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« DVD Journal: "Gilles' Wife" | Main | Blogging Note »

September 10, 2009

At Mark Sisson's

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

A great rant from Primal eating-and-fitness guru Mark Sisson. Take a look at how well Melissa is doing on Sisson's "Primal" regime.

Read our interview with Mark: Intro, Part One, Part Two. I warmly recommend Mark's helpful and inspiring book, which you can buy here.



posted by Michael at September 10, 2009


Most people do better when they start any diet because they're focusing on their consumption and maybe they start exercising a little bit more. After a while, they stop paying attention, go back to following their appetites and backslide.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on September 10, 2009 2:56 AM

"But Macaroni Man is no impartial observer": quite so. But I'm more worried about being Michelin Man.

Posted by: dearieme on September 10, 2009 7:08 AM

This thing is working for me, and it will not be too hard to stick with it (eating out, though, is a different story). Thanks MB for turning me onto it. I recommend it!

Posted by: jonathanjones02 on September 10, 2009 11:05 AM

I wonder if studies have been done of people who manage to stick with regimens vs. people who don't. Must have as much to do with the person as the regimen, no?

Years ago, my dad was one of the people who managed to stick to it -- and god knows he was anything but a controlled and/or self-disciplined person generally.

Maybe fear (or at least alarm) had a lot to do with it ... Anyway, he got a scare from his docs, who told him he was uninsurable (he was in his late 40s at the time). The next morning he began taking daily walks -- he was in such bad shape he was capable of only a quarter of a mile at first! He also started cutting back on his six-pack-a-day beer habit.

Within a couple of years he was transformed: jogging a mile and a half every a.m., 30 pounds lighter, and drinking only one or two lite beers a day. And he was feeling immensely better: cheery, bouncey, good about himself ...

He kept it up for around 15 years, and probably would have kept it up for the rest of his life had he not encountered a lot of discouraging trouble along the way. Still: the jogging years were probably the best stretch of his adult life. And he wasn't doing anything intricate. For him it really was just a matter of cutting back on the beer and taking a short morning jog.

Of course, many good things flowed from the morning jog and the cutback-on-alcohol: better sleep, a clearer head, a calmer approach to life ... He even wound up eating better generally, though that's something he didn't consciously set out to do.

Sadly, life then took a harsh turn ... Feeling battered and confused, he gave up the jogging and went back to drinking too much ... And within a few years had a sizable stroke.

In the course of two years (in his mid-60s) he went from being a proud and vigorous middle-aged guy to being a broken-down oldguy. It was very sad to witness, and must have been hell for him to live thru. And, believe me, after his life went south he often muttered about how he wished he'd kept up the jogging.

Anyway: why was my dad able to manage 15 years of weight loss and exercise, and so many people aren't? Studies are needed. Well, maybe not, but they might be interesting to read.

A technical note: One reason many people have luck with the low-carb or Paleo-ish approach is that they don't make you starve. That's a literal thing, by the way. Low-cal / low-fat eating actually is a starvation diet. People on low-cal / low-fat regimens are literally starving a little from day to day. Their bodies are in revolt against what's being done to them.

Doing low-carb / high-fat routines, by contrast, you get to experience a lot of pleasure and satiety -- mmmm, steak, better, eggs. You stay slim (or at least slim enough) while never having to contend with the starvation thing. On low-carb / Paleo, the body's happy, the tummy's full, and the soul is experiencing loads of sensual pleasure ... *Much* easier to stay on that kind of routine.

Makes me think that low-cal / low-fat routines are like socialism: technically speaking, in a lab-rat sense, they CAN work. But as a practical matter they only ever work out well for a very few angels of self-denial.

Low-carb / Paleo-ish approaches by contrast seem much more loose and free-wheeling. And (what's much more important) they're something busy regular humans are often able to make use of. It's an approach that can often work out rewardingly for Real People. Sign me up for that.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 10, 2009 11:46 AM

Why do people succeed at something, and then give it up? Why do others not appear to try at all?

I think the answer may be the same in both cases, and that it's something to do with our psychology (yes, a bland dull answer but wait) of perseverance. It's one thing to see reason, undergo a conversion (to better eating, or giving up alcohol, or whatever), and reform your life. It's another thing to know that you've done it all already, and failed; and it may be worse yet to know that you've done it all already, succeeded, and then relapsed into your former ways.

I suspect that the people you see who appear never to have tried, or never to have succeeded at, reforming their lives, have in fact done so many times over, something you can't really know unless you're someone's intimate. They are worn out by the cycle of desperation, renewal, and relapse. As John Cleese groans at a pivotal moment in the movie Clockwise, "It isn't the despair that crushes you. It's the HOPE!"

Resignation can hurt less than hope and the renewal of effort. Perhaps there's something in evo-bio-psycho to explain this...

Posted by: alias clio on September 10, 2009 12:16 PM

A nice presentation of the basic Paleo argument by Johnny Bowden:

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on September 10, 2009 1:47 PM

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