by Mark Sisson Mark's Daily Apple
Recently by Mark Sisson: Is It Primal? — Spirulina, Chlorella, Amaranth, and Other Foods Scrutinized
Whenever friends, co-workers, or loved ones complain about not being able to lose weight and turn to us for answers or advice, we can all generally rattle off a few suggestions that, if followed, usually set them on the right track. For the soda-swilling cubicle mate who keeps a recycling bin just for cans beneath his desk who asks, ”Why can’t I lose weight?,” you suggest stopping soda. For the fast food addict who wonders why she can’t hit her high school weight, you suggest avoiding fries, getting water, and ditching the buns. To the vegetarian best friend who eats “healthy” but is growing increasingly skinny-fat, you send a link to MDA. Those are simple solutions. What about your stalled weight loss? You’re Primal, you’ve lost a bunch of weight already, you’re feeling good, you don’t have many complaints, you know all about nutrition, and you’re sticking with the lifestyle — but you’re not losing as much weight as you’d like. Well, it could very well be that you’ve inadvertently throw a wrench into weight loss efforts.
What do I mean? Let’s take a look:
You’re overly obsessed with dietary purity.
Now, if you’re celiac or gluten sensitive, it’s natural to be concerned about even minimal amounts of gluten in soy sauce. If you’re allergic to dairy, you should be that guy who pesters the waiter about the powdered milk in the gravy. If you’re pregnant, I wouldn’t blame you for worrying over the source of the fish you’re being served. But if you’re generally healthy — or on your way there — and you’re not acutely intolerant or allergic to any particular food, I’d argue that worrying over a single component of a single meal to the point of physical manifestations of stress (racing heart, sweaty palms, nervous tick, scattered thoughts) is not conducive to weight loss. You’re trying to be so perfect that it becomes the enemy of the good.
You’ve ignored the other aspects of the PB lifestyle.
When I put together the ten Primal Blueprint laws, I tried not to emphasize any single one over the rest. They are all important for health and vitality. “Eat lots of plants and animals” may trump “Move around a lot at a slow pace,” “Get lots of sleep,” and “Play” in the body composition arena, but you cannot overlook or underestimate the others. The more people I encounter, the more I see that every aspect is vital for real success with this lifestyle — and that includes weight loss. I didn’t make it ten laws just to hit a nice even number, ya know.
You’re wedded to an ideology rather than what actually works for you.
At last year’s PrimalCon, I fielded an interesting question during the keynote. An attendee asked whether it was okay that his kid ate lots of fruit and other Primal carbs along with meat, eggs, and veggies. I asked how the kid was doing, and he said, “Great.” I said to keep it up as long as it was working. You don’t mess with success. Now, if he had just assumed that his kid was getting too many carbs and decided to replace the fruit and potatoes with spoonfuls of coconut oil, he would have been doing his child a disservice. The kid probably wouldn’t understand why some of his favorite foods were now off limits; the kid would get stressed out and unhappy and his sense of metabolic homeostasis could have been disrupted as a result. Since the guy was attending PrimalCon, he was obviously a fan of the Primal Blueprint — but he wasn’t an ideologue. He recognized that his kid did well on a diet somewhat different than his own, and that this was okay.
You’re not tailoring your macronutrient levels to your lifestyle.
If you’re a CrossFitter going five days a week, doing the WODs as RX’d, and finding yourself growing a bit pudgier despite your best efforts, you may need to eat some sweet potatoes. Conversely, if you work a sedentary job and do some gardening and some dog walking for exercise, you probably don’t need to modify your low carb consumption. I see carbs as elective macronutrients, in general. I don’t elect to eat all that many of them, personally, but that’s because I’ve tailored my lifestyle such that this is the healthiest way for me to eat. Eat more if you’re going to be burning glycogen. Eat fewer if you’re not. Eating too few carbs while working out with high intensity and high volume will ruin your adrenals, depress your thyroid, and stall weight loss. Eating too many carbs without putting them to good use or enjoying exercise-induced insulin sensitivity will promote hyperinsulinemia and weight gain. Make sure it all matches up.
You’ve taken the “exercise doesn’t cause weight loss” claim a bit too literally.
It’s true that “eat less, move more” is an overly simplified, ineffective piece of weight loss “advice,” akin to a psychiatrist telling a depressed patient to simply “feel better.” However, that doesn’t make it a downright falsity. Exercise is an essential part of losing weight — particularly unwanted adipose tissue — and you can’t ignore it forever and hope to lose the weight you want to lose. I don’t think it’s helpful to look at exercise as a mechanistic obliterator of calories, because that can enable the “I’ll eat this cupcake and then run for twenty minutes on the treadmill” mentality that just doesn’t work. But exercise is a potent enhancer of hormonal function. It can raise testosterone, growth hormone, and improve insulin sensitivity (all of which improve fat loss). It can divert the calories you do eat toward lean muscle and away from body fat. It can divert the carbs you eat toward refilling muscle glycogen. All in all, as long as you don’t overdo things, exercise is an important ally in fat burning and lean mass accumulation.