201: Understanding Fasting & Keto for Women (Even During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding) + Instant Pot Tips 201: Understanding Fasting & Keto for Women (Even During Pregnancy or Breastfeeding) + Instant Pot Tips

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to “The Wellness Mama” podcast. I’m Katie, from wellnessmama.com. And I am here today with a dear friend and one of my mentors, Mark Sisson, who is “The New York Times” bestselling author of the recent “Keto Reset Diet” and now also the bestselling author of the “Keto Reset Diet” cookbook which we’re gonna talk about today. He’s also the author of “The Primal Blueprint” and several other books, and founder of Primal Kitchen which is one of my favorite brands of condiments and mayo. And they now have an unsweetened ketchup that is a hit in our house. He’s also a former world-class endurance athlete, one of the leading voices in the evolutionary health movement. And you’re probably familiar with his popular blog, marksdailyapple.com, which paved the way for many of us in the primal paleo and health worlds, to challenge conventional wisdom and all the diet and exercise principles and to really take personal responsibility for our health. And like I said, I credit him with being an early mentor and a dear friend. And Mark, welcome and thanks for being here.

Mark: Always a pleasure, Katie. Great to talk to you.

Katie: So, okay, there are dozens of questions I want to ask you and I know that this is just gonna end up being a fun conversation and we’ll get into some science. But first, I have to talk about your new cookbook. So you just wrote an entire cookbook dedicated to keto and Instant Pot, which I feel like is a huge hurdle, both of those things, and you did both of them. And there are a lot of moms listening, who like me, adore their Instant Pot and use it all the time. But you’ve created all these new recipes that are also keto, which is super popular right now. So, first of all, as a fellow cookbook author, I have to know, how did you pull off so many delicious recipes? And second of all, I’d love to hear any Instant Pot tips you have after testing that many recipes.

Mark: Okay. Well, I mean, look, I have a great team. And I couldn’t do what I do and I couldn’t crank out the content that I do these days without an awesome team of people who are great writers, great researchers, great chefs. And you know, my secret to cookbooks is, and it’s kind of a little hidden secret, but you know I love to eat, right? I make no bones about that. I love to eat and I want every bite of food I put in my mouth to taste great. But I don’t like to cook. So I have people, Katie, who cook for me. But in order for people to cook for me, I have to kind of tell them, you know, what to cook and how to prepare it. So that really is the genesis of my cookbooks, is like here is what I would like to have made for me. And if I have to make it myself, I’ll make it myself. But if somebody else is gonna do it, I want the instructions to be clear and concise and easy to follow. And I’m fortunate to have not just a daughter who’s a foodie and an author and loves to cook, but I have housekeepers who are trained chefs. So I’m kind of in a unique little zone here where I’m surrounded by people who take really good care of me, which allows me this…you know, the benefit of kind of figuring out the foods I wanna eat. And if I wanna combine, you know, cashew nut butter with broccoli, I’ll do it. If I wanna combine cauliflower, you know, and pickles, I’ll do it. So I’ve got a great, you know, a great starting platform with researchers and people who can, you know, make the kinds of foods that I think I wanna eat, make them taste really great. So that’s my secret.

Katie: I love that. That’s a new life goal for me. But one thing I loved both about your “The Keto Reset” book and then also the cookbook, is the focus on veggies. Because I feel like sometimes with keto, people get wrapped up in this bacon and cheese diet and they kind of forget about the veggies because certain vegetables do have a lot of carbohydrates. And in your book especially, you have so many vegetables in the recipes that are also keto, that are also Instant Pot. Like the cauliflower mac and cheese, my kids love that one. But I wanna just have you clarify that a little bit because I feel like veggies get forgotten when people talk about keto, and I know you have a really valuable insight on this.

Mark: Well, you know, it’s interesting because I read a lot on the social media these days about the carnivore diet, right? That’s the new big thing that a lot of guys are doing, a lot of gals are doing too, where you’re just eating nothing but meat. And I’m like, “Whoa, that is so not where I’m at,” and that is, look, I… First of all, keto is about eating real food and it’s mostly about cutting out refined sugars, refined grains, refined sources of carbohydrate and industrial seed oil. So getting rid of all those nasty oils, the soybean, the corn oil, the canola, certain sunflower oils and things like that. And it’s getting down to real food, and real food means vegetable, lots of vegetables. Look, as much as I’m keto and I’m in and out of what I call the keto zone, I still make vegetables the main basis of my food plate and of my diet. I have a big ass salad just about every single day. That salad is a bowl full of, you know, colorful vegetables. And I just make it keto by putting a Primal Kitchen dressing on that’s mostly avocado oil and then whatever spices and herbs and things are in there to add flavor and healthfulness to it. I might put a form of meat on that. But that’s basically the most perfect keto meal I can think of.

