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

Dear Carrie: Reader Question Roundup

What is your workout schedule? What do your meals look like? How did you lose weight and stretch marks after pregnancy? These are just a few of the questions you sent in last week.

Hello, everyone! It’s Carrie Sisson here today to field your questions. Last week Mark and I asked for any questions you might have about my experience living the Primal lifestyle. I want to thank everyone who commented for your kind words and thoughtful questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts to my responses in the comment board today. Thanks again and Grok on!

Fitness Questions

What kind of workouts do you do?

I love to be outdoors, hiking or sprinting on the beach.

I work out in the gym with a personal trainer (a bodybuilder who won the Miss California title) to maintain my muscle tone and strength. I also do some yoga, because I love the way I feel after a class: a state of blissful inner peace that helps the rest of my day flow with ease and grace.

Weekly routine? What kind of weight training do you do? How long and how often?

Sunday – Yoga

Monday – Weights (low reps, heavy weights – chest, shoulders, tris) with my bodybuilder trainer Becky West

Tuesday – Yoga, hike an hour to an hour and a half in the Malibu hills

Wednesday – Weights (legs)

Thursday – Weights (back and biceps), hike

Friday – Off

Saturday – Sprints, either at the beach or on an elevated treadmill

How long have you been exercising?

I’ve been pretty active all my life. I played tennis, skied and water skied growing up. I jogged (maybe 10-15 miles a week) during the jogging craze. I have lifted weights since my late twenties (in fact, I met Mark in a gym in Los Angeles in 1987). I have to say that since we really started focusing on “Primal” living, I feel better and am stronger than at any other time in my life.

Do you do anything specifically for your abs?

No, I have learned that most compound exercises work the abs better than all those ab-specific exercises (and you don’t really have to think about it). The abs respond more to activities that require stabilization more than they do to just crunching.

Diet Questions

What do you eat?

Here are a couple sample menus:

Day 1

Breakfast – Green tea with heavy cream, smoothie with 30 grams protein powder and a handful of berries

Lunch – Salad with veggies, avocado and fish (usually salmon)

Dinner – Grilled fish with grilled veggies

Snacks – Half cup of plain full-fat yogurt with a bit of agave nectar

Click the images below to view the nutritional breakdown:

Carrie's Sample Meal Day 1 Carrie's Sample Meal Day 1

Day 2

Breakfast – Green tea with heavy cream, 3 scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese

Lunch – Kale salad (pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and raisins), cup of yogurt

Dinner – Grilled fish with steamed veggies

Snacks – Handful of nuts

Click the images below to view the nutritional breakdown:

Carrie's Sample Meal Day 2 Carrie's Sample Meal Day 2

How many carbs do you eat on a daily basis?

I try to stay at right around 100. I rarely exceed that amount by very much and often fall below it.

Is your diet rich in fats?

Yes, I love cheese, butter, full-fat yogurt, salad dressings made with extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, etc.

Why have you chosen to exclude red meat and poultry from your diet?

My parents became vegetarian over 30 years ago and inundated me with the many books on the inhumane treatment of CAFO animals. I guess it sank in, because I haven’t eaten red meat or chicken since. About ten years ago, I did notice that it was difficult to get a reliable source of good protein, so I began eating fish. I now eat some form of fish every day, along with the use of supplemental protein (powders). The increased protein really boosts my energy.

How many calories do you take in for maintenance? For weight loss?

My weight never varies more than five pounds, so I don’t really count calories. I eat when I’m hungry and eliminate simple carbs most of the time. Like Mark, I can have days where I eat a fair amount (maybe 2,300 calories) and others where I can eat next to nothing and suffer no ill effects.

How sensitive for carbohydrates are you really?

I still have a sweet tooth. I think we all do, but I don’t get carried away indulging it. If I have dessert at all, it might be a taste or two at a restaurant or as a guest at someone’s house. Also, I never really appreciated how impactful grains are on my body. I do try to avoid them now. If I break down and eat grains (and I do every great once in a while – but not that much) I bloat, have gas and get a “poochy” belly.

Since women need a higher percentage of body fat than men in order to maintain normal biological functions such as their monthly cycles, do women in general have different dietary requirements than men? (for example, more carbs? more fat?)

Clearly, women need fewer calories than men overall because they tend to have less lean mass. I think it’s the hormones that helps drive the allocation of fat on women’s bodies, too. So a diet high in carbs will tend to see an even greater impact on fat storage in women. Meanwhile, I think women just need more dietary fat than most get; sometimes as a result of childbearing and nursing, other times as a result of monthly hormonal changes, etc. Women always tend to be afraid of dietary fat (and I certainly was), but I have seen that the more fat in my diet (as long as the carbs are low) the healthier I feel and the better I look.

