could have been done differently, etc.

          This is a great post, really liked it, and came at a good time. I sometimes too am tempted by making myself victim even if its from my own mind! lol

    2. I was going to say the same thing. I think it largely has to do with how large our “societies” have become. Instead of living with 30-60 people in a community, we know live with 3 to 6 million people in a single community. There’s little to no personal responsibility since humans are so out of touch with one another’s needs. Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal did a wonderful breakdown of this a couple months ago by discussing in detail the human’s need for a anarchical society.

    3. I don’t know Groktimus, I can’t imagine that the “worried whiners” are a new personality type for modern times. I’ll bet that all of us have the ability to be victims and all of us have the ability to be responsible. Different days, different deeds. I am only guessing, but I think we were probably about the same way 50,000 years ago.

  4. AMAZING post. So many people need to read this, whether they ‘buy into’ primal/paleo or not.

    Thank you, Mark, for putting it together so succinctly!

  5. Great article. Btw you new ‘mobile site’ is incredibly frustrating. As someone that goes on your blog daily I would love access to the MDA search. Search is easy on the full site and needs to be just as easy on the mobile site. Can you help a brother out?

    1. Will, there is a search bar at the bottom of the page on the mobile site. I did notice that search results aren’t displaying perfectly. We’re working to fix that. But you do have the ability to search. Hope that helps. I’m all ears if you have any other requests or complaints. Thanks!

  6. Really enjoy these slightly deeper, thought provoking posts. It’s this kind of read that really provokes deep change within people.

    1. Totally agree. Another amazing post. Demonstrating yet again that being primal is not just about diet, not just about food, but a way of living. Thanks Mark! 🙂

  7. Bravo Mark -what a beautiful post!

    “You own it – for all the good and bad. You don’t blame outside pressures or people. You don’t deal in regret.”

    I’ve been doing my best to live this way for years – in every area except my health. Now thanks to MDA I’m putting the final piece of the puzzle in place!

    Feeling soooo good right now!!

  8. I’ve made a conscious choice to be a part of the MDA community. People tell me, “I wish I had a gluten allergy like you. That would give me an excuse to get healthy.” Really? I could have made the choice to follow modern medicine so big Big Pharma could provide me with several pills to deal with my symptoms. I started down that path, but I realized it was only going to lead towards disaster. I set out to find something else to solve the “real problem”. Fortunately, I found MDA and my journey continues to evolve each day. We all have a choice, and fortunately, we always have the option to choose a different path. Thanks to Mark and the entire community for all that you do.

  9. This post is so full of genius nuggets!

    We mistake indulgence for decadence, discipline for deprivation.

    It’s not about self-restraint but self-possession.

    Likewise, as much as health integrity calls us to live from a personal center, it doesn’t make us self-centered.

    Amazing. Lately I’ve been feeling BITTER, seriously, actually, bitter about how time consuming eating the paleo way is. It’s so ridiculous! I am making a choice to live a better life. The pity party stops now – this post was an excellent kick in the pants to do so! 🙂

    1. The direct antidote to bitterness is gratitude. The two feelings cannot co-exist. Every time I start to feel bitter, I remember that I’m lucky enough to be able to afford paleo food. I’m lucky to understand the science (the real stuff presented here). I’m lucky to have the self confidence to pursue my own path. One I start counting the blessings, they seem to multiply all on their own.

    2. Paleo eating is time consuming? You must be doing it wrong – its the simplest, cheapest and fast way for me.

      The time consuming bit is getting up to speed with important information (details) that we have not been taught over a entire lifetime and unlearning all the wrong stuff from family, peers, doctors, dietitians, ‘health experts’, the media.

      For me to have better understanding of cholesterol than my doctor and the clinical nurse only took a few evenings of reading – now they struggle to keep up in a technical conversation about it with ( they change subjects quick). My knowledge avoided statins for a slightly ‘elevated’ Total cholesterol ( most of which was due to very high HDL – and trigs are very low too).

      Being sick and or in hospital is time consuming and depressing, so is visiting these type of people.

  10. Mark,

    I really loved this post! “It’s your journey and from here on out you get to define it”. Love that. I always think “it’s my path I get to walk it”

    We do have so many options and things we can do at our fingertips. I personally enjoy what i do so much more when I feel good. And eating primal allows me to feel good and have the energy to do those things!
    Mark it’s 838 and you got me pumped up, digging your thoughts today!

  11. I get so tired of all the spin that goes on these days, with everyone always looking for excuses, always needing a “crutch”, and always blaming some outside factor instead of assuming some personal responsibility. Thanks, Mark, for telling it like it is.

  12. I think this was written just for me today. I have been dabbling in primal for over a year, but am realizing I need to truly commit and truly own my health.

    My sweet 7yr old dog was just diagnosed with lymphoma, and in looking for a cause, I keep going to her kibble. Would her health be better if I fed her the way her evolution intended? What am I doing to myself by not eating the way I know I should?

    I believe food is our first and most important medicine. It’s time I lived what I believe!

    1. Here in Aust there is a great product called BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) pet food. Produced by a local vet, it is paleo for dogs & cats! Check it out here – http://www.barfaustralia.com – there is lots of information on the benefits of these diets.

    2. Hey Recommitted, nothing forces change like “owned” guilt. After having my 16-year-old dog put down because of medical conditions related to having bad teeth, my “coulda shoulda woulda” turned into a resolve like I’ve never felt before. My two current dogs benefit from this resolve – best raw food diet, (Primal!) exercise two or three times a day, regular health maintenance, including teeth cleaning, exchanges of love every minute of the day.

      Once I realized the source of this resolve (my guilt over the previous experience) I realized it applies to my own life. That’s when I sought out something better, which turned out to be MDA.

      So now, my ex-trigger foods – pizza, any yummy bread product, pasta – are now just memories without any power over me. It’s easy to be strong when you own the guilt and internalize the resolve it creates.

