“The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerely, benevolence, courage and strictness.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

photo:alsohbennett
photo:alsohbennett

You may have missed this comment in the Dynamic Warm-up post; as such, I’d like to share it here, as I think it’s so very important, and dare I say, inspirational.  Now the very word inspirational has been so watered down — hackneyed even — that I’m loathe to use it. But really, in this case, I think that it’s justified.  Check it out:

Keith,
As always, I love your writing and appreciate all you do to keep us motivated.
I wanted to write an update on my continued attempts to put theory to practice as I have just reached 101 pounds lost. Having gone from 356 lbs. to 255 lbs. has given me so much vitality and joy. I can now fit in size 36 jeans and XL shirts, coming from size 48’s and 4XL!
I am still pumped about eating well (paleo with minimal cheats) and exercising (beginning Crossfit). I have survived stressful times without binge eating, which was a major concern.
Also, and most importantly to me, I am showing my children that these things are possible. A side note to this point: I have begun having the occasional ice cream with my kids. I felt that it was important to show good eating habits but also the ability to show restraint with foods that kids like. (Thoughts?)
They have begun to see that junk food need not be “everything” and they don’t ask for candy anymore. Well…at least not from me. :)
In fact, last week my dad even asked me to go over my diet with him. He sees the results and knows I am not eating poorly to lose weight and wants in. Yeah!
Anyway, this is where I am.
Hope you and yours are well. Please keep up your great writing.
Thank you,
Jeremy Palmer

A fantastic testimonial for the efficacy of the Paleo lifestyle.  And remember, this is nothing that I’ve created — this “lifestyle”, and the constituent building blocks thereof, have been around since the dawn of mankind.  This is our collective legacy.  I only endeavor to apply these ancient principles, best I can, within the challenges of a modern (and, let’s face it, nutritionally broken) society.  This is the task, the challenge, that confronts each and every one of us — every hour of every day.  Living this lifestyle requires intelligence, wisdom, a good dose of willpower (at least, initially) and a questioning — un-trusting even — attitude.  I’ve met with and conversed with a wide array of Paleo adherents throughout my own Paleo journey, as well as with many would-be, failed practitioners — from just about every ethnicity and socio-economic background you can imagine — and what I’ve found is this: what separates the adherent from the would-be and failed are two things; intelligence and a highly-skeptical, question-authority mindset.  At this point in the game — and until society as whole makes a drastic, nutritional U-turn (which I don’t see as happening in our lifetimes) — only those equipped with the tools and character to “break free of the Matrix” (red pill or blue pill, Neo?) — like our friend Jeremy, here — will succeed at the Paleo endeavor.  This isn’t a pessimist speaking, but the thoughts of a rationalist.  Think about how this manifests on your own lives.  How many of your own friends, family and associates are willing to cast themselves, without a net, into an intellectual solo-flight, an on-going n=1 experiment?  How many are willing to question heretofore “authoritative”, dietary, proclamations,cast aside what they once considered “truth”?  Red pill or blue pill, Neo?  Really, isn’t this what the Buddha asked as well?  Don’t blindly follow me, he said in essence, but tease these things out for yourself, in the laboratory of your own mind and in your own body.  Keep what works, discard what doesn’t.  Above all, though, question; aggressively and ceaselessly question.

And to quickly add my own 2 cents on the question of raising kids within a Paleo framework:

(1) Living as an example is, in my opinion, the best thing you can do, coupled with an on-going discussion of why (at an age-appropriate level, of course) you’ve made this dietary and lifestyle choice.  Do all you can to develop within them the notion of respectful questioning.  Because, let’s face it, sooner or later you have to let them free in the big, woolly (and woefully mis-informed) world, a world governed by — you guessed it — experts.  And being a mainstream “expert” only means that one has majority backing; that may, or may not, connote any modicum of truth.

(2) High dose fish oil, especially in children, will aide in blunting the effects of a less-than-perfect diet.  They will eat crap, no doubt — and lot’s of it — because society at large encourages it, and at a certain point, the need to fit in (or at the very least, not “fit-out”) will override all else.  More on fish oil in a later post.

