Dear Mark: Wife’s Weight Gain; Upper Arm Fat

Weight Gain?For today’s edition of Dear Mark, we’ve got a two-parter. First up is a question from a reader whose wife has gained weight following the Primal Blueprint way of eating and after completing a Whole30. She seems to be doing everything right, in other words. What could explain the weight gain? Next, I discuss what can be done – if anything – about upper arm fat. It might be hereditary, but that doesn’t mean we’re totally at the mercy of our genes. And even if we are, we can change how we react.

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

First off I just wanted to thank you for all that you do. I’ve been primal for over a year, have lost over 35 lbs., and am in the best shape of my life. I have consistent energy levels, and am much healthier overall. The Primal Blueprint and MDA have changed my life, and I evangelize both to all who are interested.

My wife has also accompanied me on this journey. Her results have not been quite so spectacular. While she also has enjoyed more consistent energy levels, she has actually gained a significant amount of weight. Approximately 15 pounds so far. I only weigh 10 lbs. more than her now (156 vs. 146).

She was never as strict as I was when it came to what she was eating, but overall she ate pretty well. She had an affection for baking paleo baked goods, which in my opinion really aren’t primal at all. That said, she was eating much better than she ever had previously in her life. I suggested that we try a Whole30 and follow it 100%. We’re almost done with our Whole30 now, and she is up 3 – 5 lbs. from the start of the Whole30. It’s very perplexing.

I have to imagine this is hormone related. I’m not sure what else would cause this to happen, but it’s very discouraging for her, especially when in the face of my results. Do you have any suggestions or insight that may help us figure out what’s going on? We’re not really sure how to “troubleshoot”. Perhaps she should get tested for thyroid issues?

Thanks so much!


Thanks, Kris. I’m glad to hear it’s worked so well for you. I’m sorry it (apparently) hasn’t for your wife.

A few thoughts:

The nutrient density and protein and fat content of a Primal way of eating, or a Whole 30, works almost too well at lowering appetite, increasing satiety, and triggering spontaneous and inadvertent calorie reduction. It’s rare, but some people – and this seems to happen more frequently in women than men – experience such a drastic reduction in metabolism upon lowering their food intake that they actually gain weight. Their “calories out” drops because of insufficient “calories in.” The low calorie intake is a signal to the body to reduce expenditure, and this is actually why a lot of people fail with traditional diets: not only are they struggling against insatiable hunger, they’re lowering their energy expenditure.

If she’s intermittent fasting, that may be the problem. You may recall the post I did a couple years back addressing this topic. Many women simply don’t do well fasting. They either stall or gain. They may not even realize there’s an issue because of the aforementioned lack of hunger during the fasting period. But if you’re gaining body fat after a few weeks of skipping meals, try not skipping them. It’s not working.

So in general, eating too little food can be counterproductive. So too can eating too infrequently. Watch out for both.

I’d also rule out thyroid with a test. Since thyroid hormone often plummets on super low-calorie diets, thyroid is a good test to run. But the fact that her energy has improved makes me wonder if it’s that. That shouldn’t happen if thyroid and/or energy expenditure are tanking.

Some women do gain weight in the “right places.” And I don’t mean to sound (that) sleazy. For many women it’s completely natural to have a higher body fat level and accumulate more fat in the gluteofemoral region – the hips, butt, and thighs – because that’s where women store DHA for future baby brain construction. That’s probably why gluteofemoral fat is notoriously stubborn and hard to burn – because it’s a reliable, secure way to store an important nutrient (DHA) that’s often scarce during pregnancy. She needn’t worry about gluteofemoral weight gain (and you might dig it); it’s actually a sign of good metabolic health.

The weight gain might be a good thing, in other words. If all the other changes from adopting the lifestyle (like increased energy) have been beneficial, the weight gain might also be “good” or “what the body needs.” Is she exercising? If so, are her numbers improving? Is she getting stronger? Faster? She might have put on some muscle. She may have needed the weight.

The scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Where the weight has gone, what comprises it, and any other effects from the diet must all be considered and weighed to get an accurate picture of the situation.

I am depressed by my upper arms. They are flabby and compared to the rest of my body are quite large. My mother has the same. Is there anything I can do about it?

M. Williams

Brachium butter beating you up? Have I got just the thing for you!

The name of the game when it comes to burnin’ arm flab, my dear, is vibration! You need to make the arm an inhospitable home to make that pesky limb lard skedaddle. Just like you’d do whatever you could to move out of an apartment if a subway rumbled overhead every few minutes, arm fat cannot tolerate the agitation from constant vibration.

Now, there are plenty of options to try. You could put on a hardhat and get a job as a jackhammer operator. You could hold on to soda pop bottles filled with Mexican jumping beans. You could do this move.

Whatever method you choose, this next step is crucial. Once you’ve got the arm flab on the run, you’ll have to graduate to full body vibration. If you sit still, the fat will simply relocate elsewhere. Your wrists, your ankles, your cheeks. There’s literally no telling where a fleeing band of fatty acids desperate for a home will migrate. Full body vibration prevents the fat from ever settling down or getting its bearings. Most arm fat gives up after about 20 minutes of vibration. If it’s a particularly plucky group, you may have to vibrate for an hour or two until they lose all hope.

Just don’t let up until you get the urge to visit the toilet. That’s how you know the fat is finally leaving.

