A Look Back at 2011 and What’s in Store For 2012

I had in mind this morning to do a little checking on how things went in 2011 as compared to 2010, provide a bit of a summary, and muse on about what I intend for 2012.

I’ve finally decided I like blogging, by the way.

Here’s the Google Analytics for 2011 rounded to the nearest 000, with 2010 figures in parentheses.

  • Visits: 1,132,000 (1,057,000)
  • Unique Visitors: 570,000 (386,000)
  • Page Views: 2,402,000 (1,969,000)
  • % New Visits: 42% (35%)

A 48% increase in unique visitors! And 42% of all visits to Free the Animal are new visitors, not returning ones. While the majority of traffic is from the US (about 67%), a healthy amount of the increase in those numbers above is from big increases in traffic from the UK (47%), Australia (56%), Sweden (45%), and New Zealand (34%).

I published 225 posts in 2011, compared with 307 in 2010, which perhaps emphasizes the increase in readership even more. 27% fewer posts, 48% more unique visitors. Work less, get “paid” more. How can you complain about that? But, I wasn’t the only one who worked. In 2010 you commenting readers put up 13,700 comments in those 307 posts. In 2011, you put up 14,300 on 225 posts. That’s an average of 45 comments per post in 2010 to 64 comments over the last year, a 42% increase in comment ferocity. Thank you very much for all your comment hard work. Well, except perhaps for “Chase.”

This is truly one of the foulest and least content based blogs I’ve come across. Dicky Nicky is a masterful example of a simple mind attempting to make a point with vulgar language. His foul mouth and foul fingers leave a dirty taste on each user who stumbles upon his poorly prepared screeds. The only people who don’t leave feeling their intelligence insulted by this disgusting man who seemingly detests beauty and order are those who also have learned to like ugly and see the world in an ugly manner.

Eating “paleo” (whatever that means) since 1990 – no blogs or internet needed, just ate home prepared meals from whole foods without any junk and I guess I’ve been “paleo” all this time. Hah.

One piece of advice:

Cut out the trash sites like this in your life and watch your intelligence, mental composure, and overall sense of well-being begin to be restored. Seriously, you’d be healthier watching 30 minutes of TV (light entertainment, not the news) a day than reading and interacting with the likes of Dicky Nicky’s blog.

Well, I guess people aren’t following his “one piece of advice.” Hell, even he isn’t following it. Reminds me of the exchange from Private Parts.

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes a day. The average Howard Stern fan listens for—are you ready for this?—an hour and twenty minutes.
Kenny: How could this be?
Researcher: Answer most commonly given: “I want to see what he’ll say next.”
Kenny: All right, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern?
Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day.
Kenny: But… if they hate him, why do they listen?
Researcher: Most common answer: “I want to see what he’ll say next.”

Back to the regularly scheduled programming, about 300,000 visitors in 2011 visited in excess of 50 times and of those, about 120,000 visited more than 200 times.

Here’s the top 10 sites that sent visitors to Free the Animal in 2011 (excludes search).

  1. Facebook: 65,000
  2. Mark’s Daily Apple: 63,000
  3. Twitter: 41,000
  4. Leangains: 35,000
  5. StumbleUpon: 29,000
  6. boingboing: 28,000
  7. Whole Health Source: 22,000
  8. Fathead: 10,000
  9. Gizmodo: 9,000
  10. Hunter-Gatherer: 9,000 (I’m number 5 on his list, so he has some catching up to do)

(Thanks also to That Paleo Guy, PaleoHacks, Conditioning Research and Perfect Health Diet who also each sent between 8,000 and 9,000 visits.)

Here’s the top 12 posts in terms of page views for 2011, which of course is a bit skewed, as older posts have an advantage over otherwise popular posts, but have only been up for a few weeks or months.

  1. Paleo I Don’t Care: I Like No Soap; No Shampoo (64,000)
  2. A Most Successful Self-Experiement: Over 18 Months Soap and Shampoo Free (39,000; and I still am, a year later)
  3. Leangains: Martin Berkhan’s Workout Approach (39,000)
  4. Leangains: Martin Berkhan Means It (33,000)
  5. Paleo Diet Problems (29,000)
  6. A 100% Raw Vegan Success Story (28,000)
  7. Leangains: The Dietary Approach (25,000)
  8. I’m A Happy Camper: Interim Progress Update (17,000)
  9. Meat “Crust” Pizza; It’s Meatza! (15,000)
  10. No Soap or Poo Update (15,000)
  11. Liquid Fat Bomb Smoothie: The Ultimate “Energy Drink” That Will Blow Your Mind (13,000)
  12. Vegan Lies and their Stick Figure People (12,000)

Some “off blog” highlights of 2011, in chronological order of occurrence.

