Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Jan

17 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight

Effective, healthy weight loss isn’t only due to the simplistic calories in, calories out paradigm. Nor is it solely reliant on diet and exercise. It’s everything – it’s all the various signals our body receives from the environment that affect how our genes express themselves and thrive. How we approach the subject matters, too. Our mood, our methods, our temperament. Our conscious decisions and our willpower. It’s setting good habits and expunging bad ones. Most of all, it comes down to keeping our genes happy by providing an environment that approximates evolutionary precedent.

1. You think you’re eating healthy, but aren’t.

Does your diet consist of a massive amount of “products”? Low-carb or not, you want to eat real food. Flagons of diet soda, plates of pure fiber in the shape of noodles, and loaves of 1g net carb “bread” do not a Primal eating plan make. You’re just feeding an addiction and consuming empty calories – sound familiar? Disregard the labels and look inside for what you know to be true: this crap isn’t food, and you shouldn’t be eating it. It’s about way more than just low-carb.

2. You’re under too much stress.

The stress response system is subconscious; it responds to stimuli and nothing else. Emotional stress, physical stress, financial stress, relationship stress – I hesitate to even make these distinctions, because the body does not differentiate between sources of stress. They all cause the body to produce cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone that catabolizes muscle, worsens insulin resistance, and promotes the storage of fat. For 200,000 years, stress meant a life or death situation. It was intense and infrequent, and the cortisol release was arresting and extreme enough to improve the chances of survival. Today, our body responds to a stack of paperwork the same way. Traffic jams are like rival war bands. A nagging boss is like a rampaging mastodon, only on a daily basis. Take a step back from your life and take stock of your stress levels – they may be holding you back.

3. You need to watch your carb intake.

Carbs are key, as always, especially when you’ve got weight to lose. Veer closer to the bottom of the curve, taking care to avoid all processed food (hidden sugars). You might also try skipping fruit.

4. You’re adding muscle.

I always tell people not to get hung up on the scales so much. Those things are useful – don’t get me wrong – but they never tell the whole story, like whether or not you’re adding lean mass. The PB will spur fat loss, but it also promotes muscle gain and better bone density. If you’re feeling good but failing to see any improvements register on the scale’s measurements, it’s most likely extra muscle and stronger bone from resistance training. You wouldn’t know that just from the bathroom scale. If you absolutely need objective records of your progress, get a body fat percentage test (although these might not even tell the whole story) or try measuring your waist.

5. You’re not active enough.

Are you Moving Frequently at a Slow Pace for three to five hours every week? Remember: the near-daily low-level (between 55-75% max heart rate) movement should be the bedrock of your fitness regimen. It’s easy to do (because every bit of movement counts) and it doesn’t dip into your glycogen reserves (making it a pure fat burner, not a sugar burner). If you’re on the low end of the spectrum, crank it up toward five weekly hours and beyond.

6. You’re lapsing into Chronic Cardio.

Of course, you can go too far with the low-level movement – you can begin to lapse into Chronic Cardio. When you stay above 75% of your maximum heart rate for extended periods of time, you’re burning glycogen. Your body in turn craves even more sugar to replenish the lost stores, so you polish off a heap of carbs, preferably simple and fast-acting. You can continue down this route if you wish – I did, for a couple decades – but you’ll gain weight, lose muscle, release more cortisol, and compromise any progress you might have made.

7. You still haven’t tried IF.

Results vary, but if you’ve seemingly tried everything else, intermittent fasting can be a great tool to break through a weight loss plateau. Make sure you’ve fully transitioned onto a Primal eating plan and start small. Skip breakfast and eat a late lunch. If that feels okay, skip breakfast and lunch the next time. Just take it slow and pay attention to your hunger. Eventually, try exercising in a fasted state to maximize the metabolic advantage. If all goes well, your hunger won’t necessarily disappear, but it’ll change. A successful IF tames hunger, makes it less insistent and demanding.

8. You’re eating too much.

Low-carb isn’t magic. It reins in wild hunger and tames insulin, but calories do still matter – especially once you approach your ideal weight. In fact, those last few pounds often don’t respond to the same stuff that worked so well to get you to this point. Eating nut butter by the spoonful and hunks of cheese without regard for caloric content may have gotten you this far, but you’ve got to tighten things up if things aren’t working. And that’s the real test, isn’t it? There is a metabolic advantage to eating according to the PB, but if the weight isn’t coming off, something’s up – and calories may need to come down.

9. You haven’t overcome bad habits or developed good ones.

Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you engage in bad habits? If so, identify them. Make tentative, loose plans to disengage from their clutches, and tell people close to you. Make it public, so you can’t back out without losing face. You’ve also got to develop good ones. Follow roughly similar guidelines as when kicking a bad habit – identification, planning, publication – and you’ll be on your way.

10. You haven’t purged and Primalized your pantry.

Out of sight, out of mind; out of reach, out of mouth. Keep the crappy junk food out of your pantry, if not out of your house altogether. Go down the list and toss the stuff that doesn’t apply. As for the rest of your kitchen, check out the fridge interiors and grocery lists of some other Primal folks for inspiration, and visit Thrive Market for Primal approved replacements.

11. You’ve reached a healthy homeostasis.

It may be that your body has reached its “ideal” weight – its effective, genetic set point. Reaching this level is generally painless and effortless, but it won’t necessarily correspond to your desired level of leanness. Women, especially, tend to achieve healthy homeostasis at higher body fat levels. Breaking through plateaus can be hard enough, but plateaus ordained by the body itself can be nearly impossible. It’s probably going to take some serious tinkering with carbs, calories, activity levels, sleep, and stress. If everything else is on point and accounted for, you may be looking at healthy homeostasis. Then, the question becomes: do you want to mess with a good thing?

