100 Days of Change – My Transformation Story

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

Note: Andrew experiments with Intermittent Fasting. While IFing is an effective tool for many people, it is not a required component of the Primal Blueprint. As Andrew says, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

I’m nearly 56 years old and about four years from retirement. I have been training for retirement by building skills and habits for things I want to do when I retire, and at the same time I’m training for my eighties. Health care is on a path to crisis for people my age, and I figure the only way to survive the health-care crisis is to not need it. I came up with the 100-days idea because I figure it takes about three months to make a real change in oneself, and I had several real changes I needed to make. I choose to think in days, because change-making is a daily commitment.

My first 100-day objective was simply to get more active and build strength. I was 230 pounds, it was late July 2011, and I began a weight-lifting/cardio routine coupled with low-carb/Primal Blueprint diet. After 100 days I was much healthier and 220 pounds. I wasn’t strict enough with the calorie restriction, so despite eating more Primally I didn’t lose all that much weight. I did lose fat, but gained muscle.

Andrew - September 2011

The second 100 days began in November 2011, and my objective was to become a better Nordic skier. I skied 108 days between mid-November and the end of March. I went from being a floundering spastic to being able to ski with most of the better skiers in my age range, but I never had their speed or endurance uphill. My weight didn’t change much, but again I had not embraced the caloric restriction idea. Low-carb is important, but I think that at some point you have to eat less if you’re going to lose weight.

The third 100-day objective was to get myself to a healthy weight and be prepared for intense XC ski training at the beginning of the next ski season. At that time I wanted to be firmly under 200 pounds. I set my sights on losing another 25 pounds and starting trail running and mountain biking to help with my conditioning.

Running has never been my thing because of lower back trouble. Running made it so painful I figured I just wouldn’t be able to do it. I was wrong about that of course (more on the back pain later). Trail running turns out to be a lot easier on my back than road or treadmill running.

I began alternate-day eating in April this year at 220 pounds. I took a real interest in Nordic skiing (both classic and skate) last winter and I happen to live near an excellent Nordic ski facility, which transforms into an amazing XC running and single-track biking facility when the snow leaves. This is my playground.

My program for the summer was to eat only within a 4-hour window every second day, and run or ride 4 to 10 km 4 or 5 times per week. For 10 weeks I followed the ADE program without faltering and then began to relax a little, going to one meal a day for a week, then back to alternate days for a while. I was still eating a lot less, but as I approach a healthy weight it becomes less important, and sometimes it seems to work better eating a smaller amount once every day.

I took the word fasting out of the alternate-day program because I think fasting is more than skipping a meal, or even several meals. Not being a scientist or nutritionist, all I have is my own body for a lab and my own experimentation for evidence. Some things I have proven sufficiently to guide me, other stuff I’m still testing. As such, you should consider this anecdotal and your mileage may vary!

I believe there are three phases of hunger as follows:

  1. Psychological demand to eat. You can ignore this. All you’re doing is messing with your mind.
  2. Physiological demand to eat. You can ignore this too. Now you’re messing with your digestive system and it tells you about it.
  3. Physiological need to eat. Don’t panic, but pay attention. This is the zone where real changes take place in your body. This is what I consider fasting to be.

Physiological need is quite a different matter from the demand phases. It kicks in late on day 3 or maybe day 4 of a fast. In my opinion, before that time all you did was skip a meal or two or three. I’m not suggesting that phases 1 and 2 are easy; in fact they are the most difficult.

Eating carbohydrates means you have to address phase 2 regularly. As such you get into phase 1 and 2 urges regularly. I think that to make caloric restriction work more easily you need to get over the carb addiction. That might take two weeks, but I consider it essential to a positive caloric-restriction program.

I have tried this both ways and it is one of the things I consider fact. YMMV.

Food as a reward, particularly desserts, baffles me. You work hard at keeping your cravings under control for a week or two and then reward yourself with the very things you know to be the cause of all your troubles. It doesn’t make any sense! Say you painted your house and worked very hard for a couple of weeks to make it the pride of the neighborhood. Would you graffiti bomb the place as a reward? No, you think that would be stupid.

I want to mention my experiments with artificial sweeteners. I have proven to my own satisfaction that they sabotage a diet. I have done this in a couple of ways. I have been eating low-carb (about 50-100 grams/week) for many months. My hunger urges are totally under control.

As a test I rinsed my mouth out with sugary-sweet iced tea and spit out the drink without swallowing any. Within 20 minutes I was craving food in the worst way I’d felt in months! Then a few days later I mixed up some artificial sweetener in water and repeated the mouth rinse. Same reaction! I was suddenly craving food like I hadn’t felt since the last test. I did this test a couple of times, which is not sufficient for any real scientific research, but I found it compelling enough. My hypothesis is that the taste buds catch a hint of sweet and trigger an insulin reaction. I figure the artificial sweetener fools the system and you get a shot of insulin in anticipation of a sugary ingestion coming in.

