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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...

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June 17, 2016

How I Rediscovered My Health and Love of Real Food

By Guest
72 Comments

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!

real_life_stories_stories-1-2Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, I had a relatively active childhood. I wasn’t a fat child, but I didn’t have much muscle tone either. I got up to 6’ 2” and my friends referred to me jokingly as T3 (i.e. thin, tall and terrible). I never took to the same sports as my classmates, but basketball during the week and body-boarding on weekends kept me occupied. My weekday diet consisted of three to four sandwiches, two to three times per day, with margarine and something else—the something else usually being some type of meat that came out of a tin or a pack. Sometimes I would get home-cooked lunch which would typically be pasta/rice with some sort of chicken. At 16 this changed, I cut back on physical activities so that I could dedicate more time to studying, and then cut back some more for the same reason when I was in college later on. The term “going for a sweat” evolved from meaning “going to play basketball” to “going to sit and play video games.” At first this seemed a heretical redefinition, but I slowly grew into it. Most of my spare time was now spent behind a computer, either working or playing video games. There wasn’t any change to my diet, I still ate lots of sandwiches.

After college I married my college sweetheart and four years later she gave me a daughter. People joked that of the two of us, I gained the most weight during our pregnancy.

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Traffic in Trinidad is colossal once you work in the city, so getting to work takes anywhere between one to two hours and getting back home is the same, or worse, so I spent anywhere between two to four hours in traffic daily. Between family, work and traffic, there wasn’t any time to do much else, so the weight kept piling on. Fast forward 12 years and I’m up from what I thought was my set weight for life was at 185 lbs, to weighing in at around 255-260lbs.

I work in IT so when people asked me what I did for a living, I told them that I sat at a desk all day long waiting to be either diagnosed with diabetes or to experience my first myocardial infarction. In mid-2012, I picked up martial arts and on my first day, I remember laying on the ground after the first 15 minutes, waiting for air to return to my burning lungs. Most others in class were just getting warmed up. Even so, I enjoyed it and continued, eventually being able to last about an hour. After a year I felt a lot more skillful but I think I lost just 5-10 lbs.

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A couple incidents that kept getting airplay in my head, which also helped me start this journey:

1) My dad is a Type-1 Diabetic and used to chase my sister and I around the house with his insulin needle while laughing like Count Dracula when we were kids. This gave me an intrinsic fear of needles and, a healthy fear of eating sweets, so I didn’t have a snacking problem growing up.

2) A friend of mine once told me that I could exercise as much as I liked, but would never see body changes until I changed my diet.

One day I was visiting my mentor/adopted godfather’s house; and as I was standing on the balcony, he came outside to ask what’s up. My head was down as I had my usual sinus issues and was recovering from having sneezed more than a dozen times because of whatever was in the air, when I noticed his feet. This guy is at least 20 years older than I am and here I was, wondering at how his feet were so smooth, almost like a baby’s. My feet, on the other hand, were ashy and grey with cracks and webs, reminiscent of a well-mottled terrazzo floor. How could he have better looking feet than me? I knew that he used to run 10 kilometers nearly everyday, so I knew he definitely wasn’t pampering them. He saw me looking and when I asked him about it, he exclaimed in his usual accusing voice—the one he uses when imparting life-impacting knowledge as he frequently did, that I “needed a lifestyle change.” He then directed me to MDA. At the time, the front page prominently displayed a very delicious looking pot of pork.

I read an article or two then closed it off and didn’t bother myself further that day. However, the picture of the pot of pork was etched into my mind’s eye and I would go back and look for it. I would try to wrap my mind around how it could possibly be health food. After-all, this was pork(!) and it was caramelized(!) in its own heart stopping(!), saturated fat(!). How could that possibly be healthy? Every time I went back to watch the picture of the pork, I would also read an article or two. I read about grains, insulin, fats, carbs, protein, cholesterol and everything else in between. I waded through the Definitive Guides. Like most others, Fridays were my favorite days. I wished there were more Fridays in the week! Eventually, things started coming together and making sense to me.

