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

Why Diets Fail

dietsfailQuestion of the day: what does the term “dieting” conjure up for you? Anecdotes, laughs, regrets, frustration, anxiety? I bet there’s quite a collection of stories to be told. When I think of diets, I think it’s common to think deprivation – of calories, of real food, of satisfaction, of enjoyment, of peace of mind. And that’s how it generally goes in our culture, isn’t it? We diet, we end the diet, we go back on the diet because either it didn’t work the first time or it did but then we fell right back down the same hole again. So, we keep playing the same game of deprivation, white-knuckling it until we get to that glorious sham of an “endpoint,” what I would call the “and they lived happily ever after” conclusion delusion. From a maybe more humorous angle, I think of deprivation dieting as an extended version of the mental game, “don’t think of a elephant.” Gee, what’s the first and most predominant thing you’re going to think of? How much determination and energy is it going to take to not think of the elephant 40 times per day? How about just forgoing the game altogether? Just eat the elephant already.

On a more serious note, I think of the way we work ourselves into a love-hate relationship with food (and sometimes ourselves). We tell ourselves erroneously that food makes us fat, but the pull toward it has never been stronger and more loaded with psychological baggage. Food shouldn’t be the reason for our existence, but it should never be the enemy. From an ancestral point of view, the whole framework is insane. Dieting in the modern sense distorts our relationship with food as basic sustenance.

Incidentally, research shows it can also distort our physiology. A team at the University of Pennsylvania found that a restrictive short-term diet not only had higher levels of the stress hormone corticosterone but also showed lasting epigenetic changes in genes influential to stress regulation.

Likewise, dieting even changes our brain activity. A study at the Oregon Research Institute demonstrated that caloric deprivation increases the “reward value” of food as determined by activity in relevant regions of subjects’ brains in the presence of food images and the presentation of food itself.

On this note, I caught an intriguing article in The New York Times a few weeks ago. It offered the provocative premise (research based) that dieting makes us “dumber.” The article cites studies demonstrating the “mental strain” deprivation puts on our brains and the likelihood of failure we face as a result. Of most interesting note is the research on mental “bandwidth.” Dieters apparently do worse than non-dieters on all manner of basic cognitive tests – everything from spatial reasoning to information retention. Does this really surprise anyone?

The reasons behind this cognitive strain are multifold. Dieters are distracted – by the endless calculations, the various and sundry trade-offs, the obsessive regrets and gymnastic style justifications they contort their minds into throughout a day. It’s frankly exhausting just to read about. The author also connects the strain, however, to a larger “scarcity” force in our biology and brain activity. According to research, when we’re preoccupied with not having enough, we literally lose IQ points. From an evolutionary standpoint, that also isn’t surprising.

When we diet, we deliberately choose scarcity. Why? In the end, deprivation is a self-defeating behavior. It will always be self-defeating behavior. Sure, there may be that temporary grit-your-teeth triumph many of us have experienced in the pre-Primal pasts. The fact is, you can scramble, deprive and exhaust your way to a target weight, but chances are you’ll just roll right down the other side of that mountain once you’re there. The better choice is always investment as opposed to deprivation. A better, healthier lifestyle calls you to invest in yourself. It’s not a mental game of mathematical twister or complicated rule book. It’s a lifestyle you create over time.

Related to this concept, as the Times article explains, is other research that suggests the perceived complexity of one’s weight management approach determines the ability to adhere to the plan over time. The more rules and more complex those rules were, the less likely participants were to adhere to the eating program. In short, “cognitively challenging” doesn’t work when it comes to diet.

Ring true? I’ve heard from many people that one of the things they love most about The Primal Blueprint is its simplicity. No fuss, no frustration. The Blueprint is intended to be a straightforward map to healthy, ancestrally sensical eating and living. While we can get as elaborate and impressive as we want in terms of recipes, the nuts and bolts are clear. Plain sailing.

With time and experience, the Blueprint takes on richer nuance, variety and personalization, but that investment yields long-term, consistent benefit in ways a quick-fix will never even approach. In “dieting” you count down the days. In a lifestyle shift, you commit to a learning curve.

The fact is, the trajectory of genuine dietary and lifestyle change is gradual, but it definitely doesn’t have to be slow. Anyone who’s done the 21-Day Transformation Challenge knows you can make substantive change in a short amount of time and experience substantial results. The difference is, you gradually make it your own. When you do a short-term diet, it tends to revolve around restriction and regimen. Choosing a healthy lifestyle, on the other hand, revolves around adaptation and experimentation. You accept the new approach into your life. You allow the philosophy to become a long-term part of your socialization, your holiday routines, your time management, your family life, your private recreation, your shopping sources, your kitchen library, your life’s enjoyment. A good diet should ultimately be about living the good life. It’s a countercultural kind of message, however. The results, I think, are the difference between deprivation dieting and good Primal living.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. What’s your take on dieting? Does the research ring true to you? What’s been the difference between past dieting and Primal living?

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 am about 7 days into learning about the concept of Primal living (found MDA 2 days before my first half marathon last Saturday when googling “carb-loading for running” lol). I immediately started talking about it to my husband and other family members. It makes a whole lot of sense and is completely refreshing and exciting to hear such positive tones around living and enjoying life to the fullest! This article is the one I am going to try my hardest to get my husband to read, before even attempting to get him to look into the Primal 101s. I’ve been pretty bad so far at explaining that going Primal has nothing to do with dieting. We’ve both been struggling hard with our weight after leaving collegiate sports and hopped on the guilty/feel-bad-about-yourself bandwagon with how we eat and dreading the obligatory 1 hour or more daily gym session (with pitiful results, of course). Basically, thank you, Mark, and thank you Primal followers for having the courage to make a change, walking the walk, and sharing the love!

    Jay wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • Awesome! Good luck getting your husband on board. Mine wasn’t sure at first but it didn’t take long to convince him considering I cook all of his meals ;) we are so thankful to not feel guilted into the gym anymore either!

      MommaH wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • welcome! and yay you for “seeing the light!” ;)

      aly c. wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Thank you both so much for your support! I have to say that is the number one reason I was so drawn to all of this–I’ve been reading a ton of the success stories and all of the comments are so incredibly uplifting and encouraging. Obviously, you all are anything but the normal bunch of depraved and angry “dieting” crazies! :)

        Jay wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Lol *deprived, not depraved ;)

          Jay wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • As a fellow post-collegiate athlete, I completely feel your pain! It’s tough going from the grueling workouts of those days to having to exercise “just to stay in shape.” The Primal Blueprint and this blog has changed all of that, and now I’m healthier than I ever was when I was a collegiate athlete because I’m *not* carbo-loading and eating whole grain pasta and what have you.

      This thing is a game changer. Good luck with the hubs!

      Stacie wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • welcome, Jay! good to see a new “face”

      Erin wrote on October 24th, 2013
  2. I tried Primal Blueprint for 6 months and had great success, lost 20 lbs, felt great, etc.– but there was still a nagging feeling the whole time that I was depriving myself of something, even though I “felt” satisfied. Then one day this summer, I fell slow-motion and uncontrollably off the wagon and into a huge “eat whatever I want” period. I ate entire meals of ice cream. I ate pizzas. whole pizzas. I drank 2 liters bottles of soda. I felt like crap, but I could not stop. So I didn’t stop, I decided to “binge through” because I just can’t take any more deprivation. And the sad truth is that, no matter how Mark slices it, Primal Blueprint is a deprivation diet. Not of quantity, but of the types of foods that are around us culturally. The types of food that we grow up with and have emotional attachments to. The kinds of foods that our opportunistic ancestors would grab and chow if they were walking by them right now. So while I have been a huge proponent of PB and Paleo in general, my experience has made me question it.

    mike w wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I personally find it helps (although no one I mention this to in person likes the idea) to view “foods” you “can’t eat” as poisons and undesirable. Healthy doses of MDA and other articles warning of the dangers of sugar, seed oils, and other non-PB things help reinforce this way of thinking.

      That way, even though it may take the same amount of discipline in the beginning, you’re not denying yourself something good (unsustainable), you’re avoiding something bad (natural and desirable).

      Mike wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Mike, I have to wonder about this approach. If it works for you, great, but I think a better idea is to acknowledge what your brain already knows–that there’s no such thing as foods that you “can’t” eat. For many of us, the idea is to simply limit them to small amounts on rare occasions so they don’t become a habit and therefore a major physical/emotional issue. Sometimes just knowing I can have that cupcake or cookie if I really, really want it makes it easier to avoid it.

        Shary wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • I’m a binge eater from wayback! I’ve been low carb for several years now and primal eating has enhanced the quality of what I eat. My general defense against feeling deprived was/is to pick new favorite foods that aren’t harmful.
        I’m satisfied and I rarely feel like binge eating. Now, it’s a warning of something emotional going on and I deal with it.

        That said, it was not an overnight transition. Don’t give up! It will happen.

        gibson wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Hi gibson, I felt that way the whole time I was Primal. Didn’t feel like binging at all. Then when it happened, it surprised the hell out of me. I Imagined my feelings of loss of control must be what it feels like to be addicted to heroin. There’s some powerful deep stuff in some people that is beyond the control of will power or “right choices.”

          Mike W wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • I had also been turning into quite the binge/emotional eater until I found MDA (right around the time I had a doc appt that said I had gained 10-15 lbs in about 3 months and was at an all time high). I really liked what Mark said about not worrying if you go over one day, but that you need to look more at the average. Like Shary, I am comforted a little to know that I CAN have the snickers or whatnot, but if I can just resist it a little longer, it will be out of sight and thus out of mind… ish. At any rate, I do still splurge ever now and then. Last night I had half a pizza and it was delicious. But today I made a salad with a hard boiled egg, roma tomato, and a couple slices of costco precooked and packaged turkey breast chopped into the mix. It is also very tasty, and I have discovered it doesn’t even taste bad without dressing (after I forgot the dressing one day). I have only been at PB a couple weeks so far and am not totally sure of all the guidelines, but I have lost 4 lbs in that time and my pants aren’t feeling so tight anymore.

