The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
The entire premise of the Primal Blueprint is enabling you to be the architect of your health and happiness. If we can identify the environmental triggers and selective pressures under which the human genome developed, we’ll have a great roadmap for engineering our optimal lifestyle. And for the most part, it works. Not everyone will get the exact body they desire. You won’t all lose every extra pound. I can’t guarantee a six pack or a complete eradication of baby weight. But all in all, eating and living this way seems to produce good results. You can, it seems, affect your health, body composition, and fitness.
But genes still matter. And there’s a large trove of evidence showing that a person’s genetics are really good at predicting their risk of obesity.
Every day we’re barraged by “good ideas”—all the things we should be doing with our lives and could start doing today if we really cared enough. Too much advice can overwhelm us, and, more importantly, it can inflate the power of “should.” It can cement an insidious (and, in my experience, ineffective) framework in our minds. We risk framing every choice—from work to pleasure—as an obligation. Doing so burdens life with a constant sense of onus, constraint and deprivation—not exactly the stuff of grand motivation. In my experience, we aren’t in for much fun or long-term success with that brand of approach. Luckily, there’s a better way to talk to ourselves.
If you follow health news, you might be thinking exercise doesn’t matter when you’re trying to lose weight. Vox just published a big piece showing how useless exercise alone is for weight loss. The NY Times says “eating less” is way more effective than “exercising more.” Obesity researchers like Gary Taubes and Yoni Freedhoff—who don’t agree on much else—both think using exercise to fix obesity is futile. I’ve always said that 80% of your body composition is determined by your diet, not how you exercise. And everyone knows it’s really hard, bordering on impossible, to out exercise a bad diet. You might be able to out exercise a bad diet if all you care about is abs and race times and make it your job, but eventually your poor health will catch up with you.
That doesn’t mean exercise doesn’t matter for weight loss, though. It does.
We’ve heard it a million times: “Eat a well-balanced diet with everything in moderation.” After all these decades of clear failure, it’s a hazy cliché still delivered by physicians, dietitians and nutritional “experts” with earnest assurance. The same goes for exercise and stress. Moderate amounts of stress are okay, moderate cardiovascular work is good, etc. We accept the concept of moderation so readily, I think, because it sounds so rational and simple. If we follow common sense, moderation suggests, we’ll be fine. But if it were that easy, most people would be healthy—and statistics on the rising rates of obesity and chronic illness tell us otherwise. So what’s the problem?
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answer two questions from readers. First, does Bikram yoga qualify as sprinting or high intensity training? It’s certainly intense, and it’ll make you sweat bullets and work hard to the point of nausea, but does it actually accomplish the same training effects as sprinting or intervals? Find out down below. Next, you often hear that body fat is the main repository for environmental toxins. This is true, but does that mean the body “holds on” to body fat to prevent systemic dispersal of the toxins it contains? Can stored toxins make losing body fat harder that it already is?
All fats are not created equal. We know this because we’re constantly correcting people who get it wrong. There are good fats and bad fats and really really bad fats and fats that are conditionally good or bad. Butter isn’t corn oil isn’t fish oil isn’t monounsaturated fat isn’t palmitoleic fat isn’t linoleic acid. Sometimes trans fat isn’t even trans fat. The same thing applies to the fat on your body. Depending on its location and composition, healthfulness isn’t distributed equally among adipose tissue. Some types of body fat are worse than others.
Fat is an endocrine organ. Like any other organ, it secretes hormones and other bioactive compounds that affect our physiology and determine our health.