Category Archives: Primal Living

10 Ways to Get Primal

  • by Mark Sisson

We advocate the Primal Blueprint Lifestyle, that is, a health philosophy that in large part acts to mimic the diet and physical activity of our pre-agricultural ancestors.

Read on to learn how you can get primal on every level on every occasion:


Whether it was searching for food, shelter or just greener pastures, our ancestors spent a lot of time taking the heel-toe express! (Though, it wasn’t exactly heel-toe in those days.) These days, of course, we have planes, trains and automobiles to get us from A to B, which means hoofing it has become our least likely mode of transport. To get back to the Primal Blueprint, set aside some time every week to participate in sustained activity as a way to return your body to its natural state (that is, being in a constant state of motion). And, although hiking was the primary modality for sustained exercise for our predecessors, feel free to substitute it for biking or any other low-level physical activity you can do for a long period with little interruption.


Although eat or be eaten is no longer really considered a threat in today’s society, for our ancestors, it was a pretty big (and potentially lethal) deal. The solution? Run fast, run hard, and run for your life! You can incorporate these same theories by adding a series of short sprints into your exercise routine (see Mark explain his sprint routine here). The idea here isn’t necessarily to be the fastest kid on the block (although that would be awesome), but rather to give all you’ve got for a brief period of time. Also, bear in mind that this concept of going hard and fast for a few seconds isn’t limited to the act of sprinting; you could try water sprints, power cycling, jump rope intervals or any other activity that requires short, intense bursts of energy.

Lift Hard:

Think Cavemen killed time pounding weights in a dingy gym? Think again! Our ancestors tested their strength only in real-life situations (as opposed to having a pose-off with the meathead in the cut-off shirt!) and grew strong by doing, for the most part, weight bearing exercises. Naturally, they focused on activities that would help them carry out real life functions. Want to work out like your primal ancestors? Try weight bearing activities such as squats or dead lifts, which our ancestors did when lifting a heavy rock or log for building; lunges, which mimic the action of transversing steep terrain or stepping into a throw; pull-ups and standing rows to mimic the movement of pulling a heavy object towards the body; pushing, to mimic the motion of… well, pushing things; and twisting motions such as medicine ball throws or cable woodchoppers, which our ancestors did when throwing spears or hoisting objects. For a new challenge (and an exercise that combines just about all of the above motions, try the Turkish get-up:

Ditch Grain and Sugar:

With the tagline “so simple even a caveman could do it,” the commercial suggests that our ancestors were, well, not the sharpest tools in the shed. But, clearly they were smart enough to shun grains and sugar (a feat that the majority of current day Americans have yet to accomplish). In fact, according to some anthropologists, our ancestors only consumed about 80 g of carbohydrates per day, largely because sources of carbohydrates – such as grains, beans and potatoes – are toxic in raw form. To keep it primal, avoid all grains, including bread, pasta, rice and noodles, and all refined sugar. It should also probably be noted that the majority (if not all) of processed foods are packed with carbs – either in the form of a grain, sugar, or both – so it’s best to cut those out too!

Eat Meat and Fish:

When dinner time rolled around for our ancestors, they weren’t exactly reaching for the yellow pages! Instead, they were reaching for a spear, ax or some other weapon to catch their meal. While we’re certainly not advocating that you begin hunting for your own entrees (people might talk!) we do recommend that you begin thinking about your diet in a way that resembles their dietary habits. That is, if you can’t catch it or find it in nature, you can’t eat it. In short, opt for meat and fish and don’t get hung up on the fat content. Not only is fat integral to health, it will also help keep you feeling satiated longer!

Eat Berries, Nuts and Unbridled Amounts of Veggies:

Again, when selecting foods, remember that you’re playing the role of the hunter and gatherer, so feel free to indulge in foods you would find in nature. Specifically, the Primal eating strategy recommends berries, which are low in sugar and packed with vitamins, antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients, and nuts, including walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamias and almonds (but not peanuts which are a legume and should also be avoided for fear of aflatoxins). When it comes to vegetables, seek out root vegetables including carrots, turnips, parsnips, and rutabagas; swede, leafy greens, tomatoes and other brightly-hued vegetables (which not only add color to dishes, but also seriously improve the nutrition value).

Drink Water:

Although there is some back and forth about how much water our early ancestors actually consumed (with some anthropologists suggesting that early man got most of his water from the vegetables he consumed as opposed to risking his life standing in line with the other predators and prey at the local waterhole), the reality is that even if early man didn’t consume that much pure water, he certainly wasn’t reaching for a Coke. Get back to your primal roots by ditching the Gatorade, the soda (including the diet ones – they’re nearly as bad!) and especially the juice. All you really need is water, and lucky for you, it’s as easy as turning on the tap.

Sleep Smart:

When the sun went down, early man started prepping for bed. When the sun sets today, most men (and women) will do the dishes, watch Grey’s Anatomy, finish up paperwork, pay bills and check their email before falling asleep with the television blaring Conan O’Brien. No offense to Mr. O’Brien, but when nature starts heading to bed, so too should you. To catch Zzzs like our ancestors, remove all electronics from the bedroom and focus on creating an environment that is dark, quiet and serene. Also, while it might seem counterintuitive to not close the blinds, allowing natural light to be your wake-up call is far more refreshing (and natural) then waking to the shrills of an alarm clock.


As much as we harp on about how hard early man had it (what with having to work hard to survive and all that), make no mistake, early man liked his downtime too! Unlike our ancestors, however, many of us tend to spend our downtime plunked in front of the TV or computer engaged(?) in mindless activity for hours on end. To get back to our primal roots, select an activity that will clear your mind and help you recharge and refocus. And don’t forget that part of this getting up and moving around a bit.

Crack a Coconut, Spear your Dinner and Sleep in a Cave:

Ok, maybe we’re kidding on this last one. But imagine how primal it’d make you feel!

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Leptin Reset – Quick Start Guide

How to Start the Leptin Reset and Regain Leptin Sensitivity

The following Quick Start Guide is intended as a quick reference guide for persons who have already thoroughly reviewed the subject and plan to become engaged, or are engaged, in a leptin hormone reset protocol. These steps are adapted from a presentation by Dr. Jack Kruse. Please see the link at the bottom of this article to read more details from Dr. Kruse’s blog.


