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“Just cut calories.”

Are you tired of hearing this? “Use a little willpower. Push away from the table. Eat fewer calories or get on that treadmill.”

Wrong. If it was that easy, about the only fat people in the world would be sumo wrestlers. There are lots of overweight people with great willpower. Exercise generally won’t result in a weight loss. Fewer calories won’t necessarily either. (Actually, you can increase your willpower, as Mark explains. But that won’t help unless you use it the right way to live primally. Anyway, why use up your willpower pushing away from the table when the Primal Blueprint can make healthy living easy. OK, mostly easy.)

Researchers recently compared the total energy expenditure of patients on four-week isocaloric low-fat, low-glycemic, and low-carb diets. Although activity levels and caloric intake remained the same across all groups, the low-carb group burned 300 more calories per day than the low-fat group. More

Increasing your exercise beyond what the Blueprint recommends will have very little effect on your weight. For one thing, studies have shown that you probably will eat more. Even if you don’t, you will do more harm to yourself than good. If you haven’t done so, read Mark’s Case Against Cardio. And you would have to do a huge amount of cardio to lose much fat.

Furthermore, it is not simply calories in, fat on your waist. For example,

“Researchers found that mice exposed to a relatively dim light at night over eight weeks had a body mass gain that was about 50 percent more than other mice that lived in a standard light-dark cycle.”

“Although there were no differences in activity levels or daily consumption of food, the mice that lived with light at night were getting fatter than the others, . . .” Ohio State University (2010, October 12). Too much light at night at night may lead to obesity, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2010/10/101011173249.htm

OK, they were mice not humans. I don’t think it matters in this case. See also Gorillas Go Green. Zoo gorillas eat twice as many calories and lose weigh on Big Assed Salads (that’s a technical primal term).

How do you lose weight? The short answer to losing weight is “follow the Primal Blueprint.” The much longer answer is found in Mark’s The Context of Calories.

Here is a brilliant analysis of the “just eat fewer calories” idea.

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1950s Thanksgiving dinner

[Warning: Rant]

“All things in moderation, nothing in excess.” Pericles (or some old Greek).

This has to be the most tiresome quotation of all time. None of the world’s great achievements have come from people taking that as their motto. Steve Jobs started creating Apple with the idea of making something “insanely great” – the Apple computer. He continued to be a jerk about demanding products beyond Microsoft’s moderately good. He tried to live every day like it was his last.

Mark Sisson is not going to bring health to a million people by being moderate. He got his credibility by being an immoderately driven athlete. There is nothing moderate about his daily Big Assed Salad. Our ancestors haven’t eaten daily big assed salads since they came down out of the trees. The Primal exercise concept could be called “moderate,” but Mark would probably immoderately spend 60+ hours/week in “play” exercise if he could.

Doctors and other health “experts” infuriate me when their automatic, cover-your-ass reaction to everything is nervous nelly caution. When I am exposed to a virus or feel like one is trying to get me, I take a totally immoderate dose of vitamin D3, like 40,000 IU daily for three days. The “moderate” approach would be to take “a little extra” D. Why? For any scientifically valid reason? No, just because they have a namby-pamby attitude.

True, something like moderation is often the best course. Kurt Harris articulates it well for me in William Munny eats his vegetables. Harris is definitely not namby-pamby. The title of this blog entry comes from him being called the Clint Eastwood of nutrition. “I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Ancel Keys, for what you done to nutrition.” Hehe. I love it.

Don’t tell me this is “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” Grrrrrrr! That’s a swell namby-pamby slogan for living in 1950s suburbia. Screw moderation. Screw moderation in moderation.

On a practical level, I am thinking about people who would benefit from primal but take the attitude “Sprints are fine, but we shouldn’t get close to our maximum heart rate. Lifting is good  but I play it safe and use the isolation machines at the gym. I take a multivitamin for insurance. Red meat can be part of a healthy diet, just eat it in moderation. Eat bread but watch your calories. And so on.” (Of course, they think it’s fine to eat a vast amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, although, if pressed, they would call this moderation.) Ok, these people are going to be healthier than folks pigging out at McDonald’s. But not as healthy as they would be on the “dangerous Primal diet.”

Chose wisely when to be immoderately passionate. But be passionate about some things. I should note that I often see this attitude in Mark’s Daily Apple forum members.

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Oh, no! Not the four-letter F word (fail).

NOTE: When I started this blog, I followed the blueprint fairly closely without actually labeling myself “primal.” As I have read stuff from other paleolithic and ancestral health theorists, this blog has evolved into something of a critique of the blueprint. If the suggestions below don’t work for you, maybe you should try a different ancestral diet.

Archevore is probably the best way to describe me, although I don’t eat as high a percentage of meat as Dr. Haris recommends. Archevore differs from Primal in two ways reflected in Harris’ William Munny eats his vegetables.

