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Daryl is a nutritionist and author of the books "Paleo from A to Z" and "Paleo Fitness," and the founder of Primal Play—a daily online paleo program designed to help people rekindle their love of exercise.
My initial career was in tech as a computer programmer in investment banking, which was lucrative but required very long hours and a lot of stress. Things started to change when I started having annual health checks, blood work, and fitness tests done, and this was in my mid 30s. My doctor told me I had issues related to hypertension, high blood pressure, my cholesterol profile was poor, my blood glucose was in the pre-diabetic range, and my doctor said it was probably due to genetics and lifestyle. I was given a cocktail of meds as one option, which I'd have to take the rest of my life, which I didn't want to do. I had Loren Cordain's paleo book on my shelf, which is about going back to basics and thinking about what my body really needs, so I decided to reread it and that was the gateway for me. Just having the recognition that we were designed to live in a particular way and if we deviate from that significantly you're going to suffer from chronic lifestyle diseases. In 3 months by changing my diet and exercise, everything had been normalized.
What kind of exercise did you start doing?
I had just started trying crossfit right before I had the tests done, and I was doing the zone diet at the time but had only had moderate success with that. I got bogged down with how meticulous you had to be with it (e.g. 9 almonds vs 10). I initially didn't see the connection between diet and health; I moreso thought of its relation to aesthetic and performance in terms of getting better at CrossFit. When I recognized I had "lifestyle disease" I realized I needed to do it for health.
Paleo is about prioritizing the quality of the food and avoiding highly processed foods. My exercise improved so much over the 3 months of changing my diet to paleo I wanted to become an evangelical about this.
How did you transition into writing books about this?
I became a certified personal trainer and a certified nutritionist and started offering advice to colleagues friends and family, and eventually noticed I was enjoying this more than investment banking so I eventually got out of that and decided to dedicate my career to helping people improve their health and wellbeing.
I started a blog called fitnessexplorer.com and a publisher contacted me and asked if I wanted to write a book about paleo fitness. I wrote a book and got into public speaking and changed my approach to exercise. That was the second huge career change for me aside from getting out of investment banking. I realized I really didn't enjoy exercise, but I love movement.
There's a negative connotation of exercise, which comes from the punishment aspect, and when you're a kid, you're just playing outside with your friends and it's fun, then when you go to school it becomes more restrictive and sometimes the enjoyment is removed. Once you're past playing sports and games at school, it can become difficult to maintain that self-motivation to do it. I found even when I got into Crossfit and had an almost religious zeal about it, there were times I didn't want to do it, I kept getting injured on a regular basis, and I only felt great when I'd beat my peers. I recognized what was missing was fun with movement. The only way I could realize that was having a playful approach— natural primal movements we should be engaging in but having a saturation of fun play around that. I am able to motivate myself to move whenever I have the opportunity, not just when it's in my schedule. It's now something I enjoy and I'm bigger, stronger and healthier as a result.
For someone who's older (in their 40s or 50s) and they may be sedentary or they may run marathons/triathlons and are adhering to a healthy diet, what would your book application look like for someone fitting that profile to start moving?
The same way a person needs 1,2,3 meals a day and a certain amount of water each day, movements need a certain type and amount each day.
Certain healthful movements are also regenerative; you're repairing your body by engaging these movements. I lived with terrible knee pain through my 20s and 30s and once I incorporated a wide variety of movements at different intensities and volumes it went away and I was able to heal.
Fitness is about health and longevity, not just short term goals.
Even if your diet is great but you're sedentary, you can't be healthy. If you're exercising but not sleeping, you can't be healthy. If you're exercising but eating poorly, you can't be healthy. You have to supplement your workouts with movement or physical activity, even if it's just carrying packages from the local shop or giving piggyback rides—things that 20 years ago would've just been normal stuff. If you don't engage with these kinds of movements or day-to-day things you have to do, you'll lose the ability to do that.
Visit primalplay.com for more information about movement and incorporating more play in your life.