9 Ways You Might Be Inadvertently Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts

Whenever friends, co-workers, or loved ones complain about not being able to lose weight and turn to us for answers or advice, we can all generally rattle off a few suggestions that, if followed, usually set them on the right track. For the soda-swilling cubicle mate who keeps a recycling bin just for cans beneath his desk who asks, “Why can’t I lose weight?,” you suggest stopping soda. For the fast food addict who wonders why she can’t hit her high school weight, you suggest avoiding fries, getting water, and ditching the buns. To the vegetarian best friend who eats “healthy” but is growing increasingly skinny-fat, you send a link to MDA. Those are simple solutions. What about your stalled weight loss? You’re Primal, you’ve lost a bunch of weight already, you’re feeling good, you don’t have many complaints, you know all about nutrition, and you’re sticking with the lifestyle – but you’re not losing as much weight as you’d like. Well, it could very well be that you’ve inadvertently throw a wrench into weight loss efforts.

What do I mean? Let’s take a look:

You’re overly obsessed with dietary purity.

Now, if you’re celiac or gluten sensitive, it’s natural to be concerned about even minimal amounts of gluten in soy sauce. If you’re allergic to dairy, you should be that guy who pesters the waiter about the powdered milk in the gravy. If you’re pregnant, I wouldn’t blame you for worrying over the source of the fish you’re being served. But if you’re generally healthy – or on your way there – and you’re not acutely intolerant or allergic to any particular food, I’d argue that worrying over a single component of a single meal to the point of physical manifestations of stress (racing heart, sweaty palms, nervous tick, scattered thoughts) is not conducive to weight loss. You’re trying to be so perfect that it becomes the enemy of the good.

You’ve ignored the other aspects of the PB lifestyle.

When I put together the ten Primal Blueprint laws, I tried not to emphasize any single one over the rest. They are all important for health and vitality. “Eat lots of plants and animals” may trump “Move around a lot at a slow pace,” “Get lots of sleep,” and “Play” in the body composition arena, but you cannot overlook or underestimate the others. The more people I encounter, the more I see that every aspect is vital for real success with this lifestyle – and that includes weight loss. I didn’t make it ten laws just to hit a nice even number, ya know.

You’re wedded to an ideology rather than what actually works for you.

At last year’s PrimalCon, I fielded an interesting question during the keynote. An attendee asked whether it was okay that his kid ate lots of fruit and other Primal carbs along with meat, eggs, and veggies. I asked how the kid was doing, and he said, “Great.” I said to keep it up as long as it was working. You don’t mess with success. Now, if he had just assumed that his kid was getting too many carbs and decided to replace the fruit and potatoes with spoonfuls of coconut oil, he would have been doing his child a disservice. The kid probably wouldn’t understand why some of his favorite foods were now off limits; the kid would get stressed out and unhappy and his sense of metabolic homeostasis could have been disrupted as a result. Since the guy was attending PrimalCon, he was obviously a fan of the Primal Blueprint – but he wasn’t an ideologue. He recognized that his kid did well on a diet somewhat different than his own, and that this was okay.

You’re not tailoring your macronutrient levels to your lifestyle.

If you’re a CrossFitter going five days a week, doing the WODs as RX’d, and finding yourself growing a bit pudgier despite your best efforts, you may need to eat some sweet potatoes. Conversely, if you work a sedentary job and do some gardening and some dog walking for exercise, you probably don’t need to modify your low carb consumption. I see carbs as elective macronutrients, in general. I don’t elect to eat all that many of them, personally, but that’s because I’ve tailored my lifestyle such that this is the healthiest way for me to eat. Eat more if you’re going to be burning glycogen. Eat fewer if you’re not. Eating too few carbs while working out with high intensity and high volume will ruin your adrenals, depress your thyroid, and stall weight loss. Eating too many carbs without putting them to good use or enjoying exercise-induced insulin sensitivity will promote hyperinsulinemia and weight gain. Make sure it all matches up.

You’ve taken the “exercise doesn’t cause weight loss” claim a bit too literally.

It’s true that “eat less, move more” is an overly simplified, ineffective piece of weight loss “advice,” akin to a psychiatrist telling a depressed patient to simply “feel better.” However, that doesn’t make it a downright falsity. Exercise is an essential part of losing weight – particularly unwanted adipose tissue – and you can’t ignore it forever and hope to lose the weight you want to lose. I don’t think it’s helpful to look at exercise as a mechanistic obliterator of calories, because that can enable the “I’ll eat this cupcake and then run for twenty minutes on the treadmill” mentality that just doesn’t work. But exercise is a potent enhancer of hormonal function. It can raise testosterone, growth hormone, and improve insulin sensitivity (all of which improve fat loss). It can divert the calories you do eat toward lean muscle and away from body fat. It can divert the carbs you eat toward refilling muscle glycogen. All in all, as long as you don’t overdo things, exercise is an important ally in fat burning and lean mass accumulation.

You’re switching things up too often.

A downside of this Internet stuff is that there’s almost too much information out there. Not only that, the flow of information never stops. New blogs are popping up every day, each one pushing a slightly or radically different view. New studies are coming out from different researchers with different biases or areas of focus or sources of funding. Instead of ruminating on your own experiences, you can hop online and read a hundred different accounts of a hundred different dietary variations. It’s crazy. It’s great – if you keep things in perspective – but it can also lead to information overload and a wild goose chase for the “perfect diet.” Instead of doing that, try sticking to a “program” for a few weeks, at least. Heck, a few months is even better. Give the regimen (whatever it is) a chance to do its work. Give your body a chance to figure things out. Muscle confusion might sell P90X videos, but it’s not a useful approach to diet.

You’re overthinking your food.

Eating should be a relaxing, enjoyable, eminently pleasurable experience. It should be stimulating, but not because you’re analyzing the micronutrient content of the spinach based on the duration and temperature of the steam used to cook it and wondering whether or not you should reduce the light green cooking water into a syrup and add cold pastured butter to make a mineral-rich demi glace oh but wait the butter is looking a little too white I wonder if this was fresh spring grass-based pasture or hay-based pasture because the vitamin K2 content will vary wildly and oh man if it was pastured on grass the omega-3s might oxidize in the pan. Sounds stressful (even to read), right? Acute stress is great and all, but eating is an everyday occurrence, and if it’s a stressful event just to eat, that stress will inevitably become chronic. Chronic stress is the enemy of fat loss. Relax. Sit back. Pull up a chair. Enjoy your food. Enjoy your company. Have a glass of wine. As long as you make sure the bulk of your food is high quality, you’re gonna be just fine.

You’re eating too little.

Yeah, it sounds funny, but it’s true: eating too few calories can make fat loss extremely difficult. The beauty of going Primal is that it often causes spontaneous reductions in calorie intake, which is one of the reasons why it’s so good for weight loss. In some people, though, calorie intake continues to drop unabated, because, hey, it helped me lose weight at first, so why not go even lower? Right? Except it doesn’t work that way. When you continually eat fewer calories than your body requires, you are doing two things. First, you’re applying a chronic stressor to your body. A lack of calories for a day or two (say, if you’re on an intermittent fasting regimen) signals a missed kill, a momentary hiccup in the food supply. No biggie. You’ll get ’em next time. It’s an acute stressor that will actually improve your health. A lack of calories for weeks or months, on the other hand, signals a famine, war, starvation. It’s a chronic stressor that will impede weight loss and promote fat storage. Second, eating fewer calories gives you less of a chance to obtain the micronutrients you need for optimal functioning. All said and done, a 2,000 calorie diet will have more minerals, phytonutrients, and vitamins than a 1,000 calorie diet. Make sure you’re eating enough food.

You’re eating too much (healthy Primal food).

Primal can make weight loss really smooth, but some folks have the idea that they can eat as much as they want and not gain weight. Though it’s certainly harder to gain weight eating just plants and animals, it’s not impossible. Some people’s satiety mechanisms don’t kick in simply because they ditched grains, sugar, legumes, seed oils, and reduced carbs. Some people assume that since I’ve written posts extolling the weight loss benefits of a diet made up of grass-fed butter, coconut oil, sweet potatoes, cheese, olive oil, lamb, grass-fed beef, fish, and other healthy Primal fare, quantity is suddenly immaterial. It isn’t. While I’d argue that overeating Big Ass Salad is better, healthier, and causes less adipose tissue growth than overeating McDonald’s, it’s still overeating.

That’s what I’ve got today, folks. What do you think? Anything look familiar to you? Thanks for reading!

About the Author

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

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243 thoughts on “9 Ways You Might Be Inadvertently Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Efforts”

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  1. I know what has stalled my weight loss. Drinking too much alcohol and eating too many nuts. Salted nuts are so delicious and calorie dense, it is really easy to eat a lot of calories without noticing. I also like to drink red wine which is unneeded calories, but to make matters worse once I start drinking I make poor decisions and am more likely to cheat on my diet or to overeat. For the next three weeks I am going to experiment with giving up alcohol and see how my weight loss efforts go.

    1. I was determined to lose some gut without giving up my beer, and I have shed over 50 lbs by adjusting my diet. I’m not in as good of shape as I once was, but I’m pushing hard on 50. For me it’s not alcohol that gives me the bad decisions, but I definitely gotta stay away from the weed. Stay strong.

      1. BTW Mark, I’m really enjoying your daily apple. Very good info and sometimes a f-ing hilarious read. Thanks!

      2. For me, it’s the exact opposite. I can smoke weed, not interested in food, but alcohol? Forget the direct alcohol effects, I will also go for pizza, cheese and bread, chips, all sorts of things.

    2. Hey Wayne,I’ve been doing the same thing.Wine and salted blanched nuts make a good combo but it’s too easy to overindulge. I’ve stopped the wine and am now considering doling the nuts out in a smaller portion.I like Mark’s suggestion of a bit of cheese before going to bed

      1. Oh lord. Life’s too short to give up on the wine. Considering humans were fermenting alcohol nearly 10,000 years ago in Iraq, isn’t it fair to say some alcohol (in moderation) is fine? That’s one thing that’s not going to go!

        1. Yeah but the subject of the article is weight loss stalling. As a lifestyle choice when at goal weight, sure wine is fantastic but for many, it sabotages weight loss. I can relate to Wayne 100%, the wine is not only added calories but leads to bad food decisions and the nuts are too easy to overeat on but thats my experience and not necessarily everyone elses.

    3. I hear you Wayne – I could have written this myself. Good luck (I type, as I take a sip), I’m thinking that’s what I need to do too.

    4. Nail on head. Thanks Wayne.Bye bye wasabi/soy sauce almonds and chardonnay.

      1. Woop! There’s some good ideas in that thread – thanks for answering mine!

      2. How about me? I eat like a hog and have lost my body fat. I look like i am starving yet i eat more than ever. I just don’t eat any junk. I need fat on my body. How do i get it? I don’t eat grain except oatmeal. No sugar or processed foods. Not bragging. Just worried.

        1. Do you eat animal fat and plant fats, such as coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, etc.?

        2. No need to worry. My husband is skinny at 55 and Primal going on two years. But I’ve been on him to keep up body weight exercises like pushups and squats so he keeps muscle. No old man with flat butt look please! LOL. We don’t want to be skinny wimps, we want to be skinny strong. Maybe that’s what you need too.

        3. High Insulin level tells cells to warehouse fat.

          Low levels lets the fats leak out.

          Gary Taubes Why we get fat? reviews the science.

          Mark Sisson talks about 100g of carbs or less to lose weight. This is where listening to your own body fine tunes Mark’s the rule of thumb.

          But Sixty minerals are essential for healthy human life. Even the dog’s chow has more minerals (40) than infant formula (7).

          Cravings are the search for missing minerals. But our soils or variably deficient. USGS has soil mineral maps.

          All 60 minerals are needed for proper fat storage, energy production, muscle, bone and joint building, and immune function.

