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

9 Ways You Might Be Inadvertently Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts

Whenever friends, co-workers, or loved ones complain about not being able to lose weight and turn to us for answers or advice, we can all generally rattle off a few suggestions that, if followed, usually set them on the right track. For the soda-swilling cubicle mate who keeps a recycling bin just for cans beneath his desk who asks, “Why can’t I lose weight?,” you suggest stopping soda. For the fast food addict who wonders why she can’t hit her high school weight, you suggest avoiding fries, getting water, and ditching the buns. To the vegetarian best friend who eats “healthy” but is growing increasingly skinny-fat, you send a link to MDA. Those are simple solutions. What about your stalled weight loss? You’re Primal, you’ve lost a bunch of weight already, you’re feeling good, you don’t have many complaints, you know all about nutrition, and you’re sticking with the lifestyle – but you’re not losing as much weight as you’d like. Well, it could very well be that you’ve inadvertently throw a wrench into weight loss efforts.

What do I mean? Let’s take a look:

You’re overly obsessed with dietary purity.

Now, if you’re celiac or gluten sensitive, it’s natural to be concerned about even minimal amounts of gluten in soy sauce. If you’re allergic to dairy, you should be that guy who pesters the waiter about the powdered milk in the gravy. If you’re pregnant, I wouldn’t blame you for worrying over the source of the fish you’re being served. But if you’re generally healthy – or on your way there – and you’re not acutely intolerant or allergic to any particular food, I’d argue that worrying over a single component of a single meal to the point of physical manifestations of stress (racing heart, sweaty palms, nervous tick, scattered thoughts) is not conducive to weight loss. You’re trying to be so perfect that it becomes the enemy of the good.

You’ve ignored the other aspects of the PB lifestyle.

When I put together the ten Primal Blueprint laws, I tried not to emphasize any single one over the rest. They are all important for health and vitality. “Eat lots of plants and animals” may trump “Move around a lot at a slow pace,” “Get lots of sleep,” and “Play” in the body composition arena, but you cannot overlook or underestimate the others. The more people I encounter, the more I see that every aspect is vital for real success with this lifestyle – and that includes weight loss. I didn’t make it ten laws just to hit a nice even number, ya know.

You’re wedded to an ideology rather than what actually works for you.

At last year’s PrimalCon, I fielded an interesting question during the keynote. An attendee asked whether it was okay that his kid ate lots of fruit and other Primal carbs along with meat, eggs, and veggies. I asked how the kid was doing, and he said, “Great.” I said to keep it up as long as it was working. You don’t mess with success. Now, if he had just assumed that his kid was getting too many carbs and decided to replace the fruit and potatoes with spoonfuls of coconut oil, he would have been doing his child a disservice. The kid probably wouldn’t understand why some of his favorite foods were now off limits; the kid would get stressed out and unhappy and his sense of metabolic homeostasis could have been disrupted as a result. Since the guy was attending PrimalCon, he was obviously a fan of the Primal Blueprint – but he wasn’t an ideologue. He recognized that his kid did well on a diet somewhat different than his own, and that this was okay.

You’re not tailoring your macronutrient levels to your lifestyle.

If you’re a CrossFitter going five days a week, doing the WODs as RX’d, and finding yourself growing a bit pudgier despite your best efforts, you may need to eat some sweet potatoes. Conversely, if you work a sedentary job and do some gardening and some dog walking for exercise, you probably don’t need to modify your low carb consumption. I see carbs as elective macronutrients, in general. I don’t elect to eat all that many of them, personally, but that’s because I’ve tailored my lifestyle such that this is the healthiest way for me to eat. Eat more if you’re going to be burning glycogen. Eat fewer if you’re not. Eating too few carbs while working out with high intensity and high volume will ruin your adrenals, depress your thyroid, and stall weight loss. Eating too many carbs without putting them to good use or enjoying exercise-induced insulin sensitivity will promote hyperinsulinemia and weight gain. Make sure it all matches up.

You’ve taken the “exercise doesn’t cause weight loss” claim a bit too literally.

It’s true that “eat less, move more” is an overly simplified, ineffective piece of weight loss “advice,” akin to a psychiatrist telling a depressed patient to simply “feel better.” However, that doesn’t make it a downright falsity. Exercise is an essential part of losing weight – particularly unwanted adipose tissue – and you can’t ignore it forever and hope to lose the weight you want to lose. I don’t think it’s helpful to look at exercise as a mechanistic obliterator of calories, because that can enable the “I’ll eat this cupcake and then run for twenty minutes on the treadmill” mentality that just doesn’t work. But exercise is a potent enhancer of hormonal function. It can raise testosterone, growth hormone, and improve insulin sensitivity (all of which improve fat loss). It can divert the calories you do eat toward lean muscle and away from body fat. It can divert the carbs you eat toward refilling muscle glycogen. All in all, as long as you don’t overdo things, exercise is an important ally in fat burning and lean mass accumulation.

You’re switching things up too often.

A downside of this Internet stuff is that there’s almost too much information out there. Not only that, the flow of information never stops. New blogs are popping up every day, each one pushing a slightly or radically different view. New studies are coming out from different researchers with different biases or areas of focus or sources of funding. Instead of ruminating on your own experiences, you can hop online and read a hundred different accounts of a hundred different dietary variations. It’s crazy. It’s great – if you keep things in perspective – but it can also lead to information overload and a wild goose chase for the “perfect diet.” Instead of doing that, try sticking to a “program” for a few weeks, at least. Heck, a few months is even better. Give the regimen (whatever it is) a chance to do its work. Give your body a chance to figure things out. Muscle confusion might sell P90X videos, but it’s not a useful approach to diet.

