Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
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!
I want to share my story because it has to do with beating my eating disorder through Primal living. When I was about 21 years (I am 29 now) I started on a quest for health. I was never super unhealthy compared to the average person. I didn’t grow up on fast food and my parents never bought the sugary cereals, but I basically grew up on a high carb diet. Usually pasta, bagels, and lasagna, which we thought were pretty good for us.
My quest for health had good intentions, but was always overshadowed by my doctor diagnosed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder which happens to show its ugly face through food and my own body image issues. So instead of eating healthy JUST to be healthy, I became obsessed with being thin. My main goals were to take in as little calories as possible, eat zero sugar, eat whole grains, and eat very little meat (because I thought meat would make me fat). Here is what I ate daily for my first year or so of being “healthy”:
Doesn’t that sound so appetizing???! Ya right!
On the weekends I was so deprived that I just couldn’t control myself and would binge on a ½ gallon of Moose Tracks ice cream, feel really bad about it, and possibly make myself throw up afterward, or not eat the next day.
Another issue I developed was major flatulence. (Here comes some TMI.) As soon as I started my new diet of whole grains and sugar-free yogurt, my stomach got painfully out of control. Not to mention stinky! Every day within 30 minutes of eating my first meal my stomach would start to rumble, then that rumble would turn into flatulence. I worked in an office for my brothers who had a start-up company and my flatulence was so bad that when the mail-man came I would run to the back of the office so he couldn’t see me when he would pick up the terrible odor in the office. Or when technicians who worked for us would check in at the end of the day I would see them drive up and I would quickly spritz my “fart spray” (cheap perfume) around the office to cover up the smell. Sometimes they would complement the scent not knowing that they were inhaling my waste and I would feel bad, but be kind of giggling inside.
So the flatulence just got worse and worse which is why I continued my quest for health. Now I needed to find a way to be healthy, thin, flatulence free, and once again THIN. I started reading tons of literature through books, magazines, and the internet. I also started getting into cycling and triathlons. I thought I needed to eat so much more to stay energized for my workouts, so I would eat sugary granola bars and sports drinks, and of course “reward” myself after a bike ride with a binge on five slices of pizza. Naturally I started to gain weight. I went from about 120 lbs and being rail thin, to about 150 lbs and carrying a little extra junk in the truck.
I finally realized that something was not going right. I am gaining weight even though I train for hours and my stomach hurts about 18-24 hours a day. I decided to try the sprouted grains instead of whole grain to help with digestion, and I added lean meats to my diet… here is where my obsession became even worse.
I had read enough magazines by this time that I believed without a doubt that my weight had everything to do with my calorie intake, so I bought a scale and measured EVERYTHING. I became a walking encyclopedia in the sense that I could tell you exactly how many sugar, fat, and carb grams, along with the calories that were in a particular food. I was a robot, and I was obsessed! If you know anything about OCD, you know that the more you learn the more obsessed you become. However, I finally lost my weight and settled at 135 lbs.
By the way, at this time I started to see a doctor who prescribed me meds for depression and to help me take control of my OCD.
At the age of 24 in 2007 I got married. My husband knew of my eating issues and he just let me do my thing. However, over time my obsession started to put a toll on our marriage. If he wanted to make me dinner I would be hovering over him making sure he weighed all the food. I always thought he was secretly adding ingredients that were not “allowed”. I would make him trim every ounce of fat off the meat before he cooked it. It would often turn into a big fight, and then I would start crying because “I didn’t want to get fat”. I also tried forcing him to eat what I ate and he would only comply to avoid a big blowout I might have.
I was trying to do everything right by eating my whole grains and lean meats, but I was miserable physically and mentally. Some days were really good and I felt like I had complete control of food and then there were other days (or weeks) I would be so out of control that I would eat several giant slices of cake at a party, along with whatever else was being served. I would eat until I was sick, AND THEN EAT SOME MORE.
By this time I had read the following books: The Longevity Diet, The PH Miracle, and You are What You Eat. I tried to follow them, but they were so complicated that I just became more obsessed with every diet that I attempted. I also tried a Gluten-Free diet, Food Combining diet, and eating all my veggies raw to try and control my painful stomach issues. I also tried acupuncture for digestion. It seemed like the “healthier” I ate the worse my stomach became. It even got to a point where I would go to the bathroom to find full pieces of undigested vegetables in the toilet on a daily basis.
