Dear Mark: Food for Skiing, Menstrual Carb Cravings, a Stubborn Teen, and More

This week, we’re back to a rapid-fire edition of Dear Mark. I enjoy honing in on a single reader question well enough, but I also like covering a smattering of questions from you guys. In future weeks, I’ll probably continue to mix it up. Which do you prefer? Anyway, we’ve got four topics today. First, I discuss carb cravings during “That Time of the Month.” Why do they occur and should you give in? Next, I provide a few Primal food choices suitable for a former Clif bar addict heading out on a five-day ski/snowboard trip. Then, I give advice to a father of an overweight, inactive teen. This is always hard, and there are no easy answers, but I have a few thoughts on the matter. I wrap it up with the safety of feeding fat to children.

Let’s go.

Mark – I am relatively new to the program. I am making a relatively easy transition to most of your suggestions. I will be going on a 5 day Utah snowboard/ski trip next week – always a rigorous trip with a bunch of guy friends. I use to live on Clif bars…I’m NOT a nut eater (intolerance)…wonder what you’d recommend for ongoing nourishment through the day on these 7-8 hour excursions in the mountains (no stops at lodges for us). Lots of fruit? Protein (? a source – suppose a shake). I have read your blogs on marathon training etc…primary curiosity is DURING the long day away from civilization. Thanks!


First off, congrats and welcome to Primal living! I’m jealous. That trip sounds like a blast. I do a fair amount of snowboarding myself, and while I’m not pulling any insane tricks or jumps anymore, I find a big breakfast of bacon and eggs the morning of (with some fruit on the side, perhaps) gives me enough steady energy to make it through a day of boarding. However, you are “relatively new to the program,” so you probably need a few snacks to hold you over, especially if you’re a younger dude going hard all eight hours. Here’s what I’d recommend:

Canned fish (sardines, herring, quality tuna, oysters): healthy fat, tons of protein, tastes great, portable, easy to open, edible bones.

Quality cold cuts and cheese: fat, protein, shelf stable by design.

Jerky: protein, portable, no chance of spilling anything; make your own.

Pemmican: this classic protein/fat combo sustained many an arctic explorer; here’s how to make it.

Fruit: bananas, apples, berries, mangoes, pineapple, anything you like.

Coconut products (milk, meat, oil, water): given your nut intolerance, these may be a problem (some people have cross-reactivity), but if you can eat coconut the possibilities are vast.

If you’re driving to the mountains, you have a few more options. You can pack a cooler with the following items:

Meat: cook a few pounds of meat, slice it up, and keep it on ice; fill a small ziploc bag with a few slices every morning; there’s nothing quite so thrilling as a mouthful of cold grass-fed beef while slicing through fresh powder.

Eggs: hard boil a couple dozen of them.

Or, just check out my previous post on eating Primal while on the road. They may not all work for you, but most should. Oh, and I hear there’s a halfway decent meal replacement shake on the market. Might be worth checking out.

My friend and I are both happily Primal and generally find the program very easy to follow, until That time of the month rolls around. We’ve both noticed that our carb cravings are significantly stronger than before we went Primal. The PMS symptoms themselves aren’t a big deal, it’s just a feeling of never being sated unless a hearty serving of carbs is consumed, and regular Primal favorites are unappealing. Any idea what might be going on? Thanks.


During menstruation, a woman’s serotonin levels are at their lowest. And because carbohydrates (via insulin) increase the availability of the premier amino acid precursor to serotonin (tryptophan), craving carbs during your period is totally natural. It probably just means that you are low in serotonin (which, according to the research, you likely are) and your body wants to make more of it.

As for whether or not this is problematic, sports science offers another clue: during the mid-luteal phase (the two weeks leading up to menstruation) when estrogen dominates, the potential for glycogen storage is maximized. What that means is that for two weeks before your period rolls around, your muscles are primed to accept and store carbohydrate as energy (rather than as fat). I wouldn’t suggest you give in to the carb cravings as they typically manifest – muffins, cakes, pizza, cookies – but this might be a better time to eat a few Primal-friendly sources of carbs. Think sweet potatoes, white potatoesyamssquash, and various types of fruit. Oh, and high-quality dark chocolate, if that’s your thing. The fact that your cravings only surface during your period tells me that you’re in a good place, nutritionally, and that these cravings are physiologically normal and expected.

I have a son that is about 80 pounds overweight. He has high BP, addicted to video games, no exercise, eats no fruits, veggies. Will eat mostly pasta and is 18 yrs old. I don’t know what to do now. I have hired personal trainers, had doctors speak with him, tried cutting out all the bad food. Nothing works, Any suggestions?


Bring him to PrimalCon. No, seriously: do it if it’s at all possible.

At 18 years old, he’s not going to listen to his dad, a personal trainer, or a doctor. 18 year-olds are just stubborn creatures like that, and the harder you push the more they resist and grow entrenched in their ways. He probably won’t respond to outright declarative statements or advice directed at him. And he’s not going to read a blog you recommend or listen to a buff trainer trying to motivate him (unfortunately), because those seem contrived. The change has to be organic. He has to want to change. It has to develop on its own. I think if he hears from and sees a lot of healthy Primal people doing Primal things who are neither his parents nor people enlisted by his parents, he might be intrigued and even receptive to some of this stuff. It’s worth a shot, and we’d love to have you guys come out and join us.

Good luck, and if that doesn’t work out, write back and we can try something else.

Hi Mark, can you help! My mum and dad are giving me a really hard time about our 6 and 3 yr olds being primal!! Is it safe for them to eat lots of fat? I’m tearing my hair out as my mum is very against fat!!!!!


I’m sorry to hear that. Assuming you breastfed your kids, your parents must have been absolutely livid when the kids were younger, knowing that their diets consisted entirely of multiple, daily infusions of a 55% animal fat solution. Seriously, though – what do your parents think about human breastmilk? At 55% animal fat, it’s high-fat in anyone’s book. At what point does the animal fat become poison? Two years? Three? Six? It’s crazy. Just point them toward the fat content of breastmilk (which even a vegan will admit is a young child’s optimal food) and see if they come around. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. Your kids are fine.

However, I wouldn’t recommend outright limiting or restricting any one macronutrient when tiny active healthy humans are involved. Remember, these aren’t broken obese adults. Provide a wide range of healthy foods – eggs, meat, vegetables, fruit, sweet potatoes, broth, fermented items like kimchi or sauerkraut or yogurt – and your kids should be okay. And yes, if they want to reach for the stick of grass-fed butter for a little noshing, there’s not a thing wrong with it. A fun trick to pull is whipping out a marrow bone, a couple egg yolks, or any conventionally-maligned fat source when your kid gets hungry at the playground, especially if other kids and parents are nearby. From what I hear, it never fails to get a reaction.

That’s it for this week, folks. Keep sending the questions and 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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