So now when you talk about putting, you know, veggies in a Crock-Pot or in an Instant Pot and, you know, slow cooking them or fast cooking them and then putting some cheese in there or putting some nut butter in there or putting, you know, some other protein version in there, you’re creating a keto meal. And of course, the irony with all these meals is that if you presented this to any guest who was coming over for dinner one night and said…and didn’t tell them how you ate, they would still think it was one of the best dishes they ever had, right, because it’s so satisfying, it’s so flavorful, it’s so tasty. But that’s really the secret in keto, is that all the meals that we eat are really good, really flavorful and really satisfying and filling.

Katie: Yeah, exactly. And I think…like I said, I think that’s the important clarification, because I’ve seen some versions of keto that I consider pretty dangerous, when they’re… Like the carnivore diet which isn’t, I guess, specifically keto, or just people who are literally drinking cups and cups of fat to hit certain keto metrics and macros, and they’re forgetting about the vegetables. And I’m just cringing from the gut bacteria side. Like, we were made to eat a wide variety of different types of vegetables that have micronutrients and prebiotics that feed our gut. So it’s been worrisome to me and I’m glad that you’re the voice of reason in the world, explaining that keto does include vegetables. And it’s not just okay, it’s important to eat those, especially with kids.

Mark: Exactly, not just okay but important. And people, again, they assume that vegetables have lots of carbs. But if you look at like three servings of broccoli, there’s like, you know, eight grams of carbs in what you would consider three servings of broccoli. And then if you put butter on it or olive oil or avocado oil or some kind of a…what I like to do is dip it in Primal Kitchen garlic aioli mayo. You’re not only…you’re sort of dispersing those carbs which are already locked in a fibrous matrix. They’re already a very low glycemic index carb.

And you know, when we talk about keto, one of the things that we use as a metric is how quickly insulin raises or rises in the bloodstream as a result of the meal you just ate. Because keto is at its essence an insulin-lowering way of eating, because through lowering insulin we then prompt our body to release fat from storage and we burn it as a fuel and that’s really the intention of all of this stuff. And so, you know, if you could control insulin through your reduced intake of carbohydrate, that’s really what keto is primarily concerned with. And if you can lock those carbohydrates into a fibrous matrix, like we do in almost all colorful vegetables, and furthermore, we, you know, put butter on or some form of fat that even further slows down that release, we’ve accomplished not only the goal of, you know, total number of carbs because they’re very low in carbs in general but also the timing of the release of those carbs into the bloodstream and their minimal, if any, effect on insulin.

And then to your point, the fact that, you know, we…so many people overlook a healthy gut biome. They overlook the importance of these hundred trillion or so bacteria and fungus and things, you know, yeast even that live within us and sort of have a tremendous effect on not only how we digest food but how we access short chain fatty acids, neurotransmitter production, a whole host of things that happen as a result of a healthy gut biome. And if we don’t feed that gut biome the substrate, the food that those little bacteria need to thrive, we are shortchanging our health. And that’s one of the issues I have with this, with the carnivore diet, is that there’s just not enough of this soluble fiber, or insoluble fiber for that matter, but mostly soluble fiber that is going to provide that amount of substrate for those healthy gut bacteria. And, of course, then, you know, we can’t overlook the fact that we…the micronutrients, the phytonutrients, the vitamins and minerals, those other phytonutrients that we find in vegetables, and some fruit, that we just don’t find in an otherwise vegetable-free eating strategy. So if you’re keto and you’re not eating relatively significant amounts of vegetables, you’re, you know…I hate to say you’re doing it wrong but there’s probably a better way to do it.

Katie: Absolutely. That’s my concern when I see the carnivore diet or even people who are just zero carb and they’re eating only fats and small amounts of protein, is just that when you look at things like, for instance, through the lens of “The Primal Blueprint,” or what we understand about our history as humans, people were never in a situation where they for long periods of time avoided vegetables and micronutrients in that way. And certainly if there were vegetables or any kind of herbs or vegetables around, they were gonna eat them. They weren’t gonna not eat them on purpose. And those things all provide micronutrients and biodiversity in our gut. And I just hear so much debate and I get so many questions, and I’m sure you must too, about, “Well, what about can people do…can these types of people do keto?” And can kids do keto? And I feel like we need to reframe the conversation, which is not that we should…any of us should be necessarily tracking our blood ketone levels to see if we’re in ketosis, especially not children, but should we be eating more whole foods that include vegetables that include lower amounts of carbohydrates and no processed carbs? Absolutely. Like, that’s what we were made to do. The conversation doesn’t have to be about tracking macros to the tiniest percentage or seeing if our blood levels line up, especially with any specialized segment of the population, like children or pregnant women. But it should be about getting the focus back to real food, which I know is a huge key for you as well.

