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

Eat This, “Eat This, Not That!”

real life stories stories 1 2For all those college kids not sure what to do about getting healthy, you’ll enjoy Matt’s story. Going Primal worked so well for him, he even started his own blog, Three New Leaves, about living a simpler, more mindful, healthier life (check out his recent series of beginner’s guides to Primal living, part 1, part 2, and part 3).

If you have your own Primal Blueprint success story and you’d like to share it with me and the MDA community please feel free to contact me here. Have a wonderful Friday, everyone, and thanks for reading!

Ever heard of the Freshman 15?

I had. And I was determined, the minute I stepped into college, that I would not pack on the pounds that I’d already carried for most of my childhood. I even gave myself a lofty goal: a six pack, that holy grail of chubby kids everywhere.

I spent the next few years eating everything I thought I should: whole-grain tortillas, tuna, and a protein shake every time I stepped out of the gym. I lifted weights multiple times each week, forced myself to run miles on the track, and generally got trapped in a never-ending cycle of small, miserable success.

I’d start strong, losing a little weight and feeling like a champion, and then maybe a month later I’d be exhausted and dreading yet another trip to the gym. A few weeks would pass and the feeling would fade. I’d start pumping iron again, admiring myself in the wall-high mirrors, and then remember that I hated lifting weights every day of the week almost as much as I hated running long miles on the track. Screw the six-pack, I thought. That was way too much work. I just didn’t want to gain any weight.

But I did. I fell out of the usual workout routine, burnt out from the day-to-day exercise, and staunchly refused to eat tuna on a tortilla ever again. My weight crept up each month as I frequented more and more restaurants, but it didn’t really hit me until I saw some photos of myself without a shirt on.


Here’s one.

Freshman 15? Nope. The “senior 25″ had hit me instead. Desperate to do something about it, I grabbed a copy of Eat This, Not That!, read it cover to cover, and wondered if I looked like an idiot whenever I brought it with me into the grocery store. I lived and breathed by that book, convinced it was going to save my weight, and settled into my most soul-crushing routine yet.

I’d pull up to a restaurant, open up the Eat This, Blah Blah! iPhone app, and skim the list of things I could eat. I’d aim only for the dishes with a B rating or higher, but over time I came to realize two things: those dishes tend to suck, and that the numbers in the app couldn’t be right in the first place. I’d eat something I thought was healthy, start doubting that choice, and check the stats online the minute I got home — feeling down and glum whenever it wasn’t as healthy as I’d thought (if only I’d gone for the other salad dressing!).

And then I found Mark’s Daily Apple.

Coincidentally, I don’t even know where the Eat This, Not That! book is anymore.

I dug through the archives here, absorbing every post I could, finding for the first time that all of the information about what I was eating actually made sense. Three hours after I’d found the site, I stood up, went out, and bought the Primal Blueprint itself, completely changing my diet — my lifestyle — from that point forward.

I’ve eaten Primally for a solid eight months, now, and started incorporating intermittent fasting in the last few weeks. The first change was in energy — no more mid-afternoon slumps! The second change was in how I felt. For months, I’d been keenly aware of how my stomach bulged over my seatbelt in the car, and I’d also noticed that my favorite button-down shirt couldn’t handle my bulk.


Now, though? I feel awesome. I treated myself to a new pair of jeans, recently, and had another “wow” moment when I realized two things: that my stomach is too flat to bulge now, and that a 34 in the waist wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I needed a 29. I might have done a small jig in the dressing room.

And the last change — the most important, I think — is in how simple my life has become. I don’t obsess over calories, now, or have to consult the latest trendy book whenever I’m stepping into a restaurant. I don’t have to spend hours in the gym or on the treadmill. For the first time in my life, I don’t have to worry about my weight (and as the perennial fat kid, that’s saying something).

I just have to eat Primally when I’m hungry and walk around when I’m not. Simple as that. (And I blog about it, too. Come say hi!).

Six pack, here I come!

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. awesome man!

    Max Gazzara wrote on February 25th, 2011
  2. Nice one. To get happy results – and especially in a way which frees the soul from being burdened with ascetic “dietary laws”, is cool.