          In summary – I like the 80% idea. Be mostly primal, but know that this isn’t the end of pizza, cake, and ice cream, just a limit on frequency and volume.

          Mark C. wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • A recent nerd fitness post highlighted the high probability of self-defeat using the word “can’t” (as in “I can’t eat that”). When you “can’t,” you psychologically set yourself up to want that thing even more. Viewing certain foods as noxious may work for some (it works for me, for certain foods), but simply replacing the word “can’t” with “don’t” completely changes your perception: “I don’t eat that.” By consciously deciding that you “don’t” eat this or “don’t” do that, you are setting yourself up, psychologically, to win. You are in control and you are not denying or depriving yourself of anything. But you have to mean it, and for good/right reasons, for example: I “don’t” eat grains because they make me feel bloated and foggy. I COULD eat grains, but I choose not to.

        Paul wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • That’s an awesome point! I’ve naturally shifted from can’t to won’t when it comes to grains. My husband can’t because he is gluten intolerant. I can but choose not to because of the health benefits. Also when I used to say “can’t” people would grill me on why.

          MommaH wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Interesting. I hadn’t heard that before. That was always my problem with Whole 30 – seemed to much about “can’t”. I think I could definitely embrace the “don’t” . . . I could drink soda, and sometimes do, but most of the time I don’t . . . I could have a sugary dessert or candy, but I don’t, I’ll have a piece of good dark chocolate instead or some fruit.

          Yup. I like this!

          Amy wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Paul, I agree; I think there is really something to that approach. I have been Primal for over two years and have never used the words “can’t eat” with myself or anyone else. I have never felt deprived.

          My “weakness” is a really good hamburger (with the bun; bun-less is no fun and gluten free buns are disgusting) and I will indulge a couple times a month. I don’t feel bad about it or tell myself I am doing something “forbidden,” because I’ve never told myself I “can’t” eat one (quite to the contrary–I can wreck a really good burger!) I don’t kid myself–I know it’s not good for me, so I don’t make them a dietary staple. But because I allow myself to occasionally consume something sub-optimal if and only if I really want it, and never think of any food as something I “can’t eat,” I have succeeded in eating healthy the other 90-95% of the time with no sense of temptation.

          Fritzy wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • I try not to say “can’t” because it makes me feel whiney. LOL

          gibson wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • I have never told myself that I “can’t” eat something either. Instead, I “don’t want to” eat it, because [food or ingredient(s)] is unhealthy, and it is unhealthy because [reason(s)]. So I don’t. And because I don’t want to eat [grains, soy, most other legumes, sugar, seed/legume/corn oils, not-food chemicals] I do not, and indeed, can not deprive myself by not eating them.

          My weakness is free ice cream. Am I sure that I don’t want that delicious blend of milk fat and sugar, even if there is more sugar than fat? No, no sadly I am not.

          Bill C wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Thanks for that comment. ‘Don’t’ makes so much more than ‘can’t’! Its helped today for me already. Weird how changing two letters of a word can make such a difference?!

          Nelly wrote on October 25th, 2013
        • You hit the nail on the head! I see spaghetti and bread, etc. as being made of plastic. I realize that I *can* eat plastic (and have, not intentionally) but I *don’t.*

          And if I do, I’ll be in the restroom within a few hours!

          Plastic in pesto sauce…..
          Plastic primavera with garlic….
          Freshly baked, whole-grain plastic bits….

          Tom wrote on October 25th, 2013
      • Mike, I do this too. I always loved pasta. I went paleo in the past for 6 months. Craved pasta. I found myself “wanting it.” I couldn’t bring myself to thinking of pasta as poison. I am back on paleo with zero cravings. Seriously. It’s been a while… I have so many great foods to pick from– but will I have pasta again sure, but not often. Would i eat a cupcake. No way. It’s poison, and ALSO i feel like crap afterwards. i think that’s the key, to recognize that eating is eating, and you want to feel like yourself. I get that hazy feeling when i don’t eat well. i do think there are some food stuffs that essentially are poison out there.

        jesse wrote on November 3rd, 2013
    • I am wondering how we can rally round mike w and really brainstorm about ways to approach the experience that living (and maybe primarily eating?) primally doesn’t stick any better than regular diets. So many of us find a sustainable way to live with a primal approach, but I do often wonder about those with contradictory experiences. I wonder if a big part of it is the non-food-related challenge of taking on the other primal lifestyle ideas and making them one’s own. For instance, if I didn’t make sleep a major priority, I am guessing the eating part wouldn’t go so well. Also, I think reaching a sustainable point often takes multiple cycles – while some people seem to have a single transformation experience, I find that it takes me a lot of repeated experiences to truly learn something new.

      Sarah wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Two thoughts:

        (1) Eating this way can be a process, not necessarily happening overnight. I used to have dark chocolate every day when I started because I needed a treat, now it’s on occasion. I used to have 1/2 a bagel on Fridays at work (b/c that was our food morning at work) but as the months passed that stopped too. Now I have zero interest in that bagel. It takes time to really change those cravings.

        (2) Have that pizza every once in a while if that is what you really like. I like ice cream. When we go to a certain restaurant, or my nieces are in town, we go out for ice cream. On my husband’s birthday, I made him a cake. When our food choices were limited on vacation, we ate what was available.

        My belief is that as time goes by, and you keep with the primal eating, whatever is driving you to drink that soda or whatever, diminishes. I also believe that the knowledge of what the food is doing to you helps, especially as I can see health problems in others caused by bad diet, for me also helps reinforce.

        Colleen wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • While a paleo diet seems to work well for a lot of people, it doesn’t work for everyone. Diets in general don’t work because they can’t be sustained over the long haul because they do function through scarcity and deprivation. Also, too many people view diets as a temporary evil. They put up with it until they lose a little weight, then they go back to eating junk again. The key is to find an eating plan that you like well enough and that agrees enough with your body that it just naturally becomes a permanent part of your life.

      Paleo/primal works well for me because I like eating animal protein, fruit, and tons of veggies. I don’t consider it a deprivation diet at all. I don’t miss the pizza, soda, and other crap because I never liked them all that much in the first place. We all have cultural comfort foods, but most successful primal types don’t have a problem limiting them. Maybe you’re trying to be TOO primal and it isn’t working for you. Try for 60-40 or 80-20, or even 50-50. Experiment a little to see what works for you.

      Shary wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • I agree! 100% (no 80-20 here) Someone asked me the other day about Paleo eating because she had read a 30 day challenge hand out at our gym. She said that she just didn’t think she should do it because it recommended sea salt instead of iodized salt, and she felt iodine was a significantly needed item for her. I am of the same mind as you Shary – you don’t have to go 100% from day one! To get hung up on salt varieties is insane for someone just starting down the path. Maybe she just doesn’t want to do it and it’s her escape hatch, but I was dumbfounded. We got to talking about other aspects of Paleo and I just kept emphasizing that it’s about making some small changes and then listening to your body. I think a #day challenge works for some people because they need the “feel” of a diet – restrictions, limits, deadlines – in order to feel successful, it’s been culturally programmed into is. And, true, it is a good jump start for some into long term lifestyle change. Yes, it’s also true that Primal eating does involve restricting the things you put in your body, but you need to look at the whole picture. When you eat junk food and you feel like crap, look beyond what tastes good right now, look at how feeling like crap is restricting the rest of your life. Restricting you from dropping down a jean size or two, restricting you from an impromptu game of capture the flag with your kids, because you can’t run for 7 minutes in a row, restricting you from getting a good nights sleep.
        Just start in with some small “sacrifices” in the junk food department or bakery. This is not an all or nothing deal, just START somewhere. And don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by getting sidetracked by things as silly as which salt you sprinkle on your steamed broccoli!

        Marti wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • You nailed it Marti! Yes, I “give up” wheat, sugar, and fast food 80% of the time but I also got to give up running every day or biking even when it was raining. I don’t have to buy a gym membership or statins. I don’t have to count calories. I eat butter off the stick. People always get so hung up on what they’re giving up (usually focusing on bread, pasta, and sweets). Holy crap, look what you’re gaining!!!

          Ham-Bone wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Not to mention that the iodine in the toxic substance denoted as iodized salt is practically useless. I highly recommend for that topic she take a few minutes to read some of the information by Dr. David Brownstein, which includes quite a bit of research and metrics.

          George wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Thanks Marti, the problem is, I don’t think it’s something you can “think” your way out of. See my comment below to Luke Lorenson.

          Mike W wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Yeah, I cringe when I go into the local supermarket . The first thing that you see is the bakery………
          all those refined carbs….
          I am going camping this week end….
          on the menu?
          grass fed Bison steak

          Fred Timm wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • Sometimes I fall off the wagon, too (concerning “eat plants and animals” and “avoid poisonous things”). But then I let it flow – sometimes extremely, indeed. For a while. Without self-reproaches. Nearly enjoing it (well, only “nearly”, because I in fact do know and do feel that it is wrong). I do so because I know I can come back to the Primal way (of eating) very easily. Because I proofed this allready several times. I´m not having any health-issues and knowing that I can come back whenever I want is the reason why I let myself fall off sometimes – just for fun. Would I have a medical problem yet I would follow the Primal-and-nothing-else-but-primal-way (of eating) very easily, I´m sure. And without any feeling of deprivation! But I´m in the “bad” situation that I´m – still – too healty :-). No pressure there for me.

      Günther wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • Mike, I understand completely where you are coming from. But here is the thing. Get back on it. Do it. Enlarge your vision of where the deprivation lies. Realize that even though you might have to deprive yourself of pizza and ice cream, when you indulge in those things, you are depriving yourself of feeling and being in good health. You deprive yourself of being able to do whatever “play” you love. You deprive yourself of the money it takes for pills to mask the “normal aches and pains of aging”. We are different guys and you go ahead and do whatever you have to do, but if I have to choose pizza or tying my shoes without difficulty, 7 times out of 10, I skip the pizza.

      Joshua wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • Mike W, see my post below.

