Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 May

A Primal Comeback

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!

For most of my adult life I’ve been called many things, but “skinny” has taken some getting use to.

For years I repeatedly followed the conventional ritual of low-fat, low-calorie dieting paired with exercise to lose weight. With each attempt I would lose weight, sometimes as much as a few dozen pounds at a time. However, constant hunger eventually won out over my best efforts to eat less while exercising more (as prescribed by the “calories in, calories out” mindset). I would regain the lost weight and then some. When New Year’s came along, I would resolve myself to try harder than the previous attempt. The sad part is that each time I expected different results doing roughly the same thing. Unfortunately, after losing and regaining the weight three times, I quit caring about my own health, even despite my wife’s concerns.

I had lost hope that I had any real power to change or control my fate from being anything other than desperate, obese, and fatigued. I was becoming a model customer for the highly profitable drug, dieting, and medical industries. Inwardly, I blamed myself for lacking the self-discipline needed to lose and keep weight off. As I grew more obese, I eventually had to shop for larger clothes in big and tall men’s clothing stores and catalogs. Being only 5’ 8” on a good day and tipping the scales north of 350 pounds at this point, I wasn’t shopping for clothes in these venues because I was tall!

At the age of 26, in what is supposed to be the prime of my life, I was literally winded and sweating just walking into work each morning. I began to see myself the way society probably thought of me at first glance: a lazy glutton who either does not know how to count calories or ultimately chooses to remain obese. I eventually entered into a state of apathy about my health for the next year.

Fortunately, after watching my weight and health slowly deteriorate from the sidelines, a good friend of mine persuaded me to join a gym again. However, this time, instead of doing roughly the same weight loss ritual a fourth time, I wanted to try something not just mildly different with eating but completely different and unconventional.

While researching, I found what I was looking for when I stumbled onto this website and later The Primal Blueprint. Not wanting to wait for a hard copy, I downloaded The Primal Blueprint onto my e-reader and poured over it intently as I struggled to use the elliptical machine. With the exception of maybe vegetables and water being good for people, what I learned about Primal nutrition and lifestyle went against almost everything I had been taught as “healthy” since elementary school. Deep down, most of us want to think of ourselves as “health conscious” to some degree, but much of what it means to be “health conscious” is monopolized by today’s conventional weight loss advice. In retrospect, holding onto such ideas of what “health conscious” people are supposed to believe and eat was dragging me into the depths of poor health.

Mark’s clear and engaging writing style forced me to contemplate the possibility that what was lacking in my previous weight loss attempts was not self-discipline or motivation but the conventional advice itself. Like pulling harder and harder against a door that says “Push,” perhaps what I had done in the past was working against my body rather than with it. Instead of blaming myself, I thought, “maybe I didn’t fail to follow conventional advice but conventional advice failed me.” This possibility rekindled the hope and optimism that was all but extinguished as collateral damage during my previous weight loss attempts.

Up to this point, gastric bypass was becoming a looming option if I couldn’t reverse course and keep weight off. Frightened by this prospect and a painful family history of Type 2 diabetes (my mom is in end stage renal failure), I urgently experimented with Primal low-carb eating right away, even before I had completely finished reading The Primal Blueprint. I wasn’t going to wait for 40 years of conventional weight loss advice to improve its dismal track record. I needed to change now.

Lacking any culinary skills or imagination, I started simple. Eggs, bacon, butter, fish, sausage, steak, broccoli, lettuce, low-sugar yogurts, some cheeses, nuts, and the occasional whey protein shake all quickly became staples of mine for two weeks. I was a little hesitant to eat bacon, eggs, butter, and steak because I was raised to believe these were “bad” foods. But I took a primal hop of faith that such foods that have been part of human history for much of our existence wouldn’t suddenly do harm to my health now. It also helped that they happen to taste great!

After my full two week low-carb Primal trial, limiting myself to just 25 net carbs per day (the amount where I discovered that would keep me in nutritional ketosis), I dropped 15 pounds. This wasn’t the only positive change I experienced. Unlike previous attempts, the blood sugar roller coaster that I rode every day eating low-fat/high-carb, which I had come to accept as “normal,” completely stopped. I consistently had more energy, which made it easier to move more. I rarely craved sweets as my taste buds were beginning to rehabilitate themselves from years of abuse. I felt years younger, and portion sizing seemed to take care of itself as my appetite was sated.