(3) Personally, I’m not a believer in half-measures — but that’s just me.  I certainly understand where you’re coming from though, Jeremy.  Kids do need to be taught moderation so as to equip them for navigating the real, un-informed world.  This is a touchy question, and I’m calling out to experienced TTP readers to weigh-in on this one.  The way I approached this with my own was to say I choose not to partake because (insert age-appropriate reasoning). Ultimately, though, you have to make your own choices about how to treat your own body and your own health.  Now, my kids were much older when I began this journey, and were familiar with this kind of talk, usually, though, centered around political ideals, or fitness/sports training topics, drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.  Of course, if I had young children in my home now, they wouldn’t even have access to “bad” foodstuffs (I can see me being a very unpopular grandpa), and hopefully their very early-established “tastes” would help moderate them through the real-world minefield once it was (inevitably) unleashed upon them.  My gut feeling is though, Jeremy, that you know what’s best for your kids at this particular juncture in their lives.  I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and I was an all-or-nothing kid as well.  One thing the years have taught me is that the vast majority of people do not operate that way.  My coaching style works well and is fit for an athletic/sporting environment; in the general public, well…not so much  🙂

I’ll end the day’s pontification there, as I’ve gone on long, long enough.  The real point of this post is to acknowledge a gentleman who has fought the good fight well, and is flying the Paleo flag proudly.  My hope is that Jeremy’s action and success can ignite a desire in others (especially his kids) to do the same.

Here’s to you, Jeremy!  Good work!

In health,

Keith

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Keith Norris is a former standout athlete, a military vet, and an elite strength and conditioning expert with over 35 years of in-the-trenches experience. As a serial entrepreneur in the health and wellness space, he is an owner, co-founder and Chief Development Officer of the largest Paleo conference in the world, Paleo f(x) . As well, Keith is a partner in one of the most innovative lines of boutique training studios in the nation, Efficient Exercise. He’s also a partner in ARXFit training equipment, and a founding member of ID Life. In his spare time, he authors one of the top fitness blogs in the health and wellness sphere, Theory To Practice.

33 COMMENTS

  1. First off, CONGRATULATIONS Jeremy! Keep going!

    My 2 cents in regards to raising the kids. I have 4 and Keith you know how I eat….so I think I’m allowed on the soap box 😉

    “They are going to eat crap” This is a REALITY! Get used to it. To counter that reality, I show them that we “make” our food. They always watch me cook, and beside from the occasional pasta dish I make for them…not much comes out of a box. They are very aware of this fact. Over the last 3 years the questions have finally started. “Is this healthy dad?” “What’s healthier dad soda or ice tea?” “Milk or meat?” etc etc. As to setting an example, it’s all or nothing for me. When I buy them some ice cream (this is an area where you have some control, when you do let them indulge, buy the best quality with minimal ingredients) They always want me to have some or taste and I never do. This intriques them and hopefully sets an example. Ultimately it’s going to be up to them to make good choices for themselves, I can only show the way……I often tell them “I want you to do good because YOU want to and YOU know it’s the right thing to do, not because you’re worried that you might get in trouble with mom or me or a teacher.”

    I’m a single dad and my kids spend 50% of the week at a house that eats the SAD. They have no problem eating what I make them, and they enjoy most of what I put out 😉
    There are no ho-ho and ring dings at my house, and I can tell you they don’t seem to mind.
    Sorry for the ramble, hope that helps a bit Jeremy.

    Marc

  2. Cheers Jeremy! Very nice work!

    On the kids front, and I’ve got two under 9 years old right now, so I understand. As Marc said above, they are going to eat crap. The best thing you can do is mitigate the damage with controlled home meals + education. I tell my kids all the time about what is healthy and what is not, I take one or both to the farmer’s market every weekend so they they can meet the guy that grows our produce/raises our meat, and I’ve set up a creative way offering desserts. Desserts, in my house, are Saturday night only. The desserts are usually very paleo friendly, with a monthly cheat. The usual dessert is berries in melted coconut oil + vanilla whey + dark chocolate nibs. The interesting thing is that they really miss the usual saturday night dessert when the cheat day come around and they can have whatever SAD dessert they want.
    Take your kids to farms, let them see how things work there. Then, ask them how you would raise a cheese doodle or a Cheeto. They’ll get the picture pretty quick.

    • …ask them how you would raise a cheese doodle or a Cheeto. They’ll get the picture pretty quick“.
      Great idea 🙂

  3. I thinking learning to have a very rare cheat without allowing it to become a binge is an important life skill. As in, learning to enjoy a beer, without saying “I’m already drinking beer, nachos and cookies won’t kill me.”

    That being said, if ice cream is your thing, make paleo ice cream. I make ice cream frequently with coconut milk and heavy cream (so zero lactose), and for 4-6 servings the only sweetener would be a tablespoon of honey total. It’s not very sweet but to me it tastes delicious as I’ve become more sensitive to even a little sugar. Granter fructose is fructose, but there’s so little of it that it makes the cheat a bit less egregious.

