Have you tried hemp oil?
After almost a century of being outlawed, hemp—a form of cannabis with extremely low levels of psychoactive THC—is now legal in the United States. This is big news for people interested in the therapeutic effects of cannabidiol (or CBD) because—while hemp doesn’t contain enough THC, the compound that provides the “high” of cannabis, or any other psychoactive compounds—it does contain cannabidiol (CBD).
For years, all anyone talked about when they talked about cannabis was the THC content. Breeders focused on driving THC levels as high as possible and ignored the other compounds. Even pharmaceutical companies interested in the medical applications of cannabis focused on the THC, producing synthetic THC-only drugs that performed poorly compared to the real thing. It turns out that all the other components of cannabis matter, too, and foremost among them is CBD.
CBD doesn’t get you high, but it does have big physiological impacts. These days, researchers are exploring CBD as a treatment for epilepsy, anxiety, and insomnia. They’ve uncovered potential anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, and immunomodulatory properties. And now that it’s quasi legal, hundreds of CBD-rich hemp oil products are appearing on the market.
What are the purported benefits of using CBD-rich hemp oil, and what does the evidence say?
Although CBD research is growing, it’s still understudied and I expect I’ll have to update this post in the near future with more information. But for now, here’s a rundown of what the research says.
The Health Benefits of CBD In Hemp Oil
CBD For Anxiety Reduction
Anxiety can be crippling. I don’t have generalized social anxiety, but I, like anyone else, know what it feels like to be anxious about something. It happens to everyone. Now imagine feeling that all the time, particularly when it matters most—around other people. The average person doesn’t consider the import and impact of anxiety on a person’s well-being. If CBD can reduce anxiety, that might just be its most important feature. Does it?
Before a simulated public speaking event, people with generalized social anxiety disorder were either given 600 mg of CBD or a placebo. Those who received CBD reported less anxiety, reduced cognitive impairment, and more comfort while giving the speech. Seeing as how people without social anxiety disorder claim public speaking as their biggest fear, that CBD helped people with social anxiety disorder give a speech is a huge effect.
This appears to be legit. A placebo-controlled trial is nothing to sniff at.
CBD For Sleep
A 2017 review provides a nice summary of the effects of CBD on sleep:
In insomnia patients, 160 mg/day of CBD increased sleep time and reduced the number of arousals (not that kind) during the night.
Lower doses are linked to increased arousals and greater wakefulness.
High dose CBD improved sleep; adding THC reduced slow wave sleep.
In preliminary research with Parkinson’s patients, CBD reduced REM-related behavioral disorder—which is when you basically act out your dreams as they’re happening.
More recently, a large case series (big bunch of case studies done at once) was performed giving CBD to anxiety patients who had trouble sleeping. Almost 80% had improvements in anxiety and 66% had improvements in sleep (although the sleep improvements fluctuated over time).
While its psychoactive counterpart THC has been embroiled in controversial links with psychosis and schizophrenia for decades, CBD may be an effective counterbalancing force for mental health.
In patients with schizophrenia, six weeks of adjunct treatment with cannabidiol resulted in lower rates of psychotic symptoms and made clinicians more likely to rate them as “improved” and made researchers more likely to rate them as “improved” and not “severely unwell.” There were also improvements in cognitive performance and overall function. It seems the “adjunct” part of this study was key, as other studies using cannabidiol as the only treatment mostly failed to note improvements.
This was placebo controlled, so it makes a good case for CBD hemp oil as adjunct treatment (in addition to regular therapy) in people with schizophrenia.
Among 11 PTSD patients who took an average of 50 mg of CBD per day for 8 weeks, 10 (90%) experienced a 28% improvement in symptoms. No one dropped out or complained about side effects. CBD seemed to particularly benefit those patients who had issues with nightmares.
This is promising but preliminary. This was an 11-person case study, not a placebo-controlled trial.
A recent review of four human trials lays out the evidence: More than a third of all epilepsy patients experienced 50% or greater seizure reductions with just 20 mg of CBD. The effect of CBD on seizure activity is so widely acknowledged and understood that the only FDA-approved CBD-based product is Epidiolex, a plant-based CBD extract used to treat seizures in patients with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
CBD for epilepsy is legit. Side note: I wonder how CBD would combine with ketogenic dieting for epilepsy control.
By far the biggest draw for medical consumers of CBD is its supposed ability to nullify pain.
In one study, researchers induced arthritis in rats with intra-articular injections, then gave them CBD. Rats given CBD were able to put more weight on their joints and handle a heavier load before withdrawing. Local CBD reduced nerve damage.
That’s great for pet rats. What about people?
There actually isn’t a lot of strong data on pain management using CBD by itself. Far more robust is the evidence for using CBD with THC for pain. According to this group of researchers, the two compounds exert “constituent synergy” against neuropathic pain. One study found that low doses of each were more effective combined than high doses of either alone in neuropathic cancer-related pain. Another gave a THC/CBD oromucosal spray to otherwise treatment-resistant neuropathy patients, finding that the spray reduced pain, improved sleep, and lessened the severity of symptoms.
Anecdotal evidence for pain relief and other benefits with CBD is vast. Chris Kresser, a practitioner and researcher I trust, swears by it. I have employees who use it quite frequently, reporting that it improves their sleep, hones their focus, reduces pain, speeds recovery, and reduces anxiety. These things are always hard to evaluate, but I can say that my people do great work, and I have zero reason to distrust them.