On a personal level, 2011 was my toughest year since embarking on this journey. At the very end of 2010 I suffered an injury that was thought to be a rotator cuff. But an MRI finally revealed it as an injury to a cervical vertebra: that kept me in chronic, 24/7 pain for the first few months of the year. I blogged about it in these three posts:

And then it returned in mid summer, though for a shorter period. The pain was excruciating, resulting in a pretty poor attitude and quite a lot of not caring very much. I couldn’t go to the gym, I was often in too much pain to cook, so I went to restaurants a lot. The result is I lost tone (such as you see here) and put on some fat to the tune of about 15 pounds—and it shows in those video presentations listed above. Thankfully, the pain has been gone for some time, cropping up only now and then and recently, not at all. So, I’m back in the gym, eating well, limiting indulgences and plan to be in top shape before too long.

Looking ahead to 2012, I should have the book published very soon. There were some issues with getting it all PDFed, and then the holidays happened. That should be a pretty big deal for this year and I’ve written it specifically to introduce new people to paleo.

Beyond that, I greatly enjoyed doing the presentations and I want to do more of them. I’m already scheduled for The 21 Convention this summer in Austin, TX, and prior to that, also in Austin, is the Paleof(x) Conference and I’m tentatively scheduled to present at that. . . .And, so far as I know, I’ll be on the presentation roster for the Ancestral Health Symposium next August, which will be held at Harvard. Finally, I have been exploring the possibility of hitting the road with my own style and brand of “seminar” or some such thing. If I do, rest assured that it’ll be wild and unlike anything anyone else is doing. So, coming soon to a hotel near you, perhaps. We’ll see.

Last but not least, a little reminder of why I do all this stuff. Here’s a couple of emails and a Tweet received over the last couple of days.

My name is Jim, and I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say how much I enjoy your blog. I think I first stumbled upon it the day I also found Mark’s Daily Apple…someone on that forum had linked to a post of yours I believe. For quite some time I had been looking for both the method and the motivation for losing some of my extra weight. I was an all-American thrower in college, but had lost control in the past few years and at my heaviest was 335lbs. On a 6’7″ frame it’s not the worst, but I remember how I felt physically at that point, and I hated it, but couldn’t seem to do anything about it. In the couple of years after that I was able to get down to about 310, but no further.

Anyhow, Mark’s Daily Apple helped show me the method I was looking for, but it was your “New Year’s Resolutions Are Bullshit” post that really gave me the motivation to get after it. Specifically, the picture with the caption “Fuck you”. That day, I remember looking in the mirror and saying “Fuck you!” to what I saw – since that time (October 1, 2011), I’ve lost almost 30lbs and am exercising much more effectively. In addition, I’m taking more of a “follow your instinct” approach to almost everything. In short, my whole attitude has changed, and it really feels like I’ve figured a lot of things out.

Again, thanks, and may your 2012 be a prosperous one!

You too, Jim.

When my father died on Nov 9 2011 I realized that I didnt have anything to wear to the memorial so I took my son and myself to get us suits for the ceremony. I was measured at a 42 waist and size 50 coat and a 23 inch neck for the shirt. This was the start of the embarrasement.

So after the ceremony we went to a relatives house for dinner and my nephew, who I havent seen for about 6 months came in and I noticed that he was incredibly smaller than the last time I seen him, and I asked him what he had been doing, and he told me his Dad (my sisters ex husband) put him on a paleo diet. So naturally I sought out my ex brother in law who it turns out is a certified trainer and puts all his clients on some form of paleo diet.

So I scoured the internet ( must have wasted 80 hours of work time) gathering as much info as possible, and decided to give it a go on Nov 29th.

Your website and Marks Daily Apple have been a great source of information and motivation. So 5 weeks in I am down to 227 lbs, have been going back to the gym and using the information on your site about the Leangains approach for a workout and feeling great. Iwas able to pull the jeans I had hidden from my wife and wear them, and just this weekend bought 2 pairs of 36 that actually fit.

I know I have a long way to go, but I am enjoying this and no longer crave beer which is the biggest blessing so far.