12. You’re low on willpower.

Willpower is like a muscle. It must be used or it will atrophy. You’ve also got to provide fuel for your will – little victories to start out. Go for a walk if you can’t muster the will for the gym. Take note that willpower, or lack thereof, might actually be an indicator of your body’s needs. If you truly can’t muster up the will for the gym, it may be that your body needs to recover. When that’s the case, overtraining is a bigger danger than lack of will.

13. You’re full of excuses.

If you find yourself having mini self-contained internal arguments throughout the day (and you lose), or (even worse) lying to yourself about what you’re eating and doing, you’re probably also full of excuses. Read this, maybe twice, then follow up with this.

14. You haven’t actually gone Primal!

We get a good number of new readers on a regular basis, and not all of them take instantly to the Primal concepts. And yet they come back. They read the archives, the comments. Something draws them near, while at the same time keeping them at arm’s length. Why is that? What’s stopping them? If that describes you, what are you waiting for? Take the plunge. Go Primal for 30 days and see how you like it. I assure you; the many enthusiastic community members are here because it works.

15. You’re not getting enough sleep.

Chronic levels of sleep deprivation cause the release of cortisol, our old fat-storing friend. The biggest spike in (fat-burning, anabolic) growth hormone plasma levels occurs in deep sleep. And a recent sleep study showed that truncated sleep patterns are linked to weight gain. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

16. You haven’t given it enough time.

The Primal Blueprint is a fat loss hack, undoubtedly, but it isn’t always a shortcut. Some people get instant results from dropping carbs, grains, sugar, and vegetable oils, while others have to take a month to get acclimated and only then does the weight begin to slide off. Either way, though, this is a lifestyle. You’re in it for the long run. Approach it with the right mindset and you won’t get discouraged.

17. You’re eating too much dairy.

Some people just react poorly to dairy. We see this time and time again listed in the forums; dairy just seems to cause major stalls in fat loss for a good number of folks. There are a couple speculative reasons for this. One, folks coming from a strict paleo background may not be acclimated to the more relaxed Primal stance on dairy. Reintroducing any food into the diet after a period of restriction can have unintended consequences on body composition. Two, dairy is insulinogenic, which is why it’s a popular post-workout refueling tool for athletes. Does a non-strength training PBer need to drink a few glasses of milk every day? Probably (definitely) not.

Bonus Reason: Sprinting is not part of your fitness routine.

I’ve found that many assume that they’re getting everything they need from their workouts from plenty of low level aerobic activity and a couple of strength training sessions each week. Sprinting is often overlooked, but it’s one of the Primal Blueprint Laws for a reason. Nothing shreds you up faster than sprinting. I’d ease into sprints if you’ve never done them or are extremely out of shape or overweight. That is, I recommend you have some measure of fitness aptitude before you jump into a routine. But once you’re ready do 6-8 all out sprints (with short breaks between) once a week to break a weight loss plateau when all other attempts have failed.

Am I missing any other reasons? If you’ve successfully surmounted a stall in your fat loss, what was the ultimate explanation? Let everyone know in the comment board!

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’ve been sticking to my primal lifestyle for a while now but I sitll don’t have the lean Mark Sisson body that I’m trying to achieve. It’s winter here so I’m not as active, sure miss walking in the woods on a nice sunny day. Winter sucks! I’d rather be carrying two 5 gallons jugs on the beach like Mark. :)

    Biglee wrote on January 26th, 2010
  2. Steve wrote on January 26th, 2010
  3. How about optimal hormonal levels? I see that you addressed cortisol. You could be doing things right (strength training, interval cardio, primal eating, low level activity etc), yet have a higher level of body fat and low lean mass due to the following:

    1. High estrogen levels- aromatase inhibitors like DIM (cruciferous veggies have them), trans-resveratrol (atleast 250mg a day) etc. will help
    2. Low testosterone levels- products like Tribulus can help
    3. Low growth hormone level
    4. Thyroid issues
    5. Low DHEA (magnesium lotion can help)

    You can get a comprehensive blood analysis here:

    A blood test can help you address specific individual issues that you can then tackle and hopefully achieve the body composition you want. cheers!

    Kishore wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Another point is that for many, LOW cortisol stands in your way as well. I am now on supplemental methylprednisolone to the tune of 8 mgs a day, and am finally able to lose weight.

      Cortisol is the key that opens the door for thyroid hormones to be used-no matter how strong your thyroid, without cortisol, you can’t use it. If you have symptoms of adrenal insufficiency-google it-a canary club saliva test showing circadian levels may tell you what you need. A blood test is moderate at best-it might look great at 8 am but that’s all you get, all day. Blood tests must be done fasting, before 10 am, if you want an accurate serum cortisol level.

      It’s extraordinarily difficult to get treated for AI-that darned conventional wisdom at work there too!-but if you need it, no amount of ‘other’ stuff-antidepressants, etc-will suffice. It really is a continuum of Addison’s-AI-normal-overactive-Cushings, not the either-or of “Addison’s or Cushing’s or healthy. No in between” that so many docs believe. has some good info on adrenals.

      Laurel wrote on April 26th, 2010
  4. My only comment would to not toss the bad food in your pantry, but donate it if possible. Plenty of people in need out there.

    John wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Yes, that is what we did. Good tip!