Women’s Issues

Some friends and I were just discussing how lifestyle can affect women as they get to that stage in life where every doctor is handing out hormones. Any thoughts on this?

I am going through menopause now. I tried for a long time to do whatever I could naturally to avoid hormone replacement therapy; I tried all the herbs, black cohosh, dong Quai, Evening Primrose, macca, specific vitamin regimens, etc. The hot flashes were bearable, but when my memory started to go, I gave in. I now use bio-identical hormones in a cream form (low doses of progesterone, estrogen and testosterone) and have never felt better.

How to lose weight/stretch marks after pregnancy?

I breastfed my daughter Devyn for two years (and son Kyle for 16 months). In each case, I had my body back – or even leaner – within two months and never had stretch marks. It could be because I never gained much weight with either child. It could also be the amount of fat in my diet, the fact that I rubbed coconut oil on my belly each night or because I exercised through each pregnancy. I would say it was partly genes, but my own mother had serious stretch marks from each of her children. Maybe it’s just luck, too.

What effect has living Primally had on your reproductive health? Easier periods, etc? I used to (and sometimes still do) suffer from very painful periods and I notice that when I’m strictly off grains/refined sugars, they are less so. Do you have any observations about this? I figure if living primally is good for overall health, it has to have a positive effect on a female’s reproductive health as well.

I was not eating truly Primally until just before menopause. However, I have friends who have cut out the sugar and the grains and who no longer have menstrual cramps, their periods are lighter and they have more energy during their cycle. All the research I have read confirms that a high-fat, low-carb diet will offer those benefits. It’s just getting through the transition that is the hardest part.

Raising Children

What do you feed your children? Did you exclude all grains from your children’s diets?

I wish I had had this info when my kids were younger. They grew up on “healthy whole grains.” Of course, they have cut way back now. My 18-year-old daughter is healthier and leaner for having done so.  She eats all forms of meat, poultry, eggs and fish as her main emphasis. My 15-year-old son is still a vegetarian (his choice from age two) and has opted to cut back on grains somewhat, while increasing his salads, steamed veggies, nuts and fruits. He loves avocados, heavy whipping cream and olive oil and he does get added protein from yogurt, protein powders and some legumes.

As a mom of two small children I’m both struggling to get back to an athletic life (and lose the baby weight) and I’m trying to figure out how to get the kids to enjoy primal foods. I’ve resorted to letting them at least keep their oatmeal breakfast to get them to eat. Any thoughts and suggestions to a young family would be very welcome!

I make sure we have plenty of Primal food choices in the fridge or the pantry at all times. I also got rid of most of the non-Primal snacks, so there’s no temptation to go for a bowl of Rice Crispies instead of an apple with almond butter. We try lots of recipes until we find some that everyone enjoys. I still take my son grocery shopping with me and he likes helping plan dinners together.

My question is more for my kids. Do you have any tips for packing them good “primal friendly” lunches for school?

My daughter liked to roll turkey and cheese into little finger sandwiches (instead of bread) as her favorite lunch. I also used to give them small containers of fresh berries or celery with cream cheese or I’d cut up red bell peppers, carrots, and/or cucumbers with a home-made dipping sauce. Mark says a cold chicken leg is a great lunch meal, too.

Any advice you have to balancing role of mom in the quest for health?

I enjoyed rollerblading or jogging with my kids in a “baby-jogger” for years. As they got older, we played many games with them at least once a week outside. Soccer, tennis, biking, hiking, Frisbee, swimming at the beach, ping pong, stand-up paddling, you name it. I think kids are the best excuse for parents to get back into the mindset of the Primal law that says “Play.” Of course, it gets the kids into that mindset, too, because sometimes kids today spend way too much time inside. I also think it’s imperative that you model good eating patterns for them. Let them get involved cooking with you or food shopping or meal planning.

Odds and Ends

How long have you been Primal?

For me it has been a gradual transition. I have always valued sleep and play. Those were easy for me. I have worked out religiously since my mid-twenties – although I bought into the cardio thing for too long. I recently became a fan of sprinting, even though I was pretty good at it (=fast) for most of my life. I have always done the kind of gym workouts that focused on body parts, but within the past five years have transitioned to more full-body motions (pushups, pull-ups, dips, weighted squats and lunges, etc). The diet was more recent. I only gave up wheat three years ago. The effect was so pronounced (in a good way) that I gave up oats and other grains shortly thereafter. Now, I might eat some rice in a sushi roll or a tortilla chip here and there, but usually that’s only when we go out to eat (because I simply don’t keep those things at home).

What do you do to take care of your skin? It looks like you have very few freckles, wrinkles, or age spots (or stretch marks!!) despite living the “Malibu lifestyle” with lots of sun.