I decided that I would both join the gym and adopt the Primal Lifestyle, however, I was about to go to Canada for a month where I would stay by various relatives and in-laws and attend my cousin’s wedding. So instead, I made a plan to start when I returned. This way I wouldn’t have to refuse all the nice food that I knew would be on offer from both relatives and in-laws. In the meantime, I read MDA at a faster rate, attempting to consume as much knowledge as possible. This included the articles on supplementation, which led me to buy a bunch of stuff I thought I needed. However, this is Trinidad and prices are prohibitive so I got most of it off of Amazon. In the end, I think the only things I really needed were fish oil, protein powder for the days I couldn’t get enough meat and the occasional multi-vitamin to ensure that I wasn’t missing any micro-nutrients. Some of the other stuff was unnecessary or in the case of the wheat germ, deleterious.

On September 1st, 2013, I began my lifestyle change. The hardest part was figuring out with what to replace bread and wheat in all its forms. I planned to eat more eggs instead of eggs with bread, more meat instead of rice or pasta with meat, etc. By the first week, I started getting cravings for fried potato wedges at exactly 9 AM everyday. Potato wedges weren’t even something I would normally eat, so this was strange. I ignored the cravings and kept boiled eggs on my person for when the cravings assaulted me. I justified not caving by telling myself I couldn’t possibly be hungry, not after eating eight eggs. By the end of the second week I got a sore throat, which developed into slight cold accompanied by light headedness.

during primalMy wife remained skeptical about my new diet and proclaimed that I was starving myself and would probably die within a couple weeks if I didn’t recant and eat some bread. She also informed me that if I got sick she would refuse to take me to the hospital. This didn’t matter much to me since going to the hospital in Trinidad and Tobago was equivalent to a death sentence anyway. By the end of the third week, this illness passed and I felt quite comfortable again. I later read that this was what was commonly known as the “carb flu.” All the “bad” gut bacteria were dying because I was starving them, the exotoxins produced by their death induced a spike in systemic inflammation, the spike in systemic inflammation though acute, revealed itself in the form of the sore-throat and a cold. Once you know why this is happening you can laugh sadistically and persevere.

The weight started coming off at somewhere between two to three pounds per week. I didn’t track this properly, since I didn’t expect it to be this drastic. I didn’t own a scale and either way, my spiritual leader and bush doctor convinced me not to watch the scale.

It’s not like I switched to Primal overnight, this was a learning process, something that more closely resembled an Orwellian Wedge. As I learned which foods were good and which were bad, I added or subtracted them from my diet accordingly. Soon enough, boiled eggs weren’t the only things I could eat for breakfast and when I did eat eggs, I started doing fancier things with them.

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20140528_073158I love lamb and we get relatively good stuff from New Zealand. Since I wasn’t confident enough to eat the fat, I saved it in case I became confident enough later on. I ended up with a large bag of lamb fat saved up in the freezer after a couple weeks. Since I needed space for more meat in the freezer, I figured out how to render tallow. Good home rendered tallow made from two weeks worth of saved up lamb fat. YUmmMM!!

I used this tallow to fry up my vegetables. Gone was the blandness of vegetables, they were now lamb-fat infused. In fact, all food started tasting fantastic again. Over time, food was bland and boring and just used to fill a hole, now that I was Primal, I could distinguish individual tastes again. Garlic, peppercorns, ginger, rosemary, even salt makes food come alive. This is not something that I was even aware that I was missing until I rediscovered it.

Instead of crawling painfully out of bed in the morning, I now leap out like a non-leotard wearing Spiderman would.

Food isn’t cheap anymore, in fact it’s rather expensive but I’d rather eat properly than brave going to a doctor in Trinidad. As mentioned earlier, this is the equivalent of death. My mentor saw me in the market a couple months into this life-style change and pointed his gnarly finger at me, stuttering as he claimed that I owed him money for the advice which he passed on to me. I didn’t let him finish that sentence and told him that he in fact owed me money since none of my clothes fit anymore. He didn’t explain ahead of time that I’d need to get an entire new wardrobe if I changed my lifestyle. At work, one of my colleagues at work instantly saw straight through my reasons for eating Primally. He knew that it was because I was greedy and wanted to find a way to eat more food. He wasn’t entirely wrong. 🙂

after

After a year being Primal, at the behest of work colleagues and family, I went for a full panel of blood tests. My fear of needles kept me from ever doing a baseline, so I don’t know where I started but when the tests came back my cholesterol levels were what was regarded as “protective.”

