A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.  John Steinbeck

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My good friend Andrew Badenoch, of 77Zero.org can certainly attest to this notion.  To be prepared is one thing; to think that you have ultimate control?  Heh, this makes the Gods of chance and chaos chuckle.

Much of what I write about, and talk about with my peers, is geeked-out, Ancestral Wellness minutia.  As an in-the-trenches trainer, though, I deal with real-world questions like the following on a weekly (daily?) basis.  This is where the rubber meets the road, and this is where I can really make a difference in some one’s life:

I’m in Illinois and just listened to your talk on the Paleo Summit…I’m a mess.  I have a crp of 4.7, my cortisol is a flat line (saliva test), post-menopausal, history of compulsive exercise.  Now that I’m fat and unhealthy, what type of exercise can I do to fix myself?  I am eating gluten-free (paleo and have the gene for celiac) and have developed a ton of food allergies.  I was in great shape until I got breast cancer in 2005.  I’m 6 years cancer-free but I don’t want to get sick again.  Please tell me what type and how much exercise I should be doing.  I have gained 30 lbs since my cancer episode and have been unable to lose it.

Thank you for any wisdom you can share,


The thing is, whether I’m dealing with an accomplished athlete, or someone in Rita’s circumstance, the first step to dealing with a new or potential client is to define that client’s end goals against my Four Ts –

  • Time
  • Tools
  • Techniques
  • Tenacity (temperament)

And, especially so for someone in Rita’s circumstance, it must be made perfectly clear that this is going to be a lifelong journey that, if it’s ultimately going to be successful, must begin from a solid-footed, based-in-reality beginning.   What do I mean by “solid-footing” and “based-in-reality”?  The basics, of course; good food, and consistant, smart exercise.  That’s it.  The 30,000 foot view; no majoring in minors here.

Reading into this question we see obvious signs hormonal disregulation, systemic inflammation, and gut disbiosis.   An internet dissection and “fix” here would run reams of printed material, with no two “gurus” ever agreeing on any ultimate course of action — because, of course, agreement with another completely and forever after removes one from said “guru” status .

But Rita has to live in and navigate the real world, and probably has to juggle a full time job, family issues, house work and, well, you get the idea.  She needs an action plan that can be implemented in small, doable chunks.  If not, the change is overwhelming, and she’s sunk before she’s had a chance to gain traction.

Of course I’m making an assumption here.  And maybe Rita can chime in and let us know a little more about her circumstance, and of her temperament for undertaking challenge (the 4th T).  Most need to “on-ramp” into any big lifestyle change.  I have had clients, though, who are for sure willing, ready and able to undergo a total, stem-to-stern lifestyle remake.  Those folks, it should be noted, are few and far between indeed.  Kinda like Sasquatch sightings.

First things first?  Let’s strive to get the diet under control, moving as quickly as possible to a full-tilt, Whole-30-like gig, if not a full-on, immune-compromised (no night shades, no eggs), “clear the decks”, Paleo diet.  When I hear “gluten free”, that’s usually code yammer for “I still eat a crap-ton of simple carbs”.  Gluten free, yes (and good start) — but we’ve still got the excessive carb flux to deal with.  Let’s strive to begin each day with a high-protein kick-start; a nice hunk of last night’s steak, maybe.  The basics, right?  Nothing overwhelming, nothing over-complicated; nothing…uber-sexy.  And that’s generally a problem.  Because we like complicated, we like to be bowed-over with detail, and we for damn sure do not want moderation — until, that is, we have to actually implement that wow-factor tactic in day-to-day practice.  That route, my friends, is a straight path to failure.

So how much and of what kind of exercise?  Not much, really.  And nothing overtly complicated.  A lot of walking (or similar) — daily, if at all possible — punctuated with intermittent (every 3 or 4 days) bouts of high-intensity resistance training.  A nice related post on this subject, here.  Not nearly as daunting as it sounds.  30 minutes, twice a week, if you have access to an Efficient Exercise-like facility.  No access to such a facility?  A T-Bar — and the associated T-bar swing — is about as effective, efficient and as return-on-investment (both in terms of time and money) positive as you can get.  I’d need to better know Rita’s circumstance, relative to her access to tools (equipment; the 2nd T), to better design a tack for her.  But damn, one can sure get a hell of a lot of mileage out of a lot of walking and punctuated bouts of T-bar swings.  Sexy?  Not on your life.  Effective?  Hell yeah.