          How would I know I replaced the trace amount of gallium, germanium and vanadium I lost in last night’s sweaty workout? (Vanadium mimics insulin in blood without the corrosive effects.)

          The veterinarian prescribed a mineral pellet or cocktail. I also use sea salt and eat kelp and seafood. And add wood ashes to the garden.

          The vet follows the primal blueprint as near as I can tell. So did my grandma and grandpa.

          Grandma had asthma which is a magnesium and manganese deficiency and died at 72. Grandpa died at 84 of an aortic aneurysm, a copper deficiency.

          Their Primal diet provided them with healthy productive lives until their last day.

          Thanks Mark for recovering a proven healthy lifestyle!

  2. Thank you, thank you for this article.

    I think the biggest hurdle for me was going from low carb and at a plateau to moderate carb and getting leaner. I was scared every carb added to my waistline. I was running 25 miles a week and lifting heavy 3x while eating less than 50 grams of carbs a day, felt miserable. Now I don’t stress as much, eating more carbs and I’m leaning out again.

    1. It’s so interesting to me how sometimes, you need to eat more carbohydrates to help you lose weight. Never thought that could help you Lose weight.

    2. I know what you mean about being scared. My family has all fought being overweight. Low carb made keeping the weight off a no brainer. I hate to go back to the weight I was. My husband would tell me how much easier/better he felt with some carbs and I’d never really believe him.

      I do feel better adding back carbs when I’m doing heavy workouts. It took me a while to understand the concept, but I got it.

  3. Of course, I love this post as it mirrors much of my own experience and thoughts. I particularly appreciate the pointer to being wedded to an ideology instead of looking at what’s working. We can get hung up on the details and fail to see the bigger picture – thriving.

  4. this is good food for thought- i dropped 40lbs right away – but the last few weeks i have been eating carbs (good and bad) like crazy – I just can’t seem to not feel hungry all the time- and i am craving crap ! – will need to log back into fitday and make sure i am getting enough of the right food before this flat line turns into gained wt.

      1. oh man why didn’t i think of that- lately my fat intake has dropped a lot – thankx

  5. you’re a genius.
    well timed article Mark.


  6. Arrrrggggghhhh. This has thrown me:

    “Eat more (carbs) if you’re going to be burning glycogen. Eat fewer if you’re not. Eating too few carbs while working out with high intensity and high volume will ruin your adrenals, depress your thyroid, and stall weight loss. Eating too many carbs without putting them to good use or enjoying exercise-induced insulin sensitivity will promote hyperinsulinemia and weight gain.”

    I thought I’ve read a ton of stuff here on MDA suggesting even endurance athletes can become “fat-adapted” and avoid ‘carbing up,’ instead relying on fat as fuel. Now I’m being told not eating carbs when working out intensely will “ruin’ my adrenals and cause weight gain??

    Mark I think you just committed yourself to another daily post shedding more light on this…call me confused now!

    1. Second this. It seems to be a direct contradiction of Volek and Phinney’s work. Somebodies B.S’n somebody

      1. It’s a daily blog. Mark’s told us the basics many times. He’s got to stir the pot once in a while to keep things cooking evenly. By cooking evenly I mean giving us tips and something to read and maintaining integrity.

        1. And some fat parson using a search engine might stumble upon this post and experience a wild paradigm.
          I started reading this site because I searched for “grains unhealthy” on Google.

      2. Third this. We need a clear post on how to figure out our carb needs based on our own individual circumstances (which vary).

        So much writing (and talk at PrimalCon) about being fat adapted and keto adapted. It’s as if they’re the Primal panacea for everything. But they’re not.

        How about a nice, precise, logically ordered bullet point list to follow on how to approximate carb intake including the relevant caveats and possible pitfalls?

        It would be a much more user friendly format than long meandering paragraphs that have to be searched through to find what might be applicable.


        1. I think carbs for weight loss is going different than for maintenance and for athletic performance. During weight loss, you want your adipose tissue to be releasing fat. For maintenance, you want to tailor your intake to your activity so that you’re not hyper or sluggish. For athletic performance, you want to replenish glycogen to be able to train properly (unless you are training your fat burning efficiency). People with different stages and lifestyles would have different carb needs.

          The type of carbs is also going to be different for different activities. For athletes, you can chug in sports drinks and not worry about the insulin reaction but not for maintenance where you don’t want to mess around with insulin. Carbs from fruits and veggies would be preferable than from grains and sweets for maintenance but for a long distance runner who runs 2-3 hours a day, it has to be fast carbs. For most, fruits and veggie carbs would probably be the rule of thumb.

    2. This got me confused too. Altho from personal experience I have found that I feel much, much better during my workouts on more carbs.

    3. confused as well on same part…just read art and science of low carb performance which just adds to the confusion

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    4. Endurance training, where you’re exercising at moderate levels relative to your V02 Max, can utilize fat stores as the primary source of energy. But high intensity short duration exercise (crossfit is a great example) taps into glycogen. The type of exercise you do is the difference. I do crossfit, and tried a low carb approach for awhile, and it was horrible. Felt exhausted all the time and slipped backwards in my performance. Since upping the carbs, its back to business as usual with increasing gains.

    5. I haven’t read V & Ph; however, if not eating a ketogenic diet doesn’t give you epileptic seizures, then you don’t “need” a ketogenic diet.

      Also, “workout” in this context may mean lifting weights more so than endurance exercise (clue: the word “intensity”).

      Pre-w/o: high carb, low pro, low fat
      Post w/o: high pro, low carb, low fat
      All other times: high fat, low pro/carb

      Never lift weights two days in a row (reovery’s where you make your gains).

      This would have the avg person at about 40% carb, 40% fat, 20% pro over the course of a week – close to what Taubes says in GCBC was the typical diet of Americans before the Obesity Epidemic.

      [Most Americans don’t exercise at all, most of those who do any exercise don’t lift weights, most of those who lift weights don’t lift intensely or stick with it long-term.]

    6. Peter – endurance athlete’s can totally eat very low carb and run on fat supplies. However, this is only TRUE endurance athletes – people who stay aerobic the entire time (e.g. heart rate never goes that high). This way, they are able to burn fat efficiently since fat-burning is an aerobic process. Anaerobic activity is a purely glucose driven process, so if you are doing any activities that bring your heart rate up (e.g. weight lifting, sprints, even long cycling rides where you go up a big hill without slowing way down), your body will require carbohydrates. Check out Ben Greenfield’s interview of Peter Attia to learn more about this.

    7. High intensity exercise always burns glycogen. When you’re fat adapted the threshold for high intensity increases, and you’re better at low intensity exercise. So as a fat adapted endurance athlete you’ll mostly be burning fat, and thus don’t need much carbs.

      “If you’re going to be burning glycogen” is the key phrase. Also consider how you feel.

      1. Volek and Phinney claim that the “keto-adapted” diet will benefit both the endurance and strength athlete during all phases of performance. If true Mark could have just as well opened his statement by suggesting that CrossFitters go full Keto rather than adding more sweet potatoes. The science is expanding rapidly and broad loose statements coupled with anecdotal comments from those who haven’t read the book don’t help

        1. Here’s a really good link to Jeff Volek talking about it all. I still find it all a bit confusing though! https://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/2012-low-carb-cruise-lecture-dr-jeff-volek/14956
          Has anyone else read Cordain’s ‘Paleo Diet for Athletes’? I just bought it but that may have some interesting suggestions on the topic. My boyfriend competes in Ironman events and has a very high-carb diet. I am trying to get him to make the switch but he is unsure of how he feels, especially with so much confusing information out there. And especially with all his peers, mentors and idols telling him to ‘carbo load’ and throwing big pasta parties before every event! :S
          I’m trying to learn as much as I can about low-carb endurance athletes so I can start to introduce it to him. But it makes your head spin after a while!

    8. I think what he was getting at was that some things work better for different people–pay attention to your body–If you’re working out hard on a very low carb diet and you feel fat and miserable, maybe more of the same isn’t the answer. Indeed, some people need more carb intake if they are going to choose to be more active. Low carb works for some people, but frankly, if you are very active and have good insulin sensitivity, more carbs aren’t probably going to hurt and may help. Remember the whole n=1 thing from earlier in the year? Experiment.

      Really, I think we need to differentiate here between increase Primal carbs and “carb loading”–he didn’t say to load up with hundreds of grams of carbohydrate before a big workout. If 50 grams a day isn’t working for you, try 100-150. That’s still on the Primal “carb curve” and may be enough to kick weight loss back into place (remember the role leptin plays.)

    9. I’m an endurance athlete and when I run long my HR stays in the 140’s to 150’s. at that HR I’m using primarily fat as fuel because I’m fat adapted, my wife on the other hand is buring sugar and hungry after a long run because she isn’t fat adapted. High intensity, high HR burns glycogen (need more carbs), low HR doesn’t once you’re fat adapted.

      1. one more thing, Keto and Primal are very different. Dr. Attia is a great resource as is Ben Greenfield fitness. Primal is lower carb, not a “no carb” strict Keto diet. while eating low carb you’ll enter ketosis, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing the “Keto” diet.

        1. Let’s See- The “keto-adapted diet is: no carb (it’s not), only for epileptics (really?), only for endurance athletes (evidence showing otherwise), not primal (oh my), and people are different. Has anyone read the research? Again, Volek and Phinney argue a keto-adapted diet will enhance both athletic performance and mental clarity in all types of activity. I’m sure it’s not for everybody. But, if I’m the crossfitter in Mark’s reference this is want I want. Adding sweetpotatoes propably takes me in the other direction. On the other hand I sure don’t want “ruined adrenals”. Maybe its time for Mark to slice and dice this one.

    10. I don’t understand the confusion, Mark actually made it really simple. The main purpose of carbohydrate is an energy source for your muscles and nervous system. If you do a lot of activity that burns through your muscle’s stored glycogen (like endurance activities, high volume weight lifting, highly active lifestyle…etc), Mark is recommending you replenish your energy (i.e. glycogen stores) with natural carbohydrates like sweet potatoes. The message really hasnt changed. He’s still saying “eat natural food”, with a caveat of eating based on your activity level.

      You can try becomming fat-adapted, but it takes a long time (months sometimes), and you really do suffer. I was on a strict low-carb diet for 4 months while doing high amounts of anaerobic activity and although I lost weight and got ripped, there were some negative side effects…meaning I still wasn’t completely fat-adapted.

      People are always looking for a quick fix answer to their weight issues. The answer isn’t complicated, it’s just difficult to implement. Regardless of your dietary beliefs (paleo or not), almost all successful weight loss plans involve eating a diet based on natural foods (whether you include carbs or not), eating limited amounts of those foods (to ensure a calorie deficit), getting some physical activity, and getting enough rest. That’s all. If you’re not losing weight, you need to optimize one of those factors.

      1. You don’t understand the confusion because you have apparently not read the research. As I understand it Volek and Phinney would not tell the hard charging but pudgy crossfitter referenced in the talking point who wants to improve his power to weight ratio and improve endurance to add a sweetpotatoe to his conventional paleo diet.(Amazing isn’t it. This site seems to have become conventional already) They, to my understanding, would advise just the opposite – Achieve what they call a state of “keto-adaptation”(which might take up to 3-4 weeks, not months, and apparently is not hard to do), which then allows fat to burn as your main energy source, which reduces your overall need for glucocose, and that little bit can be met thru gluconeogenesis. Only then will you maybe add slow release carbs back into the diet as a fuel source during long endurance activities. They specifically warn that even a small amount of carb after exercise “..rapidly decreases the release of fatty acids from fat stores and oxidation of fat in the muscle, thereby interfering with keto-adaption, plus also diminishing the beneficial effects of exercise on insulin sensitivity and other cardio-metabolic risk markers”. Volek, who claims to be the weight lifter in the group, says he’s been “keto-adapted” for years, and does not cycle in and out as “CW Paleo” seems to advise. Now if true, you would think the reader old or new, might want to learn about or be reminded of this option.