In later posts, I’ll probably revisit some of these other, more theoretical or anecdotal potential benefits to see if there’s any evidence in support.
Is It Safe?
A recent study gave up to 6000 mg of CBD to healthy subjects, finding it well tolerated and the side effects mild and limited to gastrointestinal distress, nausea, somnolence, headaches, and diarrhea. For comparison’s sake, keep in mind that a typical dose of CBD is 20 mg.
Mouse research indicate that extended high-dose CBD (15-30 mg/kg of bodyweight, or 1200-2400 mg per day for an 80 kg man) might impair fertility. Male mice who took high-dose CBD for 34 days straight experienced a 76% reduction in testosterone, reduced sperm production, and had dysfunctional weird-looking sperm. In the 30 mg/kg group, the number of Sertoli cells—testicular cells where sperm production takes place and sperm is incubated—actually dropped. Male mice taking CBD also were worse at mounting females and had fewer litters.
Those are really high doses. For epilepsy, a common dose is 600 mg/day, and that’s for a severe condition. Most other CBD therapies use much smaller doses in the range of 20-50 mg/day. Long term safety may still be an issue at these lower doses, but we don’t have any good evidence that this is the case.
There’s some evidence that the dosages of CBD required to achieve anti-inflammatory effects are also high enough to induce cytotoxicity in healthy cells, though that’s preliminary in vitro (petri dish) research and as of yet not applicable to real world applications. Time will tell, though, as the legal environment opens up and we accumulate more research.
Is Isolated CBD the Same As Whole Plant Extracts?
As we’ve learned over the past dozen years of reading about nutrition and human health, whole foods tend to be more effective than isolated components. Whole foods have several advantages:
- They contain all the components related to the compound, especially the ones we haven’t discovered and isolated. Supplements only contain the isolated compounds we’ve been able to quantify.
- They capture all the synergistic effects of the multiple components working together. Isolated supplements miss that synergy unless they specifically add it back in, and even then they’ll probably miss something.
It’s likely that whole plant hemp extracts high in CBD are superior to isolated synthetic CBD for the same reason. Is there any evidence of that?
A high-CBD cannabis whole plant extract reduces gut inflammation and damage in a mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease. Purified CBD does not.
Even at a 2:1 CBD:THC ratio, co-ingesting isolated CBD with isolated THC using a vaporizer fails to reduce the psychotic and memory-impairing effects of THC. In another study, however, smoking cannabis naturally rich in both CBD and THC completely prevented the memory impairment.
And as we saw in the pain section above, THC combined with CBD seems more effective against pain than either alone.
That’s not to say isolated (even synthetic in some cases—see note below) CBD isn’t helpful. We saw it improve joint pain and reduce nerve damage in arthritic rats. It’s just that full-spectrum hemp oil containing multiple naturally-occurring compounds is probably ideal for general health applications. Specific conditions requiring high doses may be another question entirely. Again, we’ll find out as more research comes out.
A word about synthetics: this is fodder for a follow-up, but it appears there may be additional concerns with synthetic CBD, and even supposedly “natural” CBD companies have in some cases allegedly added ingredients to their formulas without letting consumers know.
Is It Legal?
CBD-rich hemp oil lies in a legal grey area. The recently passed Farm Bill allows people to grow and make products from industrial hemp, as long as it contains less than 0.3% THC. That means CBD derived from industrial hemp is legal at a federal level. But because the Farm Bill has provisions that allow states to set their own rules, legality at a state level is more complicated.
States where hemp is still illegal—South Dakota, Idaho, and Nebraska—do not permit the sale or use of hemp-derived CBD oil.
In states that permit recreational cannabis—California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Michigan, and Alaska—CBD derived from both hemp and psychoactive cannabis is legal.
In all other states, hemp-derived CBD is legal.
The FDA has yet to approve of CBD, so most of the big online retailers like Amazon and Walmart don’t allow CBD products to be advertised. However, Amazon sells a ton of “hemp extract” tinctures and oils with “hemp extract content” listed in milligram dosages—a workaround for listing the CBD content.
If you’re looking for CBD-rich hemp oil, watch out for culinary hemp oil, which comes in larger quantities and has no discernible CBD content. CBD-rich hemp oil will come in dropper bottles, not liters.
Many health food stores sell it. Surprisingly, I’ve seen it in every pet store I’ve entered in the last half year.
Word of Caution: Because it isn’t regulated by the FDA yet, there’s no telling exactly what you’re getting. Choose a product with verifiable lab tests. Many CBD hemp oil products have far less CBD than advertised. In addition to CBD content, the most reputable manufacturers also test for pesticides, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and bacteria and advertise their results.
CBD-rich hemp oil is a hot topic these days, and it’s only going to get hotter. I think the compound shows great promise in promoting health and wellness, and I’ll look forward to doing more research as it unfolds.
For now, what about you? Do you use CBD? Have you noticed any benefits? Any downsides? Share your questions and feedback down below.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care.
Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219-26.
Lattanzi S, Brigo F, Trinka E, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol in Epilepsy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Drugs. 2018;78(17):1791-1804.
Elms L, Shannon S, Hughes S, Lewis N. Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Series. J Altern Complement Med. 2018;
Serpell M, Ratcliffe S, Hovorka J, et al. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel group study of THC/CBD spray in peripheral neuropathic pain treatment. Eur J Pain. 2014;18(7):999-1012.