In all seriousness, a lot of fat deposition is hereditary and we already know that spot reduction doesn’t work. You can’t force your body to lose weight in a specific area by training that area. If your genes are inclined to deposit fat in your upper arms, that might be unavoidable. You could starve yourself down to unhealthily low levels of body fat, but I would strongly advise against it. Your health will suffer – remember that women generally function better with more body fat than men – and you will be disproportionately skinny in other areas.

It could be hormonal. I’d get a full endocrine panel (thyroid, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, etc.) done to confirm your hormone levels are within range.

Make sure you’ve got all your other ducks in a row:

Sleep well. Don’t stay up late and skip sleep for silly reasons. Avoid blue light at night, and electronics in general.

Eat right. If you’re eating too many carbs for the amount of exercise you’re doing, cut back. Don’t fear healthy fat. Eat enough protein.

Exercise consistently. Lift heavy things a couple times a week, walk a ton, and do something really intense once or twice a week. Maybe it’s a sprint session on a bike or on a track. Maybe it’s a few sets of burpees.

Take steps to reduce, mitigate, or rethink stress.

Find joy on a regular basis, whether it’s being intimate with your partner, curling up with a great book or flick or TV series, taking a trip, going for a hike, playing with your dog (or cat), hosting a dinner party, or watching the sun rise or set. Or all of them. Try to pick at least one “small” thing to enjoy every day and one “big” thing to enjoy every week.

Get sun, not too much.

Get nature, more than you think you need.

You know, the basics. If you’re doing all that and your arms are still a bit flabbier than you’d like, realize and accept that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Some people, even if they’re fit as a fiddle, may not fall into the “svelte” category. And while fashion magazines often suggest otherwise, that’s OK. In fact, that’s more than OK. There’s perfection to be found in all types. Love your body. It’s the only one you’ll ever have. How? Well, that’s a topic for another article entirely. (Stay tuned.)

I hope this helps, M. and Kris, and be sure to stick around for the comment section. Our brilliant readers always chime in with some piece of advice I’d forgotten or overlooked.

Thanks for reading everyone! Let’s see if we can help M. and Kris in the comments, huh?

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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99 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Wife’s Weight Gain; Upper Arm Fat”

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  1. Relocating fat ‘giving up’ after 20 minutes? I thought Mark had lost it for a moment there. haha!

    (everyone knows it takes at least 40 minutes)

    1. Although I find Mark’s humor entertaining, I sometimes worry that a newbie stumbling into MDA might misunderstand and hit the back button, especially if the humor goes on for a while, as in this post.

      1. I like Marks humor. I have been visiting this site daily for the last 2 years+ but hey you can not please everyone!!

      2. I like marks humor – if they are the sort of impatient type who does that – maybe they should hit the back button, and keep on hitting it…

      3. Lol – maybe the first “test” of mda is the intelligence level to be able to read and understand – by impatiantly hitting back, they are missing out on potential life saving health advice, thus survival of the fittest kicks in. I’ve had overweight friends as about mda, so i regommend the book – some even buy it – i see them 6 months later and ask if they read it yet – “nope” is the usual reply, then they speil out a list if health complaints…

    2. I’ve been reading Mark’s site for nearly 2 years and even I nearly gave up all hope for the diet and fitness industry.

      Haha. Well played, Mark.

  2. Ahh yes, love the women with ‘dangerous curves ahead’. The obsession with skinny has got to go!

  3. I gained a little bit of weight that was needed after switching to paleo, and I agree that sometimes women were keeping themselves “too thin” – at least for what their bodies wanted – and settling into hunger signals could put on the weight your body wants. But everyone’s different! If a persons health is good and they FEEL good, I think their goals are complete. The next step would be to accept the rest.

    1. I was very pleased with Mark’s answer to the weight gain question above. While I didn’t gain weight on Paleo (I lost 70 pounds and went from obese to just slightly overweight with a BMI of about 27), I got very frustrated when my body stopped at 165 over a year ago. However, I have quite easily stayed at 165, and have grown to love the fact that I still have dangerous curves (although not dangerous visceral fat).

    2. I gained a bit of weight, too – it was muscle! That was without even changing my workout routine, which was just climbing, walking, and occasional yoga or other outdoor activity. But going from vegetarian to primal I gained about 10 pounds of muscle that was well-deserved and really boosted my climbing ability. So weight gain is not always bad, for sure. I also didn’t go up in clothing size, so that’s another indicator to watch instead of weight.

    3. I gained weight too when I first started! I chicked it up to muscle gain and bone density (my soda habit was out of control!). I’ve dropped some and plateaued out now. It was hard at first to be stuck at hte weight I’m at, but I’m trying to love my body and be happy with my weight, even though its lower than the “media ideal”

  4. T-TAPP works wonders for firming flab. I bet both these women would benefit from it. An example of arm work.

    Don’t be fooled by how easy it looks. T-TAPP is an ass-kicking HIIT workout.

    1. +1 and don’t forget body brushing…sometimes the extra does just need a little push to disappear.

  5. Great post. And funny as usual. While weight loss is never going to NOT be a wish on my part, I also am learning to view it as a side effect of better overall health.

  6. Although there is no way to know this without specific information, I’m guessing those paleo treats are a problem. They tend to be highly caloric and add up much faster than you can imagine. (How do I know this…..)

    It’s a bit tedious, but keeping a food journal is a great way to account for and quantify what you are eating.

