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Your Primal Body
The Paleo Way to Living Lean, Fit, and Healthy at Any Age
By Mikki Reilly
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Scientists studying the remains of early humans tell us how our ancestors were in far better shape than we modern humans, their bodies free of disease and painful conditions. Natural adaptation and selection occurred over millions of years when they lived in caves, hunted wild game, and foraged for plants and berries to survive—a way of life very different than ours today.
But one thing has not changed: our DNA. The human genome has evolved so slowly that our genetic blueprint is almost exactly what it was 40,000 years ago when our ancestors still hunted and gathered their food. Lifestyles may have changed, but our modern bodies are no different in their basic DNA—a startling fact that revolutionizes how we think about and approach diet and exercise. The thesis of Your Primal Body is that we modern humans can follow the diet and activity patterns of our Paleolithic hunter-gatherer ancestors for optimal health and weight-loss. When you do eat and move as they did, you are healthier, more muscular, leaner, and pain-free; when you don't, you run into trouble. The “diseases of civilization”—heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, arthritis, to name a few, are all linked by researchers who study health and longevity to sedentary lifestyles and eating habits. Eating highly processed food and performing minimal activity, you become susceptible to the health problems that plague our modern society—none of which our ancestors had.
In this book, you will read the argument for switching to a more “primal” way of life and how it is scientifically valid, based in the latest research done by exercise physiologists, evolutionary fitness theorists, and scientists in university laboratories.
Your Primal Body goes beyond theory and science to give you a practical plan for implementing primal fitness into your modern lifestyle. In Mikki Reilly’s 5 Step Primal Body Program, central to the book, she shares her 20 years of experience in training people from all walks of life about how to lose weight, become fit, stay healthy, and condition their body for athletics. Reilly’s clients span a range of ages, from 18 to 74, and the book includes their inspiring stories, along with their “before and after” pictures, placed throughout the text to illustrate the book’s points and instructions. Their stories are not fictional composites but actual words of people who got the results they wanted from “going primal,” telling exactly how they did it. The Primal Body approach is not a quick-fix, but a complete overhaul in habits that have been stopping people from taking advantage of their natural inheritance, a fit and healthy body for life.
The book you hold in your hands, Your Primal Body: The Paleo Way to Living Lean, Fit, and Healthy at Any Age, is a doorway to the total transformation of your body, your health, and your life. It’s about fitness, but unlike most fitness books today, this book offers more than directions and a routine for changing your body. It gives you a revolutionary new context for weight loss, pain-free movement, building muscle, heart health, and longevity—all based on scientific information about humans that are 2.6 million years old.
The program you will read about in this book is unique in one main way: It’s based on your DNA. Because the human genome has not changed in the last forty thousand years, you want to mimic what the earliest humans did that worked. Their DNA was shaped over 2.6 million years since they came down from the trees to begin a lifestyle of hunting and gathering. The environment they encountered was one that built strong muscles and lean bodies, so they could survive the harsh conditions that prevailed for eons. When you exercise and eat according to the lifestyles of the earliest humans, you gain a host of advantages that were honed over millennia to keep you in top condition.
My plan also includes a fitness program based on doing what your DNA has programmed your body to do. The old model, still used in most gyms and programs today, requires endless hours of cardio, boring low-fat diets, and machine-dependent strength training. The low-fat, aerobic approach has been around for decades, ever since Kenneth Cooper wrote Aerobics in the late ’60s and Jane Fonda put millions of women on the aerobic dance floor in the ’70s. But now, there’s a new trend in town. My 5-Step Primal Body Program, the backbone of this book, will turn your world upside down and change forever how you think about fitness. Dr. Cooper; move over; Jane Fonda, move over; and yes, Jillian Michaels, move over, too. The biggest losers are about to become the biggest winners, and working out just got a whole lot more fun.
The 5-Step Primal Body Program shows you how to be congruent with your DNA and gives you a step-by-step program to get you in alignment with the way your genes were designed to be expressed. It is based on my twenty years of experience in the trenches, working daily with individuals whose stories you’ll read and pictures you’ll see in these pages. My approach is not theoretical, nor is it only what I’ve done for myself—although in this book I include plenty of scientific theory and tell you how I transformed my own body. What makes my experience valuable is that I have helped hundreds of people see remarkable results when their eating and moving patterns become an expression of their human genome.