  • Overweight, large appetite and craving carbs are signs you’re Leptin Resistant.
  • If you are fit and in decent shape, then test your reverse T3. If elevated,  you’re likely Leptin Resistant

For best results follow a Primal/Paleo diet with high levels of Omega-3 fish, both during and after the leptin hormone reset.


  • Make sure breakfast is little to no carbs
  • LOTS of protein at breakfast (50-75 grams)
  • Limit carbs to 50 grams per day
  • DO NOT count calories


  • NO SNACKING! Snacking destroys timing and circadian clocks that work in unison with Leptin
  • Most will notice a change in cravings within 4-6 weeks
  • Eat no more than 3 meals a day initially (as your hunger and cravings fade you can adapt to 2 a day)


  • Do not work out before or after breakfast (if you must work out, do it after 5pm)
  • Do allow 4-5 hours between dinner and bedtime
    Trouble sleeping? Do 3-5 minutes of body weight exercises (i.e. pushups or squats)


  • Change in your sweating pattern
  • Energy levels will rise
  • Hunger and cravings will become less and eventually disappear
  • When you awaken you will feel refreshed and well rested
  • Men: rapid weight loss
  • Women: Mood changes (calmer/sleepy), then sleep will improve.
  • Clothes will fit differently and weight loss will occur if you continue the program
  • 8 weeks is the recommended time to follow the protocol.  It is not intended to be a permanent diet.
  • When completed, you should revert back to a normal Primal/Paleo dietary pattern.



  • Pastured/organic eggs; grass fed meat, poultry and fish; protein shakes (less ideal)
  • Cooking oils when using carbs: (liberal amounts) butter, heavy cream, coconut oil, or palm oil.
  • Avoid nut or seed oils in initial stages.

Read more:

The Primal Blueprint – 8 Key Concepts


  • By Mark Sisson
  1. Yes, You Really Can Reprogram Your Genes

The popular conception of a gene is “a weird collection of DNA and chromosomes and other stuff that determines whether or not you’re going to get this type of cancer, how long you’ll live, and if you’ll get a coronary bypass at some point in your life.” There’s this idea that genes are immutable, that they represent a sort of cosmic destiny for an individual. But, aside from some heritable traits like eye and hair color or the number of fingers on your hands and feet, genes are actually programmable. They “express” themselves in different ways according to information gathered from our environment, our food, and our behaviors. They “turn on” or “turn off” in response to these environmental signals. Thus, though you might have “the gene for type 2 diabetes” – which is really just a genetic proclivity towards the disease, not a sentence – providing the right environmental signals will prevent the gene from ever turning on.

How we eat, exercise, sleep, interact with our social circles, stress, and spend time outdoors (plus tons of other environmental signals) determines how our genes express themselves; how our genes express themselves in turn determines our level of health. Genetic predisposition is not your destiny.

  1. The Clues to Optimal Gene Expression Are Found in Evolution

While we can’t sit at a control panel and fiddle with our gene expression like a mad scientist just yet, we can make some very good guesses based on a powerful heuristic: human evolution. Reason being, two million years of selection pressure exerted upon the hominid line designed a healthy, successful, productive, vibrant organism. We didn’t just “happen,” after all. We look like we do and work like we do and have the genes that we do that express themselves the way that they do because of very powerful selection pressures. The habitats in which we lived, the foods we ate, the movements we had to perform in order to survive, the sunlight to which we were exposed, the stressors we faced – these environmental factors shaped our genetic code, and it is to these various environmental stimuli that our genetic expression responds most favorably. The clues to realizing our Primal Blueprint lies scattered amidst our evolutionary history.

Until that day when we can sit a computer terminal and decide which genes we want to express today, and how, the best we can probably do is use human evolution as a base level tool for making lifestyle decisions. You’ll probably refine the details later, but evolution is a darn good place to start.

  1. Your Body Prefers Burning Fat Over Carbohydrates

We’ve evolved to be fat-burners (must be why we’re so adept at storing it on our bodies!). It’s easy to see why. Fat burns slow and evenly, providing all-day steady energy levels. Carbohydrates burn quickly, and they’re gone in an instant, leaving you groggy and depleted unless you “carb up.” Furthermore, carbohydrates are an inherently unreliable and fleeting source of energy for our body, with most people only able to store about 400-500 grams of carbohydrates on the body at any one time. Our storage capacity for fat, on the other hand, is virtually endless. Just ten or fifteen pounds of body fat, which is the bare minimum available on even the leanest individuals, can provide tens of thousands of calories. Luckily, reducing carbohydrates and increasing fat intake sends the epigenetic signals necessary to help us revert back to fat-burning, and it only takes a week or two to get things moving in the right direction.

Become fat-adapted, enjoy boundless energy. Free yourself from the shackles of a carbohydrate-based metabolism/dependency.

  1. 80 Percent of Your Body Composition Success Is Determined by How You Eat

Food is the single most important factor in body composition. You can exercise all you want but as long as you’re eating garbage, and too much of it, you won’t get very far. For that reason, any real attempt to modify your body composition has to begin by addressing what you put in your mouth. I like to start with the quality of the food you eat. I don’t discount the importance of quantity, mind you, but I do find that honing in on the quality of the food is more crucial and effective. Case in point: 2000 calories of fast food will have a very different effect on your body composition, satiety, and nutrient intake than 2000 calories of grass-fed meatwild fish, and produce grown in rich, fertile, nutrient-dense soil. The fast food won’t be as satiating, nor as nutrient-dense, as the real food, so you’ll likely be compelled to eat more of it. The fast food will primarily include trans- and polyunsaturated fats, sugary sauces, refined grains, and poor quality meat, which will promote insulin resistance and the storage of body fat while inhibiting fat burning. Eating Primal food, rich in animals, plants, and healthy fat, on the other hand, will normalize insulin sensitivity, thereby allowing fat burning. In effect, quality will determine quantity; you’ll eat less spontaneously when you eat healthy Primal foods. Quality paired with proper quantity will in turn determine your body composition.

Sleep matters, exercise helps, stress has an effect, but how you eat – what you eat and how much you eat – is the prime determinant of your body composition.