      Just wondering…if it’s this strong, just over a dog, how strong can it be over your own children?

      1. Brad,
        Sorry about your pup. 🙁 I know your other 2 dogs are happy, happy!

        Totally agree with the owned guilt. It is a powerful motivator. All I can do is move forward and do better now that I know better.

        As far as kids go, there’s that element of free will that isn’t so present in our pets. It’s not as easy to control everything that goes in their mouths, but I can control what I bring in the house. Mine are 16 and 12. I would love to rewind, knowing what I do now. But, it is what it is. I have gradually phased out things I used to buy all the time. I don’t buy sodas anymore, I don’t serve grains at dinner, etc.

        I think the best thing I can do is live the example and talk about what I’m doing and why. The quote, “Let thy medicine be thy food and Let they food be thy medicine” hangs on our pantry door. Hopefully this will encourage them (and me) to think about how what we put in our mouths serves our bodies.

        The husband, now that’s a different story. He has very little interest in nutrition and loves all the processed food he grew up on. Dinty Moore stew, yuck!

        Would love to hear anyone else’s experience with older kids.

      2. As a mother of two (3 & 5), I can tell you that the feeling is extremely strong. My kids and I have been primal for almost a year now and I cringe every time I see parents shoving nothing but sugar into their children’s mouths and they seem to think nothing of it.

        If I do say something about it when the subject comes up I always get the same ridiculous reply: everything in moderation. I then ask if they allow their children to smoke and drink once in a while too. They look at me as if I’m insane and say “of course not, that’s not even the same thing!”.

        I don’t bother trying to explain anymore. I write down a few websites – Mark’s being number one on the list – and give it to whoever I’ve just had the same brickwall conversation with and figure if they actually take the time to go to the sites then I’ve done what I can.

  13. “. . .it doesn’t come down to know-how or how-tos. It’s about how willing we are to accept personal responsibility for our health.”

    Great post! When we are doing everything “right” and not getting the results we want (good health), we cannot afford to abdicate our responsibility and leave it to big agri/big pharm or doctors that aren’t finding the answers we need.

  14. Thanks so much for posting this! I have begun reading books on how we are really set up to fail by all the over processed, genetically modified crap that our society offers us. Taking care of your health is something that is important and POSSIBLE, but it is difficult given the bologne we are fed by our own government and health officials. Kudos to your speaking out!

    1. I don’t think you read the same article I read. 😉 Prolonged focus on how society sets you up to fail is externalizing, not internalizing responsibility for food choices.

      You don’t need a PhD mirad of ways “the man” is working against you. You only need to take action to make your little world the sanctuary against the storm.

  15. I’ve been a follower of MDA since Jan. 2011, when I found I was gluten-sensitive, (after more than 2 years of headaches that completely leveled me), and this post is the best I’ve read yet! It really comes down to this idea of personal responsibility for one’s own life, and it’s not such a popular idea these days. When I finally realized that I had a choice to make every time I put something in my mouth, it changed the whole landscape. My family doesn’t get it, my old friends don’t get it, but a few people that I choose to surround myself with do, and we support each other in our lifestyle choices. Thank you so much for keeping the primal community informed and today – enlightened!

  16. I have to agree with some other folks here, Mark. This is your absolutely best post yet. I will be printing this one out for others to read!!

    1. +1 now off to walk the dogs in our lovely sunny autumn morning. Thanks Mark and all the wonderful people that makes this community special 🙂

  17. Excellent post !! Boy do I take a lot of crap from people about what I eat (or don’t eat). One of my coworkers told me about how a couple of Fridays ago when I was out of the office, a tray of pastries appeared in the kitchen with a big note on it that read : “Go ahead, Tammy’s not here”. All I can say is they can do whatever they want to themselves, just let me do what I want. I will admit that I am a little tired of hearing about everyone’s ailments on a regular basis when they aren’t even willing to take responsibility for themselves and do something about it.

    1. That’s the toughie, Tammy.

      I also avoid sweets like the plague, and instead of people saying “Wow, you’re right, good on ya for having those great habits,” the hostility comes out.

      “Ooooh, mr perfect over here. Live a little! Live while you’re young! You’re not supposed to care until you’re older.”

      Why, so I can get fat like you? 😀

      1. It’s helped me a lot to understand that the ones that react this way are generally in denial about their diet/lifestyle (known or not) and are emotionally compelled to bring others down in an effort to feel better about their own shortcomings. Realizing this and knowing that the reaction is not a true representation of our relationship has enabled me to keep friends or family close enough that some have started to make healthy life changes.

    2. This makes me want to go back to yesterday’s post about the books and suggest one called “What Part of ‘No Thank You’ Don’t You Understand?” I’ve been passing up sugar and flour for a couple of decades and it does drive some people nuts to the point of this sort of passive aggressive to bullying behavior. Whatever. I can fit into my pants and I’m not thinking about the other half of the donut when I should be thinking about work.

    3. I agree, I really struggle with co workers always calling in sick, or being so tired because they cannot sleep (yet eat junk food and sugary pop in the evening!!)

      I like what has been said here and will work towards being grateful I am healthy and not bitter that they are away so often!!

      Thanks everyone for the wonderful insight!

  18. Excellent message. I wish there was a way to get everyone in society to listen. It would change the world. Maybe the 14 new books will make a significant difference. I hope so.

    1. The books don’t need to change the entire world. Paleo has already changed your world. And the books will change the world of the people who go looking. It’s enough. 🙂

      1. Good perspective Amy. One of Mark’s nicest attributes is that he is mellow. He isn’t trying to rule the world, just share his knowledge and start a good discussion. He does lead by example as his photos attest, but he welcomes all of us to the “table.”

      2. Sorry, I don’t agree. I point to Death by Food Pyramid and The Primal Prescription particularly. Those books look like they will slam incredibly dangerous, fraudulent aspects of out society that are destroying not only our country but the world.