      Organic Gabe wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Or if there is no food pantry in your area (but their probably is) leave it in the break room at work. It’ll be gone in a heartbeat.

      mike wrote on January 27th, 2010
    • No. Bad idea. Bad food is just as bad for poor people as it is for rich and middle-class people. It is garbage, so throw it in the garbage. It’s a good thing to donate to food pantries, but they already get lots of junk. Try donating things that are actually healthy. You could save a life.

      My mother is type 2 diabetic and sometimes gets food boxes from her local pantry. Guess what’s in them. Noodles, beans, and rice. For a diabetic.

      Before you jump all over me about how ungrateful I am at the thought of being given garbage food by the food pantry, allow me to point out that what a person eats directly affects their mental health, and mental health is often a factor that keeps a person poor. If you want to solve the poverty problem, or even make it less pervasive (some argue that poverty is incurable overall, and I don’t have enough data to argue either way), start by respecting poor people as human beings just like you, with the same nutritional needs.

      Dana wrote on February 2nd, 2010
      • But there is also the fact that for many people the health risk they have is true hunger/starvation. ANY food is better than no food. And to waste a source of calories by throwing them in the garbage (especially after we have wasted water and other resources to produce it!) is just horrible.

        Noctiluca wrote on December 8th, 2010
        • I’m not seeing a lot of starving people in America, especially among low income people. I’m seeing a lot of overweight and obese low income Ameicans because they don’t have access to healthy food.

          Having said that, I don’t condone throwing out food, even crappy food. Junk food is probably better than no food at all.

          Alex wrote on October 2nd, 2013
      • I am someone who basically eats primal (Weston A. Price Foundation without the grains, natural sugars and fruit). I am also someone who volunteers at a food pantry every week. Please donate the food to a pantry (even if “bad for you”). With the cuts in social services and assistance, pantries make the difference between a meal or no meal for many families. Breakfast or no breakfast for children for many. I would rather send a child to school with a serving of Cheerios in his belly than send him hungry. Trust me, unless you are in the trenches, you cannot know. There is just not enough to go around.

        Tina wrote on March 26th, 2011
      • THANK YOU!
        I grew up poorer than dirt and one time someone gave me a box of clothes.
        Oh yes, a box of VERY well worn, faded, torn clothing a couple of years out of date. And I was suppose to smile and feel grateful.
        Yeah, I still feel guilty that I didn’t appreciate that trash all these years later but it was a valuable lesson that real charity doesn’t mean giving needy people crap you don’t want anymore.

        K wrote on December 11th, 2011
      • Beans are especially good for a diabetic. Beans and rice.. Another fine example. Take oral meds as directed and watch A1C numbers.

        Oh yeah, and be grateful for your food.

        Syd wrote on December 15th, 2012
        • Dana, clearly you have never truly gone hungry in your life. Yes, your mother may be a diabetic, but most people aren’t so that’s the exception, not the rule. Trust me, any food is better than NO food when you’re homeless or can’t afford to buy groceries and haven’t eaten for some time (for those who aren’t diabetic, etc.). Just because it doesn’t fit with the primal / paleo lifestyle doesn’t mean it’s horrible food that shouldn’t be eaten by anyone.

          I used to see a lot of homeless individuals when I worked in a large hospital; “bad” food from a local food pantry beats scraps out of the garbage or going hungry ANY day.

          As for diet and mental health; I’m a psychologist and I can tell you that your argument (in this context) is complete hogwash. While I agree that diet likely plays a role in mental health (to some degree), the research is limited and inconsistent. Most psychiatric disorders are not caused by diet alone or even likely mostly by diet. That’s not to say a diet high in sugar, food additives, and other toxic things won’t exacerbate certain conditions. Rather, at best, diet is only one of a multitude of factors in the vast majority of disorders. .

          Also, one or two meals or a week’s worth (from a food pantry) aren’t likely to have any significant effect on someone’s overall mental health. So, throwing food away (just because it’s not “primal” and in your opinion is “bad”) is, IMO, totally irresponsible.

          (Some of the “primal snobs” on here truly amaze me!)

          AK wrote on December 18th, 2012
        • Just wanted to agree with the mental health professional. I have suffered from depression since high school, when I was running track and cross-country, eating very healthy, getting plenty of sleep, etc. I have tried various methods to cope over the years, but when I need them, the right antidepressant matched to me has been extremely helpful. All these other things can helpful too…but trust me, the depressed are not all depressed simply because they are not aware of or practicing some type of herbalism, yoga, exercise, nutrition, thyroid imbalance, whatever.

          P wrote on February 7th, 2013
        • That’s right diet is one of a multitude of factors. Heavy metals are a major contributer. Researchers, like Boyd Haley, have done impressive, solid, legitimate research, and they can’t get funded by NIH. I’m sure there are plenty of theories as to why that is the case. My depression has been alleviated by eating primal, but absolutely not cured. Not until I started addressing mercury toxicity from amalgam fillings using Andrew Cutler’s protocol have I started to experience “normal” emotional states. It’s unbelievable what I have come to accept as normal. Mercury’s half life in the body is 2 years; in the brain, it’s 20. Any healthcare practitioner worth their salt, anyone advising anybody on what to put in their body, should know about these two individuals. You can never completely heal anyone without understanding the impact that heavy metals have on the system, and how to safely remove them from the body.

          alexandra wrote on August 12th, 2014
      • OOh I so agree with this person! I was criticized for throwing a gift box of chemical laden meats and cheeses into the garbage. I work at a hotel where the staff is pretty poor, but happy. I love them all dearly and would NEVER feed them what I know would hurt them deliberately.
        Instead, I would like to have this website in SPANISH so that I can deliver the message. Thank you for your insight.

        Lisa Koester wrote on March 6th, 2013
      • Dana, although this is an extremely old post, I want to thank you for your thoughtful contribution.