    1. +1 Assuming this is fat gain and not muscle, an obvious first thing to check are the ‘paleo treats’. Reduce them, then see what happens. Also check exercise, sleep, and stress.

        1. We need to realize this is a husband and wife team on basically the exact same primal journey. I read these comments and the great majority of ” hard to keep the weight off” comments are coming from women which to me points to hormonal differences. I as a man am having no problem at all cheating with pizza, spaghetti, or any high carb foods as long as I eat “correctly” the rest of the time. Where the 80/20 rule seems ok with me I am not dealing with imbalances in progesterone and estrogen. There’s a gal on another blog called Itsthewoo.blogspot who does an excellent job with these issues for women especially and I would most recommend her.

  7. Since I’ve done the Leptin Reset outlined by Dr. Jack Kruse, I have proposed it to a few friends. For weight loss, it seems LR was more effective for men than for women. That prompted me to review Dr. Jack’s Leptin Reset Rx in which he states so much. Women will notice a greater sense of well being whereas men will realize rapid weight loss.

  8. I’m curiously as to how much protein Kris’ wife is consuming. A paleo diet is not a high protein diet as I understand it. Protein is mostly comprised of amino acids. The body does store these amino acids but instead if there are excessive amounts they are turned into glucose in the liver through the process of gluconeogenesis. This may be the cause of the weight gain. Excess dietary protein effectively increases dietary carbohydrates.

    I’d suggest that Kris’ wife cut back on the protein and increase the amount of saturated and monounsaturated fats consumed. She may have a lower than normal protein tolerance.

    1. Yes, I would look at the fat, too. I rapidly lost 15 pounds going paleo, but it wasn’t until a year and a half later when I started to eat very high fat that I lost the next 20. She may also want to get a glucose monitor and see what’s happening after different kinds of meals.

    2. According to Paul Jaminet, who is able to read both nutrition and biochem literature, is that gluconeogenesis occurs only as the body needs glucose; the conversion doesn’t happen automatically. Also, the rate at which gluconeogenesis occurs has a low upper limit.

      1. Thanks for your reply however snarky it may be. I appreciate being corrected. On further reading it appears that in people without diabetes that gluconeogenesis occurs only at low levels.

        1. Harold, I concur that the “without diabetes” part is the key. My T2 insulin resistance gives me a very high upper limit, to the point that I eat fewer than 15 carbs a day, and protein only in small amounts at a time. I’ve had to severely restrict calories, even on a paleo diet, to keep from gaining weight. It’s not theory, my glucose monitor and my weight scale keep me very much in touch with reality.

        2. Thanks Janice, at the moment I’m trying to maintain ketosis and am doing so successfully so far. Most of the people who advocate nutritional ketosis warn against eating more than 1 gram of protein per kg of body weight. Which is about 75 grams of protein a day for me. Good luck with managing your diabetes.

  9. I’m sure she wasn’t eating paleo treats on the Whole30 – those are strictly forbidden! I gained 10 pounds on my second Whole30, and I’m quite certain it was because I was eating FAR too much protein. I backed off to appropriate amounts (palm sized portions), and the weight came back off. Lesson learned!

  10. I would agree that you have to differentiate between fat gain and muscle gain. Also keep in mind that with better nutrition, comes stronger bones. Yes, bones can get stronger and heavier and you might not even see the difference.
    How do the clothes fit? How do you feel? I have gained weight from when I first tried low-carb, but I still dont think I am too fat. I am sure my nutrient intake – and absorption – has increased greatly. I gave up paleo treats for the most part with my first Whole30, and whenever I indulge, I gain fat around my middle.
    Just my experience, FWIW. Good luck!

  11. Did anyone else notice that the first letter writer didn’t even mention whether or not his wife is bothered by her weight gain? Sounds like he’s bothered more than she is, particularly fixating on the number on the scale. She feels good, let it go!

    1. He said it was very discouraging for her, or I would agree with you.

  12. I gained weight at first too on the primal diet. I think part of it was that I thought, “whoopie! I don’t have to count calories! Just leave off the grains and everything will be fine!” Wrong.

    It took a few years, but now I am fat-adapted, and I have also learned that as a sixty year old woman, I just can’t eat as much as I did when I was younger without gaining weight. i keep carbs to about 50 grams a day, and I have slowly lost some of my abdominal fat. I weighed about 138 (at 5’2″) so I was not overweight, but on the borderline b/w healthy and overweight. Now I weigh about 130 on most days.

    Your reader’s wife may not be as old as I am, but maybe she just needs to pay more attention to calories, for a while. That said, maybe it’s ok that she gained weight. If she were really worried about it, wouldn’t she have written to Mark? Maybe her husband just has a problem with it, and so he should get over it.

    1. Your comment illustrates how different people are. The only changes I made were the elimination of grain products and sweets. It was easy and the weight literally melted away. I never bothered with counting grams of carbs or calories or the like. I didn’t need to. Now that I’m at a good weight for my height and build, I can cheat a little now and then, but I still mostly avoid the sweets and grains.

      I think the mistake many people make is eating too much in the way of replacement foods; i.e., gluten-free breads and pastries, desserts with substitute sweeteners, etc. They want to have their cake and eat it, so to speak, which doesn’t work well if one is trying to lose weight. Completely eliminating those things and sticking with the basics (protein, fats, fruit, veggies) can make all the difference.

