How to Deal with Common Primal Stumbling Blocks

A 30-day Primal Blueprint Challenge wouldn’t be complete without you facing some actual challenges. Yesterday, because we’re all in this together, I asked you to share your struggles with everyone in the comment board. We all face hurdles everyday, but it’s not often that we get to discuss them with other like-minded individuals, let alone get advice on how to surmount them. Today, I’ll give my two cents. I’ve read through all your comments and collated them to arrive at a couple dozen to briefly discuss. In the future, this post will serve as a resource for solutions to challenges commonly encountered in the Primal lifestyle, an FAQ of sorts. If I’ve missed any major ones, let me know and I’ll see about including them.


“I’m fearing the fat.”

What is it that you fear, exactly? Do you worry that saturated fat is going to induce a heart attack? Cause it won’t. Or maybe you’re worried eating animal fat will turn into fat on your body. Reasonable concern, but it won’t do that, either, assuming you don’t eat way more food than you need. And eating too much rarely happens when you’re focusing on fat, because fat is highly satiating. Fat, you see, is the perfect fuel source for the human body, and once you’ve gotten past the low-carb flu, fat burning mode feels really, really right. To get to know fatty acids more intimately, check out my definitive guide on the subject.

I’m all for fearing trans-fat and processed seed and vegetable oils, but good fats from meat, dairy, olive, coconut, palm, fish, and actual nuts? There’s no reason to fear those.

“I’m having trouble getting enough protein.”

It’s doesn’t have to be that difficult. First, consult this excellent resource containing the protein content of common foods. Then, make sure to include one of the protein sources at every meal. Just eat some meat, a couple eggs, some fish, and call it a day.

“I’m scared of getting too much protein.”

Healthy people can handle plenty of protein. It’s true that some patients with impaired kidney function need to rein in their intake, but protein doesn’t precipitate the problem. In fact, there is far more evidence that animal protein is health-protective.

“I’m fighting a major sweet tooth.”

Ah, the sweet tooth. A common nemesis, judging from the responses in the comment section. I’m sorry to say it, but you’ll just have to bear it out. Stick with the plan, and in time the cravings will vanish and you’ll notice astonishing, subtle sweetness is common foods. I would advise against going nuts with fruit or artificial sweeteners (although if you’re going to use one, go for stevia, which has ulterior health benefits) to satisfy a sugar craving, as they’ll just feed into it and fruit will become like candy (psychologically). Just hold out, let the cravings pass, and then you’ll be able to enjoy fruit and even a bit of honey without going crazy for it.

“I can’t give up grains.”

Sure you can. Like all difficult but necessary things in life, there’s a ten-step process for that.

“Staying Primal on the road.”

You’ve simply got to be prepared. If you’re on the road on a regular basis, and it’s not just a fluke, one-time road trip or vacation, you have to start planning. Fill a cooler with hardboiled eggs, jerky, fruit, veggies, and other snacks. Cook a big batch of steak the day before and pack it in ice; cold steak is delicious. Canned tuna, sardines, salmon, and oysters are fine choices, too. In other words, read my guide to staying Primal on the road.

“I’m running out of ideas for recipes that last the whole week.”

There’s a seemingly endless stream of quality Primal recipes going up around the net (just Google “primal recipes” or “paleo recipes”), but this page and the comments here should get you started for now. And don’t forget about the two cookbooks I’ve put out to address this exact problem: The Primal Blueprint Cookbook and Primal Blueprint Quick & Easy Meals. For weeklong batches of food, stews, soups, roasts, and curries are the ticket. The crockpot is your friend. Keep some homemade broth on hand, plus plenty of fresh herbs. The best part is that the cheaper cuts of meat are best for stewing.


“I don’t know where to start.”

I’ve got just the thing: Primal Blueprint Fitness. It’s an extremely solid fitness plan for beginners looking for simple workouts, but it’s also good for more experienced folks who just want to stay in shape without spending a lot of time in the gym. You don’t even need any equipment, besides maybe a pullup bar (though any horizontal structure that can support your weight works). With PBF, you’ll learn how to lift heavy things, move frequently at a slow pace, and run really fast every once in awhile.

“I don’t know anything about…”


Maybe you just don’t like running? Sprinting doesn’t have to be sprinting on a track. It’s just about moving yourself through space (or using a stationary machine to simulate moving yourself through space) at breakneck speed. You want to go all out, whether it’s on a bike, crawling on all fours, running stairs, or swimming laps. Leave nothing on the table. Here are a few more tips.

“Lifting weights.”

Strength training is an essential human activity, and it can be physically difficult, but it shouldn’t be scary. If you need assistance with performing the actual lifts, check out my guides to the five essential movements: the squat, the pullup, the pushup, the overhead press, and the plank.

“Moving frequently at a slow pace.”

Learn how to walk again. Here’s why you should. If you’re going to do so barefoot, learn how to do that, too.

“I’m struggling with my workouts. Like, I’m not completing them and I’m getting weaker.”

Sounds like you’re overtraining. First, establish that you truly are overtraining. Read this post and get back to me. If you are overtraining, read this post to learn a ton of ways to solve the problem. Eat more food, eat better food, reduce volume/load/intensity, get more and better sleep… those are but a few.

“I can’t find time to exercise.”

