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 have wanted to write my own success story of my life on the Primal Blueprint diet ever since I reaped the initial benefits only three days into the commitment, but I was waiting until I had “finished” my goals. It’s now been more than nine months since my adventure into the Primal lifestyle began, and I have begun to realize that there really is no finish line in personal wellness and contentment. This has become a way of life, and one can always improve oneself. Mark said it best about the Primal Blueprint diet: “This is not the most ripped contest.”
From the age of 6, I was a very active child and an especially athletic one. I joined my first competitive swim team that year and it became the focus of my life for the next 12 years. Swimming for five to ten times a week in competitive training kept me extremely fit and health never crossed my mind as I had not an ounce of visible fat anywhere on my body. Keep in mind, though, I was never very cut or ripped either.
I grew up in the south, and my diet reflected the region: lots of meat, chicken fried steak, lots of potatoes and corn, etc. I had sit down family meals with freshly cooked dinners most nights, so in my opinion everything at my dinner table could be considered “healthy,” because hey, at least I wasn’t eating fast food, right? I ate a lot at meals, with heaping amounts of white gravy poured over meat and potatoes, to the point that I had to lay down after each meal.
By the time I was in 7th grade, I had picked up long distance running and joined the cross-country team, in addition to being on the swim team. A normal day for me consisted of 1.5 hour swim practice before school, 5-7 mile run after school, then a 2 hour swim practice after that. Like Michael Phelps, I had to consume massive amounts of calories in order to even maintain my small weight of 145 lbs. (I am 5’10”.) My mom was unable to cook enough to meet my caloric needs, so I turned to eating quick frozen foods between meals. I could easily eat four Hot Pockets at a time, more than once a day in addition to my regular meals. Things started to change for me when we moved.
In 9th grade we moved to Michigan, where I continued my athletic and eating frenzy. Now, I don’t want to say that Michiganders are more unhealthy than southerners, as I have no proof of this, but the city suburban life coaxed me into eating more and more fast food and frozen/boxed meals at this age. This is where my problems began. By 16, I started to have excruciating bouts of heartburn after every meal. It was so terrible that I would have to lie on my side for half an hour after each meal with my eyes closed (a nurse told me this helps put the esophagus in a neutral position). This continued untreated for several years, until I was about to graduate high school. By the time I graduated, I had horrible stomach pains, diarrhea and indigestion, in addition to the heartburn after every meal, every day.
After weeks of tests, I found out that I had inexplicably become lactose intolerant, literally overnight; in addition I had two of the three markers for celiac disease. The doctor said it was not enough to be conclusive, and that I likely didn’t have gluten intolerance. So I was sent on my way with a high-powered medicine for my heartburn and a new ban on dairy products. What happens when you tell an 18 year old that they have no problem with gluten and that they can take a pill for the pain instead of changing food choices? They start eating worse!
As I graduated high school, I had a few sports injuries and decided to drop out of swimming and running for a while. My metabolism apparently didn’t get the memo, and I desired to eat the way I always did, except that now I was not doing any exercise whatsoever. I gained 15 lbs in the three months between high school graduation and freshman year of college, then another 20 lbs during that year (thanks dorm food!). My eating got worse, in combination with binge drinking, and the pain continued right up to a respectable 220 lbs by the time I was 24. That was the year my final year of graduate school and the year that I got married to a wonderful girl who eventually taught me the importance of my personal health, but not immediately. I gained another 15 lbs my first year of marriage, rounding out at a respectable 235 lbs, standing at 5’10”.
That was the year I graduated and moved to New York City. Suddenly I had to walk everywhere! I was also an oddity being so fat, rather than closer to the norm as I was in the Midwest. The final straw came when I went to the doctor, and they performed an EKG to make sure the obesity was not damaging my heart (at only 25!). With my wife’s help (she studies nutrition) and a conventional wisdom diet I started shedding the pounds, choking down a tasteless bowl of oatmeal every morning for three years, in addition to exercise and lean meats and veggies. I lost 50 lbs the first year, then 10 the next year and another 5 the next. The problem was that I still had indigestion and diarrhea after many meals, even when they had no dairy or “bad things” in them. I was tired, had no desire to do anything and slept terribly. I also plateaued at this point, no matter how calorie deprived I was or how many hours I spent in the gym. I still had a gut and flab all over at 170 lbs and I knew that it wasn’t loose skin, it was fat.
My brother in law is a trainer who changed his life with the Primal Blueprint diet, but he never once tried to force me into it or be pushy, I had only heard about it in passing. He knew I was unhappy though, and for Christmas he bought me The 21-Day Total Body Transformation (and a bad ass Santoku knife to rip through whole foods!). Starting on January 1, 2012 I made the leap into the Primal life. After three days, poof!, no more indigestion, cramps, diarrhea or discomfort after meals! I was amazed! Within a month I had unlimited energy and I was happier, especially because I replaced that disgusting oatmeal with eggs and bacon and avocado in the morning! The scale didn’t change much, but I noticed my neck, chin and chest leaning out and not becoming as loose. I could go out and run 10 miles after a 10 hour day of work completely fasted. I was no longer a victim of the food I ate. I no longer had to worry about waiting an hour after I ate to make sure I had a bathroom nearby. I was free!
Eventually I replaced my running with sprinting, and added heavy lifting and Primal movements (pushups, pullups, etc.). These in combinations with a two month period of super strict paleo took me down another 10 lbs of fat this summer and added muscle to my core and my arms. People were amazed that in two months I was able to make an obvious difference so quickly.
So here I am nine months in to my journey. Do I still have unwanted fat? Yes. Do I still have a ways to go? Yes. But I am happier than I have ever been, healthier than I have ever been and feel like a member of the human race again. The Primal life is not a diet to me and has no ultimate “finish line” or “goal” to reach, but is rather a way of life that can be easily sustained for the rest of my days.