  1. Grains Are Totally Unnecessary

Despite their exalted position in the Conventional hierarchy of healthy foods, grains are completely and utterly unnecessary. And yes, that even goes for whole grains. I mean, what’s so great about them, anyway? What unique nutrients do they provide? If you want fiber, eat vegetables. If you want antioxidants, eat colorful produce. If you want carbs, eat fruits and tubers. Humans got along fairly well without wide scale grain agriculture for many thousands of years, and there’s no real reason to buy in today, especially when you consider the grainantinutrients like gluten that impair digestion, reduce mineral absorption, and damage the intestinal lining. What is it, then, that necessitates 10-12 servings of whole grains a day? It’s madness. Besides, for all the supposed health benefits that the grain-obsessed like to say are supported with tons of studies, this just isn’t the case when you look a little deeper. Those studies invariably compare whole grains to refined grains, and in that case, the whole grain will generally win out. I’d suspect that if you compared a whole grain-based diet to a grain-free Primal way of eating, you’d get very different results. Unfortunately, that study hasn’t been done.

There’s nothing good in grains that you can’t get elsewhere, and plenty bad that you won’t find elsewhere. Don’t eat ’em.

  1. Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Are Not Your Enemy

Another popular health canard is that dietary saturated fat and cholesterol are horrible, evil things that seek only to clog our arteries, thicken our blood, and pad our waistlines. That’s crazy, of course. Fat, especially saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol are important building blocks for sex hormones like testosterone. Saturated fat helps us absorb nutrients from our food. Saturated fat is inherently the most stable fat, able to withstand heat and light stress without oxidizing, and it’s incredibly satiating. Cholesterol is crucial in the creation of vitamin D from sun exposure. And contrary to popular belief and the protestations of “experts,” neither saturated fat nor dietary cholesterol have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Sugar, refined PUFA oils, trans-fats? Those are the real enemies. Oh, and consider this: every successful diet is actually a high-fat diet. When you lose weight, whether it’s through low-carb Primal or high-carb vegan, you are consuming ample amounts of highly saturated animal fat. The only thing is that this animal fat is coming off your body, but it’s still saturated animal fat just the same.

A diet rich in animal fat and cholesterol is not just safe, it’s downright healthy.

  1. Exercise is Ineffective for Weight Management

Exercise is healthy. Exercise is necessary for lasting wellness. Exercise builds muscle and exerts beneficial effects on hormone expression and function. Exercise gets you strong, gets you fit, and keeps you young. I like exercise; I do some form of it every single day, and I recommend that you do the same. But exercise alone is highly ineffective for weight management. For it to truly help manage your weight, exercise must be paired with a healthy eating plan, adequate sleep, effective stress management, ample sun exposure, and healthy amounts of social contact with friends, family, and loved ones. Sure, some people take exercise to the extreme, training for hours and hours on end, all in the quest to burn a few hundred more calories, to “make up for” those donuts at breakfast, to eradicate those love handles. And if you go long enough and hard enough, yeah, you’ll “burn calories.” But at what cost? Exercise is a stressor, after all. Maintained at a chronic, extreme pace and frequency, exercise becomes a chronic stressor that does more harm than good. It makes you hungry. It increases systemic and local inflammation. It depresses your immune system. It fatigues you, leading to less activity throughout the day. You’ll eventually and inevitably burn out unless you eat a massive amount of calories to make up for all that you’ve lost, and, at that point, you’re back at square one.

You can’t out-exercise a bad diet and poor lifestyle.

  1. Maximum Fitness Can Be Achieved in Minimal Time With High Intensity Workouts

Study after study shows that the key to optimal health, aging, and fitness is muscle strength and mass. The more lean mass we have, the better we’re able to handle what life can dish out, whether it’s carrying groceries, playing with our kids, saving our own lives in a life-or-death situation, or engaging in the time-tested essential activity known as love-making. Luckily for those of us who relish our free time, the most effective, most efficient ways to build and maintain lean mass are through intense strength and sprint training. Twice a week, spend 15-40 minuteslifting heavy things using functional, full-body compound movements – squatspullupspushupsplanks – and once every 7-10 days, spend 10-20 minutes doing 8-10 all out sprints. If you don’t want to move heavy weights, you don’t have to; bodyweight exercises are plenty of stimulus for most people. And if you’re not ready to run sprints on a track, plenty of lower-impact alternatives exist, like cycling, swimming, rowing, or even uphill sprints.

Make your short, intense workouts shorter and more intense. Round them out with lots of slow moving – walks, hikes, and the like – throughout your everyday life, and you’ll be incredibly fit and well-rounded, in a fraction of the time most people presume is required.

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Are Your Beans and Bread Making You SicK?

Wheat Field

Lectin.  Remember this word.  For your health and well being you need to know about lectin.

Lectin is a family name of a group of proteins found in both plants and animals. Their roles in life are still being studied, but one role they perform is to recognize and bind up substances that may challenge or compromise the survival of its host.  One member of this protein family, known as phytohemagglutinin, is plant based and is highly concentrated in seeds like beans and grains; many that are common in the human diet. Its purpose is to protect the seeds from microorganisms, pests, insects and other challenges, even digestion.

Lectin, itself, is indigestible by many animals including humans. Its presence is to shield the seed from digestion too. It is common to see whole and partially chewed seeds pass undigested in the feces of animals that eat them.  However, here is the problem; lectin (although indigestible) can pass intact from human intestines into the blood stream with bad results that you may not associate with their cause.

What’s the harm if lectin passes into your bloodstream? Remember, lectin likes to bind to things.  So, if by chewing or grinding into flour for example, the lectins have been freed from their seed hosts and the lectin ends up in your blood stream, it will bind to something, none of which your body will recognize as friendly.

Lectin is fond of joint tissue and will often bind to your joints. When your body fails to recognize it, your immune system will go to battle against the lectin by inducing swelling, pain and general inflammation around it.  You’ll wonder why your knees hurt or your shoulder aches.  It is unlikely that you’ll blame the bread you ate last night, unless you understand how lectin, from the flour, in the bread you ate last night, found its way into your joint tissue.