      Regarding flabby underarms, the right types of exercise done with a one- or two-pound weight should help considerably. These exercises can probably be found online. Help can also be gotten at most gyms.

  13. I think that she needs to look at her macronutrient intake. Generally, you should have 0.7 to 1.0 g of protein per pound of body weight. The amount varies on activity.
    Then, she needs to see that she is not eating more than 150 g of CHO per day. Those wonderful treats are just that ‘treats’, and should not be consumed on a frequent basis.
    All else should be fat based calories.
    For example, I am a 135 pound 54 year old female who is fairly active. So, if I look at my macronutrient intake it is about 25% protein, 25% CHO and 50 % fat (which would leave my primary care physician in an apoplectic state). However, I lost 23 pounds, have kept it off, and my blood chemistry has vastly improved.
    As a female, I would love to learn how to help her as a Primal Cert is in my future and I want to be able to answer and assist those (especially females) with the lifestyle.

    1. That’s 0.7 to 1.0 g of protein per pound of *lean* body weight, not total weight.

      1. Good point – although in my head when I wrote it – the omission is highly material. Next time, I will re-reread my posts!!!

    2. Her macronutrient ratios are typically inline with yours. Especially while on the Whole30. She also just had a biometric screening this morning, and her numbers looked very good.

      Also, for those who thought this might be an issue for me and not for her, I assure you that is not the case. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, beyond the fact that it bothers her immensely.

      1. I have been paleo on and off for about 3 years and I think it took me about 2 years to figure out what worked for me. I will pass it on in hopes that something might help your wife.

        The hardest for me was finding the balance between eating “too little” versus “too much.” I have been on both ends of the spectrum and really the only way out is lots of trial and error of eating such and such amount one week then something different the next week. Even now, i am constantly tweaking it but I have gotten better at reading how I am feeling and what my body needs.

        Second thing I did was cut out coffee and tea…I know…terrible… but I was plateaued for a very long time and realized it might be an issue with my adrenal glands(even though tests came back normal) and caffeine. Even though I was only having one cup of coffee per day, I had tremendous results after cutting it out. I have since reintroduced coffee but as an occasional treat during the week.

        Next hurdle I had was realizing I was working out too much. I lead an active lifestyle so adding a workout on top of that lifestyle was detrimental. It took a while to relax but learning to skip a workout when tired and sleep instead has improved my body composition.

        Good luck to your wife! I am by no means an expert but have found what works for me.

        1. Thank you for your comment! We have read a little about adrenal fatigue and the role of dietary carbohydrate in that regard. All good advice.

  14. I have been largely primal for 4 years, it’s been life changing. I only lost 10kg, though I dropped a bra size, dropped 2 dress sizes, and found my waist. My hip to waist ratio dropped from an alarming 1.1 to 0.8. I find too much wine puts on weight, too many milky coffees when on the run, and not enough sleep. At the moment I am trying to put 3 meals a day back into my routine, as I have developed a habit of forgetting to eat, as well as getting out in the garden every day, as spring approaches (I loath organised exercise;)), walking the dogs etc. We are all different and menopause is a wildcard that can throw us off track. I’m not there yet, at 53, I’m looking out for it, because it has a nasty habit of increasing insulin resistance. I regret not taking measurements when I started this journey, but I did take birthday suit photos, and they have revealed huge changes. The scales after all my obsessive years of using them daily are gathering dust. Off to fry some eggs:)

  15. I gained about 2-3kgs in the first 3 months of Paleo, as prior to adopting this lifestyle I was on the low calorie/chronic cardio treadmill. I’ve probably gained another 2kgs since then but my waist and stomach measurements are consistently shrinking at a nice slow & steady pace.
    I’d say that most of the weight I am gaining is due to increased muscle density as I am the fittest I’ve ever been in my life. Don’t listen to the scales; your energy levels, sleeping pattern and digestive health tell the real story.

  16. I have to say, regarding the weight gain, I am curious as to what is being eaten. I went Primal at age 50 and it changed my life. I lost the 30 lbs I had been fighting to loose for over 25 year. It just fell off at about 1.5 lbs a week. Amazing. When I reached my goals weight of 125, I started easing up a bit..still eating Primal but exploring the Paleo treats and baking, eating a few more nuts and drinking a glass of wine during the week, rather than just on weekends. Boom. I was up to 130 lbs before I knew it. As these are calorie dense foods, it doesn’t take much. A muffin made with Almond Flour, coconut flour, butter and a bit of honey – is not a low calorie treat. Just saying… I haven’t sent in my Success Story, yet, but I’m now on year 3 and will never go back. I actually wrote my success story, two weeks into turning Primal as I just knew this was what I’d been looking for. Thanks Mark. Primal was a game changer!

    1. I was also wondering what/how much Kris’ wife is eating. Maybe it is the Paleo treats, but maybe it’s her intake overall. Also, we don’t know how tall she is so we don’t know if she’s overweight, just that she has gained weight doing Paleo and Whole30.

      btw Andrea, I’m looking forward to seeing your success story on this site! (nudge…)

    2. I have the same experience as Andrea. I feel great eating Primal, but as someone who has had issues with insulin resistance, I need to watch the details. An occasional yogurt with blueberries will put me in the red. Some cheese and a handful of nuts: boom. Glass of wine? You can count on two pounds extra. I don’t even get close to the nut- and calorie-intensive paleo baked goods.
      I imagine I am way more sensitive than most, but these little “cheats” have a direct and immediate impact on my weight. If I want to lose, it’s gotta be meat, low-carb veges, black coffee and water. Lots of sleep, moderate exercise. Period.