Silva RL, Silveira GT, Wanderlei CW, et al. DMH-CBD, a cannabidiol analog with reduced cytotoxicity, inhibits TNF production by targeting NF-kB activity dependent on A receptor. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2019;368:63-71.
Carvalho RK, Souza MR, Santos ML, et al. Chronic cannabidiol exposure promotes functional impairment in sexual behavior and fertility of male mice. Reprod Toxicol. 2018;81:34-40.
Morgan CJA, Freeman TP, Hindocha C, Schafer G, Gardner C, Curran HV. Individual and combined effects of acute delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on psychotomimetic symptoms and memory function. Transl Psychiatry. 2018;8(1):181.
Morgan CJ, Schafer G, Freeman TP, Curran HV. Impact of cannabidiol on the acute memory and psychotomimetic effects of smoked cannabis: naturalistic study: naturalistic study [corrected]. Br J Psychiatry. 2010;197(4):285-90.
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Next month, Primal Kitchen® will be teaming up with the Whole30® crew to help support people doing the Whole30 program. The guidelines complement the Primal Blueprint, after all, and the Primal Blueprint is a common after-Whole30 approach to long-term vitality for many folks. The Whole30 itself offers incredibly valuable feedback on the effects of certain foods on your health, and it’s an amazing kick-start for turning your diet (and well-being) around. Today I’m offering up my top tips for a successful Whole 30 experience.
1. Eat Enough Food
A Whole30 typically results in inadvertent calorie reduction for multiple reasons. You’re eating more nutrient-dense food, so your body doesn’t feel the need to cram in empty calories in a vain attempt to obtain the necessary vitamins and minerals. You’re probably also eating more fat and protein than before, which are far more satiating than empty, refined carbohydrates. You have steady, even energy throughout the day from better fat burning, and no longer need those glucose infusions called snacks to stay awake.
There is, however, such a thing as too little food. Micronutrients are great and all, but we must also eat for sheer energetic purposes. Calories matter. Don’t shortchange yourself here.
2. Don’t Worry Too Much About Macronutrients
I’m obviously a low-carb guy. For the past dozen or so years, I’ve eaten in the 150 grams or lower range, give or take a few days. For the past three years, I’ve strayed even lower, spending a fair amount of time in ketosis. Most regular people are eating far too many carbohydrates, more than their activity levels and lifestyles warrant, and they would probably do better and be healthier on a lower carb diet. But for the Whole30, I recommend that people not get too dogmatic in either direction and simply focus on the Whole30 guidelines.
Eat what feels right. Stick to the script Melissa has laid out, avoid the foods you should be avoiding, favor the foods you should be favoring, and let the macros fall where they may. Most people will probably end up eating less carbohydrate and more fat and protein, but that isn’t a given. A Whole30 deserves your full attention. Focusing on other dietary variables just detracts from that focus.
3. Enlist a Friend
Before you actually start the Whole30, get a friend, relative, or significant other to join the party. You can support each other. Help with meals. Trade tips. Exercise together. Keep each other honest and true. Offer a needed pep talk now and then. And most importantly, you’ll have someone who’s relying on you to stick with the program. That can really help when things get hard and you start feeling lazy.
4. Treat the Recommendations As Rules
The Whole30 has official rules, and it has recommended guidelines. The rules you know—don’t eat grains, legumes, dairy, alcohol, or added sugar; don’t weigh yourself; avoid certain preservatives and food additives; don’t recreate junk food with good ingredients, while the guidelines you may not.
- Don’t eat too much fruit.
- Don’t eat fruit and nut bars.
- Don’t snack.
- Choose organic and grass-fed.
- Limit/avoid smoothies.
While these might feel like overly strict guidelines for a lifetime of eating, for the 30 days that you’re doing the Whole30, following them can offer you even more insight into how your body works and what makes you tick. I strongly suggest that you take these guidelines as rules. You’ll simply get better results. And again, it’s just 30 days. You can do it.
Do you have to? No, of course not. For that matter, you don’t have to follow the Whole30 at all. But given that you have agreed to do it, it’s not much more of a leap to adhere to the guidelines as well.
5. Focus On Legit Meals, Not Snack Foods That Technically Qualify
You could eat two cups of mac nuts, a coconut cream latte, beef jerky, and carrots sticks dipped in guacamole for your entire day’s food intake and still be Whole30. Or you could eat eggs and spinach for breakfast, a Big Ass Salad for lunch, and a grilled steak with asparagus for dinner and fresh nectarines for dessert. Which is the better choice?
Make the better choice. Don’t turn Whole30-compliant snack foods into meals.
6. Keep Salad Makings On Hand At All Times
A salad is just the perfect Whole30 (or any diet, really) meal. It’s a great way to get all your vegetables, plenty of meat and protein and fat, herbs and nuts and seeds. You can even throw in some fruit or starchier veggies, like winter squash or purple sweet potatoes if you want. The salad bowl is simply the ideal canvas for a healthy, enjoyable way of eating. But it does take time to prepare.
Greens: lettuces, baby greens, kale, spinach.
Cooked Meat: sliced steak, roasted chicken, grilled salmon.
Preserved Meat: smoked salmon, smoked oysters, canned tuna.
Chopped Veggies: onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, garlic
Roasted Veggies: all of the above and some of the below
Whole Veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes
Fruits: berries, apples, dried apricots.
Nuts: mac, almond, walnut, pistachio
Seeds: hemp, sunflower, pumpkin
Dressing: Primal Kitchen varieties, oil and vinegar.
That isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start. If you have something from every category ready to go, you can whip up a healthy, filling Whole30-compliant meal in under 10 minutes.
7. Show, Don’t Tell
The Whole30 works really well, which make sense as it’s like distilling ancestral eating practices. And when things go well, we want to tell the entire world. Right around the 2-3 week mark is when the lips start flapping of their own accord. It’s hard not to, when you feel so good and (despite dutifully avoiding scales and body fat measurements) look so good.
Feel free to answer questions like “Have you lost weight?” or “Why did you just eat half a roast chicken for breakfast?” or “What’s with all the avocados, dude?” You shouldn’t ignore people. But refrain from actively converting those around you. Don’t stand on street corners with flyers and placards. Don’t take every opportunity to hold mini-lectures at business lunches and midday meetings. This stuff works, it’ll show, and they will come to you. And if they don’t, they aren’t interested, and you should accept that.
Your focus for the 30 days should be on yourself and your progress.
8. Don’t Get Cocky
Stick to the script. You might be feeling good midway through. You might be looking leaner, feeling stronger, like nothing can get you down. You might decide you have some latitude here.
Maybe you need a reward for all your hard work. Maybe you should have a slice with your friends at happy hour. I mean, it’s just pizza, and you’ve come so far in just two weeks, and I bet your gut is healed and tight junctions all secure. Right?
Don’t do it. Stay with the protocol. Follow the rules. Two weeks isn’t enough to “clear the system.” You’ll start back at square one and squander all the hard work you’ve done. Thirty days is not too much to ask, and the amount of data you can gain from doing the full Whole30 as prescribed can have positive reverberations for the rest of your life.
We’re all adults here. Exert some free will (or act as if you have free will, if you’re the deterministic type)
Don’t get cocky (yet).
9. Stock Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer For Emergencies
Disaster strikes, and we need to be ready. I’m not even talking about true disasters—hurricanes, earthquakes, zombie apocalypses. I mean traffic jams, 5 o’clock meetings, parent-teacher conferences, after-school gymnastics classes, and the simple crushing weight of banal responsibility that can impede our ability to get fresh meals on the table. It’s good to be prepared with something healthy and fast. And sure, a growing number of restaurants and grocery stores are offering convenient Primal-friendly fare, but eating out adds up quickly. Here’s what I suggest:
In your freezer, keep some frozen ground beef, a few quarts of bone broth, a medley of frozen veggies, and a few filets of frozen fish.
In the pantry, keep sardines, tuna, smoked oysters, beef jerky.
In the fridge, keep cooked (and cooled) potatoes and yams, peeled winter squash, asparagus (lasts about a week if fresh), and a hearty leafy green (kale, chard, etc). Eggs, too, and maybe a roasted chicken or roasted leg of lamb.
With those foods, you can have a solid meal on the table in 10-15 minutes.
10. Don’t Neglect All the Other Stuff
The Whole30 is all about diet. It’s a complete overhaul of how most people eat, so it pays to make that the entire focus. But the other stuff, the various lifestyle factors that we talk about all the time on Mark’s Daily Apple, don’t stop affecting your health. Heeding the other variables will make your Whole 30 experience go more smoothly anyway.
Your Whole30 will go better if you move every day and train hard a few times each week.
Your Whole30 will go better if you spend time with friends, family, and loved ones. Enjoy good Whole30 meals, but also don’t forget to enjoy life.
That’s it for today, folks. Those are my tips for making the most of a Whole30 experience. What are yours? Take care.
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Primal is simple, but it’s not exactly easy. At every turn, detractors and temptations appear. We have health authorities telling us we’re killing ourselves. Worried friends and family sharing news articles decrying the consumption of fat and meat and promoting wholly plant-based diets. Food companies employ food chemists to engineer delicious processed junk that hijacks our brains’ reward systems, making food that’s addictive on a biochemical level. It’s going to take a mix of concrete, tangible tactics and psychological tricks to stick with Primal.
Plan Your Meals Each Week
The modern world excels at rewarding poor planning. Its whole appeal revolves around convenience. It’s always tugging at us, leaving hints, suggesting easy ways to go astray. When you’re just starting on this Primal journey and things aren’t quite second nature…(like finishing your first 21-Day Challenge).
No time to make dinner? Grab a happy meal!
In the grocery line with your meat and produce? Hey, check out this 40 ounce sack of fried potato slices; bet you could finish half of it on the drive home!
Every week, plan your meals. Go shopping, get what you need, and have things ready to go. Keep a clean kitchen, so you can launch into cooking without fretting over dirty pots and dishes.
Look At Your “Before” Photos
You got into this Primal stuff for a reason. If you’ve seen benefits, lost body fat, improved body composition, gotten noticeably stronger and fitter, go back and look at those old photos. Look at yourself and remember. Immerse yourself in what it felt like before you went Primal.
Realize that it will all come flooding back if you go back to your old ways.
Think Of the Worst That Could Happen
A lot of things can go wrong in life. Many things will go wrong. But we don’t have to hasten the disintegration of absolutely everything. All the recommendations I make in the Primal Blueprint and on this blog are designed to reduce your chances of being reduced to that terrible situation. Read those words, feel them, and imagine yourself in that situation. Not great, is it? So, how about you stick with the program?
