Dear Mark: Weight Loss and Workout Routine

For this week’s Dear Mark I thought I’d publish a couple email correspondences I’ve had with MDA readers lately. Hit me up with your questions and comments in the comment board.

Unwanted Weight Loss

Hey Mark,

Been enjoying your recent posts. I actually have a question for you.

I recently persuaded my Mum to give up dairy, bread, pasta etc – so her diet is basically Primal. It has been 8 weeks and she’s feeling great – but she is losing weight and does not want to (she looks great already!) I have been telling her to eat more carb-dense foods like bananas and squash and to just EAT MORE FOOD! But she complains that she does not feel like eating any more than she already is.

Any ideas?


It’s a great position to be in. Maybe her natural genetic tendency on the PB is to be ectomorphic. The body on a Primal Blueprint diet tends to do what it should be doing in the context of one’s life. If that means shedding fat, so be it. If that means gaining muscle, so be it. The fact that she feels great is the best indicator that the eating strategy is working to her benefit. Having said that, she says doesn’t want to lose weight….does that mean she is losing fat that she wants to keep or that she’s losing muscle? I would assume anyone who is eating to the point of satisfaction each day ought to be OK with the idea of losing a little more fat. As for muscle, first thing I would ask is whether she is exercising. If not, then that may be what’s missing. A strength training regimen in conjunction with a Primal eating strategy will add whatever muscle and lean mass is “required” by the body to keep up with the work load.  Is her protein intake enough? If it is, then she should not be losing lean mass at all. If it isn’t, then she needs to see where she can add the extra protein. Finally, are calories enough? If not, she should increase calories by increasing fats first and then the complex starchy (healthier) carbs like yams, etc.

Hi Mark,

Finally got round to talking to my Mum, and she found your analysis and questions very insightful. I think this has given her plenty to think about and from it she will find the right answer herself eventually – she’s a bright lady, but I think just needs time to understand what her weight loss actually means.

She certainly is not engaging in any strength training exercise – and since by her own admission when she does more exercise of that nature her apetite increases, I suspect the answer may be staring her in the face! She just needs to get over her insitinctive assumption that weight training is something my Dad does and that she should stick to walking! One other thing we talked about was whether some of her weight lost had been due to water. She reports that the bags under her eyes have diminished since changing her diet, which she thinks may be a sign of reduced water retention…


Methuselah (Pay Now, Live Later)

New Workout Routine?

Playing Ultimate Frisbee in my Vibram Fivefingers

Dear Mark,

I’d first like to say, thank you so much for the Primal Blueprint. Although I haven’t been following it to the teeth, for the past three weeks I have placed an emphasis on avoiding carbohydrates, eating tons of veggies and fruit, and stoking up on healthy fats. I also incorporated your recommendations of 3-times weekly weight-lifting with 3 times sprinting, along with daily yoga.

The results have so far been astounding. I gave blood last week, and my hemacrit (genetically low in my family) along with blood pressure were very good according to the nurse. Now, this isn’t that amazing for me, a 17-year old male with a relatively health history, but get this:  Quantitatively, I am breaking my prior records on weight lifting, either maintaining prior records (although I haven’t lifted in 5 months, the beginning of cross country) or setting new ones. I’ve especially seen progress in my pull-ups (5,4,3 after other arm workouts), although my only changes have been in diet and no more “cardio”. My abs feel much more defined, and I am starting to build arm muscle. Physiologically, I feel much less hungry and have much less of a sugar/starch craze.

Now, I haven’t gotten completely primal, as I’m still in the care of my parents, who are both very mainstream doctors. My mom serves meats occasionally along with veggies and whole grain, so not that bad. I’ve skipped a lot of workouts recently due to giving blood, and even then, I’m still seeing benefits! I cannot thank you enough.

My questions are:

1. I saw the article on your weekly workout routine posted awhile ago. Have you changed it since or incorporated more elements?

2. My 3-times weekly sprint workouts end up being only around 13 minutes each day. I do 5 minutes of tabata intervals twice, with a two-minute rest. Is this enough or should I be commiting more time?

Hi Jon,

So glad to hear about your progress. As you have gathered, the Primal Blueprint is a lifestyle and philosophy that can (and should) be followed for a lifetime. You seem to have incorporated it into your own life quite easily.

The best part of the PB is that you can change things up whenever you want as long as it fits the basic paradigm. Always ask “What would Grok do?”  I change my workouts from time to time to reflect new activities or new fun things. I recently bought a stand-up paddle surfboard and am enjoying this new sport while the Southern California weather still permits. That means I might not hike on a day that I can paddle. Or I might do sprints in the morning and paddle easy in the evening. I try to make as many of my workouts “play” as possible. Then the one or two really hard gym days mean that much more.

Your own 3 x week sprints are fine given the length of the workout. But you could just as easily cut those to 2 x week and make the workout a little longer. Anything goes as long as you “go easy when you go easy and go hard when you go hard” and of course, allow enough time to recover from anything hard.

