You’re Not Going to Change Overnight

A recent article confirms that, for better or worse, instant body composition changes from diet or exercise are relatively few and far between. Now, the exercise and diet routines referenced in the NY Times piece were likely conventional low-fat, low-cal diets and traditional workouts (chronic cardio, isolation exercises) as opposed to Primal, but I agree with the basic conclusions: that changes in body composition only come with diligence and consistency. If you’re expecting instant results, prepare to be disappointed.

And that disappointment, I think, is at the heart of what causes most derailments. I’ve said this before, but our society is afflicted with a sense of entitlement. We feel entitled to quick results without making the changes that make them possible. We are essentially a country of line-cutters, totally unwilling to consider patience. (Don’t get me wrong. I’m the biggest proponent of finding the easiest route, the simplest method and cheats or hacks to get the best results with minimal effort. There is an important distinction here. It’s about working smart instead of working hard. Unfortunately, too many people are unwilling or unprepared to even do the former.) Conventional fitness and diet advice don’t help. People are inundated with talk of instant results, “eat chocolate cake and lose 10 pounds in a week!” type nonsense – and that just isn’t realistic. On the contrary, it’s basically harmful because it gives us unrealistic expectations. When those expectations aren’t met, we tend to get discouraged or, even worse, assume that all “diets” and all exercise are futile endeavors.

In an ironic way, the founded-on-evolutionary-science Primal Blueprint is actually quite perfect for the modern “instant results” crowd. It’s not a withholding diet (unless you’re addicted to carbs, in which case: knock it off!). It doesn’t leave you starving at the end of the day. You get to eat “forbidden” foods, like rare steaks and fried eggs. And because it instantly snaps us back into the efficient hunter-gatherer mode our bodies are meant to run on, most people who try the Primal Blueprint and stick to it enjoy immediate and protracted benefits.

“Stick to it.” “Protracted.” These are key words here. This is why thinking of the Primal Blueprint, and really any dietary change, as a lifestyle choice, rather than a temporary diet, is absolutely crucial to our success. Even though most people report amazing results with Primal eating and exercising right off the bat, no body is the same. Just because Son of Grok and others got incredible results in a short amount of time, it’s possible that not everyone who switches to Primal will have the same experience. I genuinely believe that anyone who goes 100% Primal will quickly see major changes, but there are always the outliers.

Just don’t let that deter you from your ultimate goals: good health, a strong body, and an enjoyable life. Keep your eye on the prize, accept that health and fitness is a constant journey (with all the twists, turns, highs, and lows that come with any journey), and you’ll be okay.

The Primal Blueprint is indeed a particularly painless lifestyle hack designed for effortless weight loss and steady progression, but everyone experiences plateaus. When you do, remind yourself “I’m not going to change overnight” and “This is supposed to happen; I should expect this.” Keep moving forward. Slowly – or quickly, it all depends – but surely you’ll see results. Armed with the knowledge that plateaus and leveling off periods are normal, you can bypass the negative thoughts and wild emotions often associated with changing your body and health, instead of giving in to the fear that derails most people from diets and sends them off in search of the latest fad.

If you’re already fit and trim and healthy, understand that the reverse is true for you. Skipping a few days, or even a month of exercises or eating right won’t derail you completely. You have a lot of room for error, too, and it’ll take more than that to undo your hard work.

I realize I’m probably sounding a bit cheesy and Dr. Phil-ish, and I apologize, but my point still stands.

(Of course, if you’re completely stagnant without any improvement, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your habits. Re-read the Primal Blueprint and curb your carb intake (that’s usually the culprit in slowed gains). The trappings of modern life have a habit of sneaking in without us realizing it, and constant vigilance is important.)

Further Reading:

Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good

The Secret to Health & Longevity: Are You Following the 10/90 Rule?

How to Cheat

How to Eat More Chocolate and Drink More Wine Everyday

Is Drinking Alcohol OK?

