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

Healthier at Age 44 Than 24: How I Lost 115 Pounds and Turned My Life Around

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!

Dear Mark,

I am 44 years old. I am a critical care clinical pharmacist. It is my job to follow current medical guidelines in regard to providing ~30% protein – 30% fat – 40% carbohydrate intravenous nutrition to patients and modulating macro and micronutrients based on their respective clinical situation. For over 20 years I have been well aware of the exact macronutrient composition of what I was personally “supposed” to be taking in, and exactly what I was actually taking in…down to the gram. During my 30s, I was extremely frustrated that I couldn’t ever figure out why I ate what I ate.

All my life I was a big eater, I loved all foods. I had a significant sweet tooth and it was clear that I enjoyed chocolate and desserts much more than the average person. I am 5’11”. I was about 185 pounds in high school. As a teenager I was never considered thin, but I had very fast sprint times, I played most high school varsity sports, I played club baseball in college, and walked on our Division One golf team (and they let me stay).

In my first two years of college my weight went up to the 230 pound range. I was able to get back down around 200 pounds my third year by becoming a gym rat – intense weightlifting and StairMaster most days of the week. My weight cycled again after college and I was able to drop the weight by spending a lot of time in the gym and racquetball court, and I also did a lot of mountain and road biking. I also followed the conventional wisdom and did a great job at eating a low-fat diet.

I worked a few years in community pharmacy, and in hospital pharmacy for four years. In 1996 I went back to grad school two years, maintained a half-time job, spent a lot of time exercising, and a lot of time eating out. During those busy, fun years, I didn’t sleep much and I was able to maintain fairly good fitness from a strength and cardio perspective; my waist size was 36 or 38 depending on the clothing brand or style.

AJoe - Before Primal few weeks after grad school and we were married, my wife started an intense post grad pharmacist residency while I worked full time. We lived in a wonderful resort community and really only had time to work long hours and experience all the great restaurants. Exercise basically stopped that year and my waist size quickly went up to 42 inches. A year later we moved to Houston, Texas for my critical care residency – again, long work hours and an abundance of fantastic food, little to no exercise and little sleep yielded a 46 inch waist in my early 30s and my weight fluctuated from 240 to 280 for the next ten years. My energy levels fluctuated severely. Sporadic dieting and exercise would bring it down a few months here and there. I never looked into Atkins since it was high fat. I never consistently stuck to one diet or exercise regimen – all I was certain about was that whenever I craved a specific food, whether it be a cheeseburger, crème brûlée or lasagna – my mind fixated on it until I ate it. More was better – like I was always hungry, even though my stomach was full. Restricting foods or calories in general left me in a state of craving that could only be satisfied with eating the food I craved, albeit temporarily. This was more and more frustrating, and scary, as my health was seemingly slipping away…I would frequently discuss with my wife that the only way for me to drop 50 pounds was to drastically cut my caloric intake for years and start training for a marathon, which seem insurmountable. In 2009 and 2010 my weight went over the limit of most scales – I estimate that I was well over 320 pounds – my Levi’s jeans waist size was 50 inches and my shirts were size 22 neck or XXXL; depending on the brand or style, most were uncomfortably tight.  Despite the lack of formal exercise, I maintained decent strength with frequent yard work or unusual projects lifting heavy things. It was hard work, but I was able to enjoy my stand up jet-ski each summer, even though it was not made for a guy my size.

My health the past 13 years has been a roller coaster ride. I had hyperlipidemia, elevated liver enzymes, several sebaceous cysts surgically removed, extremely severe acne (dermatologist treated 30 years), GERD, irritable bowel, and frequent strep throat. I had several extreme febrile episodes of unknown diagnosis. I did have viral meningitis in 2007 and then significant migraines followed monthly for years. I had the best health care experts in the world review my issues. Luckily, nothing ominous was ever found. The migraines and febrile episodes waxed and waned. I learned to get used to it. I frequently felt fatigued and just wanted to collapse when home from work; I had poor sleep for many years – I attributed it to being 40 and overweight. I also had significant joint pain and stiffness in my shoulders, neck, ankles and knees – again I attributed it to getting older, being overweight and past injuries.