Lectin may bind to other foods you’ve eaten and prevent them from being properly digested too.  If you’re lucky, you’ll only feel the gas or constipation that comes from undigested food.

If you’re unlucky, lectin may actually bind to the walls of your intestines and disrupt the activity of the cells of your intestines, further affecting digestion or even causing those cells to separate sufficiently to allow lectin and other undigested food to enter directly into your bloodstream. This likely will cause a host of immune system responses.

Worse things can happen.  In sufficient quantity, lectin may choose to bind to the sugars of your red blood cells and make them clump together, actually acting as a poison.  Not a good outcome.

So how do you prevent these bad consequences from happening? Naturally, the best way is simply to avoid eating seeds that contain the lectin.  That would include most grains and beans.  How likely is that? Many people have quit eating grain products and beans and have experienced amazing health benefits.  The elimination of grain and beans is highly promoted by those folks following a paleo or primal eating template. Ideally, this is what one does.  Then, there can’t be a lectin issue at all.

Falling short of that, it is important that measures be taken to at least minimize the amount of lectin that is consumed.  Eat less of it and learn to recognize the symptoms of lectin ingestion. Learn. Learn which beans and grains bear less lectin than others.  For example, white rice is near the bottom of the list for lectin content as are lentils. Kidney beans and wheat are at the top of their respective lists.  Or, learn and strictly abide by the old, traditional ways of preparing beans and grains, while understanding that even these methods are compromises that will not totally eliminate the potential consequences. Soaking, sprouting and fermenting beans and grains prior to preparation will reduce lectin content but not eliminate all.

What about that grain protein everyone wants to argue about called gluten? Is gluten a lectin? No, but it has been described as an ugly cousin of lectin. Some people appear to be more sensitive to gluten than others, but the argument is pointless.  It overshadows the issue of lectin. If one takes measures to avoid the known dangers of lectin you’ll automatically avoid any dangers of gluten.

Avoidance of lectin, or at least minimizing lectin intake, can only benefit your health and well being.

The Primal Scoop on Magnesium



If you live near the sea and take regular dips in ocean water, one of the benefits (amongst others) you receive is a good healthy dose of magnesium, absorbed right through your skin. It’s one of the reasons that one feels a slight oily film on the skin after emerging from seawater.   It’s also the reason that one feels a heightened sense of well-being after a dip in the ocean.  Magnesium.

More than 300 biochemical processes of the human body are dependent upon the cellular presence of magnesium.  It is an essential mineral that contributes to the healthy functioning of your muscles, nerves and immune system, as well as your bone health and glucose levels. It aids protein production, energy generation and keeps your heartbeat steady. Cellular magnesium levels must be optimal for the human body to function at its peak.

Magnesium is available from many sources but there are absorption issues with some, as well as unpleasant consequences of getting too much from other sources. For example, magnesium derived from Magnesium Hydroxide (also known as Milk of Magnesia) has a strong laxative effect. Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt) is a favorite bath soaking salt for sore muscles but isn’t absorbed well to raise cellular levels. The Recommended Daily Allowances for magnesium range from 310mg/day for women, up to 420mg/day for men.

Some foods are good sources of magnesium. Regular intake of bone broth and fatty fish like mackerel are good sources. Most fruits, vegetables and nuts contribute decent amounts to raise cellular magnesium levels. Magnesium in grains and legumes, although present, may not be absorbed as easily due to secondary gut issues and the benefit from those sources is questionable.
Oral supplements such as Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium Oxide and Magnesium Malate are reasonable contributors. However, one of the best sources is the topical application and transdermal absorption of Magnesium Chloride, also known as Magnesium Oil.  It isn’t really an oil but it does have that kind of feel.

The reason regular dips in the ocean will raise your cellular levels of magnesium is due to the skin’s absorption of natural Magnesium Chloride from ocean water.

If you live near the sea and take regular dips in the ocean your magnesium levels are probably ideal.  If not, you may not be meeting your daily intake requirements. The use of supplemental Magnesium Oil, applied to your skin daily, will be similar to the benefits of taking that ocean plunge.

A couple of teaspoons of Magnesium Oil, applied to your arm pits (in place of your deodorant) and rubbed into your body trunk is all you’ll likely need to optimize cellular magnesium levels.  However, if you also suffer from sore tight muscles and achy joints, a little extra applied to them may provide some temporary relief as well.


Walking Indian Style – Guest Post

Originally Posted on September 22, 2014 by Helga at with author’s permission.

As children we often sat cross-legged on the floor or ground and called it “sitting Indian-style”.  Well, how about walking Indian-style?  How did Native Americans walk before they adopted stiff-soled, constrictive European footwear?  The answer is nimbly and effortlessly, landing on the ball of the foot — or on the entire sole — instead of on the heel.  In “The Indian How Book“, published in 1927, Seneca archaeologist, Arthur C. Parker, provides this wonderful description of Indian walking:

A natural people who depended upon nimble feet know how to walk.  The stiff-soled shoe and the styles of the generation have altered our way of walking.  We come down with a jar upon our heels, then rock our feet to our toes, thrust the other foot forward and come down upon the heel again.  We also turn our feet outward in such a manner that the direction of our movement passes through the middle of our foot, instead of from toe to heel.  We toe out.  Stiff soles, heel thumping and toeing out injure many feet, and fallen arches result.

Indians directed their feet straight ahead.  The body followed the direction of the foot, — straight ahead.  Moccasins were worn, which allowed the foot to keep its natural shape.  Indians had no corns or injured toe joints.  Contrary to the idea that the foot in a loose covering grows large, the Indian’s foot was small.  The moccasin did not cause it to flatten out.  On the other hand, the moccasin favored good blood circulation and strong, hard foot muscles.  There were no fallen arches.

In walking with the foot straight ahead there was less fatigue.  In walking up a steep hill Indians turned their toes in.  This permitted them to grip the ground with the forward and outside of the foot, and prevented slipping.

Moccasins kept the Indian “on this toes” a good deal of the time.  He kept a springy feeling.  In ordinary walking the heel was not thumped down first, but the ball of the foot, or, occasionally the whole foot, planked down flat upon the ground.

