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. Nicely done – thank you for the inspiration!!

    Chance Bunger wrote on May 6th, 2012
  2. Inspiring. Just what you needed is just what I need!!! Way to go. Now I need to…… GO!! And follow the Blueprint!

    Rick wrote on May 6th, 2012
  3. Charlie, your story IS mine! You are inspirational. I haven’t yet fully committed to being truly primal (in that I have no idea what my beef ate) but I have forsaken grain and processed carbs and have been trying to live a paleo lifestyle for just under 3 months now. I’m stronger and have more stamina, even though I am not really doing massive amounts of exercise, my life-long teeth troubles appear to be over (I have rarely gone more than 5 weeks without a dentist visit) and I have lost 39.6 pounds (down to 169.4 from 209 – I’m only 5’1). It’s tough trying to share and encourage people who are still sold on CW to try this though. They look at me like I’m in some kind of cult. I just wish I’d found this sooner. Dude, you look amazing! And more to the point, you look like you FEEL amazing.

    Chantelle Ashley wrote on May 7th, 2012
  4. Great work Charlie…I couldn’t believe the before and after pics. I wish more heavy people I see on the streets could hear your story…they look so unhappy most of the time. Truly inspiring man!!!

    Chris wrote on May 7th, 2012
  5. Wow, what an inspiration! I’ve just started my Paleo/Primal journey and I still really struggle with “falling off the wagon.” I get frustrated or have a bad day and instinctively reach for my “comfort foods.”
    I’m bookmarking this story so I can re-read it when I’m getting down.

    AndreaLynnette wrote on May 7th, 2012
  6. Pogi Pogi Pogi! Wow pinsan, so happy for you and what you have accomplished. You have done something truly wonderful for you and your family. Ignore the thoughtless comments on here and rejoice in knowing that you have inspired and helped so many more to pursue a better life.

    Salamat Charlie – Stay Pogi!

    Brandy72 wrote on May 7th, 2012
  7. Congrats charlie, very impressive transformation! On average how many hours of exercise per week and what’s your breakdown in hours for cardio and resistance training? Thanks

    Dave wrote on May 7th, 2012
  8. Amazing transformation and beautifully written too – thanks so much for sharing

    Sian wrote on May 7th, 2012
  9. Thanks for mentioning those Shirataki noodles.

    I consider myself a grand master and black belt in making Filipino BBQ Pork and its just isn’t the same without rice but those noodles might just help fill that void.

    BigD wrote on May 7th, 2012
  10. Great job dude!

    Judolizard wrote on May 7th, 2012
  11. Love these stories. Congrats to you, Charlie!

    pocopelo wrote on May 7th, 2012
  12. Rock on Charlie! You’re a ripped beast dude.

    Thanks for your amazing story, and kudos to all the posters here for their compassion and encouragement. Hope you got the same satisfaction as I did dumping all your ‘fat clothes’ in the trash or at the local thrift store. From 350+ to a 30 inch waist! Absolutely amazing. Grok on!


    Deuce wrote on May 7th, 2012
  13. What are ‘net carbs’?

    Jim wrote on May 7th, 2012
  14. What an AMAZING transformation!! Congratulations, Charlie! You look like a totally different person! & you seem like the nicest guy in the world with such a loving heart for your wife…makes me a little misty eyed. :’) Keep inspiring!

    Chrissy wrote on May 8th, 2012
  15. Bravo!!! You look awesome and I’m sure you feel even better!

    Schall Adams wrote on May 8th, 2012
  16. Well done Charlie, you are a true inspiration to all those who need it.
    Go Primal and Grok on!!

    AndyV wrote on May 9th, 2012
  17. So motivational. Amazing story. Welcome back to your real 20s! Congratulations!

    Patrick wrote on May 9th, 2012
  18. Way to go Charlie! What a great success story. I hope others will take inspiration from your success, I know I’ll be sharing with my skeptics and hoping it touches at least one of them. Best wishes.