        I’m not a bio-chemist, appreciate the work being done on this site, have recommended it to others, and hope Mark will address this issue more completely. If Mark has addressed Volek and Phinney directly all someone had to do was refer me to the source. After six months of visitation however, I’m beginning to get an uncomfortable feeling that Primal Blueprint is gelling into its own Temple of CW with attendent high priests ready to dispense their interpretations of the Book of Mark to the hoards of unwashed.

    1. Mark’s Daily Apple. This blog, web site and lifestyle advisory empire

  7. Great post. I’m glad that I’ve got most of the these things under control. I’m finding what’s working for me. It’s becoming effortless to maintain what I have a liittle bit if I want to. Thanks for such great resources. I like the one about not overthinking it and spending too much time on the Internet. I used to be that way and would stress and wonder if i should change every time I read something new. Dangerous. Excellent post.

  8. MDA = Mark’s Daily Apple
    I was thinking maybe it was something else.

  9. Mark,

    This is a VERY timely post as I have been at a loss (as has my doctor) over why I have not lost more than a few pounds since starting Crossfit 6 weeks ago and eating what I believe to be a good primal diet based on what I read here and elsewhere. I CF 3x/week and have seen a decent drop in body fat % and people notice a difference, but I was 295 in early September and 290 last week. At this point I am wondering if it is my carb intake which I will admit is pretty low. I have nutritional consult tomorrow with my CF coach and hope that she will see something in the food diary I kept over the past 14 days.

    1. TJ, consider that if you are just starting Crossfit (or any other intense exercise program), you are doing two things that go against instant weight loss.

      (1) You are starting to build muscle that you did not have before, therefore gaining some new muscle weight even as you are losing some adipose tissue. In the long run, the increased muscle mass will help you lose weight, but right now it is slowing down the NET weight loss. Your FAT loss is likely much more impressive than five pounds.

      (2) Your muscles are not used to doing as much as you are asking of them and getting pretty inflamed as a result. Inflammation means that the tissue gets swollen with fluid, which means it gets heavier temporarily. Doing Crossfit three times a week means you are not giving your body a chance to recover fully from that inflammatory response. Again, this will settle down over time, but there are good reasons that Mark advises to train hard only once or twice a week. It gives your body a chance to respond to the messages the workout has sent: Build more muscle! Find better fuel source! Stretch those ligaments! If you don’t let your body respond fully, progress can actually be slowed!

      1. Amen, Chica! So many people I work out have similar complaints to TJ and don’t realize that they actually are doing something good for themselves. Too much obsession over that stupid number on the scale, and not on how much stronger/fitter/healthier/happier they are!

        Last time I weighed myself (2 weekends ago), I had gained 10 lbs, but most of my clothes are fitting looser and I’m overall less stressed. If you’re going to look at numbers, make them body measurements, not weight! That’s my next step (once I can find a place in town that sells cloth measuring tape–that’s a whole different story)!

        1. Charlayna/Chica, great point! Like you said, that number on the scale usually means very little. During the beginning of my weight loss journey about 10 months ago, I became wayyy to obsessed with the scale. I broke that relationship off and now go off body measurements, body fat percentage, how my clothes are fitting, etc. I still have my scale and weigh myself every so often mostly out of pure curiosity.
          TJ, I also recently started crossfit and initially started gaining weight! After talking to one of my CF coaches, I realized it was because of two things. 1)I was gaining a lot of muscle. The scale went up but my body measurements changed drastically. 2)I was still eating the same amount of carbs I was eating before I started CF. Because of the intensity of CF, I had to make adjustments in my carb intake. Not a huge amount, basically went from eating 1/2 a sweet potato a day to a whole one. That made a huge difference though and since you’re workouts are more intense, your body really needs it. Hope that helps a little!

        2. Charlayna, best place to find cloth measuring tape is a fabric/sewing store or possible at a walmart if it still has a fabric/sewing section. Best of luck.

        3. For the folks buying cloth measuring tapes, be sure to change them out on a regular basis, which depends on how often you use them. Why? Because they stretch out over time, giving you inaccurate readings! Best way to see if they are off is to put them against a non-cloth measuring unit.

      2. I have seen some great results when I started Primal along with CrossFit. Well, good for me. I dropped 10 lbs. My clothes are fitting better, but my BF % isn’t changing dramatically. I have been Primal for 6 weeks now. I keep a food diary as well. I don’t monitor calories religiously, but ensure that my 30-day average isn’t too out of whack for my BMR+exercise. My 3-month average carb intake is 116g. Im 5-10 and now 165…same weight when I came out of bootcamp, so my weight is not a concern. However, I would like to drop additional BF% points. I don’t think my carb intake is too high. But doing CF 3-4 days/week, what should my carb intake be? Assuming of course that it is Primal carbs.

        1. Thanks guys, but you really don’t understand just how tiny Cordova, Alaska is! There’s only one craft-type store that sells them in town, and their hours are really strange because it’s winter.

    2. hey, tj,

      are you only monitoring pounds? i see you are also monitoring body fat %. i’m wondering if you’ve been keeping an eye on inches as well. you can get smaller without the scale reflecting that.

      in other words, you may still be making progress.

      1. I am actually not monitoring pounds, but I see my doctor every 6-8 weeks and getting on a scale is part of the visit. While I should have gotten measured when I started, I am doing this today and know that I have dropped body fat since starting this. It seems like my body changes from the top down (my face is thinner and double chin is gone) and bottom up (I actually have some definition in my legs), but the middle changes much more slowly and the places that I really want to see change – my waist and butt – are pretty much where they are.

    3. TJ:

      Unless you are 6’6″ and a retired athlete, take this advice from someone who went from 285 to 205 in about 12 months I would: 1) adapt to a Primal Lifestyle [months 0-4], 2) become moderately active (hike, walk, moderate cycling) a couple days a week [months 5-8], 3) begin CF or better yet a 5-3-1 weight training program (see Jim Wendler) [9 months – rest of your life]. Jumping right into an intense exercise program while you are obese is a recipe for failure. Your hormone are already out of whack from obesity and now you want to tax your system further. Weight loss for the obese is largely a function of nutrition. My 2 cents. -MP

      1. Thanks for the input. I bought a bike in April and rode 2-3x per week. Before I changed jobs I rode 5 miles to the gym at least twice a week and that was a good warm up riding at a 10-12 MPH pace. I also took a longer ride, 20-25 miles, with some friends on the weekend. I know that CF is intense, but it seems balanced with strength/lifting one day and a metcon the next. Plus, since I can scale the workout it feels good without killing me.

        However, your point about nutrition is understood and why it was my starting point.

    4. You may be doing the hard yards 3/wk but what are you doing the rest of the time. Remember your chair is your enemy; stand to work at your desk (if you have one) at home and work, use the stairs not elevator, walk not drive etc, etc. Keep moving, only sit to eat. Good luck.

  10. The last paragraph about eating to much has really hit home for me lately. When I started paleo it was great, I ate Paleo and that meant tons of meat and veggies because that is what we do. But, now at 60lbs lost, I’ve noticed that I’ve plateaued, even gained some weight back. I’ve lowered my portions and am getting back on track. Just because I’m eating ‘healthy’ doesn’t mean I can eat it all.

  11. I know what stalls my weight loss. Too much red wine and chocolate.

    1. Oh, that and nuts and cheese and apples/plums/oranges/grapes…..

      I struggle a little since I LOVE to eat and am often hungry (especially now that I workout reasonably) and there’s that factor that sometimes enters the game: anxious/emotional eating. Primal… but calories are still going high. Damn.

      1. another emotional eater here too! it’s just too tempting to make that lovely batch of primal chocolate mousse when you’re feeling crappy rather than just wait until you’re hungry and then eat “proper” food.

        1. Oh, yes… I absolutely feel you here.

          Sometimes it is just better to not start a meal at all and then wait for the next in which you can eat more, as our animal machine so much pleases…

  12. Great post. It’s a balance and my favorite theme I gained from the article: it’s still your responsibility to take charge of your health mind and body. Enjoy the process of being healthy. Who would have thunk it. 🙂

  13. Thank you for this article. I’m glad you’ve reminded people that you won’t lose fat if you’re overeating, even if you’re overeating primal food. The foods that I need to be careful with are nuts, cheese and almond butter. So easy to snack on…and so easy to go waaaay overboard on the calories with these foods.

    Also, many people (including myself) have deeply ingrained habits of eating for reasons other than hunger. These habits can be very hard to break. Until we learn to eat only when hungry, we will probably eat more calories than we need, even if they’re good, primal calories. For those of us in this category, we need to realize that eating when not hungry can be another roadblock to weight-loss and fat-loss.

    1. Its complicated, cause i’m on the other end. My weight loss has stalled and I think its cause i’m in the “not eating enough” category.

      I only eat when i’m hungry, and my foodlog is pathetically low as a result, and I crossfit 3 times a week. Now i’m starting to eat more, but keep it clean as I can (sweet potatoes are good advice), and I’m planning on this kickstarting some performance gains as well as maybe some newfound drops in body fat %.

  14. “But exercise is a potent enhancer of hormonal function.”

    This has been key for me. I was focusing completely on diet, and while helpful, was definitely not the whole story. I’ve got to empty my glycogen stores daily to keep my insulin sensitivity, well, sensitive!

  15. Thanks for sharing that deal! I’ve been waiting to get a new pair for a while, I think today’s the day!

    I am guilty of everything on this list at one point or another. There’s so much interesting information out there, and in an area I am passionate about, that sometimes I get lost in it. I’m finding that its more frequent that I turn it all off and just live the PB lifestyle rather than reading it. It’s there when I have a question or think of something that’s come up in my experience, but for the most part I follow the general rules because they are natural to me now and don’t stress over the rest.

  16. You did not mention “sprints”. I hate doing them, I mean really, really dread them, but I notice my body fat % starts climbing if I don’t do them. You said it’s a culmination of all the parts that makes the Primal Blue Print. I notice when I blow these off, I start moving in the wrong direction. Did I mention I hate doing these? Just finished them a short time ago, so good for another week, can’t wait. Dr. Mercola also swears by doing sprints and the value they add.

    1. Haha I haate them with a passion too… well i think I hate the thought of them more than actually doing them! Once im out there i’m always glad I am and feel great afterwards! 😛

  17. Great article! I think it’s particularly important to emphasize all aspects of the PB lifestyle, not just for weight loss but overall health and happiness.

  18. An important update, in my opinion.

    I have caught myself from time to time worrying over too tiny details of what exactly I eat. I always managed to catch myself, though, and hope to be able to do so in the future.

    Judging, from a surprising lot of the posts in the forum and under the articles, there are a lot of people who overdo being Primal and display dogmatic views in varying degrees. Just lighten up, do your thing, but don’t make it an ersatz religion.

    Just live ^^

  19. Sprints, definitely have improved my muscle tone. I plateaued at 130lb for awhile and then the only change I made was sprints and sleeping better. Now I’m almost at 120lb. I have no need or interest in going lower than that. I exercise 5-7 days a week, mostly stretching for about a half hour and walking (uphill and downhill and stairs) for about an hour with occasional sprints (very short and just as I feel like it). I eat as much as I want, sometimes a lot, sometimes not but I have a healthy appetite. I’m 5’4″ tall and I’m 63 and I’ve never felt better in my life!

    1. Ellen, I’m ten years younger and a 40 pounds heavier, but I am striving to get to where you are! I know I need to up the exercise and your pattern would suit me perfectly. Good to see your great results!

  20. What if you sit at a desk all day and then CrossFit? Is this sedentary or active? It seems to always be mentioned as either you are active or you have a desk job and not inclusively. Should I eat enough sweet potatoes for my CrossFitting or my desk job? Or something in the middle? And now I’m overthinking….