Our present day military step is a fatiguing one and in the long run injures the bones of the feet.  A good many hikers are trying the Indian way with great success.

During the Civil War, General Grant had on his staff a Seneca Indian who was a Colonel in charge of military engineering.  Later he was made Grant’s military secretary, but during this Indian’s career as engineer there were many forced marches through the Wilderness.  The men in one of the brigades became foot weary and were falling out rapidly.  The Indian went to Grant and said that he could carry the men through without further fatigue.  “Take command,” said Grant.  The Indian in taking command ordered every man to toe in and march ahead.  When they were rested he had them walk with the feet straight ahead instead of at an angle of forty-five degrees or thereabouts.  Completely restored, the men went forward and joined the re-enforcements.

Going native

The Indians were right where clothing and footwear were concerned, so it’s not surprising that Europeans who spent a lot of time with Indians — mountain men, trappers, traders, and adventurers — often chose to “go native” by wearing Indian clothing and moccasins.  They must have experienced an incredible sense of freedom after shedding the tight trousers, waistcoats, stiff-collared-and-cuffed shirts, jackets, and crippling shoes and boots.  But how many European women were brave enough to cast aside their corsets, hooped skirts and button-up granny boots in favour of soft deerskin dresses, leggings and moccasins?

Or not…..

What has really changed?  We are still slaves of fashion, having merely replaced the corset with the Wonder Bra (and other undergarments that lift, separate and compress);  the hoop skirt with the pencil-skirt; and granny boots with Manolo Blahniks and motion-control, anti-pronation running shoes.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


A Better Way to Build a Camp Fire


I’m not sure when the earliest humans began to use fire to cook their food, heat their living spaces and provide nighttime lighting. Some research points as far back as 1 million years. The accepted belief is that fire was discovered, not invented, perhaps started by lightning. However it came to be, at some point, our ancestors learned to start and control fire. Those first controlled fires were built of wood.

For thousands of generations, until relatively modern times, wood fires have provided comfort, light and a means to cook food.

It is difficult, today, to sit by a camp fire at night without being caught in a hypnotic stare. The surrounding darkness is meaningless; the fire becomes the sole focus of our eyes and minds at the time.

Building a camp fire is pretty easy if you don’t let your intuition get in the way. Most people, whether building a camp fire or a fire in a wood burning stove or fireplace, know that heat rises. Intuitively, they assume that the fire should be started at the bottom of a stack using paper and small kindling at the bottom, and building a stack or pyramid of increasingly larger twigs, limbs and logs. Then they ignite the paper and let the rising heat ignite the larger pieces above the starting point. This way works, but it isn’t the best way.

There is another and better way to build a fire that will burn slower, hotter and put out much less smoke. You build the stack upside down from what your intuition tells you. You place the larger logs on the bottom, and start building a stack or pyramid with increasinglyUpside down campfire smaller limbs and twigs. Finally you place some paper, tied in knots (to provide some density), on top and surround the knots with some tiny twigs. Then, you ignite the paper at the top and watch with amazement at what happens.

As the paper begins to burn, the small twigs adjacent to the paper also ignite. The heat from the paper and twigs starts heating the slightly larger twigs beneath them to the point they start to release gas that ignites. This is the stuff that would be going up as smoke if you had started at the bottom. Usually these flammable gasses are too cool to ignite and they escape with the smoke. With this technique, your fire ignites the gasses before they escape with the smoke. You can actually see small flames forming in the air as the gasses ignite above the unburned wood. The burning gas is a clean burn with minimal smoke, with greater heat that then heats the larger twigs and limbs beneath them. They, also, start to release gas that ignites. Hot ashes and sparks from the exhausted burn at the top begin to fall into the stack to create heat that releases even more gas. As this gas rises it is ignited by the flames above. This process continues slowly downward consuming every piece of wood encountered.

I didn’t believe it either when I first heard about this way of building a fire. I’m pretty scientific and I knew this wouldn’t work. Eventually, I tried it and I’ve never built a fire any other way since. Try it the next time you build a fire, whether in a fireplace, wood burning stove or campground. You’ll never go back to the other smoky way either.

Early to Bed …

Ben Franklin is credited with the quote, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”.  Did Ben Franklin know something in the 18th century that we’re having to learn all over again? Another Primal Way?

I don’t know about the “wealthy” part, but health (physical and mental) is being directly linked by many researchers to the quantity and quality of our sleep.  Adequate sleep is absolutely essential to restoring and maintaining our states of health. To the extent that we can stay healthy, we’ll spend fewer dollars on medical costs and maybe keep a little more wealth as well. Adequate sleep is an inexpensive solution to much of what ails us.

Modern lifestyles are damaging our ability to sleep. That isn’t to say that some people don’t have medical issues that interfere with their sleep and for them, good medical attention by their doctor is proper. Most of the rest of us, however, are sleep deprived for non-medical reasons that may have medical consequences.

Blue light exposure, after sunset, is one of the causes of many people’s sleep difficulties. primalways7Here’s why. Sleepiness is triggered, and resultant sleep is maintained, by the body’s natural release of melatonin from the pineal gland when daylight has faded. Blue light is a major facet of daylight and will shut off melatonin release. When blue light is removed and it is night, we become sleepy.  When blue light returns at sunrise, we start to become more alert.

Now, however, blue light doesn’t go away at sunset. We maintain our exposure to blue light well into the evening with computers, phones, televisions and much of our lighting. Our exposure to blue light effectively shuts off our body’s natural, primal way of transitioning to sleep. Sleepiness may still come, eventually, from carbohydrate snacking or from pills, but it isn’t the sustained sleep the body needs for health.

Ideally, we will know these facts and adopt lifestyles that turn off the blue light sources when the sun goes down and we allow our bodies to enjoy the sleep it needs. To the extent we can do that, the healthier we will be.

Knowing that few of us will do the ideal thing, adopt the Primal Way, there are some things we can do to help mitigate the impact of blue light in our nighttime environment. Go yellow! Go red! There’s a reason why outdoor yellow lights don’t attract insects. Insects don’t see them. Apparently, neither does the pineal gland respond to yellow or red, like it does to blue.