        It is not enough for Primal to be an esoteric sect of people who feeling happy. Yeah, I welcome post like the current one that promote personal healing. But that isn’t enough for me and apparently not for Mark either.

        1. Harry – I’m not suggesting letting go of the “mission” or the passion. I’m suggesting letting go of the results. The worst punishment the Greeks could think of was to put the worries of the world on one person’s shoulders. I’m not sure why you take that on yourself.

          Humanity has been a crazy screwed up lot for a long time. The smart money says we can improve, but one person, organization or idea will not create perfection.

          That’s why I’m saying “it’s enough” – because it *is* enough to have left the world just a little better than you found it, whatever that looks like.

  19. Marc, it is easy for you. If someone posts a picture of you eating a sandwich, you are financially ruined. That is motivation. (Just kidding.)

    “Healthy behaviors are assigned the boring, white-hat, “moral” role in our culture. Being healthy is about hard work and asceticism. Choosing health is about saying “no.” At least that’s the message we get.”

    I goes a bit against the message of this post, but I still wonder where this meme comes from. Is this mesage innate to humans as social beings or is this marketing?

    1. It comes straight from our Puritan religious roots as a nation/society. I HATE it when people moralize health choices. Just because I choose a certain lifestyle that is right for my personal health and well being, doesn’t make me any better than the fellow sitting next to me that’s eating a donut and a giant, sugared coffee. We’re both human; we both deserve respect, our individual rights (including the right to decide our own health priorities), and love. Moralizing health choices is what often keeps people from exploring their own health and well-being. It creates a lot of mental anguish for too many people.

  20. Just last night I realized that no matter what other people want to do, I only get one life and I want it to be as healthy and amazing as possible. I’m off to hike in the mountains today. Thanks for a great morning message to get me started.

  21. My favorite quotable is
    “Healthy behaviors are assigned the boring, white-hat, ‘moral’ role in our culture…. On the other side of the spectrum is the Mountain Dew adventure and Doritos-inspired hilarity that could fill our days – if we were only so bold and rebellious.”

    Being bad is the new good. After all, it’s only wrong if we get caught. And if we get caught, it’s somebody else’s fault and somebody else’s job to fix it. But like Mark said, we must be responsible for ourselves and actively choose life-creating behaviors over death-creating behaviors. I think that holds true in every area of our lives.

    Grok on!!

  22. best line:

    “Mountain Dew and Doritos infused hilarity”

    Loved it!

  23. I can’t do this; I blame everyone and everything for the state of my health. I make excuses for why I am 60 odd lbs over weight and why I put 6 cream eggs in my mouth today. ‘Ihave a cold. I have my kids friends over and need something to get me through’. I know I do this, but I find it hard to stop. Do I care about my health? I guess the answer is no.

    1. You do care, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.

      Your bad habits took years to learn — accept that it may take years to unlearn them. Pick just 1 bad habit and focus, focus, focus for a month. Savor the small victories.

    2. Hey Jane,

      Is it “I can’t do this”? Or “I don’t know how to do this”?

      One is permanent, the other temporary, fixable. So if you blame everyone else, how do you feel? Powerless?

      You know how to say no, you’ve said it to us, and blamed yourself for not looking after your health.

      How about you stop blaming yourself, forgive yourself instead. Now you are worthy of your own care. Now that you’re forgiven, try, “I don’t know how to on a daily level, look after my health?”, and then you can start making choices from there.

      Maybe say no to the kids’ friends when you have a cold. Maybe don’t buy the cream eggs, buy real eggs instead. Maybe look into what you can eat and do to improve your health. You’re in the right place, now, read the post again. Once you take your own power you can do anything.

      1. Yes, don’t beat yourself up. It’s a journey, make one choice at a time, with time the healthy choices will become second nature.

        1. as Mark said “…we are always free to make a different next choice.”
          This one’s going up on my inspiration board.

    3. +1 to Amy said – of course you care Jane, you’re just fighting an uphill battle sometimes.

      Kickin’ the sweets habit is tough – it functions a lot like a drug addiction and affects similar receptors in the brain.

      There’s a really good book on the topic called “The end of over eating.” Check it out! I hope it helps —

      Best,
      Alexander

  24. Thank you very much for this well written post. You have perfectly explained how I feel about personal responsibility. I hope and pray that more people come across this, because this principle can be applied to all things we do. Funny that this is the way people used to be .. how can we have changed so much from our grandparents time?

  25. As someone with a rare health condition, I learned that if I didn’t own my health, nobody else would. I have to educate my doctors about what my condition means, and I have to be in touch with how I’m feeling and what’s going on with me, because nobody else will know, and it could mean serious bad stuff (like stroke) if I don’t take responsibility for it.

    Well written article! Wonderful comments about responsibility and integrity!

  26. “…an honesty to one’s self, a commitment that begins and ends with one’s self, an inner compass that has nothing to do with the outside world.”

    Very true and inspirational statement – we need to focus on ourselves amend not get caught up in what other people think.

  27. Totally on board, except for the Game of Thrones quip!

    What’s more primal than spear hunting wild boar? Not to mention that the books are full of pretty awesome descriptions of meals with everything from roast goat to snails to “Buttered pease, chopped nuts, and slivers of swan poached in a sauce of saffron and peaches.” All good stuff.

    1. Pierce, did you know that there is at least one Game of Thrones cookbook?

  28. Fantastic post! This is exactly what I feel when someone asks me “how can you not eat sugar??” because I respect my body, that’s why!

  29. I love this post! I started eating paleo-ish about 10 months ago and have been gradually getting more and more strict. When Fat Tuesday rolled around I loaded up on the sugar (which left me feeling like sh** by the way) and decided to go 100% paleo for lent. Here’s what I’ve learned:

    1) I don’t want that cookie. I want the idea of that cookie. As Mark pointed out, our society portrays indulgence as glamorous and we’re encouraged to say “I’ve earned that cookie” or “I deserve that cookie” when the fact of the matter is that I don’t even really want it. Moreover, I “deserve” to make better choices for myself.