    Phil wrote on February 25th, 2011
  3. Excellent story! If you work hard, eat right, and use your brain you can accomplish anything!

    Poppabear wrote on February 25th, 2011
    • It’s funny how easy this lifestyle becomes once you forget about it and just do it. Natural comes very natural after a bit. LOL

      Poppabear wrote on February 25th, 2011
      • That is so true! Two months in, I don’t obsess about food (what, where, how, when) anymore! I have been obsessing about food for years and I feel now like I have finally let that go. I am so much more relaxed about it than I have ever been and I love it.

        Mary wrote on February 25th, 2011
  4. great story. Thanks for sharing that.

    Jeff wrote on February 25th, 2011
  5. Inspiration! thanks for sharing :)

    Sarah wrote on February 25th, 2011
  6. Oooh this is great! My kids are tweens and I’m going to lose control over what they eat soon. I’m concerned but this gives me hope that they’ll get back on track when they’re older if they fall off the wagon.

    Thanks for telling your story, and great job!

    Alison Golden wrote on February 25th, 2011
    • My kids think ‘Eat This, Not That’ is a kind of bible and check it out all the time.

      While I’m loathe to burst their bubble because it is better than not being educated at all, it is still cringeworthy from my perspective.

      Alison Golden wrote on February 25th, 2011
      • Why not hand ‘em a copy of Mark’s book? I think they’d find him very approachable.

        Dana wrote on February 25th, 2011
        • They’re only ten.

          PB is not as kid friendly as ET,NT which has lots of pretty pictures of food from Wendy’s and Taco Bell.

          But a PB for kids would be a great thing, Mark…

          Alison Golden wrote on February 25th, 2011
  7. I am still amazed at how well this works for people. I have spent the last 25+ years obsessing over crap (calories, macros, portion sizes, weight, etc.) and all we have to do is eat like *people* are supposed to eat. Great job and glad to hear that it is working for you.

    Edward wrote on February 25th, 2011
  8. yet another success – hey mark – may seem counter-intuitive – but all who post here are your cheering section – what about stories of paleo that did not work so well for people and a few specific thoughts why?

    Thanks! good goin matt!

    DaiaRavi wrote on February 25th, 2011
    • I think those kinds of people would be really difficult to find, considering what a wide range of food choices you have to pick from and still be “eating Paleo.” And how do you define “not working”?

      Dana wrote on February 25th, 2011
    • It doesn’t work for me anymore. I’ve been 3 years on the diet, did well at first. Quit smoking 20 months ago and I can’t get rid of the extra 15. Sprints and meat and vegetables is a way of life now. I’d love to know why I’m so chubby now, and how to stop.

      kapo wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  9. This lifestyle SOUNDS so restricting at first, but I often must remind myself that I have lost weight and gained energy WITHOUT calorie counting, obsessing about food, over-training, etc.

    Which method of living is really more restricting?! I’d take this any day!

    Congrats, Matt! And, I already follow your blog. :)

    Crunchy Pickle wrote on February 25th, 2011
  10. Way to go, Matt. Sort of similar to my story, I put on the pounds late in college even though I worked out fairly consistently and tried to eat “right”. Sure wish I would have found MDA before I started college in 2005 (although the site was just getting started back then). As a side note, I think you took your “after” pic upside down… :-P

    ThePrimalBrett wrote on February 25th, 2011
  11. Congrats! That may have been the best lesson you learned in college!:)

    Emily wrote on February 25th, 2011
  12. Great story! Very inspirational! I am just getting started and have pretty much jumped in feet first…so far, I am loving the energy level and the food choices! It’s still a struggle to avoid sugar but I have been able to. Thanks for posting your story!

    Jaci wrote on February 25th, 2011
  13. Wow! I love these stories, so much more uplifting than listening to the news! This for me IS news LOL.

    Kelda wrote on February 25th, 2011
  14. Matt, great post.

    Having been there, I know college is an easy time to start eating not much more than pizza, chicken wings and Doritos (leaving apart a discussion of whatever other “dangerous substances” one might consume), so kudos to you.

    I know this is off topic, but I was just web surfing some stuff and I came across this link to a restaurant menu from 1899, New York City. (link below) Notice how LOW CARB it is!