Avoid looking at light at night, other than yellow or red. Use bulbs in your lamps at night that have a warm yellow hue.  Don’t buy daylight or cool blue bulbs. If you use low level nightlights, pure yellow or red work well.

If you must use your computer at night, there are things you can do. Wear yellow, amber or red colored glasses. Even inexpensive yellow driving glasses will filter out enough blue light to help. There are also fairly expensive glasses promoted as “blueblockers” that will remove all of the blue from the light you see. Most computer monitors have buttons on them that can be used to change the color mix of the screen. You can reduce the blue. Your TV color mix can also be adjusted to filter out the blue.

Colored glasses are more convenient.  With any approach, your nighttime environment will have a greenish yellow appearance and you’ll not enjoy the vibrant colors of your computers and televisions, but you will have gone back to an old path when sleep was recognized as the key to health and wisdom. Maybe wealth as well.

Come morning, go blue again.  It will make you alert.

End of Summer’s Garden Nears

September 12, 2014


Today the summer heat of Texas broke. It isn’t 102F anymore.  It’s 65F. Of course we’ll see more warm, perhaps hot days but we’re within striking distance of fall, my favorite season.

This isn’t intended to be a weather report but the strikingly cool weather of today caused me to reflect about the summer garden I had this year.  I resumed gardening after several years. My Primal birth in March rekindled a love of touching the earth with my hands, planting the seeds of life, tending the plants  and reaping a bountiful harvest of fresh, organic and thoroughly nutritious vegetables.

I have a busy schedule so I did not try to garden more than I could comfortably manage.  I eased back into it this year. I raised only four vegetables but each produced more yield than any garden I ever have had. I planted lettuce, tomatoes, yellow squash and okra.

My timing of the lettuce and tomatoes was off a bit or I could have had homegrown salads. As it was, the outermost leaves of the lettuce heads were picked and eaten while the center head developed. When full, the heads were cut, eaten and shared. From a 4 x 8 garden bed, there was a meal’s worth of lettuce harvested every other day from April through May.

Then came the tomatoes. They went crazy. I ate tomatoes every day.  Gave away tomatoes.  Blanched and froze tomatoes. The fresh ones came to an end about a month ago but frozen ones abound for the winter.

Squash did OK.  Several meals of squash, sauteed in coconut oil, were produced, but not crazily so, not like the tomatoes before it or the okra that followed on its heels.

The okra. Never, ever, have I seen such a bumper crop of okra.  I thought the tomatoes were out of hand. Okra has been sauteed, fried, boiled, frozen and given away and it, also, wouldn’t quit.

The okra likes hot weather and there’s been plenty of that. Now that the cooler air has come in and will remain a while, I will get a breather as the okra will come to its productive end soon.

It’s all been good.  Almost too good.

Pests were not an issue this year.  I prepared my soil well by removing all grasses and covering the newly turned soil with black plastic to heat the soil in March. Then, I turned in some well composted chicken yard fertilizer into the soil and covered it again for a week before each planting.

I avoided, for the most part, watering with fluoridated municipal water.  I placed a 100 gallon stock watering trough beneath the roof’s overhang, caught rainwater and watered my plants with a bucket. On a few unfortunate occasions when summer’s rainfall was scarce, I had to resort to municipal water but I followed some urban homesteading advice and did so with a soaker hose that encircled the plants on both sides, about a foot from the rootzone. This, hopefully, used the soil’s filtering capacity to mitigate the impact of the fluoride. I cringed a little every time I had to do this.

Texas is fortunate in that something can be grown in a garden year round. I’m thinking some late fall and winter greens would be a good thing.

I’ve been dumping my grass clippings all summer into whichever beds the crops were finished in. I don’t use any kind of artificial fertilizers or pesticides on my lawn so I felt good about putting the clippings down as mulch.

I’ll rake out some of the top layers of that mulch and anything that I see that has composted, I’ll turn it into the soil, add a little more chicken yard fertilizer and cover the soil until I’m ready to plant some mustard and turnips in late October.

I just remembered how I used to plant garlic in November.  I should set aside a little space to do that again.

I cannot garden while wearing gloves.  I have to have my bare hands in the dirt.  This year I did something new.  I also gardened barefooted. That was a lot of fun.

Whatever the scientific explanation of grounding might be, I enjoyed four body contact points of grounding during my summer of gardening. I’m looking forward to trying the same thing in the cool of the coming winter.

My Primal Play


I am on the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation and only now am I realizing that I am still an infant in my Primal Ways. This is my story.

My Primal Ways birthday is March 3, 2014. This is the day when I began a new journey down an old path.

I have rubbed shoulders with Primal Ways all of my life but it hasn’t been a coalesced lifestyle.  That’s why I think of myself as an infant, learning and putting meaning into Primal Ways.

I have never met anyone else, my age, who can boast that their grandfather was born during the Civil War. It happened that my grandfather was an older man when my father was born and my father was an older man when I was born. Only two generations fell between me and the Civil War.

Why is that important?  It means that I was exposed, as a child, to many old ideas.  I heard many old stories from my grandfather who spent cold Oklahoma winters with my family and then spent summers with my Uncle’s family.  You see, the concept of Assisted Living Centers for the aged, was a foreign concept. A Primal Way.

When I got a sore throat in the winter, my father would grab my grandfather’s bottle of iodine and swab my throat.  Come morning, it was gone.

When my grandfather started getting winter sniffles, he would find his horehound candy in a bag and start sucking on the hard candy. Sniffles went away.

Come early springtime, a man with a mule and plow went from house to house in the neighborhood to turn the wintered soil of each neighbors’ garden plot. Right behind him, came another man in a pickup truck filled with composted manure to be piled next to the garden plots for use as each neighbor planted their gardens.

By summertime, the gardens were producing and being harvested.  On most days our kitchen was filled with the heat and humidity of a pressure cooker as jar after jar of fresh produce was canned and put away for the coming winter when my grandfather would return.  This was my life in the 1950’s.

By the 1960’s, my personal viewpoints were clarifying and my life’s plan was forming.  I realized that I had been raised in a backward and uneducated lifestyle and that a different lifestyle would be better for me.

After college I settled into a corporate workstyle while living with my young family in urban apartments. As the children neared school age, we decided a suburban home would be a better lifestyle.  Everything else remained the same.