Thank you for everything. If you want I can keep you posted on my progress, the only problem is I am going to have a hard time finding a before photo because I have been hiding from the camera for at least the past five years.

Absolutely Mike. Keep me posted. And best wishes for continued success.

And Mark Rutkowski Tweets:

44 years old today and in the best shape of my life. Thanks @Mark_Sisson and @rnikoley for showing the way.

Alright, when I do this same gig a few days into 2013, y’all kick my ass if a big improvement hasn’t been logged and registered in all relevant areas.


  1. Skyler Tanner on January 3, 2012 at 17:59

    You’re coming to Austin? Good, you can drink all of the scotch that’s been sitting here for who knows how long. After a set of deadlifts, of course.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 3, 2012 at 18:32

      Of course! And if it’s single malt, I should probably throw in a set of standing presses, too.

      • Skyler Tanner on January 3, 2012 at 18:35

        Only the best for you. “Scotchfit Games 2012” has a nice ring to it.

  2. Unamused Mouse on January 3, 2012 at 19:01

    This “Chase” fellow writes like he’s about 85 years old with his head stuck up his arse for the past 40. If you don’t like it, moooooooove along. Why spend the time to comment on it??!

    Anyway, it’s been two years since I stumbled across this website (thanks to the no poo thread on fark.com), and I check in every day to see what Richard’s said lately. If Mark Sisson’s site is the daily apple, this is the daily crab apple! :D

    • Richard Nikoley on January 3, 2012 at 19:10

      Richard’s Daily Crab Apple. Love it.

      • Unamused Mouse on January 3, 2012 at 19:15


        And bloody hell, it’s only been ONE year. I guess it just feels like forever ago. :)

      • Unamused Mouse on January 3, 2012 at 19:17

        Holy shit I’m losing my mind…it HAS been two years!! Time to go to bed…or something!! Wow…

      • Richard Nikoley on January 3, 2012 at 19:28

        Yep, two years ago. As I recall, my blog was getting about 40K visits per month and on 12/30 I was looking at the stats. I had made a really good run over 2009, going from less than 20K visits per month to about 40K or so, but then did over 50K in November, and was doing more and more every month. But looking that day, I saw I wasn’t going to make it.

        Fast forward to the morning of 12/31. At around 9am, I checked my stats and did a double take. It was early, and already, I was at over 5k visits for the day and every time I hit refresh, hundreds more.

        boingboing, then fark picked up on that soap/shampoo page and before the end of the day, I was over 100K visitors.

        I’ve never looked back. I think my lowest number has been 85K visits ever since. And last year, boingboing did a revisit of the whole thing and Gizmodo picked up on it.

  3. Michelle on January 3, 2012 at 19:05

    What’s with the “tentatively scheduled” for Paleo f(x) in Austin? What do we gotta do to make that a “for sure”? It won’t be the same without you.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 3, 2012 at 19:11


      Is that you, as in Meesus TTP? I noted that we hadn’t closed the loop on the email exchange. Check your inbox!

  4. Michelle on January 3, 2012 at 19:24

    Since I have no idea what Meesus TTP is in reference to, I guess I’m not THAT Michelle.

    I do live in Austin, TX….I will be at Paleo f(x)….and I’ll be bummed if you’re not there.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 3, 2012 at 19:30

      Meesus TTP is Michelle Norris. Keith Norris’ wife. She emailed me about it a month ago but shit happened and the loop didn’t get closed. Working on it now.

      I had no idea that more than one Michelle could live in Austin. :)

  5. Neal Matheson on January 3, 2012 at 22:17

    Very well done! I’m glad to se here a quite a few fellow Brits reading too !

  6. julien on January 4, 2012 at 05:58

    hey man congrats on achieving such an awesome increase of visitors,
    i haven’t read your blog yet to be honest i saw your 21 convention video a few days ago and I thought i’d pop in to check out your website.

    I can’t speak of the content of your blog but what stroke me when i read that first blog post is that out of all these people that have been following and supporting you the only comment you want to quote for the whole year is a negative one, seemingly posted by a troll who was just trying to get a reaction from you.

    I understand when some random anonymous guys starts talking shit on your blog it gets to you and you can’t wait to shove your success down their throat but you should focus on people who bring positivity and constructive feedback and quote them instead of rewarding negativity by highlighting the only real shitty comment you received all year on your main page. That’s a red flag for any trolls wandering the internet that writing bad comments on your blog will get them attention.

    Of course do what you want, it’s your blog and obviously you’re doing it right, I just thought you might appreciate the advice down the road.

