Dear Carrie: Reader Question Roundup

What is your workout schedule? What do your meals look like? How did you lose weight and stretch marks after pregnancy? These are just a few of the questions you sent in last week.

Hello, everyone! It’s Carrie Sisson here today to field your questions. Last week Mark and I asked for any questions you might have about my experience living the Primal lifestyle. I want to thank everyone who commented for your kind words and thoughtful questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts to my responses in the comment board today. Thanks again and Grok on!

Fitness Questions

What kind of workouts do you do?

I love to be outdoors, hiking or sprinting on the beach.

I work out in the gym with a personal trainer (a bodybuilder who won the Miss California title) to maintain my muscle tone and strength. I also do some yoga, because I love the way I feel after a class: a state of blissful inner peace that helps the rest of my day flow with ease and grace.

Weekly routine? What kind of weight training do you do? How long and how often?

Sunday – Yoga

Monday – Weights (low reps, heavy weights – chest, shoulders, tris) with my bodybuilder trainer Becky West

Tuesday – Yoga, hike an hour to an hour and a half in the Malibu hills

Wednesday – Weights (legs)

Thursday – Weights (back and biceps), hike

Friday – Off

Saturday – Sprints, either at the beach or on an elevated treadmill

How long have you been exercising?

I’ve been pretty active all my life. I played tennis, skied and water skied growing up. I jogged (maybe 10-15 miles a week) during the jogging craze. I have lifted weights since my late twenties (in fact, I met Mark in a gym in Los Angeles in 1987). I have to say that since we really started focusing on “Primal” living, I feel better and am stronger than at any other time in my life.

Do you do anything specifically for your abs?

No, I have learned that most compound exercises work the abs better than all those ab-specific exercises (and you don’t really have to think about it). The abs respond more to activities that require stabilization more than they do to just crunching.

Diet Questions

What do you eat?

Here are a couple sample menus:

Day 1

Breakfast – Green tea with heavy cream, smoothie with 30 grams protein powder and a handful of berries

Lunch – Salad with veggies, avocado and fish (usually salmon)

Dinner – Grilled fish with grilled veggies

Snacks – Half cup of plain full-fat yogurt with a bit of agave nectar

Click the images below to view the nutritional breakdown:

Carrie's Sample Meal Day 1

Carrie's Sample Meal Day 1

Day 2

Breakfast – Green tea with heavy cream, 3 scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese

Lunch – Kale salad (pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and raisins), cup of yogurt

Dinner – Grilled fish with steamed veggies

Snacks – Handful of nuts

Click the images below to view the nutritional breakdown:

Carrie's Sample Meal Day 2

Carrie's Sample Meal Day 2

How many carbs do you eat on a daily basis?

I try to stay at right around 100. I rarely exceed that amount by very much and often fall below it.

Is your diet rich in fats?

Yes, I love cheese, butter, full-fat yogurt, salad dressings made with extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, etc.

Why have you chosen to exclude red meat and poultry from your diet?

My parents became vegetarian over 30 years ago and inundated me with the many books on the inhumane treatment of CAFO animals. I guess it sank in, because I haven’t eaten red meat or chicken since. About ten years ago, I did notice that it was difficult to get a reliable source of good protein, so I began eating fish. I now eat some form of fish every day, along with the use of supplemental protein (powders). The increased protein really boosts my energy.

How many calories do you take in for maintenance? For weight loss?

My weight never varies more than five pounds, so I don’t really count calories. I eat when I’m hungry and eliminate simple carbs most of the time. Like Mark, I can have days where I eat a fair amount (maybe 2,300 calories) and others where I can eat next to nothing and suffer no ill effects.

How sensitive for carbohydrates are you really?

I still have a sweet tooth. I think we all do, but I don’t get carried away indulging it. If I have dessert at all, it might be a taste or two at a restaurant or as a guest at someone’s house. Also, I never really appreciated how impactful grains are on my body. I do try to avoid them now. If I break down and eat grains (and I do every great once in a while – but not that much) I bloat, have gas and get a “poochy” belly.

Since women need a higher percentage of body fat than men in order to maintain normal biological functions such as their monthly cycles, do women in general have different dietary requirements than men? (for example, more carbs? more fat?)

Clearly, women need fewer calories than men overall because they tend to have less lean mass. I think it’s the hormones that helps drive the allocation of fat on women’s bodies, too. So a diet high in carbs will tend to see an even greater impact on fat storage in women. Meanwhile, I think women just need more dietary fat than most get; sometimes as a result of childbearing and nursing, other times as a result of monthly hormonal changes, etc. Women always tend to be afraid of dietary fat (and I certainly was), but I have seen that the more fat in my diet (as long as the carbs are low) the healthier I feel and the better I look.

Women’s Issues

Some friends and I were just discussing how lifestyle can affect women as they get to that stage in life where every doctor is handing out hormones. Any thoughts on this?

I am going through menopause now. I tried for a long time to do whatever I could naturally to avoid hormone replacement therapy; I tried all the herbs, black cohosh, dong Quai, Evening Primrose, macca, specific vitamin regimens, etc. The hot flashes were bearable, but when my memory started to go, I gave in. I now use bio-identical hormones in a cream form (low doses of progesterone, estrogen and testosterone) and have never felt better.

