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 was always a little on the big side as a kid, but as I got older my weight became a huge (pardon the pun) issue. From quite early on, I was conscious of my weight but hadn’t got a clue how to change things. I went to boarding school at 12, and was dreadfully homesick. My mum sent me back to school with piles of treats to try cheer me up. She was trying to help, but really it did the opposite. Another problem was the poor nutrition in the school. Cereals for breakfast, starchy food for lunch and pizza for dinner. Schools in Ireland need a serious wake up call when it comes to educating students about nutrition. I’m hoping that I can work with schools on this one in the future. So years of eating poor quality food created bad habits, nasty comments in school contributed to low self confidence and body image issues. By 16, I was heavily overweight and had stopped all organised sports in school because of poor fitness and my dented confidence.
That year was the first time my weight had really impacted my health. During the summer, I woke one morning with swollen glands all over, my eyes were almost swollen shut, as was my throat. My mum was so concerned she took me to hospital where I remained for three weeks. I was diagnosed with Glandular Fever. For the next 18 months, I suffered from chronic fatigue, low mood, psoriasis, eczema, cold and flu like symptoms and endless doctors visits. In all that time, no doctor ever suggested elimination of wheat or a change of diet. My diet remained carb and processed-food heavy, and my weight rocketed as my self esteem plummeted.
In hindsight, I don’t think I ever fully recovered from the period when I had glandular fever. Or perhaps I’d done such damage to my body with processed foods that I didn’t know what feeling good felt like anymore. Or maybe I never actually knew what feeling good meant.
I spent my early 20s miserable and depressed, with very little motivation or passion for anything. At 22, a CT scan showed two tumors in my temporal lobe. Now that made me sit bolt upright and think about my life. I had laser therapy, surgery, cryotherapy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and for a long time, nothing worked. At the same time, because of all the blood work I was having done, I was diagnosed with ITP (a blood disorder which causes your body to destroy platelets). My body had turned on me, and seemed intent on destroying me. I struggled with bouts of serious depression, and after confiding in my medical team, the only solution they saw was hospitalisation for depression and more medication. I spent three weeks in a psychiatric hospital that consistently served processed foods to the patients.
I decided it was time to change. I looked at a photo of myself, and realised I needed to take drastic action and do everything I could to help my recovery. I wanted to get better. I wanted to feel well. Up until I saw this photo, I wasn’t ready to make changes to my lifestyle. I didn’t really know how, I was afraid people would judge me, and I really don’t deal with failure well. Fear held me back. Seeing that photo pushed me into action. I didn’t want to spend the next 50 years depressed, sweaty and obese. I also didn’t want to die. I decided to take every step I could towards improving my physical and mental health. I stocked up on healthy foods and joined a commercial gym. I went religiously every day, and ate according to common nutritional advice (namely the food pyramid). As I started to see progress (my weight was decreasing from a shocking 341 pounds), I started to research how to use nutrition as a tool to improve my health. As I learned more about the inflammatory effects of wheat, and the addictive properties of sugar, I discovered Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution and consequently your blog and The Primal Blueprint.
I jump between paleo and primal, but what is far more important to me than the label of either plan, is the knowledge that I’m eating real food which hasn’t been destroyed by processing and the addition of chemicals. The main reason I find it such a sustainable way of life is that it’s simple. There’s no hard sell of supplements or meal replacement shakes, it’s all about eating clean food which thankfully is in plentiful supply in Ireland.
After cleaning up my diet, I finally started to see progress in overcoming illness. The tumors miraculously shrank, my depression lifted, I had more energy and things looked a little brighter.
I joined an amazing new gym, with amazing coaches and members and I love strength training now. I’ve always had their full support to train during treatment cycles and keep pushing to improve my health. I owe my trainers a lot for their encouragement to keep going.
A year ago this week, I was diagnosed with MS (which I’ve only recently learned is strongly linked to Glandular Fever). That was a tough one to deal with, but I got on with it. I kept training, stuck to my new lifestyle and I’ll keep on going. It will take a really strong tranquilliser dart to stop me living my life!
I’m continuing with DMD for MS and platelet transfusions for the ITP, but as I get stronger and healthier, I’m hoping that nutrition will be my primary medicine and I can step away from traditional methods, despite being told by a neurologist that “no hippy fad diet would keep me from a wheelchair”. I’m not sure Dr. Terry Wahls would agree with that!
Since going fully Primal 15 months ago, my health is the best it has been in years: MS flares are at a minimum, my hair has finally started to grow again despite serious radiation burns to my scalp, I jump out of bed every day excited about what’s in store for me, I honestly never look in the mirror and feel unhappy. There are things I’d like to improve, but that’ll come with training.
It’s now just over two years since I decided to make a change and I have lost over half my body weight, dropped 8 dress sizes, train really hard, lift heavy (who knew that lifting heavy stuff wouldn’t turn girls into men!), eat incredible real food, and have so much energy!
For the first time ever, I feel healthy and happy. Life is fantastic, and I absolutely credit my change in lifestyle with all the positives I’m experiencing now.
I’m four days away from being a fully qualified Personal Trainer, and I am so excited about helping people discover how amazing it feels to be healthy and happy through strength training and nutrition.
Discovering the Primal Blueprint has without a doubt saved my life and changed my life for the better.