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!
Some things take a half a century to get right. . .
We’ll start with 1976: 16 years old and a very happy childhood. Mom stayed at home and cooked everything from scratch but is Italian and pasta found its way to our table at least 3 days a week. I was definitely born a Type A – anxious, shy and fretful in my childhood and teens. College through the mid thirties was out of control—spent partying, always looking to alleviate some type of an edge. Nutrition was mainly home cooked and minimally processed foods but not Primal.
In my mid thirties I began making healthy lifestyle changes. Fitness and competitive obstacle course competitions replaced the wild lifestyle. Nutrition transpired to low fat, moderate protein and moderate carb (bodybuilding type diet). I felt better, more in control, body composition changed radically and confidence developed. The edge was still there but not as bad. Exercise had become a lifestyle; in my early 40’s in a quest for continued health & fitness it led to an even more functional training style. Nutrition on the other hand took a nosedive with a 3 ½ year vegan/vegetarian stint. Health slowly but steadily declined and anxiousness increased along with aggressiveness and anger to an all time high despite high level of fitness training.
At 44 after much reading and researching I decided to pull a 180; I had read Metabolic Typing and every “test” I took indicated I was a “protein type” that I did better on lots of meat/fat and very little carbs. I doubted it but desperate to feel better I decided to give it an 8 week try. Within 1 week of taking out excessive carbs (both whole grain and refined) and replacing with red meat and butter I felt like a completely different person. Within 1 month most of the edge was gone, for the very first time in my life. 3 months later I discovered CrossFit, after 2 weeks w/this combination there was no more edge. I was not anxious, I was not angry, no matter what life chose to put in my path, over, under around or through I would go. I could speak in public now, I could compete under pressure. Those things did not bother me anymore. Bring it on world.
I continued on this path, I experimented and gradually made more changes adopting my own personal interpretations as I discovered Paleo and WAPF principles. I found Robb Wolf then I found Mark’s Daily Apple. I spent months pouring over back posts and articles. About 9 months later I took out grains completely. Like anything else I had ever done is my life it was 110% effort, moderation and mediocrity were not in my nature. I embraced this new way of life and eating wholeheartedly; I bought primarily local, organic, seasonal produce, procured my meats from pastured farms, located a raw dairy source and rendered my own lard and tallow. If fat is good for you, more is better and no need to count calories. I love to cook and I love to eat. Life was good. I was happy, completely.
Well, at 51 years of age and post menopausal I woke up one morning this past spring and decided to try on my bathing suit. I don’t know why I just did. Most likely because it had been cold, spring was around the corner and I had been hiding out in my sweats enjoying mass quantities of comfort foods – I didn’t gain much weight – the scale could not be right. If I had gained it had to be muscle. Well, I put on that swimsuit, grabbed a mirror and checked my rear. I almost threw up. Dear God; the junk in the trunk was appalling. That could not possibly be my body looking back at me, what the hell had happened?
I am a CSCS and owner of a CrossFit facility that eats “right” and exercises year round. I am passionate in my efforts as well as my nature. I practically get on a pulpit and shout it from afar. I workout an average of 3-4 days a week consisting of 2 to 3 high intensity weight lifting and 1 day of some type of sprinting with mobility work interspersed throughout the week. How in the world could I have gained 12 pounds? And 10 ½ of it was in my rear – that’s pure genetics there. Could it be my age, I am 51? Could it be because I am post menopausal?
In my “youth” I often laughed and rolled my eyes at my older female friends who complained of life disrupting hot flashes and “inevitable” weight gain around the middle once they hit menopause. It seemed to be the scapegoat for whatever ailed them. My answer was always the same – “stay away from the donuts and do some wind sprints – it’s what you eat and whether or not you move your arse. You can look nearly as fit at 50 as you can at 30”. They did not appreciate it and most of them responded with “wait till you’re my age – you’ll see”. Well, life rolls along and here I am 51 and post menopausal. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my entire life at 126 lbs, 19% body fat and I had a roll around the middle. How could that happen; I follow all the rules laid out in the Primal Blueprint. Could I possibly have been wrong? Does the body change? Well of course it changes as we age but was it really out of my control?
First off I don’t even like the sound of the word “menopause”. It seems to be looked upon as a disease of some sort. For many I will admit there is definitely some dis-ease. But what exactly is the cause of that dis-ease and is it preventable through proper nutrition and exercise? I don’t believe it is something that necessitates a “pill” or a “replacement” for. It is a natural transition in a woman’s life, not something to be afraid of or looked upon as the end of life as once known. I have firmly believed if one eats right and exercises throughout their life – while there are definitely changes related to aging – one can do so gracefully, embracing this chapter of life and avoiding the inevitable weight gain and other common issues. A few years prior I did experience a few “warm moments” in the spring and fall but nothing that disrupted my life or lasted very long. Until this spring and the roll in the middle I have felt basically the same as I have for much of my adult life. I decided to test my hypothesis: was this weight gain inevitable or reversible through lifestyle modification? I said reversible.
I love to read; after perusing MDA and loving all the articles I figured Mark definitely seemed to be on the top of things. I am very opinionated but I couldn’t find one thing I didn’t agree with. So, I ordered the Primal Blueprint. No coach knows it all. Those that aren’t willing to learn will stop improving.
I established a goal: 115 lbs and approximately 12% body fat. I chose a start and end date: 3/15-6/1. I kept a detailed food log for 3 weeks in www.fitday.com; changing not a thing for an honest assessment of what I had been consuming. If I did not know what I was consuming and in what amounts I would not know what I needed to change. Here’s what I found. . .
The macronutrient ratios were near ideal. The foods were all from quality sources and home cooked. But my average daily caloric intake was 2400-3200 calories a day and my “indulgences” were averaging 2-3x a week coming from homemade ice cream, 70% organic cacao bars and grits; my largest meal eaten late at night. So maybe that’s why all that junk was in my trunk?
I knew what to change and now had a plan. I adjusted Mark’s advice for Kelly Korg based on my stats/circumstances and cut the calories and fat. Calories ranged from about 1700 to 2000 a day with an occasional high or low day. Never a chronic cardio girl and always a sprinter I was already exercising Primally. I just changed my portions, took out the “indulgences” and the fat began melting off my arse.
I lost about 1 ½ lbs per week the first 3 weeks, then about 1 lb per week thereafter. After about 3 weeks on 50 g a day of carbs I added back in sweet/white potatoes every 3rd or 4th day, cycling both calories/carbs. It seemed to help with energy in my heavy weight days and sprinting. Last 2 weeks, I did drop the calories to about 1300-1700 to get the final body fat off; ending up at 112 lbs and 12.1%.
That was fine for about 10 days but it’s not to be maintained; I like to eat too much. I settled in at 115 lbs and 14-15% bf. I eat moderate portions all week and enjoy a splurge meal on the weekend. Splurge meal is usually a nice piece of fatty meat, a potato of some sort, maybe grits (yes I know that’s corn and corn is a grain but this is the south and I am not perfect) and some homemade ice cream from raw cream, maple syrup and egg yolks. Seasonal adaptations are more fruit in the summer, less in the winter and more fatty meats in the winter, less in the summer. Life is still good and I am even happier now that I fit into my size 3 short shorts.
So thank you Mark, for the knowledge, for your blog – for the time and efforts you put into the research and writing. I linked my site to yours, I send my friends and clients here and your book is a must read for all new clients embarking on the Primal Lifestyle. Best to you and yours in health & fitness!