    1. My thoughts exactly.
      Using Mark and Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution I lost 36 lbs. in 4 months.
      Now, I’ve been “holding” for 3 mos.
      So frustrated.
      I THINK I am not eating enough, but how
      do you really know?
      Very confused.

      1. I’m in the same boat as you guys. I work at a desk all day (I try to get up and walk around as much as possible) but I also Crossfit 4-5 times a week. I was plateauing for a while there too but after talking to one of my CF coaches, I realized I needed to up my carb intake to make up for the intensity of CF. It was only a small change from 1/2 a sweet potato on CF days to a whole one, but I have noticed a difference. Toy around with your carb intake a little bit and see what works for you.

  21. What articles do you have that elaborate on the “You’re not tailoring your macronutrient levels to your lifestyle.” point? As in the examples you brought – sedentary jobs vs avid exercisers require a different balance of nutrients. So do you have materials that talk about those differences and how to tailor the nutrition to them?

  22. My biggest problem is over eating in general. I do well with primal and I enjoy it. Over eating has always been a “thing” for me. Its a learned behavior from childhood. My whole family, both sides, does it. I’m not sure how to beat it. “listening to my body” works but is also very hard. I’m working very hard to eat until I’m full/not hungry and I’m often surprised at how much (little) that actually is.
    Does anyone else have this problem? or have any suggestions on ways to combat this?

    1. I grew up in the same situation, actually, so I understand. For times when I can’t get full no matter what, I try to reach for veggies to munch on. A handful of carrots (or a bag of sour sorrel… ;)) definitely fills me up much more than a handful of potato chips (which, I will admit are a downfall in my pseudo-primal ways).

      Maybe making some sort of “rules” for yourself? For me–I stop eating about an hour (or more, it depends) before I go to sleep. It’s not about weight loss, it’s about getting the best sleep I can. I also try to work in IF if I’ve eaten a ton the day before–usually an 10-14 hour IF before my next meal (which translates to, for myself, sleep for 8-10 hours, then wait a couple hours before breakfast).

    2. Wow… so on target for me today – I have been reading reading and reading like crazy lately to try and jump start a new training regimen for a 1/2 marathon – tips on supplements, exercise – do this – no wait! this is better! – and have felt totally… uninspired and stressed. All this information is crushing me under its weight and I have lost my zest and creativity – you know, the fun stuff that makes this lifestyle worth it. Starting today, I’m going to get back to being excited about cooking (my creative outlet, exercising according the the PBP guidelines and I vow not to sweat all the deets. Thanks for the reminder of what this is supposed to be all about.

      Someone on here said about PBP: “Eat real food, stop when you’re full. Repeat as needed” or something like that. Yup. that’s about it.

      Also, Slow. Down. I find that eating slowly and savoring my food really helps with getting that “full” signal and stopping before I mow down huge amounts of food.

    3. Sounds like your leptin hormonal signals are out of balance. Your body is not getting the satiety signals. You brain thinks you need more because it is not getting the “I’m full” message. One of the best resources on correcting this issue is found at Wellness Resources.com. Look up the “Five Rules of the Leptin Diet.” This will help tremendously.

      One thing you can do immediately is when you are eating to slow down and take deep breaths before you start and between bites. This gives you body a chance to naturally recognize its satiety signals. Hope this helps.

    4. Diana, try using a salad plate for your food rather than a dinner-size plate. Remember how little kids don’t like stuff to be touching on their plate? Do likewise. Limit your portions so that you can see some areas of bare plate rather than piling food on top of other food. Eat slowly and skip second helpings. Avoid buffets, fast food joints, and even most sit-down restaurants since the trend is to supersize everthing when you eat out.

    5. I have found intermittent fasting a great help in getting rid of the last few bits of flab. Anytime I overeat I simply go through to midday next day without food. I need plenty of clean water but I actually enjoy it and I find I sometimes just forget all about food. About twice a week I find suits me and I try to exercise during this short fast. Great results and allows me to overeat if I feel like it.

  23. I’m just new to all of this a week or so ago. Health problems, 5 different prescriptions and 216 pounds made me have a wake up call. I had tried the Adkins a couple of years ago, lost 15 or so pounds but put all of them and more back on. My thyroid is out of whack, so loosing weight will be a double challenge. Mark’s philosophy is so simple for me. Do not eat anything that is not natural or processed to death. I can follow this. I have been a sugar addict for years so this is my biggest problem. After dinner the cravings begin, a teaspoon of coconut butter helps, plus a nibble of dark chocolate.
    Reading all the comments help with gaining the knowledge that I need to make this work.
    One more thing, I have a genetic blood disorder called Factor V Leiden, my body makes blood clots, soooooo I can’t eat anything with Vitamin K in it, which are all leafy green vegetables, including broccoli, etc. No dark skinned berries either. I am on Coumadin for the rest of my life and I’m 51 years old.
    I can’t have the big nutritional salads, all I can have that is leafy is iceberg lettuce. Carrots, squash, corn, and the light skinned vegetables are also on the “can eat” list.
    This is going to be tough, but I am going to do this….

    1. Lots of folks here have thyroid problems and primal is a good way to manage the weight issues that come with hypothyroidism. Your Factor V Leiden certainly complicates things, but just focus on the “can eat” list, as you mentioned. The sugar/carb cravings will fade. Don’t be afraid to go heavy on fats as you are converting from carb-fueled to fat-burner. It really helps! Best of luck!

    2. Melanie – Who told you not to eat any vitamin K rich foods? Because while yes vitamin K dose interfere with warfarin, it is not that you can’t eat it at ALL, you just have to eat a consistent amount. Talk to your INR clinic and find out exactly what rules they want you to follow. If they are telling you NO vitamin K rich foods and NO green leafy veggies then they are just being lazy and you should find another clinic. I wouldn’t recommend suddenly starting to eat 5 servings a day, but if you slowly increase your intake of these foods and have your INR checked more often then can adjust your warfarin dose to accomodate your diet. Then once you are stabilized on a dose of warfarin and number of weekly servings of vitamin K rich foods the monitoring will be less often.

    3. Melanie, my hubby has exactly the same as you, Factor V Leiden, and he’s on Coumadin (he’s 55). He eats the Vitamin K foods and all the leafy greens he wants, and his Coumadin dosage is adjusted for that. You might want to have your INR checked weekly while you transition over to primal nutrition, but your INR should stabilize once you’ve gotten into a regular eating-greens schedule.

  24. Weight loss, eh? I’ve found that eating a low-sodium, gluten-free diet will make weight melt away like boy howdy. And I didn’t even need to lose any! Gotta add more recipes so I don’t become overly reliant on peanuts, avocados, etc.

    Thanks for all the info and yummy recipes to boot.

  25. this is fantastic – i was undereating carbs and doing crossfit as Rx’d 6 days/week. I was wondering why my middle is getting bigger and bigger. sweet potatoes, here i come!
    would i reduce the fatty stuff then? my coconut cream protein shakes for example or butter consumption?
    cheers, Mark, you are a legend and I’m so grateful for your site!

  26. Just put a picture of me next to the You’re Overthinking Your Food Section and file that under Funny Cause It’s TRUE. Thanks for the perspective there and for this post. I’m fighting that last 5-7 lbs, and this information is right on time!

  27. Its difficult because I am doing P90x and would love to hear mark write up a recommended carb intake for the program.. I’m eating primally and doing a carb refeed with about 200 carbs once a week but I still feel a bit lethargic often and require 9+ hours to function. I’m eating about 60g of carbs a day.
    Does anyone have any recommendations?

    1. Self-experimentation to up your carbs for a week or two?

      You can “safely” eat 100g of carbs/day and not gain weight, according to the carbohydrate curve, but P90X is intense–I know, I’ve done it. You might need to up those carbs into the so-called “danger zone” because you’re burning off tons of glycogen stores in your muscles…

    2. How about more protein, especially red meat? I’ve noticed I have more energy after eating red meat.

  28. I suspect this post will be linked and forwarded often.

    I’m amazed at how eating more in general, eating more potatoes and meat in particular, and lifting heavy weights is changing everything. I love to eat and now I love to eat even more and I’ve never felt better or had looser clothing. I give up understanding these things with my brain anymore. I’m listening to my body and my stomach.

    1. I let my gut do the thinking today.. dirt from a rotting log smelled so good, I had to eat some.

  29. So, how do you know if you’re not eating enough? Since starting primal, my daily calorie count has dropped way down, because I’m just not hungry like I used to be. Thus far (3 months in) I’ve been losing weight pretty quickly, for which I’m glad, but I don’t want to be doing long-term damage as the price for it.

    I eat as much as I feel hungry for, but it probably averages out around 1300-1400 calories per day. I track what I eat online, so I can see the macronutrient breakdown and know that I’m not letting the carbs slip up too high, and the program says I should be eating 1750 calories per day. Would it be healthier for me to eat those extra 300-400 calories each day.

    1. You could always try adding in an extra tablespoon of fat here and there for the extra calories.

      1300-1400 calories seems low to me, but I’m also supposed to eat around 2100 calories a day. I’m definitely no expert!

    2. If you’re losing fat, building / not losing muscle and feel good, it’s probably not a problem. This article is for those who fail those checks.

  30. Mark, I think this is your best article in a very long time.

    It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae; sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics, including not to sweat even the basics too much. It ain’t a Primal lifestyle if you’re constantly gauging yourself against some over-idealized paragon of Primalness.

  31. Great article indeed.

    What works for me: I never weigh myself. Just look in the mirror every now and then and notice how you feel. Cravings? might bump up the calorie intake then, sometimes it’s still not easy to know when enough is enough but especially when too little is too little.

  32. A great post that describes exactly the phase I’m in right now. I went low carb about a year ago and started reading everything there was to know about it, I mean everything. It went so far that I was stressed about what to eat all the time and constantly checking ingredients and nutritional value on everything.

    A month or so ago I decided to just unsubscribe to all blogs, newsletters and not read any more books. Just chill and take it easy. Never been better. Find something that works and stick to it, don’t worry about perfection or whatever is the latest on MDA or somewhere else.

    You are already way ahead of everyone else and you know it.

  33. Thank you for the hot tip on the Vibrams. That is a killer deal. I just can’t remember what size I wear. I’ll have to go to a supplier and try them on again.

  34. Great article Mark! As I have now lost 50lbs since Jan 10th this article answered alot of questions I needed to reach my ultimate goal. I couldn’t agree with you more about sticking to what works and that’s what I have done since Jan. I do stress at times and weigh myself too often but I am so happy to the lightest (now 235 from 285) since I last did Atkins 8yrs ago that I guess seeing the numbers on the scale keeps me on track! Wt coming off slow now but I’m right where I want to be. Thanks again Mark!!! I’ll post pic once I have reached my goal.

  35. for the section re-“You’re not tailoring your macronutrient levels to your lifestyle”….

    Can anyone comment on this section vs. say the nutrition plan laid out in “The Art and Science of Low Carb Performance” by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney? More carbs (in Marks’s post) vs. intense training on basically 50g carbs/day (book).

  36. The problem for me is adding in late afternoon potato chips. Plain and simply! Looking forward to a posting on the evils of clean, kettle cooked potatoe chips:-)

    1. Potato chips (starch) plus fat for frying equals weight gain if eaten excessively, whether the chips are clean, dirty, kettle cooked–whatever. Not much difference between chips and French fries except for the style of cut and degree of doneness. Both can be fattening.

      Everybody can usually eat anything once in a while. Moderation is the key, which means not every day, not even once a week.

  37. I have a very sedentary life as I sit in front of a computer all day and commute 2hrs for work 10 years now. The weight has accumulated and counting calories stopped working for me.I have been primal for a few months now and losing weight very slowly, 1\4 to 1 lb a week.I feel that this website is all I need.Its nice that all the articles and gimmicks are a thing of the past.