So, does this deckplate, simpleton stuff really work?  Yeah, I know people are burnt-the-hell-out on all the fitness-related hype they’ve had heaped upon them over the years.  But just check out these results from last year’s Efficient Exercise Project Transformation.  These folks were a lot like Rita coming in, and at the end of the 10 week program, they were all well into life-altering transformations for the better.  No cherry-picking of results here, as we reported all of the participant’s before and after numbers.  And many of those folks have stuck with us for the long haul, and have continued to improve.  So yes, it can certainly be done.  What’s tough for people to wrap their heads around, though, is the fact that it simply does not require all that much in the way of time investment to make that wholesale change in one’s life.

In fact, we’re going to run a Project Transformation 2012 in the weeks immediately following PFX12.  If you’re in the Austin area, and you want to participate, be sure to shoot me an email and I’ll get you on the list of potential participants.  More details of this year’s event will follow, but one thing we do know is that we’ll team with the Fitness Institute of Texas to document results of this year’s transformation with “before” and “after” DEXA scans.  And if you want a prelude to what this might look like, be sure to get yourself down to PFX12, where I’ll unveil the results of the three people I’ve been working with since late December, 2011.  Roughly 10 weeks of lifestyle change in, and their results in that short of a time span are nothing less than stunning.  Again, no cherry-picking here — you’ll see all of their “before” and “afters”.  All backed, of course, by “the numbers don’t lie” DEXA.  Should be interesting, especially since PFX12 attendees will have the opportunity to listen to these three folks discuss their trials and tribulations during the event.  Not just hard numbers, but real life stories.  And the opportunity to ask these folks pointed questions about their transformation experience.

And I’d be seriously remiss if I didn’t put in a shameless plug for our Physical Culture Immersion Experience here.  For some folks, this is the best option.  Immersion, quite simply, works.  Whether it’s learning a new language, or learning to implement any cultural/lifestyle change.  Want a sampling of the fitness side of what such an immersion will offer?  Come check-out our post-PFX12, Leveraging Modern Technology for Ancestral Wellness workshop on Saturday, March 17th, from 3 to 6 PM at Efficient Exercise’s Rosedale location.  $95 will get you a front row seat to a rockin’ Keith Norris/Skyler Tanner fitness fest.  Both mind and body will be zapped by days end at this one 🙂

Oh, and one other thing as it pertains to PFX12 — we now have day passes available.  Wanna take in the awesome happenings at this year’s Paleo f(x) Ancestral Momentum – Theory to Practice Symposium, but don’t have the time, or maybe the coin, to take in the full (paleo, of course) enchilada?  No worries.  You can now purchase an event day pass for $99.  Just visit the PFX12 registration page and enter code 1DPFX.  Limit one per customer.  A perfect option for all of our central Texas peeps, or those visiting the ATX to take-in the SXSW festivities!

One last item before I sign-off for today.  If you know little else about me, I hope that you know that I believe in the transformational power of knowledge; its ability to free one from intellectual bondage, and reliance upon others to make decisions for you.  I hope that many of you had the chance to partake in my good friend Sean Croxton’s Paleo Summit last week and, if you liked what you saw, I hope that you do consider purchasing the entire package.  Knowledge is lasting.  It is ever mutable of course, and must change in the face of irrefutable evidence if it is to survive.  This package, though, is a great place to start — or refine — your Paleo knowledge.  Never stop learning, and never stop challenging yourself.

Paleo Summit


In health, fitness, and Ancestral Wellness –



  1. I totally agree with you that knowledge is absolutely the best investment anyone can ever make.

    It can never be taxed, it can never be taken away from you, and it is cumulative – the more you have, the better off you will be.