Mark: Oh, always has been. And I think, you know, what I’m seeing now and I like in the vernacular is this…is a greater and greater use of the term keto. So keto isn’t necessarily ketogenic or ketosis, but keto is sort of a way of eating that just optimizes the intake of these nutrients we just talked about. It reduces more than anything, reduces refined sugars, refined carbohydrates, refined grains, industrial seed oils. Certainly gets rid of, you know, the trans fats and hydrogenated fats and oils and things like that, replaces them with healthy fats and oils. And that’s just the way we should be eating. So whether you call it keto or low carb or just real food, it still all kind of fits into this one little nice description of how we ought to be eating.

And it’s, as you said, it’s not about chasing some high ketone level because this…the reason we’re doing this isn’t to have high ketones. The reason we’re doing this is to feel better. Really, the reason we’re doing this is to burn off, you know, unwanted body fat, to have more energy throughout the day, to access our cognition a little bit more elegantly and have access to our memory, to sleep better, you know, to feel more upbeat throughout the day. And all of these things happen as a result of the body reducing its reliance on carbohydrate and therefore glucose on a regular basis, and becoming what I call metabolically efficient.

So when you become metabolically efficient, you’re able to drive energy from the fat on your body, the fat on the plate of food you just ate, the glucose in your bloodstream, the glycogen in your muscles, the carbohydrate on the plate of food you just ate. Even to a certain extent, the ketones that your liver is making if you decide, for whatever reason, to skip a meal or two, or a day. And in any of these cases, you know, you don’t go into a funk because you didn’t have a particular type of nutrient. You become so metabolically flexible and metabolically efficient, that any type of food you eat makes you feel good. It makes you feel like…obviously provided you eat it within this list of, you know, foods that we’re talking about being approved and exclude the crap that we just talked about excluding, it really doesn’t matter what the macros are. So I live in what I call a keto zone, and for me that means some days I might have…if I look back on the day, I go, “Wow, I only had like 30 grams of carbs today,” but I felt great, I had a great workout. I cruised through the day. You know, everything was wonderful. And the next day I might have 135 grams of carbs because I might have had a sweet potato and I might have had some, you know, whatever, and I feel just as good. And it’s not like I get kicked out of ketosis, you know, and I have to spend four days in penance, getting back into ketosis. No, I built the metabolic flexibility by this…with this way of eating, that more than anything is based on excluding the bad things and including the good things.

Katie: That makes total sense. And I love that since the beginning your approach has always been doing this in real life and convenience. Because it’s no secret that real food can be harder and it can be more work and we do have to be a little bit more cognizant of planning and that kind of thing. But I feel like now with tools, like modern tools like the Instant Pot which, yeah, they didn’t exist with our hunter-gather ancestors but I would bet that if it did they would have used it. And it makes being able to get those nutrient-dense foods so much easier because I’m not spending like four hours cooking dinner. I’m just throwing everything in an Instant Pot and spending 20 minutes cooking dinner. I love that we’re finally seeing the tide turn on this and I feel like now really real food is actually a lot easier than it used to be.

Mark: I love that. You know, and there are all these opportunities that, you know, innovation in the marketplace, like Blue Apron and Sun Basket and things like that, where you can kind of go halfway in between and you can have your real food sent to you and with the recipes all done. And you could put those together and have the experience of making a meal without being a chef.

Katie: When you guys, with like Primal Kitchen, I mean, I can’t remember… When I started, I had to make my own mayo and aiolis from scratch all the time. And you couldn’t even find avocado oil in grocery stores where I lived, back when I started.

Mark: It was crazy. And, you know, that was…if I do say so myself, it was sort of partly blind luck. But you know, we spent a year in the R&D kitchen, because I thought for the longest time that what makes the difference for people who are, you know, like I am, you know, on the go and wanting to eat relatively quickly but wanna eat well, don’t have hours to prepare a meal, it’s the sauces and the dressings and the toppings and the methods of preparation that make real food exciting. Because you know, you could just cook a steak every single night, but I mean, at some point you might wanna put something on it or you can steam up broccoli if you want. It’s a very healthy meal but it’s not gonna taste as great as if you put some sort of garlic aioli mayo on top of it or even just slather it in butter. You know, cauliflower rice, you can, you know, spruce it up with some slivered almonds and some raisins and some curcumin and turmeric, whatever. I mean, there’s all these…it’s the way we prepare food that really keeps it exciting and interesting and makes it a sustainable way of eating. Because you know, when you cut out all the pies and cakes and candies and cookies and crackers and sweetened beverages and bread and cereals and pasta, you know, you’ve got…hey, let’s tell it like it is, Katie, you’ve got like five kinds of meat you’re gonna eat, right? Beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, maybe you’ll have some elk if you’re really, you know, wild and crazy. Name me 17 vegetables that you’re gonna eat next year. And of those 17, there’s probably four that you’re gonna eat 80% of the time, right?

