It’s time for another healthy dose of inspiration from Mark’s Daily Apple readers that took control of their health and turned their lives around. Many thanks to Jason, Marti and Dan for sharing their stories with the community. If you have your own story and pics to share shoot me a line here. Happy Friday, everyone!
Hey there Mark!!!
Well for me it starts around Christmas of 2009. I was topping the scales at 339 lbs, I had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years earlier and taking several medications to help control it. Despite eating like the dieticians recommended I kept putting on more weight. I stayed sick constantly, never felt like doing anything and was just in generally bad health and I was only 36. I was so disgusted with myself when my mom gave me some money at Christmas to buy some clothes and I couldn’t find anything in my size.
I was talking to a friend from work that had been losing weight for about a year and asked him what he was doing. He turned me onto MDA and I started my Primal journey. Despite the fact that it went against everything we have been taught since childhood it made sense to me and decided to take the challenge.
I dropped 20 lbs in the first month!!!! I have since been steadily dropping pounds and gaining lean mass and getting stronger.
As of today’s weigh in I am down from 339 to 238. I went from a 48 inch waist and a 3-4x shirt size to a 36 inch waist and a large shirt size (haven’t been in either since high school!) I have beaten the diabetes and haven’t taken any medications for it in 6 months. My doctor was floored when I walked in for my last A1C bloodwork, he was amazed and asked me how I did it.
I still have 40 or 50 lbs to go and the weight is coming off slower but I continue to be vigilant and follow the Primal laws, although I tend to lift weights more often than recommended (but hey, I enjoy it !!!). I have attached a pic of me from Christmas day 2009, and a few from this past weekend 10-10-10.
Thank you, Mark. Your teachings have added years to my life. keep up the good work!!!
Jason Young – Stanfield, NC
Going Primal saved my life. No, I wasn’t actually dying, but I surely was not living. I existed in a world of pain and frustration. I refused to believe that the best I could expect from modern medicine was to control my symptoms. I went searching for answers and found the Primal Blueprint, and the rest as they say is history…
The downward spiral of my health began in 1993 when I slipped on the ice and seriously injured my neck and lower back. Herniated discs, and later deteriorated discs, prevented me from exercising. Although the Veteran’s Administration (VA) doctors wanted to do surgery on me to fuse my neck and lower back, I refused. The VA doctors couldn’t guarantee that the surgery would eliminate the pain, but they could guarantee that I would lose most of my mobility. Undergoing surgery to “maybe” fix a problem wasn’t a risk I was willing to take. Pain medications became my lifeline.
After I retired from the military in 1995, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia (FM). I suffered from many of the symptoms associated with FM in addition to chronic fatigue and muscle pain. I was also diagnosed with high cholesterol. Following the dietary recommendations of my doctor did not reduce my cholesterol levels, therefore I was given a statin drug. I felt like a walking pharmacy due to the number of pills I had to take to treat the various symptoms I had – and if any medication caused a side effect, I was given another prescription to counter effect the side effect.
Four to five times a year I would get cellulitus infections in my legs. My legs would swell to three times their normal size and the heat in my legs turned them bright red in color. The color of my legs matched the color of the can of Coke I was always drinking! The majority of time it took a least two rounds of antibiotics to get the infection under control, and there were times when I had to be hospitalized and given stronger antibiotics by IV to get rid of the cellulitus. I have developed allergies to three different antibiotics. I always bought the same pair of shoes in two or three sizes because the swelling in my legs, ankles and feet fluctuated so much. Actually I had “kankles” – my ankles were always so swollen you could never see an anklebone. I needed to use a cane just so I could walk.
As my health spiraled downward, the one thing that did go up (besides my pain) was my weight. In 1999, I joined the weight loss support group at the VA. Their prescribed diet followed the pyramid plan – conventional wisdom at it’s best! It turned out to be a yo-yo diet. I would lose weight and then gain it back plus more. By 2008, I weighed just shy of 300 pounds. My closet was stocked with clothes in the size of 4X. It was depressing and I tended to avoid mirrors and cameras like the plague.
I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I started researching on the web for alternative solutions to my health problems. There is SO much information out there! I was skeptical of many sites that promised quick fixes and gimmicky products. Eventually I found Mark’s Daily Apple and a few other like-minded sites. Since my middle name is Procrastination, I followed the blogs for about six months before I took any actions to change my lifestyle. I couldn’t believe that simple dietary and exercise changes could have such a profound effect on my life and my dietitian at the VA advised against making the dietary changes I was thinking about.
