Reprogramming Your Genes
I’ve recently started reading Mark Sisson’s 21 Day Total Body Transformation and I wanted to share my thoughts and my experiences since I started adopting the Primal/Paleo lifestyle in early 2010. I also thought I’d discuss specific issues and concepts brought up in the book—like reprogramming your genes.
I first heard about Mark and The Primal Blueprint in 2008. We were in Hawaii on a Beachbody incentive trip and someone chatted with me about it. At the time, I didn’t get it. I didn’t get much back then, so not a big surprise. This was about the time when I started to get into triathlon and everyone around me was eating lots and lots of carbs, so I did too. Not surprisingly, I gained weight while burning well in excess of 1,000 calories per workout. When I started this blog in January 2009, I really embarked on a journey to learn as much as I could about nutrition and figure out what would work for me. I read a lot of stuff, but still didn’t adopt the Primal lifestyle.
I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to purchase The Primal Blueprint in early 2010. I was training for the Superfrog Half Ironman and it was really wearing me out. In particular, I was suffering from systemic inflammation. My left knee ACL was ripped to shreds in 1994, and the repair was giving me all kinds of problems, most of which were related to inflammation. Ice and Advil were a way of life. Probably not the best time to “Go Primal, but the book arrived and I couldn’t put it down. It’s rather technical, but it answered so many questions for me. I started to experiment with it. It wasn’t until after that race that I really started reprogramming my own genes using the concepts presented in the book.
Reprogramming your genes? Seriously? Yes. Both of Mark’s books discuss this concept. In the 21 Day Total Body Transformation, he talks about genes being a series of on/off switches. Some of them are just on. My eyes are brown and my hair is going gray. As much as I’d like to, I can’t flip those switches. But, there are a lot of switches I can flip and each of them responds to the signals I send based on the way I treat my body. The food I eat flips switches. The exercise I do flips switches. The amount of sleep I get flips switches. Something as simple as spending time in the sun (or not) flips switches. So, while we are stuck with some switches in the on or off position, there are others that we can control with lifestyle.
So, how have I reprogrammed my genes? I’ve noticed a couple of major differences since I started eating better. I’m not perfect, and I occasionally eat non-primal foods. I allow myself to be human.
The most noticeable difference is my weight. It doesn’t fluctuate any more. When I did the SuperFrog, I was about 170 pounds and I really wanted to drop some weight to get lighter for triathlon, but also because I like being lean. It didn’t take very long to drop 10 pounds and I have not gained it back. I lost two pounds on Beachbody’s Success Club cruise. I didn’t do it by working out like a madman all day. I simply eliminated all grains while on that trip. My weight really has not changed more than five pounds in either direction and levels off right about 160 when I get back to basics.
Another change is that the inflammation that used to haunt me is gone. When I said “ice and Advil were a way of life,” I wasn’t kidding. I stopped playing basketball in 2005, because my doctor told me I was destroying my kidneys with all the ibuprofen I was taking. Triathlon took me right back there. At that time, I could not envision another way to control it and the pain was unbelievable. Now, I can do high intensity cardio workouts (like Insanity) without problems. My muscles hurt, but I don’t have problems with inflammation any more. And yes, I realize Insanity isn’t exactly “Primal.” I don’t adhere to the principles 100%. I like cycling, Insanity, and P90X. They are fun workouts and I like to push myself. That requires me to adjust my carb intake.
There are a variety of other benefits that I’ve felt as well and I’ll be discussing those as I cover more of the key concepts from the book. The long and short of things is that optimal gene expression [flipping as many good “on” switches as you can] is dependent on environmental factors. You control what you eat. You control your sleep. You control your exercise. Reprogramming your genes is possible if you are willing to make a few small changes. Cutting out grains may not seem like a small change, but once you do it (along with a few other things), you’ll never go back.
I highly recommend making the commitment of reprogramming your genes. Go on…make the changes and flip the switch. If you want help reaching for switch, let’s chat.