And then there’s a couple of root tubers. You might have a potato, white potato. You might have sweet potato. But it’s like, “Okay, what else is there in the real food realm?” It’s how you prepare these things that gives you an infinite, almost infinite variety of taste sensations and ways to eat them and maintain this excitement about how you eat. And so that’s what really started this process of me going into my kitchen and going, “Okay, what can I…what product can I make in a bottle that’s 100%, like, natural and healthful and tastes great, that I could add to what I’ve just cooked to make it more exciting?” And over that first year we did barbecue sauces and we did ketchup and we did mustard and we did dressings. I mean, we had beautiful Thai coconut curry dressing and some stuff that I really love. But the first thing, the only thing at the end of one year that we could make commercially was this avocado oil based mayonnaise.

And you know, we had this internal discussion like, “Do we start a company with just one product?” Like, are we that ballsy that we can try and think that we’re gonna have avocado oil based mayonnaise be the one product that launches this company? And you know, so we launched it in 2015, in February of 2015. And lo and behold, Katie, it was the holy grail of paleo. Because I didn’t realize how many people like you had, you know, just gone through that process of making mayonnaise and having it fail, by the way, half the time. And then the other half, you can only keep it in the refrigerator for three days without, you know, putting your family in danger for the raw eggs and stuff.

So we made this mayo, it took off. Everybody was like over the top. Finally, a mayonnaise that we could not only, you know, feel good about but we can literally use with reckless abandon. Because the more of this healthy avocado oil based organic egg mayonnaise, the more that we put on our burgers or dip their fries in or made sauces with, the better the meal was for us. And so that really… And, by the way, I don’t know, you know, at what point in your paleo ancestral health journey you decided, you know, that you were never gonna be able to eat egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, potato salad ever again because there was no good mayo, right? But a lot of people thought, “Well, jeez, I guess, I got to give up that whole food group of salads.” Well, no longer. Now those are all back on the menu. And that was one of the… So it’s really a great revelation for me, like, wow this was, you know, a happy accident but it turned out to be kind of the holy grail of getting into this space of better-for-you sauces, dressings, toppings and things that we’ve now become… We have like 35 products now that we make.

Katie: Yeah, and I think you’re so right because if we think back to meals that we really remember in our life and especially ones cooked by chefs who really know what they’re doing, it’s the sauces and the spices that really set it apart. Like a chef who’s talented in that, it makes the entire meal. And so now the fact that I can just buy these things instead of like we talked about, making mayo from scratch which I did for years, it’s awesome. But I’m also going to take the easy way out and throw some of the questions I’ve been getting at you. So I asked on social media this morning, “Does anybody have any questions about keto?” And I got a ton of them. So I’m gonna through a list, specifically people asking what about keto and pregnancy?

Mark: Well, so here’s the thing. You know, again, if we talk about chasing ketones and we talk about trying to get into ketosis, we have to take a step back and go, what is ketosis? Ketosis is by definition the excess of ketones in the body. And by that I mean, when you don’t eat carbs and when you tell your brain you’re not gonna be getting much glucose for the foreseeable future, a brain that isn’t used to that says,” Oh, my goodness, what are we gonna do? I guess we’ll have to start creating these ketone bodies.” And so the liver will start making more ketones. But because the brain hasn’t built a metabolic machinery to burn the ketones and because the muscles aren’t used to using the ketones yet and they’re still dependent on you burning sugar and glucose on the treadmill at the gym, then we produce an excess of ketones. And then what happens is we spill them out in the urine, in the breath. I mean, if you know anybody who has eaten a standard American diet and then skips two meals, you could smell on their breath that they haven’t eaten. Those are ketones, those are excess ketones being excreted because the body doesn’t know what to do with them. It hasn’t built the metabolic machinery.

So the first thing we do on anybody who wants to go true full-on keto for six weeks, is we take them through a 21-day Primal Blueprint kind of a reset. We stair-step them down to where they’re doing what I just said earlier, which is you just simply eliminate what we know to be the crap, right? The sugars, sweetened beverages, the pies, the cakes, the candies, the pastas, the breads, the cereals, and you just start eating real food. And if that’s all you do, you’re literally, you’re gonna be hard pressed to take in more than, say, 100, 110 grams of carbs a day, if all you’re doing is eating lots of green vegetables and healthy fats, avocado, avocado oil, olive oil and you know, on your salads and how you prepare your food. And then leaned or clean sources of protein, so grass-fed meat, wild fish if you can get it. And nobody is going to be hurt by that, including a pregnant mom, you know, including a breastfeeding mom.

Now, if we talk about should pregnant mothers go keto, I’m not gonna go there because I’m not gonna suggest that, oh, yeah, everyone will benefit from keto, especially pregnant moms. You know, now you’re eating for two, now you’re building a human being inside you. And I’d rather at that point a pregnant mom be more cognizant of taking in enough nutrition for two, right? Enough of the micronutrients, enough of the vegetables, enough of the fiber to maintain that gut biome because that’s gonna be incredibly helpful and necessary to maintain. You know, something as simple as intestinal mobility and motility. So the regularity of your stools, of your bowel movements. These are all things that I think are important for pregnant moms to do. I’m not saying you can’t do it, but it’s not a time that unless you have like a really hands-on, well-educated keto simpatico OB/GYN, that’s not a time I would do it.