Focus on making your workouts shorter and even more intense than before. Think Tabata intervals at four minutes a pop. Take ten minutes out of the day and go sprint up a hill six or seven times. Do pullups every time you pass the bar (or ledge, or whatever you can use to do pullups). And while you may not have time to go for hikes or long walks, as long as you’re moving (through the grocery store, while chasing toddlers, through campus toward your next class, etc), that counts.

“I struggle to play.”

I find that people who can’t seem to play have one of two problems (sometimes, but rarely, both). They either can’t come up with any good ways to play or they can’t get out of their heads long enough to just let loose and get silly. For the former, I have a few suggestions. You can dance, you can play Ultimate Frisbee, you can play Grok tag, you can join a sports league, you can even wrestle with your significant other. You just need some ideas. But as for the guy who can’t bring himself to play, I suggest boning up on how absolutely essential play is to the human animal. We need it to form social connections, to learn how to interact with the world and its inhabitants. And most importantly? It’s simply fun. So do that cartwheel, throw that frisbee, and let yourself laugh. It’s going to be okay. I promise.


“I get sleep, but I’m still tired.”

Sounds like you need better sleep. Luckily, I’ve got seventeen ways to get better sleep. I won’t go into detail here, but let’s just say it involves candlelit dinners of beef heart, sweet potato, and chicken liver.

“I struggle with shift work.”

Shift work stinks, but it pays the bills, so you gotta do it. And yes, sleep matters, and a happy circadian rhythm is good for your health, but neither put food on the table. But, by embracing your situation, eating strictly, training smartly, supplementing wisely, and tricking your body into thinking that everything is normal, you can definitely make it work.

“I can’t deal with stress.”

Nobody wants cortisol coursing through their body on a perpetual basis. If you truly can’t avoid stress (and I can’t, nor can most of humanity), then you have to mitigate it. To lessen its load. To reduce its impact on your life. Here are 15 ways to mitigate, avoid, and manage the stressors in your life. There are some lifestyle changes, some supplementation, and some dietary modifications, but they’re all effective.

“I burn too easily.”

Don’t slather on the sunblock. Instead, bolster your internal, endogenous resistance to UV rays by employing any number of dietary and supplementary strategies. In other words, eat more cooked tomatoes, drink tea, eat more animal fat, eat fish, and take some vitamin D – to name just a few.

“I struggle with my doctor’s recommendation that I avoid all sun.”

Look, it doesn’t take a lot. I’m not saying you should lay out for two hours every day and develop a deep, dark leathery tanned hide. I’m simply suggesting that you get 15-20 minutes of unfiltered sunlight on as much of your exposed skin as possible. Vitamin D synthesis in the skin happens pretty quickly, and for a fair-skinned person 15-20 minutes of full sun are enough to produce 10-20k IUs. Barring that, of course, you could just supplement with vitamin D, but I prefer to get it from the sun.


“My partner doesn’t support my lifestyle.”

We can all deal with people who don’t understand the Primal life, but as for living with someone who’s blatantly hostile to it? That’s tough. Luckily, I wrote an article explaining how to deal with an unsupportive partner. It boils down to being comfortable in your own (Primal) skin, letting your results be the best argument, securing a little section in the kitchen for your foods, and finding a supportive community elsewhere (like here on MDA – see The Forum).

“Family dinners are impossible.”

If you think regular family dinners are tough, Thanksgiving is even worse. Whether you choose to politely turn down the off-limit items, try to convert people to your way of eating, sneak in Primal replacements for neolithic foods, or give in and call it an “80/20 day,” do so with confidence and without guilt. This is your family, and you love (most of) them, but it’s also your life, your health, and your body – and you love that stuff too.

“I can’t explain the PB to friends without sounding crazy.”

No problem. Just give them this PDF. And casually lift the bottom of your shirt to wipe your face as you do it, revealing rippling abdominals that serve as silent testimony to the program’s effectiveness.

“I feel weird eating with others when bad food is around. I can’t handle the strange looks I get.”

Don’t give in to the mob mentality. Either stick to your guns with confidence or give in to the compromise without guilt.

“I hate bringing my own food to parties. I look weird and it isolates me from the others.”

If you’re at a party, rather than nurse your raw lamb liver carpaccio in a corner, bring something to share with everyone else. I suggest something covered in bacon. Bacon-covered dates, bacon-covered dark chocolate (or the other way around), bacon-covered balls of bacon bits. Everyone loves bacon.

“I struggle finding things to eat when out with my friends.”

Sounds like you need the Primal Blueprint guide to dining out. There’s always something you can eat. It may not be perfect, but you can definitely mitigate the harm.

I almost didn’t write this post, because judging from yesterday’s comments, you folks pretty much know what you need to do to get past these hurdles. You have great ideas, oftentimes totally different from what I’ve written about, and I love that. This is all a great big mutual learning experience, after all. So – that’s my attempt at condensing hundreds of struggles into a single, readable post. I’m sure I missed a few worthy ones, so let me know about it in the comment section. Grok on!

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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110 thoughts on “How to Deal with Common Primal Stumbling Blocks”

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  1. Here is another excuse for sprinting from a girls perspective. I don’t like my ‘twins’ to bounce all over the place while I haven’t found a bra that keeps them up and in place. I don’t want to carry them in my shoes in a couple years…

    I would love to run, in fact I used to run ALL the time and everywhere. I was a late bloomer, then I don’t know what happened. Especially since going primal they seem to have gotten bigger. They’re quite fun in the bedroom, but that’s where the fun ends.