  2. Hi! I’m Rita…I am very type A, determined, stubborn, etc.

    When I say gluten free, I mean NO grains whatsoever, no processed foods. I don’t buy any “gluten-free” snacks, bread or crap food. Btw, rice has never agreed with me so it was never really an option for me either.

    I have leaky gut and multiple food allergies diagnosed in the last 4-6 weeks. The highest are to GARLIC and oregano so you can only imagine what that has done. Pretty much NO eating out unless you feel like explaining that you can’t have anything with garlic, oregano, fennel, ginger, and vanilla..Yes all those. And sardines, and shellfish, and asparagus and APPLES! Unbelievable, right? It was very depressing at first.

    So I am cooking a lot on Sundays to prepare for my work week.

    I buy organic garlic free mayo made by spectrum so I can make my own chicken salad with grapes, celery and walnuts. I use a minimal amt to hold it together as I am not a big fan of mayo at all.

    I’m also making soups on the weekend using corn starch for thickener or heavy cream. So far I have made potato, and broccoli and cheese. I see from your comments that I shouldn’t be eating potatoes or cheese so I guess this next weekend I will be shopping a little diffently.

    My typical breakfast is 2 slices of bacon or 2 hard boiled eggs. Lunch is soup or salad. Dinner is meat, potatoes and vegetables. I have 1 cup of frozen fruit in the evening as desert with real whipped cream.

    Exercise consists of doing The Firm 5 days – 6 days per week for 30 minutes. (aerobics and weight training combined. When the weather is nicer, I do get out and walk or ride my bicycle almost daily.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated. I will be reading up on the Whole 30 in the meantime.


    • I think you’d be better served if your overall exercise routine included a few punctuated bouts of High Intensity Interval Training. Serious weight training like this is the only way to put on adequate muscle (no worries about looking like a she-man — it won’t happen) that will act as both a glycogen sink and as a diver for serious caloric burn.

      • Can you give me some examples of HIIT and the amount of time needed?

        I have no problem getting in 30 minutes of exerciese 4 of 5 work days…On the weekend I can easily do an hour.

        How many days per week should I lift weights?

        Also, what weight range do you recommend for women..I’m pretty confident that my fear of looking like a she-man has me not lifting heavy enough.

        Typically, once a woman starts lifting w/heavier weights, how long should it be before I can see results?

        Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

        • Rita, will you be at PFX12? If so, it just so happens that these specific questions will be covered — both by my “transformation projects” who’ll be sitting on Q&A panels, and by me, during my talk and follow-up Q&A session. Otherwise, I’ll be covering this topic in depth in the coming few weeks as Efficient Exercise will be kicking-off Project Transformation, 2012, in late March. 20 average Joe and Janes; 10 weeks of Paleo dietary and HIIT intervention, all backed with before and after DEXA results. In other words, please stay tuned, and I’ll be able to more adequately address your questions.

  3. I forgot to mention I own freeweights, a kettlebell, spinning bike, treadmill, elliptical and bicycle. (I also have an exercise dvd collection, mostly the Firm). Rita

  4. Dear Rita,

    Cleaning up your diet is certainly going to help your condition. When you become so sensitive to so many foods, it is likely that your liver is very congested. I’ve worked with quite a few naturopathic practitioners and the concensus is that allergies usually result from liver/gallbladder dysfunction.

    I have also suffered from severe allergies and the only thing that has truly eliminated all symptoms is a therapy called Advanced Allergy Therapeutics. It is truly remarkable and combined with a paleo diet, makes for a very easy to return to optimal health.

    The basic idea behind AAT is that allergies are basically informational errors in the body, most of which occur outside of the immune response. When your body gets inflammed and becomes hyperreactive, things get chaotic. It is very likely that you are only truly allergic to a small handful of things, but because of hypersensitivity you are testing allergic to a much larger group of substances. I have seen several scenarios where a person comes down with a cold and then develops a set of responses to certain foods, because the body associated the illness with the foods that were ingested during the period of sickness. This is not to say that things like gluten and yeast and sugar are not damaging, but only that things are more complicated than that. And it is very likely that you are allergic to environmental substances such as hydrocarbons, metals, etc, considering your bout with cancer. AAT treats all of these items.

    Good luck on your health journey.



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