      Nathan wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I hear you, mike w. I had a similar experience, where everything was going great for awhile but eventually I just caved and ate pizza after pizza and other assorted junk food, as though they had some weird power over me. I felt guilty, cognitively knew they were bad for my health (also the stomach pains were a clue), and yet it didn’t matter. It seemed that all the times I had to turn down delicious but un-primal food, all the times I tried to force myself to get some healthy groceries and cook instead of sitting on the couch and ordering out, all the times my un-primal girlfriend would indulge in some comfort food and look so happy doing it, it all accumulated and a levee burst.

      But where does that leave us? If all diets, including primal, involve deprivation, how do we ever escape the sinkhole that is our modern food environment? In a world awash in advertisements, restaurant smells, and people making bad choices all around us and apparently loving it, it seems like the only way to impart lasting change is to move to a drastically different culture. That, or maybe some neuro-linguistic programing. The reward value of the convenience and taste is just so damn powerful. It’s like we’re junkies who can literally get our drug of choice delivered to our doorstep. In the meantime, the only workable solution I’ve found is to cave in fairly frequently with restaurants but generally cook primal foods. Not perfect, but better than my previous life of ramen and cereal.

      Calvin wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Thanks Calvin, I totally agree. See my comment below to Luke Lorenson.

        Mike W wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • Mike,

      I think you nailed it here:

      “Primal Blueprint is a deprivation diet. Not of quantity, but of the types of foods that are around us culturally. The types of food that we grow up with and have emotional attachments to.”

      I’ve experienced the same thing as you have: even though I definitely feel better eating paleo, that deep down nagging feeling that you’re depriving yourself never quite goes away, at least not for me. I don’t think it’s impossible to get rid of it, but I do think that doing so would require a lot of work because non-primal foods are so culturally and emotionally pervasive. And for me, trying to be 80-20 is a very slippery slope. It’s tricky, and I’m trying to deal with it by being mindful of my eating habits. I’ve been practicing meditation for a few months, and this has helped me a lot. I try to be as primal as possible, without having things be strictly “off limits”.

      Agnes wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • thanks for sharing your experience Agnes– see my comment below to Luke Lorenson

        Mike W wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Apologies in advance if I’ve missed a comment stating something similar but…

        In my experience I find greater ease in not worrying about some form of non-Primal food (eg. pizza) finding its way into my day occasionally. The not-so great feeling that follows serves as a great reminder as to why I indulge in the awesome foods I get to eat day in – day out. I feel like it’s more of a motivator to actually stay Primal (food-wise) and cravings don’t really bother me as a result!
        Plus if you place too much focus on how you’re missing out on so much food, you end up putting this non-Primal food on a pedestal and dig yourself into a deeper hole!

        Personally, I’m pretty happy to be tucking into bacon and eggs in the mornings rather than inhaling rice-cakes to alleviate my intense hunger the moment I wake up ;)

        Tom wrote on November 1st, 2013
    • I have never posted but feel I need to comment. My husband and daughters are hugely primal but I could never seem to give up my carbs. I am/was an emotional eater and the things I am drawn to during stress are all sweets or crap food. I have finally been able to commit to the primal lifestyle when thinking about what I was putting into my body. My body feels great when I eat well and feels bad when I don’t. I put the best fuel in my car – why would I do any less for my body. I see the toll that unhealthy eating has taken on my parents and it only makes sense that eating the best I can will make a difference. My body is a high performance machine and I am finally treating it like one.

      Sharon wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I weep at what is considered culture.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • That doesn’t seem like any fun at all. :)

        Amy wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I can honestly say I’ve never felt that way on Primal… never felt deprived. This is the first real ‘diet’ I’ve ever been on, if you don’t count Weight Watchers. I would always look at a diet book and ask, ‘can I live like this forever?’ And if the answer was ‘No’ I wouldn’t even try. It just didn’t make sense to me. So I avoided yo-yo dieting but not a steady weight gain.

      Primal does make sense to me because I can do it forever. I don’t feel deprived at all. I’m surrounded by delicious food and I can eat as much of it as I like. I have to avoid some other delicious foods, true, but I can have a tiny bit once in a while. I make sure my indulgences are things I absolutely love, not things that are just okayish. A croissant from the grocery store? No way. A croissant from the french bakery I visit maybe once a month? Hell ya. I don’t feel deprived at all.

      Aria Dreamcatcher wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Couldn’t have said it better myself! If I do indulge I always make sure it’s worth it. I’m not gonna suffer stomach pains and feel like crap for the days after for some cheap cake. The indulgences I do have are some of my favorite foods from my pre-primal days.

        Jennifer wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • There are a lot of ways you can do things like pizza or ice cream in a paleo/primal way, though. You can get the different kinds of “flours” that follow the plan and make a reasonable fascimile to pizza dough- is it exactly like real pizza? No. But it is close enough to satisfy the emotional dis-satisfaction of avoiding those things. You can freeze yogurt or make your own ice cream and be completely paleo. It just requires going onto the internet and searching for ways to do it- for my birthday next month I plan on making a mostly paleo chocolate cake- it can be done. That’s why I like this as a lifestyle and not a diet- you have almost everything you could have before, just made in a different way. It takes effort, but if you really want it, it is totally worth it. I do highly recommend you look for those recipes- they are good for an emotional pick me up every now and then when you are missing doing the things like pizza.

      Stephanie wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • I don’t partake in the paleo junk food. The way I see it, if I’m gonna eat junk, it better be damn good and totally worth it. pizza just isn’t pizza without a glutenous crust and tons of cheese. birthday cake just isn’t birthday cake without layers of gluten and chocolate in between buttercream or cream cheese frosting. but IMO, if you’re gonna eat junk, make it yourself from scratch. it tastes better ;)

        Erin wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • I don’t completely agree with you. If I fall off the wagon, less less good it tastes, the less likely it is I’ll do it again. Next time, My brain remembers it wasn’t that great and it is easier to ignore.

          Nomad wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • why would you eat mediocre food in the first place?

          Erin wrote on October 27th, 2013
      • What is pizza? Awesomeness layered onto an edible plate. Replace the bread crust with something healthy, like coconut-almond flour, cauliflower, meat, etc, and you have a Primal pizza. It the cheese is a problem, that could be trickier, unless goat cheese is not.

        Bill C wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I have had a battle with eating paleo/primal at first eating this way made me crave animal fat more I started losing weight felt great cravings for bad stuff went away but as time went on those cravings came back stronger and worse then ever I have been on a constant struggle with losing body fat I do so good then I fall off could it be I’m not eating enough clean healthy carbs could it be hormones and leptin telling my body I’m losing fat and sees this as a bad thing signaling giving me those cravings again for bad food and the reward system of dopamine its very complex stuff here and can be confusing this issue some people its so hard and I hate when people say its there fault for being fat and obese they say just exercise stop being lazy don’t eat as much but its much more then that it could be thyroid and other factors in our bodies and still research is being done to why this occurs I know there is hope though and the shame of it the people that say that are most likely not healthy skinny fat people that eat what they want and don’t gain weight but does not mean they are healthy I know I’m not alone in this struggle and battle but I know we can sure give it a good fight and win someday

      Andrew Urgo wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I see this as a generational. When I grew up we didn’t have soda in the house. After leaving home I had maybe two sodas straight out of a can in the span of 13 years. I have never felt deprived not having it. Unfortunately I also grew up with having a dessert every night after dinner. Now-a-days when I go without a dessert I sometimes get the feeling of depravity. Key word is sometimes. After going primal I was able to minimize that feeling to less than everyday. There are days that I grab a glass of water or eat a piece of fruit to quench that desire but then there are the days it has to be from my past. I go with it. I have the chocolate flourless cake or ice cream or both. Sometimes that leads to a daily dose of it for awhile. Then I remember why I’m doing this. I want to be healthier and I want my future children to grow up in a house where they start their lives off eating healthy and not have to deal with the depravity thoughts. Sure they may get introduced outside the home and develop attachments to crap food through friends and experiences but at least they had experienced knowing a life that eating whole food everyday was normal and satisfying. Sugar is my Bane, I struggle with it, but it is the “smoking” habit that I must quit to improve my health and increase the chances of better health on those that do/will look up to me.

      Em wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • depravity was suppose to say deprivation, I did not mean moral corruption!

        Em wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I had a similar experience. Even GI problems weren’t enough for me to to get back “on the wagon” – even though I was so successful with this way of eating before and know first hand the benefits – from clearer skin and more energy to more energy and fairly effortless weight loss. The social pressure (not intentional – but always there in ads, the food on the staff room table, etc.) for me combines with an addiction to sugar. Even after four months of primal eating (almost certainly out of the “carb flu” time frame – and also well within to the time when it should have become a habit) I still craved sugary foods and junk food. I’m slowly starting to change my mindset and choose not to deprive myself of a sweet – but to instead make it as healthy as possible (and share what I make with others, so I’m not tempted to eat a whole loaf of paleo pumpkin bread by myself). I’ve embraced the “paleo treat” idea. I know some people (the Hartwig’s for instance) like to say those treats are bad and just a crutch – but I don’t care about the judgemental attitudes like their’s any more – it’s about the paleo that works for ME. If having a treat sometimes makes it a sustainable lifestyle for me, then that’s what I’m going to do. Tell the paleo legalists to suck it.

      I also like what the other commenter said about switching thinking from “can’t” to “don’t” . . . I CAN eat those things, but I know they are poison to my body, no matter how good they taste, so I DON’T. :) That’s a really good way to think about it – wish I’d heard that sooner myself!

      Amy wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Thank you for that! I feel the same way. it is helpful and motivating to know others experience certain aspects of this lifestyle in a similar way. I agree with you completely.

        jesse wrote on October 28th, 2013
    • Perhaps in a situation like this, it’s important to embrace Mark’s 80% primal concept and allow a built in cheat day or cheat meal once a week or once every two weeks.

      Let yourself eat what you want during those cheat times so you don’t feel the sense of deprivation.

      While this isn’t as good as being primal 100% of the time, this is far better than cheating 24/7.