Fads come and go, most of them based on information designed to appeal to our vanity. Few coaches you’ll run into have as their mission restoring our original, genetically programmed state of health and fitness. This, however, has been my purpose and passion, driving me to become highly credentialed as a college-educated, award-winning fitness trainer with an internationally recognized fitness certification—certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and the master of fitness sciences from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). In addition, I was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award from ISSA, which signifies placement in the top 1 percent of certified trainers worldwide.
You are in good hands. I am highly qualified to help you change your body. And so are you, by taking advantage of the physiology you’ve inherited to maintain superior health and fitness—Your Primal Body.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
This book is divided into three parts. The first two provide a detailed overview of the program (with lots of practical information); the third part helps you put it all together to develop your own Primal Body plan. Here’s an outline of what you will find in this book:
Part 1, “The Primal Body—Our Genetic Inheritance” introduces the background of my unique approach and shows how I apply it to health and weight loss. In Chapter 1, you’ll read the science behind why our human ancestors had the body of Olympic athletes and learn about their diet and movement patterns. I’ll answer all of your questions and challenges about this approach. In Chapter 2, I show how mimicking our ancestors’ diet and movement patterns can turn your body into a highly efficient fat-burning machine for the most effective method of fat loss. In Chapter 3, I dispel the notion that aging must be equated with disease and show how the Primal Body Program supports you to become a healthy, active centenarian. I explore how exercise effects gene expression, extending life span beyond what is considered the normal range in our modern society.
Part 2, “The 5-Step Primal Body Program,” outlines in five chapters what you must do to get on the evolutionary fitness wagon and ride. Each step includes inspiring, first-person stories of people I worked with who transformed their body by changing over to a Primal lifestyle, and shows you how you can, too. Here’s a brief summary of each step:
In “Step One—Eat the Anti-Inflammation Primal Diet,” you learn what inflammation is and how this condition becomes chronic due to modern, high-carb diets. Guidelines are given for the kinds of foods that provide a healthy balance of good fats and low-glycemic carbs, aimed at greater weight loss, but also pain-free movement.
In “Step Two—Supplement with the Super Six,” I explain why our human ancestors didn’t take supplements, but we must. I introduce the “Super Six,” my list of supplements to ensure you match the nutrient density our ancestors got from their diet. Each supplement is described in detail for its benefits, and recommended dosages are given.
In “Step Three—Restore Your Muscles to Pain-Free Movement,” I show how you can increase mobility and flexibility through the Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) technique. I give instructions based on the seven Primal movements and describe twelve positions for SMR, with model photos included. The result is your body is now ready for strength training and high-intensity interval training, the core of the Primal exercise program.
In “Step Four—Build Muscle with Primal Movement,” you learn how to build muscle and burn fat through functional training, rather than by more traditional techniques that require isolating muscles on machines. Functional training, emphasizing movements that are found in daily activities, mimics how our ancestors moved to stay muscular and lean naturally, congruent with their genetic blueprint. I show you how to do this with fourteen illustrated functional training movements.
In “Step Five—Kick Up Your Metabolism to Burn Fat Faster,” I explain the surprising news that traditional cardio/aerobic exercise can actually make you fat, while a Primal form of exercise, high-intensity interval training, is more effective for weight loss and all-around conditioning. In this step, I also present clear instructions on safe, effective use of kettlebells (the cannonball-shaped weight with the handle) to crank up your metabolism and firm up your body.
Part 3, “Putting It All Together,” brings all the information and techniques described in the 5-Step Primal Body Program together to answer the question “So what do I do now?” In Chapter 9, I provide practical advice about how to start planning and cooking simple meals of mostly protein, fat, and nonstarchy vegetables, with plenty of recipes to get you started. In Chapter 10, I help you design an exercise program, tailor-made to your specific fitness level and immediate goals, using functional strength-training and metabolic activities. In Chapter 11, I show you how to measure your results to maintain lifelong success on the Primal Body Program. I also provide resources for acquiring Primal cooking aids (see page 197), as well as a recommended reading list and bibliography of books on the Primal theory and lifestyle (see page 205).
Your Primal Body is a book and program to mark the beginning of transforming your fitness and health. If you have been following a program that has not produced the results you’ve wanted, or if you are new to fitness and have never trained or eaten healthily before, the Primal Body Program will get you going in the right direction—the same direction your human genome has been going in over the past few million years.
This is your opportunity to use that evolution to your advantage. Stop struggling to carve out the body you want by going against your genetic blueprint, and join a revolution that takes you home to your original body.
I wish you the best in your adventure to discover Your Primal Body.