So, if I’m right, you need to stay away from sweet-tasting things. Anything that causes insulin to be secreted from the pancreas will lower your blood sugar and make you feel hungry. That’s my theory, and again YMMV.

I seem to work out best when I’m hungry. I have the most energy just before my meal. If it has been 40+ hours since my last food, I have power to burn. I ride up the hills without stalling, I make quicker decisions and reflex actions, and I often want to go longer than I have time for. For the last few months my most sluggish rides and runs have been right after a meal, even a small one.

I would like to summarize the concepts and ideas that helped me through the last three 100-day programs, and will help me through the next one.

  1. Marry Smart. A supportive wife makes this kind of thing so much easier!
  2. Get off of and away from carbohydrates and sweet-tasting foods. This makes missing meals a lot easier.
  3. Don’t drink calories. Stick to water and tea or coffee. Juice, milk, beer, booze – all poison. If you can’t live without your beer, realize that it is going to make this whole thing very difficult.
  4. Plan some physical activities for non-food days. You will have at least a couple of hours to kill while you’re not shopping, cooking, eating, and cleaning up.
  5. Reschedule your life without mealtimes. This may be the biggest benefit of alternate-day eating – free time!
  6. When you get hungry on a non-food day, exercise or, if it’s late, go to bed. It will pass.
  7. Don’t reward yourself with foods that don’t fit the plan. Cheesecake and ice cream are always bad choices while you’re working on your weight-loss goals.

My next 100 days are about fixing my back troubles. I realized at some point that I can have a sore back whether I sit around or get out and do things. In choosing to be as active as my back will allow I’m now running into a bit of a problem going as far and as hard as the rest of my body and mind are anxious to. I’ve decided to take on the main thing that has been holding me back for all these years. Now I know that 100 days is not all that long, and I can fix things if I keep my attention on them. I’ve been to a sports physiotherapist and I have a course of stretching and strengthening exercises to do. I do them eight times per day. I’ll check in with physio regularly and do exactly as prescribed. I don’t expect any program to succeed unless I do the work and follow the plan. At the end of this 100-day period I’ll be into a new ski season, and a different 100-day objective.

So far I’ve stayed with the programs I laid out for myself. After just finishing the hardest 100 days yet I look back at the beginning and remember how I felt, how hard it was getting my butt up those hills on my bike, and how slowly and painfully I ran. I weigh somewhere south of 195 puonds now and I have reset my target weight to 185. At my height and frame size I don’t think I could be considered overweight at that point.

I could be saying “I wish I’d done that” but instead I’m saying “I’m glad I did that.”

Andrew - August 2012


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123 thoughts on “100 Days of Change – My Transformation Story”

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  1. Like a different man! Congratulations. I love the self experiments. I know people wanna just be told “do this”. You showed you gotta do a little self diagnosis and prescription for what will offer you success. Very cool!

    1. For your back problems I suggest you try a Pilates teacher preferably a Stott Pilates teacher with experience in rehab Unfortunately as I live in the Uk I am rather a long way but if you check out Pilates in google you should strike gold

  2. Wow! What a transformation! Congrats on finding a healthy lifestyle that works for you. I am still experimenting with eating schedules. I find a small snack and a big meal work best for me. Sometimes I can even go without the snack if I get enough protein in the main meal (to keep me full). Anyone have any suggestions for really getting the fat loss ball rolling? I just started crossfit this week and am still sore from day 1. lol.

  3. I like your 100 day goal idea. It is really tough to make improvements in more than one area at a time so it is good to have a focus. When I try to both gain muscle and drop fat at the same time I usually don’t succeed in either. Good luck with getting your back pain under control. I have a herniated disk in my back and mild scoliosis so I understand back pain. I have found that getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night has been the one thing that reduces my back pain the most.

    1. I have found yoga to be excellent for back pain. Once a week for an hour and your back will thank you. I also love the 100 day goal idea. I will incorporate it in 2013.

      1. The only thing that’s ever worked for my scoliosis and lower back pain is Upper Cervical Specific chiropractic. It’s amazing to see how my spine is straightening just from keeping the top two bones in my neck aligned. Might be something to look into.

      2. I agree with this, and the comment below about chiropractic. I heard yoga described once as a “love affair with the spine.” Combined with weight loss, sleep and perhaps some chiropractic work, I think yoga can do amazing things for the back.

    2. I also have a herniated disc (in L5-S1), YMMV, but I found the first several days of stretches introduced at mobilitywod.com to be extremely helpful. I do them before I go to bed so that my back can relax and decompress without fighting the tight muscles around the bad areas.

    3. I had a spinal fusion L1/ L2 – a sports injury and later had herniated discs in L2 L3 and L 4 L 5. Core strengthening on an exercise ball and the chiropractic technique Active Release Technique has helped me the most. I am pretty much pain free now.

  4. Well done ~ in the exercise history of China, (like KungFu, QiGong, etc…) a “Gong” is generally thought to be 100 days!! If you practice with patience and intent for at least 100 days, you’ve achieved ONE Gong…..the accumulation of Gongs makes the master….incredibly encouraging….Thanks

  5. Righteous! Well done and excellent work on the personal experiments and detailed write-up.

    It bugs me too that “fasting” on this site gets thrown around and is equated with just forgetting/skipping breakfast in the morning.