    2) There’s always a “special occasion” and, even then, it’s possible to say no. Just in the six weeks that lent lasts there’s been Valentine’s day, St. Patrick’s day, and my brother’s birthday, all of which would normally be excuses to “let loose” and celebrate with candy, beer, and/or cake. Once you realize that there’s always a “special occasion” you stop using them as excuses to do harm to your body.

    3) I’ve learned to stop and listen to my body. I got a raging headache a few weeks back and, rather than pop the pills, I decided to investigate. It turned out I was craving something crunchy. Non-paleo me would have gone straight for the potatoe chips. Instead I had a carrot and an apple with my dinner and the headache vanished!

    4) With Easter just three days away, my brother has been asking me what non-paleo food I’m looking forward to most. I have yet to come up with an answer for him …

    1. I finally gave up wheat for Lent. When I first started reading here I was able to cut back on bread and cereal but the thought of giving it up just seemed too ridiculous. But with Ash Wednesday to Easter being a defined/short time I thought I’d give it a try. It worked for me. We even had a long vacation to Mexico and I managed to stay on track. I am longing for some good bread on Easter but I am not going to blow it and put bread back into my diet full time. It was less painful than I thought it would be. Next up is sugar.

    2. For me it’s my husbands cinnamon French toast loaded with butter and a little maple syrup and a champagne/grapefruit mimosa! I too have been fairly strict for lent, but I’m going to thoroughly enjoy these 2 treats on Sunday then continue my primal journey.

    3. Your #2 is spot on! I cut out alcohol in February and the world continued to rotate when I didn’t have a drink during the Super Bowl. It’s remarkable, I know. Even more shocking: I noticed that people are actually what make special occasions special. Great comment overall.

      Please think of me on Easter. Ham. You are looking forward to ham. We are hosting just two guests and are focused on egg decorating v. food. Yes, we have quite the array of appetizers planned (and I will go out and get some bread for the guests) but I highly recommend having an activity! Also ham. (Was also thinking of push up contest but going with the egg crafts. Is glitter glue paleo? IDK.).

      BTW, I baked eggs for the first time yesterday and this was a genius move.

      Good luck, I’m drinking again until my team loses in the NCAA tourney just in case anyone thinks I’m really all that holy ;). But no nachos!

  30. A little something I learned from prior frugal living community hangouts is this: Deprivation–you aren’t deprived until you know you’re missing something.

    I ain’t missin’ a thing (well, maybe some excess weight, and some gray hair).

  31. I have been primal for the last two years and read MDA every day. This is the first time I have been compelled to comment. I work in a small community hospital emergency department and see the effects of the SAD daily. I have to bite my tongue when patients who, after a lifetime of poor choices, want to be “fixed” with a pill. We give them the pill and a pre-packaged turkey and cheese white bread sandwich with a cup of soda. Diet, if they are diabetic! Sad,but true. This is the state of “health care”. Thank-you Mark for being a part of my life and sharing your insights with the world. It’s all about personal responsibility, absolutely.

    1. Lol! Some of my most nutritionally disasterous meals have been in the hospital when I was sick. The worst one was a breakfast of chocolate cocoa puffs with chocolate milk, a donut and a roll with margarine and/or jelly — this after all I had been allowed to have the day before was a cup of soup and jello!

  32. Mark,
    I continue to be impressed with your worldly view, and your sense of the big picture. Prior to going primal I thought I had that kind of sense, but it seems I still have a lot to learn. This article, once again, helped a lot in that journey. My only frustration is that I find few people outside this website, and in my world, that I can share my primal excitement with. I just watch from my healthy/happy/content/energetic/and never hungry vewpoint, share bits of my excitement when I have the opportunity, and try not to let the fact that they all keep expanding horizontally bother me. One very good thing is the fact that my wife has shared the transition to primal with me, so I can share my excitement with her.

  33. Great post! I was actually just telling my husband yesterday that it’s sad that I don’t really “get” it when it comes to making good decisions. For example, I know soda is bad for me. It’s rotting my teeth out, it’s preventing me from getting the full benefits of my workout, among other things. But I cannot stop myself from drinking it every day. It feels like a legitimate addiction. But at the end of the day, I know it is about responsibility and really understanding my daily food and health choices. This post was very inspiring in that aspect.

  34. What a beautiful and inspiring post, Mark ! Integrity, following one’s inner compass, not looking for excuses, these are concepts I can relate to. There is no freedom without discipline. And if sometimes you err, you don’t blame others, wallow in guilt or indulge in self-pity. Most important of all, you don’t give up. You take responsibility for your mistakes, dust yourself off and get back on your chosen path. This goes way beyond Primal. Thank you for this wisdom.

  35. Great post, Matk. This gives me a lot to think about. I call myself “paleo”, but I go for the cookies and cupcakes more often than most SAD prescribers. I use the 80/20 rule as an excuse and stretch it for all it’s worth. Truth be told, I’m much happier and healthier when I avoid the bad stuff completely. Then I’m bombarded with well-intended advice of the everything-in-moderation or you-need-treats-once-in-a-while variety. Is it more responsible to admit you can’t handle it and avoid bad habits, or to always fight with willpower so you look “normal”? It’s almost a bad thing to be “too healthy”.

    1. Emily –

      I too used to allow “cheat days.” As a previous reader noted, there will always be a special occasion or need for a “reward meal.” Dr. Taubes had a line that hit home with me in his book “Why We Get Fat”: “allowing some carbohydrates into the diet for some individuals may be like allowing ex-smokers a few cigarettes or reformed alcoholics the occasional drink. Some may be able to deal with it; some may find it is a slippery slope.” Personally, I can’t deal with it . . .

