Skylar Burris's Reviews > The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy

The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson
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Jul 10, 10

bookshelves: health
Read from July 09 to 10, 2010

At this point, I am primarily detailing my reactions to the book itself, as I have not yet tried the diet and fitness plan. Excuse me, the “lifestyle.” None of these diet and fitness books want to call themselves diet and fitness books. The “Primal Blueprint” is a “way of life” – just like all those other ways of life out there. It’s not “restrictive” like a diet – unless, of course, you consider eliminating an ENTIRE food group from your diet to be restrictive, or only being able to purchase and consume organic and/or locally grown foods to be restrictive. He does give you an out, however, in maintaining this very restrictive diet: aim for 80% of the time. As long as you maintain it 80% of the time, you’ll be on the road to improvement.

The Primal Blueprint is basically Atkins plus fruits and vegetables or South Beach minus whole wheat. No grains or starches at all –no bread, no pasta, no potatoes, no rice no sweets. And limit dairy (and only drink/eat raw dairy). And no beans, because they’re “toxic” (whatever that means), which is evidenced by the fact that you have to soak them before you eat them. It all has something to do with insulin. Our body doesn't respond well to all these grains. Eat primal, and you’ll feel more full and, once your body adjusts, more energetic. No more carb crashes. And you’ll be eating foods with more nutrients. Your “entire diet should consist of plants and animals.”

It’s “primal” because this is how our hunter/gather ancestors ate. They didn’t eat grain. Agriculture came along and ruined health. Of course, it also single handedly made possible modern civilization, with its lower infant mortality rate, medical technology, air conditioning, longer than average life spans, and a chance for women eventually to be treated as something better than possessions. Jesus, after all, doesn't refer to himself as the meat of life, and nor do Christians pray, "Give us this day our daily meat." Bread has its virtues. Just don't eat it. Ever. Which you can manage to do without going hungry, if you are lucky enough to live in the middle-class in a prosperous, technologically advanced nation - which everyone who would buy this book is.

He intermittently uses evolutionary theory to bolster the evidence of the benefits of this lifestyle. (Evolution, I guess, hasn't adapted our bodies to eating grains in 10,000 years. We're still designed to eat like Gork.) So if you’re trying to decide what’s best to eat, you can always ask yourself, “What would Gork do?” But you can eat some things Gork never would have eaten – a great many fruits and vegetables that are plentifully available to us now and would not have been to Gork – provide you get them locally or organically. Still, limit the sweeter, tastier fruits: grapes, bananas, mangoes, papayas, nectarines, pineapple, oranges, plums, and tangerines. And no potatoes or corn, of course. Fortunately, you don’t have to limit nuts and berries – a prime source of food for hunters and gatherers.

The fitness recommendations make sense and rely on low-impact aerobic exercise such as walking or hiking 2-5 hours a week, high-intensity all out “sprints” for less than ten minutes once a week, and heavy lifting for 7-60 minutes one to three times a week. This is actually a doable fitness plan for me (especially if I start with 7 minutes and once a week on the heavy lifting and do smaller weights with more reps, which he endorses as just as good as larger weights with fewer reps.) He provides quite a bit of evidence for why all out high cardio on a regular basis is not a good way to go.

He also throws in a few other suggestions: get enough direct sunlight to make sure you have enough Vitamin D (his time recommendations are very moderate here and so I’m pretty sure I’m already getting this; mainly because I’m a stay-at-home mom and outside quite a bit with the kids); get seven to eight hours of sleep a day, with a regular bed time and wake time (doing pretty well there); and don’t be stupid (can’t argue with that).

The book itself is extremely repetitive, and could have easily been boiled down to fifty pages without losing any essential information. There are a number of lame attempts at jokes throughout, to lighten an otherwise heavy volume of information. He makes liberal use of quotations from a wide range of famous people – politicians, writers, athletes. There are plenty of shaded boxes and charts to please the eye and tell you what you’ve already been told in pictorial form. There is a lot of exaggeration in the book, particular with the tossing around of the word "toxin."
I may return and alter my review when I have attempted to keep 80% of these rules for one week. I don't have any doubt that if I truly stuck to the Primal Blueprint, I would lose weight and be healthier. The question is, is it too restrictive? Will the inconvenience and expense and the deprivation of my favorite foods (sweets, potatoes, pasta) make it unreasonable for me to keep? I'm curious to do a trial run.

