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
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.
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.
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
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?
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.