    2. The real question is: why do you need others to think of your diet as “normal” (and what does that mean, anyway?)

  36. Mark’s Daily Apple is the only blog I follow now. No need to follow anybody else once you have found the BEST. High iq and high eq… Mark always has it right. Thanks Mark!

  37. So many would like to be told what to do, then resent it to some extent when they are. I thought about this subject a couple weeks ago. It’s easy when your a kid (under 18) and your parents say. “Okay it’s 11, time to get off the computer and go to bed!” And you’re like. “Awwww man, okay…” but when you’re an adult it’s much harder to set boundaries on yourself, time limits, the gumption to get up off your butt and do things.

    The same is true for Primal eating, I’ve found myself second guessing too; “I feel great, but man it’s costing us. My son won’t eat what I make, maybe we should just go back to pasta several times a week. It’s cheaper and everyone eats it.” I don’t miss the really bad sinus headaches. I know it’s a better way but when you go out in the world, most of them look at you like you’re strange. Even my own parents are tired of “Primal this, Primal that.” I think a lot of their ailments would be gone if they ate the way I am.

    Anyway, nobody ever said life would be easy, and eating right is a part of making that life better-but a bit of pizza once in awhile won’t kill me either. It does make me feel crappy for a couple days though. It reminds me/us that bread, is not our friend…good article Mark. Thank you for writing these books, sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  38. Were you eavesdropping on our dinner conversation last night? 😉 Love your message and your mission. Thank you.

  39. I loved the post! I have lived with gluten intolerance for a few years now and I’m amazed at the supposedly well-meaning people who try to get me to eat at their homes or parties. When I decline, they take it personally and tell me I will eat. Over time, I’ve decided to just say no, no matter how intense the abuse is. (Good friends are sometimes the worst!) It’s my body and I now know what hurts it. I am not eating things that will make me sick! If others can’t deal with this, it’s their problem, not mine. It took me years to get to this, but I don’t feel bad anymore. I choose health, and yes, we are what we eat!

  40. The comment that most jumped out at me is Jane’s (see above). She wrote:

    “I can’t do this; I blame everyone and everything for the state of my health. I make excuses for why I am 60 odd lbs over weight and why I put 6 cream eggs in my mouth today. ‘Ihave a cold. I have my kids friends over and need something to get me through’. I know I do this, but I find it hard to stop. Do I care about my health? I guess the answer is no.”

    Looks like words like “choice” and “ownership” is powerful for some, but perhaps not others (like Jane). There’s another powerful way of looking at being Primal, and to me, it sounds calmer, less intense, and simpler: Be Primal because you like it – better than your old way.

    Here is a summary of how what I learned in my transformation:

    Primal is so inherently likable, but you have to give it a chance. How to do that? Don’t let anything sweet tasting touch your tastebuds for at least 30 days (not even the no-calorie fake stuff). This gives the pleasure receptors in your brain a change to close (and stop craving more). In the same 30 days, eliminate grain. It’ll give you a chance to find out how gross it makes you feel – so you’ll start associating that gross feeling with the food itself. That’ll make you stop wanting it. Same with processed food, which is created for the corporate purpose of getting you addicted you to it. Don’t eat any. What does that leave? Pure, clean food.

    Pay super close attention to how these changes make you feel. Maybe you’ll feel some withdrawal at first, but go along with it. It’s not going to hurt you. Get to where you start feeling good, and savor that good feeling. It will make you start LIKING Primal – as in preferring it to what you’re doing now.

    Think of all of this as a big, huge way to be kind to yourself. Welcome it. Once you let it into your life and want it there, you won’t have to worry about choice, ownership, discipline, willpower, etc. When you like what you’re doing and prefer it to what you used to do, it doesn’t take that much thought or decision anymore. You just do it.

    1. Yes, this. I started eliminating processed food in Nov. I cut out grains simply because finding or preparing healthy ones was overwhelming. I felt so much better. I had energy. My brain began to function again. I could get up at 6, walk the dogs twice a day, chase the kids, etc. and not go down until midnight, and I felt GOOD. My digestive issues stopped. My creativity was up. I started writing and crocheting again. Apparently, my fertility went up too, because I got pregnant (we are over the moon). I’ve back slid sometimes, but it’s feels so good that I come back. I haven’t had morning sickness, I don’t need naps most days. I can run after my kids while pregnant without problems.
      Last week, we spent six days on the road and visiting family. I tried to prepare good, primal snacks, but there was a lot of fast food, a lot of my relatives cookouts (meat, potato chips, and soda pop), and I was sick and exhausted every morning and afternoon. By the time I got home, all I Wanted was liver and good farm eggs and salad. It was a really good reminder of how I used to feel, how I don’t want to feel anymore.

  41. One of your best posts EVER! I’m going to print this out and put in my journal — thanks, Mark!

  42. This post moved me to tears. I have used so many excuses, so much blaming of the circumstances that I felt that my lack of responsibility was excusable.
    (Things like, “I need this cigarette because my life is so stressful right now.” and “I’ll get my diet together when the baby is sleeping through the night.”)

    “Being Bad”, while enjoyed for a moment, is ultimately just me wanting to go through life without thinking about things. I can buy ready made meals and eat fast food and keep buying stuff I don’t even like (yes, I have done that!) just so I can continue to live mindlessly and easily.

    None of real life is actually easy, but it is often simple.

    So thank you, Mark. May your shadow never grow less.

  43. I think the post concerns mostly people that want to get healthier but haven’t quite gotten ‘religion’ over the issue yet; they are vacillating and having a hard time giving up certain foods. The post speaks well to these people, and encourages ‘self-responsibility’, and making those hard choices, and getting energy to fight thru the addictions.
    As it applies to other people, I’m not so sure. Most people who really need to get healthier probably don’t care that much. What they see in the mirror is a mystery to me, but many people that are very obese, unhealthy, or unfit, don’t seem to suffer from it in an immediate sense; they are the ones who will go along, until the point late in life when the health issues reach a crisis point or the pain gets to a perceptible or irritating level. THEN they go to their physician and hope for a fix. Is this type of life an abrogation of ‘personal responsibility’? Maybe; but maybe they see people who are concerned about their health (while still young) as faddish fanatics.
    I think as people, we are all prone to crisis-management ways of behavior, and it just happens way sooner to some of us than others, for whatever reason.