    Apart from the dessert section, there’s no sugars, pasta, rice, bread, tortillas, breaded stuff or deep fried stuff! It’s all meats, organ meats, meat-based soups, meat-based salads, and the “side dishes” are all stuff like olives, pickles and almonds!

    Amazing! I want to go to a restaurant like this right now! Mark, I hope you see this and read it.

    Or, somebody else, reading this, start a restaurant with this menu! I will come work for you!

    Scott Mercer wrote on February 25th, 2011
    • That’s because bread and grains are flavorless crap and only became widespread anywhere once the government started subsidizing them.

      I’ve noticed that the more high-end a resturaunt is, the closer it typcially comes to serving Paleo/Primal. In CA, if you go to a resturaunt that serves food made of locally grown ingredients, 90% of the menu is often Primal

      fritzy wrote on February 25th, 2011
      • I have notice even high end restaurants offer lots of grains. Rolls before dinner, rice, white potatoes etc

        Gayle wrote on February 27th, 2011
      • I’ve noticed this, too. It seems like it’s only worth it to eat out if you go to the high-end places. Otherwise, you are going to be presented with a bunch of cheap fillers, like pasta, bread, or rice, and very little nutritional food like meat & vegetables. Needless to say, I don’t go out to eat very often!

        Elizabeth wrote on March 5th, 2011
    • Hi thanks for posting that menu, yes it is very primal. very interesting to see what was eaten more than 100 years ago.

      Gayle wrote on February 27th, 2011
    • I agree with Scott. Start a restaurant with this exact menu, including the prices, and I will be there everyday.

      JoeKC wrote on February 28th, 2011
    • What a great link. I remember seeing an old menu recently when we were at the Grand Canyon & thinking the same thing! There are some breaded, fried things on here (croquettes, probably the fried eggplant), and sweet pickles; but overall the menu is pretty wholesome. Now, it’s really tough to find something on a restaurant menu that provides adequate amounts of meat and vegetables. Restaurants fill up the plate with starches because they’re cheap. It’s very frustrating.

      Elizabeth wrote on March 3rd, 2011
  15. What a great story and an inspiration! I began eating primally just 25 days ago and have lost 20 lbs (212 to 192). I still have cravings and obsessions but reading stories like this really helps. Thanks, Matt!

    Wes wrote on February 25th, 2011
  16. Wow, dude! You look amazing and I KNOW you feel amazing. Congrats on your success… I am following in your footsteps, though a LOT older than you, it’s easy for me too!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    Maryann wrote on February 25th, 2011
  17. I just started living Primal about a week and a half ago and my energy levels have gone through the roof! I can hardly sit still anymore, it’s wonderful. :D I am currently 236 pounds and I hope to eventually lose about 66 pounds, but I’m not stressing over it, I’m just simplifying and it’s already very gratifying. :3

    Yvette wrote on February 25th, 2011
  18. After eighteen months after falling off the primal/paleo wagon, it’s time to climb back on for good. After viewing all these amazing success stories, how can I not!

    Andi wrote on February 25th, 2011
  19. I love hearing these success stories Mark! My own story started with terrible stomach problems and regular visits to the doctor with diagnoses like colitis and colon cancer looming on the horizon. (I tried everything they suggested except the drugs- yogurt, vegetarian, steaming everything) and once I found the paleo diet – and crossfit – I have been problem free. I even cook for people to help them get into the lifestyle!

    Cassidy wrote on February 25th, 2011
  20. Daia Ravi – of all the people I know who have turned to the primal blueprint and paleo lifestyle it has changed their life. I’m sure if there were reasons as to why the PB didn’t work for certain types of people Mark would cover that and explain the best course of action. For me it totally changed my life around, for others they have lost that extra stone they’ve always wanted to lose or felt they had more energy and muscle definition. PB is a success.

    Great job Matt – it’s awesome to see yet another success story; the six pack will be yours, give it time!

    Michael Wilson wrote on February 25th, 2011
  21. Congratulations, Matt!

    Although I’ve never had a problem with being overweight, I have still gained lean mass (rather effortlessly in comparison to past diet and exercise regimens,) seen quicker recovery time, gained way more energy and seen many health issues I just took as the natural course of entering my 4th decade of life simply disappear.

