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A Recipe for Success 21
I The Inner Dialogue Connection 39
The Ten Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers 41
II The Body Connection 73
Stay in Touch 74
Go Barefoot 79
The Power of Posture 90
Made to Move 98
Section Summary 105
III The Nature Connection 107
The Wild Within 108
Reclaiming the Outdoors 117
Play Dirty 125
Section Summary 135
IV The Daily Rhythm Connection 137
Honoring the Sun 138
Finding Focus 158
Slowing Down 175
Section Summary 187
V The Social Connection 189
The Inner Circle 190
Filling the Social Wellbeing 203
Section Summary 209
VI The Play Connection 211
Primal Play 212
The Play of Art 218
Primal Thrills 224
Section Summary 235
Author's Note 237
Primal Connection Q&A With Author Mark Sisson
Q: How does this book differ from The Primal Blueprint?
A: The Primal Blueprint focused on the ten lifestyle laws of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, with particular emphasis on what seem to be the most urgent and obvious life changing elements of the Evolutionary Health movement: eating primal foods (meat, fish, fowl, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds) and exercising in a manner aligned with optimal gene expression (frequent comfortably paced movement coupled with brief, intense strength and sprint workouts). The Primal Connection extends the primal theme to matters of the psyche and the disconnects inherent with high tech modern life and how to fix things.
Q: How are the connections categorized?
A: There are six sections of the book offering scientific rationale and step-by-step action plans to make assorted connections as follows:
• Inner Dialogue: Reject self-doubt and gain mastery over your thoughts and actions. Learn the ""ten habits of highly effective hunter-gatherers"": dealing with personal conflict, letting go of the past, reevaluating your definition of affluence, and trusting your gut instincts.
• Body: Learn how to safely and gradually transition to a barefoot-dominant lifestyle, including workouts. Learn correct posture and movement mechanics—maybe for the first time ever! Understand the transformative power of touch and how to leverage it in daily life. Learn the importance of frequent, comfortably paced movement, including taking regular breaks from prolonged sedentary periods, and even how to create a standup work environment to enhance concentration, circulation, and fat metabolism.
• Nature: Relieve stress at the biochemical level simply by immersing into pleasant natural surroundings. Improve your indoor environment with creative efforts to integrate natural sounds, light, and plant life, and the use of energy-boosting negative ion generators. Garden, play in the mud, or otherwise get dirty (and let your kids do it too!) to turbocharge your immune system and actually strengthen your resistance to infection.
• Daily Rhythm: Obtain adequate sun exposure to large skin surface areas to ensure healthy vitamin D levels—one of the most overlooked, and health critical—connections you can make. Optimize sleep by observing mellow, darkened evenings in a quiet, cool, stress-free environment. Engage in solo, silent retreats to recharge your batteries. Prioritize work and entertainment stimulation, and discipline use of technology to remain focused, creative, and productive.
• Social: Envision an ""inner circle"" of close friends or family members, numbering around twelve people or less, to focus the majority of your social time and energy. Nurture a larger social circle or perhaps another two dozen people with whom you can maintain meaningful, reciprocative relationships. Deemphasize attempts to connect superficially with a larger group of people through social media.
• Play: Rediscover your innate cravings for daily doses of spontaneous, physical fun! Play helps nurture your creativity and complex problem-solving skills, without results-oriented pressure. The net effect is to increase confidence and enthusiasm for the challenges you face with your core daily responsibilities.
Q: What are the overarching themes of The Primal Connection?
A: You'll embrace three critical themes that will help you withstand the destructive forces of modern life. First, your genes expect certain inputs to make you healthy, strong, and happy. If you create a different experience—slamming junk food or blasting artificial light and digital stimulation after dark, you'll compromise long-term health, period. Your genes don't know, or care, whether the inputs they receive are health-promoting or health-compromising, they are simply programmed to fight for homeostasis at all times. Drink a soda and your genes respond by prompting the release of insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. In this refrain, the development of type 2 diabetes from prolonged excessive insulin production, and the subsequent resistance of cells to respond to insulin, is not a genetic defect but an example of gene expression at work. Your genes will fight valiantly to moderate the wildly excessive intake of carbohydrates in the Standard American Diet by producing insulin until this genetic mechanism becomes utterly exhausted and a diabetic condition develops.
