To Be, or Not to Be: A Zombie

Hello, Mark’s Daily Apple readers! I owe a staggering amount to Mark Sisson (and not just for running my story!), but please consider this small blurb both a “welcome!” and heart-felt “thank you!” to you too for taking time to swing by my site. If you’re new here, feel free to check the start here page for a link to some of the most popular articles on 3NL. There’s also a sidebar on the right side of the page that has the overall most popular posts, so please check there too!

And yes, now that you ask, I do regret posting a picture of me eating a donut — a donut that looks suspiciously similar to frosted brains, given the zombie theme, but a donut all the same. :)

Words are funny.

Let’s start with health-conscious. Likewise, let’s start with Mary, the very picture of health: two hours each morning on the elliptical, five or six meals daily (otherwise her metabolism, she suspects, might implode), and given the dilemma of what kind of tortilla to around her post-exercise burrito, a staunch supporter of whole wheat, because everyone knows whole grains are a healthy addition to your diet.

She also reads glossy beauty magazines.

Mary, by most definitions, is health-conscious. She takes care of her body with the knowledge she’s been given, and while the majority of it is (unfortunately) mistaken, you can’t fault her for this: she cares. Unlike the majority of her friends, Mary has taken a keen interest in maintaining her health, putting her at least a few pegs higher than an otherwise disinterested population.

RIght. Let’s now talk about Dan.

Dan doesn’t care. He does a little exercise — usually around New Year’s, and usually just before summer –  now and then, and he swears he’s going to start going to the gym again, but beyond that he doesn’t really do a whole lot for the cause of his health. That’s partially because work keeps him chained to a desk for long hours each day, and partially too because he doesn’t like to cook after the hour-long commute back to his house.

Frozen pizzas, however, are his specialty.

Dan is not health-conscious. By the definition of that word, then, he is not conscious of his health. He’s unaware of it, I guess, or at least disinterested, and his health — his body — will continue to pay the price for it every year he spends on this earth.

He’s a zombie.

I’m not trying to coin some clever term, here, but what can I say? It works. Dan is not aware. Dan is not even awake by most standards, especially on that morning commute after a late night spent watching TV and doing the social media dance. He is, for the purposes of this (silly, I know) argument, the walking undead, or at least the walking unaware.

To Be, or Not to Be: The Walking Unaware

In case that opener didn’t drive it home, I don’t agree with Mary’s idea of health. Despite that, I stand by what I said earlier: she cares. She cares quite a bit, and while she’s working with a set of assumptions foisted on her by years of bad information and governmental idiocy, she’s at least taking steps to keep herself healthy.

Given the choice, which would you rather be: health-conscious, or a zombie?

It’s an easy one to make.

My own adventures in weight loss and my gradual transition to healthy, simple living aren’t special. They’re not unique, even. Thousands of people across the globe have adopted a Paleo lifestyle to great effect, and thousands more will continue to embrace it as the good word about the lifestyle continues to spread across the Internet.

But here’s the thing: you have to care. My story isn’t all that special, but I’m still proud to say this: I cared enough to really dive in and start paying attention to what I ate. Want to do the same? You have to be willing to spend some time reading up on what your body needs, and you have to be willing, too, to accept some ideas about nutrition that otherwise go against your ingrained beliefs.

And when you do start caring? When you take active steps, now, to shift yourself firmly into the health-conscious category? When you leave the ranks of the walking unaware to pursue strong, lively health?

You have to keep going.

You have to remember that this is a life-long journey, not some month-long diet that you can hop on and off at whim. You have to remember that it takes time to achieve great health, and you have to remember that you probably won’t be completely satisfied for a long time — but that’s okay.

You have plenty of time. You have an incredible, complex body that wants to be healthy (no disrespect intended, of course, to actual zombies), you have a wealth of information online that’ll help you transform your life, and you have at least one person, here, that believes you can do it.

You have at least one person that thinks the world of you, and you have at least one person who is absolutely convinced that you can have the body — and health — you’ve always wanted.

You have you. And hey! Make it two people, actually, because you have me too.

I know you can do it.