There was a large backyard with a playground that the children soon outgrew.  Something needed to be done with the space so it was transformed into a garden space. From my childhood I retained the lesson of organic gardening so I wanted nothing else for my garden, all the while eating conventional pesticide laced produce from the supermarket when the summer organic tomatoes, squash and okra were finished. No canning was done.  There wasn’t enough to store anyway.  This was Primal Play, not Primal Ways.

I found a Whole Foods Market one day while driving in Dallas and stopped in. My goodness, it smelled good.  I walked the aisles as a form of entertainment.  I sure couldn’t afford their prices.  I ended up, however, buying a bottle of trace minerals from the Great Salt Lake that we all took until the bottle ran out. Boy, did we feel good! We didn’t replace it. Just Primal Play.

On that trip to Whole Foods Market I browsed a small stand of magazines and found my first “Mother Earth News”.  That was interesting reading and brought back some memories of things I heard about and witnessed as a child, things that uneducated and old-fashioned folks did. I didn’t yet subscribe but I would find copies elsewhere occasionally.  I read enough that I started to fantasize a remote cabin as a getaway from the hardships of work and urban living.

The fantasy grew and we found a small acreage in the Kiamichi Mountains of Oklahoma. We couldn’t afford to build yet so it sat, visited once in a while for short times. More Primal Play.

I smoked a pipe since college, convinced that it would not hurt me like cigarettes would have. I worried sometimes, until I heard a guy at work say he had read that for every 20 cigarettes smoked, it took 1 gram of Vitamin C to counteract the nicotine.  I wanted to remain healthy and I figured my 1 ½ oz of pipe tobacco per day was the equivalent of a pack of 20 cigarettes.  I became a 1 gram per day Vitamin C junkie. Vitamin C became my license to smoke.

I gradually was gaining weight from the skinny 129 lb. college graduate to a plump 30-something. One of my children called me “fatty” one day and I looked in the mirror;  then I weighed.  I’m a short guy and 178 lbs really did not look good.  I managed to drop some of it off and my weight hovered around 167 forever, but with continual difficulty, like the proverbial yo-yo.

Over the next 20+ years, I thought I was being healthy, as evidenced by my ability to keep my weight around 167.  I was now supplementing with every known thing that I thought an aging body might need. Long life hasn’t been a primary motivation, but I sure did not want to feel bad, however long I might live.  So I read a lot, implemented some things, and tried to supplement my way past my bad lifestyle decisions.  I still smoked a pack of pipe tobacco each day.  As income increased, I returned to Whole Foods for the best supplements and occasionally splurged on some organic produce. When my work hours permitted, I still had an occasional summer organic (of course) garden. Primal Play.

It was a good time to develop the acreage we had bought in Oklahoma so one of my now grown sons and I built a storage shed and then a covered carport and started a cabin. Trips to the land began to be more enjoyable and productive as the small cabin took shape.  Naturally, I followed the “Mother Earth News” way and built it off-the-grid.  I was now a homesteader, just like those stories in the magazine. Primal Play.

In my late 50’s I went for my every-ten-year physical examination. My Doctor did not like what he saw before him.  I almost walked out on him, convinced he was looking at someone else’s labs. I hadn’t weighed in a while but I already knew I was still around 167. Nope. His scales said 183. My blood pressure was high at 140ish over something.  He ordered me to quit smoking or find another Doctor and he insisted I have my first colonoscopy.

I had the colonoscopy and was happy to learn my colon was clean and healthy. I thought I was doing a great job of staying healthy. There was proof. Why was everything else so bad?

The key, my doctor said, was to quit smoking so I did and my blood pressure normalized.  But, I didn’t quit nicotine.  After all, I found some sites on the Internet that proclaimed great mental benefits for nicotine. I used nicotine lozenges for several years thereafter until I traced my stomach and intestinal distress back to them.  I weaned myself off of them, while having considerable cravings to resume pipe smoking.  I didn’t.

In the absence of nicotine, my weight began to climb from its renewed 167 level. It passed the 170 mark again, then 178.  I couldn’t stop it.  I was starving myself.  I drank only Diet Coke.  I was feeling my health slipping so I did another round of research and determined that I wasn’t eating enough whole grains and certainly not enough fruit.  I changed that.

I learned during my research that whole grains had lectins that prevented nutrient absorption and were probably why I got gas after eating them.  The Internet taught me to soak and/or ferment them. I bought a good supply of assorted grains from Whole Foods and had a batch of one or the other, soaking and fermenting continually.  Every day, for breakfast, I feasted on a fermented or soaked grain, cooked minimally.  I had with it, some kind of fruit.  I had fruit for lunch and sometimes drank a fruit juice. I was feeling good and knew I was on the right track. Primal Play.

I loathe exercise.  I really do.  I’ve always known it was the right thing to do and I jogged for a few years back in my 20’s.  But, despite the good feelings derived from it, I didn’t want to continue.  It interfered with my smoking. Nevertheless, I have known the benefits of exercise.  So with my new found devotion to eating healthy whole grains and fruit, I began to stair-climb at work.  It’s a six story building and was pretty challenging in the beginning. I never felt better in my whole life.  The weight was coming off and I was back down to the 167 mark.  I wanted to get below 165. But, I knew starvation did not work.  I continued to eat my new friends, whole grains, fruit and vegetables and some meats, chicken as often as I could. I targeted 1800 calories per day and figured that, coupled with daily exhaustive stair climbing would get the weight below 165 with ease. No, it started heading back up and topped 170 again.

Something new started happening as well.  In August 2013 I had to suspend my stair climbing as my left knee became swollen and quite painful. It hurt all the time. I was Primal Playing and decided to find a natural way to address the pain, cayenne pepper ointment. It actually worked pretty well, for a short time. By November, the left knee was better but the right knee began to have the same symptoms. No more stairs.  I blamed them.  I continued my increased intake of grains and fruits.

On a weekend trip to the cabin in January 2014, after the first night, I awoke with both knees doubled in size and in so much pain I barely could walk.  I slathered both of them with the cayenne ointment and they loosened enough that I could walk but with considerable pain still.  I returned home early, wondering why they were so bad.  I had done no strenuous work at the cabin or elsewhere.  I hadn’t stair climbed in months.