    Keep up the good fight. And let us know how XC season goes.

  6. A couple of thoughts on back pain:
    1. losing the weight should help
    2. see a Chiropractor and get xray and see if it helps if it is a physical issue
    3. try the Inversion devices. The spine needs to decompress and fill the disks with fluid
    4. lower body excercise especially the glutes and body core strength
    5. posture (ergonomics when at the desk working) and spinal alignment (Tai Chi)
    6. proper running technique (not landing on heels)
    7. know your limit. I tend to over work and then get lower back pain. If I do over work, I have to ice down my lower back to head off the consequences
    P.S. great story!

      1. I likewise recently started the foundation traning approach and have found it helpful with lower and cervical back issues. I am trying to improve my comfort on a road bike for slow movement and sprinting as running is not an option due to a suspect knee and said spinal concerns. It has helped so far. Plus cycling to me has always been a form of play. I am a 59 y/o male down 80+ lbs in 2012 from Paleo including some IF. This has been the best Christmas in a long time.

    1. I also like the 100 day goals. Long enough to make a difference and short enough that you have the end in sight to keep you encouraged.

      I also recommend a chiropractor for your lower back pain. Take note of how the adjustment is done and see if you can replicate the movement at home.

      I’ve learned how to pop my lower back and I can now do a “self-adjustment” anytime I need it. Even without cracking your back, it’s a great stretch.

  7. Good work Andrew – I’ll bet your family is glad you did that too! I’ve read a lot of medical records over the years and back complaints are a constant feature. I have always thought this has to do with weight (or sometimes height), but I’m sure that skinny little people have pain there too. It does seem like you should take a few days off the PT exercises to let the muscle repair itself. Hopefully it will be able to lend more support to the spine if it can build up. I just read Doug McGuff’s book, Body by Science, so I have this on my mind. Good luck on the next phase.

  8. Hard-core!

    I started for the same reasons- I wouldn’t wish health or cancer care on my worst enemy. There’s been way too much of it in my family.

    Have you looked at kettlebells at all? They got rid of my back pain and leg injuries, and you can just leave them outside your door.

    1. Moshen, can you give a few examples of kettlebell exercises/workouts that you do? I purchased a kettlebell a few months ago, but still haven’t really figured out the best way to work out with it! I had knee surgery earlier this year, and I found that the swings caused me some pain afterwards, which ended up putting me off of kettlebell work. I’d love to pick it back up again though, just don’t really know where to start!

  9. Brilliant and inspiring–way to go, and thanks for the inspiration! Looks like you have some healthy and happy decades ahead of you.

  10. What a great history!Once again another proof that PBP works!It may take a little twist or tug here and experimenting there since we all have different health issues to target… but once you get this thing down and learn how to nourish and move your body the way it is meant to be…is like ILLUMINATION!Thank you ANDREW for sharing your primal journey (kind of unique because of the “100 days ideas”) 🙂 Thank you Mark Sisson for EVERYTHING that you do to deliver the best information/researches/recipes/encouragement and so much more.Please excuse my grammar as english still is a daily learning. Can’t wait to see the next “100 day ideas”.GROK ON MR ANDREW and CONGRATULATIONS!

  11. Thanks for the feedback everyone. A couple of updates (the article dates back to August or September):

    1) Back pain is no longer an issue. I get the odd pang but it is under control and not stopping me from doing stuff. Physio came down to mostly yoga exercises. I have come to believe that yoga has many solutions.

    2) I’m well into my XC ski season and the next 100 days (gong!). It’s better than I could have hoped.

    Now the next 10 days .. avoid holiday excesses. Good luck with that, everyone!

    1. Good for you, Andrew! Great story and great example of the importance of having a plan, and for working out what’s best for your mind and body.

    2. Core specific exercises too my man, turn your strength into an asset.

  12. Congrats Andrew, great story! I’m a couple of months away from 60, lost about 20 pounds (got on the scales for the first time in a few months the other day) without really trying over the past year, just eliminated grains and simple carbohydrates from my diet. I’ve always exercised and had a pretty healthy diet (except for buying into the multi-grain propaganda) most of my life though. I’m happy with being 155 lbs at 5′ 8″. As far as sweeteners, try stevia, all natural, just takes a little and will NOT raise your blood sugar, and may not give you the cravings you are experiencing. Might be worth trying. Berries give me the sweets I need plus I must confess I eat a couple of 88% low sugar chocolate squares each day. Best wishes for continued success!

  13. I love the way you approached your goals, Andrew. While I recognize that many of your methods aren’t appropriate for me, I have come to realize that no two bodies respond to a given protocol in the same manner. And you are a very wise man to understand the value of marrying well! Nicely done on all counts!