  17. Women who carry a little extra weight live longer than the men who mention it.

  18. I gained 10 pound in the last year. I am most days 90% primal.
    My husband does NOT have a problem with the weight.
    I would like to see most of it come off. I know most of the problem is I am not active enough. Nobody can make me move more but my self.

    1. have you done lab tests for T4, T3 reverse T3 and TPO antibodies? Lots and lots of women in the U.S. have autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s) from decades on the SAD.

  19. When I first went Primal, after coming off the HCG diet, I ate hardly anything and dropped weight like crazy. I liked how I looked, but…I was always hungry and my hormones literally shut down for a year until I gained a stone or so back. I kind of developed a problem moderating my intake (ie not binging) too. Not until I did Dr Jack Kruse’s leptin Rx reset did I get that under control. My weight shifted too, from being central/belly to gluteal. It’s annoying because I have to get bigger pants, but I’ve also gained a lot of muscle, which makes me more shapely and not just skinny. So…there are good and bad points. Still wish I could lose about 10 lbs, but that’s me.

  20. I’m glad Mark is mentioning sleep as important for weight loss. I lost 20 lbs. by simply adjusting my sleep. My diet didn’t change all that much, I still feel just as satiated as I did before, I do not count calories – but I lost weight effortlessly and quickly anyway, just by making sure I get enough sleep every night (and avoid blue/green light in the evenings).

    1. +1. Check out the recent TedX talk by Dr. Kirk Parsley or Chris Kresser’s podcast with Dan Pardi. Here’s a quote from the latter: “So the thinking is that chronic sleep deficiency is going to not only predispose you to obesity, and by the way, 81 out of 89 studies that have looked at this have found positive findings, and the risk seems to be that lack of sleep or chronic sleep restriction will increase your risk for obesity about 55%.”

  21. I am a 34 year old woman with a similar experience. I didn’t lose any weight until I cut way back on carbs. Now the weight is slowly coming off, finally. The scale says I have lost seven pounds in 5 weeks but I think I looks skinnier than that

  22. Women generally have a more sensitive hormonal system, in my opinion. I first found out about Paleo by going to a doctor who specialized in hormonal balancing. She told me to read up on Paleo, but also to not eat any foods with flour. It sounds like this woman might be overdoing Paleo “approved” flour products. She might want to cut these out. Additionally, there are so many toxins in our cleaning products, personal care products and food that are endocrine disrupters. She should look to eliminate these sources. Lastly, she may be doing this, but she should not be eating meat that is full of hormones, but rather clean, pasture raised animal products.

  23. Same thing happened to my wife. 2 years primal for me still 175 lbs but went from 16-17% body fat to 10-11%. She gained 25 lbs over six months. We tried 40 days near ketogenic, upping carbs, IF. Nothing seams to help. Lifting walking running yoga biking. She weighed 135-140 at 5’9″ since high school volley ball(picture beach volleyball player, very muscular). Did have total hysterectomy 5 years ago so always tweaking meds with specialist. Spent 18 months in Iraq, returned Christmas ’13. Completely frustrated, no more interest in paleo/Primal. Although she is a nurse and completely agrees with the science.

    1. Oh that’s so frustrating, and sounds like retched hormones, through and through.

  24. Do you need to put on a few pounds to make a sports team, better your health, or simply to bulk up? Most people are out to lose weight, but you can reverse some basic dieting principles to gain some girth. However, many people do not realize how difficult it can be to gain weight quickly. Luckily, gaining weight is fairly intuitive and need not be strenuous or expensive; some basic calculations and lifestyle changes can garner impressive results.

  25. It just seems to me that Primal doesn’t work for most women and it’s time to move on instead of congratulating yourself for unquantifiable achievements like ‘better energy levels’.

    1. The issue is that women seem to be obsessed with the scale, when really all the scale tells you is how much you weigh. WHY does weight matter? How about: if you’re sleeping well, if you have enough energy to get through the day without crashing, if you enjoy the food you’re eating, if you’re making “gains” at the gym, if you get rid of moodswings, if you are fitting into your clothes better, if you’ve been trying to get pregnant and Primal helps you with that, if your hormones are out of control and Primal brings them under control, if you now have a discernible waist, if measurements of your various body parts are going down?!

      I have had no “quantifiable achievements” by your standards, but I am sticking with Primal because I have noticed HUGE gains/wins in other areas of my life that have nothing to do with the scale and they have improved my life considerably, and those around me.

      Maybe Primal doesn’t work for every single person, but I would say it works for MOST people and you shouldn’t discourage people from trying it and tweaking things to find their own personal balance within the lifestyle… it’s how we are engineered to live.

    2. Move on to what? Being fat and sick? Primal DOES work for most women when they stick with it. Many don’t want to give up the grains and sweets. They cheat too much and then claim it doesn’t work. Or they simply switch over to eating too many Paleo treats, which is just as self-defeating. They don’t understand that they aren’t Primal at all, which is why it doesn’t work for them.

    3. I don’t lose weight, and can’t maintain it, on a paleo diet unless I also severely restrict calories. However, it does give me wonderful control of my blood sugar without drugs. That alone makes it valuable to me.