The Primal Body: Our Genetic Inheritance
Why Our Ancestors Were Right
Jog to burn fat—the longer the better.
Avoid saturated fats to stay healthy.
Eat six meals a day.
Always stretch before training.
Do cardio after weight training.
The list goes on of the conventional wisdom that we’ve all been led to believe about fitness and weight loss. For the past four decades, since the aerobic exercise revolution got under way, these sacred tenets have kept people doing hours of cardio exercise on a treadmill or bike, sweating the pounds away while sticking to a low-fat diet in an effort to become healthy and fit.
But all of that is changing, and while what’s taking its place is very new, it’s also very old.
You are about to discover that the way to getting a fit, lean, and healthy body— one that moves powerfully and gracefully at any age—has nothing to do with hours of “chronic cardio,” low-fat diets, or using machines to work out in the gym. This is because becoming slim, muscular, and healthy is how you return—in both diet and exercise—to the way that your body was intended to function originally, based on millions of years of evolution and as proven by modern science.
As a personal fitness trainer, working with a wide range of clients—including overweight, middle-aged men and women as well as top-tier athletes—I am bringing a new paradigm of fitness to people that is natural, effective, and fun. My Primal Body Program turns the old, more conventional wisdom on its ear, because it is based on the premise that your body is genetically designed for health and fitness on a scale far superior to what you experience today—even if you consider yourself in good condition. Your body already is the Primal Body I am talking about. What you’ll find here is a program designed for you to train and eat in ways that are congruent with the body you already have, which has been shaped by the events of 2.6 million years and unchanged over the past forty thousand years.
The Primal Body Program is a path consisting of five steps to realign your lifestyle to fulfill that original genetic design of your body for increased health and longevity. When you embrace the Primal Body Program, you no longer go against your genetic inheritance. You can lose those extra pounds, whether 10 or 100, bring a cut and youthful appearance to your muscles and overall posture, and enjoy sexual vitality throughout your life (and move pain free to maintain a muscular and functioning body in every aspect of your daily life).
Sound like a dream come true? It is, and the surprising news is: All this is your birthright! When you express your genes in the way they evolved to be expressed, then all the weight loss, toned muscles, and pain-free ease of movement you’ve ever wanted is yours—permanently. This is not a miracle but a natural physical state, available to any human being at any age or any level of fitness.
HOW I DISCOVERED MY INNER (AND OUTER) CAVEWOMAN
I’ve been a personal trainer for twenty years, but in 2002 I went back to school to finish my degree in exercise and health science and communication. It was there that I discovered the research behind what has become known as the Primal theory of fitness, an approach based on how our Paleolithic ancestors moved and ate. I was surprised and then intrigued to learn that this approach closely paralleled what I was already doing to get results for myself and clients.
Over the years, I had tried all kinds of diets in my personal exploration of health and fitness, immersing myself thoroughly in whatever the current approach was. I followed a macrobiotic diet for some time, and then I became a vegetarian for seven years. From there, I went low-fat. I followed the Zone diet made popular by Barry Sears, until I discovered the low-carb Atkins diet.
Dr. Atkins was a low-carb guru in the 1970s who advocated a strict regimen of 20 grams of carbohydrate a day for the first fourteen days of his program. This was designed to put the body into a state of ketosis, in which the body burns ketones as an alternate fuel to glucose (you’ll find more info on ketosis on pages 24–25). I had great success with a number of my clients who used this method to lose 30 to 40 pounds.
While working on my degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara, I discovered the Paleo diet, a newer low-carb approach with an emphasis on daily protein and healthy omega-3–rich fats. I began following the work of Dr. Loren Cordain, one of the world’s leading experts on the diet of our Stone Age ancestors. I read everything I could of Dr. Cordain’s research (he’s written over one hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles on the health benefits of the Stone Age diet for contemporary people), learning of the recent discoveries of paleo-anthropologists that revealed our early human ancestors’ lifestyles. It was an eye-opening adventure!
Cordain delved into what archaeologists and paleo-anthropologists were finding about the diet and movement patterns of early humans from their appearance some 2.6 million years ago. From remains that have been found, it is clear that early hunter-gatherers suffered from none of the diseases of modern man, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or obesity; rather, they lived a relatively disease-free life. Whatever our cave-ancestors were doing kept them in an optimal state of fitness and health.
Most important for me was what I had known all along, that a low-carb, high-protein diet with healthy fats was the best way to eat for health and permanent weight loss. Now I had both a context and confirmation for why: It is the ancestral diet we evolved on and therefore is perfectly congruent with our human genome.