    1. Seriously, I know how you feel. I hate running (and always have) for this exact reason. Swimming is your friend. No bounce, no extra weight…and they actually give you a little extra workout because of the ‘drag’.
      Oh, and check out the ‘frog bra’ at Title Nine. It’s the one my doc recommended. 🙂

      1. I just ran in Title 9’s 9K race in the bay area and visited their sports bra tent. Unfortunately, (my favorite too!) the frog bra is on hold until they find another manufacturer for it. But they’ve got some great replacements that are rated on a “bounce” scale. They had some really great no-bounce options — I used to wear 2 but have found that wearing just 1 really good one works (even as a DD gal).

    2. Have you tried wearing more than one bra? I often wear three.

      I realize that might sound ridiculous especially as I’m not particularly well-endowed but I like it.

      I usually wear a regular bra, a sports bra and and tank with a built-in shelf bra.

      As I say, it might sound weird but it works for me. 🙂

    3. has a few lines of sports bras, including one that goes all the way up to K. They’re more expensive than department store bras (and then you add shipping), but if you’ve got bigguns they really can’t be beat.

    4. Ah thanks for all the tips. Def. gonna check out all the web sites recommended. 🙂

    5. Enell bras. They’re expensive, and they’re tight (so make sure you get your measurements right), but they’re AMAZING. I wear a 34G and the Enell sports bras are the only ones that let me do all the leaps in my dance classes comfortably. (And I can jump pretty high. ;D)

      1. Yes, Enell are great as well as moving comfort. Allison I was wearing three at a time as well, last year I got my “twins” reduced and lifted, but I still wear a great sports bra – Lock N Load Ladies 🙂

    6. Okay, this is gross, but here is another girl reason I drag my feet when it comes to sprinting: those of us who have had babies can relate that, um, there can be a little “leakage” when doing all out sprinting and sudden stopping. Ugh!

      1. Kegel exercises REALLY work. I had that problem too due to giving birth to 6 children. I was in trouble if I coughed, sneezed, did jumping jacks, or sprinted. Now I can do all. But you have to Kegel quite a bit and often. Like when you come to a stop light, or watching TV, or cutting up vegetables.

    7. ok, i am a tandem nursing mama who is a 28J or something like that. so i feel your pain. i LOVE the jeunique bras – they don’t have underwire (which kind of freaks me out considering wires create electromagnetic fields and i don’t want two of them centered around my breasts). and i can wear these and jump on our huge trampoline with my kids.

    8. Champion makes a jog bra that is incredible. I ran while I was nursing my baby with size E boobies and I was comfortable. Check them out at Title Nine Sports online. They give barbells to indicate how supportive the bra. I have heard that the Frog Bra is a good one too.

    9. sigh, they don’t always last forever…love em while you got em.

    10. Awww – sometimes I wish I had this problem. The ‘A’s really have no bounce – in fact after 4 kids they are kind of like skin flaps :). But I feel your pain indirectly, my sister in law has huge boobs and she hates them. Maybe a bra fitting seminar would help you to find a great bra???

    11. I guess this is a question for girls but Mark, I would love to hear your opinion. Are bras primal? What would Grokette do? I realize that they are a blessing in the modern world, but I try to limit my bra wearing around the house, only wear them when I go out or some physical activity. I read that they can actually cause breast cancer. Don’t know about all that, but was wondering about other people’s 2 cents.

  2. Alcohol is the thing I struggle with. 3-4 glasses of red per night is probably not quite paleo.

    1. Me too. I sometimes dilute red wine with some seltzer water and sliced fruit. It helps turn 3-4 glasses of red into 1-2. Google tinto de verhano for a good recipe like this.

    2. I agree with this one – it’s pretty tough to come home from work, and fight the urge to have a few beers or glasses of wine with dinner.

      Also, to comment on the sweet tooth thing mentioned in the article – I HIGHLY recommend making a batch of Primal chocolate chip cookies and having a few of those every night. I’ve been doing that for about 2 weeks now, and am still losing weight like crazy. And besides, they are SOOOO FRIGGIN’ GOOD!!!

    3. Here’s a blog post from last week about dealing with a nightly wine habit.
      A few years ago I went on the South Beach Diet. It was the first time I experienced having no sweet tooth (but I still wanted wine). I think once the body is well-nourished, those cravings go away. This blog post discusses using amino acid supplements to provide the brain chemicals the body is screaming for when you feel a craving. I have used amino acid supplements to help with carb cravings between meals. It worked very well for me.

  3. I’m glad you wrote this post Mark. While some people will pour through myriads of comments discussing these issues, many will not. To have all of the struggles listed and how to overcome them all in one post, is brilliant. I find it very beneficial for myself, but this is also a great one stop post for others trying to get on board the primal gig. I always find that when I’m dicussing with people about the lifestyle, that they never disagree on the results or the science, it’s always some inner conflict about not letting go of grains. This post is a great way to help them transition!

  4. “Just give them this PDF. And casually lift the bottom of your shirt to wipe your face as you do it, revealing rippling abdominals that serve as silent testimony to the program’s effectiveness.” Haha. I love it.

    This post is a wonderful resource.

  5. “And casually lift the bottom of your shirt to wipe your face as you do it, revealing rippling abdominals that serve as silent testimony to the program’s effectiveness.”

    Man, that was gold.

