How To Identify A Real Wellness Expert with Mark Sisson


Jonathan: Hey, everybody. Jonathan Bailor back with another SANE show and really thrilled to bring you today’s guest. He is a pioneer and leader in this field with some new stuff for us today and an excellent topic. Mark Sisson, welcome back to the show brother!

Mark: Thanks for having me back, Jonathan. Great to be here.

Jonathan: Mark, it’s always a pleasure to chat, and you and I were speaking before the show, and you have a cool new offering available around expert certification. Certainly want to talk about that. But you got me thinking. I’ve been noticing that quite a few people are certifying other people nowadays as experts. I want to talk to you quickly about you’ve been in this industry for a while. What makes someone an expert?

Mark: Well, you know, I think everybody’s an expert in themselves. Right? So, I talk a lot about you can go see a doctor and get opinions as to what’s going with you, but ultimately, you are the expert for yourself. At the next level, you can be expert in a field, you can be expert at personal training or in medicine or whatever. There may be, generally there are, some criteria that you have to jump through to get to that point. But typically an expert is somebody who knows a lot about a certain subject, and within the confines of that certain subject, can answer pretty much every question that comes up or arises as a result of that question, and takes it to the next level.

So the Primal Blueprint Expert Certification program that we’ve just launched allows people to demonstrate their expertise in their understanding of the primal blueprint and what it means to be primal.

Jonathan: I think you made an awesome and integrity-rich point there, Mark, and that was it shows that you’re an expert in a specific topic. But what I think we find nowadays is that, for example, you said very clearly, getting certified in your certification program shows that you are an expert in that program. But it seems like we’ve got people nowadays, for example, you get a generic medical degree, and we associate that with you are an expert in all things related to health. Everything.

Mark: But that’s really ironic because first of all, if you get a medical degree, you typically go into a speciality wherein if you’re an orthopedist, there’s no way you’re going to deal with anybody who’s got a stomach ache or a headache, number one. And, number two, if you’re an orthopedist and somebody comes to you and says my knee hurts, typically you’ll say I don’t do knees. I only do shoulders. So there is that level of specificity within medicine right now that I think has created a real issue for a lot of people.

So, within the confines of medicine, that’s a perfect of medicine of where you can be expert in one area and not know anything about another. And to that end, and this is the biggest issue I have with medicine, is that we all, in our crowd, know now that 90 percent of what ails people, what they present with at a hospital, is a result of a lifestyle issue. Some choice they made that did not serve them well. It might have been a dietary choice, it might have been lack of sleep, it might have been how they chose to move or not, but typically almost all things that people are ailing from have a dietary or lifestyle etiology. And yet, in eight years of medical training, doctors have two days of diet and almost nothing with regard to exercise prescription. So, the irony here is that people who are hurting go to a doctor because of their expertise and their certification in that particular field, but what they wind up with is a Band-Aid, either in the form of an actual Band-Aid or some surgical Band-Aid or some drug Band-Aid, but never really getting to the essential element of what was causing the problem in the first place.

And that’s back to what we talk about in TPB is how we can affect change in most people by prescribing ways of eating, ways of orchestrating sleep throughout the night. How you set up your desk at work. How to shop in a store. How to do all these sort of lifestyle things that if you can dial them in for yourself will probably manifest you in a stronger, leaner, happier, healthy, more productive human being.

Jonathan: It’s an excellent point, Mark, and to come to the defense of the medical profession, it’s almost as if they have been put in a very difficult position. Both of my parents are college professors. My mother’s an English professor, and my father is a philosophy professor. So they’re both very, let’s call them very highly-qualified teachers. I don’t go to my mother and say Mom, I’m trying to learn calculus. I know you’re a teacher, so teach me calculus. But we do expect anyone with an M.D. to be able to essentially answer that question.

Mark: Right. Which gets back to my original proposition here which was that we are all experts in our own selves. We just need to know a little bit about the science behind what drives the human being, and then we can note the signals or the signs that we’re exhibiting, the symptoms that we’re exhibiting or whatever and conduct that experiment of one on ourselves.

So, back to TPB Expert Certification program, we designed this for professionals to enhance their educational experience and to be able to tap into the technology that we’ve developed at TPB, and use that in their practice. Whether it’s a medical practice or a dietitian, personal trainer, or so on and so forth. But also, it’s for individuals to just get that the understand TPB, that they know all of the essential elements of what it takes to conduct that experiment of one. So you don’t have to be a professional to take this certification. You can just be a layperson who’s very interested in accessing the highest level of health for yourself, and take this course, and take the exams, and they’re quit rigorous exams, to prove to yourself that you know what you’re doing when you say I’m living according to TPB.

Jonathan: Mark, if someone tells us they’re an expert, and they tell us they can help us, what would you say are maybe three questions we should ask that person to see if they can really help us?