You’re overthinking your food.

Eating should be a relaxing, enjoyable, eminently pleasurable experience. It should be stimulating, but not because you’re analyzing the micronutrient content of the spinach based on the duration and temperature of the steam used to cook it and wondering whether or not you should reduce the light green cooking water into a syrup and add cold pastured butter to make a mineral-rich demi glace oh but wait the butter is looking a little too white I wonder if this was fresh spring grass-based pasture or hay-based pasture because the vitamin K2 content will vary wildly and oh man if it was pastured on grass the omega-3s might oxidize in the pan. Sounds stressful (even to read), right? Acute stress is great and all, but eating is an everyday occurrence, and if it’s a stressful event just to eat, that stress will inevitably become chronic. Chronic stress is the enemy of fat loss. Relax. Sit back. Pull up a chair. Enjoy your food. Enjoy your company. Have a glass of wine. As long as you make sure the bulk of your food is high quality, you’re gonna be just fine.

You’re eating too little.

Yeah, it sounds funny, but it’s true: eating too few calories can make fat loss extremely difficult. The beauty of going Primal is that it often causes spontaneous reductions in calorie intake, which is one of the reasons why it’s so good for weight loss. In some people, though, calorie intake continues to drop unabated, because, hey, it helped me lose weight at first, so why not go even lower? Right? Except it doesn’t work that way. When you continually eat fewer calories than your body requires, you are doing two things. First, you’re applying a chronic stressor to your body. A lack of calories for a day or two (say, if you’re on an intermittent fasting regimen) signals a missed kill, a momentary hiccup in the food supply. No biggie. You’ll get ’em next time. It’s an acute stressor that will actually improve your health. A lack of calories for weeks or months, on the other hand, signals a famine, war, starvation. It’s a chronic stressor that will impede weight loss and promote fat storage. Second, eating fewer calories gives you less of a chance to obtain the micronutrients you need for optimal functioning. All said and done, a 2,000 calorie diet will have more minerals, phytonutrients, and vitamins than a 1,000 calorie diet. Make sure you’re eating enough food.

You’re eating too much (healthy Primal food).

Primal can make weight loss really smooth, but some folks have the idea that they can eat as much as they want and not gain weight. Though it’s certainly harder to gain weight eating just plants and animals, it’s not impossible. Some people’s satiety mechanisms don’t kick in simply because they ditched grains, sugar, legumes, seed oils, and reduced carbs. Some people assume that since I’ve written posts extolling the weight loss benefits of a diet made up of grass-fed butter, coconut oil, sweet potatoes, cheese, olive oil, lamb, grass-fed beef, fish, and other healthy Primal fare, quantity is suddenly immaterial. It isn’t. While I’d argue that overeating Big Ass Salad is better, healthier, and causes less adipose tissue growth than overeating McDonald’s, it’s still overeating.

That’s what I’ve got today, folks. What do you think? Anything look familiar to you? Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

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 have a very sedentary life as I sit in front of a computer all day and commute 2hrs for work 10 years now. The weight has accumulated and counting calories stopped working for me.I have been primal for a few months now and losing weight very slowly, 1\4 to 1 lb a week.I feel that this website is all I need.Its nice that all the articles and gimmicks are a thing of the past.

    Shirley wrote on October 31st, 2012
  2. I’d been eating and living primally for about a year, and while I felt better overall I was just maintaining my current weight, when I really wanted to lose some. My wife pointed out that while I was eating healthier, I was still eating a lot more than everyone else we know. I cut the amount of food I ate in half for a week to see what would happen, and what do you know, I wasn’t any more hungry than normal, I still had plenty of energy, and I started losing weight. I made the changes to the amount I ate permanent about 2 months ago and haven’t looked back since.

    Ben wrote on October 31st, 2012
  3. Good advice on the manifold benefits of all parts of the PB. I am in a slump now that the cold, dark and wet has descended upon the Pacific North West. I am loosing traction. I just want sweet potatoes.

    Sara wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • HAHAHAHA I’m in the same boat up here in Alaska! All I’m craving lately are carbs because my house is so freakin’ cold!

      Charlayna wrote on October 31st, 2012
  4. I am totally guilty of just about all of these missteps. Especially the over eating primal foods. Great read Mark!

    Bryce wrote on October 31st, 2012
  5. I love this post: I am definitely stressed out about eating and always try to calm myself down by trying to listen to my body when it comes to carbs. I do not demonize them, but they truly don’t satisfy me, and other than not being optimal for body composition, they are bad for my teeth and gums.
    I am having the most difficult time because I am a vegetarian: it really is impossible to eat right. I badly want to include fish in my diet: yesterday I stared at a can of tuna for close to 3 minutes but could not get myself to buy it- I am scared to eat it alone! My diet really has no variety, I just moved to NYC and am struggling with it (mainly eggs, dairy, veggies and fruit, olive oil and avocado, some quinoa, the rare lentil on the rare occasion, and lots of nuts). I am thankful though that this was my biggest worry during the hurricane… My heart goes out to all of those who have lost their homes, had to evacuate, have no electricity…

    Ro wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • RO, pick up a copy of “The Paleo Answer”. It has a whole chapter on why to eat paleo instead of vegetarian. It really opened my eyes to what food does to your insides and may help you over your fear.

