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. This is very important post as you mention ways that may prevent any one from losing weight thanks a lot for your good post

    davidzakria wrote on November 5th, 2012
  2. I thought your post was very informative. Even took a few notes that applied for me. My problem over the past month is just getting into a groove that works for me. I’m trying to keep my stress low but I’m also trying to push myself to achieve the goals I’ve set…

    Meeting goals can be hard, I try to work on my portions and adding more vegetables to my diet as well as, staying away from fast food or quick serve food. Though it’s good, I just don’t feel it’s what I should be eating while I’m getting back in shape!

    Adam J. Perschbacher wrote on November 5th, 2012
  3. Yeah, I completely agree with most of the sentiments around here. Wanting your body to work optimally seems like an experiment full of daily trial and error which is frustrating…and annoying. I’m currently doing the Turbofire program, eating lots of protein and fat, and eating about 30-50 g of carbs per day and seeing iffy weight changes. For instance, last week I lost 5 lbs and this week I’ve regained 2 of those lbs eating basically the same way. So with these frquent ups and downs, by weight has been steadily in the 130-132 range since about May. It’s driving me nuts (as if medical school isn’t enough of a stressor as is) so I’m going to try cutting out nuts and fruit until Thanksgiving to see if that helps.

    Janelle wrote on November 7th, 2012
  4. oops, meant ‘frequent’ and ‘my’

    Janelle wrote on November 7th, 2012
  5. For me it was not eating enough that caused a stall in my weight loss. I added more healthy fat in the form of coconut milk and coconut oil as part of breakfast – which I had always skipped. Within a few weeks I was back to losing weight at a faster rate than before.

    Greg wrote on November 14th, 2012
  6. These are some of the best advice I have have ever read. Very common sense.

    Julius wrote on November 14th, 2012
  7. I (have been) (am) dealing with orthorexia nervosa and notice more and more the claim I’m over it is not true! Only yesterday my husband told me I am looking at all kinds of health food sites, recipes almost all day long, like I’m obsessed with food. I guess I have to admit I am. I am stressing myself too much with what is healthy or not. I’m not enjoying my meals, it doesn’t have to taste even, checking all the possible side effects of herbs, checking my weight nearly daily. I’m bouching between raw food and paleo diets and indeed internet is not helping me all the time. Good source for information, but an equal source for rubbish, if not larger.

    Mina wrote on November 15th, 2012
  8. I like this article
    it’s very good Thanks :)

    p3rfectshape wrote on November 20th, 2012
  9. I don’t have adrenal glands and rely on oral steroids for cortisol replacement. (I would die without them.) Primal diet has certainly helped with some of the weight gain associated with steroid dependence. I’ve avoided typed 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. I’ve started gaining back some of the weight I lost a few years ago and I think I know why now. 1. There must be more to stress hormones than what the adrenal glands make. I’m constantly stressed by not having adrenal glands. I’ve assumed that not making cortisol has meant that I can ignore any and all advice pertaining to elevated cortisol. I let stress get out of control. (I’m a nurse–I give advice instead of following it.) and 2. I let exhaustion convince me to stop moving. Thanks for the shakeup!

    Alexandra wrote on December 30th, 2012
  10. Body fat fast can be hard and the benefits you get typically are short-lived.
    In case you can not control your food daily allowance and meals quality, very likely anyone placed on weight within not many
    days and nights. We intend to view some procedures which can help to reduce fat rapid and prevent getting hired back
    again. wrote on March 11th, 2013
  11. I started crossfit and paleo mid May this year. I’ve gotten stronger and my body is getting tighter but I have lost next to nothing on the scale :(

    BArb wrote on October 29th, 2013
    • Do you tend to eat your meals fast? Try smaller bites and slowing down.
      Do you eat snacks? The point is that you should ween yourself off between meal snacks so that when it is lunch and dinner, your body feels true hunger. (Normal day should be 3 very filling meals. Once in awhile if you really need it, it’s fine to have a small mid-afternoon snack or dessert after dinner but it should not be an everyday thing.)
      Do you drink anything other than water between meals? Even sipping on herbal tea, coffee, juice…whatever between meals can stop a woman’s weight loss in my experience. Stick to only water in between your meals.

      I really think these things above have very little affect upon men’s weightloss so it’s not talked about much in the Paleo community but are critical when it comes to many women.

      Paula wrote on October 29th, 2013
  12. Yes! Finally something about hunting.

    kinky pics wrote on August 30th, 2014
  13. when I started Paleo years ago weight came off effortlessly, now I am 36 years old and I have put back on 5 pounds through too much carb eating through honey treats and sweet potatoes, I’m only 5’5 I’m a woman and now I’m back up to 123 and I want to get back down to my 118 but for some reason I’m finding it nearly impossible, my body just does not want to let go I have been doing a lot of coconut products and I’m wondering if that could be the problem. I also find that when I work out I start gaining weight and I know that it’s not muscle, I have had a lot of stress in my life so I don’t feel that high intensity working out is good for my adrenals so I try to stay away from that. anyway it’s frustrating that five years ago it seems the way just fell off and now the scale just won’t move I’m now starting to track my calories on my fitness pal says I can only 1250 to lose weight and that seems really low.

    melissa wrote on January 21st, 2016
  14. Mark, (or someone else who knows) what would be your recommendation for maximum weekly butter consumption?

    I find myself craving butter and put it on my steamed veggies all the time – I use mostly Stirling butter (I was told its the #1 voted butter in Canada, its sweet & delicious!)

    I find myself being shocked at how fast I can use up a pound of butter. Is this dangerous?

    I am carrying about 10 extra pounds recently but I have not changed my eating habits (low carb paleo, very little fruits, etc)

    But what’s a maximum amount of butter for a week’s use?

    Tanya wrote on April 6th, 2016

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