Dear Mark: Just Outside of Goal Weight, Skipping Breakfast and Coffee, and Quark

Dear Mark-Weight coffee quark FinalFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four questions. First up, I discuss what to do—and really, what not to do—as you approach your goal weight but keep coming up short. Second, why do breakfast skippers also tend to be the biggest coffee drinkers around? Is it just correlation or is there a causative explanation lurking within? And finally, what’s the deal with the cultured dairy product known as quark? Is it a worthwhile addition? Is it safe, given its decidedly neolithic origins?

Let’s go:

Hi Mark,

I’ve been trying to lose fat for over 3 years and haven’t reached my goal yet. I have reached close to my goal but the weight is creeping back.

I’m not overweight. I’m healthy. I should be happy for what I have and I am. However, I can’t let go my hope that I want to look better. I have decent energy throughout the day and I think I have pretty good metabolism for my age (46). However, recently, I feel that the more I try the more I gain fat. I haven’t weighted for several months, so I don’t know how much I gained though. I’ve been trying tabata exercise 3-4 times a week and a quick kettle bell swing 3 times a week. I also go to the gym classes for fun. I am so stuck and desperate. Should I just be happy for my current body (again, not overweight, skinnier upper body with a little flab around thighs, buttocks and love handles.)


“I’m not overweight. I’m healthy.” Stop right there. You’ve got your answer.

Besides,”a little” body fat centered around the lower body (hips, butt, thighs) is a sign of health in women. Lower body fat tends to be higher in omega-3s like DHA, so that when you’re constructing a baby, you’ve got plenty of substrate to build the brain. You may not be trying to have any kids, but on a base physiological level the ability to do so is indicative of your health—your fitness. It’s the belly and trunk fat that’s problematic and should be avoided.

Here’s what I’d do. Chill out on the training. 3-4 days a week of tabata is rough. Tabata training isn’t just something you do. It’s really hard and really demanding. Cut that to 1-2 days a week. Heck, do one tabata day and one sprinting day.

Then you do “quick kettlebell swings” 3 times a week? It all depends on what you mean by “quick.” Kettlebell training falls into the anaerobic category, just like tabata training. You know, the kind where your lungs and muscles burn and you crave carbohydrates to replenish lost glycogen? You’re looking at 6-7 days of training, unless you’re doing double days which is arguably even harder to recover from.

What’s this about gym classes for fun? C’mon. That’s way too much.

Instead of just the tabata and kettlebell swings and extra gym days sprinkled on top, drop some of it and replace some with slow strength work and lots of walking. You are walking, right?

Trying to mechanically burn calories through added output usually doesn’t work very well. It leads to overreach and overtraining, especially since it usually coincides with calorie reduction (you know, to lose more weight). And we have direct evidence that it’s not working very well for you: “the more I try the more I gain fat.” Exactly!

Take it easier. Lift 1-2 days a week. Sprint/tabata 1-2 days a week. Walk every day if you can. Get your sleep. Do things you enjoy (and the gym doesn’t count!).

I’m curious how many breakfast skippers out there are coffee drinkers?

Whenever I quit coffee, I end up developing an appetite for breakfast after a few days. I’m thinking maybe my body is being deprived of needed nutrients when I have coffee instead. Also, my water intake goes up when I don’t have coffee–maybe it’s depressing the thirst mechanism?

Mark, maybe we need to run an experiment with the group? Everyone grab your Grok combat gear before coffee disappears from your pantry.

I write this, of course, with a cup of “my precious” sitting beside me. No breakfast for me today lol.

I’d guess that most breakfast skippers drink coffee. One major side effect of caffeine is appetite suppression. See, caffeine raises adrenaline, which liberates body fat and increases fat available for energy. It also increases insulin resistance temporarily to allow for optimal fat burning, which is why a coffee and pastry make a fattening—if delicious—pairing. It’s also why coffee obviates the need for outside energy; you’re actually consuming your own body fat when you drink coffee.