    Jessica wrote on May 9th, 2012
  19. Wonderful job Charlie, you legend, I love this story and you look fantastic. Happy face, healthy body, and not to mention those guns.
    Your wife is a lucky girl, and it appears all your ducks are lining up nicely eh?

    Your writing style is wonderful I could easily read a book in your “voice” it was a great read….

    Hugs Grok brother xo

    Jane wrote on May 11th, 2012
  20. i am proud of you charly way to go !!!

    see you in the raquetball court :)

    fernando martinez wrote on May 11th, 2012
  21. Good on ya, Charlie…

    My story is similar in that I have fought with my weight all of my life starting at around 8 years old. I recently discovered The Primal Blueprint and have adopted the lifestyle and become Happily Primal in a SAD world.

    I have lost 25 lbs (from 342 down to 317) in 10 weeks, arthritis symptoms have abated, energy is good and more stable, food cravings are minimal… I actually have to make myself eat some days after realizing I have been fasting for many hours.

    All it took was dropping grain, sugar and legumes from my diet. I eat like a king and NEVER walk into the middle of the grocery store. The outer aisles contain everything I need.

    I too had given up and decided to be fat and tired just to avoid the struggle of conventional dieting and the guaranteed failure at the end. I am inspired now. I lose a tiny bit of weight each day and regain a tiny bit of my health each day.

    I met with a new client yesterday. She is a doctor of Functional Medicine. I had met her for the first time about a month ago. When I walked into her office she said “You’ve lost weight!” Made my day. She asked what I was doing and I told her I was following the Primal Blueprint. She knew of it and seemed to approve of the program.

    Mark… thank you so much for putting this program into such a logical, attainable, common-sense format to help people. It must feel really good for you to hear these stories of success and happiness. I wish the same for you. Jeff

    FlyRodJeff wrote on May 16th, 2012
  22. Great Job! I love how the editor of this blog eliminates all dissent. Thought crime anyone.

    Adam wrote on May 23rd, 2012
  23. Oh Brandon you’re getting beaetn up over the ubiquitious F-word. I really don’t care if you have a fucking potty mouth or not. But, just breathe and ask yourself this: can vegans wear silk or wool? Can you collect sea-shells or use natural sponges? How about pearls? Do you live without Uggs or down comforters? What about all that fauna that swims around in your gut? And how can an organic vegetable farmer/gardner (like myself) grow organically without the use of animal products such as: bone meal, fish meal, blood meal, worm castings, chicken poop, bat guano, fish fertilizers, or manure? I guess I could use Miracle Grow, but Do you know that you would not have any greens or root crops to eat if I didn’t actively kill the following: gophers, rats, mice, cucumber beetles, aphids, squash bugs, tomato mites, cabbage worms, and a host of catapillars. AND do you know that I actively support and encourage carnivores in my garden beds like Lady Bugs, Spiders of all sorts, garter snakes, gopher snakes, lizards galore and even the brutal and cruel preying mantis.Brandon, have you studied the insect world they too are animals. Personally, I have a harder time with bees dying then with rabbits. Talk about a beautiful, complex and mysterious creature! Bees are dying in huge numbers, colonies are collapsing daily. We all NEED honey bees if we want to continue to eat. But I digress My point is this: there is no such thing as a human who does not rely on animal products of some kind. Even the Jains know this. (Google: hindu jains). They have monks walking before them sweeping away any tiny insects that may be tread upon.And just for the record, Vegans eat a lot of crap. Tofu is one of the most highly processed franken-foods out there. Have you seen the gorgeous green soya bean? Have you ever wondered how that becomes a gelatinous white blob? Eww.Carry on urban homesteaders! And Brandon, I seriously like your spirit and passion. And I can promise you that the people who write this blog or comment here are not cruel or inhumane in anyway. Many of us honor and love our animals fully when we consume or use their products, even when that includes eating them.

    Bea wrote on December 6th, 2012
  24. What an inspiring transformation, your happiness is infectious. This is so impressive, congratulations! The after-pictures are just amazing!

    Margit wrote on February 22nd, 2013

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