Mark: First, if somebody says I can help you, and they say it with certainty, I would typically be very skeptical and say tell me more. Because that alone, all that does is turn me off. What I like to tell people is I have some ideas and some ways of living and ways of eating that are choices that we’ve developed over time that I’m going to be very clear, aren’t necessarily the right way. They aren’t necessarily a perfect way. They’re certainly not the only way. There are a lot of other ways to achieve health and fitness and energy and all the things you’re seeking. But the bottom line is that we know through hundreds of thousands of user experiences and the research that if you undertake these strategies, there is a greater likelihood that you will achieve the outcome you desire.

So first thing is I would ask somebody what’s the basis of your ability to help me. I want to know what the underlying philosophy of any expert is. Because this gets back to, again, that original premise of what is an expert. You sort of have to pick your gurus based on a philosophy. Because there is no right answer in anything. You take your taxes to ten different CPAs, and you take your financial information, and they will give you ten different ideas of what you owe the IRS. You take your medical issues to ten different doctors, you’ll get ten different opinions as to what’s wrong with you and how best to go about changing it. So, same with lawyers. I’m just going to rag on everybody today, but you take your legal issues to ten different lawyers, and you’ll get ten different… Which is not to say that any of them are bad people. They’re all good people, they all come from good homes. But we’re dealing with opinions, and we’re dealing with educated opinions in almost all of these cases. So when I go to a guru or somebody that I want to work with, whether it’s a life coach or personal trainer or doctor, I want to know the basic underlying philosophy. And if the underlying philosophy is, for instance, I believe in evolution, and I inform a lot of what I’m doing as a result of evolution and modern genetic science. I’m going to say you’re hip. I resonate with that idea tell me more. And so then the next thing might be what are the five things you would have me do, I don’t even need to know the background, but what are five things you would tell me to do to make me well or to change my life.

And then, based on those five things, I’d start asking questions. What do you mean by that? What do you mean? Increase my saturated fat intake? Seriously? Those sorts of questions that have to be asked from the point of view of some amount of knowledge of science and of my own self. So as a consumer of this information, I have to have enough of a baseline education to ask intelligent questions. But there is a point at which, like I have my gurus, my guys that I believe, and others who are Ph.D.s and very accomplished scientists who, I think, are way off track and way off base. So even I, as a quasi-guru, I mean I have my own mentors and people that I look up to, and others who are probably equally qualified from a credential point of view, that I would have nothing to do with.

Jonathan: And Mark, I think that’s what gets people so messed up. Because you brought up saturated fat which is probably the perfect example. Because you’ll find triple Ph.D., worked in the industry for 40 years that says a very absolute statement. If you eat saturated fat, it’s the worst thing you could ever do for yourself. And then you’ll find someone with equal credentials saying the exact opposite things. And people get confused. And in some ways, we say experiment on yourself. But what do we do when what they’re saying is in 40 years you’re going to get heart disease?

Mark: It’s a tough question. There is no right answer to that. It’s back to the idea that really we’re dealing with belief systems here. So when I pick a way of eating, I’m basing it on a belief system. If I’m going to be a vegan, I have a more likelihood of believing in the whole animal welfare issues. That’s a belief system around which my way of eating is derived. As a former athlete, I was really big on the carbohydrate paradigm and taking in 700 to 1000 grams of carbs a day to replenish glycogen. That was a belief system that I had that shifted dramatically when I started to read the research and understand the science behind how the body really prefers to burn fat. So there is an element of this that you’ve got to do the research, and you have to understand enough about basic science. But you still have to sort of take that leap of faith with whomever you are falling in with and like that person and resonate with what that person is saying or what that way of eating is representing. Because, ultimately, we don’t know what’s going to happen in 40 years. We can only predict what’s going to happen based on the science now as it stands. And the saturated fat issue, which is always the one we sort of bring up first in our crowd, which is that for the longest time it was a guarantee that saturated fat was bad for you, and all the science seemed to prove it. And now we go back and revisit the science. We realize that that science did not prove, never proved, never has proved, and likely never will prove it now.

Jonathan: Mark, that’s really what’s, you know me. I’m a science guy. But what’s really encouraging to me of just the basic look towards history is this admission that we don’t know the answers. But what we do know is history. For example, people want to fuss about macronutrient ratios. The encouraging things is there are so many societies that have lived on so many different macronutrient ratios, as long as the macronutrients they were getting from whole foods found in nature, in some ways it’s like we may not need the precision. Some of us seem to crave this desire for one right answer and this desire for exactness. And in some ways, I find that kind of liberating. What do you think?