Joe - Pre-Primal Joe - Before Primal

I tried many different approaches to weight loss and maintaining exercise and became more perplexed and frustrated when it didn’t work or my interventions made me feel worse. In September of 2011 Gary Taubes came and spoke at my workplace. Had Gary not come to present his book I probably would never consider low carb diets or read his books – after the talk; however, I immediately read his books. I was sold on trying low carb when I learned of the Banting Diet – I could still have red wine! Plus, I thought it would fail either from a disease reason or lack of weight loss – like the dozens of other diets that “failed” me. I discussed with my fantastic family physician and he mentioned he had several patients do well on low carb diets. He said he would check my labs every four months while I experimented with a low carb, high protein, high fat diet.

By November 2011 I was maintaining ketosis and enjoying it. I followed the Atkins Induction Phase recommendations strictly and scoured the web for other ideas. Whenever I craved something I immediately ate meat, cheese or salad – I seemingly was ingesting something hourly the first few weeks – most days I had several thousand total calories, I enjoyed steaks, chicken wings and salads with full-fat dressings. I came across when researching low carb options. Since then it has become one of my mainstays of nutrition, exercise and overall well-being.

Joe - Post-Primal Joe - Post-Primal Joe - Post-Primal

My energy, sleep quality, every aspect of my health and day to day feeling, is as good or better now at age 44 as it was when I was 24. Everything…yes, EVERYTHING – and now I am spending 80% less time “exercising”.

When others ask me, these are my highlights of why I will continue a Primal, nutritional ketosis lifestyle, and why I recommend others try it:

  • Incredible, deep, restful sleep – my sleep improved early on before I lost much weight; now I usually get up without an alarm and I feel great.
  • Constant stream of energy throughout the day, regardless of the timing of my last meal…I usually fast 12 – 20 hours several times a week, usually before exercise – I recently did three hours of powerlifting and bicycling after a 20 hour fast…just to see if I could – I felt great.
  • Mental focus consistent through entire day regardless of meal timing.
  • I lost 115 pounds on the scale in about a year, but more importantly, I have lost over 12 inches off my waist size; I am back to the same college and high school clothing size.
  • My headaches/migraines are gone! I’m off medicines for them. The relief of living without headaches makes everything better and this alone would be enough for me to recommend Primal.
  • I can still enjoy wine with friends – I stopped drinking beer and mixed drinks with carbs, but continued red wine with meals and whisky or wine on social occasions.
  • Neck, ankle, hip, and knee joint pains have disappeared – they went away rapidly, before most of the weight loss – makes me think that the inflammation was due to diet more than wear and tear from carrying extra weight.
  • Acne and oily skin has decreased 95% – never this close to normal ever in my life.
  • Years of scaly, cracked feet have completely resolved spontaneously; a massage therapist accused me of having a pedicure and exfoliation and having the best feet she has seen on a 40 year old man – I had not done anything other than shower.
  • My shoe size has decreased – I was size 11eee or 12 all my adult life. Now I’m 11 regular.
  • Two golf ball size sebaceous cysts on my back spontaneously dissolved in a few weeks.
  • Triglycerides lowered from very high levels down to 50 now.
  • LDL and small LDL particle size falling from very high to normal.
  • HDL from 30s to the 60s with low amount of exercise.
  • Fasting glucose from high 90s (pre-diabetes) down to low 80s (normal).
  • I had elevated ALT and AST most of my adult life – now liver function tests are normal.
  • For over 15 years I had episodic gastric reflux, stomach distention and constipation – this has completely resolved.

The majority of my 100 pound weight loss occurred while I was not exercising at all. I started exercising recently in the fall of 2012 (AFTER most of my weight loss). Despite plateaus of staying at the same weight for many weeks at a time, I have continually decreased my clothing size each month – I continue to gain strength, vascularity and muscular definition.