        I would also like to point out to AK that there is nothing snobbish about what you have said–in fact it is quite the contrary.

        Dana writes: “start by respecting poor people as human beings just like you, with the same nutritional needs.”

        Where is the snobbery in that statement?

        AK, your post is judgemental, unkind, and arrogant. Moreover, you most certainly are NOT the arbiter of whether her argument is “hogwash” or not. The issue of how nutrition, class, and personal effectiveness interrelate is a large issue, worthy of debate, and your shrink’s credential doesn’t qualify you to make a sweeping statement that settles the issue once and for all.

        I don’t believe Dana was saying that bad food causes diagnosible mental disorders. She was obviously referring to mental health in a general way.

        If you eat better, you’ll feel better and perform better in life, it’s as simple as that.

        You clearly misunderstood what she was getting at, you advanced degree-holder, you.

        tkm wrote on March 6th, 2013
        • I agree.
          Ak’s post is scientifically correct and appeared as “know it all”.
          Having credentials in Psychology doesn’t make a person an expert in Neuroscience nor does the teaching provided in Psychology degrees sufficient

          leah wrote on October 19th, 2013
        • I agree.
          Ak’s post is scientifically incorrect and appeared as “know it all”.
          Having credentials in Psychology doesn’t make a person an expert in Neuroscience nor does the teaching provided in Psychology degrees sufficiently cover the latest research regarding etiology of Psychiatric illnesses.
          While not all mental illness symptoms are caused by nutritional factors,case studies and research shows that SOME individuals psychosis or cognitive loss is caused by vitamin b12 deficiency.
          Some people with Schizophrenia and Dementias are found to have high levels of homocysteine,oxidative stress markers,abnormalities in amino acid levels,mitochondrial abnormalities etc…..
          Additionally,people with inborn errors of metabolism often have psychiatric/behavioural disturbances due to a build up of Ammonia, lactic acid etc and need modified diets.

          leah wrote on October 19th, 2013
      • Word.

        Tina wrote on September 17th, 2014
      • Valid point, low income people get all junk food. This is true especially in homeless shelters. No food is better than junk food. (Nobody is starving, even at a shelter) Atleast not in America. A lot of low income already have health issues from living on food stamps and no health insurance, unless your a baby making machine than you get Medicaid. Medicaid is horrible.

        Petitebeauty wrote on January 25th, 2016
  5. Now my reading list is up to 81:
    — The 64 Food Rules from Michael Pollan. I recently bought the book but haven’t read it yet.
    –And now your 17 Reasons. I’ve got to spend some time thinking about these.

    I’ve now got a lot of good ideas to “chew” on.

    As always, your blog is loaded with great ideas.

    Jim Purdy wrote on January 26th, 2010
  6. Hey Mark,

    Why not include some high-intensity workouts a la CrossFit? I know that it causes you to use glycogen stores, but the resulting benefits (greater anaerobic and aerobic conditioning) and neuroendocrine response must be in line with the PB. Somewhat akin to sprinting to spear an unsuspecting ruminant.

    Adam Ball wrote on January 26th, 2010
  7. I am convinced that if you have ever gotten extremely obese (50% or more bodyweight is fat), you have permanently changed (or maybe ‘damaged’ is a better word) your metabolism.

    Although I have been able to lose over 100 lbs with very little effort, I am still obese, and that last 60 lbs is really tough. Even on a restricted version of Dr Eades 6-week cure, after an initial 10 lb loss, I have stalled for 3 months.

    Fortunately, I am not tempted to go off the low-carb diet, and that has nothing to do with ‘willpower’ (whatever that is); it has to do with not having arthritis anymore, and not being hungry all the damned time.

    About the only things on the list I can see that I need to improve are exercise and sleep. For those, I need a couple of extra hours in the day, though.

    TX CHL Instructor wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • I suppose those last two complaints qualify as excuses, which make *3* things on the list I need to work on.

      TX CHL Instructor wrote on January 26th, 2010
      • sounds like you’ve got some stress also if you can’t spare an extra hour a day. My wife and I no longer watch television. That freed up an amazing amount of time and we don’t miss it AT ALL.

        mike wrote on January 27th, 2010
        • TV is not the problem. I haven’t watched commercial TV in about 3 years. I (about 3 or 4 times a year) use the TV to watch DVDs, but that’s the only time I even turn it on.

          Life is too short for TV watching. And I noticed when I stopped watching, I started sleeping better, my overall mood improved, and my blood pressure went down.

          My time is taken up with my ‘day’ job, my violin teaching (and I’m taking piano lessons myself), and my CHL classes (and I *really* need to get more active with my own blog postings). Oh, and my active participation in my Lions Club. I’m also a founding member of FoFD (, which is just getting up and running with our first gathering in February.

          Yes, maybe I need to do fewer things. I’ve already cut back on the number of violin students (that was under duress, and by insistence of my wife), and I’ve limited my CHL classes to one per month. Plus, starting about 18 months ago, I got a (day) job with a much shorter commute.

          TX CHL Instructor wrote on January 27th, 2010
    • First of all, welcome to the century club! You’ve accomplished a helluva lot already.

      You & I are in very similar circumstances. I’ve lost 113 lbs & want to lose another 60 or so. So far, I’ve avoided an extended stall. Anytime the scale slows down, I’ve done a few things:

      1. IF! It’s a great stall-breaker.
      2. *Or* I EAT MORE – that’s right, feast it up for a day or two – not on junk, mind you, but get plenty of calories – it can help get your metabolism rolling.
      3. Add volume to the low-intensity portion of your workouts – more walks, longer walks, whatever works in your schedule.
      4. *Or* remember to have a rest day or two, perhaps in conjunction with the feast cycle. Again, this can help you recover if you’re trying too hard & perhaps getting a cortisol overload.