      Cindy wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • Why are you a vegetarian if you “badly want to include fish” in your diet?

      Mark’s wife, Carrie, was raised by vegetarians and was a vegetarian for most of her life. She started including fish in her meals once or twice a day when it became clear that it would be better for her health. There is a nice article by her somewhere on this site. Get yourself a list of sustainable fish and start including some in your diet today! Your body will thank you and the planet’s biosphere will not suffer!

      Chica wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • Thank you Cindy and Chica! I am not really a vegetarian by choice: I had a series of traumatic experiences when I was a kid and I always knew it wasn’t a good diet for me. I am very willing to eat fish, just very intimidated by the idea. The thought of eating animals is really an unfamiliar scary concept to me after all this time!

        Carrie’s story was definitely an inspiration and Mark’s blog is most definitely an encouragement. I guess I need a buddy for support when I order my salmon or open a can of tuna.
        I will definitely check out “The Paleo Answer” when I get the chance, so again, thank you!

        I love this community: people generally have more perspective (which is what this post is about), and are very supportive.

        My family cannot get over the fact that I don’t eat pasta or bread and how am skipping the legumes as a vegetarian. “How can you get full? What is there left for you to eat?” I answer by saying that there is literally no nutrients inside pasta or bread…

        Are there others struggling with this as well?

        Ro wrote on October 31st, 2012
        • Hi, I’ve been primal now for 5 months, and was vegetarian for 24 years beforehand. I was like you – had been seriously thinking about introducing fish back in to my diet for a couple of years… but when was going to be THAT day? Then I stumbled across MDA and knew it made sense for me to do it. I also realised, I’m not going to be able to do this thing if I don’t reintroduce either meat or fish to my diet. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how I did it. First thing I tried was tuna, in a pub meal. Nearly got sick. Even though in my fish-eating days I loved tuna! What eventually got me on the fish bandwagon, was fishfingers! Not ideal, I know, but it worked. I would cook up a load of veggies, a delicious sauce, and cook one fish finger. Took the breadcrumbs away, and ate little pieces with lots of veg. I did this every three days. Then it was surprising how quickly I progressed to two. Then I ate a whole salmon fillet out at dinner. Tonight I am slavering at the thought of the cod fillet that is on the way. I did find it a bit uncomfortable in my digestion when I was starting off – nothing gruesome, but it just felt like I had eaten something a bit too rich. This didn’t last long though. Also, I found it far far easier to eat fish that someone else had prepared – so maybe a good excuse for some dinners out? I also didn’t put pressure on myself. If a dollop of ketchup was going to help me get that fishfinger down, then I didn’t deny myself – my opinion was that it was far more important for my long-term health to get back in to fish, and I wouldn’t be using ketchup for very long. Another tip – lots of butter and dill make fish sooooo delicious, and less fishy, if you know what I mean. These days, I still only eat fish about three times a week, max, but I am so so glad that I have re-introduced it. I think my body was calling for it. Best of luck, its not easy making the transition when you are not a lover of meat. But if you feel even half as good as I do, healthwise, you’ll be glad you did.

          reebok wrote on October 31st, 2012
        • I do get thie whole “you need grain to be healthy” line from people who don’t know me or my family very well. There are some major food allergies going on. I am gluten intolerant and any amount of gluten makes me ache like I got hit by a bus (and turns me into an emotional, wimpering blob), so nobody can guilt me into eating that cookie they worked so hard making. I just tell them it eats holes in your intestines and that shuts them up.

          Cindy wrote on October 31st, 2012
        • Reebok: I am really glad you answered and shared your experience, and I think I’m going to follow in your footsteps! I will try to go to dinner with someone and just order the salmon. I did try a couple of bites this summer, but only with people around (and some wine: for the courage!) I am afraid of getting sick though, like you said you did the first time. It’s great advice though: introducing bits and bits… Do you mind me asking what your diet looks like, other than the fish?
          PS: I just ordered Mark’s meal replacement shake, hoping that will take care of at least breakfast because I’m getting sick of dairy.

          Cindy: they usually answer me back by telling me: “You have a sensitive stomach”. I could tell them I am just more in tune with my stomach and intestine’s reactions but by then they have closed their ears. It’s sad because I want them to ditch the pasta and bread so badly: they’re my family and I love ’em!