Soon I read and became a follower of The Eat Clean Diet book, and read Oxygen Magazine for about two years. I decided that this diet would be my best bet and I would just live with the stomach pain.
One day a fellow triathlete friend of mine told me she followed the Paleo Diet. I though… “huh?” She explained the diet to me and I thought it kinda made sense. So I bought and read The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet for Athletes. I started to follow the Paleo Diet as best I could, but still found it to be complicated and something I would obsess over because of all the rules involved. One thing I questioned was how the diet seems to be against animal fat. Having been through a cultural anthropology class I was sure that the fat of the animal was like prime real estate and was never turned down by a hunter-gatherer. Nevertheless, I attempted the diet.
My attempt with paleo was back and forth. I had trouble sticking with it because I was always hungry and there was very little flavor in the food. I was trying to make my life less stressful and for some reason going totally paleo was adding more stress to me. I was also really into working out and so I would make recipes that my favorite Oxygen Magazine models would suggest, most of which included grain.
One day I saw a book sitting around at my brother’s house called The Primal Blueprint. His friend left it at his house and suggested my brother read it. I picked it up thinking it was another paleo book. I started to read it, and I couldn’t stop reading. I almost read the whole book in the two hours that I was at my brother’s house. Then I went to the bookstore and bought it so I could not only read the rest, but read it again. I loved it. There were three things that I loved about it: It matched up to how our ancestors would have eaten, it matched up to how our ancestors would have lived day-by-day, and it was simple.
I actually felt a sense of freedom after reading the book for the first time. I felt hope that I could possibly be free from my OCD monster and maybe even from my painful flatulence.
As always, my husband was on board with my new find. We agreed to try the diet and lifestyle for 30 days. In the beginning I was pretty nervous to eat fat since I had learned that fat was the enemy, but I committed to 30 days. In those 30 days we ate things like bacon and eggs, coconut flour pizza, bean-less chili, burgers with almond flour buns, and many other things. I couldn’t believe how many calories I was taking in. Yet, I was not gaining any weight.
I didn’t force myself to get up every morning at 3:45 am to work out (as I normally did), unless I really felt the energy to do so. If I felt too tired, I would sleep in and then go for a long walk later. I even lit candles before bed and turned out the lights around the house so that I would get sleepy and go to bed in the same form that our ancestors would have.
Amazingly, after 30 days I had no desire to go on a carbohydrate binge, and felt satisfied after every flavorful meal. Of course my husband LOVED to eat bacon and eggs; something that I would never let enter our house before. Even my flatulence started to go away within the first week. Boy was my husband happy about that!
I even bought a pair of Vibram FiveFinger shoes and what happened to me was remarkable. After three years of chronic knee and hamstring pain in my left leg, and after spending hundreds of dollars on doctors, acupuncture, massage and physical therapy my pain started to go away after the first week of wearing them. After a couple months the pain was pretty much gone, with now only the occasional flare up if I do something too strenuous. What baffles me is that all of the professionals I saw constantly told me to wear heavily supported running shoes to help my injuries, and it was the minimalist shoe that made it all go away.
My husband and I have been living the Primal lifestyle for about a year now and couldn’t be more satisfied. The other day I told my husband that I’ll never buy another diet book again. I have no need to because I am no longer a slave to food. I never weigh my food, I let me husband cook for me, I don’t freak out if I have to go to a party and be faced with foods that will be calling my name all night, I never have secret binges, and I rarely have stomach pain anymore. I used to literally fear food. Now I love it.
Although my OCD and eating disorder are ongoing battles, I no longer take medication. For anyone who may have the same issues as me, please know that it is okay if you still struggle. Don’t beat yourself up over it. To be honest, I haven’t quite conquered intermittent fasting yet, because when I try it I am still thinking like an anorexic by wondering how much weight I’ll lose by not eating. Of course that way of thinking is not Primal. I am not mentally and emotionally strong enough to fast for a full day. For now, I try skipping breakfast or lunch sometimes.
The beauty of the being Primal is that it is not just a diet; it is a way of life that anyone can fully embrace if they put it to the test. I now have two brothers who follow the Primal Blueprint diet, along with their families.
Thank you, Mark for sharing the Primal lifestyle with the world. It has helped me overcome my internal battles and even made my marriage so much better!