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One Year Primal: What's Easy, What's Hard
Urban Primalist
It's been one year and one month since my primal epiphany.

Prior to discovering marksdailyapple.com, I was a daily violator of every primal law.  It’s a wonder, in fact, that I was only overweight rather than obese, and only pre-diabetic instead of actually diabetic.  If it wasn’t for Mark’s uniquely persuasive writing, today I might have achieved those dubious distinctions and joined the 34% of Americans who are clinically obese.  I might today be facing an uncertain future of morbid obesity, depression, pharmaceutical addiction and cardiac failure, like so many of my departed family members.

That is a parallel universe that I’m glad I will never see.  Instead, I threw myself headlong down the path of primal living, and discovered for the first time, in my thirties, what it actually feels like to be healthy in body and mind.  I still can’t believe it’s this easy – can’t believe I’m not damned by my genes to a downward spiral of decay.

One year isn’t very long in the grand sweep of existence, but in terms of healthy living, it’s a cherished milestone.  New Year resolutions of fitness lead all too often to February recidivism.  “DIETS FAIL,” proclaim the hideous billboards in my neighborhood touting gastric bypass surgery.  Maybe so.  But primal living triumphs eternally!

What’s Easy


Avoiding dietary poison.  I used to eat almost nothing but grains, sugar, veggie oil, frankenfats, and factory-farmed animal products.  I was virtually raised on fast food, even as an embryo.  All of these are gone forever from my diet, and the most amazing thing is I don’t miss them.  Sure, in my hungrier moments I occasionally pine for a Cinnabon or fries from McD, but then I eat real food and those vestigial cravings vanish.  Besides, now that my body is a fat-burning, low-carb machine, I can’t tolerate junk.  I had a slice of flan and one chocolate candy on Christmas Day, and the insulin shock hit me like surgical anaesthetic.  I barely made it home, conked out for 12 hours and was scraping myself off the floor all the next day.  Even fruit slows me down considerably.  Knowing this makes it very easy to pass up every daily temptation without regret.


Intermittent fasting.  In my carb-fueled days, I couldn’t go for more than a few hours without a fix.  I’d get massive migraines and completely fall apart. Nowadays, I pull 24-hour fasts five or six days out of the week.  The longer I go without food, the higher my energy levels and the better my mood. Sometimes I feel like I might be missing out on some muscle synthesis by spacing out the protein so much, but I don’t care because it feels so good.


Cold-water bathing.  Once I tried this about a month after going primal, I was hooked.  Frosty cold water is a lot of fun and leaves me feeling radiant.  I can’t even tolerate warm water on my face any more.  Once in a great while, when I’m sick or if I just rolled out of bed, I’ll start my shower warm, but inevitably I turn off the hot water for the pure joy of shocking cold.  I don’t know if it’s this much fun for everyone, but I wish I’d discovered it earlier.

What’s Hard


Sleeping properly.  My 16-month-old is not the only reason.  Electric light is the primary culprit.  After working all day, finally getting the kid to sleep and eating a big meal, the temptation to stay up late for some time with my wife, or TV, or video games, can be almost irresistible.  Even though my body’s ready for sleep, blasting my retinas with blue light leads to a second wind and before I know it I’m reaching for the almond butter and staying up way too late.  In the morning I pay the ultimate price.  I’ve been getting better about this recently, but learning to respect the circadian rhythm is my greatest challenge.


Eating truly primally.  Avoiding dietary poison is one thing.  But it’s a daunting challenge to cross over to truly primal fare.  I adore such delicacies as bacon and sausage fried in ghee, maltitol-flavored chocolate dipped in nut butters, whey protein shakes with kefir, and stevia-sweetened pumpkin pie. None of this is too objectionable, but it’s certainly not what Grok ate.  Grok ate raw; he ate with great variety; he ate seasonally.  Grok killed animals and ate the livers while they were still warm and bloody, for Pete’s sake.  As much as I’d love to master a piously pre-agricultural diet, I haven’t been able to manage it.  But I have found a few totally primal dishes I enjoy, like a pound of raw salmon with kale.  I’ve started adding raw eggs to my protein shakes and found it quite tasty, to my surprise.  One of these days I’ll take the real plunge, buy some bison marrow and organs from my local health food pusher, and eat those suckers raw.  But… not today.


Working a desk job.  I used to think a comfy desk job was the absolute pinnacle of vocational accomplishment.  Now it has become an onerous chore. I can’t help fidgeting and getting up constantly.  My lower back howls in pain if I sit for too long, and the only real cure is running.  I crave the sun and fresh air, and although I run in it at noontime every day, coming back indoors feels like prying myself out of the arms of a lover.  The toxic fumes, the unnatural light, the constant immersion in EMF – my dream job presents me with a real predicament.

One Year Down, Seventy-Five to Go

In terms of primal living, I am just an infant.  But like an infant, I feel as if I’m experiencing the world for the first time.  Fortunately, I know from many examples that even a 35-year-old ex-slob like myself can look forward to decades of increasing strength and vigor.  I may not have the flab-free abdominals of the young and the lifelong primal; I’m shorter than I ought to be by genetics; and I will always wonder what I might have achieved if I had encountered Mark’s wisdom twenty years earlier.  But I’m far stronger and happier than I ever thought I would be.  My continuing mission: to share the fruits of primal living with my family, friends, and all fellow human beings.  We only get one shot at being Homo Sapiens, and it’s never too late to discover what that really means.

All text copyright © 2010-2013 Timothy Williams