The second theme is that abundance and scarcity are often mismatched with our genetic expectations. For example, our ancestors had abundant leisure time and scarce material possessions. This is something our brains are still wired to expect and appreciate, but the exact opposite often plays out today. Consequently, we feel stressed and anxious about busy schedules and consumerist, ""affluenza"" mentalities because they in conflict with our hard-wired genetic reference point. As Dr. Art DeVany, PhD expressed, ""Modern life leaves our minds restless and under-utilized because we are confined, inactive, and comfortable. We cannot be satisfied with more and more, because we are evolved for another lifeway in which material goods do not matter. The result is that we are deeply unsatisfied with modern life and don't know why."" Our genes simply don't know what to make of all our ""stuff"", and our lack of physical or cognitive down time to get refreshed and rejuvenated for the challenges of daily life.
The third theme is that your deep primal drive to pursue behaviors that generate feelgood hormones—the key to prevailing in the survival of the fittest game—must today be tempered with common sense and evaluation of long-term repercussions. For example, we are hard-wired for a sweet tooth because we experienced an adaptive benefit to avoid poisonous plants (plant life that is sweet is universally safe to consume and rich in calories and antioxidants—survival promoting!) and consume seasonal fruits and tubers that enabled our bodies to store energy for winter months of minimal caloric intake. Yep, our ancestors fattened up for the winter! Today, with massive amounts of sugar at our disposal and few modern citizens wishing to fatten up for the winter months, it makes sense to temper this sweet tooth wiring with sensible caloric intake that is aligned with long-term health. For example, emphasizing seasonal fruit intake but refraining from year-round intake of overly cultivated, overly sweetened fruits. The same is true for the massive amount of digital stimulation we are exposed to daily. We are hardwired to be attuned to novel stimulation in our environment and kick into the fight of flight response at a moment's notice. Today, the fight or flight response is one of the most egregiously abused genetic mechanisms in the human body. What was once reserved for a predator attack is now accessed every time we fall behind on our quarterly reports or blaze through a stream of text messages on a busy subway ride home after work.
Q: What are some examples of actual Primal Connections?
A: Go barefoot: Forget motion control shoes, custom-made orthodics and other modern comforts and supports that weaken your feet, promote inefficient mechanics and promote pain and injury. Transitioning to a barefoot or minimalist shoe lifestyle promotes correct walking, running and standing technique and relieves foot and back pain. The Primal Connection details the right way to do it so you don't get injured or discouraged.
Darken your evenings: Soon after the sun sets, our genes are programmed for an elegant chain of hormonal processes that make us feel sleepy and facilitate a smooth transition from a wakeful state to sound sleep. Unfortunately, today's artificial light and digital stimulation after dark short-circuit our circadian rhythms, one of the most fundamental and health-critical natural cycles on the planet. Make your evenings as dark and mellow as possible by wearing orange or yellow-tinted sunglasses, switching to orange light bulbs or candlelight around your house, and avoiding digital screen use in the final hours before bedtime. Mellow, darkened evenings will help reconnect you with your circadian rhythm, promoting restorative sleep and high energy mornings.
Play around in the dirt: Gardening, mud runs, and outdoor adventures with the kids expose you to organic bacteria in soil that improves you mood and immune function. Interacting with dirt is a great way to counter the overly sanitized, immune compromising habits that are in vogue today. Raising fruits and vegetables connects you directly with the nurturing and consumption of the most basic sustenance for life. This is a far cry from filling up the shopping basket and stuffing your face with store-bought fare, with insufficient recognition or appreciation for what it took to get the product from seed to your plate.
Relax your clean freak standards: Expose yourself to more germs, period! You will actually improve your immune function and minimize your chances of getting sick when you ditch the antibacterial soap, leave the baby wipes at home, and back off on the soapy scrubbing of everything in sight. By all means protect against the hazards of food borne illness or your runny nose co-worker, but realize the exposure to organic matter keeps your immune system fine-tuned.
Children with immature immune systems particularly need to get dirty for proper training and refinement of optimal immune function. Interestingly, research indicates that kids who live on farms, have pets in the home, or come from large families (i.e., more germ exposure) have less incidence of allergies and asthma that kids who live in more sanitized conditions.
Stand up at your work desk: Warning—the chair is a modern creation of dubious value. Prolonged use can be hazardous to your health and body composition goals. Retrofitting your workstation to include a standing option (okay to switch back and forth of course) will improve concentration and fat metabolism.