Imagine everything that could go wrong health-wise. Imagine you’re 20 years older than you are now. You’re on a slew of medications. Your monthly checkup with your cardiologist is the closest thing you have to a friend. You have a weight set, but it sits unused amidst the ruins of the great spider kingdoms that have come and gone over the years. Your bones are porous, your arteries are clogged, your blood sugar runs high, your heart rate stays elevated. Your muscles are marbled, your mind is foggy. Remember that each choice—including the one before you right now—has the power to determine your future scenario.
Realize That Perfect Is Not the Goal
Many people have the idea that going Primal is a life sentence of ascetic purity. That’s a big misconception. Actually, these are just guidelines. Recommendations. Modes of eating, living, and being that, from my reading of the scientific literature and experience coaching people, help a lot of people get healthier, fitter, leaner, and happier. But it all exists on a spectrum. It isn’t “all or nothing.”
Eating some rice won’t derail the whole train.
Skipping a week of training won’t dissolve your gains.
Even eating a french fry cooked in the most rancid of seed oils won’t imbue your adipose tissue with permanently imbalanced omega-3/omega-6 ratios (not that I’d recommend it, but still).
Unless you’re celiac or truly gluten-sensitive, ingesting a bite of gluten probably won’t perforate your gut lining and open you up to a month’s worth of bacterial endotoxins and allergens.
A date won’t set you back to square one on the keto journey.
Some heeled dress shoes are perfectly fine for a wedding or the office. They won’t ruin your feet or posture.
It’s not about Primal perfection. It’s about making the guidelines work for you to push your health and happiness forward.
Don’t Forget the 80/20 Rule
This dovetails nicely with the previous tip. The 80/20 rule is a built-in “get out of jail free” card. It’s not an actual, literal card, although that’s certainly an idea if an entrepreneur wants to get in on that. It’s the formal acknowledgement that if you do the right (healthy, Primal, keto, etc.) thing 80% of the time, you’ll be doing better than 95% of the population and garnering the majority of the benefits we can expect from living healthy.
What’s 80/20 look like?
It doesn’t mean eating fast food every fifth meal. It doesn’t mean eating 1/5 of a birthday cake. It means giving yourself some slack. It means realizing that you work hard, you eat well most of the time, and it’s okay if you slip up and have a beer or a few bites of pizza at the end of a long week.
The 80/20 rule helps prevent you from heaping additional guilt and stress and despair over a single bad choice onto the first order effects of the choice. It cements the reality that you’re going to be okay.
Join a Gym
If you think you hate the gym, you probably haven’t been in awhile. No longer must you do the globo=gym thing, where staff members frown at you for deadlifting and everyone’s preening for the mirrors. You can try CrossFit. You could try parkour. You could try BJJ or Pilates or kickboxing. You could find a great personal training gym, interview the owners and trainers, and find someone who melds well with your personality and goals. You can try FitWall. There are thousands of movement options out there. The point is throwing down the money and investing in yourself.
When you put down money, you put skin in the game. Rather than lose your sunk cost, you’ll be more likely to follow through and stick with it.
Buy New Cooking Equipment
Are you trying to cook incredible meals in damaged teflon skillets? Sear steaks on lightweight aluminum pans? Julienne vegetables with a blunt chef’s knife that hasn’t been sharpened since the 80s? Get yourself some quality equipment. You don’t need to drop $500 or anything close to that.
Grab a cast iron pan for searing steaks. Some heavy stainless steel pots and pans. A dutch oven for braising, if you do that sort of thing. Consider an Instant Pot. A decent chef’s knife. Maybe a small, simple food processor if chopping vegetables is keeping you from enjoying Big-Ass salads. It doesn’t take much, and it will make cooking that much more pleasurable (and effective).
Pick One Thing and Start There
Getting your entire lifestyle back on track is daunting. What, you expect a person to overhaul how they eat, move, consume electronics at night, interact with the sun, supplement, and sleep right away? Some people can do that no problem, but many people find it an intimidating prospect.
Just pick one thing, do it well, and see the dominos start to fall in other areas. Purge your pantry. Ditch grains and seed oils. Start walking every day. Get back into barbell training. Go to sleep at the same time every night. Doing all those things would be great—and not as hard as you think—but even just one will make a big difference.
Get a Friend Involved
Getting a friend to join you in sticking with the Primal way of life is a simple and effective way to keep you engaged. The hardest part is breaking through the resistance and mustering the willpower to enlist the friend. Then, once you’ve both agreed to do the thing, you have to do it. Neither of you wants to let the other person down. As social animals, we value the input and opinions of others. Especially when those others are close to us.
You could do family, like you mom, your brother, or your spouse, but in my experience those relationships can get testy real fast. Friendships are more durable, in a way. It’s usually easier to get strict and abrasive when required with your friend than it is with your husband or wife.
Some people can’t go all-in at once. They sputter and fail, and would be better served just picking one thing at a time (as I mentioned above). But some people thrive when they overhaul their entire lives. That’s how I am—I didn’t just change how I ate when I developed the Primal Blueprint. I changed how I ate, slept, exercised, and lived in general.
Maybe you’re going too cautiously. Maybe you need to go all in.
Work With a Primal Health Coach
Primal Health Coaches are well trained to help you hit your goals, work through tough sticking points, solve problems, and motivate you. This is quite literally their job. They combine motivational power with a strong knowledge base, so whether you have a motivation problem or a knowledge problem, they can help.