  6. My wife and I have been able to take to the outdoors without having to slather sunblock this year. Our son has some allergies to sunblock (breaks out in a rash, particularly on his face) and we decided to give it up completely, so we could get a better handle on when he needs to come out of the sun (by understanding and feeling when we need to get out of the sun). Works great, and we’ve effectively spent (an admittedly short) summer burn free. The worst we’ve gotten is “slightly pink” – a darn good improvement for the Northern European stock from which we hail.

    1. 1] Take off the sunglasses – the eyes ‘need’ to see the sun to activate the part of the brain to get the message to the skin so it can protect itself. Read the book ‘Daylight Robbery’

      2] Going sugarless is the best…look at steak on the bbq…the marinated steak burns to black and the plain steak browns…a prime ingredient of most purchased marinades…sugar. In ‘Daylight Robbery’ the author recommends that it can take twelve months to clean the system of sugar and then you can spend time outdoors with very minimal burning. I used to get severe sunburn in ten minutes until I decreased my sugar…work in progress to get to zero sugar…

  7. “bacon-covered balls of bacon bits”
    recipe link??? oh wait, Dave should have that!!
    Issabeau: Moving comfort or Title 9 works for me.

    To all: I work 3 to 5 jobs all the time. I still find time to walk my dog twice a day (move slowly, or quick), I do body weight stuff here at the office (ala 100 pushups, etc) & get in some sprints & other stuff. You either want it or you come up with an excuse…

  8. Good post! I needed this to remind me that there are no excuses to skip too much on the Fitness part…

  9. Great stuff Mark, I might start taking some vitamin D, try getting 15-20 minutes of good sun in the Uk!

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am currently dealing with a pissed off teenager (about not having chips)and have relented a bit for him to save my sanity, but I love all this back up info and will definatey use it for this week! I was also on a busines trip this weekend and I was overjoyed to find out catered lunch for the meeting was roasted veggies and cut up chicken breast, all laid out on a platter with optional pita with it, rather than all wraps or sandwiches! The Primal Goddess must have been taking care of me that day!! LOL…

    1. Try making your own chips. Use a mandolin to slice potatoes (sweet is better) thin and fry in grass fed beef tallow. Much better than “canola oil and/or sunflower oil and/or soybean oil”

      1. I agree, Dan. It’s hard to keep growing kids fed. Sometimes I feel like all I do is go grocery shopping and cook for the kids. If I keep them off the grains and the sugar, I think potatoes are fine (especially if they’re either local or good quality organic). Fried up in some bacon fat–yum! I think if we start beating them up too much over food they may do a 180 on us and we’ll find them in the back of a dark pizza parlor! Besides, in the end, I find that the meat is usually gone and I have leftover potatoes!

  11. I really have to second joining a sports league.

    I worked out in the gym for years – really, about 10 – before giving thought to trying a new sport with the fitness I’ve earned. I decided to try playing soccer – granted, I was never a soccer player in my youth so I was starting at age 33.

    Since then, it’s been one of my best motivations for eating and living a clean life and getting my gym work in. Now there’s a company team I’ll be trying to make and it forced me to be even more on top of my lifestyle, as well as trying to increase my game.

    Even if it’s a sport you’ve never played or barely played, think about it!

  12. The answer for “I’m fighting a major sweet tooth” really seems like a cop out. Or maybe it’s just ignorant. For lots of people, especially those with depression or women with imbalanced hormones, the cravings don’t go away and abstinence through willpower is a terribly ineffective way of dealing with them. The least that could be offered is a suggestion to supplement magnesium.

    1. Giving up carbs really does kill the cravings. I dropped down to 20 grams/day (really low) after 3 days of that the physical cravings do go away. you do have to tough it out for 3 days. if you drop down that low you should slowly add back on till you hit your personal good carb level.

    2. I agree. Sugar is like heroin. I don’t care about alcohol at all…just the celebratory glass of wine a few times a year… and I haven’t done drugs, but I’d like to be locked in a cottage on a remote island for a few days until I could get it all out of my system.
      I would be interested in hearing about more supports for quitting, because hearing “just don’t eat it” is like me telling an alcoholic “just don’t drink.”

      1. Do a search on this site – How to Dog Whisper Your Food Cravings…


        “Craving candy? You may need sulfur, you inflammatory little nugget, you. Try garlic, onions, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or brussels sprouts. And pineapple works wonders.”

        “Sugary snacks and starches such as donuts and bread – you might be dehydrated. Drink some water and get a little nutritional acid by way of a piece of fruit, such as an apple.”

    3. I’ve had a MAJOR sweet tooth all my life and found that after eating Paleo for a couple of weeks I lost interest in the sugary morsels that used to make me buckle and binge. In fact, my sweet cravings were replaced by meat cravings..much more satisfying.

  13. Fat makes me sick. I can handle salmon, no problem, but fattier meats, like bacon and pork roasts make me want to gag immediately, and if I eat them, I am sick on my stomach.

    Hunger, and the absense substitutes with dryer, warmer feel to them. Nuts do it, but they are too binge-prone and too high in O6.