Move more: The comfort and convenience of modern come at a severe cost to our health, and we must make concerted efforts to simply move around more in daily life. This can entail general efforts (take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the dog every morning, frequent strolling breaks during the workday) along with structured aerobic workouts at a comfortable pace (between 55-75 percent of maximum heart rate is optimal, and protects against dangers of falling into a chronic exercise pattern).
Don't fear the sun!: Sunbathing helps prevent cancer—especially the most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma. Strive to maintain a slight tan (never burn of course) during the peak season. Go ahead and screen sensitive areas, but make a point to expose large skin surface areas to direct sunlight regularly. This will ensure that your body produces healthy levels of vitamin D, which helps to regulate healthy cell division and thus protect against all forms of cancer.
Family before Facebook: Moderate your use of hyperconnective social media. Instead, focus the majority of your social energy on an intimate circle of family and close friends.
Slow down: Slow down your workout pace to get leaner and fitter: A chronic approach to exercise can do more harm than good. Frequent, everyday movement—at a comfortable, energizing pace—is the key to cardiovascular health.
Skip breakfast—skip any meal you like!: Reject the Standard American Diet (SAD) dependency on regular high carbohydrate feedings and train your body to burn stored body fat efficiently—aka becoming ""Primal adapted"". Moderating insulin production by restricting intake of processed carbohydrates (not just sugars, but all grains—yep, even whole grains) makes weight loss easy and can quite possibly save your life.
Pursue Primal Thrills: You can generate feelgood hormones from both adrenalin rush pursuits (extreme sports, roller coasters, competitive events, etc.) and mundane tasks that get you focused on the present and reconnect you with the simple pleasures of life (home improvement, volunteerism, etc...)
Posted January 12, 2013
When people first sit down with a health expert and want to know how to create a healthy lifestyle most experts inevitably start by educating them on the importance of their overall diet, but make no mistake about it there is a lot more to building a healthy lifestyle than just ones diet. Sadly, the vital topics discussed in The Primal Connection like the importance of community, connection, and introspection are rarely topics most health professionals ever get around to discussing with their clients. Most of us are so worried about how much time we spend in the gym or how many grams of carbs or fat we are eating that the idea of play, sunshine, and personal relationships seem millions of miles away from what will ultimately produce that healthy lifestyle we are all looking for.
Mark Sisson has truly given us a gift as he steps outside the boundaries of writing a traditional "diet" book and delves deep into the all-important philosophical, social, and behavioral aspects of optimal health. We cannot recommend this book highly enough. With each turn of the page it reminded us of what we had seen first hand in the remote tribes we have studied around the world during our 6 year, 7 continent,100+ country expedition we called The Calton Project. Being present in the moment, a strong community and a sense of purpose are the framework on which a strong tribe is built and from where personal strength, vitality and health are realized. No matter what your level of physical health The Primal Connection will give you the tools you need to take your health to the next level. The lessons you will learn between the pages of this thought provoking and inspiring book will enhance your life in ways you may never have thought of and help you understand the true meaning of living an optimal life.
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Posted February 15, 2013
This is Mark Sisson's best book to date. A great read for anyone who wants to be motivated to live a more fulfilling life. A must read for anyone who is or is considering living a primal lifestyle. Many hints to incorporating primal living - a little or a lot!
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Posted February 1, 2013
Finally, a book that addresses the mental part of the equation of primal living. I am a personal trainer and nutritionist and have been moving toward a more primal lifestyle over the past two years. After reading The Primal Connection, it is as if a light bulb went off in my head. I have now committed 100% to the eating and cannot believe the clarity of mind and body that I now enjoy. This book will go to the top of my list of material that I recommend to my clients. Thank you again, Mark Sisson, for your continued dedication to helping people reach their potential!
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Posted June 13, 2013
Great Primal Primer
Mark Sisson delivers a nice book here that goes beyond his original Primal Blueprint. The Blueprint is focused more on healthy eating and exercise. This book is all about lifestyle. There are plenty of interesting ideas here and it is a worthy sequel to the Primal Blueprint.
I would suggest that you start first with the Primal Blueprint, and if you are excited by it, then by all means read this worthy sequel.
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Posted September 22, 2013
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