The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy
By Mark Sisson
Primal Nutrition, Inc., 2009
If each person on the planet tried out a different diet book, you would probably run out of people before you ran out of books. On the other hand, if you count the number of diet books that are worth anything, you would run out of books before you ran out of fingers on that same hand. The Primal Blueprint, which author Mark Sisson considers not a diet plan but rather a way of life, immediately distinguishes itself in its contrast of the “primal blueprint” with conventional wisdom on a broad spectrum of health topics. Subjects that even some of the more intelligent authors get wrong include saturated fat, exercise, water consumption, sunlight, fiber, eggs and cholesterol. The Primal Blueprint scores much better than conventional wisdom in all of these areas.
To briefly run down the primal positions that Sisson delineates on that list, saturated fat, eggs and cholesterol are not to be feared. We actually need that stuff. Sisson tracked down the apparent origin of the belief that we need eight glasses of water per day and noted an important detail that is usually omitted—much of that water can be obtained from food. You don’t need to nurse a water bottle until you’re tempted to relocate your office in the bathroom. You also don’t need all that fiber that conventional wisdom recommends, and if you plan to depend on exercise alone to be healthy without correct nutrition, you will be very disappointed.
Sisson also displays above average intelligence in his discussion of genetics. Although the subject has been around for a while, not many people are familiar with epigenetics—the concept that our genes are not as chiseled in stone as once thought, but can be switched on or off by lifestyle choices, such as diet. Sisson’s summary Sisson constructs a disease pyramid built from phytates, trans fats, soy, processed food, and sugar. of fat research includes that of Ancel Keys and Mary Enig, and he arrives at the conclusion that saturated fat is good, trans fat or frankenfat, not so. He also is generally correct in identifying good oils and bad oils.
When it comes to food, Madison Avenue and the food industry have taught the average person well. Sisson does a good job of cutting through the smoke and illuminating where most information on nutrition is really coming from. If conventional wisdom on nutrition and health is so good, why is the average person who follows that wisdom not healthier? Why is the health of most Americans declining? We think we should run with the pack but don’t notice the pack isn’t very healthy.
Speaking of declining health, Sisson constructs a disease pyramid similar to that of the food pyramid. Although there is no actual diagram depicted, the materials used to build this pyramid include phytates, trans fats, soy, processed food, and sugar.
Under Primal Blueprint Law #9: Avoid Stupid Mistakes, Sisson offers some examples of what he calls “Darwin Awards” to emphasize the importance of this strategy. One features a man (why is it always men?) who tried to fly a rocket-propelled jet ski over Niagara Falls. His plan was to fly well away from the falls, open a parachute and float to safety. Strangely, things didn’t go as planned, and he plunged one hundred sixty feet, surviving the fall but with neither a life jacket nor the ability to swim, he is no longer with us.
I don’t necessarily agree with every detail of The Primal Blueprint. On the subject of dairy, for instance, Sisson’s first choice is no dairy, which I might grumble about, but second, third and fourth choices are all raw dairy, which placates me somewhat. Buying this book will not win you any Darwin awards. It is sufficiently above average in intelligence to warrant a Thumbs Up.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2010.