    1. Avocados & wonderous coconut milk & oil
      their fat will really keep u satisfied.
      Or has me & I went cold turkey from all sweets after drinking bout 1/2 cup between 2 cups of coffee & bout 1/2 gallon of sweet tea everyday along w/various other junk. If I would have known coconut milk would kill all my cravings i would have been chugging it a long time ago!!! My first week was great. Think I have a touch of carb flu since yesterday. so i upped my green intake 🙂

  14. Regarding the sweet tooth, I found that cutting out all chocolate for a week, then returning to having some high-quality dark chocolate (Dagoba, yum!) made it that much better — and at 27 grams of carbohydrates per bar, that doesn’t overdo it.

    1. Jackie, I, too, find that dark chocolate (Lindt 85% cocoa for me!) works well. But for a real sugar craving, I go for fresh berries. I live near Seattle, so Washington strawberries (which are dark red all the way through) or blueberries really do it for me!

      1. Ooh, fresh berries! Now, if I could master how to whip up coconut milk a la whipped cream, that would be fabulous with strawberries…

        1. Have you tried the method where you chill the milk overnight and then pour the “watery” part of the coconut milk off before whipping? I learned it from a local vegan class. I’m not vegan, but I like checking out their tips for using non-dairy milks since I’m allergic to dairy. I’m sneaky that way. 🙂

          I found a video online that describes the method presented in the class here in town. Search for “How to Make Vegan Whipped Cream” on 5min . com.

          I don’t use the Thai kitchen brand because all the Thai kitchen coconut milk I’ve seen have gums in them and I don’t ingest gums (guar, xantham, etc). I found a brand at the local Asian store that doesn’t have gums added, so it separates nicely when chilled.

          That brand has coconut milk and coconut cream. According to wikipedia, the difference is just the fat content – like with animal milk versus cream. I used the cream for making whipped cream to go on top of the “revised peach crisp” from Elana’s Pantry. Decadent. And I don’t put sugar in it like the guy on 5min . com does; just a tsp or two of vanilla extract.

        2. I lived in the Seattle area as a teenager back in the mid 70’s (Federal Way). WE grew strawberries and also had two cherry trees and two apples trees in our backyard. Those strawberries were huge…

  15. Can I throw out softball as a sprinting suggestion? Most people dismiss it as the lazy stuff of work picnics and beer drinking and not exactly a calorie-burning heart-pumper. All that’s true.

    But for the purpose of fitting in a few all-out sprints every week, an even mildly competitive softball game gets the job done. In my experience you’ll get 4 to 5 sprints in every game – hauling ass to first on a ground ball, running after the ball that got over year head in the outfield, etc…

    Yeah, I’m not very good.

  16. My stumbling block is the social aspect of going out for beers/drinks. I can do the one and done, but have to leave. If I stay then next thing you know I am beer four…

    1. So I hear tequila (100% agave), gin, whiskey and vodka have no carbs in them. I’ve become a tequila-man since going Primal. It works pretty well. 😀

    2. One suggestion I use is to turn up late, slowly drink your one beer/wine/spirit and leave when the first person goes…timing is important of course.

      Or as a friend of my daughter does, implement the 8.30 rule which is his code to his wife [and friends] that it is time to go because the event has reached it’s ‘use by’. It can be 8.30 at any time during the event.

      I have used both and the best part is that I felt I was in control…the more I do it the more positive I feel in keeping the friendships AND PB.

  17. I’m looking for ways to exercise more primally while pregnant. This summer I kept up some of the push-ups and pull-ups, but that’s really uncomfortable for me now. Other than going on good walks in my Vibrams, any ideas?

  18. This hits all the highlights for me; I just got home from a trip to visit Mom and found it difficult to plan ahead for their grain/vegetarian/carb laden lifestyle.

    She actually burst into tears when I told her I was going Primal a few months ago. I brought your book Mark and lightly, delicately made a few suggestions.

    But now I’m back on the bacon w/ berries this a.m. YUM FREAKIN’ YUM.

  19. My body is rebelling at being primal after all the junk it’s had the past few years. My feet are swollen up almost double and I gained 10 pounds of water weight in a week. I’m hoping in another week or so it’s going to level out. I’m backwards from normal – less salt because I’m not eating chips and crackers and salty snacks means water retention and bloat for me.

    1. Salt causing water retention is a red herring, from what I’ve read. You can find some good studies on it, but there was one good one in particular. They provided all food so they could control the diet. For several weeks they provided them a “mediteranean” style diet with no added salt, and measured their blood pressure at regular intervals. Then for the same period of time they fed them the same diet but with a very high level of added salt. The difference? +1 on the systolic and +1 on the diastolic. Total. From no salt to heavy salt.

      1. Read the Gary Taubes paper
        “The Political Science of Salt”. He wrtoe it back in 1998. Very revealing. To sum up: don’t worry about salt. Wheat and sugar will increase your blood pressure though!

    2. Reintroduce real salt – Celtic or Himalayan salt – to your diet…and up your water intake if you haven’t already done so…

  20. “This is your family, and you love (most of) them, but it’s also your life, your health, and your body – and you love that stuff too.”

    I got a good laugh out of the most of them part.

    Good post, Mark! It’s nice to get these refreshers!

  21. I have been sprinting to the steps and then running up the steps at work. I have to often go up stairs to use the fax machine. My husband Jeff has been trying the sprinting up the steps 6 or 7 times in a row and he can’t believe the difference in his body. The other day Jeff says to me, “Lets race by sprinting to the front of the store and see who gets there 1st”. It was fun mixing it up with play, but I did think afterward that it was a good thing we didn’t run into anyone.