  14. Have u tried a mackenzie certified physio? I have a disc protrusion and three physios did little to alleviate my symptoms. I researched the mckenzie method and found a certified pt who has me doing extensions, which all the others told me to avoid. After only one week im noticing a big difference.

  15. Great job, you went from George Costanza to George Clooney. You look like money now!

    I am 58 and retired for almost 5 years. You are right, health care is out of control, even the most minimal care is hugely expensive. A chronic condition or emergency could easily become a financial calamity. Insurance concerns are the biggest obstacle to early retirement.

    Old guys rule.

    1. I agree. I guess everyone is different, but I’ve lost weight on primal/paleo without any fasting. I don’t restrict the volume of what I eat and I still eat a fair amount of fruit. I like sweet stuff. Very, very occasionally I may eat something non-primal (including dessert). What I love most about primal blueprint is that it is EASY and SUSTAINABLE. I may have actually lost weight quicker on weight watchers, but it was excruciating. I’m happy to be following an eating plan that I have no doubt I can follow (more or less) for the rest of my life.

      1. Also, IF as presented in this post is also only realistic for a single or a very flexible couple. As a breast feeding mother, abstaining from food every other day when it’s available seems like a very bad idea. Ditto with feeding the kids. Even if I wasn’t breastfeeding the existence of my kids means all the time benefits accrued from not preparing meals goes “poof”, since I’m feeding others anyway.

        Also, I go stark raving loony (more so than normal 😉 )when I’m hungry. I can’t focus or think about anything but food. I can’t imagine trying to be around my kids on the non-food days. Heck, I started low carb diet precisely because I was such a moody monster as a vegetarian.

        So yes, I can see the IF part of his approach to definitely be a YMMV.

        1. I’ve read that IF is mainly effective for men, women can end up with lots of hormonal issues, and difficulty losing weight if they do IF too much.

    2. Joy is being healthy so that you can look forward to the rest of your life fit and fabulous!

      People think I am too strict for not having pizza for two years now – I don’t care what they think. I am healthier than most of them and my body comes before what anyone else thinks.

      1. There is a difference between not eating a pizza – or any other food- and not eating every day – and setting guidelines like – if you are hungry, sleep it off; eating an apple is gonna destroy all the work, etc. It takes more to maintain than to reach the goal. A loss achieved with extreme methods is very hard to sustain, it is likely to backfire. For example, at some point a person will stop sleeping if the hunger suppression is chronic. Chronic fasting might be possible to a monk living in a world of spiritual meditation who can elope to the Tibetian mountains and seek calm and enlightenment, but a normal person at a normal world is going to grow short of temper and potentially negatively react on a personal or a professional level sooner or later.

        I dunno, this all sounds like the “Biggest Looser” Primal way, and the Biggest Looser in my view the worst thing that could have happened to the overweight people seeking to lose weight.

        1. I respectfully adhere to my position on this after consideration. I’m not sure we’re on the same page when you say “sleep off hunger”. I am talking about shaking off the psychological and physiological demands when “fasting” (quotes intentional). If you were on a program like I was you’d need to NOT EAT for 44 hours at a time. If going to sleep helps you stick to your plan then I consider it valid. It worked for me at times.

          Also, I thing Grok would often need to deal with hunger in the face of dwindling food supplies when the Burger King was closed (I mean, when it’s dark or cold out or something). In that sense I reckon going to bed hungry is as primal as the rest of the things we do to mimic the primal experience.

          The other thing is, I’m not suggesting this program is right for others. In fact if you don’t have a significant amount of weight to lose I couldn’t recommend it.

    3. I agree it’s not for everyone. I wanted to get my weight down quickly so I could enjoy doing the things I love to do.

      I want to get exercise by mtn biking and skiing. Hauling the equivalent of 4 gallons of milk around the trails was making that difficult.

      I sequenced my transformation my way. It may not be the only way or the best way, but it’s one way.

      1. Everyone’s different and YMMV, indeed. But I found this advice completely in harmony with my own experience.

        Understanding one’s hunger and controlling it can be very liberating when you’re used to the other way around.

      2. The one thing I love the most about paleo is that the cravings are gone. From the beginning of going paleo, it took about 2 or 3 weeks for all of my cravings to stop. Now I’m free to fast anytime I like without the manic hunger.

        I choose to fast 1 day each week with about 50g of whey protein during the fast. However, I have a friend who did 1 year of intermittent fasting every other day and did quite well with it.

    4. While I don’t have the exact personality and life suitable to do this (single mom, foodie), I TOTALLY know some people this would resonate with, and I enjoyed his direct and masculine tone in relating the experiments and philosophical approach. What’s awesome about these Friday success stories is that they use core common elements we all relate to, but the diverse personalities and challenges they have faced reveal how realistic the PBP is for any individual!

      Love this line, and agree, “Health care is on a path to crisis for people my age, and I figure the only way to survive the health-care crisis is to not need it.”

  16. Awesome goals set and met! And you did it before the end of the world according to the Mayans!

    Seriously, I am taking some items you mentioned and incorporating them into my own training. I am only 10 lbs from ideal weight and have been stuck here for months..time to break the plateau.

