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Book Review: The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson

The Primal BlueprintI’ve told you all before how I’ve “gone primal” in my quest to get healthier. In true Lynnae fashion, I jumped right into primal eating without knowing much about it. Amazingly, I’ve been eating correctly. But I figured I should probably read the book to learn more about the primal lifestyle and Mark Sisson.

I headed to Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy of The Primal Blueprint . It took me a couple of weeks to get through it. Like most non-fiction books, this wasn’t a page turner that I couldn’t put down. Rather, I read it in bits and pieces, slowly absorbing the information. In the end, I came away with mixed feelings about the book.

First of all, Mark Sisson clearly believes in evolution and bases his entire book on how primal humans lived 10,000 years ago. As a creationist, I obviously didn’t buy into his theory. But since I do believe there is some validity to the benefits of the primal diet, I continued to read, ignoring the references to evolution (and there were many).

Like I mentioned, The Primal Blueprint is based on Sisson’s theory that we should mimic the lifestyle of our early ancestors. The book outlines Sisson’s 10 Primal Blueprint Laws, which are as follows:

  1. Eat Plants and Animals
  2. Avoid Poisonous Things
  3. Move Frequently at a Slow Pace
  4. Lift Heavy Things
  5. Sprint Once in a While
  6. Get Adequate Sleep
  7. Play
  8. Get Adequate Sunlight
  9. Avoid Stupid Mistakes
  10. Use Your Brain

The vast majority of the book focuses on laws one and two, which cover the primal diet. Sisson makes the case that primal man’s diet consisted mostly of scavenged fruits, vegetables, and meat. Primal man didn’t eat grains, as they weren’t commonplace until agriculture became prominent in society.

Again, I disagree with his initial theory, as even in the Bible Cain was a farmer, and Joseph stored grains for the Egyptians to eat in times of famine.

However, as Sisson goes on to explain how grains affect the body, I found myself agreeing with him. He described how grains, even whole grains, can provoke an insulin response in the body, causing blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels. As the body experiences this again and again, it becomes insulin resistant, which results in weight gain and overall bad health.

That’s a very simplified explanation, but one I completely agree with. I believe Americans have overdone grains and processed foods, and as a result, we have caused ourselves a lot of health problems that begin with insulin resistance. I also feel that Sisson is correct in that many of these problems can be solved, or at least made much better, by limiting or eliminating grains from the diet.

After discussing why grains and processed foods are bad, Sisson briefly covers the laws which focus on exercise and lifestyle. He believes that intense cardiovascular workouts are detrimental to one’s health and instead recommends taking walks, hiking, and other slow moving exercises. He advises lifting weights and doing resistance activities once or twice a week and sprinting once a week or so, really pushing oneself to the limit.

Since I’ve been mainly focused on diet in my own life, I haven’t really researched Sisson’s approach to fitness yet. I’m not sure how I feel about limiting cardio workouts, as this goes against what Sisson calls “Conventional Wisdom.”

Some of his points are valid, in that athletes who really push themselves in vigorous training are more prone to injuries and fatigue. But I’m not completely sure I buy into his total fitness theory. Still, exercising the Primal Blueprint way is definitely better than not exercising at all!

Sisson wraps up his laws with a few common sense Primal Blueprint Laws addressing lifestyle. Get enough sleep, take time to play, get some sunlight, don’t do anything stupid, and don’t neglect your brain. There’s really nothing too controversial in these last few laws, but they are good reminders that a balanced life is a good thing.

The Primal Blueprint concludes with a section for those who are really pursuing weight loss. I skimmed this section, as it doesn’t apply to me, at least not yet. The weight loss section mainly talked about how to balance your protein, carbs, and fats for the most efficient weight loss.

The very end of the book contains a few handy reference pages, outlining what is OK and not OK to eat, the basic exercise plan, and a summary of all of the laws. It also includes some suggested workout routines.

Even though I disagreed with Sisson and The Primal Blueprint on a lot of points, I think a primal diet can be a good thing for many people. I know I have benefited greatly from it. I have more energy, and I’ve lost 8 lbs in two and a half weeks! Primal eating is not a diet, though. It has to be a lifestyle change for it to work. I know if I went back to eating lots of grains and sugars again, I’d easily gain all of that weight right back. I’d also probably go back to feeling fatigued most of the time. I’d rather give up the grains and sugars.

I like the fact that Sisson encourages his readers to shoot for 80%, that is, follow the diet (or lifestyle) 80% of the time. When you indulge, enjoy every minute of it. Just don’t indulge too often. Balance is the key to any long term change, and I love the fact that Sisson doesn’t encourage the reader to shoot for perfection.

Other than the evolution thing, The Primal Blueprint was a good read with some great suggestions for those who are concerned about insulin resistance and want to minimize the effects of insulin resistance in their lives.

For more information about the primal lifestyle, visit Mark Sisson’s blog, Mark’s Daily Apple.

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