I can’t imagine how excited I would be if I were 17 and knew that the skills and knowledge I am getting now will keep me lean, fit, healthy and productive for the rest of my life. Maybe you can start to slowly bring your parents into the PB circle  😉

Keep up the great work.

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: All Things Sweet (plus Cheese and Gut Health)

Dear Mark: Is Flax Bad?

Drink Less Water?

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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21 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Weight Loss and Workout Routine”

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  1. Wow Mark… you are looking great! I just wore holes through my first pair of vibrams 🙁

    Gongratz to Jon and Methuselah’s mum.

    The SoG

  2. Oh no Mark, you’re a stand-up paddler (SUP) now?! Great core workout, but that’s blasphemy to some of us regular surfers! Just some advice… watch out for regular guys and stay in manageable waves. those boards are huge and easily get out of control. I’ve nearly been killed out there by one of those 12 foot long boards, not fun…

    As for Methuselah, just sneak her some natural peanut butter… up those fats and calories in no time 😉

  3. i definitely wish i knew all about this when i was jon’s age! but hopefully all of us PBers can bring up the next generation with this knowledge, preventing the problems the older generations are experiencing now rather than trying to fix them.

  4. Way to go Jon and Methuselah’s mom! I thought I was ahead of the curve getting on board with all this great information at 26… you’re getting all the right direction at 17!! That’s awesome bro, good for you for seeking that info out!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

  5. Great post! Both Methuselah and Jon’s comments are inspiring. I can definitely see that strength training is missing from my PB experience. Imagine how much better it would be if I was fully primal.

    More testimonials please.

  6. Unwanted weight loss, eh? Just start throwing cashews on everything; some in the salad, some in the stir fry, some in the curry…

  7. Berto, I hear ya, man. I stay away from the waves with the regular surfers. I do this mostly for the paddling (and not the riding). I got a big-ass Laird board (12-6) that tracks beautifully and hauls on a long paddle but is tough to carve on. If I ride, it’s in the middle of the day mid-week when only us SUPs are out there.

  8. So glad you posted this Mark. I got my mom on a primalish diet about 6 months ago. She lost 10 pounds right away and has now found she is losing even more if she eats very strictly. As such she has added in some dark chocolate. The funny thing is, her doctor told her not to lose anymore weight. My guess is she needs to do some strength training. Also, judging by pics of her in her 20’s she is an ectomorph (also judging by myself) and maybe she could be even smaller if she ate properly. Either way, I am glad to know what to tell her now.

  9. Hi Mark
    You look great in your ‘Ultimate Frisbee in Fivefingers’ shot (God, I wish we had sun right now in stinky London!) – but a semi-serious question: would Grok wear shades?
    As someone weaning myself off endurance and triathlon towards Primal stuff, I am also ditching the cool lifestyle shades – now, winter, in the UK it’s hardly an issue, but for the past two summers I have gone mostly shadeless. One less lifestyle product to worry about; but if the hype is true, Grok would have had suffered damage from the savannah sunshine?
    Any thoughts?

  10. Huw-

    Great question. I’ll try to cover it in a future blog post – likely an upcoming “Dear Mark” post.

    BTW – We’ve been having fog up and down the coastline the last few days that would make London proud.

    Thanks for reading.


  11. Hey Mark, Having been an exerciser all my life, I have been following your advice of sprints, etc. for over a year now. Wow, what a difference in my workouts. I have more definition and my workouts are so much more fun! thanks for all the great advice! Keep it coming…..

  12. Dear Mark, Here’s one 4 you.I weighed 190lbs back in Dec 2009. I now weigh 149 @ last check. I have experienced fast heartbeat,blurred visions,lack of energy,poor apetite,and this weight loss.I tried to lose weigt at first, but now I can’t seem to maintain my weight.I had blood work done,I was found not to be diabetic,no thyroid,and not HIV positive. I go back to the Dr. on Mon.Can you offer any suggestions?

  13. Mark et. al.
    I, too am experiencing unwanted weight loss. You may find my comment enlightening, please continue reading. In January I cut out grains, sugars, and most fruits (high sugar) from my diet. I eat large quantities food and eat high-quality food. An N.D. informed me that I had a sluggish and toxic bowel. In May I discovered intestinal parasites in a bowel movement. So back in January I weighed between 126 and 132. I now weigh 114 lbs. I’m 5′ 11″. This is very unwanted weight loss! After extensive research, parasites (worms, candida) are quite common and compete with their host for nutrients. If you have very cold hands/feet your digestion may be compromised like mine and are experiencing an infestation. Infestations are difficult and lengthy to overcome. Seek help. Diet alone cannot get rid of these critters.

  14. Its like you learn my mind! You seem to understand a lot approximately this, such as you wrote the e book in it or something. I believe that you could do with some % to drive the message house a little bit, but other than that, this is fantastic blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.