  17. “I came up with the 100-days idea because I figure it takes about three months to make a real change…I choose to think in days, because change-making is a daily commitment.”

    LOVE THIS! Way to break down your goals into 100-day segments and conquer each one at a time. Fat loss didn’t even enter the equation until round 3. Talk about prioritizing overall health & happiness over some arbitrary number. Amazing job!

  18. Thank you for sharing your story Andrew. I especially appreciate the methods you have been choosing, such as thinking of your process as a series of days and focusing on one major goal at a time. You seem to know yourself well.

    P.S. I completely agree with your account of fasting – the three phases as well as the cycle of energy have proved themselves in my experience.

  19. Thanks, Andrew. Your story is very inspiring and motivating for this 50+YO woman. Today (the solstice) is the winter holiday I celebrate, and as is typical, I have a big feast planned (it’s mostly primal and naturally so). But I can start on a 100-day goal tomorrow—and I will.

  20. Great, detailed story. Thank you for sharing. You look fantastic!

  21. “Say you painted your house and worked very hard for a couple of weeks to make it the pride of the neighborhood. Would you graffiti bomb the place as a reward? No, you think that would be stupid.”

    SO WELL SAID. That comparison just opened my eyes. Thank you.

    1. I think that’s a fine approach and outlook if you are trying to mentally ween off a sweets addiction where you are constantly sabotage themselves. But nobody should think that they are causing irreparable harm to their body if they have a dessert every couple of weeks and are mostly strict other times. We all use different mental cues and analogies that help us work through our own problems though. Binging I think is a different story, but we are all in different places.

    2. The painted house analogy is another good example of what to tell folks that insist you can have “just one piece of cake” or “a few small cookies won’t hurt you.”

      I have a few other examples that I use when I’m encouraged to eat junk, but I’m definitely adding this one to my list!

      1. I try to keep thinking how each case is unique, and I guess for me a wholesale abstinence from food that could sabotage my progress is easier. Over all than sampling the forbidden stuff even rarely.

        Eating a piece of cake means, for me, having to deal with a hunger spike later.

        1. I have found, that I simply don’t want to eat the cake. It doesn’t call to me at all these days. Your story was an interesting read, Andrew, thank you for sharing. Going primal has allowed me to disconnect from food, and I now eat when hungry, which is about 2 meals a day, a brunch and a shared meal with my family in the evening.
          Don’t forget the neurological aspect of sweeteners and sugar, they hit receptors in the brain that respond to opiods it’s powerful stuff, and any sweetener beyond a whole food should be used cautiously and consciously. Best wishes for the season,

  22. Awesome! Love all the fasting self-experimentation. As for your back, I too, have been experimenting. Esther Gokhale is a great beginning step. Also, check out Kelly Starrett’s Mobility WOD project. I can actually see based on your after photo that you are a little short in the front hip. I bet you’d feel great after a good couch stretch. Great work!!!

    1. I took a Gokhale class in July 2012, and I have already experienced a 90% decrease in back pain, noticeable posture improvement, and a smaller rib cage area. I highly recommend it.

  23. You should look into Eight Steps to a Pain Free Back by Esther Gokhale. I learned about her book on this site and will forever be grateful to Mark for the recommendation. The Mayo Clinic says her book may be the best contribution to non-surgical back pain ever written.

  24. This was really inspiring. You’re right about the list, especially the first: Marry Smart. I do not have a supporitive spouse. He refuses to even consider looking into the Primal Lifestyle–although he’s 40 pounds overweight and has a host of health problems that read like the first two paragraphs of a Friday tesitmonial. At least he’s stopped sabatoging my efforts. I’m about to start a 90-day journey of my own (using my new 90 Journal!!). Best of luck to you in the next 100 dys!!!

  25. Great job, Andrew! I love when you say “Health care is on a path to crisis for people my age, and I figure the only way to survive the health-care crisis is to not need it.” At age 54 I share your opinion and it is why I think following one’s own primal blueprint is so important. Great job on the experimentation — it is the only path to finding what is right for you.

    1. Myra, that’s exactly what I wanted to say to Andrew, so I’m just seconding your comment. I applaud his self-experimentation, and am baffled by the few critical comments. Surely people don’t think they know better than Andrew does about his own experience? We all have to find our own path to our own best health. And, at age 51, I’m also trying to set myself up for the best health possible in the coming decades. Hopefully many of them 🙂

  26. Core exercises are very important not just stretching for any type of mid-line problems. Also, Insulin is produced by everything. The key is to make the spikes less and if you do spike it make sure it is after a workout. Studies have shown that sweetness regardless of calorie content will result in an insulin spike so for all those diabetics, you should avoid added sweetners of any kind, sucks but its true.

    1. Awesome! Really like the way 100 days worked for you. The coolest thing about primal living is how easy it can be to personalize as opposed to one size fits all ”diet”. You look like a different person, but most importantly you healthier!

  27. +1 On marrying smart.