I finally decided to try living in accordance with the Primal Blueprint (PB). Eat whole foods. Eat healthy fats. Eliminate grains and sugars. Move. I could do that for a few months and see what happens… I didn’t have to buy special weight loss pills or join a gym. I wasn’t required to make a major monetary investment just to try, so why not??? I adopted my new lifestyle at the end of February in 2009. My two-month trial period never ended.
I feel so much better. I seldom use my cane anymore. The days I need my cane usually follow days that I employ the 80/20 rule to justify eating off the grid… By June of 2009, I was off of ALL prescription medications. When my doctor got the results of the lipid panel for cholesterol in June 2009, she told me that she was going to reduce the dosage on my statin drug. I had to remind her that I quit taking the statin drug three months earlier. I have only had two outbreaks of cellulitus since starting PB. I have ankles again that you can actually see. The swelling and inflammation in my body is greatly reduced along with my pain levels. I have a lot more energy. The complexion of my skin has even improved. To date, I have lost eighty pounds.
Changing my dietary habits was much easier than I expected. The improvement in my health was all the reinforcement that I needed to continue. Friends and coworkers have been supportive of my lifestyle changes, however they do admit that they don’t understand how I could give up bread and pasta. I attend meetings twice a month at a local restaurant and the manager there adapts the scheduled meal to foods that I will eat. Actually I have found that the wait staffs at most restaurants are willing to make substitutions when I tell them that I don’t eat certain foods.
The dietitian at the VA that advised me against following PB has now changed her mind. I am considered a weight success story at the VA and I didn’t even follow their plan! After observing my weight loss and reviewing my lab work, the dietitian determined that PB is not detrimental to my health. Since she is mandated by VA regulations to only recommend diets based on the Standard American Diet she can’t promote PB to other veterans, however she has invited me to be a guest speaker on alternative dietary and lifestyle options when they start new weight loss classes.
I have experienced so many good changes in the last year and a half. I continue to lose weight, although the weight isn’t coming off as fast as it did in the beginning. I would like to lose another fifty pounds, but my general feeling of good health far outweighs anything the scales might read. I no longer feel helpless or hopeless. PB has changed my life.
A few years ago, I was 224 pounds (at 5’11”), my blood pressure was high, and my triglycerides were at an astounding 474. Back then, I would routinely eat massive amounts of heavily processed foods—including what I termed “personal pizzas” which were actually large frozen pizzas intended to serve a whole family (albeit not in a healthful way), along with copious amounts of fast food and essentially no fresh fruits or vegetables. Exercise was something I would do very inconsistently, and honestly it was a chore at that weight. I was diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome X (along with about 30% of the rest of the country it seems) and warned that if I didn’t change my ways, I was going to get diabetes and require prescription medication. Then I got a kidney stone as a result of chronic dehydration (a result of drinking coffee, soda, and beer, but essentially no water at all). I was a mess, and I felt exhausted most of the time.
I got the message and decided it was time to make a change. I stopped drinking soda and cut back on the beer, and started drinking more water. I cut way back on the processed food and eventually eliminated it altogether. I introduced more fruits and vegetables into my diet. I lost about 20 pounds in the first year and started feeling better. My blood chemistry improved dramatically. A side effect of the dehydration was constant sleepiness during the day, but drinking enough water meant I didn’t feel the need to nap during the day and my nighttime sleep improved. I had more energy and began getting some exercise—mostly light jogging, hiking, and resistance training.
When I got down to 195 pounds, I decided to go from mostly Primal to as close to 100% as was practical given a modern lifestyle. It really wasn’t that hard, but the effect on my body, mind, mood, and overall health was amazing. I cut out all grains and sugars (other than fruit and a little honey) and also eliminated legumes including peanuts, ate only meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and fermented dairy. No more juice or soda (or drinking any calories for that matter other than an occasional glass of wine). I added Tabata protocol sprints once per week, and started doing my resistance training in more of a HIIT style. I did more hiking and started walking to my local farmer’s market on Saturday – where I bought an eighth of a grass fed cow and now get fresh, organic, local fruits, vegetables, and nuts on a regular basis. I started supplementing with fish oil and vitamin D, and I try to get a little sun every day (at least until the clouds over Portland become a permanent fixture later this Fall). After just a few months, my weight dropped to 178 pounds, with a corresponding drop in my body fat down to around 7%. I’ve never been so lean, fit, or healthy in my life, and I’m turning 40 next year!