  44. What a powerful post! Thank-you so much for this perspective. It’s very healing and empowering.

  45. The concept of personal responsibility is sorely lacking in our society.

    We all need to get a healthy dose of paranoia: Question everything and everyone and never, ever believe that “they wouldn’t sell it if it wasn’t safe”.

    “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t someone after me!”

    1. Helga, that is so true. We depend on our Nanny State to have our best interest at heart when its real interest is to make a profit. No, I’m not paranoid, but a realist. 🙂

  46. A great post, Mark! I’ve tried to live my life as authentically in all aspects of my life for a long time, but it’s only recently (end of 2012) that I began to see a true lack of it in my search for ‘true’ health. I eat Primally and encourage others because I honestly see it as the most beneficial to me now. I realized the other day that instead of eating to lose weight, which was always the goal before, I’m eating, exercising, sleeping, and playing because I want to do the very best by my body. I want to keep it as clean and functional as I keep my home, vehicle, relationships, and derby gear, and the best way to do it is to eat as cleanly and functionally as possible.
    I really enjoyed this post, thanks for writing!

  47. This is the post that I needed after several occasions during which I was confronted with narrow-minded people to whom I had to explain why I went gluten-free.
    Some days, stupidity and lack of any curiosity really brings me down. I know it shouldn’t, but still. Responsibility, this is what is lacking among society today. And as you said, as a person who turns down desserts, chocolate (Easter, anyone?), bread (heresy in France!) or pizza (I make my paleo one though), I get to be labeled crazy/courageous/weird/killjoy, you name it. It definitely doesn’t prevent me from following what I believe is right for me. I wish those common-wisdom followers would give me a break.

  48. Wow…what a great post. I really needed this today Mark as I was feeling kind of cranky and this inspiration post really put my perspective back in place. I was anticipating a weekend full of having to make non-paleo food for the relatives that are over for Easter weekend, but I will keep true to myself and make some fabulous lamb chops with sauteed veggies in coconut oil and fresh mint, and serve some wonderful little grilled baby potatoes and yams and I think everyone will be happy. I have some great fruit and berry ideas for dessert and I think everyone will be thrilled.

    I want to take control and feed everyone fabulous food and not make it a ‘primal versus SAD” dinner occasion. I also found this great recipe for tea infused marbled hard boiled eggs, so will make some of those, along with a great spinach and kale frittata for brunch on Easter morning. Yup, it’s going to be a great way to kick off spring.

  49. Truely ispirational post, I’ve been trying to find the words to explain to friends, how and why I choose to follow a primal lifestyle, that what they see is not a friend putting on a brave face through the pain and discomfort of a monastical life of abstinence, but a guy genuinely excited by the prospects that each day holds when you’re in control of the kind of strong, fresh and agile mind and body this lifestyle produces. Taking away the shackles of poor nutrition is not deprivation but empowerment!

  50. In a culture that glorifies rampant immaturity and immediate gratification, the concept can seem like a major buzz kill. When it comes to health, I think the association is especially true.

    so true

  51. Others have said it before but it comes down to time preference. Do you want fleeting rewards now for a steep price later? Or do you pay a modest price now for much greater rewards to come?

    Animals naturally favor immediate rewards because of their uncertain futures. Humans can control their futures by understanding cause and effect. How human are you?

  52. Thanks for another inspiring and challenging post, Mark. We really need to hear this stuff!

  53. Absolutely the perfect message for me today! THANK YOU MARK!!!

  54. .. You don’t have to be a farmer to be out standing in your field…..
    Home run today Mr. Sisson, you are OUTSTANDING in your field!
    It is so good to see and read the reaction from our Primal Family, when everyone can relate to some aspect of your words.
    Have a safe and Happy long weekend everyone!

  55. That last paragraph really hits home and is on the money, Mark. Awesome post. Thanks for all that you do and the inspiration you’ve fostered in many. You’re truly a standup guy.

  56. Thank you so much for posting that! Responsibility is actually something that I spoke with my Kung Fu students about today. It’s an amazing thing. Personal responsibility and honesty really do go hand in hand. Journaling everything I eat and all of the exercise that I do has been a real help in my weight loss goals so far and it was my first step in taking personal responsibility for my weight. I’ve since taken a few more steps but it’s a never ending battle that it’s totally worth fighting.

  57. … ahimsa…. do no harm.. kindness to all..etc… first of all..do no harm to yourself. personal integrity grows from this.. takes practice…patience.. perserverance furthers ..as personal integrity grows.. all aspects of the life are lifted… as far as the food/diet go…it’s very useful to stop eating the junk..dont worry about ‘what’ to eat.. know what ‘not’ to eat… and everyone knows that.,,and it’s .easier said than done… i started eating ‘organic’ in 1970,,…it was practically a cult..!!!. tried many different ‘diets’. thinking each one was…’the one’… thought macrobiotics was the end all of eating… keep changing and focusing on dropping the attachments to finding the ‘key’… fall down/get up… no judgement of good/bad towards yourself.. simple observation.. eventually there is no thought of what/when to eat and if it’s ‘right’ or not… there is something inside us all that knows.. keep trusting that… it’s so thrilling to see the changes towards health that are coming along.. thanks to mark and others who create platforms like this… keep turning the pages.. peace!!