  22. Constipation, anyone?

    Going primal has meant I’m more aware of my body, what is going into it and what is coming out of it (!)

    Although I’ve struggled with constipation off and on for my whole life (yeah, since I was an infant!), giong primal has kicked off a relapse of constipation.

    I’ve followed links to the Fibre Menace/Gut Sense site, which I’ve found to be incredibly helpful, and I’m following his advice as best I can without buying his products – he does tell you is IN his products so it’s possible to closely approximate them from local sources.

    Apparently, going low-carb is a really common cause of constipation, as people wean themselves off fibre but don’t have enough good gut bacteria to replace it.

    So, it’s getting better, but I’d still class it as a Going Primal Struggle, which could have turned into a major issue without finding the right advice.

    1. I’ve been primal/paleo for about 2 months now, but was struggling with the big C for much longer than that. I’d already eliminated gluten and dairy, which alleviated a lot of symptoms, but it wasn’t until I read Fiber Menace that somehow, everything clicked. I was already taking magnesium supplements, aloe vera juice, and probiotics, but I read the ingredients in his Hydro-C, and figured I’d try a bit of Vitamin C to alleviate my issues, in addition to lowering my fiber a bit (no more psyllium husk!). My, what a solution – it’s been a dream for 3 weeks now. Fiber Menace was a great resource.

    2. If you are super low carb (20-30 g/day) you can easily get constipated if you are prone to it. I used sugar-free Fiber Choice, one tablet twice a day and that solved it. Once you go higher carb (100 g) you might not need it any more.

      1. Primal Dessert: One square of chocolate (>=85^ cacao) dipped in coconut oil.

        Thankfully I have never suffered from the big C before or after my diet change. Try black coffee.

        1. Yup. The caffeine will stimulate the bowels. Try not to need this though…

    3. I’m so surprised to hear people become constipated on this diet. I actually suffer from it because of thyroid disease, but I will say since I started this diet my body functions like a well oiled machine. I have noticed my bowel movements slow down if I don’t eat as many veggies one day. Maybe try upping your greens and vegetables.

    4. Eat things fried in coconut oil and supplement with magnesium and vitamin c. Does the trick for me.

  23. My sweet tooth was too entrenched to just tough it out. Instead I negotiated with it. I started by doing portion control.

    I planned my sweets into my other changes. I knew I was going to have them and didn’t stress over them so I didn’t feel guilty or like it was a failure. I think one of the biggest factors in being able to stick with this past the first month was cherry sour balls. No redeeming value other than they were small, I could usually stop with 2-6 once a day (mostly evenings), no grains, and they kept me from most more detrimental “cheats” such as oh, I dunno, a whole container of ice cream or package of cookies. ; )

    Three months later and I have better sweet resistance, sticking to a couple squares good dark chocolate many days with some days none and other days something not as good but smaller portions than I would have ever done in the past. Sweets can sit for days or weeks in my house now, something I couldn’t have imagined happening just a couple of months ago. I’ve still lost over 25 lbs, “might” have been more if I could have foregone the sweet entirely but I’m not sure I would have stuck with it if I had had to. I knew myself enough to know that was a weak area that needed working around.

    Just bought an ice cream maker so I can sometimes have that again, coconut milk ice cream using coconut sugar ; ). Ordered almond flour to make the occasional baked primal treat. Part of my personal challenge for the 30 days is to have any sweets be primal.

    1. Congrats on losing 25 lbs so far! For a LOT of great almond flour recipes, look at Elana’s Pantry online, pecanbread . com, and check your library for books that have recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. That diet’s been around for a long time and is completely grain/soy/legume/refined-sugar free. There’s a big community of people who’ve been developing recipes using nut flours and coconut flour for _years_. Some of them are fantastic. The midas gold pancakes on pecanbread are great. And on Elana’s site, I can vouch for the breakfast bars and the biscotti. 🙂

  24. It takes 10 min here in the Australian sun to know that sunscreen is one of those benefits of modern society. There is no way diet can substitute covering up and using sunscreen here unless you are a complete couch potato.

    1. I just came back from Europe (to Australia). One day, after spending 4 hours in the sun there with no sunscreen on, I was a little bit pink. If I did that here, I’d have 1st degree burns! But I think it’s all about balance – not getting terrified of the sun, but not going crazy with it either.

    2. As a Queenslander and I swear I use very little sunscreen now since I have minimised sugar and starch and I have had no case of sunburn for many years…

  25. Compared to all the ridiculous fad/weight loss diets out there, primal is pretty damn easy in my opinion. Plus a whole lot healthier.

    1. Meat, a green and a red/orange/yellow vegetable, flipped for a minute or two in the sauté pan and finished with real butter, and a salad with olive oil and lemon, or a piece of fruit with cheese or almond butter. Standard dinner, every nite (and breakfast too, since I’m intolerant of eggs 🙁 ). What’s hard about that? Easy, fast, available in any restaurant, and how anybody could think weird totally beyond me.

      Nothing’s easier than Primal.

  26. For the sweet tooth thing I’ve resolved to Larabars, and I’ve recently made my own. Eating them with a bit of full-fat whipped cream cheese totally does the trick. Also making your own almond milk with vanilla bean and cinnamon makes a great sweet-tooth snack. Also, I highly recommend Mimi Kirk’s “Live Raw” book for awesome high-fat smoothies made with avocados and cacao powder. Soooo goooood 🙂

  27. You done good Mark, tks for directly addressing the (non-compliant) family issue. I’ll bring them along one slab of bacon (side of broccoli) at a time!

