I first heard about The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes For Effortless Weight-Loss, Vibrant Health, And Boundless Energy by Mark Sisson (Primal Nutrition Inc., 2009) through the author’s blog, Mark’s Daily Apple. I liked what I read on his blog and wanted to read his book. Paleo and primal diets are very similar. My prevous book, The Garden of Eating draws heavily on paleo diet principles. Still, I wondered how the book’s author came at the topic. So, earlier this year I read Mark’s book. What follows is a brief overview. I don’t want to give away too many details, so if this intrigues you, I encourage you to read the book.
“Forget everything you though you knew about diet, exercise, and health! It’s time to go back to the beginning…” says Mark Sisson, a former 2:18 marathoner and fourth-place finisher in the Hawaii Ironman World Triathlon Championships, and founder of the blog MarksDailyApple.
Where IS the beginning? Farther back than you might think.
Sisson’s book, The Primal Blueprint, provides a convincing argument for a diet and lifestyle with the longest track record of safe and continuous use, one modeled on those of our primal ancestors from more than 10,000 years ago—albeit with some modifications. His approach is based on the evolutionary discordance hypothesis, which asserts that our departure from the nutrition and activity patterns of our hunter-gatherer ancestors has contributed in specifically definable and measurable ways to the epidemic of chronic diseases of modern civilization.
Put simply, we are what S. Boyd Eaton, Melvin Konner, and Marjorie Shostak, authors of The Paleolithic Prescription (Harper & Row, 1988) call “Stone Agers in the fast lane.” Our stone age bodies are at odds with our modern diets and lifestyles, which we have not had sufficient time to adapt to.
Sisson believes that our bodies are not only designed for but actually function best on natural hunter-gatherer foods, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, poultry, and eggs and that we can be fit and healthy doing a moderate amount of comfortably paced aerobic exercise with occasional bouts of brief high intensity exertion. He champions the need for plenty of sleep, sufficient sunlight, playtime, and stimulating creative activities to moderate stress and counter the demands of modern living (who can argue with that?).
The Primal Blueprint challenges many long held assumptions about diet and exercise, such as the belief that we need to eat a high starch, grain-based, low fat diet to lose weight, achieve health and fitness, and prevent degenerative diseases; that we must eat whole grains to meet our fiber needs; and that we should limit or avoid red meat, butter, and whole eggs to avoid heart disease. It contests the notion that aerobic exercise is the key to weight loss and that the more cardio we do, the better, healthier, and leaner we will become.
Like my book, The Garden of Eaing, it presents a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits paired with healthy protein sources, friendly fats, and appetizing herbs and spices. Primal meals are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Most people who adopt this way of eating end up eating more fresh vegetables and fruits than on a typical American diet.
Although The Primal Blueprint draws on the work of many leading biologists, paleoentologists, geneticists, anthropologists, physicians, nutritionists, food scientists, exercise physiologists, coaches, trainers, and scientific researchers whose work Sisson has studied over the past 20 years, the book was written with laypeople, like you and me, in mind.
The Primal Blueprint doesn’t require complicated calorie counting or meticulous food combining nor does it contain rigid rules to eat by. The 10 Primal Blueprint laws consist of flexible principles you can begin to apply immediately. If you have trouble transitioning to a new way of eating and exercising and can’t imagine life without bread, pasta, cereal, wine, or chocolate, Sisson encourages you to apply the 80:20 rule. You can enjoy sensible indulgences on a daily or weekly basis and still reap benefits from The Primal Blueprint. Over time, he believes that you will find that you naturally and comfortably become more compliant and more comfortable with the diet and exercise principles and that you will ant to follow it more fully because of the many benefits you experience.
Between the covers of this 283 page book you will find a detailed table of contents and index, a mix of nutrition information, anecdotes, quotes, easy reference side-bars, and chapter summaries along with a humorous day-in-the-life comparison between Sisson’s primal man, Grok, a hunter-gatherer from 10,000 years ago, and his antithesis, a sedentary, suburban dad who commutes to a stressful job, eats a diet of heavily processed foods, and takes a collection of prescription meds the interfere with the natural healing process. The contrast between the two men and their lives illustrates how far we’ve drifted from fleshing out our Primal Blueprints with primal foods and activities and how close we are to getting back on the primal track.
Although many people think of genes as inalterable inherited traits that doom them to disease, Sisson views them as traffic cops that direct the function of all the cells in our bodies at all times. The central premise of his book, The Primal Blueprint, is that “…your genes don’t have to be your destiny, that you can ‘reprogram’ them with healthy lifestyle behaviors and thereby make even stronger genetic predispositions to disease, excess body fat, and other adverse health conditions irrelevant.”
You can improve your health and fitness by adopting some or all of the principles outlined in this book and you can do it at your own pace. Remember this is not an “all or nothing” approach.