    All the best

    • Richard Nikoley on January 4, 2012 at 08:02

      Hi Julien:

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I understand your point. And actually, I do highlight positive comments from time to time in a post, but mostly I interact with comments in the comments themselves.

      This blog has just over 3,000 posts and about 40,000 comments to date (since November, 2003). In that time, far less than 1% have been negative or trolling. And also, I didn’t really see Chase’s comment as an outright troll. Obvious trolling comments get deleted. But there’s hardly any anyway, and I don’t moderate comments.

      I dunno, but it seems to me that if I’m perceived as not afraid to take a negative comment from the thread on a single post and put it to the top of the blog in a post, that it sends the exact opposite message to trolls and those who waste their time overly criticizing the blog. Warning: you might end up looking stupid. And yes, I think Chase now looks stupid.

      Is the blog perfect? Not by a long shot. Me? Neither.

      What I do is always go with my gut, never overly analyze or try and calculate how a post will be received. I’d be wrong anyway. Oftentimes the posts I feel will really strike a cord, don’t, and other times, I’ll just toss something up and wham, 150 comments or more. There’s no formula except, perhaps, not to have a formula at all.

      The formula of no formula for the “diet of no diet.”

      Anyway, I guess that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


      • julien on January 6, 2012 at 00:43

        Hi Richard,
        I re-read my initial comment and found it more critical than I intended to come across, sorry about that. I can tell by the comments you receive that you are appreciated and respected by your readers that alone says a lot about your blog.

        long story short I bookmarked your website and wi’ll give it a shot asap
        congratulations again on your success, and all the best for 2012


    • rob on January 4, 2012 at 08:03

      Imo the insult posts are highly entertaining.

      • Richard Nikoley on January 4, 2012 at 08:20

        That’s a good point, rob.

        Truth is, I consider myself an “entertainer” more than I do some health or fat loss “expert.” Plenty of those already and frankly, as good as some are at their expertise, they often do a lousy job of trying to engage the audience with humor, irony, foul language, controversy and other elements.

        Dr. John Briffa has a new book coming out (“Escape the Diet Trap”), actually I think tomorrow. Over the years, he & I have exchanged a few emails and a few weeks back, he emailed me a PDF of his book and then a hardcopy in the mail. To my pleasant astonishment, he listed me and this blog in the Resources section at the back, along with all the “usual suspects” (Taubes, Eades, Guyenet, Masterjohn, Minger, etc. etc.).

        And whereas each listing had a description of what that person contributes in terms of health, fitness, fat loss _expertise_, his description of me went:

        “Richard writes a good and irreverent blog covering nutrition and exercise information.”

        I wrote back saying that I would always endeavor to live up to the irreverence. He replied by saying that he always thought it better to be irreverent than irrelevant.

        So yea, love & hate are two sides of the same coin to me, and I much prefer hate to irrelevance and indifference. The bottom line is that blogging is an increasingly competitive endeavor and if you don’t find a way to entertain, engage, enrage or otherwise evoke emotions, you might as well hang it up.

  7. BLAK_LABL on January 4, 2012 at 06:28

    I am thankful DAILY that I found this site. Congrats on all the success, looking forward to the book coming out, and here’s to another great year for FTA! 2012 is gonna be huge!

    And put me down for the seminar, if indeed there is one and it rolls through Phoenix…


  8. Zach on January 4, 2012 at 08:02

    Great work, Richard. Im happy for your success.

    Personally i tried paleo and it wasnt for me but that did not stop me from enjoying your blog the last 3 years. That must count for something!

    • Richard Nikoley on January 4, 2012 at 08:07

      Hey Zach.

      That’s good to hear. Thanks.

      If you don’t mind my asking, what is it about paleo that’s not for you? Was it health benefits or weight loss or some other factor you expected to receive and didn’t, or is it cravings and such for non-paleo foods that you would rather not put up with? Or something else altogether?

      No judgment either way, just curiosity on my part.

      Another question. As a reader over three years, even if not paleo, do you think your eating habits and awareness of food has improved?

      • Zach on January 5, 2012 at 07:24

        It was a combination of things but overall i determined that a diet heavy in meat was causing me severe inflammation and the lower carbs was causing other health problems. When i took a different approach and did a high carb, low meat diet but high in dairy and eggs i felt and still feel immensely better. Right now i am doing amazing on a diet high in fruit, dairy, eggs and some grains and very little veg, meat and nuts/legumes/oils.