Katie: Totally, I 100% echo that, and realizing that important distinction of like, no, you should not be actively trying to restrict your carbohydrates to very small amounts when you’re pregnant, for sure. But most doctors and midwives now are coming around and would agree, like you said, you should absolutely be focusing on nutrient-dense foods. You should get rid of the stuff like sugar and vegetable oils and processed food that don’t serve you or your baby at all, and you should just really be focusing on that nutrient density which is so important. And we now do know from the data… So I’ve taken some midwifery training. We know from the data that women getting enough protein, for instance, during pregnancy, it improves birth outcomes and it reduces the risk of pre-term labor and gestational diabetes. So, I think that, like you said, using this as a framework, not as a strict dogma when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding but just as a framework to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients and protein, that can be really helpful. And, of course, everyone should check with their practitioner, especially any pregnant or breastfeeding women. With breastfeeding, is it kind of the same story or does that oxlocolator, however you say it, does that come into play and are there any other considerations for breastfeeding moms?

Mark: I mean, it’s a little less…I would be a little less restrictive for breastfeeding moms because, you know, some… I would prefer moms breastfeed for two years. So, you know, that’s two years of your ability to play around with your eating strategies, and a lot of moms wanna lose, you know, their baby weight and they wanna do it in a way that’s healthful. So I think breastfeeding is a little bit different, but again I wouldn’t be chasing these high ketone numbers. I would base it more on what I…not just ketogenic and ketosis, but I would use the term keto to describe a way of eating that is more based on nutrient-dense foods and eliminating the crap, again, eliminating the sugars and the refined carbs. And you’ll find it’s very easy to get down to, again, 100, 110 grams of carbs a day. Nobody needs more than that. And most women, even if they’re eating well, would have a tough time getting that much, that amount of carbohydrates if they’re eating healthy fats. And again, if you’re building…you know, certainly if you’re pregnant, your choice of fats is really critical, so you definitely don’t wanna be taking in these Franken fats that are found in the canola and the corn oil and the soybean oil. You wanna be getting as many of the monounsaturated fats as possible.

You know, I used to be of the mindset that it didn’t matter how much saturated fat you get. I’m taking a little bit more cautious stance on that and saying, you know… Because in this keto world, people tend to go overboard on saturated fat too. It’s like, “Ah, all saturated fat is great. The more the merrier.” And I’m like, “No, you know, pick…” First of all, you don’t need to force yourself to eat, you know, like you say, bacon cheeseburgers all the time just because you’re keto and that’s what you like to eat and that’s a good source of “fat,” with quotes around it. You need to kind of be judicious about your intake of fats, and that’s one of the reasons we chose avocado oil as the basis for all of our products, is probably the healthiest of all those fats that we can consume in larger quantities. And certainly extra virgin olive oil would fall in that same category.

But you want to be careful that you don’t eat, you know, anything that’s got trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats and oils because you’re building a brain inside you, right? You’re literally creating the neural tissue for your baby and you wanna give it the best possible raw materials. And the same kind of holds true when you’re breastfeeding. There’s still a lot of brain development that’s going on there, and so you wanna provide the best possible raw materials for that child. And at the same time wanna give yourself that opportunity to stay energetic and sleep through the night, become good at burning off your own stored body fat.

And you don’t need to be keto or you don’t need to be in ketosis to burn off stored body fat. I mean, lord knows I’ve got millions of viewers and readers and hundreds of thousands of user experiences where people drop their daily carb intake from 300, 350 grams a day down to 100, 120, and lost 75 or 115 pounds over a year. So you don’t need to be in ketosis to be a fat burner. The reason to get into ketosis is probably because you’re just looking for sort of the next level of brain function, the next level of body fat burning, the next level of maybe even athletic performance. I mean, I was low carb primal for 15 years, Katie, and it served me well. And it’s like I didn’t need to do anything. I mean, up until two years ago, you know… There’s enough naked pictures of me on the internet, so you saw that my body fat was, you know, pretty okay for a guy my age.

But a couple of years ago I just thought, you know, I’m an experimenter, I’m an N equals 1 guy, I’ve been reading other people’s blogs about keto. I’m gonna look into it. You know, I’m always looking for sort of the next level of performance and seeing if there’s something else out there. And so I did my 90-day keto experiment, and it was compelling. I didn’t need to do it. But just because in the interest of science, I did it. And it was kind of mind-boggling. I actually lost more body fat, I put on a little bit more muscle which was sort of counterintuitive. I slept better, I got more…I think my brain accomplished more while sleeping on fewer hours because of the ketones that were being produced. So there was definitely…it’s what we call next level shit in my world. We call it… You know, could have stayed there but I was interested in the next level of performance. So that’s what got me interested in keto in the first place, was nobody has to do keto, but because we’re wired to benefit from it, then why not? Why not, you know, spend some time doing it? And that’s why even in my “Keto Reset” book, I don’t suggest you live your life in ketosis or live your life, you know, 100% keto. I’m suggesting that you do a keto reset to create metabolic efficiency, to kinda fine-tune your metabolism once a year for six weeks, you know. And that’s kind of how I do it. So I’m, like I say, I’m in that keto zone. Some days I’m 30 grams of carbohydrate, some days I’m 130. It doesn’t matter to me, I feel the same on both days, and that’s the beauty of it.