Joe's Primal WifeP.S. After hearing me rave about this constantly, my wife agreed to try the same diet with me – she didn’t need to “diet” from a weight loss standpoint – she has been a size 6 all her adult life and even at 39 years she wears many of her college clothes. Upon starting, she surprisingly had many weeks of “carb withdrawal”, even having cravings of things that she would not normally eat, just due to the “smell of sugar”. Together, we increased our fat intake from snacks to curtail her carb cravings. We would put almond butter on prosciutto; we would put grass fed butter on top of liver pate and cheese. These high fat treats went well with our daily salad and wine. Now, after 15 months low carb, she has lost about five pounds but more noticeably, she has changed composition: going from size 6 to size 2 (or zero in some brands), increased her muscular tone, definition and vascularity without “formal exercise” and her skin has never been softer – it always feels like it was recently exfoliated, but she does nothing special to care for her skin. It is quite enjoyable to be on a high fat diet along with my wife and see only positive results for each of us.

P.P.S. I have shared my notes with over 100 people and dozens have started Primal, low carb lifestyle in response. Many first and second degree friends, and friends of friends, are enjoying success also – some to the tune of +50 pound weight loss. I have begun to share my notes and ideas on my blog:

People that have not seen me for months and/or years cannot believe their eyes. The science remains elusive to them yet they have to “see it” when they look at me. There is hope for many and I’m grateful to have been part of what I think can be a transformation in the prevention of disease and suffering for the masses. Grok on!

Joe - Post-Primal

Thank you, Mark – Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

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. Truly impressive story, even your wife! Amazing and keep up the good work. It definitely helps having support from your spouse!

    Tamara Warren wrote on December 6th, 2013
  2. I’d have terrible cravings at 40% carbohydrate level too!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on December 6th, 2013
  3. Nice results!

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on December 6th, 2013
  4. WTG!

    Melissa wrote on December 6th, 2013
  5. Very inspiring. Congratulations on your success! The pics are great! And your health improvements are amazing.

    Alice wrote on December 6th, 2013
  6. Another great Friday story. Do you see any long term implications for your work as a critical care clinical pharmacist?

    Colleen wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • I thought the same!

      Kelda wrote on December 6th, 2013
      • Now this is a great question. As a critical care pharmacist will u now be able to impart what u KNOW to be TRUE in ur daily work and possibly contribute to saving lives from a nutritional aspect? As a family medicine physician I chat this lifestyle up until I am blue n the face hoping to “plant some seeds”, but ur profession is a whole different ball game. Congrats on changing ur lives and hope for much success in changing the lives of ur patients!

        Shelly wrote on December 7th, 2013
        • Thank you – my name is Joe Lovely from Minnesota – aka deadpedal on the forum (mostly a lurker), and recently learning how to save my notes at my blog: — thanks to all of you in the comment section here — submitting this letter to Mark was the least I could to for him and all of you here — I learned so much from reading this site.
          As for my professional life: I do not feed patients in the same manner that I personally feed myself. Now that I can show the diet is safe and beneficial for me for 2 years, I am spreading my story for people to investigate for themselves. I would like to get more physicians and health care professionals to read Taubes, Phinney, Volek and Attia’s writings. Maybe some will try the diet for themselves for 4 months; maybe they will be in a position to structure and fund the studies that are needed to elucidate the details behind low carb success and the pitfalls of high carb intake.
          I have many ideas for simple research in obesity and weight loss – and I have hypotheses I would love to test in the critical care world — I could write or talk about this a long time … and the barriers – this would be one of the greatest paradigm shifts in human beliefs and behavior…I defer to Marksdailyapple and similar sites to get the attention of the masses; Peter Attia and Gary Taubes have started and I hope that in my children’s lifetime, can get the leaders of major research groups to ask the correct questions and test them appropriately.

          Joe wrote on December 9th, 2013
  7. This is very impressive…stories like this one is what most people can relate to, because most health problems aren’t really that obvious until after age ~35+ yrs.

    Teens and the 20 year olds tend to ignore the beginning signs of destroyed health and cruise through life worrying about their job, building a future or partying.

    Thank you so much for your story…truly impressive and inspiring. Keep on Groking!

    Issabeau wrote on December 6th, 2013
  8. Your whole family looks so good! the kids look happier too!