Mark: I agree. I did an interview the other day, and somebody brought up the blue zone concept. Well, what about the blue zones, Mark, and all these people are eating carbohydrate, whatever. Well, you know, there are still some similarities. One of which is it’s the elimination of the toxic foods that probably has the highest degree of benefit across the board to everyone. The highest ability to reduce risk factors for so many diseases. So once you get rid of the refined sugars, the refined grains, the additives and preservatives and nasty things that you find in food. The Franken-fats and all those things that have become so prevalent in most societies, and you’re eating just natural food, you’re right. The macronutrient ratio matters less. Now drill it down even further, and a lot of other societies that we talk about and review in the literature, a lot of times they’re taking in a lot fewer calories than we in the United States take in. Because I think a lot of people in this country still want to know, okay, what’s the most amount of food I can eat and still not gain weight. And that’s kind of a weird way of looking at it. Because if you look at the other societies and how I have re-oriented my own lifestyle, it’s almost like, okay, what’s the least amount of food I can eat and still not be hungry and still maintain my muscle mass and energy level. And there’s a convenience that comes with that. There’s kind of a green, save-the-world kind of aspect to that as well. But ultimately, there’s a freedom with that. I’m not tied to my hunger. I’m not tied to some macronutrient ratio that I have to observe meal to meal.

I mean the 40-30-30 concept, when it first came out, it was like wow. How can anybody adhere to that? You lug around six different Tupperware things with you all day long just to be sure you never stray from that. And I’ve talked with Barry Sears, who’s a nice enough guy, but I started asking him 25 years ago. What happens if you throw off that macronutrient ratio while you’re on a long bike ride? And he goes, well the wheels fall off, and all hell breaks loose. Well that’s just not going to work. So the idea that we, you and I, are looking for the greatest amount of inclusivity, that is, I want to include as many people and as many different variations of primal as I possibly can within the framework of a basic, sort of, set of guidelines.

Jonathan: When we say basic set of guidelines, and forgive me because I know your audience and people in your audience that watch this, this is going to be totally redundant to them. But I know some people in my audience, this idea of primal versus Paleo versus ancestral. And I’m sure this is what your expert certification course will make clear. What are the big differences in those three categories?

Mark: Well, I mean ancestral is sort a lumped together thing that I think still looks at evolutionary biology and tries to find commonalities in what we eat. But certainly, the Weston A. Price Foundation would include grains and legumes. Paleo would be probably the most exclusive of those three because it excludes all grains and legumes and dairy and wine and a lot of other elements there, and until very recently, even white potatoes, for instance. TPB was about sort of, okay, using the ancestral template and using evolutionary biology and modern genetic science where we can look at the effects of certain foods, it’s almost like tell me what I can eat. Don’t just give me a list of all things I cannot eat, but tell me what I can eat. And what we have learned is that there are a lot of people who would benefit from eating say raw dairy. The types of dairy on a spectrum that would include butter, ghee, whole cream and raw dairy. Certain types of artisanal cheeses, for instance, with not only no ill effects, but some potential benefits. Now, for the Paleo community to automatically exclude dairy just because up until 10,000 years ago hunter-gatherers didn’t milk animals, wasn’t enough of a reason for me to exclude this food group that provides so much satiety and pleasure and variety to an otherwise fairly mundane set of foods that you could eat. I mean, when you get right down to it, the Paleo plan, as it’s prescribed, is basically meat, fish, fowl, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, a little bit of fruit. So name me five different kinds of meat. Okay, you can name five, but then you’re hard pressed to go beyond that. And naming more than 15 vegetables that you have eaten in the last year. It’s a fairly limited thing. Now you can do a lot with sauces and dressings and herbs and spices and toppings, and that’s the beauty of it.

But I wanted to include as much as I could in the way of, for instance, dairy products. I wanted to include a little bit of red wine because the research shows that some amount of red wine is probably beneficial to a lot of people, as opposed to those who completely abstain. Chocolate has a bunch of really interesting phenolic ingredients that are antioxidant in nature and perhaps antiaging. At least you could put them in that category. So I looked to include as much as possible on the pallet of TPB, and that’s what I think is its greatest attractor to a lot of people.

Jonathan: And, with primal, how would you custom-tailor this or maybe modify your recommendations based on let’s say two very, very different people. So let’s say one… Or would you? One is a 23-year-old, extremely fit, male cross-fitter. The other is a 70-year-old, significantly, post-menopausal woman. How would TPB diet or lifestyle vary between those two people?