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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24 thoughts on “You’re Not Going to Change Overnight”

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  1. At least for me, going primal did feel like I saw results almost instantly. I certainly was not expecting it to go as fast as it did. In contrast to being dissapointed (which i was mentally preparing myself for), I was extremely suprised! How quickly the whole transition into more optimal health can actually happen is still pretty amazing to me.

    The SoG

  2. I love this part especially:
    Just don’t let that deter you from your ultimate goals: good health, a strong body, and an enjoyable life.

    I think sometimes people lose sight of the goal because it’s too easy to focus on the small stuff.

    Good post!

  3. For me it’s these final 10 pounds around my belly, and on my breasts, that seem to be taking forever to drop away. But I forget that 70 pounds ago I would have loved to have my current body.

  4. I’ve stumbled upon this website at the beginning of this year through the The Top 20 Fitness Blogs on the Net on Gym Junkies website. I started reading articles like “Dear Mark: Go Primal in 2009” and “Act “As If” – A 30-Day Primal Health Challenge” and thought it made lots of sense and it seemed easy enough to try. The “2 Minute Salad” was the biggest change that I made. Vegetables were always sparse on my dinner plate beside my meat and potatoes. Results have been relatively easy for me and I haven’t been obsessed with it: I’ve lost 15 lbs (234 to 219). since the middle of February. Here’s to 2009 and getting down to 195lbs.

  5. Great post and timely for me. Like David above, there are these lingering fat pockets that won’t budge. Patience, I suppose, and stick with it.

  6. I always advise to someone wanting to lose weight to do it the right way is the safe way because a quick fix is “NO” FIX!!!
    I’ve seen some people lose weight “too fast” but then guess what happens, they somehow seem to gain it back “fast.” That says everything in itself, doesn’t it!

  7. I’ve lost 9.5# and my husband 12# in the last 5 weeks without being 100% compliant. We’re very pleased with our progress so far. This has worked so much better than any “diet” we’ve tried. The giant salad is so much better than a sandwich and potato chips, and I’m not starving the way I was with low fat high carb.

  8. Many of my clients see visible results in a fairly short time-frame when they manage to “go primal.” But regardless of how rapid results are, most people “want it all and they want it now.”

    With that mindset it is difficult to maintain excitement and momentum. I’ve found the best “hack” to keep the enthusiasm up is to actively imagine how you will feel after a month of “clean eating.” If you imagine how you will look, how your body will feel, and how proud you will be of yourself for sticking to your guns, it makes the process much more exciting. It also gives you the push to get through the dip to the point where primal eating becomes a habit.


  9. Mark – say it ain’t so in these instant gratification times!!!

    I agree with near immediate results per son. I thought I was trim right before doing an Ironman last year. Right after it was done, I switched nearly immediately to the PB (which I was pretty close too anyways before), and I actually lost a few lbs within a week.

  10. Absolutely!

    Luckily for me, for the first six months that I was following a Primal Diet, I was in Iraq and didn’t have access to a scale. But the changes I saw in the mirror were enough. Once I got home, I saw I was down 20lbs during that six months.

    Now, almost a year after I started, I’m still near that same weight, but I continue to see significant changes in the mirror as well as on the body fat screen of my scale.

    I know this is just the start of the journey.

  11. Mark, I dunno, those ultra-quick weight loss herbs and berries come with some pretty lofty claims, and those testimonials must be true right? It might not happen overnight, but you ever see how skinny dead people get?

  12. This past week I have cut out grains, sugars, fruits and starchy vegetables in an effort to lose some pregnancy pounds. Since Monday I have lost four pounds and have way more energy than a few weeks ago when I was only eating gluten-free grains. I don’t think this rate of weight loss will continue, though I wouldn’t mind if it did, but the energy is the best.

    I just did a post on why grains aren’t healthy this morning.

