All of us today, living what we call the modern lifestyle, struggle with daily food choices and long-term nutrition. Everywhere we turn, we are constantly being told what is good for us, what we need, and yet a quick assessment of the health and longevity of the society we live in will tell us quite frankly that, as a whole, we are making many of the wrong choices.
Obesity is on the rise globally, most frighteningly amongst our children, and as our society ages many adults will be struck with increasing mobility issues, digestive system breakdowns and rapidly failing health. Much of the blame lies in the food we eat every day.
So, what are the right choices? How do we navigate through our weekly food choices and come out long term winners for both ourselves and our families? How can we support our active lifestyles with a balanced and healthy food intake?
One shining light with cogent answers to these problems is Mark Sisson, whose long term practical studies have educated millions and new book, The Primal Blueprint ,was released this year. He is one of the world’s leading proponents of an alternative, realistic and achievable lifestyle that has taken the fitness world by storm. Coming from a background as a top level athlete and having served for 15 years as the anti-doping and drug-testing chairman of the International Triathlon Union, Mark embodies everything he knows and believes within his own pragmatic lifestyle.
I spoke with Mark regarding his work and how he incorporates what he teachers within his own lifestyle. Here is a brief look at an extremely intriguing man and dynamic personality.
GKJ- Thanks Mark for taking time off your busy schedule to answer a few questions. You have carved yourself a niche as one of the premier writers of the sporting/nutrition world, gaining much respect from all due to your willingness to embody your own teachings and develop your ideas as an ongoing “work in progress”. For many, you are the cutting edge of this kind of research. Do you feel that this is a heavy burden?
Not at all. I am very opinionated in this area and have always felt compelled to call it like I see it. I think I offer a unique perspective carved from a diverse background as a top athlete, coach, researcher, anti-doping administrator, supplement designer, etc. Few people have the background and the platform to be able to put all this information into a “world-view.” My mission with the Primal Blueprint is to show ten million people how they can regain total control of their health. The only way to do this is to provide cutting edge research and making the explanation understandable and entertaining.
GKJ- What is the nutritional state of the world today for your average person or athlete out there eating what is considered a normal diet? What kind of dangers do they face without consideration of how much diet plays a part in their long term health and performance?
Well, as you know, the state of nutrition world-wide is dismal. Many of us are eating too much of the wrong things and paying the price – whether we are an average non-exercising citizen or a top athlete. Many people will be able to “get away” with dietary indiscretions for most of their lives and not be dramatically affected by the small aches and pains that they could avoid by altering their diets. But far more people will likely suffer ill health in some form or another unless they change what they are doing. It might be diabetes or obesity in “normal” people and arthritis or heart problems even in regular exercisers who abuse their bodies with the wrong workouts fueled by the wrong diets. Exercising alone does NOT necessarily confer a long, disease-free life. Diet is crucial. The Primal Blueprint actually started as a diatribe against athletes training too hard and eating too many carbs. It eventually expanded to encompass all people.
GKJ- You yourself have been through an incredible physical journey. As you get older, what is the biggest challenge for you?
Not getting injured. I still like to play. In fact, all my so-called “training” is done so I can play Ultimate (Frisbee), snowboard, surf, golf, etc. Being 56 means that playing hard may sometimes result in an injury that takes weeks to recover from instead of days like when I was young. So I back off a bit when I feel myself getting too caught up. I no longer race my 15-year-old son down the black diamond runs when snowboarding or I back off when I’m racing to catch a Frisbee in a crowd of defenders.
GKJ- This year, you have released a new book, The Primal Blueprint. What kinds of answers can the average reader expect from reading your work?
I think the Primal Blueprint very succinctly explains how humans evolved to be strong, healthy and disease free and how our genes expect us to behave in certain ways that we don’t always honor. No one has yet explained health in exactly this context. Most of the book details the steps we can take to literally “reprogram” our genes to be healthy, lean, fit and disease-free. This reprogramming is possible even if you think you are doomed because your family history is one of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. It is a very empowering program and the results we have seen over the past few years are overwhelmingly positive.
GKJ- One of the things you talk about in your theories is the fact that a person needs to look to natural foods rather than supplementation which is primarily chemical based. How easy is this to do? The main issue for many people is time and cost. What is the answer?
Of course natural foods are best, but there are some shortcuts in supplements as well: things like protein powders that can fill the void when we can’t get to real foods or fish oil capsules to make up for the imbalance in Omega 3s in our diets. But eating Primally (mostly meats, fish, chicken, veggies, fruits nuts and seeds) can be quite inexpensive if you approach it right. When you remove all the processed foods we have come to rely on and focus on natural foods, you find that you naturally eat less (without getting hungry). Many people tell me they have saved money going “full Primal”.
GKJ- What is your advice today for your average person who is wanting to take more control of their life and diet? Where should they start?
Start by cutting out the sugars. No desserts, candies or colas/sodas. Next start cutting grains (pastas, cereals, breads, pastries, etc). That alone will result in huge benefits. It takes a few weeks of discipline to cut these out, but when you do so and realize you can eat all the meat, veggies, fruits, nuts etc whenever you find yourself hungry – and still lose weight – it’s a powerful thing. After about three weeks, you lose the cravings for the carbs and simultaneously your body starts learning to extract most of its energy from your stored fat. At that point you are well on your way. The exact process is detailed in my book The Primal Blueprint (www.primalblueprint.com)
GKJ- Mark, thank you for your time today, and I look forward to reading more about your discoveries. I am off to get the book!