    Just a thought Jeremy! Congratulations on your amazing accomplishments. Your potential to spread the word so completely outweighs mine because your accomplishments are so dramatic and substantial. Use that to help others live healthier lives!
    -Bryce

  4. I choose not to eat ____ because my body doesn’t feel good after eating ____ , and I like to feel good. I am happier when I feel good, feel fit and feel healthy. Thus, eating _____ does not make me any happier; in fact, it makes me feel worse.

    The best ceaseless question for n=1 self-experimentation is: “How do I feel after I eat ___?” “How do I feel after I perform ____ (in regards to exercise)?”

    All the studies, theory, science, etc. in the world matter little to the Patient of One –> all that matters is what happens to our own bodies in our specific cases.

    I listen to my body — it knows more than the rest of us combined, especially when nurtured in the right lifeway.

    Keep listening to your body, Jeremy –> Congrats on your exemplary self-experimentation plunge and diligence!

    (good work, Keith, as always, comrade).

  5. Keith: love the blog. I am a mom, former college athlete and all around boot strapper. I have a propensity toward a paleo diet naturally, I think. However, I don’t read much about women in your blog or see them talk about Paleo in the comments section.

    Men and women are not created equally, we are different. Historically our “ancient roles” were different too. Given this cursory info, what kind of advice would you give to women interested in flying the paleo flag.

    Thank You! You’re a maniac of the likeable sort!

    • I think that women, as a group, are still genetically programmed to thrive on a Paleo diet. That said, I am all for experimentation outside of those bounds, i.e., the “n=1” you’ve seen alluded to here in this blog (and as posited in Brent Pottenger’s blog). For instance, while dairy is not considered (by purists) to be “Paleo”, per se, I’ve found that I respond well to the raw product (both cow’s and goat’s dairy) in all forms — cheese, milk, etc. You may find, as many women do, that you’ll feel better on a higher (relatively speaking of course) carb content. In contrast, I know from experience that I can go virtually carb free (as long as my fat intake is high enough) and do well, even in times of extremely high work loading. My advice to anyone is to work toward being a Paleo purist, then feather-in the n=1 “experiments” and gauge your response.

      BTW, for a great female point of view on the Paleo lifestyle, checkout Alex’s bog, A Paleo Journey to Health, and Dr. BG at Animal Farm. Both are excellent.

  6. Jeremy – great job!! Wonderful to hear of someone making such great strides from the beginning.

    Obviously, I am with Keith on the kids issue…since I’m married to him….LOL…so we do the best we can to persuade them by showing them the way & explaining it but since our kids are grown, it’s their choice about what they eat and what they do.

    Beck, I’m Keith’s wife & occasionally, I do get a mention in his blog. I eat a paleo diet with a few cheats. When I do have a carb jones, my tendency is to have a little bit of coconut butter (not oil, but butter) & that does take care of it for me. For me, I just don’t stress over all of it too much. I find that if I eat healthy I am healthy.

  7. Great post and great job Jeremy. Here’s my 2 cents:

    1. I too am all or nothing when it comes to how I diet/eat/experiment/train. I train hard and rest hard.

    2. That said, people who aren’t used to these things cannot initially be strong-armed into this. A decade of training human beings has taught me that I have to meet them where they’re at. I have many a clever way of doing this (ask me if you’d like) but you’re not going to turn most people from “3 pancakes for breakfast with no protein and a 6 pack for dinner” to a Mediterranean/Paleo/Real Food diet overnight. It unfortunately doesn’t work that way most of the time.

    3. Those of us who blog about this tend to mostly discuss these sorts of things in depth with other practitioners or at least individuals who are highly self motivated. This can create an echo chamber effect…it’s easy to forget that not everyone will change on a dime like we were willing to do! I make this important distinction because it’s is easy to unintentionally take something so simple and make it sound like a soapbox speech.

    4. Perhaps this is where the old sage Clarence Bass comes in with help:

    “‘A person convinced against his or her will is of the same opinion still.’ I try to follow that bit of wisdom and only give people advice when they ask for it. Otherwise, I keep my mouth shut.”

    My addendum is that I make a person ask multiple times on separate occasions. It’s worked for me.

    N=1, of course. 😉

    Best,
    Skyler

    • “A decade of training human beings has taught me that I have to meet them where they’re at.”

      Very important, always. Thanks, Skyler.

      This is the power of n=1 for the Patient of One –> the goal is to get the self-experimentation engine started, overcoming inertia and empowering exploration.

      Please share your efforts on this front:

      “I have many a clever way of doing this (ask me if you’d like).”

      Psychologically, we all need support ‘getting our feet wet’ and ‘testing the waters’, so whatever baby steps we can get going to overcome inertia are monumental: hopefully, in time, as momentum builds, the engine will be self-funded and perpetuating.