    “You can’t fix stupid” – Ron White

    1. It is a key point. Particularly for one like me who is always taking things to a one extreme or another, or doing things in a non-conventional way. A spouse who lets you be yourself is a treasure beyond any lottery win.

    2. I’ve seen the effects up close and personal of not marrying well. I’m sooo lucky in marrying my husband.

  28. Very instructive post, plenty of method and good sense!
    For your back: buy Esther Gokhale’s book “8 steps for a pain free back” in Amazon. Mark did a review of it and her daughter participates in the PrimalCons! That book changed my life.

  29. Just short 30 minute massages once a week should really help your back pain. I used to be a massage thereapist so I’m not just talking out of my ass.

  30. Amen to these brilliant insights on dietary psychology! Very well stated and helpful.

    It seems the troubled state of healthcare has a tremendous silver lining. We all have extra incentive to take responsibility for our own health.

    Fantastic and inspiring work, Andrew. I hope when you turn 80 you’re still hitting your stride!

  31. One of the best posts I’ve read. This guy’s direct and brutally honest take on the familiar excuses lots of us make when it comes to diet or exercise is motivating. I might stop whining and try his 100-day plan in 2013!

  32. You look great Andrew! And I agree about artificial sweeteners. They must somehow trigger the same mechanisms as sugar. “If they fire together, they wire together”.

  33. I to have been doing eating experiments lately. I definitely perform better on an empty stomach. I prefer to skip breakfast and lunch before an afternoon workout. Up my water intake for that time and it is amazing the difference. Even if I eat a little little protein in the morning and don’t workout until 1 I notice the difference. I think alternating fasting days with exercise, Then Refueling and rest together works best for me. I naturally tend to consume more on my Rest days, it seems natural for my body to do this and it work!

    I really enjoyed your article and success story! Keep it up!

  34. Thanks Andrew for a personal and well-thought out plan for achieving a goal. YMMV yes, but your plan typifies a punch list for success:
    1. Support from partner, family, or friends.
    2. A reason to be fitter (in your case, xc skiing) – matching the idea of enjoying life’s pleasures to putting in the work.
    3. Putting into practice the notion of eating to live rather than living to eat.

    Eating well occasionally can be a pleasure in itself but your photos confirm the results of your tinkering. Well done.

  35. I appreciate your comments and experiments regarding artificial sweetners. I think you are right although for a long time I resisted this idea! I have found that upping my fat intake has helped me and my sweet cravings have really gone and I am rarely using the artificial sweetners anymore! I like your 100 day approach, I might try it!

  36. love the idea of 100 day goals! working on one thing at a time! sounds like you have a lot of persistence so congratulation! also i agree with you on the sweets/artificial sweetners idea. I have type one diabetes and I find that (unless my blood sugars go low from injecting too much insulin) I tend to crave sugar a-lot less than the normal person… probably because my body produces no insulin.

  37. Congratulations! I really enjoyed reading your story. It gave me some good ideas about fasting and goal setting. I like the 100 day idea. I agree with your observation about health care on the path to crisis. I am an RN and I regularly tell friends of mine that they need to do ALL that they can to get and stay healthy, and their goal should be to not NEED any medications, and to stay OUT of hospitals. You are an inspiration by what you have done. Happy for you.

  38. Good thinking on your part. Breaking down the process makes it easy to focus on the task at hand which, in turn, simplifies the job of learning and understanding what you are doing. I will say too that I was surprised to see the guy that hid underneath the other fellow. A remarkable change. Congrats.

  39. A heartfelt thank you to all who commented and all of you who read my 100-Days essay. I enjoyed writing it and I have enjoyed the transformation process. Today, following the comment board has been a thrill and I appreciate all the kind words.

    I had a strategy from the start, which, in broad stokes, was to shake off the weight so I could be active, and then keep the weight off by staying active. In doing the things I a, [assopmate about (skiing in winter, mountain biking in summer)and going at them with enthusiasm, I think my body is right-sizing. I’ll end up with a body that is best suited to those activities.

    I’m off to grok the night away. Thank you, and a very happy holiday season to all.

  40. Oops .. That should read “In doing the things I am passionate about …”

  41. Very well done Andrew!

    You’re Age 56 going on40!

    I’ve found that I need to keep running….at least three 6 mile runs per week to keep from adding weight…even with a paleo meal style and some white or red wine!

  42. Congrats on your success. Admire your self-experimentation and ability to accept what works with your mental and physical attributes. I avoid all sweets. I call them “poison” and I refuse to take poison into my body.

    Eager to hear about the next 100 day challenge to yourself.

    1. Congrats to you. I found that I naturally have reduced my eating window over time, basically IF from night till usually around 1-3PM the next day. I’m slimmer than I’ve ever been with nothing that feels like deprivation to me now. I think that there is some benefit to going whole hog to get to a set point where you want to be. I find it easier to stay where I am now even with some food indescretions at this point after being fairly strict for 3 years now. I tend to think if you’re “broke” going whole hog till your fixed might be the quick and dirty way there. Hopefully that makes some sense. Also many suggestions on the back issue and I want to also throw a couple ideas out there. Read Stewart McGill and Pete Egoscue, two authors who have some interesting things to say on the matter. Both that I’ve found helpful.