The rekindled hope that I could control my health and fate soon transformed into an implacable appetite to learn more. As I continued to lose more weight and feel great, I devoured as much paleo and low-carb literature as I could find. I read blogs and books by Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, Dr. Cate Shanahan, Gary Taubes, and many others; I listened to many podcasts from Jimmy Moore. Although not Primal or low-carb per se, I also read a lot of Michael Pollan who piqued my curiosity about how and where my food is made. For almost a year, I would actually look forward to using the elliptical machine just so I could unlearn and re-educate myself about food and nutrition science in peace. Learning to conquer my fears of so-called “artery clogging saturated fats” (talk about a loaded phrase!) and cholesterol in my foods were two of many epiphanies I experienced as I was embracing more of the low-carb Primal lifestyle.

Over time, I implemented more of what I was learning by eating more real, whole, low-carb foods whose ingredients I could pronounce without a PhD in chemistry. However, at various points, I dabbled with various low-carb products like Atkins bars, diet sodas, ice creams, low-carb breads, and shirataki noodles (these I still use on occasion). As a lifelong rice eater (as is common for many Filipinos) and pasta lover, shirataki noodles helped me substitute staple foods that had long been part of my upbringing without raising my blood sugar levels. As my culinary imagination started expanding, I eventually phased out the Atkins bars, diet sodas, ice-creams, low-carb breads, and protein shakes. In the process, I also started buying more local grass-fed meats and became more creative with incorporating vegetables (like using zucchini as a pasta substitute for spaghetti) into my meals. While I gave up many starches, grains, and sweets during my journey, the inner peace that results from greatly improved health has been far sweeter than any sugar substitute on the market.

Of course, being human, about once a week, I would also have one off-plan meal or item but would get right back on track the next day. As weird as this may sound, I never feel better eating my off-plan meal than I do when I’m on-plan but still do it anyway. While the once a week off-plan meal may have slowed my progress and thrown me out of ketosis several times, it’s a tradeoff I’ve consciously made for the rest of my life going forward. When I’m feeling consistently awesome for 6 days straight or longer, sometimes I take this feeling for granted until I splurge on that off-plan meal. I am immediately reminded and humbled that even though on the outside my body looks completely different, in some fundamental ways it’s still the same as before underneath, especially with blood sugar control issues.

After just five months, my journey became real. I reached my 60-pound weight loss milestone. I originally set this goal because it was more than I had lost in any of my attempts at low-fat dieting and exercise. This time, however, in becoming a keto-adapted, fat-burning beast, neither superhuman discipline nor constant hunger was necessary to reach this milestone. After 60 pounds, I’ve never looked back.

About seven months later when I had lost 120 pounds, I was fortunate enough to be able to join a racquetball league that had just started at my gym. I’ve never had any desire to run a marathon or any kind of race, and I was running out of nutrition and health books to read on my e-reader. As a result, I was growing bored with the elliptical machine. Racquetball, as I quickly discovered, was the perfect game for people, like me, who don’t like to run long distances or against a clock. It has provided a fun and social way to obtain a high intensity workout.

Throughout my journey, the vast majority of people have been both supportive and amazed at the progress I’ve made. My beautiful wife in particular, who has loved me unconditionally in both poor health and better health, has been my biggest supporter throughout my Primal transformation.

However, scattered along the way, a few well intentioned skeptics, still wedded to conventional wisdom notions of “healthy” as I once was, expressed various “concerns” about my long-term health as a result of me eating low-carb Primal. But as such “concerns” have yet to materialize I’ve learned to let my results speak for themselves and continue living my life.

I’ve been fortunate enough to lose 150 pounds (from at least 350 to 200), 38% body fat (from 50% to 12%), 12 pant sizes (from 54 to 30), 6 shirt sizes (from 4XL to Small), and 7 inches around my neck (from 24 inches to 17) within 16 months. Furthermore, I’ve also effortlessly maintained my weight and body fat composition during the past two months. I’ve conquered the sleep apnea I’ve had since high school. And on top of all this, I’ve had no new cavities. In fact, even though I’ve very rarely been sick since going Primal, I actually look forward to visiting my medical doctor now for annual exams, which include blood panel tests (click to enlarge). Not too bad for an accountant who sits the majority of the day!