But you have to care. You have to step outside of your comfort zone a little, turn down the box of donuts at work, and realize that it’s going to be long, sometimes hard work — but through it all, the best damn work of your life.

Don’t be a zombie. Take a moment today to stand in front of the mirror. Look at yourself — really look at yourself — and repeat after me:

“I’m going to be healthy. Maybe I’m not there yet, and maybe I won’t be there for awhile, but I will be healthy. Why? Because I want to look good naked.

(Don’t deny it.)

Join me. And, as ever, if you have any questions about your journey to strong, vibrant health, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you’re curious about my personal approach to diet and fitness, feel free to hop over to my free eBook, Simpler, or start with the three-part beginner’s guide I wrote to a Primal/Paleo lifestyle.

Keep an eye on Three New Leaves, too. I’m looking to orchestrate some pretty exciting things in the next few months, health and nutrition-wise, and I can’t wait to announce them here.

And hey! If you made the decision to join the forces of the health-conscious, why not retweet this post using the button below? Add the “#notazombie” hashtag, too, if you like. I’ve never messed with hashtags before, but it’d be fun to directly gauge how many people have decided to take their health into their own hands.


  1. Why is it necessary to label anyone a ‘zombie’? It just removes a person or group’s agency and ultimately reasserts their current position. Suggesting people either are or aren’t zombies is quite a violent thing, especially when you judge it based on a superficial lifestyle choice as your metric. Then it just comes down to people who don’t live like you are zombies, and that is just bigotry.

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      You’re right, Eric. Humor has no place in the zombie/non-zombie divide, and to even suggest the distinction is offensive on every level.

      I will, in the future, refrain from addressing anyone as either “zombie,” “werewolf,” or “vampire,” especially in reference to how they maintain their health — a superficial metric, as you noted, and one that can only cause more harm than good.

      • Matt, humor is all fine and good, but I don’t see the necessity of comparing people’s lifestyles and praising one over another. Also, you are better than writing my comment off as ‘too serious.’

        • Matt Madeiro says:

          Hey, Eric!

          Let me apologize, then — I honestly thought your comment was tongue-in-cheek and responded in turn.

          I understand your desire to avoid an “us versus them” mentality (especially in light of the other blogger you mentioned), but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to apply it to this situation. I did draw a line — no denying it. I drew it around the definition of a word that implies two sides (health-conscious versus the implied alternative), and I did soften the other side with humor (as the accompanying picture proves), but you’re right: there’s still a line there, and I could have made this same argument without it.

          That said, when the choice ultimately falls between thinking about your health or just ignoring it completely, I don’t feel bad for making the distinction. I’m encouraging, instead, that people take a genuine interest in their own health, which is far from a “superficial lifestyle choice” on a blog that is heavily slanted towards nutrition. Implying that I’m a bigot, likewise, for suggesting that people adopt this approach — especially when the alternative is potential poor health — is hard to take seriously, and maybe better off left for the blogger who your argument more fully applies to.

          I respect your honesty, Eric, and normally I’d agree that playing sides helps no one, but drawing a line here doesn’t strike me as the worst thing I could have done. Especially, y’know, when it involves zombies. And frosted brains. :)

          • Matt, thanks for clearing that up. I apologize if I called you a bigot, but I have noticed a great deal of bigotry around blogs lately, and I’m not sure that’s a progressive direction for anyone. I occasionally have a habit of going after the good guy with the best of intentions, and I assure you that is what my comments are.

            I think there should be a distinction between healthy choices and non-healthy choices, but I would likely go about expressing that differently.

            Thanks for the insights.

      • Also, much of my argument applies more to another blogger whose rhetoric you happened to borrow.

  2. Mia says:

    Do you think a diet of brains is Paleo-friendly? ;) Love the zombie reference!!

    Great article. You really touched on a good point though with Mary… the idea that she cares, and is following the most popular advise on how to be healthy – albeit not the best advise. And given a choice between her and Dan, I’d rather be her. But at the same time, I know instinctively her diet is NOT completely healthy. I know in my heart it is not good. But yet, I cant stop listening to it!