Monday morning I was better and the knees were returning to their normal size by the end of the week. On that weekend I did no work but the knees began to swell again.  This pattern of swelling, pain, relief and swelling again continued in a weekly pattern until March 3, 2014, the day my Primal Play ended and my Primal Ways began.

I did not want to see a Doctor for my knees.  I was convinced I was headed for surgery.  I went to the internet looking for my answers. I do not remember the search words I used.  Whatever they were, Dr. Jack Kruse was the predominant response. Where I landed painted a picture of me, my grain and fructose intake from the fruit I was consuming. I read that and I read about leptin. I read how a leptin reset can be the beginning of healing.  My leptin reset began that very day. The next morning, I struggled to get my 50 grams of protein down, absent any grains and no fruit. And the next day and the next.

The weekly pattern of knee suffering was broken.  I wasn’t healed immediately but the pain subsided day by day. In about 3 weeks I had no more knee pain. I was never hungry and I noticed my weight was dropping.  That was a side benefit at this point. I mostly wanted to be rid of the pain, but the weight loss was welcomed as well. In the first day or two, I followed Dr. Kruse’s references over to Mark Sisson’s Mark’s Daily Apple blog for my introduction to Primal eating.  I diligently adopted all I could of that as part of the leptin reset.  I studied the differences between Mark Sisson’s plan and Jack Kruse’s Epi-Paleo food plan and ate accordingly.

After 8 weeks of following the leptin reset plan, I implemented Jack Kruse’s post-leptin reset plan but I modified it to lighten up a little with some resistant starches that Mark Sisson and some others advocated.  I certainly understood their evidence of the benefits of resistant starches but as I gradually added potato starch to my diet, in opposition to Dr. Kruse’s argument, my knee pain started to return and I had to start the leptin reset over again. I am now back to implementing the post leptin reset protocol, using nuts to feed my gut bacteria instead of resistant starch.  Someday, I’ll be healed sufficiently, perhaps, to use resistant starch but it did not work for me, not yet.

Today, 6 months later, I weigh 148 pounds.  I would have been happy to be at 165. My blood pressure has been pretty even for the last 6 months, around the 110/75 level. No prescription meds of any kind. I am back to climbing stairs, the last thing I do before I leave work. I don’t have to take the 3 mg of melatonin I used to take nightly to sleep.  I bought some blue-blocker goggles that I put on 2-3 hours before bedtime, to simulate the primal yellow light frequencies of the old ways. I now sleep 7+ hours per night with no difficulty.

Mine is not a miracle story.  It is nothing like Dr. Kruse experienced personally, nor like the awesome stories I read on Mark’s Daily Apple every Friday. But, it is my story and I know this is the real deal. Someday, I hope to thank both of you personally for the contributions you made to my healing, the ending of my Primal Play and the birth of my new journey down this old path.

What I have learned about Primal eating is; this is not Primal Play anymore.  It is a small part of my newly welcomed Primal Ways.



Why Primal Ways?

September 8, 2014

What’s in a name? Why use the name, “Primal Ways”?

The “Ways” portion is easy to define.  “Primal” is more difficult. As used here, “Ways” refers to methods employed to achieve personal goals; pursue ambitions. As a whole, we can view “Ways” as our lifestyles; our styles of living.

Now, what do we mean by “Primal”?  The word means “first”, “original” or “foremost”.  I doubt we can really identify many of the first, original or foremost methods that our ancestors employed to achieve their goals and to pursue their ambitions. As used here, Primal has a broader context. Primal will simply mean the methods employed in prior times (before this current generation) to achieve myriad goals and ambitions.

summer-spring-flow1.jpgGoals and ambitions, pursued through lifestyles or ways, are primarily personal matters. But, many Primal Ways are shared commonly by segments of the population. It may be impossible to identify all of those shared ways, but the mission of this Primal Ways site is to exchange information, opinions and ideas about as many Primal Ways as we can identify.

Currently, there are numerous lifestyles being promoted as “Primal”. Diet is a huge one, being presented as a variant of the Paleo diet. Some other “Primal” lifestyles, promoted as such, include fitness, therapy, parenting, healing and spirituality.  All are valid Primal Ways, but there are many more that are not specifically presented or promoted as “Primal”.

How about homesteading, both rural and urban?  Homesteading is a huge example of Primal Ways.

How about gardening and agriculture, in general? Home gardens and a growing number of small farms are shifting to Primal Ways.

How about hunting, fishing and foraging? Can any lifestyles claim the name more than these Primal Ways?

How about the arts? Primitive and tribal music and painting are just two of many artistic expressions of Primal Ways.

How about commitments to the environment and to conservation? How about dedication to helping others? How about communication and transportation? How about education? Do these have Primal Ways we should consider?

Which Primal Ways yield greater benefits than do modern ways?  Which do not?

Old Paths … New Journeys


primalways9This is the tag line for this journey.  Are there old pathways that we have abandoned in this technological age that were better than the ones we’re on today?

Many people say so.  Are they  just stuck in “the good old days”?  Or, is there truth to be rediscovered?

Let’s discard the belief that the “good old days” were very good.  There were times when things were good and other times when things were not good.  But even in the best of their times, life was hard; much harder than life is today.  Most of us could not physically or mentally survive “the good old days”.

Past generations were adapted and accustomed to hard lives, long hours of work, inequality, oppression, wars, extreme weather cycles, little (if any) government assistance, no retirement options, no insurance, primitive medical care and many other challenges. How did they do it? How did they manage to lead meaningful and productive lives, raise their families and keep their sanity with so many difficulties and without the assistance of the advances and technology of our day?

Society has existed for a long time.  It wasn’t just born in this age of technology. In one form or another, civilization has endured for thousands of generations. They got us here, to today. I believe they had pathways through life that we have forgotten or abandoned. They had competitive advantages that tempered and hardened them to survive and thrive in whatever physical, social or economic environment they were in.

Imagine. What if the advantages they had were applied in our lives, in this age? Which of their old pathways might enhance our life experience? Are any of our new pathways today hindering us from thriving in, or surviving, the comparatively diminished hardships we face?