It’s not necessarily a terrible thing, though, when you consider why this occurs. When caffeine increases adrenaline, it also increases lipolysis—the liberation of fatty acids from body fat. The increased sense of energy you get from coffee is partly caused by the increased availability of energy in the form of free fatty acids. Of course, an increase in free fatty acids shooting around your body causes a subsequent—and necessary—drop in insulin sensitivity to allow you to actually burn the fat. It all makes perfect sense when you consider the entire picture, but it sounds pretty scary out of context.

If you’re going to eat breakfast alongside coffee and you have weight to lose, stick to lower-carb choices. Tucking into a big plate of flapjacks alongside a pot of coffee works for lumberjacks preparing for a day of insulin-sensitizing sawing, hauling, and lifting, but not your average lumbersexual about to hunker down in front of his computer all day.

This is why coffee can exacerbate stress-related issues. When you’re not sleeping well or you’re on that wired but tired state of mind because you’re juggling too many things at once, coffee beckons but boosts many of the stress hormones you’re already bathing in.

Hey Mark,

I’ve been reading for years and I’m a big fan of everything you and your team does. Since moving to Germany for school, I’ve found it somewhat more difficult to find some primal snacks while so much involves bread of some kind. I tried yogurt, but found that I got some acne and maybe a little sluggishness. Recently, one of my friends turned me onto quark, a full fat, thick, creamy yogurt with a closer nutritional profile to cottage cheese. I don’t get the acne flair ups or stomach issues I did with yogurt. I’m curious about your opinion of the bioavailability of the macronutrient content and whether you’d advise for or against making it a regular addition to my diet. Thanks for everything and I look forward to hearing from you!


I know these sciencey-sounding names are unappetizing, but we’re constantly ingesting quarks. As a fundamental buildingblock of matter, the quark is unavoidable. I don’t care if you’re eating kale, bison, carrots, or protein powder: you’re also eating quark. Don’t believe me? Okay. Well, you love hadrons, don’t you? Everyone does. They’re delicious. You’ve probably got a few in your mouth right now. Hadrons are actually composite particles made up entirely of quarks. So there’s really no escaping it.

Quarks aren’t “healthy” or “unhealthy.” There’s no good or bad. Sure, the quarks you get from fast food french fries pale in comparison to the quarks found in a Big Ass Salad, but you can’t ascribe morality to a subatomic particle. It’s all just a choice.

Oh, wait. Quark is something different. It’s a strange kind of almost yogurt. Regular yogurt is inoculated with thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria. Quark is like buttermilk in that it’s inoculated with mesophilic (room temperature-preferring) bacteria. In fact, traditional quark is made with buttermilk cultures. This makes it less tangy.

This guy knows his quark (PDF), but he’s a little quirky (see what I did there?). Don’t mind his obsession with a blend of quark, fish liver/flax/hemp oil, and champagne as a magical elixir that cures nearly every degenerative disease. Or, I suppose, mind it. I’m just not responsible for what happens when you try to serve it instead of mimosas at your next brunch.

Let’s address your specific questions.

Bioavailability of the nutrients: high. As an animal product, quark’s nutrients will be readily absorbable. Many plant food nutrients must be converted into animal food nutrients before an animal (like you) can take advantage. If the conversion pathway is disrupted or inhibited, you might not be getting all the nutrients that show up in nutritional databases.  Animal food nutrients come in the pre-formed package. Easy to assimilate.

Lack of acne flareups and other immune symptoms: awesome and telling. Your personal response to quark doesn’t mean this guy or that guy will have a similar reaction, but it’s damned telling about whether you should eat yogurt or quark. Eat the quark. Dairy is good if you can eat it.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’d love to hear from you down below.

Does trying to do too much derail your weight loss efforts? Are you a coffee drinker and breakfast skipper, too? Love quark? Hate it? How about quarks?

Have a great week.

TAGS:  dear mark

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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