  1. Root vegetables over “Big Assed Salad” antioxidants. (Throughout my blog you will see praise for potatoes, which are marginal in Primal.) There is no paleolithic justification for eating as many nutrient dense salads as possible. Our ancestors haven’t done that for millions of years. They have eaten lots of roots.
  2. Balance over intense focus on “nutrient density.” (I am trying avoid using the word “moderation,” which I hate. But, yeah, you could use that word.)

The Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple are still the best source of information about living a healthy lifestyle. If following the blueprint strictly works for you, fantastic. If not, consider some of the options from this blog, from Karl Harris’ Archevore and from other ancestral health writers.

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“I don’t want to be a caveman/woman. That image doesn’t appeal to me.” Addressing that issue is the main reason my blog exists. Various writers, e.g. Kurt Harris, start from the paleo premise but avoid the caveman imagery. (The cartoon/B Movie image of cavemen turns me off too. I personally think Mark’s Grok is kinda cute.)

“We can’t live like cavemen.” We can live very much like your grandparents or great grandparents lived. Aside from the fact that they ate (traditionally prepared) grains and legumes, they lived very primally. (And in my opinion, traditionally prepared legumes (beans) are healthy.)

“My doctor/dietician/etc. said ________ [high fat or high protein or ultra-low carb] diets are dangerous.” OR “My doctor/dietician/etc. said I need whole grains and legumes to be healthy.” Your doctor/dietician/whatever doesn’t have the latest facts. Read this. And, by the way, Primal is not high fat nor high protein nor ultra low carb, although some people on the plan do it that way.

“I can never stay on a diet.” Here’s my post about that. And see Mark’s Common Stumbling Blocks. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums any time you need encouragement.

“I wanted to lose lots of weight. But I have only lost a few pounds (or have gained a few.)” Primal is not a diet. It is a lifestyle. Throw away your scales. If you are not losing fat, see 17 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight. (If what you want is a quick weight-loss diet, then, yes, Primal is a fail for you.)

“I was losing weight but now I’m not.” See Mark’s Weight Loss Plateaus.

“Eating all that organic, free-range, pastured food is too expensive.” Eating those high quality food is great, sure, but you don’t have to in order to succeed at primal. We can show you many ways to be primal on a budget. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple and search on “budget” for more posts.

“I was a vegetarian for a long time. I don’t want to eat all that meat.” Some followers of primal do eat lots of meat. You don’t have to. Mark’s wife eats no animal products except some fish and protein powders. You can even be a primal vegetarian if you eat eggs and/or dairy. Vegan primal, or any kind of veganism, is not healthy.

“Eating all that fat is gross.” Primal is not a high fat diet. You do need some saturated fat on a regular basis though. This can come from coconut oil, cold water fishes or other not so “gross” sources.

“I won’t give up bread/rice/potatoes/etc.” Many on primal eat some rice and potatoes. (Actually, I eat potatoes once or twice a day. They are good food.) There are alternative flours that can be made into tasty breads and other baked goods. If you have to have some wheat flour bread, cut down the amount. Eat sourdough or sprouted grain varieties. These compromises are not ideal, and they may keep you from losing fat, but you will still be healthy if you are otherwise very primal.

Think of the foods you probably have already given up. Bacon, richly marbled meat, butter, eggs, full fat dairy products, and others. You may be able to eat all of them!

“I’m living at home/in a dorm/in the service/etc.” OR “I have to eat out a lot.” In Mark’s Daily Apple, we answer concerns like these all the time. You may have to do primal imperfectly for now. You can still benefit from the blueprint and go fully primal some day.

“My husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/children/roommate won’t do Primal.” If you do the cooking and they eat it, with perhaps some rolled eyes, but have bread, sodas and other non-Primal things for lunch, be patient. Don’t force the issue. If you cook just your own food, it may be frustrating to have non-primal stuff in the house, but you can do it. But what if your significant other is very anti-Primal and you have or plan to have children. That leads to tough choices. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums and pick our brains.

“I am going through lots of stress right now. I don’t think I can give up comfort foods.” I understand, believe me. I’ve been there. You will handle the stress better if you do the best you can at Primal. Just because you have a big plate of spaghetti for dinner is no reason not to have bacon and eggs for breakfast and a salad for lunch.

For most of us, comfort food means carbs. Try, try, try to avoid grain carbs, except white rice. If you want carbs, choose yams, potatoes, white rice, traditionally soaked and rinsed beans and oats. Pile on the pastured butter, cheese or sour cream. Our ancestors seem to have eaten lots of roots and tubers. Go ahead. Just watch your total carbs.

“I can’t cook.” The basic Primal foods are easy. Bacon and eggs, salad, grilled or fried steak/other meat, steamed or roasted vegetables. We have easy recipes. And we will give you cooking tips.