          Ro wrote on October 31st, 2012
        • Hi Ro, ok, here’s my normal primal/vegetarian/transitioning day! Breakfast is always a piece of fruit and some nuts, at weekends I might make primal pancakes, sometimes I make primal fruit muffins (they are so handy to bring to work actually). Lunch is ALWAYS a huge salad. Five months in and I haven’t got bored of them yet! Love them. I have a load of salad veggies, some real mayonnaise, and a few nuts. Evening meals are varied. Here’s some of my favourites: omelette with anything thrown in it that is to hand, some chilli and basil, and lots of side veggies. Salmon croquettes, with veggies. Haddock cooked in butter and dill, with veggies. Squash soup. And my favourite – spinach curry with two boiled eggs and tiny bit of mayo.
          I will try to find links to all those recipes. The curry is my own – spinach, tomatoes, any veg, onion, spices of your choice (or curry powder), creamed coconut, two tablespoons ground cashews. Cook the onion first lightly, gently fry spices for a minute. Then add the veg. Add a little stock if its too dry. Add the coconut and the cashew. Allow to simmer until the veg is soft. Serve with two hard boiled eggs on top and a drizzle of mayo. Yum.
          Snacks are usually an apple or orange, and I have a penchant for really dark chocolate. Once a week I get some really lovely Indian food delivered, and that’s the day I eat potato and chickpeas. Their recipes are all gluten free, and I’ve found the spinach and chickpea curry to be pretty primal. I feel good after it, anyway!
          I don’t have dairy, and never have, really. I eat a lot of eggs, but that is easy because we have hens, so they are plentiful and delicious. I am working on increasing the fish content of my week, slowly but surely I will get there. I’m interested in how you get on with any kind of protein drink/supplement, I’ve been thinking about that myself. I’m just no good at stomaching anything too dairy-like.
          For anyone looking at my diet – feel free to make helpful suggestions – I am the first to realise that it is a work in progress though, so I don’t need to be told that! But if anyone has successfully made the transition from veggie to primal and wants to share some advice, I’d be pleased to hear it!


          salmon croquettes: (I add chopped celery and bit of chilli)

          primal pancakes – eggs, banana, almond butter, vanilla – you can get lots of recipes on here.

          reebok wrote on November 2nd, 2012
        • Reebok: Thank you so much- your recipes sound really delicious! It also seems like you enjoy your meals by the way you describe them- which is kind of the point!

          My meals sort of look the same, (always eggs in my salad otherwise it doesn’t fill me up) but I do really heavily on dairy- I feel weak if I don’t. I do plan on weaning off of it some day though. I just got my Primal Nutrition protein/snack/meal replacement, and will let you know how that goes.

          Ideally I would only eat veggies, fruit, fish, coconut, occasional eggs and nuts. Ideally. I may have moved to the wrong island.

          I would do more eggs, but sometimes I really just get sick of them, switching back and forth from hard boiled to omelets. DO you feel you get egg saturation? How much is too much egg anyway?

          Also a big fan of dark chocolate, since I haven’t found my “nutritional balance” yet, it really gives me an energy boost.

          Do you feel that you have more energy and have less brain fog since you started eating fish? I just want to do it so I can gain strength, not worry about my protein intake when I do my yoga or have particularly long days.

          Also have you tried tuna?

          Again, thanks for the recipes- I will definitely try something soon!

          Ro wrote on November 7th, 2012
    • Welcome to the city. (Sorry it had to be now.) This is actually a great place to follow the primal lifestyle; you’re already moving at a slow pace (assuming you walk most places), you lift heavy things every now and then (weekly shopping, carrying your laundry), and the food options are insanely good. In Brooklyn, there seems to be a crossfit hive around every corner, if you’re into that. Have you tried our donation-based power yoga? It’s sweet. Maybe check out Brooklyn Boulders? You can’t get more primal than urban rock climbing. Personally, since you are a vegetarian, I HIGHLY recommend finding a source of raw dairy as your first order of business when things go back to normal. I have had great experience with Uddermilk, which delivers raw products to your door on Sundays. You should also experiment with coconut products of all stripes. Let me know if you have any specific questions. I would be happy to help.

      Amy wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • Thank you for all the awesome recommendations Amy. I’ve never tried raw dairy and it was supposed to be my first order of business when I came here, but didn’t know any trustworthy sources, so thank you for that. Do they do cheeses and yogurt?

        I do walk a lot and carry a lot of things (my biceps are awesome now) and I am very much into Yoga, and considering the options so I will look into the one you recommended (it’s yoga to the people right?)

        In the meantime yes I do have questions, thank you for your willingness!
        Which brands of dairy and eggs would you recommend, other than Uddermilk (ones that I would find at the grocery stores). Right now I am doing Organic Valley, Hawethorne Valley farm (they are the only brand I found to make true greek yogurt), sky top farm, whole foods organic omega 3 eggs (though please: can someone explain the difference between organic and cage free?? They have the same description on the cartons).

        Also olive oil and balsamic: I am getting the organic 365 ones, they’re not bad. Any other recs?

        The 365 nuts are so stale. They have a “antioxidant” trail mix which they should really call oxidant trail mix. Do you have a recommendation for fresh nuts? (I know it depends on seasons and local availability).

        Also if you have a tuna recommendation, just in case I take THE step.

        You don’t have to answer all the questions but thank you for your feedback! It’s awesome of you! And I’m hoping other New Yorkers will chime in, and that the city gets back on its feet!


        Ro wrote on October 31st, 2012
        • Uddermilk does all dairy products: cheese, yogurt, and their cream is amazing. They also sell eggs, which are delicious with orange yolks. Sometimes I get mainstream organic cage free eggs, but I’ve found direct from the farm to be much fresher. You can also get amazing eggs from any of the farmer’s markets.

          I don’t really have any advice when it comes to ‘standard’ dairy. I usually don’t eat it, but just abstain when raw isn’t available. I’m pretty sure all of the mainstream organic dairy is the same. You might want to check out Milk Thistle, though, which is sold at the Union Square and Prospect Park farmer’s markets, is delicious, and only mildly pasturized. (I think I may have also seen it once at the Union Square Whole Foods.) You can also get fresh goat’s milk at both locations.