Katie: Yeah, that’s awesome. And I have to ask too, I’m actually gonna ask something I probably would not ask a woman, which is if you’d share your age. I’m gonna share a picture of you in the show notes. And I’m gonna put you on the spot and ask you what your best tips are for keeping that youth as you age. Because you and your wife both, I feel like, are in such amazing shape and your skin is gorgeous. And I know that aging is a big concern for a lot of people. So I’m really curious to hear your tips on that.

Mark: Well, so I just turned 65 last week, and that’s just the scariest of all. You know, turning 21 was great, turning 30, no big deal. Turning 40, it’s like, “Oh, jeez, 40, that’s…” Fifty was nothing, 60 was nothing. Sixty-five is like, oh, my God, now it’s like retirement age, and you know, all of the… Do you know that when they started Social Security it was contemplated that people who retired at 65 would only live three more years, and that’s why the money would never run out, right? So it’s like here I am, now I’m one, now I’m there.

But first of all, you got to think young. Attitude is the most important thing to me. I went last night, I played in a league, in a Frisbee league here in Miami. We played three games from 8 p.m. till 10 p.m. under the lights. The next oldest guy on the field was 55, 10 years younger than me. And then below him, the next oldest guy, I think, was like 45. And it was all 20-somethings and 30-somethings. And you know, knock wood, I could pretty much keep up with those kids, sprinting up and down the field and jumping and, you know, changing direction. So it’s my choice to hang out with people. I mean, if I hung out with, no offense to listeners who are my age, but if I hung out with people my age, I don’t think I…you know, it’s just not…it’s generally not a pretty picture. So I hang out with really young people who are always forcing me to be on my game, who are challenging me mentally. You know, my employees are, you know, they’re just typically in that age, that sweet spot of age where they are at the prime of their careers. They keep me challenged. I have 75 employees now, it’s crazy.

And that’s literally point number one. Point number two is 80% of your body composition happens as a result of how you eat. And that gets back to this basis of this entire interview, which is how you choose to eat, the way of eating. And whether it’s primal or paleo or keto. I’ve done a really good job of dialing in my eating. You know, some people go through life and they know how to make a lot of money and they don’t know anything about health, and they would give all their money to be healthy. And then there’s other people who know a lot about health and have no money, right? And everything they do, they’re great and they’re healthy but they have no money. And it’s like I’m one of those people who have finally figured out how to make a good living, and I’ve had my health dialed in, really dialed in for a long time. So that’s one thing I haven’t really thought about, is, you know, what it takes to…you know, do I have to think about how I move and how I exercise and how I eat and how I sleep? I’ve spent so much of my life dialing it in the right way and the experiment has proven to be one that manifests, you know, a fairly strong, lean, fit, healthy body.

So what I want, my dream is to be able to impart that sort of intuitive knowledge to my readers, and that’s really been the essence of Mark’s Daily Apple, is I wanna take the information that I gleaned over the 35 years I’ve been doing research and distill it to an understandable way that people can then take it on, employ the strategies and techniques. And ultimately my goal is for you to graduate to the point of where you are an intuitive eater, that you don’t have to think, “Oh, my God, what would Katie say or what would Mark say about the choices on this menu?” You just do it, you just eat. And if it doesn’t serve you in the moment, there’s no guilt, there’s no regret because you know that you’re, you know, you’re just gonna pick up where you left off on the next set of options, next set of choices.

So to go back to my list, number one is attitude. Think young. And number two is 80% of your body composition is determined by how you eat. And then probably number three on that sort of anti-aging strategy is the three-movement patterns that I describe in “The Primal Blueprint.” One is move around a lot at a low level of activity. So I’m constantly moving. I don’t track heart rates or anything like that. I’m just constantly on the move, putting my body through different ranges of motion and planes of activity. And what we see now is, you know, there are a lot of societies where you have 80 and 90-year-old people out in the park, particularly in Asia, you know, doing Qigong and doing Tai chi, these slow movements. But they put them…they’re waving their arms slowly around their bodies and in sweeping around, you know, and brushing the feet with their hands and leaning over. This is the kind of movement I’m talking about. The body wants you to move a lot at a low level of aerobic activity. So mobility is huge.

