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What does it mean when diet ISN'T the silver bullet?

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  • What does it mean when diet ISN'T the silver bullet?

    Now, don't get me wrong, I am a diehard Primal/Paleo girl, been happily eating this way for two years now, and for energy/sleep/taste/overall health reasons, I'll never go back to SAD. I've converted family members and even vegetarians to Primal and I sing its praises on a constant basis. BUT:

    I have never been able to make significant body comp changes on this diet. I can eat clean as a whistle or I can splurge on cheat meals during vacation and it doesn't make a difference in what I weigh and how I look. If I eat SAD, I gain weight, but if I'm eating Primal, my weight just stays at a setpoint of about 155-160, and I have a flabby belly, no matter what I do. I've tried VLC, whole30, calorie and carb cycling, elimination diets, etc--basically every iteration of Primal that floats around on these boards. No change. Which, it could be worse--I could be a gainer, and I'm not. My body seems to want to stay at this weight and BF% no matter what I eat. I read posts all the time from people who lost weight purely through adopting this diet, and probably fifty posts a day quote "80% of how you look is diet" or "abs are made in the kitchen". Well, that just seems not to be true for me.

    Because: the only time I see significant body comp changes is when I work out a LOT. Exercise is the silver bullet for me. If I'm not working out, my body comp will not budge a speck. If I'm working out PBF-style, I see some slight slimming/leaning. If I'm working out like a beast (i.e right now, doing Crossfit 3x/week and a lifting class 2x/week), THAT'S when I see actual changes in body comp. My eating in all these modes is the same (with caloric intake relative to amount of exercise).

    So my question is: anyone have any idea why? Why does diet make no difference for me, and the only thing that makes any real difference is lots and LOTS of working out? (Before anyone starts screeching about overtraining, I'm not, I feel great, I kill my WODs and am making steady strength gains, and my sleep/energy is fantastic. And anyhow, whether or not I'm overtraining is a different conversation). Is there something hormonal going on that seems to be suggested by the above?

    I'm really just curious. I don't feel bitter or overburdened or anything--I love working out and am focused far more on fitness than body comp anyway--but I just have no idea why the rule that seems to work for everyone else doesn't work for me.

  • #2
    I've always reckoned its a combination of both diet and exercise and they interact differently for different people. I don't know how tall you are or what your frame size is, so it's difficult to say whether 155-160lb is heavy or not. I can't get below 140lb - I'm 5'5" - just seems to be the way my body is. I'm not built to be skinny. However, like you I build muscle easy if I work out a lot, so maybe it's just your body type?

    Having said that, maybe you might want to get your thyroid checked if you're concerned?


    • #3
      For reference, I'm 5'6" and have a classic apple shape, storing all my weight in my middle. And I do build muscle really easily (have always been quite muscular ever since I was a child). This is why I consistently referred to body comp rather than weight, because weight is pretty meaningless to me. But I do have a higher-than-ideal BF% of 28%, and nothing I have ever done diet-wise has budged it even a smidge--only exercise has an effect.


      • #4
        calories count. maybe track your intake for a while and make adjustments. at 5'6, with a muscluar physique, you're probably not that far above your healthy set-point. losing the last of the vanity pounds is probably going to take a combination of calorie restriciton and exercise. that means weighing and measuring every morsel that crosses your lips. it sucks, but it might be something you have to consider


        • #5
          The claim is that fat loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise, which is probably true, but I think the part that isn't mentioned is that the 20% tends to make all the difference when you get down near your goal and focus on recomposition, not just weight loss. I know for me at this point that I can probably just happily keep on eating primal and maintain my weight, but if I want to see more fat loss, the only way that's going to happen (short of starving and ending up skinny fat) is to lift weights and do my sprints/HIIT. It's just the reality--LGN usually requires exercise, not just diet, at least for most of us.
          “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” --Audre Lorde

          Owly's Journal


          • #6
            Except that I've done that for months in the past and it hasn't made a difference. Seriously--I was a weighing and measuring queen there for a while, and I've calorie-restricted, even trying different levels of deficit, and nothing. Nada. I'm pretty comfortable in my conclusion that diet does not have an effect on my body comp (within the scope of Primal, obvs--certainly if I started eating pizzas and twinkies daily we'd see some BAD body comp changes), because I'm not kidding or exaggerating when I say that I have tried literally everything within the realm of Primal tweaks and tricks, and nothing has any effect.

            My question is less about advice on HOW to make it work for me than it is a general call for brainstorming on the topic. Because I'm honestly just really curious as to why diet has no effect on me.


            • #7
              Body comp. and health in general are not just a function of what you eat. Its a function of your whole lifestyle. Your environment, your mental outlook, and how much rest/sleep you get and under what conditions are just as important as what you choose to ingest. Movement is an obvious part of the equation. Proprioception is one of the most essential nutrients for the brain and health. So in the end, no diet is not the silver bullet. Just a piece of the puzzle.

              A for my families case we are replacing all of our carpet with wood floors and tile. We use biodegradable cleaning products...or just water. Sleep in a totally blacked out room without television. Getting a mold check done for areas (near the bathrooms) that have flooded from previous owner. Ect.
              Last edited by Neckhammer; 10-10-2012, 11:38 AM.


              • #8
                what do you currently do for workouts?

                how's your sleep? stress levels? thyroid? what is your family built like? tall and skinny, obese, etc?