  43. Andrew.
    You look unbelievably good, fit older men are the most gorgeous IMHO.
    Please do some research on the outstanding Russian Scenar device for back trouble. I suffered at the hands of every conventional means of treatment for a back back for about twelve years. Massage and Rolfing (they call it the Rolls Royce of massage) were my favourite till I found out about it earlier this year, but I tried all the rest at least twice too. Massage made the pain manageable, but nothing but the actual device has begun to address the source. (I certainly don’t work for them, but I possibly would if I didn’t have so many interests already). It’s as massive a breakthrough in my life as primal eating has been, and were I the sort to stand on a street corner with a sandwich board, Primal life and Scenar for HEALING (not managing) pre-existing damage would be almost all I’d go on about.
    I wish you the very best for your 80’s and beyond.
    : )

  44. Another fantastic n of 1 success story. Be proud Andrew as you are Master of your Metabolism. Looking liberated…..internal and external peace.

    “Marry Smart”…….love this as I share in the sentiment comforted by my Grokette exploring together.

    Grok on 🙂

  45. I can’t put my finger on it, but i found this success story to be an overwhelmingly inspirational transformation. Probably, the before picture reminds my of my father and the potential that still slumbers inside of him. Have to get him on the right track.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  46. Wonderful motivational tale!

    However, I come back to the n=1 thing and especially YMMV. It could just be because I’m the weirdest, most abnormal human about food that exists (well, maybe, exists this side of autistic children!) but I do not find any food or sugar cravings to be sparked by “sweet.” (I have never drunk soda or alcohol — burns my tongue.) I use (liquid) splenda in Wyler’s version of koolaid — and do not have cravings. That ‘sweet drink’ and water (and my morning mug of coffee with a bit of heavy cream and some (unsweetened) almond milk — and ‘cookie-dough-flavored” splenda syrup) are all I drink. I don’t crave sweets, I don’t even crave carbs (my actual downfall… I’ve never been a sweet-eater — but pasta? OH! As Dr Mike says; face down the carbs!)

    That said: your tale, Andrew, motivates me to try 100 days without. Well, without the drink-mix. Can’t give up the coffee… Well WON’T give up the coffee! A few years ago, I did wean down and cut out coffee for several months following Mile Eades “6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle” — of which I have one)!

    And let me second (third?) the recco for Esther Gokhale — her stuff has made a HUGE difference in my back pain/tiredness. And it’s easy to do!

  47. I had a such a visceral reaction to the after photo — such a change in not just appearance but vitality. Awesome!

    I am a natural IF’er and don’t have a sweet tooth (don’t hate on me) but I have my own vices. I walk the fine line between being an overly-restricted lunatic and understanding the danger of the slippery slope.

    What really sets this story apart is Andrew’s strategic and analytic approach. Really connected with that personally.

    My other personal ps is that I’m looking at 20″ of fresh snow and horrible, self-taught nordic ski skills! Perfect timing – thanks!

  48. You’re totally Awesome, Andrew.

    Love how you approached the whole transformation as an experiment. I believe all change should be treated just like that.

    You’re very smart to prepare for the upcoming years. So many people in your age group have the same basic look as you in your before photo – heavy, puffy, overfed, sedentary, almost always with way too much abdominal mass.

    You’re right – you have to actually DO SOME STUFF to turn that around, and it takes some serious experimentation to figure out what stuff will work for you.

    Very cool the way you’ve experimented with IF. I did as well, and found it was the worst possible thing for me. My body/mind read the absence as food as famine/stress (and responded accordingly). That’s how it is for some people, especially women (Mark did a post on this).

    I also like your sweetened tea experiment. I think your theory is correct, and, to add to it, I know from my own experimentation that sweets make me want more sweets – because of dopamine. You might be interested in the great book “The End Of Overeating” by David A. Kessler, MD (the gist of which is that highly palatable foods, especially sweets and bad carbs, make our brains crazy for more – they cause a dopamine release that feels good, and our brains start to crave more dopamine).

    You also might like the book “Younger Next Year” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, MD. The version with the yellow cover is generic and mostly for men; the version with the pink cover is for women. It lays out in very entertaining detail what happens in our bodies and brains when we eat well and exercise (and when we don’t).

    Great story! Really well done. Carry on.

    All the best to you.


  49. My response to pics was: “WOW!”

    Thanks for sharing and way to go!

  50. ‘floundering spastics’ of the world….don’t stand for it anymore!

  51. The “food as reward” paragraph was so perfectly right and well said, I don’t think you could say it any better. I also absolutely agree that artificial sweeteners cause unwarranted hunger. I definitely noticed this in myself.