          I usually get my nuts from the bins at the Flatbush co-op, not at Whole Foods. But I’ve had success with the bin nuts at the Whole Foods on Houston.

          Yeah, yoga to the people. Just get there early. I love it.

          I guess I don’t have an olive oil rec? I’ve read that you should get raw, cold-pressed olive oil produced in the states. Also, for tuna I eat Wild Planet, which is like $5 a can but worth it.

          I hope this helps. It’s really easier to be primal here than anywhere else, in my opinion, but I might be biased. :)

          Amy wrote on October 31st, 2012
        • Amy: this is REALLY valuable advice. Thank you for sharing the best things this city has to offer! I really appreciate it!

          Ro wrote on October 31st, 2012
  6. Really liked this article. I was just wondering if I was doing anything wrong since I am only loosing about 1 – 1.5 lbs per week. If anything, I’m probably not eating enough because between work, kids, housework, etc, there’s not a lot of time left to cook. If I don’t have something already prepped, eggs are my go-to quick fix (BTW, just had a blood test and my LDL was flagged as low… HDL was normal. ) Glad to hear it’s ok to eat sweet potatoes. After going to the gym, I can’t wait to scarf one down with BUTTER!! (Farm fresh, of course).

    Cindy wrote on October 31st, 2012
  7. Very timely. :3

    Patrícia wrote on October 31st, 2012
  8. I so needed to read this as I recognise myself as becoming over-analytical about everything I eat. So, I will now pour myself a lovely glass of Malbec, and enjoy every drop. Cheers!

    Susan wrote on October 31st, 2012
  9. I need advice on how much to eat? And when is too much.

    Sammi wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • Sammi, eat until your hunger is satisfied and you feel comfortably full but not until you feel like a beached whale. That should be a no-brainer, but I guess it isn’t. I find a paleo diet to be self-limiting; I lose interest in eating when I’ve had enough.

      If you’re a lifelong member of the Clean Plate Club, you should resign immediately! Cleaning one’s plate is some of the worst advice parents ever gave their kids.

      Shary wrote on October 31st, 2012
  10. This is a great article. Loved the part about Crossfit. I did primal and was doing metcons everyday and got fat fast…All i changed was taking away the clock and exercised at a slower pace. I dropped 30 lbs of fat in 4 months and got ripped. I even feel more functional now…being unable to workout because you’re sore from yesterday’s workout is not functional to me…

    JP wrote on October 31st, 2012
  11. Love this article, Mark. I think this one will be popular, and a much needed breath of sanity in the paleosphere.

    I’ve been guilty of perfectionism and over-thinking my diet more times than I can count. It’s really quite stressful to obsess over something that is meant to nourish me, not rule my life. Perfectionism is not something I can shoulder: every time I get too caught up in being a perfect little primal princess, I boomerang back into carb-addiction and at ALL THE THINGS, so that tells me something about why the middle primal road is the best one.

    Monique wrote on October 31st, 2012
  12. Hi Mark,
    I only walk 3 miles every day and that suits me fine. I eat my raw eggs daily, along with grass fed beef/bison, bacon and shrimp. I also eat fish. My job, driving school buses, is very sendentary. I am at my high school weight and am doing great on fat and protein. Took about 2 months to change my body to a fat burning machine and I feel great at age 65.

    Werner Kujnisch wrote on October 31st, 2012
  13. Wonderful article! This ties in to what I just realized a few weeks ago…I am a competitive Olympic Weightlifter and was eating about 80g CHO/day which = a very bad idea. Not only was my performance lack luster I was also getting pudgy…once I started upping my CHO intake plus making my homemade garlic sweet potato hash browns with grass-fed butter (among other primal carb delights) not only is life better, I’m leaning out, and my lifting days are as gold as honey.

    Sam wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • I’m sure many of us would like to see your hash brown recipe. 😀

      DarcieG wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • Ditto on the recipe! Sweet potatoes, garlic and butter…Be still my heart!!

        cindyk wrote on October 31st, 2012
  14. Mark – This is in my opinion brilliant, brilliant, BRILLIANT. Beautifully written, succinct, and spot on. Each of your points is something that I have either experienced or see my clients experiencing. So thanks for taking the time to write and share. I’ll be passing this post along…

    Annemarie Milisen wrote on October 31st, 2012
  15. Amazing post today just what i needed to read to reinforce everything and give me a boost not to overthink things! Love the site and mark! Ps i have now lost 30 inches all over, and 56 pounds and im like a new person i just hope i can stay on track with the primal/paleo life.

    Victoria w wrote on October 31st, 2012
  16. Thanks, Mark! I always take away a new idea from your articles. You’re spot on about the anxiety-producing variety of advice on the Internet, much of it contradictory. I’m aiming away from “perfection” and towards “good enough”.

    I didn’t realize the connection between low carb and damage to adrenals and thyroid was in conjunction with high-intensity exercise. One more worry evaporated! My gym routine is rather sedate compared to cross-fit. :)

    gibson girl wrote on October 31st, 2012
  17. Great article…again. What are you, psychic? I’m stalled for the past three months. Now I can review each point and do some tweaking. Thanks!

    Linda A. Lavid wrote on October 31st, 2012
  18. Very well done. A key post, for sure.