      Hope this helps.

      Chris G wrote on January 26th, 2010
      • Chris and TX, How long did it take you to shed 100 lbs? Great work!

        Terrence wrote on January 26th, 2010
        • It took just over a year for me. I lost the first 50 lbs quite rapidly, then tapered off. Kept it off for about 3 years, then started slowly gaining, then I took off the 20 lbs I’d gained back, kept it off for a year or so, then started slowly gaining. I’ve just now taken that 20 lbs off again (Dr Eades 6wc), and trying for the next 60.

          TXCHLInstructor wrote on January 26th, 2010
        • Terrence:

          Took me just over 7 months. When you’re a big guy, you can lose it pretty fast. But now I’m going at about 2 lbs a week or so, which is not a complaint.

          Chris G wrote on January 27th, 2010
  8. totally agree with the crossfit wod’s. I have been doing them for 2 years now and went full paleo after the Robb Wolff nutrition cert( well sometimes I cheat but pretty much on board.) Have noticed many gains with strength and feeling awesome. Just Pr’d my deadlift today at 190. last time I was at 170 about 6 months ago. I had no intention of losing weight but the weight, body fat dropped and turned to muscle making me way slimmer hence dropping size and some weight. I am 41 and have 3 boys and am in the best shape of my life, never having been very athletic before. Also willing to try new things. working on some ring work, goal is a muscle up!

    MaryLou wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Yay Mary Lou.
      I’m 45, been CF’ing for abou 18mos and of course finding my way to Primal through Zone. I have 5 kids, and find my 215 deadlift, 80lb strict press, etc. particularly useful with the heavy sleeping teenagers!

      I’m dialing back in on the diet and it is killing my metcons, but my strength WOD’s are PR’s lately.

      Keep up the excellent work… Your boys will be proud of their strong mama… their girlfriends will rightfully fear you!

      Christine wrote on January 27th, 2010
  9. All great, but 1, 5, and 8 are golden.

    #1/8 combo is what gets a lot of people IMO.

    Grok wrote on January 26th, 2010
  10. This may be different in the Primal world, but I know many times me or my clients would stall losing weight simply because they weren’t eating ENOUGH FOOD. They would inadvertently try to accelerate their weight loss by eating too few portions for a long period of time and their body would go into starvation mode. It’s a balance between portion size and fasting, but if you fast too much, etc., then you’re in for some frustrations.

    This is not only a great post, but a great title that will surely bring others outside of MDA to the site. Smart social media, Mark!

    Jeff P (P stands for Primal) wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • I completely agree with needing to eat ENOUGH. I’ve repeatedly found when I inadvertantly eat less than my BMR requires, my body immediately reverts to faminine mode, reduced metabolic rate, and weight plateaus or even goes up! A result of decades of cronic dieting. I’m even careful of doing IF too often. I have found PB is the best, most sustainable lifestyle though…have so much more energy, less stress and a sense of well-being.

      Molly wrote on January 27th, 2010
      • this is what I’m worried about… I’m actually not hungry and I’m having a hard time eating enough… I just put my meals for today into sparkpeople and it only came to 1008 calories (26g carbs/71 fat/46 protein… although that might be more like 66 protein… the tracker and the nutritional info on the bag don’t jive)! I know that isn’t enough and I’m not trying to cut back at all… food just isn’t that interesting right now. I’m not even craving anything. I have about 100lbs to lose. I probably ate more yesterday but not more than 500 calories more, so I know that this is an issue I need to address.

        Tracy wrote on January 27th, 2010
        • ha! on the bag meaning the bag of frozen fish…

          I’m also not eating any fruit right now.

          Tracy wrote on January 27th, 2010
        • I’m in the 100lbs+ to lose camp, too. Around 1000 calories can be a little low, but I find that as long as I get enough protein and keep the carbs very, very, low, I can get away with about 1400 a day as a hard minimum (that’s my starvation level). I’m assuming that as long as I’m going down in volume, many calories are actually coming from stored fat, and it’s why I’m not hungry.

          For what it’s worth, I seem to need about 3000-3500 calories a day to maintain my weight on standard lower-carb (70-100g/day) eating plan, so my “dropping fat like Niagara Falls flows” level might be a tad bit higher than average.

          Good luck to you.

          bovinedefenestration wrote on March 4th, 2010
  11. #4 is very overlooked. People desperately want to lose weight, but they don’t realise it’s a good thing to gain weight if you’re gaining muscle mass.

    Per wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Yep. Focus more on losing fat, not losing weight per se.

      Of course, in my case I’m a tad over 100 pounds overweight so I know that’s pretty much fat. Which is one reason my target weight’s 140 (I’m 5’6″) rather than my high school weight because I didn’t have enough muscle mass back then. (I’m not particular about that target, it could be 145 and I’d be ecstatic, I just want a goal to aim at.)

      Dana wrote on February 2nd, 2010
  12. This is a great post, and just what I’ve been needing. I’m still pretty new to all this, so I’ve got my work cut out for me! Thanks for the info.

    Carla wrote on January 26th, 2010
  13. For me, it’s #14, but I am moving in that primal direction. I started the transition from horrible, carb-laden eating to a more primal diet last week. And it is a transition. Have really cut down on the carbs and grains, but I’m not eating enough of the kinds of vegetables and fruit I should. That will come, however.

    I am eating less often (was trying to do the 6 meals a day thing and couldn’t keep up) with more fat but probably too many almonds! I am finding I am less hungry and feel less bloated.