  38. I’d been eating and living primally for about a year, and while I felt better overall I was just maintaining my current weight, when I really wanted to lose some. My wife pointed out that while I was eating healthier, I was still eating a lot more than everyone else we know. I cut the amount of food I ate in half for a week to see what would happen, and what do you know, I wasn’t any more hungry than normal, I still had plenty of energy, and I started losing weight. I made the changes to the amount I ate permanent about 2 months ago and haven’t looked back since.

  39. Good advice on the manifold benefits of all parts of the PB. I am in a slump now that the cold, dark and wet has descended upon the Pacific North West. I am loosing traction. I just want sweet potatoes.

    1. HAHAHAHA I’m in the same boat up here in Alaska! All I’m craving lately are carbs because my house is so freakin’ cold!

  40. I am totally guilty of just about all of these missteps. Especially the over eating primal foods. Great read Mark!

  41. I love this post: I am definitely stressed out about eating and always try to calm myself down by trying to listen to my body when it comes to carbs. I do not demonize them, but they truly don’t satisfy me, and other than not being optimal for body composition, they are bad for my teeth and gums.
    I am having the most difficult time because I am a vegetarian: it really is impossible to eat right. I badly want to include fish in my diet: yesterday I stared at a can of tuna for close to 3 minutes but could not get myself to buy it- I am scared to eat it alone! My diet really has no variety, I just moved to NYC and am struggling with it (mainly eggs, dairy, veggies and fruit, olive oil and avocado, some quinoa, the rare lentil on the rare occasion, and lots of nuts). I am thankful though that this was my biggest worry during the hurricane… My heart goes out to all of those who have lost their homes, had to evacuate, have no electricity…

    1. RO, pick up a copy of “The Paleo Answer”. It has a whole chapter on why to eat paleo instead of vegetarian. It really opened my eyes to what food does to your insides and may help you over your fear.

    2. Why are you a vegetarian if you “badly want to include fish” in your diet?

      Mark’s wife, Carrie, was raised by vegetarians and was a vegetarian for most of her life. She started including fish in her meals once or twice a day when it became clear that it would be better for her health. There is a nice article by her somewhere on this site. Get yourself a list of sustainable fish and start including some in your diet today! Your body will thank you and the planet’s biosphere will not suffer!

      1. Thank you Cindy and Chica! I am not really a vegetarian by choice: I had a series of traumatic experiences when I was a kid and I always knew it wasn’t a good diet for me. I am very willing to eat fish, just very intimidated by the idea. The thought of eating animals is really an unfamiliar scary concept to me after all this time!

        Carrie’s story was definitely an inspiration and Mark’s blog is most definitely an encouragement. I guess I need a buddy for support when I order my salmon or open a can of tuna.
        I will definitely check out “The Paleo Answer” when I get the chance, so again, thank you!

        I love this community: people generally have more perspective (which is what this post is about), and are very supportive.

        My family cannot get over the fact that I don’t eat pasta or bread and how am skipping the legumes as a vegetarian. “How can you get full? What is there left for you to eat?” I answer by saying that there is literally no nutrients inside pasta or bread…

        Are there others struggling with this as well?

        1. Hi, I’ve been primal now for 5 months, and was vegetarian for 24 years beforehand. I was like you – had been seriously thinking about introducing fish back in to my diet for a couple of years… but when was going to be THAT day? Then I stumbled across MDA and knew it made sense for me to do it. I also realised, I’m not going to be able to do this thing if I don’t reintroduce either meat or fish to my diet. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you how I did it. First thing I tried was tuna, in a pub meal. Nearly got sick. Even though in my fish-eating days I loved tuna! What eventually got me on the fish bandwagon, was fishfingers! Not ideal, I know, but it worked. I would cook up a load of veggies, a delicious sauce, and cook one fish finger. Took the breadcrumbs away, and ate little pieces with lots of veg. I did this every three days. Then it was surprising how quickly I progressed to two. Then I ate a whole salmon fillet out at dinner. Tonight I am slavering at the thought of the cod fillet that is on the way. I did find it a bit uncomfortable in my digestion when I was starting off – nothing gruesome, but it just felt like I had eaten something a bit too rich. This didn’t last long though. Also, I found it far far easier to eat fish that someone else had prepared – so maybe a good excuse for some dinners out? I also didn’t put pressure on myself. If a dollop of ketchup was going to help me get that fishfinger down, then I didn’t deny myself – my opinion was that it was far more important for my long-term health to get back in to fish, and I wouldn’t be using ketchup for very long. Another tip – lots of butter and dill make fish sooooo delicious, and less fishy, if you know what I mean. These days, I still only eat fish about three times a week, max, but I am so so glad that I have re-introduced it. I think my body was calling for it. Best of luck, its not easy making the transition when you are not a lover of meat. But if you feel even half as good as I do, healthwise, you’ll be glad you did.

        2. I do get thie whole “you need grain to be healthy” line from people who don’t know me or my family very well. There are some major food allergies going on. I am gluten intolerant and any amount of gluten makes me ache like I got hit by a bus (and turns me into an emotional, wimpering blob), so nobody can guilt me into eating that cookie they worked so hard making. I just tell them it eats holes in your intestines and that shuts them up.

        3. Reebok: I am really glad you answered and shared your experience, and I think I’m going to follow in your footsteps! I will try to go to dinner with someone and just order the salmon. I did try a couple of bites this summer, but only with people around (and some wine: for the courage!) I am afraid of getting sick though, like you said you did the first time. It’s great advice though: introducing bits and bits… Do you mind me asking what your diet looks like, other than the fish?
          PS: I just ordered Mark’s meal replacement shake, hoping that will take care of at least breakfast because I’m getting sick of dairy.

          Cindy: they usually answer me back by telling me: “You have a sensitive stomach”. I could tell them I am just more in tune with my stomach and intestine’s reactions but by then they have closed their ears. It’s sad because I want them to ditch the pasta and bread so badly: they’re my family and I love ’em!

        4. Hi Ro, ok, here’s my normal primal/vegetarian/transitioning day! Breakfast is always a piece of fruit and some nuts, at weekends I might make primal pancakes, sometimes I make primal fruit muffins (they are so handy to bring to work actually). Lunch is ALWAYS a huge salad. Five months in and I haven’t got bored of them yet! Love them. I have a load of salad veggies, some real mayonnaise, and a few nuts. Evening meals are varied. Here’s some of my favourites: omelette with anything thrown in it that is to hand, some chilli and basil, and lots of side veggies. Salmon croquettes, with veggies. Haddock cooked in butter and dill, with veggies. Squash soup. And my favourite – spinach curry with two boiled eggs and tiny bit of mayo.
          I will try to find links to all those recipes. The curry is my own – spinach, tomatoes, any veg, onion, spices of your choice (or curry powder), creamed coconut, two tablespoons ground cashews. Cook the onion first lightly, gently fry spices for a minute. Then add the veg. Add a little stock if its too dry. Add the coconut and the cashew. Allow to simmer until the veg is soft. Serve with two hard boiled eggs on top and a drizzle of mayo. Yum.
          Snacks are usually an apple or orange, and I have a penchant for really dark chocolate. Once a week I get some really lovely Indian food delivered, and that’s the day I eat potato and chickpeas. Their recipes are all gluten free, and I’ve found the spinach and chickpea curry to be pretty primal. I feel good after it, anyway!
          I don’t have dairy, and never have, really. I eat a lot of eggs, but that is easy because we have hens, so they are plentiful and delicious. I am working on increasing the fish content of my week, slowly but surely I will get there. I’m interested in how you get on with any kind of protein drink/supplement, I’ve been thinking about that myself. I’m just no good at stomaching anything too dairy-like.
          For anyone looking at my diet – feel free to make helpful suggestions – I am the first to realise that it is a work in progress though, so I don’t need to be told that! But if anyone has successfully made the transition from veggie to primal and wants to share some advice, I’d be pleased to hear it!

          muffins: https://nourishedkitchen.com/blueberry-almond-crumb-muffins/

          salmon croquettes: (I add chopped celery and bit of chilli)

          primal pancakes – eggs, banana, almond butter, vanilla – you can get lots of recipes on here.

        5. Reebok: Thank you so much- your recipes sound really delicious! It also seems like you enjoy your meals by the way you describe them- which is kind of the point!

          My meals sort of look the same, (always eggs in my salad otherwise it doesn’t fill me up) but I do really heavily on dairy- I feel weak if I don’t. I do plan on weaning off of it some day though. I just got my Primal Nutrition protein/snack/meal replacement, and will let you know how that goes.

          Ideally I would only eat veggies, fruit, fish, coconut, occasional eggs and nuts. Ideally. I may have moved to the wrong island.

          I would do more eggs, but sometimes I really just get sick of them, switching back and forth from hard boiled to omelets. DO you feel you get egg saturation? How much is too much egg anyway?

          Also a big fan of dark chocolate, since I haven’t found my “nutritional balance” yet, it really gives me an energy boost.

          Do you feel that you have more energy and have less brain fog since you started eating fish? I just want to do it so I can gain strength, not worry about my protein intake when I do my yoga or have particularly long days.

          Also have you tried tuna?

          Again, thanks for the recipes- I will definitely try something soon!

    3. Welcome to the city. (Sorry it had to be now.) This is actually a great place to follow the primal lifestyle; you’re already moving at a slow pace (assuming you walk most places), you lift heavy things every now and then (weekly shopping, carrying your laundry), and the food options are insanely good. In Brooklyn, there seems to be a crossfit hive around every corner, if you’re into that. Have you tried our donation-based power yoga? It’s sweet. Maybe check out Brooklyn Boulders? You can’t get more primal than urban rock climbing. Personally, since you are a vegetarian, I HIGHLY recommend finding a source of raw dairy as your first order of business when things go back to normal. I have had great experience with Uddermilk, which delivers raw products to your door on Sundays. You should also experiment with coconut products of all stripes. Let me know if you have any specific questions. I would be happy to help.

      1. Thank you for all the awesome recommendations Amy. I’ve never tried raw dairy and it was supposed to be my first order of business when I came here, but didn’t know any trustworthy sources, so thank you for that. Do they do cheeses and yogurt?

        I do walk a lot and carry a lot of things (my biceps are awesome now) and I am very much into Yoga, and considering the options so I will look into the one you recommended (it’s yoga to the people right?)

        In the meantime yes I do have questions, thank you for your willingness!
        Which brands of dairy and eggs would you recommend, other than Uddermilk (ones that I would find at the grocery stores). Right now I am doing Organic Valley, Hawethorne Valley farm (they are the only brand I found to make true greek yogurt), sky top farm, whole foods organic omega 3 eggs (though please: can someone explain the difference between organic and cage free?? They have the same description on the cartons).

        Also olive oil and balsamic: I am getting the organic 365 ones, they’re not bad. Any other recs?

        The 365 nuts are so stale. They have a “antioxidant” trail mix which they should really call oxidant trail mix. Do you have a recommendation for fresh nuts? (I know it depends on seasons and local availability).

        Also if you have a tuna recommendation, just in case I take THE step.

        You don’t have to answer all the questions but thank you for your feedback! It’s awesome of you! And I’m hoping other New Yorkers will chime in, and that the city gets back on its feet!


        1. Uddermilk does all dairy products: cheese, yogurt, and their cream is amazing. They also sell eggs, which are delicious with orange yolks. Sometimes I get mainstream organic cage free eggs, but I’ve found direct from the farm to be much fresher. You can also get amazing eggs from any of the farmer’s markets.

          I don’t really have any advice when it comes to ‘standard’ dairy. I usually don’t eat it, but just abstain when raw isn’t available. I’m pretty sure all of the mainstream organic dairy is the same. You might want to check out Milk Thistle, though, which is sold at the Union Square and Prospect Park farmer’s markets, is delicious, and only mildly pasturized. (I think I may have also seen it once at the Union Square Whole Foods.) You can also get fresh goat’s milk at both locations.

          I usually get my nuts from the bins at the Flatbush co-op, not at Whole Foods. But I’ve had success with the bin nuts at the Whole Foods on Houston.