And then I go to the gym twice a week and I do a full body routine. It’s nothing, you know, nothing to write home about. I mostly work out to not get injured when I’m playing, because I try to do most of my activity that’s of a higher heart rate is what I call play. So between the Ultimate Frisbee games that I have and the stand up paddling that I love to do here in Miami and then in Malibu when I’m in Malibu, I wanna be strong enough to be able to do those for an hour, hour and a half, and you know, not have it gas me for the day. So move around a lot at a low level, lift heavy things once or twice a week, and then sprint once a week. And for me, what I did last night, the game that I played, or the three games I played on the Ultimate Frisbee field, that was sprinting. So I sprint once a week and I think that everyone should sprint once a week. And whether you’re…you know, if you have bad knees, you say, “Well, I can’t run on the track or I can’t run on the beach or whatever,” you can do it in the gym on a bike or on an elliptical trainer or you can do it on a VersaClimber or you could do it on a rowing machine. But get your, you know…go like max effort 20 or 30 seconds and then rest two minutes, and then do it again 20 or 30 seconds, rest two minutes, and do that four to eight times once a week. And those are the three sort of movement patterns. So, anyway, that’s…those are my sort of three key elements to longevity.

Katie: I would also love to hear your take on finding balance and stillness in life. Because you mentioned you have 75 employees, you’re also a parent, you run a company, you run a blog, you just wrote a book. And yet, every time I’ve talked to you, you seem like pretty zen and calm and that you’ve, like, found stillness in your life. So I’m curious if you have any tips on that.
Mark: Well, interesting, you’re right, it is missing for a lot of people, and I do think that it’s something that comes with age, with time, and experience, let’s say, experience more than the other two. Because I think it’s also a part of enjoying what you do. If you don’t enjoy what you do, then it’s really difficult to find that calmness and that stillness and, you know, you’re sort of always on the edge.

This weekend, I just hosted a two-day masterclass of our Primal Health Coach Program. So, that’s another business that I have, and I have several thousand Primal Health coaches. And so, from Friday afternoon, all day Saturday, all day Sunday, I was holding court with my other coach, Christine Hassler, where the coaches coach.

We had coaches come in from around the world to do an intensive workshop on not just advanced coaching techniques but business building, and marketing, and things like that. And, you know, one of those things where as I went into the weekend, I’m like a little bit concerned about the amount of time it’s going to take, the energy it’s going to take.

And as the second I hit the workshop, the first mornings that like, wow, this is gonna be so cool and it’s just the attitude of going in and enjoying the moment, and being peaceful in the moment even though there’s work to be done, that again is, sort of, I’m going to say it’s, in my case, it was a learned behavior because I wasn’t always this way. I was always, sort of, the frantic one that worried in advance and fretted about stuff and couldn’t find the peace and was thinking about, it was distracted in times that I should have been just enjoying the moment.

So, I have to say that I think I’ve learned that over time and with experience. I wish I could give that to other people, but I’m not sure that there’s any sort of advice. You’re either, kind of, born with it or it’s something that if you recognize and you are able to tap into it, then maybe it’s an awareness thing, if you’re aware of it and you can, kind of, maybe, I hesitate to use the word work on it because it’s actually the opposite of what you need to do, right?

I mean, if you’re aware of something, it’s like meditating awareness is part of it and then come back into the present. So, my wife has been doing a lot of work with this group called The Three Principles and they really talk a lot about how we all have innate well being and it’s just part of who we are. We are okay, we’re all great and all we do is screw it up with our thoughts, right?

We always just kind of take what’s happening to us or certain events in our past or certain things that are currently going on or maybe it’s a discussion with our spouse or our children and we inflate it into something that’s so completely might ruin our day and yet it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s really how your mind reacts to it and processes what’s going on that allows you to be at peace and have what we call well-being on a regular basis.

Because truly wellbeing, it doesn’t even depend on how physically healthy you are. You can be quite sick and if your brain is at peace and okay with that, you could have wellbeing. I don’t know if I answered your question, Katie, but that’s kinda where I went with it.

Katie: No, I think that’s excellent. Food for thought. And I think you’re so right about that, about wellbeing and keeping that in perspective because I think of two segments of the population that I’ve had the joy to work with over time. And one in high school, I used to volunteer at nursing homes, and I would talk to people who were a lot of times very ill and even facing death. But so many of them had a sense of wellbeing and peace and happiness that I have very rarely seen since then.

And the other group was I worked with a summer camp for children who had some, kind of, struggles, physical limitations or disabilities of certain kinds that made it difficult for them to do things. And again, they were the most joyful, I would say, they have the highest sense of wellbeing of anyone I’ve ever met.

Just their outlook on life and everything was so inspiring. And so I think you’re right that’s a distinction we have to make, and that choice we get to make that doesn’t have to be work, it’s the opposite. And I loved that you framed it like that.

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Katie: And also as we get toward the end of question, I love to ask is if there was advice that you could pass on to anyone, what would it be and why? You’ll at least be able to pass it onto a couple hundred thousand people listening to this. But, I know you, you spread so much advice during your career and through your blog, but I’m curious if there’s any advice that’s top of the list?