  58. I haven’t been reading or accessing this site for a while (cue a host of external excuses!) and have been slowly falling off the primal wagon, much to my health and well-being’s detriment. This was perfect today – the comment about getting it on a gut level rather than an intellectual level is where I’m at right now and this post helped immensely thank you

  59. I really struggle with this. I am determined to fix it, but it is a hard struggle for me. My biggest weakness is candy and beer. I think if I can stay away from those two things, then the rest will fall into place. But, it seems like the more I try to reject them, the harder they pull me in. I have made it for long bouts of time before, but they always find me again. This post has inspired me…hopefully the inspiration will stick!

    1. Just start by giving up one of the two. After a few weeks when you no longer are addicted to the one, then give up (or cut back) on the other. This is a marathon not a sprint. No need to torture yourself. I for one will never give up beer but I only have one when I REALLY want it which has only been twice this year. It takes time and practice resisting the temptation but the good habits and wise decisions definitely become easier.

  60. LOVE IT !! Just what I needed to put things into perspective.

    Thank You 🙂

  61. Thank you, thank you,thank you Mark! This is exactly what I needed today. I have recently fallen off the wagon,big time,and have been reaping what I had sown: a wonderful head cold, sore ears and off balance, and a great big stomach ache to boot. I justified it : I am sad that I am still trying to conceive after four years, I am tired of saying no to all the “treats”, I feel lousy, so I’ll have some chocolate…

    As I sat doubled over with stomach cramps last night after a chocolate and grain binge all day, I knew I had no one but myself to blame. This morning I came to your website after months of not looking at it – perfect,perfect timing.

    If I cannot take responsibility for my health, then who will?

    I’m feeling inspired to get outside and dig over the vegie patch, to take a long walk in the sun,and to say “no” all weekend long (and beyond) to Easter chocolates.

    What you do is wonderful. Thank you.

    1. Good comment, Angela. Indeed, who will take responsibility if you don’t? I guarantee it won’t be your doctor. He only works 3 or 4 days a week, depends on toxic drugs to supply all the answers, and he’s not a miracle worker.

      I suspect that the underlying problem for those unable to assume responsibility, even when their health goes south, is that they’re very good at lying to themselves.

  62. I love this post! Thank you, Mark, for your true, profound and inspirational thoughts.

  63. I had a moment one day when the control I have over my emotions became crystal clear. I was angry with someone, muttering to myself about it. I could feel the anger dissipating, and consciously kept fanning my mental flames because I wanted to still be angry about it. When I noticed what I was doing to fill my “craving” for anger (which was resulting in a headache…), I realized it was my choice, and a “luxury” to continue to experience this negative emotion.

    I try to be more conscious about letting go of emotions now (some are easier than others…), and finding peace. To quote my wise aunt “maybe you let it ruin your morning, but don’t let it ruin your day!”

  64. Sing it, Mark!! I’ve been working on a lot of these concepts (personal responsibility, honesty with and respect for oneself, resilience) when it comes to other parts of my life, and it is so timely and inspiring to hear you relate them to food choices and the paleo lifestyle! I love the holistic approach to life and health that is the underpinning of this website and this movement. Thanks for everything!

  65. Gary Taubes taught me what good food is (also Alice Waters), and Greg Glassman is great on what’s good exercise, but you make it fun every day. I’m a 65 year old Grok wannabe, and I hope to have a handstand by the time I’m 70. Thanks for the weekend links, the stories, and all you give on this site.

  66. I too struggled with making the right choices most of the time. Then a few months ago I was reading something that too talked about discipline and taking responsibility. For some reason a flip switched in my brain and I realized that this was MY CHOICE. What to eat, to exercise or not, these are choices and I’m not a victim of anyone or slave to anything. I’m in control of these things and I will either suffer or reap the results of my choices. It was very liberating! Thanks again Mark for all you do. This post was right on!

  67. I eat what I like (which is about 85% meat & veggies) and what I like is good for me. I don’t force my diet or beliefs on anyone or even talk about food or training unless someone else brings it up. If I’m out with friends for a meal and someone orders a quesadilla I don’t bat an eyelash at the wheat tortilla, factory “cheese”, GMO toppings, additives,… well I’m sure everyone here knows what’s in it that we shouldn’t eat. I live my life and they can live theirs. This post reminds me of the time my coworker, who just finished a subway sandwhich, cookie, & was about to open their bag of potato chips, asked me if I was satisfied with what I ate. I had barbecued lamb (reheated, not freshly barbecued), homemade tzatziki (greek yogurt, fresh dill, minced garlic, etc), & some green veggies of a sort I can’t recall this moment. As much as I wanted to get into the debate I simply said, “yes, it’s delicious” and the conversation moved on. In all my years of eating “different” I’ve learned that that type of question under those circumstances is just a reason to argue, say why my food is inferior, etc.
    I’ve taken responsibility for my life decisions and will gladly discuss it with others on the same path or interests.
    I think I went off on a tangent there but the point is that I have the self-possession Mark talks about and others can keep their resentment. It’s not a “holier than thou” attitude -that’s argumentative. It’s a “this is who I am” attitude and I have no problem helping others along this path if they truly want to take it.

  68. I am new to the Prime way of life and I am all in as far as what I eat. I need to work on my work outs. I am addicted to running distance, need to work on that. I love all the info and input I get from you blog. So thanks.

  69. We do really cheat ourselves all the time regarding to anything more convenient. We work full time with average $100/day, we’re willing to spend $20 to just eat out. The problem is the more people tend to work, the less time they have, so usually end up grabbing a sandwich at any fast food place with the thinking eating McDonal for couple days won’t kill me. And yes, with that only initial thought in mind, day by day it can form a serious habit, and we tend to use that excuse as always to treat our health badly.
    I know it clearly since it happened to me. I always acknowledge about the problem, and I always set a limit to myself until one certain point, then force myself to visit the supermarket to grab some fresh veggie and organic foods after pouring fast food into my body for couple days. With me, I think it’s ok for let our body and mind loose a little bit to do things according to instinct. However, there is a very thin line between enjoy for fun and seriously overboard, so we get to keep in mind where the line is and don’t cross it.