      The most effective lifestyle or diet, is the one you’ll stick to and everyone needs to find a way that will work best for them.. cheating or not!

      bjjcaveman wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • Mike w – I totally hear you. I think what you are expressing is the reality of any type of eating plan. No matter what you call it, a diet is a diet whether it’s paleo, counting points or drinking shakes. Are there some that are better than others and healthier?? Of course!! I wholeheartedly believe that the PB is likely to be one of the healthier eating plans out there. As you explained so well though, deprivation can come in many forms (not just in calorie restriction).
      Mark has touched on the idea that striving for perfection is also what sometimes derails our efforts. The goal of any eating plan (or any goal) needs to fit within the parameters of your life. So, if adopting the PB requires HUGE changes to the way you eat (including for many, the need to learn how to shop for and cook food), starting with small, achievable goals (like reducing the amount of wheat you eat) and slowly add on more goals.

      Good luck Mike w – play around with the PB…take it one goal at a time and tweak it to make it liveable for you!!

      Chantal wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I have had the same experience. I actually have lost over 100 lbs on the primal diet over the last year, but I have had several episodes of bingeing. I actually ate 6 Snickers ice cream bars in 10 minutes on one such occasion. It usually lasts about two days, I feel like sh** for about a week afterward, but once I get back on the primal wagon, I’m okay again for a while. Then about a month later, I have another binge. Most will probably think it’s just a self-control issue, which I guess it partly is, but I too feel deprived at times.

      Lucy wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Lucy, would it make a difference if you plan for that? Next time only have 5 ice cream bars? The time after that just four, and so on. It might take the sting out of that situation and make it less important. Guilt can turn you back around so that you are repeating the mistake.

        Once the weather changed last week, I really wanted to bake and so I did. We had pumpkin pie and I cut half the crust off my piece. I enjoyed the other half though.

        Vanessa wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • I don’t know. I stopped counting calories about a week ago and that seems to have helped…so far. I don’t feel obsessive about food as much and I’m not sitting around dreaming about ice cream.

          Lucy wrote on October 25th, 2013
      • Cyclical???

        shrimp4me wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • I think you answered yourself with binge eating. You state you have an emotional attachment to the food you were bought up on.
      Is it the actual food, or is there some memory or feeling your trying to recreate by eating it?

      Hanna wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • If I feel deprived usually I just need a big fatty steak lol

      maria wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • For me, moving from Alaska back to the lower 48 has created this issue of food availability. It’s so overwhelming to eat healthfully all the time when you have so many restaurants, fast food joints, grocery stores, etc. So now I have this “new” problem of craving/binge eating fast food and tons of carbs. And with the busy and hectic schedule I have currently, I usually don’t want to make food when I get home and end up eating either too much of good things (healthy fats, dairy, etc.) or bad things (excessive carbs, grains, soy, etc.)

      Surprisingly enough, it was easier for me to be in charge of my health when living in Alaska (with my boyfriend who can eat anything without any issues).

      Charlayna wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • I couldn’t agree more. While I think paleo is good in theory and a great loose guideline, at the end of the day it feels like a diet. I struggled for close to a year with binge eating because I restricted grains and sugar, believing paleo was the only way to be healthy. Now I’m taking what I’ve learned from the paleo lifestyle– move more, play more, really decrease refined carbs and even good carbs and especially sugar, but incorporating it into a more moderate approach. Basically the all-or-nothing mentality doesn’t work for a lot of people, even if we tell ourselves we “can” have grains or sugar and we just don’t “want” them. My blog talks about my transition to a healthier lifestyle, and how weight loss and peace of mind and health are all possible with a moderate lifestyle. check it out:
      http://stopsugarcoatingit.wordpress.com/

      Effie wrote on November 1st, 2013
  3. Cabbage soup diet, anyone?

    Matt wrote on October 24th, 2013
  4. Great post. It conjures up a lot for me. Boy do I ever have some beef with diets. :-) Growing up as a ballet dancer and performing with a professional ballet company meant that I was constantly dieting, even though I was extremely healthy and fit. It left a lot I scars. After having children, I gained a lot of weight, and am now in transition to lose fat and gain lran muscle mass. I love eating primally because I know I can reach my ideal body composition in a healthy, satisfying way. :-)

    Stephanie Paris wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • Wow, walking and typing messages really doesn’t work very well for me. Sorry for all the autocorrected typos. “Lean” muscle mass is what it should have read. :-)

      Stephanie Paris wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • And I thought you ment “iron” muscle mass – well, that would fit, wouldn´t it? :-)

        Günther wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Lol. Me too!

          Nomad wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • me three :D

          Tricia wrote on October 25th, 2013
  5. Just last week I was beating myself up because given my living situation and budget, I can’t make a perfect Whole30 work for more than 7-10 days at a time. I decided to reread PB and the PBTT to remind myself that complete, no-compromise adherence to an elimination diet wasn’t the only option to make myself feel better and get rid of the weight I’ve gained after slipping (read: crashlanding) back into my old eating habits. I’ve gone back to APAS (as primal as possible), and this week I thought I’d track my carb intake with Sparkpeople (which is where I first heard about paleo and primal), just to give myself a baseline. Well, I caught myself counting out the cherry tomatoes on my salad and grabbing my phone during class to log into the mobile app to track my food. Then I found myself fretting because I was in range with my carbs but going over the arbitrary calorie limit that Sparkpeople automatically imposes, something I was sure I didn’t care about anymore. It brought back all my memories of obsessive calorie-counting and fat phobia. Since I’m a much more rational person now, probably because I’m eating plenty of fat to fuel my massive homonid brain, I decided to call it good and stop using the food tracker. I obviously cannot be trusted to moderate myself.

    Kristina wrote on October 24th, 2013
  6. Just the word DIET makes my skin crawl. Diet is what we eat, nothing more-nothing less. And I still have a hard time understanding how most folks can go back to eating stuff that makes them feel like crap or makes them sick in the long run. Going Primal was about the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Is the urge to eat pizza and drink coke stronger than the urge to eat bacon and coconut milk? I don’t get it.

    Nocona wrote on October 24th, 2013
  7. I enjoy eating this way, but I certainly have to think about it quite a lot, especially when I’m in a social situation and have to figure out the least bad option. Sometimes, it seems like Mark has found a way of eating that’s easy for him and extrapolated out to assume that it’s just as easy and natural for everyone else. Natural, it may be, but it’s not always easy.

    N wrote on October 24th, 2013
  8. This is why the 21 day challenge is so much better. Reinforcing a better lifestyle will always beat the yo-yo.

    Dr. Anthony Gustin wrote on October 24th, 2013
  9. Mike W, if you do feel this way, why do you visit this site? Trolling perhaps? Or are you perhaps hoping to see something here which will “bring you back to the path”?

    Luke Lorenson wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I’m not a troll. I read the site every day, and have for a year. I own the books. I preach the philosophy. I started down the paleo path 10 years ago when I intuitively started thinking it would be better to eat more like a caveman- vegetables and meat. I believe in the theory and I *want* it to work– but I don’t think it’s only about willpower or mind tricks or right choices. My experience is making me question how strongly the perception of deprivation in general comes into play, and Marks article about dieting struck a chord with me. We hear a lot about the successes of Primal Blueprint and Paleo, but not often about the failures. Maybe a discussion about the failures can help bring us all greater understanding.

      Our ancestors were opportunistic eaters because they sort of had to be– and as Mark states, we retain a lot of our ancestors wiring. If Grok was thawed from a block of ice today and walked down the street, he would feel compelled to eat whatever he came across– and in our society that includes lots of processed and synthesized crap. But Grok would eat it anyway because he would be going against his instincts if he didn’t– and as we know, Grok is us. We are designed to crave and to chow down now. The difference is that in primal days, the choices were limited to what was probably more or less healthy (and there was likely some good scarcity to boot), while today if you walk down the street and eat whatever you come across, you get an overabundance of unhealthy junk.

      My point is that I’m thinking Grok would eat whatever he came across if he was here– he would be CRAZY not to. So is the kind of deprivation it takes to eat Primally not actually primal?

      Mike W wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Again, I think this is spot on: there is something instinctive about eating whatever’s available. Grok didn’t eat crap because he didn’t have access to it. If he did, he likely would have eaten it too. The implications of this aren’t that *we* should eat crap — like Mike, I am 100% behind the PB as the most nutritious way of eating. But perhaps we should at least acknowledge that our desire to eat everything that’s available to us, even when we know it won’t make us feel good, is part of being human. For those people who have lost that desire: I commend you! You are proof that it is possible! But I don’t think the rest of us should feel bad about not having lost it, since not eating everything that’s available is a kind of deprivation.

        Agnes wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Right Agnes– that’s a great distinction– eating what’s around us is not a failure, it’s human, it’s normal.

          Ultimately the solution is probably highly specific based on what food is available around us, our feelings of social and cultural attachment to food, and each individual’s own limit for dealing with feelings of deprivation. As Shary wrote above, 50/50 might be the best that someone can do– not because of lack of willpower or intelligence– but just because that’s the way they are wired.

          Mike W wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • I totally understand eating all the available food. I often attempt to do that. At buffets, I almost always pile my plate two layers high. Pre-Primal, I would try to have some of everything; now, it’s everything worth eating. I see nothing wrong with other people’s leftovers. If it is a reasonable option, I will eat until my stomach is literally full and eating becomes unpleasant.

          I don’t know if this would work for you, Mike, but part of my solution was a change in my definition of “food”. Grain-based items are not food. Soy is not food. Processed seed oils, along with soy, peanut, and corn oils, are not food, especially if hydrogenated. With this mindset, “not food” is never even a consideration. Can I consume it? Yes, but why eat non-food? As an analogy, many people who know that dandelion is edible think of it as a weed, not food. Consequently, they do not eat dandelion, and in fact never even consider it as an option. To them, it may be akin to eating grass, which is consumable, but definitely not food.

          Bill C wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • I actually really like this comment, and I like how much conversation your original post is generating today. We should always question everything, that’s how we learn.

        This stuck out to me: “The difference is that in primal days, the choices were limited to what was probably more or less healthy (and there was likely some good scarcity to boot), while today if you walk down the street and eat whatever you come across, you get an overabundance of unhealthy junk.”