ANCIENT GENES AND MODERN HUMANS
The human genome is the set of chromosomes you and I have in every cell of our body—our DNA—giving expression to who we are and how we function. Geneticists have recently mapped the complete human genome, a stunning achievement that is altering what we know about our history as a species. It’s been documented that the human genome evolved over a period of 2.6 million years but remained the same since the last forty thousand years—the time period when early humans started to hunt animals and gather vegetables and fruits as a way of life.
In other words, you and I have the same DNA as those Stone Age hunter-gatherers, and we carry in our cells a genetic blueprint that was shaped in an environment very different from the one we experience today. What does this mean for our health and fitness in modern times? Dr. Cordain refers to a rule most biologists agree applies, when he states, “Biological organisms are healthiest when their life circumstances most closely approximate the conditions for which their genes were selected.”
The lack of close approximation between modern and ancient has led to a question he and other theorists have started to ask, “Are we modern humans living in a way that is out of step with our inherited genetic design?” They go even further to ask, “Could our genetic ‘incongruence’ be the reason for the many diseases that plague modern humans, diseases that weren’t around back in our ancestors’ times?”
Biologists tell us that when early humans radically changed their diet and activity patterns by becoming agriculturists ten thousand years ago, the so-called diseases of civilization—atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and others— began to appear. While there is a lively debate afoot in the scientific community about the evidence for this, as reported recently in the New York Times,1 there are no clear signs that these diseases were anywhere near as prominent in Paleolithic times as they have been in more recent evolution, especially since the agricultural revolution.
These questions and the answers I was discovering made sense to me from my own experience. Having eaten a low-carb, high-protein diet for years, I found myself to be in the best physical condition of my life. My weight was easy to maintain and I had plenty of energy to train, both in strength building and in my most recent interest, high-intensity interval exercises. I was definitely doing something right!
I began to be interested in what life was like for our early hunter-gatherer ancestors, and in my research found some fascinating information about how they lived.
STONE AGE LIFESTYLES
Let’s take a closer look at the lifestyles of the earliest humans to learn more about how they functioned—in particular, their diet and movement patterns.
By about twelve thousand years ago, hunter-gatherers had moved into most of the habitable regions of the earth. In small, mobile bands, our ancestors adapted to almost all climates and environments, from the Arctic to the tropics, by exploiting whatever resources they found available.
These bands, often comprised of twenty-five to fifty people, moved seasonally to take advantage of different sources of food as they became available. Within the group, women did most of the gathering and men did the hunting, although this gender distinction was not universal. To survive, everyone learned about the geographic area, the food sources, and the dangers, and this knowledge was shared communally. Everyone had to be prepared to act in ways that fended off danger, whether from natural disasters or attacks by predators. Conditions were harsh, but in spite of this, our Stone Age ancestors had a great deal of leisure, enjoying recreational activities, such as singing, dancing, playing instruments, and storytelling around the open fire.
What did the early hunter-gatherer tribes eat? Studies show their diet consisted mainly of animal protein, fats, and limited carbohydrates, such as roots and vegetables pulled from the ground, and fruits plucked from bushes and trees. They ate a variety of plant foods that provided an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients.
Although there may be some resemblance between the foods they ate and our modern versions of the same foods, most of their foods were very different. Not only is nutrient density greatly diminished in modern food, but the actual chemistry of the food, after centuries of hybrid growing, has been altered almost beyond recognition. For example, the wild game they feasted on was grass-fed, as animals grazed freely before domestication, and it was loaded with the essential fatty acid omega-3, an anti-inflammatory form of fat. This is completely unlike modern cattle, which are grain-fed and therefore produce meat high in the fatty acid omega-6, a pro-inflammatory form of fat. An apple a million years ago had much less sugar in it than the fruit of today and would probably not be appealing to our modern taste for sweetness in fruits.
As I have said, modern humans have the same DNA as early hunter-gatherers did. This is important in light of their lifestyles as compared to ours, because our genes determine our nutritional and physical activity needs. Our modern body is “expecting” to meet with the same foods and activity patterns it had grown accustomed to over the past forty thousand years, a period in which nothing in our human genome changed. The problem is that our diet has changed, especially as we began to grow our food and domesticate animals ten thousand years ago, when grain-based agriculture became a way of life. Archaeologists uncovering remains of early humans tell us that starting around that time, there was a characteristic reduction in body stature, an increase in bone mineral disorders, an increase in the number of dental cavities, and a decrease in the average life span.