“I hate exercise.” Do you hate cardio? Weight lifting? Guess what? You don’t have to do either. The goal of Primal is to get you through “exercises” quickly so you can have fun. More

“I do about 100% for a while, then I go on a carb binge.” Some people, including me, need to take small steps or set limits to how completely we are going to follow the blueprint. Trying to follow primal to the letter leads to a junk food binge and giving up. I would never have started a strict Primal diet. Right from the start I was very clear that I wasn’t giving up dairy, potatoes, white rice, corn or corn tortillas, or beans completely.

“I have tried Primal several times. Or I sort of did it.” Other people need to start very strictly. Otherwise they slip more and more, eventually not being primal at all. Once you have been strict for a while, say at least a month, you might be able to add back some marginal foods.

Mileage may vary. You may need to tweak Primal for it to work for you. You may need more or fewer carbs than recommended. You may need extra of some vitamins or minerals. If you come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums and tell us what’s happening, we can probably help. Before you do, keep track of your food for at least a few days in FitDay, NutritionData or some other tracking program.

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Moved to ancestralhealth.info/exercise-for-parents-of-young-kids.htm

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A part of me is profoundly sedentary. That part of me wants to sit in an easy chair with a book or laptop. Coffee pot, mini-refrigerator, phone, radio, liquor cabinet and other conveniences within reach, so that I only have to get up for biobreaks. I give in to this evil part of me less and less now. I know that it would kill me.

Sitting is Killing You
From: http://www.medicalbillingandcoding.org

Now, most of the data about the ill effects of sitting is correlational, i.e. lots of sitting is correlated with medical problems. That does not necessarily mean that the more you sit, the worse health you have.

Some people respond to the above information by getting a standing desk. If that works for you, fine. But is this a case of more not necessarily being more? We now know that just because getting some aerobic exercise is good for your heart and lungs, it does not follow that you should run five miles per day. Just because lifting some weights has many health benefits, it does not follow that you should spend an hour a day in the gym pumping iron.

Research shows that just getting up frequently to stand, walk around, lift something, stretching, etc. significantly reduces the negative effects of sitting.

Update 9/26/2011: Researchers say getting up and moving every 20 minutes is better than standing. Yeah, right. I make a point of getting up once an hour but I’m not getting up every 20 minutes. Pfft!

My work involves 99% computer time. I have no interest in a standing desk. At my age (68) and given my training, there is no standing job that would keep me much above the poverty level. By doing web design, I can make a very good hourly rate and still have some time to enjoy my semi-retirement.

That’s enough for now. I have to get up and move around.

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“Exercise? Groan!!!”

If you have struggled to get in all the cardio and other exercise you have been told you need, the primal idea of exercise will come as a shock. Hopefully, a pleasant shock.

No dragging yourself out of bed to go to spinning or aerobics class three times a week. Mark explains why that does more harm than good. “This kind of training (and diet) raises cortisol levels, increases oxidative damage, systemic inflammation, depresses the immune system and decreases fat metabolism. About the only thing good it does is improve cardiac muscle strength – and even then you get too the point of diminishing returns fairly quickly.”

Get 3-5 hours of low level aerobic activity per week at 55-75% of your maximum heart rate. For example, go for a brisk walk most days. Think that’s not enough? Read about this study.

Lift heavy things. Some Groks are very into body building. Many are into “me Tarzan” workouts – the more primitive the better. Maybe that sounds like fun. Or not. It doesn’t to me. Mark is big on free weights and body weight exercises (e.g. push-ups) as more primal than isolation machines. That makes sense. But if you are comfortable using the machines, go for it. More on muscle

Go fast about once a week. That can be running sprints, or biking or (my favorite) water aerobic sprints. “But I hate running!” No problem. This post is for you. A currently popular way of going fast is Sprint 8. You get it out of the way in 20 minutes once or twice a week. Only four minutes of it is intense.

Aside from almost daily walks, I get my primal exercise from water aerobics. (I avoid the “chronic cardio” high intensity water aerobic sessions.) I get an hour of exercise that includes lots of moving at a 55-75% heart rate, some fast sprint intervals, resistance training from pushing the water around (I wear webbed gloves) and play. It doesn’t provide complete upper body strength training so I do some of that in the gym.

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Avatar of me as an explorer in Africa.

This is an old, outdated site. When I made this WordPress site, my attitude was still a pigheaded “I ain’t givin’ up potatoes or tortillas or beans or rice. Fasting? I ain’t fasting when there is good food I could eat.” Etc. I have found that I can cut back on potatoes, white rice, beans and corn tortillas without dying. And I usually fast until around 11 am with no problem. My primary blog is now Ancestral Health Info.

Photo credit: Little Serengeti in Arusha National Park by Haplochromis July 2009. Our species evolved in this setting.

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