        It really does become a matter of choice, in my opinion. I’ve struggled with weight my entire life, and my choice used to always be “eat.” Now, though, my choice is Primal, and that started as a very conscious decision when I made the transition to Paleo and primal ways of eating. It might have been a choice I made once a day, or several times a day. I still have to make those choices today, but some of them come more naturally (Primal for about a year). I feel like my choices to eat Primal were reinforced (cognitively and emotionally) by the way I ended up feeling. It because less about weight loss and more about sleeping well, not having stomach issues, and being able to play my favorite sports without gasping for air.

        I used that healthy feeling to constantly reinforce the Primal Blueprint in my life. I use(d) self-reflection a LOT to really figure out why I make certain choices, good and bad, and how it affects my body and my mind. That’s what has worked for me. I’m by no means perfect and never will be. But I’m a better me everyday because of it.

        Stacie wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • If I could choose to live in a world where dominos, mcdonalds, and ben and jerrys didn’t exist, I would, no question. I would love it, actually. None of this internal wrestling. It would be freeing. Trying to resist it all though when it’s just dollars away is such a drag no matter how much I know about what constitutes an ideal human diet, or how much I tried to internalize that article about akrasia. And it stirs up all these negative thoughts, like why can’t I just do what’s right for my body? Do I just not have the willpower? Am I just this weak slave to some unconscious neural pathway? Why aren’t I as together as these other people? And I feel childish for thinking so shallowly.

        But in perspective, even if I’m not 100% primal, or even 80/20 anymore, I gained a lot from this whole thing. I discovered a physicality that I never knew existed in myself when I started strength training, and I learned to truly enjoy it, need it even. I certainly don’t keep vegetable oil in my home anymore and don’t miss the flour and sugar bags one bit. I love getting my rays in when summer rolls around and I prioritize my sleep. I make time to play and practice music. These are habits I really picked up, that last, that have a positive impact in my life. So even if it scares me that I feel like I can’t control my own impulses over food choices, I’ve gained a whole lot from going primal. And maybe one day, I can find a solution to this impulse control stuff too.

        Calvin wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Cravings are very much like drug addiction. Your mind will crave some foods even if they are not good for you to eat. Many former drug addicts continue to crave the drugs, even the smell of drugs that other people may not pick up will give the fromer drug addict even stronger cravings. That does NOT mean that they should give into the craving, it’s still a poison to their bodies. Toxic foods are the same, just because we crave them doesn’t mean we need them. It does however point out that there is something that we need to resolve – some of us grew up with situations that will shape how we feel. We grew up with a shortage of food, we never felt we had enough to eat, were hungry a lot so some of us are overweight just so we can “see” that we are getting plenty to eat. Just like eating differently can bring gradual changes to our health, thinking differently can bring better health to our minds.
        Drug addicts go to re hab, we just come read here at MDA to re hab our thinking and eathing habits.

        2Rae wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Mike W, to boil down your posts into a few words, in our modern world we have a plethora of refined, toxic, addicting foods available and you are unable to resist eating them. You are not alone, most people cannot. I sense despite your rationalization and “woe is me” diatribe that you don’t want to be like “most” people. I believe in my heart you can overcome your addictions. More important question … go stand in front of the mirror and take a good long look … do you believe in yourself and the power you have within?

        George wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Mike W.

        Very nice comment. I think, what’s worked for me is to channel my inner Grok and identify the foods that are not healthy as “poisonous.” I try to remember how they make feel (bloated, slow, tired, uncomfortable). I’m sure Grok remembered what didn’t leave him feeling his best and avoided those foods in favor of more agreeable ones. However, after years of eating the SAD, it took me a few weeks of going primal to realize which foods were not leaving me at my best.

        With that said, I’m not immune to the cravings and to do give in to them on occasion. Probably similar to the way that Grok would have given into trying some unknown berry if he was starving (I know this is a stretch, but junk food addiction is very powerful). Promptly after realizing the food he had just eaten was not good for him, I can imagine he went back to eating what he new was safe.

        Paras wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • I have to respectfully disagree a little bit here. Grok was an opportunistic eater, no doubt, but we are assuming constant scarcity in this example. There were times of food abundance for him. Grok/we would NATURALLY eat till sated. Not more – it is uncomfortable and would impede escaping danger when necessary. And being sated on fat and protein, at least in my opinion, greatly reduces the desire for anything else for quite awhile. Additionally – if Grok were to eat something that made him feel badly, he simply would not do it again unless he were starving. Period. There are too many other options most of the time.
        That being said – when I went Primal about 18 months ago, I went the MDA version. Dark chocolate, paleo treats, etc. I lost weight steadily, felt great, and my energy leveled out for the better. I did a whole 30 in Jan of this year, and my body told me some things. All said and done, I realize as I write this that I have not wanted chocolate in a long time, I still have wine with no guilt, but maybe half of what I used to drink, and I still bake paleo treats to keep the fam on board. But I know that I am less attracted to them. It was a quiet and gradual change. But deprivation was never part of the change. I hope you get to that place. :)

        Margaret wrote on October 25th, 2013
      • And after downing a bag of chips, a two liter of soda, and a big mac, Grok would likely double up with both stomach aches and migraines, cursing the poison of these new found foods in his early tongue, similarly to how his grandmother GrannieGrok cursed the nightshade plants and spotted mushrooms.

        I do realize how ADDICTIVE some foods are, fighting with myself not to buy a Dr Pepper from the break room at lunch… And yet, even my primitive brain can correlate the pain my stomach goes through after drinking a couple glasses of soda, not to mention the sudden loss of power afterwards, with the fact that I just drank something TOXIC to me.

        Luke Lorenson wrote on October 27th, 2013
    • Wow. Assuming he’s a troll because he’s sharing his struggles with adopting a different lifestyle. Mean-spirited much?

      Mike W, I applaud your courage and honesty. Especially because you’re a guy, and it’s mostly women who are either talking about, or being talked about, with regards to this very difficult aspect of the food/culture/self expression intersection.

      I have nothing but admiration for Mark Sisson. He is a profoundly compassionate and generous man. But he’s also a man who has never faced the challenge of obesity and distorted body image that so many of us do who have struggled with, or continue to struggle with, weight issues. So while he is incredibly informed, he is in another sense profoundly ignorant. You can know all the stuff, but if you’ve never lived inside a fat body, never wrestled with the demons of carb addiction, you will never truly get it.

      I totally support the notion of switching out can’t for don’t. It changes your power relationship with the world. When it’s can’t, you’re helpless. When it’s don’t, you’re driving.

      Bottom line is, when food is inextricably linked with pleasure, with happiness, with reward, with anything positive — when we say no, we’re punishing ourselves. Consciously or unconsciously, we’re denying ourselves the right or chance to feel good, to feel happy, to feel appreciated, soothed, nurtured, comforted. It doesn’t matter that food isn’t really our friend, that it’s just fuel. Food is loaded with emotional meanings. So we have to find ways of being loving and kind and supportive of ourselves that don’t hurt us. The first step is to let go of the blame and the judgement, and sit quietly with ourselves so we can hear what the voice screaming for chocolate or ice cream or pizza is really screaming for. And if it really is just that food we want, then eat it. Slowly. Hedonistically. Savouring every mouthful. Loving it. So that when we’re satiated, we stop. We don’t keep shovelling and shovelling to fill the hole inside, to top ourselves up until the next time we’re overwhelmed and need to drown the screaming voice with food.

      And if it’s not food after all, or not only food, maybe we can find the courage to face the feelings. If we’re kind to ourselves, instead of berating and judgemental.

      Primal eating, or anything else, can’t work if we try to put it on like a strait jacket, impose the discipline of it from the outside in. We have to live inside it comfortably, we have to embrace it as a loving, positive thing we’re doing for ourselves. Not as a punishment for being bad.

      OzK wrote on October 25th, 2013
      • You think Mark didn’t suffer from a distorted body image? Let’s see, the man was, and is, good at running long distances, and did horrible things to his body to keep running those distances. Practically binge eating on all the crap and crud an overweight woman would after she gives up on her goal of being aa thin as the twig on the cover of Vogue. I think you don’t give Mark enough credit.

        Luke Lorenson wrote on October 27th, 2013
  10. But what about the basic notion that weight-loss IS deprivation?

    With paleo and primal, you cut out entire food groups (as “poisonous” as they are, and as justifiable of a decision it is), and totally reduce an entire macronutrient. Of course there will be seemless and stress-free weight-loss with this diet, because you’re initially cutting out a crap ton of calories. In addition to that, by reducing your carbohydrate-intake, you reduce overall hunger because fat and protein is more satiating overall AND you reduce the amount of insulin you secrete (which ties in with hunger).

    Which takes us back to my first statement – weight-loss, on ANY diet, involves deprivation, whether you like it or not. For calorie-counters, it means counting every morsel that enters your mouth, frequently reminding you that you’re undergoing a caloric deficit. For paleo folks, this means cutting out entire food-groups and being fearful of excessive carbohydrates, with the subconscious hope that it leaves you in caloric deficit.

    Which brings me to to explaining the notion that weight-loss IS deprivation. You CANNOT lose weight WITHOUT cutting calories. It’s basic physics. If you can eat a caloric surplus and lose weight, you defy the laws of thermodynamics.

    I understand that the “deprivation mindset” is discouraging and can lead us back to square-one, but we can’t just ditch the fact that we must cut calories because we feel bad for making ourselves “feel deprived”.

    We have to acknowledge the fact that what we are doing is technically deprivation, but is a necessary path we have to take in the journey to improving our health. We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, because nothing is ever easy, and winners don’t think. They just get up and do it. Come up with a game-plan, work out the kinks, follow it, and look forward. Ignore the minutiae and remind yourself you’re better than you were a day ago.

    Mark P wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • “For paleo folks, this means cutting out entire food-groups and being fearful of excessive carbohydrates, with the subconscious hope that it leaves you in caloric deficit.”