    And this past week I lost 4 lbs!

    Kent Hawley wrote on January 26th, 2010
  14. going primal – getting the family to tag along is making it difficult. it is getting better every day though!

    dlots wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • As my wife is seeing how I’m loosing weight and feeling better, she is becoming a lot more willing. She just got on the scale this A.M. and was excited that she’s lost seven pounds since last week. I think as she sees even more resuts it’ll become easier.

      A buddy of mine has a wife with a REALLY effecient metabolism and it’s she has very slack commitment just becuase it really doesn’t affect her looks to much.

      mike wrote on January 27th, 2010
  15. This post couldn’t be more timely. I was just thinking about what might be keeping me from shedding the last inch or two off my waistline before I actually look as fit as I feel.

    Cameron wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • It’s the sopes you ate with those carnitas.

      Shawn Wisley wrote on January 27th, 2010
  16. It’s a strange thing (or not) that certain foods also have psychological associations for people. “Comfort eating” can come from the (reassuringly?) familiar sugar spike of eating sugar/carbs but also be brought about through conditioned learning that “this is what I eat when I’m feeling down.” I recall one woman telling me that her “sad food” was always a plate full of chocolate biscuits (cookies)

    Mark Tyrrell wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Hm. But there are ways to make cookies that aren’t so bad for you. Someone out in the foodie-blogosphere just published a book with lots of almond-flour-based recipes, for instance.

      One time my household worked out a way to make homemade Lara bars with dates and nuts. No added sugar. Delish. I wouldn’t recommend them to someone who really needs to carb-restrict (I won’t touch ’em with a ten-foot pole for a while, if ever, now), but they’re the better of two evils for someone who hasn’t shaken the comfort-food “need.”

      Dana wrote on February 2nd, 2010
  17. for my five penneth i think often when folks adopt a paleo-ish way of eating/lifestyle they still go at it too linearly..fars too linearly.
    Various anthros have loked at existing evidence to suggest how many cal deficit days would be had per week etc but still its kinda missing the point to some degree.
    If one lops out grains and all the other sheeite, walks oodles and hits some type of resistance training fairly regularly (i’m presently doing daily but tabata-ish sets of basically doing an ‘ive lost motor function type dance but with weights in my hands’) as well as Vit D if ones not getting sun, a really good Qualite huile de poissons, maybe a tadge of eeeeodine and a tadge of magnesium,oh yes and a light box as well if not getting reg sunny one should lose weight very nicely and very obviously.
    And if you’re hungry and one doesnt wanna bonk out by eating protein during le day eat a few pounds of broccoli or as much you can stuff down yr gullet with a bit o fat on it..and some Alfred Vogel a scattered and i will wager you will eat far less at dins have that cal deficit and accordingly lose a goodly amount of fat and might even get to look all stud-muffinly Sissonesque
    if thats what you incline to.
    For me its all about quality of mind.

    simon fellows wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • What??

      thnkr917 wrote on September 15th, 2012
    • LMFAO

      Lindsey wrote on February 5th, 2013
    • Love it!

      Maria wrote on March 28th, 2014
    • Someones been reading A Clockwork Orange…

      Natalie wrote on April 21st, 2014
  18. I definitely struggle with getting enough sleep. My cavebabies never sleep through the night… and now the Cavewife wants another. Hooray.

    Caveman Sam wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • 300-500mg of magnesium citrate taken and hour before bed will help with better sleep.

      Kishore wrote on January 26th, 2010
      • Sleep is my issue too. Years on Lunesta and can’t seem to sleep well even with the aid. I take magnesium before bed, do yoga, keep the house dim and cool AND have white noise. Any advice? I want to get off the sleeping aids and have REAL recovery sleep.

        My cortisol IS high right now, but I’m working on that as we speak.

        Trojan wrote on May 6th, 2013
    • I co-sleep with mine. I still get awakened at night but not *as* awake because I don’t have to lie there listening ’til I’m sure I heard her, go into her bedroom to find out what’s wrong, go into some other room for whatever thing she’s asking for (usually a drink of water), then go back to bed and hope to get sleepy again.

      People make that a lot harder than it has to be.

      Also… make sure your bedroom’s dark enough. Too much light screws your melatonin production and your sleep quality. I’m still working on that one.

      Dana wrote on February 2nd, 2010
  19. I love this list! Awesome! I think for me that limiting dairy, maximizing sleep, tying IF, and remembering to do my sprinting are the things to focus on.

    gilliebean wrote on January 26th, 2010
  20. Another new study challenging anti-oxident use by healthy people:

    Would love to see you comments Mark!


    m wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • m, that’s not a study; it’s an opinion piece. Headline is very misleading. I went to one of the journals they cited and looked up the guy quoted in this article…the only study I found was one he did which SUPPORTED the use of antioxidants. If you send me a link to an actual study, I can maybe comment.

      Mark Sisson wrote on January 26th, 2010
  21. Another home run post Mark! Heck, anyone who uses the word “flagons” in a sentence has my attention. I think I’ve come up to a bodyfat “setpoint” (#11) in my recomposition quest. I think the answer is more sprinting and heavier lifts.

    Ed wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Was it the flagon with the dragon or the chalice with the palace? :)

      Kent Hawley wrote on January 26th, 2010
      • lov it!

        Ez wrote on June 13th, 2012
  22. I’m not sure about #12 … the idea that willpower is a muscle that can be developed. I think it’s more like a fixed supply commodity that is used up during the day, and replenished by sleep.

