I was a modern vegetarian runner, he was a paleolithic meat-loving functional exerciser – when we first met, we could not have been more different. Paleo/Primal style eating now has quite a few different flavors now but five years ago, it was new and with its exclusion of all grains, was also quite controversial. Whether it was from a genuine interest in the science behind this new philosophy or because I’ve always had a thing for men who want me to change everything I am to be with them, I decided to give it a try. As those of you who’ve been with me since the beginning know, I’ve done the 30-day Primal Blueprint challenge, as described by Mark Sisson, three times now. Twice I wrote about my experiences and it got a whole chapter in my first book. Short version: It did not go well for me. And yet Mark Sisson and his site Mark’s Daily Apple remain one of my favorite sources for intelligent, well-researched health and fitness information. Here’s why:
- Don’t fear the dietary fat. When I first started my journey to lose the baby weight after my 2nd son was born, the country was still in the schizophrenic grip of the low-fat diet espoused by the American Heart Association colliding with the low-carb craze. I had no idea what the best way to eat was and had grown up priding myself on minimal fat intake. Reading Mark’s articles on the benefits of fat – saturated included! – were a huge paradigm shift for me. I started incorporating more fat into my diet and have seen physical and mental benefits because of it.
- Whole foods rule. There was a time in my life that I thought a low-carb protein bar was the healthiest thing I could eat. Reading The Primal Blueprint (among other books and sites) helped me change my focus from tracking macronutrients to being more concerned about eating foods in their most natural form.
- Chronic cardio is not the best way to exercise. This last point has been life-changing for me and I have Rachel Cosgrove and Mark Sisson to thank equally for this. Coming fresh off my double-cardio Experiment (it was exactly what it sounds like and ended with a stress fracture, a burgeoning eating disorder and a gain of 10 pounds), I came across Mark’s article “Case against cardio” based on his experiences as an elite triathlete. In it, he dismantles the conventional wisdom that the best way to get fit is to run, cycle, swim or do some other form of traditional “cardio.” He isn’t saying that we shouldn’t ever run again, but he is saying that continually pushing through long punishing workouts can be very detrimental to your health.