I do live the Malibu lifestyle and spend a good deal of time in the sun, but I am adamant about keeping my face, chest and arms covered with clothing, shade or a good combo UVA/UVB sunscreen. That way, I get my tan and my vitamin D, but minimize the ageing part. I also do take advantage of twenty-first century medicine in that I do micro-dermabrasion on my face and neck and get glycolic acid peels once in a while.

I am very interested in the primal female perspective and how it might differ, even if only slightly, from the males.

I have spent the past few years studying spiritual psychology and noting the energetic differences between men and women (and how to coexist peacefully with those differences!). I love the Primal concept and think Mark has really hit on a novel way of viewing how we evolved physically. I do believe we (men and women) are different energetically and can each take the Ten Blueprint Laws and apply them in our own unique way. For example, I like the idea of going barefoot a lot, and I do so around the house and on the beach, but you won’t catch me wearing FiveFingers to the gym anytime soon. And there’s no way I’m ever giving up my Manolo Blahniks.

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 second the question — what program were you using to track calories and macronutrients? Calorieking? An iphone app? Website? Do tell..

    Josh G wrote on October 20th, 2009
    • Josh, we use fitday.com to track everything here.

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 20th, 2009
  2. Hi. Are the Fitday numbers incorrect, are do you have lowfat yogurt, rather than whole-fat yogurt?

    Thanks!

    Kathleen wrote on November 6th, 2009
  3. Thanks so much for this post! I have just discovered this site and bought the book this weekend but I don’t eat much chicken and only very occasional red meat. I figured fish and some whey protein are my path and then I found this post. This blueprint has found me with perfect timing (when the student is ready…) Anyway, would love to hear more. It’s always a little harder from the female perspective to unbend our minds about fat so this was very helpful. You both are a great inspiration. Many thanks!

    Del Mar Mel wrote on November 8th, 2009
  4. This is the welcome page for the dietguidance.us Association web site.

    Dietroly wrote on November 20th, 2009
  5. love the pictures of you and mark! you make one beautiful, inspiring couple.

    Lauren wrote on September 17th, 2010
    • I second that!

      Amanda wrote on February 26th, 2011
  6. My husband found this post and sent it to me. I am 46, in the midst of peri-menpause, with heavy periods due to fibroids, and adenomyosis(sp?). All my girlfriends are going to hormonal replacement therapy, or they are getting hysterectomies. I want to do this as naturally as possible. Where do you find the creams that you are using? I have been primal for 2 1/2 months, but find myself craving chocolate when I am ovulating. Will this ever go away the longer I am primal? This is where I fall off the wagon.
    Carrie, I think you should write a book for women, that addresses women, because we are so different from our male counterparts. Thank you for your breakdowns of exercise and diet. I love yoga, but was wondering how that fit into the Primal BP. Now I know. I love doing pull-ups, dips, pushups, but there is definitely something about doing a bench press, and a military press that I love.
    Finally, are you going to be at the conference in April? I am looking forward to meeting Mark, but I would love to meet you, as well. You both are inspirations and I am so grateful to have stumbled upon Mark’s book.

    Michelle wrote on February 10th, 2011
    • In response to Michelle: I am 42 and had really struggled over the past few years with extremely heavy periods, and out-of-whack hormones in general. In Jan. of 2010 my estradiol levels were so low they were near post-menopausal! In August I started ProHelp progesterone cream 1-800-daystar/ helpful link (askdrbarbara.com). I think I’m correct in telling you Dr. Barbara Hoffman is the one who formulated this cream and IT WORKS! … Anyhow, I can’t say enough good about it. Perimenopausal and menopausal women can use it, as well as teens 14 and above. I noticed a difference immediately and in just 2-3 months my estradiol levels improved greatly. I’m excited to share it with you!

      Shannon wrote on April 21st, 2011
  7. HI there, I really enjoyed Carrie’s section as I am a woman.
    very nice!! love to hear more from her

    grok on

    tibtib wrote on February 16th, 2011
  8. I have only been primal for 2 weeks now and really enjoyed hearing Carrie’s comments. And I realize, after reading about the connection between carbs and cramps, that my period has just passed and has been the easiest one I can recall. No cramps, no headaches, I *barely* noticed it! I wouldn’t have even thought it would be cutting out refined sugars and grains, but it is a complete 180 difference to last month.

    Amanda wrote on February 26th, 2011
  9. Carrie, are you on the same page with hormone replacement now? I have been seven years without hormones (postmenopausal) now, on Atkins first, now Primal, and feel great. Do I really need somebody else’s hormones (through a patch or pill)?

    Casey wrote on March 18th, 2011
  10. Carrie, you look amazing and are such an inspiration! Thanks so much for the good info.