          Yeah, yoga to the people. Just get there early. I love it.

          I guess I don’t have an olive oil rec? I’ve read that you should get raw, cold-pressed olive oil produced in the states. Also, for tuna I eat Wild Planet, which is like $5 a can but worth it.

          I hope this helps. It’s really easier to be primal here than anywhere else, in my opinion, but I might be biased. 🙂

        2. Amy: this is REALLY valuable advice. Thank you for sharing the best things this city has to offer! I really appreciate it!

  42. Really liked this article. I was just wondering if I was doing anything wrong since I am only loosing about 1 – 1.5 lbs per week. If anything, I’m probably not eating enough because between work, kids, housework, etc, there’s not a lot of time left to cook. If I don’t have something already prepped, eggs are my go-to quick fix (BTW, just had a blood test and my LDL was flagged as low… HDL was normal. ) Glad to hear it’s ok to eat sweet potatoes. After going to the gym, I can’t wait to scarf one down with BUTTER!! (Farm fresh, of course).

  43. I so needed to read this as I recognise myself as becoming over-analytical about everything I eat. So, I will now pour myself a lovely glass of Malbec, and enjoy every drop. Cheers!

    1. Sammi, eat until your hunger is satisfied and you feel comfortably full but not until you feel like a beached whale. That should be a no-brainer, but I guess it isn’t. I find a paleo diet to be self-limiting; I lose interest in eating when I’ve had enough.

      If you’re a lifelong member of the Clean Plate Club, you should resign immediately! Cleaning one’s plate is some of the worst advice parents ever gave their kids.

  44. This is a great article. Loved the part about Crossfit. I did primal and was doing metcons everyday and got fat fast…All i changed was taking away the clock and exercised at a slower pace. I dropped 30 lbs of fat in 4 months and got ripped. I even feel more functional now…being unable to workout because you’re sore from yesterday’s workout is not functional to me…

  45. Love this article, Mark. I think this one will be popular, and a much needed breath of sanity in the paleosphere.

    I’ve been guilty of perfectionism and over-thinking my diet more times than I can count. It’s really quite stressful to obsess over something that is meant to nourish me, not rule my life. Perfectionism is not something I can shoulder: every time I get too caught up in being a perfect little primal princess, I boomerang back into carb-addiction and at ALL THE THINGS, so that tells me something about why the middle primal road is the best one.

  46. Hi Mark,
    I only walk 3 miles every day and that suits me fine. I eat my raw eggs daily, along with grass fed beef/bison, bacon and shrimp. I also eat fish. My job, driving school buses, is very sendentary. I am at my high school weight and am doing great on fat and protein. Took about 2 months to change my body to a fat burning machine and I feel great at age 65.

  47. Wonderful article! This ties in to what I just realized a few weeks ago…I am a competitive Olympic Weightlifter and was eating about 80g CHO/day which = a very bad idea. Not only was my performance lack luster I was also getting pudgy…once I started upping my CHO intake plus making my homemade garlic sweet potato hash browns with grass-fed butter (among other primal carb delights) not only is life better, I’m leaning out, and my lifting days are as gold as honey.

    1. I’m sure many of us would like to see your hash brown recipe. 😀

      1. Ditto on the recipe! Sweet potatoes, garlic and butter…Be still my heart!!

  48. Mark – This is in my opinion brilliant, brilliant, BRILLIANT. Beautifully written, succinct, and spot on. Each of your points is something that I have either experienced or see my clients experiencing. So thanks for taking the time to write and share. I’ll be passing this post along…

  49. Amazing post today just what i needed to read to reinforce everything and give me a boost not to overthink things! Love the site and mark! Ps i have now lost 30 inches all over, and 56 pounds and im like a new person i just hope i can stay on track with the primal/paleo life.

  50. Thanks, Mark! I always take away a new idea from your articles. You’re spot on about the anxiety-producing variety of advice on the Internet, much of it contradictory. I’m aiming away from “perfection” and towards “good enough”.

    I didn’t realize the connection between low carb and damage to adrenals and thyroid was in conjunction with high-intensity exercise. One more worry evaporated! My gym routine is rather sedate compared to cross-fit. 🙂

  51. Great article…again. What are you, psychic? I’m stalled for the past three months. Now I can review each point and do some tweaking. Thanks!

  52. Very well done. A key post, for sure.

    Quoting from it, these are the things I know to be true from my own experience:

    “Eating too few carbs while working out with high intensity and high volume will ruin your adrenals, depress your thyroid, and stall weight loss.”

    “[Stick] to a ‘program’ for a few weeks, at least …. a few months is even better. Give the regimen (whatever it is) a chance to do its work.”

    “[E]ating is an everyday occurrence, and if it’s a stressful event just to eat, that stress will inevitably become chronic. Chronic stress is the enemy of fat loss. Relax …. Enjoy your food.”

    All true. Very well outlined and articulated.

    Also, from my experience:

    1) Intermittent fasting was a disaster for me. My body read it as stress and I didn’t realize it for a long time. Through trial and error, I’ve found that I’m best off doing what’s often discouraged on this blog – eating frequently throughout the day. NOT to keep my blood sugar up or anything like that – my blood sugar is fine. I just feel better when I eat frequently – proven via my own self-experimentation.

    2) Wine is a disaster for me. It kills my sleep and makes me crave sugar. I can’t be the only one out there who’s affected by wine like this or in other detrimental ways.

    I think there’s a big need on this blog for a post about wine (and alcohol), it’s pros and cons, and its varied affects on people.

    Too often I see wine suggested and even glorified here. That shouldn’t be. One post went as far as to say something like, “there’s no reason why a low carber can’t imbibe.” Sorry – that statement is simply wrong.

    Writing things like “drink responsibly” and “see a medical professional” if you have a problem isn’t enough. It’s glossing over huge issues that the writers of this blog are well capable of addressing.

    Alcohol’s affect on the mind and the body can be significant and very bad, even when consumed in relatively small amounts – in some people, especially women. The topic highly relevant for exploration here.

    Just because wine is nice for some doesn’t mean it’s good and Primal and advisable across the board. There’s way more to it than that.

    Look forward to a post looking into these things.


    1. Hi Susan, I agree about the alcohol. I do drink wine occasionally because I LOVE IT- BUT, the next day it makes me depressed and it gives me a stomach ache. I know that mean have twice as much the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women, so that’s why they can drink more: it is a fact that women are more sensitive to alcohol.

      I don’t want it to sound like an “everything in moderation” statement but I found that one glass even once in a while (okay sometimes that glass turn into 3 which I quickly regret with the next morning jitters and nausea) is okay.

      I do not understand why and when it became a social staple to “go out for a couple of drinks” because a couple usually means 4-5 drinks for women, 7-8 for men. Say you ate grains and flour. You would have ONE piece of cake. Two if it’s really good. Not 4-8 pieces!

      The things with alcohol is that drinking brings on more appetite for: drinking! Because it’s fun to be uninhibited and unleash your personality and ultimately I think it’s sad that alcohol is the main social facilitator!

      1. I agree. It’s a rare person who can have “a glass of wine.” Of all the people I know who drink wine (and it’s a lot), there’s ONE person who has a glass (i.e. one) and that’s it.

        Wine makes you want more wine – while you’re drinking it, and on subsequent evenings. That’s because it feels good to drink it, and we tend to want more and more of what makes us feel good, even if there’s a time in between when it makes us feel bad.

        Alcohol is an addictive drug. Wine is an addictive drug that comes from beautiful vineyards in beautiful bottles served in beautiful glasses. It’s the ultimate illusion.

      2. Hey Susan and Ro, re.alcohol. It used to be called a ‘pharmakon’ (sp?); a poison & a remedy. I read a story once about an ancient king- Greek I think- and he loved parties but went mad because he refused to water down his wine, which was common knowledge and common practice for everyone back then. Let’s say Ancient Greece. There was one vessel on the table for water, one for wine. Everyone knew you watered your wine.
        I have tried this now and then depending on various circumstances, and find I’m feeling fine the next morning.

    2. I can’t drink wine either. I’m allergic to brewer’s yeast, which is in all alcohol to some extent. We once stayed with friends who insisted on wine with almost every meal. After two days of politely trying to comply, I felt like someone had been holding my head under water; i.e. stuffy nose, bad headache, watery eyes, etc. Definitely wasn’t worth it.

      Although I stick to three squares a day and rarely snack, IF doesn’t work for me either. It seems to sap all my energy.

      1. Thanks, Madama. Cool about the watering down. Leave it to the ancient Greeks. They had lots of good ideas, didn’t they? 🙂

        It reminds me of a friend who tells me she makes a great “spritzer” in a tall glass, with a little wine and a lot of seltzer, with fresh lemon rubbed around the rim. She tells me one is enough for the whole evening and she’s fine the next day.

      2. Thanks, Shary. I didn’t know that brewer’s yeast is in alcohol. From a paleo perspective, that sounds pretty vile – yet another reason to ditch alcohol.

        I know very well what it’s like to be around wine drinkers. They love company and can get a little deflated when you decline. In that sense, they’re like the non-paleo, many of whom can get a little uncomfortable when they find out you don’t eat like them.

        Being an outlier takes some getting used to. At this point I’m so comfortable with what I do and don’t do that other people’s take on it doesn’t impact me anymore.

        1. Thanks for the shared insight- I have found that alternating sips between water and wine does really eliminate hangovers. I will have to look into the methods of the greeks!

          And it really really is a social thing: just like you want to share food, you want to share a drink and know that everyone around you is just as relaxed. I wish we could relax in unfamiliar social situations without a drink!

          FULL disclosure: I am salivating over a glass of wine.

  53. It’s like you’re psychic Mark! Your articles always come at a time when I need them most. Two of your points really stuck out to me today. I really need to make a conscious effort to include all the aspects of the PB lifestyle, not just the ones I can fit into my schedule. More specifically I need to work on getting adequate sleep, play and sunlight. The sunlight aspect is becoming more difficult now that its dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home. I’ve also had to recently tailor my macros to my lifestyle. Started CF about a month ago but was still eating carbs in the weight loss “sweet spot” range of about 50-60 grams a day. That’s definitely not enough on the days I’m doing CF. I’ve been working on increasing it to around 100 grams on my CF days, hopefully that will help my plateau.

  54. So ultimately, the Paleo diet, as well as all others DOES get boiled down to the maxim everybody agrees upon: eat less, move more. The destination is the same, what changes for individuals is the path taken.

  55. Adrenal Exhaustion sucks. I have it and I had to go on DHEA supplement to recover. I was in fact Crossfitting and under eating just like example. What happened? Angry birds happened. I sling shotted high, then came down into a wall. Had to stop crossfit and move back to more low stress activity.

  56. Have been doing PB since July 4th and had already quit candy in June. My husband has sort of been doing PB just because that is what I am serving him. That means he has been cheating a little ( a little more than I have) eating a cracker here and there, etc., but his triglycerides have come down from close to 300 to 142 and his HDL and LDL are both in normal range now; his cholesterol had been 140 and still is. Also his kidney tests improved. He just received 2 stents in one artery (this is one that the dr. was ‘watching’ from a year ago when he had a small heart attack and received a stent in another artery) so I am eager to see how my tests turn out. I feel more sure now that they’ll be better.

  57. Thanks for letting us know… just ordered my first pair of Bikila! Been anxious to give these shoes a try, now I can at half price!

  58. Hats off to you guys doing Cross Fit etc.
    I hardly have time to fit in 2 LHT and 1 Sprint WO in in a week.
    My slow moving is taking care of my kids, doing dishes, making dinner, and getting the mail with a one mile walk mixed in maybe once a week.
    Diet and weight loss are doing very well. I think sometimes how well it would go if I just did all the stuff I am supposed to do.