Friends have noticed a real difference in how I look and how I eat and have asked me about my new “lifestyle” (their term, not mine). They say it sounds really hard, but I assure them that it’s really not that tough. I feel great and don’t miss the grains, sugar, or processed food. Several of these folks are now moving in a Primal direction, even if they are yet to commit “whole hog” (pun partially intended). My wife has gradually moved in a Primal direction as well after seeing how well I’ve done with it (and frankly, because there is so much good Primal food around the house these days!). My in-laws are even getting into the act and these are people who have struggled with food issues and weight for decades now.
I am very grateful for the very informative and supportive online community I have found in MDA. I learn new things from Mark and others on the site virtually every day, and it continues to enrich my life and health in numerous ways.
Dan Spicer – Beaverton, OR
UPDATE: It Just Gets Better and Better (09/12)
It’s been a couple years since I first submitted my story of transformation on MDA, so when Mark asked me for an update, I eventually got around to chronicling the evolution of my lifestyle, diet, and fitness regimen.
So what has really changed? I’m still Primal, but I’ve made a number of “enhancements” to keep things moving in the right direction.
First, even after I went Primal, I was sitting far too much, so I got a standing workstation from IKEA (Fredrik model) that my employer generously provided. It took me about three weeks to go from sitting all day to not sitting at all during the workday.
Second, I pretty much only wear minimalist footwear now when I wear shoes at all—my favorite shoes are the Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves (my “fives” spend a lot time in the closet because I don’t love the articulated toe pockets, but they’re great as water shoes).
Stress management has been a critical step forward for me. I was chronically stressed from working too many hours for too many years, so I took the extraordinary step of taking a pay cut to go down to about half time, which has worked out beautifully and is far more sustainable and healthy over the long haul.
I gradually stopped using as many chemical-laden personal care products and am moving toward more natural, organic alternatives (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc). They cost a bit more, but they do the job and I feel better about using them.
Other than a brief dalliance with CrossFit at my wife’s urging (way too much effort!), I pretty much gave up doing longer duration high-intensity cardio. In terms of moving my body, I walk the dog daily a mile or two (often to the local dog park), hike occasionally, and do a little Tabata sprinting (or what passes for it—my lab mix is not too impressed with my version of “sprinting”). When it comes to lifting heavy things, I spend about 15 minutes a day on fasted resistance training, about 5 days per week (I use a 4-way split routine to avoid working the same muscle groups too often). I do mostly compound bodyweight-based movements with some traditional lifting mixed in: weighted pull-ups, weighted push-ups, squats, deadlifting, military presses, etc. At 41, the goal is to keep the muscle mass I have, not necessarily to get bigger or stronger.
My diet has shifted toward a higher ratio of good fats. I now eat more grass-fed beef, pastured eggs (about 20/week!), and delicious pastured goat parts thanks to a great volunteer gig at a local sustainable farm that raises exclusively pastured animals. I also eat an avocado every day, regularly eat wild Alaskan salmon, snack mainly on macadamia nuts I order from Hawaii by the 10-lb box, and use a good amount of coconut oil as well as coconut in other forms. I still eat a bucket of salad every day (with some of the veggies grown in my own square foot garden), as well as a couple servings of fresh fruit, so I’m not VLC by any means. I also indulge in moderate amounts of full fat dairy and 80% cacao content dark chocolate. My diet is now about 62% fat, 19% protein, 19% carb (according to Fitday, anyway), so I guess you could say I’m fully fat adapted. As a result, I can now engage in fairly rigorous activity for hours and hours without tiring, like hiking up steep mountain ridges with a fully loaded backpack (case in point, I just got back from completing the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier—an amazing experience).
I also now eat in a 5 to 8-hour feeding window, which constitutes a daily IF. I don’t even get hungry until around 9 am now (I sleep from 9 pm to 5 am each night), and by mid-afternoon I’m sated and done eating for the day.
I lost a little more weight in the past couple years (perhaps 10 pounds), and am down to the high 160s now—which works great for me at 5’11”. I’m maybe a little leaner than I was when I first submitted my profile, but I’m probably just as strong thanks to the resistance training. Pics from two years ago and today are attached, so you be the judge (blue shorts pic from 2 years ago (above) vs. gray shorts pic from last week).
Two things that haven’t changed – I am still so grateful to Mark and the entire MDA community for all the great information and support, and I still couldn’t imagine living any other way.