  28. I have a pre-Primal lifestyle injury that prohibits me from high-impact activities. This has really put a damper on the traditional sprint and some play (no cartwheels here) but instead of running/sprinting I now hike with a heavy pack (or carrying a baby) and I sprint on my bike. As for play, I try to climb around on things in the backyard or even inside (visiting friends have gotten used to the dirty footprints and scuff marks on the walls) just as I did in my childhood years.

  29. I find it very hard to avoid alcohol and I am out 2 to 3 nights a week. I know Mark says that occasional red wine is ok, but I am pretty sure that I am drinking way more than what he terms as occasional. What is occasional anyway?
    For this year’s 30 day primal challenge I had decided to cut out alcohol and so far I’ve failed miserably!

    1. Occasional alcohol? Just drink it occasionally every evening. Not recommended for breakfast although tequila, vodka and gin have no carbs. Maybe they’d be OK for breakfast. Eggs pickled in Vodka? Yum!

  30. Forgive me. I am English after all and have our national reputation to maintain. As a Brit I would like to see a recipe thread that caters for us. I love the recipes here but, you know, we eat different things, have different brands, and dare I say it, speak a different language. I have Mark’s cook books but don’t recognise many of the ingredients. You say zuccini and I say courgettes. You say rutabagas and I say “what on earth is that”? You eat a lot of Bison – we eat a lot of lamb. Just different – that’s all. Stil smiling!

    1. I know this is a shameless plug but a friend has written a low carb cookbook with English measurements and food available and commonly eaten in the UK. It is available as an ebook on Kindle, Kobo and other sites. It is under the author name of Budding books.

  31. I found it kind of easy to give up rice, flour products, beans, and grains. Giving these foods up also helped with my 3pm sugar cravings, which I don’t have any more.

    I had a slip up a few weeks ago, where I gorged on pizza — but that was more turning to a “comfort” food in a time of stress — learned behavior for sure.

    The only sugar I use now is in my coffee, and I keep that to 2 tsps. per day. I also eat dark chocolate a few times a week, but that’s it. I have been finding it very easy to avoid the typical office pastry and donuts, and birthday cakes, because I have lost a taste for them. I’ve also found that my red wine consumption has also gone down. I think the carbs I was eating in the mornings were in fact creating my cravings for more and more sugar throughout the day.

    I discovered PB about a month ago, and I finally dropped some weight I have been trying to get rid of for years — five pounds with no effort whatsoever.

    Pre-PB, I was running marathons, doing chronic carido, eating brown rice and oatmeal, double fiber whole grain bread, and avoiding all saturated fat.

    But get this: Despite these efforts, I was gaining weight, not losing, and couldn’t understand why. Now I get how insulin influences fat storage.

    My blood pressure dropped from pre-hypertension levels to the normal range 117-123/69-80 in just a few weeks.

    I’m not 100% perfect, but it’s a journey, and I”m in it for the long haul. Thanks, Mark!


    A buddy and I were joking this morning and came across a donation website…then I saw the below and it hit me. If these little critters can’t eat this stuff, imagine how dangerous it really is to us. It’s like, “Death by 1000 cuts.”

    Check out the bottom of this website:

    Absolutely NO Chocolate (Poisonous!!!), cookies, crackers, breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, yogurt drops or other “human treats.” There is research to suggest these items may contribute to fatal cases of enterotoxaemia, a toxic overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the intestinal tract.

  33. I really enjoy this website & all the helpful info & insights. I started Low Carb in Jan, going sugar & grain-free cold turkey. Made it thru the carb flu & then moved onto the Primal lifestyle. My health has improved 100%. I try to walk 15-20 miles a week & have dropped 12-15lbs & many inches. However my progress seems to have stalled. I can tell that I still have some unwanted fat to lose but it won’t budge. I do not eat sugar,grains and very few carbs. My diet consists of fresh eggs, meat, poultry, whey protein, fresh veggies & fruit, nuts, butter, olive & coconut oil & lots of water. I get full quickly & can’t eat as much as I used too. I try to do IF but can no longer get my body into Ketosis. Guess I am just wondering if anyone else has hit this kind of wall & how to get beyond it. Thanks again for your wonderful website.

    1. If I were you I would try cutting the fruit and nuts completely…

      Also, you should research whatever veggies you are eating, as not all veggies are created equal.

      If that doesn’t help, you can look into avoiding veggies which have a natural starch content. I’ve gotten a crash course as my sister has a medical condition that preclused ALL starch, and we’ve found that some produce has starch, and that the levels of starch can get really high if it isn’t harvested/stored/transported exactly right. Things like cucumbers and avocados. An avocado that was shipped properly comes up negative in a iodine starch test, other ones come up positive.

      Once you are not taking in grains/legumes, it is possible to get pretty much all of the vitamins and minerals you need from meat sources.

      1. Thank you for the reply. I am confused. I thought from reading Mark’s posts that avacados,root veggies, nuts etc.. were things we should be eating.
        I don’t eat potatoes, rice,peas,legumes,grains. As I said I do eat some fruit in the form of berries, peaches,& some bananas. I usually eat green beans, leafy greens,tomatoes,squash,zuchinni,peppers in addition to eggs, meats & fats.