How to lose weight/stretch marks after pregnancy?

I breastfed my daughter Devyn for two years (and son Kyle for 16 months). In each case, I had my body back – or even leaner – within two months and never had stretch marks. It could be because I never gained much weight with either child. It could also be the amount of fat in my diet, the fact that I rubbed coconut oil on my belly each night or because I exercised through each pregnancy. I would say it was partly genes, but my own mother had serious stretch marks from each of her children. Maybe it’s just luck, too.

What effect has living Primally had on your reproductive health? Easier periods, etc? I used to (and sometimes still do) suffer from very painful periods and I notice that when I’m strictly off grains/refined sugars, they are less so. Do you have any observations about this? I figure if living primally is good for overall health, it has to have a positive effect on a female’s reproductive health as well.

I was not eating truly Primally until just before menopause. However, I have friends who have cut out the sugar and the grains and who no longer have menstrual cramps, their periods are lighter and they have more energy during their cycle. All the research I have read confirms that a high-fat, low-carb diet will offer those benefits. It’s just getting through the transition that is the hardest part.

Raising Children

What do you feed your children? Did you exclude all grains from your children’s diets?

I wish I had had this info when my kids were younger. They grew up on “healthy whole grains.” Of course, they have cut way back now. My 18-year-old daughter is healthier and leaner for having done so.  She eats all forms of meat, poultry, eggs and fish as her main emphasis. My 15-year-old son is still a vegetarian (his choice from age two) and has opted to cut back on grains somewhat, while increasing his salads, steamed veggies, nuts and fruits. He loves avocados, heavy whipping cream and olive oil and he does get added protein from yogurt, protein powders and some legumes.

As a mom of two small children I’m both struggling to get back to an athletic life (and lose the baby weight) and I’m trying to figure out how to get the kids to enjoy primal foods. I’ve resorted to letting them at least keep their oatmeal breakfast to get them to eat. Any thoughts and suggestions to a young family would be very welcome!

I make sure we have plenty of Primal food choices in the fridge or the pantry at all times. I also got rid of most of the non-Primal snacks, so there’s no temptation to go for a bowl of Rice Crispies instead of an apple with almond butter. We try lots of recipes until we find some that everyone enjoys. I still take my son grocery shopping with me and he likes helping plan dinners together.

My question is more for my kids. Do you have any tips for packing them good “primal friendly” lunches for school?

My daughter liked to roll turkey and cheese into little finger sandwiches (instead of bread) as her favorite lunch. I also used to give them small containers of fresh berries or celery with cream cheese or I’d cut up red bell peppers, carrots, and/or cucumbers with a home-made dipping sauce. Mark says a cold chicken leg is a great lunch meal, too.

Any advice you have to balancing role of mom in the quest for health?

I enjoyed rollerblading or jogging with my kids in a “baby-jogger” for years. As they got older, we played many games with them at least once a week outside. Soccer, tennis, biking, hiking, Frisbee, swimming at the beach, ping pong, stand-up paddling, you name it. I think kids are the best excuse for parents to get back into the mindset of the Primal law that says “Play.” Of course, it gets the kids into that mindset, too, because sometimes kids today spend way too much time inside. I also think it’s imperative that you model good eating patterns for them. Let them get involved cooking with you or food shopping or meal planning.

Odds and Ends

How long have you been Primal?

For me it has been a gradual transition. I have always valued sleep and play. Those were easy for me. I have worked out religiously since my mid-twenties – although I bought into the cardio thing for too long. I recently became a fan of sprinting, even though I was pretty good at it (=fast) for most of my life. I have always done the kind of gym workouts that focused on body parts, but within the past five years have transitioned to more full-body motions (pushups, pull-ups, dips, weighted squats and lunges, etc). The diet was more recent. I only gave up wheat three years ago. The effect was so pronounced (in a good way) that I gave up oats and other grains shortly thereafter. Now, I might eat some rice in a sushi roll or a tortilla chip here and there, but usually that’s only when we go out to eat (because I simply don’t keep those things at home).

What do you do to take care of your skin? It looks like you have very few freckles, wrinkles, or age spots (or stretch marks!!) despite living the “Malibu lifestyle” with lots of sun.

I do live the Malibu lifestyle and spend a good deal of time in the sun, but I am adamant about keeping my face, chest and arms covered with clothing, shade or a good combo UVA/UVB sunscreen. That way, I get my tan and my vitamin D, but minimize the ageing part. I also do take advantage of twenty-first century medicine in that I do micro-dermabrasion on my face and neck and get glycolic acid peels once in a while.

I am very interested in the primal female perspective and how it might differ, even if only slightly, from the males.

I have spent the past few years studying spiritual psychology and noting the energetic differences between men and women (and how to coexist peacefully with those differences!). I love the Primal concept and think Mark has really hit on a novel way of viewing how we evolved physically. I do believe we (men and women) are different energetically and can each take the Ten Blueprint Laws and apply them in our own unique way. For example, I like the idea of going barefoot a lot, and I do so around the house and on the beach, but you won’t catch me wearing FiveFingers to the gym anytime soon. And there’s no way I’m ever giving up my Manolo Blahniks.

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