Every Divali, we visit one of my wife’s friends, who treats us to some very nice Indian food. This food includes paratha roti, so I intend to eat flour at least once per year, regardless of how much I imagine the toilet will complain for my misdeeds for the 24 hours after the act. I’m still learning, I don’t think that will ever stop. I don’t think that I could have paid for better information than what was derived from this website and I would like to thank Mark and his staff for all the hard work that goes into it. Grok on!

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72 Comments on "How I Rediscovered My Health and Love of Real Food"

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Georgina
Georgina
7 months 6 days ago

Wonderful transformation!

April
April
7 months 6 days ago

“laugh sadistically and persevere” …. So true! And so worth it!! Awesome job 🙂

Tim
Tim
7 months 6 days ago

Amazing transformation! Way to go. 🙂

Ashley
Ashley
7 months 6 days ago

So inspiring. Your family must be so proud.

makesi howard
makesi howard
7 months 6 days ago

Well done sir!!!

Carey
Carey
7 months 6 days ago

AWESOME!! Working at a job where you’re stuck at a desk all day can be a major bummer (to your back and waistline). But you’ve clearly shown that you can work around it. Grok on!

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
7 months 6 days ago

Congratulations!

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

Thanks all. Sitting is still the worst thing I do but I’m working on fixing that.

wildgrok
wildgrok
7 months 6 days ago

This is really really good, you rock:

Instead of crawling painfully out of bed in the morning, I now leap out like a non-leotard wearing Spiderman would.

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

It is the tropics after-all…

Susan B.
Susan B.
7 months 6 days ago

Wonderful story, Stephen, and funny too. You look great and sound more than healthy enough to avoid those dangerous local doctors indefinitely.

Raj Dahari
Raj Dahari
7 months 6 days ago

very well written article. working in communications, I’m proud of you. I’m also proud and happy to hear that you are where you wanted to be . you’re looking great also with your beach-ready body! lovely photos of baby B.

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

Thanks Aunty Raj 🙂

Erok
Erok
7 months 6 days ago

Mmmm, pork… The gateway food to primal?

Great story. I’m especially glad you learned how to render fat – one of my favorite activities! Grok on!

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

Crispy Carnitas! I still oogle at the pic on occasion.
http://www.marksdailyapple.com/crispy-carnitas/

Laurbie
Laurbie
7 months 6 days ago

Pork porn?

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

It isn’t so much the doctors as the system in which they work. Either way, getting sick here will not be good for your health or your wallet.

Nocona
Nocona
7 months 6 days ago

Grok on indeed. Very funny, well written story of your journey. Thanks for sharing. is the wife coming aboard?

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

She’s a little less than 80/20 but we are both working on it 🙂

Pam B
Pam B
7 months 6 days ago

Always love these stories and how folks find Mark’s site.

Elizabeth
7 months 6 days ago

I always look forward to Fridays. Thanks for sharing your story!

Elizabeth
7 months 6 days ago

Oh, and like you said, it’s amazing how you start really tasting your food! So much more enjoyable! Keep up the good work!

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

It’s one of those things you lose without even realizing it and are glad when you get it back!

Mati
Mati
7 months 6 days ago

I loved your story! I was left wondering what your wife had to say once you got over the carb flu and lost all the weight! You look great! Oh, and your little girl is adorable. I wish you and your family the best. Thanks for providing me some humor during my lunch break. 🙂

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

You are most welcome.

Whitney Treadwell
Whitney Treadwell
7 months 6 days ago

Great work! Awesome!!

MobiusRex
7 months 6 days ago

I have to find that pork recipe.

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

crispy carnitas!

Joey
Joey
7 months 6 days ago

I love your story! Fridays, the best day of the week!!

Amber
7 months 6 days ago

Congrats! Such a great story, so happy for you!

Kai
Kai
7 months 6 days ago

Wonderful story! I like the line about how your dad “used to chase my sister and I around the house with his insulin needle while laughing like Count Dracula” : )

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago

Funny for you, terrifying for me at the time!