Mark: There was two things I use as, sort of, a litmus test. When something that appears to be happening or it’s about is I asked myself what’s the worst that could happen if that happened? And typically, if you go down that path, it’s really not that bad, what’s the worst that can happen? And the other is, sort of, an old zen flint, “This too shall pass.”

So, there are times in our lives when we think this is it, this is the low point, this is…my life is terrible and I’m in debt, I’ve got, you know, struggles, I’ve got relationship issues or whatever. So, just to have, and we can go back to wellbeing, to have that sense that it’s going to be okay, that this too shall pass, that I will get past this, and life at its essence is awesome and it’s up to me to extract the greatest amount of pleasure and joy and fulfillment and contentment from every moment possible that I can because that’s really all we have is the present moment.

So do not dwell in the past, do not ruin what you could’ve done, should’ve done, could’ve said, wish you hadn’t said, but to live in the present moment, to enjoy the present moment, and if there is something that appears insurmountable, to actually have that kind of mantra, this too shall pass. I will get through this and it will be fine on the other side.

Katie: Yeah. That’s awesome. And lastly, is there a book besides your own that will be linked to the show notes of course, but is there a book that’s had a big impact on your life that you would recommend? I’m always looking for new books to add to the list.

Mark: What’s funny because people have asked me that a book that affected my life and there been a number. I cannot not say that the “Primal Blueprint” most affected my life because when I wrote it, I was about ready to retire. And the, sort of, the traction that it had and the movement that it created literally brought me out of retirement and created the Primal Health Coach Program, created the whole food thing, created a number of other things that basically gave me an entirely new outlook on life and on business and on what my contribution to the world could be.

I can’t not say that the “Primal Blueprint” affected me more than any other one. So, having said that, Ken Kesey, who was a writer in the ’70s he was mostly influential the cuckoo’s nest, but he wrote a book called “Sometimes a Great Notion.” And I think it’s a great American novel and it really speaks to the resiliency of people in general, but Americans in particular.

And I always felt like I was one of the protagonists in there who by the way was played in the movie by Paul Newman. So, there’s that too. I was like Paul Newman. But it’s either sometimes a great notion and often it’s been translated as once a great notion, but it’s by Ken Kesey, and I think it’s an awesome book and highly worth reading. It’s a novel and story entertaining as well as having the subtext that Ken Kesey was, sort of, known for.

Katie: Awesome. I’ll check that one out too. And what’s next for Primal Kitchen? What can we expect in the next few months or a year from you guys?

Mark: Well, you know, it’s just been such a great whirlwind. We now have 11 flavors of salad dressing. So, we just launched a sesame ginger because I happen to love Chinese chicken salad, and sesame ginger is also a great marinate. We have a Vegan ranch to go along with our non-dairy ranch. We launched a lemon turmeric that I’ve, I’ve been seeing around town. I go to restaurants now, and I ordered their salads, but I don’t order their dressing because I don’t trust any restaurants salad dressing anymore.

So, I get the best of both worlds. I get this beautiful colorful salad at a restaurant that I liked there ambiance or whatever. I asked for it without dressing and I bring my own dressing. Yes, I am that guy. So, there’s that, then we introduced the garlic aioli mayo.

Now, for the next month, Whole Foods has an exclusive on the organic unsweetened ketchup. And I know you’ve tried it, Katie, that’s like one of my more…I love all my products, right? But that thing that, I think we nailed it with that, tell me if I’m wrong. You’ve tried it right?

Katie: Yes, it’s so good. Even my kids all love it, like it’s a six per six for them. They all love it.

Mark: Perfect. So, we have the ketchup and the spicy mustard. We’ve got some cooking sauces coming out first quarter of next year, some amazing cooking sauces. Again, we’re taking this concept of preparing real food and then enhancing it with flavorful sauces that you can just literally heat up or even don’t even have to heat just pour on that not only in part awesome tastes but in part of a healthfulness and functionality to them.

So we have some cooking sauces, we have some barbecue sauces, a Carolina gold barbecue sauce regular, sort of stared but well barbecue sauce. We’ve got four new bars coming out that are spectacular. They’re basically keto bars. We’re not calling them keto bar for probably the protein bars, but the keto bars there fit anyone’s keto macros and they taste spectacular. So, I’m very excited about that.

And of course, we have a regular, we kind of reformulated our collagen bars. And then there’s probably six other things that are in the pipeline that are gonna come out within a year. So, we’re so excited. We’re at about 9,000 stores now with the Primal Kitchen things. We’re in some of the Costco is that some people have seen. We got the Mayo in some Costcos. There’s Greek dressing in other Costcos and we’re just having so much fun changing the way the world eats.

Katie: I love it and I love all the products and it’s always so much fun to catch up with you and chat and hear all the new updates. And I really appreciate you spending the time being here. I know how busy you are and it really means a lot that you took the time to be here today.

Mark: It’s my pleasure as always, Katie.

Katie: And thanks to all of you guys for listening and I hope to see you again next time on the “Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.


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