  13. i have a theory

    fat cells are built up in one’s youth through chronic ingestion of carbs. they are built to cope with the added pressure to deal with blood glucose/fructose.

    once you have them, in later age, they provide an impetus to store more

    then, after so many years of insulinemia, the fat cells become stubborn

    this may be why some will take a lot of effort to get “ripped” in later life?

    i have been told that insulin resistance can be reversed after a time on a natural diet (low/no carb, plenty of animal fat)
    perhapse this is a factor

    also, once you have a belt of fat cells, you simply have more opportunity to store more, regardless of diet…????

    if ‘d been brought up like grok, i would have a much smaller capacity to store fat????


  14. Thanks Mark,

    This is just what I needed to read. I’ve been on the primal plan for about 3 weeks and have lost 6.5 pounds from 211 on a 6’3″ frame. Being a “carbaholic”, I’ve cheated a few times on candies and deserts but I’ve stuck to the diet 90% of the time. I’ve been photographing myself and am a little discouraged that there is no visual evidence of the loss of my tummy. How many pounds does one have to lose to see a difference?

  15. I want to say this to you folks “Trying” to get a flatter belly ,lose weight. Don’t buy the candy ,junk food, excercise every day ,everyday, for 20-30 minutes a day everyday , each time get your heart rate up a little more, sweat is good. Just moving around is not excersise. . If you want to be in the same place,shape you are today next year, keep doing it thae way you’ve done it. O r you can start today and everyday no excuses, if it has breading on it dont eat it , cheese no , caramel no, no soda not even diet get rid of the craving for the flavor of it.

    Or just do what you do. But I don’t want to hear about why can’t I next year. It says apple a day not hershey bar a day . to qoute Jim Rohn

  16. I’ve heard that lots of times when people think of loosing weight they think they need to do it quickly. I’d love to hear what others think.)

  17. When I hit a sticking point on the weight loss I just cut out the fruit for a couple of days. After all Grok couldn’t always find fruit. I also stay at the gym for the 3, one hour pool aerobic classes that week and that seems to start the weight loss again. I’ve dropped 39lbs since Jan 15th.

  18. IMO Markus is pretty spot on. We have high familial incidence of insulin resistance but strangely without the overweight – we have the incidence of dyslipidemia, high blood pressure and diabetes AKA “metabolic syndrome” especially among us skinnies, we are fat people on the inside! The only thing that caused me to put on weight was a dietician, with her insistence on replacing fat with all those Heart Healthy carbs.

    My trigs/HDL ratio, indicative of insulin resistance (and also cardiovascular risk) went from over 15 to around unity simply by cutting carbs and replacing those “dangerous” fats back into my diet, the fat melted away again and my energy levels went way up.

    I did this pragmatically by testing my blood glucose

    and keeping my BG tightly controlled in a range between 70 – 90 with postprandials below 120 and often below 110.

    This led me inexorably to a diet highly similar to a Primal (or Protein Power) way of eating. I do now have more tendency to gain weight when I weaken – I sailed through the holiday season then fell apart a bit during the dull dark days of January and put on a few pounds but they’ve gone away again now.

    Curiously (or not) my BG no longer freaks out so readily either from imappropriate food or overexertion. Well, we can ignore that pub lunch which left me high for a day and concentrate instead on the unintended three day Intermittent Fast caused by a tooth exploding: a few years back that would have sent my BG into orbit and through the floor in cycles, but without the insulin resistance it stayed much more even.

    I’m coming to think that even for nondiabetics controlling insulin levels and thereby insulin resistance is key to avoiding all manner of consequences

  19. I was not expecting instant results either, but it was shocking how fast my sugars normalized and how suddenly all my jeans are too big for me.

    I fully expect this to slow down, but right now I’m going to enjoy every minute of it!

  20. I wish I had read this a month ago, when I was tapping my foot anxiously ready to see the “instant” weight loss. I stuck with it and now I’m measuring inches off my belly and bum 🙂 give it time!