    Quoting from it, these are the things I know to be true from my own experience:

    “Eating too few carbs while working out with high intensity and high volume will ruin your adrenals, depress your thyroid, and stall weight loss.”

    “[Stick] to a ‘program’ for a few weeks, at least …. a few months is even better. Give the regimen (whatever it is) a chance to do its work.”

    “[E]ating is an everyday occurrence, and if it’s a stressful event just to eat, that stress will inevitably become chronic. Chronic stress is the enemy of fat loss. Relax …. Enjoy your food.”

    All true. Very well outlined and articulated.

    Also, from my experience:

    1) Intermittent fasting was a disaster for me. My body read it as stress and I didn’t realize it for a long time. Through trial and error, I’ve found that I’m best off doing what’s often discouraged on this blog – eating frequently throughout the day. NOT to keep my blood sugar up or anything like that – my blood sugar is fine. I just feel better when I eat frequently – proven via my own self-experimentation.

    2) Wine is a disaster for me. It kills my sleep and makes me crave sugar. I can’t be the only one out there who’s affected by wine like this or in other detrimental ways.

    I think there’s a big need on this blog for a post about wine (and alcohol), it’s pros and cons, and its varied affects on people.

    Too often I see wine suggested and even glorified here. That shouldn’t be. One post went as far as to say something like, “there’s no reason why a low carber can’t imbibe.” Sorry – that statement is simply wrong.

    Writing things like “drink responsibly” and “see a medical professional” if you have a problem isn’t enough. It’s glossing over huge issues that the writers of this blog are well capable of addressing.

    Alcohol’s affect on the mind and the body can be significant and very bad, even when consumed in relatively small amounts – in some people, especially women. The topic highly relevant for exploration here.

    Just because wine is nice for some doesn’t mean it’s good and Primal and advisable across the board. There’s way more to it than that.

    Look forward to a post looking into these things.


    Susan Alexander wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • Hi Susan, I agree about the alcohol. I do drink wine occasionally because I LOVE IT- BUT, the next day it makes me depressed and it gives me a stomach ache. I know that mean have twice as much the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women, so that’s why they can drink more: it is a fact that women are more sensitive to alcohol.

      I don’t want it to sound like an “everything in moderation” statement but I found that one glass even once in a while (okay sometimes that glass turn into 3 which I quickly regret with the next morning jitters and nausea) is okay.

      I do not understand why and when it became a social staple to “go out for a couple of drinks” because a couple usually means 4-5 drinks for women, 7-8 for men. Say you ate grains and flour. You would have ONE piece of cake. Two if it’s really good. Not 4-8 pieces!

      The things with alcohol is that drinking brings on more appetite for: drinking! Because it’s fun to be uninhibited and unleash your personality and ultimately I think it’s sad that alcohol is the main social facilitator!

      Ro wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • mean=men *cough* *freudian slip?*

        Ro wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • I agree. It’s a rare person who can have “a glass of wine.” Of all the people I know who drink wine (and it’s a lot), there’s ONE person who has a glass (i.e. one) and that’s it.

        Wine makes you want more wine – while you’re drinking it, and on subsequent evenings. That’s because it feels good to drink it, and we tend to want more and more of what makes us feel good, even if there’s a time in between when it makes us feel bad.

        Alcohol is an addictive drug. Wine is an addictive drug that comes from beautiful vineyards in beautiful bottles served in beautiful glasses. It’s the ultimate illusion.

        Susan Alexander wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • Hey Susan and Ro, re.alcohol. It used to be called a ‘pharmakon’ (sp?); a poison & a remedy. I read a story once about an ancient king- Greek I think- and he loved parties but went mad because he refused to water down his wine, which was common knowledge and common practice for everyone back then. Let’s say Ancient Greece. There was one vessel on the table for water, one for wine. Everyone knew you watered your wine.
        I have tried this now and then depending on various circumstances, and find I’m feeling fine the next morning.

        Madama Flintstonefly wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • I can’t drink wine either. I’m allergic to brewer’s yeast, which is in all alcohol to some extent. We once stayed with friends who insisted on wine with almost every meal. After two days of politely trying to comply, I felt like someone had been holding my head under water; i.e. stuffy nose, bad headache, watery eyes, etc. Definitely wasn’t worth it.

      Although I stick to three squares a day and rarely snack, IF doesn’t work for me either. It seems to sap all my energy.

      Shary wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • Thanks, Madama. Cool about the watering down. Leave it to the ancient Greeks. They had lots of good ideas, didn’t they? :-)

        It reminds me of a friend who tells me she makes a great “spritzer” in a tall glass, with a little wine and a lot of seltzer, with fresh lemon rubbed around the rim. She tells me one is enough for the whole evening and she’s fine the next day.

        Susan Alexander wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • Thanks, Shary. I didn’t know that brewer’s yeast is in alcohol. From a paleo perspective, that sounds pretty vile – yet another reason to ditch alcohol.

        I know very well what it’s like to be around wine drinkers. They love company and can get a little deflated when you decline. In that sense, they’re like the non-paleo, many of whom can get a little uncomfortable when they find out you don’t eat like them.

        Being an outlier takes some getting used to. At this point I’m so comfortable with what I do and don’t do that other people’s take on it doesn’t impact me anymore.