        In the beginning i really wanted to believe that paleo was the diet for me and i kept at it even after many signs of ill health and it took finding people like Ray Peat and 30bananasaday of all people to show me that there are other views out there. Thats not to say i follow any one view, just opened my eyes that maybe meat and veg is not perfect for everyone. It got me to try something new and i am happy i finally found what is healthy for me.

        As for you second question. I will always be greatful that i found your site and others like it. It made me realize the vast damage i was doing to my body, not just from foods but from toiletries, drinking tap water, and all the other poisons one who is unaware can put into their body. Plus it did allow me to understand the difference between organic/conventional, grassfed/grainfed, saturated/poly unsaturated, starch/sugar, etc.

        Anyway, its been a long journey that is still going, but i have learned a hell of a lot along the way. It will be interesting to see where the diet world goes in the upcoming years.

        P.S. I read your blog not just for the diet related posts. I like your style of writing and more so your personality. There needs to be more people in the world who will stand up and say “fuck you” to the people who need to hear it. Also you should start doing more self posts again. Always like the leangains/shoulder updates and food porn, etc.

      • Richard Nikoley on January 5, 2012 at 11:04

        Good for you, Zach. Finding what works best. Doesn’t sound like a bad formula to me. I know that for myself, on an individual meal basis, I always feel best with simply eating meat and nothing else. But, that’s just a single meal. I’ve never really been into doing the same thing all the time.

        However, I have had a mind to try a truly high fat diet with a lower protein intake, like 10%. So like 80/10/10, but with the 80 being fat from coconut, cream, butter, avocado, etc.

        We’ll see.

        Thanks for the response.

  9. Pauline on January 4, 2012 at 10:38

    Hi Richard, I got introduced to you through your comments on Art De Vaney site possibly around 2005 and have never looked back. I find the comments both negative and positive interesting, the stories insightful and the pics/recipe inspiring enough to try for myself. I am always reading other blogs and websites, but yours is the one that I regularly stop by to see what is kicking up. I have also met other bloggers here and taken what I need from them. Life is all about experimenting, and that is what you do so well and transparently. I would miss all these things if you were not out there.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 4, 2012 at 11:19

      Wow. that’s a while ago, Pauline. How time flies. You still read Art? I exchanged an email with him a few weeks ago. He was dissapointed in how his book was received/sold.

      He maintained early on that going to a pay model was the right thing to do, the future. I wonder if he still thinks that.

      Glad you see what I do for what it is intended to be. Kurt Harris said it best: Paleo Pub. I’m proud of that.

  10. Tracy on January 4, 2012 at 18:26

    Like Pauline, I’ve been reading (and lurking, usually) here for several years and yours is one of the few blog I always check in with to see what’s up. Not only are you a great read, but your comments section is legendary :)

    Here’s to more unique visitors and tons of backlinks in 2012!

  11. Chris Highcock on January 5, 2012 at 23:29

    Glad to help out with some referrals Richard. Interesting that I don’t think I have linked to a specific post of yours for a long time – you are in the blog roll and must get a lot of clicks form that.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 5, 2012 at 23:38

      Likewise I hope.

      Thing is that you, as I, just keep getting ass out of bed every day and keep at it. You’ve always kept doing what you do, as I, and stuff just turns.

      Cheers, mate. Been a while, but I always know you’re out there,

  12. Razwell on January 6, 2012 at 11:43

    Very impressive numbers, Richard. You’ve been at this a LONG time.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 6, 2012 at 11:48

      Indeed, and I hope that doesn’t give aspiring bloggers too much pause, as it’s not like I make a ton of money doing this. I never really stop to think what a fucking tough row this is to hoe. It’s the entertainment business and if you love doing the gig you do, you get up and do it every day.

      Then you put an ear against the wall, listen, learn, adapt, like any decent predator.

  13. […] few days ago it was excruciating, like knife-in-the-back excruciating. Fortunately I happened upon this post by Richard Nikoley at Free The Animal. In his summary of the year past he posted links to his cure […]

  14. Paleo Diet Primal Living Best in 2011 | Paleo Primal Post - Paleo Primal Post on January 27, 2012 at 12:51

    […] To get a sense of how the paleo diet & primal living grew in the public consciousness in 2011 check out a favorite blog of mine – Free The Animal (Richard Nikoley) – and his recent post A Look Back at 2011 and What’s in Store For 2012 […]

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