    Debi wrote on December 6th, 2013
  9. I LOVE IT!!! I’m sitting here grinning ear to ear with goosebumps. Stories like yours are the BEST! It’s even more excellent that you’re in the healthcare community and can share your new found wisdom with people who can really have a ripple effect through society. Thanks so much for being awesome and inspiring so many others! Grok on my friend, grok on.

    Nick wrote on December 6th, 2013
  10. Congratulations on your health! Beautiful family as well.

    Erin wrote on December 6th, 2013
  11. Great post. How do you share this in the clinical world?

    Matt YLBody wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • Thank you — See similar question a few spaces above

      Joe wrote on December 9th, 2013
  12. Congratulations, very inspring

    I like the whole post but this clicks with my experience:

    “I was maintaining ketosis and enjoying it. I followed the Atkins Induction Phase recommendations strictly ”

    Had he lived Atkins today would be a champion of the Primals!

    wildgrok wrote on December 6th, 2013
  13. Love it! What an inspiration! I can certainly sympathize with your wife’s efforts especially when ‘smelling sugar’. Who knew sugar even had a smell? Wonderful story!

    Judy G wrote on December 6th, 2013
  14. I look forward all week to these perennial success stories…….wonderful achievement

    Jaws76 wrote on December 6th, 2013
  15. Congratulations!! Very inspiring! Way to go.

    Aileen wrote on December 6th, 2013
  16. Awesome story!! I love Fridays…they are so encouraging.

    Meg wrote on December 6th, 2013
  17. Great Job! You and your whole family look very happy about your accomplishments! Keep up the fantastic work – Have a Happy and Safe Holiday Season.. All the best.

    Rod Hilton wrote on December 6th, 2013
  18. A truly fabulous read, am loving all these stories they keep me going, hope I’ll be as inspirational one day soon :)

    Noir Rees wrote on December 6th, 2013
  19. LOVE THIS! You look awesome and your happiness comes through in your writing. Can’t wait to share this post with my husband! Way to go!!

    Molly wrote on December 6th, 2013
  20. I just love your story and your pictures. What an achievement and I’m so glad you feel better!

    joey wrote on December 6th, 2013
  21. FANTASTIC story and results! Congratulations and thank you for sharing! :)

    Gwen wrote on December 6th, 2013
  22. Dang man truly incredible! Good work. Very cool that you tracked so many health markers too.

    Luke wrote on December 6th, 2013
  23. Keep on keeping on!

    glorth2 wrote on December 6th, 2013
  24. Congratulations! Love that you are now healthy and can keep up with those beautiful kids!

    Cindy wrote on December 6th, 2013
  25. Astounding and Incredible, this really is one of the most impressive stories I have seen here! The first part of your story and photos were truly frightening, I am so glad you were able to ameliorate all those problems. Obviously you have saved your life and health with the changes to your diet. Fantastic that you are reaching out and helping so many others with your advice and website. I am curious how this affects your job considering the medical nutritional guidelines you quoted? Obviously those are not optimal for everyone, probably not for most people. Are you able to modify those guidelines where appropriate in your judgement?

    bayrider wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • Thank you, a lot more will need to happen to change the current guidelines — the medical world sees this as n=1– see my other comments a few spaces above.

      Joe wrote on December 9th, 2013
  26. Yours is truly an amazing story/transformation. Congratulations on your healthy lifestyle. Kados also to your lovely wife for joining you on your journey. She looks amazing as well. Are your kids little Groks/Grokette?

    I, too, tried many diets/systems/programs but none for any length of time…because the tracking was too complicated/time consuming and, no matter how much weight I lost, I was ALWAYS HUNGRY! “When can I eat again” was always on my mind. I had the same fixations as you mentioned. If I even had an idea of a certain food that I loved I wasn’t satisfied until I ate it. Substitutions wouldn’t work either. And more was always better: It never occurred to me to just stop when I was satisfied.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us this Happy Friday. Just awesome!
    Grok On! :)
    P.S. I haven’t seen your name posted anywhere. Did I miss it?