        Susan Alexander wrote on November 1st, 2012
        • Thanks for the shared insight- I have found that alternating sips between water and wine does really eliminate hangovers. I will have to look into the methods of the greeks!

          And it really really is a social thing: just like you want to share food, you want to share a drink and know that everyone around you is just as relaxed. I wish we could relax in unfamiliar social situations without a drink!

          FULL disclosure: I am salivating over a glass of wine.

          Ro wrote on November 1st, 2012
  19. It’s like you’re psychic Mark! Your articles always come at a time when I need them most. Two of your points really stuck out to me today. I really need to make a conscious effort to include all the aspects of the PB lifestyle, not just the ones I can fit into my schedule. More specifically I need to work on getting adequate sleep, play and sunlight. The sunlight aspect is becoming more difficult now that its dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home. I’ve also had to recently tailor my macros to my lifestyle. Started CF about a month ago but was still eating carbs in the weight loss “sweet spot” range of about 50-60 grams a day. That’s definitely not enough on the days I’m doing CF. I’ve been working on increasing it to around 100 grams on my CF days, hopefully that will help my plateau.

    Ashlys Gone Primal wrote on October 31st, 2012
  20. So ultimately, the Paleo diet, as well as all others DOES get boiled down to the maxim everybody agrees upon: eat less, move more. The destination is the same, what changes for individuals is the path taken.

    Frank wrote on October 31st, 2012
  21. Adrenal Exhaustion sucks. I have it and I had to go on DHEA supplement to recover. I was in fact Crossfitting and under eating just like example. What happened? Angry birds happened. I sling shotted high, then came down into a wall. Had to stop crossfit and move back to more low stress activity.

    Dr Jason wrote on October 31st, 2012
  22. Have been doing PB since July 4th and had already quit candy in June. My husband has sort of been doing PB just because that is what I am serving him. That means he has been cheating a little ( a little more than I have) eating a cracker here and there, etc., but his triglycerides have come down from close to 300 to 142 and his HDL and LDL are both in normal range now; his cholesterol had been 140 and still is. Also his kidney tests improved. He just received 2 stents in one artery (this is one that the dr. was ‘watching’ from a year ago when he had a small heart attack and received a stent in another artery) so I am eager to see how my tests turn out. I feel more sure now that they’ll be better.

    Patricia Purdy wrote on October 31st, 2012
  23. Thanks for letting us know… just ordered my first pair of Bikila! Been anxious to give these shoes a try, now I can at half price!

    Scott Folstad wrote on October 31st, 2012
  24. Hats off to you guys doing Cross Fit etc.
    I hardly have time to fit in 2 LHT and 1 Sprint WO in in a week.
    My slow moving is taking care of my kids, doing dishes, making dinner, and getting the mail with a one mile walk mixed in maybe once a week.
    Diet and weight loss are doing very well. I think sometimes how well it would go if I just did all the stuff I am supposed to do.

    Jiggy-Z wrote on October 31st, 2012
  25. Thanks so much for the Zulily site….I’ve been wanting to get a pair of Vibrams for awhile now but didn’t want to shell out the $100 or more for them….I already had my eye on the Bikila LS’s and went to the Zulily site and have officially ordered my first pair of Five Fingers…YAY! I’m excited to become a bare foot runner! Thanks for posting and thanks for saving me 50%!

    Lisa Trapp wrote on October 31st, 2012
  26. Exactly what I needed, right on time.

    Mike Y. wrote on October 31st, 2012
  27. Thanks for this article – I really needed to see this today. Started this way of eating a year ago as well as training kettlebells. Did great for 4-5 months, lost 40 lbs, then had a great stress in my life – and a 7-8 month plateau – lost 6-8 more lbs but they go up and down and no significant change in my clothing sizes since January. Kept up my training – inlcuding mixing it up along the way, kept up eating Primal, even observed/cut calories/carbs – but no real movement at all, although I can say muscle gain has still been good. I guess it’s gotta be the stress. So that’s what I’m working on now. Decreasing stress, having more fun, taking care of and changing what I can and letting the rest of the causes of the stress go. Hoping that will make the next year of training and weight loss more productive – I have 50lbs+ more to get to my goal (which I will add is still probably 25-30lbs above where I ulitmately need to be).

    Jen wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • Stress is extremely powerful. When my grandfather died, I gained about 10 lbs in a week. I don’t know how that is physically possible.

      Ashley wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  28. I’ve gained 13 pounds lately so I think I’m guilty of over-eating the primal food and not playing hard enough.

    JtC wrote on October 31st, 2012
  29. Started following MDA about 10 weeks ago. Thanks to Mark and everyone who comments. Good stuff.
    If I am going to do CF one day a week, do I eat a few more carbs that day? or the day before?

    TerriAnn wrote on October 31st, 2012
  30. Interesting…. I started by transitioning to Diet Evolution in mid May and began in earnest the first of August. In addition, I have been riding a bicycle 30 minutes before breakfast everyday and then a longer ride most afternoons after work (sedentary job) varying the distance and intensity. So far, I’ve dropped nearly 50 lbs and am in the process of adding yoga and Mark’s exercise routine into the mix. I have another 20 lbs I’d like to lose, but am going to let the body tell me what and when I’ve reached my “ideal” weight, not fixating on a number. My concern is that I have started doing some long rides on the weekends 50+ miles (mostly charity events and training for them @ 2X a month) at around a 15 mph overall pace (one at the beach was over 19 mph). Am I over-exercising according to Mark’s guidelines? I really enjoy these rides and generally feel great at nearly 58 years old and 197 lbs.

    kip wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • I’d say as long as you feel good doing these rides and don’t feel like you are pushing through sludge, you are fine. Just make sure to take a solid week off from time to time.

