Today’s special guest contributor is well known for his ancestral approach to health and fitness. Mark Sisson, a former professional triathlete and coach, has spent much of his life researching and applying new strategies to improve performance. Through a desire to mitigate prevailing ailments and afflictions in an athlete, Mark began exploring evolutionary science and it’s relationship to human health and performance. The result of this was MarksDailyApple.com, one of the most popular and resource rich websites on ‘Primal Living’. As a pioneer of this fast growing movement, we asked Mark to trace the path of primal culture, identifying the catalysts that have helped inform and influence it’s training styles and health practices…
Primal living is everywhere now. Ancestral health, paleo diet, barefoot running, gluten-free, standup workstations, CrossFit – these are staples among the health conscious. Most restaurants have dairy-free, gluten-free options, if not entire menus. Paleo restaurants abound. But it wasn’t always like this. Back in 2006 when I started writing my blog – Mark’s Daily Apple – the average person had no clue about the Primal lifestyle. Those of us who espoused it were fringe characters, radicals on street corners with cardboard signs. But sometimes those crazy guys on the street aren’t so crazy. Sometimes they’re right.
I can remember being out to dinner with people who’d ask why I wasn’t eating the bread. My wife and I would exchange a look, she’d sit back, roll her eyes as if to say “Here we go…” and I’d launch into my spiel. But once they’d heard and over the course of a dinner carefully considered it, the notion of a biologically appropriate way of eating, exercising, and living for humans made intuitive sense. By the time the check had arrived, most of the people at the table who’d been asking the questions were vowing to give the lifestyle a trial run. And that’s why I knew that this was big and would only grow as time went on: it worked, it made sense, and once a person discovered that, they’d fall all over themselves to tell others about it. Primal living had a life of its own. It was a self-perpetuating, viral spark.
As sparks do, the movement grew.
2007 saw the release of Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories, a powerful rebuke of decades of flawed government advice on nutrition, dietary fat, and disease. Taubes showed that the campaign against saturated fat and cholesterol was founded on flawed pseudoscience, and that the weight of the actual evidence suggested that animal fat and protein were benign and perhaps even essential to human health. The basic Primal postulate – that humans evolved eating ample amounts of animal fat and protein, and probably still should – had been vindicated in a widely-read treatise on modern science.
In 2009, after a few years of steadily growing readership, I self-published The Primal Blueprint. The book laid out, in plain terms, the health philosophy I’d spent the last couple decades discovering, developing, and refining. It quickly became a best-seller and, along with Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution the following year, helped establish the Primal movement as a legitimate force in the health sphere.
In 2010, we put on the very first PrimalCon in Oxnard, CA, a weekend gathering of Primal health and fitness experts and enthusiasts. It was informative, and the food was great, and everyone learned a lot about living and moving healthfully, but that wasn’t the most important aspect of the weekend. Dozens of people who’d always been the weird one at the dinner party or the gym or the night out with friends, the oddball eating salad instead of pizza, finally felt at home. They didn’t have to explain themselves. They’d found a tribe.
In 2011, the inaugural Ancestral Health Symposium was held at UCLA: a conference of academics, doctors, health practitioners, bloggers, authors, fitness trainers, and enthusiasts devoted to discovering the ways our ancestral traditions and evolutionary history inform and explain modern day health matters. Dozens of formal talks were given; dozens more sprung up informally in the halls. At one of the premier academic institutions in the country, the ancestral health movement had arrived.
After self-publishing several more books, I decided to start publishing other authors who wanted to spread the Primal word but didn’t care to submit to the limits of traditional big name publishing houses.
More PrimalCons every year, too, including in Tulum, Mexico; South Lake Tahoe, CA; and Mohonk, NY. More Ancestral Health Symposiums, more Google searches, more blog visitors. Fewer dumbfounded looks when you tell someone “I don’t eat grains or refined sugar, and I like to walk barefoot.”
I’ve always tried to write with clarity and simplicity so that anyone who reads my books and blogs, and felt moved, could explain to their friends, family, and colleagues just what they found so engaging. And as I said earlier, it’s worked quite well; the Primal concept is simple, intuitive, and fairly easy to explain. That the diet and exercise and everything else actually work doesn’t hurt either.
But we needed a stable framework for information dissemination. We needed this because many Primal enthusiasts involved in healthcare and the fitness industry would email us every day asking for one. They’re chiros and MDs and dietitians, coaches and trainers and massage therapists, yoga instructors and midwives. And maybe they’re just regular folks who are really, really enthusiastic about the health benefits of a biologically appropriate lifestyle and want to help the people they care about get the same results. Whatever their background, they wanted to help people join the Primal movement and they needed a comprehensive, structured guide to convincing the uninitiated and converting the dubious.
Now, in 2014, the release of the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification program marks the latest – and dare I say most important – development in the evolution of the Primal movement. A rigorous, intensive educational program similar in difficulty and intensity to an upper division level college course, the “Cert” prepares health and fitness professionals and motivated laypeople to deliver lasting change to clients, friends and family.
I’m incredibly excited to see what the future brings and to see the movement grow. Modern life has made us unhealthy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Nor will it.