      I don’t know about anyone else but I avoid poisonous things which means I don’t eat grains. So no, I’m not cutting out an entire food group because I don’t consider it actual food in the first place. I also never fear eating excessive carbohydrates (unless I’m eating something non-primal) because you can only eat so much veggies and fruits in a day before you begin to “worry.”

      “Which brings me to to explaining the notion that weight-loss IS deprivation. You CANNOT lose weight WITHOUT cutting calories. It’s basic physics. If you can eat a caloric surplus and lose weight, you defy the laws of thermodynamics.”

      I think you need to read some of the articles Mark has written on the concept of calories because yes, you can lose weight without cutting calories. For example, there was a point when I first started this lifestyle that I was consuming about 3,000 calories in a day and I was still losing weight. Before going primal I was eating maybe about 2,500 calories in a day. The difference was where the calories were coming from. It’s a lot more complex than just calories in and calories out.

      Your comment makes me wonder if you really understand this way of life since you mentioned any kind of weight-loss is deprivation which is just the complete opposite of how my life is now due to the primal lifestyle. I don’t feel deprived living this way. I feel fulfilled.

      Jennifer wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • ” The difference was where the calories were coming from. It’s a lot more complex than just calories in and calories out.”

        I second this. An overly simplistic application of the laws of thermodynamics are why we see people struggle to lose body fat.

        Consider, for instance, that your body may use up more energy to process certain foods. Or that a stomach maybe more efficient in digesting food one day and less efficient the next. (In other words, same calories “in”, but a variable number of calories up in the body.) There may be a great deal more discretion then people give the body credit for in exactly how calories are processed (or not.)

        Ultimately, I’m not arguing against the laws of thermodynamics. I’m suggesting any animal, including us humans, is much more complex than we give it credit for.

        Amy wrote on October 24th, 2013
        • Amy, you are right in saying that it’s very simplistic to solely consider calories-in to calories-out. But, the parts that make it more complex have to do with modifying the two factors, calories-in and calories-out.

          Let’s consider the notion that you stated – “Consider, for instance, that your body may use up more energy to process certain foods. Or that a stomach maybe more efficient in digesting food one day and less efficient the next.”

          While this may be desired, to reduce efficiency of aerobic respiration, so that we can lose weight, does reducing the efficiency of our ability to produce energy from food really make sense in the long-run?

          Would that make sense for us to intentionally handicap our energy production in an evolutionary sense? Even if Grok ate primarily fats and proteins and was able to survive off of it, wouldn’t it make sense the the human body would live longer and healthier if given a more “efficient” form of raw materials to produce energy from?

          I am just playing Devil’s advocate, and in no way to I believe in conventional wisdom regarding diet and health.

          Mark P wrote on October 25th, 2013
      • I’ve followed paleo/primal STRICTLY for two years and believed I would lose weight if I just cut out the excess carbs and not consume grains or legumes (or dairy or nightshades). So yes, I understand this way of life.

        But it is the law of thermodynamics. There’s no questioning it.

        “For example, there was a point when I first started this lifestyle that I was consuming about 3,000 calories in a day and I was still losing weight.”

        And this is after losing the water-weight with initially going low-carb, correct? What should make us wonder, however, is WHY would our diet make us lose weight if we’re eating much more. That should make us ponder the efficiency of various macronutrients. Wouldn’t it make sense, in an evolutionary perspective (which primal is all about) to be the most efficient in our metabolism?

        And please, take no offense to my comments. I just enjoy playing Devil’s advocate. These discussions are fun.

        Mark P wrote on October 25th, 2013
      • Also, Jennifer, it is excellent that you do not feel deprived.

        How many grams of carbohydrates do you ingest daily? From fruit, fruit juices (100% natural, or homemade), and dairy I must get around 250 grams of carbs per day. I’m losing weight, BTW (because I’m purposely counting calories).

        Mark P wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • well, Mark P. I’m sure it’s possible to gain weight on the PB. I’m sure some have (I’d love to hear their success stories). it just depends on what your goals are. the PB can really work for anybody.

      Erin wrote on October 24th, 2013
      • Oh, I can confirm it’s easy to gain weight when primal, especially if you’re still trying to loose it! Personally, i’m just concentrating on being healthy – i’d love to be a 20-something youngster with no other issues, but as a nearly 50 year old woman with a lifetime of auto immune issues, fertility problems and a host of other things it’s hard. There used to be days that just getting out of bed was so draining; managing to shower, drive to work and stay awake for a whole day was about as much as I could manage. Used to have to nap in the car before I could attempt the drive home again, and then curl up before starting to cook food. And don’t forget looking after the children and husband as well, as ‘all you need to do is exercise more so that you start to sleep better …’ I found this lifestyle when really sick, and can thank Robb W and Mark S for literally saving my life. Exercise is not an option when you struggle to keep functioning on a basic level, due to sheer exhaustion and being run down. I was existing, not living, and it was sheer hell. Now however, I feel a million times better, and my body is slowly recovering. I lost about 20 kg without trying, but slowly putting about 8 back on over the last year. Yes, I’d like to lose more fat, but its certainly not the most important thing on my agenda; just being able to live and look after my family is. I agree that Mark has never had (to our knowledge) to deal with the fallout of being fat, but I’m sure he has his own issues, such as knee problems and so on. He’s also never going to fully understand the issues of the more mature woman, but he does a pretty fantastic job on a daily basis with this site. Just be true to yourself – you are the only person putting food into your mouth.

        Emily wrote on October 29th, 2013
    • You could also argue that rather than deprivation, (low-carb) primal folk are just switching to a different, possibly more efficient source of energy. Dietary fat if, like myself, you’re not trying to lose weight, or a combination of dietary fat and body fat, if you are.

      Although cutting out any major food groups that we used to enjoy can feel like psychological deprivation, I don’t think it can/should be percieved as physical deprivation, especially in overweight people, who have loads of energy stores just waiting to be used.

      Personally, I think I only occasionally felt I was depriving myself for the first few weeks of living primally (I had dreams of swimming in porridge). You can view it any way you want, sometimes the ‘challenge’ mindset helps, sometimes it can tire you out, which I think Mark’s article explains.

      I don’t know about overweight guys/girls, but for myself, I think any weight loss I’ve experienced has been ‘accidental’. It’s usually in the summer, I’ve been enjoying myself too much, spending too much time outside running, playing, hiking, swimming, forgetting to eat. Then I get back to a more stable lifestyle, and think, “Pants, I’ve lost loads of weight! Time to eat more!”.

      ChaiKe wrote on October 24th, 2013
  11. This is spot on. I’m a dietitian but prefer to call myself a nutrition therapist. I don’t do diets and my clients don’t either.

    Leslie Schilling, RDN, CSSD wrote on October 24th, 2013
  12. Deprivation is awesome. I would be characterless without it. Being Primal is effective because it changes the typical view of deprivation. It makes it fun. Get down with it.

    Oh no! I used a colloquialism. I hate colloquialisms!

    -Taylor

    Taylor Rearick wrote on October 24th, 2013
  13. It’s interesting how MDA and robbwolf aligned on this topic today. For those of us who struggle to lose fat, our relationship with food is indeed complicated

    Kent W wrote on October 24th, 2013
  14. Primal eating is not easy and for many folks, downright hard. It is largely due to marketing, advertisements, eating history and many other reasons. If you always have tasty primal food around and never get hungry, it is much easier. The problem is when you get hungry and the only available foods are tasty non-primal foods.

    That said, I think most people need a good reason to stay primal. It may be a health issue or a strong desire to be thin, strong, LGN, whatever. For me it is because I love life and want to enjoy life long into retirement. Both my parents had cancer, my mom died at 37 and my dad is struggling in the aftermath of the drug cocktails he took. I look around at people my age and older (I’m 53) and think they are going to suffer in old age due to their weight and the health issues they already face. My neighbor is a great example, he retired at 62 and cannot enjoy retirement because he is 100 lbs overweight, has T2D and lost an eye because of it, hips replaced, can hardly walk, etc., etc. This is the CW picture of the future I am looking at and I don’t like it.

    Yes, I love pizza and ice cream, but in the end, I choose health over the short term pleasure. Crap food is as addictive as drugs. Don’t keep doing drugs because it is hard to quit.

    JoeBrewer wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • +1

      gibson wrote on October 24th, 2013
  15. I also can not suggest strongly enough a Whole 30 at some point. It breaks your mental hangups and years of bad programming by the modern food industry.

    Ham-Bone wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • And read the book “It Starts With Food” before you do it. It really brings it all in focus – after a failed attempt last year of just doing the eating plan without reading the book, I can attest that not only will you feel extremely deprived, but for me, it didn’t make as much sense and I couldn’t really stay on it. After reading “It Starts With Food,” I had a very successful Whole 30 the second time. I lost 7 more pounds without really trying, and I actually kicked my compulsive sugar habit. I am able to have some treats once in a while without it making me eat an entire box of donuts or bag of candy now, which is huge for me. I don’t feel deprived of anything anymore.

      Speaking of reading, I am curious if Mike W has had a chance to read the “Blueprint” or any other books/blogs about this type of eating? Once I started reading a lot about it, it made all those bad foods a hell of a lot less desirable for me. Plus, I feel 100% better eating like this. Ok, gonna get a little woo-woo on y’all… but I wonder if this is a problem of not feeling worthy enough to be truly healthy, getting twisted in your brain so that you think you “deserve” to eat all those comfort-type foods instead, self-sabotage style? just a thought.

      KariVery wrote on October 24th, 2013
  16. Deprivation is a state of mind. That doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes feel deprived, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an emotional attachment to food. It takes mental energy and persistence to say, “I only want to eat that ice cream because I’m feeling stressed/tired/frustrated/sad/whatever. What I really need is to do is relax/talk to someone/read/play a game/walk in the woods/sit in a hottub.” Actually assigning emotions to food is mentally draining (e.g. I love icecream/I’m addicted to chocolate) because then there’s an automatic response cue and you have to decide if you’re going to be “good” and not eat it or “bad” and not eat it. Almost all of my “deprivation” is emotional – I want that icecream b/c it makes me feel good (but so do my friends), I want that pizza b/c everyone in the office is eating it and I want to belong (eating and laughing together on a regular basis makes you part of a group, eating the same food as everyone else doesn’t always). People, like me, just need to let go of the emotions they assign to their food. Think of all the foods that you have don’t have strong feelings about – meatloaf, for example!

