A Beer Drinker’s Primal 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!

When I was a kid, I was husky – that is what my mom told me. I was always a little chunkier than my siblings and most of my friends growing up in the 60’s. Because of that, I always had to watch my weight and what I ate. Gaining weight has always been easy for me.

Over the last 30 or so years, I have been a somewhat health conscious adult and lived largely by convention wisdom (CW) guidelines. I have always been physically active, fit, and pretty healthy. I rode a motocross bike up until I was 35 and played roller hockey to age 49. I rode mountain bikes, played racquetball, skied, learned to snowboard when I was 43, and would run 3-5 miles, 2-3 days a week. My dad ran the Boston marathon in his 50’s, so I guess he imparted a strong sense of fitness on to me. Keeping my weight down was always a challenge and something I worked at.

My weight stayed fairly constant, between 165 and 175 lbs, during that time. (I am 5’ 9”) My diet was pretty good I thought, eating bread without butter, potatoes without sour cream, oatmeal without sugar, cereal with low-fat milk; whole grain was king, fat was evil. I owned a bread machine and made my own whole wheat breads and pizza crusts. I was lucky not to have any medical issues, life was good.

I also have always been a beer lover and 20 years ago I started home brewing beer. Beer, after all, is low-fat, so no worries. I drink one or two beers a day during the week and twice that on weekends (if I am good.) I became a connoisseur and love to try all the different beers of the world. I get to travel worldwide with my job and I always seek out beers I have never tried before while out of the country.

After turning 45 or so, I started getting severe heart burn. My doctor put me on meds (of course) but I didn’t tolerate them, giving me the runs. I switched to OTC Pepcid type and that worked somewhat. I also at that point started to slow down a bit – less running, less hockey, less energy. And big surprise, my weight started to climb. When I turned 50, December 2009, my weight was the highest ever at 182 lbs. Not too terrible, but heading in the wrong direction and I didn’t feel like I was able to control it as I could in the past. I had to work really hard just to stay level, but I was running out of gas. Quitting hockey didn’t help. I was 50 and getting fatter. I had to make a change.

Here I am on the right at age 49, and with the rest of my family and playing bocce, Ocean City, NJ summer 2009.

In March 2010, I decided to try a low-carb diet, Atkins style, which I tried before in my 40’s with pretty good results, but never able to stick with it. Soon after starting, I was searching the internet for the carb content of certain foods and somehow came across marksdailyapple.com. The content was unbelievable, and I soaked it up. It all made so much sense to me. I knew Atkins was on the right track, but the Primal Blueprint was the course correction I needed. I became hooked on the information and to the community support, especially the success stories. I love MDA because everything you need is on the site. I eventually bought two PB books, more out of sheer gratitude towards Mark, than pure necessity. I also like the fact that Mark personally answered my emails, not once but twice. And he posts lists of other great websites that are, in reality, his competitors (18 Underrated Blogs…). Who else does that?

The idea that this is a lifestyle clicked with me. Atkins was a short term diet and the results don’t last once off it. (Duh!) People often ask me about the differences between Primal and Atkins. With Atkins, you don’t fundamentally change your eating habits; you substitute low-carb products for what you normally eat.  Low-carb bread, low-carb ice cream, low-carb snack bars etc, all loaded with fake factory ingredients and sugar alcohols. Over time, you drift back to the real crap and end up back at the beginning. With Primal, you learn to eat real food and you learn to like real food. You learn why the crap food is crap and you lose your taste for it. You make a real fundamental change and you understand why.

When I started Primal, I decided to see if it would work while maintaining my beer drinking/brewing hobby. After all, I really like beer and couldn’t see giving it up permanently, and besides, there was that 80/20 principle. I guess you could say I wanted my beer and drink it too. So I dove into the Primal Blueprint diet and was pretty strict, except for the beer, which I knew would add an average of 40 grams of carbs a day.

For exercise, I started hitting the weights 2 or 3 times per week and doing sprints or HIIT on most Sundays. Over the past two years, I learned a lot about fitness. My lifts have progressed and are now mainly from the large compound muscle groups, squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press, rows, pull/chin-ups, and dips. I use an upper/lower split routine giving my muscles 5-7 days rest between workouts per the book Beyond Brawn (which was linked from LeanGains which was linked from MDA). Last year I got a pair of Saucony Hattori running shoes which at 4.4 oz, are great. I got my 100 meter down to 15 seconds and I am now able to do 19 dips and 10 full pull-ups.

My diet is pretty simple. For breakfast it’s a shake with whey protein, a raw egg, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, flax meal, some berries or pumpkin and fish oil. Lunch is usually a Big Ass Salad with whatever leftovers I have from dinner, some cheese, peppers, carrots, oil, and vinegar. Dinner is meat or fish, some veggies and a salad, and of course, a beer. We usually try to cook extra meat for the next day’s salad. Dark chocolate is my dessert, and nuts, coconut, jerky, or cheese make a great snack. I also have a great recipe for pumpkin bars that are good for traveling or as another snack. Planning ahead is absolutely the key for diet adherence.

The first few months following the Primal Blueprint did not produce much in the way of weight loss. I was probably gaining muscle at the same rate as the fat loss. I had to tell myself to “stay with the program,” knowing it was the right thing to do. Finally after two months, the scale started to move. I lost 22 pounds on the scale in the first 16 months to what I consider my “ideal” body weight. This is the weight I easily maintain. This is not the fastest change, but it was relatively easy compared to other diets I have tried. The beer may have slowed down progress, but that’s OK, it’s my cheat. Besides, what’s the big rush? As long as I am on the right path, heading in the right direction, why make it harder than it is.

So here I am at age 52, two years Primal, and at my lowest weight since I can remember. My heartburn is gone, my eczema is much better, and just got a new 15 year term life policy with a super-preferred rating. My blood pressure is typically 110/70 with a resting heart rate under 60. Not a huge transformation, but I feel like I am in the best shape of my recent life with much more energy. I find that the longer I have been Primal, the easier it is to stay with it. Plus, while I have cut down on beer a little in exchange for red wine, I have not given it up.

I wonder how bad beer really is. It is slightly sprouted (malted) and fermented and does not contain the barley germ, husk, or bran… Maybe a blog post, Mark?

I am still currently active with hobbies and sports including biking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing and snowboarding, volleyball, golf, and I’m thinking about playing roller hockey again.

I am very passionate about this lifestyle and I tell anyone who will listen to me about it. Many of my friends and coworkers have gone Primal with great success. My wife started eating this way at dinner time initially and has eventually become more Primal over the last two years. She too has had success with weight loss.

Finding MDA was like finding a magic chalice on the beach. My wish for great health has come true. Thank you, Mark Sisson.

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