Blood Panel Tests

In eating Primal, I’ve reignited hope and optimism. I’ve firmly taken back control over my health and my life. I’m never letting go again.

If I have become optimistic, leaner and healthier, it is because I have been privileged enough to stand on the shoulders of paleo giants like Mark and others committed to living a lower-carb lifestyle. I feel an enormous sense of gratitude for the tremendous opportunity to transform my life for the better and share it publicly on this forum. I look forward to helping others who have been in my shoes.


You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Grok on!

    liberty1776 wrote on May 4th, 2012
  2. Way to go, Charlie. One of my favorite transformations I’ve read in awhile. Your arms are killer!

    ADarr wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • Thank you! You are very kind! =)

      Charlie wrote on May 4th, 2012
      • Whoo!
        Bruddah Pinoy!
        Check out them dang arms!

        paleo charlie wrote on May 5th, 2012
      • You’re a very handsome fellow, Charlie. Quite admirable, what you’ve accomplished. You and your wife are very fortunate. :)

        Amy wrote on May 11th, 2012
  3. WOW!!! Just, wow!!! Way to go, dude!!!!

    AustinGirl wrote on May 4th, 2012
  4. I can barely believe those After pics. Way to go, Charlie!

    Anne wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • Bazinga indeed, man! Your before PB story is a near match for my own. You’re so fortunate to have found PB at such a young age. Be proud! We’re the ones who didn’t give up. Grok on!

      PrimalPotter wrote on May 4th, 2012
  5. Really one of the best inspiring stories. Thanks for sharing!

    Marlene wrote on May 4th, 2012
  6. Simply amazing transformation! Best of luck to you and congratulations on reclaiming your health, your body, and your LIFE. Primal Blueprint for life!

    Jason wrote on May 4th, 2012
  7. Charlie,

    You look very healthy – and happy. Congrats! Mrs Charlie is a lucky woman. 😉

    Violet wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • She is indeed!

      Charlie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  8. Wow. Wowowowowow!

    You have made incredible progress and should be so proud.

    Loved your story!

    Laura wrote on May 4th, 2012
  9. Great Job!

    perennialpam wrote on May 4th, 2012
  10. Whoop!! Way to go! Awesome transformation!

    Shavonne wrote on May 4th, 2012
  11. That is so awesome! I grew up in the Philippines, and know that it would be a challenge to replace all of the noodle and rice comfort foods… We also use zucchini and cabbage as mock noodles. Great work!

    Ariana wrote on May 4th, 2012
  12. Awesome! Really inspiring and well written. Way to go.

    Shaun wrote on May 4th, 2012
  13. Leave it to Mark and the Primalites to figure out a way to make Fridays even better.

    Awesome and inspiring. The smiles in all 3 of your after photos are infectious.

    Kudos to you.

    Danny wrote on May 4th, 2012
  14. what a fantastic story! “Like continually pulling on a door that says ‘push’,” indeed. CW had me in that loop too! Congrats on your climb to better health and thanks for sharing, Grok Star :-)

    yoolieboolie wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • I thought that was a fantastic illustration of what so many people have gone through in trying to lose weight the “right” way…so inspiring!

      Michelle wrote on May 4th, 2012
      • Agreed!! I love a good analogy (: Charlie, you don’t even look like the same person!! You look so joyful and healthy and radiant. Thank you so much for sharing!!

        Alyssa wrote on May 4th, 2012
  15. Great story, awesome “pipes!” I love Fridays!

    Dave wrote on May 4th, 2012
  16. WOW. Amazing. You look like a completely differnt person. Awesome story, and great smile in your after pictures!! Thanks for sharing!

    Sam wrote on May 4th, 2012
  17. Would not have even believed those pictures were the same person. Amazing.

    Mark Geoffriau wrote on May 4th, 2012
  18. Wow!! You look great, Charlie! Thanks for sharing your story!

    Katie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  19. Incredible dedication and transformation, congrats on regaining your life back!

    katie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  20. Way to go man! All you have to do now is… KEEP IT UP!!!!