    One of the reasons for the success of the paleo diet/lifestyle is that is requires *less* willpower. If you break your addiction to sugar, you’re not craving carbs all day. If you eat enough fat, you don’t battle hunger pangs. Short sprints require less willpower than long grueling runs, and so forth …

    JD wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • I agree completely with the will power model presented that says it is a matter of sugar addiction, not so much will power that will harm you. Now that I am off carbs, I no longer feel the need to binge on endless carbs and the weight is dropping. This is the only food plan that I can succeed on while not being grouchy, moody or feeling like I need to cheat. It has been slow, but steady, but at almost 60 and being female, that is to be expected. I find that eating cooked veges is a more rewarding satiety than raw, a good mix is asparagus, green beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower with a bit of sauteed fennel thrown in for flavor. I try and eat a bowl full 3 times a day, I prefer frozen over fresh, less work, less spoilage, and consistent quality.

      Plumeria wrote on March 7th, 2013
  23. 18. You cheat WAY more than you realize. Instead of the 80/20 rule, you have managed a 60/40! 😉

    My real world experience so far, starting out pretty fat around 26% bodyfat is this. Simply going primal will start knocking weight off at a pound or more a week! Then I stalled and had to cut out cheese. Then I stalled again and had to cut out nuts (or at least move them to the every-once-in-a-while status). Primal minus nuts and cheese got me down to about 12% bodyfat where I am now. Where I have been for 3 months! 12% bf is very healthy; I could change nothing and stay here. But I’d like to go a little lower. At this point it’s just sheer calories. So I can torture myself day-to-day and try to eat less every day. OR…. I can do intermittent fasting. Which is what I’ve started to do. Wish I could tell you how it’s going but it’s too soon to tell. If you aren’t losing weight, all the reasons are underpinned by – too many calories. As long as I don’t OVER eat on non-fasting days, I don’t see how it can’t work.

    Fixed gear wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • THAT is what I want. I have not measured body fat, but I know I was somewhere around the 26% range. 6’1″ 285 lbs jan 2011, june 2011 185 lbs. 100 lbs lost in 6 months with no real plan, just calorie deficit, and eating healthy foods, with lots of cardio, minimal weight training, maybe 2 times per week with cardio 4-5 times per week.

      Now I am 200 lbs. I maintained that 185-190 range for probably 3 months, and I strayed from eating right consistently. Started eating like crap more often. Spiked at 215 lbs about a month ago. about 2 weeks ago started eating very strict with a goal of keeping it very strict with no cheating for 2 solid months. So far I have lost 15 lbs in a week and a half. Again, not sure on body fat. Goal is to weigh 170-175 lbs with less than 10 percent fat. I am most likely in the 15 to 17 percent range right now. I am hoping to be lower 190s maybe upper 180s by feb 1.

      Ryan Perry wrote on January 7th, 2012
      • Ryan I am in the same boat you are. Started at 285. Got down to 207 in a year or so. Now spiked to 215 in just 2 weeks. What were you eating to drop the 15 pounds so quick. Also are you restricting to low calories? Any help would be great. Thanks

        Jeff wrote on July 12th, 2012
  24. Can’t think of anything you left off. Great article, Mark. I think the more principles like these are stressed the more empowered other people become to take advantage of their health and their lives.

    Darrin wrote on January 26th, 2010
  25. i have to second what jeff p mentioned. i have been really strict in my eating (doing a 30 challenge for myself) cut all dairy and alcohol out (and grains have been out for a while)… but i wasn’t eating enough. i spoke to a few of my trainers at my crossfit, and they told me to eat more…

    the last 4 days i upped my intake (all quality food)… I have now dropped 5lbs…

    As much as i think IF is a great tool, i think for some of us it hinders our process more then helps…

    Luckykoi wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Increasing calories by 1000 above regular consumption or so for a couple of days followed by a day or two of lower calories can help build muscle and boost metabolism. Wild animals follow a non-linear eating pattern. Nature does not go by average.
      Eating same amount of meals, same amount of calories everyday is not the best strategy.

      Kishore wrote on January 26th, 2010
  26. I thought your comments on number #1 was interesting. Panu blog recently had an article where he compared low carb substitutes to having candy cigarettes. I am going to try not to have my low-carb versions but I still struggle without them.

    Allison wrote on January 26th, 2010
  27. Great post once again. I finally realized this week that small amounts of sugar were holding me back. I cheated far more than I liked to admit. So, I went cold turkey on Sunday. Day three of no sugar, unless it is in fruit form in small amounts. I am already noticing a difference. Now, if I can just keep my husband from snoring at night!

    lbd wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • When you hear him snore, snap you finger. It works!

      Terrence wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Check out Worlds Finest Earplug @ Amazon. They have made it possible for us to sleep together again. (hubbie is KORG sugar/carb lover)

      Mary C wrote on January 5th, 2013
  28. I love #7 Intermittent Fasting! Fasted today for the second time, first on a day I trained. I was a little hungry before midday workout but had increased strength and in-road. Most amazing thing is I didn’t feel like overeating at dinner. Is 2x/week fasting til dinner something that could be done for short periods (3-5 wks) or can it be done as a regular routine?

    David Marcon, DC wrote on January 26th, 2010
  29. Looks like it doesn’t take too much mental stress (#2) to undermine willpower (#12):

    Tracy wrote on January 26th, 2010
  30. I left out dairy as part of a challenge, and lost 12 lbs since 4th Jan.that includes also p.shakes that didnt really felt good on me, tried many types!

    Great post and good reminder. I love the links you put for more detailed information.

    thania wrote on January 26th, 2010
    • Nice avatar. :)

      Bob Tracey wrote on January 27th, 2010
    • been low carbing for years, just recently cut out dairy and lost 40 pounds! used to do protein shakes but now switched to a protein powder called carnivor. which is basically a beef protein isolate.