    Eating more fat/ protein still scares me!! Even though I know it works, even though I lost 10kg (22lb I think?) eating the Paleo way or close to, even though when I stopped eating fats the weight loss stalled. I just cant bring myself to start again. Did you ever feel this way, like you need to be un-brainwashed? I feel like sometimes it can be hard to maintain the passion you speak of when the entire world around you seems intent in drilling into your head the message that everything you are doing is wrong.

    Looking forward to more health and nutrition stuff, as always!!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Given all the jokes I’ve received about my brain consumption, I suspect it is. ;)

      I know what you mean when it comes to conventional wisdom: it digs in deep. I’ve done enough reading and research, I guess, where I never feel bad drinking straight heavy cream (saturated fat!), but I can only imagine how difficult that would be for anyone who doesn’t have the results of a whole foods diet to fall back on. :)

      That’s why I don’t lose passion, I think. As conceited as this sounds, I can look in the mirror and see what my dietary choices have brought me, and if anything it makes me want to keep ranting and raving about health and nutrition even more than before.

      Thanks for the comment, Mia!

      • Mia says:

        I think sometimes when you are only halfway through your journey, as I am myself, it can be easy to see how far you have to go, not how far you have come! Thanks for the reminder.

        I see your point regarding research. Although I think though my habit of trying to read both sides of any argument for the sake of objectivity is failing me here! Sometimes too much research can be paralysing. It seems for every Mark Sisson or David Gillespie there is a naysayer (David is an Australian who is popular at the moment for publicising the dangers of fructose, and ripping to shreds low-fat, low-calorie diets. You’d probably like him.) For every Paleo-friendly study, there is a China Study that claims to “prove” the exact opposite. The sheer volume of data can sometimes be exhausting!!

        In my case I LOVE whole foods, meat and protein (having grown up vegetarian and hated the lack of meat, but loved the veggies.) It’s more the fat I cant get my head around!! Perhaps sometimes it is best to go with one’s gut, and not overthink things. Surely if so many people can have great results on it, that should stand for something!!

        Heavy cream may be the greatest of all foods, in my opinion!!

        • Betty says:

          Concerned about the China Study. Please visit this blog and read all her post
          on the China Study. You will be amazed, shocked, and if like me, a bit angry too.

          Once you have read all her posts, follow some of her favorite blogs. You will learn
          much more.

          • Matt Madeiro says:

            Denise is one of my favorite writers at the moment. She’s been doing regular guest posts over at Mark’s Daily Apple that are a perfect example of what she does best: applying logic and reason to studies — China study included — that tend to have been widely accepted as gospel on otherwise faulty premises.

        • Matt Madeiro says:

          I know what you mean, Mia. I’m planning a post about exactly that: for every single study or article you can find that makes a definitive claim about health/nutrition, you can find at least three more that claim the exact opposite. It’s pretty much a fact, but I’m sure there’s even someone out there who could try and disprove this too. ;)

          Have you read the Primal Blueprint? It’s my go-to reference when it comes to ‘fat fears.’ If you’d prefer something online, I’m happy to provide some great links for you to go through. Sure, you could probably find low-fat dogma on the ‘net that suggests the opposite, but at the end of the day it’s worth playing by some pretty simple rules:

          1. Can you find it in nature?
          2. Can it be eaten and digested properly by the body without significant processing?

          Then I fail to see how it could be bad for you, fat (saturated or otherwise) very much included. :)

  3. Mia/Matt, you touch a good point with the saturated fat… I’ve never had a “normal” cholesterol level and that approach scares me. Have either of you made a before and after comparison of their cholesterol?

    Matt, your timing is very good… I’ve been following a moderate Primal approach with “good” fats for about 2 months. Good results, about 8 lb off but I seem to be on a plateau now. I’m sure in the past year you’ve experienced it too. It would be nice to share your approach and how you got re-started when it happened to you (maybe a future post).