  70. Hey Mark,

    Watch it man! You’re turning into a Buddhist, haha 😀 😀

    J.

    PS: next thing, you will no longer eat meat …

    PPS: just joking 🙂

  71. This post feels like it was written from the heart in one sitting. The word that resonates the most with me is “authentic” and the lesson I most often learn and forget is the point Mark makes in the last paragraph: When I’m living in alignment with my values and best practices, I find I’m more patient, kind, and generous with others. I have more to give and more energy to do it.

    While a lot of the comments about this post focus on food and eating behavior, I really value the bigger picture of a healthy life that MDA encompasses. I need to get enough sleep, sunshine, make time to meditate, and cultivate a diverse set of good practices that to some may appear difficult but when taken in total leave me with a sense of ease.

    Knowing this, I often ask myself why I’m fantastic at answering work email and writing blog comments in the early morning hours instead of meditating or exercising.

    I’m getting better at more consistently making what I think of as “in alignment” choices, and while here I am again on MDA at 6 am, I am grateful to be part of a community that has such interest in asking and answering these questions. The positive reinforcement and perspective has been very helpful. Thank you.

  72. I definitely needed this today! I’ve been primal for 5 months now and am still struggling with my addiction to primal-approved sweeteners. It’s time to be responsible about the amount I put in my body!

  73. Hello all,

    I am just starting my Primal journey with cutting out grains, breads and the like and will begin the basic PBF as prescribed by the book starting Monday. I do not know what to expect from this journey, but I do think it makes a lot of sense. I am not fearful about the success of the lifestyle. I am excited. This concept is right up my alley for living as close to our prescribed, natural selves so I was overjoyed when I stumbled upon your blog.

    I have been an athlete most of my life but stopped when making a living became my main focus. as a result, I am in the worst shape of my life and am continuously becoming ill and developing other chronic injuries and disorders. Enough is enough.

    I am ready to reclaim my life and return to my active, positive, vibrant self and I believe this Primal lifestyle will help me do this.

    Thank you for the reawakening.

  74. Once people have lived a healthy lifestyle for a while, the appurtenances of a decadent lifestyle – the cigarettes, drugs and junk food – lose their appeal. It becomes much more interesting to see how far you can pursue healthfulness: How much you can increase your active longevity without pharmaceutical crutches; how far you can naturally increase the youthfulness and elasticity of your skin; how long you can maintain the waist measurement and appetite for living of the average 19-year-old.

    When you reach that point, health integrity requires no effort to sustain. It’s not a chore – you wouldn’t have it any other way. The problem is getting to that point in the first place.

    It’s factually accurate to say that we are responsible for the choices we make, but for many who are trying to change their habits, addiction to harmful behaviors of all kinds has a significant part to play in shaping their decisions.

    For me, the question is: How do we mediate the transition between an unhealthy addiction and a healthy one?

  75. Beatiful, beautiful words. This idea gets really close to my personal philosophy towards diet and health: only YOU can define what is health to YOU. You´ve got to be your own mentor, your own leader. Only at that level of commitment with your self comes the real reward, a reward which is far beyond losing pounds or overcoming illnesses.

  76. Great philosophy on health. I love this blog!

    I try to teach my patients that they alone are responsible for their health. Even with the outcomes of their chiropractic care. If they don’t do their share on their end with diet, activity and ergonomics, they just won’t have the same outcomes as will other patients.

  77. Man, you are so amazing, Mark. I glanced at the title for this post on my Google Reader feed a few days ago and knew I wanted to come back to it when I had more time. I just made time for it tonight, and it felt like the perfect thing, spoken just to me. Those words: “It’s not about self-restraint but self-possession.” I can’t even begin to explain how true that feels to me, and how relevant that thought is to my journey of the past few months. Thank you!

  78. Thank you so much,Mark! I have been following MDA for months now and I have been impressed by your ability to always find something interesting to write about, but this post was outstanding. It gives me such a feeling of empowerment!

  79. “When we’re good with our selves, when we have genuine self-respect, we can live in relationships more authentically and productively with others”.

    So true. A penny for our thoughts.

    Thank you.

  80. Best. Post. Ever! This post gives those things words/labels that so many people struggle with and never fully understand what they’re really fighting against.

  81. I had missed this post, and I am DELIGHTED I went back and found it. I’ve passed the message on to a lot of people–I’ve been mostly Primal for almost two years now, and it’s phenomenal. I’m 70 and feel 50, if that. More like 40…or…

    And YES, it’s not self-denial! It’s actualization, if anything. Taking responsibility is fine with me…I like making my own choices.

    Thank you, Mark, for being there.

  82. Really good to see this type of message being pushed. Health cannot be dictated by standards set by others: it is about knowing what you need and what you are comfortable with.

    The stress induced by breaking ‘healthy habits’ is probably more harmful than the act of enjoying your Mum’s cheesecake when you go visit her. Jean Calment, the longest lived person on record, ate 2 pounds of chocolate a week and smoked for over 80 years. Not exactly Paleo, but she thrived because she didn’t stress out about it. In fact, not stressing about diet is a factor attributed to the ‘blue zones’: regions whose residents exhibit exceptional longevity.

    Being comfortable in your own skin is a powerful tool for health.

  83. Mark, just when I need a kick in the pants, there you are with a post written “just for me.” 🙂 I’ve long realized my goal is to live healithy automatically, to not have to analyze and will myself not to eat certain things or stay up late in front of blue tinted screens. To have healthy behaviors come as naturally as breathing or a beating heart would be wonderful. In the meantime, focusing on my choice and intent and NOT running on autopilot shoving the same junk down my throat as I have my whole life- that’s the reality I hope for and can choose for myself. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  84. Wonderful, humane insight…encouraging…motivating in a gentle, forgiving way that is far more likely to move a 21st century everyman in the right direction than the rah rah hype that is so ubiquitous these days…