    Darlene, San Francisco, CA wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • We are not specifically imposing this on our kids, however there are a lot less carbs in our house compared to before. Definitely no fructose or corn syrups anymore. Cut way back on bread, pasta, juice and milk, but they get a fair amount at school and outside the house. I make a BIG FAT SALAD most days and after hearing my wife and I talk about it, they ask if they can have some — they end up eating more than they ever would if we told them they should eat it; after watching me cook and order, my daughter orders ribeye or prime rib whenever we are at restaurants; they all eat the ‘good cheese’; many times the toss buns from burgers when they see me go bunless.

      When very low carb for several months my tastes changed and satiety mechanisms came around — I simply focused on low carb the first 6 months and put food in my mouth whenever hungry; didn’t track or measure anything — just omitted carbs. After I stopped diet soda -my taste perception improved immensely- things like almonds and salads tasted sweet to me.

      Thank you,

      Joe wrote on December 9th, 2013
  27. Loved your story and your website. Taubes is the guy who got me started on the path too! You went from bowling ball to stud…may you be more inspiration in the years to come, especially in your job.

    Nocona wrote on December 6th, 2013
  28. You go, dude. Very inspiring.

    hedgie wrote on December 6th, 2013
  29. Incredible and inspiring . Truly fabulous achievement . Health is wreath and now you have the real wealth , buddy.

    kazi wrote on December 6th, 2013
  30. I love the way he thanked Mark at the end of the post!

    maidel wrote on December 6th, 2013
  31. Great story!!! Eating fat is something a lot of people don’t try. They cut down on the carbs but then eat low fat as well. Butter on pate. Yeah, baby.;)

    Linda A. Lavid wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • Yes, would you like a little pate’ with that butter?

      Nocona wrote on December 6th, 2013
      • A pat of butter with your pate? mmmmm yes please.

        2Rae wrote on December 6th, 2013
  32. What can I say but WOW! You look fantastic and what a great story! All the best to you and your family. :)

    Siobhan wrote on December 6th, 2013
  33. One of the best stories that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, what a happy healthy family you have. Congratulations and well done!

    Karo, Scotland, United Kingdom wrote on December 6th, 2013
  34. All the success stories here are wonderful, but my favorites are always those that share all the health benefits. And if you feel good, then looking good just falls into place on its own as witnessed in your very inspiring after pix. I checked out your informative blog and commend you for taking the time to share with others. We can only hope a lot of them listen. And I so very happy that your wife jumped on board as well – smart lady!

    Gary Taubes was and still is a big inspiration for me as well, along with Robert Lustig and his works on the evils of sugar. It was because of them that I stumbled upon MDA several years ago and have never left!

    Congratulations on a job well done and being brave enough to go against all the CW you deal with every day. All the best to you and that beautiful family.

    PrimalGrandma wrote on December 6th, 2013
  35. “I would frequently discuss with my wife that the only way for me to drop 50 pounds was to drastically cut my caloric intake for years and start training for a marathon, which seem insurmountable.”

    I wonder how many people think this, and are not aware that some relatively small changes can make such a big difference. It saddens me to realize that this may be a common belief.

    tigerchik wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • Yes, I used to feel the same way, that if I didn’t sweat and hurt I was accomplishing nothing……my eyes have been opened!

      Barney wrote on December 7th, 2013
  36. Looking good! But enough of your wife. Your transformation is VERY impressive and inspirational.

    George wrote on December 6th, 2013
  37. Awesome!!
    How long till you started to see positive results?
    I’ll have to read up more on ketosis; when I hear the word, it makes me think of dangerous Atkins from back in the day.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Kris wrote on December 6th, 2013
    • Atkins was NOT dangerous…. Please please — go read up!

      Elenor wrote on December 7th, 2013
    • Thank you,
      Great dreams and deep sleep in the first few weeks; joint pains went away in about 3 weeks.

      There is a lot of misinformation on Atkins out there.

      Read everything you can on this site but keep it simple and low carb initially — focus on details and fine tuning after a few months.

      Joe wrote on December 9th, 2013
      • Thanks, Joe.

        Kris wrote on December 10th, 2013
  38. Wonderful! Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us!

    2Rae wrote on December 6th, 2013

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