    PS – I love the funny Zombie comparison… it’s an image that sticks and makes me smile. ;)

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Cholesterol-wise, I haven’t checked mine, no. That said, a restoration of healthy numbers is pretty common once you adopt a Paleo/Primal diet. If you’d like, I’m happy to link to different reports and blog posts where people talk about how their numbers changed for the better. :) And keep in mind, too, that the connection between high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease is pretty much nonexistent (I’d say completely nonexistent, but I’m not nearly informed enough to make that claim), so having cholesterol levels outside the ‘normal’ range isn’t immediate cause for alarm. That said, the numbers do tend to rise due to diet and other factors (inflammation being chief), so adopting an anti-inflammatory diet (Paleo, essentially), should help even things out tremendously.

      Saturated fat is pretty horribly maligned in the modern world, sad to say, so I understand completely if you don’t run out the door and start chugging heavy cream by the gallon. :) I do think it’s something you shouldn’t be afraid of, however, and am happy again to point to some compelling articles that explain why.

      Thanks for the post idea, too! I plateaued, in a sense, over the last month or two, but I’m also at the stage now where weight loss is a slow-burning process. That said, I’ve read in several places that women (for reasons I honestly don’t understand) tend to have trouble losing weight with a low-carb diet, so I think this is reason to start an investigation. I’ll let you know what I find out! :)

      • Mia says:

        Hey Minimalist Wannabe. My cholesterol tests showed levels were fine before diet changes, so I am afraid it wouldnt be much of a comparison to have them tested again. Im sorry, that doesnt really help does it!

        I can DEFINITELY back up what Matt said regarding Paleo eating being great for inflammation. I have had really unexpectedly great results with this. I have an autoimmune disease which causes inflammation issues, at their worst it prevented me standing. I would get up and fall over. Horribly dramatic, for someone who prior to being diagnosed would do 2 aerobics classes in a row! The only change I made was my diet, and everything seemed to magically change in a few short weeks! I haven’t had any real problems with this since I started. The interesting thing was that I was gluten-free before and while it helped, it didn’t fix the problem. It was giving up ALL the other grains (rice, oats, etc) and of course sugar (including the sugar in alcohol!) that really made the difference. I am sure I could handle social drinking fine now but feel I have lost the taste for it!

        Matt – interesting that you mention low-carb being harder for women to lose weight on. Luckily I havent found that so much. I have read heaps about it being used to treat common women’s hormonal ailments such as polycystic ovaries and such. Although I dont know how weight loss relates to this, I know it can help balance hormone levels in women with oestrogen troubles, so that can only be a good thing right?

        • Matt Madeiro says:

          Hey Mia!

          I’m not surprised that your symptoms improved when you gave up the rest of the grains — I don’t have the exact details handy, but they all contain lectins in some form. Wheat gluten tends to get the brunt of the abuse (rightfully so), but you can make the argument that no grains (without proper soaking and preparation to minimize the lectins) are healthy in any capacity. I’m so glad to hear, in any case, that you discovered that for yourself just after a few weeks of going Paleo!

          Regarding the hormone levels, your guess is as good as mine. :) I think hormonal fluctuations and the like can definitely impede weight loss, but I know that low-carb diets, like you said, tend to restore the body to health functioning just because of the weight loss alone. It’s all very interesting! And something I haven’t seen a lot of the big Paleo bloggers discuss, yet, which is a shame.

  4. Mark Robertson says:

    Thanks…I needed that excuse not to go jogging. Too…tired. Zombie-rest. Will reflect choose bananas instead of falafels tomorrow. No more Hamlet-Zombie dithering.

    Much obliged to read you,

  5. Susan says:

    What ARE you eating?

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      A huge donut from some famous place in Seattle.

      I don’t eat sweets more than once every few months, so I try and make them count. ;)

  6. Sarah says:

    I want to be able to dance a jig in a dressing room too! and to look good naked!
    I’ve been concerned about eating and my health for quite a number of years; it never seemed like a good idea to ingest a lot of chemicals. However, my weight has gone up and down repeatedly, and I tend to be an emotional eater. I went through a time where I exercised for several hours a day, went on the Atkins diet, and lost a lot of weight… and looked good, but, being at the higher end of my weight range now (actually higher than my normal range), I’m having trouble getting started at the exercise portion. Any tips, exhortations, threats, etc?