      Ashley wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  31. Regarding tailoring your macronutrients (specifically carbs) to your lifestyle – I think for many people this requires experimentation. I’m not a CF-er. I work at a desk and get moderate exercise 4 – 6x week. But I’ve learned that I can’t go too low carb or I have no energy and feel like crap. My naturopath (who is paleo) was all over me to increase my carbs about six months ago when I complained about being so tired all the time. I was so hesitant because I’m not a heavy-duty exerciser. I decided to give it a shot and low and behold, I feel so much better. Everybody’s chemistry is a bit different. You have to experiment and do what works for your body and not be influenced by the soapboxes that others are standing on.

    Alice wrote on October 31st, 2012
  32. Regarding the youth doing “great” on high fruit levels…

    In terms of expectation management and avoiding creating a forbidden fruit factor for the kid, I agree with what you’ve said, Mark.

    But a lot of people do great on poor diets because of robust genetics. Maybe a few teaspoons of coconut oil in lieu of pineapple slices (or whatever) would be a great boon to the young man’s health.

    Especially on the hormonal level — a boy is still developing and fructose just jacks everything up with ramifications far into the future. To say nothing of creating a carb addiction that’s incredibly to difficult to break.

    Victor Dorfman wrote on October 31st, 2012
  33. Mark,

    Really enjoyed this article. You summed up quite a few things I’ve tried to convey to my clients. Looks like I have some forwarding to do!

    luke depron wrote on October 31st, 2012
  34. Another great article! Weight loss hasn’t stalled, but if it does I’ll be re-reading this to figure out why.

    Kitty =^..^= wrote on October 31st, 2012
  35. I pretty much treat myself like a science experiment. I figured that working out once a week really hard for about 20 mins with weights gets me the most consistently good results. I have a ridiculously large protein/fat feast afterwards; I see visible results in my body within the fortnight. Alien genetics? :)
    I also eat one larger meal a day, and maybe a drink/small breakfast (usually tea) in the morning. It’s odd, but it’s actually how my tribal ancestors ate, so it’s not that surprising.

    nionvox wrote on October 31st, 2012
  36. I can’t agree that going without the carbs is what’s stressing the endocrine system or causing pudginess despite lots of exercise. That’s a great hypothesis but it hasn’t been proven. And I have heard from other quarters that people have *different* thyroid output at different carb-intake levels, not because anything’s wrong with their thyroid but because their *needs* for various hormones are different.

    I would tell someone having trouble with fat loss despite different exercise to look at these areas instead:

    1. Make sure your micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) needs are met and exceeded. Every traditional diet that’s ever been nutritionally analyzed has shown a surplus of all these nutrients. Even with water-solubles, your body often stores reserves of them. There’s good reason for this. And you can’t maintain reserves when you’re not even hitting 100 percent RDA–and then taxing your body with extreme exercise on top of that.

    2. Change up the way you exercise. You could be under too much stress just from the exercise and THAT may be taxing your thyroid and adrenals.

    3. Make sure you are getting enough sleep in a dark enough room, and make it look like evening in your house *before* you go to bed. Just neglecting this aspect of your life is enough to mess up your hormone balance.

    There is NO dietary requirement for carbohydrate and I don’t care what the trendy bloggers say. There ARE good reasons to eat certain foods with carbs in them, but nobody is going to sicken or die from NOT eating them. Much less are you going to sicken or die from eating *less* of them than you did in your SAD days.

    If that weren’t true, humans couldn’t have survived the Ice Age. Or winter in the higher latitudes, before agriculture or grocery stores were invented. Sorry.

    Dana wrote on October 31st, 2012
  37. For me it was Give up Diet soda. When I started primal blueprint 6 months ago I stopped drinking soda cold turkey. I dropped 40 lbs in 2 and a half months. Then I started drinking diet soda. I used to not be able to stand diet but after 2 and a half months with none the Diet soda tasted pretty good. As soon as I started on the diet soda the weight loss stopped. I even started lifting weights over a month ago and I gained muscle mass but still was not losing weight. 2 weeks ago I gave up the Diet soda and I’ve since lost 10 lbs and and inch off my waist. apparently my body is one that cant tell the difference between artificial sweeteners and it still has an effect on insulin production

    Jesse wrote on October 31st, 2012
    • Jesse, I recently read an article on Natural that talked about just this problem with diet soda and thought it was so interesting. I’m paraphrasing from memory, so forgive me if i mess it up a little. Basically, when diet soda hits your tounge, the taste buds that taste sweet send a signal to whatever gland it is that controls insulin to release insulin in anticipation of sugar entering your stomach. When it doesn’t find any sugar, it enters the blood stream and “processes the sugar there, causing low blood sugar, and thus cravings for bad stuff. (That’s the “technical” explanation).

      cindyk wrote on October 31st, 2012
      • Artificial sweeteners kill your gut bacteria and damage your brain.

        Animanarchy wrote on November 1st, 2012

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!