    Not that you probably need the encouragement but keep up the good work.

    fritzy wrote on February 25th, 2011
  22. Wahoo!! Way to go!!

    gilliebean wrote on February 25th, 2011
  23. Sexy results! WTG!!

    Melissa Fritcher wrote on February 25th, 2011
  24. Congratulations Matt. As the parent of two college students and convert to PB, I look forward to the day, I welcome the next generation into the fold.

    I would appreciate any insight to alcohol (beer v. wine etc.). Hey we are talking about college kids here.

    Dave wrote on February 25th, 2011
  25. Great job.

    Sue wrote on February 26th, 2011
  26. You also show great discipline Matt, with a clear vision of the objective. As a student you’ll find that the best solution is almost always the simple solution. Keep that approach in all things primal. I lost 32 lbs, in 4 months and now back to my fighting trim from 30 years ago.

    Mark3446 wrote on February 26th, 2011
  27. That’s great Matt.

    I wish I could say I gained the Freshman 15, truth is I gained the Freshman 30!

    When I got out of high school I was obsessed with body building so I would devour protein bars and quaff down shakes like I owned stock in those companies.

    Inevitable I injured myself and was unable to workout. So the muscle went away and the belly formed.

    Now I’m 28 struggling to get fit again. MDA has been a God send though and I am well on my way to have a primal body.

    Trey Crowe wrote on February 26th, 2011
    • Lots of people at my work are downing these protein shakes all the time, thinking it’s making them fit. The gyms really push the protein shakes & bars – it’s one of the reasons I’m not fond of them. I do try to discourage my co-workers, since my personal experience was that they did not satisfy my hunger because of my reaction to the sweetness & caused me to gain (fat) weight, too.

      Elizabeth wrote on March 5th, 2011
  28. Thanks for sharing the story. I love stories like that. Great title to the post too! Clever :-)

    Karen wrote on February 26th, 2011
  29. Congrats Matt, you look great. I wish this lifestyle/way of eating had been around when I was in my 20s. I believe it would not have only helped my waistline but my skin as well. I have had acne prone skin since my early teens and still have it as an adult in my mid 40s but the primal diet seem to be really helping it clear.

    Good luck trying to convert other 20 somethings though. They seem to be mostly into veganism/vegetarianism

    Gayle wrote on February 27th, 2011
  30. Damn! Awesome transformation. I’m a college student and it’s tough. Probably one of the hardest phases in life to make this life decision to actually sack up and eat right.

    Very inspirational. Thanks!

    Bea Binag wrote on February 27th, 2011
  31. Way to go Matt! Sometimes you get some good luck at the right time. Sure wish PB had been around in my college days. Still, better late than never. Keep up the good work.

    Digby wrote on February 28th, 2011
  32. Oh my gosh, just LOOK at you! Dude, you’re one handsome man! Congratulations, and thank you so much for sharing.

    Sue wrote on February 28th, 2011
  33. Perhaps it’s personal preference, but I think you may have put a bit too much emphasis on being skinny rather than being fit. I think this is a common mistake made by many people, particularly women. You would probably benefit from a bit more strength training, which would naturally increase your hunger a bit to provide the building blocks to add some muscle mass.

    I’m certainly not trying to minimize your accomplishment, but I am offering a bit of a different perspective while still enjoying all of the benefits of a primal lifestyle.

    Justa wrote on February 28th, 2011
  34. Good story bro — I made the same change.

    Nicky Spur wrote on February 28th, 2011
  35. Incredible story of personal success. I think a lot of people, including myself have been in a similar position as Matt – including myself! Thank you very much for sharing this story, am linking to it.


    Andy wrote on February 28th, 2011
  36. way to go! its so awesome to see other young bloods getting into this. we dont have to wait till we are old to benefit from taking it easy and eating steak and asparagus for dinner :) keep up the great work and welcome to primal heaven!


    heather wrote on March 2nd, 2011
  37. I just started following this blog and I love it. I have been printing out the workouts of the week and I am very inspired. I am also a fitness guru and health nut. But I am always looking for more information and I also love blogging about it too. Congrats on your great results! :)

    Meg wrote on March 28th, 2011

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