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Review: The Primal Connection
I made the switch to Paleo back in the summer of 2009, based on the recommendation of Melissa Hartwig of Whole9, and my reasons were pure vanity: I’d lost a bunch of weight with the Weight Watchers program, and I wanted to get leaner (and stronger, but if I’m being honest, mostly leaner).
In those days, all I cared about was learning what I should eat to lose weight.
But as I continued to work with Melissa, I learned that to lose the weight I wanted to lose, I had to optimize my health — and that meant more than the food I put in my mouth. That encompasses training wisely, getting enough sleep, managing stress, and making time for things in my life other than work. As Melissa and Dallas say right in the title of their book: it (only) starts with food.
Now Mark Sisson, the author (guru?!) behind Marks Daily Apple and The Primal Blueprint, has published a new book, The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness (kindle version). It also moves beyond the food to “extend the primal theme to matters of the psyche and the disconnects inherent with high tech modern life and how to fix things.”
I cuddled up on my couch with Smudge on a cold, rainy, oh-so-gray winter day to see what he had to say…
Cool Things About The Primal Connection
1. It’s not groovy.
At first blush, you might think this is another “slow down and smell the roses” kind of self-help book. You would be so wrong. Mark writes with a straight-forward approach that’s, honestly, pretty sassy. And he backs up his assertions with research and quotes. But it’s not overly science-y, either. I mean, I read books from people like Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, and Melissa & Dallas Hartwig because I already trust them; I read their books because I want more of their individual points of view — and ultimately, I hope their POVs unseat the conventional thinking that shapes news reports and social/health/government policy.
2. It’s comprehensive.
The book is arranged around six Connections: Inner Dialogue, Body, Nature, Daily Rhythm, Social, and Play. I love that this book addresses the “squishier” side of health and happiness — and it shines a spotlight on the areas of our lives we can easily overlook in our pursuit of professional success and (ahem) superhero lean-ness. In each Connection section, Mark addresses how our modern life has distanced us from what our genes expect and offers simple tips for how we can adapt our behavior to do more of what is in alignment with our genetic makeup. (Note that I said “simple” not “easy;” putting down the iPhone before bed and hushing the judgmental inner voice can be challenging. But as Mark points out, there are vast rewards for re-aligning our behavior with our nature.
3. It’s both satisfying and snackable.
The information in the book is presented in easily-digested chunks that make it a comfortable read. One of my favorite components of the design is these sidebars throughout the chapters that define a disconnect with our genetic expectations and offer a tip for how to mitigate the problem. It’s like he’s already done the highlighting of the chapter for you.
4. It’s actionable.
The best thing about the book is that you don’t need to read the entire thing before you can start making changes. By the end of the first section, The Inner Dialogue Connection, for example, you’ll have a toolbox full of new Jedi mind tricks you can use on yourself to embrace “The 10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers.” Personally, by the time I’d finished reading The Body Connection, I’d resolved to be barefoot when I work at home — and recommitted to my Get Up, Stand Up practice. (I read the book beginning to end, but I bet, if you were so inclined, you could jump around the sections according to your whims and re-frame your habits in whatever order works best for you. It’s like a good ideas buffet!)
5. It’s not preachy nor judgmental.
Have you ever read a book, intended to help you, that made you feel worse instead of better… that made you feel like you were broken and only that author had the secrets to “fix” you? This book isn’t like that. Mark’s got a “we’re all in this together” tone that encourages while it educates, and reading the book, there’s the understanding that this is an on-going process. Like changing our eating habits, re-aligning our lives to a more natural way of living is a path that we jump on and move along at our own pace, maybe taking detours along the way. This book can be your guide to exploring that path to help you enjoy the journey and feel comfortable knowing the “destination” is always ahead.
Bonus. There’s this:
I like to pretend that Mark was rocking out to my favorite band, a.k.a.. Social Distortion — maybe Reach for the Sky or I Wasn’t Born to Follow — while he was writing this section of the book. Mark Sisson, getting down with the punk rock, maybe even in a mosh pit. A girl can dream.
If you buy The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness via that link (kindle version), I get a little kickback from Amazon (YAY!). But you might want to do this: for the next two days only — until Thursday, January 10 — Mark is giving away special bonus packages and giveaways when you order the book; get all the details here.
Mark also recently released a new cookbook: Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings & Toppings. Like his other cookbooks, this collection takes a pretty straight-forward approach to laying out ingredients and instructions — you won’t find foodie love stories and gushing about ingredients like you do in my book Well Fed. But if you know your way around the kitchen — or you’ve been eating Paleo or primal for a while — and need some ideas to jazz up your meat+veg plates, there are some good ideas in this book. Because it’s primal, many of the recipes include dairy, so if you’re a Whole30-er or strictly Paleo, some of the recipes will need to be modified for you. (But even for a salty-not-sweet person like me, it’s hard not to be tempted by something called “Dark Chocolate Pudding Sauce.”Also: hello, chicken liver dip! Although, probably not at the same time as Dark Chocolate Pudding Sauce.)