    Kim wrote on October 24th, 2013
  17. Eating a primal diet (within the framework of my personal beliefs) and following the leangains “protocol” has made keeping on track in terms of nutrition relatively painless for me. I have many areas for improvement and I’m not the best person I could be on many levels, but saying no to pasta, sweets, gains etc, has not been an issue for me. Much thanks to Mark for his ongoing encouragement and enlightenment, I may not agree with him 100% on every topic but he is one of the best health and wellness resources out there for sure.

    George wrote on October 24th, 2013
  18. Seems like a lot of people can’t get passed the mindset that they are missing out on something critical to their existence. It’s quite possible that you need to be more creative in your meal selection. There are many paleo/primal recipes that offer fantastic alternatives to culturally evocative foods. Additionally, those of you who “can’t live without these foods” may want to check out the possibility of blocked 1st and or 2nd chakra’s.

    EdP3 wrote on October 24th, 2013
  19. Even when I was on Weight Watchers I never looked at it like a diet- it was the way I was eating period. If I don’t think of things like that, I cannot follow through. This paleo/primal thing is a diet too. The nice thing about it is that there are options so that you can recreate foods that are out there that you used to eat, that you now miss. The same was true for Weight Watchers, as different of a weigh-loss philosophy as that followed. You could eat whatever you want within certain perameters and there was always a way to eat what you wanted and do well if you were motivated.

    I find Paleo to be the same way- I can eat pizza (I just make the dough with tapioca flour, coconut flour and some almond flour). Is it still high carb? Sure. Does it have the wheat in it that my body can’t seem to handle? No. One or two days a month at higher carbs isn’t going to kill me and I feel like it keeps me saner the rest of the time. Granted, I haven’t gone through the holidays yet eating this way (pretty new to this), but I think I will be able to make emotional substitutes. That is what this comes down to for me- can I still get my emotional satisfaction from this way of eating? So far, the answer is yes. I was shocked to find that, but there it is.

    Stephanie wrote on October 24th, 2013
  20. I find that now that I know what certain foods can do to the human body, it makes it easier to resist them. Knowledge can help a person maintain this diet. I’m not say that I’m perfect, but knowing does help quite a bit. No one views a candy bar as nutrition, but it is just a pleasure. That is how I now view certain foods (pizza, bread, etc.)

    Brian wrote on October 24th, 2013
  21. I find the cravings on the primal diet to be relative. I am trying to significantly reduce body fat (currently at 20%, target 12%), so I am eating primal and keeping carbs to less than 50g/day.

    I used to binge eat sweets all the time. Now, its relative. Instead of craving a cupcake, I crave a bowl of blackberries with a bit of stevia. (But holy cow, 1c of blackberries has 16g carbs!)

    It is about deprivation…but its also about training your body to crave healthier items. Try eating ultra low carb for a while and you’ll be amazed how awesome that small handful of carbs will taste!

    Rob wrote on October 24th, 2013
  22. I have tried so many different diets in my life and nothing compares to just making a lifestyle change and sticking to it. Eating healthy makes you feel so much better throughout the day.

    Steve Obermeier wrote on October 24th, 2013
  23. I agree 100% with this article! It’s all about lifestlye change! Since moving towards being Primal I have had SO many people ask me what “diet” I’m on and I’m forever explaining to them that I will never change back to my old habits…….therefore I am NOT on a diet!! :)

    Jerri Heaton wrote on October 24th, 2013
  24. I wonder how much the sense of deprivation among Primal eaters is tied to stressors outside the diet itself. One of the things that I most respect about this site is the emphasis on lifestyle factors outside the food spectrum.

    I see in myself a crystal-clear connection of unhealthy food cravings with stress, lack of sleep, &/or lack of fulfillment in some other aspect of life. It helps me so much NOT to focus on the food itself (“good” or “bad”), but to look for the underlying cause. It’s not always easy to address these factors but when I do, the results for me have been profound.

    Paleo-curious wrote on October 24th, 2013
    • I second this whole-heartedly. This has been exactly my experience. VERY rarely is it that I’m just wanting to enjoy some food for the merits of that food alone. (Exceptions could possibly be at Thanksgiving or Christmas type of celebrations, when someone who cares about you has made you something homemade and wonderful – those cases are often “just” about the food/enjoyment of the moment.) The VAST majority of the falling-off-wagon moments/meals/days/weeks (for me) is about something else entirely, whether it’s (most often) stress or lack of sleep, or (more rarely) a general dissatisfaction with something in my life.

      The lack of sleep is an easy fix; stress slightly less so, but the life fulfillment issue gets a little more tricky. However, recognizing this fact has made me so much more aware of the need for self-reflection on a constant basis. Whether it’s through prayer (for me), meditation, or what have you, it boils down to the need to analyze what my life goals/expectations are, and what I’m doing to further them, and what I’ve been keeping in my life that is acting as a hindrance to those goals.

      Anyway, I basically rewrote everything you said, but I just wanted to say that this is absolutely true for me, and may be helpful for someone else.

      Carol wrote on October 29th, 2013
  25. They key to dieting is to adhere to a whole food-based diet. Obviously, short-term dieting won’t work if you retreat back to your original ways. But if you can find a good plan and stick to it, it’ll work (at which point it becomes a lifestyle).

    Adam wrote on October 24th, 2013
  26. I too eat a cheeseburger probably once a week with the bun. But, other days I’m meat and veggies. And burger days, I still start off with a big plate of broccoli. I think paleo is about mostly avoiding the starch as a mainsaty in your diet.. One thing I do when tempted to over grub is picture what I’m eating going through my blood stream and into my heart. That’ll make you run to the veggie drawer quick. Later.

    Dave wrote on October 24th, 2013
  27. Deprivation: the damaging lack of material benefits considered to be basic necessities in a society.

    Based on that definition, I don’t think avoiding grains, pizza, and ice cream could be considered *real* deprivation. Those things are not necessities, even in our modern society. Food, sure. But I feel it’s more of a necessity to feed your body the food that makes it strong, healthy, and happy. I think it’s all a matter of your mindset, and I would encourage anyone that has a hard time with that to read the book by that title (Mindset, by Carol Dweck).

    There is nothing beneficial about eating grains–all the research on MDA and elsewhere has proven that. However, I would feel seriously deprived if I didn’t get to have any type of protein all day, because not only is it freaking delicious, but it’s an absolute necessity for my body.

    I think we tend to think we are missing out on something when we are “deprived” of SAD foods….and yeah, I guess we are missing out: on obesity, diabetes, cancer, sugar crashes, insulin spikes, restlessness, unhappiness…the list goes on. Those thoughts are at the forefront of my mind (Type II diabetes runs in my family), and has made my year of being primal a good one, and will make me choose this lifestyle for the rest of my life. It has never been a diet for me; it’s been a complete lifesaver.

    Stacie wrote on October 24th, 2013
  28. Over the past couple of years I made some half hearted attempts to follow a paleo/primal eating plan but only for about 6 to 8 weeks at a time. Then Jan 2 of this year, I woke up with the overwhelming feeling that my body was shutting down and dying (don’t know if it was my asthma, blood sugar, or a heart attack – never went to the Dr). Anyway, long story short I decided I needed to take paleo seriously or die. Since then, I have lost over 50 pounds and I’m down 4 clothes sizes. I feel amazing and absolutely don’t understand all the comments here today about people feeling deprived. I eat an amazing array of foods and am very happy. I think a writer put it perfectly earlier in this post when he/she said your word choice is important. Can’t implies depravation. I do not think I have ever said “can’t” this year. I never thought about it, but I have only said I DON’T eat bread (pasta, cake, etc. fill in the blank). Maybe that, along with visiting this website every single day, is the reason I am successfully, happily, primal.

    Stacey wrote on October 24th, 2013
  29. I don’t feel deprived at all when I eat this way. I had several false starts, then I went about 90/10 on the ketone level of carbs for a month. Now my cravings are much weaker, and I’m defeating them one by one. I cheat about every week and a half and have anything I want for a day, maybe two. Then I go right back on this regimine. It’s easy for me, I think, because I feel so much better. My body really prefers this way of eating, and it tells me so. Joints feel better. Constipation is gone. Skin looks better. Acid reflux nearly gone. Insides feel much, much better. My life long depression seems to be moderating.

    I want to add regular exercise, but my work makes me too tired. The best I can do is a walk once in a while after I get off work at night. To incorporate some “lifting of heavy things” is my next challenge.

    lsh wrote on October 24th, 2013
  30. Before I found primal I used to think back to when I lost my baby weight and grief myself over being unable to eat better now. However I was a stay at home mom when I lost that weight. Fast forward with a full time job and babies going to school and I was frustrated when I would partake in the office donuts, quick fast food lunches and many ice cream stops. I would do it without thinking and missed when I could stay focus on my eating. I found this website over a year ago and have been hooked. Slowly I find myself incorporating more and more of the primal principals.