    2. Mark has several posts here on MDA dealing with your very problem. Try searching for “hitting a plateau” or “weight loss plateau” – something of that sort sort in the search box above and you’ll probably find something that may help you. Good luck and keep Groking!

  34. Awesome post. I bet this helps a lot of people.
    I found it inspiring to stay on track.
    With all the regular struggles I have to deal with I realize I shouldn’t be doing stupid things and adding any more extra, which I’ve been doing a lot of, so I’m taking some steps to fix those problems.
    Step 1: detoxing myself from evil big pharma chemicals. Enough tripping – I don’t need more stumbling blocks.

  35. I have no problem falling asleep. I could go to bed at 9pm, 10, 11…up to about 2am and will get up at 4 or 5am and feel great. I rarely sleep until 6am. My mind is alert when I wake. Staying in bed and trying to sleep longer is impossible. Later in the day though, I really want a nap. If I get one I feel great until I go to bed. If I don’t get a nap, then I have an hour or two of slugishness. Does anyone else experience this? I really would like to sleep 8 hours, but I can’t. I am not very stressed that I am aware.

    1. DB..Sounds like you are doing fine with your present sleep patterns as long as you get a nap. If taking a nap fits in with your life then what is the problem? Not everyone is the same. No need to be concerned over something that isn’t a problem. Right?

      Maybe you just need to schedule nap time each day if that is possible and go with what your body is telling you.

  36. Sometimes I crave the taste of baked sour cream cheddar chips so I chew a few and spit them out. Craving satisfied.

    Cheating? Yeah. But I noticed I do not have cravings if I eat a good amount of red meat each day.

    On days I eat fish my craving levels go up. I’ve been experimenting with adding avocado with various white fishes as well as chicken and I do not get cravings.

    If I get a real cheese craving I pound some kefir.

  37. My stumbling blocks so far have been that when I first started, I was really, really thirsty. I think I had gone into ketosis and my body really didn’t like it. I was having to get up int he night to drink more, but nothing satisfied the thirst. Anyway, I found that eating a bit of fruit was enough to keep me losing weight without feeling as though my insides were drying out.

    My current problem is what to do when you get sick. A coupl eof weeks in, and I came down with a virus and was too wiped out for proper cooking and hadn’t yet stocked up my freezer with nourishing broth or started making water kefir to soothe my stomach and quench my thirst. So I’ve had a couple of days of eating a load of stuff that I shouldn’t, thinking of what to do for next time and practising not feeling guilty – tomorrow I’ll be back to properly primal eating again, and I’ll start now by going to bed and getting enough sleep.

  38. I am sooo glad I have been eating Primal for a while,and low-carb for many years before that. Now that I am dealing with pain from sciatica, it would be so much easier to grab ready-made food….but I am in the habit of making most of what I eat,and not eating packaged food this isnt setting me back. I was inspired by “Daveman” bouncing back from surgery, and I hope I can bounce back(gently!) from this enforced exercise break!

  39. I sometimes take care of my occasional craving for sweets by putting a few frozen dark sweet cherries in a bowl and pouring a bit of organice heavy cream over them. The cream solidifies and it’s very much like ice cream but without added sugar.

  40. Here’s one that appears to be rare. I get sick whenever I try to change my diet. I get nervous, jittery. I’m exhausted, but I can’t sleep. My stomach becomes upset and my intestines seem to shut down. I become impossible to be around; I’m not a party to be with when I’m normal..heh. I get crankier, depressed. My eyesight can get blurry. I try to wait it out, but at times I’ve become almost dysfunctional. I takes me a few days to go back to normal after I begin to eat the SAD (standard American diet) again. I wonder if anybody else had had such trouble? I’ve tried to make the transition gradually, quickly and everway in between. Same problem

  41. You don’t have to tough out the sweet cravings. Someone tool me about Chromium. I tried it–no sweet cravings. I took a couple of capsules a day until the bottle ran out, and none since. I really don’t miss it, or the carbs. My treats are really goo olives, butter and steak. I lost almost 15 punds in a few months, gained lots of muscle using power plates and Pilates. My alergies are gone and I feel great.

  42. I’m an avid homebrewer so I love a good beer. I try not to overdo it so I wind up giving most of it away.

    Still, nothing beats a cold one on a hot day on the patio.

  43. I feel like I’m the only person the low carb thing doesn’t work for. I have tried low carb/paleo vs Low fat/moderate carb Paleo same amount of calories for both and I can lose weight on low fat but not low carb.

  44. I am a 54 year old male who took up cycling three years ago. I joined a group on a 900klm dirt track ride 12 months after starting. The following year I was encouraged to join some friends in a half iron man event which I finished in 6.25 hours and felt great after. Two months after that event I trained for a difficult mountain foot race (10klm with 1000mtr high). However, I become quite sick after this event and have spent the last 3 months trying to get over it. From what I am reading here, I have overtrained. I have taken it pretty steady in this time but each time I get on my bike, even to do a short ten klm ride I develop a sore burning throat, and other flu like symptoms.I find I can ride longer but I know I will suffer. How long will this take to repair, if at all?

    1. Hi Peter
      Sounds like there is other stuff going on, 3 months is a long time to be feeling like that, I would visit the Doc to have a few tests, it may be something really easy like a bowel/bacteria overgrowth, but it could be something else which needs attention. I am similar age and cycle lots, it takes a while to recover from big events but not 3 months. Good luck

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