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      You will, Sarah. Give it time and I bet you’ll be dancing outside the dressing room too. :)

      Exercise-wise, I like to keep it simple: walk! Try and walk an hour a day, if you can, and then start incorporating a few days of more strenuous exercise: sprinting, if you’re capable (going really fast on a stationary bike works too), and some kind of resistance training. I’ve had great success doing straight bodyweight stuff (pushups, pullups, squats), so you don’t even need a gym.

      That being said, I’ll offer my one (and probably only!) true insight: it’s what you eat, not how much you sweat. I lost the majority of my weight without a lot of exercise, so maybe focus more on your diet than anything else? Look into Intermittent Fasting, maybe, or just try skipping breakfast two or three times a week and see what happens.

      Feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss this further. And hey! If you haven’t already, feel free to check my ebook. It has a lot of the info I just wrote about and more. :)

  7. Simple Zen says:

    Back in the 70s we called ‘em “Buppies”. It’s a baby talk word and means the white bread fingers that you dip in your egg. We used it to mean the collective blind conformity.

    Looking back how right we where too. But you can’t change the world buddy only yourself!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      How about I change me and try and inspire others to change a similar way too? :) Maybe you can’t change the world, but that’s okay — I’d rather try and change the people living in it!

  8. Betty says:


    Last week I e-mailed Mark Sissson to give a brief testimony of my success
    with the primal diet, and thank him for his blog/book/and cook book. :)

    I should have thanked you first. I learned of Mark’s blog/book here at “three
    new leaves” I expressed that to Mark too. However, I realized I never did say
    thanks to you! So thank you!

    Mark asked me to give you a shout out, and I failed at that too. Where are my
    manners? Thanks Matt!

    I am happy for you! and Me too. :)

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Thank you so much, Betty! I’m glad 3NL brought you into the Primal fold, and I’m glad too that you’ve had such tremendous success with it. Keep kicking ass!

  9. Don says:

    Matt, Interesting article. I too a good long look at myself in the mirror and did not like what I have become. I was a top collegiate athlete and competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics. I decided to make a change. I remember back to a nutrition class in college where the professor stated that if we ate the orange instead of the bottle orange juice we would be better off. If we try to eat what is God made instead of man made we can be healthier. So it has been about a month now and I have lost 14 lbs and I feel myself getting stronger every day. Go Primal…

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Exactly, Don! That’s a great idea: “eat the orange, not the orange juice.” Simple, effective, and oh-so true, especially when bottled OJ is pretty much pure sugar. :)

      I know where you’re coming from, in any case, and I wish you the best of luck with your Primal journey. You’re on your way to regaining your status as a top athlete, and I can only imagine how exciting that must be. :) Keep it up!

  10. Trey Crowe says:

    I think you have been reading my journal!

    I was Dan. Before I got married, I went to the gym for several hours at least 5 days a week. But after I said “I do”, I let myself go.

    I definitely do my wife any favors. I didn’t gain weight slowly either. I averaged 10 pounds a year for 6 years. I was happy and fat, what can I say. Actually it was even worse than that. I would get back into fitness, lose 30 pounds, then gain it straight back.

    I was 28 and I weighed 285 pounds at a height of 6′ 2″. Thank goodness my wife was a woman in love because all she ever talked about was my health, not my big fat belly. I saw a picture of myself during Christmas and I was horrified. I knew I needed something different.

    The primal/paleo diet was an epiphany. For the first time it just made sense. I’ve lost 30 pounds, I am running the Warrior Dash next weekend, and I just plain feel good.

    I definitely do not want to be a zombie anymore. Thanks for the great post Matt!

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Thanks for the inspiring story, Trey! I’m so glad you took your health into your own hands, and I’m so glad to hear how well it has worked, too. Keep being an inspiration for former Dans everywhere. :)

      And enjoy the Warrior Dash! I had an absolute blast when I ran mine, so I’m sure you’ll love it just as much.

  11. eyespyguy says:

    This article made me think about my old blog which hasn’t been updated in forever.
    I likened people in the suburbs to zombies and painted their skin green in real life pictures.
    yes, I know traditional zombies aren’t green, but this was me having fun with the Wacom pad I had bought around that time, a couple months and I was done with the idea.

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