      1. I second Janice. Primal works great for me in the sense that it reduces the abdominal pain, gives me more energy and…make a “low” calorie diet enjoyable.

        Yep, I do have to restrict my calories too. The good thing about Primal is that I don’t feel weak or “hangry” while controlling my portions. But I cannot eat as much meat and veggies as I want either.

    4. True, I think Primal/Paleo does not ‘work’ for most women, but not because it is not an unhealthy diet – because most women lack the discipline it takes to adhere to this diet (many of them being sugar addicts).

    5. I think that women are just more stressed out than men – the “second shift” of housework is very real in many families. Taking care of kids, cooking and cleaning, and working full-time at the same time, leads to sleep deprivation, which leads to weight gain.

      I’m a woman and I’m doing just fine on Primal – but I don’t have kids and I get enough sleep.

      1. It’s nice to see a woman without kids acknowledging the extra stress faced by most moms.

    6. You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.

      I did not go Primal to lose weight – I did it for all the other health benefits, and buddy, I have had astounding benefits from it. “Quantified” by myself as well as doctors. How about ridding oneself of bilateral hip bursitis? Bunion pain? Sinus issues? Bloating? Need I go on?

  26. my wife would disagree with that unqualified statement. she and I are both experiencing ‘better energy levels’. but she’s coming off a near brush with type II diabetes, and a hormonal crisis as she nears menopause. and as a bonus, she’s looking better to herself than she has for years. no problem with that here. 😉

    paleo has been a major success for both of us. most is a strong word that doesn’t necessarily apply here, but thanks for your input.

  27. Just a thought…..If you refer to Gary Taubes’ book (Diet Delusion/Good Calories, Bad Calories) he makes reference to the medical head of DuPont putting executives on a high meat diet (low carbs) as they were popping off with heart attacks on a regular basis. The majority experienced significant weight loss but all of them reported how much more energy they had. One person in particular lost very little actual weight. When they tested his blood sugar levels after just one piece of fruit they were through the roof. Unfortunately some people will be hyper sensitive to sugar/easily processed carbs. Might be worth getting a blood sugar monitor and see how you both react to certain types of food.

    1. I agree, Paul. A cheap blood sugar monitor from Walmart can give a person a lot of information about their body. Don’t wait for a doctor to tell you there’s a problem.

  28. why would a low active thyroid hormone be a problem? (t3) it is just being adapted to lower caloric intake which promotes longevity due to lower oxidation from food. it would be unnormal to have higher active t3 on a low calorie diet. besides carbs are related to t3 levels. many studies show it. you can only get it right (for you) through active trial and error. for more info on thyroid you can check Ron Rosedale’s approach or read my review here

  29. Most of the health and fitness community needs to toss their scales in a dumpster and start using a tape measure. Well, if their scale has the bodyfat option maybe they could keep it.

  30. I’m a post menopause woman of 60 and have been primal for about 2 or more years. I was eating that way before I knew it had a name. Peri-menopause gave me 30 pounds of unwanted fat between my “pits and my hips”, well, a bit of padding over the rest of the body but mostly between the P & H. It was troubling since it took away what made me feel like a woman, a shape different than a man, a waist. I tried low fat, mostly no food, cardio, all the CW stuff and nothing worked so I just ate what I liked most and what made me feel ok. That was meat, veggies and fruits in season (oh and I never gave up butter and bacon). It helped me to lose some fat, but when I totally cut out grains, beans and “pretend fats” it really made a difference. However, I encountered some excess stress, yeah, I know, us women never get that….. it changed my body’s way it used the good primal food I was eating. I don’t eat that much, not big on eating to begin with so it wasn’t excess food/protein, and it wasn’t too little because I’m 60 and know that running on empty is a recipe for disaster in so many ways. What I did notice was that sleep wasn’t easy for me, I’d get sleepy, go to bed, fall asleep and wake up shortly there after. 3 to 5 hours of sleep a night will play havoc on your ability to thrive. So I believe as a knee jerk reaction it just started to produce whatever it was to make that tummy fat form. I don’t need it, I can’t stuff it into my work clothes and frankly I hate looking at it in the mirror-more stress to keep it all going. Presently I’m working hard on keeping the stress at bay by confronting what I can and clearing what I have no control over, oh, and on some days I don’t look in the mirror. It’s just 5 to 7 pounds (of fat) but it’s very stressful to me. So I get it when some of us are having problems staying at a body shape that we like. I had it, kept it for a couple of years and now… not so much. Won’t make me eat junk food though, I was polite and had a bite of chocolate cake and it made me sick, so into the garbage it went. I’d rather eat a spoonful of butter or coconut oil, but at a baby shower no one gets that it’s a good treat…..

  31. How many times a day does the lady is question eat? I gradually lost 20 pounds over 6 months by eating according to
    The Five Rules of the The Leptin Diet…
    Rule 1: Never eat after dinner.
    Rule 2: Eat three meals a day. [no snacks]
    Rule 3: Do not eat large meals.
    Rule 4: Eat a breakfast containing protein.
    Rule 5: Reduce the amount of carbohydrates eaten.

    Google for more details. I hadn’t heard of paleo/primal at that point but was cooking from scratch. To lose weight, avoid any bread-like or cake-like foods.

  32. My first guess is the woman is taking in too much fat in her diet, like an excessive amount……or sugars…or gluten free goods.