Another fact brought to light by recent science is that before the advent of agriculture, humans led much more active lives. Archaeological evidence shows hunter-gatherers to be lean, fit—much like a modern-day athlete—and free from chronic diseases. Exercise was not done during leisure time, as it is today; rather, it was a part of everyday life. Hunting, foraging, escape from predators, water transport, and all of the movements needed to survive in the Paleolithic environment shaped a genetic pattern that survives today.
A further study by Cordain showed that one thing is clear from our understanding of early human ancestors: The genetic model for human physical activity was not developed in the gymnasium or in the sports arena. It was established through adaptive pressures inherent in the environment over millions of years of evolution. When the human body is viewed through this lens, it becomes clear that the conventional thinking about diet and exercise is deeply flawed.
THE COST OF ADAPTATION
Given such huge gaps in how we evolved back then and how we live today, it isn’t hard to understand why we modern humans tend toward obesity and chronic disease with age. The current state of health in the world is a clear reflection of the incongruence of our genetic design as expressed in modern lifestyles. Our own country tells the most shocking tale, in spite of the United States being one of the wealthiest nations in the world—a fact that might lead you to expect it might be one of the healthiest, too. But we have the highest rates of obesity, more than any other country in the world.
In fact, health problems and chronic illnesses resulting from a diet of highly processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle pose a serious threat to public health. Over 66 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and 34 percent are obese. Obesity is estimated to cause more than 112,000 deaths per year. In addition, 64 million Americans adults have cardiovascular disease, 50 million have high blood pressure, and 11 million have type 2 diabetes. At least 7.2 percent of postmenopausal women develop osteoporosis, and 39.6 percent have osteopenia, a precondition to osteoporosis. Cancer is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular disease, and it is estimated to cause 25 percent of all deaths in the United States.
All this disease exists despite the remarkable technological and pharmacological advances of the twenty-first century. Could the problem be that we are socially adapted to the twenty-first century but physiologically adapted to the Stone Age era? The solution in that case, I came to believe, was to align our lives with the lifestyle patterns of our Paleolithic ancestors—to move and eat as they did—which was the basis for Primal fitness theory and how I apply it in the Primal Body Program, described in Part 2.
DISCOVERING PALEO EXERCISE: ART DE VANY
After completing my degree, I kept up my interest and exploration in evolutionary fitness and discovered the work of Dr. Art De Vany, another Primal fitness theorist. At the time, De Vany was a professor of economics and behavioral sciences at the University of California at Irvine. He was also an accomplished athlete, with a background ranging from Olympic weight lifting to professional baseball; at age seventy-three, 6′1″ and weighing 202 pounds, he measured 6.7 percent body fat, an impressive profile for a man his age, or any age.
Whereas Cordain had stressed diet in his research, only touching briefly on exercise and movement, De Vany synthesized a holistic approach to health and fitness that included both diet and exercise. Evolutionary Fitness, as he called his theory and also titled his seminal essay presenting his ideas, is based on the premise that our genes have encoded both behaviors and human physiology from a hunter-gatherer body and mind.
I had already been mimicking the early hunter-gatherer diet by adhering to a low-carb, high-protein, and healthy fats regimen, getting results not only for myself but for my clients as I advised them on their fitness goals. But I was curious about the exercise component of our ancestors’ early lives. I knew that an active lifestyle was what made people healthy and that having more muscle and less fat on our body was congruent with our genes. But De Vany gave me an important piece that made it all come together—and coincidentally, paralleled the kind of training I had naturally found to be the most effective for weight loss, fitness, and health.
De Vany suggests that “our genes were forged in an environment where activity was mandatory—you were active or you starved or were eaten . . . diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, insulin resistance, heart disease and a whole modern panoply of chronic, long-lasting diseases are the product of genes that require activity for healthful expression.” His idea is that exercise should mimic the activities of our ancestral past and “the key is to hit the right balance of intensity and variety . . . [because] intensity is the key to reaching the fast twitch fibers of the muscles, which are the key fibers to staying young.”
This is very different from the physical activity recommendations made by most health professionals over the last four decades. Low-intensity, aerobic activity— not high-intensity activity, the kind that uses the fast twitch muscle fibers—is most often prescribed for fat loss, because it is believed that you burn more fat at the lower intensities. But the low-intensity approach is very shortsighted, because you only burn more fat during the time period you are exercising at the lower intensities. You burn more total
- On Sale
- Dec 25, 2012
- Page Count
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- Da Capo Lifelong Books