    You are truly an inspiration to me. I think this transformation story hit me more than any other I’ve read. I’m about to embark on a one-year strict clean eating experiment with plans to throw in additional 30 or 90 day challenges relating to other aspects of my health (exercise, sleep, etc..). I think I’ve reached a point where I just don’t see the point in not doing everything I can to feel and live as optimally as I possibly can every day. But, I’ve felt nervous about it, like maybe I’m insane or something to do this. After reading your story I feel ready to totally embrace it. Thank you for sharing!

  52. Looks to me like your wife chose the ‘right partner’. Congratulations to you and your wife — the journey is never solo and we need supportive, loving people around us. You look 20 years younger and you are way hot! Congratulations. /Lu

    1. Andrew’s wife here — I definitely did choose the right partner! Andrew is an inspiration and an example to me every day…and yes, definitely way hot! 🙂

  53. Andrew – congratulations!

    Your transition has been inspirational and I was intrigued to read about the driving rationale and strategies. I especially like the idea of the 100 day programs – this seems like the right amount of time to begin an effective change while thinking of it in terms of days and not months seems very manageable. I plan to follow your example in the New Year!

    All the best,

    – Eric

  54. I have fixed chronic back pain in hundreds of clients. I am a certified Rolfer. It is mazing for chronic back pain ,look for one in your area. A Rolfer restructures the entire body bringing it back to alignment. Google it and find a good practitioner you won’t be sorry. Some people think it is painful, like a deep massage, but paleos find it feels good cause we have very little muscular inflamtion. Great success story!

    1. Hm. My rolfer didn’t fix me, but he helped a lot for the time I was seeing him and the thousand two hundred I paid him. After the ten sessions he expected me to be fixed so wouldn’t help me anymore.
      Rolfing is still massage, not healing.

  55. Enjoyed the article and can relate so well – in my mid fifties and started a fitness quest about a year and a half ago and today am in the best shape of my life – thanks for sharing your story

  56. Try a rolfer for your back pain..I suffered for years going to a chiropractor….one trip to the rolfer and I’m almost pain free.

  57. Congratulations and thank you for the inspiration. Not having grown up around snow I needed someone to show me that you can get into XCC skiing and skate skiing and become accomplished not just floundering at a later age.

    I have always been an athlete though and for a long time one with back pain. sure I did exercises, chiro, etc etc. Ironically the one thing that cured it for good was an out there approach that I tried because I was desperate. Try John Sarno “Healing Back Pain” If that is your problem then it is a quick heal and truly liberating. You may have to think of something else to do with the 185 days.

    Thanks again

  58. Great story!

    I love the 100 day idea. I’m in the midst of my own self experiment right now with ketosis. Day 14

  59. I’m so pumped to see your amazing progress! As you mentioned back troubles, I would suggest looking into Jesse Cannone’s book 7 Day Back Pain Cure and his website at Healthy Back Institute. I wish you continued success as you go forward.



  60. I think you are right about insulin being triggered by tasting something sweet. I always get real hungry after drinking a diet coke. I have also read this somewhere else but I can’t remember where.

    I also have another reaction which is just the opposite. I live in Seattle and frequently walk around Green Lake (3 miles). Sometimes on my second lap I get real hungry and hit the wall. If I pull out a peice of hard candy and suck on it the hunger goes away even though I am consuming less than ten calories. If you are already hungry when you taste something sweet maybe you don’t get the insulin trigger.

  61. Thanks for sharing what worked for you. I have to admit eating sugary stuff (including fruit) has sabotaged me quite often. Congratulations on your achievement!

  62. Your artificial sweetener experiment totally fascinated me…and your conclusions made perfect sense. I am continually shell-shocked by the before and after pictures, including yours. Even a person’s face looks completely different! Thanks so much for sharing in such detail, Andrew. Its been encouraging and challenging!

    1. Don’t be jealous, get some! The Spyridons are excellent for trail running – superb gription!

      I have several pairs of VFFs and these are my favorite for outdoors. I think they have had a very positive effect on my health overall. They make me want to go trail running.

  63. I’m 59 and I also am concerned about the future of our health care system and the state of Medicare. So your reasoning in this area really resonated with me. I am in my first 100 days using Paleo/Primal and I have lost 18 pounds.

    In previous weight loss attempts, I either used the “starve the beast” approach or I tried the “run the beast until he dies” approach. Neither one is sustainable.

    This is the first time in my life that I have focused on what I eat. WHAT A DIFFERENCE!! And it is very sustainable and very simple.

    Your whole story really resonated with me. Thank you for sharing it. Keep On Keeping On.

  64. Hi Andrew ~ I read your story a year-to-the-day it was first posted (12/21/2013) and so admire your self-evaluations and self-discipline in pursuing your goals.

    “Food as a reward, particularly desserts, baffles me. You work hard at keeping your cravings under control for a week or two and then reward yourself with the very things you know to be the cause of all your troubles. It doesn’t make any sense!”

    I need to work on this issue myself – ice cream being my downfall. Not sure I can go 100 days without it but I’ll give it a go for 30 – right after the New Year.

    Yours was another jaw-dropping, night-to-day, transformation. Good job, sir!

    Grok On!