    Note: Dr. Mercola sells the best Miracle Whey Protein AND sells dark chocolate bars high in protein (with whey) and NO sugar! Check it out!

    Shannon wrote on April 21st, 2011
  11. What a beautifully open post. Thank you Carrie!

    Peggy wrote on May 9th, 2011
  12. Will you ever come for a visit to new-zealand? There are plenty of primal followers here! And great skiing area’s like mount hutt lol!

    Jordan wrote on July 2nd, 2011
  13. Been Primal for one week and my heart continues to race. Is this because of the lack of glucose circulating in my blood stream.
    I do not need to lose weight. I would like to feel better and have more nergy.

    Thanks

    Judy Cervizzi wrote on August 1st, 2011
  14. Carrie, thank you so much for your posts. I am newer to the site, but am loving the information,a nd passing it along to my wife to help us both become healthier people. I wanted to ask about your response to teh question of makign periods easier and less painful. You said something about all yoru research shows lowering carbs and keeping fats high will help, and I wanted to know if you could provide some links to some of that research so that I may show it to my wife. She has VERY painful and erratic cycles, and we are trying nearly everythign under teh sun to help “normalize” her and reduce pain/stress levels.

    Billygoat wrote on August 26th, 2011
  15. Carrie, thank you for posting this! It was great to see the ratios of fat/carbs/protein you actually eat. I’m an almost-40-year-old woman with quite a bit of fat left to lose (I’ve already lost 60 pounds, but I’d like to drop three more pants sizes). I’m having a really hard time getting past the decades-old “eating fat will make you fat” mindset, even though I can see why we’re actually healthier when eating fat. I guess my question is, for a woman who has about three sizes’ worth of body fat to lose, is it still advisable to eat around 50% of our calories as fat? Also, everyone says that primal eating will naturally curb the amount of calories you consume, but do we really not need to worry about calories when eating/living primal? I guess I see the logic of it, but in spite of that, there’s a big part of me that’s scared to take the leap and start gaining again!

    Melissa wrote on September 20th, 2011
  16. Hmmm, my kind a girl, “And there’s no way I’m ever giving up my Manolo Blahniks.”

    lisa wrote on October 27th, 2011
  17. I too have worked out most of my adult life and have adopted Mark’s diet for the most part. I have currently added the P90X workout routine to my schedule. It is a demanding workout but I am managing it well. My question is this. They are encouraging carbs from grains, starches, etc. for additional stored energy when needed. Can you give me your opinion on this? Thanks.

    Margaret Souter wrote on January 17th, 2012
  18. I am 56 and hoping one day to look as good as you! Thanks for the comments they are very helpful

    teena christopherson wrote on May 28th, 2012
  19. I was just curious as to what brand your protein powered is? And what the protein is…

    Rachel wrote on July 24th, 2012
  20. So late to comment… but I actually have more severe menstrual cramps after going primal. My period disappeared for the first 3 months and when I got it back, the pain was just terrible. I hope that doesn’t discourage others.. It was much shorter and lighter, just more painful.

    Shana wrote on December 16th, 2012
  21. carrie, you are an outstanding tribute to what IS possible!! I am in awe of you

    cindy wrote on April 30th, 2013
  22. Carrie,
    You mention your “memory started to go”, what types of things started to happen?
    (I am in this stage and just trying to keep up with any bizarre symptoms, so far I’ve not had any.) Thanks so much for your healthy incite.
    Mary

    Mary wrote on August 22nd, 2013
  23. Hi Carrie! I am a 57 yOLD woman with no income, little energy, poor memory, poor muscle tone and too much fat (particularly around the middle). I started yoga class (free here) and my back can’t handle most of the poses. I am practicing the breathing bohndas and have been meditating daily since age 22. I stopped eating processed foods in my 40s. I have never liked to exercise and didn’t need to until my mid 30s when I began a sitting job 12 hrs/day. I did try water aerobics 2 yrs ago but pulled my biceps and my right rotator cuff, which has healed, albeit with less range of motion. I do self-reiki & healing touch. I am an active volunteer in my community and am deeply spiritual. My life-partner is an episcopal priest and we live frugally. I gave up working almost 2 years ago when we moved here for her new position. I don’t know what to do to regain my health. The only medication I take is for high blood pressure and depression. I eat organic, except for meat and dairy and grew many vegetables over the summer. Since I can’t afford to buy supplements or programs and my reading memory is poor. Do you have any suggestions for me? Shalom, melissa

    Melissa McNeill wrote on November 16th, 2013
  24. Hi Carrie – which website or app did you use in the images above of the nutritional breakdown of your sample meals? Thanks so much!

    Cathy Cercena wrote on May 27th, 2014

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