    For about a year, I was eating about 15-20 pints a month of So Delicious Sugar Free Coconut Milk frozen deserts with erythritol, and also getting a lot of other fat in my diet – I estimated from my journal I was getting on many days @ 100 g a day. And I gained about 5 months and got high cholesterol, even though my HDL and LDL remained in the excellent categories by they way. I cut out the deserts, the french fries, the potato chips, the duck w/ skin and pan drippings, the tons of olive oil and nut butters – and the 5 lbs just dropped off, not even trying (meaning minimal cardio), and my cholesterol keeps going down to this day. My problem was easy – I was just getting too much fat.

    I am now back at my natural weight of about 107 lbs, I’m 5 ft. 7 in, and I am guessing my body fat to be between 12-14%. It is worth noting, that I am an ectomorph and naturally “underweight” according to the joke that is the BMI…so, we only gain fat when literally force fed large amounts of fatty foods.

    I”m 45 and am going through menopause, no symptoms at all, none – and I mean zero. Have been eating Paleo with rice for about 10 years. Now, cut out the rice, no hunger, no wild blood sugar swings, don’t miss it. I’m convinced my lack of symptoms is from a grain free diet, as well as low body fat levels.

    Like to say, this website is worth it’s weight in gold for the information it offers. Thank’s Mark!

  33. Oh my goodness, and weights. I would recommend heavy weight lifting, it’s such a no brainer I almost forgot to mention it. I’ve been lifting since freshman year and it helps keep the fat off, like, big time.

  34. Unless Kris’s wife is less than 5’3″ tall, her BMI puts her at a normal weight for her size. Could it be that they both have unrealistic images of what a healthy female body looks like? Our culture is obsessed with a female ideal that is freakishly (and unhealthily) skinny.

    1. But BMI is not based in science, and is pretty much useless (except in the most vague way used by medical professionals and health insurance companies to ‘weed out the fatties’ so to speak).

      I think women in our culture are obsessed with just being thin, not necessarily lean. Most women in the US, UK, and most Western/civilized parts of the world have too much fat on them, even if they are ‘skinny’ in size (hence the term ‘skinny fat’). And few women lift heavy weights to keep any good muscle on them. Women tend to do yoga and crash diet when trying to lose weight. Men seem to embrace eating and heavy weight lifting. I would like to see every woman lift weights, as well as lose fat.

      1. Hear, hear! I think women in general tend to avoid activities that make them sweat. A major mistake! Fat sags, muscle does not. Exercise/activity (and I don’t mean elliptical trainers here) is the most important factor in how healthy you will be.

      2. Or some women have unreasonable expectations about how much “fat” a woman body should carry. Seems to me Lorraine that as a clear ectomorph you are an outlier. If all other women try to replicate your measurements they are in for a very unhealthy body.

        Being lean and strong is the new goal for most women in the US. Nothing wrong with that it seems. But I don’t agree that it is necessarily the picture of health. The same way “skinny” is not the pic of health for everyone. For some women to achieve the new “strong and fit” ideal means an unhealthy stress on the body to reach very low body fat levels and muscle definition. What are the impacts on inflammation levels? Energy? Sleep quality ? etc..

        Being skinny like Kate Moss when you have Kim Kardashian’s body type is unhealthy, but trying to be strong and lean like misty Copeland is probably not better

        1. Agree 100% that if most women tried to get to 12-14% body fat, they’d….well, encounter trouble. Ectomorph women are only 2.5% of the population. And women who naturally fall in the underweight category in BMI, are less than 1%. I imagine for women my age……the percentages would be even lower.

          For me, 16% body fat…..and I encountered trouble, being 5 lbs overweight, high cholesterol. Agree. But, I never said women should ‘be like me’. I merely said I’d like to see all women lift weights and lose body fat – meaning lose ‘some’ body fat. That obesity stats in this country where I live (United States) are terrible. @ 66% overweight or obese for Caucasians, and over 80% for African Americans and Latinos. And the number of people that meet the AHA’s guidelines for cardiovascular health, is an astonishing 1%. So, it’s NOT all about genetic somatotyping. It is mostly about self control, and self discipline, in how much women exercise, and what they put in their mouths.

          I also agree with you that being lean and strong, should not be a goal for most women. But I do think, being as lean and as strong as they can be – should be the goal. I see too much apathy in women in my age group, heck, in women of all age groups. In the gym, I see mostly men in the weight room, and the few women I do see, spend more time cleaning the equipment and talking on their cell phones lol. It requires work. If I had to bet, I’d say that man’s wife, does not lift, does not do regular cardio, and is taking in too many total calories. Period. That’s why I made the suggestions I did. It’s what works.

  35. I’m a 45 year old female fighting the flab on Paleo. I’ve been doing low carb for about 10 years, but this year my brother, a fit airborne ranger became ridiculously thin on Paleo and I decided to give it a try to lose those 10lbs that never want to come off. In 4 months of eating strictly Paleo, I saw fat depositing on areas I never had problems before. My arms, my knees, my lower legs, etc. I’ve been horrified. Every summer I lose 5-7 due to a heavier workload, but this summer I lost nothing. I stand on my job for 8 hours a day (more in the summer) and admittedly don’t make time to exercise (except for squats in the shower). I kept a food journal and found that I only eat about 1400 cals a day (I’m 5’9″, 168), about 34% protein, 65% fat. I’m hardly hungry, like eating this way, and feel healthy, but it’s discouraging to look in the mirror (and look at my skinny brother) and not to be able to wear skinny jeans without feeling like a stuffed sausage. I’m perplexed.