Hiring a Primal Health Coach also gives you that skin in the game effect—with a literal voice on the other end. For some people, that level of accountability is the linchpin.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to get yourself back on track. This is the list of ways I find most effective at getting others, and even myself, back on track after an extended hiatus, or sticking with it when doubt begins creeping in.
What are your favorite ways to stick with Primal?
Thanks for reading, all. Take care.
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Humans are a tribal species. We form alliances, align ourselves along ethnic, familial, religious, and cultural lines. Still, for the vast majority of people, “tribal” carries a negative connotation. Bitter partisan politics, ethnic genocides, religious wars, and the long history of bigotry make that connotation almost unavoidable. But I don’t think tribal in its true essence is all bad. The basic instinct to form and belong to groups is a simple fact of human physiology. It’s how we work, so we’d better make it work for us.
Remember, I err on the side of evolution. If human evolution has produced and maintained a characteristic or behavior, there’s probably a reason for it. And maybe that reason doesn’t make sense in the modern world. It gets distorted or magnified. Tribalism certainly can. But it can be equally detrimental to ignore that characteristic, to brush it off and discard it. We don’t have to perform hard physical labor to procure food anymore—but exercise is still vital for our health. My guess is the same holds true for our predilection toward tribalism. And it doesn’t have to look like you think it might….
Research shows that one kind of tribe—diehard sports fans— see physiological benefits when their teams compete, such as boosts to testosterone and increased empathy. Sports fans even have a higher-than-average sense of meaning in their lives, something many modern humans lack. Sure, you might say “pro sports don’t matter in the long run,” but who cares? The point is that sports fandom is a healthy, safe, and decidedly non-genocidal mode of tribalism that appears to confer health benefits to those who participate.
Imagine the potential benefits of leveraging your tribal leanings toward a truly healthy, meaningful endeavor?
CrossFit is the perfect example.
It doesn’t have to be CrossFit exactly, but one of those special kinds of gyms whose inhabitants aren’t headphone-wearing individuals doing their own thing, in their own world. CrossFit struck such a chord not only because it offered a great workout, but because it offered a tribe.
You didn’t just show up to a CrossFit box and “train back and biceps” with your headphones on. You and your tribe battled the clock, the iron, yourselves. You entered a place where motivation drips from the ceiling. Where a lot of the stuff I talked about in this article—having rules that remove decision-making from the equation, competing against others (and yourself), achieving intrinsic rewards—comes baked into the experience. Where you don’t have to muster the willpower to start and complete a workout because your tribe is there doing it and ushering you on to join in and give it your all. You get swept away by the pull of your CrossFit tribe—and you’re better off for it.
There’s actual research to back this up, not just conjecture.
A recent study found that CrossFit participants experience more intrinsic motivation related to group affiliation, personal challenge, and outright enjoyment of the activity—and that this experience can increase adherence compared to other types of resistance training.
In perhaps the only systematic review and meta-analysis of CrossFit research to date, researchers concluded that “CrossFit practice is associated with higher levels of community, satisfaction, and motivation.” They have a tribe and don’t want to let them down.
Fitness, in general, benefits from the tribal effect.
The solitary yogi doing impossible stretches with serene countenance as the sun rises is a romantic ideal, but who actually does that? Yoga isn’t exactly pleasant. It’s hard. It can hurt. It’s tough to get yourself motivated to do a full session at home. Get yourself in a legit yoga studio and suddenly you’re on the mat and it’s 98° and before you know it you’re downward dogging your way to nirvana.
Or the Tough Mudder/Mud Run/Spartan Race genre of extreme athletic event. Running barefoot across electrified barbed wire, plunging headfirst into a trough of mud and urine, getting frostbite, ruining your clothes, and paying a couple hundred bucks for the opportunity doesn’t sound very appealing on paper. But allow participants to form teams with their friends and compete against other teams, and the event sells out.
Don’t forget that some of the most traditional forms of fitness practice around—team sports—are entirely based on tribalism. You have a “team.” You’re competing against another group of individuals who’ve also coalesced around a similar concept of organization. You have uniforms, team colors, team slogans, special chants and cheers. You run plays, tactical maneuvers designed to overcome the defenses your opponents have laid out. You function as a unit. For the 60 minutes or so of game time, the tribe takes precedence over the individual. Joining an adult sports league might be a great way to add value, meaning, and fitness to your life.
Dietary affiliations are tribal, too. Primal is absolutely a tribe. Keto is a tribe. Vegetarianism and veganism are absolutely tribes.
This can easily go awry. If you get locked into the dogma of your particular dietary tribe, you may tune out dissenting evidence from other tribes, however valuable and applicable. That’s why I’ve always emphasized open mindedness and the importance of reading outside sources and maintaining the willingness to change your mind in the face of new information. That quality comes baked into the Primal way of living, eating, and thinking. It’s part of our “dogma.”
Whatever dietary tribe you belong to, consider incorporating that feature into your ideology. I highly recommend it.
And if you’re interested specifically in becoming closer to the Primal tribe, there are plenty of ways.
The Facebook Groups
Facebook can be the place where you argue with friends and family about things that don’t even matter, or it can be the place where you find your Primal tribe.
- There’s the Mark’s Daily Apple FB group, which is a general Primal group where you can discuss anything and everything related to Primal.
- If you’re more into keto specifically, joining the Keto Reset FB group is a great place to find your keto tribe.
- And you can also join the Primal Endurance FB group.