      And, I didn’t change over night. I did all of the above.

      The machine is well-greased, at this point, thankfully, but the startup was not so fast, nor easy.

      • A decade of training human beings has taught me that I have to meet them where they’re at.”
        I second your opinion, Brent; fantastic insight into basic human psychology, Skyler. And you’re correct — hell, anyone can work with the hyper-driven athlete; just wind them up and let them go — your biggest challenge will be to get them to throttle-down and recover. I know — I was that athlete, and I am that guy today. Though I am trying to learn….uh, some sibilance of moderation in all (ok, most) things. Still tough for me to soften up, but I am trying — and I am learning to be more accommodating of those who have to ease into things. We all have things to learn — myself, first and foremost 🙂

      • “I am learning to be more accommodating of those who have to ease into things. We all have things to learn — myself, first and foremost.”

        By creating an inviting, respectable, and open community of self-experimenters — an epistemocracy for health — we can all learn from each other, regardless of where we are on our Ancestral Fitness treks. Whether still debating whether to get our feet wet or already going full throttle with all things Paleo / Primal / Evolutionary / Ancestral, as long as we are engaged in some level of inquiry, some level of continual searching together, our collective bottom-up knowledge base will both inform practice (Practice to Theory) and will motivate others to continue the journey, continue the maintenance and tinkering process.

        The most challenging human psychology hurdle, I suspect, is how do we create a culture of experimenters, of trial-and-error solution searchers: “If I could just get them to experiment …” is the phrase that continues to rattle my brain.

        Looking forward to your ‘tricks of the trade’ in this department, Skyler.

        This Theory to Practice platform that Keith works so diligently at is one exemplary example of a creative response to the experimentation conundrum.

        Our current experimental set up is empirically broken; our bodies tell the story lucidly; we need to scrap the existing lab set up, pull the Food Pyramid poster down from the lab bulletin board, higher some new lab techs, change the laboratory manual, and start testing new hypotheses, new mythologies for health.

        • My “Tricks of the Trade” could be broken down into 2 categories:

          1. Emotional Tendencies

          2. Psychological Blind Spots

          So, the former is more about type-a individuals. If I have a person on a diet (intentionally short term, restrictive diets can have uses in my experience, especially in breaking old habits) their tendencies are about being mired in minutia. This makes sense since I have restricted their intake and food choices compared to what they’re used to (which was likely a lot of crap to begin with). It’s during this time that I’m educating and empowering; for instance this past spring I had a client on a diet who was going to have to break his diet for a religious event. Being a Type-A CEO with his hair on fire, his first question was how to eat like he had been eating…damage control. My point was that he should use this as a testing ground of what I had been teaching: slow down, enjoy the real food, make better choices, enjoy a dessert (if you must at this event) and then get on the horse at the next meal. He came back for his next workout stating just that: he ate what he had to, enjoyed each bit of food more slowly, and went back to his habits at the next meal. He’s lost a total of 28lbs and has kept it off for the last 3 months; he’ll aim to lose another 8 to 10lbs in the fall, which would make him 6 months at his “new” bodyweight and having let new habits become ingrained. It worked for him.

          The second bit I focus on is actually what Martin at Leangains recently wrote about: food choices or rather lack thereof early on when a person is transitioning. This applies to n=1 experimenting, so after I have a client come off a diet (which I use to ingrain more paleo-like eating habits) I don’t have them change their foods, but rather have them eat more of those foods. So this means focusing on real food and supplement meals/protein shakes but increasing the quantity of fruits and veggies. If a person was gung-ho enough about short term PSMF-style dieting, suddenly being able to “feast” on a salad of nuts, veggies, fruits, and good oil IS a treat. A peach IS dessert…it reprograms their tastebuds to a certain extent. Experimenting too much, too fast, without proper guidelines (i.e. “I’m leaner and more insulin sensitive” doesn’t mean you can handle really high carb stuff) keeps the lax attitude from turning into a binge. Another personal example: had a guy lose 25lbs in a month with a PSMF. He’s a smart guy and realized it was all the damn scotch he was drinking that made him loose and hungry. After the PSMF, something like bacon and eggs is a treat that fills him fast. He’s lost another 15lbs and is under 200lbs for the first time in over 10 years.