    Ashley wrote on October 24th, 2013
  31. Yep! It’s a pretty cool article yar. I have tried so many different diets in my life and nothing compares to just making a lifestyle change and sticking to it. Eating healthy makes you feel so much better throughout the day. Like this blog I’ve recently visited a simply awesome blog worldleaks.com i felt to share this to all our friends.
    NYC

    finny wrote on October 24th, 2013
  32. I’ve read this post and especially the comments with interest, as cravings have been a challenge for me. I’m a PB super-fan, Primal believer and will live my life in the Grok lifestyle. I read the book and adopted the lifestyle 80/20 over 4 years ago. As a T2Diabetic with blood glucose numbers rising, and with a Doctor whose idea of helping me went from oral to injectable drugs, the Primal lifestyle was the answer I’d been frantically searching and hoping for. I’ve lost 35 pounds, and am now drug free, with near normal blood glucose numbers.
    It was not an easy transition for me. I craved sweets and often still do. Being lenient with the plan backfired for me, given an inch, I took a mile and found myself back to my old habits with bad glucose readings and regained weight during primal year 2. I pulled myself back by strictly following the 21 Day Primal plan, and now carefully monitor indulgences, 90/10.
    What I’ve found is that after eating Primally for a good while, non-primal foods literally make me sick. I’ll feel nauseous, have stomach cramps, get gas, have cold symptoms, achey joints or a headache after eating sweets or grains. When this happens, I stop for a minute and talk out loud to myself (OK, this sounds crazy, but it works for me), I’ll say “wow, I feel lousy. I ate blank and now I feel blank”. Now when bread is on the table, or cake in front of me, I think “Is this food worth a cramping stomachache?” and usually the answer is ‘no’.
    Hope this is a help to someone. Thank you Mark Sisson. You may have literally saved my life.

    Barbie Estelle wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • That is awesome – so glad you listened to your instincts :-)

      KariVery wrote on October 25th, 2013
  33. I think I would agree with the idea that diets don’t work long-term. It does cause stress and it requires willpower, reducing our performance or our ability to handle stress in other areas of life.

    But, I totally embrace the idea of experimentation, and pushing our own limits in order to learn about ourselves. Dieting and calorie-counting don’t work well in the long term, but if you have the motivation and can handle the stress in the short term, go ahead and “experiment on yourself”.

    People want to be told “The Answer” so they can hurry up and fix their lives, but I’ve found that for most people, life doesn’t work that way. If you change your diet for a while and then go back to what you were doing before, what have you learned? What value did you get out of the experiment?

    So the choice shouldn’t be “diet or don’t diet” — the choice should be more like, “What should I try next, and for how long?” Some of our experiments will be hard, as hard as running a marathon. Some of our experiments will fail to give the results we were after, but as long as we’re learning from them, it’s worth doing.

    These experiments also do something else: they teach us various skills. Some diets teach us how to count, and how to survive and cope with deprivation. Other diets teach us how to adjust our eating for a specific nutrient balance. Some others will teach us to recognize the effects of different foods on our bodies, or will teach us different ways to feed ourselves while avoiding certain food types. But ultimately the diet itself is a learning tool, not a path to an outcome. Once we are equipped with the right skills, we should stop “dieting” and just… LIVE!

    So I say, if something is wrong, or if we’re just not happy with how things are, we should go on voyages of discovery. Whether it’s dieting, measuring, trying things, talking to people, going sweat-lodge and communing with our spirit animal, whatever. We should do what it takes to learn about ourselves and pick up skills and habits. And along the way we should try to discover how to LIVE and ENJOY life.

    Greg C wrote on October 25th, 2013
  34. Thanks Mark for sharing this valuable content with us. I fully agree with you that dieting can change our brain activity. I think eating normal food if we regularly engage with exercise it will really help us.

    David Morgan wrote on October 25th, 2013
  35. I am with Mike W (and I will add that some food choices are banned unfairly, like legumes), but I will go even further – to lose weight on primal, food quantities are limited too. Fasting is a big part of both Paleo and Primal diet. Anyone who thinks that it is natural to hack it till lunch with black coffees kids him or herself.

    Paleo or Primal diet will be natural and result in a weight loss beyond shifting below the obesity line only for an individual who is not locked indoors all day, so can be distracted from the constant hunger and dissatisfaction ANY caloric restriction causes eventually or simply removed from a food source by kilometers of wilderness (sure, I can go for half a day without food too if I was hiking far enough).

    There is no, just no such thing as weight loss without the deficit, and there is no such thing as caloric deficit without hunger.

    leida wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • “There is no, just no such thing as weight loss without the deficit, and there is no such thing as caloric deficit without hunger.”

      Weight loss requires a deficit, but a deficit doesn’t require you to be hungry. Experiment with different nutrient balance. Most people find that adding more fats and reducing carbs makes them much more satisfied/satiated at a much lower calorie level.

      Over time your metabolism may down-regulate itself, so a “simple” calorie deficit is not a great long-term strategy. But whatever your approach, experiment with a bunch of different things before deciding on a life plan, and be prepared to change it up again from time to time.

      Greg C wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • I have to disagree here. Please don’t confuse Paleo or Primal with calorie restriction or specifically low carb. Fasting is not necessarily a big part of it. In general, it doesn’t work well for women, despite men seeming to be fine with it. So, if you’re really hungry why are you trying to go without food? It’s prefectly natural for some of us to not eat until early afternoon, passing up breakfast and morning tea without any desire to eat at all. But it’s not planned starvation; i just don’t feel like eating at all, and have to remember to eat mid afternoon. But if it doesn’t work for you, strop trying to force it. I guess I’ve had it easy though, and I’m sure lots of people will disagree with me … There is absolutely caloric deficit without hunger. you just need to find what works for you. If you’re in a constant mental state of feeling deprived by not being able to eat ‘tasty things’, you won’t suceed on any lifestyle change.

      Emily wrote on October 29th, 2013
  36. this statement is untrue:

    ‘There is no, just no such thing as weight loss without the deficit, and there is no such thing as caloric deficit without hunger’

    completely and utterly wrong.

    If you follow the PB principals you can go hours and hours without food and not feel hungry. You are probably cheating and thats why you feel hungry.

    Most people who practice PB and dont cheat can eat eggs and bacon for breakfast not be hungry until mid afternoon, eat a healthy supper of meat and vegetables, perhaps a glass of wine AND lose weight.

    As far as culture involving ‘cheat’ foods. What? not to be negative, but what kind of society are you living in? You cant live without pizza? I think that sounds like utter nonsense.

    Bronwyn wrote on October 25th, 2013
  37. first time commenter. a year ago i jumped on the paleo bandwagon. i will say i have seen improvements. improved skin, better digestion and better lipid numbers to name three of them. but, like many, i started down this path to lose fat so i look better naked. i am probably 90% compliant. I NEVER buy bad (non-whole) food at the grocery store and rarely eat BAD when out socially. Yet i still carry 20+ extra pounds of fat in my mid-torso. i am a male so i generally look like the other males around me in that my waist to hip ratio is obscene.

    but those other guys are eating junk. i’m eating vegetables smoothies! i don’t feel deprived or restricted. i just feel like paleo isn’t the answer for every body type.

    i reread what i typed and felt compelled to add that i still follow paleo rules even though it isn’t a complete success because i haven’t found anything better for me, which of course means i am still looking.

    john wrote on October 25th, 2013
  38. A couple of weeks into 80% primal I lost the cravings for crap food. Effortlessly. I just yesterday ate a few cookies that I used to overeat. Guess what? Meh! No great dopamine hit of pleasure. No more binges or desire to overeat.
    Just clean protein and veggies some small dairy…my brain stopped obsessing about food too.

    Katie wrote on October 25th, 2013
    • +1

      Bronwyn wrote on October 28th, 2013
  39. I don’t find this way of eating to be too terribly deprived. I used to think to be healthy I needed to eat brown rice, tofu and steamed vegetables. Now I can eat steak and eggs with the yolks and all the salmon I could ever want. It’s awesome. Is it a weight loss miracle? No, not for me. I’m okay with it because I’ve become and continue to become the best me I can be. Healthy, happy, strong and not hungry all the time.

    Diane wrote on October 26th, 2013
  40. I’m not reliably primal {sigh} but I’m working on it. It’s hard because I hate veg — since infancy, I have never eaten them. (I’m still trying to find some that I CAN eat without gagging… but that’s a whine for another blog entry…). However, when I started cutting out the grains, I used to look a bit wistfully at the folks who had immediate bad reactions to them. I thought: Must be nice to have a self-enforcing restriction! *I* always bragged about my ‘cast-iron’ stomach (and yes, in college, I could put away a medium sized pizza by myself {wince} and having spent some 30+ years living mostly on pasta and soy hotdogs, or pasta and (real) hamburger — always with apple cider — I entered my 50s at nearly 300 pounds). I felt it would be easier to not eat pasta (bread and sweets were never a siren song; just pasta!) “if only” I had a time-linked reaction. And mostly, it is.

    Well, now that I almost never have grains, when I do have grain (usually a bit of pizza crust) I get a reaction within an hour — but it’s not GI! My carpal tunnel comes roaring back within the hour and for the next day or so, my arthritis (hips and neck) are rise up painfully. It actually does help to have the ‘help’ in deciding not to eat grain! I know if I have this grain-whatever-thing, I will have a sore wrist (and, of course, it’s my left wrist and I’m left-handed!)

    So, now I have a time-linked reaction. Doe sit make it easier to skip the grains? Mostly, yes. (When I have pizza, I scrap the sauce and toppings off the crust, and have just a sliver of the ‘cooked’ outer edge of the crust. Yes, I pay for it in my wrist, but it’s a ‘party’ I allow myself to have once a month or so.

    Does anyone know of any vegetables that are umami? (But NOT mushrooms! {shudder}) Turns out that’s my fav taste…. I’m thinking maybe if I add MSG to some relatively innocuous-tasting veg, I might find it palatable (well, edible?)…

    Elenor wrote on October 26th, 2013
    • Nononono to the MSG!! Have you ever tried tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)?. Yes, it’s soy, but used in such small amounts its a far better choice than MSG.
      I too struggle w/ vegetables but several factors are at work—
      Raised on very limited veggie selections (canned green beans, carrots, canned spinach, occasional boiled cabbage (gak!!) and iceberg lettuce, so just about everything else has been a new taste for me.
      Possible hypertaster to both sour and bitter–much of any amount of a sour condiment completely overwhelms the other flavor of the food; bitter flavors are just not tolerable (and SO many veggies are bitter).
      I have dieted so much heavily on veggies that sometimes I just can’t stand the thought of any more.
      So, I am going to study up and try some new ones to get me out of my broccoli/carrots/green beans rut. Speaking of green beans, they tend to be mild-flavored so try some of those and branch out from there.
      Good luck

      shrimp4me wrote on November 2nd, 2013

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