    1. You’re eating too much fat and not enough calories or carbs. Check out the many posts online about potential problems with a low carb diet, especially for women.

  36. For females its always harder but especially as you creep over mid-30s your body really seems to want to gain weight. I am in forced menopause. I lost 13 pounds on Paleo when I wasn’t exercising. Once I started exercising daily (significan walking) I had an increased appetite even on Paleo foods and gained back about three pounds. I didn’t want to gain more so recently I started three to four days a week of week of low carb, about 70 grams and on those days I do a slower pace 30 minute walk or maybe some gentle weights. Then on weekends I go on long bike rides and hikes and I allow myself more carbs, but my carbs are still fruit, vegetable, sweet potato, bananas, sometimes a corn tortilla (not Paleo but my weakness). This helped me lose the three pounds I had gained. I’m currently 15 pounds over my lowest weight from my 20s which I think is good for my age – 53.

    Another thing I found is certain foods still make me gain weight no matter how little I eat. All pork makes me gain weight whether its tenderloin or bacon and even if I ate very little that day. A one inch square of white potato will make me gain weight the next day every time, so I never cheat with it. Try keeping a food diary and weigh yourself every day. It helps discover these things.

  37. You know, eating primal does NOT mean you should be stuffing yourself on fat and protein. Remember the nutrient-rich vegetables? Even if you are eating good, organic, naturally raised animals, animal food is very calorically dense. Eating more calories than you use still makes a difference. So maybe this wife needs to up her workouts? Especially the whole body movement types of exercise, such as walking, swimming, running, biking. And what, do tell, are “paleo baked goods”???! Paleolithic people did not eat baked goods! Sounds like grain-based carbs to me! I would say that she probably is either a) cheating, or b) overeating.

    As to the arm fat, you can try to drop some extra fat in general, and do some upper body exercise to build a muscle structure under the flab to support it.

  38. I think regading weight gain, very good advice has been given above. If you want to find out how your body reacts to certain foods, eat it and weigh yourself the next morning. You will for sure be able to find out what foods make you gain weight easily. I had to realise and accept that even on a primal diet I have to watch my portion sizes, once the initial weight loss stopped. I have to eat greens and vegetables with every meal, or else I gain weight. I need to make my dinner the smallest meal of the day (calorie dense wise), I have to eat low carb and I have to watch my intake on milk, cheese and nuts. I don’t cheat on sugar or alcohol at all, because these are absloute trigger foods for weight gain. I also need to work out on a regular basis, I alternate strength, cardio and sprint/HIIT sessions. The primal lifestyle ist wonderful, but it needs discipline to make it work.

  39. whew. for a second there, I thought Mark had become a spokesman for the Shake Weight.

  40. Personnally that’s something I’ve always experienced: women don’t lose weight as easily as men on a primal diet.

    I need to combine it with some form of calorie counting/portion control. My husband, father, brother lose weight by just going primal. My mother (65, strong and thin but with post menauposal small belly), doesn’t drop a pound. I (33, skinny fat type, 5’5/115 pounds as my “easy” to keep/average weight) feel great on primal, it helps cure IBS but it doesn’t help me lose my belly fat: strength training and portion control does.

    Maybe it is because as women we have indeed irrealistic expectations and our “natural” state is with way more body fat than the strong lean (masculine/androgyne?) machine we’d like to be. Maybe it is because we have messed up our metabolisms more already with diets and ups and downs. Maybe because for some of us food is often more about emotions than hunger so the appetite curbing effect is not as strong…

    I don’t know what it is, but whenever I am asked about my results, if it is by a woman, especially over 30, I add that just eating primal won’t do… I have to watch quantities/calories too 🙁

  41. I started my paleo journey more than 4 years ago in an attempt to heal from some serious adrenal fatigue, brought on in part by obsessive calorie counting and 6x/week exercise. I was down 12 pounds from my “typical” (easy to maintain, been there since high school) weight when I started paleo. And I immediately began gaining weight, until I hit that “typical” weight again (the same as Kris’ wife, and I’m 5’4, early 30s). It was maddening! I tried Whole 30, calorie counting, IF, more exercise, less exercise, macro testing, thyroid testing…everything! And I made myself *crazy* along the way, thinking it was something I was doing wrong. My (amazing Paleo) doctor finally looked at me and said, “What is wrong with your weight? Maybe this IS your best weight, and you need to stop stressing about it.” The fact is that we are all unique, and, as others have said, need to gauge our health based on how our body is responding, not on what the scale says. Oftentimes emotion well-being is harder to acquire than physical health.

  42. As an athlete in my SAD life, I think my active lifestyle saved me from a lot of extra weight gain. I did lose 3-4lbs of visceral fat once primal but overall, while my body changed slowly the scale did not. Realize that your body composition may be drastically improved and rely on your energy, mood and physical aptitude to tell you if there is a real issue besides scale blues.

  43. Hi Mark-I must say that being healthy and fit is a top concern for most of us and women have a particular problem with their arms especially after 55 or so. However with that said the moving of fat cells from the arms to lodge in other parts of the body is-well stupid-when fat cells are broken down they are absorbed and excreted thru the liver and kidneys-generally not put in the hips-but I do agree on the movement and exercise issue-and just lay off the junk food ladies-