Mark: Well, first of all, neither of them is producing a lot of estrogen, so there’s a similarity there. I’m just kidding. The cross-fitter, based on the amount of work that he is doing in a week, is probably going to want to increase the carbohydrate load. That’s pure and simple. But not to the point that it used to be. Not to the old days of 500, 600, 700 grams of carbs a day just because you could eat carbs with reckless abandon and not gain weight. So there’s an appropriate amount of carbs that would be over and above the sort of 150 a day limitation that I set for most people who are otherwise sedentary. In terms of the older woman, I’d try a very low-carb strategy at first. If that didn’t work, we’d have to add in some, what we call, safe starches and mix it around a little bit. But that’s where the experiment comes in. It starts with the template. The template is eliminate sugars and sweets, eliminate refined grains and then whole grains, cut way back on legumes or eliminate legumes, and then eat meat, fish, fowl, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, a little bit of fruit, and once you’ve dialed that ability to exist on fewer and fewer carbohydrates if you’re an overweight woman, the next thing you do is cut those calories back. You cannot lose weight if you are storing more calories than you’re burning. That’s the bottom line. And you know, we talk about these calories in, calories out misnomer. It’s really an inaccurate perspective. And I’ve always talked about calories burned versus calories stored. If you store more calories than you burn, regardless of how many calories you take in, you’re going to gain weight. So we look at ways in which we can manipulate hormones in order to increase the amount of calories burned versus those stored.

Jonathan: Mark, I’m so happy you brought that up. And for any listeners out there or viewers out there who are saying oh my god! Jonathan, he just said it’s all about calories in, calories out, so you better jump on him. Mark did not say that. Mark is saying exactly what we always talk about which is it’s not that calories in, calories out doesn’t exist. It’s that your goal is to get your body to, like Mark said, burn more calories automatically, store fewer calories automatically by eating higher satiety foods, things like that. So it’s not that that equation doesn’t exist. It’s that the idea that you need to ride it out all day is ridiculous. So we need to enhance our bodies, and, like Mark said, unlock your genetic potential.

Well, Mark, this is fabulous. Where can folks more about this Expert Certification Program we’ve been talking about?

Mark: It’s a feature product on primalblueprint.com. It is a 13-module program. There’s a test and exam at the end of each module, so in order to get certified, you have to pass the exams. It’s very detailed, it’s the equivalent of a third-year college course. It’s 110,000 words of text plus video and some other multimedia things. Lots of extra credit homework sort of things to do as well. But people who have taken it already have been blown away by how complete it is and how satisfying it is to pass these exams and go okay. Now I do get… I didn’t really understand ketosis before, and now I really get it. Or some of these other things that were kind of difficult concepts that we talked about over the years. It’s now laid out in a way that you can understand. And then, like I say, once you become certified, impart that wisdom to your clients or your customers or your patients or your family and friends if you just want to get the certification for the sake of having it.

Jonathan: Mark, I applaud you for creating something that’s so thorough and deep, because I think a lot of the confusion we see on the Internet is that there’s a lot of people out there with what some folks call a chauffeur knowledge. And what I mean by chauffeur knowledge is there’s an old story where back before media existed, there was a Nobel Prize winner that toured around the country giving the same lecture over and over and over again. And since there was really no media, nobody knew who what he looked like. But he had a chauffeur that went to every single one of his talks. And after hearing about 200 or so talks, this chauffeur had memorized just about everything and every question and every answer that the actual Nobel Prize winner had ever answered and ever given. So one day the Nobel Prize winner was sick and said hey, chauffeur, give my presentation. The chauffeur gave the presentation and was able to answer every single question the audience asked. But the question is, does that chauffeur actually understand what he’s talking about, or is he just reciting things he’s memorized. And I think what we’re trying to do here with these very expert programs is give you that true wisdom, that true knowledge, rather than sort of computer-like knowledge where you can just recite a fixed set of answers to a fixed set of questions. Does that make sense?

Mark: That not only makes sense, it is the basis underlying everything we talk about on TPB from day one and from Mark’s Daily Apple, which is I don’t want you to just be able to spew forth what I have said. I want you to Grok it. That’s the essence of the term Grok, that’s the essence of the name Grok and the character. I want you to be able to go through life intuitively knowing that every choice you’re making falls into alignment with your basic core philosophy. So you don’t have to think about oh, my god. What page was that on where he said this? No. I want you to be able to every meal you order at a restaurant to intuitively enjoy that meal, know when it’s time to stop, know when you’ve had enough, and not feel bad about choices that you make on the fly that were maybe not as appropriate as you would have liked. To always intuitively understand how much sleep you’re getting, when it’s time to get out of the sun, when it’s time you need sun. This is all about drilling in this sense of empowerment to people so that they don’t have to think what was the answer, but it just automatically rolls out. Like this the lens, evolution and TPB are the lens through which I view life.

Jonathan: Brilliant, Mark. Thank you so much. I can imagine it took a lot of work to put that together. Folks, of course, you know where to find Mark. He’s got one of the most popular sites on the Internet, Mark’s Daily Apple. Mark Sisson, thanks again for joining us today.

Mark: Thanks for having me, Jonathan.

Jonathan: Viewers and listeners, thank you again for joining us. I hope you enjoyed this chat as much as I did. And remember, today and every day after, stay SANE. Chat with you soon.