      Diego Paparella wrote on January 28th, 2010
      • Dairy is a problem for me, but dammit, I LOVE yogurt. My wife drains it to make it “Greek” style, which lowers the CHO content, but it’s still a problem for reasons I don’t fully understand.

        Interesting how the Carnivor sales copy trumpets the “no cholesterol, no fat” mantra. Which basically means they are following the CW superstition.

        And the use of the word “Bioengineered” to describe it sent shudders up my spine. Color me skeptical concerning anybody’s ability to improve on natural beef.

        But, it’s an idea worth trying: I might try adding some sous vide pork or beef to my shakes to see how they taste (I would probably need to do up a batch with no added seasoning). One of the neat things about sous vide is that low-temp, long-duration cooking tenderizes the toughest cuts of meat without destroying as much of the nutrition as other cooking methods. Three days at 137*F will reduce some cuts of meat to mush, which might be suitable for a protein shake. And if I make my own, I don’t have to worry about replacing the healthy saturated fats and cholesterol that are “bioengineered” out of Carnivor.

        (*) According to the food safety guides I have seen, 137F for several hours is sufficient to kill all of the bad microorganisms in pork, except for botulinus spores (which appear to be able to survive anything short of incineration), so you should add a little vinegar to your sous vide pouch (or do a vinegar “wash”), and be sure to immediately eat anything you cook sous vide. Leftovers should not be kept for more than a few days, and you need to handle them properly to prevent botulinus spores from ‘hatching’ and multiplying.

        Trichinosis, BTW, appears to be a non-problem with commercial pork in the US (and is eliminated at 137F after a few hours). All of the recent cases in the US have been traced to wild game, mostly bear meat that was improperly handled or cooked.

        TX CHL Instructor wrote on January 28th, 2010
  31. I think that installing habits is really essential. Just start small and in a few weeks the change will be huge. A year is life changing.

    Richard Shelmerdine wrote on January 27th, 2010
  32. I am one of those peeps that Mark refers to when he says that I keep coming back but have not gone fully PB yet. There is a reson for this, it would be that I am, wiat for it, a vegan. I know this will cause all the meat eaters to roll their eyes and walk away but I am one for a variety of reasons but it is mostly an ethical and taste choice. I happen to wholeheartedly agree with Mark’s PB as it does advocate getting your meat from good, organic sources [ie places where the animals are more likely to be treated ethically] but I know I’ll NEVER eat red meat, chicken or diary again. I have however taken on the advice of cutting the crap, lowering the sugar and upping my protein [soy protein powder shakes and more nuts etc] and I’m amazed at how well I feel, how I never have hunger pangs anymore and the bloated belly has practically gone. Thanks Mark, I expect vegans aint high on your list of folks to help but you certainly have changed my outlook to food and exercise [which in turn is helping my weight loss, 26lbs lost 49lbs to go] so thanks a million!

    McTofu wrote on January 27th, 2010
    • Mike Mahler is a vegan strength coach who maintains great health being a vegan. You can check out his website for info on good non-animal protein supplements, food etc.

      Kishore wrote on January 27th, 2010
    • Good luck with that soy when it kills your thyroid.

      Dana wrote on February 2nd, 2010
    • Read this post
      and maybe you will begin to question whether your vegan lifestyle really is the most ethical and sustainable. It’s eye opening to say the least!

      Robin wrote on September 13th, 2011
  33. Oh thanks Kishore, I’ll go and check him out!

    McTofu wrote on January 27th, 2010
    • Also check out The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. Life changing.

      Eryn wrote on January 17th, 2012
  34. Good tips on the stress and lack of intense workouts. Sprinting and lifting heavy weights consistently can really make you leaner. Muscles are your metabolism, as the saying goes. No 17 seems incomplete, however. I’m lacto-paleo and it works for me. Dairy is not a commodity. Whole, raw, grass fed milk (not to mention butter and cream) have about as much in common with conventional store bought skim milk as a pot roast does with a corn muffin. Why do you lump it all together?

    zach wrote on January 27th, 2010
    • That’s where I want to get. Lacto-paleo, particularly fermented grass-fed milk. Good source of the useful form of vitamin K and saturated fat. I can’t get raw milk yet but I have already noticed an extreme taste difference just in switching to GF. It’s not homogenized, but having to shake the carton’s a small price to pay.

      Dana wrote on February 2nd, 2010
  35. Just got this great article about caffine and it’s impact on us. Especially for review during IF.

    Jacqueline Oscvirk wrote on January 27th, 2010
  36. Not sure if its been mentioned but my tip is to be strictest most when you’re at the supermarket. Its easier not to buy stuff thought of as treats, than it is to not eat them when they’re in your cupboard! I bought a massive bag of dried dates the other day and I’ve just been munching on them non stop! (practice what I preach; not what I do!)

    stevew wrote on January 27th, 2010
    • With regard to buying “treats”…. I absolutely agree it is easier not to buy it than not to eat it once it is in the pantry.

      Whenever I want a “treat” (aka brownies) I ask myself “why is it a treat to put crap in your body?” If that doesn’t do it, then I ask myself “How many burpees will you have to do to burn that off?” That usually works since I’d rather do anything than burpees.

      And every once in a while I just eat the damn brownie! Sometimes if you’re really fiending for something you wind up eating more of everything else just to get the feeling you were looking for from the thing you are denying yourself. Eat it, forgive yourself and move on!

      Cathy wrote on January 27th, 2010

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