          Finally, taking control of a period of lax eating (vacation) keeps the helpless binge mindset from happening. Think of it as you control what you eat rather than it controls you. If a client thinks of a period of relaxed eating as “part of the plan” they tend not to have the anxiety associated with deviating from their regular food choices. I don’t want them to think of it as cheating; it’s a part of the diet. So it takes the guilt of of having a cookie, if they really want it. That guilt sometimes spirals into an entire bag of cookies (to use a Lyle Mcdonald example) and then you’ve actually fucked your diet up, as opposed to the cookie really being no big deal. I have clients take diet breaks to jump-start fat loss; this usually happens because of work but telling them “eat as well as you can given these guidelines and don’t worry about a little junk…focus on 90% compliance” means their hormones rise to normal range and when they buckle down (if that is their goal) they lose fat faster. Win-win.

          So in list form:
          1. A person is eating garbage. This is a “peak” in our example.
          2. A short term PSMF type of diet (lots of leaner protein and veggies) gets a lot of weight off fast for great motivation and represents a “valley” as far as total intake.
          3. When they come back up to a new normal, it’s an extension of the diet: protein, veggies, good fats, fruit…real food. This intake is more and freer than the valley but in comparison it’s going to feel like a new peak: “I can eat ALL of these TASTY things?!”
          4. Repeat if one wants to get leaner OR keep 90% compliance and you’ll be healthy for life with a stable weight.

          1. and 2. are “tricks” but if you’ve been at their long enough, they’re simple strategies. It has worked for me and my clients.

          Best,
          Skyler

          • This is real, “in the trenches”, psychological genius. I’m not one to man-crush on anyone, but f’n-A, Skyler, this is brilliant! You’ve got some very lucky clients — I hope they know that.

          • Thank you for the compliment. It’s important to stress the narrative fallacy in my post: I fucked up a lot to get to that level, but who hasn’t? I’m sure you’ve got a load of tricks with your vast experience that you consider “nothin’ but a thang.” That’s why we talk about this stuff, yes?

            Best,
            Skyler

      • This perhaps dovetails into what some coaches (hell all of us I suspect) at one point or another get into: not taking our own advice. We’ll tell a client to rest if they’re feeling X or if they’re sore take Y days off. And then, like dummmies, we sometimes ignore that advice for ourselves. We’re not special, in that regard.

        Best,
        Skyler

        • Thanks, Skyler, for sharing both of these posts.

          Keep up the great work on the ground.

          Do you ever work with your clients to concoct stories about their transition experiences, using mythology of sorts as a vehicle for empowering openness to change and experimentation?

          • See my latest blog posts:

            epistemocrat.blogspot.com

            There are ‘stories’ being told — every time you use the word ‘Paleo’, for instance, someone has to buy into this mythological context and framework on some level in order to act upon it — so I was just curious how you craft and communicate them.

            Best,

            Brent

          • Brent,

            I’m a Health Schizophrenic about this, which is to say that I do both. I wrote a piece on my blog about how Paleo is atkins with a better PR firm. I think for a certain population the fable is great: this creates a certain empowerment through the lack of choice if a person is attempting to mold themselves to the ideal (Grok, in this case). I think this is a great starting point and for most trainees I have moving closer to this is the fast track for health.

            I also have very experienced clients, former triathletes, adventure racers, etc. who like the minutia. That’s when I explain that eating real food makes one fuller faster while providing all of the phytochems/vitamins/minerals/nutrients we need. I also inform them of fasting and variance of intensity away from me (this is mostly for the runners, who want to plod on for x miles rather than making adjustments to things such as training density). I then sum it up with the grok fable.

            In other words, the inexperienced need the fable for emotional compliance; the experienced like the fable as a content reminder. Does that answer your question?

            Best,
            Skyler

          • Thanks, Skyler.

            Both are short-stories — it’s all mythology to motivate empirical testing. Some stories just have different levels of detail — it’s about, like you said, understanding your audience.

            We need context to embed information in. You are doing a great job understanding that this context must resonate with the individual, meeting them where they are at.

            Best,

            Brent

          • Think of it as a religious parable. Is it true? Who really cares — what matters is the teaching of an underlying lesson imparted in such a way as to make for an understood and (more importantly?) memorable moral truth.

        • Yeah, I used to live by the motto of surgery being God’s form of periodization. Looking back on it, I find it amazing that I survived those years at all.

  8. A real gold mine of comments here. Thanks Keith, Skyler, and Brent for the interesting thoughts.

    A nonsequitor, but Tmuscle actually has a half way decent article on over-speed ballistic training. Lots of absurd marketing language there, but there are some interesting ideas on how to apply ballistics for CNS activation.

    http://tinyurl.com/lsbk56

    It takes patience to sort through the, shall we say, sub-par articles and find useful stuff there. I think I only go because I subconsciously enjoy being frustrated.

    • T-Muscle is the site I love to hate. I haven’t read the article yet, but properly applied (and there’s the caveat) and executed overspeed training is highly effective.

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