    Matt wrote on May 4th, 2012
  21. Now that is an awesome transformation! You look amazing, healthy, and most of all happy! Congrats on your success and thanks for sharing!

    sapphiric wrote on May 4th, 2012
  22. This could be my story. Only it’s my dad in end stage renal failure (I pray everyday that he will make it another three years so my parents can celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. But I don’t know. You look amazing!! And the smile shows how amazing you must feel! And I also do the occasional off-plan day. One day lets me enjoy something “junky” without guilt…and the physical effects (which aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be) keep me in line.

    Heather wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • I feel you as far as kidney failure goes. It’s such a horrible affliction. Even though our parents’ time is limited (my mom, your dad), the best we can do is strive to fill those fleeting moments with meaning and smiles.

      Charlie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  23. Amazing! Inspiring — AND you are a really gifted writer. I sense a new career for you!

    Karen wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • I don’t know about being a “gifted” writer, but I’ve had many mentors along the way and an awesome editor in my wife. =)

      Charlie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  24. Congratulations on your fantastic transformation!

    primal gigi wrote on May 4th, 2012
  25. Yay! Amazing!

    Ron wrote on May 4th, 2012
  26. The expressions on your face in the “before” and “after” photos tell the story! Thank you for sharing with us!

    Cathy wrote on May 4th, 2012
  27. Totally amazing transformation! Keep up the amazing work and influencing others.

    Meaghan wrote on May 4th, 2012
  28. What a truly amazing transformation!!! This is such an inspiration for me on my own Primal journey. Thank you so much for sharing your story Charlie!

    Christine wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • Grok on!

      Charlie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  29. Whoa! Your forearms and calves are seriously beastly.

    And I use zucchini as a pasta substitute too! Congrats on all your successes.

    Daniel wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • Thanks! I was born with those calves, but I have body builders at the gym approach me on occasion to ask what I do to develop them.

      Charlie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  30. Even though losing weight is not the only reason for going Primal, it is still stories like yours that are the most inspiring because you really saved your own life. The smile on your face says it all!

    HillsideGina wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • Your success has given me the push to really want to go 90-100%!! I can’t believe you lost that much weight! You look amazing!!

      Emily wrote on May 8th, 2012
  31. Well done mate, awesome effort!

    GB wrote on May 4th, 2012
  32. Oh, how I look forward to Fridays. This was a beautifully written transformation post. Loved it. Thanks for your words and sharing your experience!

    Dena wrote on May 4th, 2012
  33. Wow, what a great depiction of the struggle. Congratulations on your astounding success.

    I don’t know if it was you or your writing partner (the guy in the first two pictures), but the phrase “Like pulling harder and harder against a door that says ‘Push’” deserves wide usage!

    Moshen wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • I am stealing that phrase for use in any future opportunities to convince doubters.

      Chica wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • Thanks! I love using analogies and metaphors, as you can tell. :)

      Charlie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  34. Bada Bing !!!! Wow,Charlie — You can WRITE !!!!!!! Fantastic story, you had me at “skinny has taken some getting used to”. Thank YOU for an inspiring morning. Yes, your smile says it all.

    Tanya wrote on May 4th, 2012
    • My French-speaking husband has lovingly begun using “Skinny” as a nickname for me, but I am far from earning it just yet.

      Charlie: you, on the other hand, have definitely earned the title! With a good 30 or 40 pounds packed into those new muscles, your waist size (and lipid profile) says it all!

      Chica wrote on May 4th, 2012
      • Gotta love those special terms of endearment!

        Charlie wrote on May 4th, 2012
  35. From the first picture to the last, you don’t even look like the same person.
    Super great story. Thanks for sharing.

    Melissa wrote on May 4th, 2012
  36. Congratulation, Charlie! You did great job and save your life!!! Moreover you look pretty sexy. ;-))

    AlieNyx wrote on May 4th, 2012

    Mahusay na trabaho!

    Jeff wrote on May 4th, 2012
  38. I really enjoyed how comprehensive this success story was. The books you read, your struggles, and the actual results, including the blood numbers. I can send this around to my friends at work for some real inspiration. Thanks for sharing Charlie!

    primalpal wrote on May 4th, 2012
  39. I think this is the most inspirational transformation I’ve seen!!

    It really motivates me as I embark on my own Primal journey in a couple of days. Keep up the great work!!!

    Chris Lampe wrote on May 4th, 2012
  40. Awesome, Charlie… you made my Friday!

    maddieaddie wrote on May 4th, 2012

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