OctoberAmy
OctoberAmy
7 months 6 days ago

Thank you, Stepen, great story, congrats! Now I finally understand why I got that lingering sore throat last winter. That exotoxin theory makes so much sense. I had gone off my Primal diet on a vacation, had some bread and sweets “just this once” that turned into almost every day for a few weeks. When I gave them up again, I got a sore throat that lingered for six weeks. Strep negative, Doc could find nothing wrong. Must have been the bad gut bacteria biting the dust, causing inflammation. I am learning that “just this once” is a fantasy.

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 6 days ago
I think that carb flu was only mentioned once or twice on this site and hardly anywhere else on the Internet. Mark spoke about it in one of the Dear Marks but he didn’t speak about exotoxins. I remember searching high and low on the INET trying to figure out why I had a sore throat and after reading enough gut bacteria articles came up with that as the answer. I could be wrong but I would like to believe that I was right. Even so, just seeing that “low-carb-flu” was something that could be expected and that it would… Read more »
Elenor
Elenor
7 months 4 days ago

It has been called “Atkin’s Flu” for a decade or so… Just the last few years, people have been trying to pull back from that name… Atkins and low carb and Paleo/Primal are not seen as related or the same or connected.. {shrug} Very well known in the low carb world. Various, interesting methods tried and anecdotally tested to make it easier to get through — I dimly remember potassium or salt being discussed as helpful — but it was a decade ago for me too, so I don’t remember.

Julian
Julian
7 months 6 days ago

Nicely done!

Jenny C
Jenny C
7 months 6 days ago

wow, fabulous! your story and transformation is so inspiring!

AdD
AdD
7 months 6 days ago

Great story! Thanks for the inspiration!

ShaSha
ShaSha
7 months 6 days ago

Awesome photos! Well done!

Deon Ramnarine
Deon Ramnarine
7 months 6 days ago

Congratulations……my story is right behind yours just about 2 years short! I can personally vouch for everything said in this article and we should all aspire to be like him if not for yourself, for your loved ones!

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 5 days ago

We can start in November, invite me over early and I will help cook :-p

HillyM
HillyM
7 months 5 days ago
Great job, you look very healthy and hopefully you won’t need to chance your luck with the medical system in Trinidad for a very very very long time (if ever!). And think what a great example you are setting for your family. Glad to hear your wife is on board too – it’s very hard when one member remains sceptical! I’m loving the “non-leotard wearing spiderman” reference too………..thanks for a very well written, interesting story. Always love to read the stories from countries other than the US as it gives us another perspective on the cultural differences faced (I’m in… Read more »
Stephen
Stephen
7 months 5 days ago

I would imagine that there are a lot of non-leotard wearing spidermen in Oz too. The place looks just as hot as here :-p

Trini Girl
Trini Girl
7 months 5 days ago

From one Primal Trini to another, you’re amazing! Great job 🙂

I’ve been eating paleo since 2011 now, and it’s been loads of fun adapting Trini Indian food to paleo. My tastebuds haven’t changed, and pepper sauce is totally primal 😉

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 5 days ago
Pepper is something I couldn’t eat before but I find that I have an appreciation for a more expanded palette of tastes since becoming Primal so when I make my curries (and coconut curries) I make sure to add a finely chopped pepper. So still no pepper sauce but the whole peppers. Inclusive of seeds! And recently I upgraded my curry powder too, my muslim relatives (to whom I am grateful for getting me interested in cooking for myself) get theirs made from a guy in San Juan who makes it from scratch so I get mine from him as… Read more »
Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons
7 months 5 days ago

Such a wonderful–and wonderfully entertaining–story, Stephan! Thank you for sharing!

Joe and Maddie's Mom
Joe and Maddie's Mom
7 months 5 days ago

Congratulations! I probably should tell you how awesome and healthy you look, but honestly it is pretty hard to keep my eyes off your gorgeous baby girl in your photos.

Keep up the good work!

Ella
Ella
7 months 5 days ago

What a great story!
Every time I read a transformation story, as dramatic, as this one and see the before and after photos, I wonder where does the extra skin go? Do you have any?
Sorry for being shallow,,,and how often do you exercise and what kind?
Thanks

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 5 days ago
I end up going to the gym most days because I am avoiding traffic but I aim to do as little as possible once I’m there. I attend a martial arts class 2-3x per week, I think I get some cardio out of that. Cardio isn’t the goal though, I’m there to have fun. The most difficult yet effective thing that I do is sprint HIITs. I try to do it once per week but don’t beat myself up if I don’t. The first 3 months being primal I lost about 30lbs without any additional exercise. I was only doing… Read more »
Vanessa
7 months 5 days ago

Oh, yeah! Carnitas – they are so good! And well done!