  59. Thanks so much for the Zulily site….I’ve been wanting to get a pair of Vibrams for awhile now but didn’t want to shell out the $100 or more for them….I already had my eye on the Bikila LS’s and went to the Zulily site and have officially ordered my first pair of Five Fingers…YAY! I’m excited to become a bare foot runner! Thanks for posting and thanks for saving me 50%!

  60. Thanks for this article – I really needed to see this today. Started this way of eating a year ago as well as training kettlebells. Did great for 4-5 months, lost 40 lbs, then had a great stress in my life – and a 7-8 month plateau – lost 6-8 more lbs but they go up and down and no significant change in my clothing sizes since January. Kept up my training – inlcuding mixing it up along the way, kept up eating Primal, even observed/cut calories/carbs – but no real movement at all, although I can say muscle gain has still been good. I guess it’s gotta be the stress. So that’s what I’m working on now. Decreasing stress, having more fun, taking care of and changing what I can and letting the rest of the causes of the stress go. Hoping that will make the next year of training and weight loss more productive – I have 50lbs+ more to get to my goal (which I will add is still probably 25-30lbs above where I ulitmately need to be).

    1. Stress is extremely powerful. When my grandfather died, I gained about 10 lbs in a week. I don’t know how that is physically possible.

  61. I’ve gained 13 pounds lately so I think I’m guilty of over-eating the primal food and not playing hard enough.

  62. Started following MDA about 10 weeks ago. Thanks to Mark and everyone who comments. Good stuff.
    If I am going to do CF one day a week, do I eat a few more carbs that day? or the day before?

  63. Interesting…. I started by transitioning to Diet Evolution in mid May and began in earnest the first of August. In addition, I have been riding a bicycle 30 minutes before breakfast everyday and then a longer ride most afternoons after work (sedentary job) varying the distance and intensity. So far, I’ve dropped nearly 50 lbs and am in the process of adding yoga and Mark’s exercise routine into the mix. I have another 20 lbs I’d like to lose, but am going to let the body tell me what and when I’ve reached my “ideal” weight, not fixating on a number. My concern is that I have started doing some long rides on the weekends 50+ miles (mostly charity events and training for them @ 2X a month) at around a 15 mph overall pace (one at the beach was over 19 mph). Am I over-exercising according to Mark’s guidelines? I really enjoy these rides and generally feel great at nearly 58 years old and 197 lbs.

    1. I’d say as long as you feel good doing these rides and don’t feel like you are pushing through sludge, you are fine. Just make sure to take a solid week off from time to time.

  64. Regarding tailoring your macronutrients (specifically carbs) to your lifestyle – I think for many people this requires experimentation. I’m not a CF-er. I work at a desk and get moderate exercise 4 – 6x week. But I’ve learned that I can’t go too low carb or I have no energy and feel like crap. My naturopath (who is paleo) was all over me to increase my carbs about six months ago when I complained about being so tired all the time. I was so hesitant because I’m not a heavy-duty exerciser. I decided to give it a shot and low and behold, I feel so much better. Everybody’s chemistry is a bit different. You have to experiment and do what works for your body and not be influenced by the soapboxes that others are standing on.

  65. Regarding the youth doing “great” on high fruit levels…

    In terms of expectation management and avoiding creating a forbidden fruit factor for the kid, I agree with what you’ve said, Mark.

    But a lot of people do great on poor diets because of robust genetics. Maybe a few teaspoons of coconut oil in lieu of pineapple slices (or whatever) would be a great boon to the young man’s health.

    Especially on the hormonal level — a boy is still developing and fructose just jacks everything up with ramifications far into the future. To say nothing of creating a carb addiction that’s incredibly to difficult to break.

  66. Mark,

    Really enjoyed this article. You summed up quite a few things I’ve tried to convey to my clients. Looks like I have some forwarding to do!

  67. Another great article! Weight loss hasn’t stalled, but if it does I’ll be re-reading this to figure out why.

  68. I pretty much treat myself like a science experiment. I figured that working out once a week really hard for about 20 mins with weights gets me the most consistently good results. I have a ridiculously large protein/fat feast afterwards; I see visible results in my body within the fortnight. Alien genetics? 🙂
    I also eat one larger meal a day, and maybe a drink/small breakfast (usually tea) in the morning. It’s odd, but it’s actually how my tribal ancestors ate, so it’s not that surprising.

  69. I can’t agree that going without the carbs is what’s stressing the endocrine system or causing pudginess despite lots of exercise. That’s a great hypothesis but it hasn’t been proven. And I have heard from other quarters that people have *different* thyroid output at different carb-intake levels, not because anything’s wrong with their thyroid but because their *needs* for various hormones are different.

    I would tell someone having trouble with fat loss despite different exercise to look at these areas instead:

    1. Make sure your micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) needs are met and exceeded. Every traditional diet that’s ever been nutritionally analyzed has shown a surplus of all these nutrients. Even with water-solubles, your body often stores reserves of them. There’s good reason for this. And you can’t maintain reserves when you’re not even hitting 100 percent RDA–and then taxing your body with extreme exercise on top of that.

    2. Change up the way you exercise. You could be under too much stress just from the exercise and THAT may be taxing your thyroid and adrenals.

    3. Make sure you are getting enough sleep in a dark enough room, and make it look like evening in your house *before* you go to bed. Just neglecting this aspect of your life is enough to mess up your hormone balance.

    There is NO dietary requirement for carbohydrate and I don’t care what the trendy bloggers say. There ARE good reasons to eat certain foods with carbs in them, but nobody is going to sicken or die from NOT eating them. Much less are you going to sicken or die from eating *less* of them than you did in your SAD days.

    If that weren’t true, humans couldn’t have survived the Ice Age. Or winter in the higher latitudes, before agriculture or grocery stores were invented. Sorry.

  70. For me it was Give up Diet soda. When I started primal blueprint 6 months ago I stopped drinking soda cold turkey. I dropped 40 lbs in 2 and a half months. Then I started drinking diet soda. I used to not be able to stand diet but after 2 and a half months with none the Diet soda tasted pretty good. As soon as I started on the diet soda the weight loss stopped. I even started lifting weights over a month ago and I gained muscle mass but still was not losing weight. 2 weeks ago I gave up the Diet soda and I’ve since lost 10 lbs and and inch off my waist. apparently my body is one that cant tell the difference between artificial sweeteners and it still has an effect on insulin production

    1. Jesse, I recently read an article on Natural news.com that talked about just this problem with diet soda and thought it was so interesting. I’m paraphrasing from memory, so forgive me if i mess it up a little. Basically, when diet soda hits your tounge, the taste buds that taste sweet send a signal to whatever gland it is that controls insulin to release insulin in anticipation of sugar entering your stomach. When it doesn’t find any sugar, it enters the blood stream and “processes the sugar there, causing low blood sugar, and thus cravings for bad stuff. (That’s the “technical” explanation).

      1. Artificial sweeteners kill your gut bacteria and damage your brain.

  71. i’m definitely guilty of most of these. very helpful post. thank you.

  72. This is fantastic. I think ALOT of people participating in the crossfit/paleo lifestyle tend to go overboard. Food and fitness is a wonderful thing but when taken too seriously can do alot of damage. Once exercise and eating stop becoming fun then its not worth it anymore. I agree with ENJOYING your food. If one day out of mannnyyyyy you eat too many carbs or too much fruit, or even a dang chocolate bar don’t worry about it…just move on and continue to enjoy your life because when your older and wiser you will realize that punishing yourself wasn’t worth it!

  73. What a great post! My weight has been stalled for about 2 months now and this post help me to figure out why (I think)! I think I’m in the not eating enough group. I also think I need to eat more red meat and slightly more good fats. Oh yeah…It’s that last 10lbs that I’m trying to lose. It does seems to be true that it’s the hardest weight to lose.

  74. I was going to write a funny comment, but the surveillance team overruled me with their hacks. That’s dirty.

  75. I have noticed that upping my carbs has caused me to lose weight. I was under eating. A normal day for me will consist of 1 tin of tuna with half a sweet potato for lunch and a chicken breast with another sweet potato for dinner. I will eat 2 big apples a day, 6 tblspns of olive oil cold poured on the potatos per meal and 2 litres of water. This is a non crossfit day. On or just after a crossfit day I will eat 2 sweet potatoes, 2 apples, 2 portions of fish, a big plate of veg and loads of cold olive oil, maybe 15 tablespoons of oil in a day. The fat melts off and I feel very energetic. The fat helps tremendously. Without fat I feel dreadful, weak and lethargic as well as foggy thinking.

    My biggest problem is quitting the chocolate.

    I often fast from 6pm to 12am the following day a few times a week to do what I feel is ‘resetting my body’. It feels great. I feel clean when I reset myself. Sometimes it feels like I don’t want to eat after a fast. Other times I load up on food like a winter bear. Sometimes I fill myself up on a huge carvery meal with loads of veggies. It’s great. I don’t stress about being primal. I just focus on eating right for my body. My bmr is now 2253 from crossfitting and Paleo eating.

  76. Great post as always.

    We’ve been participating in the Whole Life Challenge recently; it ends in another week and it can’t end too soon in my book. We usually eat a really healthy diet with occasional cheats to keep us human and social. But the approach for this 8 weeks is way WAY too serious. I’ll be glad to get back to a way of eating that’s more in line with what’s discussed here.

    Saying that, I have learned to do without sugar including honey and I don’t really miss it…so maybe it wasn’t so bad.

  77. Balance and being intuitive to our own bodies’ needs…some days you need more sweet potaoe carbs…others you are happier with fats…your daily rhytmn dictates your fuel intake and energy output…rest and rebuilt with sleep and get hormones to balance by exercising “right4 you”…play, laugh, socialize and laugh some more!!

  78. Mark,

    I can relate to the 4th point you mentioned about tailoring your macronutrients and adapting your carb intake. My fat loss stalled out a bit when I tried to be too strict on limiting carbs even when I was playing a lot of competitive soccer, doing P90X, etc.

    So now, I try to not worry about that as much especially on heavy workout days and it seems that this combined with the burden lifted from stressing about carb counting has also helped me break the plateau.


  79. Thanks! This was exactly what I needed! I’m already excited for the next one! 😉

  80. How does one decide how much to eat? I own all of Mark’s book and we all agree that calories are not the best measure of ones diet; nor is macronutrients. So how does one decide what satiety is?

  81. How do you find out what your body needs to thrive on when it concerns calories? I have tried looking it up but have gotten several different numbers ranging from 1200 to 1800. I tried just eating till I’m full or at least enough to where I’m not thinking about food everyday which is usually 1200 to 1500 depending on the day but I can’t seem to shake off the last couple of pounds OR build muscle. At least as far as I can tell . . . I don’t think I need to change my carb intake (about fifty to eighty for me) because I think I’m generally carb intolerant and if I eat more than I need I get really sick for a couple days afterword.

  82. Good post, sums up my situation of stagnation in the weight loss area. I am not eating enough of the right foods. I will be all over this problem like a cheap suit in the run up to Chrimbo. Cheers Mark and Stevemid. Just the tonic needed before heading into hibernation mode!


  83. The sedentary lifestyle is what’s killing me right now.

    I’m a student, so I’m sitting on my backside in the library or at my desk at home ALL DAY LONG. I take stairs and such, but moving frequently is definitely not happening, my chronic injuries are acting up because I haven’t maintained my physical therapy routine, I have bad cases of “student neck” and “keyboard shoulders” and I haven’t done any bodyweight exercise in weeks.

    Putting it all into words just now made me realize just how pathetic it is.

    I AM going back to dance classes tonight with my mother (we do adult ballet classes, oh yeaaah) and my fiance (who is also not exercising anymore but doesn’t gain weight like I do) and I are still having lots of what I’ll call “primal recreation.” That’s something, anyway!