In all these groups, the beauty is that each member is a real person with a real name, and everyone is supportive. So rather than bother all the other people in your life with chatter about ideal sun exposure times and cauliflower carb counts and “180 minus age,” you can connect with people who get it, and get you.
Come To an Event
If you haven’t made it to a Paleo f(x), you have to do it. First of all, it’s in Austin, one of the best (and most paleo/Primal-friendly) cities in the country. The BBQ is out of this world, if nothing else. Second, it’s a meeting of the top thought leaders in ancestral health, both established and upcoming. Great place to hear about new ideas and new angles on old ones. Third, you’ll be with your people. Your tribe.
If you do go, come say hi, cause I’ll definitely be there.
Become a Primal Health Coach
The ultimate way to find a tribe is to become the leader of one and create your own. There’s no better path to leadership in the Primal arena than becoming a legitimate expert, someone who can help others build better lifestyles and construct diets and training regimens. It’s amazing how little most people understand about health, diet, and fitness. If you know what you’re talking about and throw yourself into the business of health and fitness, you’d be surprised at the incredible changes you can effect in your clients—and how close you’ll become with them.
How a tribe helped your quest for better health? Or are you looking for one? (Post-challenge is the perfect time to tap into supports that keep you going….) What does the perfect health tribe look like to you?
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care!
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Even after I fixed my diet, ditched the chronic cardio, and cleaned up my overall lifestyle to be more in line with our evolutionary upbringing, one big problem remained: my response to stress.
This had always been an issue for me. Part of it was that I kept a full plate at all times. Whether it was my training load, my businesses, my overall type A personality, stress was simply unavoidable, I thought.
How did I approach the situation and manage my stress differently over time?
First, I agonized over the existence of stress. My entire modus operandi throughout life had been to handle problems when they arose. I didn’t let things fester, I didn’t accept bad situations and learn to deal. I took care of things. If a problem didn’t resolve quickly , I assumed I was doing something wrong. Applied to stress, though? Man, what a disaster. I quickly realized that it was impossible to avoid stress, or eliminate it altogether. I needed a new approach.
So the first major step was admitting that stress is a fact of life, that stressors would arise, and what mattered was how I responded to them. My response could make the stress worse, or it could make it more manageable.
The first way I figured out how to improve my stress response was with smart supplementation. When I was still competing and doing the chronic cardio training required to succeed, I developed a supplement you might recognize by its old Primal Calm label and now called Adaptogenic Calm—designed to mitigate the negative effects of all that training stress. Both Brad Kearns and I used it, and it actually became an underground hit in the endurance scene. Athletes of all kinds were taking it and seeing great results. Of course, most of us just used it to allow our bodies to train even more and accumulate even more stress, which was one of the problems that got me into this mess in the first place.
The next step was realizing that even if I couldn’t eliminate stress entirely, I could eliminate unnecessary stress. First on the list was my training. You’ve heard the story before, so I won’t get too deeply into it. Suffice it to say, I was engaged in way too much endurance training—what I call chronic cardio—and spending way too much time out of the aerobic zone in the no-man’s land of moderately high-intensity that leads to sugar-burning and depresses fat-burning. This training was killing me, taking up all my time, necessitating an inflammatory high-carb, high-sugar diet that led to chronic GI distress and joint pain, and getting in the way of living. If any of you can identify a big stressor upstream of a bunch of things going wrong in your life, take action and eliminate it. Changing how I trained led to the development of the Primal Blueprint and the resolution of most of my health problems.
Meditation always intrigued me. Even before it became an Internet sensation and every podcaster/blogger/CEO/coach out there credited their success to their morning meditation routine, I was surrounded by meditators. My wife, Carrie, has done it for decades. Lots of my athlete friends used it to—you guessed it—fight stress. And Malibu, CA, where I lived until a few months ago, is no stranger to yoga studios, health food stores, and other similar hives of mindfulness. I tried it. But it didn’t work for me. My mind was too active to become aware of its (lack of) self. Still, the science was convincing and I didn’t want to give up on what looked to be a potent anti-stress tool:
- Lengthening of telomeres.
- Upregulation of genes responsible for energy metabolism, longevity, mitochondrial function, inflammation, and insulin secretion.
- Blood pressure normalization.
- Stress reduction.
- Greater resistance to stress.
- Improved cognitive function by reshaping the actual brain.
- Promoting neuroplasticity.
- Anxiety reduction.
- Immune system improvements.
If sitting meditation didn’t work, maybe there was another way to get to a similar mindstate.
In a post I wrote about meditation alternatives, I gave 15 options and readers followed up with dozens of awesome suggestions in the comments. Standup paddling, hikes (or just hanging out) in nature, and guided meditations were my alternatives. They help me achieve the hyper-present flow state I’d only had glimpses of during “real” meditation. And sure enough, stress melts away as I’m doing the activity, I’m far less reactive to stressors (I have an extra split second or two to decide how I want to respond) throughout the week, and I appear to have greater resistance to stress. It’s almost an adaptogenic effect: rather than blunt or eliminate the stress response across the board, I’m able to call forth cortisol when the situation is serious. A car honking at me doesn’t trigger it, in other words.
Where am I today?
Stress is still there. It won’t ever go away, and I’m okay with that. I’ve got a growing food and supplement business, I’m as busy as ever with the writing, I just moved to Miami.
Meditation has gotten easier, but I’m still not a “meditation guy.” I don’t expect to be doing a 10-day silent retreat anytime soon.