HealthyHombre
HealthyHombre
7 months 5 days ago

Inspirational AND funny, thanks Stephen and congrats on the mind blowing transformation!

Gundi
Gundi
7 months 5 days ago
Great job. Congratulations . It takes a lot of will power and consistent persistence. I do have one suggestion though that would make transitioning to a Primal /Paelo /Ketogenic lifestyle a lot easier in terms of CRAVINGS HUNGER AND FEELING SATISFIED not to mention gut issues. I love Mark Sisson and his Daily Apple site but I am following a BULLETPROOF lifestyle. I drink my 2 cups of bulletproof coffee every morning made with good quality coffee 2 T grassfed kerry gold butter Brain octain oil or coconut oil ….. blend it all in a blender and voila you have… Read more »
Stephen
Stephen
7 months 5 days ago

I use Kerrygold in my eggs if I’m out of ghee. Otherwise, when mummy isn’t looking my daughter and I slice it up like cheese and eat it like that :-p

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 5 days ago

Hunger isn’t an issue for me either. Prior to being primal I was your typical carbosaur. My college friends knew when I was hungry and made sure that I was kept well fed every couple hours once we were studying. Since being primal, I have gone on 2-3 hour hikes while on 20+ hour fasts without too much discomfort. I don’t need to eat if I don’t want to, it makes avoiding bad food much easier since you can just wait until you find better food.

John
John
7 months 5 days ago

Your journey required courage — congratulations !

John

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 5 days ago

Thank you. It also took fear. I was afraid of ill health preventing me from being there for my daughter.

Pam
Pam
7 months 5 days ago

Great success story. Wonderfully written! I was hoping you would show before and after photos of your feet. Lol My skin is much improved too.

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 5 days ago

The webs on top are gone, my heels can do with some work. They are much improved. I also had what the wife used to refer to as yazzies, she doesn’t speak about them very much anymore, it’s a rare occasion when she does. My feet will never look as good as my mentor’s, he either has better genes than me or has more time to spend on them than I have to spend on mine (zero time in my case).

Marianne
Marianne
7 months 5 days ago

Congrats Corbeaux! Your story is truly inspirational! Thank you for sharing and for being a beacon of hope for those of us who LOVE da sugar…the battle can be won :o)

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
7 months 5 days ago

You’ve done really well for yourself and family; stay the course…

laura
7 months 5 days ago
I loved reading your story! One part that really resonates with me is the visual impact of food. There’s nothing more powerful than a delicious looking photo of a well prepared dish to make us question our beliefs and eventually entice us to give in to healthy Primal cravings. I’ve always enjoyed the recipes on MDA, but I see additional value, now. You know, it’s like the flip side of junk food companies enticing us with their visuals, whether on television or in magazines. Congratulations to you! You look so healthy, and I love how you leap out of bed… Read more »
Skeedaddy
Skeedaddy
7 months 5 days ago

The last photo says it all…GROK ON

Glendon
Glendon
7 months 4 days ago

Hey thanks for sharing, been looking and weighing the benefits as outlined on this site, was very surprised to see your link this morning. Glad to read the testimony of a fellow T&T national. Thanks and all the best.

Nick
Nick
7 months 4 days ago

Well done Sir, congratulations to you and thank you for sharing.

Casey the College Celiac
7 months 4 days ago

Thanks for sharing your story – so inspirational!

IanB
IanB
7 months 4 days ago

Good on you Stephen……well done.

Patricia
Patricia
7 months 3 days ago

Congratulations! What a fun read! All the best to you and your family.

Pop
Pop
7 months 3 days ago

U-DA-MAN! Follow GROK and stay on this path.

Jessica
7 months 3 days ago

What a tremendous change you’ve made! Is your wife on-board with the Primal lifestyle now too? It’s always a challenge getting others to see the benefits, but such a help if they are in this with us. Congratulations on your success.

Stephen
Stephen
7 months 2 days ago

She’s on this path but the Orwellian Wedge has a much gentler gradient in her case. She doesn’t do cold turkey.

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