Friday, June 10, 2011

Going Primal

Mini book review of The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson.

The Primal Blueprint is about a way of living. Looking at human evolution, and the life of an ancestral human, Sisson defines the Primal Blueprint Laws:

1. Eat lots of plants and animals (eat when hungry)
2. Avoid poisonous things (sugar, grains, processed foods)
3. Move frequently at slow pace (walk)
4. Lift heavy things (once in a while)
5. Sprint once in a while (need to run from the saber toothed tiger)
6. Get adequate sleep (compared to the modern human)
7. Play (balance other parts of life)
8. Get adequate sunlight (get outside a little every day)
9. Avoid stupid mistakes (don't text and drive)
10. Use your brain (heed that curiosity)

For each one of those points, he describes the life of a fictional ancestral human (Grok) and contrasts that to modern humans living in suburbia with the usual demands on life and living.

In a previous post Mainlining Butter, I reviewed Why We Get Fat. The same message is presented in this book -- sugars and grains are bad for your health. In addition to addressing the diet, Sisson addresses other aspects of living. Among other points, life should include exercise, getting outside and playing.

After reading both of these books, I realize that I had never bought into the popular belief that fats are bad for health. That seems to have been a good decision. My consumption of grains and sugars (with the exception of infrequent cinnamon rolls) has always been quite minimal. Over the past several weeks, I have cut back to almost none. Since I don't live in Grok's world of 10,000 years ago, I do address an urge for sweet in the form of ice cream.

Sisson's book is another book that should be read regardless whether you agree or not. It is going to be hard to change a culture and population that has been for decades eating foods in proportion to the government issued food pyramid.

For me, going primal does not mean barefoot and a loin cloth. Primal means I will now cut out the carbos and continue my diet of meat and vegetables. And lots of walking and hiking. And an occasional ice cream.

Mark Sisson's internet site for primal living in today's world is Mark's Daily Apple.


  1. I smell a rat: ye olde "noble savage" all over again. "Primitivism" is not a new idea, although the media and the food conglomerates need a "new" fad to chase every couple years. I hope Sisson is a better anthropologist than Jean Jacques Rousseau.

    It would seem that the diets of Eskimos, Laps, and equatorial Africans were quite different from each other in primitive times. But they are the same animal species.

    Also, what good is an evolutionary approach to diet when evolution only cares to get people to age 15, when they can reproduce? Evolution has nothing to say about keeping people in good health in their 70s and 80s. After age 40 we might as well die and get the hell out of the way, evolutionarily-speaking.

  2. I also read Sisson book. I liked it very much and as a diabetic it rings very true with my blood sugars. Cut the carbs and my blood sugars are stable. Eat pasta, dairy, and beans and my blood sugars sky rocket. Also Sisson talks about the 80/20 rule and how it applies to eating and living your life.

    Like Boonie I disagree with the 'noble savage' feel-good bent in places because the truth is, traditional hunter-gatherers are most of the time one meal away from starvation. However, the message that we need to minimize grains, dairy, and legumes in our diets and we were designed to work for our grub was not lost on me.

  3. Boonie -- true about the varied diets of Eskimos, Laps, and Africans, but you really have to go farther back than that. We as a species only left Africa 50-100,000 years ago, which is still a drop on the evolutionary bucket, and at that point, it's reasonable to assume we had all evolved to consume a pretty unvaried diet. Adaptations have occurred since then, of course, but if you look at the diets of the three peoples you mention, you'll see more similarities than differences (i.e. the no sugar/no grains/no processed foods is consistent across all pre-agricultural civilizations, and all ate some mix of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and nuts).

    And it is incorrect that evolution only cares about whether or not one makes it to reproductive age. Overall survival advantage is instead the primary concern. Healthy older people may not reproduce, but they do contribute to the overall survival advantage of a people (they presumably have greater knowledge and wisdom than the young, can assist with raising children, assist with gathering of food, etc.), which indirectly improves conditions for those who CAN reproduce.

  4. I thank Glenn for his kind words on the "greater knowledge and wisdom" of us geezers. (Maybe he should hang out at "circle" of a couple RV groups I know.)

    I will keep Judy's comments in mind if diabetes ever becomes a problem for me.

    Does anyone know if the author in question discusses why the human mouth is mostly taken up with flat, dull grinding teeth? Or why our incisors (in front) are weak. And our canines are jokes.

    Meanwhile look at the arsenal of switchblades and swords in the mouth of a carnivorous feline.

    How much difference is their between the mouths, saliva, and stomach of higher primates (in Africa) and homo sapiens? How much meat did those other primates eat?

  5. I notice as I get older I crave rabbit and chicken and other small critters I can still swoop down upon and kill myself.

    I no longer desire venison and elk and other big critters I can no longer drag back to camp.

    If everybody got together for my birthday and got me a virgin, I wouldn't know what to do with her anymore.

    old sucks

  6. Mohave, If you can catch a rabbit or chicken you would be one very fit old man. Way to go.


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