ADDITION: I did a trial run. I kept the diet but did less than the suggested exercise, though more than usual. I lost six pounds in two weeks. And then I quit because I'm weak and lazy and because having most of my diet consist of meat and vegetables and no grains made me feel like I wanted to vomit once or twice a day. I just don't like meat that much.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Linda (new)

Linda M Absolutely brilliant. I feel smarter reading your review. Do let me know how it goes. Stay away from those "toxins" :)


Ravenannjade My husband and I have been following the lifestyle since February. My husband has cut everything the book says to and has lost 45 lbs. He says he has more energy, doesn't have the mid-day tiredness and he just feels healthier. With me I don't follow as strictly. I just cut everything I was eating in half but pastas. I have just stopped eating them within the past two weeks because I realized they were making me sick. I have lost 34 lbs and am starting to feel better but I personally have more health problems then my husband. I'm not a real big meat either but I just found a few that I like and eat those. This isn't just like every other diet out there. Like my husband says he changing the way he lives and the weight loss is just a happy side effect. It's his body going back to the way it's suppose to be. At first this was hard but you have to give it more then one or two months before you give up.


message 3: by Zoe (new) - added it

Zoe Interesting. Are there recommendations for places to find recipes or actual recipes in the book?


Elisabeth Do you like fish? Eggs?


message 5: by Zoe (new) - added it

Zoe Is that what is recommended?


Brooke This diet isn't really like Atkins. Atkins is mainly protein based and primal/paleo is all about quality. Grass-fed meats, organic poultry. With Atkins you would be eating sub-par food. I've been doing paleo for 6+ months and I love it. More energy, better skin, no more joint pain, more sex drive, no brain fog. I didn't start this journey to lose weight, I started it to feel better, and I can't go back now. :)


Elisabeth @Zoe my comment was directed at the original poster who couldn't stick with it because a lack of interest for meat. The caveman diets at basically meat (fish/egg) and vegetables with less fruit, nuts, etc. No grain, no sugar, no legumes, little dairy.


message 8: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie I really enjoy this review. I haven't read the book but wondered how Sisson reconciles the idea of evolution with the apparent belief that ~500 generations of humans (obviously only those hardy enough to survive a grain diet) haven't evolved at all from the hunter-gatherer. Does this guy have any actual credentials or is he just a self-styled expert armed with anecdotes?


Phil Just finished the book and couldn't recommend it more. @zoe - The author's website has a large forum area with a lot of recipes and recommendations provided by other readers. He also makes a full free downloadable cookbook (pdf format) available on the website as well @melanie - The book does have quite a few personal anecdotes from the author's life, but also backs up those anecdotes with scientific studies and references to go along with them. I felt is was a good mix between the science and the "story." While the author recommends sticking to organic meats and vegetables, he also states that it is up to each person to decide how they are going to implement his ideas in their own life. Personally I have been following a Paleo nutrition plan for just under a month (but not eating organically due to cost concerns) and have dropped 15 pounds simply by cutting out all processed foods and grains as recommended by the book. My energy levels are way up as well.


Steve Scheunemann I'm 7 months into my primal journey. I've lost 25 pounds (which is all I had to lose) and feel fantastic! I'm 45 next week and weigh what I did when I got out of Marine Corps Boot camp in 1987. My girlfriend saw me without my shirt last week and went "Whoa! Where did the six-pack come from?" She was amazed. I eat like I should 90% or more of the time and do about 40% of the recommended exercise. Primal has changed my life and I'm never going back. Oh and those of you who think you can't live without bread/pasta etc. First I no longer even miss it and second you may find, as I did, that when you make those exceptions 20% or less of the time, you will do it here rather than on candy, ice cream etc. I also gave up sodas and I was a 4-6 sodas a day guy. I don't even miss it now.


message 11: by Russell (new)

Russell I'm glad you're able to defend junk food to yourself. Best of luck.


message 12: by Doris (new) - added it

Doris Jean Yes, the quality of food is all-important!


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