                • #9
                  Workouts: I walk my dogs 45 minutes morning and night. I do Crossfit 3x a week and lift heavy 2x a week.
                  Sleep: Fantastic, 8-9 hours a night and I bounce out of bed at 630am.
                  Stress: Practically nonexistent. I live in the greatest city on earth and I love both my jobs.
                  Thyroid: Family history of hypo, but I have it checked routinely and the only time it got bad was when I was vegan and eating a shitload of soy (five years ago). Levels since then have always been perfect and I have no other symptoms of hypo.
                  Family: Half are tall, muscular firemen, half are shorter, heavier farm folk. I have the classic family trait of storing a lot of weight in my middle, but I build muscle easily and excel at strength-based sports.
                  Since its only a matter of time before someone asks what I eat: I eat basically the same thing every day. Bone broth plus coffee with coconut milk an hour before Crossfit. Whey after if it was a lifting day. Lunch is kale salad and chicken. Dinner is a meat (usually beef or lamb) and a vegetable. If I have dessert, it's frozen berries with coconut milk. I do a cheat meal once a week wherein I have tacos (Torchy's, amirite Austinites) and maybe a beer. I do this cheat meal because a) I love tacos and beer and b) I did a 120-day Whole30 once and nothing budged, and when I added the cheat meal back in nothing budged. Makes no difference.


                  • #10
                    i think that the little bit of flabby belly that you have isn't going to go away easily. people lose fat and shrink with primal, sure, but it's all in an effort to achieve homeostasis...and i think you might be there, or that's what it sounds like at least. a little extra body fat is a good thing; the body is going to hold on to it as much as it can as an energy source, particularly for women.
                    if anyone wants to fight that (and cortisol, and genetics, and hormones), it may mean having to go to some extreme measures. it's interesting that calorie restriction didn't work for you. how long did you try that one?
                    i have actually noticed a very similar thing with me. eating primal doesn't make me gain weight at all, but i see very little visible difference if i go without exercise. i also have a couple of small body fat deposits that won't go away.
                    i think once you get to a certain level it gets waaaayyyy harder. i also think that the details, and planning, and hunger that comes into play with that can stress a person out so that all the good work is balanced out by increased hormones, which will just keep you in the same place.

                    Stephan over at Whole Health Source has some good info on the body fat set point, which starts here:
                    Whole Health Source: The Body Fat Setpoint
                    and later (you'll have to search, he talks about it a lot) he went into how food reward can have an effect. i started learning about it, but quickly decided that chiseled abs are not reason enough for me to give up well prepared steak.


                    • #11
                      I see that you've mentioned different tweaks and stuff, but have you tried IF? One thing that works for me whenever I can actually stick to it is early dinner and then nothing else except for water and black coffee till around 2 pm. the next day (or as long as you can stand it w/o food)


                      • #12
                        I've done IF in various forms, including a long stint (3-4 months) of Leangains. No effect. Right now I fast Saturday mornings because I don't work out Saturdays and usually don't get hungry until the afternoon. I like fasting, and I think it probably has other non-fat-loss benefits, but it does nothing to help me lost fat.

                        Anytime I try a tweak, I give it at least three weeks before deciding it's not doing anything. I've calorie restricted down to 1000/day and all it Reid was make me feel tired and starving, and my workouts sucked. Body comp remained unchanged.

                        The only times in my entire life that I've visibly or measurably lost fat was when I was working out hardcore. As I am now. And like I said, I don't mind working out hardcore. I just want to know why food has no effect on things. And when I say food has no effect on things, it goes both ways--based on past experience, I could eat a cheat meal every single day and it'd also have no effect. I don't know what would happen if I gorged on SAD food constantly, though. And let's just say it's doubtful that I'd ever do that experiment.

                        To those saying "it's hard to lose those last few vanity pounds"--this is not that. I sit between 28 and 30% body fat, and could visibly stand to lose 20 pounds, even 30 if I wanted to be called "lean". And I've never been heavier than this, either. I have literally been at this weight and body comp for a decade with no ability to change it.


                        • #13
                          You've eaten pretty much what you've listed in all your time doing primal? Perhaps try other foods? I had to switch things around a bit, going from high protein/fat to lower fat to see results as I've dropped the weight.
                          F 28/5'4/100 lbs

                          "I'm not a psychopath, I'm a high-functioning sociopath; do your research."


                          • #14
                            No, that's what I eat right now. I've enjoyed a variety of primal foods over the time I've been Primal. And actually, I've been Primal for about five years, it's just two years ago that I went strict and cut out all grains and most dairy permanently.

                            I've been lurking on the site and on these boards since 2008. No kidding. Name a tweak/hack/style of Primal, I've done it. I wouldn't have posted that I had come to this conclusion about diet unless I had really, actually, for sure tried everything and come to this conclusion about diet. I promise.

                            I'm honestly surprised that no one else has experienced this phenomenon, and now I sort of feel like a freak of nature... I figured all kinds of people would crawl out of the woodwork and admit that diet has little to no effect on their body comp, too.

                            I guess the answer is: it's a mystery, and meanwhile keep exercising like it's going out of style.


                            • #15
                              It seems to me, Heatseeker, that your body is plumb happy where it is. It feels no need to fix what ain't broken, so to speak.

                              Is your body equally stubborn about maintaining the losses you get when when you work out like a madwoman or does it gain back to your "usual" weight?
                              Grain Free since 2009, WP from 2005
                              ~100% primal (because anything less makes me very sick)
                              Goal: hike across Sweden with my grandchildren when I retire in a few years