Adaptogenic Calm remains a staple for me. The nutrients it contains are supraphysiological responses to the supraphysiological doses and durations of stress we receive in the modern world.
I welcome stress. If I align myself with the things I truly find meaningful and maintain active participation in life and avoid becoming a passive character in someone else’s storyline, the stressors become obstacles that make the narrative of my life more interesting. They propel me forward. Without stressors, I’m not living. I’m not doing anything. Stressors indicate action. They mean you’re bouncing up against reality and testing its mettle (and it, yours).
What’s your stress response journey? I’d love to hear how you’ve handled stress in the past, what you’ve learned along the way, and how you handle it now. Thanks, everybody.
I’ve got a contest coming up later this morning, so be sure to check back.
The post How My Response to Stress Has Changed Through the Years appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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We’re almost halfway through 2018. History is accelerating. New advances, technology, scientific findings, and social changes are occurring faster than ever before. There’s never any time like the present, but these days it feels like the present is slipping away at an exponential rate. This is no time to be resting on your laurels, biding your time, or waiting to see what happens. It’s time to act. It’s time to make the changes you’ve been mulling over, the ones you know in your heart are the right moves to make.
To help you on your way, I’ve put together a 30-day action plan for the month of June. No one has to follow this to the letter, or even at all, but use it as a template or inspiration. Wake up on June 12 swelling with energy and unsure how to direct it? Check out the action plan. Feeling a bit lazy on June 19? See what the action plan recommends; it may resonate.
Let’s get right to it:
June 1st: Plan your month. Set a goal or two, aiming as high as you realistically can attain.
June 2nd: Track what you eat, how much you move, how long you sit or stand, what you do in the gym, how much you procrastinate or waste time, how much time you spend in flow or being productive. Get specific, get precise—it’s just one day, and you can handle it. Get a good baseline, so you know what you’re working with. Then try to improve on it every day forward.
June 3rd: Try the fitness or movement pursuit you’ve been thinking about for a long time. That thing you know you should be doing, like foam rolling at night or doing a light mobility session in the morning, but keep putting off. Just do it. Feels good, right?
June 4th: Take a cold shower.
June 6th: Reflect on your approach to competition. Who are you competing against? Who should you be competing against? Consider that it might be a better idea to compete against your former self, because besting your former self is a reliable path to self-improvement.
June 7th: Take three walks. One in the morning, one at lunchtime, and one after dinner.
June 8th: Meditate, if you’ve never tried it before. If you have and it doesn’t work for you, try an alternative method for reaching a similar headspace. My favorite way as of late is just sitting quietly at the beach, watching the waves go in and out across the horizon.
June 10th: Don’t just go to the farmer’s market. Make friends with your favorite farmer’s market vendors.
June 11th: Pickle something. It’s really easier than you think to make your own fermented food. Mix 50 grams salt with a liter of quality water, pour over garlic/hot peppers/shallots/pretty much anything you can stuff in a jar until submerged, place something on top to keep everything submerged (a roof of carrots wedged against the sides of the jar works well), lightly cover, and wait for the bubbles to start. When you like the taste, you’re done and can refrigerate the jar.
June 12th: Plan a camping trip for later during the month. Get your family and/or friends together, throw your gear in the car, and make a weekend of it somewhere nice and secluded. Leave electronics behind if you can, or at least limit artificial light after dark (red LED on the headlamp is a must when camping).
June 13th: Wake up and write down ten ideas. About anything at all. They don’t even have to be good. They just have to be on paper.
June 14th: Go for a PR in something. Pick a physical activity, and try to beat your personal best.
June 15th: Fast (if your personal context permits). Men, aim for the full 24 hours. Women, shorter will probably work better—somewhere in the realm of 12-16 hours (less if you’ve never tried).
June 16th: Grill something over open flame. At least one animal and one plant.
June 18th: Try a new recipe. Or just cook something new freestyle, using no recipe at all.
June 20th: Read for two hours. Books, not blogs or social media feeds (present blog excluded).
June 21st: Try to assemble the least expensive, most nutritious day of meals you can.
June 22nd: Have a glass of good wine with someone close to you. Friend, spouse, child (if of age).
June 23rd: Meal prep for the week ahead. Take an hour and get all the basics you need for the rest of the week ready to go. Roast veggies, start something in the Instant Pot, boil some eggs, prep Big Ass Salad makings. What you can cook ahead of time, cook ahead of time.
June 24th: Climb a tree. Be safe, just not too safe. Try to get the blood pumping.
June 25th: If you have any nagging health concerns you’ve been worrying about, make an appointment with a medical professional to get them checked out. Eating, exercising, and living well can transform our health, but we’re not invincible.
June 26th: Dance. Preferably with someone watched (and joining).
June 27th: Dream big. What’s your biggest, most ultimate dream that still has a chance of happening? Write it down, and figure out what you have to do to make it a reality.
June 28th: Forage for something in your yard, neighborhood, local park, or forest. Edible plants are everywhere.
June 29th: Grill some fruit in cast iron over open flame. The best fruit of the year is in season—peaches, cherries, nectarines, berries of all kinds—and yet most people don’t know that you can grill them over open flame and improve the flavor. Top with unsweetened whipped cream (you don’t need the sugar).
June 30th: Show gratitude for the awesome month you just experienced.
I’ll also have more on June’s staff-led 21-Day Challenge next week, so stay tuned. Have a great end to the week, everybody. Thanks for stopping by.
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