  84. Dealing with my own weight loss plateau myself. I’m just a couple of months into PB, but started changing things up in May with getting rid of processed foods, then sugar, and finally dairy. Easily lost 35lbs without much exercise, which has come to a stop the last month. Thought I could “cheat” a little the last couple of weeks due to cravings with a little sweet here, a little wheat there… and I’ve put on 4lbs and sporting a poochy belly.
    Unlike a lot of you, I don’t get my brain muddled with the science behind it all. Obviously what I was doing was right, what I’m doing now is wrong, and I’ll have to get back into my former routine.
    I really appreciate this program like no other. And LOVE that the play factor in exercise is focused on, rather than “kill it at the gym”.

  85. I’ve been losing 4-5 pounds a week for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been taking the slow and steady approach though.

    I had a type IV cancer. Since then I have to be careful. The doctors gave me 6 months to live, but several years later I am alive and cancer free. I credit God and my husband, who drove to a local farm to get me organic raw milk, butter and eggs and who made fresh organic juices for me 4 times a day while I had cancer. Juicing, BTW, is a great way to get lots of nutrients into your body but is NOT good for weight loss.

    Anyway, thanks to the cancer, I’ve been eating organic, grass fed meat, raw, grass fed dairy and eggs. It’s not only good for health, it is also humane. I hate the cruelty of factory farms. I also of course have been doing lots of raw veggies – large salads, crudites, etc.

    About 6 months ago I started using only healthy oils – organic coconut oil, lard from free range pigs, raw organic butter, olive oil, organic beef tallow, etc.

    About 5 weeks ago I gave up white sugar and switched from coffee to tea for my adrenals. I stayed completely off them for 2 weeks, then started to allow small amounts back into my diet – Dark chocolate or coffee a couple of times a week. My energy levels are improved so I signed up for a yoga class.

    2 weeks ago I gave up wheat products. This I am 100% hard core about, no cheats EVER. I have been allowing myself other grains in moderation – brown rice or oatmeal or quinoa or millet once a day. But no wheat. Since I gave it up, I have been losing a pound a day except on the days I have chocolate or coffee. I’ve actually been deliberately cheating to keep the weight loss to 4 pounds a week since I think more than that is probably unhealthy.

    Next week, I am going to two dance classes and playing ping-pong. I know if exercise is play, I will stick to it. When I was younger I loved to play racquetball, so once I’ve adjusted to the dance classes, I’ll add that to the mix, as well as some hikes with friends.

    I may gradually cut out all grains or do other stuff as necessary, but, at least for me, I’ve found what works is to let my body adjust to a change until it becomes a habit before introducing another change.

  86. I’ve lose 2 stone in weight in 6 months. I firmly believe that whatever ‘diet’ you’re on, there is only one way you’re going to lose fat (as opposed to weight). And that is simply, burn more calories than you’re eating.

    As the meerkat would say, simples.

  87. Absolutely love this post. I’ve been following for a while, but I’ve definitely fallen victim to the “stress about eating” and the “eating too little”, and I’m just now beginning to relax, eat a little bit more and really find joy in the primal lifestyle. Thanks for a really articulate, well-written post that meets people where they are and reminds us all that you’ve still gotta LIVE even when working towards weight loss goals 🙂

  88. Hyperinsulinemia was linked to Vanadium and Chromium deficiency back in 1971.

    And obesity, diabetes, depression, peripheral neuropathy, high blood triglycerides and cholesterol,…

    The other 58 essential minerals have disease symptoms as well.

    For me, the gears in the graphics represent the minerals and the wrench our ability to override or ignore our body’s urging. As was pointed out in the article.

    I might resort to the wrench when the problem is missing gears. Missing minerals that is.

    Some signs are obvious. Copper deficiency is graying or white hair and is reversible.

    I am suggesting that if the Primal Blueprint is not providing the desired result a mineral deficiency is a likely culprit. Mineral cravings can override the staunchest will. How long can one hold their breath?

    More science: Rare Earths, Forbidden Cures.

    Thanks Mark. I’ve enjoyed your articles. They contain good science backed with practical experience. I think you are doing a great job spreading a great message.

  89. I’ve got a funny story to tell which highlights the point I think Mark is trying to make about individuals and their diet requirements.

    I had been going low carb for several months with great success. I then tried going more primal. Again, success with weight loss, more energy and seeing many health improvements. I should also add here I have T1 diabetes, so unlike most people I know exactly how much insulin I’m taking daily.

    Then suddenly, I started craving carbs out of the blue. I couldn’t explain it. Suddenly I hated dairy, meat and fat. I couldn’t look at it any more. I was looking for sugar and carbs like a desperate junkie. I thought I’d dealt with all this – hadn’t I seen the success? I thought I was weak willed and felt like a terrible failure.

    Because I’m T1, I also noticed my insulin wasn’t changing much, but I was eating more and my sugar was dropping. The mystery continued. I felt like a total nutcase after several weeks/months of this, and thought the whole low carb/primal deal was just another pipe dream.

    Then the light bulb moment came when I discovered I was pregnant. Oh yes, that is what had changed and it wasn’t anything I could “detect” until a few weeks (try two months) later.

    All that time, I had this new cell dividing and multiplying in my body, and it was requiring energy reserves (from me) at a phenomenal rate. Hormonal changes caused me to go off my normal primal foods, and a need for energy caused me to crave things I thought I had given up.

    So there you go – a case in point, some things you just cannot see with the naked eye, but your body still requires those extra foods/minerals to thrive. Diets are great bases to start from, but we have to be prepared to adapt when our bodies signal a change is required.

  90. I know what has stopped my weight loss…. I lost my way. I hurt my knee, stopped exercise and was easily lead astray with food my hubby bought in the house, (cakes, bread, scones, jam and cream.) I looked at my weight and realised that I had not put any on for 2 months, but also had not lost any. My knee is healing now and I can do a bit more, but I needed this MDA today to give me a kick and take note again. Thank goodness I subscribe and get reminded 🙂

  91. FWIW, I sat down with my CF coach (also a nutritionist) and reviewed the food diary I kept for 21 days. Her assessment, and it really jumped out when you see everything written down, is that I was eating WAY too little protein and need to improve the quality of my carbs along with eating some balanced snacks between meals. Nothing was especially bad, but it seemed like I was not eating enough in general. I have not felt hungry, but I see a lot more chicken, turkey and broccoli in my future.

    On a positive note, I have dropped about 6 pounds over the past few weeks, but my body fat % is roughly that of a stick of butter and my focus will be on getting that down to around 20% by Memorial Day which would make me a lean 235-245. I think that I could live with and be happy and 7 months seems like a reasonable timeframe for getting there.

  92. Thanks for this website, Mark. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for all this information

  93. Thanks Mark – this totally makes sense. I’m afraid I was one of those stressy-heads about counting every gram of carb (and not going over 50g) per day, BUT overeating on Primal food at the same time and wondering why I had stalled.

    Actually, just before your post, I decided to stop worrying so much about the carbs (and now probably eating around 100-120g per day), and also now watching my portions of the most calorific stuff and guess what? The fat is shifting again!

    One thing I’m testing my body on (being my own private laboratory) is fresh organic RAW milk (yes I know this isn’t strictly Primal/Paleo) but I’m getting good results on it – feeling great, maintaing/building muscle (no more non-grass-fed-non-organic-suspect whey protein powders) and it’s providing me with a good amount of protein & the just the right amounts of carbs I need pre/during and post workout. I will never touch pasteurised milk again!

    Thanks again for this.

  94. This is very important post as you mention ways that may prevent any one from losing weight thanks a lot for your good post

  95. I thought your post was very informative. Even took a few notes that applied for me. My problem over the past month is just getting into a groove that works for me. I’m trying to keep my stress low but I’m also trying to push myself to achieve the goals I’ve set…

    Meeting goals can be hard, I try to work on my portions and adding more vegetables to my diet as well as, staying away from fast food or quick serve food. Though it’s good, I just don’t feel it’s what I should be eating while I’m getting back in shape!

  96. Yeah, I completely agree with most of the sentiments around here. Wanting your body to work optimally seems like an experiment full of daily trial and error which is frustrating…and annoying. I’m currently doing the Turbofire program, eating lots of protein and fat, and eating about 30-50 g of carbs per day and seeing iffy weight changes. For instance, last week I lost 5 lbs and this week I’ve regained 2 of those lbs eating basically the same way. So with these frquent ups and downs, by weight has been steadily in the 130-132 range since about May. It’s driving me nuts (as if medical school isn’t enough of a stressor as is) so I’m going to try cutting out nuts and fruit until Thanksgiving to see if that helps.

  97. For me it was not eating enough that caused a stall in my weight loss. I added more healthy fat in the form of coconut milk and coconut oil as part of breakfast – which I had always skipped. Within a few weeks I was back to losing weight at a faster rate than before.

  98. I (have been) (am) dealing with orthorexia nervosa and notice more and more the claim I’m over it is not true! Only yesterday my husband told me I am looking at all kinds of health food sites, recipes almost all day long, like I’m obsessed with food. I guess I have to admit I am. I am stressing myself too much with what is healthy or not. I’m not enjoying my meals, it doesn’t have to taste even, checking all the possible side effects of herbs, checking my weight nearly daily. I’m bouching between raw food and paleo diets and indeed internet is not helping me all the time. Good source for information, but an equal source for rubbish, if not larger.

  99. I don’t have adrenal glands and rely on oral steroids for cortisol replacement. (I would die without them.) Primal diet has certainly helped with some of the weight gain associated with steroid dependence. I’ve avoided typed 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. I’ve started gaining back some of the weight I lost a few years ago and I think I know why now. 1. There must be more to stress hormones than what the adrenal glands make. I’m constantly stressed by not having adrenal glands. I’ve assumed that not making cortisol has meant that I can ignore any and all advice pertaining to elevated cortisol. I let stress get out of control. (I’m a nurse–I give advice instead of following it.) and 2. I let exhaustion convince me to stop moving. Thanks for the shakeup!

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  101. I started crossfit and paleo mid May this year. I’ve gotten stronger and my body is getting tighter but I have lost next to nothing on the scale 🙁

    1. Do you tend to eat your meals fast? Try smaller bites and slowing down.
      Do you eat snacks? The point is that you should ween yourself off between meal snacks so that when it is lunch and dinner, your body feels true hunger. (Normal day should be 3 very filling meals. Once in awhile if you really need it, it’s fine to have a small mid-afternoon snack or dessert after dinner but it should not be an everyday thing.)
      Do you drink anything other than water between meals? Even sipping on herbal tea, coffee, juice…whatever between meals can stop a woman’s weight loss in my experience. Stick to only water in between your meals.

      I really think these things above have very little affect upon men’s weightloss so it’s not talked about much in the Paleo community but are critical when it comes to many women.

  102. when I started Paleo years ago weight came off effortlessly, now I am 36 years old and I have put back on 5 pounds through too much carb eating through honey treats and sweet potatoes, I’m only 5’5 I’m a woman and now I’m back up to 123 and I want to get back down to my 118 but for some reason I’m finding it nearly impossible, my body just does not want to let go I have been doing a lot of coconut products and I’m wondering if that could be the problem. I also find that when I work out I start gaining weight and I know that it’s not muscle, I have had a lot of stress in my life so I don’t feel that high intensity working out is good for my adrenals so I try to stay away from that. anyway it’s frustrating that five years ago it seems the way just fell off and now the scale just won’t move I’m now starting to track my calories on my fitness pal says I can only 1250 to lose weight and that seems really low.

  103. Mark, (or someone else who knows) what would be your recommendation for maximum weekly butter consumption?

    I find myself craving butter and put it on my steamed veggies all the time – I use mostly Stirling butter (I was told its the #1 voted butter in Canada, its sweet & delicious!)

    I find myself being shocked at how fast I can use up a pound of butter. Is this dangerous?

    I am carrying about 10 extra pounds recently but I have not changed my eating habits (low carb paleo, very little fruits, etc)

    But what’s a maximum amount of butter for a week’s use?

  104. Hi there, thank you for the tips. How can I understand am I eating too little, or eating too much (healthy Primal food)?